Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, February 24, 2023

When I'm 64

Last year, I planned a funny surprise for my hubby. On the morning of his 64th birthday, I grooved into the room while my phone played the Beatles’ rendition of Paul McCartney’s When I’m 64.

My joke backfired. Hubby didn’t recognize the song, catch the lyrics, or make the connection. How is that possible? When the Beatles released the song in 1967, Hubby and I were nine and eight years old, respectively. But while Hubby was the oldest kid in his household, I had teenage sisters listening to pop music. To this day, I know those tunes better than anything from the 1980s. Plus, Hubby always preferred country music. Alan Jackson’s The Older I Get might have been a better choice. But not nearly as fun.

Now it’s my turn. This week I turn 64 and McCartney’s questions, “Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?” ring in my head. I may put the song on repeat for the day. For fun, I decided to do a bit of digging.

When James Paul McCartney was born in Liverpool in 1942, the average life expectancy of a British infant boy was 63 years. According to most accounts, McCartney (who was 13 when his mother died of breast cancer) wrote the lyrics at the age of 14, for his father. A decade later, the song finally saw the light of day when The Beatles included it on their Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, not long after the elder McCartney turned 64. No doubt, turning 64 seemed an eternity away, both to the 14-year-old songwriter and to the 24-year-old superstar when he recorded it. Now Sir Paul McCartney is 80. Funny how fast that happens, isn’t it?

Ironically, only two of the Beatles made it to 64, with John Lennon’s death at age 40 and George Harrison’s at 58. Even McCartney’s life has played out much differently than the ideals expressed in the song, of a young couple growing old together. (“You can knit a sweater by the fireside, Sunday mornings go for a ride…”) His first wife, Linda, died of cancer in 1998 at only 56. His second marriage, to Heather Mills, lasted three or four years. He’s been married to his current wife, Nancy Shevell, since 2011. Seventeen years his junior, she’ll turn 64 this year, like me. I hope they stick it out.

As a teenager, I never gave any thought to what my life might look like in my sixties and beyond. Did you? Now that I’m here, I can look back with sharper vision. While life has held its share of joy and heartache, failure and success, what shines through most brightly is the faithfulness of God and the enduring power of faith. Maybe instead of listening to McCartney’s lyrics all day, I’ll write my own. Borrowing his catchy tune, I’ll address mine to the Lord.

When I get older, losing my hair
Any minute now
Will you still be sending me your grace and love
Daily blessings, sent from above?

If I have a really bad day
You’ll never lock your door
I know you’ll still heed me, I know you’ll still feed me
When I’m sixty-four!

I will keep writing, maybe a song
You’ll smile at me and nod
I know you’ll never leave me in a lurch
Sunday mornings, goin’ to church.

Planting a garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more?
I know you’ll still heed me, I know you’ll still feed me
When I’m sixty-four! 


Friday, February 17, 2023

Funny Things Happen on My Way EVERYWHERE...

Funny things seem to happen to me more often lately, making me wonder whether naming this blog “Out of My Mind” nearly thirteen years ago might have been more prophetic than clever. I’ll start with the cucumber.

While grocery shopping recently, I considered a long English cucumber. While one normally finds its way into my cart and into our salads, this day I looked at the price and left it in its bin. At least I thought I did. When I arrived home and unpacked my groceries, I found a long English cucumber. Was I losing my mind? I checked my receipt and found I’d paid for it. I wracked my brain while a vague memory from a half hour earlier surfaced.

I’d stood in line at the checkout behind my friend Kendall. I watched her hand her three-year-old son William a long English cucumber. I smiled at Will’s cuteness and didn’t notice where he placed the vegetable. Had I somehow come home with their cucumber?

I messaged Kendall and explained. “If you are missing yours, now you know why. And if you’re not missing yours, now you know I’m losing my marbles.”

She laughed. “I think it was my ridiculously overpriced cucumber you went home with. Oops!”

Since the cucumber was almost the last item on my long receipt, I’m still puzzled about where William laid it, but at least I wasn’t out of my mind. The worst part? Two weeks later, I found the cucumber in my crisper drawer, flexible enough to bend back and forth. I had to toss it. I deplore wasting food and wish I’d gifted it to Kendall that first day.

Then there was the book. When Randy from the radio invited me to come to the station to talk about the value of public libraries, he asked me to bring along a copy of my book, The Last Piece, for a photo op. Sure, I said. Better yet, let’s give one away!

Not until after this exchange did I remember. I didn’t have a single copy of The Last Piece in my house! Our church was holding a fundraiser for a mission trip that weekend. Wanting to supply a complete set of my books for the silent auction, I’d donated my “keeper copy.” After all, I expected a new shipment in a week. Why would I miss it?

Oops. I would need to borrow a copy from someone so Randy could take a photo.

Then it dawned on me. Who better to borrow a book from than the library? The irony felt too perfect. I tromped to the library, a little chagrined about the idea of borrowing my own book but laughing about what a great story it would make. Alas, my plan was foiled. The book was checked out. Did I want my name on the wait-list?

Um. No, thanks. I’ve read it.

Lucky for me, a copy remained in the library’s consignment sales box. They loaned me that. On my way home from the radio station, I realized Randy had forgotten to take a picture. When his article appeared on their website the following week, he’d used a photo from the book’s release more than a year earlier.

I had a third funny story to tell you, but it has escaped my mind. Maybe it’ll show up in someone else’s shopping cart.

I need God’s help to remember stuff, don’t you? I sure am thankful He never forgets about me.

“I, God, will never forget you. Look here. I have made you a part of Me, written you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16, The Voice) I’m no Hebrew scholar, but I believe that word translated as “never” means never.

Friday, February 10, 2023

How DO I love thee?

'Tis the season for red hearts and roses. I decided to do a little digging into a renowned real-life love story. Sadly, the resulting marriage lasted only 15 years, from 1846 until the bride passed away in 1861.

It felt weirdly satisfying to learn that this quintessentially romantic English couple was neither gorgeous nor young when their relationship began to blossom. Elizabeth Barrett, although an accomplished and respected poet, was nearly forty and in poor health when she first heard from Robert Browning, six years her junior. A prolific poet himself, Browning’s works had been published at the expense of his father. In fact, Browning lived with his parents until his marriage to Elizabeth when he was 34. Not exactly what we’d consider great husband material. The couple married secretly and returned to their parental homes for a week before running away to Italy. More on that later.

Elizabeth, born in 1806 as the first of twelve children to wealthy parents, began writing poetry at age four. Her father, Edward, declared he would disinherit any of his children who chose to marry. (Perhaps being a slave owner gives one the illusion that offspring are property to be controlled.)

In his first letter to Elizabeth, Robert Browning wrote, “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.” 

Thus began a secret exchange of letters surrounding an equally secret courtship. She wrote, “I am not of a cold nature, and cannot bear to be treated coldly. When cold water is thrown upon a hot iron, the iron hisses.”

To me, it seems a secret relationship between two poets is both the perfect catalyst for romance and the least likely to last. But it was during their courtship that Elizabeth wrote her famous Sonnet 43.

True to his word, Elizabeth’s father disinherited her after she snuck away to marry Robert Browning in a private ceremony at St. Marylebone Parish Church. After honeymooning in Paris, the couple moved to Italy for the sake of Elizabeth’s health.

At the age of 43, between four miscarriages, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Robert, whom they nicknamed Pen. The family remained in Italy, living among fellow writers and artists. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death at the age of 55, in 1861. She died in Robert Browning’s arms. Though he lived another 28 years, he never remarried.

The shadow of loss was cast over Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life from the start. She lost her mother, two beloved brothers, her health, her father’s acceptance, and four unborn babies. Did her one true love compensate for all that? The last lines of her most famous sonnet may be the truest: “…and if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”

Though scripture tells us there will be no marriage in Heaven, this aspect of Barrett’s sonnet is spot-on. When we are free from all that binds us to this earthly life, free from our own selfishness and insecurities, we will indeed love others—all others—far better than we ever could on our best day on earth. That will be a day far more glorious than Valentine’s!


Friday, February 3, 2023

I love "I Love to Read" Month!

At first, I didn’t think too much about it. I received an email from Jen, the Director of our local public library, congratulating me. One of the two novels I released in 2021, The Last Piece, was their most circulated book in adult fiction for 2022. Given that I’m a local author in a small city, I figured that seemed reasonable. I thanked Jen and forgot about it.

A few days later, I received a call from Randy at our local radio station. He’d gotten wind of the book’s status while covering a council meeting as they reviewed the library’s annual report. Would I be interested in discussing with him on air the value of public libraries?

You bet! I’m a huge fan of libraries in general and ours in particular. It’s an easy subject to talk about. I think whoever invented the public library deserves a special reward in heaven.

As we chatted through the interview, Randy helped me realize the significance of my book being the top-circulating one. Our library offers all the bestsellers from big-name authors in addition to many unknowns like me. Books can be checked out for up to three weeks. If everyone kept it that long, a book could circulate through 17 patrons in a year. The Last Piece circulated 20 times.

For this to happen speaks far more about our community than it does about me or my book. It shows me people who support each other. We encourage folks to “shop local, keep the money circulating in the community.” This is much like that, it’s just books instead of money. People ask me if I mind readers borrowing my books for free instead of buying them. I suppose I could view it as lost sales, but guess what? Ninety percent of the books I read are borrowed from the library! How dare I complain?

British Children’s Author, Icona, says, “I love public libraries because they are built on the principle that books are so important and so necessary to human flourishing that access to them cannot depend on your income.”

Mrs. Claus' Reading Time at Portage Regional Library - -  Local news, Weather, Sports, Free Classifieds and Job Listings
Inside the Portage la Prairie Regional Library

I couldn’t agree more. I treasure sweet memories of taking my three children to our library. They’d each pick out their limit of three (that limit no longer exists) and we’d read them over and over until our next visit. Now, my kids take their kids to libraries in their respective communities. There’s no more economical way to instill the love of reading in your children. Library cards are free, and I can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t want one. February is “I Love to Read” month, so now’s the time to join!

Our library has come a long way. Besides print books, they offer audiobooks, eBooks, videos, internet and computer use, special events, and more. If they don’t have the book you want, they can usually obtain it for you through the interlibrary loan service.

As an author, I’ve been blown away by the support from our library, whether researching a novel or promoting and hosting a book launch. I’d be lost (and extremely broke!) without them. God bless all the staff and volunteers, and thanks for the awesome service!

If you’re reading this and you are one of the 20 who checked out The Last Piece in 2022, thank you from the bottom of my heart!