Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rough Roads and Smooth

The road has been rough and smooth over here. During a rough time, D.P. brought home some balloons from work, which lightened our hearts.
Diamond is a gift that brings us together.
The boys enjoy a moment with Diamond.
I needed a bit of fresh air, and spent Saturday with my parents. My mother and I took a walk on Balboa Island.
We stopped on a bridge to watch a Kayak.
And admired a succulent garden.
A beautiful Dahlia.

I also played tennis with my 82 year old father. He needed to warm up for a match he playing next Wednesday. I wonder if I will follow in my parents footsteps and be healthy in my 80's. I'm tired already!

I'm reading 2 interesting books. Dawn recommended "When I Lay My Isaac Down." by Carol Kent. I'm now on her second book "A New Kind of Normal". It's about how a mother and father watch their comfortable lives disappear when their only son is arrested and eventually sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The second book is "On Sidesaddles to Heaven" by Laurie Winn Carlson. This book is about six missionary women who crossed the rocky mountains on horseback. The author draws from their diaries. I'm only in the first chapter, but in the introduction I read that these women not only brought their faith into the wilds, but also education and a desire to raise the living conditions and status of the Indians at a time when tribes were being forcibly removed from their homelands in the east. Thanks to my friend Lynn, who recommended this book.

AND SPEAKING OF BOOKS, Debby won the drawing for the Chicken Soup Book! Congratulations!

Have a good week!

Then Jesus said, "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Empty Chair

As promised, here is the story I wrote that was published in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens". You can purchase the book by clicking the link above. But if you'd like a free copy, mention "drawing" in your comment and I'll enter you into a drawing for a free book! (scroll down to read story.)

Yesterday, I just had lunch with one of the "strangies". (You'll have to read the story to find out about "strangies". ) This friendly "strangie" makes beautiful beaded jewelry and her site is called Sunny's Shiny Things. I've linked you to her outreach bracelets—you can wear scripture on your wrist!

Okay, it's time for the story. Pretend you are 12 or 13 again, and here we go...

The Empty Chair

“Look what my mom bought me for the first day of school!”
I watched my new best friend, Stacy, emerge from her closet like a super model, and twirl around in her black and yellow striped bell-bottom trousers.
“Cute. When can I borrow them?”

Stacy and I liked the same clothes, purses, hairstyles—everything. That’s why we became best friends over the summer break.
Stacy stopped twirling and flopped down on the bedroom floor next to me.
“I have to warn you about the first day of school,” she said. “Paige will be looking for you.”
“I know,” I sighed. Paige was my best friend last year.
“When she finds out that you’re my best friend now, she’s going to freak.”

Sometimes having a best friend is a pain, I thought. I knew I should just give it up and hang out with a larger group of girls, but the others were so silly and immature. Stacy and I called them “The Strange Girls”— “Strangies”. We, of course, were different. We acted our age.

When the first day of school arrived, Paige ran up to me with a big smile.
“Hi! I love your zipper top. It’s almost like mine. Look!” She spun around.
“Uh...Yeah.” I smiled briefly and glanced at Stacy who stood a few feet away with a frown on her face. This was going to be hard.

As we entered our classroom, Mrs. Hall told us we could push the desks together to form groups of two, three or four.
One of the “Strangies” stood up and called out to me.
“Hey Sharon! Come sit over here with us.”
Pretending I didn’t hear, I headed toward Stacy, who was pushing two desks together near the back corner of the room. We neatly stacked our books and placed our backpacks side by side on the top.

Over the next few days, Paige continued to be friendly. She smiled at me in the middle of a Spelling test and waved at me during P.E. Deep inside, I felt myself wishing we were good friends again while Stacy rolled her eyes and made fun of her.

A couple of weeks later, Page invited me over to her house for an overnight. We crunched on popcorn, watched funny movies and talked about boys. Before the weekend was over, Paige and I were best friends again.

At school on Monday, I wondered how I would break the news to Stacy. When Mrs. Hall switched off the lights and put on a film about the Revolutionary war, it gave me a chance to slide Stacy a note explaining what had happened. She was pretty upset. When the film ended she pulled her books out of the desk, made her thoughts crystal clear and marched across the room to find another place to sit.

“Hey, Stacy. Come sit with us.”
The “Strangies” pushed four desks together and gestured for Stacy to join them. Stacy desperately looked around for another option. With nothing else available, she reluctantly plodded over and dropped her books on the fourth desk.

Days turned into weeks, and my renewed friendship with Paige grew strong. November was just around the corner, and I caught the flu and had to stay home for several days. One evening, as I lay on the couch with a bad headache, the phone rang.

“Hi Sharon. This is Stacy.”
“Oh, hi.” My head pounded. Why in the world would Stacy be calling me? Isn’t she still mad at me? It turned out she had called to see how I was feeling. Her cheerful banter soothed my spirit. She made me laugh when she mimicked one of the “Strangies”, and I melted when she told me I was much more fun to be with.
Toward the end of our conversation Stacy commented, “You’ve got to get away from Paige. She’s sooo juvenile.”

As I fell asleep that night, confusing thoughts tangled in my head. I wondered if I should take up with Stacy again. Paige had been getting on my nerves—always flirting with the boys at lunchtime. Should I end the friendship?

By the time I returned to school the next week, I had made my decision. I approached Paige before the first bell rang and told her our friendship wasn’t working out.
“You’ve got to be kidding. You want to go back to her?” she said, slapping the desk with her Phonics book. “It will be the biggest mistake of your life.”

Later, when Paige was sitting alone, one of the “Strangies” called quietly to her. “You can come over here with us if you like." Another “Strangie” helped Paige carry her books. She slipped into the fourth desk.

Over the next few months my feelings about both girls moved up and down like a roller coaster. When I was with Stacy, I wanted to be with Paige. When I was with Paige, I missed Stacy. Little did I know the rollercoaster was heading for disaster.

On a morning I’ll never forget, I walked into our classroom and got the biggest shock of my sixth grade year. Stacy and Paige were sitting together. Their books and backpacks were side by side, and my stuff had been moved to the back counter. They whispered and glanced in my direction. I wanted to disappear—to be erased like a math problem gone bad.

Trying to hide my tears, I gathered my books and searched for a desk…one that would be away from everyone. Deep down, I knew I deserved this treatment. I had turned back and forth too many times. After just learning about the Revolutionary War, I couldn’t help but feel like Benedict Arnold, the traitor, standing in the middle of the room—all alone—in my stiff red coat.

I spotted a small desk on the side of the room and began to move my things. One of the “Strangies” softly stepped to my side and whispered, “Would you like to sit with us? We have an extra desk.”
I hesitated.
Another “Strangie” came over. “It’s okay. We’ve got room.”

I slowly walked over and sat down. They didn’t embarrass me or ask questions. They just smiled and opened their science books. Their kindness felt like a warm blanket tucked around my heart. It wasn’t long before one of them giggled. Another girl made a funny face when her pencil dropped to the floor. The girls laughed. I smiled. Maybe it wasn’t so bad being “strange”.

From that day forward I made some changes. I would no longer judge the other girls in my class. Instead of being exclusive, I would be friendly to everyone—even to Stacy and Paige.

Today I am blessed with many good friends. And although considerable time has passed since my sixth grade year, I still benefit from that painful experience. I’ve learned to treasure each friend that God has given me, and appreciate their differences. To this day, I still get together with those wonderful “Strange Girls.” We meet at a restaurant for dinner on each of our birthdays. And on those special evenings, as I head toward the table I’m grateful that a fourth chair is always available.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Show Down at a Ghost Town

It's time for a dirt biking story. How 'bout a ghost story? One afternoon I talked Mozart into riding into a ghost town and we had a run in with the law. Here is Mozart pausing on the road in. Little did he know what awaited him around the bend.

Click here for the article: Ghost Town.

The article is posted on Associated Content (which is now part of Yahoo Contributor Network.) I get $1.50 for every 1000 page views. Yes, I know. I won't be getting rich.

Check out Yahoo Contributor Network, if you like to write. It's fun, and sometimes they even pay you for an article. I haven't been active for a few years, but decided to get back into it just to keep up my writing. If you're really nice you can click (somewhere on the article page) and become my fan. Then every time I publish something you will be notified via email. You won't be bombarded. I'm a slow writer. (You're familiar with how fast my blog moves.)

Here we are treking around in our alien suits. It was almost 90 degrees that day!

I bee-lined out of town to the top of a hill, jumped off my bike, and took a picture of the guys riding out of town. We had to leave fast. The Sheriff was after us!
Click here for the article: Ghost Town.