Friday, December 26, 2014

The Summer of the Ugly Car

Christmas, at our house, encompasses many things and one of those is the gift of remembering. Somewhere after my husband's feast of roast pork cooked on the outdoor smoker, the conversation meanders to tales from the past. These stories usually start with, "remember when?"

This Christmas we joined in a lengthy account from childhood that had nothing to do with fruitcake or Santa, but rather, when my brother, parents and I drove across the United States from L.A. to Richmond, Virginia. The 1970 green Ford Maverick my parents purchased in California was any car owner's nightmare. The used car salesman must have known that my jet-lagged missionary father was a prime target for a car that had been on his lot for much too long. It seemed that from the moment that my brother, parents, and I set out in this vehicle to tour this great country, one disaster after another happened. The worst was when the transmission froze coming down from The Rockies.

Eventually, the ugly thing with the hole in the back floor and no rear windows, did get us to my grandparents' in Virginia, but not without a series of unfortunate events. I recall that summer of 1974, as the summer of swimming in motel pools while our car was being repaired. I think I remember motel water slides much better than I do scenic views of the Grand Canyon.

Stories make our times together traditional and it's fun to watch my children's reactions as well as my husband's. "Did you really almost drive off the Rockies?" "Did you really get told by a policeman that you weren't allowed to have a picnic lunch by the side of the road in Arizona?" "Is it true you threw your suitcases away and had your clothes in trash bags?" That question inevitably gets asked by my husband. He finds it most amusing to hear that we had to abandon our suitcases since they wouldn't fit into the car's small trunk. Mom brought trash bags and we crammed our belongings into those and packed them in the trunk and two had to be placed between my brother and me in the back seat.

To entertain ourselves as we drove through long stretches of scorching deserts and placid wheat fields, my brother and I either fought or listened to cassette tapes on my Sanyo tape player. The melodic voices of Simon and Garfunkel and Neil Young traveled with us.

There are other memories we share, but lately, that trip is one of the most peculiar and fun to recall.

I hope everyone had a festive Christmas and are continuing to gather with family and friends to celebrate, to enjoy, and to remember.

~ Alice J. Wisler is the award-winning author of six novels. The most recent, Under the Silk Hibiscus, is about a Japanese-American family interned in a camp in Wyoming during World War II. You can read more about it here.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tales of A Texting Virgin

Two measly years ago, these typing fingers were pure. 

My wife would say, “You should learn to text?”

I would hold up my fingers. “These are texting virgins.”

Someone would text me. I’d read the message then ignore the sender. You’re not going to sucker me into sullying these digits.

Oh, such pride! I would fight the advance of the Evil Empire—technology.


Of course! Where’s my “Long live King Ludd!” sweatshirt?

My wife, who had one already, would say, “You’d love a smart phone.”

I would hold up my smart-enough-for-me cellphone. “All I need to do is make calls. I don’t need anything more complicated than that. By the way, could you look up the Cowboys-Giants score for me?”

A little over a year ago, a friend from my high school years kept texting me information about our upcoming reunion. She even expected answers to her questions. And I’d ignore her.

She texted more.

I’d think, “Just call me!”

She texted again.

In annoyance, I did the unthinkable. I punched out my answer and hit SEND.

She texted, “Thanks!”

Yea, thanks a lot. You just made me profane my once-text-free fingers.

For the next few months, I felt annoyed every time I got a text. I still refused to respond unless forced.

Then something happened.

Someone would text me. I’d pound out an answer within moments. Cue the calypso music and join me in singing a round of Don't Worry, Be Happy!

I even initiated text conversations. Gone was the irritation, the gnashing of teeth, and the mental expletives.

So what changed?

Our billing!

We added unlimited texting to our cellphone package.

I wasn’t fighting technology. I was simply cheap.

T. Neal Tarver has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. He has written articles for the local newspaper and an international mission magazine. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.
He currently serves as an associate pastor and writes from his home in Wimberley, Texas. He also writes about Christian community at A Curious Band of Others (

Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I’ve known TJ Whalen since 1967 when we were on the pre-commissioning unit for the USS Lapon. We were both Machinist’s Mates second class at the time. He was an auxiliaryman and I was a nuke. At sea we shared the lower level of machinery room #2; he nursed #2 O2 generator and I monitored the water inventories of the steam generators.

In 1968 we were both eligible for rotation to shore duty and also to take the exam for petty officer first class. We conspired, in a low level fashion, to avoid becoming PO1c because that rotation date would extend to near eternity. In order to take the exam one must complete certain course work, demonstrate competency in a standard set of “practical factors”, and submit a request to take the test.

We accomplished none of the above.

We were at sea for a “spec-op” the day the exams were given. I stood the 0000-0600 watch at that time and at 1000 I was comfortably asleep in my deck-level bunky-poo next to the hatch leading to the diesel generator space. The Chief of the Boat (COB) shook me out of my well-earned nap, “C’mon, Pete, time to take the first class test.”

“I don’t have a test. I didn’t submit for one.”

“There’s one with your name on it and the captain says you’re going to take it.”

Yes, our commanding officer was that way. Every man was expected to rise to the next level as quick as he could. My service record has entries that I successfully completed all of the requirements.

I dressed and made my way to the crews mess. Among the other crewmembers sat TJ. He gave me a confused, pleading look.

TJ was always smarter than me. Sometimes it is difficult for people who share a deep fraternal bond to admit a cohort is smarter. I have no problem bowing to TJ.

Three or four months later the results were in. I passed the test and was advanced in the first increment.

TJ failed the test and soon thereafter was transferred to shore duty in Ravinia, OH, not far from his hometown. As a first class, my rotation didn’t come up for another four years.

Over the years I kept track of TJ and a score of other Lapon sailors. We started having reunions in 2000, so I have seen TJ and his wife at least every two years.

TJ has fought ocular melanoma for fifteen years. His cancer metastasized, in predictable fashion, to his liver. In addition to the initial loss of his right eye he has survived twenty procedures to remove tumors plus various chemical treatments.

Throughout the fight TJ maintained a positive attitude and good spirit. Despite his optimism, those of us close to him have been holding our collective breath. He can’t beat the odds forever.

I got the call from another longtime friend who lives in TJ’s region and the word is the latest treatment didn’t work and caused deleterious side effects. Earlier this year we had discussed going for a visit before he dies.  It’s just 900 miles, and I can stay overnight with Jack and Ginny in Columbiana, Ohio.

I think it will mean more to TJ than if I waited for the memorial service.

Chuck Petterson’s passions are his wife, music, writing, and dogs. He is grateful his telephone no longer interrupts him to fly off to service clients and he can concentrate on his passions. He and his wife, Lynn, live on two acres in Washington Township, Harrison County, Iowa, with a varying number of permanent resident dogs and rescued Irish Red and White Setters and Gordon Setters. He plays with a variety of local and state-wide bands, which ensures he gets out of the house a few times during the week. He is a U.S. Navy Submarine Force veteran and active with local and national veterans’ organizations.

Friday, September 5, 2014


 From kindergarten through high school I only cut school once. On March 3, 1958, my fifteenth birthday, I awoke at 6:30 unwilling to face the long walk to the bus stop, the ride to the Forest Hills subway station, and the twenty-three stops on the GG train to Brooklyn.  I told my mother I had a terrible stomach ache and went back to sleep.  When I awoke again she was out shopping; she returned at noon, surprising me, and I had to double over and grab my stomach to maintain my act.
Justifiably suspicious, she insisted on taking me to Doctor Lamb, my old pediatrician.  I'd fessed up about lying so I could stay home from school, but she intended to teach me a lesson.  I sat for an hour in the doctor’s waiting room with an open window blowing March snow on my neck while an over-zealous radiator on the floor roasted my lower half.  I had a fever by the time Doctor Lamb examined me. In obvious cahoots with my mother, he rabbit-punched my kidneys.
“Did that hurt?”  When I couldn’t catch my breath to respond, he said, “Mmmm, this looks serious.”
It was.  Two hours later, my first failed body part lay in a jar of noxious fluid.  When I woke up in a hospital room, my cardiologist uncle was there. “If you hadn’t stayed home from school today your appendix would have burst and you might have died on a subway platform,” he said.
From then on, I resolved to always trust my gut feelings, though I did swear off cutting school. As for my surgery, I’d been the only male patient under forty on my wing of the hospital, which made me the focus of a dozen student nurses. I knew that would never happen again, so I decided to quit surgery while I was ahead and avoid surrendering any more body parts.
For the next fifty-six years I stayed out of hospitals. When I went to my doctor complaining that my shoulders always hurt, he referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who told me I had a choice between complete shoulder replacement surgery and living with pain. 
(The following photos were "borrowed" from the website of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.)  A healthy shoulder:

 I pondered the decision for a couple of months, until the day I was holding my eighteen-month-old grandson and realized that a sudden, unexpected stab of pain might cause me to drop him.  It was time to discard another failed body part and replace my arthritic left shoulder with a new titanium one that looks like this:

The surgeon said it was a simple procedure.  Not to worry.  A month in a sling and two months of physical therapy and I’d feel eighteen again, and Medicare and my supplemental Blue Cross would pay for it. But he left out a couple of things.  No driving for a month (I only waited twenty-four days); learning to sleep on my back (which I’ve yet to master); having to bathe with a sponge sitting on a bench; being dependent on my dear wife for things I’ve always done myself; and the long list of things I’d always taken for granted that were impossible to do with one hand. But the horrible pain everyone predicted never materialized, and though I only met one student nurse this time, the experience turned out as well as possible.
It's now day thirty-two and my shoulder aches.  I’m recovering, but I still have questions. Should I go through it again to have the right shoulder replaced?  How many body parts can I replace with metal ones before I turn into a human lightning rod? And what about airport metal detectors?

AlanZendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.  Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  You may find Alan’s books here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Takeaways from My 50th High School Class Reunion

Four weeks ago, my wife and I attended my 50th high school class reunion. My wife graduated a year behind me, so she knew my classmates too. Sixty percent of our class of 408 made it to the reunion. What a blast we had renewing old friendships, sharing pranks we pulled on teachers, reliving sports victories and defeats, and learning how life had gone for the people we grew up with. It was nostalgia at its best. But it was more than that, a lot more.

On the second day of the reunion, we toured the new high school, built after a fire destroyed part of the old school. What a campus it is. Occupying 14 or 15 blocks, it looks more like a college than a high school. The design of the school was well thought out. The facilities—from computer labs, to the performing arts theater, to the athletic training facility—were all first class. Better than many colleges and universities.

Though it was July, there were a few students walking through the beautiful campus. Most had their faces turned down, peering into the display of some gadget they held in their hands, while thumbs or fingers pressed or poked at a furious pace. What were these students actually doing? Communicating? I don’t think so. They were sending information via a mechanism slightly better than Morse Code. Missing from what they sent were the facial expressions, body language, and vocal expression that were part of communication when my class attended the school. This subject came up at our class dinner that evening. There was a consensus, and that consensus, not the negatives, is what I want to emphasize with this post.

If you were born in 1946, whether or not you are from Oklahoma, you are a Boomer Sooner, a person born at, or slightly before, the cusp of the baby boom. And our generation was blessed in many ways. We had no joysticks or game controllers. Rather, using our collective imaginations and face-to-face social interaction, we created our own live games, not video simulations. For the guys, what could be more fun than dividing up the neighborhood kids into two armies, negotiating the ground rules for our battle, and then playing our individual roles, which required running, jumping, hiding, until one side prevailed. And, if your side lost, you still got the satisfaction of acting out a dramatic death, leaving the game in a blaze of theatrical glory.

My best buddy, his sister, and I tore apart some old radios and, from carefully selected components, built the control panel of a spaceship in the attic of an old shed. From that attic we traveled the galaxies, exploring, fighting against evil forces, sometimes getting captured, but always knowing that right would prevail in the end. We did this in the mid-fifties, long before Star Trek or Star Wars. And our communication was always face-to-face. We talked. We touched. Sometimes we argued, but we resolved disagreements quickly because it’s really hard to flame someone when you’re staring them in the face, much harder than when you view them as nothing more than a producer of irritating text coming from  a vaguely familiar username on some web site.

Our play and our communication was more fun, more full of imagination, and certainly healthier, than what most kids experience today. Is there a way to capture a clear picture of our childhood and then show it to our grandchildren, or our grandnephews and nieces, so they understand what they’re missing?

If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them, because I have 7 grandchildren who could sure use a glimpse of what I had as a child and what you probably had too.

H L (Harry) Wegley served in the military as a USAF Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. In civilian life, he performed weather research, publishing in the scientific literature. After earning an advanced Computer-Science degree, he developed computing systems for 20+ years, then he and his wife retired near Seattle, where he writes inspirational thrillers. He has a contracted, 4-book, Christian-thriller series with Pelican Book Group. The 4th book releases in November 2014. He is currently working on his 8th novel.

Connect with H L:
Web Site & Blog
Facebook Profile
Facebook Author Page

Friday, August 15, 2014

What’s In a Name?

Sherry Carter's first bible study "Storms of Life" won the Award of Excellence in Christian Literature at the 2007 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
For several years, she worked as an engineer in NASA’s Shuttle Program. After a series of agonizing crises, culminating in a layoff, God brought about an abrupt career change: Sherry, the engineer, became Sherry the Christian author.
She lives with her husband in west Texas. They have two daughters and two perfect grandchildren.

 Have you ever tried to agree on a name?

Even naming our pets can be an issue!

Watch someone who’s getting ready to have a baby.

The parents, with a great amount of outside help, scour the earth for a suitable name for the most precious baby ever born.

No page in a baby-name book is left unturned.

There are arguments over which traditional family name will be used.

Obviously names are important.

If you’re a man, you’ve probably heard, “You’re carrying on our family name – do it proud.”

Teenage girls look up the meanings for their names and brag if their names have a royal meaning.

When I was in high school, I knew a guy named George.

For some reason, I had preconceived ideas about the name George.

Poor guy didn’t have a chance.

Now I have a friend named Bubba.

Admit it, stereotypes come to mind, don’t they?

We’ve all got names.

First names, middle names, last names.

Mother, father, names that reflect our beliefs, names that represent our occupations.

Your personality, your character, your beliefs are all tied up in your names.

I heard R.C. Spruill tell this story several years ago and it’s stayed in my mind.

During a military operation, when enemy troops crept around a camp in the darkness, a young, inexperienced guard hid.

When found, the captain dragged him before the commander, Alexander the Great.

He insisted that the soldier be executed for his cowardice.

Alexander told the captain to leave and sat, looking at the young man.

After a moment, he asked the soldier his name.

“Alexander,” he whispered.

Alexander the Great said, “Young man, either change your behavior or change your name.”

Then, with grace and mercy, he told the soldier to return to duty.

We all carry many names.

How do our lives reflect on these names?

What does our behavior say about the value we give to those names?

When people learn that you’re a Christian, do they nod or act surprised?

When someone learns that you’re a doctor, do they recognize your care and skill?

As parents, does everyone see how deeply you love your children and how committed you are to raising them to have values and a sense of responsibility?

At the end of the day, did your life reflect your names?

Photo Credit: Best Baby Name Book
What's in a name?  Nicole Singer




Friday, August 8, 2014

A bite of the Golden Apple...

For two weeks last month, I was in a creative paradise.

I ate delicious, homemade, regional specialties at the communal dinner each night (with breakfast and lunch brought down to our studios' common area earlier in the day). I slept in my private, cozy cottage, complete with a mini kitchen and ocean view. I enjoyed the companionship and camaraderie of like-minded, professional artists and writers (four of us in all) who were all there to work--and work hard. One other, like me, was an author. The other two were artists--one painted in acrylics and the other in mixed media. They were all lovely people (all women, as it turned out) and while we enjoyed one another's company, we also respected the privacy of our individual studios and the priceless opportunity we had to work for those precious two weeks far from our other jobs and the pressing responsibilities found in the everyday world.

I was at the Golden Apple Art Residency in Harrington, Maine, located on nine and a half acres of thick pine forest and fringed by the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Early each weekday morning, lobster boats motored their way to the lobster pots, one of which (the Mandy T.) brought home lobsters for an authentic lobster boil prepared by our hostess and co-owner of the Golden Apple, Shelley Newman Stevens. Her meals are legendary and nutritious, though you'd never guess they were good for you judging by their decadent tastiness. Her hostess skills are surpassed only by her artistic credits. Her own work is shown around the country (and even featured on an Australian television documentary). She attended Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned both her undergraduate and Master of Fine Arts degrees. After that, she worked at KCAD as an admissions officer, then as an art professor at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan--all that, an active studio in their Mt. Pleasant home, and administrating the Golden Apple. My head hurts just thinking about her schedule.

Greg, her husband and successful businessman in his own right, works tirelessly on the grounds and does all sorts of maintenance work, as well as lobster runs to pick out the best from the day's catch for their guests. While we were there, he was cutting up two dozen trees felled by the unexpected and thoughtlessly uninvited Hurricane Arthur just before the residency began. Even with the loss of so many trees, the loss was negligible when compared to the number of others populating their acreage. The boulder-studded grounds, though natural, are manicured just enough to provide easy access for those of us who wanted to visit the shoreline, a short walk from the back of the main building which housed the studios and their beautiful home.

My goals were three-fold: I wanted to work on my current novel, take photographs, and get closer to God. I was successful. I wrote thousands of words and reached the 3/4 point in my manuscript, took over 1500 photos, many of which will find themselves in my blogs and other printed material, and spent time praising and talking to God while sitting in His glorious creation.

If you or anyone you know is a working professional in the arts and would like to apply for a residency at Golden Apple, you can visit and click on the residency tab. For more insight into the overall experience, check out the comments of previous residents. This once-in-a-lifetime experience not only allowed me the opportunity to work exclusively on my current projects, but introduced me to five wonderful artists--Yvonne, Erin, Anne, Shelley, and Greg. I won't forget my friendships and I won't ever be able to duplicate my experiences.

Thank you, Shelley and Greg. The Golden Apple Art Residency was a fairytale come true.

The beautiful entrance to the
Golden Apple Art Residency in Harrington, Maine...
Delicious meals, great conversation, and lots of laughter
were served up at this dining table...
Incredible view from the grounds of the Golden Apple...