Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Never Give Up

 By Marilyn Fowler

There are times when problems knock us flat without warning. Other times they creep up on us, and we don’t realize they’re there until we feel too weak to pull back up. Either way, a weakened state can make us believe we’re helpless, and all we can think about is giving up. Too weak to go on. Life is full of challenges, and we can’t escape them. Age itself requires adjustments and new ways to deal with life. But there’s something in each of us that’s programmed to pull us out of the hole if we give it a chance.

It appears that all creatures have this inherent drive, or will, to life. And this is what keeps us breathing and getting back up when we’re knocked down. I prefer the term will to life  rather than will to live. To me, the will to live means to be alive. The will to life means to thrive and grow. But we can’t do that if we refuse to get up when we feel like we can’t. We must make a choice.

Birds strive to fly again when their wings are injured, animals lick their wounds and try to heal, fish come to the surface for additional oxygen, plants reach for sunshine when they need energy, and people pray for strength and enlightenment for healing. At our most desperate times, that inner Spirit pushes us to life. And it will bring us through if we listen. We can’t afford to give up.

After a merciless winter a few years ago, I thought I had lost the peace plant on my patio. But within a short time, I saw some new growth peeking through the dead leaves, green and healthy.  New, tiny leaves saying, I lost a lot of what I was, but I’m starting over and will become even more. My heart jumped. I felt so happy. I wanted to hug the little thing. It reminded me how strong the will to life is, and I have that within myself. I too can start over and become even more. Not easy when I feel I’m on my last leg, but it’s doable.

We could take a lesson from the other forms of life. Maybe they listen to instinct, whereas we allow fear to take over and look for excuses to give in and give up. I’m grateful to my little peace plant for reminding me that I can get up and do more than what I sometimes think I can. 
When you think you can’t get up, listen to the wise Voice within. It will carry you through.


Marilyn Fowler is a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Psychotherapist. She was Mental Health Team Leader, then Director of Mental Health Services in the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville, Florida. She later coordinated mental health services in five nursing homes, worked on in-patient units, and was in private practice for a number of years. Her stories have appeared in the Salvation Army magazine and in a book entitled, When God Spoke To Me, by David Paul Doyle. She stays active in her church and writing group, and teaches a class at a local college. Her memoir, Silent Echoes, was published two years ago. Marilyn believes that a sense of humor is a blessing to be used often.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Got Tattoos?

 Got Tattoos? 

            My former co-worker, Linda comes up with some great lines, but my favorite one is “I’m trying to remember what I think I know.” 

            I love her for saying that. I know she did it on purpose to make me feel better for the time I sent my son to the store for ‘some liquid stuff you put on your cereal in the morning’ because I couldn’t think of the word ‘milk.’ But my worst case of memory lapse was when I answered the phone several years ago in the midst of a stressful day and chirped, “Citizens Bank, this is…..” I thought it was outrageously funny that I had forgotten my own name, but the customer on the other end was not amused!

            Aren’t you relieved God never forgets you? From before the world was shaped, He knew you and had a perfect, magnificent plan for your life. Before you ever said “Yes” to Him, He had you in His heart.
copyright, Ron Levellie, 2011
            In fact, He has a very unique way of remembering all of His kids: tattoos. If you don’t believe me, look at Isaiah 49:15,16:  Can a woman forget her nursing child? And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”  God is so in love with you, so thoughtful of your needs that He’s tattooed you on His hands!

            What, you don’t think God would actually put a tattoo of you in His hand? “That’s a pretty painful way to keep me in His mind,” you may be saying. No more painful than nails in His hands and feet. Or a whip on His back. Or, the rejection of His own family and nation. But to Him, you were worth all the pain He endured, just to have you in His family and spend eternity with you. He knew that the pain of His death and separation from His Father wouldn’t last forever, but You would. So He willingly gave His life in your place.

            If He’d go to such a painful death in your place, how could He possibly forget you now? “He who did not spare His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all, how much more will He freely give us all things?”  Romans 8: 32. 
            When you have sacrificed your own comfort to give to someone in need, He does not forget your labor of love. When you have spent time in prayer for a person who’s wronged you, He remembers your graciousness. When you long to tell someone off but keep your mouth shut, He notes your self control. Every time you pass up a sin or repent of one, He remembers your obedience. And when you are in trouble and anguish, He hears every cry and saves every tear.

            Whether God has actually tattooed or simply written you on His hand, you are forever on His mind. Unlike Linda, me or any of us, He never forgets a name: yours.
          The above is an excerpt from Jeanette Levellie's bestselling humorous devotional, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top. Connect with Jeanette for more laughter and grace at her website, On Wings of Mirth and Worth.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Baby Boomer Novels: A New Genre, the Next Phenomenon in Publishing

By Claude Nougat

A new genre is born, a pendant to Young Adult (YA) literature, with one difference: Baby Boomer novels (BB novels) address "coming of old age" issues just as YA novels are concerned with coming of age. 

The word age or aging used to scare marketers intent on promoting to the young, but no more. With a huge and growing market of some 70 million boomers - technically, all those born between 1946 and 1964 - Hollywood was the first to notice the change in its audience. Recent BB movies, such as RED, Hope Springs or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, have all been smashing successes.

Yet most movies are based on books and perhaps, historically, the first book that led to a hugely successful movie was Louis Begley's About Schmidt in 2002. The movie was only loosely based on the novel, but Jack Nicholson's star performance made it a memorable film. And it certainly opened the way to the new BB genre.

Since then, many BB novels have been produced without being, oddly enough, categorized as such by publishing houses. Literary conferences still tend to focus on the classical genres (romance, thrillers, sci-fi etc.) If they happen to aim at an age group, then they talk about YA literature (e.g. Publishing Perspectives’ YA conference in New York, 28 November 2012). People in the industry appear not to fully realize that YA has been around a long time and that the success of YA is largely attributable to the boomers themselves. Some forty years ago, when the YA craze started, boomers were just leaving their teens behind: it was the boomers themselves, interested in their own transition to adulthood, who provided the natural market for YA literature.

Now boomers have moved on. They are 55+, still vigorous and dynamic, and their interests have also changed. Fiction needs to follow and provide protagonists that deal with the issues of concern to them. Many writers have risen to the BB challenge and things are starting to happen:

a thread was started in September 2012 in the Kindle Fora for authors to list their BB titles and many have done so. Later, in November, a dynamic group was created in Goodreads by the author of a BB novel (Claude Nougat) to discuss BB novels with fellow Goodreads members.

Within just four weeks, the Goodreads Group had attracted some 50 members plus twice as many friends, and 16 BB novels had been listed on its bookshelf, many from well-known, bestselling authors, e.g. Anne R. Allen, Kathleen Valentine, Saffina Desforges, Rachel Joyce etc. Currently it is running a poll (until 14 December) with 8 titles put up by its members to select a BB novel to read over the Holidays. This exercise will be repeated every month.

The purpose is not simply to provide more exposure to the Group's BB novelists, though it does that too, but to give everyone, readers and writers alike, an opportunity to interact with the author and comment in a discussion thread. Everyone will have a chance to help in better defining what constitutes BB literature and thus play an active role in the launching of a new genre.

It is already clear that BB literature is like YA literature: it is a moving feast that can accommodate all kinds of sub-genres, from light comedy to tragedy, from romance to thrillers and more.

Anyone interested is welcome to visit the Goodreads group and participate in the debates to launch this exciting new genre:

BIO: Claude Nougat

Born in Brussels, brought up on three continents (Europe, Africa, America), Claude Nougat graduated from Columbia University with a Master's in economics.  In her busy working life, she followed in Jack Londons footsteps and dabbled at a wide variety jobs from banking to publishing, journalism, marketing and college teaching until she joined the United Nations (FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome), staying there 25 years working first as a project expert and ending her career as Director for Europe and Central Asia.
While working, she found time to write. Three of her books were traditionally published, two in Italian, one in English. Since she retired, Claude has published 6 books available on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks: 4 novels ( A Hook in the Sky and 3 books in a New Adult series, The Phoenix Heritage) and two collections of short stories (the most recent: Twisted, Four Tales of Love and Hate). Also a selection of her poems are included in Freeze Frame, a poetry anthology edited by British poet Oscar Sparrow (publisher Gallo Romano, 2012 - available on Amazon). 
Claude is the moderator of a fast growing Group on Goodreads discussing a new genre aimed at boomers: Boomer lit. She set up the Group's Facebook page at and Twitter account (@BoomerLit). Her latest novel, A Hook in the Sky, is a prime example of Boomer lit.
Claude's painting career has so far consisted in 14 group shows and two one-man shows in Paris and Rome; she is a member of the Artistes Ind├ępendants in Paris.
Claude maintains an opinion blog (20,000 pageviews/month) and is also active in social media, including Twitter Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
She is married to a Sicilian and lives in Rome.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Abandoning Suitcases to See the Country in a Ford Maverick

My first encounter of being a nomad was when we had to abandon our suitcases. Up until that time, I had never walked away from perfectly good items that belonged to me. Missionaries and their children know the value of hanging onto things. For a long time. That’s why they recycle everything, especially clothes and aluminum foil.

It’s a daunting task to leave two large suitcases in a parking deck and then drive away. But the need to do this was unavoidable. As much as they tried, there was no way that my parents could cram those two large Samsonites into our recent purchase, a 1970 Ford Maverick.

Had my parents been the hippie-types with tie-dyed T-shirts and jeans, I might have felt the leaving behind of suitcases as an anti-establishment protest. On to living with less, peace, hang loose, smile, go with the flow!

But neither my dad nor my mom were of that nature. Dad wore ties. He didn’t own a pair of Levi’s or Wranglers. Mom’s hair was always neatly permed, and like Dad, she only reminisced about once wearing dungarees.

When we abandoned our suitcases, I was afraid that the police were going to come after us, citing us for leaving items on the pavement next to a lonely metal trash can.

As Dad pulled away from the deck, I waved good-bye to those items that had successfully carried our clothes over the Pacific Ocean. Sadness as well as fear crept in. What kind of people had to throw away suitcases? Who had my parents become?

I worried until I heard laughter. My parents were laughing. It really couldn’t be all that bad then, could it?

“Look at us,” said Mom as my father grinned. “Look at us.”

As we sailed down the streets of Los Angeles in the Maverick, the wind blowing my blond hair, Mom, reminding Dad to drive on the right side of the road, I managed a smile. My brother was already making himself comfortable, resting against the plump trash bags that separated us in the back seat.

When my parents realized that the suitcases were going to have to be emptied, Mom rushed across the street from the hotel to purchase plastic trash bags. Our clothes were stuffed into these bags; three in the trunk and two plunked between my brother and me. For the next month, we would not be living out of suitcases, but out of trash bags.

We were on our way to see America from coast to coast. In a green Maverick. With two doors. And no air conditioning. A tiny hole in the back floor consumed my attention as Mom guided Dad to the Interstate. I could see the road from that hole.

Look at us!

I’m not sure which aspect of this picture should have alerted my parents to their mistake. It would be only a few days later when the car broke down for the first of many times that they would realize that this was car was a product of jetlag mixed with naivety. I’m sure the used car salesman knew he had a real live fresh-off-the-boat sucker when my dad entered his lot. Who else would have paid sticker-price in cash for this clunky heap of metal?


We traveled from motel to motel, seeing America along the way. When we grew bored, my brother Vince and I smacked, pinched and punched each other over the trash bags between us. We listened to music on a battery-operated Sanyo cassette player. We ate Milky Way bars and wondered what our friends were doing back in Japan.

The motel swimming pools were my respite and we spent plenty of time in them as the Maverick got repaired in various shops.

Mom broke down and prayed one morning after handing me a Pop-tart. I don’t think the Pop-tart made her cry because in her prayer she only asked God to please get us back on the road again. She grew tired of the trip. Apparently, the thrill of driving from L.A. to Richmond, Virginia lost its luster after a week. She wanted a place to lay her head, familiar faces (in addition to ours) and a residence to call home.

I overcompensated for her dismay, acting like this nomadic life was perfect for me. I was no wimp, I could handle it. Daydreaming played a big role as it had in Japan. Only in this country, I daydreamed about meeting and actually talking to one of the cute guys I’d seen at the pool. Of course, I knew it was only dreaming. There was no way I knew how to approach a real American guy, even one my own age. Besides, these born and bred males couldn’t understand me, my culture, or the language I spoke. So I just swam, glanced at them when I was sure they weren’t looking and continued to dream. In my dreams, I wasn’t wearing hand-me-down clothes out of a trash bag and I always knew what to say. I sure had everyone mesmerized.

Days later, my daydream was interrupted when our car nearly went over a cliff. This time the ol’ Maverick had suffered a frozen transmission on the way down from the Rocky Mountains. Dad was able to break the car just before it dove off the side of a steep embankment.

After the tow truck came, and we found a motel room near the repair center where the Maverick was taken, the four of us huddled on our knees, thanking God for sparing us.

“Thank you, God, for protecting us,” Mom prayed and each of us added our own amen to her flow of gratitude. I think she was ready to abandon the Maverick after that and take a plane to Richmond where her parents were anticipating our arrival.

But Dad insisted that we had more of this great country to see.

And so, once the car was repaired, we set out again to continue.

In between my daydreams, I thought about our home we'd left behind in Japan, about the local candy shop where I bought bean paste frozen treats on sticks, green tea candy and cans of iced coffee. The streets that led to home and the houses of my American friends in Osaka and Kyoto seemed long ago and far away.

But somewhere outside of Kansas City around midnight, when my brother elbowed me off his side of the back seat in his familiar fashion, I realized that for now, in this old car with him and my parents, was home-----no matter where our travels took us.

~ Alice J. Wisler is an author of five novels, speaker, and writing instructor. She grew up in Japan as a missionary kid and continues to wonder about what home is, where it is, and what it means. Her lastest book, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache (Leafwood Publishers) is a companion through grief and loss---loss of a loved one, broken relationships, loss of health and dreams. Read more about this new devotional here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Oh! What A Ride

                         Oh! What A Ride  By Alice DiNizo

   There are far too many news announcements about school bus accidents across the United States. It is tragic to learn of the injuries and deaths that occur when a school bus collides with another vehicle or flips over on a dangerous curve.

Now, back in my school days of long ago, school bus accidents were rare, but I guess that’s because back in rural Vermont in the 1950’s no one drove fast and everyone respected the right of way of a school bus. Our regular drive was the town barber, Tim Summers, who picked up a few extra dollars safely carting us kids to school and back home again. Tim was as faithful as can be. He knew where every kid in town lived and where to leave kids off and where to pick them up again the next morning. And good old faithful Tim almost never called in sick or took time away from his bus duties. But on the few times that he did, boy, did all of us on the third run have one good time!


 Tim’s substitute was Randy Callaghan. Now Randy’s family owned a big farm at the west edge of town and his steady girlfriend, Gail Ross, lived on a farm just beyond the Callaghan’s north field. Randy was a good driver, a steady driver, but he could drive fast as the wind, and that’s just what he did with all of us kids on the third run. By the time Randy got back to school and filled the bus for the last time with us “third runners”, he’d had just about enough of screaming, jumping kids and one stop after another with kids piling off the bus and onto their way home. Randy would put the bus’s pedal to the metal as they say and he drove us all home in record time. It was the hour when he headed back home to milk the cows after visiting with Gail over the fence between their farms. As fast as he drove, Randy never put anyone’s life in danger and we loved every minute of our greased lightning trip with him.  Oh, what a ride!

About Alice DiNizo

Alice DiNizo's resume may include entire decades spent as a children's librarian, but the recent retiree's rookie effort as a novelist is anything but PG-rated.

The former South Plainfield resident and ex-Plainfield Public Library librarian is the author of "Imperfect Past," a recently published novel that treads over dark ground such as childhood abuse, racial tension and serial murder. But DiNizo, who goes by the pen name J.B., said her story, at its heart, is a tale of survival and perseverance.
"I survived a very great deal in my life," said DiNizo, 64, "and I think out of that survival came the gift of writing."
According to the author, inspiration for some of the book's first few chapters came from her own experiences of being physically abused as a child growing up in Vermont, during an era in which "they called child abuse "discipline.' "
The novel goes on to chronicle the life of protagonist Annie Phillips Murray, a white woman who falls in love with a black police officer during World War II in a town called North Hadley — which she said city residents instantly will recognize as Plainfield. DiNizo, also a former librarian at Washington Community School on Darrow Avenue, said the choice of setting was easy.
"I've tied everything in the book into Plainfield," she said, citing buildings and street names that only have been altered slightly in the text, if at all. "When I came to this area and first saw Plainfield, I fell in love."
DiNizo said the novel's plot includes three narratives bound together — one detailing the protagonist's checkered youth, one detailing a series of gruesome crimes being investigated by her love interest, and a third detailing the stubborn persistence of the characters' relationship in an era of intolerance.
After writing recreationally for more than 20 years, DiNizo, of Toms River, said she is warming up to the idea of having more novels published during her retirement years. With four more works already completed, DiNizo said she plans on seeing if Eloquent Books, the publisher of "Imperfect Past," is interested in seconds.
As for Plainfield Public Library director Joe Da Rold, he was pleasantly surprised to hear a former employee he said had a connection with the local community now is a published author.
"I had no idea that she was doing some writing," said Da Rold, who added that DiNizo will participate in a December book signing at the library along with a group of other local authors

Friday, February 15, 2013

GEEZER GUYS AND GALS: The Newest Challenge

GEEZER GUYS AND GALS: The Newest Challenge: GR, Way to go, man! You're headed in a good direction. At least a dozen years your senior, I'm 20 # over and already feeling it. Time for me to get busy too. You're an encouragement to us all!

The Newest Challenge

By GR Holton

I sit here at my computer wondering what to write about. I have read all the positive additions to the Geezers and Gals site and I love them all. The problem is that since I turned 50 I have been facing the mortality of my life. I sat with my many pill bottles on my desk and it seemed every time I turned around something else was going wrong. I am 5’10” and was 295 pounds, have COPD, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, a two pack a day Smoker, Bad Knees, a Bad Back and a few other issues.

BUT a few months ago I was forced to really look at where I was heading. My doctor told me straight out  that if I wanted to see my three beautiful granddaughters get married that changes had to be made… and right away. So I decided that he was right instead of fighting with him. I have so far quit smoking, changed my diet, and have tried to get a bit of exercise (hard to do with my back and knees).

I am now down to 270 pounds and already starting to feel better. I can now walk a little more than I used too without being completely out of breath. Since I quit smoking I don’t have to wear the darn CPAT machine when I sleep and my breathing is improving slowly.  I had my cholesterol screening and I have made great strides in lowering it and my blood pressure too. I have also gotten rid of three medications and am feeling better.

Some may think this was just a whining session. No, I want some that read this that are in bad health to know that they too, no matter how bad you are feeling, can make changes in your life. Maybe you are overweight or a heavy smoker. It is never too late to change and add a few more years to your life.
I am going to keep plugging away and most of all I will keep praying. God is good and he keeps me going.

About GR Holton

On a warm summer morning in 1962, G. R. Holton was born in a small town in Massachusetts and is the second eldest in a family of eight children. He is happily married and living in eastern Tennessee. He has two daughters, a son, a step-daughter and a step-son and is also the proud grandfather of four beautiful girls.
 G. R. took an interest in computer games to pass the time, and then one day he made a friend on one of those online games with chat that turned out to be a screenwriter and movie director. They became great friends and after a few weeks of talking, he met her husband online and hit it off quickly. He gave him a couple of his screenplays to read and he was hooked. He knew at that point he wanted to try writing.
One night, after days of not being able to come up with a story to write, he had a dream of three teens on another planet and in a cave. This was it; he knew what had to be done. He sat down at the computer and over the course of three months he had written his first book, “Soleri”. He knew he couldn’t stop there, so he continued writing and “Guardians Alliance” was born. He has also published a children’s picture book called, “Squazles” about not judging others and did the book design for Cameron Titus’s “A to Z book: A Habitat for Humanity Project”. His latest, “Deep Screams”, is a science fiction/horror/paranormal thriller that has become the Books and’s Best Science Fiction for 2011. G. R. has also won The Author’s Shows “50 Best Writers You Should be Reading for 2011”. All of G. R. Holton’s work can be found at all the internet book sale sites or on his website at His latest release is called, “Dragon’s Bow” a tale of sister vs sister and good vs evil.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No Fool like an Old Fool

By Babs Mountjoy

I remember thinking as a child it would be horrible to have your birthday on Christmas. You know, you’d never get enough presents, people would forget in all the holiday hoopla, you might be traveling and never be able to have a birthday party with your friends.
So I must have been blessed, since I didn’t have a birthday on Christmas. I got it on April Fool’s Day instead.
This, as you may have imagined, has engendered hundreds of jokes over the years. Some of them have even had class. I’m told my fisherman grandfather’s first comment was “Throw her back–she’s too small!” (Back in the 1950s, 5 lbs. 6 oz., was still the kind of baby you just sent home, because there wasn’t all this whiz-bang preemie stuff.) There have been standard variations on the clear fingernail-polished soap, the Handi-wrapped toilet seat, little pranks of all sorts over the years, all done, as their culprits insisted, in good fun. But three stand out.

The first was in my senior year of high school, when my locker was the first one right outside my humorless English teacher’s homeroom. My dear friends conspired to fill my locker with pingpong balls, balloons and other noisy clap-trap, so when I opened it in the morning, it all fell out on the floor. While Norma was standing there. Giving ME a look like it was all my fault. Did you ever try to contain fifty pingpong balls while the morning class bell was ringing? I bet you didn’t.

The second was when my dashing single father let the woman he was seeing tell me they were getting married. She was horrid to begin with, a prissy little clerical worker of some sort, and she flashed this huge-stoned ring about, talking about how she’d be moving in any day, etc. Granted I was still in high school, and it probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have a mother there, so I could quit raising my sisters while my father worked. All the same, it was just some kind of joke, at least to someone.

The last one was the birthday party my sister threw for me some ten years ago, when she served this beautifully decorated cake, cut it and handed the pieces out. She insisted of course, as the birthday girl, that I have the first piece, so I took a big bite, grateful for her effort. It was all I could do not to spit it out–she’d iced and decorated a huge cornbread. What a shock.

I’ve never understood practical jokes. While I appreciate the intent, it seems to me they mostly hurt people who aren’t prepared. By all means, pranksters should tag pranksters– they eat it up. The rest of us? We do enough to ourselves.

Writer Cynthia Heimel says, “When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”

I’ll take the plunge. But I’m taking a parachute along, just in case. This time, I want to share the laugh at the end.

 Barbara “Babs” Mountjoy has written since she was a little girl, unable to restrain the stories that percolated through her fingers onto her keyboard – or, back then, onto the old Royal typewriter. Babs has been a published author for more than thirty-five years, with a number of publications under her belt. Her non-fiction book, 101 LITTLE INSTRUCTIONS FOR SURVIVING YOUR DIVORCE, was published by Impact Publishers in 1999. Her first novel, THE ELF QUEEN, was released under the pen name Lyndi Alexander in 2010. THE ELF QUEEN launched her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, under which the second and third titles, THE ELF CHILD and THE ELF MAGE, released in 2011 and 2012. Wild Rose Press released her romantic suspense novels, SECRETS IN THE SAND, in 2011, and, CONVICTION OF THE HEART, in June 2012. Will Rose Press will also release Babs’ THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE in September 2012. Zumaya Publications published her women’s fiction title, SECOND CHANCES, in July 2012. Babs is a contributor to two CUP OF COMFORT anthologies. She blogs about autism, writing and life at, and spent seven years of her career as a news reporter and editor in South Florida. Her romances/womens fiction books are published under the pen name Alana Lorens, and her fantasy/sci-fi under the pen name Lyndi Alexander.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Ways to Feel Young Again

I had another one of those dreams last night. You know the kind—something falls off or falls out at the worst moment.
          In this case, I was to preside over a funeral in my hometown. Folks I’d grown up with would be attending, folks I hadn’t seen since we attended high school.
          I stood in a public restroom to run a comb through my hair just one more time. One stroke later I looked like SethGodin.
          I read this stat in AARP’s November magazine issue: “51% of Americans think they look younger than their age.” I’m not one of them. My wife Ellen should be but isn’t.
          The I’m-older-than-I-look delusion died four years ago when I ordered coffee and got the senior discount without asking. I told the cashier, “I’m 54.”
          She shrugged and gave me my change.
          Despite aging’s obvious advances, I’ve discovered some things that help me live a more youthful life.
          Losing weight. For over two decades, my driver’s license lied. It said, “Weight 175 pounds.”
          Until two years ago, I weighed closer to 200 pounds. Then I got serious about losing the extra weight. I tracked my exercise and calories on and experienced the amazing benefits of a lighter me.
          I slept better—no acid reflux.
          My wife slept better—no more snoring husband.
          My cholesterol went down. My energy went up.
          Just this week, someone who hadn’t seen me for a while asked, “Have you lost weight?”
          I may still look old, but I sure feel younger.
          Laugh. Children laugh about a million times a day (the exact figure may vary from child to child). We adults top out at about three chuckles (in a good week).
          You don’t need a “laugh out loud” movie, the funny papers, or a hilarious read to experience the benefits of laughter. Just laugh.
          While driving, I’ve forced myself to laugh. While home alone (well, the dog doesn’t count), I’ve forced myself to laugh. On one occasion, I forced myself to laugh with my wife listening in another room. She said, “You sound demented.”
          Demented or not, a funny thing happens when you fake laughter. Eventually it becomes genuine. Real or fake, laughter elevates your mood and benefits your body in positive ways.
          By the way, my family and I flew in a jam-packed, smoking-in-the-back Aeroflot flight to the Russian Far East. My sister-in-law gave me The Last Days of Summer to read on the plane. I laughed until I cried. Ellen sat in another row and acted as if she didn’t know me.
          I’m curious. What are some things that have helped you remain youthful? Any hilarious books or movies you’d recommend?


T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, 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. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.

He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, or from wherever his travels take him. He posts articles weekly at A Curious Band of Others.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The B Grandma

By Pam Glover
One day while I chatted with a colleague I noted a little side table in her office. On it sat a cup of markers and pencils and a cube of colored sticky notes. Above the table kid-scribbled notes were pegged to the wall. A long chain of paper clips snaked around the table top. The woman followed my glance, and remarked that her grandchildren frequently came over after school. "I'm so glad I get to spend time with them. I'd hate to be  the B grandma."

Was a B grandma like a B team? I don't know if grandmas can drill and skirmish to improve their abilities. In my mind, the B grandma was less available, the less favored, the one lacking grandma zing! 

Was I an A or a B grandmother? I immediately, detrimentally began to compare myself to THE OTHER GRANDMA.

She was available, and watched the baby every Wednesday while great grandma and grandpa joined them for the morning coffee and infant entertainment.  It became known as Samday. He was the star of the morning and they showered him with affection. 

I, however, live 1500 miles away. I only saw him every 4-6 months, too long for toddler memory. My son-in-law invested in pre-Skype technology and Sam learned to recognize me over a TV and telephone connection. Later, his little sister didn't take to the system as well, and every face to face visit required me to get reacquainted.  I tried to make up for lost time when I visited, but It felt like I wasn't making a big impact on the children. 

The other grandma is wonderfully creative and the kids adore her. As they matured she expanded their world in wonderful ways. When Sam was four she enrolled him in a clown clinic, created a cunning hobo costume, and he presented a solo gig.  I felt sorry for myself because I couldn't offer anything like that. 

When he was in kindergarten she signed up to be the class mystery guest. Well, gosh, I thought, I can do that, so on our next trip west I had my chance. I bought a funny book about a farting dog, which I thought would surely be a hit with Sam. Standing in line to enter class a little boy asked whose grandma I was. "Sam's" I told him. He remembered the A grandma. "Do you do magic tricks and tie balloons too?" 

"No, I read books." 

"Too bad" the little guy grumbled. 

Yeah, too bad for me I thought. I was even a B grandma to a five year old stranger!  

When our granddaughter called to tell us about the other grandma's new a puppy, I briefly, ridiculously, considered building a small corral in our large yard and getting a pony. 

Last week  Em called and told me about her kindergarten costume parade. Of course A-grandma had gone to the parade and sent me photos. Not only had she gone and immortalized the big event, she came in costume! 

Now, I really like the other grandma. I am glad she's a big part of Sam and Em's lives. But I do feel left out and under-gifted.   Like an athlete on the bench I don't get enough playing time and my inner coach says my performance lacks luster.  I've moaned about this for so long my husband now comforts me by saying "You're the best B grandma in the country."

I've quit contending for the A spot.  I'm trying to shake loose from the comparison altogether. The whole A/B classification has created a black hole which sucks up joy.

And I avoid even thinking about the step-grandma's themed holiday weekends and the boatload of playmate cousins her daughters produced. I could slide right over the edge of sound judgement into C status and a big hole of self-pity. 

I know it's petty. I know children's affections aren't to be won by one-upmanship. I know that they love me. But if I were a kid, I'd rather spend time with the A-grandma too. I thought being a grandparent would be an effortless process.  Perhaps my expectations of the grandchild-grandparent relationship were unrealistic and too rosy. But deep down I feel disappointed by the bond I've been able to create with them, and discomfited to consider that genealogy doesn't guarantee warm fuzzy feelings.

My heart's longing is to have the love of my grandchildren. But the only thing I can control is that I love them with all that I have. Then the children are blessed, and I am blessed.

Words have always been a source of joy for Pam Glover. She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, and a master's degree in English as a second language.
Writing is her primary tool to clarify her thinking. It's her public voice too. She argued for bilingual education in a commentary published by the Christian Science Monitor. She invited music lovers to come to North Carolina in Pow'r Pickin, a bluegrass newspaper. She celebrated her counterpart in  “A Letter To the Other Grandma" published in Mature Living magazine.

She maintains a weekly blog at