Friday, December 27, 2013

The Christmas Phone Call ( A short love story)

I have a tale for you today. A true love story. . .

Once there was a fun-loving young man in his early twenties; a man with a smile like a ray of sunshine who could charm anyone with his wit and humor and a laugh that could warm the chilliest heart. There wasn't anyone who disliked him. People took notice of his humorous antics, good looks and charming ways. His heart was big, his kindness evident, and sense of compassion, great. He fell in love with a very good, simple girl from a small town. Her family was extremely close and he adored them and the way they made him feel: welcomed and loved, a true part of them.

This young couple courted quickly and married within a year. Their apartment was tiny, but well-kept, clean and cozy. They didn't have much furniture, no rich lavish decorations, but they had each other. Laughter, compassion and goodness continued to be a part of their world, and when they looked into each others eyes every night, true love could be seen in their gaze. Their lives were a testimony to people around them.

As time went on, the young man yearned for more. His small world became a prison to him. He wanted a better job, grander things to please him. The simple, good girl wasn't enough for him. She wondered what she could do to keep him happy. Should she change? Would he be more content if she was prettier, skinnier?

Then the day she never dreamed of arrived. The young man told her he was done. He wanted out of the marriage, out of their small world. He had big places to go and many important things to do. She wouldn't be welcome in this new life he'd chosen.

Though her heart was broken for a very long time, she managed to put the pieces of her world back together.

Many years went by, and the woman who'd grown and matured into a loving, caring adult found herself face to face with the man who'd betrayed her those many years ago. He told her he needed to relieve himself of a heavy burden, and would she give him just a few moments of her time.

Years of grief poured from the man. Red-faced and sobbing, he apologized for leaving her behind, for hurting her so cruelly. He'd gotten everything he wanted in life: fancy job, huge home, gorgeous women and mountains of money, yet he'd lost his soul in the process. Would she please forgive him from her heart? Would she absolve him of this most grievous sin?

With a trembling hand, she brushed away the tears which coursed down his face. She smiled a sad, tired smile at him. She thought back to the years of happiness, the simple life they'd once shared. The fact he'd been the first love of her life. She remembered the ache, the loneliness she'd gone through when he abandoned her. Everything in her screamed how wrong it would be to forgive him, yet she offered mercy to him that day. In a quavering voice, she absolved him. The release flooded through him and a burden was lifted. They parted ways and years separated them once again.

One Christmas, the woman received a phone call from the man. He was at the end of his rope. All the money in the world couldn't buy him happiness, or the simplicity he so longed for. The lavish lifestyle and grueling hours at work to keep him wealthy and comfortable was killing him. He'd lost touch with everyone that mattered: his family and friends. He felt lost, lonely and insignificant. He wanted to end it all. He had called to say goodbye to her, to hear her voice one last time, this good, simple woman who'd loved him once and forgiven him greatly.

It had been much too long since the woman had cared for him or felt emotions stirring within herself toward him. Yet she prayed a simple prayer as they spoke. "God, be with him. Show him there's so much more to life than what he's been pursuing. Give him your peace and simplicity."

It wasn't a very dramatic or elegant prayer, but a prayer offered in the quietness of a humble heart. They said their goodbyes and as she hung up the phone, she realized it wasn't her power to change him. She'd done all she could, forgiven and moved on. And that was enough. The rest would be up to God.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Most Quaint, Cozy Place

     I chuckled to myself today while walking through the quaint town of Ligonier, Pennsylvania. The movie "Funny Farm" came to mind, but not in a bad or irreverent way. If you've seen the movie, you'll remember near the end when Chevy Chase and his wife are going to be divorcing, and they needed to sell their lovely country home. They called upon the citizens of Redbud, the quaint town nearby, to dress and act like something out of a Norman Rockwell Christmas magazine to help them push the house to prospective buyers. The town was aglow with lights, carolers and such coziness, you wish you lived there yourself.
     Today, I found myself in such a town. Snowflakes flitted upon the air, lacy and delicate. Lovely Christmas music was playing, piped through the gazebo in the town square. Shopkeepers smiled warm greetings at my husband and I as we walked by. Everywhere we went, a bit of Christmas cheer was tucked into a cozy corner.
     Nothing compared to the lovely place we stayed. A newer establishment in town, Thistledown at the Seger House is a journey back in time. With its lovely woodwork, homey, old-fashioned Christmas decor, and some of the sweetest people running it, my husband and I felt as if we were a part of a Norman Rockwell painting, book, or magazine.
     I've yet to find out the history of the building itself. Someone told me it was once an old hospital. I plan on speaking with the owners tomorrow morning to hear more about it. For tonight, my writers imagination will run wild with it. I believe my husband and I are the only ones here this evening. And though that may seem a bit creepy to some, we find it romantic and alluring. The perfect writing retreat for me and well-deserved getaway for my hard-working husband.
     We've stayed in many places on our weekend trips. This impeccable inn will certainly be somewhere we will journey to many times in the future.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Very Piggy Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone from Piggy the Cat, my alter ego. Today I've decided to post an excerpt from the final chapter of Piggy's book which would have been the Christmas volume. Although all her stories will be told in an upcoming paperback book, I want to share with her special fans just a little of the fun that awaits. You guys are amazing and Piggy wouldn't be who she is without all of you. Thanks so much for following her on Facebook and reading her books! You all rock!

Chapter 4
A Very Piggy Christmas

     I opened my eyes and blinked lazily at the bright light of a new day, shivering in the chill of the early winter morning. The wind howled, making the glass window panes rattle. Matt was already up and gone, his spot on the bed already cooled. He must have left much earlier.
     Settling in, making myself presentable for the day, I licked my paw scrubbing it over my face and ears, nibbling between my toes in the way that all cats do, careful to clean every crevice, my hind leg poised in the air. Out of the corner of my eye I spied Melvin my mousy companion in the hallway, sneaking along the baseboard.
     “Psst,” I called out. “Matt’s not here, Mel. Come on in.” I put my leg down and patted the top of the bed with my paw. Melvin scampered into Matt’s bedroom and climbed the quilted comforter with a few small scrambles of his hind legs. Once he was up, he stood on his back feet, nose pointing into the air, agog with curiosity.
     “Nice room,” he said. “Ooh, look.” He pointed near Matt’s computer where an old bowl of ice cream sat, melted. “Good thing your master isn’t a neat freak,” Melvin said. We both investigated and found vanilla ice cream with a smattering of rainbow sprinkles. One lone candy gummy worm sat off to the side of the dish looking a bit forlorn. Melvin scooped the candy into his clutches and set off nibbling the wormy head first. I lapped up the delectable vanilla flavor carefully crunching the sprinkles with my back teeth.
     Melvin looked funny with his cheeks puffed out, the last of the gummy worm dangling from his mouth. He slurped the rest of the body in, and then began licking his paws careful to remove the stickiness.
     “How’s your new room?” I asked, jumping down from the computer desk onto the hardwood floor. My nails always made a ticking sound which I found amusing.
     “Well, I’m pretty much done with the decorating. Maybe you can come see it later. If you can squeeze through the door.” Melvin added quietly as an afterthought.
     “I heard that,” I said. “Thanks for the insult.” I walked away from my pal with my tail indignantly in the air. “Humph!”
     I ran down the stairs to the first floor, Melvin close behind. “Sorry Piggy. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
     “No, of course you didn’t,” I said rolling my eyes and trying to keep some distance between us. I jumped on the back of the couch, sharpening my claws on the cushion. A bit of fluff poked from a small hole I’d created and I batted at it for a while. I pulled at it a bit harder and out popped a wad. Woops.  I tried stuffing it back into the hole and gave up a moment later, swatting it behind the couch.
     Next, I busied myself with a blanket thrown over the arm of the sofa. Using my delicate sense of touch with the pads of my paws, I kneaded the soft afghan over and over, purring as I did. The scent of my master lay embedded in the fabric as well making it especially cozy.
     All the while, Melvin kept trying to get my attention. He didn’t speak but kept running to and fro, annoying me.
      “Mel, would you give up already? I’m not in the mood today.”
     Melvin slunk away, wiry brown tail between his legs. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him mount the staircase, head hung low as he trudged to the second floor.
     Humph. Serves him right. I’m tired of the snide remarks, I thought to myself. I’ll show him a thing or two. I won’t speak to him for a few days. Then when he misses me, he’ll come running back, apologizing for the comments and beg me for forgiveness.
     Contented, I curled around and around on the fuzzy blanket laying my head onto my paws; my whipcord tail curled around me and fell into blissful slumber.
     Awakening much later, it felt as if the light had been sucked right out of the day. It was dim in the living room, though the sheer curtains were opened. Fat, lazy snowflakes began falling. Feathery, lacey, they cascaded through the air, lighting on bushes and grass. I jumped from the couch onto the window sill, my breath making frosty fog on the glass. Brrr. The day had grown even chillier. No wonder, I thought, it is December.
      Thanksgiving had just passed and Christmas was still a few weeks away. I’d always enjoyed Christmas in the old house; watching Matt’s uncle decorate, watching him and Matt pile colorful, wrapped presents under the tree. Most of all, I enjoyed guessing which ones were for me.
     Matt had a small artificial Christmas tree stuck in the corner of our living room. I liked the fake bark, and enjoyed raking my claws down the length of the trunk when Matt wasn’t looking. He’d put it up a day or so ago. Colorful twinkle lights covered every branch. Homemade ornaments from my master’s youth hung from tiny hooks.
     I liked everything about this season. The silly cartoons Matt watched, the same ones over and over through the years. I’d grown accustomed to waiting for them: the Grinch, Frosty and Rudolph. The festive songs were so cheerful and light. The many different kinds of foods and cookies Matt’s mom and grandmother made. Christmas Eve was best of all since they prepared fish as many ways as possible. Tuna spaghetti, some type of small fish called smelts, shrimp and haddock. My mouth drooled just thinking about it.
     I loved basking in the attention and warmth as Matt’s family gathered together. Humans are very fortunate to have such a wonderful time of the year.
     The snow fell harder outside, blanketing everything as I continued watching and daydreaming.  The wind raged and blew the sparkling diamonds of white all around. An extremely large burst of wind gusted, and the front door to my house flew open.
     What on earth? I crouched low and my ears flattened to my head, a ball of fear in my stomach. I’d never seen such a thing happen before. Hadn’t Matt locked up well behind himself this morning?

To Be Continued. . .

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We Do The Best We Can

My cat, Bella.

     Today I'm prompted to write this, as my heart is broken for a dear friend. You see, he had to put his cat down yesterday after only having him for three years.
     Most of us pet lovers have had to deal with this sort of heartbreak at one time or another. Our fuzzy dogs, pretty cats, even the smallest of animals, birds, guinea pigs. Sweet pets who ask nothing of us but to be loved and give so much in return. Unconditional Love. They wait for us by the door, tails wagging, tongues lolling, a big doggy grin on their faces. Cats who rub in and out of our legs, crawl upon our laps, the soothing sound of purrs and the drip of their love juices from their mouths. The many nights, when we are alone, crying into our pillows as our furry partner sits nearby watching, waiting for mommy or daddy to be alright. The lick or nuzzle of a cold nose under our arm or on our faces, as they tell us "it will be okay."
     Sometimes we feel we haven't done enough for our pets. Maybe if we'd just have brought them to the vets sooner. Maybe if I didn't buy that brand of food. Maybe, maybe, maybe, the list goes on and on.
     I have a sweet story to share with you. Perhaps it will put in perspective for any of you who beat yourselves up to this sort of thinking:
     When my son was about eleven, we were walking on a beautiful spring day. There, in the middle of our quiet road, was a little bird flapping its wings, unable to move. Our hearts were moved to compassion. How could we leave that poor thing there to its fate? A car would surely come by at some point. We retrieved the little fellow, placing him into a shoe box with warm material and we tried dropping water into its little beak at different times. We talked kindly to it, petting its battered body with a gentle finger. Yet while we slept through the night, the bird passed away. I awoke that next day, wondering what would I tell my son. He'd felt so good, so proud of our kind deeds. And now I'd have to share this sad news with him.
     I made a small grave out in our yard, and later that day, my son spent his own quiet time there, reflecting and perhaps shedding his own tears. This bothered me and I spoke with someone wise about the situation. How could I make my son understand life and death a little better especially where it pertained to an animal?
     I was told this: We gave that bird a wonderful passing. We loved it enough to pick it up when it was hurt, nurse it best we could, give it shelter and warmth. It didn't have to die alone and abandoned in the street. It knew love in its last moments.
     Last year, my son had to put a cat down. I think he handled it with poise and grace. I think, though his heart was breaking, he understood what it meant to love an animal with his whole heart. And when the time was right, when all else was exhausted, the decision to not have a pet suffer, is the most difficult, but most correct decision we'll ever make.
     So dear friends, let's feel good as we do the best we can for our dear pets. Know in your heart, you've done well by them. You've rescued them perhaps from shelters, or back alleys, or God forbid, abuse. And even if you've only had them for a short time, like the little bird, you've given them food, shelter, warmth, and love. You've done your best.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Thief

I find myself thinking about some serious things as I write today's blog. Memories. There have been several people recently in my life who are losing theirs. Some dear loved ones who can't remember certain people, situations or even words. It hurts. It really hurts me seeing these once active people succumbing to the ravages of time and the frailty of their own bodies.

I just got off the phone with a dear aunt, one who I haven't seen in a while. Though she was completely sweet and very happy talking with me, I can see what she's going through. Memory loss. It frightens me, as I see several of my closest relatives even my dear mother as the thoughts fly out of their heads on the wings of forgetfulness. Will that happen to me, I wonder. . .

I've read up on vitamins and such things to stave off the inevitable. And I believe in God's hand through it all. I will not claim this as my own. I do not have to label myself as someone who will surely fall prey to a mind which no longer remembers events or even people.

Walking through a nursing home, I've seen sweet folks with dolls upon their laps, talking with them as if they're a long lost child. What causes this I wonder? And is it a good thing, perhaps, for some who may have gone through such trauma in their lives to put aside the daily worries and cares of this world and live in a fantasy dimension perhaps?

Take the time to love, really love the people in your family, dear aunts, uncles, grandparents and parents, sisters, brothers and good friends. You never know when that robber of the mind may snatch the precious years from you.

 The older I get, I realize I must live in the moment, love in the moment and be kind when words fail a dear loved one. When the questions they ask over and over again begin to agitate me and I feel I can't take it a minute longer. I can choose to be their shining star, the person who will carry them through this rough patch, this difficult journey of the mind.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Fourth Grade Remembrance

It's been many years. Lives have changed. I've changed. Good things and bad have happened. But I found her again.

It was my fourth grade year in a Catholic school. Times at home were a little rough for me. My mom had some issues and was hospitalized several times. As an only child, I felt the pangs of loneliness. Fear and worry consumed me at a tender age.

She was so pretty. A "regular" teacher amidst all the nuns. Her name was Miss Clark and I'll never forget her. Soft-spoken and kind, she took to me, knowing I had difficulty at home. Her gentle manner and sweet ways were such a stable to me amidst life's turmoil. Though I wasn't sure what might happen each day, the certainty at that time was an eager smile and warm words from a young teacher to all of us children in her class.

I remember writing to her at one point in my life. Our cards and letters went back and forth, the exchange of words between old friends. Then we lost touch. Years separated us. My own life took many turns, marriage at an early age, then the tragedy of divorce when he found someone else. A son born, and life fulfilled. Dad's heart issues and the closeness and love of a good family. So many things I wished I could tell her.

I found her once again after searching for the longest time. Internet search engines turned up facts here and there when one day I saw that lovely face on Facebook. Try though I might, it wasn't as easy as I'd thought to contact her. A year later and several attempts, I was rewarded by her friendship once again. I think I wanted to tell her how much she'd meant to me as a child. I think I wanted to say my life turned out okay and it was she who helped push me in the right direction.

I pray her life has been good. I hope there's been laughter, love and great memories. Thank you from my heart dear friend, mentor and teacher. May the Lord reward you for the kindness you've shown.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peace, not bullying

     I chose a picture of my father's Peace rose to begin today's blog. Peace at all cost. Choose peace. Make love not war. Peace be with you. Sounds good and simple doesn't it? But for many of today's young people it isn't easy to keep the peace. Young kids on a bus minding their own business. Something you say, or maybe what you're wearing that particular day sparks another child to hurl insult after insult upon you. Perhaps even hitting you, or spitting on you. How does one keep peace in such a situation?
     I share my own tale with you. One that is very painful for me to remember. I was in sixth grade in a newer school. My grandmother had a border, Phil, who lived with her who was more like an uncle to me. He asked my friend Patty and I if we'd like to go to the playground at another school I'd attended. Well, of course, we wanted to.
     When we arrived, my friend went off to the swings, while I chose to climb a set of monkey bars that resembled a space ship, I believe. All of a sudden, at least three older children came over to me and began taunting me with lewd suggestions. Looking frantically around, I could see Phil way across the playground talking with some people, my friend Patty completely oblivious to me. My heart pounded, my palms grew sweaty. I wanted to run, but found myself rooted to the spot. After several torturous moments which may have felt much longer than they were, Patty sauntered over to me and said, "Phil says we're leaving." The most welcome words I'd ever heard.
     It didn't end there however. For the girl who was with this group located me in school. Her words to me on a daily basis were, "I'm gonna beat you up." One time while swimming in a children's pool in Patty's side yard, the girl and her horrid gang walked by noticing us innocently playing in the pool. Once again, she accosted me with her terrible words and insults.
     I was a peace lover. I knew nothing of fights and bullying, angry words or quick retorts. I endured best I could daily this barrage of malice. I dreaded school, my stomach clenched and heaved and I wished myself dead many a time.
     As fortune would have it, a very tough girl heard the taunting one day. We weren't friends, but something about me must have touched a soft side of her. She warned the other girl to leave me alone and said "She's alright," referring to me. Time passed as it does, and I never was hit. Though it didn't make it any easier, I retreated into myself and my shyness even more. My mom was hospitalized at that time, so I was unable to talk with her about all that had been going on. I found my solace in make-believe: Books, television and pretend; a vivid imagination which carried me through. And the peace remained.
     Choose peace. Don't start trouble. Endure and carry on. Ignore if you can, report if you need to. I wish I'd been brave enough, or known enough to report this girl to the authorities in my school. Without my mom's guidance at the time, I was unsure of what to do. But now I do know, and it wouldn't be to shamefully carry the weight and burden of torturous insult day after day. Seek a trusted guidance counselor or other family member. But do it. Talk to them. They may have gone through it as well.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


As I write today's blog, I'm reminded of what this picture, a favorite of mine, means to me. It shows true friendship, caring, tenderness, loyalty, perserverance and love. Haven't we all wanted a friend like that? Have we been a friend like that?

I look back over the years to the first friend I ever had, Patty, a girl who grew up only a few doors away from me and went to school with me in the early years. Long since moved away, we still keep in touch perhaps not as often as I'd like. Later, I would meet another friend, Diane, who would share so many of the same interests with me, almost like soul sisters. Many sleepovers, and fun times shared, as our vivid imaginations would carry me through some extremely rough times growing up.

 A cousin of mine would become a friend, a cousin who I admired, almost to the point of idolizing, and lost touch with.  Then the friendship of a girl I met in my later years, Goldie, a girl who was my high school pal as we chuckled and shared stories about boys.

To this day, I know can still count on, still tell my deepest hopes and dreams to some of them.

Many other friends would arrive between here and there. Friends who made me laugh, and others who helped me cry. Some who gave, and others who took. And now, in my later years, the warmth of older friends, people I might never have known if I hadn't taken a leap of faith and moved away from the town I grew up in.

At times my own brother has been my friend. My mom too, for in the early teenage years we laughed over stories now long gone. Beloved pets have been friend to me as well as they listened to my heart breaking and tears falling in the lonely stillness of the night.

Yes, the traits of our friends, the camaraderie, the loyalty, the willingness to listen and share. These are what we long for in our journey of life. A kindred spirit, a soul to reach out to. A giggle, a secret whispered.

We all long for frienship, and though some of us may not find it right away, there may come a time when a person is put in our path. A person who is meant to be there for us, or us, for them.
Thank you to all of you, my dear friends new and old, young and not so young. Thank you for what you've given me in good times and bad. Here's to all of you, mentioned and unmentioned. You have a special place in my heart.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shoes to Fill (An Ancestor Story)

     Whose shoes have you trod in? I thought about this today while reading posts in an ancestry site I belong to. The answer: All of those who have gone before us.
     It was last summer when I began doing research for a story I was writing at the time. Though fiction, I still wanted to use my own great-grandfather as the subject for the beginning of this tale. A haunting photo of him sparked my imagination and I was relentless in my pursuit.
     I joined sites, asked questions and spoke to relatives I hadn't seen in years. What did they know of him, what did they remember from stories they might have heard as children?
     We had some big shoes to fill. Pietro Biancucci was a young man when he arrived in this country. Leaving behind wife and children in Patrica, Italy to find work in America, the task couldn't have been easy. He spoke only Italian. He'd never traveled before.What would it be like when he arrived? Yet he found good work and with his carpentry skills, sent for his family to join him after a time.
     The tales I heard about him all seemed to paint a portrait of a soft-spoken, good-hearted man. With a shy wife, I'd found that Pietro had to explain the facts of life to his daughters, a task which must have not been easy. Also, he had been the one in his family to make homemade pasta. One of the most intriguing stories I'd heard was about a misunderstanding. Some men had accused my great-grandfather of some sort of mafia issues. He'd gone to the foreman in the mill he was working at and explained to the man that the story wasn't true. The foreman knew Pietro to be a man of character, so he'd taken care of the problem, though I'm not sure how.
     He died of pneumonia, something so easily curable now, in his forties. A good life snuffed out way too soon.
     My great aunts and uncle were a tribute to this man, their father. For each of them had lives, stories, love shared and lost. Good times and bad. Happiness and sadness. And my own mother, the product of generations later, a good, compassionate woman, a woman who taught me everyone has a story. A woman who carries within her the blood of these generations past and the tales handed down through the years.
     We all have shoes to fill and paths to trod upon. May your journey, and the tales of your ancestors light the way for you as you seek to discover the stories which molded you and the people who've gone before you. Don't wait another day. Learn all you can, share photos and look up relatives you haven't spoken to in years. Visit that aging grandparent, or great aunt or uncle. Don't let time slip by before you discover the shoes you are meant to wear. The person you're meant to become.

Monday, September 9, 2013

On Marriage and Commitment

     Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

     Tears streamed down my face as I clutched a shredded Kleenex in one hand. My sobs echoed loudly in the stillness of the room while I poured out my heart to the pastor who sat before me. I’d come to him seeking guidance about my husband and some of his recent, hurtful behavior. He’d disappointed me and let me down, making promises he wasn’t able to keep.
     My wounds from a previous marriage were fresh and raw. I’d been through so much pain; I vowed no other man would ever hurt me again.
     The pastor sat quietly, listening, scribbling notes every so often on a pad before him. “As I see it,” he said, leaning forward in his chair, “bold prayer from your heart is the answer. Treat him as you want to be treated, with kindness and respect.”
     Are you kidding? I thought. How could I do this when I’ve been the one so grievously wounded? He doesn’t deserve it.
     I slipped behind the wheel of my car that day deep in thought while glorious sunshine streamed through the windows. The warmth enveloped me, opened my heart to the feeling of God’s love surrounding me. Perhaps my hardened heart wasn’t allowing me to see how much unforgiveness I held onto from my past. Though my husband had been wrong in how he behaved, I realized the only person you can truly change is yourself.
       A little later in the day, a cup of tea sat before me upon the kitchen table, untouched as I began speaking to God as one would talk with a loving parent or dear friend.
     Help me to know you better.  I want to completely surrender to your will. My husband has his own burdens. Please help me to see him in a different light.
     Something inside me broke then. When he returned from work that evening, I spoke more kindly toward him. I made an effort to ask about his day, and really listen from my heart. Little by little, it became easier to affirm his good traits. It became easier to hold my tongue when I wanted to lash out in anger. My husband melted as I considered his needs first. He softened toward me when I began to love him with my whole heart.
     It’s been three years since I spoke to the pastor and surrendered myself to becoming a godly wife. Daily prayer has become a strong bond in this marriage. Before we leave for work, my husband and I sit in the stillness of our living room, hands clasped together while we speak aloud to our Father for guidance. This has been the greatest change of all: The power of spoken words which has rooted our love and commitment to one another more deeply than I ever thought possible.
        Father, I pray our commitment to you and each other will grow stronger with every passing day. May I continue to be a source of inspiration and encouragement to my husband and may our home be a safe haven he can return to each night.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lately I've Been Thinking

How many times have we said this saying? But lately, I have been thinking. As I approach another birthday, I see lines on my face which weren't there a few short years ago. I feel the ache of my bones, joints creaking when I sit too long, or the overuse of muscles from a hard day's work. I sigh in melancholy thinking about days gone by, pondering long over old photos, my hand resting upon them, willing those times to return.

I remember as a child, the trips we took as a family. Not the magnificent Walt Disney vacations most people go to now. These were simple, short trips. West View Park, about a half-hour away, playing games, riding kiddie rides, eating too much sticky, sweet food. And the very special overnight trips to Conneaut Lake Park, about an hour-and-a-half drive. Staying in old bungalows, some with sagging roofs, evidence of rodents, with the stuffing pulled from old sofas, the smell of mold and mildew. Cold, rainy mornings, but brilliant sunshine later in the day. A nighttime nip to the air staying in the old slightly haunted Conneaut Hotel by the lake.

I've been thinking about beloved pets long gone, the dogs who happily licked my face, the cats that spent hours listening to a little girl's tales. Birds, fish, a parade of hamsters and when they'd breathed their last, my mother always telling me they'd ran away to spare me of the pain of their deaths.

Mom and Dad. Older now, still beautiful people with beautiful hearts. Mom, as she made stories up, giving me the love of an imagination. Dad, as he patiently built crystal radio kits, helped me with homework, or explained football to me on a Sunday afternoon.

A baby brother born fourteen years after I'd been an only child. The closeness we shared as I watched him grow. The friendship, laughter and special secrets shared.

My own son. Now twenty-six years old, a young man with visions and his own dreams, own memories.

Yes, I'm all grown up now and I have been thinking. . . Yet the promise of future and hope is on the horizon, the events to look forward to with anticipation. Treasure your old memories, but don't linger with them too long. Let them pass as you make room for new ones.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Broad Spectrum And Other Things

I am a firm believer in promoting for others, in helping people fulfill their dreams. What better way than to share about one another? After all, how would the word be spread if not for one person at a time?

Today I share an interview from a very talented young man. I met him through Facebook on my journey of self-promotion, yet found such a good person, and amazingly versatile artist. I say artist, but not in the sense of drawing, sculpting or painting. For you see, there is so much more to the creative world than meets the eye. Take a look at Max Christian aka Jack Renard.

1. Tell me a little about yourself. What motivates you? What are some of your passions?

I'm a 20-something designer, voice actor, and all around digital storyteller. Ever since I was a little boy, I've literally dreamed of wild, impossible worlds I thought I'd never see. As I grew older, I discovered that art in all its expressions--and for me specifically, film--is a window through which we can experience worlds and stories we could never encounter in daily life. That's why I've devoted my career to using visual media to make those storyworlds real.
Although I appreciate the natural world, I tend to gravitate towards stories that defy it, so I really enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and the paranormal. Mythology is an especially magnificent obsession of mine. And for some reason I can't explain, I love costumed heroes--especially Zorro. That's what I really want to be when I grow up.

2. Walk us through Broad Spectrum. Was this your brainchild? Who is involved and why? What are some of your goals with it? What are your plans with it for the future?

Broad Spectrum actually came about when Neil Lee Griffin, Josh Moeller, and I found each other. Neil's an expert in music & sound, Josh can build any prop/set/costume/doomsday machine, and I move things around on a screen until it looks good. When we saw that together we could cover sight, sound, and action with our unique talents, we decided to make our own entertainment production company, Super Friends style. We were really idealistic back then--we thought it would be sunshine, puppies, and chocolate all the way to the Oscars. Thankfully Josh's wife Amber really stepped up to the plate and made sure we did what we needed in order to turn it into a real venture, business plan and all.
Originally we did a lot of commissioned work for local clients. We strived to cater to any media need, shooting music videos, crafting TV pilots, and scoring original compositions for anyone who phoned us up. This got us the capital to start focusing on our own productions. Since then, I've assumed a heavy leadership role, but Neil, Josh, Amber, and our other collaborators still work as a team.
We made the jump from commissioned work to original productions in 2011 with an animated web series ("Let's Destroy Metal Gear") based off the popular video game Metal Gear Solid. It blew up overnight and has since become our most famous production with over 1.5 million views. After a hiatus in 2012, we've returned with 3 unique animated web series and a podcast each month, in addition to producing Neil's individual albums. Currently we'd like to move into film shorts & live stage productions, as well as offer other aspiring creators a chance at additional exposure through our YouTube channel as a network.

3. Tell about the comic you work with. What gives you the ideas for this? Is Max Christian one of the characters?

We're currently working with 3 separate comics, but the one we're most proud of is Gunnerkrigg Court. It's actually a pretty complex story penned and illustrated by the phenomenally talented Tom Siddell. Everything revolves around the adventures of the curious Antimony Carver at the even curiouser school of Gunnerkrigg Court. There's a heavy dose of mythology and the paranormal, but the story as a whole really defies classification by any one genre. Parts of it are comedy, drama, romance, even horror. Siddell really makes it blend together in this incredibly unique mix.
As animator and voice actor for the motion comic releases of Gunnerkrigg Court, it's my job to actually breathe life into the characters I act as well as the rest of the Court through the animation. The most challenging aspect for me is finding the right balance of staying faithful to Tom's vision for the story while still putting my best touch on it.

There's actually a funny story behind "Max Christian"--he's my legal name! When I began work in entertainment I picked up the stage name Jack Renard based on some of my favorite mythical figures (Jack of the Lanterns, Renard the Fox). For a long time I considered legally changing it, but it just wouldn't be practical to have all of my education and accolades attributed to Devin Maxwell Christian. I'm also the last son in the Christian line, so I didn't want to responsible for snuffing out the family name. You'll still find me credited as Renard in all of my entertainment work though.
(Ironically it was years after I took my pseudonym that I found Tom Siddell had cast Renard the Fox as one of the main characters in Gunnerkrigg Court.)

4. You mentioned journalism recently. Do you have a background in this already? Is it something you've always been interested in?

Really it's a means to an end. I'm actually pursuing my degree in Mass Media Arts, which is all about television and Internet media production, yet it's offered through the Journalism college at UGA. Journalism, communication, and media tend to be intertwined so closely that you can't separate them. Of course I'm interested in anything that involves talking to millions of people, but I'd rather be making stories up than just reporting!

5. What other interests do you have that may be related to your passions and dreams?

I absolutely love adventure--my favorite book (closely ranked with The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers!) is Don Quixote. I know Cervantes meant the novel to lampoon the works of chivalry, but I loved how it portrayed a man so convicted in his beliefs that he refused to accept anyone telling him otherwise. Plus it was hilarious.
I try to keep that spirit of adventure in my daily life. Trying new things, exploring new places, I can't get enough of it. I've actually started training in parkour as a way to keep in shape and live out my superhero dreams. It's all about discovering your environment and traversing it in the most efficient way possible. A bad leg injury took me out of it for several weeks, but I'm looking forward to getting back out there.

6. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I'd like to see Broad Spectrum Studios incorporated, and I'd like it to be a hub network for talented individuals across music, film, and even video games who haven't been able to break into the big-time industry. Essentially a combination of the YouTube and Kickstarter models with a focus on discovering fresh entertainment perspectives. Specifically, entertainment that's going to do more than distract its viewers for a few hours--entertainment that makes people think.

The great thing about myth is it entertains us while it teaches us. The classic Athenian Tragedies were a way for citizens to meet and ruminate on important social issues, and I see no reason modern media can't evoke the same results. At the risk of sounding grandiose, I'd like to revive mythology with media at its heart.

7. Where can we find you? (social media) Provide links....

The Broad Spectrum Studios YouTube channel is the center for most of my work and interaction:
But you're also welcome to find me on Facebook and ask questions, critique my work, lodge hate mail, etc. :