Please, Grandma, get off the ladder

My cousin and I  were talking about whatever teenage girls talk about when I heard a clattering on the roof outside the upstairs window of the bedroom we were staying in. A quick look outside the window confirmed the source of the noise and it didn’t take long for my brain to register who the tuft of gray hair just above the edge of the roof belonged to.

I ran out of the room, down the stairs, through the dining room and the kitchen and out the front door. To my right was a ladder and on that ladder, luckily only about two and a half off the ground, was my 88-year old grandmother. She had a bucket on the porch railing near her and she was cleaning out the gutter. I didn’t want to startle her, but I knew  I needed to get her off that ladder before she fell and broke her hip, or worse, her skull.
Before I spoke a word, I did what any good granddaughter does – I walked slowly back into the house and grabbed my camera. 



“Um…grandma?” I spoke softly so I didn’t startle her and send her flailing backwards in shock and over the porch railing to the ground below.

She wore a hearing aid but she still heard us fairly well. My mom used to joke that she couldn’t hear anything unless we talked about something we didn’t want her to know about, like that time we spent $300 on our cat that was hit by a car and he died anyhow. We were pretty certain she would have told us, “Back in our days we threw them in pillowcases and drowned them or just shot them. $300 on a cat. Ridiculous.”, which is why my mom made us whisper about the cat or speak of it only when Grandma wasn’t in the room. Eventually, she did learn about the cat and her response was one of expected incredulous shock. Luckily she didn’t suggest we should have shot him.

Grandma heard me fine when I called to her from the bottom of the ladder but didn’t turn to look at me.

“Yes?” she said, continuing to pull slop from the gutter and toss it into the bucket.

“Um…what are you doing?” I asked, walking over to hold the bottom of the ladder and keep it steady on the concrete porch floor.

“I’m just cleaning out this gutter,” she told me, in a matter-of-fact tone. “Your dad said he could get to it after work but I figured I wasn’t doing anything else so I’d take care of it.”

I assured her Dad would finish the job when he got home and urged her to climb down. My cousin and I were at home alone with her and I couldn’t imagine how much trouble we would be in if we simply let her climb ladders and fall off and break a hip.

The photo of the moment wasn’t high quality since I took it quickly and on a simple point-and-shoot camera. I barely took time to focus out of fear I would capture her mid-fall. Had I been married at the time I’m sure my husband would have said what he has said about some of my photos of the children.

“Don’t you think you should have put the camera down and helped your 88-year old grandmother off the ladder instead?” he might have asked, much like he once asked, “Don’t you think you should have put the camera down and taken the dog food out of our son’s hand?”

Of course the answer to those types of questions is always ‘no, I should not have put the camera down.’ The photo is almost always worth more than a thousand words used to describe it, though sometimes words also help. In my defense, the baby didn’t eat the dog food and my 88-year old grandmother didn’t fall off the ladder.

Advertisements

The urge to laugh when I probably should be crying

The pastor who officiated at my aunt’s funeral in August did a wonderful job reminding us we are all going to die soon.

She prayed: “Remind us how limited our time is, Lord. How we are but a breath away from our last. How our days are numbered.” And then she prayed some other encouraging lines to never let us forget that we should keep the funeral director on speed dial.

I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t she just say, ‘remind us, Lord that we are at death’s door and we live our lives with one foot in the grave.’?”

I know the tone of the message was making me uncomfortable, so I couldn’t imagine how the rest of the room felt when many of them were closer to death than me, based on their age and the oxygen tank being carried by at least one.

I sat in the back row and found my brain filling with inappropriate thoughts and reactions to what was going on around me. I kept staring at the amazingly large ears of the elderly man three rows ahead of me and wondered if they had always been that large or if they had drooped and stretched over the years, much like women’s breasts, as they age. At one point I almost giggled out loud as I mentally checked off how many more ways the minister could describe our impending deaths.

I looked around the funeral home and realized it was the same one we had all sat in the day of my uncle’s funeral more than 15 years before and it hadn’t changed since then, or maybe even since the  1950s. The mint-green paint was chipping in places, the air conditioner sounded like a cat had got stuck inside and I was fairly certain the floor had never been replaced and someone’s foot might shoot right through the boards when they stood up to leave.

A glance at the ceiling made me wonder if parts of it might cave in our heads, creating more business for the funeral home director, a man who had unwittingly tortured me when I’d worked as the hometown editor at the local paper, always sending obits riddled with typos, typed on either an electric typewriter or maybe a computer so old that it filled one half of a room. He always sent them by fax and I had to transcribe them into the computer since the way they were typed made it impossible to scan them in to the computer”. Other funeral homes would email their obituaries, leaving me to merely copy and paste them to be published in the next days newspaper. No matter the hints I dropped, though, this director seemed blissfully unaware that his failure to upgrade made my work nights even longer.

As I sat there in the funeral home, in a metal chair that squeaked or made fart sounds when I shifted or breathed, I knew that all these giggling-inducing thoughts were a type of self-protecting hysteria, my internal self-defense mechanisms kicking in to keep me from breaking down. I couldn’t help feel guilty for not being more serious during such a somber time. Luckily, the urge to giggle dissipated when family members, including my dad, stood to speak.

I often find myself laughing at the wrong moments – giggling when my son trips over his feet and lands on his face (as long as he gets back up again and isn’t bleeding) or when someone trips and spills what they were carrying (again, as long as they are uninjured). These moments of fighting to hold back inappropriate laughter make me think of an episode of the British sitcom “Coupling” where the characters struggle to hold in their giggles at a funeral and the scenes switch between the actors at the funeral and a metaphorical tower of glasses about to tumble.

Sitting in the back of that funeral home, straining to hear the kind words being spoke about my aunt over the grinding of the dying air conditioning unit, I fought to keep my own internal tower of glasses from falling. I knew that my urge to laugh was simply misplaced emotions, my brain’s way of trying to claw toward numbness so I could feel less of the pain of having suffered another loss in our family in less than a year.

I welcomed the humor, the pushed down giggles, because it was like a mental release valve for my mind, a way to keep me sinking beneath the surface of depression, with no chance of coming back up to breathe the air of joy again.

The balancing act of being a parent

There is a children’s musical entertainer named Tom Knight who visits the local libraries and summer concert series each year in our area. While his songs are, of course, aimed at children who are around the preschool age, sometimes the lyrics hit home for me.

One song, in particular, caught my attention one day when were listening to the CD in the car: The Juggler. When Knight sings the song live he roams through the crowd of children while juggling a few balls, throwing them under his legs and high in the air as we walks and sings.

Well the juggler is a strange one,” he sings. “He does his tricks for his own fun. And the people gather ’round him. To see the tricks that astound ’em.

And the chorus:
But when the juggler is in danger of losing all he has. Then the juggler gets it balanced. And he’s right back where he started.”

The other verses, with the chorus thrown in a couple of times in between: “So it’s faster and it’s funny. It’s hard to play for the money. But it’s easy with the patter. ‘Cuz it’s the jokes that matter. So the juggler is a dancer. He’s an actor with no answer. But it’s simple entertainment. And it’s worthy of the time spent. Here’s a good day, here’s a slow one. It’s hard to keep it goin’. It takes practice, but it’s fun too.
It’s easy just count one two three four five six.

But the song is simply about a juggler, right? When you read the lyrics it certainly sounds like it, so why would a song about an entertainer throwing objects in the air and catching them again hit home for me, a simple, stay-at-home mom with only two children?

Because, I, this mother of “only” two children, see a double meaning in the lyrics. I relate to the juggler because I feel like I am the juggler. In fact, I think we all, parents or not feel like we are a jugger, at one time or another, in our lives. We are all always juggling something in life – if not relationships then work if not work then home life, if not home life then general life “stuff,” for lack of a better word.

Many parents definitely feel like we are juggling about a hundred things all day long. We are juggling requests, tasks, whining children, work, cooking, laundry, and thoughts – almost losing our balance, but able to somehow get back on track.

Throughout the course of the day, I feel like my head is constantly spinning, with thoughts jumping from one subject to another. At the same time my 4-year old daughter wants me to play with her and her stuffed animals I need to cook dinner. At the same time I’m cooking dinner my son wants me to see something he has created on Minecraft, the dog needs to go out and the cat is sitting on the island giving me the evil eye because I’m not petting her.

So it’s faster and it’s funny. It’s hard to play for the money. But it’s easy with the patter. ‘Cuz it’s the jokes that matter. So the juggler is a dancer. He’s an actor with no answer. But it’s simple entertainment.

When dinner is done my daughter still wants me to play but there is writing I need to do for a freelance assignment and photos I forgot to edit for a client, keywords to write for stock photography, laundry to fold, dishes to wash, parents to call, friends to message and God to try to hear over it all.

Now it’s bedtime and the dog is terrorizing the cat again, I forgot to fold the laundry because I was distracted with writing a blog post, I never responded to the friend’s message, and the dishwasher is only half loaded.

And God? Well, I can’t even hear what He wants to say because I’ve thrown all the pieces of life in the air and I’m trying to juggle them all by myself.

But, if I would just let him, God would take each one – each worry about homeschooling, each stress about finances, each rushed and anxious feeling about all that needs to be done, and he’d take care of them and tell me that I no longer need to be The Juggler.

“Here’s a good day, here’s a slow one,” Tom Knight says. “It’s hard to keep it goin’. It takes practice, but it’s fun too. It’s easy. Just count one two three four five six.”

Yes, the balancing is hard.

There will be bad days, then good days, fast ones and slow ones where we have to wait until we take the next step. Those waiting days where we feel like we can’t throw even one more ball up amongst the others.

Some days it is hard to keep all the balls sailing, but even on the hard days, there is joy, hope and a Heavenly Father who is reaching out to help us slow it all down and trade the balancing act for sturdy ground.

“Then the juggler gets it balanced. And he’s right back where he started.”

What I’m reading this week: Rediscovering Mitford

This is part of the Sunday Salon – a series of blog posts where regular folks write about what they’re reading.

In the last couple of weeks, I decided to rediscover Mitford, the fictional town created by author Jan Karon, and the characters within it – most notably Father Tim Kavanaugh, the charming Episcopal priest and his wife Cynthia, who he married late in life.

downloadI own hardcover and paperback copies of most of the series but started downloading the new books into my Kindle a couple of years ago. This time around I started my latest visit to Mitford with book 13, “Come Rain, Come Shine,” which I had started last year but never finished. Then this week I started the latest book in the series, book 14 “To Be Where You Are”. I’m afraid to look anywhere online until I finish it because of spoilers, but I did Google Karon when my mom and I were wondering how old she must be now and learned she has recently written the last of the series as a collection of sermons and prayers by Father Tim. This distressed my mom a little because she has read “To Be Where You Are” already and said some of the character’s stories were left hanging

I started reading these books in high school and have loved following the stories of the characters. I’ve laughed with them (because there is a lot of humor) and I’ve cried with them (because there are some definite tear-jerking moments, some heartbreaking and some simply touching). I used to read the books in a couple of days because I simply couldn’t put them down. I still move through them fairly fast, but I’m faced with more interruptions now that I have children so the books are a nice thing to disappear into late at night once they are asleep.karon

For those who haven’t read the books, Father Tim and Cynthia have an adopted son Dooley and a slew of friends and family, whose stories are also part of the books. The story of how Dooley became their son and the fracturing of his family weave in and out of the books, with new characters, such as Dooley’s brothers and estranged mother, being added in each edition. There are other reoccurring characters who are part of almost every book and include the local newspaper’s editor and his reporter wife (something I could definitely relate to), the owners of the local restaurant, the local veterinarian, and church parishioners whose stories often intertwine with the main characters. At times there are a couple of different plots going on throughout the book, but each one seems to come back to Father Tim.

While Karon’s writing isn’t super deep or complex, she is a talented writer who is able to use words to paint a beautiful picture of a scene or an interaction and pull the reader into the moment.

In the first chapter of the fourteenth book in the series, one sentence she wrote made me pause and read it slowly again: “The chlorophylls of summer foliage would have degraded into nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites, and hidden pigments would explode in a pyrotechnic extravagance of scarlet, gold, vermilion, and out-loud yellow.

I think one reason I’m in love with the books is that I can relate to the characters, the life in a small town and to life in North Carolina, which is where my mom’s entire family is from and where she grew up.

Opening the books is like visiting with old friends and also makes me think of an old friend who had loved me but needed so much love she drained me and others of almost all their energy in the process.

She once gave me a small, wooden frame with the words: “I’d rather be in Mitford” printed off a computer. I have many regrets in my life and not getting back in touch with her after one too many of her demands weighted me down is one of them. She passed away a couple of years ago and I like to hope heaven is a lot like Mitford for her – with quirky, funny and friendly characters.

As for me, I’ve often looked at that little sign during stressful times in my life and thought the same thing – how much I’d like to be in Mitford instead of dealing with the stress of the moment.

So what are you reading these days? Anything good? Let me know in the comments!

Creative Tuesday: The loss of time to be bored may be killing our creative buzz

My kid flops on the couch on his stomach, face smashed into the cushions and lets out an exasperated sigh.

He turns his face toward me, eyelids heavy and his words are full of whine:

“I’m sooooooo booooooored.”

While I once thought filling my children’s days with various activities was the key to keeping them out of trouble, and their mind engaged, I’ve started to embrace what I’ve heard others talk about – the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored, especially if we are a creative person.

That’s right – actually having nothing to do can be a blessing to us, not a curse.

When we are bored we stop, look around us, and find inspiration. When we are bored our brains wander and when our brains wander, they often stumble on creative, interesting ideas.

It’s no surprise that some of the greatest innovations of our time came during a time in life when things moved slower and there were fewer distractions from technology.

Technology is a double-edged sword for creativity. It benefits us by connecting us to so many, getting our creations seen by others, and by adding a different dynamic to how we create. But technology also hampers us by filling our brains with so much information and distraction that we rarely slow down to simply listen to our own hearts and visions. And if we are too wrapped up in technology it will actually completely suffocate our creative voice.

Many of us are guilty of being addicted to social media. As easily as we can find ourselves trapped in a Youtube spiral (where we jump from video to video until we are bleary-eyed) we can find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of comparison when we follow several artists in our particular medium. Even if we are not comparing when we are on social media, we are easily distracted on sites like Facebook and Instagram, so much so that we may find ourselves wasting most of our day on our phone or sitting at our computer and that is time we could have been using to create and truly experience life.

I recently downloaded a book into my Kindle by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist who found herself face-to-face with boredom in 2007 when her first child was born and never wanted to sleep. The iPhone had just started to become popular (can you believe it’s only been about 10 or 11 years since the iPhone/smartphone started taking over our world?!) and she found herself walking several miles a day to help the baby sleep. As she walked her mind wandered and she began to dream of what she would do when she could sleep and work again. She came up with ideas of how she could work at home while also being a mother and all went well until she started using the smartphone everyone else was using; to help make her life and work easier.

She found that every “down moment” she had was filled with wasting time on the phone and that left little time for imagining or thinking about new ideas. So when it came time to create for the podcast she had conceived while at home with her baby, her brain was empty. She realized that one reason she didn’t have any more new ideas was that she was never bored. She never gave her brain any time to rest.

After talking to neuroscientists about what happens when we are bored, she learned it is during those down times that our brains create new neural connections. When our brains are quiet they look back at our lives, create a personal narrative, and make plans for our future and for future projects, she was told.

The problem is that many of us never give ourselves time to be quiet and let our brain decompress, Zomorodi points out. We keep our brains busy constantly. We don’t simply watch a television show anymore. We watch a show while doing reports on our computer or listening to a podcast and scrolling through Facebook. Not only is this detrimental to us from a mental standpoint, but it’s also detrimental to us physically, for a variety of reasons, which Zomorodi details in her book and in her TED Talk.

When it comes to creativity we need those moments of boredom even more. We need periods of boredom to think, to imagine and to hear our inner, creative voice.

Many of us, myself included, equate boredom to laziness. This could not be further from the truth, as Zomorodi learned and many researchers are learning. And beyond what “experts” are learning, you can learn it yourself.

You’re not being lazy when you’re contemplating, working out creative ideas or thinking about what you hope for your future.

You’re letting your brain have the space it needs to open doors to creativity.

To hear more about Zomorodi’s findings, you can see her TED talk below or find her book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.”

Faithfully thinking: when your glad God doesn’t answer some prayers

Do you know what I’m grateful for today? I’m grateful that sometimes God doesn’t answer “yes” to some of our prayers. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I mean, who is happy when God says “no” to them?

People who pray for things they really think they want but later realize they never did, are happy when God says “no” to a request. Of course, we aren’t happy in the midst of our disappointment but down the road, we are struck by relief.

“My word, imagine if God had answered that prayer my letting me have what I wanted,” we might think. “Imagine the stress I would have been under then. I think it’s bad now but if I had been given the desires of my heart back then – ouch. Nightmare for sure!”

DSC_6950

For me I know one prayer I’m actually glad God didn’t answer yes to was for a full-time photography business. Once upon a time, I wanted to be busy every weekend, taking and then editing photos of other people and their children. I imagined that if I could do that then I’d be a real photographer and I would be popular and yes, yes, Sally Fields, people would like me too.

When that dream never came I was crushed. I was rejected and I’ll let you in on a secret – there are many days I still am. But, my goodness, am I so happy I’m not dealing with the stress of worrying about doing the right things for a different group of people every weekend – juggling personalities and soothing egos and simply trying to please them all, no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very lucky that almost every client I’ve had for photography has been easy to get along with and a blast to photograph. Still, let’s face it, no client is perfect and even if they don’t mean to, stress can come with having clients, even if it is self-created stress.

I still accept requests for photo sessions or freelance assignments but I don’t ever see myself being a well-known or well-sought after photographer and I’m finally perfectly happy with that. I’m actually happy with my small, boring and run-of-the-mill life with my two children, my husband, the cat and Zooma the Wonder Dog.

000003_DSC_6424

I have found joy in being Mom, in homeschooling, in rambling on blogs and sometimes being offered freelance assignments in writing or photography. I’ve even found joy in the daily chore of cooking meals. (Pray for me to also find the joy in cleaning.) I can honestly say that this prayer is one I’m glad God answered no to. And any of the rejection I felt from that “no” is something I can continue to ask God to heal me from, even as I rejoice in how His ‘no’ became a “yes” in many other ways.

How about you? Is there a prayer or two you’ve uttered and now, looking back, you’re glad God didn’t answer “yes” to?

Faithfully thinking: I may not think, speak or do things like you but God can still use me

“To be honest, I don’t know why I even write anymore,” I thought to myself one morning. “I don’t know much about anything and I’m full of very little wisdom. I’m a mom and a wife and I take photos for myself and that’s about it. I’ve never written a book, I don’t have a thriving business and last school year I was called a bad parent and it makes me try too hard at this blasted homeschooling thing.”

Cleaning the house? Don’t get me started. Actually, if you did get me started I would be completely overwhelmed and would end up in a fetal position crying and still nothing would get cleaned.

Cooking? I try my best but I often find myself imagining that cardboard with salt would taste better than my dinners.

Parenting? Last week my daughter bit her brother in the shoulder because he was sitting in the chair she wanted and my son is addicted to Minecraft. I have a huge “Fear of Missing Out ” (FOMO) problem but it’s mainly focused on my children because I already know I’m missing out and I’m so tired every single day of my life I don’t even care.

In other words, I’m a mess, or so I feel most days.

My one comfort is knowing I’m not alone, that I may be a train wreck but somewhere in this world there is another mom in another house feeling as inadequate as me.

DSC_6560

And despite how we feel, the truth is we are loved, we are worthy and we can be used by God even when others have written us off. I express doubts often and recently, after three weeks of trials stacked one on top of another on top of our family, I tossed out a few words of doubt on Facebook about whether or not God even cares for us.

I received an admonishment from a fellow Christian who told me: “Repent of your thinking” because nothing comforts a person dealing with trials by telling them they’re falling short in their Christian walk.

Those scolding comments are something that tends to make me pause and decide I’m not worthy to talk about faith or Christ, wonder why I even thought I should, and lead me to withdrawal within myself and vow to keep my inferior opinions to myself. The truth is, though, we are all on our own journey and on that journey we are going to stumble more than once.

DSC_5409Maybe God can use me even if I have doubts and I express them and I say things that don’t fit your idea of what a “good Christian girl” should say or should be. Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Maybe I show my weak moments when you hide yours but that does not exclude me from being used by God.

Those comments that don’t sound “Biblical” to you or don’t fit your personal narrative, those comments I throw out there in a moment of frustration or under the heavy burden of trial after trial after trial in a short amount of time, don’t dismiss me from God’s list of people who can be used for His Kingdom.

As I heard Pastor Steven Furtick say in a recent sermon: “There is nothing wrong with you that isn’t right with God.”

If you’re like me and feel your imperfect attitude disqualifies you from speaking your feelings about faith and God, let’s remind each other God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and maybe what some of us are called to do is let our messy moments show so others know they’re not alone.

____

To follow my blog you can find a follow button at the top of the sidebar to the right. To follow my photography you can find me at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler
To can also see my photography at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or Lightstock.

Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

DSC_2617-Edit

DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wrestlers, degenerate reporters and a president on this week’s reading list

This post is part of the Sunday Salon, which is a group of bloggers who join together one day of the week to share what they’re reading, watching or simply what’s up in their life, although it’s mainly about what they are reading.

I’m finally finishing some books I started months ago and either wandered away from when a new and shiny book caught my attention (squirrel!) or simply filed away in the Kindle because it didn’t hold my interest.

shawnFirst up this week to finish was something I don’t normally read – the autobiography of a professional wrestler. Shawn Michaels, also known as the Heartbreak Kid, or by his real name of Michael Shawn Hickenbottom (no, really, that’s his real, non-showbiz name), wrote this second autobiography, “Wrestling for my Life: the Legend, The Reality, and The Faith of a WWE Superstar” several years after his first (that’s what you write when you’re too lazy to look up the date of his first autobiography)  and after becoming a Christian.

The book goes into some detail about how Michaels got his start as a wrestler, but not as much as a first autobiography would. Instead, this book is more about how his faith changed him and became the focal point of his life, seeping into every pore of his being, including professionally.  He writes about his struggles to learn what it means to be a man of faith, the stumbling steps he took toward kicking an alcohol and pill addiction and becoming a better man for his devoted wife, a former wrestler herself, and his children.  This is definitely “light reading” but as a practicing Christian myself, I see a lot of depth in Michaels’ words about his Christian walk.

lincolnA book I’m still plowing through, but haven’t yet finished is The Last Trial of Lincoln, which is about – ummm – the last, um, trial, of Lincoln. Hence the name.

But seriously, it’s a book about the final trial Abraham Lincoln served on as defense attorney before running for president. The basic plot is that Lincoln is defending a young man accused of murdering another man during a knife attack. The question is if it was premeditated or accidental. Much of the book is seen through the eyes of scribe Robert Hitt, the real-life scribe to the trial, whose handwritten manuscript of the trial was discovered in 1989 and is the basis of the book.

The full name of the book is actually “Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to The Presidency.” The author is Dan Abrams, chief legal analyst for ABC News and the book is often as wordy as his book titles (according to Amazon his last book was titled, “Man Down: Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else.”)

The book is good, but it’s so chocked full of words and legal jargon and flashbacks that help to paint the picture of who Lincoln was as a lawyer, that I’m finding myself needing breaks from it to rest my poor, less-intellectual brain. I don’t want it to sound like the book is so deep it is unreadable, however, because it is actually entertaining. It’s simply that there are so many flashbacks that I am halfway through it and wondering if we will ever get to the end of the trial before the book ends. I’ll let you know if that happens or not.

A book I just started and read when I want something a little lighter, with quick to the point sentences, is the second book in the Fletch series, Carioca Fletch by Gregory McDonald. Technically, according to my husband, who really should be writing blog posts about books, this is not the “second” Fletch book but it is the book that follows the first book chronologically. In this book, Fletch is in Brazil, having escaped from his past adventure with his life and some money (I won’t spoil that book for you) and is confronted by an old woman who believes he is the reincarnation of her late husband, who was murdered. Now Fletch’s new Brazilian friends, if not Fletch himself, want Fletch to solve the murder and release the soul of the already deceased man.

Since I just started the book, I’m really not sure where it’s going to go but I have a feeling, based on the first Fletch book, it’s going to be a twisted tale where Fletch’s lack of empathy and humanity is going to be showing.

The people in it are pretty sad and without feeling so far, but for some reason, I can’t tear myself away, maybe because Fletch is a crooked journalist and I worked with a few of those during my time as a small town newspaper reporter at four newspapers in Pennsylvania and New York.

When I really need light reading, I turn to something very simple and lighthearted that doesn’t require any intellectual capability at all and for the past few months that has been the Paddington Bear series. Thank you, Michael Bond, for transporting me into a second childhood late at night when I’m trying to take my mind off of the screaming outside word. I’m currently on my third Paddington book – Paddington Abroad.

x400Writing this I am now realizing I’m, again, reading about a British bear, though the other book (Enchanted Places, the autobiography of Christopher Milne) wasn’t necessarily about the “bear” but the boy who was a friend of “the bear” (Winnie the Pooh). I guess there is something comforting to me about bears and the British, maybe because I still have the Teddybear I had as a child and … I have no idea about the British thing since I have no British family members.

So how about you? What are you reading this week? What’s inspiring you? What’s comforting you? What’s making you think?