Part of the Family

Tyler tried to slip away unnoticed. No luck! Cassie looked up when she heard the gate open. “Where are you going, Tyler?”

“To the park.” Tyler scowled at the squeaky hinge.

She came over to the fence. “You should stay here. You know Mom said Paul’s coming over.”

“Paul might play ball with us,” five-year-old Tisha added. “That’ll be so much fun!”

“I don’t like Paul!” Tyler kicked angrily at a tuft of grass.

Tisha’s eyes opened wide. “Why don’t you, Tyler? He’s nice.”

“I don’t like him!” Tyler repeated. “He’s not my dad and he can quit acting like it.

“Our Dad is gone, Tyler,” Cassie reminded him quietly. “Mom says we need accept it.”

Angrily Tyler shoved his hands in his pockets. Maybe they could accept it, but he never would! They should have their own dad like other families did. There never should have been an accident. Or Dad should have gotten better after. He never should have died and left them alone. It wasn’t fair!

And now Paul was coming over, talking with Mom, smiling at her. They said they’re going to get married. Mom would forget all about Dad! Paul was so friendly to them, too, trying to win them over. Tisha was totally on his side already. She would never even remember Dad. Everybody would forget Dad.

“He thinks he can take Dad’s place,” Tyler grumbled, “but he never will. I wish he’d just go away and leave us alone!”

He turned and ran for the park, ignoring Cassie’s call to come back. She thought because she was twelve now that she could tell him and Tisha what to do. That wasn’t fair, either. He could look after himself; he was almost ten. He could help look after the family, too. They didn’t need Paul. Why didn’t he just beat it?

Conclusion tomorrow….

Restoring Grandpa’s Clock

Colleen frowned at her brother Tom, then sighed. “I still think you should just ask her for it instead of trying to steal it. I can’t see how you can help but get caught. Is that clock really worth so much to you that you’d stoop to theft?”

“It’s the principle of the thing, Sis. Auntie just claimed all Grandpa & Grandma’s stuff and took it home with her, just because she lives close. And she’s going to hoard it until the day she dies. All the stuff they wanted to give us will be passed on to her children.

“You can’t really call this theft exactly; it’s more like restoring our inheritance. I know Grandpa wanted to give me that clock; he told me several times. One time when I went there he was chiseling my name on the back, so everyone would know. And I’m sure Auntie’s not blind. So she’s just keeping it. Period.”

Coleen shook her head sadly, remembering the Lone Star quilt Grandma promised her that she wasn’t going to get, either. But she wasn’t going to go steal it. “And when she sees it’s missing? If I’m there right at that time, how can I help but be implicated?”

“She won’t even know it’s gone. You know how cluttered Auntie’s house is. You could lose a Saint Bernard in there.”

Tim ran his hand through his hair and outlined his plan again. “I’ll be driving the company truck. You know the old lane to the pasture, not far from Auntie’s place. There’s a that clump of chokecherry bushes; I’ll park behind those and take the path through the woods. When you see my truck sitting there, you just go ring her doorbell and chat her up. Ask her about her garden. You’ll be with her the whole time, so she’ll know you didn’t take it.

“If she sees my truck and guesses I was around, I’ll say I was tending to an emergency nearby. She has no right to have that clock. It’s mine and I want it.”

The next afternoon Colleen drove out to Auntie’s house at the designated time but her nerves felt like a swarm of grasshoppers and she felt a tension headache coming on. She saw the Apex Roofing truck as she passed; it was well-hidden from the road.

Slowly she turned into Auntie’s driveway, but she made up her mind as she came to a stop that she’d ask Auntie for Grandpa’s clock on Tom’s behalf, even if doing so would implicate her in its disappearance. She couldn’t bear to see her brother become a thief over such a trifle, though it was an heirloom.

She walked up to Auntie’s door, dread in every step, a prayer in every breath. She shouldn’t be doing this. How did she ever get roped into it? But she had to protect her rash brother somehow. Surely God could work something out for them.

She rang the bell and Auntie came to the door right away. “Colleen!  How nice you came. I was just about to have a drink.”

“I… I was driving by and thought I’d stop for a minute,” Colleen began. “I know we haven’t been together since Grandpa’s funeral and I was thinking it’s high time.” The word “time” reminded her of the clock and she winced.

“Well, I’m so glad you’ve come!” Auntie gushed. “Come join me for an iced tea. Yes, when the folks died I was so overwhelmed with it all, all the arrangements, being executrix… Then I had to have the house cleaned out within two weeks.

“You did?”

“Yes, it was sold privately, you know, and the new folks wanted possession right away, so I just gathered up all Mom & Dad”s stuff and brought it here. I’ve finally gotten up courage to sort through it. I was so happy when I found a list your Grandma made; she’d rolled it up in an old slip in her undies drawer.” Auntie rolled her eyes. “Easy place to find it, right? It’s a list of things they wanted each of the grandchildren to have, and I see you should be getting that Lone Star quilt she made years back. Now I can give it to you.”

“And the clock Grandpa carved…?”

“O, that has your brother’s name on it. Dad said several times that it would be Tim’s someday, so I’m planning to give it to him next time I see him.”

“Wow, Auntie, That’s super. You know, he came along with me today, sort of, but he wanted to…was going to…wander through the woods a bit. But I’ll give him a shout. He’ll be so happy to know he’s getting Grandpa’s clock. Maybe you could pour us both a glass of iced tea while I go find him.”

Colleen hurried outside and headed down the path to the woods. But before she called Tom’s name, she looked up to heaven and waved. “Thank you, God!”

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part III

Concluding chapter:

Still holding Joyce’s arm, Steve turned to Brian. “We’re not having Mom’s 80th Birthday ruined by a squabble between you two. Dad’s coming in a few minutes. Can you just cool it long enough for us to get his feelings on the matter.”

“They’re here,” Darryl announced.

The doorbell rang and Rick & Emily walked in, followed by Grandpa.

Rick waved. “Hi, everybody. We’ve brought Grandpa, so you’d better be on your best behavior now.”

Grandpa slowly walked into the room and Rick closed the door behind him. Then he stepped over to Uncle Steve, his father, and whispered something in his ear. Steve frowned.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, but it seemed to Todd that Grandpa wasn’t his usual self. Had he caught wind of the argument, too? As Jim & Jenny hugged Grandpa, Todd caught the glimmer of a tear in the old man’s eye.

Then Grandpa looked toward Brian and Sylvie and smiled. “So, everything set for Mom’s birthday party? The Seniors Centre is spoken for, the cake’s ordered, the guests invited.”

Brian flushed. “Uh…we were just discussing that last part. Joyce was to invite the guests and she thinks…uh…she decided not to… ”

“Come, Dad.” Cassie took his arm and led him to the recliner. “Let’s all sit down and then we can discuss all these details. Let me get you some iced tea first.” She gave a sharp look at her brother-in-law in passing and he followed them into the living room.

Soon everyone was seated in the living room. Grandpa inspected his three children in turn as if picking up some bad vibes. “Now, what were you saying, Brian? Joyce decided what?”

Joyce started. “My brothers left it to me to put the announcement in the paper, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t throw open the doors for everyone and his pup. You know there are always so many who come just because it’s a party and there’s free food. People Mom wouldn’t even know.”

“I wanted to spare her that, so I thought it best if we’d just phone the ones we want to come,” she said, leaning back into the sofa cushions. “But Brian doesn’t see it that way and he’s being so stubborn about it.”

Brian turned to his dad. “You and Mom are friends with half the people in town and goodness knows how many more out of it. We’ve already phoned all your special friends, but we’d decided an announcement in the paper would take care of letting everyone else know. That was to go in last week.” He gave Joyce a sharp look.

“So what if a few extras come,” he continued. “However… It’s almost too late now. But the thing is, Joyce went ahead and decided this all on her own.”

“It’s not such a big thing really,” Cassie said, handing Grandpa a glass of iced tea. “We’ll just phone a few more folks…”

Brian thumped the arm of his chair. “Which we wouldn’t have to do if Joyce had just done what she was supposed to in the first place! It IS a big thing! She can be so…so positive that she’s right. Nobody can tell her anything.”

Grandpa digested this for a moment to digest, then he laughed. “Say, this is just like old times. You two used to have some real rows when you were tikes. One would say ‘Yes’ and one would say ‘No!’ and you’d go at it for half an hour.”

He looked out the window as if gazing back over the years. “But you’d sure stick up for one another, too. Why, I remember the times, Brian, when you’d beg your big sister to take you to the park because you weren’t able to go there by yourself. Even if she had something else she wanted to do she’d take your hand and off you’d go together… You had complete faith in her back then; you knew she’d stand up to them if the big kids bullied you.”

Brian cleared his throat and looked at his shoes.

“Remember the time a stranger offered you a ride. He had this cute little pup in his car and he wanted you to come along home with him because he had a boy just your age. You two could play with the pup, he said. When Joyce saw you heading for that car she came running and dragged you back, screeching so much everyone on the block turned to look. That stranger laid quite a bit of rubber on the road getting out of there. Her being right paid off that day; if it wasn’t for her you might not be with us today.”

“I can dimly recall that,” said Brian softly.

“I remember.” Joyce chuckled. “You were furious when I wouldn’t let you go play with that boy and his puppy.”

“I guess you understood the situation a lot better than I did. Thank God.”

Their father nodded. “Yes, Thank God. And, Joyce, remember the time when you and Brian went swimming at the pond, then you got that cramp and went under. I don’t know how Brian managed to drag you out, being so scrawny at the time, but he saved your life.”

Joyce nodded soberly. “That’s right.”

“We thanked God many times over for that one, too.” Then Grandpa chuckled. “And when you were in grade eight you almost tore your hair out trying to pass geometry. Your brothers both patiently explained it many times until you finally got a handle on it.”

Brian grinned at her. “Pie are square.”

“And remember when we got our first computer, the year you started high school, and Brian figured the thing out lickety-split. So that’s who you called every time you crashed the thing. Now you work with one every day.”

“I still call on him when I have problems,” Joyce admitted, smiling at Brian.

“And Brian, I think Joyce gave you your love of good books, ’cause she was always reading to you once she learned how herself…though you probably don’t recall those times.”

“Yeah, some.” Brian nodded at Joyce. “I think you kept it up until I was in third grade or so. Then you helped me get my grammar straight.” He laughed. “You never dreamed I’d be an editor someday.”

“Well, enough reminiscing,” said Grandpa, setting his drink down. “We have a party to plan. And we want to make it the best one yet.”

He was quiet a moment. A tear trickled down his cheek. “Because this is going to be the last one.”

Joyce gasped. “Dad! What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t want to spoil the party, so we were planning to gather the family together afterward to tell you all together, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. Mom saw the doctor a few days ago. He says she has acute leukemia. He gives her about six more weeks in this old world.”

There was a collective gasp. Tiffany threw her arms around Todd. Brian, Joyce, and Steve embraced each other, all of them in tears. Then the cousins were all hugging one another and Grandpa, each other, their aunts and uncles.

Aunt Cassie squeezed Todd’s mother and whispered, “They say the family that plays together stays together. In this case it’s the family that weeps together.”

Sylvie nodded as they watched Brian, Steve, and Joyce hugging each other. “Thank God,” she murmured.

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part II

Jim eyed his mother-in-law, then his Uncle Brian. “Tornado — Red Alert, “ he called out. “Everybody to the basement!”

Brian stopped mid-stride and looked around, then out the window. “Tornado? What are you talking about? The sky is clear.”

“The atmosphere in here looks pretty stormy, Dad.” Todd looked from his father to his aunt, then back again. “The way you came marching in here, you look like a thundercloud about to zap somebody.”

Brian glared at his sister. “Well, somebody here needs zapping. Maybe they’d get hit with a little common sense.”

Aunt Joyce bristled. “If anyone here needs common sense…”

Brian gritted his teeth. “Your aunt has taken it upon herself….”

“I don’t want Mom’s party turning into a free-for-all. And if you weren’t so obstinate, you’d admit I’m right.”

“A free-for-all?” Jenny repeated.

Brian stuck out his chin. “Of course you’re right, Joyce. You’ve always been right, ever since we were kids and I tried to correct some crazy idea you had.”

“And you never would admit it when my idea was better!”

“Whoa, you two,” Todd interrupted. “Would one of you care to explain what this is all about?”

“Your Aunt Joyce has ruined Grandma’s birthday.”

“I’ve saved it from being spoiled by a bunch of party-crashers. You’re too stubborn to…”

“Mom,” Jenny demanded, “what exactly did you do?”

“It’s what she didn’t do,” said Brian. “Without consulting any of the rest of us, she decided to NOT put the announcement in the newspaper. Now nobody knows about the party.”

Everyone looked at Joyce. “You didn’t?” said Aunt Cassie.

“No, I didn’t. Do you know how it works when someone announces a party. Everyone who’s ever so much as said hello to that person — and a lot who haven’t — show up for the free eats.”

“But how will Grandma’s friends find out about it if we don’t announce it?“ Jenny asked.

Brian clapped her on the back. “Finally someone’s talking some sense! That’s just what I said.”

“We can get a list of their friends from Grandpa and Grandma,” Joyce explained. “Then we’ll call the friends and personally invite them. That way none of them will miss the party because they didn’t see the announcement. Plus, their friends would appreciate a personal invitation a lot better.”

“Hmph,” said Brian. “Mom and Dad know practically everyone in town. Do you know how much phoning we’ll have to do?”

“That’s right,” said Uncle Steve. “You really should have talked this over with us, Joyce.”

Joyce plopped her purse onto a chair. “This is a family affair. We don’t have to invite everybody in town. And this way people like the Tanners won’t show up to spoil the evening. I’m doing this for Mom’s sake.”

“The Tanners have known Mom and Dad for years! Folks will want them to come. Where’s your head, Joyce?” Brian threw up his hands in frustration.

“I know you’re good friends with their son, Brian. But the Tanners have a drinking problem. At the Franklin’s golden anniversary last month at the Seniors’ Center, they came bringing their bottles with them. They spiked their punch in the cloakroom and got pretty tipsy.”

“Well, we don’t want that.” Tiffany paused. “Do you really think it would be a problem?”

“No!” Brian declared.

“Yes,” Joyce countered.

“You’re just being paranoid — and you’re letting your wild imagination ruin Mom’s birthday celebration.”

The cousins looked back and forth from Joyce to Brian. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Now Brian, let’s not overreact here.” His wife squeezed his arm gently. “The party isn’t ruined. We’ll just start calling people.”

Brian snorted. “No, if Joyce wants to do things her way we’ll just let her. But we’re not going to be there.” He gave his two sons a pointed look, daring them to disagree.

“If you’re going to be like that, we won’t be there, either!” Joyce snatched up her purse and headed toward the door.

Uncle Steve grabbed her arm as she passed. “Just a minute, you, two.”

Grandma’s Birthday Party

Part One:

“I think it’s so great that you still have your grandparents,” Tiffany said to Todd as they walked up the steps to his Uncle Steve’s home. “And a family that gets along so well — not everyone has that.”

Todd nodded. “Yeah, we have a lot of reasons to be thankful. We’ve been able to celebrate Grandma’s birthday every year, but this one will be the party to end all parties.” Todd and his wife were joining the family this evening to plan some last-minute details of Grandma’s eightieth birthday coming up in four days.

Uncle Steve opened the door just as Todd reached toward the doorbell. “Hello, nephew. Hi Tiffany. Glad you could make it. Come on in. Darryl, Jenny and Jim, Matt and Shelby are here already.”

Tiffany glanced at Todd and he whispered in her ear. “You’ll remember Matt & Shelby when you see them. He’s Uncle Steve’s son; they were at our wedding, but moved to BC two months later. Jenny is Aunt Joyce’s daughter; she and Jim live in Nova Scotia.”

Aunt Cassie swished by in her long dark skirt. “I’ve set out punch and snacks on the kitchen counter. Help yourselves when you’re ready.”

Todd and Tiffany walked into the living room and exchanged hugs and greetings with his brother Darryl and the cousins gathered there.

Jenny gave Tiffany a big hug, saying “Now I finally get to meet Todd’s wife. Welcome to the family. I see you two are being fruitful and multiplying. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” said Tiffany. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of your family and am looking forward to meeting the rest at Grandma’s party.”

“We all are. But are you going to be there? Mom tells me your baby’s due in a couple of weeks — which means any day now.”

“I hope Junior can wait a bit — at least until the next day!”

“Yeah,” said Todd. “We’d be disappointed to miss Grandma’s big do. Mind you, not TOO disappointed.” He put his arm around Tiffany and winked at Jenny. “If we’re in on another birthday party instead.”

Jim laughed. “You wouldn’t want to miss that one, I’m sure.”

Todd grinned, then glanced back at Jenny again. “Your Mom not here yet?”

Jenny shook her head. “I don’t know what’s keeping her. Your Dad and Mom are coming, too, aren’t they?”

Todd shrugged. “I’m sure they will. I thought they’d even beat us here.”

Jenny frowned. “You know, Todd, I’m getting wind of a little difference of opinion between my mom and your dad. I heard her talking on the phone yesterday evening — I think it was to Uncle Brian — and she seemed pretty upset about something. I’m hoping this blows over and doesn’t spoil Grandma’s special day.”

Todd’s brows arched. “My folks haven’t said anything to me. Can’t imagine what they’d quarrel about – especially right now.”

“Well, your dad can be pretty stuck on his own ideas sometimes.”

Todd bristled. “If I recall correctly, Aunt Joyce can be pretty insistent at times, too.” Tiffany nudged his arm.

“Well, yes, she can. I have to admit that.”

Aunt Cassie caught the last part of this conversation in passing. “I hope they can set aside their differences for Grandma’s sake. I’ve been looking in on her more lately; it seems she’s not as strong as she used to be. I was surprised how pale she looked last week.”

Jim nudged his wife. “Here’s your mom now.”

They all looked out and saw Joyce get out of her car, holding a cell phone to her ear. She appeared to be having an angry conversation with someone, waving her arms at times.

“I hope she wasn’t talking like that while driving.” Jim’s tone was reproachful.

“And here come Brian and Sylvie,” said Cassie as Todd’s father and mother got out of their car and stood on the street.

“Dad’s talking on his phone, too.” Todd saw his father run his hand through his hair impatiently. “He seems pretty upset. Why aren’t they coming in?”

“You don’t suppose they’re talking to each other, do you?” Tiffany asked.

Todd frowned. “When they’re only fifty feet apart?”

“I hope not,” Jim added. “They both look like tornadoes about to touch down on someone. Maybe us.”

They watched Joyce shut her phone with a snap and stuff it in her purse. She shot an angry glance at her brother, then hurried toward the house. Aunt Cassie rushed to open the door.

Todd’s father shut his phone at the same moment and rammed it into his pocket. He turned to his wife to discuss something with her.

Joyce charged into the house. Her eyes fastened on Todd and she hissed, “Your father is a pig-headed imbecile!”

Jaws dropped all over the room. Aunt Cassie gasped. But before anyone could answer, the door banged open and Brian marched in, his trembling wife in tow.

To be continued…


This is Part One of my reply to the Write 101 Day Fourteen challenge:

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force. How does that make you feel?

Forgotten Again

Old man, alone now,
buys his own gift,
pays for his own
dinner on Friday–
with a glass of cheer–
at an obliging restaurant.
He can’t wait for Father’s Day
to discover he has been
forgotten again.

C. Goodnough

I’ve reblogged and slightly changed this. I’ve written it as fiction — yet I’m thinking it’s sadly true.

“I’m Helping Grandma”

The timer dinged just as Sara was writing “Mom” on the cake. She finished the word, swiped her fingers on a dishcloth and grabbed some potholders, hoping the brownies hadn’t burnt around the edges by now. She opened the oven door and gave them a gentle poke in the middle. Ah, just right. As she set the brownies on a rack to cool their scent mingled with the smell of caramel squares and cinnamon cookies.

Sara looked around, satisfied. The chocolate icing was made and could be spread in a moment once they’d cooled. The cinnamon cookies sat in a plate on the table, as artistically displayed as she could manage. The other squares were iced, cut, and waiting for the brownies to join them on their platter. The teapot and kettle were ready for action. Now she could take a short break.

Her eyes returned to the masterpiece: the cake for her mother-in-law. Covered in blue icing, it read “Happy Birthday, Mom” in bright pink letters with an icing bow across the top and scrolled pink loops around the edges. She grinned, delighted that her nervousness didn’t show up in squiggly lines and loops. Surely her mother-in-law would be pleased.

Sara glanced at the clock. Another half hour until the guests would arrive, forty-five minutes until Dad brought Mom to the party. There was nothing left to clean; she’d been up early polishing her kitchen and dining room until they shone. Time for a breather. She’d leave all the food here in the kitchen until the ladies arrived.

Before she left the room she took her mother-in-law’s gift down from the fridge and set it on the table, too. A gift-wrapped box with a big bow on top, it would have been too hard for Kyle’s little fingers to resist. But he was napping now and likely wouldn’t wake up until the door bell started ringing.

Just to be sure, Sara peeked into her three-year-old son’s bedroom. Kyle was zonked out. It was safe for her to rest awhile. Then she grabbed a magazine, sat in the recliner, and put her feet up. She thumbed through the glossy pages of Parents Today and came to an article for making play dough. It was accompanied by a photo of play food, including a birthday cake. She thought of her cake, smiled with satisfaction and put her head back.

She was decorating cakes in her dream when a thump from the kitchen woke her up. She glanced at her watch. She must have dozed off for ten minutes. But she hadn’t heard the doorbell; anyway, it wasn’t time for folks to come yet. She let down the footrest and listened.

Then from the kitchen came Kyle’s voice. “Mommy. I’m helping Grandma.”

If there were a record established for ‘broad-jump from a sitting position’ Sara broke it. Could she make it in time?

She flew to the kitchen, then stopped.


Kyle sat on the floor amidst shreds of wrapping paper, pulling Grandma’s new sweater out of the box with chocolate-covered hands. Grandma hadn’t arrived yet.

He beamed up at her, his face slathered with pink, blue and chocolate icing. “I’m opening Grandma’s present for her so she won’t have to.”

Sara’s jaw dropped as she looked around the room. How could two little hands accomplish so much destruction in such a few minutes? Cookies and squares were scattered across the table. He’d found her spatula and cut a corner off the birthday cake with it, leaving pink and blue icing smears in his wake.

Sara didn’t trust herself to speak — or she’d screech. Which wouldn’t change anything, right? She glanced at the clock, took Grandma’s sweater from Kyle’s colorful hands and stuffed it back into the box. Without a word she scooped him off the floor and headed for the bathroom sink. She still had ten minutes.

As to Grandma’s sweater, well… Sara thought of how Grandma always said as Kyle snuggled on her lap, “Enjoy your children when they’re little.” Now her words would be put to the test.

Since I missed posting Fiction on Friday, I’ll post my tale today. Hope you enjoy it. Need I say this story is based on an all-too-true incident. I’d be glad to hear how you’d react if you faced the situation Sara did.



Wise Words for Moms on Father’s Day

“Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home”

by Edgar A Guest

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet never a boy of three of four
but has heard it a thousand times or more.
“Wait till your Pa comes home, my lad,
and see what you’ll get for being bad.”

“Wait till your Pa comes home, you scamp!
You’ve soiled the walls with your fingers damp,
you’ve tracked the floor with your muddy feet
and fought with the boy across the street;
you’ve torn your clothes and you look a sight!
But wait till your Pa comes home tonight.”

Now since I’m the Pa of that daily threat
which paints me as black as a thing of jet
I rise in protest right here to say
I won’t be used in so fierce a way;
no child of mine in the evening gloam
shall be afraid of my coming home.

I want him waiting for me at night
with eyes that glisten with real delight;
when it’s right that punished my boy should be
I don’t want the job postponed for me.
I want to come home to a round of joy
and not to frighten a little boy.

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet that is ever his Mother’s way
of saving herself from a bitter day;
and well she knows in the evening gloam
he won’t be hurt when his Pa comes home.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

One day in a store I overheard a frustrated mother say to her misbehaving boy, “Your father’s going to kill you when we get home.”


What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a child. As Mr. Guest points out in this poem, that father wouldn’t have appreciated the role of murderer one bit.

If she’d say, “Your dad’s going to punish you,” it might have been fitting. But kill him? Thank God she was lying! You may say it’s just an expression, but it is a lie.

Someday, about ten years down the line, I can hear her telling her son, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life. They will kill you.”

Will he believe her?

(P.S.: This isn’t fiction; got my Chrisses crossed today.)


Reaching Functionally Illiterate Adults


©2007 by Alice Kuipers (text) and Kath Walker (illustrations)
First published in 2007 by Macmillan Publishers Ltd
My copy was published in 2008 by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I picked this second-hand book a few weeks ago and found it a quick read, being only a few sentences per page. However, it’s a very poignant story told by means of a string of notes written between a mother and her fifteen-year old daughter, Claire.

Mom — a doctor in a busy practice — is forever rushing out to tend others’ ills; Claire leads an active social life. So they converse at the refrigerator door. Mom’s notes are straightforward; Claire usually illustrates hers with teenage scribble-art.

The book starts with everyday communications: Claire should buy some of this and that; there’s a casserole in the fridge for supper; Mom’s forgotten to leave Claire’s allowance again; Claire laments that Mom is “never home anymore.” Then one day Mom indicates she has something serious to talk about.

They try to get together on it, but after a few futile attempts like clinic emergencies and school projects that must be done with at a friend’s place, Mom finally leaves a note: “I’ve found a lump in my right breast… I don’t think there’s anything to worry about…” Claire’s shock comes through clearly in her note, with another lament that “I never see you anymore.”

This book is well worth reading. In one way I found it a sad commentary on modern life for a single mother and our society’s “crazy busy” rush through life. But the writer makes her point in these brief spurts: we need to make time for each other before it’s too late.

Mulling over another problem, I suddenly saw a certain brilliance in the way Alice Kuipers has told this story. This writer with her fridge notes is onto something that we as Christians could get a handle on.

A survey done in Canada about twenty-five years ago revealed that one quarter of our population — folks born right here — are functionally illiterate. Back then it was just a statistic to me, but it’s become a reality as I help a relative to cope with life when she can barely read and write. Bank statements, bills — even phone books — are great trials for her Grade-four education. Most religious tracts are so far above her.

You could say she’s from the “olden days” when not all children had access to adequate education, but a lot of children growing up today aren’t learning the basics, either. Texting is partly to blame. A fellow writer told us one day that her niece, in Grade Four, can’t spell the word “are”; she just makes the letter R. So our writer friend has been helping her learn to read and write after school.

I helped at school one year; we had a six-year-old girl who’d been in & out of the social services’ system a couple of times already. I doubt she’d ever seen a book; she had no idea of color names, no concept of numbers or counting; she didn’t know left and right. It took months to teach her that her jacket was blue and white, that three items on a page were written 3, that if you add three balls: ooo and two balls: oo you get 5.

Someone told me I should give my elderly relative a children’s Bible story book; it would be easier for her to handle. But even these tend to have solid blocks of text, plus the illustrations are more suitable for a small child. Being handed a children’s book to read can be embarrassing for an older woman, so I’d like to find something that’s written for adults.

Last night as I was thinking about the many who have never learned to read well, and the need to present the Gospel to folks like that, my thoughts went back to Alice Kuipers’ book and suddenly it looked like a method we could use.

Life on the Refrigerator Door tells a poignant story in simple words. Could we use a Gospel on Scrolls or similar approach for the many who can’t follow complex sentences? Just a few notes per page with a lot of white space, simplifying the Good News Jesus came to share with us? (Note: not whiting out doctrines, but explaining them simply.)

Does such a book exist already? If so, where would I find it?

Kids and Chores

When I was young, my mom had a job at the hospital and worked a lot of hours because we needed the money. I hardly remember her being home in those first ten years. For me there were no routines laid down; I had no chores other than to look after myself. Being a child I never thought about work unless I was specifically told to do something.

So I grew up thinking life was school, play, reading, and swimming in the summer. It was only after I was married that I leaned about housework — and that it wouldn’t get done at all if I didn’t do it. Now I’m the one to advocate routine chores for children, such as they can manage.

Photos, Hodgepodge and Miscellany

According to researchers, our children are more dependent and needy than any previous generation of Americans. They are developing attitudes of entitlement and expectation, rather than habits of self-reliance and independence. As they grow, too many young people want the privileges of adulthood — freedom and resources to make their own decisions — but not the responsibility that goes with it.

Why is this? One theory is that kids no longer are required to do household chores. By living as the privileged class in their own homes, kids today grow to expect that things will be done for them, and that they are entitled to be coddled and indulged.

Giving our kids an “ideal” childhood

Some parents look back on their own childhoods believing that they had it rough, and decide they want an easier life for their children than they themselves experienced. Their attitude about chores for kids is…

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