Discovering the Freedom Trail

29 06 2013

Where the Trail Begins
Image from catchthewinds.com

Boston, Massachusetts, city of historic significance, offers a unique perspective on the issue of freedom. Most specifically it speaks to the quest for freedom in the New World.
There is a red brick path that circles for two and one-half miles through the streets of Boston. Strewn along this marked pilgrimage are bronze markers and numerous monuments to the Revolutionary War and our founding fathers. This trek enlightens the seeking soul – or at minimum – educates the enquiring minds who read the words left behind from our forebears.
My husband an I started at the end of the trail. This kept us meeting up with a parade of people who had started their journey  in the Boston Commons.  At least we didn’t get held up by a string of people less motivated to conquer the trail.
The trail ends – thus began for us – at the Bunker Hill monument. How often does a monument mark the site of a battle that was lost? This 221 foot tall obelisk, a shorter version of the Washington Monument, does just that.
It stands atop Breed’s Hill. (I know you’re wondering why it’s the called the Bunker Hill monument – you and millions of other people). This place where revolutionaries lost to troops of superior number and armament holds inspirational value because it proved that the British army wasn’t invincible. After all, it took them three tries and half their men to overrun the fortification.
Freedom has never been free. It demands a ransom paid in blood. Whether the blood of soldiers or the blood of a Savior, freedom’s immense, innate value requires sacrificial lives to acquire.
It would be cheapened if it could be bought with perishable silver or gold.
“If the Son shall make you free; ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
In America, freedom loses its preciousness because the generations that fought to preserve it are passing away. The younger generations despise war and want to barter for freedom some other way.
It can’t be done. Not that anyone should be a warmonger, but as long as men (I mean mankind here; this is not a push for women rulers) rule the world, war will be necessary. Greed for power, wealth or land will drive some men to oppress others and only warfare will release them from these chains.
It may be a warfare fought with marches and protests, speeches from platforms or guns and bombs. People will be called upon to lay down their lives. The price of blood will be paid. Freedom will be won.
Is there another way to teach our children to value freedom so they won’t need to learn its pricelessness through oppression and warfare? When many of them refuse to stand in honor of the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, their patriotism wanes.
On The FreedomTrail, I discovered and rediscovered the names and stories of many patriots, valiant men and women, who forged into the bloody unknown so there would be a country called the United Satates of America. They marched against king and country, an oppressive regime, emboldened by the pursuit of life and liberty to birth a nation now represented by thirteen stripes and 50 stars.
How much does freedom mean to you? Are you willing to pay the ultimate price so those children who refuse to honor Old Glory with twenty-two words spoken as they stand, hands over hearts?





Manmade or Natural?

26 06 2013

Trinity Church in Boston, MA

Brick and mortar stands alongside glass and iron in downtown Boston, MA. Bridges and tunnels connect the God-made land to the manmade portion upon which 70 percent of Boston proper sits.
Even among all this manmade fanfare, however, the brilliant portions that stand out are those made by the Creator.
Boston Commons, the oldest national park in America, stretches for acres, green and growing, amidst the assortment of streets and buildings.
Trinity Church reflects in the glass sides of a more modern building, towering above all but the Prudential Tower a few blocks away. Even this old beauty is dwarfed by the marshland, Fens Park, sprawling acres that abut the home of the Boston Red Sox.
The green grass and fluttering leaves surround pools of sparkling water. A natural haven offers relief from the heat reflecting off the iron, glass and cement surrounding it like a conquering army.
More greenbelts sift their fingers through the architectural feats of mankind. As we traveled north from the city toward our hotel, strips of trees stood sentinel over the cement and asphalt thoroughfare.
I wondered at these makeshift forests, small compared to forests near my home in Oregon. Why were they left here? Why had the engineers forfeited that coveted ground to a more natural habitat?
To me, the answer is less important than the ideology these waving trees represent: Man needs the natural resources God gave in the form of trees, plants and waterways.
Sure, trees take the carbon we spew into the air and regurgitate life-giving oxygen. I’m talking about something deeper than that.
Studies show that people who spend time among the trees are healthier and happier. Is it the fresh air? Is it the natural Vitamin D acquired through ingesting sunlight?
I believe a simpler answer exists. God created us to commune with him. Nature declares the glory of God. Thus, when we spend time in a natural environment, serenaded by wind whispering through the leaves and birds chirping from the branches, our soul is nourished.
I’m not trying to be heretical and claim that communing with nature is the same as communing with God. I don’t believe God is in nature. However, we need a place of peace to experience true communion with God. That place – which exists within us – can be more easily accessed when we’re surrounded by the sounds of the Creator instead of the noisy fumes man spits out.
What is your favorite manmade structure? Has it ever helped you find a way to deeper spiritual communion with God?





The Best Laid Plans

22 06 2013

John swaggered across the room, lit a Marlboro, took a long draw then exhaled.  He peered across the room at the unconscious woman, slumped across the futon, wondering when she would revive.  Just then, the sound of an engine purred to a halt in the driveway.  “The rest of the guys,” John said to himself, clenching his jaws as nervous excitement brewed within him.  It was too late now to reconsider their plan; they could only speed forward.  He dropped his cigarette on the brown carpet and ground it out with the heel of his cowboy boot.  What did it matter?  The whole house would be up in flames by morning.

Scuffling on the front porch followed by a loud thump caused John to scowl.  It wasn’t as if they were in the middle of nowhere.  Didn’t his bozo accomplices realize the seriousness of this situation?

A string of muttered curse words accompanied the scrape and squeal of the front door being shoved open.  It slammed into the wall, ridden like a surfboard by the scrawny, young man who was, unfortunately, John’s cousin.

“Shut up!” he growled at them.

Shoulders nearly as wide as the doorway, Bubba sauntered into the room, wiping his hands on his Wrangler’s and grinning like a headline comedian.  Behind him, Corey was extracting himself from the front door, his panicked features stark in the dim shaft of illumination cast by the porch light.

“Shut the door,” John said, voice still low and steely but not as harsh.

Scurrying like a church mouse, Corey scrambled to comply.  Behind the door, a handle-sized hole marred the sheetrock.  “Look what you did, Bubba!” Their pyromaniac sounded like a whiny six-year old.

Bubba’s meaty hand slapped Corey between the shoulder blades, sending him nearly sprawling onto the carpet at John’s feet.

“No worries, little guy.  This place is toast anyway.”  With a faint air of indecision, Bubba looked to where John stood, both hands planted on his hips, smoke rising from beside his right boot.  “Right?”

“Right,” John agreed, nodding curtly and dropping his hands to his sides.  Gesturing with his hands toward a doorway down the hall, “The stuff’s in there.”

Both of the newcomers started to move in the appointed direction.  When Bubba neared the futon shoved against the far wall, his cat-call whistle sounded shrilly.

“What do we have here?” His leering tone dripped lust like the sweat on a teenage boy’s brow.  “John boy, you’ve been holding out on me.  I thought this was an old lady’s house.”

The suggestive way he said “old” made John’s skin crawl and his stomach sour in distaste.  At some point, Bubba’s lewdness was going to cost them and the thought of going to prison because this guy couldn’t keep it in his pants made ire rise from the base of John’s spine.

“She’s like 45.  That’s old enough to be your momma, so I’d say what you’re thinking is downright incestuous, Bubba.”  John’s tone could’ve frozen hot coffee.

Bubba turned his head and glared at John with ill-concealed animosity.  “Did you just say something bad about my momma?” His fists were clenching in preparation.

Noticing the sledgehammer-like fists, John shook his head and said, “Get busy hauling the stuff outta here.”

Bubba’s dark eyes narrowed.  “I know my job.  I just don’t see that it will take me so long to carry a few boxes out that I can’t have me a little fun, too.”

“Work first,” John said, his hand reaching to the back waistband of his jeans where a 9mm waited, ready to jump to his defense on command.

Bubba’s eyes flicked to John’s hand, now resting on the handle of the pistol.  “You sound like my old man,” he sneered and stomped down the hallway, floorboards creaking beneath his booted feet.

The crew knew their assignments.  Bubba hauled the boxes of jewelry, electronics, silverware and other easily fenced items outside and loaded them under cover of the canopy on his Ford F350.  Gasoline fumes began to permeate the air as Corey fulfilled his responsibility of fueling a fire that would start fast, burn quick and set off an explosion when it reached the natural gas fumes they would start on the way out of the kitchen.  No physical evidence would be left to identify them.

John had a bandana tied over the bottom of his face, keeping out the worst of the fumes.  He nodded to Corey who had just given him the okay sign from the back porch.

“What’s the hurry?” Bubba snarled from beside him.  “I gotta –“

Without even looking at him, John snapped, “Get the truck out of the driveway, Bubba.”

“We got three hours ‘til daybreak.”

“I just gave Corey the okay, so we’ve got about four minutes until the whole country gets woke up by the boom.”

John walked purposefully to the BMW coupe the woman owned.  He’d switched the license plates as soon as he’d knocked her out.  Enjoying this sweet ride was going to make the guilt of cold-blooded murder fade like a bad dream.

At that moment, Corey came sprinting around the side of the house, throwing open the passenger door on the truck and hopping inside with uncustomary athleticism.  Bubba revved the truck’s engine, signaling his displeasure, but he followed John’s midnight blue coupe.  Neither car used headlights as they sped down the driveway and turned left onto the county road, sending gravel spewing in all directions.

As the back door slammed, the woman inside crawled off the futon. On hands and knees, she scooted to the nearby table, pulling a linen table scarf from under pictures and a lamp.  Glass shattered as they crashed to the floor.  Carefully, she reached toward the hole burned in the carpeting near her left kneecap.

Standing, her legs shook, bowing as if made of rubber.  Choking and gagging, she pinched her nose with her left thumb and forefinger.  Stumbling, she reached the side door; the odor of rotten eggs chased her from the house.   Running in an erratic pattern, her feet grazed the edge of her vegetable garden when the house exploded behind her.

Lying facedown in the dew-soaked grass where the concussion of the explosion launched her, she uncurled her fingers.  It was still there.  Smiling, she rested her weary head against the ground.

Not as smart as you thought, huh, cowboy? she thought.

Wrapped securely in the fine linen heirloom her grandmother painstakingly sewed by hand for her college graduation, the discarded cigarette butt seemed to pulse.  His fingerprints would identify the good-looking conman for the police.

In the distance, sirens blared.





Embarrassment: An Effective Teacher

19 06 2013

Some people have embarrassing moments.  I tend to bypass those and move straight for the humiliating.  As an example, imagine breaking down into tears in the middle of teaching a classroom full of teenagers. Embarrassment? I think even humiliation is a kind euphemism.
The first time it happened to me was my first year as an instructional assistant.  The teacher assigned me three reading groups, each reading a different novel aloud and then discussing it together.  Everything seemed fine until I saw the title of one of the books: Where the Red Fern Grows.
“I can’t read this book,” I tell her.
“What?”
“I can’t read this book.” Repetition is often the key to understanding.  For emphasis, I shake the book at her.
“Why not?”
“The dogs die.”
Blank, non-comprehending eyes stare back at me.  What part of “I can’t read aloud a book in which dogs die” is so difficult to understand?
With a heavy sigh, I admit with unapologetic sharpness, “I cry every time.”
She nods.  “I know.  It’s sad.”
That’s it? It’s sad? I think heart-rending, painful and guaranteed to induce tears is more accurate.  My stunned disbelief must be apparent because she asks, “Would you like to take a different group?”
“What are the other books?”
She gestures to the stacks of novels on the round table behind her.  I step around her to peruse the other titles.  The Outsiders featuring gang wars and a boy who burns in a church.  Not really any more appealing.  Next to that is a stack of red paperbacks:  Number the Stars about the Nazi occupation of Denmark.  Not a very exciting story, but at least it has a semi-happy ending.  The final book is The Bridge to Terabithia.  I have recently read this since she hinted that it would be one of the novels we were using.  Do I think reading about a best friend dying will be more palatable than the dead dogs?
“I guess I’ll stay with this,” I tell her.  As unappealing as the thought is, I comfort myself with the fact that it will be weeks before we get to the sad part of the book.  I’m pretty sure I feel a sick day coming.
Instead, the day we read about the coon hunt gone awry is such a summery spring afternoon that we sit outside beneath the tall evergreen trees.  Wind ruffles the pages.  The fresh, pine-scented air brings the reality of the woods at night clearly to mind.  I try to cover up my emotions, but there’s just something about a clot of mucus in the throat that makes speaking impossible.
Three young teenagers are aghast, practically gaping while my tears threaten, unwilling to be quelled.  Understatement:  I feel mortified.  However, their attention has never been so completely focused on my face or words.
“Are you crying?” one girl asks.
Gulping down the infernal throat-frog, I admit, “This part is so sad.  It always makes me cry.”
“I hate when animals die.”
“I cried when we had to put my dog to sleep last fall.”
Who knew overly dramatic, hormone-driven teenagers could be compassionate and empathetic?
The next time, it wasn’t quite as horrifying.  Reading one-to-one with a student decreased the audience.  The scene described a heart-to-heart talk between a misunderstood daughter and her recently remarried dad about the mother’s passing. A few tears fell.
“Are you crying?” my student asked, turning to stare at my face with wide eyes.
“It’s really sad,” I choke out.
Afterward, she tells the whole class how sad her book is and she’s not sure if she likes it anymore.  When she whispers to her friends a few moments later, is she telling them how weird it was when Mrs. Hughson started crying? I refuse to feel ashamed.  My tears prove that effectively written prose can evoke deep emotions.
Today, however, was a completely different ball game in front of the entire class.  How I managed to read about the notification from the army of the young soldier’s death without even batting an eye, I’ll never know.  Stymied at last, the clog begins to form while reading the reflection on the unimpeachable character of the recently departed.  Why is it that “Only the Good Die Young”?
Of course, I must appear strong, so I attempt to struggle through it.  I swallow, blink rapidly and even try to clear my throat.  I look toward my feet so I won’t see 24 eyes staring at me expectantly.  Waiting to hear the rest of the story? Or waiting to see me break down and sob like an over-emotional, pre-menopausal, middle-aged woman?
It’s no use.  I can’t go on.  The teacher who I assist steps in and I have to step out.  Red-faced and red-eyed, my emotions ooze from every pore.  One Kleenex, and then another, before I’m also red-nosed.  What is wrong with me? Did I break down this way when I read the book at home a few weeks ago? Maybe.  It seems the tears have fogged my memory banks.
When I return, the classroom atmosphere is akin to a morgue.  All eyes once focused on the teacher, turn to follow my progress across the back of the room.  I take a seat next to one of the boys.  He’s writing, or doodling, but he looks up.  His eyes are wide, his lips slightly parted, a question obvious in his eyes, “Are you okay?”
“They were as good as gold after you left,” Mrs. Tayler tells me later.
We’re talking about the last period of the day. On any normal day, this group could enter a chat marathon. Today, every one of them understood the seriousness of a single moment.
Just call me Confucius, I guess. I’ve created a new proverb: A teacher’s embarrassment is a great teacher.





Graduation Day

15 06 2013

High school graduation - 2009

High school graduation – 2009

June 15 at 10:00 am, the commencement ceremony begins at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. The stadium teems with parents, grandparents and friends.

I have a tissue (or four) ready.

My oldest son sits on the field below us. Since I didn’t attend my graduation ceremony (traveling to New Hampshire wasn’t as important as going to Germany), I’m living vicariously through him once more.

Even while the speaker gives motivational and inspirational advice, I know Tanner is thinking ahead. The younger we are, the less we live in the moment.

After an interminable amount of time and a seemingly endless list of names, he shakes the President’s hand and grasps his diploma (not really; they pick those up later, but symbolically he got that certificate). His four-year journey through higher education is ending.

Now real life begins.





A Jedi has Self-Discipline

12 06 2013

From the Yoda of my writing life (Kristen Lamb), this little Obi Wan reads many fine blog posts.

Yesterday, I was inspired to share her post with those of you who read my blog. Why? It was motivational. It was wise.

If you lack self-discipline, you are not alone. Kristen talks about how to buy some on eBay. Uh, no, that doesn’t sound right.

She quoted Robert Greene as saying “our society’s almost developed a general disdain for plain and simple hard work.” Amen, sister! If you spent even one hour at the middle school (where I no longer work), it would be plain to you that young people have adopted this disdain with fervency they show for little else in life (except maybe texting).

I hope you enjoy Kristen’s blog post. Check out her book We Are Not Alone, as well as the writer’s social network she designed, WANA Tribe.

I love Kristen. As soon as I learn as much about The Force (writing) as she can teach me, I’m going to be able to wield a light saber with the best of them.





Reaching a Goal

8 06 2013

Image courtesy of depositphotos.com

On Thursday, June 6th, I received a notification from WordPress that I had my 100th follower. It surprised me that I didn’t do a bigger happy dance.

Since reading Kristen Lamb’s book Are you there Blog? It’s me, Writer in August 2012, I had set some goals for my blog. One goal was to have 100 followers by my one year anniversary – February 2013.

I missed that target by nearly four months.

Of course, I’m not out and about spreading the love to other bloggers the way Kristen encourages new bloggers to do. Who has the time? I was pleased when I managed to get the two blog posts I had committed to up every week.

I still don’t get regular comments on my posts, which was one of my goals.

How do I encourage comments?

I noticed that when I did the Round of Words in 80 Days challenge, I scored quite a few more comments. Part of the requirements for the challenge is to visit five different blogs each time we post our updates. I believe I will participate in this challenge again…whenever it starts next.

Of course, I’m reaching my overarching goal of graduating from college. Once I’m finished with that, I can’t take a break. I need to start toward my next goal right away.

Here are the goals I expect to accomplish in the next six months:

  • Complete A Round of Words in 80 Days challenge with higher word count goals than last time
  • Bump blog posts up to three days per week.
  •             I’m considering making a page just for samples of my writing. Do any of my readers have any thoughts or experiences with that?
  • Finish my WIP by the end of October
  • Send out one article/story for publication
  • Visit more blogs on a regular basis and leave comments
  • Start a Facebook page

What is your secret to setting goals that you can complete?








michelle ziegler

In a world of serious, I write an escape

The Life Project

Finding Clear and Simple Faith

Janeen Ippolito - Speculative Fiction Author

Monsters, Misfits, and Mushy Stuff

Through the Gate

with Joe and Cathleen Parks

Roane Publishing Blog

Without authors, there'd be no publishers.

Raw Moments with a Real God

Being Transparent with an Intimate God

Chad Pettit

Writing, walking with God, and the pursuit of a well-deserved nap.

Becky Bean Writes

The Blog of Becky: How Not to Live Your Life

Bex Book Nook

Where books like to hang out.

Wendy Sparrow

Where all books have a happily ever after...

The Machenwood Chronicles and Other Tales

A site for writers and readers

Kait Nolan

love . empowerment. hope

J. Rose Books

Synchronicity...explored

Jennifer M Eaton

Author, Weaver of Tales

The Mom Pages

Sharing The Mom Life One Page at a Time

Kelly Roberts Writing

Cooking with bubble wrap

YA Chit Chat

The Ponderings of YA author J. Keller Ford

Melissa Kircher

The official site of Melissa Kircher