Monthly Archives: October 2016

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

christyrachaelcornmazeO my God, my grandson questioned my lack of a sense of direction: “Seriously, Grandma? You get lost in Walmart parking lots?” But when his mom, similarly flawed, and I barely made it alive out of a corn maze, he believed. OMG, thank You for guiding our paths, even when we are clueless.

Learning to Win (We Hope)

“Cubs win!”

Only two words. But they set off fireworks in Chicago Cub baseball fans. We hug and kiss perfect strangers, whether at the ballpark or the grocery store. When police arrive at the latter, we embrace the officers — and our subsequent cellmates.

Why does a win excite Cub fans so much?

For decades, they have been professional baseball’s “lovable losers.”

billy-goat-1569283_640The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908. Has any other losing team been immortalized by Norman Rockwell on The Saturday Evening Post’s cover? No other team is cursed by a billy goat named Murphy.

Still, Cub fans often outnumber their competitors in their own ballparks.

Typical American sympathy for the underdog? Mass psychosis?

Hubby and I support the Cubs for a better reason. Our friend, Joleen.

For 40 years, Joleen never missed a single, freezing Opening Day at Wrigley. No matter how lousy the Cubs played, Joleen believed.

Diagnosed with cancer, she finally missed Opening Day. But she cheered the Cubs until the day she died, happy because they won a double header. Joleen was buried wearing Cubs earrings.

In her honor, I will always be a Cubs fan.

Yet by now, even Joleen might have wearied of their losses.

Viewing/listening gratis was bad enough. But of the six games Hubby and I attended, the Cubs won … zero.

With their improvement last year, we took our son, his wife, and Baby Jonathan — oh, so cute in his little Cubs shirt and cap — to Wrigley.

They lost again.

steverachaelwrigley-iiThis year, Hubby wanted to buy tickets. I found myself at Wrigley once more.

Unbelievably, Hubby told a nearby couple we’d never seen the Cubs win. They stared as if we’d grown goat horns. “Your name’s not Murphy, is it?”

The Cubs fell behind.

I avoided eye contact with our neighbors.

Amazingly, the Cubs pulled ahed.

Hubby cheered, “They’re going to win!”

 “Right.” I rolled my eyes. “And I’m going to win Miss America.”

“You’d better practice your walkway wave, because they will do it!”

The last strikeout!

“Cubs win!” The cry echoed from Chicago to Lake Michigan. “Cubs win!”

Our neighbors hugged us. W flags bloomed. The happy PA system launched “Go, Cubs, Go,” and thousands joined in, dancing in the seats.

I see what you mean, Joleen.

 Unfortunately, the Cubs lost six out of their next eight games. But after subsisting on the baseball equivalent of bread and water, I have tasted my first whipped cream.

I want more!

I imagine the Cubs do, too.

Do you think they’ll win the Series this year?



OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

Three generations of Cub fans

Three generations of Cub fans

O my God, how do You handle ballgame prayers? — the crazy mishmash of petitions by opposing players, managers, and fans? Plus umpires’ prayers this game would finish soon! Far greater theological mysteries should occupy me. Nevertheless — OMG, thank You that the Cubs are in the World Series!

Are You California Dreamin’?

rachaelpacificoceanIf The Mamas & the Papas oldie and the first frost sent your thoughts to sunny beaches, sapphire oceans, and picturesque seaside towns, then you have given in to California Dreamin’.

When faced with heralds of approaching winter, we Midwesterners often yearn for a warmer climate. We malign our forbearers for their less-than-insightful migration patterns. It’s all their fault.

During a recent business trip, though, I discovered Californians do not regard their 65-to70ish fall temperatures as warm. While ecstatic Midwesterners kayak in the ocean, the natives huddle around fireplaces, complaining bitterly of the cold.

Despite such hardship, everybody exercises in California. By law, they also must look good. Spandex is the buzzword. Comfy, saggy-baggy sweat suits, beet-red faces, huff-puff breathing and martyred expressions are illegal.

pacificocean-iiNevertheless, California does fulfill fantasies. In Indiana, I cannot drink morning coffee while watching sea otters floating on their backs and dolphins competing in the high jump. No postcard ocean embraces a golden shore while picturesque boats bob with the waves. On these mornings, I might move to the West Coast in a Monterey minute.

Except that the ocean smells fishy.

For centuries, poets and storytellers have lauded the briny, bracing scent of the sea. I find it akin to the perfume of unrinsed tuna cans left overnight in the recycling bin.

Sure, “fresh country air” surrounding an average Indiana hog operation does not caress the sinuses. However, unlike Californian hotel owners, Hoosiers do not throw open windows and doors so guests can savor the aroma.

I do love falling asleep to the rhythm of waves breaking on the shore. But one night, my slumbering mind translated the unfamiliar sound to all-night trouble. Did somebody let a bathtub run over?

God made some of us permanent landlubbers; we are designed to view the ocean, not sail on it. The flip of a gigantic tail beside a California whale-watching boat cannot compare to the flips my stomach makes with each wave. I never see awesome whale tails in Indiana. But I never have been seasick there, either. Not even once.

I miss my guy. I miss the brilliant glow of russet, gold, and flame-colored trees. After meetings end, I board a bus that plows a clogged interstate to San Francisco. In record slow time, we travel through vast fields of artichokes to the airport.

“I’ve driven behind combines that went faster than this,” I tell the driver, who appreciates my Midwestern insights.

pacificoceanWhen the last leaf falls from the trees, California Dreamin’ will overtake me. But right now, I can’t wait to be Back Home Again in Indiana.

Are you a California dreamer? Or does a different paradise fill your autumn dreams?









You Might Be a Camper If …

CamperSome people with zero moral scruples occasionally pretend to be campers. So with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, I describe below what characterizes the genuine article.

You might be a camper if …

… within 24 hours, you can’t distinguish your clean clothes from grimies. Clean dishes from dirty ones. Dry possessions from wet ones. And you really don’t care.

… in 97-degree weather with matching humidity, your first thought is “Let’s build a campfire!” Second thought: “Let’s eat blazing marshmallows!”— though you don’t particularly like marshmallows, blazing or otherwise.

… if ice cream from the camp store supplies 97 percent of your family’s daily calcium requirement.

… you don’t blink an eye when said camp store keeps milk, eggs and fish bait in the same fridge.

… cooking dinner using a saucepan lid and a plastic fork comes naturally.

… you follow strict freshness guidelines: If it floats to the top of the cooler, it’s probably not life-threatening.

… your family shares the land with other species with open heart and mind … though environmental empathy may waver if a family of snakes also chooses your campsite.

… in one weekend, you contribute more blood to the area’s mosquitoes than the Red Cross collects in a year.

… the sight of a bugless bathroom moves you to tears.

… all the money saved in camping rather than staying in a posh resort is spent on calamine.

… you swim in 52-degree water with your kids or grandkids at 6:30 a.m. (“You promised, Grandma!”)

… the pop-up camper collapses and you permit your spouse to convince you this is part of the adventure.

stevecamping… you translate “zero chance of rain tonight” to “wear floaties to bed.” Campers also master the art of sleeping with several family members under a steering wheel.

… having experienced sufficient family time, you strike private deals with the park ranger to lock spouse and kids inside the Nature Center.

Sceptics, having reviewed the above, question, “Why would anyone in her/his right mind leave a clean, convenient, air-conditioned home to vacation in the wilds?”

Campers aren’t in their right minds. (You haven’t deduced that yet?)

Still, though buggy, beleaguered, and occasionally not too bright, if you are a camper, you are uniquely blessed.

Now, you fill in the blank: You might be a camper if …

How to Tame the Post-Deadline Writing Bear

bearangryTwo days ago, I emerged from my writer’s cave after finishing a novel.

Friends and family urged me to celebrate the accomplishment. Those who know me best, however, stayed out of my way because I resembled a bear awakened from a long hibernation —  groggy, growly, and ready to snap at anything that moves.

Now, having recovered as much as one can in two days, I join my husband in offering survival tips for those near and dear — including critique partners, writing friends, as well as normal people — in how to tame a post-deadline writing bear.

Let the bear sleep.

In fact, encourage the bear to snooze extra minutes in the morning, to retire early at night, to take naps. Nothing will increase the life expectancy of those in a writing bear’s path like a few additional zzz’s.

Conversely, nothing will guarantee the loss of at least one limb like the question, “Why are you so tired? You don’t work.”

Give the bear some honey. 

In the face of bared fangs, this presents a challenge tougher than letting a writing bear sleep. But trust us, it works. When insecurity looms 3.5 seconds after the author hits “send,” pour on reassurance thick as honey: “You’re a good writer. You worked hard on this book.”

Even better: “We prayed about this book. God will use it.”

Accompanied by bear hugs, chocolate and other sweet things, this approach can’t go wrong.

Kick the bear in the butt.

 Only use this tactic when the other two have been applied assiduously.

If, after generous amounts of sleep and support, the bear remains un-bear-able and spends valuable writing time playing infinite games of Candy Crush or watching Saved by the Bell reruns or the potholder channel, do what you’ve been aching to do for months. Give the writing bear a good boot in the bootie: “God has gifted you. Is this the way you propose to use His gifts?”

Then offer honey from the Rock in the form of questions such as “What did you learn from writing this book? What would you really like to write? And what has God been saying to you that should shape your next book?”

teddybearThese tips have helped tame this post-deadline bear with less glaring, swearing and wear-and-tearing. So far, both tamer and bear not only have survived, but thrived in the same zoo.

Any hints on how to handle the writing animal at your house?