This writer’s early Letter to Santa


Dear Santa,

I know it’s early, but I’ve noticed  the Christmas trees and the Halloween pumpkins are already competing for aisle space at the local Walmart. I’m sure you’ll be swamped this year filling stockings. Heaven forbid you have to stand in line on a Black Friday because your elves didn’t make their quota. The North Pole may melt before you make it back to load the sleigh.

So, I’m getting my list in early. You know I’m a writer, but I’m not asking for books or pens or laptops this year. I want something to elevate my mood, to entertain my Inner Child. It’s awfully hard for the writer to write when the writer has a bad case of the blues or the blahs.

So, if you don’t mind, could you please ask your elves to set aside these five things  just for me. I’ve been really good this year–except for the time I backed into the mail truck and all the times I got in trouble for not turning in my attendance on time. Other than that, I don’t think I’m on your naughty list. So here goes. You can start packing now. (Well, let me rephrase that. Maybe you’d better leave the Daisy Red Rider with Mrs. Santa and stay out of the malls.)

My List

I want PURPOSE. Michael W. Smith told me during one of our interviews that teenagers need a place to “plug in.” Smitty was right. We all need a place to “plug in,” a place to feel as though that’s where we belong. Right now I have a music studio that gives me a sense of purpose, a place to “plug in.” I hope I can keep it, and I hope it gives others a place to plug in as well. There are a lot of stage moms and dads out there who want their children to become stars. I don’t want that, Santa. I can’t make anyone a star. I just want a place where kids, from ages 9 to 99, can find their purpose . I know how it feels to be “disconnected.” I worked with teens in church settings for years. However, when we moved to a larger church, I lost my purpose because I didn’t feel needed. I kind of got bumped out of the jobs I used to do. I want to be needed. I want to have purpose. I want to help other people have purpose too.

I want TRUST. All people need security in their lives. I need security in mine. I feel secure when I know I can trust the people around me. I want truth. Truth builds trust. I like it when people tell me the straight-up truth. I never ask anyone to spare my feelings. Spare the white lies. I trust people who aren’t afraid to tell me I’m doing something wrong. I trust people who aren’t afraid to tell me they are doing something that might upset me.

I want LAUGHTER. Here’s a secret. I think you’ve done a pretty good job in the past with this request. I’ve had a lot of students in my class who have made me laugh. Please don’t stop sending me those people, in my class, on my job, on the streets. Laughter is good medicine. I know a lot of teachers have a tough time with the class clowns, but those students usually end up being my favorites. Please don’t send me the ones whose humor belittles or whose humor is crude. I don’t like sight gags much either, and I don’t even want to talk about flatulence. That kind of humor just stinks. But word play, mild pranks, good natured teasing? I’ll take that.

FYI, some of my former students must have been special delivery gifts from you, dear Santa. They were a hoot–even though they drove me crazy. And yes, I have forgiven all of them for their shenanigans.

(By the way, thank you. Clark and Darrell, I forgive you for sticking my hall pass to the ceiling each day. Nick, I forgive you for leaving campus to “borrow” a backhoe to dig into the methane pockets surrounding our school. Hayley and the Ditzy Chicks, I forgive you for the utter chaos you conjured in Room 32. Tonya and the Couch Crew, I forgive you for delivering a couch to my classroom so that I could counsel you all on your many problems–you certainly had them. Amy, I forgive you for starting a dance party when I stepped out of the room. Juli, I forgive you for catapulting a stuffed groundhog at me as I walked through the door. Curtis, I forgive you and the others for hiding behind the lockers and leaving me a “Gone Fishing” note. Emily and Ashleigh, I forgive you for “rolling” my room and getting me in trouble with the principal on Halloween. You meant no harm.)

Any person who wants to win my heart just has to make me smile. I’m a sucker for the kid who never grows up.

I want DEPTH. God gave me a pretty good brain. It’s creative. I don’t want to dull it through countless hours of watching TV. I want to think, I want to create, I want to discover. So, Santa, please wrap up some opportunities for me to write songs that mean something, to explore new places–Ireland perhaps, to read words that inspire and challenge, and to talk with people who can communicate with me on my level.

I want LOVE. I know, I know, Santa. Love is not in your department. And don’t send me to Cupid, either. True love comes from God. So if you can’t deliver love, I’ll take the next best thing–Starbucks. So, Santa Baby, you can slip a Starbucks gift card under my tree. I’ve been an awfully good girl.

One, two, three, ready, set, GO! It’s a proven fact that Santa stops at my blog first. Leave your Letter to Santa in the comments. Who knows? You may get exactly what you want.

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.  ~ George MacDonald

What we are is God’s gift to us.  What we become is our gift to God.  ~  Eleanor Powell

No more lives torn apart / That wars will never start / And time will heal our hearts / Every man will have a friend / That right will always win / And love will never end / This is my grown up Christmas List  ~  Monica




My Lucy gene

Some time ago, I heard that I was the topic of conversation among some of the women at the church I used to attend.

“Is she just weird?”

Well, instead of you speculating, allow me to clear up any misconceptions. The answer is yes. There is absolutely nothing normal about me.

I am a writer.

At first the comment really hurt my feelings, but then I realized that, hmmm, we writers are a special breed. We spend hours at a time with people who do not exist. Our characters talk to us, and we listen. And sometimes we don’t even know what we’re writing. We just grab on to the coat tails of our God-given creativity and go where the story takes us.

All writers, however, are not alike.

Some writers are uber serious. They may be historians or explorers or scientists. Most of these writers are gifted time travelers, and they can go anywhere and do anything their imagination allows.

Me? Not so much.

That gene isn’t necessarily found in my writer DNA. If so, it’s recessive. But my Lucy gene is dominant.

Surely, you know I’m referring to Lucy, aka Ethel’s sidekick and Ricky’s wife. Maybe you have the Lucy gene too. Take this little test to find out for sure.

  1. You have a voracious appetite for adventure, but you never consider the consequences of a plan gone awry.
  2. “No” is never an option. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen, never considering what could go wrong.
  3. You often find yourself at the wrong place at the wrong time.
  4. Grace is not your middle name.
  5. You have a limited sense of direction.
  6. You are a poster child for victims of Murphy’s Law.
  7. You have a history of getting stuck in awkward situations.
  8. You kind of dig going incognito.
  9. When things get out of control, you don’t ask for help. You always try to solve the situation yourself.
  10. No matter how bad a situation gets, your intentions are always good.

I’ve definitely got the Lucy gene. I’ve had it since I was a little girl. All I can say is I’m glad I don’t write serious drama. I can’t help the crazy predicaments I get into. But they make good stories. Take, for example, these situations.

  1. I am a problem solver. When I was moving from one apartment to another, I needed boxes, so I decided to check a dumpster. Little did I know that undercover detectives had set up a sting that night to catch drug traffickers. You know those scenes in the cop shows where the police jump out of nowhere ready to fire on the suspects? Yeah, well. At least I was not cuffed and fingerprinted.
  2. I always want to make a good impression on the job. I’m usually on my feet in front of the class all day. However, the one day I sat at my lectern to grade while my students worked, my principal came to my door. Both of my feet had fallen asleep. He motioned me to come to door, but I couldn’t move. I was stuck on a stool, and I was too embarrassed to tell him why I couldn’t go talk to him. All I could do was smile and wave and sit there. And sit there as he stared me down from the doorway. And sit there until he went away.
  3. When I was in college, my friend and I wanted to sneak into the boys’ dorm to play a prank on our boyfriends. We decided to go incognito, so we dressed in men’s flannel shirts and used our eyebrow pencils to draw beards on our faces. Three words—stupid, stupid, stupid.
  4.  I had a near death experience when I rode a horse at full gallop up a hill on ridge and my undergarment became hooked around the saddle horn and I was strapped to the horse and couldn’t move. All I could think was, “Of all the ways to die, why does it have to involve underwear?”
  5. I volunteered to sponsor a rock concert during Homecoming. I was a hero. I was the only adult in charge of 500 hormone-raging teenagers. They turned off the lights. They cranked up the music. The crowd went wild. The mosh pit thrashed. And a single red light stood out among the crowd. OH MY WORD! Someone had brought a cigarette into my concert. I had to take him down. I grabbed the culprit and yanked him over the back of theater chair and put him on the ground. I am five feet tall. I single handedly took down my cameraman who was taking pictures for our newspaper. The red light glowed from his camera. Thank goodness, Steve did not have to go to the hospital. He forgave me–I think.
  6. I sent two boys from the newspaper staff to dig a hole to plant a tree for our memory garden. One of the boys, a practical genius, calculated a more efficient way to plant the tree. He walked to the rental place next door and came back with a backhoe. So there was my student digging a hole on a methane field. This incident happened long ago. It really wasn’t my idea. (Please don’t fire me.)
  7. I had hall duty one morning and thought it hilarious that two dogs had found their way into school cafeteria. It was really funny until I realized the dogs belong to me. My half Bassett, half Beagles had tracked me all the way from home to the exact place where I was working that morning. I had to carry Beau and Dixie back to the car, one tucked under each arm, and these were hefty dogs mind you. I smelled pretty bad by the time I returned to school.

So, do you still think you have the Lucy gene?

Don’t fret. Just roll with it. And if there are any Ethels out, come see me. We’ll find an adventure and come back with a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

Nobody gets outta this place without singing the blues

Adventures in Babysitting

Ten seconds.

Pick a movie that could be the story of your life. Mine? Adventures in Babysitting, starring Elisabeth Shue. If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t rent it. Buy it. I hear there’s a remake on the way, but I can’t imagine anything being as good as the original.

Adventures in Babysitting is the story of life’s little habit of going from bad to worse.

Cry or laugh. Either way we have to get through circumstances. Our earthly problems never fade away forever, and just when we think we’re cruisin’, that’s when get a flat—kind of like what happens in the movie.

Here’s the movie’s premise. Chris Parker plans a romantic evening with her boyfriend, but when her date backs out, she’s stuck babysitting three bratty kids. Chris’s crazy best friend goes off the deep end, runs away to the city, and then calls Chris to rescue her. What else can Chris do but load the kids into her mom’s car and take off on an adventure?

Along the way, the car gets a flat, and Chris and the kids hitch a ride in a tow truck but end up at chop shop. They befriend an amiable car thief, who tries to save them, but they find themselves moving targets of ruthless
thugs. Their only means of escape is to duck in a back alley door, the entrance to a hardcore Chicago blues club.

The four find themselves on stage, and as blues guitarist Albert Collins tells them, “Nobody gets outta this place without singing the blues.”

Sometimes that’s all any of us can do. When life goes from bad to worse, we have to sing. And sometimes the singing or the situation is so bad, we have to laugh to keep from crying.

Chris Parker and I have a lot in common.

Just recently I found myself lost in a big city with my crazy friend. I had signed up for a SCBWI conference as a writer and talked my illustrator friend into going to share the costs and the fun. We had Saturday evening free, so we signed with other conference attendees for a walking tour around downtown Nashville. We rode to the tour with one of the organizers, whom we had met moments before. She could have been a sociopath for all we knew.

The tour took us to several legendary sites, including the Capitol and the oldest church downtown. But then our guide led us to the notorious Printer’s Alley, the site where a man named Skull ran his business and walked his painted pink poodles until the day he was murdered.

Everyone in our tour took turns taking pictures of the entrance to Skull’s now defunct club. My friend I obliged several passers-by and took their photos so that they’d have a souvenir of their trip. We were so pleased to help others that we lost track of our group. They left us.


We were lost on Printer’s Alley with no clue how we got there and no clue how to get back to our hotel, which was too far away for walking.

But I remembered our tour guide saying the tour would end at the Ryman Auditorium. All we had to do was find it. My friend and I serpentined from one back alley to another and found our way to a main street. We could see our group standing in front of the Ryman, and we ran to them.

When we finally made it back to our hotel, we were famished. The polite man working the front desk showed us the hotel restaurant, the bar, and the tiny pantry/ convenience store. My friend headed straight for the pantry’s
freezer and Ben and Jerry’s.

But I was feeling rather sassy and proud of myself for having saved the day with my keen navigational senses. (My friend’s story may differ, but this is MY POV.) Anyway, when the man asked me what I wanted I slapped the
desk and smiled big and boldly said, “I want me some chocolate.”

Awkward silence. I cringed. I panicked.

For was it then I realized there was no smile on the man’s handsome, genteel dark brown face, emphasis on dark brown, the color of chocolate.

More awkward silence.

And then I babbled.

“You know what?” I said. “I really don’t think chocolate is such a good idea. I’ve had way too much chocolate lately. I like chocolate—don’t get me wrong. It’s just I’ve really been consuming the calories lately. I don’t
need chocolate. I don’t really want any chocolate. I think I’ll just skip the chocolate.”

I must have gone on and on for 15 minutes mumbling about chocolate. Every word that tumbled out of my mouth was the wrong word. I finally caught my breath and said, “You know what? I think I’ll just get a
bottled water.”

I crawled away from the counter, grabbed a Dasani from the pantry, dug a buck or two out of my pocket and crawled back to the desk.

“How much?” I squeaked.

“Go ahead. Take it,” the man said, smiling now.

“Really?” I squeaked.

He nodded. And I slunk into the elevator, where my friend awaited. By the time I explained the whole ordeal to her, we were laughing hysterically.

I was sooooo embarrassed. But considering all the other troubles life has had to offer, I have to admit, a little embarrassment is nothing—except reason for a good laugh. And who doesn’t need that every now and then? Rather than sweat the little situations, we should do what the man says—sing. Or laugh.

After all, nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.

Click on this Adventures in Babysitting clip for an added treat.

What movie is your “theme” movie? Please share your thoughts and a smile.