Coyote, Kill My Bunnies!

Bruce and I spied a coyote in broad daylight, loping along a busy section of road in our neighborhood.

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A big, fluffy, healthy-looking predator.

My first thought was: Man, are you out of place. We shouldn’t be seeing you during the day. Here, in busy suburbia.

Then I thought: Wait a minute, this coyote is as much a part of suburban Colorado as bunnies, ducks, and squirrels. Most likely, he’d been attracted into the neighborhood by the sight or scent of a cat or small dog.

Though we seldom see coyotes around here during the day, we’re aware of their presence. Their nighttime howling choruses. The circling of buzzards over an abandoned coyote kill. Bits of bunny fluff wafting across the nature trail behind our house.

As writers, we have our own “coyotes.” You know, the writerly craft that kills our unnecessary scenes, redundancies, awkward sentences, illogical character motivations. My “coyotes” hunt in the dark, and bury the evidence of literary devices that might be obtrusive. Noticed by readers.

The coyotes are always there. Just not seen.

And that’s the way they should be. Chasing down their prey. Cleaning up the neighborhood so it looks—to the casual observer (reader)— neat and orderly.

If something’s not in the right place—a bunny on the tree, a duck eating sushi on the front porch, a squirrel sunbathing in the middle of the street— the traveler through our literary neighborhood notices…and loses a little respect for what he observes.

We hope that the reader doesn’t actually see the “kill.”

We hope that he or she simply enjoys the uncluttered story path.

Oh, how we’d love to be wildly creative without having to think about such things as plot, characterization, story arc, motivation. But, for the sake of the readers, we employ our coyotes.

Because one bunny on the trail makes sense, but twenty bunnies just seems far-fetched.

Howl, howl, howl away, coyotes!

7 Ways to Build Your “Tool Chest”

I once had a professor in an ethics class who liked to talk about his “tool chest.”

What? He sure didn’t look like the handyman type.

But my prof was talking about another type of “tool chest.” The kind that has to do with your social, educational, and professional skills that make you versatile and valuable in an ever-changing business world.

Whether you’re a writer, or teacher, or accountant, or whatever, experts suggest the following activities, guaranteed to build your professional or personal “tool chest.”

  1. Take a class: For example, if you’re a business person, take business English. If you’re terrified of public speaking, join Toastmasters.
  2. Network with others: You have lots to offer. And you have lots to gain from the company and expertise of others.
  3. Read a book: Stretch your knowledge by reading outside your usual interests. If you like romance, read a biography. If you like physical adventure, read a book on European royal families.
  4. Travel: Read up before you go. Take a tour. Take photos. Meet the locals. Buy a book about the history of the location you’re visiting.
  5. Teach: Nothing solidifies a subject in your own mind by having to prepare a lesson for others.
  6. Volunteer: Help young kids with their reading, serve in a soup kitchen, help build a house, adopt-a-grandparent.
  7. Be available to God: If you’re listening, He’ll speak to you. Ask Him to give you a heart of compassion for others. Why not practice hospitality? Show interest in other people. Really listen. Everybody had something to teach you.

I hope these 7 suggestions help you build your tool chest.

“Instruct a wise man, and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” (Prod. 9:9 NIV Bible)

 

Crows: Smarter Than…

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The crow was minding his own business. Doing what crows do. Pecking, searching for morsels of food in the lawn near the hotel.

My husband and I, vacationing in the Northwest, had just climbed out of our car at the hotel parking lot.

Just as we finished unloading our luggage from the trunk I heard an outraged “caw, caw.” A flock of seagulls had spotted the crow, landed, and formed a threatening circle. They took turns harassing him, lunging forward for a nip at his tail or his wings.

Finally, in desperation, the crow broke through the malevolent group and flapped upward into a ponderosa tree. Once on top of a bough, he scrabbled further within the protective spiny leaves.

Mean-intentioned as the seagulls were, they didn’t dare try to follow Mr. Crow. Sea gulls are ill-equipped—with their long narrow wings meant for soaring over bodies of water, and webbed feet,—to land on tree branches.

From his safe perch within the pine boughs, Mr. Crow taunted the sea gulls, who screamed their fury back at him.

Because I love suspense, I’d stayed to watch the scene unfold. I am always amazed at the smarts demonstrated by the so-called “dumb” animals.

Crows are really smart. From a high vantage point, they scout out their surroundings and shout warnings to their cohorts of lurking danger.  They avoid seagull mobs by going where no seagull has gone before. They’re social and adaptable.

But people:

  1.  venture into danger—whether physical or emotional— and tell themselves they can handle any difficulty that arises.
  2.  often ignore warnings
  3.  get their “hackles” raised when a friend or relative tries to give wise advice.
  4.  try to outrun trains at railroad crossings.

Wouldn’t it be great to be as smart as a crow every day? To know just exactly what to do when danger surrounds?

Our wise heavenly Father has blessed us with His Book. Not to make us miserable, or to hold us back, but to protect us and keep us from wandering into dangerous situations.

Just like the wise crow, I need to be equipped for my own type of survival every day… by reading and studying God’s Word.

The fear of God builds up confidence and makes a world safe for your children.” (verse from Proverbs 14, The Message)

The Jury

My heart pounded and my mouth went dry. In fifteen minutes I’d be singing a group of art songs in front of the faculty jury.

It was the end of my sophomore year at Oberlin College Conservatory. I always got nervous before a performance. They say it’s good to be a little nervous. Not too much. Just enough to give you the adrenaline to empower your body to do wonderful and creative things. Like sing a perfect high C.

In the beginning of my junior year I discovered that some of my musician friends were no longer students at my college. I was pretty naive back then. So I asked a prof, and he told me that the purpose of the sophomore juries was to see if a singer or instrumentalist had what it takes to continue studies in the conservatory.

Oh.

Good thing I hadn’t known back at the sophomore jury just how serious my performance was. I think I would have been trembling with fear.

Many years later I haven’t forgotten that jury experience. Our experiences in the world frequently involve being selected…or being de-selected for a job, a position in an organization, a contest, a submission for publication, etc.

And even if you’ve been selected, there’s no guarantee you won’t face some sort of cut later on.

Not so in the Kingdom of heaven, praise God.

One you’re in, you’re in.

Not because of what you do or do not do. But simply because of the One who has chosen you and ushered you into His Kingdom.

He will never cut you out.

Isn’t that cause for great rejoicing? And for great peace.

Thank You, thank You, thank You, Lord!

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1: 13-14 NIV Bible)

Spectacular People

With this blog title, I’m sure most people would think of some prominent politician, singer, or other celebrity. You know, Time Magazine’s, or Rolling Stone Magazine’s most influential woman, or man of the year.

But the most spectacular people I’ve known seem—on the surface—to be like little brown sparrows. Nothing much to look at. Not usually charismatic, showy, or larger-than-life types.

Take Joe and Doris. They’re older people. They’ve been missionaries for years. Now, they quietly serve in their local church. Joe serves on the elder board. Doris helps to lead a women’s Bible study, and regularly attends the weekly prayer group. She brings meals to the sick and shut in. She sends encouraging notes. She visits lonely people.

No one would stand up and applaud if Joe or Doris ever stepped onto the red carpet leading to some Hollywood black-tie event.

Until you get to know Joe and Doris, you would never judge them beautiful. Their one-bedroom apartment is spartan; not much furniture, no lovely art-work or knick knacks on the shelves. Their clothing is plain and they wear no fancy jewelry or watches.

They most likely have no 401K. At their age, they’ll never purchase a home. But they’re happy, and they exude peace.

Unlike the tons of average people who post their You-tube videos and hope for a million views, Joe and Doris would never think to call attention to themselves. That’s not their way.

The legacy they’ll leave behind when they pass on will not be a you-tube video, but changed lives in their church and in their neighborhood.

Few people can see the inner beauty of Joe and Doris.

But what they are in our essence is laid bare before the Lord. He has placed His Spirit inside these two special people, and declared them “royal,” “priests.”

Joe and Doris have their priorities straight. After all, what do they own that they can bring with them to heaven?

Their lives are a constant reminder to me not to hold onto my possessions with a tight fist. Joe and Doris’s happiness is based on spending their days doing good things for others. Wow!

“Lord, fill my heart with Your love. May I have my eyes open every day for opportunities to do something kind or generous for someone else.”

Exercise On the Road

Yep, it can be challenging to get some exercise while taking a road trip. Especially if you don’t have an extra hour to explore a nearby state park or recreational area.

Never fear: Rest Stops to the rescue!

Recent health research states that if you have a desk job, you should get up every half hour and move around for five minutes.

Being cooped up in a car for a long road trip is not good for your cardiovascular system and your poor muscles. Not to mention he toll it takes on your spine.

Look for rest stops. Most of them along the interstates are spaced every 40 or fifty miles.

Take each rest stop exit. Walk the entire length of the paved sidewalk, then back. Take deep breaths.Aug 2011 vacation 024 If the grounds around the rest stop are decent, circle the whole place three times. That’s approximately a mile.

When you stop to get gas, walk around the parking lot several times. When you get back to your car, do some slow stretches.

Holding on to the car door, grab the top of your instep and pull your foot back and up toward the back of your knee. Hold for twenty seconds. Repeat with the other foot.

Lift your arms over your head, then stretch them as far back behind your head as possible. Hold for twenty seconds.

At the next rest stop, perform other types of stretches before and after you do your walking circuits.

I’m so grateful that our tax dollars make these rest stops possible. I remember the days of my parents trying to find a nearby gas station while we kids whined and complained about being cooped up in the car for long trips.

Take advantage of the restful opportunity!

More Snacks For The Road

Last post, I gave you a recipe for coconut balls. Not everyone likes them ’cause they’re not terribly sweet.

So how about a good hummus recipe? I made the following recipe for hummus and kept it in my cooler. Delicious with those little carrots you can find at the supermarket. Also, celery, or red pepper strips. (I made my own because most of the store bought types have some ingredients that I can’t eat, like canola oil, or soy, etc.)

I played around with the recipe. Always do. All the amounts in my recipe can be adjusted per your own taste. This is a great snack for road trips.

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Dena’s hummus:

i can chickpeas (garbanzo), drained and rinsed.

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup almond butter

A couple of minced garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt or Kosher)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup olive oil

Paprika

1 to three tablespoons water

In a food processor, combine almond butter and lemon juice. Process and scrape bowl. Add olive oil, garlic, salt and cumin. Process a bit more. Now add half of the chickpeas. Process and scrape. Add the rest of the chickpeas. Process. Add water to make the desired consistency. Add paprika. Pour into plastic container with tight-fitting lid and store in fridge or cooler for up to a week.

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Healthy and relatively filling. A great in-between meal snack or as an accompaniment to other foods for a full meal.

If you’re on the road and run out of hummus, you can find some good types at Natural Grocers, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and  some other local natural foods grocers.

Enjoy your road trip and don’t forget to thank God for the natural wonders all around you!

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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