Category Archives: inspiration

Giving thanks, 2016

I just wanted to send Thanksgiving wishes. Enjoy! The card is from The song and Thanksgiving prayer are from Louisa May Alcott. Read “About This Card” after viewing, and enjoy the scene.

The quote below kept going through my head, so I thought I would post it as well:


Image result for a single grateful thought turned heavenward

Really, Thanksgiving should be every day.


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Filed under Hope, inspiration, Songs

The King’s Speech–A Wonderful Movie, and an Even Better Read

Wow. Just wow. I finished the audiobook version of The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy. The authors are Peter J. Conradi and Mark Logue. Logue is the grandson of Lionel Logue, the speech therapist of King George VI. Logue was able to help the King where many other specialists had failed.

As in the 2011 Oscar-winning film for Best Picture, the book accurately and movingly shows what it feels like to have a stammer, stutter, or any kind of difficulty speaking. This challenge really affects self-esteem and confidence at times, but most of us have to go on and do what needs to be done. Even so, facing a huge audience or an intimidating microphone can really be scary.

Even more, this biography details the strong friendship between two men: one royalty, the other a commoner originally from Australia who eventually became a British subject. That friendship would always have certain limits, but they always kept in touch and supported one another. Each man’s life is explored in depth. In many ways, Logue was a substitute father to the King. While the movie concentrates on the speech to galvanize the British people against the Nazis, Logue helped the king with many more speeches and voice training, which included frequent deep breathing exercises and other tips. Logue would often edit the words, choosing vocabulary that was easier for the king to pronounce. Though photographed sitting down, George VI preferred to walk around while giving a radio address. These efforts increased the King’s confidence. Eventually, he was able to deliver speeches without Logue being by his side, but he always called Logue afterward to hear his feedback. Although no non-royal could touch the monarch, Logue would congratulate the king by giving his arm a warm clasp for a job well done.

In addition, many other students were very appreciative of Logue’s teaching methods and support. They felt they got their voices back, and were able to succeed.

The book gives excellent background about the events leading up to and during World War II and the aftermath. Day-t0-day life in wartime Britain is richly detailed. Listeners are treated to two recitations of the real “King’s speech”–making it all the more powerful. Here it is again:

Here are two examples of the correspondence between George VI and Logue.

Finally, it’s also exciting to share in Mark Logue’s learning more of his family’s history by looking through existing records in his possession and this shared by other family members. Some documents, however, he is still searching for.

An amazing and touching read.


keep calm




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Filed under Disability, Film, Helping People, History, inspiration, Nonfiction, World War II

Walk to Beautiful–The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way

READ THIS BOOK!!  I found it through my library’s Wowbrary newsletter. I was attracted to the inspiring story by its summary and the title, reproduced above. It was lying on my dining room table, so I decided it should be my next read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down! Jimmy Wayne’s life story shows us that anyone can get through anything–surviving no matter what your challenges are.

Working with a co-writer, Wayne looks back unflinchingly on his difficult childhood, which was often spent moving around a lot. That kind of life was more than a little unstable–even dangerous–for him and his sister, Patricia, as their mom tried to build a life that she’d be happy with. Many times, they were hungry, and he’s never forgotten the feeling of an empty stomach for days on end. It took him years to fully realize that his mom had been hurt a lot, and that she had bipolar disorder, which played a significant role in a lot of her bad choices. Forgiving her and letting go of pain took a long time, too. But she never lost the title of “Mama.”

By the time he was 14, his mom and stepfather left him at a bus station to fend for himself. On his fifteenth birthday–which he almost forgot about–he spent the night in jail. When he couldn’t find his way to friends and relatives, he spent time in various foster homes. Eventually he told his caseworker he wasn’t going back. So he became homeless.

Many times when telling his story, Wayne talks about an inner voice guiding him. Early on, he learned to always trust that voice. One of those times was during his wanderings. He came upon an elderly couple who operated a woodworking shop. The voice told him to ask if they had any work to do. He offered to cut their grass. They accepted his offer and gave him something to eat. Over several weeks, they formed a friendship. Eventually, the couple felt comfortable enough to invite him to live with them. He stayed for six years. Bea and Russell Costner became the parents he never had. With their expectations–that he would go to church, school, and cut his hair–their love and support, he completed high school and college, eventually earning an associates degree in criminal justice, and a job in his field.

Jimmy Wayne’s other love is music. For many years he played the guitar and sang. Bea encouraged these gifts as well, with her love of gospel music. He found a professional voice teacher, and Bea attended all of his gigs. Sadly, she didn’t live to see his country music success, both in songwriting and performing.

And there were other “angels unawares” in his life–a sixth grade teacher who taught him for two years. Even though she was a strict disciplinarian, she was firmly in his corner. She encouraged his writing ability and taught him the habit of daily journaling, which he still does. And they are friends to this day. The parents of some of his friends were supportive. An art teacher praised his painting and drawing. A guidance counselor never gave up on him. Even the police officer who took him to the jail that night tried to help him. They too have remained friends. The police officer is now a professional counselor and pastor.

I didn’t know who Jimmy Wayne was before this book. I enjoyed learning about his career and his songs. I’m not sure if he records much these days, but he’s probably still writing songs. He has become an advocate and speaker for foster kids who automatically age out of the system at age 18–often with no place to go and no resources. He has pushed for legislation to help them in Tennessee and elsewhere. He also felt like he wasn’t giving back in the way that he wanted–one reason for the walk he completed to raise awareness about foster kids and how to help. Here is a TED Talk he gave on the subject:

Here are two songs he recorded. Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile” earned him a record deal.

The song “Paper Angels” (now a book and TV movie) was inspired by the Salvation Army Angel Tree.

I hope this book inspires and moves you.

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Filed under Helping, Helping People, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Nonfiction

A Long-Awaited Return to Mitford

September 14th isn’t a particularly significant date, but in 2014 I put it on the calendar:  “DON’T forget! New Jan Karon book out!” If memory serves, it was still the dead of winter, 2013. Anyway, there was still some wait time. I counted the days…

Since the release of In the Company of Others and Home to Holly Springs, there had not been a full-length novel about Mitford, the fictional North Carolina town where Tim Kavanagh, retired Episcopalian priest, his wife, Cynthia, and their friends and neighbors live. My aunt, other family members, and friends were probably so tired of me saying, “I wish Jan Karon would write another book!” It had been a while since I’d seen anything new. I would check the website as well every now and then. Of course, there was lots to read in the meantime, but still…

Finally, it was my turn at the library. I was delighted to see how long it is–over 400 pages. Don’t be intimidated; the story moves fast. Since my aunt and I had read all the others to each other, I wanted us to read Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good together. Since my aunt doesn’t enjoy reading aloud anymore, I would be reading to her. Once we got started, she remembered the major characters. The first chapter moved along at a leisurely, down-home pace. All readers can get reacquainted with the townspeople they know and love, and meet those new to town. If you’ve read other titles in this series. you know the background on many of the characters, and you want things to work out for them.

The only problem? Somewhere along in Chapter 2, I was laughing so hard I could barely get the words out. My aunt laughed a lot, too. She was pleased that I had gotten so tickled, and she laughed at the situation.

Well, we made it through about a third of the book when I had to return it. By the time I got it back, we had moved on to mysteries, and she didn’t want to start again, so I finished alone. I started from the beginning, and enjoyed it just as much. The plot isn’t straightforward. In fact, it meanders through several story threads. Then it occurred to me: Isn’t that how everyday life is? You have your ups, downs, times when everything sucks big time, and everyday activities. You try to help people along the way if you can, cheering them on. You may be very concerned about what will happen, but you can’t always predict the outcome accurately. Faith is important to help you through challenges.

The main theme of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good centers on the fact that Father Tim doesn’t know what to do with himself in retirement. He’s grateful for his family and friends, that he’s been able to travel, and that he has a brother he never knew he had. Countless blessings abound. But what to do now? Eventually, he is offered the chance to serve as a priest again. But does he really want it? So begins his journey. Another big mystery is the identity of the person driving through town in a limo. And, where has one of the neighbors gone? It’s a joy seeing how everything develops.

I have loved these novels ever since I discovered the first one in the series, A Light in the Window. I was hooked when a big, black dog followed Fr. Tim home. He eventually named him Barnabas. The dog would only mind him when he recited scripture at the top of his lungs. I eventually read all the books, though not in order. And that’s okay. I own many of them now.

Jan Karon gave readers a wonderful gift, when, as someone who worked in the advertising field, created on her down time the character of Father Tim. In her mind, she saw a priest walking down the road, and she wanted to know his story. And the people and the town grew from there. In 2005, my aunt and I went to her book signing at The Falls Church. Every seat was filled. She is a warm and engaging speaker. I bought a signed copy of In This Mountain, a book we were both touched by. An added bonus was meeting her as we all entered the church at the same time. She introduced herself, and we introduced ourselves. I’m so glad we got the chance to tell her how much we love all of her books.

So, once I finished the new book, I reread In the Company of Others. It’s really great on audio, too. It’s the one where Father tim and Cynthia travel yo Ireland.

Everybody needs a Mitford. By that I mean a real or imagined place where everybody’s got your back, and where there’s still hope and possibility

Ms. Karon, please don’t wait too long to write the next in the series!



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Filed under Christian fiction, Fiction, Helping People, inspiration

Umbrella, A Childhood Favorite

I first heard Taro Yashima‘s Umbrella when my third grade teacher read it aloud to our class. It’s about a little girl named Momo who gets an umbrella and boots for her third birthday. She can’t wait to try them out, and longs for a rainy day, since sometimes umbrellas are impractical in the wind and sun. Finally, a rainy day comes….

The colorful illustrations grabbed me first, then the Japanese words and writing. To this day, writing and speaking in another language fascinates me; however, I’m only fluent in English. The story spoke to me because I have always disliked rainy days. I know rain is necessary for the flowers, grass, and trees. It’s just the way of things to have rain. This story challenged me to look at “bad weather” differently and to see rain in new ways–maybe, just maybe, it’s possible to even enjoy it. As the years passed, I learned to not let wet weather bring me down. Sometimes, a day inside is good.

I saw a copy of Umbrella at a school book fair a couple of months after the class discussion. Alas, I didn’t buy it. I’ve always thought of the book as “the one that got away,” because I outgrew it quickly. Every once in a while, I get nostalgic and look at it again.

Here’s a children’s librarian reading Umbrella:

I recently discovered one of Yashima’s other works, Crow Boy, which I like even better. It teaches a beautiful lesson in never counting anyone out, and tat each person has something to offer, Very often, it’s an understanding and caring teacher who brings these qualities out.

Here’s another reading by a different librarian:


Happy reading!

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Filed under Children's Books, Classics, inspiration

10 Rooms That Should Be in the House of Life

In the December 2013 issue of Reader’s Digest, the following essay was reprinted. I liked it so much that I saved it after I was through with the issue. There is much wisdom in it. My paper copy is getting threadbare, so I thought I would reproduce it here. It was originally adapted in 1922 by RD from The New American Magazine. The author is Dr. Frank Crane, a Presbyterian minister.

10 Rooms That Should Be in the House of Life

Perhaps you think you could easily add to your happiness if you had more money. Strange as it may seem, if you’re unsatisfied, the issue is not a lack of means to gratify your desires but a lack of desires–not that you cannot satisfy your tastes but that you don’t have enough tastes.

Innumerable poor wretches have nothing but money. If you are a careful observer, you will see that real riches consist of well-developed and hearty capacities to enjoy life. Most people are already swamped with things. They eat too much, wear too much, go too much, live in too big a house, hear too much, and talk too much. I know people who live in houses of brick and stone where there are too many rooms, yet their house of life is a hut.

Your house of life ought to be a mansion, a royal palace. Every new taste, every additional interest, every fresh enthusiasm adds a room. Here are ten rooms your house of life should have.

1. Art

“Why art?” you ask. “Why should I cultivate a new desire? I can’t satisfy those I have.” Simply because the world is full of beautiful things. If you only understood how to enjoy them, how to feed your spirit on them, they would make you as happy as to find plenty of ham and eggs when you are hungry.

2. Letters

Literature, classic literature, is a beautiful, richly furnished chamber, wherein, if you only loved it, you might find many an hour of rest and refreshment. To gain that love would go toward making you a rich person, for a rich person is not someone who has a library but who likes a library.

3. Music

You do not care for Mozart and Bach? You shun the symphony? Poverty is a curse, and poverty of taste is the worst curse of all. Real riches are of the spirit. And when you have brought that spirit up to where classical music feeds it and makes you a little drunk, you have increased your thrills and bettered them. And life is a matter of thrills.

4. Outdoors

There are many, especially city dwellers, who are dead to the delights of the great outdoors. They are dead to the wonder and witchery of the sky, forest, and stream; they have no craving for the joys of tramping, hunting, exploring, botanizing, geologizing, and stargazing. Is it not better to give a child a taste that will enrich his life than to give him money that may cramp and impoverish it?

5. Sentiment

There are a number of people who, for one reason or another, have closed or attempted to close the door of their hearts. Many of these have been wounded or betrayed. So, because there os some tragedy in the room of sentiment, they have shut it up and locked the door.

But the fact is that one’s capacity for pain is the exact measure of his capacity for enjoyment. The fullness of life and its richness can be found only by those who are willing to endure the sufferings which equip them for the keener joys. By endeavoring to shut themselves away from all sentiment, they may save themselves pain, but they make their lives drab and empty.

Don’t be afraid to go into the room of love, of friendship, of the piercing experiences that come to you only through the affections. There is doubtless in that room a sword, but there is also a brimming wine cup.

6. Children

The very cares that children bring, the anxiety and heartbreak, are what you need to make your life rich. Every child is another room in the house of life.

7. Sports

Do you read the sporting pages in the newspaper? Do you dance or play chess or tennis? Can you enjoy a game of pool? It’s a poor person who can’t play. No matter who you are, you would be more human, and your house of life would be better buttressed against the bad days, if you could, and did, play a bit.

8. Food

Let food stand for all the “animalities.” Do you derive pleasure from the physical rituals of your day? Do you try to appreciate your bed, your clothes, your meals? Do you mark the comforts of your bath, your armchair, your slippers? Suppose you list the small human things  that delight you in the day’s round, such as the odor of coffee and bacon, the quiet hour to yourself after the family have gone to bed, the zest of morning, the sense of adventure in going to your work each day, the taste of apples, the pleasure of a brisk walk, the amusing differences in the people you meet, the feel of silk, of books, of your pen. There are a hundred more points of pleasure in your day than you imagine.

9. Religion

Do not boast that you have no religious feeling. You are depriving yourself of something that is your rightful inheritance. Of course the religious feeling has, like all things mixed with human clay, shown sides of pettiness, the angles of disgust, cruelty and unreason, but, withal, it has done much to beautify and ennoble our humanity.

And if I shut myself out from God, from the contemplation of the Infinite, and from that sublimity man gets from religious emotion only, I am harming myself. I want a house of life to have magnificence and splendor. Why should I seal up the chapel because others misuse it?

10. Work

Most of us have to work. And most of us think we do not like it. As a matter of fact, we do. We should be vastly more miserable without than with work. Without struggle, danger, adventure, hope, fear, and triumph, life is empty–and usually a tremendous bore.

The secret of a contented old age is to keep on adding rooms to the house of life.

Writer Dr. Frank Crane (1861–1928) was a prominent Presbyterian minister and the author of a dozen popular inspirational books. Ten of his articles were published in Reader’s Digest between 1922 and 1924. “Ten Rooms,” which appeared in our third issue, was the first of them.

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Only This Once, I Judged a Book by Its Cover….and Loved It!

When I choose a book, the cover is usually the very last thing that draws me to it. Nine times out of ten, I always have a specific title in mind. I almost never care what the cover looks like.

But one day recently, I was browsing a local library’s EBook collection when I ran across a holiday book called The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson. Though it sounded predictable, the story was also promising because it was about a cat. I didn’t care that I would be reading it in late January, either.

But the photograph of the Maine Coon cat on the front grabbed me at first glance. Miranda, also a Maine Coon, was our “bestest and prettiest”cat for eighteen years. Common traits of all Maine Coons are keen intelligence, shyness, and a loving and playful nature. But each has specific personalities. I was thinking about Miranda and missing the days when we had a pet–and wishing I could have a cat–or a dog–again. And then I found the book. Turns out that the author has a Maine Coon named Harry. She named one of the cats in the story after him. Isn’t the cover cute? Hr’s such a sweetie-pie!

The Christmas Cat

All together, now: Awwww!!  I showed the picture above to my aunt, and she liked it also. Both the eReader version (black and white) and the color version (Adobe Digital Editions). I think she was getting sick of my excitement over this, but she was patient.

Now, on to the story. Garrison Brown has just returned to the U.S. from six years in Uganda, where he’s been an international aid worker. Sadly, just before Thanksgiving, he learns that his grandmother has passed away. Her lawyer has asked Garrison to come settle her estate. This includes caring for and finding neighborhood homes for her six rescue cats: Muzzy, Rusty, Harry, Oreo, Viola, and Sadie (I think that’s her name), a calico. This is not as easy as it sounds. The adoptions have specific requirements. Worse, Garrison has allergies–and a deep fear of cats.

Along the way, Garrison recalls a lot about his life and his grandmother’s. She was well thought of in the community, and she had taken Garrison in when he was twelve, after his parents died in a car accident. He meets her neighbors–some of whom were her close friends.

Garrison also thinks about his life goals. Like all of us, he doesn’t get everything right the first time. His journey makes a very pleasant Christmas read.
Maine Coon Cat

I also couldn’t resist Phillip Martin’s free clipart image of a Maine Coon….very cute!

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Fiction, Helping People, inspiration

A Second Journey with Harold Fry

When I first heard about Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was curious about it and even checked it out. But I let it go because I thought it might be too sad.  With so many things to do, I let a few months pass. Something wouldn’t let me let go; I’m not sure what led me back to it.

So I tried again, downloading it to my NOOK. One evening, I decided to give it a try, and I couldn’t put it down! Even if I had something else going on that day, the first spare minute I had, I went back to the book until I finished.

The story begins simply enough. Kind and unassuming Harold Fry, 65, of Kingsbridge, England, has been retired from his brewery job for six months. Home life, with his wife Maureen, is very quiet. Too quiet.

One spring morning, Harold receives an unexpected letter from an old friend–his former co-worker,  Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t seen in more than twenty years. She has cancer, and is writing to  say good-bye.

This affects Harold very deeply, and he is moved to tears.. A long time ago,Queenie helped him out, and he never took the time to thank her. Never good with words, he writes a reply, putting his last name in parentheses just in case people have forgotten who he is. He goes for a walk to post the letter.  And keeps right on walking. “Queenie must live,” Harold says. “I won’t let her down.” Before he reaches a mailbox that is farther away, he opens the letter to add a postscript: “Please wait for me.”


In Harold’s case, he’s walking from Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed, where Queenie’s hospice is. A map is included in the front of the book. Basically, he is walking the entire length of England.

As the story opens, readers see that Harold and Maureen are estranged, and there is some rift between them and their son, David. As the story develops, traders discover more details.

As Harold embarks upon his totally spur-of-the-moment journey, he learns, observes, cheers for, and cares about the quirky people he meets along the way–who may or may not have the greatest of motives. He is looking for faith, hope, and forgiveness. Along the way, he realizes that other people carry unseen burdens too. He also learns that the greatest gift he can give to people is to listen. Ultimately, he sees that it’s better to join life than to shrink away from it. The road gives him a lot of time for reflection. The other characters–and readers–also cheer for him.

Walking, he sees so many things that he forgot about or missed entirely while in a car. I have found the same thing.

Soon I will read the prequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and Joyce’s additional novel, Perfect. Have a look at the U.S. and British versions of Rachel Joyce’s websites, and enjoy!


Happy man walking in countryside


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Filed under Fiction, Hope, inspiration, journeys, Marriage and family, Uncategorized