Thursday, January 8, 2015

Old Pups and New Tricks

            A friend and fellow writer called this morning to discuss some manuscript issues. Like me, she learned keyboarding decades ago when it was still called typing, as on a typewriter. Period space space. 

Now she read the submission guidelines which commanded her to leave only one space after a period. Or else. She wanted to know when and why that had changed. I tried to give the answer I’d heard, but ended up telling her it was one more hoop to jump through to get the manuscript published. Now I would tell her to read the explanation at this website: There are many other articles about this fascinating topic.

Mostly she wanted to know what she could do about it other than go through 300 pages deleting spaces. She couldn’t even tell where she’d spaced once and where she’d spaced twice. The first thing I advised her was to click on the paragraph sign on the tool bar. Now she could see one dot per space between words and the cursed two spaces after periods.

We put our heads together—metaphorically speaking since we were in different towns—and figured it out. I reasoned:   I know you can use Find and Replace in MS Word to change a town’s name or a character’s name. For example, I decided to rename Mama, the hair-braiding Jamaican, Big Mama because Laney refers to her own mother as Mama. I decided my readers didn’t need two Mamas in the same chapter. Find and Replace let me do that. I usually choose Find Next instead of Replace All just so something weird doesn’t happen. 

And here’s an example of Find and Replace weirdness:  The story is told of a pastor who had recently presided over the funeral of a church member, Mary. He saved his funeral liturgy on his computer so he would be ready for the next sad event. Edith was the next to die, and the pastor went into the Word document to Find and Replace Mary with Edith. To save time, he chose Replace All.

The service went along smoothly the next day until the congregation began to recite the Apostles Creed and learned that Jesus was “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Edith…”

BUT, I wondered, could you ask the computer to find two spaces and replace them with one space? I was astonished to learn that it could be done. I advised my friend to do it in stages. First Find and Replace period space space. Then question mark space space. Then exclamation point space space. But you really can do it in one fell swoop by spacing twice after Find, spacing once after Replace, and choosing Replace All.

Some of you young computer savvy whiz kids are snorting and saying incredulously, “You didn’t know that?” No, actually, my friend and I didn’t, but now we do, and I’m sharing it with anybody else born in the stone age who might want to know. And by the way, we stone age sisters know lots of stuff about lots of stuff you kids haven’t figured out yet. I might tell you if you stop ROFL and ask nicely.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Miss Inge

When I first met Inge—not her real name—and heard her German-accented English, my immediate reaction was, “I’m in a Mel Brooks movie!” Fellow Mel fans know his movies often feature German and Yiddish accents, which sound ironically similar, considering their shared and tragic history.

I quickly realized Inge is more marvelous than a stereotype. She speaks two languages fluently, which immediately makes her more intelligent than I, which is saying a lot, because I’m a Tucker girl. Then, she’s retired from a career as a registered nurse, which makes her not only more intelligent, but less squeamish than I. I admire nurses greatly, especially after my hospital experience in November 2013, but I believe I dealt with enough bodily functions raising four sons to last several lifetimes.

In Inge’s new career, she serves as Breakfast Hostess at the hotel where I recently spent a week. But Breakfast Hostess is too narrow a title for what Inge does each day. I would re-title her Morning Sunshine. 

I admit I would pretty much like anyone who has several varieties of coffee and a buffet prepared for me in my grogginess, but I’ve eaten from other hotel buffets and never made a personal connection. 

Inge greets everyone who enters the common room. Hello, my dear. Good morning, love. She asks how your evening was, what are your plans for the day, and shares anecdotes. Everyone, Man, Woman, Child. She’s especially affectionate toward the red-haired brothers in their shark and bunny slippers and the dark-haired sisters who brought along their own box of General Mills Frozen cereal.

I don’t know where all Inge’s friendliness and joy come from. Maybe her early experiences as an immigrant married to an American led her to reach out to everyone. Maybe it’s her faith. She told me about finding a statue of Mary for her garden in a local secondhand shop, so I assume she’s Catholic. Speculation. 

Maybe she exited the womb exuding sunshine, and the attending nurses dimmed the delivery room lights.

Many people aren’t happy at a low-paying, menial job. Apparently, this isn’t a problem for Inge, who must have earned several times minimum wage as an RN. Inge brings her happy with her to her early morning job and then goes home and takes a nap.

So I miss Inge. I miss her coffee, biscuits, bacon, eggs, sausages, bagels, muffins, cereal, cinnamon rolls, and yogurt, but mostly I miss her cheeriness. I fear I’ll never visit her again. Winter mornings will be colder and darker without her.

I can only think of one way around this loss:  I’ll have to become Inge. I won’t attempt the accent, and everyone who knows me knows I don’t do early morning joy.

But I can try.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dream Big for 2015!

Today's post is written by guest blogger Taffy Spaloss, my oldest friend and only sister. You can find more of Taffy's encouragement at "Kisses from the Father," her blog at

The Permission to Dream Again

Some time ago, our pastor asked us on a Sunday morning, “If you could do anything you wanted to do, and time and/or money was not an object, what would you do?”
The dreamers among us immediately began to make lists of the dreams on their hearts: to paint – create works of art as a full time job; to travel anywhere and everywhere; to pay off all of my friends’ mortgages and car loans; to join Heidi Baker loving the children of Mozambique…
But my first reaction to the pastor’s words was to freeze and go blank.  And I dare say that I was not alone in my reaction.  For some of us have not allowed ourselves to dream for so long that we don’t know what to do with an offer like that.
Sometimes it seems I believe in “the God of the second shoe.” Yes, there are blessings in my life, but there’s this nagging thought at the back of my mind saying, “Just wait – don’t get too excited.  That second shoe will drop.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Yet I have seen what happens when someone begins to dream again.  One evening at Shore Vineyard Destiny Healing Rooms, a quiet young man came for prayer for severe depression.  He was way too young to be stuck, with his whole life ahead of him.  We prayed for him for a while.  Then I asked him, “What would you really like to do, if you could do anything you wanted?” and it was as if a light switch was turned on in his face.  He began to smile as he told us the dreams of his heart, what he really wanted to do with his life.  Then we prayed again with him.  We prayed that the God who loved him and loved the dreams of his heart, the one who had created him for that very thing that made him feel alive, would fulfill those dreams and desires in his life.
I believe God has a word for his kids as 2014 ends and 2015 begins.  I believe he is saying:
"You have my permission to dream again.  You are not too old, too young, too frail, too sick, too soiled, too anything.  It’s not too late.  It’s time to dream again.  I am not the God of the second shoe!  I am the God who created you to dream with me, and see those dreams come to life.  For I am right here, dreaming alongside you. 
"Some of you will paint pictures that will touch thousands of people, because my Spirit will communicate through peoples’ eye gates as they gaze on what you have painted.  Some of you will lay your hands on people with pancreatic cancer and see them healed before your eyes.  Others will travel the world praying and changing people and places by powerful words and prayers straight from your heart, and mine.  Some will get that reconciliation in your families that you have wept and prayed for in your secret time with me.  Some of you mamas will see the joy you prayed for – I have no greater joy than this, than to see my children walking in the truth.  There will be books published that touch people with my glory around the world.  You will feed the hungry.  You will release captives and teach them to abide in my freedom.  You will carry my presence wherever you go.  Signs and wonder will follow you, as you follow me.
"You have my permission, my command.  Dream!  Dream big.  I am dreaming with and in you.  I love you and I love your dreams.  I’ll tweak them if I need to, but don’t hold anything back.  Dream huge, dream often, dream with me.  You have my permission to dream again."
Come and dream with me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Hanukkah Lesson from Murray Menorah

 Tune:  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I found Murray at
Murray the Hanukkah menorah
Has a lot of flaming lights,
And to recall a miracle,
Murray burns for eight long nights.

All of the flick’ring candles
Love to tell the story, too,
Of how the Maccabee brothers
Made it safe to be a Jew.

Long ago in Judea
Antiochus proclaimed,
“If you will not pray to Zeus,
Soon you will be maimed!”

Oh how the Maccabees fought him
‘til Jerusalem was free!
Thank you, Menorah Murray,
For teaching us our history.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ramblings on being a messenger

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger
greater than the one who sent him.” (Emphasis mine)
Jesus to his disciples, recorded in John 13:16

The Message is in the ___________________.

If you live in central Pennsylvania and listen to Christian radio, you easily fill in the blank with the word “Music.” I hear that phrase—The Message is in the Music—multiple times each day as I drive to and from my job with my radio tuned to FM 91.3, WGRC. That makes the radio station a messenger and those mysterious, invisible radio waves its chosen medium.

My sister, Taffy Spaloss, designs and constructs quilts which she calls Message Quilts. She explains, “Each quilt is birthed with either a person in mind, or a message that I want to express, or both. Each step of the quilt is then performed with that thought in mind. I get excited when the blocks are sewn together and I begin to see what the finished quilt will look like. And the delivery of that quilt is the grand finale, the delivery of the blessing to the one God desires to bless.” (Emphasis mine) My sister is a messenger and fabric is her chosen medium.

I don’t have to build a radio tower or sew a quilt to be a messenger. If I understand Jesus’ words correctly, I already am a messenger, even on those days I feel more like a mess than a messenger. If I’ve accepted the terms of John 13:13, calling Jesus “Teacher and Lord,” the messenger part logically follows.

(Sorry to keep repeating the word “messenger.” My writers critique group will be horrified.)

For me, sometimes the message has been in the puppetry or the lesson or the writing or the ukelele. In all of these, I have to be careful I’m delivering God's message and not just enjoying the media I’ve chosen to get it across. After all, teaching Bible to high school students is enjoyable (most days) and occasionally hilarious, and I’m easily entertained by the sound of my own voice. 

I occasionally joke about starting my own cult, but seriously, isn’t that how cults get started? By teachers enamored of their own voices and viewpoints and the admiration of their students? At the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. it was frightening to see how Satan's message was delivered to the German nation by an evil, charismatic messenger.

As a messenger, I need to know God's message through and through and admit when I don’t. I need to know the Sender of the message and what media will best reach the intended recipients. Finally, I need to know when to get out of God's way.

            How about you? Which media do you use to deliver God’s message? I’d love to hear about it.
Taffy's Tree of Life Design
See her quilts at