Book Review: The Face of the Earth

When Does A Spouse Move On?

A friend once told me of an elderly gent who visited his wife everyday in the nursing home. She had advanced Alzheimer’s and wasn’t responding to anyone at all anymore.
Finally someone there asked him, “Why do you still come and sit with her every day? She doesn’t even know who you are?”
The old man relied, “But I still know who she is.”

At what point, if ever, are you released from your marriage commitment when the one you made them to is absent, either literally or mentally? For some people a marriage is simply an agreement “for as long as we feel like it.” A Christian, however, promises “before God and these witnesses…to be faithful…for as long as you both shall live.” Are there circumstances where God releases a spouse from that promise?

I just finished this amazing story where the author sets up this scenario and demonstrates a sensible, faith-based response to the question. I really admire the scruples of the characters in this book! While these are people who embrace Christian principles and seek direction through prayer, I’d recommend this book to anyone.

The Face of the Earth

© 2017 by Deborah Raney
(First published in 2013 under the same name by Howard Books/Simon & Schuster.)

Friday, Sept 3rd:
Principal Mitchell Brannon pauses on his way home from work to call his wife Jill, a third-grade teacher who’s driving home from a personal development conference in Kansas City. He’s happy he persuaded her to go, now they’re planning a relaxing evening at home. They’d just delivered their second child to University and are starting their new life as empty nesters. Jill has been feeling blue about this change, but Mitch is rather looking forward to being “just the two of us” again.

He gets her voice-mail, so he leaves a message: “Just wondering where you are. Give me a call so I know when to put on the steaks.” She hasn’t arrived yet when he gets home, but she’s left him a message on their house phone at 1pm saying she’s leaving the hotel and should be home by six at the latest. She sounds upbeat, ready to be home.

Mitch fires up the grill at 6pm and takes out the steaks. Calls and gets her voice-mail again. That’s odd. At 7:30 he shuts off the grill, calls the hotel, verifies her leaving time, checks the weather to see if there’ve been any storms along her way. At 8pm he stops pacing the floor to call her best friend, Shelley Austin, a divorcee who lived next door. Shelley hadn’t heard a peep from Jill that day. By 9 pm he’s calling everyone who might possibly have heard from her.

Mitch calls Highway Patrol. No reported accidents. And they seemed reluctant to get involved — after all, she may have chosen to not come home. Mitch doesn’t buy that; he knows he and Jill have a good marriage. She’d never worry him like this. Has she been in an accident? Shelley comes over to help Mitch in his search, calling all the hospitals in KC and along Jill’s route home. The next morning they head out and drive the route she’d have traveled, hoping to find some clue.

Saturday Sept 4th :
Highway Patrol officers pay a visit. They have no news, but bombard Mitch with questions. Is she choosing to stay away? Did she seem depressed? Had they quarreled? Can anyone verify where he was during those hours when his wife went missing? Obvious insinuations.

Mitch & Jill’s son and daughter come home from University and join in the waiting, the rushing to the phone. Always hoping. There must be some reason… Then Jill’s cell phone is discovered on the floor in the parking garage.

Mitch and Shelley are two vulnerable human beings thrown together in a time of high emotions time and you know the connection is sometime going to produce sparks. Shelley’s trying to not betray her friend. Mitch intends to be faithful to his wedding vows and keep hoping, “Til death do you part.” Eventually, though, he wonders: at what point are you released from those vows when the one with whom you made them has vanished from the face of the earth — and may never return?

This story is masterfully written and played out in a totally realistic way. You ride along with these people on their roller coaster of hope and despair, feeling with them through their painful vigil, the nightmares, the (finally tiresome) expressions of sympathy, the flashes of hope when some new detail is uncovered, the suspicion, the gossip. I appreciate that Mitch respects the Bible admonition to “avoid all appearance of evil” even though he needs Shelley’s help and support.

Cautionary Note:
Don’t start this book after 9 pm unless you can afford to be up half the night. It’s very hard to put down.

Love Rewarded

This is my response to today’s RagTag daily prompt word: HEART

One day, a century ago, a boy of three was brought to an orphanage and placed in the hands of the kind, capable housemother. He’d never known his parents, so he took to Miss C right off; whenever she put her arm around little David, he clung desperately to her.

She had a heart for the little boy and did her best to bring him up as a proper gentleman – though he could be such a mischief. Keeping him on the straight and narrow proved to be a constant challenge for her as David grew up, in spite of the boy’s deep affection for her. Yet Miss C persevered because she believed in the end he’d do well. David didn’t disappoint her, either. He went on to be a successful and well-respected business man in London.

Miss C tackled the job of housemother at that orphanage for thirty years; she gave the children all the love and help she could, but there came the time she needed to retire. The future looked a bit rough right then: she was sixty years old and no home of her own to go to. However would she manage her rent and daily expenses on just her pension?

David came down from London for the send-off. When he got wind of her financial situation he patted her shoulder and told her, “Don’t worry; just leave it all to me.”

He went out and bought a nice little home in Nottingham, just around the block from Miss C’s brother, and had the place repaired and redecorated. Then he handed Miss C the key – it was all hers – in return for the home and motherly love she had given him in his boyhood.

Story retold from one that appeared in the 1972 Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

The Art Behind An Artifact

Fandango’s one word prompt today is ARTIFACT. I’ve always had a vague sense of what this word means, and have always associated it with archeology, but now that I’m to use it, I decided to look it up and be certain.

Artifact: same as artefact. Oka-a-a-y.

Artefact: something made by human beings. Nelson Gage says: “Anything made by or anything caused by human activity.” Hence my car, though a 2014, is an artifact. From the plastic and steel of the body to the vinyl interior and all the circuitry: 100% created by humans. (Albeit with naturally occurring raw materials.)

This word made me think of a song from my teen years: “In the Year 2525.” The idea being: the world was in such a mess in the 1960s, can man survive much longer? That song is an artifact now and we’ve survived an awful lot since. I read about US voters disgruntled with their current president; they can comfort themselves that the country will survive him, too. Our great-grandchildren will someday read about President Trump and other famous people of today in their history texts. Perhaps with pride; perhaps with pain, but a done deal.

They’ll hear about us and our lives in that same sense, and maybe a few of our artifacts will be displayed. Like when I pull out our faded hand-stitched quilt and say to my grandchildren, “This is the quilt your great-great grandma made.” My own grandmother made blankets, too, but very plain patches of whatever, quite dark and lacking any sense of art. My mother-in-law was skilled at handcrafts and I have a number to show the grands now.

I made an artifact the other day, and I have full confidence that it will survive in my family, “even unto the fourth generation.” My grandson came over and wanted to paint something, so I found a flimsy box, made of the lightest, cheapest wood, and let him go at it with my acrylic paints. I predict that box won’t survive even the first generation, but he had fun.

While he was painting that I found a small rock in my collection and started painting it orange. (I pick up smooth, bug-shaped stones as I happen to see ones I think are suitable for painting.) Later I drew black stripes for wings, dots for eyes, and likewise dotted the back. A mouth shaped like W. When I was done my grandson pronounced it “Neat” and took it home with him.

Someday when our civilization has turned to dust, some archeologist may dig up this area, find this funny-looking rock and say (in whatever language will be used here at that time), “Hey, people, look! A petrified bug! We’ve never discovered a fossil like this before.”

Then someone examine it, say hmmm… and send it for testing. It will be revealed that this is not a bug at all; it’s simply a rock covered with some kind of acrylic paint used extensively by the people of that ancient civilization.

In the year 2525 my bug may be unearthed and some news reporter — they never change, you know — may write up the article announcing: “Archeologists digging in the ancient ruins of a long-lost prairie village have unearthed the painted icon of some rare bug. They believe it was created by some ancient fossil.”

Almost Everybody

I wrote this fun piece in response to Fandango’s one-word prompt for today: ALMOST. Check out his blog to see the other responses, or add your own.
I was especially prompted to write this tale by Frank Prem’s not-quite-haiku, Almost a Cockatoo. You’ll see the link to his blog, Seventeen Syllable Poetry, listed among the others.  🙂

ALMOST EVERYBODY HAS A PAIR

“Mom, I need new running shoes.”

“So what else is new?” was Dad’s comment.

“You just got new shoes back in spring, Brandi.” Mom reminded her.

“That’s right,” Dad agreed. “And as I recall, they cost me a wallet full of bills.”

“Mom, Dad. Listen to me! The shoes you got me back in spring were El-cheapos. Now they’re like, RAGS! They’re decomposing with every step. I’m gonna get gangrene if I keep wearing them. I REALLY need new shoes.” Brandi stuck out a foot to show the evidence and wrinkled her nose. “I need something a little higher quality.”

Dad jabbed a finger in her direction. “The way you and your sister go through shoes, all we can afford are El-Cheapo brands. Do I dare ask how much ‘a little higher quality’ is going to set me back?”

Brandi rolled her eyes. “Oh, Dad. All you think of is money! You don’t understand how…how…ostracized I feel wearing Excess-Economy brand when all the other kids are wearing these cool new TECH-tonic ‘Earthmovers’. Kids who have ‘em say they really grip the ground and…”

“And all your classmates are wearing these?” Mom asked.

Brandi’s sister Trena nodded in agreement. “I’ll need a new pair soon, too.”

“Even some of the poorest kids,” said Brandi. “And they’re, like, $220 a pair.”

Dad’s eyes popped open. “Two hundred and…” He whistled. “And everybody in your class has a pair? Except some of the poorest kids, of course — like you two.”

Brandi stuck out her chin.“Well, yeah. Do you want us to be scorned by the whole school? Mocked on Facebook because our shoes are rotting on our feet?”

Mom looked at Dad and raised her eyebrows. Dad looked at Mom and raised his eyebrows. Somehow they both managed to maintain a ‘bank-manager-considers-loan’ sobriety.

“We’ll see.” Mom said. “Now that I think of it, Carrie’s cousin volunteers at school Thursday mornings. I’ll ask her what she thinks of these news shoes everybody’s wearing. You called them Earthmovers?”

Brandi nodded, squirmed, and sent her sister a desperate glance. “Well, almost everybody. At least five kids in my class have a pair. But the rest are getting them as soon as…”

Dad grinned.  “As soon as they can talk their folks into saving them from mocking and scorn?” He winked at Mom.

Brandi and Trena gave each other a meaningful look and rolled their eyes as if to say, “Parents. They’re so…archaic!”

A Letter From Home

This “letter” is from a book of poems written by Mary J MacColl, published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY. The book comes with endorsements from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and Oliver Wendell Holmes. speaking of hob-nobbing with the Greats!

Johnny’s Letter

Dear Ned, your letter’s come at last
and Nelly’s cockatoo;
Old Captain Cable brought them both,
‘Twas pretty good of you
to write so much, when it’s so hot;
how jolly brown you’ll be –
just like a heathen Hottentot –
when you come back from sea!

I don’t believe I’d care to hunt
in jungles – at a show;
I’m just as near a lion’s jaws
as I would care to go.
Suppose the cannibals you saw
had nothing left to eat?
Phew! They’d have built a fire, I’m sure
and roasted you for meat.

We’ve all been down at Grandma Lee’s
and didn’t we have fun!
We jumped the fences, climbed the trees,
and made the squirrels run.
High on a load of hay we rode
with Jake and Uncle Nate;
we hunted nests and fed the chicks,
and swung upon the gate.

We fished and waded in the creek,
shook apples off the trees—
I ate so many I was sick!—
we chased the bumble bees.
They stung poor Bobby on the nose
and Katy in the eye;
it made them look so very queer
and oh, how they did cry!

Dick made believe he had a horse –
‘twas nothing but a rail –
I tied the duster on behind,
it looked just like a tail.
But he got tired, let go the rein
and tumbled on a log
and when I ran to call Nurse Jane
I fell across the dog.

I haven’t got much more to say
and I must go to school.
I missed my lesson yesterday.
I said “a little bull”
when teacher asked what bullet meant.
Why shouldn’t it be so
when streamlet means a little stream?
That’s what I’d like to know.

There goes the bell! I must be off–
I ‘most forgot to say
that Charley has the whooping-cough
and Tom fell off a dray.
But ‘cepting them we’re all quite well.
Good-bye – remember now,
if you don’t bring a monkey home
there’ll be the biggest row.

Winnie and the Optimist

It’s been awhile since I posted any stories about Winnie and Raylene. You can read about their travels here:
Winnie on Tour

Nature Makes Cats Too Smart

In today’s story they are dealing with an overly optimistic great-nephew. 🙂

Winnie and the Optimist

“Looks like your gas tank is a little low, Willie.” Raylene commented from the back seat.

Willie waved his hand in a dismissive way. “Don’t worry about that gauge. It’s broken. I been meaning to get it fixed, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

Winnie, sitting beside her great nephew, leaned sideways and eyed the gas gauge. “The needle shows almost empty. So how do you know when you’re really low on gas?”

“By the odometer. I just keep track in my head. Only a few times I’ve actually run out.”

“A few times? But not today, I hope? We want to make it to the airport in good time, Willmont.”

Willie gave her a reassuring glance. “Chill, Aunt Winnie. I’ve got this.”

“Um… Here’s a service station coming up,” Raylene said. “Maybe you could fill your tank before we hit the freeway. Always be on the safe side, you know.”

“I’m sure I have enough gas to get you to the plane. You ladies just relax and leave it to me. No point worrying about things before they happen.”

The ladies exchanged glances and Raylene shrugged as if to say, After all, we can’t force him to stop for gas. She sat back and tried to forget the gas gauge, focussing rather on the scenery. Soon they were on the freeway headed for the big city and their holiday cruise.

The gas station was several kilometers behind them and the sign coming up read: Airport Exit 8 km when they felt the car give a slight jerk. Then another. The motor gave a few little coughs, ran rough for a moment, then stalled.

“What gives?” Willie guided his car to the shoulder. “We can’t be out of…” He peered at the odometer. “Oh, spaz! I thought that was a three. It’s an eight.”

“Sometimes it’s better to…” Raylene timidly began.

Winnie drowned her out. “We’re going to miss our plane, Willmont! Your dad was in the Boy Scouts when he was a youngster, wasn’t he. Didn’t he ever teach you the Boy Scout motto: ‘Always Be Prepared’?”

Willie rolled his eyes. “No sweat. We’ve still got lots of time. I’ll hitchhike back to the service station and get a can of gas. Won’t take long at all.” He got out of the car.

Winnie and Raylene joined him and all three stared at the car.

“Be back in a jiff.” Willie crossed the highway and held up his thumb. A few minutes later a car stopped. The driver nodded sympathetically at the ladies as Willie got into his car and they were off.

“Optimism can go along way,” Raylene commented, trying to inject an upbeat note.

Winnie snorted. “Just not all the way to the airport.”

Winnie and Raylene were still pacing around on the shoulder five minutes later when a car slowed and pulled up behind Willie’s. They recognized the driver as one of the fellows from the Senior Apartments in their town. He stuck his head out the window. “Damsels in distress?”

Winnie hurried over, exclaiming, “Howard Downing! You are a sight for sore eyes! My nephew Willmont was driving us to the airport and he ran out of gas. He got a lift to the garage back up the road.”

“But we’re scared we’re going to miss our plane,” Raylene added. Never hurts to stir up a little sympathy.

“What a coincidence. I’m headed to the airport myself. My brother and his wife are coming in at 12:15 from Vancouver. Would you like a ride?”

Raylene and Winnie both exclaimed. “Would we!”

Howard helped them transfer their baggage to his car. Winnie beamed at him. “You’re a lifesaver!”

Raylene stashed her tote in the back seat. “We should leave Willie a note to say what we’ve done, don’t you think, Winnie?”

“Nope. We can call him when we get to Toronto. He should be home chilling by then.”

“Don’t you think he’ll be worried if we just disappear?”

Winnie gave a dismissive wave with her hand. “He can just relax and leave it to us.” She sat on the passenger side and firmly shut the door.

Howard held the door open for Raylene and winked at her as she sat in the back seat. “The young gotta learn sometime.”

The Tide Comes In

I read this little anecdote years ago and have retold it in my own words. Thought I’d share it with you today.

A youngster from an inland English city was taken on a day trip to the seashore for the first time. It was an amazing outing; he stared in awe at the vastness of the rolling sea and listened with interest as his father and others around him explained the wonder of oceans and tides.

Then he enjoyed an hour or so of paddling around in the sea and playing on the beach. When it was time to go he wanted to take along some sea water to show his mother. So his dad found him a bottle, which he filled halfway and wrapped in his towel for the ride home.

Later, when he was carrying in his things from the trip, he told his mum all about his wonderful visit to the ocean and showed her the sample he’d brought home.

She thrilled to hear the excitement in his voice and examined the bottle he held up. “That’s great, dear! But why did you only fill the bottle half full?”

“I’ve left room for the tide to come in.”

This clever lad may have gone far in the world of science. 🙂

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Speaking of tales of the sea, did you hear about the terrible accident when a red cruise ship collided with a purple cruise ship? All the passengers were marooned.