Is Honesty Always Best?

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is CANDOR

Here I am rattling on this keyboard in hopes of conveying some thoughts on this topic. HONESTY; TRUTH. Deep subjects!

According to Merriam-Webster candor is the free expression of one’s true feelings.
Adjectives: honest, open-hearted, truthful, direct, forthright, frank, plain-spoken, straightforward, blunt.

How candid can you be in your relationships? How much open sharing do you think is okay between spouses, friends, family? How honest are you with your competitors and antagonists? And when do you just keep quiet and hope for the best, letting others make their own choices and learn their own lessons?

How much candor can you handle from others? If you have a fault, do you want to know about it? Are friends allowed special privileges in this department? Do you expect more gentleness or less frankness from your spouse than close friends?

I can look back on a few times when a friend has been very forthright with me about one of my faults. I sure didn’t appreciate it at the moment, but later on I thanked them for what they said. I’d fallen into a rut and their words put me back on track again.

And I remember a time when I wrote a candid reply to a friend. Her letter informed me that she’d discovered her husband was cheating on her. She was deeply wounded, insulted, and furious. She referred to the “other woman” as “That…that SLUT!”

Do you blame her? I didn’t. Yet I sensed that the fountain of fury I saw splashed across her letter, if she kept bathing in it, would finally drown her. As they say, “Acid corrodes the container it’s in.”

I wrote back to sympathize a bit, yet told her as kindly as I could that she had to let go of that anger or it would destroy her. And as for “that SLUT!” where was she coming from? Though this affair was wrong, maybe the other woman was a hurting, confused person, dealing with self-esteem issues too. I reminded my friend of her own teen years when she had such negative feelings about herself and what this led her into.

(My friend’s mom died young and her dad was abusive to them. One day he decided she needed to work on her math, so he sat her down at the table and sat down across from her with a textbook in one hand and a ping pong paddle in the other. Every time she gave him the wrong answer, he smacked her face with the paddle. As a teen her need for love and approval drove her into a relationship with a married man, which led to an abortion.)

It was a hard letter to write. Honesty stings. She might well hate me when she read it. But my conscience wouldn’t let me just pat her on the back, say “Poor you,” and leave her to drown in that acid.

I didn’t hear from her for a long time, but finally we did resume correspondence. She told me all her other friends were full of sympathy. When she read my letter she raged, “How can she? She’s supposed to be my friend!” But then she wrote, “In the end your letter helped me more than all the sympathy I got.”

Having seen people flounder for years in bitterness, I do believe that sometimes, to help a friend in need, you simply must be openhearted and call a spade a spade.

What do you think?

Memory of a Bird Rescue

I see that today’s RAGTAG Community prompt word is MEMORIES.
Opened my DropBox file and checked how many memories I’ve stored. Since I started my new system where every file is neatly categorized, I can take a quick check of the files starting with Mem–.

I counted 120 of them. So I can ace this prompt. 🙂

I suppose the idea is to write a fresh one, but I’ll cheat and pull one out of storage, a tale not posted for a long time. Hope you enjoy it.

Out of the Lion’s Mouth…

One balmy spring day I was visiting with my next-door neighbour, Marilyn. She has a lovely, flower-filled yard and we were walking on the lawn checking out the perennials around her house.

Several times we took note of a small bird hopping around on the ground not far from us. The tiny bird looked similar to a chickadee in coloring, yet we could see it was not a chickadee. Marilyn and I remarked about how tame it seemed to be, hopping around only a few yards from our feet.

Then we went across her back lawn to check out a new flowerbed she’d made in the middle of the lawn. Before long we saw the little bird again, not far away from our feet. Her three barn cats had also wandered over to hang around with the ladies, maybe hoping a bit of nibbles — or a least a bit of friendly petting — might come from some kindly hand.

Suddenly her buff-colored cat jumped up and dashed over to the little bird and grabbed it in his mouth. I hurried over to inspect the situation: the poor bird’s head was in the cat’s mouth and its wings were flapping frantically trying to escape.

If the cat had injured the bird—like damaged a wing so it couldn’t fly— I would have left well enough alone. But the bird’s wings were obviously fine. And the cat was in a dilemma, too: as soon as he opened his mouth to deal with the bird, it would make good its escape.

You will know what a soft heart I have. I said, “Enough of this! We can’t have slaughter going on right before our eyes.” So I bent over the cat, grabbed its head, and pried its jaws apart. The bird, now released, flew to a nearby shrub and then off into the trees. A wiser bird for his close call.

The cat looked bewildered. Like, What just happened here? Where’s my lunch? Marilyn laughed and said, “He’s never had anyone do that to him before. I think you’ve offended him.”

“Well, too bad. I couldn’t bear to watch the slaughter,” I told her.

Later after a few minutes’ thought. I asked her, “Do you think God has to do that for us sometimes, too? We get ourselves hopelessly ensnared in some vice and He actually has to pry open the devil’s claws in order to set us free?”

And she answered, “Maybe He does.” It does seem that some folks are amazingly rescued from the most dangerous situations or pulled out of violent lifestyles.

When I got home I looked up that little bird in our bird book, and learned that it had the simple, descriptive name: “black and white warbler.” It’s a migratory bird here; we see them only passing through to the North country. I sure wonder why that one was so brave (or foolish) as to hang around our feet? And I’m glad that her cat didn’t win that battle.

Boyhood Memory

by Edgar Guest

It used to be fun in the good old days
to rise at the dawn of day
and dig for worms for a fishing trip.
It used to be fun, I say,
for I swear that a robin who hovered near
knew just what we were about,
since he flew to the ground when the earth was turned
and begged us to toss one out.
Yes, it used to be fun to go fishing then,
but Time has rewritten my terms
of what pleasure is — and I never get up
to dig for a can of worms.

We’d sit on the dock and we’d swing our legs
all day in the blazing sun,
and a few small fish on a piece of string
was our ultimate dream of fun.
Then digging for worms was an easy task,
but I tried it a year ago
and the earth seemed hard as a city street
where the streams of traffic flow.
And I’d lost the knack of clutching a thing
that wriggles and twists and squirms,
so I said to myself: “You will never again
go digging at dawn for worms.”

I stuck to the task ‘til my hands grew sore,
I labored and toiled and wrought,
but the worms were scarce and no robins came,
and it wasn’t the fun I thought.
But a small boy said as we walked away:
“I’m wondering, Uncle Ed,
when there’s so much pleasure in getting up,
how can old folks stay in bed?”
I could only answer him this: “My lad,
all experience confirms
the dreadful fact that there comes a time
when it’s labor to dig for worms.”

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

Some of us who have grown old and stiff are finding that it’s labor to dig for any reason nowadays, though ‘nature’s call’ may still rouse us before dawn. 😉
Happy gardening, everyone.

When Mother Cooked With Wood

by Edgar Guest

I do not quarrel with the gas;
our modern range is fine;
the ancient stove was domed to pass
from Time’s grim firing line.
Yet now and then there comes to me
the thought of dinners good
and pies and cake that used to be
when Mother cooked with wood.

The axe has vanished from the yard,
the chopping block is gone,
there is no pile of cord-wood hard
for boys to work upon;
there is no box that must be filled
each morning to the hood.
Time in its ruthlessness has willed
the passing of the wood.

And yet those days were fragrant days
and spicy days and rare;
the kitchen knew a cheerful blaze
and friendliness was there.
And every appetite was keen
for breakfasts that were good
when I had scarcely turned thirteen
and Mother cooked with wood.

I used to dread my daily chore,
I used to think it tough
when Mother at the kitchen door
said I’d not chopped enough.
And on her baking days, I know,
I shirked whene’er I could
in that now happy long ago
when Mother cooked with wood.

I never thought I’d wish to see
that pile of wood again;
back then it only seemed to me
a source of care and pain.
But now I’d gladly give my all
to stand where once I stood,
if those rare days I could recall
when Mother cooked with wood.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I have written in other posts, I was raised by my aunt and uncle, apart from my family. We lived in the city of Saskatoon, SK; they lived in a little house in the tiny town of Pathlow. And I suppose we had natural gas heat like most folks would have, but when I’d go back to Pathlow and spend a week or so with my birth parents and siblings, I got to experience the joys of the old wood stove.

My Dad had piled firewood not far from the house, quite a huge stack, as I recall. About as high as I was and maybe fifteen feet in length, full of logs sawn to about two-foot long. Most of these were too round to cram into the stove whole, so my Dad or my brother had to split wood for the stove every few days. I can remember watching them setting logs up on end and swinging the axe to split the logs.

The axe would come down into the log and usually get stuck; rarely could the chopper slice a log clean through at one blow. So he’d lift axe and block together and bring it down again on the chopping block, splitting the log the rest of the way through — or at least a little farther. Repeat as necessary to get the axe all the way through.

The wood up in northern Saskatchewan was mostly poplar a very soft wood. No hard woods like the maple or oak Mr Guest would have been splitting in the Eastern US. He would have had his work cut out for him splitting those logs. Most of the logs could be halved, but some were chopped into thin strips of kindling that would catch fire fast.

The fire in the wood stove went out every night and had to be relit every morning — with very chilly fingers if it was winter. You needed paper and thin strips of kindling to light the fire and were very thankful when it started right away. In winter the bedrooms were icy so children often came down to the kitchen wrapped in their blankets, with clothes in one hand, to dress in front of the wood stove where it was warm.

We have a small wood-burning stove set up in our living room to keep us warm in case our electricity ever fails in cold weather. When the temperature drops to -20 C outside and the power goes off for several hours, you get a mite chilly! So my husband gets the wood stove going to keep the living area and kitchen warm. As the poet writes, there’s something quite pleasant about having a wood fire going.

What brought this to mind? I opened the door this morning to let the cats go outside for a bit and I smelled wood smoke. Somebody has a wood fire going and the smoke is drifting over this way.

I hope! I hope it’s not another forest fire burning in the north.

Those Old Autograph Books

“Lest old acquaintance be forgot…”

Writing my Nanowrimo story in November, the main character being a girl turning twelve and the setting being the summer of 1957, I was researching various interests and hobbies of the late 50s. One of these was autograph books, so I gave my main character one for her birthday.

I wonder how many of you readers remember the autograph books we passed around among our family and friends so we’d have a memory of them for our old age? I’m afraid this bit of social fun has been forgotten in this texting generation — though I’d be delighted to know I’m wrong and some children still have one.

I had one myself, and so did my husband, and I signed many a friend’s autograph book. The idea was to write some sort of good wish, verse, quote, bit of song, and then sign it.

Flowers poem

This poem was written by one of Mom’s siblings:
“How nice it is to have a friend
who always plays the game,
knows all the faults that you possess
and loves you just the same.”

This bit of wisdom, maybe a forerunner of the “How to eat an elephant” line, has often encouraged me when I feel overwhelmed by many To-Dos:
“Little and often makes a heap in time.”

This advice was given to Bob by his Dad:
“A little said, and truly said,
can deeper joys impart
than hosts of words that touch the head,
but never reach the heart.”

Here’s another encouragement my third-grade teacher wrote for me:
“May your life be like a snowflake;
leave a mark, but not a stain.”

Verses could be silly, like these written by two of my friends:
“I saw you in the ocean; I saw you in the sea;
I saw you in the bath-tub. Oops, pardon me!

“Two in a hammock waiting to kiss
all of a sudden they went like…”
The writer turned the book upside down to write “this…
She drew a little illustration to go with this, a hammock between two trees.

And someone was sure to turn to the last page and scribble these lines:
“By hook or by crook,
I’ll be the last one
to sign in this book.”

To write this article I went scrounging through my box of ancient papers, thinking I could find my or my husband’s autograph books — and didn’t. What I did come across was two sheets of notebook paper on which Bob’s mom copied all the writings in her autograph book, which she’d kept for years. Mom was born in 1908, so autograph books have been around a long time indeed!

Here are a few more from her book:
“There is a pale blow flower that grows
around the shepherd’s cot,
and in the silence of the night
it softly breathes ‘forget me not’.”

“May your life be like arithmetic—
friends added, joys multiplied,
sorrows subtracted, enemies divided.”

“When the golden sun is setting
and your mind from care is free,
when of others you are thinking
will you sometimes think of me?”

If you think of some autograph that’s stuck with you through the years, please share it in a comment.

Meadowlark + quote

Walk Like a Warrior

Personal note:
My 100-word story, The Wrong Suitcase, was posted on The Drabble e-zine yesterday. You can read it here.

And now for the BOOK REVIEW

WALK LIKE A WARRIOR
Inspirational True Stories of God’s Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled

Every now and then you read a book and afterward you want to tell all your friends, “You should read this! It’s inspiring, enlightening, and generally terrific.” Reading this book has challenged and strengthened my own faith.

Bruce & Shara Repka have traveled all over the western USA singing and ministering. They endeavor to follow the Lord’s leading and are keenly aware of his appointments. They enjoy the blessing of seeing his hand at work in people’s lives, learning lessons of faith, trust, patience. They’ve worked as trail hands rounding up cattle, ridden their horses over the canyons and badlands. They’ve spent time seeing and learning to love the rough-and-tumble crowds as God sees and loves them.

In Walk Like A Warrior they share a number of experiences, insights, and lessons learned. I really appreciated all the appropriate scripture verses accompanying each section.

I’ll admit I can’t totally identify with every experience these folks have had — but I don’t feel I need to judge anything here. If God chooses to bless them with miracles I haven’t observed personally, that’s up to him. As Shara brings out so well, the Lord leads his children in individual paths where we can fill our role as a light for Him. The couple share a number of answers to prayer that demonstrate God’s ability to meet our needs.

Here are some quotes I found particularly inspiring:

(While waiting patiently for a much-needed answer to prayer)
“Praising the Lord freed me from the begging, defeatist attitude.”

(Praise for an answer to prayer)
“God knows all about us — our innermost thoughts and desires. And He never forgets. He is concerned about the little things in our lives, even the ones we forget about.”

Bruce Repka’s advice re: waiting for God’s timing:
“Don’t let the devil talk you into making foolish decisions and then expect God to cover you and everything will be fine. God can, and will, turn every negative and bad thing around for good, but why go through the heartache and pain during the process of doing things He never told you to do? Wait on God and do what he tells you to do, making the decisions He tells you to make. The rewards are immeasurable.”

From the back page:
Bruce and Shara Repka (a.k.a. Pony Express Ministry) are a Christian country music ministry that travels the highways and backroads of the western United States with their two horses, Rocky and Nocona.

Traversing the countryside in their fourteen-foot, short-wall, three-stall, living quarters horse trailer, they travel and minister wherever God sends them. Their, and others’, inspirational true stories are a testament to how God reveals Himself and encourages us in our everyday lives. They have seen firsthand a real, loving, and powerful God who is always true to His word and who longs to have a personal relationship with us all.

In life’s challenging moments, do you search for testimonies of encouragement that exemplify God’s love, grace, protection, and provision? Find inspiration as you enjoy the many photographs and travel this trail with them, living the adventure! You can find them online at www.ponyexpressministry.com

I was given a free copy so I could write an honest online review.

 

 

A Closet of Memories

Another Friday Fictioneers prompt has come. This group is graciously hosted by the longsuffering Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who blogs at Addicted to Purple. Check her blog for information about how to become part of this group and respond to the prompts. Our photo prompt has been donated by Kelvin Knight. Bear in mind that this is his photo and must not be used for any other purpose without his permission.

I looked at the prompt this morning and thought, “This is great!” No murder and mayhem in this photo; it should generate some really homey, upbeat stories. So what delicious aspect can I write about in connection with home-made bread?

Sad to say, the story that popped into my mind a moment later is one I didn’t want to write. I hate going to places like this but I feel this is the one I should tell. Genre for this one is contemporary fiction, based on a true account of a young woman’s loathing for white bread and how she discovered the reason behind her disgust.

I’ve had a few similar experiences where I felt an intense fear or negative reaction to something for years until I finally asked God, “Why?” And got a clear answer. I believe many children experience things that leave them with a closet full of dark memories. It’s so awesome, then, when you finally open that door, the skeleton inside gives one last rattle and disintegrates. The place is swept clean, the dust swirls away and you’re so glad to be rid of the mess that you feel like dancing.

So here’s my tale:

PHOTO © Kelvin M. Knight

Memories Locked Away

Pam stares at the slice Tim decorated. A wave of nausea chokes her. That heart! He doesn’t realize…

It’s just bread. Get a grip! But she barely makes it to the toilet. Chucking her breakfast, she wails, “Why, God?”

Memories click into focus. Mom never home. No food. Older brother, bread in hand, luring her…she was so hungry! Ugly stains on the bedroom ceiling…waves of shame and disgust. The bread her reward.

Then a gentle voice says, “These memories you’ve locked away, I’ll take them now.”

Waves of freedom overwhelm her. Her spirit dances like a sailboat in light breeze.