Pulling a Barb

One of my closest friends, Tess, calls making a goofy mistake “pulling a Barb” because I tend to do things that are hilarious by mistake quite often. I suppose I’ve just never fully been in sync with the world. Some people might call me air headed. A better word might be scatterbrained. It’s not that I don’t have much on my mind, it’s that I have too many things on my mind at once.

So, I thought I’d share with you some of the “Barbs” I’ve committed in my life so far, in hopes of lightening your day.

When I was a child, I became terrified of lightning because I thought that it struck people an awful lot. That’s because I went to a church with a lot of elderly people and whenever it came time for people to offer up prayer requests, there seemed to be a lot of people praying for folks who had had strokes. In my young mind, I thought they had been “stroked by lightning.” It was especially troubling to me when someone said that a person had had a stroke while they were sleeping. I figured lightning was mighty sneaky.

As a child, I did things like flush a cloth diaper down the toilet trying to help my mom; get my head stuck in a chair; fall off of my chair regularly because I sat on my knees trying to see (you see I have always been short); and believed that someone painted George Washington in his bubble bath in his clothes.

As an adult, the propensity for Barbisms never left me, I’m sad to say. For instance, once I went to the movies with my friend Tess and her children. After the film, we exited and were heading toward the car. Tess and her son went one way, but, her daughter Freya went another and I stayed with her. Tess turned and asked, “Barb, where are you going? The car’s THIS way!” I said, “I was following Freya.” She turned and said, “She’s four!” But, she was cute. How could I not think she knew everything? 😉

Recently, my husband has been suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. So, when we got a lot of snow, I volunteered to help run the snowblower. But, first I had to get gas. So, I took the container down to the gas station and proceeded to fill it up. The only problem was, some splashed on the outside of the container. I really didn’t think much of it. It was very cold and I was in a hurry. So, I tossed the gas in the back of the car and went home. Now, it’s been a few weeks and the car still smells like gas. So, I’m riding around in winter with the windows down and the sun roof open with the heat on full blast, trying to air out the car. My friend Tess just laughs and says that such antics are part of my charm.

Tell that to my husband. 😉

One of my most embarrassing moments came when I was 15, in algebra class, the place I met my husband Jolly. Our teacher, Mr. Cheek, was a very nice man. At the end of class, after our work was done and there was time, he would let us either play chess (he ran the chess club) or sometimes he would talk to us about history or current events. One day, he told us about the lynching that occurred in our town in the 1930s. I was pretty shocked. I had not heard about it before. Obviously, it’s not something people are proud of, so I’m sure that’s why. He described what the mob had done to the young black men who had been accused of raping a young white woman. Mr. Cheek said they had drug the men out of the jail, hung them and castrated them. My hand shot up. “Mr. Cheek,” I asked with all sincerity, “What does castration mean?”

Snickers arose over the class, which was mostly made up of boys. Mr. Cheek’s face got red and he stammered, “I’ll tell you after class.” After he explained it to me, I understood. The reason I had been confused is that I had confused the term castration with another term, decapitation. I couldn’t figure out how they could hang a person with no head. I soon realized the folly of my thinking. I had never thought anyone would think of doing anything that barbaric.

I guess that little incident helped stoke Jolly’s interest in me because we began to date and the rest is history. I’m glad he never let the mistakes I’ve made scare him away. But, as funny as these things sound, I’m sort of always afraid of what might happen the next time I “pull a Barb.”

 

A Mother to Be Proud Of

I know that I’m blessed, and one of my greatest blessings is my mother, Dorotha. She’s a gracious, sweet woman who lives her faith and is an example to me of love in action.

One thing that my mother has always done is not only respect her elders, but to put that respect into practice. All of her life she has taken care of elderly people, doing practical things to help them, such as taking them on errands, taking them food, visiting with them, loving them, helping them with any chore they might need to have done. She loves them with all of her heart and therefore, when she cares for them, she doesn’t do it because she thinks she’s winning points with God or doing good to be admired by others. She does it out of deep respect, love, gratitude and a great heart.

So, I have always admired that about her.

She has also impacted the lives of many children, as she taught 1st grade for many years, teaching them to read and that they were important. They were important to her. Her kids were part of her heart and we knew that in some strange way, they were our brothers and sisters. Many have adopted her over the years. There are a pair of twins, young adults now, who call her grandma, and I think that’s great. They keep in touch, write to her from all over the world as they serve God and they even spend celebrate holidays with her.

Some of the nicest things I remember about her from childhood was just the sound of her voice. I have always loved it. She has a beautiful soprano singing voice and when she sang us to sleep as kids, I always felt so warm and loved and peaceful. But, it isn’t just her singing voice. Just hearing her soft, speaking voice touches my heart and makes me feel happy. I will always treasure the sound of her voice.

So, thank God for a great mom and a great family. They’re treasures worth far more than any money or the things money can buy. I love our times together, all one in the love of God, praying together and just dwelling in his peace. I do truly wish everyone had a family like mine, one that joins together in love and under the giving hands of God.

Super Sisters

My husband, Jolly, has dubbed my two sisters, Sherri and Sandy, the Super Sisters because of how much they helped us deal with Amber’s passing. Sherri was in Florida with her husband. They had just gotten there and they hopped on a plane and came here.

Sandy and James drove from Indiana to be here that same night.

I was sick as a dog, with a fever, severe stomach pains and diarrhea. They cared for me, Jolly, the housework and helped us pay for cremation and plan Amber’s memorial services.

Just remembering that time is enough to make me want to collapse. We could not have gone through it without them. There is no way.

But, they’re special for more than that, though that was huge. I mean, Sherri’s 50th birthday was two days after Amber’s passing. She was here, sick from whatever virus I had.

Being in Sherri’s presence is almost like being with an angel. She exudes a powerful, faithful spirit, bright as the sun. She glows, it seems, radiating God’s love in a powerful, tangible way. I could talk with her for days, joyfully sharing the things God has taught us.

But Sandy is very special too. When I think of her, the first word that comes to my mind is wisdom. She has a quiet, strong discerning mind that sees like a laser through falseness or delusion. She is rarely, if ever, fooled by anyone. But, there is something else too. She is very tender, like a rare treasure, extremely valuable and rich in her soul. Being in her presence is Peace. We don’t have to talk. Just being with her, I feel loved.

It isn’t easy to boil those precious lives into a paragraph or two, but, I had to at least try to pay them tribute here. They’re in my thoughts and heart always. I’m proud of them and the families they’re raising.

Sherri’s kids are older, talented, independent, strong and yet still in need of encouragement, support and guidance from time to time. I’m proud of Audrey and Jay and their godly hearts.

Sandy’s children are still growing, Abby’s in high school, and I can hardly believe it because I remember her cherubic baby face so clearly. Now, she’s very tall, plays basketball and has a face as beautiful as the Mona Lisa. Joe is a champion of a boy, though smaller in stature than he’d like to be, he has the heart of a lion, joyful and strong. Both have kind hearts and respect for their parents and others. I treasure them as well.

And both of them have fantastic husbands, men I am proud to call brothers. They’re both so intelligent, skilled in their professions, honorable, loving, warm and fun to be around. I feel very blessed to have them in the family.

So, there it is — a small tribute to some HUGELY important people in my life. I’m thankful for them more than I can say.

(Tomorrow, I will brag about my mom. ;))

Adventures at Wally World

I have made many trips to Wal-Mart in my life and it’s such a part of my life that I thought I’d just go ahead and write about it. The first time I’d ever seen a Wal-Mart was when hubby and I were stationed in El Paso with the Army at Fort Bliss.

We needed some furniture for our empty apartment and got a couple of those chairs that fold out into sleeping pads. That was our bed for quite a while. I have to say that my first experience in the now-fabled store was not good. It struck me as a complete madhouse, filled with swarms of people filled with lust for bargains armed with shopping carts set for ramming speed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

But, after being stationed in Germany for two and a half years, I found myself missing good ol’ American consumerism. It was something I was familiar with. As my little Amber got old enough to love outings, going to Wal-Mart was something she grew to love.

She wasn’t a greedy girl. It wasn’t that she cared if I bought her anything. She never threw fits in demand for stuff. She liked to watch the people and absorb all of the bustling energy of the place, I think. She was often greeted by kind people who held the door for her wheelchair or smiled at her, and she was hooked. She threw fits when we tried to leave, and would sometimes make herself sick at the babysitters so that I would have to come get her. You see, I set a bad precedent with her, in that when she felt better I was so relieved I would take her to Wal-Mart to celebrate. She was no dummy. She realized just the right strategy to get trips to her favorite store. It took me awhile to catch on, but she slipped up, the little dickens. One day when I picked her up after she threw up at the babysitter’s, while I was putting her in the car, she said, “Wal-Mart.” “Ah,” I thought, “so THAT’S your trick?” I had to put a stop to that and tell the babysitter not to call me unless Amber was really sick. When the babysitter told Amber she wasn’t going to call me, the little girl had a fit, but eventually, her schemes stopped.

When we moved to our house here in Waukegan, Wal-Mart was the best place for us to get prescriptions filled. So, I’ve spent a lot of time in that store, and not always loved it. In fact, I regularly pray before going so that I can have patience, because I know I’m going to need it. Lines are always long — always. I try to keep a smiling face because I know that the pharmacists, in particular, deal with a lot of angry customers and they seem to appreciate my attempts at kindness. I have learned a lot about patience from that place, but I’ve got a ways to go still.

Last week, while in the store, I saw Amber’s high school teacher. They often bring the special needs’ students to Wal-Mart to teach them about shopping and to give them good experiences. So, she was there with some of the kids from Amber’s old class. My heart stopped. The lady had forgotten about  Amber’s passing and asked how she was after one of the kids said, “That’s Amber’s mom.” As soon as she asked how Amber was, she remembered and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” We talked for awhile and when I tried to tell her how much Amber loved school there and I just lost it. I started crying. It was embarrassing because I hate to cry in public.

Later in the week, I saw her again, but this time, it was a great visit. She invited me to visit the class anytime I want and I told her I might. I told her I loved the kids and she said they loved me too. Somehow, I felt closer to Amber again.

So, as many times as I’ve had to wait in line, been banged into with crazed shopping carts and had to fumble for a receipt to show the door greeter, I have a lot of fond memories of Wal-Mart. Everywhere I look, everything I do, the memories keep coming. They make everything I do a little bittersweet.

I have rambled here, and I’m sure it’s not the most well-written blog anyone has read, but, here it is just the same. Thanks for stopping by.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I love Aretha Franklin’s song. Not only is it musical dynamite, but it talks about something I truly value. I think everyone likes to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, it seems to happen less and less these days.

Warning, warning, warning — Ranting to follow! 🙂

I don’t know why it has happened, exactly, but we, as a culture, seem to have lost all respect for anyone or anything. I have my theories, of course. I tend to think that with progress in technology there come side effects — the distancing of ourselves from real human interaction. We are online a lot, writing to people instead of talking. We have our cell phones and instead of talking, we text. We keep our friends and family at arms’ length.

So, people become just a part of our entertainment, rather than relationships that we have to struggle to maintain in a meaningful way. Relationships are not always easy. In fact, most good ones are very hard to maintain because the personality differences we all have rub against one another and create friction. So, we turn to safer means of interacting, because we are lonely, but we don’t want to let people get too close. We put up a technology fence around our hearts and minds.

But, that doesn’t stop conflict between people. Not at all. And, that is where I think lack of respect shows up clearest. I have read some of the most vitriolic, nasty, mean-spirited, sarcastic thoughts posted online — things I have never heard nearly as much in real life. Now we have cyber bullying problems and online stalkers. We have traded relationship and respect for casual interaction, the ability to say any thought that crosses our minds, no matter how inappropriate or rude, and distance from real people.

Because, let’s face it. People we interact with online can often seem unreal. We have to remember that they have lives, families, feelings, etc., just like we do. Words can hurt, even though the old rhyme says they can’t.

Words are weapons in this new cyber age, and they cut deeply. I know I’ve even been guilty of lashing out at people online and behaving in ways that I later have been ashamed of. I’ve said things to people online that I would never say to them in person. The internet gives me a false sense of bravado that I shouldn’t have.

So, I’ve had to take those faults that I see in myself to God and let Him correct me and help me to change. I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone, no matter how their opinions, ideas, or ways of expressing themselves, bother me. After all, I have to remember that I have made mistakes online too.

What I really want to say is that I long for a world where people show respect for one another, and even love one another. Don’t you? Try a little respect and kindness today, even online. I know you can do it. God bless.

Poems for Adventurers

Here are some poems I wrote for a novel. Hope you like them.

Riding Over the Hill

So long have I wandered away,
So long have I traveled, and not known where my heart was.
I have searched, I have fought, I have ridden over the wide valley, past the golden hills.
I have struggled through the icy waters, with only one star to guide me.
I have huddled under the heavy limbs, leaves hiding me from the violence of the savage winds.
I have looked for gold. I have watched men die. I have taken a life for mere glimmers of silver.
I am weary now.
Mountains of gold have been mine, and I have embraced the wealth with shouts of ecstasy.
Yet, you were not there my beloved. You were not there.
Gold cannot pierce my soul like your green eyes.
It cannot touch my hand like the softest rose petal, or say my name and send me to flight.
Treasure after treasure has been mine.
Yet, you are greatest of them all.
Now I return – knowing that I have been a fool.
I have wandered… searching …
I have striven with mighty men. I have lost much.
Watching friends die by torchlight, I have been ashamed.
The truth of what I sought was within my grasp all along.
I left to search for what I already had.
You are my greatest treasure, and all else is but the rush of tears.
So, with stooped shoulders, broken sword and no hint of glory I return.
And, I feel the healing I have longed for.
I see the smoke rising from our fire, and I know you wait.
Wait no more my fair one.
Wait no more for the love you have won.
Run to the window.
Open the door.
It is I.
It is I, your wandering one.
I have returned. Yes. It is I.
It is I whom you glimpse in the distance. I, whose pipe still sits by the fire.
Yes. Look now my beloved and see me and know the love I bear.
It is I, who looks no more over his shoulder. And I come, Riding over the Hill.

 

On, Through the Wild Country

 We ride, on through the night,
Certain of our cause, for we are just.
Though dangers lurk and moan
To eat our flesh and break our bones, we ride.
Side by side, through the wild country,
We spur our horses onward without fear, without fail..
Turn neither to the right hand, nor to the left.
Ride on straight and true, with this hope always abiding –
That tomorrow we shall see our home once more.

 

In Your Eyes of Emerald, Sparkling

 In your eyes of emerald, sparkling,
I am greater than a king.
In your eyes of emerald, sparkling,
I desire no other thing,
than to be the object of your gazing.

 

In your eyes of emerald, sparkling,
My aspirations make their home.
In your eyes, of emerald, sparkling,
I will live for you alone,
And be the light that dances in your soul.

 

No greater treasure shall I seek,
No glory, fame or mountain’s peak.
I am prisoner to your every glance,
I am captive to this pure romance.
So, bar all the windows, lock every door,
let these chains bind me forevermore,
In your eyes of emerald, sparkling.

Funerals and Celebrations

I’m going to a funeral today. A friend’s sister passed away after a long struggle with cancer and diabetes. My heart goes out to her and the family because I am now even more keenly aware of how hard it is to lose someone you love to eternity, no matter how much faith you have that they are in paradise.

But, I am also looking forward to it, because not only will I be fellowshipping with friends and showing my support for a dear friend, I will be joining in the celebration that death is not the end. I will be reminded again, at this send-off party for a saint, that resurrection is real, that Heaven is real and that there is no fear in death, at least not the kind that lasts.

It’s been almost 10 months now since my precious Amber went to be with the Lord and it still seems like it was yesterday. It seems like yesterday, I was laughing with her at something silly I’d done. It seems like yesterday that I was looking into those big, sparkling hazel eyes and saying, “Do you know I love you?” Man, I miss those eyes.

And, so, there it is again — that mixed emotion thing. I am happy and at peace, knowing Amber isn’t suffering any more from all of those things that hurt her here on Earth. And, I feel the same for my friend’s sister. She’s free from cancer and the pain and weakness it caused. But, I am then reminded of how much I love Amber and how hard it is to be away from her. Before this, the longest I’d ever been apart from her was a week, and that was difficult. I remember talking to her on the telephone and hearing that sweet voice. It sounded so different on the telephone, like a baby’s voice. But, when I was with her, and saw the wisdom in her face, her voice didn’t sound so childish. I treasure every memory of that wonderful person. How I wish I could touch her again.

But, I am reminded that I will. I will touch her again. I will look into her eyes again. And, I know that I’m supposed to be more joyful that I will see Jesus. Of course, that is the pinnacle of life, to look into the loving face of the One who died for me, the One who saved me, the One who loved me that much. But, I have to be honest and say that the thought of seeing Amber again takes over my emotions with greater passion right now. I know her so well, you see. She was a part of me — my heart. I touched her. I heard her laugh. But, I am sure that when I see the face of Jesus, I will love him just like I love Amber and perhaps more, though I can hardly imagine that.

Three Fingers Pointing Back

My grandpa always used to say, “Before you point a finger at someone else, remember there are always three pointing back at yourself.” That saying came back at me last night as I was stewing over the injustices people do in the world and then remembered a time when I was unjust.

What was bothering me was remembering racism in my hometown and thinking — any child learns quickly that it’s wrong to be rude, wrong to mock others, wrong to insult others and definitely wrong to hurt them. That was my objection to prejudice and racism as a child. I didn’t know everything that was going on, but what I saw puzzled me because I couldn’t figure out how adults could act in ways they told us not to, and all because of the color of skin — as if the rules of politeness and respect did not apply to “coloreds” as they were sometimes called.

So, there I was, in bed, feeling self righteous. And, then, God brought to mind the time when I, in the fifth grade, thought that being a bully to a new boy was a good way to attract the attentions of another boy in the class. To my shame, I remember harassing and punching this poor kid more than once. It is something I always regret.

Thankfully, by the next year, in the sixth grade, I realized how wrong I had been. What brought that realization to mind was at lunch, when a kid bragged about how I had kicked that kids’ butt. Well, that didn’t make me feel good at all. It made me ashamed. While all the kids cheered my barbarism of the past, I got up and walked over to him and apologized. But still, my apologies did not erase the shame I felt and still feel.

I know that forgiving ones’ self is the hardest thing to do sometimes. And, I know that Satan is the accuser, that brings our sins up to our minds time and again. But, this time, I think it was God reminding me that I was not above behaving in inappropriate ways toward others who did not deserve it.

So, in the spirit of honesty, I offer up my sin here, to those who seem to think I am somehow a saint. Now, I do believe I am a saint because of what Christ did for me on the cross. But, I am not a saint in my own right. I am not a blameless person who just happens to live on earth. I am a human, with weaknesses and bad days, selfishness and wicked thoughts, the same as everyone else.

Thankfully, God forgives and helps me let go of those things and turn around and strive to be better than before. I love that I don’t have to make the excuse, “that’s just the way I am.” No, maybe I am not perfect now, but, with Christ’s help, I can be better than I was before and look forward to the time when I will be purified forever and finally free of the dirt and grime of my time here on Earth.

So, I don’t want to point fingers at all of the wrong people in the world, because I am among those who are wrong. I want to point up to God as my Father and have three fingers pointing back to say that I am the one who needs his grace over and over again.

A White Woman’s Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read more:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth105087.html#ixzz1jekqupvy

I grew up in a not-so-big Indiana town during the 60s and 70s. When MLK was killed, I was 7 years old. I didn’t know about the turmoil going on in our southern United States. I didn’t know that African Americans were fighting for their rights. I didn’t know that African Americans were not allowed to go into certain establishments, or ride on buses like anyone else, or go to the same schools as white children.

My town, Marion, Indiana, is infamous for the 1930 lynching of three black men outside of the courthouse, accused of raping a white girl. I didn’t know about that either until I was in high school.

I did know that racism seemed to be rampant in our town and I will say that since childhood, I hated it. I grew up with African Americans in my church, though it was just a few. My denomination was an abolitionist splinter group of the Methodist church and helped with the Underground Railroad. I went to school with African American kids and liked them quite a bit. I don’t remember racism in elementary school.

My first encounters with it was in junior high school, after we had moved “to the country” and had to ride a school bus to school. I remember the kids on the bus, at least some of the boys, would pretend to shoot blacks from the windows of the bus. I was shocked and appalled. Then, the girl I sat next to, who was quite poor and mocked regularly by the boys, said her dad wouldn’t let her watch any TV shows with blacks in them. I was shocked again and we talked about it quite a bit. She said her dad believed that we should send all blacks back to Africa.

I remember kids in junior high school reading KKK recruiting letters that they had gotten in the mail. I remember people telling racist jokes in church and wondering how that was Christian. As I hit high-school age, things seemed to get worse, or my perception was keener. Racial tensions at my school got very heated from time to time. There was talk of a riot one year and I remember walking down the hall to class between white kids on one side and black kids on the other and feeling scared. I remember finding a note in a drinking fountain that said something about all n***ers should die. I threw it out.

My algebra teacher showed us the photos and read us news clippings about the lynching that happened in our town in 1930 — what a horrible thing to have happened in my town.

In my choral group class, which was quite large, there were threats and near fights between African American kids and white kids. One of the fiercest black girls in that class was in another class of mine, Public Speaking. In that class, she was the only African American. And, I noticed something that surprised me. She was scared.

One of the main reasons I hated racism as a child was that I thought it was impolite. It felt wrong to hurt peoples’ feelings, and call them names and make them feel less than others because of something as uncontrollable and simple as skin color. I was an idealist. I thought that there should be peace and love, like all of the hippies were talking about.

When I realized that this strong African American girl was scared of the white kids in our class, however, my heart melted even more. My friend Melody and I began to talk to her to try to help her feel better. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about, but I know I talked about the love of Jesus with her, and so did Melody. One day, in class, she told us that we were the only two white people she liked. That felt like a compliment to me.

Growing up, I longed for there to be peace between the races. I know I didn’t feel it as keenly as those who were being denied their rights, but, I felt it all the same. I felt that there was something wrong with the world, and especially with the church. That was the last place that I believed racism should be present. That conviction burned inside of me and I talked about it as much as possible. I asked my pastor once how people could be Christians and still be prejudiced. I used to wish that Christians of all colors could worship together.

When I joined the Army, I was so glad to be able to get to know people of all races and work side by side with them without all of the ugliness that I had grown up around. I felt like I was finally free. Of course, racism still existed, but I could at least see hope.

Now, some 20 years later, I attend a church with a fine African American woman as its pastor and a diverse and loving congregation. I feel blessed to see things the way I believe they should be and I think that Dr. Martin Luther King would be glad to see it too.

When I read the following quote, my eyes welled up with tears of gratitude — not only had this civil rights’ hero sacrificed his life to help his black brothers and sisters, but he had sacrificed for his white brothers and sisters too.

If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amber and Her Magic Smile

(The following is a little story I wrote about, and for, my daughter Amber. I thought I would share it here.)

 

Amber didn’t walk. She glided. Amber didn’t talk much, but when she did, every word was a celebration. The most magical thing about Amber was her smile.

When she smiled, special things happened. The sun came up. The rain went away. Birds sang. People got along and loved each other and lived in harmony.

Because Amber’s smile was so powerful, her mother had to be very careful. If she made Amber smile at night, no one could get to sleep at night because the sun would come back up.

Therefore, Amber’s mother could never tell her a joke at night, never tickle her and she had to call the local television station and tell them to show Amber’s favorite shows earlier or night would come late and no one would get enough sleep.

There were times, however, when Amber couldn’t help but smile at night. When her mother tucked her in and kissed her and told her how much she loved her, and how much God loved her, she would smile. Then, the sun would peek back over the horizon, but usually Amber would drift off anyway and the sun would go back down.

A very strange thing would happen if Amber had an especially cheerful dream. Her mother had heard Amber laugh in her sleep. People in other parts of the world were shocked and dismayed. They had no idea a little girl’s smile was stealing their sun.

Amber’s mother had to be especially careful not to make her little girl too happy for too long. After all, it was nice to have the rain go away if you wanted to go swimming or take a walk or play volleyball. But, if you wanted the grass in your yard to be green, or the radishes in your garden to grow plump, you had to have rain.

Usually, it wasn’t a big problem. Amber did sleep at night and most of the time she was too tired to smile much in her sleep. So, it could rain at night.

But, during one month, it was almost impossible to get rain because it was Amber’s favorite month.

Yes, almost every December, her town had a drought because of Christmas, naturally. There was one other thing that made December such a happy time for Amber, though. It was her birthday, two weeks before Christmas. As far as Amber was concerned, December was her month. She smiled constantly, even in her sleep. Her mother met with the city planners, however, and for the rest of the year, the town would save water so they’d have enough for December. The mayor also signed an ordinance which gave everyone in town special darkened window shades so they could sleep at night. Amber’s happy month is one reason they have no sunlight during that time in the Arctic.

The city planners and the mayor might have been upset by Amber’s smiling, seeing that it brought drought, but there were advantages too.

Sometimes, Amber would go on vacation. While she was gone one summer for an entire month, it rained every day. The streets flooded. Peoples’ homes got soggy. No one could play volleyball. But, when Amber came back, the rain stopped, the water receded and the sun dried out everyone’s homes. Much volleyball was played.

After that, the mayor pleaded with Amber not to stay away so long at a time. He gave her a small allowance every summer so that she wouldn’t stay away for so long. With her allowance, Amber bought a volleyball.

When Amber was happy, the songs of birds became so strong sometimes nobody could hear. When Amber went to the circus once, she smiled and laughed so much that the birds chirped and almost drowned out the ringmaster as he was announcing the Flying Banana Brothers. Amber had always laughed at the word banana.

The best thing about Amber’s smile was that people got along and loved each other and lived in harmony. When she went to the store one time, there was a man in line arguing with the manager. He said, “The sign said bananas were 10 cents a pound! Your clerk charged me $1 a pound for bananas! I want my money back! I was overcharged for bananas!”

Amber began to laugh. She always laughed at the word banana. Suddenly, the man stopped. He turned toward Amber and smiled. He turned back to the manager and said, “Maybe I was wrong. I’ll go back and check the sign.”

When he came back, he nodded, “I am sorry. My bifocals are new. I thought it said 10 cents, but it really said $1 a pound.”

The manager was so happy because of Amber’s smile, he said the word banana 15 times in a row just to keep his customers and employees from arguing.

That month that Amber was gone on vacation, her town had its highest rate of arguments, fights and even crime. The mayor was so glad to have her back, and the peace restored that he had a ceremony in her honor. He announced that April 15 would always be Amber Day. He joked that having it on that day would make paying taxes more bearable.

So, on that day, the whole town came out to honor Amber. Her teacher was there, the school board was there, her doctor was there, the zookeeper was there and the ice cream man too. The entire high school volleyball team was there too. And, of course, her mother was there, beaming proudly.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” the mayor’s voice boomed loudly from the microphone. “We have come here today to honor a special girl with the most special gift. We have come to praise Amber and her Magic Smile. Today will be a day with no rain and no fighting, because we have vowed to make her happy. Her smile will keep all the bad things away. Although, the birds are getting rather loud.”

Amber came up to the microphone and said only, “Thank You,” and smiled. The crowd clapped and hugged each other.

She was made an honorary sheriff’s deputy because of her unique talent. The plan was proposed that whenever there would come a day when someone was fighting or behaving like a criminal and hurting someone, Amber would be summoned to the scene. Then, the sheriff would tell her the joke about the chicken crossing the road and the situation would resolve itself.

Amber agreed, but said she had heard the chicken crossing the road joke so much that it might not make her laugh. She preferred the joke about the elephant in the refrigerator.

From that day on, Amber’s smile was declared a city treasure and the town became known for its peacefulness. No one minded that sometimes in the middle of the night, the sun would come up. In fact, sometimes, when that happened, they’d all just get up and play volleyball.