Monday, November 30, 2009

John Blase's Touching Wonder

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




John Blase’s work includes Living the Questions and Living the Letters Bible-study series, the Worldviews reference book (TH1NK), Real Life Stuff for Couples, and The Message Children’s Bible. A former pastor, John currently edits by day and writes by night. He and his wife, Meredith, have three children and make their home in Colorado.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764656
ISBN-13: 978-1434764652

AND NOW...an excerpt:


Three

Angelic Visitor


Luke 1.26–38


In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:


Good morning!

You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,

Beautiful inside and out!

God be with you.


She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.


He will be great,

be called ‘Son of the Highest.’

The Lord God will give him

the throne of his father David;

He will rule Jacob’s house forever—

no end, ever, to his kingdom.”


Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


The angel answered,


The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

the power of the Highest hover over you;

Therefore, the child you bring to birth

will be called Holy, Son of God.


“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”


And Mary said,


Yes, I see it all now:

I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.

Let it be with me

just as you say.


Then the angel left her.


Gabriel


The theologians have rendered us mindless God-slaves, wisps of cloudy wings, doing nothing but the bidding of the Mighty One. Theologians. There is so much they do not know.


I found her just as He said she would be found: sitting on her bedding, barefooted, knees pulled up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her knee-tops. I saw why she had gained the favor of the Mighty One. I liked this daughter-of-Eve-to-bethe-mother-of-God.


“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”


I expected this. But unlike that old priest’s, hers was not the doubting of a skeptic but rather the wondering of a child.


“But how? I can’t see it.”


“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you. Mary, you have nothing to fear.” The Mighty One had expressly said, “Herald the news, Gabriel. Don’t report it.” I would have liked to elaborate further, but Mary would have to live out the details of my news in days to come. Truths unlived are not truths.


Then she paused and looked away. I have spoken to many of God’s children, and their eyes are always transfixed on me. They should be. I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God. But Mary’s gaze wandered for a moment. But what I initially took for a distracted mind was rather a devoted heart.


Her eyes returned to me. “Let it be with me.” Ah, the Mighty One had chosen well. Her words were not

resigned, but faith-full. The faith of a child. Of such is the Mighty One’s kingdom.


“Cousin Elizabeth? Really? Old Elizabeth? But how?”


I laughed.


“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God. Mary, you have nothing to fear. I have told you all you need to know for now. You are more ready than you realize, stronger than you know. God is with you. Now I must go.”


But I did not want to go. Faith is rare, at least true faith. Yes, the word is often used, but the reality is hard

to find. Yet here I found it, in an earthen vessel surrounded by an earthen room. I liked Mary.


I left her just as He said I would: barefooted, sitting on her bedding, knees pulled up to her chest, arms

wrapped tightly around them, chin resting on her kneetops. She looked older now. Human eyes would not

recognize this, but mine have seen much.


The Mighty One had revealed glimpses to me, what days ahead would hold for this glorious girl. Her cousin’s leaping womb. Joseph’s broad shoulders. The back of a borrowed burro. Herod’s jealous-red face. The cries of the innocent. The breath of stable animals. The agony of pushing the Mighty One out into this world.


I found myself praying for the favored one. Mary had so much to carry.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Touching Wonder by John Blase. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Petunia the Pig Caller

At Cracker Barrel on Friday night, I found something that I wanted to get for Paige, but Dad said if I got it, she'd never speak to me again. I'll have to back up the story before I tell you what it was.

On Wednesday, Brian had called Paige about showing an animal this coming spring in the youth expo. Paige's friend Emalee had already gotten her pig. Brian talked to Paige about getting her a pig too. So, Paige had been talking about getting her a pig.

Paige now has this spacer/expander contraption in her mouth so that she can get braces in a couple of weeks. She also had some sinus issues so when she started making this noise she started making, I don't think she realized what sound she was making. I asked her, "what is this noise you are making?"

Dad said, "she's working on calling her pig."

I said, "that's it! It does sound like a pig call!"

She did not like that we decided this, yet she kept making this stupid little noise that annoyed the heck out of us.

Paige also didn't like my idea that she should name her pig "Petunia" if it happens to be a female pig. She said that was the worst name in the world. Granted, I hated it when Dad went through a phase of calling me Petunia, but in my defense, Petunia was Porky Pig's girlfriend. We had been making random pig jokes on through the day along with her pig call.

So later, Dad told Peyton not to eat or drink something after Paige because of germs they had. Dad made some reference to the Swine flu. I laughed and said, "I think Paige already has it. Oh, she doesn't get the joke Dad..."

"Yes, I did and you are mean."

Mom says, "you better go apologize."

"Dad started it," I proclaimed as he and I continued laughing.

I did go and apologize even though she knew we were joking.

Well, at Cracker Barrel, they had this little stuffed pig that snorted out the tune of "Jingle Bells". I picked it up, took it over to Dad and said, "does this sound like anyone you know?"

Dad started laughing and some woman working there said, "be nice!" Dad told me that Paige would never speak to me again if I got that for her. Mom agreed it would not go over too well.

I think little "Petunia the Pig Caller" would have to love it because I gave it to her.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Home for the Holidays at Bass Hall

My mom received an offer for some tickets to Bass Hall and had a certain number of vouchers to exchange for certain shows. So, last night, we went to the "Home for the Holidays" show featuring the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

All the "Black Friday" shopping I did yesterday is late in the afternoon in Waxahachie on the way up (where my dad had to return something to Belk that he and mom got the week before) to Ft. Worth. Oh, and we stopped at Home Goods in Midlothian. We were there around 4-5 PM, a good 12 hours after the masses were in stores.

We decided to do the Friday night show, but didn't realize that the Ft. Worth downtown lighting and Christmas parade were taking place last night. We got stuck in traffic and could not get to our parking garage for Bass Hall. We were driving around block, and block, and waiting for police direction and so forth and so on. I was driving at the time, but my eyeballs started floating from too much Diet Coke at Cracker Barrel where my mom purchased sock monkey salt and pepper shakers for the Christmas season. (I admit they were quite cute.) I had enough of what could be a long time of sitting in traffic. I called for a Chinese fire drill and made Dad get out and drive.

I ran on up the block to Bass Hall where they asked if I had my ticket. Normally, they don't make you show a ticket until you are going in the doors to the concert hall to be seated. I told the usher that the people I was with had my ticket and were stuck in the traffic. I was just heading down to the restrooms. Heck, I wasn't going to argue with the guy. I probably would have pushed him down. I know, I know, TMI.

Anyway, it was a great show with the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra, the Southwestern Seminary Master Chorale and the Dorothy Shaw Bell Choir. I don't think I had ever actually seen a bell choir before. At the end when they had an audience sing-along, Santa Claus made an appearance and fake snow floated down from the ceiling.

Great show, but I'm no closer to being in the Christmas state of mind than I was before. Unfortunately. No, I don't think I am a trying too hard. I'm trying to be open about it. And the fact that Mom had a lot of her Christmas decorations out and her tree up didn't make me want to put mine up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decision time?

The leftovers are in the fridge. The misery from eating too much has settled in. The football games are over. Thanksgiving has almost completely come to a close.

Normally "Black Friday" means I'm missing out on all the "must buys" because I'm sleeping late. Nothing is worth being at the doors to any store at 4 AM, and I find it ridiculous that anyone else would think it is worth it.

It usually means it's the day to put up the Christmas tree. I'm thinking I may just skip all the deckin' of my halls this year. Oh, I think it's a combination of several things, but I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to put up any decorations this year. And that's really strange for me because I normally put up three trees--a big one in the living room and a smaller one in each bedroom along with lights in all the windows.

I've broken my personal rule of not listening to the station that starts playing Christmas music all day every day starting early in November--even suggested Christi tuning into it since we were tired of the same 10 songs that a local Christian station was playing. So, it's not like I'm not doing something to try to stir up jolly-ness.

I don't think I'm the only person struggling with not really a dread, but a bah-humbugish approach to the holiday season. It's way too much trouble to put any of it up if you don't have it up a month ahead of Christmas, so let's see if I make a final decision this weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I will be sleeping GOOD tonight

Without a doubt, I will sleep well tonight.

Peyton, bless her little heart, has been wanting to spend the night over at my house for months. Every time I have seen her, just about, she's stated, "I want to spend the night at your house. Tonight." It's always been a school/work night, so that hasn't worked. Last night she had her chance.

I love she and her sister more than they will ever know. However, I hate to sleep in the same bed with either one of them. You wake up battered and bruised normally from having a foot to the head or elbow to the chin. (Peyton has been known to sleep perpendicular to anyone else in the bed with her.) Not only that, they make noises. Lots of noises. (Talking, mumbling, snoring...) They also have the uncanny ability and amazing tendency to be able to find the exact middle of the bed. I've witnessed this numerous times.

Before we even got to sleep, while watching a movie, I told Peyton she was going to have to move towards the other side - I would move with her, but she had to start off on the other side of center. She did, but she ends up laying her head in my lap and that's how she fell asleep. Once we got situated so that I could lay down, every time I moved all night, she moved with me to be in contact at all times.

And oh, my word. I thought the last time I heard Paige grit and grind her teeth it was bad. Peyton sounded like she was trying to crunch gravel with her teeth. My teeth have started hurting from clinching my jaws at night. I can only imagine what it feels like to wake up after crunching gravel all night.

So, I've wasted enough time goofing off on the computer. I am about to go to bed where I guarantee a good night's sleep. I might be awake in time to finish putting together the dressing for Thanksgiving lunch.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon

And here's some comments on the latest book that I finished reading this morning -- Debbie Fuller Thomas' Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon. This is one of the books I found for $1 at Mardel's a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for books that looked interesting and this one caught my attention.

The back cover sounded interesting:

Switched at birth -- and then switched back
When Marty Winslow's thirteen-year-old daughter dies of a devastating genetic disease, she discovers the truth--her precious middle child had been switched at birth. After learning that her actual biological daughter was recently orphaned, she decides to fight for custody. Winning the court case was the easy part.
This still-grieving, single mom is torn between memories and realities. And wants desperately for god to heal her family.
For Andie, tall and blonde like Marty, being forced to live with strangers is just one more reason not to trust anyone. Her soul is as beat up as the rundown Blue Moon Drive-In the family owns. But Tuesday night is family night at the Blue Moon. And as Andie's hopes fade, healing comes from the last place she wanted or expected--the hurting family and loving God she fought so hard to resist.
It wasn't until I was looking for the book cover to post that I realized it was a finalist for the 2009 Christy Award in the Contemporary Stand Alone category and for the ACFW Book of the Year. Now that I see that, I do remember the book being a Christy nominee. (Strangely enough, I've just started reading another $1 book that was one of the three Christy nominees in the same category, Lisa Samson's Embrace Me. The category winner, Dogwood by Chris Fabry is on my Amazon wish list.) I can understand why it was nominated for the award.
Though I can understand why it was nominated, I have to be honest. I didn't like it. To me, it was a real downer. Of course, being 13 and finding out your parents weren't your real parents or the daughter you lost to a horrifying disease wasn't your real daughter isn't going to be a theme that's really happy. I get that. It's what Lifetime movies are made of.
I just didn't expect it to be so discouraging for 95% of the book. The chapters alternate between Andie, the daughter, and Marty, the mother, telling the story. Some events overlap to see what happened from both perspectives. You would think in a span of 7 or 8 months that they might possibly have a real conversation to clarify some things.
Marty is too scared of doing anything that will push Andie away. Andie doesn't want to get to close because she's bound and determined she's going back to her grandparents once they sell the mobile home in the retirement community.
The younger and older sisters are on the extremes of trying to get Andie to fit in. And everyone in the family, Andie included, is walking on egg shells all the time. (Relatives on both sides are estranged in a strangely similar way.)
I'm glad I got the book off the $1 shelf. I just wouldn't recommend it myself.
That makes back to back books that I wasn't really crazy about. I have an order coming from Amazon and one from Barnes and Noble. I know that I will like one book in particular, so I'm ready for it to get here. You'll just have to wait to find out which one it is.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

In case you were wondering if I had anything special planned for my birthday today, the answer is no.

Jenny took me to lunch at OMI, and my parents got me pizza for dinner (which actually is a special occurrence), and that was it. ...other than getting the new sheets I wanted and a Barnes & Noble gift card that I've already used.

Mom called me and left me message this morning, Dad emailed me, I received a couple of birthday cards, I got a couple of other emails and lots of Facebook birthday wishes. That was it.

That was intentional on my part though. Long story. Though it's not an age thing, I was really trying to ignore my birthday and make it a non-event. I think I achieved that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Unfaithful: Hope and Healing After Infidelity

David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORs:


After going through therapy to save their marriage from a devastating affair, Gary and Mona Shriver searched in vain for another couple who could offer them tangible hope that they could heal. Responding to this need in their community, the Shrivers cofounded Hope & Healing Ministries, Inc., an adultery recovery peer support ministry. They are members of the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries (AMFM) and participants of the AMFM ministry team for Reconciling Troubled Marriages. The Shrivers are also members of the Stanislaus County Healthy Marriage Coalition in California.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Revised edition (November 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765334
ISBN-13: 978-1434765338

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Revelation


He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light. Job 12:22


Gary’s Story


It must have been about 9:30 p.m. as I pulled into the driveway. Everything looked dark and settled down for the evening. As I stopped the car, my heart pounded in my chest like never before. For a moment I wondered if I might be having a heart attack. I took a deep breath, got out of the car, and headed for the back door. I unlocked it and walked onto the back porch. The house was quiet. The three boys were in bed. The only light was a dim glow from the master bedroom at the end of the hall.


Our bedroom. I wondered if that would be the case in the aftermath of the bomb I was about to drop. I stopped and asked myself, Should I really go through with this? This could be the end of everything I know as my life: my family, my church, my business, my friends. Not one area of my life would be unaffected by the event about to occur. Should I tell her or just keep living the lie?


No, I couldn’t continue deceiving her. I had just spent the last two hours in my senior pastor’s office confessing my sin. I confessed the double life I had been living for the last few years. I couldn’t believe his first response. “Are you serious?” he asked. “I can never tell when you’re kidding me. Are you really serious?” I sat in his office with tears streaming down my face, and he asked if I was serious.


He also didn’t want it to be true.


I just nodded, and he let it sink in. We talked and prayed, and he kept looking at me. I knew what was going through his mind. He was saying great words of spiritual wisdom and offering encouragement, but behind his words, shock and disbelief were apparent. He referred to spiritual leaders who had fallen. He said, “This is happening all around us.”


At that point, I could only think, That doesn’t make this any less ugly. I knew he was trying to encourage and comfort me in my darkest hour, but the darkness that enveloped me was beyond penetration. He and I both knew that everything was not all right and that it wasn’t going to be.


He asked if Mona knew. I shook my head no. He looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Do you intend to tell her?”


I nodded.


“When?”


“Right now,” I said. “I need to go right now.”


It had taken all I could muster to meet my pastor and confess my dark and horrible behavior. I had to complete my confession. And I had to do it now. On my way home I thought of other men I knew who had committed adultery and who hadn’t said a thing to their wives. They seemed to have gotten away with it. But a Bible verse kept ringing in my ears: “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).


And that it had. Earlier that afternoon the recording studio engineer at my production company had confronted me with this “problem” he thought I had. He came quoting Matthew 18:15–17, saying that if I didn’t come clean, he would go to my pastor with the affair he believed I was having.


Affair. What a fluffy word. It sounds so cheery and acceptable. Let’s call it what it really is: adultery. Black-hearted, not caring anything about anybody else, completely self-centered, the absolute epitome of selfishness. Adultery. And I was an adulterer. Finally after years of my wrestling with Him, God had brought me to a point of brokenness. I just couldn’t go on like this anymore. I had to tell Mona. The only way I could ever hope to save my marriage was to be totally honest. God was chasing me. I had to deal with it now!


I walked into the bedroom. The lamp on her bedside table glowed. There she lay, leaning back on her pillow propped up against the wall, reading. She looked up and said, “How was your meeting?” Just about then our eyes met. “Honey? What’s wrong?”


I hadn’t rehearsed anything. I didn’t know what to say. I sat down on the bed next to her and looked in her eyes.


“You’re scaring me,” she said.


I started to cry.


“Now you’re really scaring me.”


“I’ve betrayed you,” I whispered.


Her eyes glazed over. She seemed to stare through me. “What?”


“I’ve been unfaithful to you,” I repeated.


She went limp. I thought for a second she was going to pass out. Her stare went from distant to direct and cold.


“Who?” she demanded.


I said the name.


“I knew it,” she said.


But I knew she hadn’t known. I tried to hold her. She started to hold me but then pushed me away. She was shell-shocked.


“How long?” she asked.


I whispered, “A long time.”


“How long?”


“A couple of years.”


“Years? Ever since you started working with her?”


“Almost.”


Her lip quivered.


As her world crumbled around her feet, my heart raced again. This time I could feel it in my temples. How could I say more? How can I, Lord? I can’t tell her everything. Yet God was insistent: Tell her!


I felt like Moses must have. I can’t, Lord. I can’t!


Tell her now! God demanded.


I had to tell her everything. God burned into my heart that if our marriage were to have any chance at all, it had to be with a clean slate. No more lies. No more secrets. I had to tell her everything.


“There’s more.”


“More? What do you mean more?”


“There was a one-night stand with another woman.”


I honestly did think she was going to pass out at that point. Her eyes rolled back into her head, and then things got eerie.


I knew at that moment our lives had changed forever, and I didn’t know what to expect in the aftermath of my horrible revelation. After we sat for what seemed to be an eternity, her blank stare suddenly focused, and the flurry of questions began. “Do you love her?”


“No, I love you.”


“Do you want a divorce?”


“No, I want to stay with you. Do you want a divorce?”


“I don’t know what I want. Why did you do this?”


I didn’t know how to answer that question. I didn’t know how I’d gotten where I was. I explained there had been no pursuit. I said that it was a friendship that had gotten out of control, and that I had felt trapped. I had never stopped loving Mona.


The blank stare was back. I kept trying to explain. She didn’t want to hear—or couldn’t hear—anything more. After a while she started asking me about the second woman.


“It was a one-night thing. Honestly, she threw herself at me. She made up her mind to have me. She set her sights, and she was going to have her way.”


What was I saying? It was all the truth, but what was I trying to do here? Justify my adultery? My second incidence of adultery at that!


I shut my mouth and started to cry again. I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to talk about it anymore. She didn’t want anything from me. I was dying inside. I needed to know what she was thinking. She was in shock. Was she thinking of leaving? Was she going to ask me to leave? What was going on in her head?


It seemed there was nothing more to say. I offered to sleep on the couch, but she declined my offer. She explained that if we were going to try to work this through, she saw no sense in my sleeping on the couch.


If. Such a small word to hold one’s whole future.


It was quiet and still, but I knew the explosion was yet to come. She stared blankly into the corner of the ceiling. I lay there, knowing her mind was whirling. I was sure her thoughts were bouncing from one horrific scenario to another, and all I could do was lie next to her and watch as her entire foundation cracked, crumbled, and fell away. Every now and then I could hear a sob escape her throat.


My God, what have I done? In a matter of seconds I have ripped the heart from the woman I love. The bride of my youth. Will she ever forgive me? Can she ever forgive me? I had no idea how much pain this would cause. If we make it through this, one thing is certain: We will never be the same again.


God, please forgive me.


Mona, if you can find it in your heart, please try to forgive me.



Mona’s Story


I don’t remember what book I was reading, but I do remember I never finished it. I threw it away. It would always remind me of that night.


I heard the back door open and thought, Gary’s home a little early—must have been a short meeting.


I heard him walk down the hallway. He opened the bedroom door and just stood there, staring at me.


I said something like, “How’d your meeting go?” I watched as my husband of more than nineteen years began to crumble. His body sagged as if under a heavy weight.


His eyes filled with tears and he said, “We have to talk.”


I knew something was terribly wrong and remember thinking someone had died. I wonder if it’s our pastor. He must have found out something horrible at the church meeting. Compassion overwhelmed

my heart, and I reached out my arms, inviting him in. “Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”


He came to the bed, sat down by me, and allowed me to hold him while sobs racked his body. I had never seen him like this. Through his muffled tears I heard, “I have betrayed you.”


I felt my body stiffen. A tragedy had happened, not to someone else, but to me. My mind refused to process his words. “What?”


“I have been having an affair.”


These words penetrated, and I felt my own tears rise. I heard the word come from my mouth before I realized I had even thought it:

“Who?”


Why was there no surprise when he said her name? I remember even then knowing there was really only one true possibility. I also remember other names going through my head, almost hoping he’d say one of

those instead. I had never suspected. I trusted them both implicitly. He was my husband, whom I loved and who I thought loved me. She was his coworker, a fellow church member, and the woman I had considered my best Christian friend for the past three or four years.


“How long?” I asked.


“Awhile,” he mumbled.


I began to feel the first stirring of rage. “How long?”


“A couple of years maybe.”


Not just once or even twice. Not a few weeks or even a few months! Was I a complete idiot? How could something like this go on for so long and I not even have a clue? They must have thought I was so stupid! How many times had they laughed at my naïveté?


I pulled away from him, unable to touch him, unable to do much more than breathe.


Then I heard these words: “There’s more.”


More? More than the destruction of my life, my family, my church, my home? More?


“I also had a one-night stand with another woman.” Then he named her, a twenty-year-old single mother and non-Christian with whom we’d had business dealings.


“She came over one night uninvited when you were gone.”


Here? In my house? Nothing was sacred. Every aspect of my life was involved. My home. The church where I always sat with my best friend. Gary’s production business where I worked part-time. Even the hospital where I worked as a nurse was filled with people who crossed over into these aspects of my life.


I was nauseous. Repulsed. This was something horrible men did. Not my Gary! Not the man I had always jokingly said I’d have to catch in bed naked before I’d ever believe he’d be unfaithful. The man couldn’t lie for beans.


Gary was not the man I had thought he was, but I was no longer sure who I was either. For that matter, who were we as a couple? Were we a couple?


I looked at him and froze. This was the man I’d been married to for almost twenty years. He’d been my lover, my best friend, and my confidant. My family loved him because he was so wonderful. All my friends thought he was wonderful—he did dishes, laundry, and changed diapers. I had lost count of how many times I’d been told how lucky I was.


My body was numb, wooden, overwhelmed. The weight Gary had walked into our bedroom wearing was now being shared.


“Do you love her?”


“No.”


“Do you want a divorce?”


“No.”


“Does her husband know?”


“I think she’s waiting to see if I really tell you first.”


“You have to let her go.”


“I know.”


The particulars of our conversation blur in retrospect. He told me he had gone to the church to confess to our pastor. The pastor had called in another pastor, they had all prayed, and then they sent Gary home to tell me.


He told me that the recording studio engineer had confronted him that day. He had suspected what was going on and had gone to his pastor, who advised him to confront Gary. What strength that must have taken for such a young man!


Gary said God had been preparing him for this revelation for a long time. Promise Keepers, meetings, sermons, his conscience. He had felt trapped in the relationship with his coworker for quite a while. If he broke it off, he knew the ramifications and the possibility of losing his family, his business, and his church. They had broken it off many times in the past and yet would find themselves back together. He couldn’t remember when it started, but the last time they’d been together was just three days earlier. I remembered trying to reach him that day. They had gone out of town to see a client and I’d wondered why they were so late getting back.


As I tried to pin down the time period of the affair, it became clear that it had been going on for about three years. It began shortly after she started working with us. Her marriage was in trouble and had been for a very long time. She and I had talked about it often together. I felt like such a fool. Gary and I had even discussed her vulnerability and her attractiveness before they started working together. I knew she envied our relationship, but I hadn’t realized that she had actually been wishing for Gary himself. She, as it turned out, knew better than I what my marriage was really like.


That night my life took on a new timetable: before the affair, during the affair, and after the affair. Everything during was now marred and distorted: our family trip to Disneyland, Gary and I going to

Hawaii. I recalled snippets of conversation with both Gary and my friend and suddenly heard and saw completely different things. He asked me that night if I would come to work for him fulltime at our production company and we’d rebuild our lives and the business. I was furious. How dare he! I told him I wasn’t going to give up any more of me than he’d already ripped away. I was a nurse. I was

a good nurse. I couldn’t lose that, too.


He asked me if I wanted a divorce, and I said no. What would that do to our boys? Where would I go? What would I do? We talked about counseling. To what end? I was so overwhelmed that even counseling seemed senseless. I wanted it never to have happened and a counselor couldn’t do that.


Gary told me about the night the young woman had come over and seduced him. He said it was very intentional on her part. I said that did not exonerate him. He knew that. The story of that one night stand sounded like a despicable movie.


Soon it seemed there was nothing left to talk about. Or maybe it was just that we were incapable of talking anymore. Gary reassured me that he loved me and wished he could take it all away. He asked for my forgiveness and told me he’d do anything I asked. I knew that adultery was biblical grounds for divorce, but I didn’t know if that still applied when the offender repents and asks for forgiveness.


My mind, soul, and body were exhausted by the events of the night. I knew I wanted to follow God in this, no matter where that led. I knew I needed a godly friend and felt again the pain of loss. Who would I call now that my two best friends had betrayed me?


When we went to bed, Gary asked if I wanted him to sleep somewhere else. I said no. I figured he’d been in my bed during the last three years, so what difference would it make now?


And so I clung to my edge of the bed and listened to my husband fall into a deep and restful sleep. Sleep would evade me. I would spend most of what was left of that night in the family room crying.


Gary’s weight had begun to lift. Mine had only just begun to press heavily upon me.


The Story on Revelation


That night happened in 1993. We can now say with absolute sincerity that we have fully healed from the adultery. Our marriage is strong and mutually satisfying. We have love and trust.


We refuse, however, to say that our marriage is better. We had heard “now they have a better marriage” in reference to couples who had gone through serious problems, and it only caused us more pain. We’d thought our marriage was good before the adultery. We loved each other; we were best friends. Certainly we had issues; all couples do. But our marriage prior to the adultery had value and was good. What happened to us happened to a good marriage. Most people have a hard time believing that because if they do, it makes every marriage vulnerable—including their own. Certainly there are those instances when the whys and wherefores are clear, but often all the answers we seek cannot be found. So instead we say we are wiser than we were then. We make better choices now. And we no longer believe we are invulnerable to attack. Our marriage is better only because the two people in it are now better people.


If you have picked up this book, you are probably going through, or love someone going through, the aftermath of finding out about a spouse’s adultery. Our hearts break for you, and we want you to know there is hope. Marriages can heal. We know because ours did. We know because we’ve been able to support other couples facing this anguish. We also know it will be one of the hardest things you will ever go through. We believe it would have been far easier at the time for us to split up. And we would not have been condemned for doing so. That same thing is true for many others.


We know these words seem hard to believe. When you go through this crisis, you feel as if the weight of the world is pressing down on you. Then the fiery darts from hell come faster and faster, and your shield of faith seems to offer little protection. You are fighting for your marriage with every ounce of strength you can muster until you begin to fear you’re going to lose the battle. This is where Satan wants you, and he will be faithful to keep the burners on high. Why? He wants nothing more than to see your marriage fail. He wants you to become another statistic. So let us repeat ourselves: You don’t have to give up! You can make it!


How? We want to share with you what made the difference. We were Christians when the adultery happened. We are still Christians. What we will share with you is definitely from a Christian perspective, but it is also from a practical, real-life perspective.


Is our marriage now perfect? No. We still have issues, and we’ve learned that some will remain until we get to heaven. Perhaps we’ve learned to pick our battles with more grace and wisdom. We have also learned that some battles were due to our own selfish desires and were far removed from the marriage

partnership.


We are not, nor do we claim to be, experts in anything. We have no educational or professional background to validate us. Those people are out there, and their resources are available to you. You’ll need them, too. But if you seek two ordinary believers to share their extraordinary experience, then here we are. We do not undertake this task lightly. This is not our idea of fun. In the early stages of writing, our emotions often overwhelmed us, and there were times we would leave our desks sobbing. We found ourselves crying over things we hadn’t cried over in years. Our God, however, is a great God and gracious to His people. In time we felt that we were merely observing a sad story, rather than reliving the awful past.


Getting the Most from the Rest of This Book


Terminology


Before we start sharing with you our own story and healing process, we need to establish a common language. Many have different ways of identifying people and moments in time when talking about adultery. Some are terms we wouldn’t be allowed to print here. So, to get us on the same page, we’ll define some terms and provide you with information that can help you walk through your recovery. Nothing about infidelity recovery is simple or easily explained, but there are definitely areas where, if both of you have the same understanding, you can avoid some common pitfalls.


First, the terminology for the cast of characters will be borrowed from the very practical book Torn Asunder: Recovering from an Extramarital Affair by Dave Carder:


Infidel: the one who strays and gets involved in an illicit relationship—it simply means unfaithful.


Spouse: the one married to the infidel.


Partner: the person with whom the infidel was involved.


A term we use often is revelation. This refers to the event where the infidel admits to the spouse that an illicit relationship has occurred. Sometimes the word is plural, revelations, because the full story takes more than one admission, as parts are revealed over time. Revelation is used throughout the book as a reference point.


Finally, the adulterous relationship will be referred to as an affair with the disclaimer that the word sounds much too playful for the seriousness of this offense.


We also need to agree on what adultery is. That might sound pretty silly to a lot of you, but differing on what comprises adultery can cause some serious problems. In fact, former President Clinton provided us with a classic example of what constituted “sex” when he denied having sex with another woman, yet later admitted to sexual intimacies with that woman. We can only imagine the private conversations he had with his wife when the truth was revealed.


We’ve heard some infidels deny adultery because they didn’t have sexual intercourse even while admitting there was sexual contact. They admit what they did was wrong but do not call it adultery.


As a matter of fact, the dictionary definition of adultery states it just that way: “Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse.” Infidelity is defined as a

lack of loyalty to one’s spouse. By the adultery definition, President Clinton was correct. By the infidelity definition, any number of things could fall into that category—anything a spouse would consider disloyal.

Looking exclusively at either dictionary definition allows one to go to opposing ends of the spectrum of possibilities.


While the dictionary may disagree, for our purposes adultery and infidelity will be equivalent terms. The truth is that there is no one clear and concise definition of infidelity or adultery that everyone agrees on.


We’ll define adultery as unfaithfulness to the covenant (i.e., marriage) vows you made to your spouse. Vows are the promises we make to one another when we stand before God and whomever else to become legally wed. We promise (vow) to love, honor, and cherish the person we are marrying. We promise this person that they are now the number one person in our life, even if our health and wealth and other circumstances change.


We also vow to forsake all others. That means we have reserved the intimacy space of the marriage relationship exclusively for the person we married. Anytime we put another person in that relational space promised to our partner—be it sexual or emotional or both—we have committed adultery. We have violated the intimacy of marriage, we have broken our promise, and we have had an illicit relationship.


We love the description Dr. Shirley Glass gives in Not “Just Friends”:


In a committed relationship [marriage], a couple constructs a wall that shields them from any outside forces that have the power to split them. They look at the world outside their relationship through a

shared window of openness and honesty. The couple is a unit, and they have a united front to deal with children, in-laws, and friends. An affair erodes their carefully constructed security system. It erects an

interior wall of secrecy between the marriage partners, at the same time it opens a window of intimacy between the affair partners. The couple is no longer a unit. The affair partner is on the inside, and the

marital partner is on the outside.


And here is the true acid test. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s three words: Ask your spouse. Explain everything about your other relationship. Be 100 percent honest about every detail, thought, and touch. Then ask your spouse. They’ll be able to tell you if it fits the definition of adultery in a heartbeat.


Time Frame of Chapters


What we are sharing with you is not chronological. Quite frankly, healing isn’t that neat. And often many of us wander in and out of these areas throughout the recovery process. So rather, we have chosen to share with you by topics: those areas we needed to explore and deal with as we healed. We hope all of you will deal with each principle area, but the truth is that none of you will do it at the same time. When you encounter each principle area will be determined by who you are, what type of affair you’re dealing with, and the journey our Lord has you on.


We do, however, believe the first two principle areas, commitment and faith, are foundational. So if you need to camp out there for a while, that is okay. These two areas will provide the sure footing you’ll need to walk through the rest.


We can relate only our experience and a glimpse at others we have known. Yours will be entirely different, but we are certain that you, like the couples in our groups, will find some value in the sharing.

Seek other godly counsel and ask God Himself to help you filter through and apply what is right for your situation.


When we were in the deepest pit of our crisis, we wanted to sit across from a couple whose marriage had survived this horror and who now had a marriage they both cherished. Someone who could look us straight in the eye and tell us we could make it because they had. Someone who could help us understand we weren’t crazy but rather experiencing a horrendous crisis—validating what was normal for the abnormal situation in which we found ourselves. This is what we’ll offer you.


Now, come with us and we’ll take you along through snapshots of our journey of healing. We’ll give you some ideas and concrete suggestions as to how some of these things we’ve talked about can look. We pray you’ll see truth, reality, and hope, and that God will use what we share to help you on your journey.


We have seen the Lord do marvelous things, and we will pray those same marvelous things for you.


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so

also through Christ our comfort overflows. —2 Corinthians 1:3–5


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Flies on the Butter

In honor of upcoming holidays and time with family, I present to you the latest book I finished, Flies on the Butter by Denise Hildreth. The author will be happy to know that I paid more than 49 cents for this book (that's what I paid for the first book of hers that I read, and she happened by and replied to the post). In fact, I believe I paid full price for this one.

Back cover:

Rose Fletcher's come a long way from her South Carolina up-bringing of Sunday church and Mamaw's fried chicken. As a high-powered child advocate in Washington, DC, Rose has put her Southern upbringing behind her. But the peace and happiness she sought has eluded her. With her marriage on the brink of disaster, her mind races with the chaos her life has become.

But now Rose must head South for home-a place where the mother she headed north to escape still resides.

She'll face her demons, relive her coming-of-age, and confront the issues that kept her away all these years. It'll take the intervention of strangers and a painful miracle of grace to help her find that place called "home" once again.

Audra again:

No matter how you might try, you can never outrun your family. As whacked up, crazy and overbearing that they may be, they are still your family. In Flies on the Butter, Rose must return home for a family get together she is not excited about attending.

What's supposed to be something like a 14 hour drive back home ends up a bigger adventure than she ever could have expected and makes Rose relive a number of often funny, sometimes heart-breaking memories.

While it does include Denise's trademark humor, Flies on the Butter is not all warm and fuzzy. That said, it is a good read. If you would like to get a preview, you can download chapter 1 on the author's website: www.denisehildreth.com.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Do you got some gum?

The stillest that Peyton must have been at Paige's soccer game last night must have been just as the game started, as she watched for me to ascend up the hill to the soccer field. I heard her from a distance and as I looked up, Peyton ran for me, arms outstretched. Running, running, running with her arms in the air for probably 30 yards or more.

I paused where I was standing and threw my arms in the air in dramatic pose before proceeding, ready for a hug. And a hug I did get.

The first words to proceed from her lips?

"Do you got some gum?"

(This coming from the 5 year-old child who when she first went to the dentist when she was 3 had to have gum dug out of her mouth full of cavities.)

"Is that why you were so glad to see me? You just want gum?"

"Yea-us! But I still love you!"

Sometimes you just have to take your love however you can get it. It was her lucky day - I don't always bring my purse out to the soccer games.

"OK, just a second."

"Is it the yellow kind?" (Most brands now have a yellow in addition to their blue, green and red - it's pina colada.)

"Sort of, it's a new yellow kind. It's pineapple."

I dig my package of gum out of my purse and give her a piece. "Hey Madison, Audra's got some gum. It's pineapple."

"Hey Audra, I want some gum."

As I trudge to the stands, and plop myself down, I tell my mother, "she only wanted me for my gum."

"I know. She's been looking for you. I told her you would have some because I left my purse locked up in the back of the truck."

The girls ran off to play before Peyton came back. Another one of her friends wanted some gum. My last piece. Don't you just hate it when you have to give away your last piece?

As if that all weren't enough gum drama, she comes back to me closer at the end of the game. "I want some more gum."

"I don't have any. I gave you the last piece while ago."

"Why? I want some more."

"What am I supposed to do about it? You chewed it all."

"But I want some."

What am I going to do at this point? Pull some out of my ear? Mom finally tells her she'll get her some when they get back to the parking lot.

"I know. I'll stay here, and you can go to the truck and get me some gum and come back."

"I don't think so," Mom tells her.

And on and on she went through the rest of the game. Once the game was over we headed to the parking lot, Mom, Peyton, Madison and I with her chattering on about getting gum.

At this point I say, "Peyton Kathleen, I am just getting you gum for Christmas. That's it."

"OK, I want 100 gums."

"I'm not buying you 100 packs."

"OK, I just want 1 gum cuz I want some toys too. Wait. I want two gums."

"One pineapple, one peppermint?" (Because if it's not yellow, it has to be Trident Splash Peppermint.)

"Yea-us."

"OK, fine."

Madison replies, "I want one gum too!"

By the time Dad got to the truck to unlock the back, Brian had caught up and was ready to head 'em up and move 'em out. Mom threw her pack of gum at Peyton and told her to just take it all.

About 8:30 this morning, I sure did want a piece of gum. Guess I have to go the grocery store before church Sunday morning.

I'm less picky than Peyton when it comes to gum (I'm giving myself jaw aches chewing whatever), but have to get what I can find at whatever checkout I end up at. I will now rank Peyton's favorite choices.

*While I was looking for the images of gum. I found out that you can buy cases of gum on Amazon. I never really thought about doing that. Sure, I've bought books, CDs and even my iPod on Amazon, but I've never thought to buy gum in bulk on Amazon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You never know...

Will I have another jury duty story to tell by the end of the week? You never know. My mom has been summoned for municipal court tomorrow. There's something about my whole experience that has had to her non-desire to be a part of it.

Watch out... maybe it's the Doritos case... or Cheetos... you know they would have left an orange evidence stain.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What have I done this week?

I'm on vacation this week and have really not done anything to speak of. That's good and that's bad at the same time. It's good sometimes to do nothing, but at the same time I wanted to do something this week.

I have had some time to read, and yesterday, I read about half a book in a few hours time. This time I picked a book from my random stack of unread books. Some of these books were given to me by a friend from a publisher back at a book convention in February. I do have some books from work. I have some books that I've bought or used gift cards to get. (But, no one has paid me for any reviews, in case you were wondering FTC.)

My random selection was When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells. This is a book that I was given from Melissa at Multnomah. She gave me books 1 & 3 on purpose because now that I have read book 1, I have to buy book 2. (Should I wait to see if I get an Amazon gift card later this month for my birthday?)

Product description:

Bizarre Encounter Initiates Extreme Spiritual Battle

Dylan Foster’s carefully constructed, orderly world begins to fray, thread by thread, the day the eyes of hell turn upon her. After a chance encounter with a creepy, sickly looking stranger, her days become punctuated with disturbing, inexplicable events. Desperate for answers, Dylan seeks not only to extricate herself from the nightmare, but to separate the spiritual from the earthly, friend from foe, angel from devil, good from evil. She’s smack in the eye of the battle with only God-issued spiritual armor and her own wits to protect her.

I saw the first fly alight on the edge of my plate during supper. This was no ordinary fly. It was huge. The size of a small Volkswagen. I could have painted daisies on it and sold rides to small children.

School is back in session, but for psychology professor Dylan Foster, the promise of a new semester is dying in the heat of the late Texas summer. First, there is the bizarre encounter with a ghastly pale stranger. Then her mother’s engagement ring turns up—the same ring that was buried with her mother two years before.

Soon, Dylan’s carefully ordered world is unraveling, one thread at a time. A former patient accuses her of impropriety, putting her career in jeopardy. A suicide plunges her deeper into shadow. Relationships with colleagues start to crumble. And then there are those flies in her house...

Dylan Foster is about to get a crash course in spiritual warfare—and a glimpse of her own small but significant role in a vast eternal conflict. But when the dust settles, will anything be left of her life as she knows it?

My thoughts:
Angels/demons and spiritual warfare are not normally subjects I go for. Some parts might even be considered kind of creepy. However, I think what hooked me more than the storyline was the characters. Dylan kind of reminds me of myself in a way, in a smart-aleck-speaks-her-mind kind of way.
Then there is the funeral home director, David, with a great sense of humor. Actually one the funeral directors I know has a sense of humor - probably have to. One of the funniest characters is fellow psychologist, John. But it's funny at his expense funny.
In the end, there were parts that were still unresolved - thus the need for books 2 & 3, I suppose. I've found a great deal on Amazon for The Soul Hunter, it's just a matter of whether or not I'm going to wait until after my birthday.
Actually, I'm considering going to Dallas tomorrow for the heck of it, so maybe I'll wander by a bookstore. For more info about the author and series, visit www.melaniewells.com.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Last Song

There are a few authors that I run out and buy their books when they come out - or hope they release close enough to November (my birthday) or December (Christmas) so that someone will buy them for me.

Did you catch that FTC? I bought this book that I'm talking about on my blog. Oh, wait. Technically, my mom bought it when we made a stop at Barnes and Noble in September, and Paige, Peyton and I all got a book that day. I had planned to buy it myself, but Mom paid for it. The point is, someone PAID for this book. (I just have to be sort of snarky about this because some people do buy the books they talk about.)

The story description:

#1 bestselling author Nicholas Sparks' new novel is at once a compelling family drama and a heartrending tale of young love.

Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alientated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church.

The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels--first love, love between parents and children -- that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

Audra talking again:

Nicholas Sparks rarely writes a stinker. Actually, Message in a Bottle might be the only one. At least I didn't like that one. I didn't read that one for a long time having heard that it wasn't his best.

The Last Song definitely wasn't a stinker. I think that more so in this book than most any of his others, Sparks included characters you loved, characters that were hard to like at times though they grew on you, and characters you hated. While some parts were predictable (you know relationships will work themselves out - and of course someone has to die - you know that 90% of the time either a character or a beloved dog dies) there's some things that work out differently than you would expect them to.

It's a great lesson in forgiveness and things not always being what they seem.

Though every Sparks book is clean, this one had more of a spiritual aspect than any of his previous books. It's more in the lines of Christian fiction than his other releases.

I will reveal one thing that I am so thankful that I did not know before I read this book because it really might have ruined it for me. Tonight as I was getting ready to post, I looked at the author's website to copy and post the book description and get the book cover. The website included some background about how the story developed.

WARNING: If you cannot stand Hannah Montana, stop reading right now.

From the bio section of http://www.nicholassparks.com/:

"In August 2008, I learned that Miley Cyrus was interested in the possibility of working with me, and after meeting with executives at Disney, I agreed to write a screenplay entitled The Last Song. Between those three tours, I worked on the screenplay throughout the fall, completing the first draft in December 2008, and the final polish in January 2009. After that, I immediately began writing the novel of the same name. It's odd, I know. Usually, screenplays are adapted from novels (not the other way around) but since I was responsible for both and scheduling necessitated that the film begin shooting in the summer of 2009, I had no other choice. The Last Song, which is both a love story and a coming of age novel, was completed in June 2009, right around the time that filming began."

And the FAQ section: What was your inspiration for The Last Song?

I hadn’t written a younger love story since A Walk to Remember and, as I was kicking around ideas for my next book, I received a phone call from Jennifer Gipgot, a producer associated with Disney (and the sister of Adam Shankman, who’d directed A Walk to Remember). She said that Miley Cyrus loved A Walk to Remember, and that she wanted to do something in the same vein. After meeting with Jennifer, Adam, and the Cyrus family a few weeks later, I had some ideas about writing a coming of age story where the two lead characters would be forced to spend time together, but I also wanted to include a story that adults could relate to. And somehow, I came up with the idea of sea turtles, so I agreed to write both the screenplay and the book for The Last Song.

Audra again:

I really liked the book, but I don't know that I could have gotten through 390 pages of picturing Miley Cyrus as Ronnie with that goofy slouch and those utterly ridiculous facial expressions. I'm telling you right now, I would have gone nuts.

"The Best of Both Worlds" song is going through my head with the mere mention of Miley Cyrus. A couple of weeks ago I was trying to pick out songs for the girls to listen to from my i-Pod. What I picked for Paige and Peyton were easy for their own reasons. Madison asked me if I had any Miley Cyrus on my i-Pod. I informed her that there would never be any Miley Cyrus or Hannah Montana on my i-Pod. She informed me it was the same person. DUH!

I have got to get some other song into my head or I'm going to have nightmares tonight.

OH, I know what I will do. Speaking of Adam Shankman, I'll go back and watch So You Think You Can Dance from last night. When he did his falling out of his chair thing, I had to go back and watch it over and over again. Now that they have him as a permanent judge, can we please, please, please get rid of Mary Murphy? She and Miley Cyrus out to do a show together so that I can never watch it ever. Her voice gets on my nerves more by the season. I think I'll stick to Tivo when it comes to SYTYCD so that skip right through her critiques.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Potato Chip Story Part 2

My experience as a juror last week confirmed in a very real way that the world is just filled with some stupid people that do stupid things for stupid reasons.

I'll start by explaining the basic facts, and then go further into the details and how the things got truly ridiculous.

On March 25, 2009 at around 5:30 PM, a 20-something-year-old male African American cashier was working the express check out lane at H-E-B. This is the express lane on the south side of the store closest to 7th Avenue in Corsicana, Navarro County, TX next to the produce. (For some reason the exact location of this particular lane was of the utmost importance.)

An 11-year old girl was in line starting to put groceries up on the belt when her mother catches back up with her to check out. In the buggy, there were more than 20 items, and this was the 10 items or less lane. Evidently, there were items towards the front, and items towards the back of the buggy. A number of items were hidden underneath a large package of toilet paper (so the testimony of the clerk goes). The cashier tells the woman and her daughter that they cannot check out in this line because they have too many items. There are lots of people are in line, so they need to go on to another line.

The woman asks for a manager and while the cashier and woman are yah-yahing back and forth, the woman's "husband" walks up munching on potato chips, and asks what the problem is. The "husband" then allegedly says, "I've got a problem with you #*$$@& (a racial slur)." and then proceeds to throw potato chips in the direction of the clerk.

That's the basic situation. There are two charges filed against the defendant.

#1 is disorderly conduct for what was said. This is not the exact legal language, but basically, anything said that can be taken as offensive or vulgar and bring about a response can fall under the category of disorderly conduct.

#2 is class C misdemeanor assault. Assault can be defined as anyone touching you in a way that you find offensive. If someone taps you, and you take it as offensive because you did not want to be tapped, that can be considered assault. They don't have to injure you in anyway. And, they don't have to even touch you. If something that comes from your hands touches someone else, that can be assault.

So, that's what we are trying to decide - beyond a reasonable doubt - not beyond any doubt (because that would be impossible it is explained to us) - if this disorderly conduct and assault occurred.

First witness - a guy standing in line right behind the woman and her 20+ items. He testifies to the exact location of the express lane, the length of the line and than there were more than 20 items. He did hear the offensive language, saw the chips fly, and then got the heck out of Dodge with his two year old daughter because he knew something big was about to happen.

In cross examination, the focus is mainly on whether or not the chips were simply tossed straight in the air or whether or not they were thrown in the direction of the clerk.

Second witness - a refrigeration worker who is employed by company that contracts to H-E-B to do inspections and preventative maintenance on the freezers. He was also in line - just buying a Dr Pepper for his long drive back home to Ft. Worth. He says that the "husband" said something, but he is not sure what came after "I've got a problem with you" though he did see the "husband's" lips move. This guy is about as nervous as the day is long on the witness stand is thankful to get to leave. This is especially the case since evidently his testimony on the stand did not exactly match what he had told the city attorney earlier in the morning in regards to what he heard.

At this point, I guess I better fill you in on what happened on March 25, 2009 after the "husband" throws the chips. The clerk comes around the checkout counter, punches the chip thrower in the cheek and grabs him around the neck, knocking the guy to the ground. The clerk evidently beat the guy pretty mightily.

Up next - the police officer who was called to the scene to investigate. He testifies that no, he did not witness the actual potato chip throwing because he was not there (at the H-E-B on 7th Avenue in Corsicana, Navarro County, TX) at the time, but did talk to witnesses and review the surveillance tape. Enter exhibit 1.

The court clerk inserts the DVD that she gets from the city attorney into the laptop to be projected on the screen. The defense attorney assumes that it is the same footage that he has possession of and he has no objections to the jury viewing said survellience video.

Evidently you had to have special instructions to play this and it plays at fast speed. We have a short recess to see if we can figure out where the technical guy on staff at the city is to see if he can slow this down because at the speed it is going, you barely see the chip toss, but do see the clerk taking out the "husband".

We finally figure out that we have to watch this stupid video frame by frame by frame. Starting with the clerk checking out a man in a baseball cap that stands there the whole time. (I guess to witness trouble.) We finally get to the toss and proceed through clerk coming around the counter, throwing off his apron and doing his prize fighter thing. They fall onto the ground, out of view on the other side of the counter, and on and on frame by frame until the clerk finally gets up and picks up his apron.

Over and over again we back up and watch forward the chips. Do they fall straight down onto the belt? Do we see that white spot over the clerks head that must be a potato chip? Does that not prove they were not thrown straight up in the air but rather in the direction of the clerk to actually hit him? Of course, we can't see his face.

The police officer says the clerk was just defending himself from the potato chip attack. The "husband" was arrested for the assault because he started all this, but he was taken to the hospital to tend to his injuries.

The defense attorney questions the officer about whether or not the police chief changed his mind about who was at fault and so forth and so on, but was evidently making stuff up at this time because the cop didn't know what he was talking about.

You would think this was Law & Order because the city attorney wants to be able to recall most all of the witnesses if need be. What all this really reminded me of is when I was in debate and high school because this just seemed unreal to be listening to all of this.

After the police officer, the clerk came to the stand. We have to watch the survelience video again. Back and forth, frame by frame, with the potato chips flying over his head.

He does testify that he was fired for his part in hitting the "husband".

The defense attorney gives the clerk grief over the fact that the paperwork he signed had the wrong date on it - that it happened on the 28th rather than the 25th. The city attorney objects. The judge explains to us no less than 4 times by the time it's all over with that it was a typographical error that was corrected and amended on additional filings and the charges before us that day. We go around on this pointless stuff forever.

Then, the defense attorney gets on a kick of why the disorderly conduct charge/accuastation of the slur was not filed in March. Or in April, or in May, or in June, or in July, or in August, or in September. It was filed in October. (The attorney proved three times that he knew his months in order because he did this bit during jury selection, during this part, and again in closing arguments. By the third time my eyes almost rolled out of my head.) Then there was some foggy conversation about who called the clerk and told him he should also get the "husband" for the disorderly conduct and who talked to the clerk's mama and so forth and so on. There were a lot of objections thrown in as well.

Finally, after two hours of listening to all this we get a recess. One of the other jurors was annoyed that all this was eating into her nap time. Since she is now retired after running Corny Dog 7 at the mall for 16 years, she takes a nap every day. She also watches Judge Judy daily.

All I can say is that Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, or the late great (great according to my late great Nanny) Judge Wapner would have had this baby sewn up in 12 minutes, including commercials and would not have listened to all this mess.

When we get back into the courtroom, I'm telling the rest of the jury (and the judge because he was talking to us) that I was ready to get 'er done. I even had the judge saying it too since he didn't get to have lunch after the speeding ticket trial.

Up next, the "wife". OK, I know you have all been wondering why I keep referring to the "husband" in quotes. You see, I don't think this couple knew what they were to each other. They've been living together for over three years and have a baby together, but evidently weren't married. Yet, reference kept being made about husband or boyfriend and such, and the whole thing was never really cleared up and the attorneys didn't know what to call them. I think it takes 7 years to be common law in the state of Texas, but what do I know.

The "wife" testifies that she had ordered food at the deli that she didn't want to get cold so the daughter was getting in line. When she came up the daughter was putting stuff back in the buggy, and she asked why she was doing it. She says that the items were divided in two parts. She was just going to purchase 10 items and someone else was paying for the rest. I guess her "husband" that was standing in another line talking to someone at the time.

Why his rear wasn't in line to pay for the other 10 items, I don't know. I guess he was going to cut in in line in front of everyone else. AND if they were married, why were they checking out their 10 items separately?

She seemed to be almost in tears as she explained again she didn't want her deli food to get cold. She wanted to talk to a manager, but the clerk would not get a manager. When the "husband" comes up, he asks what was wrong, and after some back and forth, she says the clerk says, "I'm going to kick your $*&#in' ^$$ old man" and "husband" replies back, "bring it" and proceeds to toss his potato chips in the air, not at the clerk. And yes, the chips did land behind the wall behind the clerk, but they went over his head, not at him. The chips could have gone over his head without being thrown in his face.

I think we had to watch surveillence tape again. This whole time, two other women with two children (one was the "husband" and "wife's" child) were wondering in and out of the room. The judge finally told them to sit down and be still or get out. It took him long enough.

Finally, "husband" takes the stand and pretty much collaborates everything "wife" said. Claims he threw them in the air and admits to saying "bring it."

We did watch the surveillence tape again. And he had to put on his glasses and walk up closer to see it. He also testifies that after his beating, he almost died. I doubt that.

The defense attorney gets on a line of questioning as to whether or not "husband" had any black relatives. He did. Because surely, if he had relatives who were black, he would not use the word in question.

After the final testimony, we finally get to closing arguments. While the city attorney does his arguments, the defense attorney's phone rings again. The judge got after him again (he too has had enough of this entire thing). Then the two attorneys got in an "objection" match over whether or not the city attorney was insinuating that the defense took witness number 2 to lunch since he changed his story along the way.

The defense attorney gets up and talks about rational sanity or something. (Like any of this was sane.) He says, "who has ever heard of assault by a p-o-t-a-t-o c-h-i-p before. That we the jury may be written up for the first case ever. That if we found this man guilty of assualt by potato chip in this county, then he didn't think he would want to live in this county.

At this point, the juror to my left couldn't hold her laughter any longer. Neither could I. I had to disguise snorts of laughter with coughs more than once that afternoon. (All the while my dad kept wondering up the hall from his office and by the windows to see if I was still there.)

After 3 1/2 hours, we were finally able to deliberate. As soon as the judge and everyone else left the room, I said, "I have one stupid question that I have to ask. Did this guy ever pay for his potato chips?"

One of the other jurors replied, "I wondered the same thing."

We had no problem agreeing on the assualt charge. We believed he threw them at the clerk, not simply in the air to litter the place like confetti. While we don't know if "the N word" was used for certain, at the very least, he said "bring it" which would have been offensive and be considered disorderly conduct. Each count could only be charged a $500 fine each, and we didn't recommend the max charge in either case.

When the verdict was read back, defense attorney and "husband" rolled their eyes at the "guilty" to assault, but barely blinked at the "guilty" to disorderly conduct. I tend to believe that the "N" word was said.

I didn't get out of there until almost 4:30. Four hours of testimony and arguments about potato chips. I never want to eat or see a potato chip again after all this.

The next time I am summoned to jury duty and the judge asks about insanity, I think I'm going to claim it and explain, "well, yeah, of course I am. I had to serve on the potato chip trial."

I just pray that I don't get summoned for the district court case for the higher class assault charge against the clerk for beating the crap out of the "husband".

Last night at church, the city attorney told me that "husband" and his TV attorney are suing H-E-B becuase it was their employee that beat him. Neither of us thinks they have much of a case.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Potato Chip Story Part 1

At long last, I'm finally going to tell the jury duty story that I promised would come.

Saturday before last, Mom checked her mail, and a jury summons for me was included in the stack of mail. It had been forwarded from their old address, but I have no idea why the municipal court had that address for me. I've not had anything (driver's license or voter's registration included) with that address on it for over 6 years. I wish the stupid thing had gotten lost in the mail. It had been sent at least a couple of weeks before, and just got to me five days beforehand. If they had hunted me down for not showing up, I would have been able to explain why I didn't get it since I had not lived at the address it was sent to in that many years and my parents didn't even live there anymore.

Municipal court only handles misdemeanors that are punishable by fine. The last time I had a summons for municipal court, it was for the afternoon, so even though this was for the morning, I really believed I would not be there long. In and out and about my merry way.

So, I show up at City Hall for the 8:15 AM start time. Around 8:30, the court clerk finally starts doing a roll call of jurors and seating them in order. Random order that the computer spit out except for the fact that the first 10 last names she read off started all started with an "A". I was seated in position 15. They were picking two juries of 6 people each. Seat #15 wasn't a very good position to be in if they kicked anyone out during the voir dire.

The clerk read off what had to have been between 100-150 names off her list. She read a lot of names. Of all of those names, 34 potential jurors were there. Actually two said weren't eligible before we were seated, so I guess 36 showed up. While a number of those people probably chose to be irresponsible and not show up, I'm pretty sure quite a few of the people had moved and their summons didn't find its way to them. I know for a fact that two of the people on the list had died. Those were just names I recognized and one of those people died in an accident that everyone in town knew about. I guess no one looked over the list ahead of time.

So, we have everyone seated in order. OK, let's take a break. Why? We haven't done anything. Evidently a new listed has to be printed of just the potential jurors there. Dad works at City Hall and wondered down the hall to see if I had gotten stuck yet.

While I admit, that getting out of work for the day wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, I had things to do since I am off work this week. I just didn't have time for this knowing what I wanted to get done.

Back into the courtroom/city council chambers we go. They are picking for two juries - first up - for a speeding ticket. No jury shuffle required (crap!). The judge goes throw his deal asking if anyone is insane (I thought about raising my hand since that might be subjective). Potential juror #8 is off the hook because he doesn't understand and communicate English very well.

Then, we go through a series of questions. A woman on the front row (potential juror #5) is the mom of a police officer and she says there's no way she's going to be impartial in all honesty. Potential juror #14 answers that she knows city attorney - he served as her husband's attorney in their divorce. Ms. Speed Demon decided that was cause enough to scratch her from the first jury. I know the city attorney too. I go to church with him. Does that get me off?

Once the first jury is selected, I'm eighth in line and know #5 and #14 in front of me probably aren't going to make the second jury either.

After another break (let's get this thing going already!), we get ready for jury #2 to be selected. The defense attorney for this case was a character. Before selection even begins, both attorneys have to talk to the judge more than once. The defense attorney evidently wanted longer to question potential jurors than the city attorney thought he should have because there were some sticky factors.

Once they finally get their time figured out we endure at least 20 minutes from each side questioning the jury. Potential juror #5 still is the mother to a cop and still doesn't feel that she could be impartial. Potential juror #14 is still divorced, but she could be impartial because she was going to divorce the guy regardless of who is attorney was. The kicker though was that she had already heard about some things from this case in the district courtroom the day before from one of the attorneys. That got her off.

As the questions came out, it was evident what some of the factors of the case were. Because there was a racial slur made in the context of one of the charges, and there were two African American women in the front row, you know both of them would not make the jury because the defense attorney would not allow that to happen. My chances of getting on the jury were pretty good.

As they were asking if we knew any of the parties involved, a woman behind me said she was the cousin of one of the witnesses. She said she couldn't be impartial since it was her cousin. If it were me, it would depend on which of my cousins you were talking about. At this point, I was about ready to claim family (something I don't do often with my real family) so that I could get the heck out of there.

This defense attorney had this loud, obnoxious personality that sitcoms are made of. (I later found out that is a "TV attorney", you know the ones that advertise at 2 AM - that explained so much.) He would lean over in an over exaggerated way to hear what the judge was saying to potential jurors like #14 telling what she had overheard the day before. During the vore dire, he let it out that the alleged assault involved potato chips. I could just tell this whole thing was going to be stupid. After the judge had already told everyone to turn their cell phones off, his rang in middle of selection. That did not go over well. He answers, "I can't talk right now," slams it shut and apologizes to the judge.

Evidently, I didn't roll my eyes enough during jury selection. I was the 3rd member selected on the 6 jury panel.

Jury #2 was dismissed at 11 AM to come back at 12:30 PM for the start of the potato chip trial. I was livid. I didn't want to waste my day on a ridiculous case - and it had to be if potato chips were involved.

I begrudgingly went to get lunch, check emails and prepare for an afternoon I was not excited about.

I promise that part 2 of this story gets funnier. It posts in the morning.