Contact Me

If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Can Teach An Old Dog

I started taking piano lessons when I was almost ten years old. I wanted to start much earlier and kept begging my mother to teach me. But my mother - a fine pianist but not a professional piano teacher - thought that kids learn an instrument better when they can begin to comprehend abstract concepts.

I didn't agree then and don't agree now.

Music is like language; it gets soaked up in the brain effortlessly at an early age.
I've read research that infants and toddlers growing up in bi-lingual families easily sort out the two languages, learning to speak each fluently and without any accent.
Music involves lots of muscle memory. If a toddler can learn to coordinate muscles involved in walking, then why can't he or she also coordinate muscles involved in playing an instrument?

Still, I was young enough at nine-plus to quickly pick up piano and within a few years play Debussy, Beethoven, Scarlatti, and Bach, etc. competently.

When I started voice lessons at sixteen, I was grateful that my piano skills enabled me to teach myself the complicated vocal literature without relying on a paid accompanist.
Then it was off to the conservatory, and later, graduate studies at the University of Michigan.
Years later, around forty, I decided to pick up guitar. Most of my friends played guitar in high school and I thought, "how difficult can guitar be?"

There's a comfort and naturalness to something you've done since childhood.
Not so with a skill picked up in adulthood.
Oh, how I wish I'd taken up guitar as a kid. Nothing on that instrument comes easily. Except for the finger-picking; that's similar to piano technique. The left-hand stuff is agony. Some of the chords make my hand feel like it's ripping apart.

However, after more than a decade of disciplined practice, I'm starting to get it. I can play some gorgeous Renaissance and Baroque classical guitar pieces.

Doctors and psychologists say it's important to continue learning new skills into middle age and beyond to exercise the brain and keep it fit.
So, learn a new vocabulary word each day, learn a new card game, take up ballroom dancing, learn a new musical instrument, travel to some exotic place and try to speak the language.

I'll never play like Christopher Parkening (my guitar idol), but I've achieved some competence.

And I'll bet my brain is better for it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why is that?

I don't like basements. It started, I think, when I was a kid and one of my siblings would switch off the light and slam the door at the top of the basement steps, leaving one or two of us down there in total, creepy darkness.
What is it about basements that scare us? Is it the darkness? Is it the dankness? The small or non-existent windows? Does it remind us of the grave?
Why is it, in horror movies, the stupid, clueless girl hears a noise and goes down to investigate?Why is the noise in the basement?
Why is there always a basement?
I'm sitting on the couch watching another horror movie. Here's how it plays: stupid, clueless blond girl is alone in the house. She hears a strange noise and - instead of locking herself in the bedroom, hiding under the bed with her cellphone and calling 911 - goes down the stairs. Surprise, the noise seems to be coming from the basement. She opens the basement door and says," Hello? Is anybody down there?"
YES! You idiot! The monster is down there! Haven't you ever watched a horror flick?!
She takes her first tentative step onto the rickety wood basement stair and reaches up to pull the tiny, little string attached to the one lightbulb in the whole screamingly, creepy basement.
A couple more steps and. . .

Now, in a crime movie the victims get murdered in any convenient room in the house. A stabbing in the kitchen, a gunshot in the study, a bludgeoning in the bedroom.
I can stand that.
But the basement?

I'm screaming at the tv set, jumping up and down in a panic, dreading the start of the slasher music that inevitably accompanies the girl's murder.
Stupid, clueless girl. Just stay upstairs and you'll live.
But she never listens. Next movie will see the reincarnation of the stupid, clueless girl. Maybe she'll be a brunette this time.
But, always the basement.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Looking Up

Tidus, the cat, is just about the cutest cat I've ever seen. It's not just that his fur is a lustrous black with some white patches and white paws. His ears are small and they swivel back and lie flat when he hears music. In a musician's household that makes me laugh.

His green eyes are round and a bit close together, lending him a rather owlish look.
When he stalks and teases Nina (the other cat) he reaches out tentatively with large paws, toes spread out like stubby white knit gloves. He taps her nose a couple of times, then rolls over and waits for her to "attack."

The strangest thing about Tidus is his fascination with up. Most cats search downward, into crevices, corners, boxes, bags - anything which might hide a mouse. But Tidus loves up.

Sometimes I find him in my south-facing office, intently studying the small bits of dusty flotsam and jetsam swirling and fluttering earthward in a sunbeam. He likes to station himself on the stairs between the kitchen and dining room and stare at the ceiling. It makes me nervous; is he watching a spider?

When he sits on my lap he gazes at the apex of our vaulted ceiling, head bobbing up and down like a bird of prey. In the bright family room, the irises in his blazing green eyes seem nearly non-existent.

Sometimes I think he's playing a joke on us, silently snickering as we follow his lead and stare at the ceiling.
But perhaps Tidus knows a thing or two about up. Perhaps he sees things that our weak human eyes cannot perceive. There must be answers in the up.

My cute black cat reminds me daily that I, too, should be looking up. I spend way too much time looking down, questing for tiny mice in my own types of crevices and corners. But there are answers for me if I'll keep my gaze fixed in the up direction.

"To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?, says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. . . " (Isaiah 40: 25,26)

Monday, January 18, 2010

No One To Thank

I watched part of the Golden Globe awards last night. Most of the awards went to well-deserving artists, composers and directors. Robert Downey Jr. won an award, too. He's a fabulous actor. But did you hear what he said when he came up to accept his Goldie? He said, "I have no one to thank. They needed me."
No one to thank?
You arrogant blankety-blanket-blank.
In my book, anyone who's acomplished anything has someone to thank. Especially. . . SomeOne.
How about the mother who gave you life?
Possibly a father in the picture, as well.
How about your teachers who taught you how to read so you could actually learn your actor's lines by reading the script?
How about the director who first saw your potential and gave you your first part in a high school or college production?
Did you take acting lessons? I'll bet someone worked hard to help you develop your craft.
How about finances? Did someone ever help you along with money to, say, help you with the rent, or groceries, etc?
How did you get your first break in Hollywood? Someone took a chance on you.
I could go on and on. Downey Jr.'s remark makes my blood boil.
Every breath that I breathe is granted to me by a loving Heavenly Father.
I thank Him every day that I have a workable brain, limbs that work, fingers with enough dexterity to type these posts, eyes to see, ears to hear. My husband makes a good salary - also a gift from God. This allows me the opportunity to spend time writing. I have been the beneficiary of parent love, teacher devotion, scholarships, timely jobs, loyal friends.
I'm no Robert Downey Jr. but even with my small accomplishments, I have so many someones to thank.
I read the writings of a man far greater than Robert Downey Jr. In his letters the Apostle Paul says,"I always thank God for you. . . "(1 Cor. 1:4)
Or, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Phil. 1:3)
Or how about: "We ought always to thank God for you. . . " (1 Thess. 1:3)

No one to thank?
Look around you, brother!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

I grew up in California and experienced occasional earthquakes. The worst that ever happened to us was that our giant Monterrey pine came crashing down onto our roof.

But what if my roof collapsed, sending huge chunks of wood, glass, nails and metal down onto us, crushing, perhaps badly injuring one of our family members?

What if the gas station could no longer pump fuel because the gas tanks were cracked, so we had to carry our injured family member to the hospital. There we discover that the hospital has been demolished. Doctors and nurses are killed or trapped in the rubble. There are no available beds, no painkillers, penicillin, IV drips. No one notices your despair because they are also looking for non-existent doctors and treatment for their own injured loved ones.

Looters have gone into the smashed stores and taken all the food and supplies.
The water supply is possibly contaminated.
It will be days before the local and federal governments can recover enough to begin to organize and provide aid to the afflicted citizens.
Horrible to imagine.

As bad as that sounds, it's even worse in Haiti, an already desperately poor and troubled country. What would Jesus have you do for your brothers and sisters in Haiti?

You can send aid to the
Red Cross
Compassion International
World Vision
Samaritan's Purse.
Just google the names and all the info for sending aid should come up.
I'm going to send a donation The Red Cross. And, since I'm O negative, I'll also contact them for times and places to donate my blood.
There are also many smaller organizations that you may know about that provide aid.
I know times are tough here in the U.S. But times are far worse in Haiti. Go on, do it while you're thinking about it.
You'll feel wonderful.
And some person in Haiti will feel better, too.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Brain Plaid

I like to think I'm a fairly creative thinker.
But my creativity was stumped by a stubborn closet door handle this morning.
I'll bet you other writers and artists will relate to this story:
The closet handle's been causing trouble for the past six months. You go to close the closet door and the handle falls to the floor with a loud clang. Makes my heart jump every time.
"Someday I'm gonna replace that handle."
But I stick it back on and promptly forget about it.
Until the next time it falls off. Which was yesterday. Argh!

I didn't have time to wrestle with the thing 'cause it was Sunday morning and I was in a hurry to get ready for church.
Then, last night I must've just slammed the door shut, forgetting about the missing handle.
This morning I headed for the closet to get my hiking boots.
"Oh no! The handle is on the floor INSIDE the closet."
Of course Bruce is gone on a business trip. These situations always wait till he's gone.
I tried sticking a bread knife inside the workings, hoping to joggle the thing open. Next, a phillips screwdriver. Then a tweezers. Even a bent hair pin.

I'm small and not very strong, but I managed to drag the tall wood ladder from the garage, through the house to my bedroom. I set it up and climbed up to peer down the eight feet to the closet floor where that dratted handle sat. Hmmm, I could get the tall stool from the bathroom, tie a long scarf around one of the legs, lower it over the closet wall. Then I could climb over and my feet would probably just reach the top of the stool.
I had visions of lying on the closet floor with a broken leg, waiting two days for Bruce to come home.
I summoned my grown son and he went through all the same tactics I'd just tried. He too decided that the only workable solution was to climb over the closet wall. He went to get his shoes on.
After an hour and a half, it occurred to me that we have the same kind of door handle on the bathroom door. I unscrewed the two halves, stuck the outside handle into the closet workings and the door popped open.
"Never mind!" I called to my son.

The solution to my little problem was sitting six feet away, but I couldn't see it because my mind was stuck on the "breaking in" mode. I wonder how many other solutions have eluded me, be it household repairs, relationship difficulties, or writing stories that need a better scene or more exciting ending.

Gotta get my brain out of the straight up-and-down patterns and into the land of fantastical, magical, right and left brain conjoined, talking in fourth dimensional language.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Suspenseful Mind

I love suspense in movies and books. The not-knowing makes my stomach quiver with delicious anxiety. When the author has done a good job, I'll keep reading until the bad guy (or gal) is finally revealed and the main character is finally safe from danger.

Growing up with four siblings, there was plenty of suspense within the Nicolaisen walls. When Mother and Daddy went out for a rare date, my older brother and sister - our sitters - devised all sorts of ghoolish entertainment for us younger kids. Mostly it involved turning out all the lights in the house and hiding. The hiding was a deadly serious endeavor; if you got caught you'd be tickled mercilessly until you howled in agony.

Hiding in a dark bedroom closet was a scary thing for a six year old. And with a mind already fueled by watching too many B-rated horror movies, the most horrible thrill was imagining my older brother or sister - tip-toeing around the house - suddenly transformed into. . .
a giant, carnivorous ant,

or a Martian with plans to embed a mind-controlling chip in the base of my skull,

or an alien trying to plant a giant pod next to me that, when it sprouts, will reveal an emotionless replica of me.

I'm surprised that our neighbors didn't call the police on those house-darkened evenings, what with all the squeals of terror emanating from the open windows.

When our parents arrived home they'd always ask us how everything went. "Oh, just fine," older brother would report. And since there were no obvious bruises, bloody noses, or dried tears on our faces everything was cool.

Nights in those darkened rooms were kind of like the cheap version of riding a scary ride at Six Flags. Just a hint of real danger.
The car could possibly come off the tracks of the roller coaster.
Always the possibility that Jay or Lee really had become crazed child murderers.

But it could happen.

Couldn't it?

Monday, January 4, 2010


My sister-in-law, Marjorie, is talented like Martha Stewart. Her home looks like something out of one of those fancy house and garden magazines I occasionally browse when I'm waiting in a doctor's office. And she can cook, too. My brother Royce says, "Why go out when I can have a meal ten times better at home?"
Marjorie knows just about every type of plant that grows in the western half of the U.S. She studied to become a landscape designer. When she looks at a shrub or flower she knows what kind of soil it needs, how much sunlight, its water requirements, whether it can survive a freeze, and if the plant is disease resistant.

I know a handful of plants, trees and flowers. I live in a cedar-sided house in the Colorado Rockies at an elevation of 8000 feet. I'd love to have a flower garden in my front yard, but what the cold won't kill off, the elk and deer will devour.

Last year my mother sent me one of those plant containers filled with bulbs. You take the container out of its mailing box, remove all the packing peanuts, place in a sunny window and give it a little water each day.
In about a week something begins to come up through the soil. The shipping tag said that the bulbs are tulips. Just tulips. I don't know what kind.
To me a bulb could send up a lily, an Iris, a crocus, a tulip, or whatever. It's only when the flower opens that I go, "ahh, isn't that beautiful. . . it's a. . . " They look like those photos of fields of tulips outside Portland, Oregon.
I watched those beautiful tulips grow tall, then open and radiate their glory in the sun of my Southerly exposed office window. They were beautiful for about two weeks, then the flowers faded. The long green leaves continued for much longer. Then they, too, shriveled. I cut them down to the dirt, covered it with spanish moss and stored the container in the garage.
I'd heard that bulbs thus stored would bring up more plants the next year. Marjorie probably could have told me exactly and scientifically how to store my sleeping bulbs.

This past December ('09), out of curiosity I took the tulip container back inside. I watched the whole process start up again. Amazing! A little later than the first December's emergence, but I know - by the shoots - that in anther week I will enjoy those gorgeous blooms again.

I am like a little child in my wonder and admiration of the plant process. It makes me wonder about the whole of life and the awesome intellect that planned and carried out creation.

In the time it took to write this post a tulip has opened. I wish you could see it.

"God saw all that He had made, and it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)

Friday, January 1, 2010

I've read so many posts in the past few days about the ending of one year and the dawning of another. So many people look with eagerness to what 2010 will bring. It's as if, with the turning of a calendar page, all the unpleasantness, strife and struggle of one year could be forgotten and fresh,wonderful new experiences crowd at the door, just waiting to tumble over the threshold.

On New Year's Eve I watched the celebration at Times Square, hosted by Dick Clark and marveled at all the people literally kissing 2009 goodbye.

Now it is New Year's Day and I and thousands others begin the year with plans to exercise more, read more, pray more, and be kinder to other drivers.

I'm not sure I ever truly succeed in my resolutions, except that I become more aware of how I fall short of the ideal. (I didn't lose weight in 2009, my life required more time at the computer, so I didn't exercise more, and I'm not sure I was kinder to other motorists.)

There is One Who always makes good on His promises, though. "I know Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." (2 Tim. 1:12)
Unlike my foolhardy resolutions, Christ is determined to make me like Him and He does not give up halfway through the exercise. "God, Who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." (1 Cor. 1:9)

2009 was a blessed year. Not because great things happened, or because I accomplished lofty goals. But simply because I know that God is faithful and that He is accomplishing wondrous things even if I cannot always see them with my physical eyes.

2010 will also be a blessed year.