In Your Dreams…Find the Answers?

My parents and I never really talked about matters of faith when I was growing up…or after. Dad talked about how much he hated the nuns when he attended Catholic school. Mom mentioned going to church as a girl, about getting the lyrics of certain hymns wrong, and about being baptized as a teen. They both wanted me to go to church–but Dad never attended himself, and Mom only went with me on Easter Sunday. (I’ve always wondered why there’s a bigger turnout on Easter than any other Sunday. Aren’t we supposed to worship God every day?) They both passed away leaving me wondering if I’d see them again in Heaven.

I don’t know, and that troubles me deeply.

I’m by no means a model Christian. I have a long way to go, and more questions than answers when it comes to matters of faith. But I was taught that we have to be saved–accept Christ as our Savior and believe that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Did Mom and Dad accept His invitation to salvation? I don’t know.

The more I’ve learned, the more I’m uncertain of where my parents are now. It surprises me–and scares me–to realize that I didn’t really know either of them in such an important way. I thought that’s why I had the dreams….

For years, I had dreams about them…frequent dreams, in some of which they seemed to be reaching out to me. They weren’t really nightmares, except for once. But they wanted something from me. I did the only thing I could do: I prayed for them, every night, before I drifted off to sleep, turning to God, hoping my pleas for them would be heard, hoping my prayers might make a difference somehow.

The dreams stopped.

I can guess what a therapist might say about that. I hope it means that God answered those prayers. I didn’t even realize at first that the dreams had stopped. It didn’t occur to me until Sunday. I’d wondered why I don’t dream about Sam (either Sam), or any of my deceased family or friends, human or otherwise, beyond the days immediately following their passing…but Mom and Dad seemed stuck, somehow, between this life and the next.

So…I know that most of my friends are Christians of various denominations, but some are of other religions as well. What are your beliefs with regard to the afterlife? What, if anything, do you think the dreams meant?


Angels in Green Feathers

Today is the third anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life. Three years ago today, my beloved parakeet Sam died in my arms from cancer that destroyed one of his wings. It doesn’t seem like three years have passed already. I still miss him, and I still cry sometimes. He was part of our family for all but the first six months of his twenty-one years, in many ways like a child to me and a baby brother to Collin.

To honor his memory–and that of my first Sam, a canary-winged parakeet who was with me through my teen and college years, here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book, Sam’s Story: The Life and Times of a Tiny Bird with a Huge Personality….

“Since we’re both Sam, we have to distinguish ourselves,” Sam decided.
“Why?” I asked. “Obviously, if I say Sam, I’m not talking to myself.”
“That would be fine, if you were the only one who could see me,” he agreed.
“Obviously, Mom and Grandma can’t—or Grandma would have wrecked the car by now,” I said.
“They can’t see me, but other animals can,” he told me.
“The sausage dog will be able to see you?”
“Yep.” He gave it some thought. “I’m Sam One, and you’re Sam Two.”
I was mildly insulted. “Why do you get to be Sam One?” I wanted to know.
He regarded me with mock impatience. “Again, I was here first.”
“But you’re a…ghost,” I reminded him.
“I was still here first.”
“I don’t want to be Two,” I said stubbornly. “That’s like being second place.”
“What do you suggest, then?” he asked.
I gave it some thought. “I’m Sam Too,” I said finally.
“Isn’t that what I said?” he asked, confused.
“Not Two as in t-w-o, second place,” I told him. “Too, t-o-o, as in also.”
“Fair enough,” he agreed.
We sealed the deal with a high five. Ever seen birds high five? We do it the way it was meant to be done—with wings.


“Her name is Sandy,” Sam One told me.
She really did look like a big, fat sausage–a sausage with a head, a long pointed nose, and long, floppy ears. And a tail.
And she disliked us on sight.
“What are you two doing here?” she asked, looking up at us.
“We live here now,” I said defensively.
“He does, I don’t,” Sam One said. “I’m just visiting.”
“Chicken!” I told him.
He flapped his wings and made clucking sounds. He did a lousy chicken.
“If you ever come out of that cage, I’ll have you for lunch,” Sandy warned with a low growl. Then she turned and walked away.
“Nothing like a warm welcome,” I said.
“She’ll get over it,” Sam One told me.



Happy Birthday, Hometown!

Today is St. Louis’ 250th birthday–or tomorrow or next month, depending upon who you ask. At 250, it really doesn’t look a day over 225. Except maybe in the northern part. That’s looking kinda bad, from what I see just about every day on the local news. See, I grew up in south St. Louis and Jefferson County. My parents taught me that one does not go north of Forest Park if one wishes to continue living. Since I’m rather fond of living, I have stayed south of the park, except to go to the airport.

At any rate, St. Louis is having a big birthday party. Huge. Don’t believe me? Check out the party website! St. Louis has had it all in the past couple of centuries: fur traders, cholera, the Civil War, the Lewis and Clark expedition (oh, wait a minute–that actually started in St. Charles, even though we claim it).  We are the Gateway to the West–and to prove it, I give you Exhibit A–the Gateway Arch. If you’ve never been up in the Arch’s observation deck, do put it on your Bucket List. And try to do it during a storm or an earthquake. The Arch can deal with both. It sways a bit when the earth trembles, but lightning is no big deal. There are several lightning rods at the top.

St. Louis was home to the 1904 World’s Fair. There was even a movie made about it, remember? Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland was in it….

Several movies have been made here. In Escape From New York, St. Louis stood in for New York City as it would look as a futuristic prison. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that….

It was the locale for White Palace, a movie based on a novel by a St. Louis author, and starred Susan Sarandon and a young James Spader….

And it was the setting for the Syfy Channel’s less-than-brilliant film, Black Hole. St. Louis was being sucked up by a man-made black hole, and we had to depend on Judd Nelson and Kristy Swanson to save us…HELP!!!!!!

I think it just sucked up Busch Stadium. Oh, wait a minute. That was the old Busch Stadium. No biggie.

St. Louis is also home to the Missouri Botanical Garden, aka Shaw’s Garden. The Climatron is our own personal rain forest…. 

And the Art Museum, located in Forest Park….

If my dad were still here, he’d tell you about the Tornado of 1927.In fact, I think he told everyone about the Tornado of 1927 before he passed away. We moved into a house in the Lindenwood Park area of southwest St. Louis the year before he died. As it happened, the only house to survive that tornado was on that same street. 79 people were killed and 550 injured in southwestern St. Louis and Webster Groves when that tornado hit on September 29, 1927. It was the second costliest tornado in US history.

Did I mention that we’re sort of in Tornado Alley…sort of?

If I haven’t completely scared you off my hometown and you’d like to see more of modern St. Louis, check out Bob Crowe’s photoblog. He’s shot our fair city from every angle imaginable!

The Best Villains Don’t Just Tie the Heroines to the Railroad Tracks

Who’s your favorite fictional villain?

Yep, I said villain. Who’s the guy (or gal) you most love to hate? Why is he or she your favorite?

My favorites aren’t true villains. I think anti-heroes would be a better description. There’s Thor’s adopted brother Loki…the enigmatic Raymond “Red” Reddington of The Blacklist…Dallas’ scheming oilman J.R. Ewing…Victor Newman and his son Adam from The Young and the Restless.

Loki’s done some pretty bad things, I can’t deny that. If I were a criminal defense lawyer defending him, I’d go for the plea deal. He’s sent the Asgardian Destroyer (who, by the way, deserves that title) to kill Thor and trash a small New Mexico town. He’s come to New York City with an alien army, made a big mess and killed a lot of people.

But Loki’s not all bad. He’s dealing with a lot of childhood resentments. He grew up in the shadow of older brother Thor, god of thunder, heir to the throne of Asgard. Their father, Odin, favored Thor and apparently didn’t bother to hide it. Then, Loki found out he wasn’t an Asgardian by blood. Now, his whole identity was a lie, in his eyes. He was angry–and directed all of that anger at Thor. Loki wants the Asgardian throne. He wants to re-establish his identity by becoming king. He wants to take away all that Thor loves.

No matter what he does, I just can’t hate him.

Then there’s The Blacklist‘s brilliantly-written, brilliantly portrayed Raymond “Red” Reddington, the rogue intelligence agent who, after twenty years of eluding capture, suddenly surrenders himself to the FBI–on the same day rookie agent Elizabeth Keen joins the team. He promises to reveal the names on his “blacklist”–the world’s most dangerous criminals–but only to Elizabeth. Why? Looks like there’s a connection between them of which even Elizabeth isn’t aware.

Red is brilliant, manipulative, resourceful, and yes, dangerous under certain circumstances–but with Elizabeth, he’s gentle, protective and caring. Could he be her long-lost father? Looks that way–but with Red, looks can be deceiving.

My all-time favorite bad guy redeemed himself in the end. Dallas‘ J.R. Ewing had screwed over so many people–including members of his own family–that when he was shot, even his parents were on the list of suspects. But J.R., eldest of the three Ewing sons, was driven by a need to prove himself to his father. Brother Gary was their mother’s favorite child, while father Jock favored the youngest brother, Bobby. The original Dallas ended its run with J.R.’s sins catching up to him, prompting him to contemplate suicide. But in the new Dallas series, as old and new enemies closed in on his family, J.R. finally used his “powers” for good–and in his final hours devised a brilliant plot that saved the day for the Ewings. J.R., you’ll be missed!

The Young and the Restless’ Victor Newman reminds me of J.R.–and in some very basic ways, of my own father. Maybe that’s why I love him. Victor wasn’t always rich and powerful–quite the opposite. Born Christian Miller, his mother left him at an orphanage when his father abandoned the family and she was unable to take care of him on her own. He grew up angry, bitter, and determined to never again be as helpless as he’d been as a child. He reinvented himself–hence the name he chose for himself, “Victor New-Man”–and built a financial empire. He can be ruthless, but he loves his family (on-again-off-again wife Nikki, children Victoria, Nick, Adam and Abby and grandchildren Cassie, Noah, Summer, Reed, Delia, Johnny and Connor) above all else. If only he didn’t have so much trouble showing it–but then, that’s the result of his own troubled childhood, as is his need to control them.

Ironically, the child most like him–Adam–is the one with whom he’s had the most difficult relationship. Adam didn’t know Victor was his father until adulthood. His mother, Hope, raised him on her Kansas farm, only revealing the truth to him on her deathbed. Victor persuaded him to go to Genoa City–but Adam was rejected from the start by Victoria and Nick (Abby didn’t yet know she was Victor’s child, either). Adam worked to prove himself, but nothing he did seemed to please his father. When he discovered he was a father himself–to ex-wife Chelsea’s baby boy, Connor–he vowed to be a better father than his dad had been to him.

That’s my list. Who are your favorite villains–in books, TV or movies–and why do you love to hate them?


Don’t miss the photoblogs: William’s, London Lulu’s and Grace’s. And I think William has another Day in the Life of a Cat post coming up at Speak of the Devil….