Carousel Dream

2016-08 PicMy heart beat fast as we approached the carousel. Dad teased me. “I don’t think you’re tall enough, yet. You haven’t been eating all your vegetables, Lindsey.”

“I have so,” I protested. “And I outgrew another pair of pants. I have to be tall enough now.”

He laughed. “Here’s the ruler. Let’s see how you measure up.”

I moved quickly into place, pressing my back flat against the panel and forcing my feet to not stand on tiptoe. “Am I tall enough?”

Dad put his hand to his chin. “Hmmm. Let’s see. I don’t know. It looks pretty close.”

Mom came to my rescue. “You’re tall enough, Lindsey. Happy birthday.” She gave me a hug.

“Oh boy! Can I take a ride now?”

“Yes, go ahead,” Mom said. “We’ll watch you from here.”

I got in line and watched the carousel spin ‘round. Craning my neck, I searched for the object of all my birthday wishes. She came into view. Hair, long and black, tied up in strands of beads. Arms, gracefully placed to lie across her body. More beads, draped around her neck and down her chest. Tail, circled so that her tailfin covered her stomach. The mermaid was beautiful. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I wanted to ride her so badly I could hardly wait.

The mermaid slipped out of view as the ride slowed and came to a stop. I followed the people in front of me as we made our way to the entrance. Finally, it was my turn. I gave my ticket to the man at the gate then ran as fast as I could to get to the mermaid. People scrambled this way and that as they tried to find their favorite creature to ride. I dodged left and right, trying to not get stepped on, as I hurried around to where I thought the mermaid stopped. My heart sank as I saw someone else sitting on her back.

I sighed and settled for riding a bird, a dumb old bird, for my first ride on the carousel all by myself. Four more times during the day, other kids outran me. Now, it was getting late and my parents were going to let me ride the carousel one more time before we left the park.

“Please, please, please, please, please,” I repeated in my head as my dad and I made our way through the crowd. “Yes!” I said out loud as I saw I would be the first person in line. Letting go of Dad’s hand, I started to run.

“Hold on,” yelled Dad. “You’ll need this.” He held out a ticket. I hurried back, grabbed the ticket then ran again towards the gate.

A line of kids grew behind me as I wished for the ride to hurry up and finish. At last, the carousel began to slow. The mermaid came into view and stopped right in front of the entry gate.

I tapped my foot waiting for the riders to exit. Finally, the attendant came to the gate. After handing him my ticket, I flew past him. Reaching the mermaid, I put my foot on the metal stirrup and hoisted myself up. My heart dropped when I thought I couldn’t get my leg over the seat, but I stood on tiptoe and managed to swing into place. An older girl came by and said, “Hey! That’s my ride. Get off.”

I wrapped my arms around the pole. “No, this is my turn. Go ride one of the birds.” Before the girl could say anything else, the attendant came by and shooed her on to a nearby ostrich.

Relaxing a bit, I put my hands on the pole and waited for the ride to start. After everyone was hitched in place, the carousel began to hum. Music began to blare over ancient speakers, and the carousel started to move.

After the first go-round, I waved to my dad. As the carousel turned some more, I gently touched the hair of the mermaid and traced some of the beads. At first, I didn’t notice the air turning a shade of blue-green. Or that the color seemed to be wrapping around me causing everything to fade from view.

When I did notice, I started to get scared. I wrapped my arms around the pole again. “Did the hair of the mermaid move?” I asked myself. I closed my eyes tight then felt the pole disappear and the seat drop from beneath me. Screaming, I waved my arms wildly trying to grab something to keep me from falling.

Hands caught my waist. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” The soft voice came from in front of me. Tears fell down my face as I opened my eyes and saw the mermaid facing me. “Hello, Lindsey.”

Her long arms stretched out as she held me up, and her tail gently raised and lowered behind her back. I looked at the mermaid’s face. Her eyes were kind, and happy, and a little sad all at the same time. My breathing started to calm and I sensed that I was floating. As my fear eased up I was able to say “Hello.”

The mermaid smiled. “You’ve tried so hard to be with me today. I want to wish you happy birthday and give you a gift.” She removed her right hand from my waist and reached for one of the strands of beads circling her neck. My heart thumped in my chest as she put the necklace on me.

“Oh thank you!” I said, wrapping my arms around her in a big hug. “Purple is my favorite color. Thank you so much. Can we spend the day together, please?”

“No, not today, but I hope you’ll come visit me again.”

“I will. I promise.”

She gave my cheek a pinch then turned her head away. Her tail came from behind her to lift me up. I felt the softness of her give way, as she returned to her position on the carousel and became hard wood and paint again. The blue-green of the air faded away, and I saw my dad wave as the carousel went around.

I touched the mermaid’s hair as the ride came to a stop. After climbing down, I went to look at her eyes one more time. I could still see the kindness I saw before. “Goodbye,” I whispered.

“Come along, Lindsey,” I heard Dad say. I turned and walked down the exit to meet him. “Did you have a good time?” Before I could answer he asked, “Where did those beads come from?”

“The mermaid gave them to me,” I replied.

“The mermaid? On the carousel?”

“Yes! She came to life and gave me these for my birthday.” I smiled from ear to ear.

Dad shook his head the way he and Mom often did when talking with me. “Let’s go find your mother.” I took his hand and skipped alongside him as he walked.

The Book of Kells


Have you ever seen the Book of Kells? I did, last month when I was in Ireland. The original book, actually 340 folios, written around 800 CE, is at Trinity College in Dublin. It has its own very impressive exhibit, located on the first floor in a specially climate controlled, dimly lit room.


The Book of Kells is magnificent! Each page is beautifully decorated. Three different artists illustrated the book while four principal monks copied the text, which sometimes included decorating the letters themselves. It contains copies of the four gospels that were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.


No one is sure if the Book of Kells was created entirely at the monastery in Iona, an island off the coast of Scotland, or the one at Kells in County Meath, Ireland or both. In those days the two monasteries were organized as one community, even though they were far apart.


Today the Book of Kells is part of a very elaborate exhibit and no cameras are allowed because it is so old.


On their website, Trinity College says,

The manuscript’s celebrity derives largely from the impact of its lavish

decoration, the extent and artistry of which is incomparable. Abstract

decoration and images of plant, animal and human ornament punctuate

the text with the aim of glorifying Jesus’ life and message, and keeping

his attributes and symbols constantly in the eye of the reader.*


I think you will agree when you look at this picture:


I was getting ready to exit the exhibit and go outside when I saw a well-worn staircase to my left. Several people were walking upstairs. I was curious. What’s up there?


I slowly climbed the staircase to the second floor and entered a square room with people milling around. But it was the room beyond that took my breath away. It was very long and narrow. I don’t remember ever seeing another one like it. It had shelves of books from floor to ceiling on both sides. I’ve never been in a room with so many books! There were over 200,000 in all. I smiled when I found out the name of this room: The Long Room.


The bookshelves on both sides of the room were broken up into a series of alcoves. Marking the boundary of each alcove was the bust of a famous author on a tall pedestal. As a budding author, I couldn’t resist having my picture taken with one of them.


If you’re having a hard time telling which one is me, I’m the one with my feet on the ground.


* Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland:


** Wikipedia, Book of Kells, Folio 32




Coffee Shop Chronicles: Reflections on the Unresolved

FullSizeRender (5)Starbucks

Plymouth, MI

November 2006


I’m here to celebrate a good job phone interview.  So I’m here drinking my cappuccino and writing it all down.

I feel lonely here in this coffee shop full of people, and I’m distracted.  I’m paranoid of the boys hanging out down the street near my Penn State flag-waving car. They’re just out of my vision from this table at the window.

I’m finally eating lunch, a turkey and cheese sandwich on a sesame bagel, along with my vanilla cappuccino.  I was feeling a bit shaky, and that’s been happening a lot lately.  Maybe it’s the caffeine?  Maybe I’m eating less food?  Jobless, I don’t have a real schedule yet.  This feeling, it hits me all of a sudden, a shaky, frantic feeling that goes away as soon as I eat food.

Hey, look at that.  Two women at the table in front of me discuss a menu of some sort. Do they use balls or pats of butter?  Should they have pre-tossed salads or individual containers?  The woman in charge says to her client, “I learn so much from you, how you organize your committee.”

I wonder what the meal is for.  They’re part of a community somewhere.  What job are they doing?  What event?  What are they working on?  I wish I knew, and I wish I was doing that.  I want someone to appreciate me and my perspectives.

Now they discuss using salad dressing containers without lids.  That’s not a good idea because of the safety and spill issues.  Also, there’s not enough for each table.  I remember my wedding and how we had simple food, not some huge catered event.  Big money was spent on the photographer because everyone remembers the photos, not if your salad dressing was in a plastic or ceramic bowl.

And now my husband calls like he knows I’m thinking of him.  He’s frustrated about some music thing with a DVD or CD set.  I turned my phone off.  I came here to write and to think about this job thing.

I had a good phone interview.  The position is in a division that is creating a new area of concentration, so this is a brand new, never-done-before job opportunity.  How exciting!  Within 15 minutes, I was invited for a face-to-face.  I couldn’t stop myself from doing one of those arm pumps in the air and mouthing a silent yessss before composing myself back to finish the interview.

I answered some unexpected questions rather well, and now I know to prepare these for the future.  “Is this position below you?” (the “overqualified” question everyone asks).  “What about challenges?” (a sub-question of “overqualified”).  “What pay are you looking for?  Why do you want this job?” and so on.

I feel good, and I haven’t felt good in this job search.  I danced before the interview just because, and not even to a favorite song.  I danced wildly in the living room afterwards when “Billie Jean” kicked on XM Radio.

Celebrate good moments when they occur!

The kids I spied lingering around my car are gone.  I used an excuse to go outside because it’s chilly in here and I needed to warm up.  My car is safe.

This is the first position I’m excited about.  Not just another this-could-be-a-good-opportunity position, but really excited.  Why?  Is it the PR/communications aspect?  Maybe.  I took control of the interview.  I let my personality show through as well.  I stuttered a bit, but I was confident.  Definitely need intelligent questions for the face-to-face.

What about that other job?  It either will or will not be.  I’m thankful for options.  It’s frustrating, too, doing all this work and not having anything substantial to show for it.  Still, opportunities keep popping up.  I’m anticipating the interview.

I can prove myself.

I will.  Whether it’s this job or another one, I will.

I’m just happy.  There’s no one to talk to here or share my excitement.

I’ll turn my phone on now.

The Best Seat in the House

“This is my command: Love each other.” ~ Jesus

(John 15:17, NIV)

For over 125 years, Mt. Hope has been inviting visitors to become part of its church family.

Oliver sits directly in front of me. The five-year-old was a student in my vacation Bible school class. He snuggles up to his mom. With a broad smile and a gleam in his eye, he leans in to kiss her cheek. She puts her arm around him and hugs him close. Oliver’s dad sits on the other side of the young boy. The two of them have the same color of hair, brown, and similar haircuts. The dad stretches his arm all the way out—behind and past his son—and caresses his wife’s shoulder. The way he stares and smiles at his wife in that moment tells me he adores her. She’s looking down at something in her lap and misses that glance of affection. All the while, Oliver is delightfully sandwiched between his parents. All three are visitors to church on this particular Sunday, but I’m sure they’ve been here in the past. Probably on a day that they came to hear Grandma Mary Ellen sing in the choir.

The trio fit right in with the rest of us regular worshipers. Love is abundant at Mt. Hope. Ours is a small church, but we’re big on family.

Across the aisle, in the front row, Kelsey sits where her mom used to. Everyone who knew Jan was saddened by her untimely death, due to a medical mistake. We miss her, but her husband Bud is the most distraught. We hug him when we can and cry with him when we do.

Nearby, Toddler Theo is full of youthful energy. He can’t be contained. His Nana carries the squirming child out of the sanctuary and to the nursery. I know she will stay there to play with him and keep him content, unless his Buppa happens to be volunteering in the back room to watch the young children during this morning’s service.

Farther back in another pew sits Sami. She rests her head upon her dad’s shoulder. Her neck is tilted—practically at a forty-five-degree angle—to her body. How could that position be the least bit comfortable, I wonder? I watch as her father protectively wraps his arm about her. Familiar tattoos peek out from beneath his short-sleeved shirt. His little girl is now a young lady. All grown up at eighteen and going to college in the fall. She will miss her daddy and mommy, though. Anyone can see that. Despite open seating to the right, Sami’s mom is pressed tightly up against Sami, an aspiring pharmacist. Beauty and brains, the perfect combination.

"Signs of affection are common during church service."

Signs of affection are common during church service.

A baby cries, and I don’t have to turn to see that it is Abela’s little sister. When just a few months old, the baby was baptized here. Pastor Steve poured holy water over the baby’s tiny forehead, and then our church family welcomed her by singing, “Jesus Loves Me,” like we do for all the babies. This precious little one didn’t even cry. She just cooed and smiled as she was carried up and down the main aisle so we could meet, eye-to-eye, the little person to whom we were promising to teach and guide and raise as one of our own. I hoped she would one day know how significant her baptism was. Even the water used to bless her was special. It came directly from Pastor Steve’s last trip to Israel. He had collected it himself from the Jordan River, where Christ had been baptized two thousand years earlier by John.

Today, the spot next to Al is vacant. His wife, Doris, is in the hospital recuperating from surgery, so their son Clark fills the void. Several pews forward from them, Mitchell is missing. He must be performing in a weekend matinee. What else can an actor be expected to do? Even on Sundays, the show must go on. On the rare occasion that Margaret isn’t in her usual spot, I immediately expect to find her at the piano, which she sometimes plays when our church accompanist, Sharon, cannot.

From my seat towards the back of church, I see all this and more. Dawn and Bill’s twin sons are training at West Point, so I know that the parents regularly sit beside lifelong friends and gab while they wait for service to begin. I notice when Grandpa John comes in to claim his place alongside his two grandkids. I hear when Lynn laughs and when Karen and Susie sing.

This morning, I can tell that we have visitors. Clumped together at the front, they must be with Bertha. She’s way out of place up there. Normally, she’s even farther back than me. But when I see her look closely at her great-granddaughter, clothed in a white gown and bonnet, I understand. There will be another baptism.

My mind races. Is the family bothered by the vacation Bible school decorations that will show up in the background of the baptism photos? Surely they didn’t expect a cave, complete with stalagmites and stalactites. I get up and quickly approach Pastor Steve who is seconds away from starting service.

“Should I move anything out of the way? Is it too late?” I whisper in his ear.

He smiles, shakes his head, and assures me. “We’re fine, Kelly. We don’t need to change a thing.”

This baby has a beautiful start in her journey to Jesus.

I return to my vantage point near the back of the sanctuary. Pastor Steve’s words float around in my mind and I think about this loving family that I’m a part of. Steve’s right, I know. We may try to capture life’s biggest moments from the perfect angle of a camera lens, but by focusing too intently, we might miss the delightful things that happen in the background.


A Pratt & Whitney Engine

Our Michigan Air National Guard 127th Tactical Air Command Reconnaissance Group stood in ranks at Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s tarmac. Two Douglas C-124 Globemaster transports loomed above us. It was early morning and we were to fly to Gulfport, Mississippi for two weeks active duty. The Alabama Air National Guard’s airplanes had flown in the day before. Each of us carried a duffel bag over a shoulder, while huge, clam-shell doors on the front of each plane gaped open with ramps leading into cavernous interiors. None of us had been inside anything this huge. Wafts of stale oil and aircraft fuel swirled about. 

What appeared to be a twelve-year-old pilot strutted about inspecting the airplane, while a co-pilot, who must have had a rough night, made notes on a tightly-clutched clipboard. What they expected to find that trained expert mechanics hadn’t already taken care of was beyond us. Senior Master Sergeant called us to attention as the pilot approached. The latter turned to us, squeaking, “Ya’ll doan smoke on ma plane,” he announced, “‘cause this one leaks awl a little. Ok, Ya’ll get aboard now.” I supposed the “awl” currently leaking was engine oil and not aviation fuel that shimmied in little pools on the tarmac. 

We began shuffling single-file up steel-grate ramps designed for military trucks, eyes adjusting to a dim interior lit by naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Two levels of wall-mounted multi-tiered seats were arranged like the inside of an ancient Roman slave-galley. Roman galleys had wooden oars. This one came with U.S. Air Force webbed belts, neither conducive to peace of mind. Instead of friendly attendants’ greetings, we were handed vomit bags and told to hurry up, find canvas slings, and strap in on canvas-webbed seats lining the walls. 

The ride had to be somewhat safe, didn’t it? After all, the government couldn’t afford to lose a couple hundred troops every day shuffling around the country in these things. Our Senior Master Sergeant had told us a previous reconnoitering flight to Gulfport had lowered its landing gear too early, almost splashing into the Gulf of Mexico. So, only hours before, I purchased a fortune’s-worth of optional flight insurance before reporting to the flight line. My parents would be millionaires beyond their wildest dreams if this leaky, overweight behemoth went down somewhere. 

One by one, all four engines coughed and fired, finally settling into a steady, ungodly loud roar. We couldn’t see out except for tiny portholes every few yards. Our plane was packed with khaki-clad airmen, and a few took their vomit bags out as we lurched and banged our way along the tarmac, both pilots apparently unfamiliar with Detroit’s airport and which runway to use. If we continued much longer, we could be over the state line and into Ohio with only 970 miles to go. 

Finally positioned for take-off, we sat for ages while the Alabama pilot apparently re-learned where the controls were. Everything seemed to check out and the turbo-props began howling. As tension grew, the brakes were released and we rumbled down 22L for much longer than necessary before finally lifting off. Unlike most airplanes once airborne and attaining cruising altitude, takeoff noise didn’t lessen, and we began laboring southwest over Michigan while more vomit bags were brought out. The C-124 yawed side to side in sickening arcs as if over-correcting neophytes were controlling the thing with rubber bands. Somebody forgot to set the temperature or open air vents and it became unbearably hot. We hadn’t been on course more than a few minutes before people were throwing up morning breakfasts. The smell was overpowering and dribbles from seats above slid down aluminum bulkheads. I closed my eyes, breathing through my mouth, thinking of other things. 

The rear of our cavernous cargo-hold held a single, exposed toilet. Several men struggling to avoid vomiting stood around waiting to use it. We hit a rough patch of air and the uncovered contents cascaded over those waiting, a scene straight out of Dante. My forehead was hot, not unexpected in these circumstances. “Motion-sickness is all in the mind” I told myself. “It’s all a mental game. Don’t throw up like others.” A guy to my right suddenly pulled out his bag and vomited, a final straw.  I could feel I was about to lose it and hastily retrieved my own bag. 

All of a sudden, there was a tremendous bang outside followed by louder engine roaring. “Hey guys,” someone near a porthole shouted, “The left engine blew up! The prop is frozen. We’re going down!” he added, unnecessarily. An inboard port engine, one of the four Pratt and Whitney R4360 3,800 horsepower turbo-fans, had seized without warning. The plane began drifting to the left as two right engines pulled 30 tons of fully-laden aircraft sideways. No one had time to think about the pilot reacting; we were momentarily out of control, my parents now multi-millionaires. A quick glance out the nearest porthole revealed the engine streaming a thin line of smoke, propeller frozen in place, blades flat against the wind causing a tremendous amount of drag, a combination most twelve-year-olds don’t train for. 

For agonizing seconds, there was no change in engine note from the other turbo-props but, if another ceased functioning, there was nothing to prevent spiraling to our deaths at cruising power. Not a happy thought at the moment. At 12,000 feet, we had about 120 seconds to say our prayers. Both pilots fought the controls, increasing power to the remaining port engine, throttling back the starboard engines, adjusting trim tabs, stabilizer, and rudder, frantically changing remaining propellers. Old Shaky shook all the more as the pilots kicked the tail rudder hard right, offsetting a left yaw. At least, this is what they should have been doing. What did we know? We weren’t pilots; they were. 

The C-124 seemed to stabilize, before sinking ever so slowly toward the flowering spring-time Michigan countryside, thankfully under control. At least we weren’t upside down in a screaming death-dive. Everything had happened in less time than it takes to read about. I no longer had the slightest inclination to vomit because, apparently, it’s a human condition that people about to die have no time for throwing up. My inner self-concluded I was going to fall 12,000 feet straight down in a ball of fire inside 30 tons of airplane with 150 others, so why bother. I stared at a now useless vomit bag and rolled it up. 

Word finally passed that we would make an emergency landing at the Indianapolis Airport. We began descending and eventually slid to a smooth stop before the clam-shell doors were thrown open, allowing everyone to climb out as fast as possible. Fortunately, there were no further histrionics from the C-124 but, sitting a hundred yards away on the runway grass, I no longer worried, because our transport was clearly done for the day. Perhaps it would still self-immolate, but at least we wouldn’t be on it to suffer the consequences. 

I felt sorry for the twelve-year-old staring up at his blown engine, a dozen emergency fire trucks ranged around the smoking hulk. He had done a good job getting us down in one piece. After several hours, we boarded another C-124, this time from the Tennessee Air Guard. I never understood whether my flight insurance policy applied to the second C-124 flight or not, but I didn’t want to find out.