Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chocolate: The Perfect Valentine's Gift

chocolate bean
"Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate." Deanna Troi, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Valentine's Day approaches and I have to agree with Deanna Troi--forget love. Let me fall in chocolate.

Actually, as a child, that was my daydream--to get a Hershey bar as big as my bedroom and not have to share--or to swim in a pool of chocolate.

Why am I, like so many Americans (read on to see that I don't lie) obsessed with this delectable seed?

English: Roasted cocoa (cacao) beans
Look how tiny the seeds are!
  1. The very smell of chocolate increases theta waves in your brain. That makes you relax. Can you imagine me without my chocolate?
  2. It's a great, natural anti-depressant. (Imagine what I would be like without chocolate!) It contains tryptophan which helps create serotonin. Forget the turkey. I want chocolate for Thanksgiving.
  3. The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie was a brilliant individual. The recipe was sold to Nestle in return for a lifetime supply of chocolate. Who got the better end of the deal? Uh duh. It's obvious.
  4.  A single chocolate chip can provide enough energy for an adult human to walk 150 feet. Thirty-five chips enables the adult to walk one mile. For 875,000 you can walk around the world.
  5. It takes about 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.
  6. And every second, Americans (collectively) eat 100 pounds of chocolate. That's a lot of beans. (See the picture above, right).
  7. Each person consumes 12 pounds of chocolate a year. (I personally make-up for the few who eat no chocolate.) 
  8. Americans spend $7 billion dollars a year on chocolate. (I thought my budget was bad.)
  9. Hershey produces 20-25 million kisses a day.
  10. Eating dark chocolate every day reduces your risk of heart disease by one-third. However, I don't think that extends to the quantities I consume them.
  11. Chocolate has an anti-bacterial element that protects your teeth from decay.
  12. Be careful. Good things need to be used in small doses. A lethal dose of chocolate (heavens, how could there be such a thing) is 22 pounds--about 40 Hershey bars.
  13. The average chocolate bar has about 8 insect parts.
  14. There's a pill that makes your fart smell like chocolate.
  15. The original name for hot chocolate was cacahuatl. Translated it was cocoa water. The Europeans did not like drinking anything named caca water. Would you? 
Which is your favorite chocolate fact? Currently #14 is my favorite. What can you expect from caca water?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sin Is a Jack Pine

Jack Pine. Pine cone.
Jack Pine. Pine cone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Years ago, I fell in love--my first love as a Christian, so I let down every self-preserving defense I had put in place against heartache. I had prayed. Fleeces had been place. God gave me two thumbs up. This love was a go.

Unfortunately, six weeks after our love affair began, it ended with the cliched line, "I'm not ready for marriage. This wouldn't be fair to you."

Two weeks later, he fell in love with my best friend. Jealousy, Song of Solomon says, " is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which has a most vehement flame." And boy oh boy, did I get burned.

Fire is critical to many trees--two examples would be the jack pine on the East Coast, sequoia on the West. The cones are virtually glued shut with resin. When fire sweeps through their habitat, the cones release their seeds. In the fire swept environment, new trees flourish.

The same can be said of jealousy. If it's a fire, it ignites those close-held seeds of sin and years after you think you've eradicated it, it blossoms again.

Quite a few years after the marriage of my beloved--long after I was happily married, my beloved died, and after an appropriate time, my best friend found new love. Jealousy gripped me.

Totally weird. I had everything I wanted. A man who loved me, whom I adore and have absolutely no intention of leaving or trading in. I plan on making him stay with me until I croak (and probably wouldn't re-marry should he have the audacity to die before me).

Beautiful grandchildren blanket me with love. Home and finances exceed that of any of my friends. Still, jealousy nudged me.

No one ever accused me of being rational.

That made me think--sin is a habit. We see it easily in alcohol or food addiction. Gossip rears its ugly head when conditions are juicy. But all sin seems to steep its seeds in cones of selfishness--given the right rears its sticky head.

How do we break the habit? You know the obvious--prayer and Bible reading. But here are a few more ideas on how to break habitual sin.

  1. Take time to note why you are doing it? My jealousy comes from leftover childhood disappointments--the popular boy wanted the cheerleader. I wasn't good enough. Ralph, my idol, wanted Betty, my friend,--therefore the fault was mine. Gossip improves our self-esteem. Sex ignites our serotonin levels, alcohol hides our inhibitions. Get to the root--through therapy or counseling or journaling.
  2. And speaking of journaling--write it down. The Bible says to confess our sins--and confession does release the guilt feelings. Find out what may trigger your sin. Work to eliminate the problem.
  3. Reward your success. When I was growing up, my church preached vigorously on humility. I learned it (it wasn't taught as such) as putting myself down. That is not humility--it's self-deprecation. When I thank God for the good in my life, praise Him for my success or honestly assess my good qualities, I'm less likely envy others or desire to get something unsavory in my life. According to my yoga teacher, being thankful five times a day for a month will improve your life expectancy.
  4. Know that God doesn't deem certain actions sin just because He's a big meany. Sin is sin because it: 
    • hurts others
    • hurts you
    • hurts God
How do you keep your jack pine seeds from blossoming?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Divorce: Dealing with Visitation

English: An artificial Christmas tree.
School will be out shortly for Christmas break, and that means your ex gets custody. It certainly doesn't seem fair. You fight over homework, correct behavior, eating green beans, and he (she) gets to be Santa Claus.

Yes, he's the father, and we are grateful he loves his children. Still the loss of time with them over significant holidays burns like reflux from too much eggnog. Add, on top of that, the guilt from being resentful of not having our children all the time, and we have a recipe for depression.

However, we can take simple steps to overcome our pain. How? So glad you asked.

Drinking chocolate (not hot cocoa) at a cafe i...

  1. Move Christmas. Obviously, the world will not change it from December 25. Should they agree to that, the ex will have the kiddos during that season. However, you can create a new holiday. Choose one that has significance for you. The winter solstice is the darkest day of the year. Make that the time that you celebrate Christmas. Wrap presents, put them under the tree, do all the December 25 stuff on December 21 (or 20). Hate using solstice? Try the Feast of the Epiphany in January. We called it Little Christmas, and it is the Russian celebration. Christmas is not about the day. It's the family and the love and the remembrance of Christ's birth.
  2. Celebrate Christmas. Go to church, volunteer in a shelter or soup kitchen or a hospital. Maybe you can invite friends over who have no one to share this season with--empty-nesters whose kids live across the country or world. 
  3. Invite yourself. Do you have a good friend who celebrates with her family? If it isn't chaotic--ask if there's room for one more at the inn. I tend to be introverted and fear asking to be involved, but in my years as a teacher, I discovered from my students, by simple asking, 'Me, too?', an invitation is gladly extended.
  4. Movie night. Make the day special. Stay in PJs, drink more hot cocoa than you do all year, and stream every corny Christmas music Netflix offers. Make the day special to you.
  5. Adopt a child. This needs to be planned in advance. Does a special friend have a child or children you love? Become their grandma/pa, aunt/uncle, and dote on them all year. Christmas morning, after the family chaos has died down at their house and before they must leave for the real grandparents, stop by with gifts and coffee and homemade maple scones.
  6. Count your blessings. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Read the Scriptures of his arrival--or Hebrews 10: 1-7 for a new perspective. Keep a journal for the year and record the way your children have blessed you. Re-read during this hiatus.
  7. Remember. This is only an interlude. Pretty soon the kids will return and you'll be wishing you could pawn them off on someone and get a break (knowing all along, you'd rather die--literally).
In divorce any holiday: Hanukkah, Easter, summer vacation can be hard. Be positive. Find alternatives, and you will survive.

What have you done that works for you?

Thursday, December 11, 2014


English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I saw her squatting and looking eye to eye at the packaged item standing under the Christmas tree. It was four in the morning, and I had no idea how long she had been there.
            I was grateful for the toys and clothes Mother had bought for my children. She had set a few unwrapped items under the tree before retiring to bed, doing her bit to keep the fantasy of Santa alive for another year—a magnanimous gesture for one who so despised the myth.
             If it had not been for her, my children would have wondered if Santa cared about them. Divorced, unemployed, and with a scant amount of support money, what little allowance I received from the government barely paid for rent and food. Outside of crayons and coloring books, Christmas, as I hoped it would be, was out of the question.
            Mother understood my heartache. She herself had known many disappointing Christmases, and hoped to provide better for her own children; but, it was not until Christmas, 1948, that she first began to actually despise Santa. “Santa Claus is a cruel hoax for poor children.”
The years following World War II were difficult for returning vets. Jobs were scare and finding shelter for their families a daunting task. The only housing my parents could afford was in the south side of the city. They rented a cold-water flat, the euphemism given to apartments with no running hot water. Rats often found their way into the cleanest of these dwellings. The adaptive rodents would eat anything, even gnawing their way through aluminum garbage cans. They thrived in cold-water flats. Fearful that the rats would bite her children, Mother spent many sleepless nights vigilantly listening for any sounds that might indicate danger. 
A child of the depression and a wife of a war soldier, Mother was grateful for her surroundings, grateful that her family was all together under one roof even if money were scarce. My father’s factory paycheck paid the rent and bought food—leaving little for luxuries of any kind, especially events like Christmas. I was still a baby, unaware that there was a special day to be excited about. My brother, on the other hand, had been looking forward to Christmas and to Santa’s showering of presents for all good boys and girls.
At first, my brother was thrilled when he opened the holster gun set and cowboy hat under the tree. 

“Oh, boy! I’m a real cowboy, now!” He flitted about the house shooting bad men that lurked behind 

the couch and chair. Then he took his treasure outside. It was not long before he rushed back into the 

house, his countenance forever changed. “Have I been good, Mom?” my brother asked.
“Of course, you have,” Mother reassured him.
“Then why did Santa Claus only bring me two presents? Santa brought Danny ten presents and a new bike?”
My mother didn’t know how to answer his child spirit. How could she explain poverty to a four-year-old, an innocent who didn’t know he was poor? Mother took the fall for Santa.
“Well, honey,” she ventured to explain. “Moms and dads have to pay Santa for the presents. We didn’t have very much money to give him.” She watched helplessly as her child faced the brutal realities of social inequities for the first time in his life, knowing the experience would be repeated many times over.
Yes, I knew Mother understood the heartache I felt that Christmas.
My three-year old turned to look at me, eyes filled with tears. “For me?” she asked, not quite believing it might be true.
“Yes, honey. Santa brought it for you.”
I helped her remove the cellophane wrapping. She hugged the treasured gift so tightly, her little fingers turned white.
 “It’s just what I wanted! He remembered!”
 “Yes, he remembered.”
In my heart, I was grateful to a mother whose memory reached from her pain and gave comfort.

Linda Wood Rondeau is an award-winning author of many books. My favorites are It Really Is A Wonderful Life and The Other Side of Darkness. 
You can find her works on online venues wherever books are sold, and you won't regret reading any of them.
You can also contact Linda at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Beauty of Single Parenting: By Angela Ruth Strong

My guest today is Angela Ruth Strong. She studied journalism at the Univeristy of Oregon. Strong released her debut romance novel the year after her divorce, which was difficult to say the least. She is in the middle of her Fun4Hire series for ages 8-12, a series that deals with divorce in Book 2--THE SNOWBALL FIGHT PROFESSIONAL. You can find out more about her, her incredible remarriage, and her books at

Before the divorce, my oldest daughter would walk into a room, look around, find a person she wanted to become friends with, and go befriend them. She was only eight at the time.
Shortly after the divorce, I took her to a new church, and she was afraid to go to Sunday school. She begged me not to leave her. In hopes that she would overcome her fear and realize how strong she really was, I told her I would be back for her after the service. She sat inside the door and cried.
I cried, too. And I don’t just mean a few tears. I mean I couldn’t go into to the service. I went and sat fully clothed on the toilet in the bathroom and sobbed my eyes out.
I hurt for her. Because she hadn’t only lost the security of family, she’d lost herself.
I told my counselor about the incident that week. I said, “I would have done anything to keep from her from the pain.”
He said, “Anything?”
I said, “Yes. Anything.”
He said, “That’s not healthy, Angela.”
And while I believe she deserved to have an unbroken home, I know now that I can’t shield her from life. I can’t fix all her problems. I can’t save her. That’s not my job. That’s God’s job.
My job is to be there for her. To love. To understand. To lead her to the One who has all the answers.
Five years after the divorce, she’s come a long way. She has some great friendships. She’s poured herself into dance. She’s involved in youth group. She was chosen first for the team of 8th graders to help 6th graders integrate into middle school. She loves to babysit. She makes things happen. I couldn’t be prouder.
But there are still days where I cry for her. Days where a boy at school tells every girl in the room she’s beautiful except for my daughter. Days where a couple of friends exclude her from an activity. Days where all her fears come out in a vicious attack on me. Days where she questions her worth all over again.
I still wish I could take that pain away. I would gladly sacrifice all my growth and the joy I’ve found through redemption so she could be a confident little girl again.
But then I have to remind myself that such feelings go back to my codependency issues. My enabling. My belief that doing the work for someone else is the same thing as loving them.
So I simply love.
I listen. I hug. I cry with her. I speak truth. And I use a little trick my counselor taught me to get her out of her funk. Are you ready?
  1. Validate. Always validate. Example: “I know it’s hard.”
  2. Encourage.  This is what they need to hear. What they want to believe but are afraid to. Example: “It will get better.”
  3. Redirect. Example: “Shall we go shopping for your new toe shoes this weekend?” OR “What kind of cookies should we bake for Christmas?”
Children deserve so much more than what we can give them as single parents, and until we accept that, we can’t be the parents they need.  No matter what your child/children are going through, forgive yourself for not being perfect and get the help you need to be present.

Neither she or I will ever be the same person we were before the divorce. But someday, when my daughter is teaching a Sunday school class of her own, she will know exactly how to help out any little girls crying by the door. And the world will be a more beautiful place because of it.

Have children dealing with divorce? Check out Angela's book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Divorce: How to Recover (or Not)

Aivazovsky - Shipwreck
For me, being in a bad marriage is like being shipwrecked. I floated on the ocean, thirsty beyond endurance, but all that surrounded me was salt water. So when the marriage ended, I had the chance to drink my fill.

I met a man. He was sweet, handsome and fun to be with. We dated, and he fell in love and proposed. However, he was an alcoholic--functioning, but still addicted. I told him if he wanted me, he had to stop drinking. He chose the beer, and I ended the relationship.

With one divorce, I could count myself blameless. If a second marriage failed, I knew I, alone, would be to blame.

English: this picture was taken by me while ro...
Dying of thirst drives many a person to drink brackish water, or to sip from stagnant pools. Those alone will often accept any pitiful drop just so he or she is spared loneliness. Often that flings a person back into the same relationship he or she had before, and thus, fail again.

For me, I knew one thing: I was better alone. My daughter needed to understand a healthy self-respect. She didn't need to believe beer or pot or any other self-induced relaxer was essential for a good life. She needed stability found in good inter-personal relationships.

Shortly after I ended my relationship with the man who wanted to marry me, I came to the Lord. When loneliness overwhelmed me, I remembered my marriage, and my almost second marriage. I didn't want those. Alone I could live by my values, discover who I was and who God wanted me to be. I could be happy by myself.

As a Christian--first and foremost, I needed a man who shared my faith. Without that foundation, all else would fail. If he accepted my faith but did not share it, we would have friction at the roots of the relationship. Marriage is hard enough without starting on unequal footing.

Neil and Me
The Bible says we are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). This does not imply leaving an unsaved spouse, but to not put yourself in a spiritual situation where you link your life with someone who does not share your most important values.

Beyond faith--don't be yoked with someone who doesn't share some of your fundamental interests. Both Neil and I love the country and art and travel. We're both family and faith oriented. Beyond that, our interests vary. Nevertheless, at our core, we are alike.

Marrying a man or a woman who doesn't share your essence will doom your marriage, and the end result will be worse that the beginning.

Are you newly divorced? Do you long for love and companionship? Don't rush into anything. Those who wait on the Lord will be rewarded by him, and their won't be any consequences for desperate decisions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Biblical Divorce: Summary

In 1980, my first husband and I divorced. I had yet to find the Lord, but my spirit still grieved--not because I needed or desired to remain with this man, but because I knew I had broken my vow.

Through the years--I've studied the topic extensively. I did not want to stay single, nor did I want to grieve God. I asked ministers, and here are a few of the answers they gave. None resonated with me:

  1. Even if you weren't saved before you divorced, you still can never marry until that husband dies.
  2. By marrying someone else, you commit adultery. By committing adultery, you break your vows and thus the new marriage is okay.
  3. Did you ever pray about getting married? If not, then it wasn't sanctified by Jesus.
All these men, except the first, grappled with the idea that a lifetime of loneliness because of one sin grieved humans. Most ministers looked for mercy--yet some defined divorce as the unpardonable sin.

In my life, God gave me a Biblical justification. My ex-husband had been unfaithful. I did not get concrete confirmation until after we agreed to divorce. Without that certainty, I still could not have stayed with him. 

He never hit me, but he was emotionally abusive. He desired to control me and keep me from anyone that could take my complete loyalty away from him. And I say these things with the utmost humility and Godly love for this man. He fathered my daughter, one of the most beautiful people I have ever known. I've forgiven him, and I pray for him.

I do believe whom God has joined together, no man should part (Matt. 19:6).

However, marriage is more than a paper signed by two people--as is divorce. Many married couples still live together, have sex together, but have divorced the other in his or her heart. That, in itself, is divorce. If you're married--the husband is commanded to love his wife, and she must respect him. We cannot remain married and fail to do this. It is sin.

Through the years, I've come to see Biblical divorce as protection for the woman. A man could mary many women. If his wife was put out--she had nothing: no job, no alimony, no children because they stayed with the husband. If her family did not take her in, she, more than likely, had only prostitution to turn to.

If we look at the New Testament scriptures, virtually all of them talk about divorcing a wife (or at least primarily).

Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte P...
Deutsch: Christus und die Ehebrecherin, Alte Pinakothek, Raum 17, Inv.-Nr. 1217 DSCF4774.JPG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Matt 5:31-32 "...whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality...whoever marries a woman who is divorced..." This section does not talk about the man.

Mark 10:10-12  talks about a man divorcing his wife and vice versa.

Luke 16:18  "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery. "

Mark 10:2-12  vs 8 "He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." 

Luke 16:18 again couches it only toward the woman.

In most of the above Scriptures, Jesus acknowledges divorce only for unfaithfulness--and usually of the woman toward the man.

I see two elements here. If a woman cheats, the man cannot know whose progeny he's supporting. He needs to be freed from that onerous obligation. 

But this protects the woman. As I said earlier, the usual recourse for a divorced woman with no family was destitution--prostitution--misery. Jesus was protecting the woman from men who had the ability to divorce her because she gave him wrinkled clothes or burned the lentils.

The only other New Testament concession to divorce has been termed desertion. Yet, if you wish to be a legalist, it would only be desertion of an unbelieving spouse, not a believer. Read 1 Cor 7:10-16 carefully.

So where does that leave us if a woman is battered and bruised? Is brought to the edge of suicide because of emotional abuse? If a Christian man leaves her? What if she (or he) simply ruins the marriage and it ends? (read the blog that follows this for more information).

There is only one unpardonable sin, and that's not divorce (Matt. 12:31). We can find forgiveness--but don't be cavalier about it. Repentance only comes from God, and I wouldn't want to gamble that He'll knock sorrow into my thick skull.

So how do we prevent divorce? There are solutions. Leave any suggestions you may have or tune in next week.