Monday, July 6, 2015

We're Just Like Michelangelo

Before the victory
We should be like David
You are like Michelangelo.

And my husband has the traits of Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David.

We had finally made it to Florence, and Neil had orders. We would not leave Italy until we'd seen Michelangelo's David. I'd seen the Pieta, and thought seeing it again, although desired, would not thrill me like David.

Indeed, the David is superb. Created from a block of marble other sculptor's had rejected as too flawed, the twenty-six year old sculptor took on the commission with gusto. No one expected anything revolutionary from the tired subject of David and Goliath. Artistic greats like Donatello and Ghiberti  created their Davids after the battle. Michelangelo sculpted him prior. He's relaxed, but alert, his slingshot barely discernible. This fact showed David's victory was more from cleverness than force.

Michelangelo worked in secrecy in a courtyard, exposed to the elements--rain, heat, cold. For two years he labored, skipped meals and sleep. The end result was too monumental to be used in the setting the commissioners had wanted, the Duomo.

If you'd ever seen the Duomo, you'd be amazed to know this sculpture was too grand to be placed high on a pedestal in the beautiful cathedral. They convened a committee of thirty artists and dignitaries, among the Leonardo da Vinci. They decided to place the monument in the political heart of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria.

the David was too exquisite for the Duomo
Lessons from the marble
  • It was flawed and rejected
  • In the master's hand, it became one of the greatest masterpieces
  • God's given us victory--relax. Enjoy the ride.
Lessons from Michelangelo

Having a modicum of artistic talent, I could never create anything close to the the magnificence of David. God did not give me the gift.

Even Michelangelo could not have created it himself without the effort, the work, the practice, the experimenting he did.

God, truly, had given him a gift. As a baby, he never asked to be the greatest sculptor ever. It was freely given.

So, we now come to my opening comments--how is Neil like David? How should we be like this statue?

My husband is relaxed. He doesn't worry about the battle, but he doesn't ignore it, either. He's prepared, attentive and gets the victory. We know the battle is God's. Why worry?

How are you like Michelangelo?

Salvation is a gift--given freely. Nothing we do can alter the fact that God has freely given us our grace. However, if we do not use the gift of God. If we do not work out our salvation, or recognize that faith without works does nothing, we have wasted our lives.

How else are you like Michelangelo or his masterpiece David?

Notice the ribs and the veins.
Michelangelo's detail is exquisite. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Malone, NY Manhunt: Becoming a Hero

Main street in Malone, Franklin County, New Yo...
Main Street
Malone, NY had been my hometown since 1980. It has a world class golf course headed by PGA president Derrick Sprague, a beautiful ski resort and masses of wilderness. Little else except wonderful people I love to pieces.

Few people knew of its existence until the recent manhunt for convicted killers Richard Matt and David Sweat.

Lake Titus from Elephant's Head
For me, the misery of that time was muted by distance. Neil and I had moved into our home in Tennessee the day the killers escaped. Unfortunately, Neil had to return for the last of our belongings. Of course, he arrived in Malone, the day before Matt was killed--a distance of six miles from our home.

In the course of the manhunt, Neil was detained in the perimeter as thousands of Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) guarded 22 miles of wilderness--places I've hiked and kayaked. Areas where my friends live.

Friends had to leave their homes and seek safety with relatives. Others armed themselves, some with guns, others with wasp spray or ankle-biting dogs.

No one had peace.

The Salmon Rive above the falls
And least of all me as those I loved lived in fear. The potential for danger was not as thrilling as a Law and Order episode.

The LEOs swarmed downtown, the area by Elephant's Head, Fayette Road and the the dam at Chasm Falls where the Salmon River spills to lower levels and flows through the village.

Each of these men and women--many of them my friends--were heroes. Yet the man who finally brought down the last of the murders, Jay Cook, was not even part of the manhunt.

On the day he encountered Sweat, he was going about his business, doing his job--a mundane assignment of patrolling the area. Alerted by Sweat's appearance and behavior, educated in who to look for, conscientious in performing his duty, he brought the last of the men who held a town hostage for weeks.

The lesson here has little to do with two heinous men, but our own simple lives. We can be heroes simply by doing our jobs and living our lives in the manner we were trained to do. The teacher need not stop a sniper, but her love for a student could end the abuse he endures. The shopping clerk can be the solace for the lonely widow who has no one to talk to. The retired worker from Alcoa can check on his neighbor in times of trial and save a life.

Malone, NY is a filled with heroes--the LEOs deserve their kudos. But remember, we, too can be a hero.

And end of blog for today--but I have two odd "commercial" announcements.

My debut novel: DWF: Divorced White Female takes place in the heart of the search zone:

  • Cheryl Chandler, the protagonist, lives in Mountain View
  • her home on Moose Hill Road is, in fact, a fictionalized Wolf Pond Road--where the hunting camps are
  • she snowmobiled along the roads Sweat and Matt took
  • Marina, her baby, was born in Alice Hyde Hospital.
  • Check it out on on the picture above for a direct link
Then, I've extensively dealt with Malone, NY on this blog: Dutch Shultz, wolf-head scandals, Underground Railroad and much more. Type in Malone in the blog search and you'll find more.

Leave a comment. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How to Become a Gondolier: Venice

Look closely at the gondola to the back.
The prow shows the Venetian flag.

Venice. The city of romance. And the city of those gondoliers. How does one get to be a gondolier? It's not as easy as donning a black and white stripped shirt and building up your bi & triceps.

  1. First of all, it's expensive and competitive. Only 425 licenses are granted. Each license costs 700,00 euros.
  2. Then you must join the gondolier guild.
  3. Because it's such a tight-knit community, licenses are generally passed down from father to son. If no son exists, then the license may be sold. Not until 2010 had a woman ever been a gondolier. Giorgia Boscolo broke the glass gondola ceiling.
  4. To become one, the man must attend 400 hours of instruction and pass  navigational and physical tests.
  5. Gondolas must be black. At the prow of each gondola is a silver flag representing the six districts of Venice. Five prongs of the flag point forward, one back, this rear-facing prong represents the island of Giudecca. This, more or less represents the geographical layout of the districts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Love on the Grand Canal

English: Venice: Italy: 1913 map of city center
English: Venice: Italy: 1913 map of city center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I wouldn't leave Italy without achieving three tickets on my bucket list. The first: a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. And what a grand time we had.

The Grand Canal is Venice's major waterway and it divides the city in two. It looks like an upside down S making the east and west side look like two hands grabbing each other. (See the illustration to the left).

The glory of this canal is the splendid buildings lining either side--from gorgeous cathedrals like the Church of the Scalzi to the Rialto Bridge to mundane, everyday homes.

We boarded our gondola on some backwater alleyway (literally) just off the Piazza San Marco, and sailed down the Cannaregio Canal. While marveling at the glories of Venice, and accordion player and singer regaled us with quintessential Italian folk songs: "Amore," "Ciao Venezia," "O Sola Mia," and more.

Neil and I could cuddle with gondolier in the back of us, the muscians to the front and crowds of tourists staring in envy from the myriad bridges.

We didn't sail as far north as the Rialto Bridge--but that was a sight. It's the oldest of the bridges spaning the Grand Canal. It hosts twenty-four shops, has upper floors overlooking the canal.


The full day in Venice held more than this blog could tell: wonderful food, shops with glorious wares, glass factory, masks celebrating the Carnivale--just like the Mardi Gras. I need to return.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The Grand Canal

Neil LOVED the ride

Love on the Grand Canal

a balcony along the canal
Our serenade

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Venice: St. Mark's Square

Not the San Marco Lion--but a gorgeous model
The most famous section of Venice is St. Mark's Square. For me, Canaletto made it familiar. His exquisite oil paintings capture the beautiful and mood of this quintessential Venetian square. We traveled there on a water bus--a fifteen minute cruise to glory and the splendor of Piazza San Marco.

A hint of Canaletto
We walked along quays and over canals until we came to the piazzetta (little piazza--not pizza). We entered between two columns: one sported a statue of St. Todaro, a patron saint, the other the winged Lion of St. Mark. Rather than ushering us into the purity of cathedrals and bell towers, imagine my horror when I discovered this gorgeous piazzetta fronted with marble-faced buildings had once been the scene of public executions.

The crowning jewel of St. Mark's Square is the Basilica San Marco. The title basilica means the relics of a saint lie there. In this case, St. Mark's body. It was brought here in 828 from Alexandria, Egypt. The church was built to showcase its precious relics.

Bit by bit, the church was built between the 11th and 15th century and is an exquisite blend of Byzantine gold, Gothic spires, Romanesque round arches and Islamic domes.
Although being restored, you can see the myriad
architectural influences
I didn't give you a close-up, but look at
those columns

As impressive as the basilica is, the columns intrigued me. As I said before, the buildings are constructed with lightweight brick. However, all of them are faced with marble. The colors of these columns defied my imagination. I think of marble as statuary white. These were pink and green and blue. Beautiful.

The basilica joins the Doge's Palace. The doge was a magistrate, elected for life.

Note the risers. Although it rained, we didn't flood
When the tide is high and the moon strong, St. Mark's floods. Risers lay piled along the quay ready to be laid out as raised sidewalks. Shops along the tiny alleys that comprise the streets of Venice, shoppers can find thigh-high rubber boots in fashionable designs coordinated with raincoats.

Our guide showed us a picture of one tourist who sat in the outdoor dining room of one cafe. Water lapped his chest. Incredible, crazy tourists.

just a hint of detail
love in Piazza San Marco
note the lion of San Marco
(And the seagulls)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Venice: The Real Water World

Venice. Hardly a city in Italy is more romantic than Venice. Kevin Costner thought he had an original script with the Hollywood name of Water World. Venice trumped him by thousands of years.
Taxi acquei--from airport to Villa Mabapa

We landed in Marco Polo Airport--can you think of a more appropriate name for the watery world of Venice's airport? March 1, 2015 proved to be cool, but sunny. Our guide met us, and led us to our taxi. Imagine my surprise to discover we'd be taxied by boat!

Venice. I always imagined it firmly attached to Italy--sinking, but attached. It's not. It's made up of 116 islands. Canals separate these islands and essentially form the city streets and boulevards.

Too cold for swimming. Lido's sandy beach and cabanas.
The city became defined during the Middle Ages. The buildings had been constructed in brick on cedar piers that have petrified into stone. The brick was covered with marble--the stuff of buildings in Italy as wood is too expensive.

The only island with cars is Lido. And that's where we stayed. This eight-mile island forms the barrier between the Adriatic Sea and the lagoon. On the seaside, rows and rows of cabanas line the sandy shore whose shallow waters offer summer fun.
Lobby of Villa Mabapa

In the 1800s, Islo del Lido was popular with artists and poets such as Shelley and Byron.

It is also known for its upscale shops. Although, when Neil and I roamed the city, shops were the last thing on our mind. We were hungry.

Which brings up an interesting point. If you want a cup of coffee--and even the cafe American is strong--you can pay two separate prices. One, the cheaper, is to order at the counter and drink it there. Europe rarely offers take-out. If you wish to sit, it will cost you more.

Lido has beautiful hotels. We stayed at the Villa Mabapa--shown left. Most hotels don't open until mid-March or April. Ours opened for our tour.

And one benefit of going off season, tourists don't abound and you can enjoy the sights. The weather can be cool, but as I live in the northern reaches of eastern New York, the Italian temps were quite pleasant.

Downtown Lido
A hearse. All transport is by boat
Lido is connected to the main island of Venice by the vaporetti. These are boats that serve as buses. It's about a fifteen minute cruise to get to the main island.

Seeing as I adore the water, this city is for me. But everything in Venice is expensive since everything--food, clothing, furniture--must be imported from the mainland.

Each day we stayed here was overcast. I do have it on good authority that you can see a fabulous sunset over Venice from the lagoon side of the island.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Appetite of Vengeance by Jennifer Slattery: Psalm 103: 6

“Vengeance is a monster of appetite, forever bloodthirsty and never filled.” ― Richelle E. GoodrichThe Tarishe Curse

Few wounds hurt as deeply as betrayal. It pains our hearts, shatters our trust, destroys relationships, and most notably, awakens our inner sense of justice. Ah, vengeance! To make the other pay for what they did, or at the very least, to feel the same pain they have caused us.

Whenever I think of betrayal, mine or someone else’s, I can’t help but think of Joseph. (Gen. 37-50) That poor man was betrayed continuously! First by his family then by his boss, then by two men he helped in a darkened dungeon. And how did Joseph respond? With bitterness, spending his time calculating how he’d get even? Or at the very least, how he’d alert everyone to how greatly he’d been wronged?

Nope. He responded with praise-filled surrender, because he knew God had it all—Joseph’s hurts, dreams, and current circumstances—under control. More than that, he knew God is a God of justice. It’s part of His very nature. Couple this with His Father’s heart, and you’ve got an all-powerful, ever-present, completely just and righteous God who, at this very moment, is working all things—all things!— for our good (Rom. 8:28) and His eternal purposes.

That means that betrayal that completely leveled us and even now causes our teeth to grind will be used for our good.

Consider this, speaking of Jesus, Paul said, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purposes and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross” (Acts 2:23—emphasis mine).

Speaking of this, in his book, The Peace Maker, Ken Sande says, “[God] chose not to restrain the acts of evil men so that His plan of redemption would be fulfilled through the death and resurrection of His Son.” (Rom. 3:21-26) (Pg. 61)

In other words, God allowed His only beloved Son to be betrayed to the point of death so that you and I might be saved. Pause and meditate on this for a moment—the very God that allowed you to be betrayed or wounded in a situation is the same one who allowed His son to be betrayed and wounded—for you. That’s a lot of love—incomprehensible love. Enough love to warrant our full surrender and trust, even when betrayed.

Because we either believe God is all-loving, or we don’t.

We either believe He’s all-powerful or we don’t.

We either believe He’s all knowing or we don’t.

We either believe He’s just and righteous or we don’t.

And let’s not forget, it was our sin that drove Christ to the cross in the first place—that led to His betrayal unto death.

If we believe those things, and if we remind ourselves of those things, especially when we’re hurting, our response to our offender will be utterly different.

Because grace changes everything and takes vengeance off the table, replacing it with surrender and praise.

Vengeance never belonged to us, anyway. As Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD” (NIV).

And as Psalm 103:6, today’s focal verse says, “The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated fairly.”

In other words, God will deal with appropriately—righteously—with the offender and the offended. So take a deep breath and let it go. It’s too big of a burden for you to carry, anyway. And in trying, chances are, we’ll only get in God’s way.

As you read today’s devotion, did one hurt or person rise to the forefront of your mind? If so, ask God to take that from you, then trust Him to work all things out—for your good.

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet CafĂ© Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently on sale at Amazon for under $4 (print and kindle version)! You can get that here:

When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution propel her north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. Then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

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