Weekend Coffee Share: God?

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you that it’s been an ugly week here. On the positive side, I managed to pass my apartment inspection; on the negative side, I’ve been sort of stewing about something.

Grab yourself a fresh, hot cup, because we’re going to talk about God today and it may take a while.

About a year ago, I was approached by someone who was a friend a long, long time ago. Confronted, really. She said she sampled one of my books and was sad to see that God is not in my work. She wanted to know why I have turned away from my faith. I blogged about it at the time, and I felt pretty good about my response to her. I thought I did a good job of explaining that I haven’t turned away at all.

I spoke with her again this week. Again, she expressed sympathy for what she sees as my straying and turning away from God. She condemned me in the kindest, most condescending way possible, letting me know that she’ll pray for me to find my way back. She mourned my lost faith and told me how sad she is that I’ve become callous, that I’ve hardened my heart.

I’m not going to lie; that hurts. I feel judged.

I am a Christian. I do my best to be a good one, but I am human and therefore I am flawed. The fact that I see faith as a private and personal matter doesn’t make me any less of a Christian than those who are more vocal about it. I may not be able to quote random Bible passages at will or show up at every Sunday service like my friend, but that doesn’t mean I’m going straight to Hell.

Folks, Christianity is NOT a competition sport.

You see, God IS in my work, because He is the One who gave me this gift of storytelling. He is the One who changed my life and gave me this opportunity. I thank Him every time I pour a little bit of my heart and soul into a story.

God is in my work because God is in ME.

He is the One who gives me courage and strength on the bad days. I have leaned on Him through pain, through heartache, through everything. And you know what? He’s always there for me. He’s never shamed me for not living up to His standards. He loves me, no matter what, and He forgives me when I screw up.

My books aren’t Christian fiction, even though I like to think that my sweet historical romances are somewhat inspirational. People in my contemporary romances have sex before they are married and they swear once in a while. Some of the stuff I say in my humor collections can get pretty raunchy at times.

I’ll be the first to tell you that not everything I write is appropriate for every audience.

But my characters always find love. There is always a commitment that comes with the sex. I try to write them as basically good people who grow and become better people by the end of the book. It is my goal to inject at least a little bit of hope into everything I write.

A little bit of love.

A little bit of joy.

That’s my version of Happily Ever After, in romance novels and in real life.

If my friend insists that God is not in stories about hope, love, and joy, then one of us doesn’t understand Him at all.

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Happy Holidays

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If we were having coffee this morning, I’d start out by wishing you Happy Holidays. There might be an awkward moment after that while I try to figure out if that was a mistake; after all, you might not celebrate Christmas and it might have been a safer bet to greet you with something about Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Solstice.

Maybe I should have just said “Here, take your coffee.”

You know, I think we just make things too hard for ourselves this time of year. There’s no need to take a stand or defend your beliefs or even worry about political correctness. Fighting over whether it’s okay to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is just pointless because, you see, I’ve got it all figured out.

That’s right, folks, I know exactly what we need to do to get along this holiday season.

We just need to be nice.

Look, I know all about “The Reason for The Season.” I’m a Christian, and I celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. I put the star on my tree and I listen to countless versions of Mark Lowry’s “Mary Did You Know” and I get chills at the reminders that my Savior was born in a quiet stable on that Holy Night. I believe. I believe in all of it. I draw strength from that belief throughout the year.

But I also have fun with Christmas and all of the traditions that come along with it that have nothing to do with religion. Decorating the tree with ornaments that have been in my family for years. Plucking my cat out of said tree when he tries to play with those ornaments. I love hiding that stupid Elf on the Shelf and telling lies about having Santa Claus on speed dial, and I adore all the giggling and sneaking around to find just the right gift for the people I love.

I also love it when the school band plays “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” at their Christmas concert. I think the Menorah in my neighbor’s window is just lovely.

I look forward to being invited to my friend’s annual Solstice Bonfire every year.

I say “Happy Holidays” not because I’m trying to be politically correct or because my Christian beliefs are being suppressed in any way. I say it because the traditions surrounding this time of year are fun and beautiful regardless of how you celebrate. I say it out of a genuine desire to wish you happy holidays, period.

When I was in high school, I was confirmed into the Presbyterian Church after several weeks’ worth of confirmation classes. There were perhaps a half-dozen of us who attended class every week before church on Sundays, and most of us were pretty grumpy about having to get up that early.

As part of our confirmation class, our pastor required us to attend church services for different denominations and beliefs before we were allowed to officially join our Presbyterian church. We went to Catholic Mass and a Baptist service; we visited a Synagogue where the boys in our group were instructed to don yarmulkes as a sign of respect.

What’s my point here? We were welcomed into all those houses of worship even though we didn’t technically belong. And we behaved with respect and courtesy during our visits. Our beliefs, our traditions, were not challenged or diminished in any way by opening ourselves up to beliefs and traditions that were different from ours.

It’s been more than thirty years since I was confirmed into my Presbyterian Church back in Portage, Michigan. I can’t speak for the others in my class, but I’m still a Christian. I probably lean a bit more toward a non-denominational type of Christianity at this point, but I have never forgotten the lessons I learned back then.

A little kindness goes a long way. A little understanding goes even further. And a little respect can mean the world.

So wish me a Merry Christmas. Tell me to have a Happy Hanukkah or a Joyous Solstice. Say what’s in your heart and mean it when you say it, and everything else will take care of itself. I promise not to be offended because we worship in different ways.

Because when I say “Happy Holidays” to you, I am not being politically correct or having my Christian beliefs suppressed in any way. I am saying, “However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate, I wish for you to feel all the joy and love and peace that you can possibly feel all through the year. May you be surrounded by those you love; may your heart be full of happiness.”

Happy holidays, y’all.

 

Weekend Coffee Share: Perfect Circle

If we were having coffee this morning, it would have to be an iced coffee, with lots of milk and a splash of hazelnut. It’s a hot day already, with humidity at almost 100%, and I think we’d all be happier with something cold to drink.

I’ve been thinking about circles this week. Not just any circles, though. Those circles in some long-ago math class that I coasted through with a barely-passing grade, where the rings overlap and mark off a small segment of shared ground. I don’t remember what that little bit of shared ground is called, but I wonder if my old math teacher would be proud of the fact that I’m applying math to real life.

There’s been a lot of overlap in my life recently. Circles have been crisscrossing where I least expect it. Meandering lines have suddenly doubled back to form circles in surprising places.

Circle 1. At my first professional job as an adult back in the 1980’s, there was a very sweet lady named Donna who always looked out for me and helped me settle into the department. It turned out that she knew my father. Small world, right? That world got smaller yesterday, when I met her son, who turned out to be the pastor at my brother-in-law’s church.

Circle 2. At about the same time I was working with Donna, I started going to a big church in another town, where I became really active in a singles Bible study group. It ended badly for me in a way that really soured the taste of organized religion for me.

Oddly enough, one of the people from that group has ended up being a part of my life now, decades later and lots of miles away. She has quietly taught me more about forgiveness and compassion than I ever learned sitting on a pew anywhere.

Last week, another person from that church contacted me, more than twenty years since our last meeting. She said she had sampled one of my books and didn’t see God in it, and wanted to know what caused this. Her words were kind on the surface, but the unspoken judgement and implied recrimination hit me like a physical blow.

Circle 3. My ex-husband and I have been apart for more than two years, but we both laughed together on Wednesday when we realized that it was our twentieth wedding anniversary. Since our divorce isn’t actually final yet, we found a bit of humor in the fact that we can technically say we made it twenty years. He and I always shared the same peculiar sense of humor; even when things fell apart for us, that is the one thing we still have in common.

Circle 4. Most of my family is gone now, and I sometimes feel terribly alone. There just aren’t a lot of cousins or relatives in the area. I feel disconnected from the world somehow, like a hot-air balloon tethered to the earth by only a few strings, and those strings are being cut one by one. When I was married, the greatest gift my husband ever gave me was his family — brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles . . . all strings that helped tie me back to the earth. Connections.

Losing my marriage was like cutting all of those strings.

Those random circles all came together yesterday at a small memorial service on the shore of a little inland lake. A gentle breeze worked its way through the branches of the maple trees and tiny waves tickled the sandy shore as we gathered around the table that held flowers and a few small items. There were pictures of a tiny baby boy, born too early into a world that wasn’t ready for him.

I rode to the memorial with my ex-husband and stood with his family; they are my family, too, regardless of our divorce. His niece — our niece — was supported by a circle of those who love her, while Donna’s son, the pastor, officiated at the memorial for our first “great.”

God was there, too. In the words of the sermon, of course, and in the passages that were read from the Bible. But more than that, He was the one bit of shared ground, the one intersection of all those circles.

I can’t worship a God who thunders from a pulpit.

I believe that God is in the kindness and love shown in each of those circles. In Donna looking out for her younger co-worker while raising her son to be a spiritual leader. In my old church friend who teaches by example and not by judgement. In my ex and his family, who still accept me as one of them and hold onto those strings that connect me to this earth.

And yes, He was in little Logan during his few minutes of life in his mother’s arms, as hard as that is to believe through her grief.

So now it’s Sunday morning. Some folks are getting ready for church, and some of them may think less of me because I am sitting here chatting with friends over an iced coffee rather than heading out to a house of worship.

But for me, God isn’t just in a house of worship. He’s not in judgement and recrimination. He’s all around me in everything that we do, but most of all, he is in that little bit of shared ground, that place where all the circles of life intersect and bring us all together just when we need each other the most.

Image result for bible verse about kindness and compassion

 

Perspective

I was thinking the other day about some of the projects I made in seventh grade art class. One was a clay bunny that I painted brown, only to realize that I had created something that looked exactly like a giant turd with ears.

The other was a perspective drawing of a city street, which turned out surprisingly well considering just how badly I draw. I really had fun with that assignment, probably because it involved very little actual skill beyond an ability to draw straight lines with a ruler. It was amazing to me to see how something that appeared to be so complicated was actually quite simple to create.

It was all about breaking it down and looking at it differently.

Perspective.

The teacher didn’t seem to be bothered by my utter lack of any artistic skill whatsoever, but she became annoyed when I wouldn’t give her an answer about whether or not my family would be there for the annual Open House. I hemmed and hawed and stammered and finally mumbled something about my mom being sick. The teacher stared at me for a long, quiet moment before hauling me out in the hall and demanding the truth.

I don’t know what possessed me that day. I opened my mouth and told her details I hadn’t even told my closest friends. Words I barely understood: modified radical mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, prognosis. I told her the truth — that my mom was scheduled to begin chemotherapy on the day of the Open House, and we didn’t know if she would be sick that evening or not. I couldn’t give the teacher a definite “yes” or “no” because I didn’t know what to expect.

“I had breast cancer two years ago,” the teacher told me, after another long, quiet stare. “And chemo. You show up if you can, stay home with your mom if she needs you.”

In that moment, I wasn’t alone anymore. My mom was no longer the only person I knew with breast cancer. With those few words, my teacher changed the way I saw my mother’s cancer, and I could breathe again. She made my world that much bigger.

She gave me dose of perspective. A way of looking at things from a different angle.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with a lot of issues in recent months. I don’t like to say that I “suffer” from depression, because that sounds too passive. I “struggle” with it, “deal” with it, “fight” it, but I don’t just sit here and suffer. I hate it with a passion.

I am not, however, ashamed of it.

I’m never sure how much to say about my depression. I don’t want to be seen as a whiner, or as someone trolling for sympathy. I don’t want sympathy, and I don’t want people to walk on eggshells around me. Seriously, just because I’m going through a bad time, it doesn’t mean I need people to check up on me all the time. I’m not going to lie; there are days when my greatest accomplishment is simply staying alive until sunset. But I’m not that fragile. I’m just . . . . depressed, and doing my damndest to climb out of a very deep, dark hole.

I want to keep it secret because I don’t want to be treated differently. But I also want to talk about it because I want people to understand why I sometimes withdraw from them and want to spend time alone. Why I cry for no apparent reason. Why I can come unglued so easily. Why my temper sometimes flares up in ways that are not proportionate to the situation.  I’m asking for some patience, but not pity.

It’s all in how you look at it. Perspective.

It’s been a rough summer for me. I worked too many part-time jobs and pushed myself to the point of exhaustion, and it still wasn’t enough. I lost my dream house anyway. I ended up in the subsidized apartment building here in town, where I am surrounded by boxes and bags and piles of everything I own, and I am too overwhelmed to make the next move of actually putting anything away.

I organized my silverware drawer and I move boxes of books from place to place. I’ve unwrapped my Lladros and Dresdens and even managed to cook a real supper for my boys the other night. And I discovered that I own far too much tea, which has worked out pretty well since I haven’t been able to find the filter basket for my coffeemaker. I haven’t had coffee in a week, but I’ve worked my way through some delicious Earl Grey and other treasures for my morning caffeine.

I turned to my pastor for help. She told me this is all God’s way of telling me to go back to my husband. I told her that God must be sending mixed messages, since my ex is currently engaged to someone new and my return at this point might make for an awkward honeymoon.

I don’t care for my pastor’s perspective. She sees my situation as a punishment for my sins. I see her as a total asshole, and I won’t be returning to her church.

That’s my perspective.

Look, I am an author and a blogger. Most of the time, I manage to make people laugh. I have been so fortunate to be able to find my voice and follow my dream and all that. My kids are healthy, I have the support of a lot good people, etc. Lots of good stuff, right? On my good days, I’m able to appreciate how blessed I really am. And on my bad days, I cling to the good stuff like a lifeline, and that lifeline keeps me from going completely under.

Depression sucks. There are those who believe it’s a weakness, or a choice. Who perceive it as wallowing in self-pity or looking for attention. Who are going to read this and shake their heads in disgust.

All I am asking is that you take a second to see the world from a different perspective, and understand that depression is not a choice. It’s an illness. In the United States alone, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9% of the population, guys. It’s real and it hurts.

And I’m choosing to own it. I am not ashamed of it anymore. I’m looking from a new angle, seeing it as something that is not a weakness, not a fault. It’s treatable, and I can do something about it. There is hope.

I am Amy, and I am being treated for depression.

Heaven

For your sake

I hope it’s always six a.m. in heaven

So you can walk the marina at dawn

When the only sound is the clink-clank of ropes against the masts

As boats shudder with each teasing touch of an easy current.

Or maybe it’s sunset

So you can sit on the porch with your iced tea

And drink in the crimson sparkle of a million diamonds

Glistening, disappearing with the sun

Drowning for you night after night

So darkness can urge the old foghorn to moan its ecstasy

Across the waves.

No, I hope it’s sunny and autumn in your heaven

When crisp leaves crunch underfoot

And you hug yourself against nature’s exhalations

While whistling through acorn caps

Just the way you taught us.

I hope angels have a sense of humor

Laughing in snorts and gasps

Wheezing and swiping at tears

Clutching their bellies and gasping, no more!

If I can believe you are laughing with them

Full of joy even now

Perhaps I won’t miss you as much.

***

This is a re-do of an older poem of mine.  It’s something I’ve been tinkering with, trying to say the same thing in a more mature and stronger way.  I think I like it better this way but I’ll welcome any input.  All comments are always welcome on my blog.  

A Family Matter

It’s easy to be selfish. I’ve been so overwhelmed lately by all of the things going on in my life that I’ve had a hard time focusing on anything or anyone but myself.  Going back to work, trying to finish His Heart Aflame, planning for my upcoming book signing at Octoberfest. I’ve been scrambling to pay bills with money I haven’t earned yet, stressing about my books, my job, my bills, my kids.

Me, me, me. It’s all about me.

Until this morning, when my daughter said, “Nick’s been in a car accident, Mom.”

Let me backtrack. “Nick” is not one of my kids.  Not one of my nephews or cousins or any kind of a blood relation.  He’s one of my daughter’s friends, the son of one of my friends.  A good kid, but not one of mine.

Still, the world stopped for a moment. Just until she read a little farther down the Facebook post and found out that he’s going to be okay.  Shaken up, a bit bruised and royally pissed off about getting some points on his license, but okay.

I don’t like this part of parenting. I’m a worrier; yes, I am that mom.  I’m the mom who always expects the worst when it comes to my kids’ safety.  I am both fiercely overprotective and ridiculously pessimistic.  I am constantly afraid of all of the horrible things that could happen to my babies.  If I had it my way, they would never learn to drive or leave the house unescorted.   I wish I could wrap all three in big safety bubbles and watch them every second of every minute of every day, just to keep them safe.

I go overboard with the worrying about my own kids, but I am not supposed to worry about other people’s kids like this. They aren’t mine.  It’s not my place.

But this is a small town. Most of these kids have known each other since preschool or at least early elementary.  Some have known each other since birth.  They don’t all like each other; there are definite cliques in our tiny school, just as there are in larger schools.

But these guys know each other, and we parents know them.  We watch out for each other, either to protect or to keep track of the gossip about whose kid did what.  Our kids compete to see who will get the best grades, who will be the best football player, who will be Valedictorian.  And the parents?  We compare notes and we brag about our kids, and I think we’ve all had our moments of feeling a bit smug when one of ours came out on top.

But when one of our kids is hurt, we aren’t just a small town. We are more than a community.  We are a family.

When one of our kids is hurt, we don’t care who got better grades or who made into the Homecoming Court. It doesn’t matter if someone’s parent offended someone else’s parent, or even if our kids were fighting with each other.

All that matters is, Is he going to be okay?

As our kids get older and gain more freedom from us, they face more dangers and we face more fears. Most of them are driving now, which means we have so much more to worry about.  One boy broke his neck in an accident on icy roads last winter; another broke a femur in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in May, and now Nick rolled his Dad’s truck trying to avoid a Sandhill Crane in the middle of the road.

When one of our kids is hurt, I don’t just think, wow, that could have been mine.  I think, I remember when he went to Little League All-Stars with my son.    I think, I remember when he used to call my daughter ten times a day and then hang up in a panic when a grown-up answered the phone.  I think, Hey, I promised my kid I’d invite that boy over for dinner someday.

I think, No, we can’t lose these kids. The world needs them.  God, please keep protecting them!

And then life goes on. We put on a little more make-up to cover the new worry lines, and we joke about our kids giving us more gray hairs, and we go back to work.  Back to parenting, back to worrying, back to praying that God will keep them safe one more time through one more close call.

And we hug them a little tighter, hold them a little closer, try so hard not to let them go.

Even when they aren’t our own.

Climbing Down

This holiday season, I will get into the holiday spirit.  Eventually.

Really, I will.

Any other year, I would have been nearly Christmas-ed out by this point.  Sick of Christmas Carols, offended by the over-commercialization of the holiday season, struggling to find places for all of my aunts’ hand-me-down ornaments that I couldn’t bear to let go.  I would have spent my evenings snuggled on the couch with my youngest child, pretending that I was watching all of those Rankin-Bass Christmas shows because he wanted to.

I’m just not feeling it this year.

I’ve gone to my kids’ holiday parties and band concerts at school, and I sat in the audience with my husband and the Upgrade and her little boy and my kids like some sort of modern Brady Bunch, and I had a really strange desire to hug her because she is really really nice and I almost believe that we are going to be able to make this “friendly divorce” business work.  But I’m not feeling any warm feelings when I see the lights and tinsel, and I haven’t bought any gifts yet.  I don’t even know what to buy for anyone.

I have put some thought into how many cups of Rum Chata-laced egg nog I can drink alone before I have to add alcoholism to my list of things to worry about.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a poem I read all the way back in high school:

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

I couldn’t remember the rest of it, so I turned to Google and found that it was called “Christ Climbed Down”, written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1958.  Then, because I am easily distracted and a poetry nerd, I went on to learn all kinds of things about Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his fellow Beat Poets, which then led to a binge on the works of e.e. cummings and others.  I finally stopped after bawling my way through “anyone lived in a pretty how town”, especially the part about how someones married their everyones.

When my marriage imploded, I thought I would be on my own by Christmas.  I pictured myself in a new home with a small, tasteful tree and understated, classy decorations.  Of course, tasteful, understated and classy are not words that anyone has ever used to describe anything I have ever done.  If it helps, I’ve always been a very elegant person in my imagination.  Especially after a few cups of egg nog with Rum Chata.

I had this great mental picture of myself being really cool about everything this first year, but it’s just not working out that way.  I’m still here, in the house I’ve shared with my husband for almost two decades.  We are up to our ears in boxes and clutter and uncertainty until there’s just no room for a tree.  We’ve hung the stockings and I try to remember to move that stupid elf to a new location every morning, but that’s about it.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

This year is my Ferlinghetti Christmas.  I don’t want the plastic tree and Hallmark ornaments, and I swear to God I am going to kick the radio the next time I hear that moronic song about wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas.  I don’t want to see the flashing lights or that tacky little Nativity set we own that has Mary and Joseph as Native Americans in front of a teepee with a tiny papoose as the Baby Jesus.

Xmas-Native_Nativity

I want Ferlinghetti’s bare tree with a simple star on top.  I want to hear Carols about Jesus, about Faith, about His love.  I don’t care about Santa or presents or wrapping paper or hippopatamii.

I will get into the Holiday Spirit at some point over the twelve days.  I swear.  But it’s going to be a different kind of Holiday Spirit this year.  Oh, I’m keeping the egg nog and Rum Chata – I’m buying it in bulk.  As for the rest of it – the decorations and the music and the presents and the forced gaiety of the whole thing – I’ve decided to let my husband have custody of it all this year.

This year, my Holiday Spirit is about trusting in God to watch over me and my loved ones to make sure that we all get through this as painlessly as possible.  It’s about learning to care about my husband as a friend instead of a lover, about forging a good relationship with his new love and trusting that we are all going to be adults about this.  It’s about having a good Christmas because of who we are and how we treat each other, not about the size of our rootless plastic tree or the amount of lights we can pile on it.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings

Off With Her Logic!

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – the White Queen, Alice in Wonderland.

What are the six impossible things you believe in? (If you can only manage one or two, that’s also okay.)

Believing in six impossible things before breakfast isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  Most of my beliefs are pretty impossible or at least defy logic.

I believe in God.   I don’t necessarily believe in organized religion.   I know that Christianity doesn’t always make sense; that so much of it depends on having faith in something that I can’t see or prove.  But I have to believe that there is something, someone with a plan.  Someone bigger than I am, someone in charge.

Rational and scientific people can show me all kinds of proof to the contrary, but I will never stop believing.  My faith is as much a part of me as my heart and lungs; I couldn’t survive without any of them.

I believe in ghosts.  We have a ghost in our house who likes to turn on the TV during the night.  She seems to especially enjoy Craig Ferguson.

She stands beside our bed and gives me a sad, sad smile whenever one of my kids is sick or troubled about something.  I’ve done my research so I know who she is – or was—and I think it’s pretty cool that she watches over our kids like this.

I believe in love at first sight.  I don’t believe that it only happens once in a lifetime or that it lasts without a hell of a lot of hard work, but I believe in that sudden, instant connection that goes deeper than simple attraction.

I believe in luck because I am the luckiest person alive.  I hate to mention my accident again, but think about it:  the tree that landed on me was roughly four and a half feet in diameter.  It landed on my head hard enough to break my spine in five places, but didn’t crush my skull or damage my spinal cord.   It landed on my chest hard enough to pin me in the vehicle, but didn’t damage any internal organs.   I lost use of fingers on my left hand, but I am right-handed.

Best luck of all?  My kids were in the vehicle but were unharmed.  Luck.  No other explanation.

I believe in trusting instincts.  If it feels wrong, it is wrong.  Period.

The best example of this is a story my father used to tell.  He picked up a hitchhiker while driving cross-country in the 1970’s, but the kid made him more and more nervous as time went by.  The kid –Jeff—was polite and clean-cut and did nothing to arouse suspicion, but Dad said his gut instinct kept gnawing at him until he finally kicked Jeff out of the car at a bus station.  For years, he told us about Jeff and promised that we would see him on the news one day.

We did.

Jeff’s last name was Dahmer.

My final impossible belief is this:  I believe in Karma.  Not as some vindictive force that will smite the wicked and so forth.  But as just a certain degree of justice in the universe.  Mean people don’t win.

Sounds childish, I know.  But I believe that fate will eventually get around to everyone.