Mirror Mirror: Chapter 10


Rosa went downstairs to Ella’s locker. She opened the locker and looked for the English book. Finding it, she reached in to take it.
“See you after school, Beautiful.”

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Rosa is a trusting sister. She doesn’t know that Ella and Jerry enjoy a secret rendezvous every Thursday night. But a chance encounter changes everything. Enjoy Chapter 10, and please share with your friends.

Mirror Mirror: Chapter 9


“How chivalrous,” Ella giggled, feeling her face blush. “You’re making me blush, gallant knight.”

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Do you like playing games? Maybe even role-playing? How about surprises? It’s time for Ella to experience Jerry’s surprise. I hope you are sharing the fun with your friends. Enjoy!

Be Safe

It’s 2018 and you have a friend that works in high-rise construction. Or perhaps someone is involved in law enforcement. You know their job is dangerous and when they go off to work for the day, you might say Be Safe.

We have a correctional facility in my county just down the road from my diner. I often see uniformed corrections workers come in to pick up their breakfast. When they leave, I do my best to encourage them to Be Safe.

When COVID hit, the phrase Be Safe took on a whole new meaning. Now it meant, be sure to wear your mask, or don’t get caught in a closed-in crowd of people.

I’m not a 24/7 mask person, but I will still wear a mask if I have a cold or flu symptoms. I never did that before. When I go to see my doctor I wear a mask even though our healthcare facility doesn’t require them anymore. It just seems like a wise and caring thing to do for people who may be vulnerable. Staying safe physically is just a smart idea.

But let’s consider whether we care to Be Safe emotionally. It seems reasonable we should strive to be emotionally safe from the stress of the world around us. There is plenty to be stressed about. Wars around the world? Stress. Political unrest? Stress. Job loss? Stress. Cultural division? Stress. Relational anger? Stress. Barista got your order wrong? Stress. REALLY?

Yes, I’ve been there too. On most counts. But let’s put some things into perspective. If you look back on your day, and the most stressful moment was the wrong coffee order, you are doing really well. If you find yourself amid relational anger, you have the opportunity to reconcile. Cultural division? Isn’t that relational at its core? You can choose not to inflate the tension. Political unrest? Choose your candidate, participate, and vote. Wars around the world? Be thankful you aren’t in the middle of it and support those in need if possible. (My prayers to you if you ARE directly affected by war.)

We can never completely avoid stress, and that is good. Stress tells us when something is wrong. Stress stimulates adrenaline. It’s like stepping on the gas peddle to get out of trouble. But if you step on the gas and steer into the oncoming traffic, you are increasing your stress to the danger level. You have a choice where you steer the vehicle of your life.

Being safe during COVID meant making decisions to protect yourself. It’s no different with any part of life. But you must choose to Be Safe. Many people chose to take their chances and not wear a mask. They said there was no proof the masks minimized infections. Maybe that’s true. But what I considered a minor inconvenience seemed more rational to me than the unknown risk.

Does the same rationale apply to the rest of life? It seems reasonable. Let’s consider one of the high-stress events in life. You lose your job… You didn’t make that decision. But now you must make a decision. I see three choices. Remain unemployed; search for a job; go live with your parents. OK, the last one may be very sketchy if you are 43 years old. But you must make a choice. Searching for a job is a very difficult choice. Giving up is a very undesirable choice. Probably the two extremes.

But if you allow yourself the time to think through the problem rationally, with the help of friends, one of the choices will rise to be the safest, lowest-risk choice. The key to solving any problem is time and reason.

To devote time to the problem will lower the stress level. Making a decision quickly and immediately acting upon it will often lead to more stress. Time allows your brain to sort out the problem. True, you may have several sleepless nights, but if you let your brain work, the possibilities will become clear.

Then think rationally with the help of friends. Emotion seldom reveals the best long-term course of action. Friends, if they are genuinely good friends, will provide helpful ideas and encourage you. Often they will point you to the ultimate answer. But they MUST be genuine friends. You must have had time to prove they are trustworthy. I’m sure you have had dubious experience with people you thought were your friends.

Finally, there is a lot of safety in Spiritual strength. God cares about you more than any earthly friend. Hopefully, that means a lot to you. The only person better than a close friend is God. Ask Him for help. “But I’m not religious,” you might say. That’s OK, He will still listen. “But I would be admitting I’m weak if I ask God for help.” What would you prefer, being considered strong in the world’s eyes or being helped by the Creator of the world?

You can be safe. I implore you to be safe. Be safe physically. Be safe emotionally. Be safe spiritually. Of the three, I personally believe it begins with spiritual strength and safety. The other two will fall into place.

If you are looking for help from the Creator of the world, I invite you to first read my post, World Religions – Christianity. If you then have further questions, feel free email me. [info@jdrockel.com]

Mirror Mirror: Chapter 8

Rear view shot of a young couple watching TV together

When was the last time you just chilled at home with your favorite someone? Enjoy Chapter 8. And please remember to tell your friends about Mirror Mirror.

Mirror Mirror: Chapter 7

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

Please say you partied safely on New Year’s eve. Enjoy Chapter 7. And please remember to tell your friends about Mirror Mirror.

Mirror Mirror: Chapter 6

Photo by George Dolgikh on Pexels.com

I hope you had a good Christmas Day. Here is my present to you.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I hope y’all survived the cold. There were plenty of frozen, broken water pipes here in central South Carolina. You likely saw the national headlines: deaths, power outages, holiday travel delays, or cancelations. Not the best Christmas season in memory.

My family was very fortunate. Up at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois where my kids and grandkids live only a couple inches of snow fell. But the wind and cold provided wind-chills well below zero. They survived without any damage to their plumbing.

It was a bit different here in South Carolina. It was much warmer with a low temperature above 20F, but my plumbing was completely unprepared. Or rather, I was completely unprepared because I didn’t protect my outdoor plumbing.

For those who live in the north, such as Wisconsin and Michigan, where my family and I came from, frozen plumbing generally occurs only under kitchen sinks where the pipe is on an outer wall. If the insulation is insufficient, the cold will travel to the pipe and can cause the water to freeze. Advice up there is often given to keep under-sink cabinet doors open so the warm living-space air can circulate to the pipes. Otherwise, all outside water pipes are buried four feet underground and enter a house in the basement.

Down here there are few basements. Most homes are built on a concrete slab or have an open crawlspace under the floor. Water pipes are often less than 18 inches deep in the ground. And many of us have some outside water pipes above ground. When there are only a few days when the temperature dips below freezing, electrical heating tape wrapped around the pipe is sufficient. But as I said, I was unprepared.

I had heating tape on the primary pipe entering the house, but I had an exposed length about 10 feet long out near my well. It was enclosed in a well house, but when I had work done on a well that was inside the well house, I had to remove the roof and one side for access. So in reality, the pipe was complete exposed to the cold.

I woke up Christmas eve morning only to find there was no water flowing in the house. At least my coffee maker had a water reservoir so I could have my morning brew. When I got outside to assess the damage I was glad to see there were no cracks in the pipes. Expecting problems because of the weather forecast, I had bought a 12 foot length of heater tape, so I was ready to get to work.

Long story short, about six hours of work, three trips to the hardware store, and many muscle aches later, I had everything insulted, heating and ultimately, flowing water.

My wife and I got ready to attend our church’s Christmas eve service. I went out to start the car and warm it up a bit only to hear sssssst from near the small pond in my front yard. An unprotected valve has ruptured and was spraying a find mist of water over a five foot diameter area.

We went to church.

When we got home, I went to bed. There was no way I was about to attempt a fix in the dark. Especially since the main shutoff valve was now below eight inches of frigid water.

I awoke to a miniature wonderland of ice. It was truly beautiful. The first order of business was to take pictures, of course. It was a wonderful reminder that somewhere in the grind of hard work, there can be a bit of beauty.

Stay warm. Stay safe.

A Christmas Wish

If you have learned anything about me, I hope you see me as unconventional. Well at least sometimes. As you will see, my Christmas Wish is a bit different.

What do I mean, “a bit different”? I was thinking about Christmas Wishes and realized a lot of wishes are like this:

I wish we didn’t have to go to aunt betty’s this year.

or…

I wish wierd uncle bobby didn’t come to the party.

or…

i wish we didn’t have to go to both parent’s houses this year.

or…

i wish we hadn’t spent so much money on presents!

or…

i wish christmas was over already.

Is there any room left for “We wish you a merry Christmas”? Are these even “Happy Holidays”?

I remember Christmas as a child. Discovering the closet where the presents were hidden. Shaking the package and wondering what could possibly be making the noise. Pine trees (real ones for a time), lights, decorations all over the house. And plenty of cookies. My parents made it a happy time. I grew up with Santa Claus and the reindeer (can you name them all)? Elves, hot chocolate, peppermint candy canes, and gingerbread houses.

I was also taught that Jesus was born on Christmas day. I heard the story of Bethlehem, the manger, shepherds and wise men. Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

Please allow me to break this down. Scholars conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was likely born in late September. Historians say the December celebration of Christmas is just a morphing of the Winter Solstice with Christian beliefs. The story of Jesus being the light of the world is stolen from the Sun god stories of the days beginning to get longer again. Oh, and of course, the wise men didn’t visit baby Jesus in the manger.

So we have Christmas and the Winter Solstice essentially coinciding. We also have Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, and Kwanzaa, a seven-day African-American holiday. For a list of 18 celebrations world-wide including Festivus see here.

Maybe we should just say Happy Holidays. But then there’s another problem. We had better know what a holiday really is. The first known use of holiday or haligdaeg is from the Old English before the 12 century. It literally means holy day. So what does holy mean? 1a) set apart and dedicated to the service or worship of God or a god; 1b) dedicated to or laying claim to being dedicated to a sacred or selfless purpose. Additional definitions revolve around perfection, virtue, God-like, and pure in heart. [Source]

Me thinks we have distorted the idea of holiday. We certainly aren’t selfless. The common definition of holiday is a day on which one is exempt from one’s usual labor or vocational activity. [Source] Now that we like. And to that end, the 18 world-wide celebrations are holidays. But if your focus is on receiving gifts and grading a friendship on the cost or size of the gift, then I don’t think our common view of Christmas falls under holy day.

Now for my Christmas wish: I wish you would see Christmas as I do. The essence of the original Christmas is this: God Almighty, who created the heaven’s and earth, entered a newly formed human body untouched by sin to reconcile a sinful, faltering, unrighteous people with a holy, perfect, righteous God.

Remember that the worship of an Almighty, Holy, Creator God began with the nation of Israel. (Granted, we can follow the worship of God all the way to the beginning, but stay with me.) The record is that Jehovah God chose Abraham to be the father of a nation that would be guided by the Creator. He would be their God and they would be His people.

But every story in the Jewish Bible shows that humans rebel against God simply because we want to be self-controlling. When we take control of our own path in life we often find ourselves in tumultuous situations. God asks us to let Him guide us down the best path for our life. But we are too proud to relinquish control. Because of their rebellion against Jehovah, the Jewish people demonstrated their need for a substitutionary atonement. Their imperfect offering was in the form of innocent, unblemished animals.

But God said through the prophet Hosea, “I’d rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.” [Hosea 6:6 CEV] The problem was, appeasing God was limited, imperfect, and could not continue forever. The problem of un-holiness had to be corrected once and for all.

Almighty God the Father (Jehovah) agreed with God the Son that an intermediary between God and humans must exist. This must be someone who is human AND God. God the Son became Jesus of Nazareth to be the perfect mediator between God and humans. This is what Christmas celebrates, the birth of the God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth.

To learn more about the nature of Jehovah God, please see my blog posting: World Religion – Christianity

As always, I appreciate your Likes and Comments. You are also welcome to email me at “info@JDRockel.com” Your email address will never be sold or used for mass marketing.

Mirror Mirror – Chapter 5 is coming up next. Stay tuned.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Mirror Mirror – Chapter 4

Will the Back to School Dance be a delight or a disaster for Ella? Let’s find out.

Mirror Mirror

Chapter Four

Ella walked through the main entrance. As she entered, she could hear music. The dance was being held in the cafeteria where she and Rosa had received the info packets on the first day of school. The night was themed on the millennium and the DJ was playing “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. Entering the room, she saw it was amazingly transformed from where she ate lunch. Most of the lights were off. Only colored lights on the floor pointing aloft illuminated the space. Most of the lunch tables were folded up and stored at the serving end of the cafeteria. The remaining tables were set around the perimeter of the room to allow places to sit. A beverage table was at the near end, while the DJ was at the far end of the room in front of the folded-up tables. In front of him were some color lights that moved and changed patterns in time with the music.

Looking around, Ella recognized a few people from her classes and a lot of older students from the grades above her. Being a freshman, she felt out of place, but that’s what the dance was for, to find new people and make some friends. She slowly walked around the outer part of the room watching a few couples dance in the center. Along the way she said hello to people she recognized.

The full loop was complete, and Ella was heading for the beverage table when a voice behind her said, “Excuse me. Can I get you something to drink?”

A bit startled, Ella turned around to see a beautiful specimen of manhood. She recognized him immediately as Jerry. Being just about her height, Ella easily examined his face. Dark brown hair with those cute curls, and a friendly smile. He wore a dark, but colorful T-shirt covered by a tan sport coat. The shirt had a beautiful pattern of the northern lights under a twisted cosmic ray pattern. The dress pants were a bit darker than the coat and complimented it nicely.

“Hello, Jerry. Yes, that would be great.”

“Soda or fruit punch?”

“I’m always a bit afraid of punch. Maybe just a white soda to start with.”

“Coming right up.” Jerry went straight to the beverage table, got two drinks, and came back. “Let’s go sit at the tables and get acquainted properly, OK?”

“Sounds great.” Ella was still in shock, but this meeting was going better than she could have hoped for.

When they sat down, Ella took the soda from Jerry. He began, “I’ve been looking for you since our unfortunate encounter in the hallway. We don’t have any classes together so it’s been difficult.”

“You ran me down by my locker. Maybe you will find me there in the future.”

“The truth is, Ella, I was afraid you wouldn’t want to talk to me after I accidentally ran you down.”

“You were so polite helping me up, Jerry. I was hoping to see you again for a proper introduction.”

 “Me too. I’m glad you chose to come to the dance. Where do you live?”

“I’m in the subdivision just west of Pilgrim and south of Mequon on Catskill Lane,” Ella offered with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

“No way, I’m just to your west on Meadow Drive, east of Division. We’re almost neighbors.”

“That’s gnarly.” Rochelle giggled. “Imagine meeting someone just down the road. We probably aren’t that close cuz I’m on the south end of Catskill. But it’s biking distance until I get to drive on my own.”

“I know that feeling. Do you have your instruction permit now?”

“Yup. I’m just starting the behind-the-wheel practice with my parents. Tomorrow is my first day behind the wheel with them.”

“My dad has taken me out once, but it was just to get some soda at the quick mart.”

“Well, that’s more than me. But tomorrow my dad is taking me to our church’s parking lot to practice going up and down the aisles and parking.”

“That sounds great.”

Ella could tell that Jerry was feeling as comfortable as she did. Jerry was very polite and offered to get more soda when Ella’s got low. Ella didn’t notice any cigarette smell on Jerry. That would have been a showstopper.

This was like a dream come true. What could be better?

After they talked some more about their classes and finished their drinks, Jerry asked Ella if she wanted to dance. The DJ was playing “Where the Party At” by Jagged Edge, not one of Ella’s top 100, but danceable.

They spent about a half hour dancing, then a slow song came on. Jerry held Ella’s hands and Ella moved in close to Jerry. They put their arms around each other and rocked back and forth. Another slow one followed, and Ella melted into Jerry’s shoulder. The next song was fast again. Jerry stole a kiss on Ella’s cheek as he pulled away and said, “Let’s sit down for a bit.”

The night continued like that. Dance a little, hug a little, sit a little. At about 10:00, Ella said, “Jerry, I want you to know my dad will be picking me up at 11:30. I didn’t want that to be a last-minute surprise.”

“No problem. Let me get you something more to drink.”

Jerry went off to the beverage table and got a couple more cups of soda, but then Ella lost track of him. It wasn’t long before he appeared beside her again.

“Here you go, beautiful.”

Ella was sure she was blushing. She brought the soda cup up to her lips and paused.

“Jerry, this soda doesn’t smell right. What is it?”

“It’s cola. Try it.”

Ella took a small sip and crinkled up her nose. “What is this? It tastes weird too.”

“I just put some rum in the cola.”

“Jerry, are you trying to get me drunk?”

“No, honest! I thought you would like it.”

“I’m sorry, Jerry, but I don’t drink alcohol at all. Well, that’s not completely true. A couple of times we had Champaign for a celebration or a little bit of wine with a meal. We are Italian, after all. I really don’t like the taste and never want to get buzzed.”

“I’m so sorry Ella. I didn’t mean to force you into anything, and I respect your decision.”

“How did you get this into the school?” Ella whispered, looking quite concerned.

Jerry slipped out a small hip flask from his back pocket. “It’s easy to hide. I assure you I don’t drink much.”

“Really? I have my doubts.”

“My dad has different kinds of liquor in the house, and I’ve tried a lot of them. But I have never been drunk. I agree with you that it’s better to keep your wits about you.”

I hope that’s really what he believes. “Well, my fear is that I won’t know what’s going on.”

“I agree. Again, I am so sorry I put you in this position. I was trying to please you and made a horrible decision.”

“I forgive you, Jerry. There is nothing uncommon about drinking alcohol in this society.” He seems sincere. “What are you going to do with those cups?”

“Well either I drink them, or I dump them in the toilet. I’m afraid a teacher may see me do that. Please trust me, I won’t get drunk on these two cups. I didn’t put much rum in.”

“I trust you. Just don’t gulp them down.”

They continued to talk, and Jerry drank the two drinks. Ella took a couple more sips to see if they were really as bad as she first thought. They were. She didn’t want anything more to drink right now.

“Jerry, what happens to people who get drunk? Do they feel good? Why would they do that to themselves?”

“All I can tell you is what I’ve seen. When my dad drinks, he usually gets very quiet. Sometimes he even cries. I think he tries to forget about Mom’s death. I suppose each individual reacts a little differently. I’ve seen some guys get über-giggly. I’m sure you’ve seen TV shows and movies where they get angry and out of control. I guess I’m fortunate that I haven’t met many drunks in person.”

“I’m really sorry about your mom. I’d like to hear about her someday. I hope we get to talk about a lot of things in the coming weeks.”

It was after 11:00 now. When Jerry finished the drinks he said, “Let’s get some air outside. That would help me a lot.”

As they walked out of the room, Jerry threw the two cups away. They continued out the main entrance hand in hand. There was a lighted overhang that covered the sidewalk where cars could come and go. The night air was fresh and cool. Jerry put his arm around Ella to keep her warm. The clear sky revealed hundreds of twinkling lights. It was like a fairy tale to Ella.

Along the building was a row of shrubs. Jerry and Ella walked alone up and down the sidewalk for a while. The third time they were down by the shrubs, Jerry pulled Ella towards the building and behind the shrubs. The shrubs were tall and nicely spaced so it was easy to get between and behind them. Jerry cradled Ella’s head in his hands and kissed her on the lips. Ella tasted the Rum but didn’t mind the odd-tasting kiss. She kissed back and put her arms around Jerry.

The kiss continued long enough that Ella lost track of time. When Jerry stopped, he said, “It’s about a quarter after eleven. We’d better get back to the sidewalk. I’ll wait with you until your father comes.”

Still in a daze, Ella answered, “You’re awesome, Jerry. Thanks for caring so much about me.”

Jerry peeked out from around the bushes and pulled Ella out. Ella noticed that the stars twinkled a little brighter now. They got back on the sidewalk just as a few students came out of the building. Walking back to the waiting area Jerry said, “I am so glad I had the nerve to come up to you. I freaked out when you looked at me from the classroom the first day. I didn’t have the nerve to approach you then.”

“So, it was you. I must tell you, I had the weirdest feeling of tingles on my neck and arms that day. It made me look towards the door. My eyes were a bit teary from the stress of the morning, so I didn’t see your face clearly. But I knew you were looking at me. I hadn’t felt tingles like that before.”

“I don’t know anything about your tingles, Ella. But I do know you have been wonderful to me tonight. You have accepted me just as I am, and you forgave me when I tried to force booze on you.”

“Oh no,” Ella responded, “you are the wonderful one. So gentle and kind. How are we going to stay in touch if we don’t have any classes together?”

Jerry pulled out his cell phone. “Here’s my phone, put your number in it. I’ll do the same on your phone and we can start texting.”

“Here you go.” Ella handed over her phone and took Jerry’s. They typed in their personal information and exchanged the phones back. Jerry held both of Ella’s hands and looked into her eyes. Ella returned the deep gaze. Even in the dim light, Ella could see a sparkle in Jerry’s eyes. Was it from the overhead lights, the stars, or something much more personal? Another eternity passed and a car pulled into the lot and up to the sidewalk. It was Dad.

“That’s my dad, Jerry.”

“You can call me Jerr. Thanks again for the best dance I have been to.”

“I feel the same way, Jerr. I’ll text.”

“I’ll watch for it.”

Ella got into the car, buckled up, and just stared out the window.

“I see you met someone,” Tony said. He looks like a nice guy.

“I sure did, Dad. He is wonderful. I know you prayed for me. Jerry was very polite and gentle. He really treated me like a lady.”

“I am so glad to hear that,” Tony replied. “You can fill me in on the details later. Just relax and dream while I drive you home.”

Ella did just that. She dreamed of the next time she would be with Jerry. What could he add to that wonderful kiss?

How Sweet It Is

As you will recall from my post 24 Hours – Is It Enough?, we don’t always accomplish what we want in a week. That happened this week because of a great “deal” I got.

A friend told me about a nearby farm that sells Sweet Potatoes for six dollars a box. Now, this isn’t your ordinary box. This is 40 to 50 pounds of Sweet Potatoes. The catch is, you can’t select the size. So, many of them are small fingerling potatoes while some are WHOPPERS!

So what do you do when you get more food than you can eat? CAN IT! I realize home canning is mostly out of vogue, but we generally can one or two items a year. Earlier this summer, we canned a dozen pints of peaches. Yum, yum! Now we are canning the Sweet Potatoes, which are almost the same color.

Anyway, I have been helping my wife, Kris, peel, and cube the potatoes. In doing so, I also discovered that raw sweet potato tastes very much like a carrot. Crunchy, orange, and sweet. So I sliced some French Fry-sized pieces and put them in water in the fridge. So far, so good as a healthy snack.

Along the way, we needed to insert the rubber seal into the lid of the pressure canner. As you can see, it wasn’t going well. Fortunately, Kris had a new replacement ring and that fit easily into the groove.

The point is, peeling and cubing the potatoes have taken time away from posting the next chapter of Mirror Mirror. My goal is to have it ready for you in a couple days. You may have also noticed that I don’t have any pictures along with my chapters. I’ve been thinking of creative ways to provide a bit more visual effect, while not making assumptions about how the characters look. Writing is hard enough. I need a graphic artist for the rest of it.