Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

The Opossum and the Poodle

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The Opossum and the Poodle

By Shawn R. Jones

      I had on knee-high rain boots.  That would not have been so strange had it been raining, but there was no rain in sight and the night was humid and full of mosquitos. I asked my son to get my black leather gloves and red sweat jacket with the hood.  I put on a small baseball cap and then pulled the hoodie over it.  Maybe I should get those goggles from the basement, I thought, just in case it comes for my eyes. Standing at my screened door, I looked up at the backdoor light.  Moths and mosquitos were nothing compared to the creature I was about to face.  I glared into the yard. I heard hissing and growling in the bushes on the side of our garage. `My son ran and got a flashlight.  He had on his amour, too. He went out first.  He shined the flashlight in the bushes and said something like, “Man, that thing looks angry.”  At that point I got a broom, wishing it were a gun.  I stood next to him, broom in hand.

“Well, what is it?” I asked him.

“I don’t know.  I think it’s a opossum.”

I pictured its fuzzy white face and long rubbery tail.  My tongue felt strange in my mouth and goose bumps ran across my skin like racecars.

“Mom, come on.  We have to get Angel.”

Angel was my white poodle who was in the bushes with the opossum, barking and growling like she was a Rottweiler. I’m afraid of opossums, so I really had to take a moment to think how much our poodle meant to me.   Had it been my son or daughter, I would have jumped in the bushes thoughtless and unarmed. I looked back at my daughter, the future vegan and animal activist, who was standing on the back step.   I wanted to call out to her, “Look, I’m your mother.  You’ve known me all your life, but we’ve only had this poodle a short while, and it was a stray!   Had our thoughtful neighbor not brought it to us when she found it on her front lawn in the pouring down rain, something would have eventually eaten it anyway…”   But, I didn’t say any of that.

I gave my son the broom.  He was much braver than I.  I never even saw the thing, but I had a clear enough picture in my mind to feel faint.  My son started poking at the opossum with the broom, hoping it would run off, since my poodle was not backing down.  She looked at my son and back at the opossum and barked even louder.  Now, she had an ally.  The opossum grew angrier and started biting viciously at the end of the broom stick.

My daughter was yelling, “Don’t kill it!”  Angel was still barking. The opossum was hissing.  I was sweating in my armor while trying to coax Angel out of the bushes. The commotion seemed to go on for hours.  I don’t remember how we convinced Angel to come out, but she did eventually.  We may have given her a treat.  The opossum, however, spent the night in the bush.  Once I got my crazy poodle settled in the house, my son and I went back outside with the flashlight.  The opossum was curled up, exhausted from the fight.  The next morning it was gone.

Months went by.  No opossum. Then one evening, I was coming home from dance class.  I parked my car in the driveway.  I walked up to my front door and as soon as I pulled my house key out of my pocket, a huge opossum ran from behind the bushes, onto my step and across my white canvas sneakers.  I screamed as I felt the weight of its body on my feet.

By Shawn R. Jones


Author of the devotional book, Pictures in Glass Frames

and the poetry chapbook, Womb Rain,

The Front Porch

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This is an excerpt from my next devotional:

The Front Porch

By Shawn R. Jones

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

     A three-story abandoned brownstone sat in the middle of our block.  It seemed as if the only things holding it up were the two houses it was positioned between.  The same maroon chipped paint that framed the boarded up windows and doors also trimmed the small rickety porch. From a child’s perspective, I am sure the house looked “haunted.”  I was quite nervous walking by it myself, and I certainly never walked by it at night. Too me, it seemed to serve no purpose at all, except for the many insects and rodents it housed, until I rode by it early one morning.

On that morning, there was a tan mound on that rickety porch.  At first I couldn’t tell what it was, so I stopped my car and stared out the driver’s side window.  There was someone sleeping under a tan coat.  My heart shuddered and my throat tightened.  She twisted, rolled over, and stood up.  I put my foot on the gas and proceeded to parallel park.  After I parked, I got out of my car and looked down the block before I put my key in my front door. I was so shocked by what I saw next.  The lady was using the coat to sweep the porch, her porch, her home.

Compared to that homeless woman, I have so much, and yet I still complain. Her coat was her blanket, her pillow, and her broom.  That was over fifteen years ago. I don’t know where she is now, but I can still see her sweeping.  It was also during this time that my elderly neighbor used to complain that I didn’t clean off my own porch well enough.  I gave her the poorest excuse I could think of, “I don’t clean it because it never stays clean.” There was a bird’s nest above my front door and the birds left raindrops of poop across the gray painted wood. It was an unpleasant sight that I seldom swept.  My neighbor would fuss, “Girl, you need to get some bleach and clean that porch off!”  I was thinking, Is she serious?! The inside of my house is enough to clean.  I don’t have time to worry about a porch. I am sure I would have felt differently if the porch was all I had.

We acquire so much that each one of our possessions becomes less and less significant to us.   What did a porch mean to me when I had a beautiful two-story brownstone behind it loaded with tons of things?  Now, if a storm or fire destroyed the gray wooden posts that held the porch up, the porch would suddenly become a priority.  Isn’t this how we sometimes treat many of our possessions?  Isn’t that also how we also treat some of the people in our lives?


     Take an inventory of everything you own.  You can do this mentally, but it would be best if you could write it down on paper.  And because you are so blessed, this could take you hours, so I suggest you plan on writing this list over a period of a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months. Once you are well into this exercise, you are going to realize that I have asked you to do an impossible task because you have so much you cannot write it all down. What you might want to do instead is give away some of that stuff that you never get a chance to use.  Once you have done that, maybe you will take better care of the things you actually need.

Speaking of needs, let’s move on to the people in our lives.  I know it’s sometimes difficult to accept that we need people.  I guess that’s why it’s difficult for us to thank them sometimes. But there are people we should take a moment to thank.  They are worth the time.  They are also worth the small gesture. Who has God placed in your life to be a blessing to you? I can think of a few people in my life I should thank with a small bouquet of flowers, lunch, or at the least, a phone call.  Some people just need to hear the sincerity of your voice.  They need to hear you say, “I love you.  I appreciate you.  Thank you for being there for me.”  You know, thanking people sometimes makes us feel awkward, but imagine how you would feel if they were no longer there.  How would you feel if the porch suddenly collapsed?

     Dear Lord, I have learned so much from watching that homeless woman sweep the porch of an abandoned house with her coat.  I don’t even know if she is still homeless or alive today, but my prayer is that you bless her wherever she is.  She has indeed blessed me. Let her know that her life is significant and full of meaning and purpose.  Shelter her, wherever she may be. Amen.


The Villa in Cambridge, London

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I was very happy when I walked in the front room of the villa.  It was clean, quaint  and bright.  I knew I could easily spend a few nights there and be very happy, much happier than I was at the hotel.  I had a few mishaps at the villa, but I would not be “Lucy” if all had gone smoothly.  Besides, how boring would that be?

Here is a fuzzy photo of the kitchen that I almost burned down while cooking chicken fajitas for my husband.  I know you think that blur is because of my camera, but it is actually smoke!  I blame it on the pan.  It was the lightest pan (as in weight)  that I have ever used.  Also, the stove was electric, which I hate.  I prefer to cook with fire and I really don’t like non-stick pans.  I know I’m stuck in the 7o’s, but that’s okay.  I love the 70’s.


I am convinced that food tastes better when it is cooked in cast iron pans over a flame.  So, there I was in the kitchen, cooking in this flimsy non-stick pan on a rickety electric burner.  Out of nowhere fire shoots up from the pan and the room is filling with smoke and my husband and I are laughing hysterically while trying to open the windows, saying “Oh my goodness, we are  gonna burn this place down!” Well, the fire disappeared.  I mean really disappeared because I didn’t do anything but move the pan off the burner.  My husband said it was one of the best meals he had ever had.  Go figure.  His chicken and salmon was burnt bunt, and he loved it.  I also loved my crispy vegetables.

While I am in the kitchen, let me share a picture I took of our orange juice.  Have you noticed that it does not say “no pulp” and “lots of pulp?”  Yeah, I was con-


fused for a second, too, but I must say that “no bits” and “extra juicy bits” are kind of cute phrases.  “Extra juicy bits” is actually kind of funny.  I can imagine a mom calling her child from the other room, “Come here, Juicy bits, and let me finish combing your hair!”  I love it!  And of course Juicy Bits is  real skinny with chubby cheeks, curly hair, and a sassy walk. Maybe I will make her the subject of a poem or short story some day.  For now, back to the villa.

I don’t think I was used to the food and…I don’t think the toilet was used to me.  The English should really use more water in their toilets!  I don’t think I really need to go in detail.  I’ll just let you know my husband worked on the toilet for hours!  It was not a romantic evening, but we got a few hearty laughs out of it!  Well…moving right along.  I think this would be a great time for another photo.

I claimed this space as my reading area:


I claimed this space as my writing area:


My husband looking at a map on the wall:


There was an upstairs, too.  It was just a small sitting area with a telephone.   I didn’t claim that space because it looked very businesslike.  I couldn’t read or write there. I gave that space to my husband.



We were on our way to Cambridge University where my daughter was studying for the summer.  Everyone in town called it, “Uni.”  It took me awhile to catch on.  My husband’s original plan was to rent a car and drive around England. It is a good thing he didn’t because although he is a confident driver in the U.S.  I am not sure he would have gotten used to driving on the opposite side of the road on the opposite side of the vehicle.


Next stop Cambridge:


Thank you for stopping by : )

Pounds and Pence

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For the first 15 years of our marriage,we spent most of our family vacations in Disney World.  Our children were not really interested in going anywhere else.  Every other place we took them was probably against their wills. However, when they look back on the photos,  I am sure they have fond and fun memories.  I would have never even considered vacationing in England, so when my husband and I got to London, it was not really what I expected at all.  I eventually got used to the carbonated lemonade, lukewarm apple juice, and small bathrooms with very little water in the toilet.  You would think a toilet with a little bit of water is not a big deal, but believe me, it is!  It seems to me that the English are not as wasteful as Americans.  Boy, I really hope I don’t get blasted for that comment.  Let me just add that I am American and I fully indulge in and appreciate our wastefulness.  Anyway, there were some things I just had to get used to and I did rather quickly.  But there is one thing I just could not get the hang of, the money.  Pounds and Pence!  I could not count that darn money to save my life.  I missed my pennies, nickles, quarters, and dimes.  At one point I handed the cashier my money and said, “Just take what you need.”  Oh and even crazier than that, I was tipping folks left and right.  If we went some where more than once, workers remembered us well.  I told my daughter how friendly they were to us at this one restaurant so we just kept going back.  She said me if we were tipping and explained that they do not tip in England like they do in America.  Who knew?  No…I didn’t read up on English customs before I went.  It was kind of a last minute trip, but I will have to explain that in another post.

Oh, it is time for a photo break.  I wouldn’t want you to get bored:


Can you imagine your face being on money and you’re still alive?!




The pound was worth 40 cents more than the American dollar : /  So, if you purchased as hat for $2 pounds, that would cost you $2.80 in American dollars.  That may not seem like a big difference, but it is when you are purchasing something for $200.


Me: Excuse me, but I asked for lemonade.

Waiter:  That is lemonade.

Me:  With bubbles?

Thank you for stopping by!  I will post more about our week in Europe another day : )

Day One in London

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Keeping a journal while I was in England, would have taken a lot of pleasure out of my vacation.  However, I do regret not keeping one now.  I should have written a sentence or two to sum up each day.  Now I will just have to rely on photos to help me to remember the highlights of our trip.  I figure I will document my trip through a series of posts with this one being the first.

My husband and I didn’t sleep much on the plane, so we were exhausted when we landed.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t check in our hotel until 3 pm.  We had three hours to lounge around, so we went to the mall.  Our cell phones weren’t working and I am certain we were both going through withdraw.  If no one has coined a term to describe such a withdraw they should.  We were searching for a store in the mall so we could check our e-mails.  I am sure I will have to revise this later after I talk to my husband because I am leaving out some interesting details. On our way to the mall, I was so confused because the cars drive on the opposite side of the highway.  I would have gotten hit at least three times had my husband not pulled me back.  Well, actually, I would have probably…gotten hit one time because I don’t think I would have crossed the street again if I had gotten hit by that tour bus.


Back to the mall…while walking through the mall, people kept bumping into me!  I was getting extremely frustrated because I was tired, hungry, and missing my cell-phone features.  My husband who was also tired asked me why I kept bumping into everybody.  Well, it took me two days to realize that the mall traffic was just like road traffic.  Everything was opposite!  You know how two people are walking and you automatically know which side to go on to avoid bumping into each other?  Well, that didn’t work out so well for me in England.  I am naturally clumsy walking in my own country, so it was a real challenge for me.

We never found what we needed for our phones, so following our daughter’s advice, we purchased UK phones and we had to “top it off,” which meant buy minutes.  With all the topping off we did, I could have purchased a whole new wardrobe!

Well, we were able to communicate with our daughter.  She also had a UK phone.  She was staying at Cambridge University at the time.  Still, no e-mail, though, except for the slow behind computer back at the hotel.  They charged you by the minute to use it, and it took several minutes to do everything.  As I sat there, I was going nuts because it was moving so slowly.  “Gosh geez!”  I  talked to the computer as other hotel guests looked at me strangely.  “How am I supposed to get anything done on this hunk of junk?


Hilton Hotel Kensington

Sorry I just jumped from the mall to the hotel.  Back to the mall… my husband and I finally sat down to eat after walking around for hours.  My stomach was queasy (withdraw, I’m sure), so I asked for a ginger ale.  No Ginger ale!!  Remember, I was tired, so unimportant things mattered.

We went back to the phone store because we were having problems with our UK phones.  When the young lady in the store said, “This is rubbish!”  My eyes lit up.  I still don’t know why exactly.  Maybe I was just delirious.  We topped our phone off again before returning to the hotel where I sipped tea most of the night, feeling like rubbish ; )


In a day or so, I will write a post about money in England:


Blessings to you!

Yuletide at Winterthur

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My husband, daughter, and I toured the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate. It was a great way  way to spend the afternoon.  There were awesomely decorated Christmas trees in the center of elegant rooms full of antique furniture. The table settings were colorful and inviting.  I wanted to sit down and have a cup of tea.  While the tour guide, who was extremely nice, was talking, I was snapping photos.





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Judge Not

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Judge Not

By Shawn R. Jones

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 7:1

A cashier at our neighborhood market had such an unwelcoming disposition that I would avoid her checkout line. Sometimes she would be the only cashier working and I, of course, would have to get in her line. I would smile and say good morning as pleasantly as I knew how without breaking into song and dance. She would respond with a mumbled hi. After that, she would work in silence, and I would bag my groceries and pay in silence.

One day my husband and I were shopping in that same neighborhood grocery store. I told him not to go to the “evil cashier.” Of course he carefully angled the cart between the candy bar and magazine racks of her aisle. He asked her about her holiday and talked about the weather. Meanwhile, I was thinking, He is so corny, and this is so unnecessary. He called her by the name displayed on her nametag. She mumbled and grumbled for a while, but he kept on talking to her.

Then she held up my frozen macaroni and cheese and said, “You should make it from scratch.” I looked at her strangely. Then she gave me advice on how to prepare the best macaroni and cheese. “You gotta use that cheese from behind the meat counter. Tell them it’s for mac and cheese. They’ll know what you’re talkin’ about.”

My husband said, “How about we just come to your house and eat?”

She smiled and said, “Anytime. I haven’t had much company since my son passed away last year.”

My husband and I did not go to her home, but every time we saw her in the market, she smiled, talked, and laughed as she ran our items across the scanner.


Dear Lord, I am sorry for judging others. Please remind me that everyone has a story that I may not know or understand. Please forgive me and fill my heart with compassion for everyone I meet. Amen.

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)


Move on Despite Tragedy

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Move on Despite Tragedy

By Shawn R. Jones

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:54

My grandmother held three jobs. She worked fulltime at a nursing home in Atlantic City, part-time as a waitress at a local restaurant, and part-time as a home health aide. Although my grandmother was in her early forties, she had just become fully independent. She had enrolled in evening classes to obtain her G.E.D., got her driver’s license, and purchased a used car. Unfortunately, she and my grandfather were legally separated, and with five older children, she was finally able to concentrate on herself.

My grandmother started dating Jerry, a bellhop who worked at the restaurant’s adjoining hotel. He was twenty years her senior and claimed that he too was separated from his spouse. When my grandmother discovered he was still living with his wife, she ended their relationship. Jerry threatened and stalked my grandmother for days. However, no one took his actions seriously, until my mother received a phone call from the restaurant.

“Jerry just shot your mother up!” It was the voice of the sixteen-year-old waitress who worked at the restaurant with my grandmother. The young waitress later told police that Jerry came in the back door of the establishment and shot my grandmother three times before shooting himself. Later, my mother had to identify her mother’s body at the Atlantic CityMedicalCenter. The residual effects of that tragedy affected our family for a couple generations. When I would complain about small things, my mother would say, “Look, my mother was murdered! Save your energy for the big stuff.” As much as I wanted to ask what that had to do with anything, I knew better, and I later learned that it had a lot to do with everything.

As I got older, some of that “big stuff” came just as my mother had promised. Sometimes I felt like I was hit coming and going, but I knew I had to keep going. “Big stuff” will come your way too, but you have to move past it all just like my grandmother’s five children did. From watching them, I learned that death and tragedy are not excuses to give up on life and certainly not excuses to give up on God. All five of them were survivors, and no matter what comes your way, you have to be a survivor too.

Dear Lord, I am so grateful for Your divine strength that helps me cope in a world that can be frightening and unpredictable. During times of mourning, thank You for reminding me of Your gift of everlasting life. It is this gift that keeps me hopeful in the face of death. Amen.


Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

24 Hour Mt. Break

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Everyone needs a break from their daily routine. It doesn’t have to be a long break or even a week long vacation.  24 hours away from the ordinary can relax your body and mind.  My husband and I really wanted to get away for the weekend, but we both had something to do on Saturday and Sunday.  Well, we were determined to get some time alone, so we decided to go  to the mountains for 24 hours.  Since Saturday and Sunday didn’t work, we went from Thursday to Friday, and we had an amazing time.  Make time to get away, even if it is just for a few hours in the afternoon.  Here are some photos I took in the mountains last night and this morning.


Mountains 2012


I took this from the truck window.


Mountain Trail


My husband took this shot.


This is my husband sitting still!!!  Only in the mountains…

Be blessed and have a Happy New Year!

Restore My Mind

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    For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind. -2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

     Have you ever been afraid of what the day might bring? I have, and to be honest, it was more of a moment to moment struggle. My mind would not stop creating visions of unforeseen tragedies, and my fears increasingly turned into panic. It got so bad that I would get light-headed as soon as I walked into what I believed was a potentially dangerous situation.  The major problem was that everything had become a potentially dangerous situation to me. My house was the only place I felt safe. Then one day, while driving, I lost control of my body.  I gripped the steering wheel several times, trying to find a position to calm me. I grabbed my neck and hair repeatedly, alternating between the two with my mouth twitching, hands and arms shaking.  I looked over at a group of boys selling drugs on the corner, and at that moment, I understood the tremendous struggle within every drug addict, alcoholic, and crazy person I had ever seen in my life.  I even thought of pulling my car over to the curb where the boys stood and buying something, anything, to make me feel better.

That day, I realized I couldn’t get well on my own.  I couldn’t beat the invisible power that had a hold on me. My mind had folded in on itself. In six months, I had become both depressed and paranoid, and I knew I could no longer think my way back to reality. All the cliché prayers I had learned went right out the window.  Instead, I cried a deep cry, gargling Jesus’ name through my tears.

In the days that followed, God gave me deep human insight and overwhelming compassion for people I had once casually dismissed, like prostitutes and the neighborhood “crackhead.”  Whenever I encountered them, I talked to each of them about God.  I discovered they had a story that was not too different from my own.  Life, with its magnitude of cruelty, had brought each of them down to the place where I met them on the street.   Instantly, I understood that God put them in my path, so I could look beyond their plight and connect with their humanity…

Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames

(Ambassador International, 2011)

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