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Weave together the gifted Dalmatian puppy with a gold earring, with the Collins’s children and their adventuresome single mom, and the children’s story, Gypsy – The Refugee (2021), emerges as a rollicking romp, often at breakneck speed. Adding to the momentum are family pets: the cockatoo Tina, the ferret Hardy, and the boa constrictor Frankie; even more pets appear later.

Besides these elements—more than sufficient to create the Collins’s world—others seamlessly evolve: international espionage, the CIA, and the Oval Office. Fast-paced dialogue exemplified by peppery interactions of the mom and children brings this about as they discover Gypsy’s special gift and its helpfulness to those in trouble.   

What’s endearing about this children’s story is its template for the author Patricia Coughlin’s own family, and Gypsy, their loved Dalmatian; it was drawn from their life in the 1980s and embellished by decades of reading spy novels. 

The surprise ending leaves smiles upon readers’ hearts. This is a story about really caring. This oldster found Gypsy – The Refugee fun to read.

Gypsy – The Refugee can be found on Amazon and B and N.

This afternoon, the ducks are more than one mile from their pond-home, surrounded on three sides by the ranch homes of an extended family in my neighborhood. Everyone knows these ducks, evidently tamed for decades by the loving-kindness that surrounds them. Toddlers with their moms often stop and feed them. Opposite their fenced-enclosure, a faded yellow and black sign, “Duck Crossing,” alerts pedestrians and motorists, alike, to their presence.

Perhaps wearied by their trek, the ducks squat upon mounds of fresh grass moistened by misty rains; their two speckled companions, not photographed, are nearby, still exploring a puddle. The white duck, like a Joan of Arc, appears to lead the others on their jaunts. Then as abruptly as they began, they stop as other ducks swell the pond and mating takes off in earnest. And so it has been for the last fifteen years.

But yesterday, I heard the ducks outdid themselves, venturing onto a major thoroughfare, stopping traffic in four lanes until they waddled across, drawing quizzical smiles from most motorists.

Would that all peoples could be as free-spirited, as instinct-directed, as open-minded as our neighborhood ducks; even the black one with the limp participates fully with the others. Would that we could practice heart-acceptance, despite our differences and stop throwing around terms like, cancel culture that only feed the glaring divide among us.  

Perhaps learn to lighten up when spring waddles of ducks begin. Creator God would have it so.

“It was so disheartening to see miles of litter on the Interstate on our way to the Arlington Wetlands—plastic bags matted together, wads of bleeding paper, food remnants in Styrofoam containers, beer and Pepsi cans, even face masks. What’s got into people to trash our world like that?” asked my friend as she stirred the quinoa in the pot while reducing the flame underneath. “It sure messed with our enjoyment of hiking once we got there.”

Her complaint recalled my annoyance, years ago, while paused at a stoplight watching the truck driver ahead of me flip a lit cigarette through his opened window onto the pavement. I wanted to retrieve the butt and ask him to dispose of it properly—perhaps in the ashtray of his truck. Then, I thought better of it, and the light changed.

Yet, littering a solitary cigarette butt suggests mindlessness, malaise, loss of élan, even varying degrees of depression. Such indiscriminate trashing also seeps into psyche and dumps indigestible particles that fester in generations-long resentments.

I know what this feels like because I’ve been there—but not for long, once I got into 12-Step recovery. Retaining “conscious contact with Higher Power,” per Step XI, is difficult, but doable. Within His grace, we thrive, no matter that Covid-19 issues lurk around us. Scriptures challenge us to emerge from within the fire—the First Letter of Peter 1 :7 and shine with care.

Available on Amazon

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