The royal bee

AUTHORS’ NOTE
The Royal Bee was inspired by the true story of our grandfather; Hong Seung Han, when he was an illiterate boy in late nineteenth-century Korea. Too poor to attend school, he would eavesdrop at the door of the rich children’s schoolhouse until he was eventually allowed to attend. After he won a national academic contest, the Governor of his province invited him to reside in the palace. There, he tutored the Governor’s young son while continuing his education.
Years later our grandfather attended seminary in Pyongyang under the teachings of an American missionary and became a prominent church minister. In 1905 he wed our grandmother; Pang Seung Hwa. Together they became missionaries in China. Continue reading “The royal bee”

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The Tower

Ten-year-old John McNeil ran barefoot out the door on a windy, cold day in February and headed straight for the 125-foot electrical tower behind the McNeil home. John didn’t realize the dangers of the structure, which carries power from Hoover Dam to the southern Arizona communities. He didn’t know that it carried 230,000 sizzling volts through its silver wires. He wasn’t even aware that he had forgotten his shoes. John suffers from autism, a condition that separates him from reality, forcing him to live within his own thoughts. That day his thoughts were set on climbing to the top of that tower, touching the sky and feeling what it’s like to fly. Continue reading “The Tower”

A Smiling Journey in Darkness

I was scared to death of death. I suppose everyone is scared of death in some way, but I avoided thinking about it at all costs. When my significant other decided she wanted to get a dog, I loved the idea — except I knew that one day I would have to see it die, and so I resisted as long as I could. We ended up with two dogs, and when the first one died, I happened to be 3,000 miles away, which was a great relief to me. Continue reading “A Smiling Journey in Darkness”

Becoming whole

“I am one. Not half of something.” I spoke those words from a stage in Duluth, Minnesota, where people had braved the frigid temperatures to attend my presentation and book signing. As a single thirty-something, I have finally learned that I do not need to be part of a couple in order to feel complete. Sure, someday, I would like to be married and have a family, but my life will not start then. I am living happily ever after right now. Continue reading “Becoming whole”

A Mental Cancer

It was December of my sixth grade year, and Mom wanted Quinn and me to run in the “Reindeer Run” — a one-mile “fun run” for kids. Quinn was an athletic, gorgeous, golden-haired nine-year-old; I was her stumpy, awkward-footed older sister. While I was twenty months older, Quinn had always been skinnier, just as strong, and nearly as tall. It was a no-brainer who should be running in front. Continue reading “A Mental Cancer”

Chase’s journey

When the news came, my parents were heartbroken and distraught. My dad and stepmom had been trying to have a baby for quite some time and had just learned that the chances were slim to none. That’s when they decided to participate in foster care. The idea of giving back to a family and allowing ours to grow at the same time was exactly what we were looking for. After many months of classes and tests, a two-year-old boy named Chase entered our lives. Continue reading “Chase’s journey”

A Student of Life

I wasn’t born a brilliant student. My learning disability, auditory processing disorder, made it nearly impossible to become an outstanding student. Still, throughout my testing, teachers found that I had a special gift — the gift of writing. While I scored poorly in most school subjects, I had nearly perfect written papers and exemplary spelling and grammar skills. Continue reading “A Student of Life”

Becoming Whole

“I am one. Not half of something.” I spoke those words from a stage in Duluth, Minnesota, where people had braved the frigid temperatures to attend my presentation and book signing. As a single thirty-something, I have finally learned that I do not need to be part of a couple in order to feel complete. Sure, someday, I would like to be married and have a family, but my life will not start then. I am living happily ever after right now. Continue reading “Becoming Whole”

Confessions of a morning person

It happened again today. I found myself apologizing to someone for being too perky in the morning. It wasn’t even that early. I called a client at 9:00 A.M. — after watching the clock until precisely 8:59 and 59 seconds, which I figured was late enough to make a business call. I jumped into the conversation with a bit too much enthusiasm, I suppose, because my client responded with, “Whoa, you are WAY too awake for this time of morning.” Continue reading “Confessions of a morning person”

Lovesick

In the past six years of my life I have spent countless hours in a hospital. Going to appointments, having tests run, getting surgery, and now that I know how it feels to be there, spending my time visiting other patients and volunteering my time at the kids’ holiday parties. When you’ve spent so much time around the staff, they, like other patients, become your family. Out of all these people who have touched my life in some way, there is one who touched my heart and who I will never forget. Continue reading “Lovesick”

A Jelly Bean for Halloween

The bag of assorted candies was ready, and I’d been looking forward to visits from pint-sized goblins. But Halloween morning, my arthritis flared up, and by evening, I could barely move. I couldn’t possibly answer each knock on the door to distribute the goodies, so I decided to fasten the candy bag to the door and watch the parade of trick-or-treaters from my darkened living room. Continue reading “A Jelly Bean for Halloween”

A silent voice

The situation seemed hopeless.

From the first day he entered my junior-high classroom, Willard P. Franklin existed in his own world, shutting out his classmates and me, his teacher. My attempts at establishing a friendly relationship with him were met with complete indifference. Even a “Good morning, Willard” received only an inaudible grunt. I could see that his classmates fared no better. Willard was strictly a loner who seemed to have no desire or need to break his barrier of silence. Continue reading “A silent voice”

Big Ed

When I arrived in the city to present a seminar on Tough-Minded Management, a small group of people took me to dinner to brief me on the people I would talk to the next day.

The obvious leader of the group was Big Ed, a large burly man with a deep rumbling voice. At dinner he informed me that he was a troubleshooter for a huge international organization. His job was to go into certain divisions or subsidiaries to terminate the employment of the executive in charge. Continue reading “Big Ed”

Heaven on Earth

I had rarely seen an early November day as mild as that one. It was as though God had decided to grace those of us living in Michigan’s snow belt with a special gift of balmy temperatures and gentle breezes before winter’s descent. My friend Rick and I were walking the country road near my home, taking in the harvested corn and the autumn leaves still clinging to the trees. Continue reading “Heaven on Earth”

I Can’t Believe I Did That

I was dangling my legs in the pool when Linda swam up and blocked me. Something about Linda always made me a little uncomfortable. I wanted her to like me, mostly because none of my classmates lived close enough to hang out after school. Linda lived only two houses down from mine. But this warm spring afternoon, her words made me shiver. Continue reading “I Can’t Believe I Did That”

A Quilted Life

There is a quilt on every bed in my grandmother’s battered farmhouse. Most of the patchwork blankets are generations old. Their bindings sport holes of wear. Newer quilts flaunt their fresh, rich colors in Grandma’s room. My first attempt at quilting hangs on her wall. The colors are bright, but the shapes are ever-so-slightly askew. Nevertheless, every uneven stitch holds meaning. Each crooked patch tells a story. Continue reading “A Quilted Life”

Sharifa’s Story

Sharifa and I were classmates in 1998 at the university for Afghan refugees in Peshawar, and at the time we both lived in a crowded neigh­bourhood populated mainly by Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan. She was the oldest of six daughters who had been born with only one-year gaps between them all. Continue reading “Sharifa’s Story”

I Will Remember

Until I was eight I thought Sunday was called Sunday because you had to spend it in the sun. I thought that because I spent every single Sunday outside in the garden with Nana.

The zucchini plants quickly became my favorite. It was the way the tiny little delicate tendrils reached out and wrapped around the lattice, like tiny fingers holding on as tightly as they could. Continue reading “I Will Remember”

A Real Dad

From the age of eight, I had yearned for a father. When I was seventeen, my mother married again and I expected this man, Steve, to be a poor father like his predecessors. But I was wrong.

The walls I had built to protect my heart did not come down easily, and this time, my new “father” did not attempt to tear them down. Instead, little by little, he weakened them with patient and loving kindness. Continue reading “A Real Dad”

Bad Hop

The ball pinged off the aluminum bat and headed toward the hole between shortstop and third base, the sort of one-hop screamer that the high-school junior shortstop, my son Chris, had backhanded a thousand times.

Only this time, the ball hit a pebble and caromed weirdly toward his head. With a sickening crunch, the ball caught him flush in his left eye, and he went down in a heap. Bad hop, and a bad break. Continue reading “Bad Hop”

A Simple Gesture

Everybody can be great . . . because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove and a small tape recorder. Continue reading “A Simple Gesture”

Promises To Keep

I’m a teacher. But there are days, like today, when I wonder why. It’s been a tough day. The results of an English quiz taken by my fifth-graders were dismal. Despite my best efforts, the world of pronouns remains a mystery to them. How I wish there is a way to make the study of our language as exciting as a computer game, so the glazed looks would not appear in their eyes at the mention of the word “grammar.” Continue reading “Promises To Keep”

To Be Really Rich

This was my first birthday away from home, and I missed my mom, my sister, and most certainly the special cake my mother always made for my birthday. Since getting to college that year, I would watch jealously as the other freshmen received packages from their parents on their birthdays – and even on ordinary days. Instead of feeling thrilled about my coming eighteenth birthday, I felt empty. I wished my mom would send me something, too, but I knew that she couldn’t afford presents or the postage. She had done her best with my sister and me – raising us by herself. The simple truth was, there just was never enough money. Continue reading “To Be Really Rich”

A Change for the Better

From an early age, I was told not to make the same mistakes as my mother. She hadn’t had an easy life since getting pregnant with me at seventeen, and she always blamed me for her failures. Unable to care for me, my grandparents took me in at six weeks of age and raised me as their daughter. I excelled in school and took pleasure in being on the track team, part of Camp Fire and attending ballet classes. I had a great relationship with my grandparents. Then, in eighth grade, I discovered that staying out late with my friends was more fun than going home. Continue reading “A Change for the Better”

Flying a Kite

Her skin was the color of rich, hot chocolate and her brown eyes twinkled with intelligence and humor. Her name was Michelle and she spent her days in a purple wheelchair because she had been born with Cerebral Palsy. She rolled into my classroom — and my heart—when she was just three years old. Her courage was an inspiration to me and her spirit touched my heart. Continue reading “Flying a Kite”

Big Problems, Little Miracles

Someone called it my “midlife crisis.” Personally, I think it was just a string of rotten luck, including horrendous income changes, my son’s poor health winging its way into its sixteenth straight month, medical bills that could choke a buffalo, bewilderment following cross words with two of my grown children, the empty-nest syndrome looming just months away when my youngest would be leaving for college eighteen hundred miles away, daily lower back pain due to lack of exercise, arguments with a woman in Texas over a book we were coauthoring and the fact that I’d only seen the sun for about twenty-six hours all winter. Continue reading “Big Problems, Little Miracles”

Daddy’s Garden

When I was little, I used to think my dad raked the maple leaves into a big pile so that we kids could dive into it and play. In those days, I thought the wheelbarrow that accompanied him to the back garden was meant for the rides he gave us back to the house. His flower garden at the side of the house was his special place of refuge—and it was there that his soul brushed mine to forever bond. Continue reading “Daddy’s Garden”

Stay True To Yourself and Your Dreams

When I was six or seven years old, I would go up to my parents and say, “Mommy! Daddy! I want to be just like that person when I’m all grown up!” My parents would just look down at me and smile. My mom would always say, “Do what you think will make you happy.” I always tried to stay true to that, but as I got older, I decided that I wanted to be something else. When you find something that you truly want to be, but people around you think that you are not capable of doing it, it hurts. Continue reading “Stay True To Yourself and Your Dreams”

A D-Minus

For some reason, I was not very good in school. English and Math were my worst two subjects. There was just something wrong with me, inside my head. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not figure out why I didn’t understand what all the other kids found so easy to learn. I do not think there was ever a day that I went to school that I was not afraid. Continue reading “A D-Minus”

Beauty Is as Beauty Does

I had just turned twelve when I realized I wasn’t young enough to be a carefree kid anymore but also not old enough to be a “cool” teenager. I was also unlucky enough to be a twelve-year-old with thick glasses and orthodontic braces. In spite of the “four eyes” and “metal mouth” name-calling I had to endure, my mother insisted these temporary impediments would all be worth it someday. She reminded me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Ugly Duckling, to make her point. Continue reading “Beauty Is as Beauty Does”

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