Mike and his spaghetti models keep me even-keeled

Huge shout-out to www.spaghettimodels.com (on Facebook as Mike’s Weather Page and on Twitter as @tropicalupdate). I recommend following him everywhere you find him.

It’s not necessarily something to help with your writing, but it’s definitely a sanity saver if you live on the coast and see a hurricane heading your way. As was the case this week with Hurricane Isaias.

Mike’s web site is a treasure trove of graphs, charts, and models curated from weather sources. Seriously – this screen grab (below) is showing only a tiny piece of all the site offers.

Mike typically gives live updates on Facebook to explain the different models and charts – and he does it with a dash of humor, which, let’s face it, one can use when the weather gets crazy. He often features his two sidekicks (French bulldogs), Hurricane Louis and Hunter.



I Do Declare: We need to do something about this month’s lack of holidays

You go, August!

Welcome into month number eight of the Craziest Year Ever. When I was casting about for something nice to say about this month that we can all agree is the hottest, most humid, and most conducive to hurricanes (we have one off the coast even as I’m posting this), I realized that August is the only month without an official holiday.

It’s true. You can look it up.

  • January has New Year’s Day and MLK Day.
  • February gets all the love with Valentine’s Day and President’s Day.
  • March goes green with St. Patrick’s Day and a lot of basketball madness.
  • April gives us Spring, Easter, and tax day (except when it’s a crazy year like this one).
  • May is remembered for Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
  • June celebrates Father’s Day.
  • July waves the Independence Day flag.
  • August – ???
  • September touts Labor Day.
  • October has Columbus Day and Halloween.
  • November revels in the Thanksgiving four-day-weekend.
  • December gives us Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

See? No holidays for August. It’s also one of the months with 31 days, which only adds insult to injury: More workdays without a break. No parties for you, August. It’s like the month is constantly in trouble.

Helpful Wikipedia informs me that August was originally called Sextilis – which might explain why it’s always in trouble … haha, kidding … no seriously, sextilis actually means “sixth” in Latin (back then it was the sixth month) – and then around 700 BC it became the eighth month when January and February were added. (Wouldn’t you like to see the minutes of that meeting? “We don’t seem to have enough months, and that’s messing up my PTO. I move that we add two more and put them at the beginning.” “Second!”)

Years later, Julius Caesar, whose ego required him to name things after himself, created the Julian calendar (see?), added two days to August (a-ha, I bet that’s why they stabbed him!), and renamed it August (again with the ego). Apparently he chose this month as his namesake because that’s when he enjoyed most of his triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt.

Which still doesn’t count as a holiday.

Fortunately, in my quest for something praiseworthy about August, I stumbled across a site (nationaltoday.com), which has quite the list of celebratory moments for each month.  (It’s a fabulous site. Go bookmark it.) One in August is National Just Because Day on August 27, which pretty much sums up the whole month.

Here are some of August’s more interesting festive features. Plan accordingly.

Food and Beverage

  • August 1: National Mustard Day
  • August 2: National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
  • August 3: National Watermelon Day
  • August 7: International Beer Day
  • August 16: National Rum Day
  • August 18: National Fajita Day
  • August 19: National Potato Day
  • August 23: National Sponge Cake Day
  • August 24: National Waffle Day
  • August 28: National Red Wine Day
  • August 31: National Trail Mix Day


  • August 8: International Cat Day
  • August 10: National Spoil Your Dog Day
  • August 17: National Black Cat Appreciation Day
  • August 26: National Dog Day
  • August 28: National Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day

General Interest

  • August 1: National Coloring Book Day
  • August 9: National Book Lovers Day
  • August 12: National Middle Child Day
  • August 13: International Left-Handers Day
  • August 16: National Tell A Joke Day


I Do Declare: Alligators are perfect

gator1I love alligators.

To be clear: I don’t want to own one, and I keep a respectable distance from them.

My affinity for the creature is more of a metaphor. I think of alligators as a perfect example of being what God created you to be and being happy in it.

The thing is, I’ve always had a problem with this concept of being comfortable with what I am and being happy with what God created me to be.

I’ve spent time seeking after things I’m really not meant to do — certain jobs, careers moves, assignments — sometimes because of a grass-is-greener-over-there mindset and sometimes because I’ve made assumptions about what I “should” be doing and sometimes because I listen to advice that’s best ignored. And it ends up creating a lot of unnecessary friction in my life. This has been a struggle for some time.

gse_multipart28970One day, as I walked around a park, I watched an alligator swimming through a lagoon. And I was struck by the thought that God had created that creature to be exactly what it was: It cannot be domesticated, it can be found among groups but prefers working alone, it understands and fills its needs (sleeps when it’s tired, eats when it’s hungry, etc.) and when it’s not working, it lies around sunning itself on a bank.

And I thought, “Hey, wait – that’s me as a writer.” True story.

I was gripped by the insight that this is God’s perfect design for this creature, and it’s an illustration of His perfect design for me — to be what he created me to be and to be happy in it. Sure, I can strive for excellence in what I do, but when it comes to who I am, I should not strive for any more or less than to be the creative, passionate, inspired, excited, deeply joyful individual that I already am and to rejoice that I was put on this Earth to be one of His beloved daughters.

It was an exciting moment when I realized this. And since then, the alligator has been the inspiration of that designation of God’s perfect design. I’ve collected a lot of alligator memorabilia, because that insight — moving though it was — sometimes gets lost in the day-to-day minutia and I need the reminders.

I have several alligator necklaces, a pair of alligator earrings and several alligator nick-nacks, stuffed toys and what-nots around my office to remind me. I have a three-foot plastic alligator that sits outside my office. I named him Cicero, and he looks real enough to have frightened people. I like that. Who wouldn’t want a guard-gator?

The alligator is an amazing creature. It has an undeserved reputation as a monster-beast, but maintains the good grace to be exactly what God created it to be and to be happy in his own skin.

We could learn a lot from the example.


I Do Declare: Oil is good for us

Olive oilSometimes the questions can nag at us: What are we called to do? Are we actually doing what we were called to do? And the most distracting question of all: How do we know? (Along with its sequels: But how do we know that we know? And how do we know that we know that we know? – etc. until the cows come home.)

I used to torture myself with questions like that until I discovered this reasonable and reassuring way to know:

Check the oil.

 I’m sure that sounds a bit strange, so I’ll upack it for you.

When we’re inside God’s will, we’re anointed for the task. In Old Testament times, when people were anointed, the priest would pour oil on their heads, which signified God’s blessing.

Basically, they were oiled up.

So when we’re inside God’s will, we too are oiled up. Anointed.

Now, think of a car and what it means for the car to be oiled up. That means it runs smoothly, the pistons gliding inside the cylinders with ease, moving the vehicle down the road.

When the car has no oil – that is, when it’s not oiled up, not anointed – it’s basically metal against metal. Friction. Overheating. Sometimes complete engine failure.

In terms of knowing whether we’re doing what we’re made to do, here’s the clue: When we’re anointed for the task, even the struggles are easy to handle. When we’re not, even the easy things are a struggle.

So the next time the questions swoop in, screeching and shrieking and dropping doubts all around your work, don’t let them bury you under their weight.

Just check the oil.