8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are scary. Not only is there the perpetual smell of urine and chemical cleaners, there’s the constant blathering of a thousand TVs all set to something different…not to mention they’re full of little old ladies who mistake you for their daughter (when actually you’re their son).

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Image credit: IrishExaminer.com

And yet…Those little old ladies are sick, lonely, inching towards death, trapped in this mysterious and scary place that smells like body fluids, and could sure use a smiling face to set the day apart from all others.

In short…they could use YOU to break up the week and bring some cheer into their pain and uncertainty!

Impossible, you say? You could never go visiting in a nursing home? You’d rather be caught dead than in one of those places? (Jinx.)

It’s not as scary as you think. Check out these tips for visiting a nursing home…and then you might decide that even you can help out in this important ministry!

Starting is the Hardest

The first time I visited a nursing home, I wasn’t sure I would make it.

When you walk in, you might not know anyone. Besides the intimidating environment, you don’t know what to expect. Anything could happen.

You’re there to “love on people” and “touch lives”…but what does that even look like in real life?

You won’t know until you try. And chances are, it’ll look different in your case than it did in mine…but don’t give up!

Here are some strategies to make those new friends:

  • Walk down the hall, knock on doors, and see who smiles back at you. Chances are good that people will let you say hello for a few minutes, if you just ask.
  • Contact the staff of the facility where you’re visiting, and ask them which residents don’t have family or friends in the area…or which residents might enjoy having the Bible or a devotional read to them. The staff will probably be excited to help you…Our bodies heal faster when our minds and emotions are in good shape!
  • Bring a dog, baby, or small child with you. People will come to you to make friends!
  • Talk to the activities director or other person in charge, and bring a craft, special movie night, or other activity in to the facility. Those who are able and interested in participating will show up…and now you have a connection for other visiting opportunities!
  • Go see someone you already know: a relative, former church member, or friend of someone you know. Chances are they’ll have a roommate you can talk to at the same time, and you might meet someone in the hallway you can get to know.

It does get better!

You’ll get the hang of things, find a routine, and make new friends.

Just like the first day of school, the first month in a new town, or the first few weeks in a new apartment building…it’ll take getting used to.

Just remember: there are no strangers – only friends you haven’t met yet!

Take a Buddy

Yes, you’re there to make new friends…but sometimes the best way to do that is to bring old friends!

From the disciples Jesus sent out, to Paul and Silas and Barnabas and John Mark, to the multiple-elder model of the Biblical church, we’re supposed to do ministry together.

Not only does this provide accountability, to 1) keep us on the straight and narrow and 2) protect our reputation from the Enemy…but it’s also more fun!

Walking into a strange place to speak to people you don’t know is a lot less intimidating when you have a buddy at your side. Whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone from your church, take that buddy!

You can’t swim without a buddy…don’t try to visit without a buddy. They’ll be there for you when you don’t know what to say, they’ll be a prayer partner with you, and they’ll keep the ball rolling on days when you can’t make it.

No one ever said you had to do this alone! So don’t try 🙂

Don’t Worry About What You’ll Say

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

My grandma, dying of brain cancer

What do you do when an old lady looks right at you and says, “I’m dying?”

When a woman tells you she has cancer?

When someone weeps about the disfunction in her family, and how she’s not getting the care she wants?

Just like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the temptation is to open our big mouths and fix everybody’s problems.

Sometimes they need their problems fixed. Sometimes God put us there to share Jesus with them and point them to ultimate healing.

And sometimes…the very best thing we can do is sit beside them, holding their hand and crying with them.

It feels like doing diddly-squat. But people appreciate it more than you’ll ever know.

Pray. A Lot. For Everything

What about the times when you need to say something?

You’ve got the Holy Spirit inside you, right? Leave it to Him.

If He starts poking you from the inside, whispering, “This lady will go to Hell without Me — introduce us!” you just better listen is all I’m saying.

And as long as you’re having good, long conversations with Him on a daily basis, you’ll have the strength you need.

Pray for one another

You can also pray for your friends – new and old!

While it’s vital that you spend quality time with God for your own spiritual health, it’s also important to bring others before him.

Your contacts in the nursing home will have obvious needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual) that you should tell your Father about…but what about your visiting buddies?

Don’t forget to pray for them, too — that they will have just the right words to say, that they will meet just the right person God wants them to minister to, and that they will be strong on the days that are hard.

(And encourage them to pray for you, too!)

Just Showing Up Means the World

If you don’t take anything else away from this post, learn this:

Don’t sweat it.

God is able to take your little, pathetic efforts, and work His grand, amazing scheme out of it.

You’ve taken the first step. God doesn’t ask us to give Him everything all at once…just one thing more.

And until you actually step out, you’ll have no idea how much five minutes of conversation actually means to someone!

Just one short conversation with someone who isn’t paid to be there, who isn’t necessarily related to them, and who’s only there to brighten their day…people will be so grateful, it’ll break your heart.

Commit

Like dieting, exercising, cleaning the house, and other good habits, consistency is key.

Go once a week…or even every other week. That’s all. No pressure.

The more you show up, over and over again, the deeper your relationships with the patients will be. They’ll start to expect you. They’ll remember you from last time, and smile.

You’ll have made a friend.

They’re the ones stuck in a nursing home, so it’ll be up to you to make the effort. But you can do it!

(Not only that, but the staff will start to notice your commitment and faithfulness…which gives you another place to shine Jesus’ love!)

Just show up – week after week, month after month – and people will begin to trust you…in a way that they can’t trust someone who might or might not show up, maybe.

Find a schedule that works for you.

Don’t let yourself make excuses. If this is what God wants you to be doing with your time, make sure you get it done.

And again…don’t sweat it. Emergencies will come up, you’ll miss a day here and there…and sometimes your “contacts” will be out, too.

Just make sure that, when you commit, you really mean it.

It’ll mean the world to some poor senior or patient.

Pray – All the Time – For Everything

Did I mention this?

It’s not super hard to remember to pray for your new friends…especially if you write it down and ask your ministry partners to hold you accountable.

What I find harder is remembering to pray before I go visiting…and to pray for the right words, that God will lead us to the right people, that I will trust Him in every situation, etc.

8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia Wood

Look at that smile 🙂

But this is just as important.

Pray for your fellow visitors. Also pray for the families of the people you will meet, and for the staff, and for the healthcare system as a whole (it needs it, trust me).

Pray that Jesus will be evident in every single action we take.

In this way, you will immerse yourself in God’s will, and invite His Holy Spirit to take charge of your life – and of your commitment to visiting.

I said “take a buddy.” The Holy Spirit is the best buddy you can take.

You Will Fall in Love

I keep saying, “You’ll make new friends.” This is not a figure of speech.

You might just get addicted to this. If a week goes by, and you don’t visit your little buddies, you’ll feel weird.

You’ll have deep conversations…some hard, some amazingly cool. You’ll get to gush about Jesus, and maybe find out you have “brothers and sisters” in some unexpected places.

Your heart will break. You’ll be built up. You will touch the lives of some lonely, desperate people.

God doesn’t call all of us to this kind of ministry…but if He’s calling you, don’t be afraid. He’s got this!

Now go be sunshine to someone who needs it!


8 Tips for Visiting at Nursing Homes — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to her mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

“Wedding Score” by Amanda Tero

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood Stephanie – and her author Ms. Tero – are both single Christian girls inching toward thirty. I am also a single Christian girl inching toward thirty.

This short novella is all about the unique (or not so unique) struggles that we loners face when we have no one but God to depend on…and He doesn’t have physical arms to lean on.

I was super excited for this book from the moment I first heard about it in the author’s newsletter. After all, Christian singleness is a topic I’ve blogged about a time or two, and I’m still traveling the wave of acceptance-to-desperation-to-resignation-to-panic-to-acceptance…

By Single Gals, For Single Gals

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodMs. Tero has me by a year or two, but we’re both still waiting for our Prince Charming…and at times we’re not even sure he’ll ever show up.

But that’s okay. At least, it should be okay, if we affirm that God is the only one we’ll ever really need, and that His arms are big enough to carry us through anything life throws at us…even lifelong lone-ranger-ing.

But – focus on the story!

Stephanie is a relatable protagonist. To the point you might feel Ms. Tero snagged your own characteristics, changed a few particulars to deflect suspicion (for instance, I’m not a musician), and put you full-bodied into her work.

Stephanie is a conservative Christian young lady (wears denim skirts and everything!) and while I don’t think it’s spelled out, you can easily guess she was homeschooled (come on – denim skirt!). She’s also well connected to her church, reads her Bible faithfully, and has a large, loving extended family.

And, just like the rest of us (ahem), she gets hit with a debilitating case of “loner syndrome”.

Christian Religious Inspirational…

Writing about spiritual issues is a ticklish business. It’s so very easy to stray into preachiness, sticky-toffee sugar-coating, awkward marionette-plotting, literal Deus-ex-machina, pat answers to complex questions –

Ms. Tebo’s writing, however, rings authentic – probably because she supplied the text of Stephanie’s devotions from her own personal devotions. The trouble with a story is that we know it’s a story, and therefore that an author crafted it for a deliberate reason. By allowing herself to be vulnerable, and share her own struggle with singleness, Ms. Tebo allowed Stephanie’s journey to be as realistic as possible.

It also helped that the book description and marketing made it obvious this book would tackle religious issues. It wasn’t, for example, pretending to be a murder mystery (AHEM). Everyone who picks up this book will be expecting a Christian exploration of the struggle of singleness…and they won’t be disappointed.

Happily Ever After

"Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia WoodEven before I received my early-access copy of Wedding Score, I knew the ending would be a deal-breaker. After all, when you’re writing a fictional story, you are the “god” of the story world, and can give your characters any ending you want!

It would be too easy for a sick-with-loneliness author to hit all her characters with the “hunky Mr. Right” wand. But that kind of ending would be the last thing a Christian single struggling to be faithful would need. And, that kind of ending would in some ways negate the whole point of the story.

Ms. Tebo escapes that simplistic solution! After wrestling through the entire book with leaning solely on God, Stephanie isn’t “rewarded” with a flesh-and-blood man to hold her hand. No, she still has to depend on God – even while her friends are still getting married all around her! – but the work of His Spirit in her heart has brought a change.

And that is what we have to hold on to, fellow loners! Cling to the knowledge that no matter what – even if we never get to wear that dress or have our own kids – God will be right by our side and we will be “sons and daughters” to Him.

Not Alone

So what else can this book teach you, other than that God is faithful and will be all you need?

That you’re not alone!

Yes, maybe you don’t have your own little nest, but there’s still extended family, church family, and all the other single Christians who are going through the exact same thing you are! Maybe they’re in a different “stage” of singleness than you are, but you can bet they’re bouncing on the wave just the same (unless through the grace of Jesus they’ve arrived, in which case NOT FAIR).

Cry. Laugh. Tell us about your struggles. On the bad days, come for hugs. On the good days, dish out hugs – ’cause we need them!

Somewhere, someone has walked the exact same path as you. And for me at least, that makes the wilderness a little less lonely.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free ARC from the author as part of the book launch. I was not required to write a review of any kind, and all opinions are my own (imagine me being vocal about my opinions!)."Wedding Score" by Amanda Tero — Kimia Wood


Check out my interview with the author!

Wedding Score releases this week!
You can add it on Goodreads, then find it on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo, or as a signed paperback from the author!

Check out the author’s official website at AmandaTero.com.

One Christian Single and the Story God Used

This week Amanda Tero published her novella Wedding Score…the story of a pianist wrestling with God over still being single.

This story really spoke to where I am right now, and I’m so glad the author wrote a guest post to share with us where the story came from, and what God has brought her through—


Left Behind: What About the Christian Singles?

It was 2016. I was 25 in a family with seven children over the age twenty and no one married. One night, I jotted down a few lines of an idea.

“This makes wedding number what that you’ve played for?”

Ruth looked at Uncle Charlie with a grin. “I haven’t counted them all—but my sixth this year.”

“When will it be your turn to walk to the chorus, not play it, right?” He gave me a friendly nudge.

Ruth shrugged, another easy smile gracing her lips. “I really don’t know. Still waiting on the Lord’s timing for me.” Her pat answer that came with ease.

I was really passionate about the idea: one of a single girl who helped with weddings yet was still single (and yes, her name changed since then). A few times, I even tried to brainstorm ideas and get the story going, but it just didn’t happen. Instead, God let the story sit and simmer as, in the three years following, four of my siblings and several cousins married and started their own families. We had always teased that “once one Tero gets married, they’re all going to get married.” We never really thought it would happen quite like that.

Though weddings are a beautiful thing, anyone who has had a sibling or close friend marry knows that it can also be tumultuous as you experience shifting relationships in the midst of emotional change. I will openly admit that there were times I was tempted to bitterness and resentment—not because my life wasn’t changing and others’ was (because, for the most part, I really was okay with that), but because others didn’t realize that they were leaving me “behind.”

The original idea didn’t have a Caiden and Livvy. But after I lived through more of this “singleness stuff,” I realized that often what made things doable as a single was because I wasn’t alone as a single. My best friends were also single. But when they got new best friends and I didn’t have anyone to replace them, I was a little lost. Even though I wanted them to be best friends with their fiancé/fiancée and knew they should be, it affected me far more than I ever thought it would (I’ve often teased that instead of all these courtship and dating books, someone needs to write one for the siblings of these couples—because we need a manual too).

In addition to that, I can’t neglect THE “singleness struggle.” Wanting to be married and have a family, and it’s just not happening. Like Stephanie, my single years have been somewhat smooth. But there is something about having those closest to you get in relationships that make you want that “best friend” who never leaves and never moves on to a new best friend. Like I cover in Wedding Score, I believe it is a God-given desire—but it is also a desire for His perfect timing. Yes, I went through some really raw moments yearning for that “special someone” in my life with no one on the horizon. In those seasons, Psalm 37 became my lifeline (just like it did Stephanie’s). Because I know that God’s plan is perfect, even though I don’t always understand it.

There were some very difficult weeks and months to live through. Something I really didn’t want to live through (but, when do we ever want to live through trials?). But God has graciously taught me so many lessons about living as a single in the midst of a bunch of married couples—and being joyfully content in it all. I could never have written this book in 2016—it would have been so shallow. And I couldn’t have written it in 2017 or 2018—the feelings were still too raw as I was figuring out a new dimension of single living. But 2019… I wasn’t even planning on writing Wedding Score. I had just finished Protecting the Poor and was glancing through my ideas lists when… it was just perfect timing. So much so, that to-date, Wedding Score is the quickest written-edited-released novella I have (especially considering a crazy busy life). I’m honestly sitting here in awe, because it’s all God. He gave me the original idea but it had to live through life experiences before coming to completion.

Have I finished living through the struggles? No. I know they’ll come in waves again. But I know that the God Who helped me through the last three years will help me through the next three… and the next three… and all the years after that. Knowing that, I can look at this whole experience with a heart full of gratitude. God has taken my struggles and made them into something beautiful that encourages others and points others to Him. Wow. I am totally in awe of His work.


You Are NOT Alone!

Sometimes the most encouraging news we can hear is that we’re not alone in this wilderness! That’s something I’ve gleaned from getting to know the “old maid” ladies in my church — that God was faithful in their lives, and even now that they’re old He has not abandoned them…perhaps He will not abandon me, either!

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out Amanda’s book at your favorite retailer…or head to her blog to enter a giveaway (expires 11/02/19)!

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes&Noble | Kobo | Signed paperback

Dear Diary…we gear up

Alert: May contain spoilers for the module “The Village of Hommlet”

No one seems to have been kidnapped during the night, so that’s good.

This morning coming out of the dormitory, we met yet another fighter (whose name I forget) who says he’s waiting for a caravan heading south to the Wild Coast, so he can accompany it.

This place seems to be a decent trade route, as well as a hopping place for monster-killing.

After some discussion, we decided that Raven and Lydia would head to the general store and buy some rations, while the rest of us go talk to the village elder about “evil goings-on.” (I’m still not sure about our methodology, but at least it’s better than randomly provoking people to attack us…)

As we were leaving, we ran into Elmo again – arriving for his first ale of the day.

The elder lives in a well-to-do house with a defensible stone wall. The gate was open, so we went up to the door and knocked.

Nori wanted to “play” with the horses in the yard, I think, but Mikael told her to stay by us.

The elder is an older man, and seems pleasant enough. He greeted Mikael specially (being “old faith” himself), and offered us something to drink.

Ezekiel explained why we’d been sent, and asked for advice.

The elder explained that he knew Cannoness Eday had “left,” and that Canon Turjon had come to replace her…but he hadn’t heard any rumor of foul play.

He advised us not to stay the night in Nulb, and warned us that the High Road ate adventurers…few who go that way have come back. The Low Road to Nulb is longer, winding through the hills, but it’s safer for those going through Nulb to Sabanwich.

Mikael talked about what Druid Ashstaff said – about things being “out of balance” (which is a very Druid thing to say, of course).

The elder advised us to follow the druid’s advice and listen to his warnings…he also told us we’d do well to gather some more party members before setting out.

Ezekiel asked for a recommendation – that, or he just happened to mention that we’d been approached by several potential adventurers, including Elmo – and the elder said that, oh, yes, Elmo was a steady fellow – he was too stupid to be devious.

When we took our leave, Ezekiel decided we should bring Elmo on before heading out on the Low Road, so he and Mikael went to find him (probably watering himself in the Welcome Wench) while I wait in the road for Raven and Lydia (since we agreed we’d all meet up in front of the elder’s house).

Hope Ezekiel’s right about this. It’s so hard to judge someone’s character just at a glance…especially if you aren’t a Paladin.

**

Raven and Lydia met me with a big bag of rations. They figure it’s about three days’ journey to Nulb, so they got a week’s worth of food for each of us. (They had to barter for it, and Raven tells me Lydia was pretty sharp. Also, they didn’t have tabasco sauce. Raven will just have to rough it.)

I told them what Ezekiel was up to while we divvied up the supplies. We should have enough extra for Elmo, and if worst comes to worst I know how to skin rabbits.

After hanging around for a bit, the other three (four counting Nori) came down the road – including Elmo carrying a big battle-axe.

Ezekiel told us Elmo wanted gold for ale, a chainmail shirt, this axe, and a fair share of treasure for adventuring with us. Unfortunately, the shopkeeper charged more than Ezekiel had for a chain shirt, there’s no other place in town to get one, and Elmo wasn’t budging on that requirement.

While digging in the bag of holding to see what treasure we had left over, I discovered the dwarf-sized magic chainmail we got from Durglower. I forgot I was still hauling that around!

Ezekiel will go with Lydia and Elmo to try trading it for Elmo-sized chainmail while the rest of us go have lunch at the inn. Might as well, since the day is getting on, and it looks like we won’t get the early start we thought we would.

**

Apparently Elmo’s a good barterer, too, because we not only got a bigger chainmail shirt, but also 70 gold pieces for Durglower’s armor!

Elmo had to run home and show his mom. (I did ask him, didn’t he have a chainmail shirt before? but he said, “It broke.”) She told him to “be careful,” and then we were finally on the road.

We didn’t get as far as we could have, but we made pretty good time especially with Lydia having to carry all her books, and having shorter legs than most of us (except maybe me).

So far so good. Ezekiel says he’ll take first watch. I’ll take second. Elmo volunteered for third, but Ezekiel asked Mikael to take it.

Ezekiel and Mikael are talking on the other side of the fire. I have a bad feeling about something.

Maybe there really is an “imbalance” in the air.

I’ll sleep up against this tree.


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Dear Diary…we try a new approach

Alert: May contain spoilers for “The Village of Hommlet”

Lydia has been wearing Bakluni face-wraps while traveling. It draws less attention than her face, so I have to applaud her for that.

The last leg of the trip has been pretty quiet. We did meet a caravan of cargo wagons on the road…they told us that “oh, yes, Hommlet is Old Faith” and exchanged pleasantries. They’re passing through all the way to Dyvers.

Lots of gnomes in these hills. They wear different fashions than those in the Starkmounds, but so far they’ve been very hospitable.

****

Met a strange old man on the road today. He sat on the crest of a hill, and looked like a weathered herdsman except we didn’t see any flock.

Ezekiel (naturally) greeted him, and asked if we were on the road to Hommlet.

The man answered that one direction was Hommlet, but the other way was Verbobank. (So…like my brother Snarkin.)

He turned down Ezekiel’s offer that we accompany him, but asked us to “be kind” to any of his flock that we found in Hommlet.

I don’t trust it.

We’re staying outside a gnomish inn tonight, and according to the map we should reach Hommlet early tomorrow. We talked a little bit about what our approach should be, but I think we’re just going to see how things come. After all, our investigative technique in Orlane wasn’t that impressive.

Ezekiel agrees we should try to see if we can resolve this problem without killing any townsfolk.

****

When we first arrived in Hommlet, we passed a little farmhouse where a woman and some dogs came out to greet us.

Raven talked to the dogs for a moment, and told us they were a little worried about Nori.

The woman suggested we go to “The Welcome Wench” for hospitality, and shortly afterward a man who seemed to be her son came out and joined us on the road.

His name is Elmo, and he says he’s a man at arms in the militia (and that his dad is the constable). Hard to tell if he’s not all there, or if he’s just drained his brains into a beer-mug, if you know what I mean.

(Wonder if Reginald will end up like that one day? I don’t see Father giving him an empty title and letting him drink his life away, though…especially not on Father’s dime. Been forever since I’ve had a letter from them…I wonder what they’re all up to by now?)

Anyway, Elmo offered his services if we were to head into the hills looking for monsters with treasure…we told him we’d keep it in mind.

When we reached the inn, we decided that Ezekiel, Mikael, and Lydia would go check out the chapel at the north end of town, while Raven and I investigated the “Welcome Wench” (and its food). (Mikael told Nori to hang out on the roof. She’s pretty used to that…wonder if she catches birds in her spare time or something.)

The common room seemed pretty packed, considering the hour. One big, scar-faced man in the corner wore traveling clothes…I bet anything he’s an adventurer.

Raven promptly ordered a lavish breakfast (I got away with a simple breakfast) and an ale. Elmo, over at another table, was already deep in his ale. It’s a little early in the morning for me to be drinking.

At a table against the wall, a huge man sat with someone who looked Bakluni…they seemed to be watching us, but I couldn’t really hear what they were saying.

Raven told me to settle down and eat my breakfast, and that the food was truly amazing.

Well, so it was pretty good…as was the serving girl. (Hope Raven doesn’t show off his muscles again, or he’ll have another admirer…)

There’s a merchant with two bodyguards having breakfast. The propriater (Mr. Gundercoot) says lots of adventurers go looking for monsters with treasure in the Chron Hills — which explains all the strangers in town. It must be a pretty busy trade route, too.

He says the Wild Coast (beyond town and to the south) is particularly dangerous.

Well, all kinds of places to investigate for “trouble.”

**

Ezekiel, Mikael, and Lydia joined us for breakfast. Raven couldn’t stop praising the food…which, coming from an expert like him, is quite an endorsement.

Over his breakfast, Ezekiel told us the chapel is a church of St. Cuthbert and the under-priest is named Calmet. Turjon, the over-priest, wasn’t there at the time, but Calmet said the “high road” to Nulb has been especially dangerous lately. (Nulb being the village that sprang up around the Temple of Elemental Evil. Apparently even though the temple is nixed, the village is still there.)

This place seems to swarm with adventurers, as he said “the fighter at the tower” east of town got rich from killing a green dragon, and so he and his magic user friend live there with a bunch of mercenaries.

Not sure I’m up to a dragon. Still, these types may have come for the treasure, but they’re still killing monsters. What could have concerned the Cleric of Velnius that he sent us all this way? Did he even have something specific in mind?

We were just about finished eating when the Bakluni-looking little man and his enormous companion came over to our table. He introduced himself as Turuko (and Kobort) and they offered their assistance should we be planning to go adventuring in the surrounding hills. (Turuko said he was skilled at assessing things for greater value.)

Ezekiel said we would keep it in mind, but that our party was complete at that time — and I suggested they go join up with Elmo, since he had made the same offer to us.

I notice they didn’t go over to Elmo’s table, but went back to their own.

Raven told me to chill out, and finish my breakfast. What is he getting at?!

After some discussion, we reserved beds in the dormitory for the guys, and a private room for Lydia (and our bags). She went up with her books to study a little while Ezekiel and Raven go back to the Church of St. Cuthbert for some more information and Mikael and I check out the Druid Grove nearby (one of the people we talked to suggested we might find out more there).

Incidentally, St. Cuthbert isn’t exactly “Old Faith”…

**

The Grove was peaceful, but orderly. I always feel a little solemn around places like that. You know the stones lining the path and the structure of the shrine were put there on purpose…but sometimes you feel like even the blades of grass and the leaves of the trees are exactly where they’re supposed to be.

I don’t think Nori felt that way. She started frolicking and chasing a squirrel.

Mikael went toward the center until the master of the grove (armed and armored) came out of the shrine to meet him.

Mikael made a donation to the Grove, and asked the druid-master about trouble in the area.

The druid of the grove (Geru Ashstaff) said the “balance is upset”…that Evil is around… He couldn’t tell us more specifically, but said that something was definitely off.

Balance is more of a Druid thing than a Ranger thing, but I’m all about stopping Evil. Besides, you don’t succeed by messing up the place you live.

**

Back at the inn, in our private room, Ezekiel told us what they had learned at the chapel. Apparently the old Cannoness, who founded the chapel, was named Eday and disappeared one day. Under-priest Calmet says that one day, she just wasn’t there…and then Cannon Turjon came to replace her.

Calmet also suggested we speak to the village elder, who if I’m not mistaken was here when all the old trouble was happening.

Ezekiel says we’ll rest here tonight, and head off in the morning, looking for “trouble.”

In going over the room (because you can never be too careful) I spotted a panel in the ceiling that was loose.

Mikael pushed it over for me, and Ezekiel held his perpetually shining shield up there, but it was hard to see anything from a distance.

Raven, of course, can lift me one-handed – so he poked my head up through there, and I felt around for anything suspicious. Didn’t find anything, and I don’t think the space is big enough for anyone to fit through…so they could spy on us through there, but not kidnap our Magic User through there.

I hope.

Raven told me to relax and enjoy life.

Just what is his angle? What is he getting at?


To read where we left off last time, click here.

To read the next entry, click here.

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Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver

NOTE: This post is something of a departure from my usual tone, as it will be more dry and academic than I usually write. This is because it’s a subject I have strong emotions about, and in an attempt to avoid breathing fire on my keyboard, I’ve squeezed a lot of my normal humor out of it.

But it’s still an important piece about a vital subject, so please take the time to read it and form your own opinions. I promise I only froth at the mouth a tiny bit.

What if we’ve been wrong about preschool this whole time?Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Lots of people see “preschool” and they think “good.” We all want our kids to learn, right? We want them to have the best chance to succeed, right? And wouldn’t starting them in an institutional learning system as early as possible be the best way to do this?

No.

There’s also the question of whether this is the best way to honor God with our children. We want them to “achieve their full potential” and get good jobs, etc., but if we don’t make honoring God our chief focus (and make sure our kids know as much as we can teach them about Jesus) then we’re not living our Christian witness to the best of our ability.

But I’ll save that for a different post. For now, I’ll focus on the benefits preschool promises: academics, adult interaction, and affirmative action.

Let’s dive into this topic and try to figure out what we’re hoping to get out of preschool and whether it really delivers (or not)!

Academic Achievement

We all want Little Johnny to learn “reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic”. After all, “whatever you do, do it as though you were working to the Lord.” We want our kids to be able to support themselves, contribute to their communities, and enrich the lives of others…to say nothing of living full lives themselves and using the intellectual gifts God has given them.

It all starts with a “good education,” right?

And preschool is one of the best ways to give kids that, right?

No.

Where child development is concerned, there are very few absolutes…but the evidence is coming in stronger and stronger that preschool – especially an academically-focused preschool – does not give kids an “edge” to learning…and in fact might hurt them.

Academics over Learning

There’s been a lot of emphasis lately on pushing kids to achieve higher standards at earlier ages. The Atlantic tells us how kids who used to be expected to read by the end of first grade are now expected to read by the end of preschool. Maybe I’m doing the math wrong, but isn’t that a two-year advance?

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

How can we help our children thrive? Image from Pixabay

A recent article in the newsletter from the Home School Legal Defense Association cites several researchers and testimonies from parents that children grow and develop at different ages. For instance, “children who had learned to read in kindergarten had no substantial advantage over those who learned to read in the 1st grade.”

Kids have different development rates, and that’s okay. Trying to force them into a one-size-fits-all system is a terrible way to let them flourish.

Parents testify to children as old as seven and eight years old who would not have done well in a traditional, sit-down-shut-up learning environment. Forcing these children to attend a rigorous preschool at four or five years old would not have helped them with “school preparedness”…it would have destroyed them. They needed a kinetic, hands-on learning environment tailored to their particular interests (an environment that their parents did provide for them).

The article also references increased diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD), or similar disorders on the spectrum, when kids who aren’t developmentally ready for school are expected to conform to the school environment. Do these kids really have a learning disability? Or are they just being asked to perform above where their brain and body have developed to?

Long-term consequences?

There’s more. According to Psychology Today, an intense focus on academic attainment (learning reading, writing, and math through worksheets and instruction) in preschool almost doubles a child’s chance of a felony record. (Presumably because the early pressure and behavioral expectations led to them acting out more in school, and elsewhere…although it’s impossible to finger causality in cases like this.)

Contrast this with “play-based” preschools where children are encouraged to play, interact with others, and explore on their own…sort of like what they would do in a natural home setting, perhaps in conjunction with play-dates.

EdLibertyWatch.org collects quotes from several different papers, including this study from the National Bureau of Economic Research: “…researchers concluded that preschool has a positive impact on reading and mathematics scores in the short term and a negative effect on behavior.”

Further, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that a 2015 study found that “while children coming from ECE [early childhood education] programs earned higher achievement scores in kindergarten, these students did not test higher than their non-ECE attending peers by first grade, and tested below their peers by the third grade.”

Which is more important?

A slight, temporary rise in test scores in exchange for increased behavior issues, and even more ADHD diagnoses? Wait – should this even be a trade-off at all?

The homeschooling examples prove we can suit our education models to each child’s learning needs. Maybe we shouldn’t throw the “preschool” baby out with the bathwater…but it’s high time we stopped taking it for granted that the earlier we got our kids into preschool, the higher their college entrance scores would be.

The spiritual dimension: anti-Biblical curriculum

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Image from Unsplash

I know I said I’d leave this for later, but I came across a quote during my research that just stunned me:

What is gender identity? Why should it to be taught to three and four year old children? How [will it] close the achievement gap for poor and minority children?…

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAYEC), whose accreditation results in both more Minnesota state funding for childcare programs and gains a higher rating in the Parent Aware quality rating system, promotes these types of “gender anatomy and gender identity” exercises in its curriculum.

(Education Liberty Watch, quoting from the National Association for the Education of Young Children)

Notice that both state money and professional validation are tied to accepting the NAYEC’s view on this moral issue. And homosexuality is only one example – the culture has a whole hat-full of issues to introduce to your kids.

If you thought preschool was all about “school readiness” and getting a jump-start on learning the alphabet, these secular educators have one up on you. Kids at these ages are sponges, ready to accept whatever the “people in charge” teach them.

And if your child’s preschool is teaching transgender issues with anatomically correct dolls, wouldn’t you want to know about it – and be involved in conversations with your child?

To defuse the part-to-whole objections:

No, I’m not saying every teacher in every school is out to make your preschooler gay. But think about the trend of the culture, the political pressures of “this present age”…and remember who God will hold accountable for the children He entrusted to you.

Adult Interaction

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodWe want kids to grow up to be confident, competent, fully-functioning adults. Kids are great at learning by imitating (just wait until they start repeating that one word you wish you hadn’t said).

So the best way for them to learn how to be adults is…by putting them around adults.

More specifically, there’s plenty of research that what children at the preschool ages need is not math worksheets and vocabulary tests, but stable, lasting relationships. They will have plenty of time to grasp the more cerebral concepts if their emotional, psychological, and spiritual health is firmly grounded in relationships with trustworthy adults.

As Morningstar Education Network’s research adviser, Denise Kanter, says: “Young children need to be at home bonding with their mothers and fathers.”

KindredMedia.org collects several reports that speak to this:

“Young children learn best through meaningful interaction with real materials and caring adults and their peers, not through the drilling of isolated skills.”…Kids from play-based programs usually catch up academically, while kids from academic backgrounds may never catch up socially. — Education.com

…the years from birth to age 5 are viewed as a critical period for developing the foundations for thinking, behaving, and emotional well-being. Child development experts indicate it is during these years that children develop linguistic, cognitive, social, emotional, and regulatory skills that predict their later functioning in many domains. — Early Childhood Education: The Long-Term Benefits (PDF)

But won’t my child miss out on socialization if he doesn’t go to preschool?

If you do the necessary socializing and relationship-building that parenthood involves, your child won’t suffer from missing out on preschool. Just because a good preschool is superior to plopping kids in front of the TV and ignoring them, though, doesn’t mean it should be our go-to method of child-rearing. (See below!)

The Atlantic article cited above explains that organic, child-driven learning (coached by engaged adults) is more interactive – and more educational – than the traditional “butt-in-seat” classroom model. This is where a teacher (or parent) uses a child’s natural curiosity to let them explore the world and ask questions (yes, millions of questions) and let them learn through the natural give-and-take of human conversation…instead of a list of facts they will be tested on later.

Focus on the Family insists that preschool should enhance the parents’ relationship with their child, not hinder it — nor simply be a way to get a “leg up” on those other kids! After all, trying to “keep up with the Joneses” isn’t very neighborly, is it?

The spiritual dimension

We should be especially concerned about this as Christians. Rod Dreher in his book The Benedict Option – which is all about cultivating a deliberate, passionate Christianity that informs every aspect of our daily lives – talks about how the model of “education” has changed over the past century. Instead of learning about the natural world and human history as a way to understand God better, and as a way to provide context for the divine order of the universe, modern schools are focused on retaining facts and applying them to work skills.

“Every educational model presupposes an anthropology: an idea of what a human being is. In general, the mainstream model is geared toward equipping students to succeed in the workforce, to provide a pleasant, secure life for themselves and their future families…and to fulfill their personal goals—whatever those goals might be.” (pg. 147)

Christian education, in contrast, should focus on “join[ing] ourselves to Christ and striv[ing] to live in harmony with the divine will” – from the time we wake up and have breakfast, to when we’re walking past the weird stranger on the street, to when we say our prayers at night.

As Christians, we need to teach our children that God is an important part of every single facet of our lives…that He is not somehow unrelated to physics, or social studies, or English spelling.

Tend your own personal orchid

Remember how every single child is unique, and develops at his or her own rate? Just because your child is seven years old and can’t spell doesn’t mean he (or you) is a failure. It means he needs someone caring and invested to give him the help he needs to learn in the best way for him (like getting up and moving during spelling tests, instead of glued to a desk with a pencil in his hand).

My mom used to have me write short stories with the words I missed on spelling tests…and now I can spell “snake” and “rabbit” just like any other well-adjusted twenty-something! (And, well, check out my “Books” tab to see what encouraging my story-telling got us!)

Kicking your orchids out of the hot-house make them shrivel…

Going back to that wealth of materials collected by EdLibertyWatch.org, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD – 2007) say:

The more time a child spent in center-based care the more likely he or she was to be described by sixth grade teachers as one who “gets in many fights,” is “disobedient at school,” and “argues a lot.”

Children need a stable home life to help them develop emotionally and behaviorally – and that maturity will only improve their academic endeavors later on. In fact, to quote the rest of the excerpt on the NICHD study:

…NICHD tracked 1,364 children who had participated in early childhood education. Preschool participants were more likely to score higher on factors of aggression and disobedience as reported by their teachers. This finding was true even for children who attended high quality center-based care.

Remember: who are the two adults children will interact with for the greatest part of their growing-up? Their parents. Even if they go to institutional school and learn from different teachers every single year, they need a strong relationship with their parents to anchor them throughout their childhoods and beyond.

Children are more than a statistic…and when it comes to their lives, we need to be concerned about more than what the “experts” say, “what we’ve always done,” or what supposedly “works” to get the outcome we want.

This isn’t about outcomes. It’s about doing what God says. Right?

Teach a man to fish…

My parents have always affirmed that teaching their children how to study is one of the most important things they could do.

Children who develop emotional, psychological, and cognitive maturity will be self-motivated to study…and if they haven’t had their love of learning “snuffed out” by over-exposure, they will drive their own educational journey through grade school, high school, college, and beyond into adult life. (You knew we don’t stop learning once we get a job and don’t have a designated “teacher,” right?)

Assisting the Disadvantaged

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

I don’t have a picture of an impoverished child, so enjoy this cute dog instead.

A lot of voices in favor of preschool emphasize “closing the gap” between the “disadvantaged,” poor children and those with a better home life. A noble goal, and one in line with God’s own plan for us (check out James 1:27 and Mark 12:29-31).

The orphan (or in some places “fatherless”) is already late to the starting line, before the race even starts. That’s no fault of theirs, and God cares deeply about giving justice to the oppressed and helpless (just read, like, all of the Psalms).

However… While it’s good to feel for children who are growing up with only one parent, who suffer lack of opportunity due to poverty, etc. – none of that explains how the preschool system is superior to the natural, historic, and God-given system of two dedicated parents raising and educating their own biological children themselves.

And our concern for disadvantaged kids should in no way interfere with the raising of those kids who are blessed with a committed mom and dad.

But what about those poor kids who don’t have the same chances other children do?

Maybe they’re living in a single parent home, or their family doesn’t have the financial resources for books, etc. Maybe they really do have ADHD, autism, blindness, or some other physical barrier to learning the way other kids do. Do early childhood education programs help them succeed better – both now and later in life?

The Psychology Today article referenced above shared the results of a study among “sixty eight high-poverty children living in Ypsilanti, Michigan”. This study was largely to examine the effects on these children of a “Direct Instruction” preschool classroom (that focused on academic attainment) versus a “Traditional” preschool (which emphasized play). To quote:

[T]he experiment also included a home visit every two weeks, aimed at instructing parents in how to help their children. …

The initial results of this experiment were similar to those of other such studies. Those in the direct-instruction group showed early academic gains, which soon vanished. This study, however, also included follow-up research when the participants were 15 years old and again when they were 23 years old. At these ages there were no significant differences among the groups in academic achievement, but large, significant differences in social and emotional characteristics.

That’s right. “No significant differences in academic achievement“!

This is the same pattern we saw in the other studies. The writers suggest that the children in the so-called “play-based” preschools learned to “plan their own activities, to play with others, and to negotiate differences” – skills which served them not only in the later grades, but beyond into adulthood. (“Teach a man to fish…”)

The article writers also theorize that the home visits encouraged the children’s parents to reinforce these teaching styles. The Traditional “play-based” preschools encouraged the parents to let their children interact with the world creatively. The Direct Instruction preschools were focused on test scores and other “academic” markers of “personal achievement” – and this focus on “personal achievement” could have encouraged these children in the selfish attitudes that led to their generally more anti-social behavior.

Without being simple pragmatists, let’s look at the fruit.

The Bible tells us we can evaluate teachers by their fruit…or in other words, we can pick up hints about whether to listen to them by watching their actions (Matt. 7:15-20).

What is the outcome of preschool for disadvantaged children?

Obviously in some cases the outcome was…not too good. Early pressure to achieve, plus a focus on personal performance, encouraged anti-social behavior in some of these individuals. We might go even farther, and say that denying them a carefree childhood, and the opportunity to learn at their own pace, hampered their emotional and social growth.

So we see that even for disadvantaged children, the best outcome is the one that mimics a traditional, Biblical upbringing centered in the home of their biological parents.

But, post writer, what about all the terrible parents who will just stick their kids in front of the TV and who have no idea how to parent –

Statistically speaking, children with “bad” parents will have poor outcomes, no matter what school system you devise for them. The students discussed in Psychology Today had professionals visiting them at home to advise their parents how to support the teaching curriculum of their preschool – and the results still weren’t stellar.

The point is not that we should “give up” on these disadvantaged kids, but that we need to have our eyes firmly fixed on JESUS and to make sure we’re 1) trying to accomplish what He wants, and 2) going to Him for direction in how to do that.

Systemic Dysfunction

Preschools that drill facts and figures into little kids doesn’t help them. In fact, in the worst cases, it hurts their chances because they missed out on that crucial period of character development by worrying about head knowledge.

Children at these young ages should be sending down their roots and finding out what can be depended on…not raising their branches to test high on impersonal markers of “achievement.”

The preschools that did seem to succeed were the ones that allowed children to flourish at their own pace and ask questions naturally…in fact, the care centers that mimicked a nurturing home environment.

Further, as Christians, we understand that there are more important markers to success than grades or salaries. Give me ten children who respect their parents, treat those around them with kindness, and love their Creator over one “child” who makes six figures with his graduate degree and can’t keep his marriage together.

Institutional education is the cultural norm.

My grandparents have finally stopped asking when I’m going to get a college diploma (although they’re still not satisfied with my Associate’s Degree). The culture around us expects us to send our kids off on the bus as soon as they can walk, and our young adults off to college as soon as they’re old enough to join the army vote.

But is that the best way? Is that really how we’re going to accomplish our goals? Even if it was, the ends do not justify the means. (Otherwise, as my brother loves to shout, there is no justice, only means.)

Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia Wood

Which is the “straight and narrow” way? Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

God calls us to justice and righteousness. How can we strive for that in our everyday lives, and with our children?

Maybe in some other post, we’ll examine what God calls us to in our daily lives, and what that means for raising our kids. Until then, take a good, hard look at your own decisions.

I firmly believe the system of institutional education is broken – and that goes all the way down to preschool. Whether you agree with me, or think my mom dropped me on my head as a young’un, your kids are worth more than the default.

We need to get out of the rut of thinking “preschool” always equals “good.” Can it help? Sure – under certain circumstances and in certain situations.

But don’t do it because “everyone else is doing it.” Don’t do it because it’s expected of you, or because the grandparents want you to.

These are your kids we’re talking about – the kids God gave to you. Look at all the evidence, and decide if preschool will really help your kids to send down their roots, and thrive in God.


Preschool: Over-promise, Under-deliver — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing projects.

Dear Diary…friends at the library

Been on the road for several months now.

Nori sleeps on the roof when we find an inn, or outside the walls when we come to a town. People seem to be nervous of her…which is understandable, given her appearance.

Raven does push-ups every chance he has. Ezekiel has been scribbling notes on his manuscript again – his magnum opus about the God of Gods.

Ran into a party of nine goblins. I was very excited to try out the tricks my Ranger Master taught me (about goblins’ weak points, of course) but I guess I was a little too eager because it was hard to land a hit on them.

Back in the day, a party like that would have wiped us out. Now, we triumphed with just a few scratches.

Being older and wiser and stronger sure pays off.

****

The tiny village today offered the blacksmith’s stable as an inn/tavern, so we hung out in the straw with the locals and listened to their stories.

An old man started playing a tune, and we slowly recognized it as that song the gypsy sang. Raven whistled along, while Mikael and I tried to remember the words…y’know, the song the gypsy made about our adventure in Orlane.

So glad to have that behind us. The mud-pit and Explictika, I mean. The people in Orlane were kinda nice (when they weren’t mind-controlled).

A little boy said his favorite part was when the lightening bolt killed the snake. He said he wished he could have seen that. Ezekiel said he wished so, too.

It was indeed something to see, though I was a little distracted. Always treat your magic users well…

****

Funny thing happened in the inn tonight.

As we entered the common room, a Ranger was telling a story about how he “told that evil snake that he was not impressed by her, and he was going to end her reign then and there” – and then he took his great big sword and chopped her head off.

(The barmaid tried to look impressed, but I think she’d heard this story before.)

I turned to Ezekiel to say what a coincidence that this guy had fought an evil snake lady, too!

Raven walked up to the Ranger and asked him about his story. The Ranger (I heard his name was Avalon) said that, yes, he was a mighty Ranger to have defeated such an Evil snake lady, and that we had probably heard of him.

Raven asked to arm-wrestle with him, and Avalon said it would be an honor for Raven to arm-wrestle with such a mighty hero as himself.

The crowd cleared a table for them, and Raven and Avalon squared up across from each other.

(Ezekiel sat at a table off to the side and ordered dinner.)

Raven measured his forearm against Avalon’s, adjusted his grip on Avalon’s palm, and then slammed Avalon’s hand down against the table.

(I did warn him Raven had been doing push-ups.)

The barmaid seemed very impressed, and after Avalon went home she went to talk to Raven. Apparently they’ve all heard the gypsy song, and Avalon says he’s the one in the song.

I asked Ezekiel what the odds were that there were two evil snake ladies around (in between making snide remarks about Raven’s new girlfriend).

Ezekiel didn’t seem worried about it, and we didn’t really talk about it the rest of the night.

As we were bedding down, someone pointed out that it would be too bad if these people think they have a legendary warrior in Avalon, and then something actually dangerous shows up. Ezekiel didn’t seem to think it was worth throwing a fuss over (he’s hunched over with a candle, working on his theological treatise), so we’ll probably just move on in the morning.

Avalon reminds me of a brother of mine. Personally, fame is too much trouble for me to want to steal it…and maybe getting owned by Raven will make Avalon reconsider his life choices.

****

25th of Harvester, arrived at Veluna City.

Found very cheap quarters at the Scholar’s Rest – which is right across from the big library, conveniently enough.

We engaged rooms (be careful that you get ones with beds, since not all of them have them) and stashed our stuff before heading for the library.

I’m hanging on to my magic sword, though…I’m paranoid.

**

Ezekiel asked the attendant about the Book of All Gods, while the rest of us stood there not really knowing what to do.

Tomlin would’ve loved to look around this place. Come to think of it, maybe he’s gone on for advanced studies by now. Alpheus and Mother, of course, used to go to the great library back home.

The attendant brought back the book, but neither of them could read it – apparently it was in “Illusionist,” so they’d need the help of “Prettypebbles.”

(Sounds like a gnome name if ever I heard one…)

He found him illusioned to look like a tall man (at least that’s what Mikael told me was going on), talking to a…young lady who might have made Nori look cuddly. I’ll say no more.

When Prettypebbles was in his gnome appearance, I thought I recognized his clothes as being the Starkmounds fashion – and sure enough, he introduced himself as “Neeblebluer Prettypebbles.”

So there’s another mystery solved! (He said Orlane was boring. Maybe that’s why he left. At least he wasn’t eaten by Explictika.)

Ezekiel asked about any references to the “god of gods,” and Prettypebbles flipped through until he found the page he wanted (see, when he recites/casts the words on the page, little images appear above the pages. It’s super cool).

He had trouble with that page, though, because of some “interference” from the “former rector.” They explained that the rector had spent a little too much time with the scrying orb in the basement, and now he was…troublesome.

Prettypebbles mentioned off-hand going down to “turn” him, and Ezekiel perked up at once. With his usual effervescence, he offered to go “deal” with the rector so they could continue.

Well, when they let us into the basement, we discovered a large black sphere on a black iron stand…surrounded by six figures I could only assume were ghouls.

Little hope of examining them to be sure, of course, because Ezekiel promptly dusted them with his sheep toy magic symbol. The orb seemed to brighten up after that – not enough to illuminate the space, but at least it looked happier.

After poking our noses behind a few more doors to make sure there were no surprises hiding, we returned upstairs.

Then Mr. Prettypebbles was able to read the page properly, and an image appeared of all the gods (every single one, so there were quite a lot) kneeling on a plain, and in the middle was a bright spot – so shiny we couldn’t see anything in it.

“Well, that was worth waking up for,” said Prettypebbles.

While we had his attention, we asked him about the attack our own village…about Ertuli, which seems so far away and so long ago, now.

Well, Prettypebbles got an atlas and started waving his hands and chanting his words, and a figure started to appear over the map – but then a voice said, “No!” and the image vanished.

He said we had to try with the scrying orb (so it’s just as well we cleared out the ghouls earlier) – and this time, when he tried his spell, he seemed to see much more.

It still didn’t make sense to me, but he tells us the “Black One” – the “Mage of the Valley” – was putting pressure on the bugbears (we saw this big bugbear chief in the orb) and that this chief made the goblins do what they wouldn’t normally do (attack a village during the day).

That at least gives us some answers, although it doesn’t help us much. I guess defeating the bugbear chief would relieve the pressure on the goblins…and as hard as that sounds, it sounds more doable than dealing with this Black Mage or whatever he is. Prettypebbles says he’s protected himself from scrying, and anyone who goes into his valley doesn’t come out.

We thanked Mr. Prettypebbles, and he said he would let us know if he thought of a quest for us to thank him with.

He did ask “Beanpole” to reach a book for “Lydia” – the girl we’d seen earlier. Mikael got it down for her – Basic Thaumaturgy.

Ezekiel said that was a very interesting book to be reading, and somehow or other she realized who we were and suddenly asked, “You’re not them, are you? From the song?”

She knew all our names, and what we had done in the lair of Explictika, and was very impressed.

“I’ve only been in two dungeons,” she said. “And they were really more like cellars.”

I guess you could call the cellars of the Temple and the Golden Grain “dungeons,” but they were nothing compared to the Mud Pit of Instant Death (which we barely survived and one of us not even that).

Ezekiel explained that we’d been engaged to investigate possible disturbances in the town of Homlett (everyone around here knows that’s where the Cult of Elemental Evil showed up however-long ago), and Lydia jumped on it and asked to come.

She said learning through application is so much more effective than just theory (she’s sure right there) and said she wanted to adventure alongside seasoned heroes like us.

Well…with an offer like that, how could we turn her down? Especially when she mentioned she can “only” cast up to level 2 spells (as good as Mikael is, it would be nice to have more than one spell-caster).

We got used to Nori’s looks…we’ll get used to Lydia’s, too.

So we start out the day after tomorrow. The others have some shopping they want to do – Mikael especially wants to get a collar for Nori, so maybe people won’t be so worried about her.

If luck is with us, we should reach Homlett in another month. Just in time for winter to set in. And then, who knows what will be waiting for us…


This is a continuation of the adventure begun in “How Did It All Start?” To get to know the characters better, click here.

To read where we left off last time, click here.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for book updates!

Dear Diary…nothing is ever simple

Alert: May contain spoilers for the AD&D Module: “Born-Again Ogres of the Blinding Light”

Lunch break.  So far things have gone well. Haraldus is going on about how we must forgive our enemies – because the dwarves really don’t know any better (just like the hobgoblins didn’t use to know any better) and so we should pity them not hate them. Ezekiel is really getting into it.

Impressive that he convinced hobgoblins to change their nature like this. Pity it doesn’t work on everybody…

****

Close to supper-time, someone appeared on the road in front of us, approaching. Imagine our surprise when Durglower Rockvein (fully healed, and with three friends) stepped forward with a big sack.

While I was busy counting them and planning order of attack, Ezekiel greeted them.

“We’re awful sorry about, well, last night,” said the dwarf (in his little dwarvish accent). “So we hoped we could share a meal with ye before you leave our territory tomorro’.”

Well…Ezekiel asked us what we thought. I reminded him that I am always paranoid, but Ezekiel was inclined to give them a chance (and so was Haraldus since, y’know, he was just telling us about forgiving our enemies).

So the dwarves pulled roots and herbs out of their sack, the hobgoblins got a fire and stew going, and dinner was served.

Raven said he wasn’t feeling well, so he didn’t have any stew. Ezekiel, Mikael, Haraldus, and the hobgoblins seemed to enjoy the stew, and the dwarves ate their fill (although they didn’t seem to enjoy it).

I decided some of us needed to be paranoid, so I had bread and cheese leftover from lunch.

After the meal, the dwarves packed up and left. Night was close enough that we settled down to camp.

Haraldus soon rolled into his cloak and fell asleep. So did Ezekiel.

In fact he isn’t moving when I prod him with my foot.

Mikael seems to be fine…so I guess no matter what’s happening, I’ll take my watch and get ready for trouble.

After all, trouble happens to us every week.

****

Sure enough, I hadn’t even roused my replacement for the watch when the dwarves were back.

In fact, Durglower must have found some more somewhere, because he had six friends again – same as last night.

Since Ezekiel was still sacked out (and since Ezie had given me that special-looking short sword) I uncovered my shield with Perpetual Light engaged the dwarf leader and one of his men.

Durglower was a little over-eager, because one of his first thrusts drove his sword right through my shield – where it got stuck.

The dwarves in my peripheral vision lit up with Mikael’s faery fire. I heard the screams and gurgles as Nori bit into her master’s enemies…the high, wailing thing Raven does when he does his monk attacks…the harsh hobgoblin voices singing “O Blinding Light” (not as tunefully as last night)…the clang of dwarves attacking the acolytes…the soft snoring of Ezekiel at our feet.

Durglower made a lunge for his sword, and stomped on Ezekiel’s head. Even Ezie was wakened by that, and he scrambled to his feet.

I’m glad I paid so much attention to my Ranger Master. The two dwarves hammering on me did get in a blow or two, but for the most part they didn’t do much damage.

Ezekiel cried, “Friend Hobgoblins, bandage the monk!”

So apparently Raven’s luck wasn’t so strong.

“Only see spider, not monkey,” the hobgoblins answered, and lost the tune for “O Blinding Light.”

“Help the man on the ground,” yelled Ezekiel — then dashed off muttering to himself. Apparently one of them tried to rouse Haraldus.

Haraldus was really out, to sleep through all the dim we were making.

Nori pounced onto Durglower’s head, trying to get a bite in. He’s quite the tough one, that’s for sure, since I’d been whacking at him the entire time, and he still wasn’t down.

Durglower finally managed to yank his sword out of my shield, but just then Mikael ran up, and shot some kind of flame from his hand (it’s so fun watching him do new things) – and knocked D backward a pace.

As I finished off the dwarf chief, I realized a hobgoblin was beating on Nori. They weren’t singing anymore…they were shouting, “Blood and bludgeon, brothers!”

Mikael (still swinging around that hand-held flame of his) ran toward the couple remaining dwarves, who were still single-mindedly attacking the hobgoblins.

Raven did some kind of flippy kick (but missed) and as I was coming forward, too, (slowed down because a hobgoblin hit me) Mikael took down one of the dwarves.

There was still one up and kicking, though – and he stabbed the last hobgoblin before we could get to him (the hobgoblin that was trying to attack me for some reason).

Then he turned and ran. Ezekiel yelled to us to kill the dwarf, and bent over a fallen hobgoblin acolyte.

I dropped my weapons and whipped out my bow. My first arrow winged him so badly that he fell to the ground.

Well, I must have gotten over-excited, because my next shot totally fumbled – but it let Raven catch up with the dwarf, and then he delayed him enough for me to get the final shot off.

When we turned back to the camp, Haraldus was awake and sitting up, and cradling an acolyte in his arms. He was mumbling something that sounded like a Cure Light Wounds spell, but his voice kept breaking.

“They couldn’t let us stay in the light,” grunted the hobgoblin. “Kill or be killed. They wouldn’t let us stay in the light…”

Ezekiel went around closing their eyes, imploring Ao for mercy on their souls.

Nori was also in a bad way, quietly twitching a couple of her legs as Mikael stroked her.

When Ezekiel knew all the hobgoblins were dead, he pulled out a scroll and began to read over Nori. In a few minutes, she twitched again, rolled her feet underneath her, and climbed a nearby tree.

Thank goodness. Say what you will about her looks, she has the highest kill count of our entire party. We would’ve been dead without her.

Haraldus sat by the fire, mourning his acolytes. Ezekiel asked him how far this Chapel of Hope was…but it was at least eight days away, and we’d never get their bodies there in time for a resurrection.

So the best we can do is bury them here, and trust the Good gods to be gracious on some poor, lost hobgoblins.

I wonder how that even works…

****

I searched the dwarves before we buried them.

  • 60 gold pieces (in the bag of holding to be shared)
  • fine leather boots (Mikael determined they’re magical, so we let Raven try them out; even though they came off a dwarf, they seem to fit whoever wears them)
  • blood ruby broach
  • chainmail (also magical, but still dwarf-sized)
  • silver-buckled belt
  • platinum necklace with rose crystal setting in a horn shape (not magical)
  • potion (Ezekiel thinks it might be for animal control? He’s carrying it – after all, he spent his Potion of Heal on Raven during the fight, so he has a slot available on his belt)

On top of all that, Haraldus still paid us the fifty gold apiece that he promised – even though we kind of failed to get his charges safely to their destination.

Ezekiel didn’t want to accept it, since he said we had the chance to kill Durglower Rockvein on that first night, but we didn’t…and left him able to cause more trouble.

Haraldus said that he supported Ezekiel’s decision at the time, so it wasn’t really his/our fault…and after all, he promised us the money, so wouldn’t feel right not paying us.

We offered to escort him back home (rather ironic request, given the turn of events) but he said he didn’t think he’d be molested from now on…

I think I saw Ezekiel with tears in his eyes as he said good-bye to Haraldus. Regrets about his chosen deity? Heh…the way they were talking, sounds like Ao and Pholtus of the Blinding Light might be friends.

Well. We continue on richer, but are we wiser?

I wonder if a hobgoblin will ever learn to serve a Good deity.

Note to self: never trust anyone. Especially anyone offering food. Ever.


This is a continuation of the adventure begun in “How Did It All Start?” To get to know the characters better, click here.

To read where we left off last time, click here.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for book updates!

Dear Diary…a reversal of stereotypes

Been a month since anything really interesting happened. It’s now the 7th of Goodmonth, and we arrived not long ago in the village of Harrington (which, to call it a village is kinda stretching the term. There’s an inn and a big manor house, plus a few scattered cottages).

We approached the inn first, but it’s been a rough month. I think we had maybe three copper pieces between us. If only we hadn’t bought the –

Well, anyway, Ezekiel chatted up the proprietor, but the proprietor couldn’t help us (too pricy and not interested in a labor exchange) and suggested we try up at the manor house. Apparently there’s a cleric of Pholtus the Blinding Light up there.

Ezekiel (naturally) was very excited, and we trotted on up there. The place had definitely seen better days, but didn’t have “that look” if you know what I mean…the look that I should be watching my back for undead.

Mikael told Nori to hang out on the roof so as not to disturb the residents.

The man of the house is named Haraldus, and once Ezekiel explained our situation he was more than happy to exchange some supplies and lodging for some service.

As he explained, he had five acolytes he wanted to take to a chapel of Pholtus the Blinding Light (the “Chapel of Light”), so they could further study the “true faith,” and he wanted some mercenary protection for them on the road. In fact, he offered us fifty gold apiece if we helped him out!

Well, we figured we could handle that, so we agreed, and Haraldus sat us down to enjoy stew with his five acolytes (wearing grey/white cloaks with hoods that hid their faces).

Haraldus gave a long prayer over the food – even longer than Ezekiel might give. When he was finally done, the acolytes threw back their hoods and started eating.

……They were hobgoblins.

Not the stew, I mean. The acolytes.

The four of us kinda looked at each other, then Ezekiel slapped on an exaggerated smile and started eating stew.

Gotta say. It was excellent stew.

At our questions, Haraldus explained that some time ago, he had been captured by the hobgoblins of these acolytes’ tribe – with the whole rest of his party being slaughtered.

(Sounds familiar.)

However, Haraldus insisted on preaching the One True Path to the hobgoblins, and these five were persuaded to leave their barbaric ways and follow the pure Pholtus (of the Blinding Light). The hobgoblins confirmed his story eagerly in between guzzling stew.

My brother Tomlin always said, “If you don’t ask, you won’t know.” (Tomlin was a hopeless nerd, by the way.)

So we asked: “Why would a group of goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears attack a small village for no reason?”

The acolytes said, “Oh, hobgoblins very mean, very violent. Us hates that way now.”

So…Sorry, Ertulli – goblins are just mean and violent.

Well, the dishes are cleared, and we leave early in the morning (so as not to disturb the villagers). Ezekiel is currently talking to Haraldus about Nori, explaining that she’s really quite nice, actually, just kinda scary when people first see her (especially unexpectedly).

****

Mikael cast Predict Weather this morning (eager to try out his new spells), and said the weather would be “good.”

We introduced the hobgoblins to Nori, and they took her in stride. Duh, they’re hobgoblins. They probably have pet spiders and snakes all the time or something (I have not asked about that yet).

Which is good, because she took down a deer and came trotting into our camp at lunchtime, dragging the partially-munched carcass. Good thing we don’t have a floor for her to mess up.

Made good time, and set up camp in a little wood.

I get to sleep a little before my watch.

****

Nothing is ever simple, is it.

I was on watch when I noticed footsteps surrounding us. While I roused Raven, I realized it sounded like dwarvish feet (they’re small but heavy, and they usually go rattle-clack somehow).

I got Ezekiel and Haraldus up, and while Mikael was calling Nori to stand by, a dwarf came close enough that we could see him and hailed us.

“Who comes?” asked Ezekiel.

“Durglower,” answered the dwarf, which I thought was the name of his tribe – or maybe swearing – but is actually just his name.

Then he (the dwarf) demanded that we hand over the hobgoblins to be executed because their tribe had killed some dwarves.

Haraldus refused, explaining that these hobgoblins were good, now, and had reformed.

Ezekiel also pontificated about how the acolytes were under our protection, and we couldn’t just look the other way on them getting killed.

Well, obviously this made the Dwarf mad.

Ezekiel tore the cover off his shield of Perpetual Light, and the woods lit up with harsh white light and extreme shadows. Then he went for Durglower, and battle was joined.

Haraldus led the hobgoblins in singing “O Blinding Light,” which might have been just as effective a weapon as anything.

The dwarves focused their attacks on the acolytes for the most part, which I think was good for us.

I spotted a dwarf through the trees and started filling him with arrows…but dwarves are unexpectedly tough. I got in four hits, and only then did he start trying to run away.

Meanwhile, Mikael and Nori were somewhere in the dark, trying to bash dwarves. Mikael finally cast Faery Fire, and Nori, of course, knows her business well.

Suddenly, the chief dwarf was yelling, “Fall back!” and the dwarves scattered into the woods.

All except the chief, because Raven charged him, and Ezekiel forced him to surrender.

Haraldus and Mikael went around casting Cure Light Wounds on the acolytes (Haraldus asked “Brother Ezekiel” if he had any healing spells prepared? Yeah, that’ll have to be explained one day…).

One of the acolytes was down, but the others were still singing “O Blinding Light” through their wounds.

Now that’s what I call a radical conversion.

Ezekiel did his pomp-talk to the dwarven chief (Durglower Rockvein), all about how they attacked us in the dead of night without warning, but he didn’t hold ill will against them, and would let them bury their own dead if they wanted.

I counted up three dead dwarves (two of them covered in Nori’s teeth marks, one of them full of stab wounds from Raven), while we’d also lost an acolyte. We dragged the dead out of the woods and lined them up on the edge of the campsite, then Ezekiel and Raven decided to dig a grave then and there (I guess because they were all wound up. I convinced Ezie to leave the rest of the discussion until morning, and the acolytes, Mikael, and I curled up to sleep the rest of the night as much as possible).

****

Morning. Ezekiel announced that he wanted to let Durglower go, but that he was keeping his sword (which incidentally had been glowing last night) as “discouragement” from any further banditry.

Raven and I weren’t sure that was such a good idea, since – as Raven pointed out – it was likely a family heirloom (the kind of thing people are very attached to) and – as I tried to point out – the kind of thing people might commit murder to try to recover (and would bear a grudge for having stolen).

But then I had a flashback to my Ranger Master, talking about the law of the woods. It’s different out here than it might be in a town, and the victorious combatant deserves the spoils.

We were already being pretty generous in not looting the dead dwarves.

And…it was a very impressive looking short sword.

So that’s that. We buried Mook the hobgoblin, Haraldus gave a long and passionate burial service (complete with singing), and we prepared to go after breakfast.

Durglower was not excited to share stew with us, and took off as soon as we let him.

Hope we won’t have trouble there later.

Mikael says the weather prediction is “good.”


This is a continuation of the adventure begun in “How Did It All Start?” To get to know the characters better, click here.

To read where we left off last time, click here.

Subscribe to Kimia Wood’s mailing list for book updates!

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection

The “five love languages” is a concept invented by Pastor Gary Chapman (see the official site here), and it theorizes that different people show and experience affection in different ways.

Some feel loved by “Physical Touch.” Others value “Giving Gifts.” “Acts of Service” or “Quality Time” are how some people feel most affirmed or loved, while “Words of Affirmation” complete some people’s world.

Do You Speak My Language?

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia Wood

Sibling love!

Most of us don’t go around wanting to hurt people, or offend them, or do things that make them uncomfortable.

But what if someone told you how much they admired you and enjoyed being your friend…in Tagalog? Chances are you wouldn’t have any idea what they meant, and wouldn’t be built up by it.

We’re full of friendly feelings, kind thoughts, and compassionate impulses. We want to make everyone around us feel special, and show the love of Jesus.

How can we do it in a way that they understand? Sure, they might know we mean well, and appreciate what we’re doing…but can we do it in a way that speaks to their heart?

Refocusing the questions

I once went through a quiz to discover my love language, and the questions went something like this:

“I feel affirmed when you _[pick one]_.”

“When you _[pick one]_, I really feel loved.”

There’s nothing exactly wrong with this…except my responses would vary depending on who I was thinking about (Mom, Dad, brother, coworker, best friend).

Mom is always doing things for us. So when she buys me a gift, it means that much more – because she went out of her way to do that.

My brother’s big on hugs. When he does the dishes without being asked? That’s huge.

So…I’m not unique in this revelation, but if we really want to identify our own (and others’) “love language,” let’s start with how we prefer to give affection!

Step 1: Subject in a Controlled Environment

Take a look at yourself! You can know yourself better and more easily than you can know anyone else. So…

A coworker is going through a hard time. You:

  • Take a meal to their house.
  • Sit with them at lunch and try to just “be there.”
  • Write them an encouraging note.

It’s your mom’s birthday! You want to show her how much she means! You:

  • Buy her something big and expensive.
  • Go to her house to give her a big hug in person.
  • Call her on the phone (you’ve composed a poem in her honor to read to her).
  • Take her to a movie/concert/dinner/something she enjoys

You want to affirm your best friend. You:

  • Write down all the things you appreciate about them, and give them the note.
  • Mow their lawn, fix their sink, or babysit their kids.
  • Buy them a little something, just because.
  • Ask to spend a day with them, doing whatever they want.

When you want to reach out to someone, what’s your default method?

Obviously, you probably don’t go around hugging strangers (that would be weird)…but do you make sure to kiss your family members before bed every night? Do you like giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and side-hugs? You might be a “Physical Touch” person.

Now that you’ve done this step, you have a better idea what to look for. And we can actually apply this knowledge to translating your care for someone into their language!

Step 2: Observations in the Wild

5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodPick another person. Any person. Coworker, cousin, church sibling, parent, child, neighbor…any person you interact with! We’ll arbitrarily name them “Taylor” for simplicity’s sake.

Now for the hard questions. When Taylor sees a coworker feeling down, he/she:

  • Bakes a cake for them.
  • Slips a note into their locker.
  • Hugs them (not caring that it’s weird!)
  • Sits and listens to them…no matter how long it takes.

Taylor’s grandma isn’t feeling well. He/she:

  • Volunteers to drive Grandma to all the doctor’s visits.
  • Calls Grandma every day, just to check in.
  • Does the laundry and dishes for her.
  • Assembles all the kids to go see Grandma in person.

When Taylor wants to let you know he/she’s happy to see you, he/she:

  • Hugs you.
  • Tells you how important you are in his/her life.
  • Offers to do a chore for you.
  • Asks to go out sometime, to a movie/concert/dinner/shopping/ministry opportunity.
  • Gives you something (even if it’s just the cupcake in his/her hand!).

Starting to make sense? What is Taylor’s default method for telling someone, “You are special” or “I like being your friend”?

With this data, you can move to the next step…

Step 3: Speak Their Language!

I’ve been (re)reading this awesome book about sharing the Good News of Jesus in a way your listeners can understand. It’s not just about avoiding “propitiation” and “double predestination”…it’s about finding the piece of the amazing good news about Jesus that specifically speaks to their hearts, that the Holy Spirit wants to use to bring them to God.

This applies to showing affection, too! God calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But if your grandma doesn’t adore heavy metal rock as much as you do, that CD you gave her won’t seem loving to her (except that she’s your grandma and knows you mean well).

How can we show love, concern, affection, and self-sacrificial humility to those around us? How can we “speak” in a way that their hearts instinctively understand that we want to build them up?

When my dad gives me a present, I know he loves me…but when he vacuums, or fixes the house, I see him stepping out of his “default” to show how he cares for us!

Now step out there and speak in someone else’s language. Even if they knew you cared before, this might make them say, “Hey…I guess they really mean it!”


5 Love Languages—Translating Our Affection — Kimia WoodKimia Wood is into gifts…so (ahem) check out that Books tab (cough)!

She currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.