Weekly Photo Challenge – Half Light

March 28, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is evening half-light, that time just before darkness falls.

"As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise."
“As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.”
"The snowbird speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring."
“The snowbird speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring.”

Faith, hope, God and science

IMG_1785March 25, 2016 – My son and I — an atheist and a believer respectively — have a recurring debate about God’s existence. It comes down to faith, which I have and he does not.

He asks how I can believe in something with no facts to prove it. As a scientific thinker, he questions everything and always has. His mind works the way. I explain that I have faith and I don’t necessarily have to see something to believe it, a response that doesn’t make sense to him.

I offer that since he is unable to prove that God doesn’t exist, his opinion is faith-based, as well. He pauses for a moment, making me believe I gained ground in this never-ending debate. Then he responds that his opinion isn’t born of faith at all, but rather the opposite. He doesn’t have faith that God doesn’t exist because it’s never been proven that he does.

To prove he has faith in something, I look to find an example outside of religion. I say that I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, he says that the sun rises every morning, so there is evidence to back up the claim. I say I have faith that he will do the right thing, he responds that I raised him a certain way, and I can only hope he does the right thing. I say that every successful scientist had faith at the onset of an experiment or theory, he says the scientist merely had hope the theory would be proven.

The conversation leaves me frustrated and aware that faith and hope aren’t as interchangeable as I thought. Faith is based on beliefs that can’t be proven while hope is a desire for something to come. Faith and hope are as different as God and science, but I believe in all of them.

Stephen Hawking said, “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

Why do we have to limit what we believe? Science has not invalidated the existence of God just because it proved the Big Bang. If there isn’t a master designer, are we to believe it is all coincidence, and that everything occurred in such precise order that enabled our existence?

Science has also been unable to answer life’s greatest mystery to me—what gives us the ability to create amazing works of art, literature and music?

I may never convince my son to have faith; likewise, he’ll never convince me that having faith is useless. However, I’ll keep the faith that someday I’ll come up with an example that doesn’t involve religion. At least, I hope I can.

Dear Facebook Friend:

political humorMarch 18, 2016 – I’m not sure I can make it through the 2016 presidential election without deleting you from my friends’ list. You may not think it’s a big deal to be deleted, but I do. Once the election is over, I will miss you!

Perhaps you believe you are doing civic duty by spewing forth your political opinions on Facebook, hoping to change the error of my ways and  set me on the right path. However, it’s impolite to bombard me with your opinions and then react like a spoiled child if I disagree with you.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I respect yours, even though I may not agree with it. I’m proud to live in a country with freedom of speech, and I enjoy a good political debate now and then. However, when you post your opinions and then defend them with negativity, it’s TOO much. Everyone on your friends’ list knows how you feel by now, and you’ve turned my guilty pleasure of social media lurking into a negative experience.

Politics is an ugly business, and one with results that only about half of us are happy with at any given time. It works that way. In my opinion, the better candidate doesn’t always win, but we usually get the one we deserve – not necessarily the one we need!

Let’s forego the political labels we love to pin on ourselves and show respect to each other, even when we disagree. It’s what divides us and makes us intolerant. I don’t think we can afford any more of that right now.


Your Facebook friend, Jane

Three More Clever Writing Tools

March 11, 2016 Whether you’re trying to write a term paper, the church bulletin or the great American novel, writing can be a challenging process. Here are a few tools (or games) that get the juices flowing and make the process fun.

Portent’s Content Idea Generator
I discovered this gem when out of desperation I Googled, “what the heck can I blog about today?” Simply type in a word or idea in the subject line and the generator will provide you with a unique topic and a possible title.

portent generator
I typed in Philadelphia Phillies, and it generated an interesting idea: How Twitter can teach you about the Philadelphia Phillies. I never wrote about the topic—although Twitter probably could teach me a thing or two about my favorite baseball team—but it certainly started the idea process in my mind’s generator.

A few of the suggestions also gave me a chuckle. Since I’m in total political mode these days, I typed in two of the presidential candidates’ names and received the most amusing responses. You can’t argue that either topic would make juicy writing!

– You haven’t seen this Hillary Clinton list on Buzzfeed
– 20 ways knowing about Donald Trump will land you in jail

First Line Generator
Writing fiction may seem easier that nonfiction (because you get to make it up!) However, completing that first sentence is tough. Here’s a unique tool from across the pond that solves the problem. You don’t even have to type an idea. Just click and go!

first line

This is a great tool for setting the wheels in motion. It also helps you understand the importance of hooking your reader with that first sentence.

The site also has features that can help writers with plots, characters, the names of towns and more.

writing exercises

Writer’s Block Generator
Itching to write a story but don’t have a compelling plot? That isn’t a problem with this handy tool. Again, it comes to us from across the pond—no wonder those Brits can write!—and offers plot ideas, character names, and more.

plot generator

Bonus: the site also offers helpful tips on the writing process!

You won’t likely use one of the prompts to write a complete novel – or maybe you will – but it serves as the perfect brainstorming tool to generate your own ideas and get past an attack of writer’s block.

To find more of these fun tools search “Writing Generators” in your browser and explore!

Three helpful tools that making writing fun

toolsMarch 4, 2016—Like public speaking, a common phobia many people share is the fear of writing. Adding words to a blank page can be very intimidating whether you’re an aspiring or professional writer, or anyone who needs to compose an email, letter, term paper or a post on social media.

Today’s technology offers tools that will not only calm your fear but also make you a better writer. Here are three of my favorites:

1. Both Microsoft Word and Outlook have a built-in writing tool known as the Flesch-Kincaid Scale that takes the spelling and grammar feature to the next level. Along with count and average readings, the scale offers a readability test that shows you how difficult your words are to understand. It grades your work on a scale of 0-100 (the higher the better with a score of 60 to 70 the most desirable for the average reader). The scale also gives you the percent of passive sentences in your copy, since the more active your writing is the more readable it becomes. I aim for a score of 15 percent or less whenever I use it, but I’ve reached my real goal if 0 percent pops up in that area. The Flesch-Kincaid Scale for this article, for example is shown below:


2.  grammarly.com offers a handy plug-in tool that you can download to your desktop so you can check spelling and grammar and improve your writing. Their basic service is free and is available either by the plug-in or by copying and pasting text at their site. See example below. Or, you can pay for their premium feature that offers helpful tips, suggestions and more. Plans start at $11.66 per month.


3. Another tool, known as the Hemmingway App, is by far my favorite because it actually makes editing fun. The Hemmingway App is an editor that points out potential problems in your writing by highlighting adverbs, passive voice and dull, complicated words—which Hemmingway despised—with a rainbow of colors and easy to follow advice and explanations. Download it to any PC or MAC for a one-time fee of only $9.99.