July 24, 2012

Surprise 50th Birthday Party Aborted



Paulette’s fiftieth birthday was coming in two weeks, on a Sunday.

She expressed a desire to have a surprise birthday party based on five-year-old activities—creatively reversing the number 50 to 05. I’d asked her if she liked the local Chinese buffet, which she did.

I called a couple of people I believed were willing to come, and arranged a time to meet at the Chinese restaurant. Then I called Paulette and told her I would drive across the county, pick her up, take her to church, and then take her out to lunch afterwards.

Paulette was excited about the invitation. However, there was a caveat: a relative might invite her to visit.

“OK,” I said. “I understand that. Just let me know if you are leaving town.”

A few days later she told me she didn’t want to go to church on her birthday. She would go, as usual, on Saturday evening. Then she stated that a day of church and lunch was boring.

“What would you like to do?”

“I want to (more…)

March 12, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness: Pass Them Forward



     Displays of “random acts of kindness” are making the news lately.

     In reviewing materials in my files when I found an article I’d written about children in a summer program doing random acts of kindness. They were participating in a Summer Fun Fest sponsored by the Jamestown (Pennsylvania) Family Support program in the mid-1990s. The program was designed around the theme of “giving,” the gift being something made by the child.

     The first week the children made something to give their parents.

     During the next three weeks, groups of children, accompanied by adult leaders, walked around town, stopping at randomly chosen houses, offering gifts.  They were learning to give gifts to people “just because you are (more…)

February 11, 2011

My Mother’s Secret: An Adoption Story


MY MOTHER’S SECRET: An Adoption Story

I’m certain my mother would have strongly opposed SB335 as it progressed through the New Hampshire Senate and House in 2004. The Bill, which became law effective January 1, 2005, concerned access to records available to adult adoptees who were born and adopted in New Hampshire. These adoptees now can gain access to their own original, pre-adoption birth certificates…

 Why would she have opposed this law?

Because she had a secret.

Her secret was revealed to her family on January 19, 2011. (more…)

December 18, 2010

26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: The Letter O



Monte Holland


 Several persons have expressed an interest in having my husband, the Rev. Monte W. Holland, post an online series of devotions. Through their encouragement, Monte will post a weekly devotion on CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS. To read the introduction click on 26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: Introduction. Click on 26 Devotions Based on the Alphabet: The Letter N to read the previous post on the letter N.

Return to this site each Saturday to read his devotions.  Carolyn C. Holland




Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor fulfills the law. (Romans 13:8)


9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10 (NKJV))

     We are a debtor nation. Our federal government seems to always need to print more money. China owns a lot of our nation’s wealth.

     Our personal credit cards are often maxed out.

     We have a hard row to hoe. With the current financial crisis, many have tightened their belts and credit card debt may have shrunk some.

     Things may put a noose of debt around our neck, but they don’t have eternal value. If, on the personal level, we reach the point of owing no one any money, does it mean that we are we debt free?

     The answer is a resounding “NO!” We will always be indebted to  (more…)

December 13, 2010

Six Camels for Your Wife, Sir…



     “Is that your wife?” the Omen* citizen asked the West Virginian I’ll call Tom.

     “Yes, she is my wife.”

     “I’ll give you six camels for her.”

     Tom declined the offer.

The country OMEN

     Tom and Joan were on a cruise to the Mideast. Their bus passed a desert area where the women were totally covered except for the slit of their eyes and their fingertips. There was a line of camels off the roadside. The driver stopped and told the tourists they could get off the bus to have their pictures taken with the camels.

     Tom further explained that a few days earlier his wife had visited an Asian beauty salon where the beautician didn’t speak English and Joan didn’t speak the Asian language. The net result was that she entered a brunette and exited a blonde, a hair color which she retained well after the cruise ended.

     While Joan posed with a camel, the Omen man approached her and gently ran his fingers over her golden curls, after which he offered Tom his barter.

     Later, Tom wondered if he should have bartered—perhaps the Omen man believed his wife, whom I’ll call Joan, was  really worth ten to twelve camels.

     He also wondered what the logistics would be had he accepted the offer. How many camels would he be allowed to keep in his cabin? Where would the other camels be kept? What would he feed them? Would he be allowed to keep them on his property in Southwestern Pennsylvania?

     This story entertained me while I volunteered at a Ligonier Valley (PA) Historical Society fundraising event, the Festival of Trees. There were only a few persons visiting the event at the time. While I was talking with some of them, Tom asked me if I wanted to hear a story. Since camels are reported to have been present at Jesus’ birth, and are an item in every Nativity set, it seemed appropo to hear a story about camels.

     Bizarrely, though, the afternoon included four more camel stories.


     Camels seemed to like Tom’s wife. On another cruise, this time in Australia, Joan and another female traveler accepted a camel ride.

     “Camel rides aren’t smooth, like horse rides,” Tom noted, elaborating that when the women dismounted the camels at the end of their ride they were vibrating. Even so, each woman claimed a camel cheek and stood there stroking it. The women invited Tom over to join them.

     “I noticed the camel’s mouth was juxta-positioning to spit,” Tom said. “Since the camel was giving me the eye, I knew it was preparing to send a burning spitball at me. I backed off.”


“Watch out for camels or they’ll spit on you when you aren’t looking!”

     There are two misrepresentations in the statement above. First, camels do (more…)

December 8, 2010

Robert and Janet: Nowy Targ Holocaust Survivors




     Last year, on my birthday, I both lost a friend and gained a friend.

     I was privileged to meet Robert (Reibeisen) Mendler, the last Holocaust survivor in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. I was privileged to write an article on him in the Westmoreland County Historical Magazine and to continue his story on this blog.

     I was privileged to spend the afternoon of December 8, 2009, in his company (see link at end of post).

     I was also privileged to be the person who informed him that he was not the only survivor of his hometown, Nowy Targ, Poland. The survival of Janet Applefield, also a Nowy Targ, Poland, Holocaust survivor, was a revelation to him.

     Thus, enroute to his funeral, I made an impromptu decision to try to speak.

     I asked my husband, Monte, who was with me, if I should do this. After all, I knew nothing about Jewish funerals—this was my first experience. I did not have the time to consult with Janet, on whose behalf I wanted to speak. Somehow, though, I felt that she wouldn’t mind.

     When I arrived at the synagogue I fear I made myself obnoxious, asking different persons if I could speak. Even so, I was given permission, and I was invited up to the podium during the service.  

     Here is what I shared at Bob’s funeral:

     Everyone here is (more…)

November 8, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 4



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

     I interviewed David at the end of his year 2000 stay as an exchange student from Germany.

     “My reason for coming to the United States was to learn the language, to speak it fluently. I think I met that goal,” David said. “I also came to get to know a different people and their culture.

     “My biggest impression is that the United States is big. I didn’t really expect it. You can drive twenty hours in one direction and still be in the same country with the same language. In the same driving time in Germany you would pass through four to five countries.”

     There are not so many churches in Germany as there are here, “where on one street there are ten churches and two are the United Methodist. Church…People go to church in Germany but not really that often like here.”

     According to David, almost everyone in Germany is in the church, “I am, but I go once a year, on Christmas Eve.” He said he is still at work at 10:00 a.m., or he doesn’t go because “I am just tired.”

     “Here, Sunday is just about church. In Germany, Sunday is to (more…)

November 4, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 3



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

      He didn’t like Alex, the exchange program coordinator, and he didn’t feel he could respect the rules.

     “I can do what I want,” he said.

     Back at our house, he demonstrated some skate board moves, showed me a skate board magazine and showed me his paint ball gun.

     “I’m against war, but paintball is a game,” he said.


     One of the rules was that David had to do his own laundry. After all, my kids had done theirs since age 13 (albeit by their choice). He seemed surprised at this.

     “I didn’t do theirs, and I’m not doing yours,” I stated.

     On Thursday, David said he was ready to do his laundry.

     “I’ve never done it before,” he said, using his magnetic smile, I am sure, to convince me I should do his for him.

     I couldn’t be cajoled into doing it for him, but I would teach him.

     “I hate you but (more…)

October 11, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 2



To read David, Our German Exchange Student Part 1, click on David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1.

    We laid some ground rules—basically, we weren’t going to do things for him we didn’t do for our own children. We wouldn’t play a wake-up game with him. He would have to get himself up in the mornings. We presented him with an alarm clock.

     Neither would we drive him to school. As my children learned, if they didn’t get ready on time, they would have to go without a note the next day.


     It was Wednesday when Jared knocked on our door. It was dinnertime at his house, and David was expected. David was sleeping, so we had to awaken him, and he doesn’t wake up easily.

     I walked across the street to the neighbor’s house later that evening.

     Rene and Tom said David spoke about getting a driver’s license during dinner. Rene seemed in favor of the idea, and was encouraging Tom to take him out for practice. I was less enthusiastic, wondering if he could get a Social Security card.

     Jared, David and I played Uno for a while. David asked if he could spend the night at the neighbor’s house, since there was no school the next day due to an ice storm. He told me Rhonda said he could, and I responded sarcastically (in fun) that I was in charge. He replied that sometimes old people think (more…)

October 4, 2010

David, Our German Exchange Student: Part 1



     Perhaps if I’d retired to my porch rocking chair, spending my hours catching up on all the old magazines and books piled in my study “for future use,” I wouldn’t have had a teenager living in my house. But then, David, our German exchange student, brought much excitement into my life.

     My husband, Monte, and I, had just returned from a visit to Germany, where our son, Nolan, held a post-doctoral position at the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science (German: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften Eingetragener Verein).

     My teeange neighbor, Ryan, a junior high school student, was studying German. When I handed him a pile of fliers and thick newspapers he could use for (more…)

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