Dear Readers, my first writings as a teenager were humorous short stories. I would take something ordinary that had actually transpired and after finding the levity in it, compose a story. My closest friends have been the recipients of these stories in recent years, but until now, I’ve never published them. While the following incident actually occurred, my husband wants you to know that I, as an author of humor, have embellished it (but not much). I hope you enjoy it! Without further delay, I bring to you my husband’s incredible dance debut.
For the first time in 20 years, my husband and I found ourselves alone on a Saturday. It didn’t seem right to spend a free day at home, so we decided to visit Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum.
As soon as we entered the temporary exhibit about life in the African Congo, I took note of several cute young men dressed in African attire.
“They’re probably local kids earning extra money,” I whispered knowingly to my husband. He nodded his agreement.
Further into the exhibit, we encountered an older man, similarly dressed.
“Must be members of a local church group,” I mouthed to hubby. Tim wasn’t so sure.
Upon leaving the exhibit, a docent asked if we’d like to watch a show in the auditorium. “It’s the Wacongo Dance Company from the African Congo. They’re on an international tour and they’re going to perform traditional African dances.”
I looked at hubby, eyes pleading. What could be more fascinating than an authentic African dance recital?
We sat close to the stage. Hand-pounded drums, straight from the Congo, signaled the start of the show and pushed the room’s acoustic system to the limit. The audience sat mesmerized as a young man pranced, swooped, jumped and whirled in the air. He wasn’t a local school kid after all. Who knew?
Several dances later, the older man from the exhibit, the Chief, stood on stage and asked the audience for a show of hands from those who had toured the exhibit. My hand shot straight up.
Tim leaned over and said, “I wouldn’t do that.”
I ignored his comment. The stage lights were surely blinding the chief’s eyes because he repeated the request.
“Tim, put your hand up and make them feel welcome!”
My husband ignored me.
“Come on,” I insisted.
Hubby sighed as he complied. “I hope I don’t regret this, Cyndi.”
I realized the chief’s vision was extremely impaired when he asked everyone who had toured the exhibit to put their hands down and stand up. “He probably hasn’t had an eye exam,” I told hubby. “You know, over there in Africa and all.” My knowledge made Tim close his eyes and shudder in awe.
By now, all of the young African men were standing in the aisles.
“This can’t be good,” Tim muttered.
“The young men will escort everyone standing to the stage,” the Chief announced.
“What?” I asked.
“I knew it!” Tim shot a not-so-nice glare at me.
One of the young men took my arm and, even though I graciously declined, pulled me to the stage. “Oh, crap,” I gasped. Horrified, I turned to tell Tim to help me, but he, too, was being pulled toward the stage.
With all of the foolish people in the audience who had stood up now lined across the length of the stage, the chief instructed us to imitate his dance movements as the drums began. It didn’t take me long to get the hang of it, the movements loosely resembling my aerobic class dances.
Tim, on the other hand, was putting on a show all by himself. If the chief lifted his right arm, Tim lifted his left arm. If the chief turned to the left, Tim turned to the right. This wouldn’t have been so bad except that when Tim threw his arms the opposite direction of the chief, he belted me in the mouth, the face and various parts of my upper anatomy. It was obvious that Tim had never set foot in an aerobics class.
“Stop it,” I said as I smiled through clenched teeth. Smack. Tim’s wayward arm hit me again. “What are you doing? Stop hitting me!”
Tim stopped gesticulating and turned to face me, both hands on his hips. “I can’t figure out which direction to go.”
“Just do what the chief does.”
“No, you’re not! You’re out of sync and smacking me.”
“What do you want me to do, Cyndi?” Tim threw both arms in the air. At least he missed me.
“Here, trade places with me. You’ll be on the end and you won’t hurt anyone.”
Before we could trade places, peels of laughter from the audience nearly drowned out the drums. It only took Tim and me a second to realize that we were stealing the show.
The chief, sensing trouble, came over to us. “I dance wit chew,” he said to Tim as he jabbed his index finger into Tim’s chest.
“Oh, no you’re not,” Tim replied with a wild-eyed look.
“You dance wit me,” Chiefy said as he again jabbed Tim’s chest.
“No! I am not dancing with a man.” The arteries in Tim’s neck began to bulge.
“You dance wit me.” Another chest jab.
While in college, Tim worked summers as a baseball umpire. Hand signals that had laid dormant for years sprang to life as he spoke with Chiefy. “I’m not dancing with you and that’s final!” Tim returned the chest jab.
The audience was screaming with laughter. I rolled my eyes and wondered why I had let Tim talk me into this. “Let me dance with you, Chief. I’m a much better dancer.”
“I dance wit him,” Chiefy insisted, again poking hubby.
Oh, no. This wasn’t good. Tim had that look that comes right before he does his Jackie Gleason meltdown.
“Ya gotta leave my husband alone, Chief. He’s about ready to blow.”
“How do I get off this stage? Where’s the steps?” Tim frantically shouted off to the right.
The chief and I both turned and looked at Tim. Standing precariously at the edge of the stage, it looked like he was going to belly-flop into the audience.
The music ended. “Thank God!” Tim exclaimed too loudly. The audience loved it.
The remainder of our museum tour was one interruption after another. It’s what happens to celebrities. Not only had every person in the entire museum watched the Congo dance recital, they each had the same question for Tim and me: “Did you two rehearse that scene with the Chief beforehand?”
On the drive home, hubby enlightened me. “Now you know why I have never danced with you.”
“Now you know why I will never dance with you!” I informed hubby.
Tim says I always have to get the last word in.
But that’s not true.
Author’s Note: The Wacongo Dance Company is a traditional ensemble of master drummers, musicians and dancers, residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who perform the ancestral songs and dances of Central Africa.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012
As a Penn State alumnus, I’ve been in a state of shock and disbelief since last Fall’s revelations that one of our coaches was a pedophile who systematically groomed, molested and raped helpless little boys.
As a mother, I feel rage toward a man who cunningly stalked and devoured the innocence, health and future of uncountable children. In my mind, I liken Jerry Sandusky to a vicious timber wolf who patrolled his territory and methodically hunted down defenseless prey, permanently ripping apart their lives in ways that the best of experts can never repair.
Like many, I still cannot come to terms with learning that Joe Paterno, the man who manifested, mentored and championed Penn State in the values of honesty and integrity, was in the end a flawed mortal - like the rest of us.
Yesterday, the NCAA dealt Penn State harsh penalties. Many – including people who never attended Penn State - say the penalties are over-severe and penalize students who had nothing to do with the crimes. Nearly all agree, however, that the university needed to be penalized for allowing the power of a few to lose its human decency and moral values.
One thing all Penn State alumni and current students feel is the shame and bewilderment that permeates us as we try unsuccessfully to comprehend why multiple Penn State leaders found the reputations of a predator and the university to be of higher value than the lives of children.
Yesterday was a whipping day for all Penn Staters everywhere. It wasn’t easy to hear from my daughter how some of her patients berated not only Penn State University but those who have graduated as well as those who currently attend.
The Penn State name is smothered in a black shroud.
So, what do we do? Do we hang our heads in shame for the rest of our lives? Do we wince when we tell others that we are graduates or students of Penn State? Do we feel sick to the core of our beings each time we hear the name of our once esteemed alma mater?
We need to do two things: First, we must remember that the people who lead us can too easily become false idols; the glory that is lavished on them is fleeting. Second, we need to remember that the measure of a man is not that he gets knocked down, but that he picks himself back up.
The Pennsylvania State University will not crumble, it will not be swept away. The mortals who led us made horrific mistakes, but we shall learn from them and, may God help us, we shall never repeat them. By acknowledging and punishing the mistakes, the crimes, we shall become stronger. Let each of us determine to move forward and be the better because of our downfall, not in spite of it.
We were Penn State. We ARE Penn State.
Cynthia Howerter, PSU Class of 1977
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. - Proverbs 14:12.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012Read More
What was your worst day with God? Ah, I’ve got your attention, don’t I? Most likely because no one’s ever asked you this question. It’s a topic that forces you to think.
Should I go first?
I’ll never forget my worst day with God. Actually, there were several. I’m sure you can say the same.
My five-year old daughter woke up healthy one morning. By day’s end, she was semi-comatose. I carried her in my arms into the hospital as she lost control of her bowels. One look at the color of her skin and fingernails and I knew I was losing her. A mother knows.
Where is God when something like this happens to an innocent child?
He was there. In that hospital room. Bolstering my husband and me. Sending believers to comfort my daughter who was in agony, to encourage her parents to not give up hope. Sending the best infectious disease specialist that Pittsburgh had to offer – a doctor who became an unrelenting private investigator seeking the cause of my daughter’s journey to death.
God was there when the doctor discovered the name of the deadly disease. He was there when the doctor understood how to treat it. And He was there when we brought her home. Pink-fleshed, smiling, but weak.
Where was God the day my husband lost his job – our sole income? Where was He when we sold our house and still had no job or another place to live? Where was He the week our cash ran out?
Without question, God was there that shocking day, only 12 days before Christmas, when my husband’s company let people go. He sent our minister to pray with us and to advise us to seek God’s wisdom daily. He sent other believers to pray with us and for us. He sent believers who helped us financially. He sent offers of residence from numerous people when our home became someone else’s. He provided an inheritance when we faced fiscal despair – an inheritance for which we had waited 18 very long years.
Those were my worst days with God.
Joyce Meyer, the Christian evangelist, says that she would rather have a worst day with God than a best day without Him. Now that’s a statement. One with which I wholeheartedly agree.
Why? The answer is so simple. Because on my worst days – and they have been wretched – I was not alone.
We live by what we believe, not by what we can see. 2 Corinthians 5:7
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012Read More
October 30, 1985, began ordinarily enough. My husband kissed our two-year old son and me goodbye before leaving for a business trip. I promised little Justin that we would go to the mall that afternoon and have supper at McDonald’s.
As soon as I told Justin our plans, I heard a voice within me say, “Don’t go to the mall today.” Making no sense to me, I dismissed it.
Throughout the day, the voice repeatedly told me the same message, and each time I paid it no attention, thinking it ridiculous.
My resolve to ignore the voice resulted in it speaking more frequently and insistently to me, always with the same command: do not go to the mall today.
Partway through the afternoon, I began arguing with the voice, saying that there was no reason on this earth why I should listen to it. Why shouldn’t I take my little boy to McDonald’s as promised?
That’s when Steve the Plumber called. The part he’d ordered for our sink had finally come in, and he wanted to come over at 3:30 that afternoon to install it.
After explaining that he’d have to come another day because Justin and I were leaving for the mall at 3:30, Steve argued with me.
I was exasperated. First, a strange voice had been harassing me all day, telling me not to keep the promise I’d made to my child, and now Steve the Plumber would not take no for an answer.
Although the part only took several minutes to install, I knew Steve would be at our house for at least an hour because he loved to chat. I could only hope he’d be too tired to talk.
Wrong. Steve didn’t leave my house until 5:00, and because I was pregnant, I was then too tired to go anywhere. Instead, Justin and I had peanut butter sandwiches for our supper.
At 6:00, my phone rang and a male voice began crying when I said hello. “Cynthia! Thank God, you’re alive!”
“Who is this?”
“It’s Rick. Tim’s boss.”
“Why wouldn’t I be alive?”
“Haven’t you heard the news? It’s on all the Philadelphia channels!”
“A woman went to the South Entrance at the Springfield Mall at 4:00 today and shot 10 people. She killed a two-year old boy. She also shot at a pregnant woman. Tim told me that you were taking your son to the mall this afternoon and I was so afraid the little boy she killed was your son and that you were the pregnant woman she tried to shoot.”
“We’re safe, Rick. Justin and I are both safe. We didn’t go to the mall because…because…” The voice. The voice told me not to go. And when I argued with it and ignored it, it didn’t stop. Then Steve the Plumber called….out-of-the-blue…. and refused to take no for an answer. And then the voice finally stopped….right at 4:00. “Rick, it’s okay. Don’t cry. Justin and the baby and I are all safe.”
Rick sobbed again. “Thank God. Thank God.”
Weeping and trembling, I hung up. That voice – so clear, so insistent, becoming louder when I refused to listen. I knew when I first heard it that it wasn’t me, but I didn’t understand whose voice it was. Until now.
Only One could have known in advance what was going to transpire at the Springfield Mall that day. That same One also knew my plans. And He did not want little Justin or me and the child I was carrying to be present. Of all the mall entrances and arrival times I could have chosen, what had I decided upon that morning? The South Entrance at 4:00. And when I would not listen to the voice, He sent the plumber whose stubbornness and talkativeness put a final end to my plans.
Sometimes when I look at my two children, I think of that day and how God spoke to me, interceding to block our path from danger I could not see.
Have you ever heard that voice? Please leave a comment and tell me how your life was affected by it. I’m not the only one with stories to tell.
“Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or the left.” - Isaiah 30:21 (NLT 2007)
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2012Read More