Beloved, Hear My Heart: Book Review

  • Beloved, Hear My Heart: A Deep Sense of Righteous Urgency!
  • By Lawrence Sankar
  • Published by Vision Tomorrow Today
  • 2015, 166 pages

In this book by Lawrence Sankar, thirty-one essays present the author’s “deep sense of righteous urgency,” hence, the subtitle. However, on one of the inside covers, is a different subtitle describing the book’s content, which is “a collection of inspirational messages.” This is only one of several writing issues that confused me in Mr. Sankar’s work.

To his credit, Sankar is most certainly fluent in scripture, and uses it in the essays themselves to explain them. He’s able to make good application of the scripture he uses and the reader can relate to life much of what he says.
While reading the essays and notes following them, I noticed Sankar referred to many of these writings as parables. Some were written as parables; others could not be called parables because the form wasn’t there. This made it difficult for me to trust the theme. I became confused by this as well.

When I tried to find Sankar’s theme for the book–after all, any book should have a one–I finally found something close on page 69. “Believers must become the messenger of change in their family and the catalyst of change in their communities and the wider society.” At any rate, this is what I’m guessing is his central theme. Since each titled entry has a different form (parable, essay, ‘poetic discourse,’ ‘revelation,’ etc.), it took some re-reading of some of them to discover the message he was trying to convey. Often, it was found in his “notes.”

Sankar is passionate about revival and in the essay, “A Timeless Reflection,” he states, “But rather, I have decided to balance my discouragement with a sense of hopeful optimism.” This is evident throughout the book. I’m sad to say this is one of the few consistencies.

“Beloved” would have benefited from professional editing. Perhaps he could have divided the book into sections containing the parables, the essays, the so-called ‘revelations,’ and the rest. Some of his notes seemed to be essays in themselves as if he had more to say.

I don’t disagree with most of what the author says, but his method and having to explain everything to me was somewhat frustrating. The author seems to have a prophetic voice, speaking truth into our lives. However, one with such a voice must exercise grace. Truth and grace is how Jesus came into our lives (John 1:14).

For someone who wants to hear what the Bible says about revival and becoming an agent for change in the world, this book could help. I would suggest the reader dive in with his or her Bible on hand. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12). Be wise and study for yourself along with this author.

Reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

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99 Things That Make Me Happy

Contentment and gratitude can come from some pretty simple things. Sometimes we just need to take stock. Not that you care about my life so much, but perhaps my list will provide the nudge you need to make your own. Mine is just short of 100. Yours can include as many as you like. And we can always add to them, can’t we?

What makes you happy? Here’s my list, not necessarily in order.

  1. Knowing I can be happy
  2. Belonging to a church community
  3. Serving others
  4. Hearing my son’s deep bass chuckle
  5. Watching my granddaughter dance
  6. Drinking a hot cup of tea
  7. Telling a joke well
  8. Laughing when someone tells a good joke
  9. Fresh sheets on the bed
  10. Being satisfied with what I have
  11. Farmer’s markets
  12. Eating dark chocolate
  13. Being in the groove when writing
  14. Reading the start of a new book
  15. Thunderstorms
  16. Experimenting with recipes
  17. When the recipe turns out
  18. Baking just about anything
  19. A good chick flick
  20. Drinking strong coffee
  21. The smell of coffee brewing
  22. Cuddling with my bunny
  23. Watching my bunny hop and run fast
  24. Receiving personal mail. You know, a card or letter
  25. Stargazing
  26. The scent of freshly mown grass
  27. Watching fireflies in the dark
  28. Browsing bookstores
  29. Browsing office supply stores
  30. Picking out just the right card for someone
  31. Receiving a card that’s just right for me
  32. Swimming leisurely
  33. Playing Scrabble
  34. Playing euchre
  35. Wearing cool bracelets
  36. Wearing any kind of earrings
  37. Getting a good haircut
  38. Reading my Bible
  39. That ozone smell after the rain
  40. When the movie screenplay comes out so close to the book
  41. Eating a quality steak cooked just right (a not-too-bloody pink)
  42. Waking up without pain
  43. Watching a herd of deer in a field
  44. Watching wild turkeys cross the road
  45. Encounters with any sort of wild critter
  46. Discovering something new on Netflix
  47. Discovering a good foreign film
  48. Recycling all that I can
  49. Watching a well-done documentary
  50. The smell of a quality lotion on my skin
  51. Sincere hugs
  52. Listening to Mozart
  53. Discovering a new musician whose music I like
  54. Sleeping in when I can
  55. Naps on Sunday after church
  56. Watching my blue betta swim around in his bowl
  57. Learning something new
  58. A cuddly sweater
  59. Things being in order
  60. Snagging a great photo
  61. Singing
  62. The sound of my mantel clock chiming
  63. Campfires
  64. S’mores at the campfire
  65. All my nails the same length
  66. My nails painted with no mistakes
  67. 75-degree weather with no humidity
  68. Worshiping God through prayer
  69. Going to a classical music concert
  70. Listening to “Carmina Burana”
  71. String quartets
  72. Carrying a cloth handkerchief in my purse
  73. Being within budget
  74. Increasing my vocabulary
  75. Watching blue herons
  76. Hearing children giggle, especially babies
  77. Wearing my multi-colored animal print dress
  78. The sight of storm clouds rolling in
  79. Watching bats circle overhead
  80. Finding a bargain
  81. When the bargain is something I need
  82. Writing with a pen that feels good in my hand
  83. Using doilies
  84. Listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio
  85. Watching the Tigers play at Comerica Park
  86. A successful workout
  87. Employing active verbs in my writing
  88. Finishing a long book
  89. When a book has a satisfying end
  90. Someone returning a smile
  91. When an editor says, “Yes”
  92. The availability of subtitles in a DVD movie “setup”
  93. Meeting with my mentor
  94. Solitude and silence when I need it
  95. My grandson’s youthful wisdom
  96. “Reunions” resulting from Facebook connections
  97. My general practitioner’s sense of humor
  98. Entertaining friends in my home
  99. Knowing my eternal destiny is secured

Be a blessing to someone today.

Living a “Good Deeds Life”

My life isn’t rife with so many examples of doing good deeds that I can tell you I’m always on the spot helping. To my dismay, I’m not always paying attention.

Author Henry James said, “Be the kind of person on whom nothing is lost.” This practice probably helped when he wrote fiction. But it has an amazing translation for each of us as well.

Paying attention means we see situations where we can help. We might also recognize when a person needs prayer or encouragement. If we pay attention, it might stir us to be be a cheerleader for people who are making the attempt to do better in their own lives.

I like the idea of living good deeds. It reminds me of the “One anothers” in the Bible. It reminds me of Jesus saying that the world will know we are His disciples if we love one another. Good deeds done from love reflect the love of Jesus.

While browsing the table near the entrance of my local independent bookstore, I found a little gem to introduce to you. Erin McHugh’s One Good Deed: 365 Days of Trying to Be Just a Little Bit Better leads you through a year of simple but effective good deeds. She didn’t start the book on January 1; she started on her birthday. What a cool idea; it was “her” day, but she hoped to put light into someone else’s.

Erin’s ideas are things she did herself every day for a year. I started reading and hoping I could put into practice the same thing she suggested for that day. I’ve also read ahead a bit to see some of the other ideas she wrote about. Her practices are the reason for the book, but her writing is extremely casual; often funny and embarrassingly relateable.

One day she gave fifteen cents to a woman who’d miscounted her change to ride the bus. Erin said she was happy to lean in and say,

“’Here, I’ve got it.’ Because anyone can miscount; she didn’t do it on purpose. And besides, what’s better than when you see a stupid hassle coming and someone steps in and just makes it go away?”

This example is typical of Erin’s book full of living a good deed life. One blurb on the back of the book says, “Erin McHugh is one wise, funny, smart woman, and her book is a blast to read.”

The title of the book suggests that when we do good deeds as a regular practice, we’ll be “a little bit better.” I like to think the motive is less about us and more about watching out for others’ needs. Even when that need is as small as needing fifteen cents more to ride the bus.

Could you be on the lookout for a way to help someone today? Pay attention and you’ll see opportunities around every corner.

Girls Rising up Like a Bad ‘B’ Movie

What’s up with all the “Girls” in literature these days? Everywhere I look–magazines dedicated to publishing, social media, library stacks, you name it–books with the word Girl stand out from the rest as if that particular gender demands it finally be recognized.

If only in the title of a book.

As a writer, I realize publishing goes through trends. We’ve seen books about pets who saved their person’s life, stories about LGBQT relationships or gender confusion, and everyone who was anyone was writing a memoir. We still see the occasional story about someone who went to Heaven and returned to inspire us. Within genres they even create trendy plots and titles.

I suppose one trend that won’t get much attention or come back with a bang is the Western (pun intended). You’d have to be a Stephen King to do it. (For proof, see The Dark Tower series)

You’ve probably read a few of the Girl titles I found during my browsing. Some have been bestsellers; others loved so well they were made into major motion pictures.

Banned books. Which have you read you “Naughty Girl”?

Here’s a list, not by any means complete, of some books I discovered with that word somewhere in the title.

  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (and the sequels)
  • The Girls of Atomic City
  • The Girl You Left Behind
  • The Girl Before
  • The Girl Next Door
  • The Girl Who Disappeared Twice
  • The Girl Who Was on Fire
  • Luckiest Girl Alive
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much
  • The Girl on the Train
  • Gone Girl
  • The Girls
  • Girls Acting Catty
  • Girl, Stolen
  • Girls in White Dresses
  • Girl, Gone (sound familiar?)
  • Girl in Progress
  • A Girl’s Guide to Vampires
  • Girls Just Want to Have Fun
  • Girls From Da Hood
  • Girls Dinner Club
  • Girls Rule
  • The Sandcastle Girls
  • Kiss the Girls
  • The Pained Girls
  • The Forgotten Girls
  • The Summer Girls
  • The Silent Girls
  • The Good Girls
  • The Drummond Girls
  • The Radium Girls
  • The Wicked Girls
  • Last Girls of Pompeii
  • Lab Girl
  • The Land of Forgotten Girls
  • When All the Girls Have Gone
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
  • The Dead Girls’ Dance
  • Rise of the Rocket Girls
  • The Girls She Left Behind
  • A Few of the Girls

That list is a humble offering from the over 300 entries on my library’s search list which included CD books, downloadable, large print and DVDs. I don’t know which are fiction, non-fiction, or media, but you get the idea.

There’s a bunch of “Girls” out there just waiting for your attention.

Not to mention the daughters, wives, and mistresses in titles. “Women, can’t live without ‘em, can’t kill ‘em” a friend of mine used to say. He could be wrong and it’s a crude thing to say. But I’d be willing to bet some of these titles include a woman dying, whether by natural means or murder.

Speaking of men, did you ever notice most books about men have vaguer titles? The title suggests action and adventure rather than mention “Him.” Men appreciate when we recognize how mysterious they want to remain. At least in fiction. Consider these: “Rogue Lawyer,” “Road Dogs,” “Mr. Majestyk,” and “Come and Get Us.”

Sometimes in literary fiction we get to know a guy inside and out. I’ve discovered those are books that both men and women rate four to five stars on a five-star scale. And yes, I could say that some of my real-life male friends are also open books, so to speak.

I don’t believe I’m going to be adding any of these titles to my “Must Read” list soon. However, I do have a copy of “Little Women” and I never read it as a youngster. It’s probably for good reasons the book is a classic.

Don’t be one of The Silent Girls (or boys). Let me know if you’ve read any of these titles. What did you think of it? How long before we see this trend go the way of the dinosaur (as in “Jurassic World”)

Enjoy your book nook!

“Two Scoops of Ice Cream…Wait, I Mean ‘Grace’: a Book Review

In her book, “Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top,” Jeanette Levellie wants us to know right up front that God is a gracious God. He’s perfect, but not a perfectionist. He watches over us, but not with an abacus on hand, ready to count our failures. Her stories, told in devotion style, could be read one a day (so you can savor them slowly) or as many as you like at a time.

She’s an expert storyteller so it may be hard to put this one down.One thing I will say, Jeanette has a keen wit. It’s a gentle and kind wit. And it’s most often at her own expense because she’s learned to laugh at herself. She’s a mother of two children and a pastor’s wife. She has bright red hair which she claims can be as unruly as she is. That’s another thing about Jeanette, she’s honest about her failings as much as she is about her love for God. If I was a betting kind of gal, I’d bet she has oodles of friends who love being in her company.

In addition to the delicious fact that there’s ice cream on the cover, the book is full of stories to which we can relate. Even if we’re not a pastor’s wife or have children. Even if we’re brunettes or silver-haired beauties. I’m guessing the target audience is women.

But when you know men who occasionally wonder whether God is really there for them; whether His grace can forgive the messes they make; if the dreams they dreamed will ever come true; or the future holds any promise–Two Scoops of Grace is a book you might want to recommend.

Inside are 72 story devotions ranging from Drive-by Diapers, Culture Shock, A Pitiful Piece of Pie, and From Hair to Eternity. While the author insists we be gentle with ourselves and laugh a lot more, she also uses her stories and the Word of God to help us remember the path we’re called to walk. The devotions are comedic and convicting at the same time. And that can be refreshing.

The words ‘grace’ and ‘chuckles’ had to be in the title of this delightful book. Because, in this life, we desperately need them both.

Walking the Cemetery

Here’s something I don’t do often: just write an essay and throw it out there for no good reason. I’m posting today on what would be one of my “off” days because I want to share it with people from my hometown. Most of them will be able to see the lake, the fence, the headstones. They’ll experience that breeze blowing through the trees off in the corner of the woods. Perhaps they’ll remember one particular day…

Here you go, Lakeview. I don’t come around much any more, but I think of you still.

_____________________________________________

Walking the Cemetery by Paula Geister

We weren’t creepy kids. My best friend, Sandy, and I were just curious, and we found something that ended up being a learning experience when curiosity took us to the local cemetery. For the life of me, I can’t remember what prompted that first visit, but walking the cemetery became something we did fairly often.

Lakeview Cemetery was off the beaten path, but still in the village limits of our small town. A right turn off Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Lakeview, and you eventually came to the wrought iron gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the gate stood a marker. After such a long time, I don’t remember anything of significance it might have had written on it. The gate and marker only fascinated us on the first visit. We learned to walk the length of the narrow road to Lakeview Cemetery because we knew what we’d find.

Some would say our visits did have “creepy” written all over them. But we carefully avoided stepping on graves, and took our time exploring each time we went. Whether walking under overhanging shade trees or in the summer sun, we found small headstones and large family markers. Names familiar and names only the dead knew. Carved into each marker we were discovering our heritage, strange as those people were to us.

With sadness, we rubbed our fingers along a stone’s mossy face, trying to make out a faded etching. Our little hamlet was almost 100 years old. How old was the cemetery? How long had it taken for weather and time to erode those names, just as the memory of the folks buried there had disappeared?

In the oldest section of the property, we followed a curving trail. Situated on Tamarack Lake and tucked into the corner of a woods, the cemetery could be beautiful if you had the right mind set. We considered it beautiful. It’s possible we didn’t even know we were being creepy.

The more we visited the cemetery and walked through it, the more we discovered about our town. We also discovered more about life and death. As if watching a movie for the second or third time, we’d see something significant that was missed on a previous trip.

One time it was the baby.

That headstone was old. Terribly old, and even sadder than the moss and lichen growing on other headstones. Sandy and I were only teenagers. It was difficult for us to imagine a baby in a grave. Walking the cemetery was teaching lessons we didn’t expect to learn. But we always left feeling peaceful. Even invigorated.

Time eventually takes loved ones from us. So cemeteries have a purpose. They’re a place for not only the dead to rest, but for the living. For some reason, we have a need to visit our dead and pay respect to them even when they’re gone.

I’m told that elephants respect their dead in profound ways. Film crews shooting a documentary captured a herd of elephants on their way to find water during a drought. The elephants’ lives hung in a balance; it took days for them to finally find water. Yet on the way, they came to an elephant burial site. The herd stopped. They stood at the site and were still and quiet for over an hour.

How did they know? Were elephant bones strewn on the ground? Was there a scent only they could detect? Had they traveled that way before on a trip to find water and members of the herd had perished there? Is that elephant memory? Those questions don’t really need answers. The elephants were doing what elephants do.

And as creepy as it might seem, we do what comes naturally for us. We stand quietly or kneel at the grave site. We have conversations with our friend, parent, spouse, sibling. Whomever. We leave flowers, flags, notes, and trinkets. We weep. Others show no emotion at all.

We do it for ourselves. We may not walk the cemetery to discover our heritage, but we walk a familiar path and connect once again. We know our time is coming and for some reason, the marker and that little plot give us peace.

Today I know I can visit my home town cemetery and find a few loved ones buried there. My parents. Two neighbor girls who died unexpectedly and tragically. And Sandy, my best friend, has been buried there for over thirty years.

I’d love to talk and laugh with her again. For a while after her death, someone would do or say something to make me think of her. “Sandy would have appreciated that,” I’d think. Then I’d remember that little plot by the lake where she rests. I’d be quiet and still, doing what I do. Feeling peaceful and even invigorated.

As creepy as that might sound.

 

© 2016 Paula Geister

Short Stories for Empowering Youth

“Ed’s Tohlet & Other Stories: The Teen’s Guide to Spiritual Growth; By Don Keele, Jr.; Teach Services, Inc. Publishing; 103 pages

Don Keele has spent his career pastoring teens and young adults and helping them engage in church ministry. This book, humorous and challenging even to adults, is a written vehicle for doing so.

Through the power of story, Keele examines areas of strength as well as weakness in himself. We get to know him as he was as a youngster, a teen, and an adult. He tells on himself and it’s an endearing thing to see. Too often, Christians fail to make connections with the unchurched (not to mention with one another) because of a desire to not seem vulnerable.

But the lessons we need to learn, implied in Keele’s parables, come when we admit how much we need our Savior.

In “Smells,” the first story in Ed’s Tohlet, he starts off right. Not only does he indicate how we can be unaware of our spiritual need, he offers the reader a chance to decide to be one with Christ. And isn’t that the starting point for us all?

Keele handles such topics as bullying, Christian service (this is where the ‘tohlet’ comes in), pain, faith in our prayers, accepting God’s “No,” obedience, and more. While directed at a teen audience, this Christ follower found wisdom to follow and even took some notes.

In “Secret Weapon,” Keele describes what it meant to finally be part of an athletic team when he knew he had absolutely no athletic ability. Someone else showed faith in his ability to help. With success, came this realization

“I had only done what Richard had taught me…

Allow (God) to do that work and simply do what He asks you to do.”

At times, Don gets a little off-topic (and sometimes he admits it). Sometimes he seems a might preachy. But his stories really are funny in places. They really do point us to our own experiences with peer pressure, temptation, and a need to belong. They’re not just the needs of teenagers.

God has challenged me in a specific area and take I it seriously. After reading “COPS,” the author’s story about being pulled over and witnessing an arrest, the challenge God extends is even more real. That would the challenge to bear witness of God’s love and goodness to the world. Not just to those whom we celebrate with on the Sabbath and in our Christian huddles.

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

I Have Here in My Hand

I don’t really have a list in my hand. I don’t have a band to give me a drum roll. But –– ta-da! –– here’s a list of the Top Ten posts from 2016. Here in my corner of the world, I enjoyed taking stock and reviewing the past twelve months.

Writing The Fruitful Life is its own reward so I don’t get into looking at hit counters and other stats too much. I don’t have crowds of followers. Frankly, I’d rather write and convince people to follow Jesus.

However, it’s nice at the end of the year to see which posts were favorites of the readers.

The list of the Top Ten Posts from 2016 (in order) might give you an idea of the tastes of the readership. When I do take time to look at stats, it’s also fun to see that readers come from all over the world. In November, when The Upper Room published a devotion I wrote, people flocked to the blog through the link UR supplied. That was kind of fun.

In addition to this list, people cruised the “About” pages and the Archives. I’m not savvy enough to know how it all works. But like I said, writing about my faith and hobbies in which I’m involved is the best reward. Most of these posts are faith-based.

Anyway, here’s the list. Click on the links if you’d like to read them. If you’ve been reading for a while, did you have one you particularly liked that didn’t make the top ten list?

  1. Mom’s “Notes to Self”
  2. Follow Your Heart?
  3. A Visit to Zootopia
  4. Goin’ Fishing
  5. Calm
  6. Storefront Churches
  7. Foodie, Zucchini and Grace
  8. Live Christmas All Year Long
  9. Five Ways to Tell if Someone Loves Jesus
  10. A Three-Word Prayer for Serenity

Stars Shine in Sunshine

A fellow blogger has offered a writing challenge. Bukkypraiz has requested we write a haiku poem.

Haiku is a Japanese style of poetry with strict forms. While there are other ways to write a haiku, this form is most recognizable and popular. Three lines in which the first line has five syllables; second line, seven syllables; and third line, five syllables.

Haiku poetry most often is distinguished by appealing to the senses. They create a word picture and are written in the present tense. Here is my offering for the challenge, which required using the word “Shine.”

big and little dippers

Stars Shine in Sunshine

Stars come out at night

but also shine secretly

concealed by sunlight.

Here’s a bonus haiku of mine written many years ago.

River Talk

Slow river murmurs

secrets to the shore, and in

the reeds it giggles.

Mom’s “Notes to Self”

Dad decided to have an estate sale and clean out the old house I grew up in. Mom had died several years before and he had plenty of good reasons to clear out the contents.

The house was full of antiques he and mom had collected. He also had numerous guns and clocks to sell. There were even collector cards I didn’t know he had. Those eBay freaks went wild bidding on that stuff.

Before he let everything go, however, he told us eight children we could select one thing to keep. He also picked out something for us that he wanted us to have.

What did I pick? Mom’s writing. Anything we could find that was complete. Stuff she didn’t finish. Her two-and-a-half-inch three-ring binder full of poems. A short journal she started as she made decisions regarding cancer treatment. The package even included letters exchanged between her and Dad. And an autograph book from her high school days. It wasn’t exactly “one thing,” but Dad gave a little leeway. I guess he figured no one would bid on something like that. One of us ought to have it.

nurse-mom001

Mom’s graduation pic from nursing school

Today you get to read something she wrote on a 3×5 card. She probably wrote it some time in the 70s. I keep the card at my desk and look at it every now and then for inspiration. The words she wrote remind me so much of her, I can almost hear her speaking them.

Mom was a committed Christian. What she wrote here seems to me like “notes to self.” Maybe she kept the card handy to read as a prompt. Sort of like I do.

Here’s what she wrote on one side of that little unlined card in her utterly neat penmanship.

  1. Diligence–hasten to do a job well
  2. Faith–faith without diligence is dead. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me
  3. Virtue–honesty, courtesy
  4. Wisdom–ability to use knowledge James1:5
  5. Self-Control–discipline over all body appetites. A scheduling of mind, to control emotions, frustrations, etc.
  6. Godliness–kindness, love.

Now we are coming to the traits that show. The foundation of wisdom, virtue, and faith no one can see, but needs be in (sic) place first, then the character of godliness, love and kindness show through. Character seeks talent necessary to fulfill a task.

On the flip side of the card:

  1. If I have a friend, I will stick with and by them!
  2. I will base my decisions on right and wrong, not on how right or wrong turn out.
  3. I will not tamper with (pastor) or preaching. I will pray for (my pastor) every time I go to prayer.
  4. I will not seek riches.
  5. I will treat all people well no matter their station in life.

Thinking back on how Mom lived her life, I know the listed items on the “flip side” were evident in her daily practices. She always treated my friends well. I brought home some misfits like myself and we always had a good time with Mom. She treated them with dignity and they would comment on how she was a pretty good hostess. Even if she was trying occasionally to save their souls. Cookies usually accompanied the visits.

Years after the estate sale and now that my dad is deceased as well, I’m glad I asked for the writing. I knew about some of the stuff which was hidden away. But some of it came as a surprise.

As a writer, I know that what people put down using pen and paper reveals much about who they are. These days, it’s more often done on a computer. Staring at the blank page, we may be blogging about our lives. We might be sharing our thoughts on social media or journaling in private and storing our thoughts in a folder marked “Notes to Self.”

Someday, my kids will find out a little bit more about me when they discover my journals, the margin notes in a few of my Bibles and the stuff I keep in computer folders that have strange names.

Kids, if you’re reading this, look for “Miscellaneous Creations.”