Praise the Lord, my husband Alan is finally home after five months in the hospital. Have you ever heard the expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” For five months, I took the passenger ferry from Dunoon to Gourock and then took a taxi up to the hospital to visit him. So simple, so easy. Just purchase a ticket right on the ferry from one of the friendly workers. Then for whatever reason—the ferry company changed their ticket purchasing system and suddenly—it was no longer simple, nor was it easy. It was impossible. For the last three days that Alan was in the hospital I traveled on the ferry for free because the new ticketing system was broken. For the last two of those days—everyone coming back on the ferry traveled for free. The friendly ferry workers didn’t even bother coming around the cabin with their “new improved” payment machine that didn’t work. The company “fixed” something that wasn’t broken.

Today I walked Savannah down to see about getting a jump start for our car which had a dead battery. My next stop was the grocery store. By the time I had walked that far and waited for the lunch hour to end at the garage, and then reached the store, I needed to use to the bathroom—but the door was locked. I went to the cashier and waited in line to get the key. She looked around and said someone must be in the bathroom because she didn’t have the key. So I went back and checked the door again. It was still locked. I waited outside the door for quite a few minutes, but no one came out and I didn’t hear any noise inside. I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I went back to the cashier and waited in line again for the key. She searched a second time and assured me that someone must be in the bathroom because she couldn’t find the key. “Knock harder,” she suggested.

I marched back to the bathroom and knocked on it as decisively as I had recently heard a police officer knock on someone’s front door. No answer. Back to the line to wait again. The cashier rolled her eyes. “Someone must have pocketed the key and gone home with it,” I told her, “because it’s still locked and no one answers.”

The lady in line ahead of me—who had just unloaded a full cart of groceries and put them on the counter—turned to us nonchalantly and said, “Oh, the bathroom key? I have it. I’ll give it to you after I get through using the bathroom.”


Some things just don’t make sense.

One thing in the world never fails and always makes sense. “And this is the promise that Jesus has promised us—eternal life.” 1 John 2:23 Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Enough, Already!

Twice in two days I’ve been called out at the hospital for using the word “handicapped,” instead of “disabled.” I’m sure my lack of respect for political correctness offended the walls. There were no people—handicapped or not—within hearing distance—only walls.

The U.S., where I’m from and where I grew up, passed the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, but signs remain intact for handicap parking. The only complaints seem to be about non-handicapped folks being lazy and inconsiderate and parking in handicapped spaces, and these folks are so thoughtless that they would treat a “disabled” sign the same way.

My car is disabled when it won’t run. It is totally unable. I was never disabled when I spent two years on crutches—but I was handicapped by the challenges of going up and down steps, etc.

If I needed to choose between the words handicapped and disability for one of my books, I would write, “She was handicapped by her small size and lack of height.” I would not write, “She was disabled by her small size and lack of height.” She’s not disabled, for heaven’s sake—she just can’t reach the top shelf!

Handicap: disadvantage, challenged.

Disability: incapacitated, impaired.

I don’t find the word handicapped offensive; I find the word disabled offensive. Handicapped means it’s difficult; disabled means it’s impossible.

And I especially find political correctness offensive.

People need to get real. They need to sail out of their comfort zones each morning with an attitude of doing something to make the world a better place even if it’s just smiling—rather than creeping out to look around warily and discover what offends them today.

Enough, already! Handicapped, disabled. They are just words. Words are what people make them. Only God’s words are eternal.

 Proverbs 30:5 in the Bible promises, “Every word of God is pure.”

People muck them up. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update


My parents would have failed a health and safety course. Perhaps because there were seven of us. If one child was lost, there were six others to replace him or her. Whatever the reason, they were an epic fail in the safety department.

They let us throw chicken bones to wild alligators we found in the ditches along Florida highways. Alligators can run 35mph. A few chicken bones would not have satisfied a huge reptile’s hunger with a tasty morsel like a child standing in front of it within easy reach.

For my eighth birthday, I got a baby alligator as a pet. Alligators are not petable regardless of their size. The power of their bite depends on the species and their size, but they can exert up to 3,700 pounds per square inch when their jaws snap shut. For comparison, humans exert 150 to 200 pounds per square inch in their bite. News headlines like the following are not uncommon: “Florida officials search for alligator that ate man,” “Crocodile eats man in front of his family.”

I am currently reading and enjoying Beth Haslam’s newest book, “Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates.” Although I love fiction, and fiction is what I write, I get every book that Beth or Valerie Poore write. As I read this book, I am fascinated by the closeness of Beth’s family and the kindness and nurturing of her parents. Like our family, their family surrounded itself with animals. But not alligators like my birthday “pet,” and not half-grown African lions like our Ebenezer who could easily have eaten one of my younger brothers when my father brought him home in the back of a station wagon. By the time Eb left us, he weighed 450 pounds and had pinned me down on the ground and bitten my stomach.

When school was out for the summer, Mom rarely knew where I was. With the choice of a bicycle or a horse to ride, or exploring the woods on foot—I roamed miles from home and didn’t get back until dark. Once when I crossed a newly cut tree across a stream, a horrifying roar split the air and a black bear rose up from under the leafy section of pine. I ran away so fast that when I hit our property fence, I flipped over it and ripped both jeans and skin on three strands of barbed wire. Mom was furious about the riddled jeans, but less sympathetic about the slashes on my legs because she thought I was being careless and lied about the bear. My bear story was not believed until months later when we watched a black bear munch blackberries from the thicket behind our pond.

Except for the once-a-year week-long tent camping vacations to Florida, my family never went places together. There were too many of us and we didn’t have enough money. My mother took us shopping. We kept our hands clasped behind our backs and were not allowed to touch things. She also took us to the library. We all loved reading and won the county-wide library sponsored reading contests for the most books read every year. Other than that, we mostly went our own separate ways except when I—being the oldest—talked the others into risky adventures like climbing up and down the 150-foot cliff left by the highway department when they built the interstate. When a rock dislodged under my foot leaving me hanging, it took the quick intelligence of my sister, fellow author Leslie Garcia, to save me. She instructed our neighbors Billy, Bobby, and Ronnie to get down on the ground and form a human chain to grab me and haul me back up. Her job was to cry. My parents never knew about that misadventure, or many others. We simply weren’t as connected as other families.

When I look back at the dysfunction of my childhood (without even revisiting the sexual abuse), I am amazed that at age 71—I am still alive. I can’t credit my safety-unaware parents for this miracle. Even before I knew Him, God had my back.

Perhaps this is why from childhood—long before I knew God or understood the Bible—Psalm 27 was my favorite Psalm. “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”

My parents did not intentionally forsake me—they just made a lot of mistakes. We all make mistakes. Some are potentially deadly. Whether we know it or not, we owe our next breath to the Lord God who made us. He has our backs.

Rock Love

Rocks speak to me. They always have. Mountains are majestic, the sky is magnificent, the ocean is marvelous—but rocks—well, they rock.

Even as a five-year-old, I was fascinated by rocks. I would pick them up and carry them around the yard and my mother would shout, “Put that rock down. You’re going to hurt yourself. When you drop it on your toe, don’t come crying to me.”

And I didn’t. I carried the rocks around rearranging them and when one slipped out of my hands and hit my foot—which invariably happened—I never went crying to my mother. I sat in the corner of the yard cradling my foot and whimpering until my toe finally quit hurting. Then I would find another rock that needed relocation.

As a child, I built rock mansions for roly-poly bugs and furnished them with grass and jar lids full of water. I seem to remember my mother remarking to my grandmother, “That’s odd, Maybelle. I’m sure this jar had a lid.”

As an adult, I learned to build rock steps, rock walls, and rock siding around houses. To build with rocks, one must first have rocks. I spent countless blissful hours collecting rocks from local ranches and filling the pickup truck up with them until it settled down on the back wheels and the front end was light driving home. Rocks speak to me.

Once I found a huge rock along the side of the road. I was driving the car, not the truck. I stood the rock up on end at the back of the car and wrestled it into the trunk. When I got home with the rock, it took my son and two of his teenage friends to lift the rock out of the trunk. In the tussle, the trunk lock got bent, but I had to take that rock home with me. It hollered at me as I was driving past.

Why this passion for rocks? I can’t explain it. Nor can I explain why as an unchurched child who didn’t own a Bible and didn’t even understand the lyrics to Christmas songs like “Silent Night,” my favorite Psalm was Psalm 27: “In the time of trouble He shall hide me…He shall set me high upon a rock, and now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies.”

“The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation.” 2 Samuel 22:47.

Physical rocks have sometimes failed me. They have strained my back and arm muscles, dropped on my feet, smashed my fingers, proved to be a hiding place for scorpions that sting when disturbed. But the Rock of my salvation has never failed me.

God is The Rock. He made rocks. The rocks speak to me. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Justifiable Crankiness?

I remember a song from when I was a kid about walking on the sunny side of the street. Walking our rough collie dog is a constant reminder. When sun batters through clouds in our part of Scotland—which is extremely rare in a marine climate where it rains nearly every day, I want to walk on the sunny side of the street. The best grass and the best sniffing places for Savannah, however, are apparently on the west side of the street where the sun is blocked by eight-foot high hedges and stone fences. So dog happily walks in the shade, sniffing…and I shuffle along behind her casting yearning glances at the other side of the street—the sunny side.

“On the Sunny Side of the Street” was written by Dorothy Fields in the 1930s. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Grab your coat and grab your hat, baby
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
On the sunny side of the street

Can’t you hear the pitter-pat
That happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street

The nearly magical aspect of the sunny side of the street is that you can walk there even in the rain—if you let the peace of God rule your thoughts. You can be someone’s sunshine even on the darkest days.

I failed this morning. I’ve heard of “justifiable homicide,” but I engaged in… justifiable crankiness? Alan received an appointment letter for a home visit from a doctor from the local hospital. The letter directed, “if you are unable to keep this appointment call (number) as soon as possible.” Alan is still in the hospital, so I called that number several times—but it didn’t work. The letter head identified the hospital, but gave no phone number. So, feeling sympathy for older people who don’t have access to the internet, I looked up the number on the computer and called. I should have saved the sympathy for me. The number went to a switchboard, which went to another switchboard, which went to yet a third switchboard that finally quipped, “You cannot leave a message at this number. Please call…” I was on the way out the door to catch the ferry and get across the water to visit Alan, so I didn’t have a pen. I ran back to the desk for a pen and jotted down the number. I called. Yay! A live person. The live person said, “I’ve never heard of that doctor. I have no record of that appointment. If you will just hold…”

“I can’t hold. I’m on the way out the door to catch the ferry.”

“If you will leave your number, I will have someone call you.”

“I won’t be here. I’m on the way to catch the ferry.”

“Someone will call you later…”

“I don’t want anyone to call me latter. I just want to cancel the appointment and catch the ferry.”

“Let me give you another number…”

I hung up. Epic fail. I left the sunny side of the street.

I got to the ferry just in time. The sun came out. It was a beautiful day for riding on the sunny side of the water, but I had left a person behind somewhere at some switchboard sitting under a storm cloud, because I forgot Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”

It was Scotland’s NHS. Did that make it justifiable crankiness? Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Scary Words

“Oh, I know who you are. I’ve seen you…”

Scary words. When did they see me? What was I doing? Picking my nose? Scratching some unsavory body part clandestinely? Wearing old clothes—undoubtedly that. Or was it even more sinister?

Was I wearing a grumpy frowny face instead of a smile? Was my attitude or expression akin to the signs some folks post on their gates: “Beware! It Bites!”

Was I slumped over with worry and distress resembling depictions of Atlas condemned to hold up the heavens and the sky—an unacceptable  posture for a Christian who is to cast all their care upon God.

Was I being kind? Or unkind? Loving or spiteful? Helpful or impatient?

A smile is such an easy and essential fixture to install—but did I forget and leave my smile at home. “I’ve seen you…”

What did they see?

“Keep yourselves in the love of God.” Jude 21 Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Before…and After

Since my first book was published in 2012, I have attempted to write a weekly blog. I have not always succeeded in that goal. There are weeks that go blog-less.

When a friend sent me a picture she took of me – probably 57 years ago – I realized that I could write the shortest blog ever. I didn’t recognize myself in the picture she shared. In fact, the face rather scared me. It was taken before Jesus came into my heart and my life. Looking at that picture, I could understand why I had so few friends in school. I looked grim.

When placed beside a recent picture of me – a picture after Jesus came into my heart and life – the contrast is astounding.

As with everything in life that is important, the explanation is found in the Bible. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Crazy – or Insane?

I hate those spineless scammers that go around paying other people’s bills without their knowledge or consent. Mind you, no one has ever paid my bills, but I know these bill-paying scammers exist.

I know because husband Alan McKean is still in the hospital. He has been there since the last week in December. The bills are in his name. I can’t pay them. The only reason I can imagine greedy utility companies refusing money without putting me through a more rigorous security check than the police check I had to pass to enter this country is that mean-spirited scammers go around tricking big corporations by paying other people’s bills.

First it was the phone company. Actually, I am gradually realizing that besides spending half-a-day on the phone to get my name added to the bill so that I was eligible to pay it, sorting out the phone company was a breeze. I had to pass through about the same layers of security and scrutiny as I did to get my visa to remain here in the UK.

But the electric company? “Oh, the electric company,” she moans, hanging her head. Throw in some handwringing. Actually, it was an extremely rough ferry crossing over to the hospital this morning and there was a woman wringing her hands. At the time, I thought it was fear. Now I think it was despair. I think her husband is probably in the hospital, too, and she tried to pay the electric bill for him.

I never got a bill from the electric company. We got dumped by our old company and sucked into a new one, so I didn’t even know the name of the company or how to contact them. Alan handled it through his email—which is password protected. He can’t remember the password. So, I started out asking the company—when I finally found out which one it was—to change the emails to my email address because my husband was in the hospital. Their reply; “We can’t do that unless your husband calls us.”

“But he’s in the hospital.”

“Yes, you’ve told me.”

“He’s been there since after Christmas. I don’t know if he’s getting out.”

“Yes. But he needs to call us and give us permission to add you to the bill.”

“He can’t call. He can barely talk. He’s in the hospital. What am I supposed to do—sit here and not pay you until the lights and the heat go out?”

“You can pay the bill. I just can’t change anything unless he calls us.”

“Oh, good. That’s all I want to do. Pay the bill. How much is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”


“Company policy.”

“You want me to pay the bill, but you won’t tell me how much it is? I want to speak to a supervisor.”

“I can transfer you to a supervisor, but they will tell you the same thing. Company policy.”

“Well, if you can’t tell me how much I owe can you just throw a number out for fun? And I’ll pay that.”

“That would be telling you the amount. I could lose my job.”

So…the electric bill is not paid. Any day I will return home from the hospital to a dark cold house. But the lady will have kept her job.

Crazy? No, insane.

Hey, if any of you guys out there know one of those pesky scammers personally—tell them to pay my electric bill for me.

Little Joys

It is a long walk—a lot of it uncovered and exposed to constant rain—between the little ferry in Gourock and the train station where one can either catch the train, or go through the building and get a taxi or a bus. Before when I made this walk frequently, I was on crutches. I was always the last one to get from the ferry to the front of the station building. When I first began visiting Alan in the hospital nearly every day on the Thursday after Christmas, I was off crutches—but still the last one to reach the front of the building. But now, after all these weeks of walking that route—I can keep up with the frontrunners! I was in the group of the first three folks today to reach the front of the building. Just a little bit of joy to season the day. (I was probably the only one to know that I was ‘racing’ the others!)

Savannah went on a walk with me two nights ago. “Wait,” you might well say. “Don’t dogs usually go on walks with their owners?” Not Savannah. Not after dark. Since the November 5 Guy Fawkes Night fireworks, Savannah has refused to go outside after dark. Every night when the rain is not pouring down I put Savannah’s collar and leash on her and walk to the front door. The leash comes with me. The collar and the dog stay behind. So having her willingly go on a walk with me after dark was a big thing. And it was just another bit of joy to season the day.

My newest Christian cozy mystery-romance came out in paperback today. I got home to find two paperback copies had been dropped through the mail slot. A bit of joy to season the day.

While I was walking around waiting for the ferry yesterday afternoon, I got to take an interesting photo of a building out on a pier, the roof covered with seagulls, and a boat rocking gently in the fog. Today as I waited for the ferry, I got to watch pigeons diligently choose nesting materials and fly off with them sticking out of their beaks. Little joys.

Joy doesn’t have to come in something the size of a shipping container or a new vehicle. It can be small and quiet, a whisper passing through the heart. The Bible says, “In everything give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

A thankful heart finds joy in little things. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update

Blame it on Circles

My college art class professor loved circles. He gave us instruction in our class on Monday, then set an art project to be completed by Friday—and he always wanted us to include circles or curves—except for William, of course. William disappeared after Monday’s class, but he unfailingly showed up on Thursday night with a large canvas he had stretched. He applied masking tape to the blank canvas in geometrical shapes, spray painted different areas different colors, and removed the tape. Art project finished in thirty minutes. Result—straight ‘A’s.

It seemed unfair at the time that the 30-minute student in our class always rated an ‘A’ when the rest of us who showed up and worked on our projects all week, diligently including the required circles and curves, did not hit the ‘A’ mark. But I have since learned that life is not fair and I am not an artist. William was.

The country song, “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” recorded in 1935, by the Carter Family has a catchy tune and words: Will the circle be unbroken; By and by, Lord, by and by; There’s a better home a-waiting; In the sky, Lord in the sky. I love that song.

Circles are good in songs. “The Circle of Life” in “Lion King” being a prime example. But I’m beginning to distrust circles. Take the seasons. They curve and circle around enough to please even my art professor. But the circle includes winter (she says wearing three layers of clothes at the computer and shivering). Winter is simply not good for me no matter how many circles—or songs—it creeps into.

However, my main grumble about circles is that they are round. As I go back and forth across the water every day to visit my husband in the hospital, I watch the windows on buildings as the ferry approaches the terminals at each end of the trip. The windows are tall and trim and inflexible. I can’t help thinking that if I maintained the same shape as the windows—my weight would not creep up on me and become a problem. See—I’m not window-shaped. I’m round. And that’s the problem with circles. There is always room in the middle to add something. Stephanie Parker McKean: books, biography, latest update