I Was (Almost) a 12-Year-Old Star!

My Real Memoir

By the time I was 12, my focus had shifted from drawing to storytelling. Although, in truth, even my art had been visual storytelling; I loved movies, after all, and what were movies but visual stories? The week Movieland, the largest wax museum in America, opened, I spent my twelfth birthday there.

My other passion was books, and what were books but movies that played in your head? I’d also discovered the addictive power of praise and, although people had praised my art, when I told stories, they praised me, providing this little dope with an even more direct dose of dopamine!

And so I entered the 6th Grade Talent Show! I’d learned a goofy little jingle, “Casey Coffins,” at Camp Osceola the year before: “Casey Coffins, they are fine, made of satin, brass and pine. When your loved ones pass away, let them go the Casey way.”

I added a spoken chant, “C-A-S-E-Y, the only way to die!” (thus becoming the first plain white rapper), and turned it into a spoof of a TV commercial. While I hocked coffins, I referred to my product’s fine workmanship (I’d made a flimsy coffin from Dad’s left-over lumber). Then I opened the lid, without looking inside, revealing my buddy Jeff as a crumbling corpse (other buddy Rory was my hapless assistant). Worse, this corpse was only “mostly dead,” which meant he was “slightly alive.”* Hence, while I sang the theme song, Jeff climbed out of the casket and chased Rory and me around the stage. End of sketch. Cue uproarious laughter.

The rehearsal went well! Plus, Melinda Ardman was there lip-synching Shelley Fabares’s hit tune “Johnny Angel!” In my heart, I was Johnny Angel.

Problem: The night before the show I came down with a mammoth case of the flu. The next morning Mom took me to the doctor’s office. Doc dosed me with antibiotics, and told me to go home and sleep! “Noooo!” I shouted, “I have the Talent Show!” (It was my intended launch-pad to fame and glory, after all.) So Doc gave me some loop-juice, and said, “OK, but then you sleep!”

Worse Problem: When I got to the school and saw the packed auditorium, I suddenly came down with an even more mammoth case of stage fright. Loathing myself but unable to master the panic, I claimed to be so overcome with fever that I was on the verge of passing out. Mommandad believed me (the non-coward part of me had hoped they would force me go on). I handed my script to Rory, and begged him to take over my role.

Later, after hearing it went well, I was devastated. I’d missed my shot at fame and glory! Or had I? I hatched a plan: I would build a professional theatre

In my backyard!

*Miracle Max in The Princess Bride

Posted in Humor, Memoir, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Quietly Quirky 4th of July

It’s the 4th of July in the U.S. Come to think of it, it’s the 4th of July in lots of countries, except those who take the 5th (that’s a pun, sort of…I didn’t say it was a good one). But in the U.S. the 4th of July, Independence Day, translates to noise and crowds. Which is why my wife and I don’t really “do” the 4th of July (we’re the same way about New Year’s Eve parties).

I’ve never really liked crowds. Let me clarify: I actually do like crowds when they’re lined up to see one of my movies or buy my forthcoming book (he blithely speculated). I just don’t like being in crowds. It makes me feel, well, unfree — which is sort of the opposite of what Independence Day is about.

So, today Trudy and I are day-tripping, admiring our country from the open road, stopping to see the World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab Sculpture (there’s more than one?), and side-tripping to scenic outlooks — with liberty and elbow-room for all!

How do you celebrate the 4th of July?


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Should I Celebrate or Not?


Tomorrow is the day America celebrates its founding. One of my Facebook friends announced that as a follower of Jesus, and therefore a citizen of no earthly realm, he steers clear of national celebrations. He has a point, especially in a time when, for many, the word “Christian” has become so entangled with nationalism.

On the one hand, I too am a Jesus follower (who seldom calls himself a “Christian” because of the baggage the word has acquired). As Christ’s ambassador I owe my allegiance to him alone.

On the other hand, ambassadors are called to support the land to which they are sent. If they see some injustice or need they’re able to address, or observe something worthy of celebrating, does not their King require them to do so? Still, a good ambassador will steer clear of political entanglements, never forgetting Who he or she represents.

Therefore, I may call myself a patriot (although that term too has acquired baggage of late), but not a nationalist. I will celebrate this nation’s extraordinary history (without labelling it superior to all others), strive to make it better, and honor it in any way I can.

But I will never cease to serve my King. 

“For God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

~2 Corinthians 5:19-20

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 28 Comments

It Helps When You Know the Queen

Girl with Dragon (pinterest.com)

The Wishing Map is a full-length fantasy that is being posted episodically at this site. To read the previous episode, click here. To read the entire novel, begin here.Wishing Title (logo only)

Gina had unwittingly adopted a dragon and destroyed a sacred pixie temple, deeply offending both the miller’s boy B’frona and a pixie prince.

The rash-but-courageous Prince Jenblevó charged into view, trailed by his portly nurse, three frightened-but-willing comrades, the darkly ravishing Princess Feyrdú, and a regal-looking older couple. But the Prince’s charge was halted by the sight of the little dragon falling out of Gina’s lap. It had opened its eyes the moment its head hit the ground, and was now emitting a series of pitiful bleats.

A descant of “awwwwws” arose from the greenery. Gina patted her knee. The dragonlet ambled over and leaned against her. She scratched between its soft, crimped ears, and it began to sing. Its enchanting saxophonic purr filled the glade. The pixies all sat down at once, as if the melody had made them too weak to stand. The only sound in the entire forest for several minutes was the dragon’s song. In the same way the forest reflected light, it now reflected the creature’s voice: the sound echoed off every tree, every leaf. It had become the forest’s song. There was no other voice.

Except B’frona the miller’s son.

“You’ve s-s-s-stolen my dragon and made yourself d-d-d-dragonmeer. I was supposed to be the dragonfaer!”

“What?” Gina answered. “I don’t care. You can be its dragon thingy if you want.”

“Nooooo! Only one person can adopt a dragon. Only one person can become dragonfaer or dragonmeer!”

“Well, maybe I could give him back to—”

“No, you b-b-brainless girl, a dragonmeer is forever!”

“It’s true!” the pixies rejoined.

“Heartless human! You are too stupid to die!” added Jenblevó.

And then Gina remembered her dream, or what she’d thought was a dream. “That’s right, Rhema said that—”

There was a collective gasp. The little pixie king stepped forward. He beckoned to a servant, who lifted a funnel-shaped flower in front of him. It amplified his voice quite effectively:

“You know the Faerie Queen?”

“Um, well, yeah, I think so…I mean, yeah, I did, last night. She said that when I sang to the dragon I took a step I couldn’t ‘untake,’ that now my life would be ‘tied to his,’ and ‘what he becomes’ will become a part of ‘what I am.’”

“This was truly the voice of the Fae te Lurá!” the king declared. The crowd responded with reverent silence.

“You don’t even know what you’ve done, do you?” asked B’frona. “How can you not know what it means to be a dragonmeer?”

“Well, I…” What had she gotten herself into?

“Dragonmeer or not, she destroyed the Stone Circle!” Jenblevó shouted.

“Hush, Lord Blevy!” hissed the plump little nurse.

“No! Uol will not be mocked! She will die a thousand, thousand piercings!” Jenblevó raised his goose quill lance over his head. The dark-haired princess stepped up beside him, wielding a wasp-tail dagger, looking equally maleficent.

“Wait!” Gina said. She bent over and picked up a brick-sized stone, and placed it on end. “Um, this goes here, right?”

There was a gasp from the crowd.

“A little to the right,” the king corrected.

Gina slid the stone over. “And this one here?” She placed another about ten inches away.

“Yes,” said the little king. “Perfect.”

“And this one on top?” She placed a longer, flatter stone across the first two.

A rumble of recognition began to build.

“And this one goes…?”

“Here,” the little king said, patting the proper place with his slippered toe.

Within minutes, Gina had reassembled the Sacred Circle. When she finished, she was standing just outside it. With the little dragon at her side, she bowed deeply, using the Elizabethan curtsey she’d learned when she did The Taming of the Shrew. Then she got down on one knee in front of the miniscule monarch and recited, “I humbly beg your forgiveness ‘and place my hand beneath your kingly foot.’” She put her right hand on the ground in front of the king. It was nearly twice his size. With some effort, he managed to lift his foot onto her index finger.

He was utterly enchanted: “Only Uol forgives sins, gracious girl, but We forgive the rest and offer you our tender regard.” The Queen was less impressed, but joined the crowd in a hearty round of, “Çsëláh! Çsëláh!” the ultimate (and unless you’re a pixie, unpronounceable)…

Pixie salutation.


Thoughts: Have you ever committed yourself to something without realizing it would permanently alter the course of your life?

Wishing - Ismara

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Summer Me Now!

Some summers are hot. Some’re not. (See what I did there?) This year is looking more likely to be the former. But whatever it brings, the key is to embrace it! Here are some summer impressions to get you in the mood. Have a great July 1st weekend, peeps!

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to begin slide show.

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Curmudgeonly Me

Curmudgeon (mitchteemley.com)

Cur·mud·geon, noun (kər-mŭj′ən): An ill-tempered, cantankerous person, traditionally older, but now of any age.

Cur·mud·geon·ly, adjective (kər-mŭj′ən-li): How I feel when I’m reading current political news.


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Vacation Homes for You to Try

The Four PotatoesMy Featured Blogger this week is Charles of Potatoes and the Promise of More Potatoes because, well, it’s vacation planning time and, heck, who doesn’t want more potatoes?

Potatoes and the Promise of More Potatoes

A beachy life: Books about beach house livingOceanview-View Beach House: Five bedroom, two bath Cape Hattaras beach house with stunning views of beach houses that have stunning views of the Atlantic ocean. There is a private pool within a few minutes walk that you won’t be allowed into. HBO included. Bring your own television.

Vermont Bed and Breakfasts - Vermont B&B InnsBed or Breakfast: You can’t have both. A lovely converted inn located in southern Vermont. If you sleep in one of our beds, you can forget about breakfast. If you sleep in your car, we will feed you. Check out time is ten o’clock… noon on high-fiber Tuesdays.

Made INN Vermont, an Urban-Chic Boutique Bed & Breakfast | Burlington,  Vermont | Northern Vermont | BBOnline.comExtra Guilt: Jewish grandmother-owned condo in Coral Springs, Florida. Immaculately clean, well organized and perfect in every way. But, if you want to mess it up, go ahead. We’ve got nothing better to do than to clean up after you.

The Lexington CollectionRare Find: Three bedroom, two and a half bath and three-eighths of a kitchen. Barbeque…

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How I Launched My Career (at Age 12)

My Real Memoir

It had looked, when I was in 5th grade, like I might be heading for an art career in Japan. But then I’d gotten tsumetai ashi (cold feet). Not only because I wasn’t sure I would like tempura hamburgers, but because I wasn’t sure I loved art enough to devote my life to it.

I started 6th grade with a teacher named Mrs. Dahlgren. She was nice, I guess. But honestly, I have no recollection of her because she was replaced by a male teacher named Mr. Somethingorother–I don’t remember his name, but I do remember him. He called me “Taheemley” (no idea why) and teased me mercilessly. Teacher abuse, right? Nope. He actually liked me, and unlike any other teacher I’d had, he treated me like a grown-up. He was sarcastic, but always with a hint of a grin at the corner of his mouth. He thought I was smart, and expected a lot from me. He knew I was undisciplined, and pushed me to focus. But he also let me tell stories and do funny voices, and well, be me. I was a 6th grader after all–practically an adult–and finally someone was treating me like one!

Soon after my 12th birthday, we were sent to Sixth Grade Camp! Why? Because we didn’t belong with those little kids anymore. Heck, we were teenagers! OK, twelveteen, but close enough. I remember two things about 6th Grade Camp:

The first was watching an over-testosteroned camp counselor transfer a giant centipede into a scary-cool scorpion’s aquarium! He called it “educational.” I’m not sure it was all that educational, but entertainment-wise it was right up there with Jason and the Argonauts! Heck, The Field across the street from my house had a bajillion bugs, some of them pretty big, but I’d never imagined there were insects this big north of the Amazon! Much less seen them fight to the death like gladiators! I confess, I felt a twinge of guilt at watching this rather sadistic “educational demonstration.” (We heard the counselor got chewed out later by the camp director).

The other thing I remember was lights-out. Which shouldn’t be particularly memorable, but the boys in our cabin were wide awake when it went dark that first night (watching giant bug battles will do that to ya). So, after a lengthy round of fake farting and uncontrollable snickering, someone yelled, “Mitch, tell us a joke!”

I’d gotten a rep for telling marathon groaners, the kind of jokes that went on and on and on, finally ending in some wonderfully stupid pun. So I jumped in, improvising convoluted backstories and absurd details about a penniless nobody who rises to international power on the promise that one day he will reveal “The Great Cush.” Finally, the day comes. The largest ship ever built, as big as Rhode Island (no Texas!) carries an immense sphere as big as a city (no, the Moon!) out into the Pacific Ocean, heats it hotter than the sun (no, the…OK, let’s go with the sun), and then slides it into the ocean, and it goes, “Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

End of story. Groan. Giggles. More giggles. Still more giggles. We finally giggled ourselves to sleep. And from that night on, lights-out time meant “Uncle Mitch’s Stupid Story Time!”

My career had begun in earnest. 

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

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Facing a Post-Roe Future

Pregant - photo by Mustafa Omar (unsplash.com)Photo by Mustafa Omar

Thought for the Week

I have friends on both sides of the abortion fence. And so, although it’s no small task, I want to speak to both. That doesn’t mean I have no views on the subject. I was convinced years ago by an atheist girlfriend that fetuses are not “property,” the constituional basis for the original Roe v. Wade decision (grounded in a since-disproven medical theory). Rather, they are human beings protected under the same laws that protect newborns and adults, whether able-bodied or incapable of living without assistance. Dr. Dianne N Irving, renowned neurobiologist and lecturer in medical ethics (National Institutes of Health, Georgetown University), proves in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy that fetuses are both human beings and persons.

But whether Roe was right or wrong is moot. Each American state must now decide (since the U.S. is more comparable to, say, Europe than England or France) how they will address the issue of unwanted pregnancy. Because that is the real issue.

The key word is compassion. States must address the issue with compassion–not just for unborn children, but for women who are facing unwanted pregnancies, as well. States that limit or abolish abortions should require and monitor: 100% equal financial responsility for men involved in unwanted pregnancies; guaranteed career and education protections for pregant women, requiring, e.g., no loss of college placement status and no loss of funding, scholarships due to delays, etc.; 100% medical and living assistance for women facing unwanted pregnancies; and more.

It is often argued that there are not enough adoptive parents for unwanted babies, especially minority children. This is incorrectly based on conflating adoption statistics with foster care statistics. But babies put up for adoption do not go into foster care. There are, in fact, far more parents waiting to adopt babies–including minority and disabled ones–than there are babies available.*

I long to hear two things in the post-Roe era:

  1. That no unwanted pregnancy carried to term is regreted
  2. That no baby is born unwanted!

*Two valuable resources: Adoption.com (placement, medical/financial care, and more); Considering Adoption (facts, guidance, support services)

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A Hard School

A Hard School (mitchteemley.com)Photo by Alex Conchillos

My cousin Cody struggled his entire short life with depression, addiction, and soul crushing self-doubts. He learned to drive that wretched machine in a hard school. And yet in the midst of the struggle he found time to exhibit extraordinary kindness toward others. With the help of his mother a few years back, herself a recovering addict, he renewed his commitment to rehabilitation, and earnestly offered his soul to his Creator. But then last week, in a moment of despair, Cody ended his life. God knows what he went through, every hard lesson, every crash and repair. And now, free from all the encumbrances of that wretched machine, I believe Cody is on an endless highway with his Redeemer.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 69 Comments