what’s in a name?

what's in a name

When I went to vote in the primaries yesterday, one of the women at the voting table thought my name was Shirley.

Surely. Now, do I look like a Shirley? 🙂

It reminded of the time I was voting a few years ago and they thought my name was “Penny Dollar.” I’ve always been thankful I didn’t marry someone with the last name “Nickel,” “Dime,” or “Quarter.” But, I guess I never really thought about my last name being “Dollar.” I suppose I could blame inflation.

The most hilarious thing was that they announced loudly and for all at the voting precinct to hear, “Penny Dollar has voted!”

Yes, having a name like Penny is sure to garner interesting nicknames. In high school, a friend came up with the name (meant to be a sweet nickname, mind you) of Pinhead. It caught on and extended even to my family.

My fifth grade teacher (and one of my favorite teachers, I might add) never did realize my name was Penny. That entire year, I was known as Peggy! 🙂

My husband, Lon, has all sorts of misunderstandings about his name. We receive mail for Ian, Ron, Don, Ion, and Lom. I signed him up for the health fair blood draw and they had him written down as “Lawn.”

Speaking of silly names, I recently took a poll of funny real-life names. Here is a sampling of those submitted. Remember, these are all REAL names!

Anita Paycheck

Pilot Inspector

Ima Pigg

Dr. Paine (a real doctor – BTW, don’t think I want to go to him for treatment!)

dr. paine

Crystal Shanda Leer

Justin Other Mitchell (he was youngest in a long line of Mitchell children)

Dr. Relich (pronounced “Relish” and not to be confused with his relatives Dr. Mustard and Dr. Ketchup, LOL)

My Own

Dr. McClaws (a foot doctor)

Sunshine E. Day

Liberty Isabell

Justin Tyme

and the sibling groups:

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Lake Trout and Brook Trout (twins perhaps?)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing books is naming the characters. After all, I can’t let all those good names go to waste – names I would have used had I had 50 children!

I love nicknames, and no, I don’t even mind being called Shirley, Penny Dollar, or Pinhead once in awhile.

However, my favorite name? The name the Lord calls me – He calls me “His.”

What funny real-life names have you heard?


5 resolutions to make even though it’s not New Year’s

All right, so New Year’s is still a few months away, and we certainly don’t want to rush time away. However, here are a few suggestions for resolutions to make any day of the year…

1. Laugh more. In our world of stress, it’s nice to be able to find humor in the small things. “Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack, according to a new study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.”

laughing baby

The Bible talks about laughter – and let’s not forget who created laughter. He also created our mouths to turn upward, our tummies to shake, and our eyes to tear when provoked with humor. Kids provide the best humor and pets can bring about some laughter as well!

2. Stay in touch.  In our day of modern technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with those we love. One night Lon called me from his cell phone while he was in the driveway arriving home from work. I answered the house phone and we had a great conversation, continuing as he entered the door of our house and as we stood face to face with phones pressed up against our ears.

Hey, it’s good for a marriage to communicate, right? Communication is indeed important, even if you are as different as an ostrich and kangaroo. 🙂



3. Make healthy lifestyle changes. It’s probably safe to say that most of us at one time or another have made a resolution to lose weight and/or get more exercise.

One evening Lon said as he rested on the living room floor, “I’m getting ready to do a sit up.”

I wondered why anyone would want to do a sit up at 8:00 p.m., so I asked him why not wait until he works out in the morning. “Because I’d like to have another cookie,” he told me. He was of the one sit up equals one cookie philosophy.

Another time, he decided to do an experiment. Before Christmas dinner, Lon weighed himself. After the meal, he weighed himself again. The prognosis? He’d gained five pounds in that short time after eating my mom’s famous Christmas dinner. However, men have it good. For us women, we need only to look at a delicious Christmas dinner with all the trimmings to gain five pounds!

woman exercising

Not only can we make healthy lifestyle changes and care for the body God gave us, we can also make spiritual changes and vow to dig into God’s Word more frequently.

4. Vow to serve others.  Make a vow to serve others and truly love your neighbor as yourself as stated in Matthew 19:19.  Each morning before climbing out of bed, I pray that the Lord will show me someone to bless that day. Blessing others doesn’t have to be a huge project. Even something as simple as letting someone go ahead of you at the grocery store can be a way to bless someone.

 5. Use your gifts.


God gave us all gifts to use to further His Kingdom.

Just be sure not to do things that aren’t your gifts. Case in point:  my oldest daughter downloads all my favorite songs onto my phone. Wow, what a pleasure to listen to my contemporary Christian rock music while working out at the gym! I learned the hard way, however, about adjusting to modern technology.

During my workout, I was rocking out to the fast-paced Newsboys song I am Second. I love the lyrics that speak of being second to my Savior and Redeemer and that He is second to none.

Somehow, in all my zest, I forgot that I alone had the earplugs to listen to this song. What I didn’t realize was that I was singing out loud. (Wasn’t everyone in the gym listening to Newsboys?!)

As I belted out the words to the song while running on the treadmill, I soon heard a familiar voice. One that was off-pitch. Yep. It was my voice (talk about embarrassment).

Singing isn’t my gift. Although I have won awards for lip syncing when I was a teenager.

But it is important to use the gifts we have been given. Are you gifted with kids? Why not volunteer to teach Sunday School? Are you gifted with a beautiful voice (I’ll try not to covet!) then use it to lead the worship team at church. Can you sew? Why not offer to mend some clothes for those who cannot afford new ones?

What resolutions would you make even though it’s not New Year’s?

The 13 Types of Facebook People

Ever given thought to the different types of people on Facebook? Perhaps you might recognize a few of these from your timeline feed. 🙂

13 types of facebook people

  1. The Daily Diary – She chronicles everything in her life in play-by-play fashion. Everything from what she ate at her last meal to what she wears, to the things that irritate her…everything is journaled as a Facebook post every hour on the hour nearly every day.
  2. The Encourager – A somewhat rare breed, the encourager’s main goal in life is to post Scripture verses, quotes, and images to inspire others. She is on Facebook, not for herself, but for the benefit of brightening the days of her Facebook friends.
  3. Contrary Larry – You weren’t looking to get into a debate when you posted that harmless photo of your dog, but Contrary Larry always has a contradictory or disagreeable statement to make about everything.
  4. The Stalker – This lurking-type individual rarely posts anything of her own, but continually stalks the posts of others. She quite often says things, such as, “Hey, you were on Facebook last night at precisely 9:45 p.m. How come you didn’t answer the message I sent to you?” Could be because stalkers are well…creepy.
  5. The Perpetual Poster – You know the type. He posts constantly. Did I mention constantly? Seven, eight, nine posts within a two-hour span is not uncommon for the Perpetual Poster. Looking to find the one in a million posts of his that was actually interesting? Good luck. You’ll be sifting through a gazillion posts.
  6. The Never Like-er – Quick to admit that she prefers not to like anyone else’s posts, the Never Like-er demands you like her posts in a strange double-standard sort of way. Of course, if you don’t like her posts and she corners you at Walmart, she’s sure to let you know she’s offended by your lack of social interaction on social media.
  7. The True Friend – A rare breed indeed, the true friend appreciates the value of interaction on Facebook. Not only does she value such interaction, she’s the first to offer to pray when you post prayer requests.true friendship
  8. Vanishing Vance – One minute this odd friend is active on Facebook. The next minute, he has taken a break and closed his account. The following week, he’s reactivated his account and so on. Poor guy can’t make up his mind.
  9. Chatty Charlie – It doesn’t matter whose Facebook wall he’s on, Chatty Charlie is sure to carry on a conversation starting in the comments. Before you know it, Chatty Charlie has engaged in conversation with another “commenter” on your wall about nothing that even pertains to the original post. Thankfully, about 35 posts later, C.C. realizes the conversation is going nowhere and moves on to the next post.
  10. Selfie Sally – As vain as they come, Selfie Sally is sure to have several posts of herself each week. Word on the street is that she actually invented the selfie stick.selfie person
  11. Mr. Political Sure, I like a good chat about politics every now and then, but Mr. Political is way overboard. Every. Single. Post. Is about politics and if you dare disagree with him? Your friend count just went down one.the white house
  12. Perpetual Test-Taker Tammy – What type of flower are you? In what state should you live? If there’s a personality test on the internet, Perpetual Test-Taker Tammy has taken it –  and has posted about it.
  13. The Photo-Shop Queen – Not a wrinkle or spot of cellulite on her, the Photo-Shop Queen painstakingly removes all imperfections, including the tiny mole on her forearm.  In short, she looks like a model. At first, you think perhaps she hasn’t aged at all since your high school graduation back in 1954. But then, when you see her at your 40th class reunion, you think maybe her account has been hacked and someone has changed all her photos. 🙂

What types of Facebook people have you encountered?

you might be an historical romance author if…

you might be an historical romance author if…

The other day, I was writing a scene for a new historical romance novel. My fingers flew across the keyboard as I ventured back to the another century…

Glancing from side to side looking for a place to hide, she willed her feet to move. Would this be how it would all end for her – a moment’s decision sealing her destiny?…

Of all the genres I enjoy writing, historical romance is my favorite. However, there are some days when it’s clear to me that I’ve spent a bit too much time in the days before modern technology.

If you write historical fiction, you know exactly what I mean. So, just for fun, I’ve listed six surefire ways to know that you’re a writer of historical fiction…

1. You’re getting ready for a family outing and you ask your husband to please hitch up the wagon instead of start the car.

2. Speaking of husbands, although your husband’s name is Lon, you find yourself calling him Zach, Jonah, Nate, Gabe, Matthias, or Thad because you’ve spent so much time with your male protagonists.

3. You say “I reckon” far too often.

4. Your kids are beginning to call you “Ma.”

5. You reach for a bonnet instead of a baseball cap to cover a bad hair day.

6. Your family doesn’t let you visit museums anymore because they know that when you visit, you become so engrossed in the historical photos that you never want to leave. Or you quip that if you were born in the 1800s, you would for certain shop at the millinery.


They clearly don’t understand that gazing for a mere few hours at antiques and old photographs gives you 10-years-worth of inspiration!


You are thereby grounded until further notice from any and all museums.

There you have it! Six ways to know you might a historical romance (or historical fiction of any genre!) writer.

Now back to the past I go!

Training for the Mom Olympics

I dashed through high winds and zigzagged between the parked station wagons, Pintos, and VW Bugs, in the pursuit of a runaway cart in the grocery store parking lot.


The cart sped through the crowded parking lot toward an intersection attempting to mar the glossy finishes of luxury SUVs and sports cars.Picture 500760

And then I knew what I must do. The situation at hand had left me little choice.

I knelt down and tightened the laces on my Brooks Ariel running shoes, thankful I wasn’t wearing flip flops today.

Then, with the speed of a cheetah and the grace of a gazelle, I took off across the parking lot after the shopping cart.


My heart pounded. Would I be fast enough?

Finally, I reached for the shopping cart handle just seconds before what would have been a disastrous situation. I wiped the sweat from my brow. Another rogue cart apprehended in the name of justice!

I returned to our SUV, climbed in, and glanced into the back seat. My kids appeared in shock with mouths wide open. “Mom!” Doodle gasped. “You were amazing. You should be in the Olympics – the Mom Olympics!”

So, as of today, I have begun training for the 2020 Mom Olympics. On the application, I listed my qualifications:

  • Carrying my children everywhere when they were younger (which built strong biceps and triceps);
  • Bending and stooping to pick up the toys and food my children continually threw on the floor from their high chairs when they were babies (which built strong quad muscles);
  • Hurdling over toys left strewn across the living room floor;


  • Dexterity and balance in hopping on one foot (in agony) whenever I stepped on a Lego or fossilized Cheerio left on the floor;
  • The recent runaway cart episode showing my aptitude for speed and finesse;
  • Totally built biceps and shoulder muscles from constantly lifting and hauling the gym bag that my kids and I share to the Y; duffle bag
  • Running the kids everywhere for their activities for the past several years (built endurance as a long-distance runner);
  • Experience in juggling (juggling multiple tasks as a wife and mom).

Happily, I was approved by the Mom Olympics CEO to participate. See you in Tokyo in 2020!

IMG (800x541) (2)



Why I’m training for the Mom Olympics (click to tweet)

Moms can you identify? Training for the Mom Olympics (click to tweet)

Got humor? Training for the Mom Olympics (click to tweet)


8 Ways to Know You are Sleep Deprived…

When my oldest was born, she awoke every 20 minutes during the night for a feeding.  I calculated the amount of sleep I was getting and it totaled two hours a night! This was a bit challenging as I was working full-time (with my daughter in tow) at a highly demanding job with a heavy caseload.

No wonder when I look back at photographs from those days my eyes are always closed – I was desperately attempting to squeeze in a nap whenever I could!


Fast forward many years later and there are still clues that I am sleep deprived.

So, how can you tell that sleep deprivation has made its entrance into your life? Here are 8 ways:

1.  You make your husband’s sandwiches for the next day’s lunch as you always do. However, when your husband arrives home from work the following day, he breaks the bad news to you – could you please remember to put the ham and cheese on the sandwiches? After all, a mayonnaise sandwich is hardly tasty, let alone healthy!


2. After you drop the kids off at soccer practice, you realize a startling fact – the sliding rear door of your minivan is left open and you’ve been driving it that way for the past 3 miles! (This happened to a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous).


3. You begin unloading the dishes on a particularly tiring day. What you don’t realize until minutes later is that you have been unloading the dishwasher of dirty dishes and putting them in your cupboards. Two words for this: EWWWW! and GROSS!


4. Speaking of house cleaning duties, you hear a clunk-clunk as you are vacuuming and discover to your horror that you didn’t realize in your sleep-deprived-state that there was Polly Pocket clothing and accessories on the floor of the playroom. Alas, those same articles of clothing and accessories have now fallen victim to a Hoover upright vacuum – known as “Big Mr. Blue.”

5. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation messes with the memory. Case in point: You get your children’s names mixed up, or call them the names of the characters in your books. Or worse yet, you accidentally mix up the names of your children with the name of the family pet!

6. You drive home after grocery shopping and drive right past the turnoff to your house, but don’t realize it until you’re in the next town. This might have happened to someone who is writing this blog post who might have been sleep deprived. But we won’t mention names. 🙂


7. We’ve all been in those grocery stores where they ask for your telephone number at the checkout. You’re so tired that you stutter about, not remembering that you had a telephone, let alone a telephone number.


8. Speaking of telephones and telephone numbers, here is one of the best measures of how to know you are just wiped out from lack of sleep: have you ever been having a challenging day and needed to call a friend for encouragement and prayer support? My friend called me one day in tears. “I really needed to talk to you, but when I called, your phone was continually busy.”

I was perplexed. After all, my landline phone can never be busy since I have call forwarding. If I’m on another line, it will automatically ring to my cell phone. “Really?” I asked.

“Well, at least that’s what I thought,” began my friend, “Until I realized that I had called my own phone number and that’s why I was getting the busy signal!”

What humorous side effects have you experienced from sleep deprivation?

adventures with cell phones

Penny Zeller, Christian Author
According to Pew Internet.org, “As of May 2013, 91% of American adults have a cell phone.”

Wow! Whatever did we do before cell phones?

When Lon and I were first married, cell phones were anything but commonplace. For one thing, they were too expensive for the average person. So why then did a newly-married couple with no money to their name own a cell phone?

I should explain.

The Little Brown Caw

The Little Brown Caw

We didn’t actually own a cell phone. Well not a real one anyway. Instead, we purchased an imitation cell phone – a toy – that looked just like the real thing from Shopko for $3.99.

Then we took to the roads and cruised around town in our classy 1980 Dodge Challenger, which we nicknamed “The Little Brown Caw” (using the word “caw” instead the word “car” for a fake New Yorker accent, even though we weren’t from New York, but that’s a story for another time).

Lon would drive and I would “chat” on the phone, hamming it up for the onlookers who pulled up next to us at the stoplight. I could see the confused look on their faces. Why would a couple spend more on their phone than on their $150 mode of transportation?

Years later, we owned a real cell phone. Yep, one of those Motorola phones in a bag with a curly cord.

Today we still have adventures with cell phones. Case in point:

When I first owned a cell phone with texting capabilities, I quickly realized the hazards of texting when I decided to try it for the first time. cell phone 2

Feeling rather suave with my new phone, I texted Lon the words: “Hey Babe, wanna do lunch?”

I waited for his reply, but soon realized I had inadvertently texted the last person I had spoken to on my phone rather than Lon.

Yes, you guessed it. I had just asked the a local repairman if he’d like to do lunch.

Or the case with my mom. On her way to visiting us this summer, she called Lon from the road. “Hey Lon, this is Mom.”

Sadly, Mom had misdialed and was actually speaking to some unknown man. He told her he had no idea who she was.

But she thought it really was Lon and that he was teasing.

“Oh, come on Lon. I know you, you’re just joking around with me. You can’t fool me. I’ve known you way too long.”

The man continued to insist he had no idea who she was.

After many minutes of lengthy back-and-forth chitchat, Mom eventually realized it really wasn’t Lon.

And finally, the case of my grandma, Nanie, and her recent adventure with her cell phone.

rear-view-of-passengers-in-an-airplane-1342969-mNanie is still attempting to figure out her new cell phone. As she was flying to see some grands and great-grands, she was happily chatting on the phone. What Nanie didn’t realize was that she wasn’t the only one in on the conversation.

She hadn’t figured out the speaker phone button and everyone on the plane was privy to her conversation with her friend!

Some time later, a fellow passenger tapped her on the shoulder and asked if Nanie knew her phone conversation was being broadcast all over the cabin of the plane.

Nanie wondered why her friend on the phone seemed to be speaking louder than usual. 🙂

What are some of your hilarious moments with cell phones?