My Coyote Creek describes a fear I never want to know first hand


We’ve probably all experienced some level of fear at various points in our life—the fear of starting a new job (or new school) and not knowing a sole or how the team dynamics work and wondering if you will fit in, the fear of not being able to pay a bill, the fear of being laid off, the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of being reprimanded or disgraced in public, and the list goes on. I am familiar with all of these fears and many more. But I have never experienced the fear of being bullied and abused on an ongoing basis, day in and day out. I am grateful for that. I never realized how crippling this kind of fear can be, how it robs its victims of any real quality of life. My Coyote Creek provides a view into the life of the tormented in a manner that is truly eye opening. The fact that Vivian could sense her victimizer’s return home 15 to 20 minutes before he arrived is eerie, yet it gave her the time she needed to mentally and physically prepare for what might lie ahead. She had time to make sure the children would be safe in their bedroom, time to turn on the radio so they would not be exposed to loud, angry voices if they awoke, time to pretend to be asleep in hopes that she might escape physical violence.

In spite of all that Vivian endured, she gracefully managed to provide an idyllic childhood for her three kids. How was she able to keep the secret from them for so long? To protect them from their own father? I admire her courage, bravery, and creativity.

I can’t imagine living this way for so many years but I am learning that there are many men and women who feel trapped in similar situations. They may not have a job or the finances necessary to pull up stakes and move on. They may not have the self confidence that they can make it on their own. My Coyote Creek gives us hope. Furthermore, there are many more resources available to people who find themselves in a similar situation today compared with what existed 60 years ago. In those days, most people turned a blind eye even if they were aware of the unfathomable going on beneath their very nose. Not any more, thank goodness.

Have you experienced or are you currently enduring bullying or abuse? Share your story and how you have or are managing your way back to the quality of life you deserve. Remember also that God is with us, that He loves us, that He promises to provide for our needs, and that prayer is extraordinarily powerful.

Karen Arnett, Jeff’s wife

The Sibling Rivalry of My Coyote Creek


It was so easy to visualize all the spats, pranks, and competition between Dave and Jeff . . .  “Big brother” wanting to stay in number one position and little brother just trying to keep up while causing as much chaos as possible, no free rides for number one. I can’t imagine a sibling relationship where some sort of rivalry didn’t exist, particularly between children close in age, during those early years of childhood.  In our family, we were probably most competitive when it came to seeking the adoring attention of our parents. For them, we would go to bed when told the first time, score the most points in the basketball game, do our chores, volunteer at the nearest food bank, and make straight A’s. They had the really tricky job of making sure each of us felt special and loved unconditionally regardless of our antics.

As I scan the events of my childhood I really can’t think of any particular rivalries that existed between my brother and me or my sister and me. For one thing, my brother and I had completely different interests and a different set of friends even though we were only 18 months apart in age. Sure, he drove me crazy much of the time, especially when he got a drum set for Christmas one year (I couldn’t believe my parents would do such a thing), but even that didn’t spark any type of rivalry. My sister was born when I was nearly eight years old. I was the proudest sister ever when she came into this world and still am today. There was honestly never any rivalry about anything amongst us—at least as far as I know. Sure we had our share of arguments, mostly about who was sitting too far over center of the backseat and taking up someone else’s spot. And there were occasions when we would “egg” each other on, daring one or the other to snatch an extra cookie or manipulate a conversation so that it ended up at McDonald’s.

Hopefully most experiences with sibling rivalry are of the light-hearted sort like those portrayed in My Coyote Creek. Fun-loving early relationship memories characterize much of the family experience. Do you have sibling rivalries that you can look back on with fond memories? Please share them!

Karen Arnett, Wife

What do the words “change” and “marriage” have in common?


A lot!

My Coyote Creek is all about relationships. Over the course of multiple “coincidences” and missteps, we begin to suspect that we are witness to a particular relationship that went really wrong, really quickly. A relationship blessed in the eyes of God and meant to last a lifetime. Marriage.

I was listening to a talk radio show earlier today and one of the participants was asked why marriage is so difficult and why so many of them end in separation or divorce. I thought the answer really summed it up nicely. He responded with one word, “change.” His point was that marriage represents incredible change that is immediate; change that can feel like you’ve been tossed around in a tsunami. It frequently includes a change in home setting or location, change in daily schedules, change in patterns of communication, a challenge to every day habits . . . and the list goes on.

Change was an issue that Vivian brought up in discussion about her marriage to Alan (See My Coyote Creek). She had certain expectations that she was looking forward to experiencing. She anxiously anticipated changes that would bring a sense of completeness to her life. She would have a partner who would want to please her and likewise she would please him. She knew they would be living independently in an apartment complex that he supposedly owned and that was exciting to her. She had never been away from home so she was ready for change and a life full of new adventures.
As we see in My Coyote Creek, the kind of change she anticipated never came to pass. Within two weeks of marriage, her life became a living hell. This was totally contrary to all that she had expected. She certainly experienced change but none of it was good.They didn’t move into an apartment complex. They moved into an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere. There was no communication, no interest on Alan’s part in exploring ways to create a relationship that would be satisfying to both of them. Instead, he took the money he earned as a delivery truck driver and spent it all on booze and other women.Vivian and her children were frequently left to forge for themselves, without food or money. She never had a chance.

The ability to really understand the magnitude of change that occurs through marriage is elusive. We all think that we have explored the issues, sometimes with the help of a marriage counselor, before we say “I do.” In reality, it is often in hindsight that we recognize how our lives have been transformed. About half of our population is satisfied with the changes or has figured out how to adapt and remains in a marriage relationship. The other half rejects the changes and elects to divorce.

The bottom line is that marriage and change are synonymous. We really have to reach deep into our souls to objectively ponder what these changes might be and how they fit with our calling. What have been your experiences?

Karen Arnett

A Woman in Distress


I had the opportunity to ask Vivian (“Mom”), the heroine of My Coyote Creek, Through the Eyes of Innocence, what could have made a difference in the choice she made to create a married life with Alan, a man who quickly became her tormentor and abuser.

She pondered this question just as many of us do when things don’t go as expected. In her case, she attributes poor decision making in the selection of a partner to pure naiveté and ignorance. She was only 18 at the time she got married. Life had always been peaceful, predictable, and happy. Nothing during the six-month dating and engagement period suggested any change in the air. Alan’s family was smitten with her and she with them. Alan had a job, drove a nice car and portended to own an apartment complex where his parents rented one of the units.  They would also have a unit in the apartment complex once they were married. Within two to three weeks of the marriage, it all fell apart. The beatings began and the lies that were Alan’s life slowly revealed themselves. But it was too late. On top of it all, Vivian’s parents had made it clear that she was on her own now that she was married.

She had no where to go and no one to turn to. She realized then that she had been totally protected from the real world since the day she was born. Her parents had never discussed relationships, let alone marriage, with her.  They had never helped her sort out the kind of values she should look for in a mate or how to assess compatibility. They didn’t suggest that maybe she should extend the engagement to make sure that she and Alan had a chance to really experience all aspects of each other before tying the knot. When she became pregnant shortly after the marriage, she had no idea what was about to happen to her. When she asked the nurse at the hospital where she was about to deliver her firstborn child, the answer was, “you’ll see.”

The events in My Coyote Creek, Through the Eyes of Innocence, reinforce the responsibility that we have as parents to prepare our children for life beyond the family nest. Many of us have earned wisdom about relationships, finances, careers, and the consequences for our decisions the hard way. We owe it to our children to share this wisdom in a manner that they can relate to. They may not accept it. In fact, they are likely to ignore much of what we share in an effort to find their own way. Still, it is our duty to pass along our nuggets of wisdom and hope that some of it makes a difference to their life and their long-term happiness.

I was really saddened when Vivian told me that she only truly loved one person in her whole life—her high school sweetheart of four years. She regrets how quickly she dismissed him once Alan came into her life and swept her off her feet with his movie star looks and fast talk. Let this be a lesson for all of us. Let us do the best we can to transfer hard fought wisdom that can make a positive difference in our children’s lives. Let us build the kind of relationship with them that makes it possible for them to value this wisdom and make it their own.

Karen Arnett

Christmas on My Coyote Creek


An Excerpt from Chapter 2: Innocence is Bliss

 In the spirit of Christmas and holiday cheer, I would like to share the unique way that we prepared for and spent the wonders of Christmas on Coyote Creek. The following is an excerpt from My Coyote Creek, Through the Eyes of Innocence:

 Christmas in Coyote was an exciting time and one that always tested our creative sides. One Christmas particularly stands out in my mind. Weeks before Christmas, we would begin scouring the property for resource material from which to make our annual ornaments for the tree. These would be added to a few store-bought ornaments that were carefully stored the rest of the year. We were very lucky; we got to make our own “fresh” ornaments to hang on the tree every year. Mom said that making our own ornaments was a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. Each year we selected different goodies from the plentiful bounty provided by Mother Nature. That particular year my sister used residual items from the vegetable garden. I picked a pine cone theme and my brother came up with a unique idea of using eucalyptus seeds.

Sharon’s idea from the vegetable garden was creative, to say the least. She had picked numerous ears of corn in the summer and in preparation for the holiday season allowed the corn to dry a bit. Then using her fingernails she picked out each kernel and placed them in a big bowl. Since the corn was dry, it was a fairly quick process to remove the kernels from the cob. Sharon found a large mint bush downriver and harvested mint leaves that she then mixed with blackberries and a little water. After soaking the mint leaves and blackberries in the water she ground them both together, like the Native Americans used to do with a mortar and pestle only she used a beat up old coffee can and a blunt-ended thick stick, then she would add a little more water. Next, she placed the kernels of corn into her self-made dye, waited a few hours for the kernels to get good and saturated with the colorful liquid and then laid them out to dry on a piece of cardboard. Just as the kernels of corn started to firm-up she would string them using a needle and fishing line. Voila! The end result was a beautiful string of man-made pearls of sorts, a wonderful shade of shimmering blue green that smelled delightfully like mint when strung around the tree.

My initiative that year was pretty easy, both mentally and physically. Far upstream, way past Randy and Crystal’s house, were a few medium-sized pine trees that were big enough to produce pine cones doused with sap. I gathered a half dozen small cones and then made a beeline over to Randy and Crystal’s to ask their mom, Doris, if she had any old egg shells that I could have out of the garbage. I crushed the egg shells with my hands which created smaller pieces of shell and from a distance these little pieces resembled snowflakes. I spread out the pine cones on cardboard and sprinkled the egg shells around and between the petals of the pine cone. The small pieces of egg shell stuck to the sap on the cones which gave them the appearance of being covered with snow. They put out a fairly uplifting piney aroma as well.

My brother’s Christmas idea was to go up to the grove and gather a dozen or so eucalyptus seeds. About a mile or so from our house stood a huge grove of eucalyptus trees that were literally 100 feet high with beautiful grayish-blue leaves. And if you’ve ever been around eucalyptus trees you know how stunning their natural aromatic oil is to the senses. We would hike up to the grove, sometimes just to stand in the mist of the mighty trees and inhale… that’s it, just stand there and inhale their aroma and then walk home.

Eucalyptus seeds are about the size of a large marble that fall from the branches. To me, they looked like little space ships from another world. Dave’s idea was to hang the seeds with fishing line from the branches of the Christmas tree. And, Mom did a great job picking out and building the Christmas tree every year. This year was no different. She had taken a huge pine tree limb and combined it with beautiful prune tree branches that she had cut from the orchard and then tied them together in a unique and interesting way. Mom sure did have a creative side; it was exciting to see what she was going to come up with every year. We were all so proud of our ornaments. Not only visually, but we couldn’t wait to add Sharon’s mint corn kernel strands, my snowy pine cones, and Dave’s eucalyptus seeds to the mix of the heavenly smells of Christmas.

Shortly after we would go to bed on Christmas Eve, a Christmas miracle would occur! We could hear something up on the roof. The soft tapping sound always seemed to occur just as we were dozing off, but trying desperately to stay awake to see Santa. We would all hear the same sounds at the same time so we knew it had to be real. It sounded like something was tip-toeing around up on the roof. Boy, oh boy! We were out of our beds in a second. We ran to get Mom, screaming about what we heard up on the roof. Low and behold Mom was always right there as we opened our bedroom doors. She assured us that it probably was Santa and we better hurry and get back to sleep as soon as we could so Santa wouldn’t leave before dropping off our presents under the tree. After reluctantly going back to bed, Christmas morning seemed to be there in a mere blink of an eye. And every year there was always a little something from Santa.

But by far, the best thing about Christmas on Coyote Creek was the way that Mom showed us how to celebrate Christmas Day. We each had a large stocking that was pinned to the window sill, which would be full of all kinds of fun, tasty, and interesting delights on Christmas morning. There was fruit, sometimes hard candy in bright beautiful wrappings, walnuts, hard boiled eggs, and even a candy cane or two. One year we each got a roll of pennies in our stockings. Not just one roll of pennies for all of us, but one roll for each of us!

Our gift exchange with each other was especially fun. We would select, from our own belongings, an item that we knew our brother or sister would be fond of. This meant that we spent many pre-Christmas days trying to figure out what item each sibling would want the most. Then individually we would come up with creative and innovative ways of boxing, wrapping, and packaging that would dazzle the rest with our selection and presentation. Shiny paper, colorful cloth, large leaves; it was all fair game and we became very passionate about the process. I would pick out the two things that I thought my brother and sister would want of mine and then carefully, and with a lot of thought, wrap them and hide them until the tree had been selected and decorated at which time they magically appeared for all to behold.

We never used Christmas cards or name tags to identify the presents when they were placed under the tree. What present was for whom and from whom we wouldn’t know until Christmas morning.

After we were all assembled in the living room Mom would pick up a gift and ask, “Who is this present from?”

The person who was giving the gift would scream out, “It’s from me!”

And then Mom would say, “And who’s it for?”

And the one who was giving it would go over and take the gift from Mom and excitedly hand it to whomever it was for and say, “Merry Christmas!”

After everyone had a gift Mom would yell, “Ok, let’s open ‘em up!”

And the ripping and tearing would begin just like in every other household across the country. After all, it was Christmas morning in America! We loved this aspect of Christmas and we all participated with such enthusiasm that I couldn’t have imagined being happier during those times.

We would all play for awhile with our new stuff and then go back into our rooms and wrap another present or two just to extend the morning happiness. Then we’d wrap the presents that were given to us and we’d excitedly give them back to the person who originally gave them. Wonderment engulfed that entire day and went on forever. It didn’t even seem like our house. No matter what the weather outside, inside the house glowed with warmth and love.

After the morning hoopla, Mom baked cookies and we had fruit and hot cocoa. The hilarious realization at the end of the day was that we had all switched back the presents that we received for the presents that we had given. As it turned out, each of us got exactly what we wanted and loved—our own favorite stuff back.

What a brilliant way to celebrate the holiday! I’ll bet Jesus just shook his head with a big smile on his face as he watched our antics those wonderfully rich Christmas mornings.