Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stories Never Told in Words

"Life is a journey; photography is thy shepherd." (Destin Sparks)

On my Facebook page I have certain things I do on different days of the week. Mailbag Tuesday. Shaker Wednesday. Sunday morning coming down when I give my Facebook friends a glimps of the world I see outside my window. Friday, I do my best to post smiles all day long. And Thursday is Throwback Day when I, along with many others on Facebook, post old photos. That has me looking back through old photo books and snapping pictures of pictures. The one above is from my mother's first photo album. That photo album is about the size of one of the bigger paperback books and has a wooden cover attached together with leather strips. The front cover has a piece broken off it. It's been that way ever since I can remember. 

In the album, Mom has attached the pictures to the pages with those black corners. She has photos of her dating days with Dad and also shots posed with other friends from when she was in school. It's a stroll down her memory lane. Those are memories she has lost now, but there in her photo album, they live on in the pictures and in the notes she wrote under the photos. 

This picture is my dad, years before he met Mom. He was 21 years old and had ridden his motorcycle all the way across country to Oregon to visit cousins there. Mom would have been 11 or 12 when this photo was taken since she was almost ten years younger than Dad. She didn't meet him until she was 18 and he was 28. They met when he was on a date with a friend and she was with a different fellow. She used to say that she took one look at Dad and knew he was the man she was going to marry. I don't know how long it took her to convince Dad of that, but they did start dating right away. And they did get married the day after she graduated from high school. 

"Look at the people in the very old photographs! They are gone forever but they still can give us messages with their eyes, they still can touch our hearts with their looks and they still can give us courage with their standing upright!" (Mehmet Murat ildan)

I look at Dad in this picture and I see a young man I never knew. A man willing to take off across the country with a map and a little money in his pockets in spite of his mother in tears begging him not to go. He went. He slept on the ground, shivered in the cold, sweated in the heat, and made it to Oregon. It was a highlight of his life and I wish I had asked him more questions about that journey. It was a journey off the farm and toward independence. He came back to the farm after his summer in the west, but I daresay he was never the same boy who rode away on that motorcycle. 

There are things that I can never know about how my parents were when they were young, but I can see glimpses of them in those old pictures and imagine how it might have been for them. I'm sure it is the same for my children. Stories never told in words, but only glimpsed in a face staring out of a photo.
"When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure."

Do you have treasured photos that make you remember? 

Do you wish you'd taken more time to talk about back when with your parents and grandparents before it was too late?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Almost 98 Years Young

Our church went to visit a very special member tonight. Loretta will be 98 next month. We were a little early with her birthday cake, but she didn't mind. She was quick to tell us the age on the cake was wrong. She was proud to claim that extra year even if it is a few weeks until her birthday. 

Loretta is an amazing woman. If her picture were in a church annual with Biblical descriptions, beside her picture would be all the good fruits of the spirit, faithfulness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience and goodness. And on top of all that, she remembers everything about the old days and about the new days too. 

She's had some rough spots in her nearly 98 years. One of the roughest was losing her husband a few years ago after 76 years of marriage. But she soldiered on then and continues on today. Still living in her own house. Still cooking and cleaning for herself. Still sewing. She just made new cushion covers for her kitchen chairs and a new valance for her window. This is after having carpal tunnel surgery in December. At the danger of repeating myself, there is only one word for Loretta - amazing. 

But maybe the very best way to describe Loretta is to say that she is a prayer warrior who walks daily with the Lord. She reads her Bible through every year and prays for her family and for her church family too. She's one of those people you'd best not ask to pray for something unless you're sure you really want it to happen. 

A few years back, her youngest son found out he had a brain tumor. The doctors were not optimistic, but he was because he knew he had his mama lifting him up to the Lord. When the doctors were giving him only a short time to live, he told them, "You don't know my mother." And they didn't, but the Lord sure does. It's been several years since Joe's diagnosis and his journey hasn't been easy, but he's still on it. He's gotten to see his son graduate from high school. He's gotten to hold his grandchild and he gets to keep hugging his mama's neck. What a treasure she is to her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and even a few great great grandchildren. And what a treasure she is to her church family and to me!

We love you, Loretta! You have blessed us with your prayers and your love, and we thank God for your example of faithfulness. 
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mom's New Place

I haven't talked about Mom for awhile here. Not since I told you we were moving her into The Lantern, a memory care home for those with Alzheimer's or dementia problems. It's a very nice facility, bright and open, and the staff are kind and caring. 

Even so, it's been a difficult transition. The first week, we were in the ER twice because she fell, once at night and once late in the daytime. She had bruises and no major injuries. I cringed every time the phone rang, fearing another fall. But since then in almost two months now, we've made one more ER visit. Again, a fall in the night. Again, only bruises. 

Mom's a pretty tough cookie. But it could not have been that way. She could have been hurt worse, and that makes the falls a major guilty poke for my sister and me. We were watching her so closely at her house that we were right with her every time she sat up in bed. We had a bed alarm but after replacing it once at a high price, we just went with wind chimes tied to her walker. Then we placed the walker beside the bed so that she'd hit it and ring those "bells" when she tried to get up. The memory care home is not equipped for one on one observation at night. We signed numerous papers saying we were aware of that before Mom moved in. The workers do check on the residents periodically, but there's plenty of time in between checks for Mom to wake up and decide it's time to "go to school" or that somebody is "out front waiting for her." Or maybe just because she needs to "go."

There are other problems. She wouldn't eat at first. At home, she ate whatever we fixed, but once at the home, she wouldn't even look at the food on her plate. That is getting better. She eats breakfast now and dabbles with her other meals. Another problem, she doesn't like them giving her baths and helping her dress in the mornings. You have to realize where she is with this. At home, when I would tell her we needed to go get cleaned up, she'd tell me she just had a bath. In her mind, I'm sure she had. Sometimes I would have to talk for an hour before she'd come around to letting me help her bathe. The aides don't have the time to do that at the home. They have other residents to get ready for breakfast. So I understand the problem, but I know no solutions to suggest. The best help I had at her house was simply prayer that she'd be in a cooperative frame of mind.  

All's not bad though. Even though she wouldn't smile for me in the photo I snapped on Friday, she seems happier or more satisfied there than she was at her house. She still talks about "going home" to see her mother and father or that she needs to go cook supper for my dad. But she doesn't try to go out the door the way she did at home. I think because the place is bigger and the trip to the door is so far up the hallways, (and of course, locked if she did get to the door) she gets distracted easier. She thinks she'll have to wait until later. Plus, the other people there distract her too. 

There are residents at the home who are much younger and in better physical health than Mother and in better mental health too. Some of them wander a bit, walking to find an escape from the confusion that reigns in their minds. Others never say a word. One lady whispers everything and another lady sometimes stands in the corner and cries. 

In contrast, Mom has been chattering a mile a minute the last week. Nothing she says makes a lot of sense and she doesn't process what you say to her correctly. You say one thing and she thinks you've said something totally different. Makes for hard conversations. In this photo, she's telling me she has four of them - fingers, I think.
I haven't felt as if she's known me for a couple of weeks now. When an aide asked her if I was her daughter on Friday, she said no quite emphatically. But I am, whether she knows it or not. And she still smiles when she sees me. At least at first. Then sometimes she's ready for me to leave so that she can go home. After all, you can't leave company to do what you want. Innate hospitality forbids that. Maybe that's what keeps her satisfied in the big gathering room. 

My sister or I go see her almost every day. I'm not sure that's helping her, but it helps us. You see, it's not only Mom who has to adjust to the new arrangement, but us as well. Care taking is a demanding thing and it wraps tentacles of guilt around you when you come to the place where you think you can't do it any longer. 

But what we are continually reminding ourselves is that she wasn't happy at her house and she seems more content at the facility. There is the danger of falls. She is getting worse with her communication, but that could have happened at home too. The main thing for us to remember is that we love her and she loves us whether she's able to show that any more or not. 

She was a wonderful mother and I miss her. Those of you going through some of the same things with your loved ones understand what I mean when I say I miss her. Let's all lift up a prayer for those with this dreaded disease and for the families who have to watch their loved ones decline into a terrible world of confusion.

I took a walk back to my wildflower area today and was surprised to see a lot of the flowers blooming. The one above, Dutchman's Breeches, was always one of Mom's favorites. And I also saw my first snake! I think he was cold since he didn't slither away but let me step right past him on the path. 
Thanks to all of you who downloaded my book, Scent of Lilacs. It's going to be free for a while longer, so if you have e-reading friends, I hope you'll tell them about it. You can check my last blog post to see the links to the places where you can download the book. And you're always welcome to share my blog posts with any friends you think would like to read my ramblings. Thanks. You're the best.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Free Download News & Walking Down TV Memory Lane

Television Memory Lane

On my Facebook page today, I posted a picture of Don Knotts as Barney on the Andy Griffith Show and asked my friends to share their favorite TV shows from back when most of the television sets were black and white and the shows were a half hour of fun. Except the Westerns. They usually got an hour to entertain us. Matt Dillion and Kitty in Gunsmoke. The bachelor brothers on Bonanza. It was dangerous having one of those boys fall in love with you because before the hour was over, you would be gone, often dead. Poor Pa, Lorne Greene, had zero chance of ever getting to be a grandpa.

When Laughs Came Easy

Most of the shows mentioned on my FB page were situation comedies. I Love Lucy. F Troop. Hogan’s Heroes. The Dick Van Dyke Show. The Beverly Hillbillies. I bet there’s hardly a person of a certain age who can’t sing that song. “Shooting at some food and up from the ground came a bubbling pool. Oil, that is. Black gold.” And do you remember how Jethro could cipher. Of course, he sometimes had to take off his shoes so he could count on his toes too if the problem was difficult. LOL. Then there was that little sea excursion that ended up stranded on Gilligan’s Island. Somehow they could build or come up with everything except a boat.

And how about Petticoat Junction? Those three girls needed to take a trip to Bonanza. We could have had some TV weddings. What I remember best about that show was they didn’t bother to send the characters off to school or kill them off when one of the actresses decided to quit. They just moved another actress in and let them take over the role. They figured we knew it was all a show and they were acting anyway. And we did.

Of course, father always knew best. That was true not only in Father Knows Best but in My Three Sons and Leave it to Beaver as well as others. I liked fathers knowing best and mothers too. Somewhere along the way the shows started making the parents out as more than a little nutty and hardly fit to be parents of the really smart, and often smart aleck, children. But you know what? There’s something comforting to a kid to know that adults have a few things figured out and that they are dependable people in control of their world.

So Many Great Shows
But there were action shows too. Zorro. The Lone Ranger. Superman. Dragnet. Help me out. I know I’m forgetting lots of them. Then we had Carol Burnett. Perry Como. The Ed Sullivan Show. Hee Haw. The Smothers Brothers. So much fun entertainment that you never had to worry about letting your kids watch.

It could be I’m romanticizing a little here. After all, I watched Bugs Bunny and now many parents think those cartoons are too violent for kids. But I knew it was all just silly stuff on television. I never once thought I could pop my sister on the head with a stick and not get in a pile of trouble.

How about you? What shows do you remember best and which ones made you smile?  

Free Download of Scent of Lilacs

FREE! FREE! If you have an e-reader, you can download my book, Scent of Lilacs, for free at your favorite place to grab e-books.
If you haven't already visited Hollyhill and gotten to know Jocie and friends, I hope you will give the book a try. Free's a great price. And if you have read the books and enjoyed your visit, tell your e-reading friends about the free download. It's only for a limited time, but the time's not up yet.

Thanks a bunch for reading. I'm a day late this week, but I don't have to worry about that dollar short since my book is free!

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Writer's Voice

I did an internet radio program this afternoon with Ivy on Dottin' the i. She has regular interviews with writers of inspirational books, both fiction and nonfiction. This is the second time I've been a guest on her show, but this is the first time I've had the nerve to listen to the show. Here's the link in case you'd like to go back and listen. Dottin' the i. All the interviews are archived there, so you can probably poke around and find out about a lot of interesting writers. Today she was interviewing me about my book, Summer of Joy and my inspiration for writing the Heart of Hollyhill books. We talked about the Sixties and Jocie and Wes and small towns. She also asked how I was able to include the faith moments along with the story. I told her that I like that to be a natural part of the story. 

Anyway, I've never particularly liked hearing my voice. The first time I heard myself on a recorder in high school, I thought I might take a vow of silence. That lasted maybe five minutes and then I started talking again. Since then, I've gotten more used to hearing my voice, but I'm still a little surprised each time. Somehow my voice sounds different inside my head. But today wasn't so bad when I listened to the program. I didn't stumble around searching for what I wanted to say but once or twice and didn't say "umm" or "uh." Several years ago a morning radio program ran a contest where callers could win a prize if they called into the show and were able to talk for thirty seconds without saying uh. Hardly any caller could do that. So at least I made it thirty seconds without saying uh. At least, I think I did.
I've done a few storytelling videos to post on my Facebook page and my friends have said I sound fine. I still think I could sound better. I'm trying to post one of the videos here, but it's not working and it's getting late. Sometimes technology won't cooperate with me and my ideas.

But you know there's another kind of voice that a writer has to consider. Each writer has an individual "voice" that comes through in his or her writings. That voice can be as unique as a person's fingerprints. If you've read a few books by the same author then you might be able to recognize that author's work without seeing a by-line. The hardest question I'm sometimes asked is what other authors do I think write in the same way I do. I don't know. I want us all to be different. I want to have my own voice and not be like anyone else. 

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and dance and live as only you can." (Neil Gaiman)

So enjoy your voice and your stories. And thank you for reading mine. 

You can read about how I developed my voice and got the inspiration for my Hollyhill books at Finding Hope Through Fiction and you have one more day to leave a comment at The Book Club Network to be in the drawing for a copy of Summer of Joy. Plus, you've got a few more days to enter the giveaway on to win that copy of Summer of Joy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Meeting a Character in Person

Readers make Blogging Fun

One of the best things about blogging is getting to know you readers through your comments. You are such an encouraging community for me. Writers spend a lot of time in "solitary confinement" while digging stories out of their heads. Of course, we're not totally alone. We have all those characters yanking on our imaginations trying to get our attention. 

Conflict Makes a Story

Sunday I wrote about how life can be messy even for fictional characters. I guess in stories, life has to be a little messy because if there's no problem, there's no story. Got to have conflict. Got to have something your characters are trying to defeat or achieve or perhaps simply survive. Once a writer decides what that conflict is going to be, then to make a story really good, the writer needs to keep making it harder and harder for the character to reach whatever goal is out there for him or her. You've got to throw some boulders in his way. That's true even if the story isn't suspense or mystery. In romance, the characters have to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of love. In my work in progress, I'm a little worried I have set up some obstacles too big for love to come calling. That's the trouble with writing books set in my Shaker village. The Shakers took many pains to eliminate romance from their society. 

An Encouraging Comment

But back to your encouraging comments. I got one of those Sunday from Lisa. I shared it on my Facebook page on Mailbag Tuesday, but one thing she said set off an idea for tonight's post. Here's her sentence. "We even said if we met one of your characters on the street, we think we would recognize them!"

That's a really nice compliment. It sounds fun to think about meeting my characters. I know I'd be ready to listen to some Jupiter stories from Wes the way Jocie does in the Heart of Hollyhill books. And it wouldn't be so bad to sit in Mount Pleasant Church and hear her dad preach a sermon or two or be there for a Christmas program with Miss Sally directing. Of course, I do sit in a little church on Sundays that is a whole lot like the Mount Pleasant Church. 

Meeting a Character in Real Life

But once, I did meet one of my characters - not on the street but in a restaurant - and I knew her at once. We were in one of those buffet restaurants (my husband's favorite eating places) and in walked Fern. If you've read my Rosey Corner books (Angel Sister and Small Town Girl) you know Fern. She's also hanging around for a big role in my third Rosey Corner book coming in July, Love Comes Home. But in case you haven't read one of the Rosey Corner books, here's the first time we actually see Fern in Angel Sister.

The skin on Fern's face was weathered and mottled with broken red veins on her high cheekbones, and her steel gray hair looked for all the world as if it was trying to escape from her scalp. The blue of her eyes had faded like old work jeans and had an unfocused, almost feral look. She wore a pair of overalls with big holes in the knees she'd probably stolen off somebody's clothesline years ago. Under the overalls was a dirty white slip. She didn't carry any extra weight, but she'd long ago lost her delicate look. She spent her days cutting cedars now to make her cedar houses instead of sipping tea and doing needlework. 

And so, I was in that restaurant eating lunch a couple of years ago when in walks Fern. She had on overalls over a flannel shirt instead of a slip. Her hair was that steel gray and she didn't look as if she cared whether it was combed or not. She was a little heavier than my fictional Fern and she didn't have the little axe Fern carried around with her. At least I don't think she did! 

The book had already been out a couple of years when I spotted this real life Fern, but it was an interesting experience to see somebody I'd created in my imagination have such a near double in real life. That was before I had a phone that took pictures so I couldn't even sneak a picture of her. I might have been afraid to anyway. My Fern in Rosey Corner is nobody to mess with. And that real life Fern looked the same. 

Invite a Character to Lunch?

So, have you read stories where you think you might like to meet the characters on the street or maybe invite them home for lunch to find out pieces of their stories that might not have been in the book?

Chances to Win Summer of Joy

In case you missed out on winning Summer of Joy in my recent giveaways, you've got some more chances this week. You can check out my guest post "Chasing the Writing Dream through Rejection Valley and Beyond" and leave a comment on Charity's Giveaway Lady blog for a chance to win. Deadline the April 9. Then if you're a Book Club Network participant, Revell Books is giving away 5 copies of Summer of Joy. You just have to answer one of my easy questions on the The Book Club Network page. Dealine to enter 03/31. I'll also be a guest post Thursday on Nora's blog Finding Hope through Fiction where I talk all about my small town inspiration for Hollyhill. Last I'm doing a interview about dreaming on Betty Owens' blog Thursday. 

As always, thanks for reading!! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life Can Be Messy

When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

For the rainbow to appear in the sky, there has to be rain. Storms come in all our lives. Little dashes of rain sometimes and then at other times big floods of sorrow and trouble. We like to think about everything going along smoothly, but most all of us have stepped in a few mud holes as we traversed the roads of our lives.

For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ~Matthew 5:45 (NKJ)

Life can be messy. Even for believers. Even when you pray diligently and fervently. Accidents still happen. Betrayals still come our way. We still make mistakes. We give in to temptations or our loved ones do. We say something that injures. We do something we shouldn't. We're human. We might wish we were perfect, but we're not. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. ~Romans 3:23 (NKJ)

What has me thinking about all this is a review I saw for one of my Heart of Hollyhill books. Can't remember for sure which title now, but the reader was upset about things that happened in the story. The person wasn't specific about what bothered her, but whatever it was she didn't think such things should be in a Christian book. I don't know what offended the reader. I'm not really worried about that or upset that the person didn't like my story. This isn't about an unhappy reviewer. Her comment just got me to thinking about how life can be messy. 

The characters in my stories are generally Christians or are seeking the Lord. But they aren't perfect. They often have messy lives. Just like the real people around me. We get old. We get sick. We see our kids and grandkids make mistakes. We lose our jobs. We slip on ice and end up on crutches. We back our cars into trees or other people back into us. We stub our toes on the roots of temptation. We shoot for the winning goal and miss. We mess up. And if we don't do the messing up, those we love do. That can hurt just as much or even more.

So I'll probably keep writing stories with some things that might offend the gentler reader. And while I never want to upset a reader, I do want to write a story about people who aren't perfect and who sometimes step in a few mud holes while living their stories.

How about you? Have you ever been so disappointed by a book you were reading that you didn't finish the book and/or wrote a bad review? Editors and publishers do generally make sure the books they publish in the Christian market meet certain moral standards. Do you think those standards are getting too loose as my unhappy reader did?  

I'm going to be a guest on The Bookclub Network this week and my publisher is giving away some copies of Summer of Joy. If you're a member of the Bookclub Network, check it out on Tuesday. Easy to join up to take part in the fun each week.