Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Gratitude is Happiness Doubled by Wonder"

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

 What's your favorite holiday? 

Some of you might say Christmas right off, but I'm pretty sure I hear others out there picking Thanksgiving. It such a wonderful day of family and food and blessings. No pressure to exchange gifts. Just pies to bake and people to visit. And blessings to count. 

I counted some of mine last week when we had our anniversary celebration. You can see sixteen of my special blessings here - my husband, children and grandchildren. Whenever I start counting my blessings, family is right there at the top. 

Then I have such a beautiful place to live. And the Lord blesses me with fabulous scenic views that I can capture with my camera. 

I'm able to get out and walk and I have a sweet four-legged walking companion in Oscar.  

 I'm thankful for all the everyday blessings of life - blue skies and rain, flowers and trees, hummingbirds and snowbirds, breaks in the traffic when I'm merging onto a busy interstate, a car that starts when I turn the key, a child's hug, a baby's first giggle, a dog's wagging tail - just to name a few. So many little gifts of life to enjoy and appreciate.  

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving is a great time to be conscious of our treasures. Our blessings. It's been a tough few months - losing Mom in July and then in August the diagnosis of breast cancer with surgery and radiation treatments. But even during the harder times, the blessings abounded with friends who prayed for me and encouraged me. 

I can't leave out the blessing of being able to live my dream of writing books. Each story a gift and a blessing. Each reader a blessing too. I thank all of you who read my books or who peek in here at my journal from time to time. I am thankful for each of you. Next summer I'll have a new book out and maybe I'll meet some new reading friends. So may I have a thankful heart as I count my blessings. 

"Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life." ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving Day overflowing with blessings.  

What blessings are you especially thankful for right now in your life? 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Walking in Honor of Kaelyn

Saturday was the 6th annual St. Jude Give Thanks Walk. Our Team Kaelyn didn't participate in the first walk. At that time, my little niece was sick, but the doctors hadn't diagnosed her cancer as yet. That didn't happen until December after the first walk in November. We had yet to find out in a very personal family way the great work St. Jude does. 

Of course, we knew about St. Jude's. We knew that Danny Thomas began the hospital to help kids get well. I knew a family whose child was treated there and fought the good fight but wasn't able to defeat the cancer enemy. 

And then Kaelyn's symptoms got worse so her parents took her to another doctor right before they planned to make the trip back to Kentucky for Christmas. That doctor ordered new tests that revealed the cancer and Kaelyn's parents were given the frightful warning that she possibly only had two days to live and they needed to get her to St. Jude as fast as possible. So they did. Christmas trips home were forgotten. A diagnosis like makes one focus on what matters most and to a mother or father, a child's health is something to fight for, tooth and nail. Thank God, that St. Jude's Hospital feels the same way and without delay, the war against Kaelyn's cancer was declared. For a while, Kaelyn, who was a bubbly five-year-old at the time, refused to talk. One minute she was going home for Christmas. The next moment she was in a hospital with needles and drugs that made her feel even worse and people saying she might die. That's a lot for a little girl to absorb. 

But her wonderful parents and the people at St. Jude's helped her though that with love and compassion and the assurance of hope. She joined the fight with great spirit. It was difficult for her to lose her long, curly hair so her father shaved off his hair to show that hair didn't really matter that much. After months of treatments, Kaelyn's cancer was declared in remission. After three long years of treatments, she heard the word that her family and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of friends across the country had been praying to hear. Cured. Some of you were in that number praying for Kaelyn. And those prayers were answered. I posted about St. Jude No More Chemo Party here on One Writer's Journal a couple of years ago. 

Now Kaelyn is a happy, healthy child again. Going to school. Making friends every day wherever she goes. Not having to wear that mask against germs. She can have a cold now without having to rush to the hospital. She's always ready to speak up for St. Jude's Hospital and help their fundraising any way she can even though she's still just a little girl. But she knows some of the kids she met at St. Jude's are still fighting the fight. She knows that new kids are hearing the dreadful diagnosis she got. She knows St. Jude's can help those kids win the war against cancer as she did. When St. Jude's Hospital was established, only twenty percent of the kids like Kaelyn who had leukemia survived. Now that number is up to eighty percent survivors. St. Jude fights for kids. They fought for our Kaelyn. They want to make the survival rate ninety percent or even better. And so our family, Team Kaelyn, walked in the St. Jude Give Thanks Walk in Kaelyn's honor. 

It was a blessing to see her being just a regular kid playing with the other kids as we walked back through the zoo to see the animals. She's the one in the middle of the crate at the gorilla exhibit. God is good. 

So, I just wanted to share about why we walked in honor of Kaelyn since so many of you prayed for her and her family. Thank you so much. Prayers make a difference.

If you would like to read how a prayer Danny Thomas prayed early in his career led to many children getting a second chance at life the way Kaelyn has, go to Danny's Promise on the St. Jude website. A great story.

Thank you for reading and for praying. You're the best.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Threads of Life

A Lifetime Commitment

 A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. ~Paul Sweeney

We celebrated our anniversary Sunday with a big party, but yesterday was actually our anniversary. So we went out to eat and to a movie. Big time celebrators, right? Maybe that fun anniversary trip will be in the future. After all, you don't hit one of these kinds of milestones in life often. Both my parents and my husband's parents lacked a couple of years celebrating 50 years together. One of my sisters did see her 50th but at the time her husband was fighting lung cancer, a fight he lost, and so they didn't feel like celebrating. My other sister lost her husband before they were married 50 years. 

It's not an easy milestone to reach, but it helps when you start as young as we did. Way too young! But things worked out and here we are all these many years later, still married. Still smiling, most of the time, the way we're smiling in this old picture. This is the first picture we ever took together. We were at an amusement park with a church group and ducked into one of those little photo booths where you put in a quarter (I told you it was a long time ago) and got a strip of four pictures. 

I didn't know they still had those booths around, but last year when we went to the Louisville Zoo for the St. Jude Walk, there was a booth like that. Takes more than one quarter these days but the kids still had fun squeezing into the booth and taking their picture. As you can tell from the old picture of my husband and me, we were having fun too. 

 A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time. ~Anne Taylor Fleming

We've been married a long time now. But we're still walking down life's road together while pursuing our own dreams too. Enjoying the blessings. Facing the hard times. Finding our way through life. Being thankful for the gift of a beautiful family.

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. ~Simone Signoret

That's how life goes. Many threads of life connecting us. It's the same with a book when I'm writing. I have to come up with those threads of life to make my story and people come to life. Of course I have to give my characters plenty of hard times because while happily ever after might make a good ending, happy times the whole book through won't keep readers interested. We like it when the fictional characters in the books we read dream big, overcome problems and reach their goals. You know what? We want the same for ourselves and our friends and family.   

Hope the threads connecting you with your loved ones this week are threads of happiness. 

I'm sure many of you out there have celebrated milestone anniversaries. Ten years. Twenty-five. Forty. Fifty. I knew a couple in our church who celebrated 75 years together. What did you do to celebrate? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

50 Years and Counting

We had a big day yesterday celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary. It's actually not for a couple more days, but we're hoping to make it. Whether we do or not - and no one is promised tomorrow - we had a great time celebrating family and love yesterday. 

It was a little hard for me to look this fifty year milestone in the face because gosh, that has to mean I'm old. I'm imagining some of you out there counting up in your head to figure out how old I must be. Sometimes I have to think twice about that myself!

Today is the oldest you've ever been and the youngest you'll ever be again. ~Eleanor Roosevelt 

But whatever my age, just look at the beautiful family I now have. We take up a lot of space out in the yard to have our picture snapped even with one of my sweet granddaughters unable to be there yesterday to be part of the picture. (Missed you, Ashley.) And the family will just grow more and more as the grandchildren get older and find their special someones and start having their own families. That's the way life is supposed to be. Lived well and with love and with hope for the future.

Live your life and forget your age. ~Norman Vincent Peale

My dad used to look around when my sisters and I came home with our young families for Sunday dinner and tell my mother, "Just look what we started." And each generation can do that. Look at where an individual family starts and then at all the branches that shoot off from that one couple. 

My beautiful grandchildren make my extra years more than worthwhile. I am so blessed.   

Grandchildren are the crown of grandparents, and parents are the glory of their children. ~Proverbs 17:6 (Gods Word translation)

And I am also blessed to have been given the desire of my heart in regard to my work. That is, writing stories. Age doesn't really matter there because in our minds we can be whatever age is best for the moment or the story. Here are a couple of quotes that give me encouragement for the stories I have yet to imagine and the goals I have yet to reach. 

First Tinkerbell, the wise little fairy in Peter Pan:

   Laughter is timeless.
      Imagination has no age.
         Dreams are forever.

Then C.S. Lewis:

      "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."

Thanks for reading. And have you celebrated a big milestone in your life? 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Old Houses and Hometown History

Do you like old historic houses? I put this link at Old House Dreams about a Georgian style mansion up for sale in my town on my Facebook page and it's grabbed a lot of views and interest. 

Actually a writing friend I met at the Writers Retreat I recently attended in Monterey, CA posted the link on my Facebook first. Internet is a world shrinker and enlarger both. It brings us friends from all over the world and so makes the world smaller while at the same time it also opens up our vistas to see things we would have missed except for the internet. This might have been one of those things I would have missed even though the house for sale is right here in my hometown. It took a California friend to point it out to me.

Many of us like seeing historic houses and this one is a beauty, both in looks and in history. The site noted above not only shows the outside of the house, but takes you inside to tour the interior too since the house is up for sale. For the last several years, it's been a bed and breakfast and also a restaurant. I've eaten there several times with groups or sometimes just with my mom and sisters when we were celebrating one of our birthdays. I think once I even spoke to a group there about my books and writing. The last time I was there was with Mom a few years ago for her church circle. She was already having memory trouble then but still enjoyed socializing. 

As beautiful as Kavanaugh House is, its history is even more amazing. My grandmother, my mother and my aunts all went to high school there. My dad went one day, didn't like it, and didn't go back. He would have made a great student because he was gifted in math. Could look at an Algebra problem and get the right answer even though he didn't always follow the prescribed steps that our teachers wanted us to use when we were in school. 

Mrs. Kavanaugh was a true educator and she insisted on the best from all her students. Some young men boarded at the school or with others in town to attend the school as preparation for enrollment in military academies. Kavanaugh School was sometimes called "little Annapolis." 

She also loved the game of basketball, thus the gym in behind the school. My grandmother played basketball while she was attending high school. That was something I could never imagine - my grandmother playing ball. She seemed more comfortable working a crossword puzzle or playing cards. 

I had an easier time imagining Mrs. Kavanaugh. My mother said she carried a cane with her and did not hesitate to rap players with it if they weren't performing up to her expectations on the basketball court or perhaps in the classroom either. Several of Kavanaugh's players went on to play for the University of Kentucky including Forest "Aggie" Sales who became an All-American. 

My teacher in Angel Sister was created with Mrs. Kavanaugh in mind. I never knew her while she was alive, but she lived on in the stories that people told about her.  

Hope you enjoy the Kavanaugh House tour and if you decide to make a bid on the house, maybe someday we'll be hometown neighbors. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Remembering Roxie, My Walking Buddy Saint Bernard

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love; they depart to teach us about loss. ~Erica Jong

I lost one of my walking buddies last week. Roxie lived across the road from me. She came to her family when she was a pup and already bigger than many dogs are when they are grown. A fuzzy furry sweatheart. Then she grew some more and became a regal, full size Saint Bernard. Her family has a house with one of those porches that go around two sides of it and Roxie liked to sit on that side porch facing my house and keep watch on her world. When the grandkids came to visit and we were outside, Roxie liked to meander on over to our yard to check out what was happening. 

And she loved to go walking with Oscar and me. Every day she'd be out on the porch or yard with an ear out to listen for us to head out to the field for our walk. In her early years, she always heard me, but the last couple of years, her hearing suffered and if she fell asleep on the porch waiting for us, she didn't always wake up. I couldn't help feeling a little guilty when we came back from our walk and she'd be awake and come off the porch to give me that look that said "why did you go without me." A few times I would walk back down the lane because she looked so disappointed. 

She did have that slobber problem that dogs with big mouths have. And she did like to lean on you. Early on, I decided that blue jeans are easy to wash and a little Saint Bernard slobber is a small price to pay for such a sweet companion. My grandkids weren't as sure about that, especially when she came close and shook her head. Then the slobber slingers got them. She wasn't a neat dog. When we walked in the cow pastures, she would rub her neck down in the fresh cow piles as though putting on a little perfume. Not sure her family appreciated her walking with me on those days! She was also quick to scavenger any dead animals we came across. It was useless trying to get her to leave the carcass be. She simply picked whatever it was up and headed for home. Another time her family probably wasn't so happy I'd led her astray. 

She loved the snow because that was her element. She was more than ready to walk when the ground was covered in white. It was easy to imagine her in the Alps with a keg around her neck searching out somebody lost in the snow.  Oscar, who also likes the snow, enjoyed having Roxie along on our walks. They were buddies and the longer walks the better for both of them. Snow in the winter, the creek in the summer were their favorites. 
Then Friday a week ago after I got home from my trip to California, I went for a walk in the rain. Roxie was right there with me and seemed the same as any other day. But the next day she must have had a heart attack. They found her with no sign of trauma, just gone on. I miss her now when we walk. A little Roxie slobber on my jeans would be more than welcome. Roxie bulldozed her way through life, going where she wanted to go and living her her dog life to the fullest. She was a very good neighbor and walking buddy. Go rest high on that mountain, Roxie, where all good dogs surely wait at the gate to welcome their families (and a neighbor or two) home.

Dogs' lives are too short...their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

A good dog never dies. ~Mary Carolyn Davies

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Consider the Donkey

IMeet my neighbor donkeys. Hannah and Joseph. Aren't they cute? Have you met any donkeys? These are shy little guys or maybe simply stand-offish. Or maybe they always simply know I don't have treats with me. :)

As some of you know, I just got back from a writers retreat where my agents had arranged speakers to encourage and inspire us to be better writers and people.

The first speaker was Gari Meachum who gave an inspiring testimony talk where she said a preacher had once given her the spiritual advice to be a donkey. It took her a while to wrap her mind around that idea but when she began thinking about Bible donkeys, things came clearer. 

Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. A donkey may have been in the stable when Jesus was born. A donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem before the Last Supper. 

What a useful little animal. A beast of burden. A farm animal that earns his hay. A worker. So perhaps it would be good for us to consider the donkey and be glad when we can earn our hay and be blessed with the ability and desire to do the work The Lord has given us to do. 

As always, thanks for reading.