Oct 14, 2017

Bring on the Retreat!

by Deb Graham

As autumn settles in for good, I realize I’m exhausted. 

Part of this is because I just returned from a trip, and I leave again next weekend. Looking over my calendar, I see these are my 11th and 12th journeys this year, and two more biggies are scheduled before the holiday frenzy sets in. By the time my wedding anniversary rolls along, I’m invariably out of emotional fuel. Whose idea was it to marry right after New Year’s?  

Along with a whole lot of travel, I’ve had other bumps in my road this year; a few significant illnesses, my husband retired in May, then started a new (and undiscussed) job of work the following Monday. My eldest son has torn at the fibers of my family, causing sleepless nights and stomach pains.  My favorite (and only) daughter moved away and I grieve the loss of near-daily contact with her and my cute grandkids. I learned the meaning of Sandwich Generation as I worry for her having a rough time settling in and health challenges of her own, plus my mother who rode out a major hurricane at our place. I never aspired to be peanut butter, but sandwiched I am.

Writing has taken off this year; I’ve published three whole books and have several more in various stages of completion. Time-consuming, stressful, and enjoyable, it’s on my mind even when I sleep. I’ve longed for a personal assistant to take over the chores of advertising, website stuff, and other writing-related tasks that are not much fun.

As I said, I go into Fall feeling depleted, which is less than ideal since I live in the Pacific Northwest.  I need all the emotional energy I can muster to get through the upcoming long, gloomy, dreary, soul-sucking, endlessly rainy, dark, chilly days ahead. This year, I’m running on fumes, and it’s only early October.

But there is light on the horizon! I’m grateful to be at the ANWA Northwest Retreat as you read this! It’s my third year going, and I’m counting on the same uplift I found in the other years. The coming together of diverse, strong women, united in faith and common interest is soul-filling. I soak up knowledge insights, and information, but the best part of the Retreat is nurturing my bruised, tired soul absorbs.

These are not ordinary women; they’re creatives, out to push back the darkness of the world by writing uplifting, wholesome pieces that inspire and uplift. They’re warm and accepting, no  matter the level of writing we find ourselves, and just being in their presence is exactly what I need right now. I know I’ll come home re energized, buoyed up, strengthened and confident enough to step forward with feet undragging.

I’m not done unpacking from the last trip yet, but I already set aside a heap to take with me to the Retreat.  I can’t wait!!

Oct 10, 2017

Honoring Christopher Columbus

by Marsha Ward

Yesterday was the observance of Columbus Day in the United States, in accordance with the Monday holiday scheme. The original Columbus Day holiday is October 12, meant to commemorate the landing of Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.

I extend my gratitude and thanks to Christopher Columbus for finding the New World and revealing its existence to the Spanish court. No, he was not the first to "discover" it, only the first to publicize its existence. And for that, I am truly thankful and grateful.

For an interesting article from WallBuilders that explains more about the man and why I celebrate Christopher Columbus, click here.

Oct 6, 2017

My Black Thumb Strikes Again

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Crisp air turns noses red, dense fog blankets the earth and hovers over the river. Leaves turns brilliant hues of yellow, orange and red. Homes are decorated with pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and hay bales. Crunching footsteps tromp through piles of dry leaves. Children chatter about their Halloween costumes, and the smell of pumpkin pies and warm, spiced cider waft through the air. I can almost feel the heat on my face from the crackling fire in the fireplace, flames dancing over a log, casting shadows on the pages of my book as I read nearby.

In Spokane, the metamorphosis from Summer to Autumn occurs almost overnight. One week, sweat rolls down my back, soaking into my shirt from triple-digit weather. The next week, frost covers the green grass, and I'm scraping car windows before I take kids to early morning seminary.

But by ten in the morning, the weather is perfect. 65 degrees F. Vivid blue sky with puffs of clouds and a brilliant sun brightening the day. It's the kind of weather that makes me want to go outside and do something.

Courtesy of: http://parkseed.com
Today, I only had two appointments, which means I had a few hours without (gasp!) anything to do.  So, I went outside for the first time since...well, who are we kidding? It's the first time all year. And, it's October. Ahem. Anyway, I went outside. To do yard work. I'd had a box of Red Hot Poker plants my sister had given me two months ago. They'd been sitting in the dilapidated cardboard box, slowly dying, changing from deep green, to pale green, then to tan, and a few of the stalks were now brown and brittle.  I'd walked by that pathetic, wilting box several times a day going to and from my car with my kids. I'd scurry from therapy sessions to school, seminary, church, and everything in between, promising myself I'd plant those poor flowers tomorrow. 

Tomorrow was today.  I grabbed a shovel, drug the box with my half-dead plants over to the side of the house where it gets the most sunlight during the day. I cleared out all the weeds vines, and debris from a year's worth of neglect, and planted those darned plants. 

As I stood, staring at the side of my house, dotted with green, wilting stalks, I shook my head.  It'll be a miracle if these poor things survive the winter.  Heck, who are we kidding? It'll be a miracle if they survive a week. Especially with my black thumb. But at least they have a fighting chance. Something they weren't getting in that stupid box!

I went into the garage and put away my shovel, lamenting over how I'd managed to neglect another set of plants. As I opened my front door, I glanced at the rock garden where my rose bushes used to be, and spied an itty bitty little purple stem from a burgeoning rose bush! The very same plant I've uprooted
four times, placed landscape tarp over, and then covered with about 2,000 lbs of rock. And yet somehow, this tenacious little plant has found it's way to the sunlight again. 

I think I snorted. I guess if that thing can survive me intentionally trying to kill it, my Red Hot Pokers have a chance at surviving my unintentional murderous tendencies. Either that, or I'm going to have to put a cape on that little rosebush, because that bugger has super powers!

Sep 30, 2017


by Deb Graham

 “It’s nice to read about ordinary people, which most of us are."—from a review by Charlotte

My 88-year-old mother just left after a visit extended due to a major hurricane taking aim at her hometown. As she said, “It’s never good when Anderson Cooper says the name of your county on CNN.” Mom’s flying 4000 miles to her home, diagonally across one of the largest countries in the world. She looked vulnerable as her face pressed against the window, waving bravely. Mom’s small, but one of the toughest people I know. Even watching the news on TV when it looked dire, she never had a come-apart. Instead, I noticed how she continued to do what she does, daily working the NY Times crossword (in ink!), ironing everything in sight, and encouraging the rest of us.

I’m thinking about my friend, Ruby, today, too. Ruby died a few years ago at the age of 96.  I guess I should have grieved, but it's hard to mourn a life lived as thoroughly as Ruby lived hers. The paintball episode comes to mind. Ruby and I, along with a few other friends, had a quilt project going; in the space of three years, we made 1006 baby quilts and donated them to Project Linus. Great group, by the way; they believe, as I, that any child dealing with illness or loss will cope better wrapped in a warm soft blanket of their very own. 

When Ruby was much younger, say 94 or so, she and I sat in my home, stitching, talking, being together. My teenaged sons tumbled in, laughing after a round of paintball in the woods. Ruby had never seen a paintball gun. Interested, she asked if she might give it a try. Smirking, the boys agreed. One took her arm --he's been taught respect—and slowly led her to the target set up in the back yard. His brother explained how to shoot the gun, casting glances at me. I could see in his eyes he doubted frail Ruby could even hold the gun up, much less pull the trigger. Ruby took aim. And hit TWELVE bull's eyes in a matter of seconds. 

I can still see the shock on my sons' faces, as their respect for this wobbly old lady soared. Turns out, one of Ruby's childhood chores was keeping down the population of rats on the irrigation ditch on her family's farm.
You can't tell by looking, can you?

 I think my reviewer nailed it. In twelve words, she pinpointed a truth humanity forgets. We’re all hungry for relevance, to be notable, or to be liked or at least noticed. We can do that by just being ordinary. We’re drawn to people who are ordinary; they’re not intimidating. We just don't always have an opportunity to see other people because we are all busy just getting by.

Not wanting to be a "somebody" or trying to become relevant is probably the easiest road to travel through life. It adds a lot of pressure to try to be a "somebody." Once labeled as a somebody, you have to continue to be a somebody in order to feel relevant.

 As an author, I frequently feel like a fraud, as if They expect me to be something I’m just not qualified to do. Teach a workshop on self-publishing?  um, okay. Lead a group through a self-exploration writing exercise? sure, no problem. Tell a group about my experience somehow stringing words into seventeen books? gleep; who am I to advise anybody on anything? Interview  as if I am a real live author? Can’t they see I’m like the wizard of Oz, skillfully directing attention elsewhere? Whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain!

Charlotte helped me realize how being ordinary is much more extraordinary than I previously believed.

We are surrounded by ordinary people doing wonderful things, sometimes extraordinary things, often without even noticing. Extraordinary is just a couple of notches past ordinary, after all. Maybe it’s not such a high bar to reach; maybe weathering a hurricane or rejoicing as a child learns to read or shooting twelve bull’s eyes is just what ordinary people do.

All it takes is getting up every day and being the best person we can be. Whether your place on this planet includes manning a keyboard, nurturing small people, juggling spreadsheets and bedsheets and paper sheets, do ordinary things- then do a little extra.

I come from a long line of ordinary people, none notable, all extraordinary. I hope to carry on the tradition, and one day, be as tough as my mom.