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

Sharpshooter

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. 

Sep 28, 2017

Life is Magnificent

by Kari Diane Pike

Hello Friends!

Did you miss me?

I have most certainly missed you.

I love sharing thoughts and inspirations and learning from your comments. But life happens. I saw my podiatrist, cardiologist, oncologist, dermatologist, optometrist, and gastroenterologist, and child number seven married the man of her dreams, all in the short six to eight weeks since I last posted here. I reached a goal to ride a distance of fifteen miles on my bike, shed nearly thirty pounds, and my blood work results came back better than they have been in years. There has been no progression in my M.G.U.S. and my heart is full of gratitude. Yep, we've been crazy, busy, happy.

During all of this craziness, an experience of a four-year-old grandson helped keep me grateful and grounded:

Mom: Time to get your jammies on and get ready for bed.
Four-year-old: Wait. What? But I want to have dessert.
Mom: It's too late for dessert. It's night time. You need to go to bed.
Four-year-old: Humph. No fair. Jesus ruins all my plans.
Mom: Did you say Jesus ruins all your plans?
Four-year-old: Yes. He ruins all my plans.
Mom: What do you mean by that? Why would you say that?
Four-year-old: Well, you told me that Jesus made the whole earth and He made the day and the night. And you said that since it's night we have to go to bed and I don't get dessert. So He ruined all my plans. 
Mom: 😲

I've pondered on this little discussion for weeks. Part of me is in awe of this little man's reasoning skills. Another part of me laughs out loud when I think about the future parenting adventures that lie ahead for his lucky mom and dad. Deeper thought reminds me that, like our little grandson, there have been many occasions when I've been unable to comprehend why the Lord asks certain things of me. I get a plan in my head, pray about it, set goals, and start putting those goals into action only to run up against what I perceive to be road blocks. And sometimes I wondered, "Why did You ruin all my plans?" or "Why did I feel prompted to make this choice only to have everything fall apart?"

In 2009 we earnestly prayed about moving our family to Utah where my husband had been working for nearly a year. Let me emphasize that word "earnestly". We wanted our family to be together, but we truly wanted to make the best choice and accept the Lord's will. We received a miraculous confirmation to our prayers and decision and used every last penny to relocate. More tender mercies paved the way for us to find a lovely home in an incredible neighborhood. We had no doubt that the Lord had guided our steps all along the way. Until things started to fall apart.

We lost our renters soon after the move and eight months later lost our home in Arizona that held thirteen years of precious memories. Well, "okay", we said. We love it here in Utah and we'll start over. Our landlords had given us a lease with an option to buy, and we had come to love Utah county. We could get over that little bump. We didn't see the hairpin turn up ahead.

A year later, downturn in the economy caught up with Utah and my husband was laid off from his job as a civil engineer. We used the money we had saved for a down payment to get us through six months of unemployment. Our landlord kindly encouraged us to stay in the house until school let out for the summer, at which point they moved back to Utah and we - two adults, three teenagers, a cat, a dog, and a parakeet - moved into our little tent trailer and camped in my sister-in-law's driveway.

The first few days of "camping" was kind of fun. Our two families cooked together and hung out on the porch and played night games. Even having only one bathroom available for eight people worked out because the Texaco station down the street opened at 6:00 a.m. "House" cleaning took less than thirty minutes. What a great adventure! Until it wasn't.

The violent windstorms that whip out of the canyons of Utah county are scary enough when you live in a sturdy house with a strong foundation. The rain and hail and flying debris accompanied by micro bursts of sixty to eighty-mile-per-hour winds are down right terrifying in a tent trailer. I broke down that night. I learned what it means to "cry unto the Lord". Why, oh why, had things turned out so differently than we expected? Had I failed to listen to His will? Were we supposed to stay in Arizona? Had I put my own desires in place and made the wrong choices?

I begged for protection for my family. I pleaded for peace of mind. I cried for mercy.

And then it was quiet.

Oh, the storm outside our canvas walls raged on. But in my heart and in our little home on wheels, I felt love. The thought that grew in my mind:

Just because things didn't turn out the way you expected doesn't mean you made the wrong choice. You are not being punished. You will discover great blessings. Do you think that things worked out for the early pioneers they way they anticipated? Do you think they expected drought and crickets and nearly starving to death? Did they do the wrong thing? No! They followed the counsel of the Lord. They learned. They grew. They endured. And look at the legacy they left for you and others. Laman and Lemuel murmured because they didn't understand the mind of the Lord. They refused to try. Remember what you learned before about being prepared to receive blessings? You are being prepared. Don't be afraid. Faith endures.
Six years have passed since that storm raged. I never imagined we would be where we are today. I can honestly say I count my blessings every night and thank Heavenly Father for "ruining my plans" because the life with which He has blessed me and continues to bless me is far more magnificent than I could ever dream.

Hugs~
 
Two families tied together through the blessings of eternal marriage. I love being connected to all of these amazing people!










Sep 26, 2017

Writers Conference

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard marshaward.com


I spent a few days a week ago down in Gilbert, Arizona, for the 25th Annual Writers Conference put on by American Night Writers Association (ANWA), which is a writers group I started back in 1986. I had a ton of fun, seeing long-time friends again, “meeting” face-to-face with long-time Facebook and email friends, and enjoying the energy of so many like-minded souls together.


The highlight of my trip was a class I gave for two hours on Saturday afternoon. There were several talented writers who attended and found themselves validated in their writing style. It was a joyful class, and I loved being the bringer of that joy.

Have you ever attended a writers conference? What did you take away from the experience?

*Photos by Deb Eaton

Sep 21, 2017

The Main Thing I Took Away From the ANWA Writers Conference

I've been home from the ANWA conference nearly a week. If you recall from my last blog post, one week prior to the conference, I was running around screaming and waving my arms in the air. Okay. This is not unusual for me, but there was a sense of urgency the last time around.

Now I'm home, the deed is done, and the pitches complete. I cannot undo what has been done, and quite frankly, I don't want to. I'm happy.

Not because we got one full and one partial request for our non-fiction, or because they wanted the first fifty pages for my YA novel.

 My happiness doesn't stem from my little sister and I getting first in our respective genres for the BOB (Beginning of Book contest), or from the new writerly friends I made, or even the dozens of pages of notes, ideas, and inspiration I gained while I was there.

I am happy because I took a huge, monumental, earth-shattering (for me) risk and put myself and my writing out there. Nearly every writer fears sharing their work; giving it to someone and risking rejection.  It's almost as scary and walking up to the person you've secretly adored for years, looking the in them eye, and declaring your love to them.

Your heart stutters, stomach clenches, knees wobble, and a cold sweat forms all over your body as you scrutinize every nuance of their body language, mentally screaming for them to love you...er, your work. What if my writing isn't strong enough? What if I misspelled something? What if they don't like the storyline? What if there's a giant, gaping plot hole? What if...?

The what ifs can eat a person alive, bit by bit, piece by piece, until we're crippled with fear. Horrified by the self-perceived shortcomings of our work. We grip our pages tightly to our chest, afraid to show even a scrap of it to those around us. Heaven knows rejection runs rampant in the publishing world.

Writing is painful, at times tedious and, at least for me, the learning curve was much like climbing Mt. Everest. But so is losing weight and/or getting healthy, striving for the Celestial Kingdom, and any other truly worthwhile endeavors in our lives. To grow, we must be willing to endure a certain amount of discomfort or pain.

I've discovered 'no' from one person may be 'where have you been all my life?' from another.  No two people's tastes are alike. And, much like the dating game, we need to be willing to kiss a whole lot of frogs to find our prince (or princess).  But we still have to put ourselves out there and kiss 'em.

So, in a long, winding, convoluted way, I'm trying to say the main lesson I took away from the ANWA Writers Conference is to look fear in the eye and take the leap. The answer will ALWAYS be 'no' unless I ask. And to ask, I must put myself and my writing out there.

Last year the answer was, "not yet." Time will tell what the publishing world currently thinks of our work.  But I have a story to tell, and by golly I'm gonna tell it!

I hope you will join me on this journey and put yourself out there. Somebody is waiting for your story, wishing it would be told.  You don't want to disappoint them, do you?




Sep 19, 2017

Characters & Floating Thoughts

by Terri Wagner

I must confess up front...I am terrible about writing like this. I seem to like writing about what's in my character's head. I like "I" POV. However, I read this article that made me rethink my writing preference. Floating Thoughts makes Jonna Penn's five most common writing mistakes. She is both a writer and an editor.

As I have said numerous times before, I love sci-fi/fantasy. And my favorite are epic stories that span a wide arc. In my most favorite series, the characters often communicated through "thoughts" to each other in times of stress or battle. Better than a cell phone! Their observations to themselves gave me insight to their motivations, especially when they seem to make a decision that appears out of character. So it is a great writing device that makes the characters more real.

Ms. Penn warned in her guest post that drawing out the "thinking" for a surprise ending is not a great way to hook a reader. I am sure we have all read a story based on the character's perspective only to discover later they are in a hospital bed. She suggests finding a better way to jump into action. I realize many stories are based on the fact that it has the surprise ending. They use this technique quite often in teaching manuals because the perspective might be someone with autism, ADHD, is blind, etc. And it helps teachers and fellow students to get inside the head of a person with challenges. I prefer challenges to disabilities because it really is a better description. Think Little People Big World.

Although Ms. Penn's article is short and sweet the way a blog post should be, she has opened my eyes to a bad writing habit of my own. Never ever underestimate the value of action over a lengthy monologue leading to a surprise.

Sep 16, 2017

Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed.

Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed 

Deb Graham                                                                                                                                                                                             I noticed the other night, as I was wending my way back from the bathroom about 4 AM after drinking too much grape juice before bed, that I was walking with my eyes closed. Odd, so I questioned mySelf.

“Self, why are you walking with eyes closed?”

Without an eyelash’s hesitation, mySelf replied, “It’s dark. I can see better with my eyes closed.”

Well, that was worth thinking about, so I sat down in the dark hallway and pondered for a minute or six. I realized I often close my eyes in dark places...to see better. Outdoors on moonless nights, I often walk with eyes clamped shut. On nights when I need a bathroom run and feel too polite to wake Husband by turning on a light, my eyes don’t open, and I manage to powder my nose, wash my hands, and make it back to bed with toes unstubbed. I’ve mentioned before I often write notes in the night, and I don’t turn on a light for that, either. Hmmm. What does my Self know that I don’t?

Can I really see better with my eyes closed? Yes, I guess I can. In dim light, I strain to make out the outlines of the hotel dresser or the rock in my path. Just before dawn, my eyes ache, trying to suck in the faint light so I can dodge the trees. In the evening, as darkness falls, I scramble to pack up my reading materials so none get left out overnight. If I try to see when there’s just not enough light to take in, my eyes quickly fatigue from being asked to accomplish what they cannot.

But once I’m in full and total darkness, I automatically shut my eyes and rely on my other senses to protect me from falling or crashing into things. And they step up to the task. With my eyes closed, I can sense or feel doorframes, shoes left on the floor,  furniture, even in unfamiliar places, and I noticed I’ve been doing that for years. My inner self guides me, and for the most part, my shins remain unbarked. I don’t like the dark, but I seem to have figured out a way to navigate in it.

How does this relate to writing? I’m constantly running ahead, flipping on lights, researching frantically, drowning in copious notes and ideas and outlines. Maybe relying on self-imposed deadlines, plot lines, charts, and keeping close track of book sales and advertising plans and All Of It is getting in the way of why I started writing in the first place.

I wrote my first book (Tips From The Cruise Addict’s Wife) because I realized I just plain knew more than most people. I’m no brighter than anybody else, but I’m a compulsive reader and have a fear of missing Something Wonderful, right there, when I travel. My first novel (Peril in Paradise) came about because of a question. How could a Bad Guy make use of the fact that immature Hawaiian sea turtles have a predictable migratory path? I had a story to tell!

I write rather a lot; I published two books this summer alone. I’m aware of at least four more brewing in there; there could be more. Am I blocking my own path by not allowing my senses to guide me? By straining to see what lies ahead and get in front of every possible contingency, am I missing the joy in writing? If I get out of my way, would I do better and be happier? Sure, there’s a risk of “failing,” whatever that looks like, or at least flailing, but so what? 

I may occasionally smack my head on a low-hanging shelf I couldn’t see in the dark, but mostly, I get along just fine. Sometimes I can see better in the dark with my eyes closed. With regard to writing, it’s worth a try. 

Sep 12, 2017

I'm back!

by Marsha Ward  @MarshaWard marshaward.com

Month after month I've been forgetting my turn to post. That's a crying shame, because, yanno, the blog is named after me, sorta, kinda. I'm the founder of ANWA, and I blog with a few of my friends.

Maybe I'm burning out. I've been writing a white-hot streak of fiction for several months, and often find myself with no words of wisdom to share at the end of the day.

I've produced ten (10!!!) projects this year, including a brand new short story that was released last Friday. Scandalous: An Owen Family Story is my first venture into the exclusive program at Kindle called Select.


You can find Scandalous on Amazon for purchase, or read it free if you subscribe to KindleUnlimited.

Here's the blurb:
Young Julianna Owen didn’t think flirting with Parley Morgan at the barn raising would lead him to put his hands where they ought not to be. But worse yet, her sister discovers them and Parley abandons her, running off into the woods.
 
Julianna’s strict father has found where she is hiding, and her world on the Colorado frontier is crashing down around her ears. She thought love and romance was only about going on picnics and holding hands, not rough kisses and hurtful pawing.

Now the consequences of her actions might be beyond what she can bear.

In the 1860s Owen Family universe, Scandalous shines a light on teen hormones run amok during a trying time in the family’s story, as it ties up a loose thread from the novel, Spinster’s Folly.

This edition contains bonus material at the end, an excerpt from the Shenandoah Neighbors story, Bloodied Leather.
~~~

I've also been going-going-going this year and I have three more places to go before year's end: The ANWA Writers Conference, where I'm doing a two-hour presentation; an epic road trip to the Northwest, and the Mesa Book Festival. Maybe I can relax during the Christmas holiday?

That's not likely.

I'm just hanging on and hoping to be more consistent with my blogging turn here. So, I certainly will try to be here in two weeks.

Happy reading!

Sep 7, 2017

Jumping Into the Fire

I don't know what I was thinking. If' I'd stopped for even a moment and considered what I was signing myself up for, I would've screamed and run the other way. Apparently, I wasn't thinking. That part of my brain must be defective.
Why do you ask? Because I'm planning on pitching two books at the ANWA conference.  A non-fiction with my sisters, and a YA novel I've written myself.  

Remembering back to last year, I should've known this was a bad idea. The stress of pitching one book can be staggering.  But two? Just shoot me now.  Or at least tie me to a post and walk away.  Apparently I'm out of my mind. 

Not only is it two books, but the submission process is completely different, so I'm learning two things at once.  A non-fiction involves a query, a proposal, and a few sample chapters. A YA novel involves a query, and a completed story.  Even the query formats are different! Ugh. 

And yet I persist.  Sleep is highly overrated, right?  I'll catch up when I die. Which, at the rate I'm going, may be sooner than anticipated. 

Here I am, one week away from pitching, and I'm running around with my hair on fire, screaming like a banshee, wondering how I'm going to pull it all together.  Or if I even can.  

Check on me in ten days. If I answer, you'll know I survived. If I'm huddled in the corner sucking my thumb, you'll know survival is a highly subjective term. 

Sep 2, 2017

Efficiency?

I chuckle when people accuse me of being Organized and Efficient. If they only knew-! I also get comments on always being on time; that, I understand. I’m basically shy, and I’d skip a lunch date with my favorite celebrity before I’d mosey in late...to anything.

But the efficient part? I often feel like the Wizard of Oz, one step ahead of being found out, distracting attention over there, away from the curtain. Whatever you do, don’t look behind the curtain!

Credit, if anything, bright little pieces of paper. They’re everywhere, and they help me keep up the illusion of being on top of things.

My mind races like mice on a hamster wheel (why isn’t that a mouse wheel? Everybody knows mice are more active than hamsters; see, there it goes again), juggling a dozen topics at a constant breakneck pace. If I fail to write them down, they skitter away.

 I keep a blank paper in my car, on my desk, in the kitchen, by the calendar, in the bathrooms, in every jacket pocket, in my journal, on the counter by the mugs, the note catcher over my computer, beside my bed...well, just about any place I go in a day, I’m mere inches from paper.

I write down thoughts, appointments, reminders, inspirational snippets, clever phrases I may use in an upcoming book, interesting turns of dialogue I overheard, news I mean to tell somebody, a brilliant idea for a birthday gift, a reminder to check that website for discount tickets.

 I keep an ongoing grocery list, too, a hastily scrawled, sometimes illegible reminder of what I need to buy next time I’m at the store. A recent one read:

milk
watermelon
 bread
6 oz umbrella
eggs
bald guy
graham crackers
chicken (on sale)

 I didn’t say they made sense.

I see order when I glance at these little papers, and I appreciate not having to strain my brain to recall what Julie said to tell Jenn, or what that shade of paint for the bedroom is called. Efficiency.

Husband, a few years ago, decided to Do Something Nice for me, and in his mind, that looked like detailing my car. He had it washed and waxed and buffed, and threw away all those scraps of paper inside and vacuumed and it looked so good, he decided to clean the kitchen, too, at least get rid of those pervasive little notes on the cupboard door.  

Besides not feeling as appreciative as he expected, I was dead in the water for about two weeks. I missed a doctor visit (and a dentist), I was lost at the grocery store without my list; plus, I had no idea what was on sale that week, I forgot a birthday, I neglected to send that box my daughter asked me to get for her, I didn’t pick up the prescriptions or photos I had ordered, a friend was annoyed because I forgot a lunch date, the deadline to mail those forms in came and went ....It was a long two weeks.

I find writing an idea down in the moment captures it while it’s fresh, and I can flesh it out later if needed. I admit not all of the little papers make sense; I’m still not sure what “lemon Volkswagens” or “call caramel cookies” means, but until I find out, you can bet I’m going to be keeping them at hand!


Efficient? No, just held together by little bits of colored paper. 

Aug 22, 2017

Twitter Usage Part 2

by Terri Wagner

Susan Allred's blog post about Twitter Pitches got me to thinking. How successful is social media to actual books sales. I am old enough to remember the first Star Wars movie was pitched by regular joes going to see it and spreading the word among their friends. As we now know it's a worldwide hit still ongoing. So I was thinking is Twitter like the old word of mouth. And is it effective? And if so, how so? So thank you Susan for starting me on this journey. Here's what I found out.

What Not To Say on Twitter was an article I ran across by accident. What do you think? I keep referring in my mind to the ancient way of communication and wondering if Twitter is just the digital means to the word of mouth way. Another source that suggests using Twitter wisely is a guaranteed way to boost your sales. Here's one that addresses the whole does Twitter work which seems to indicate Twitter is great for reaching out to writers but not so great for reaching out to those who will actually buy your books. Follow this up with how to actually measure those Twitter stats.

I followed up with two authors with divergent views: Ewan Morrison who was basically a no, and Anna Belfrage who was a yes. And finally I offer up Derek Murphy's opinion.

John Lewis found out what Tom Clancy will attest to...better than Twitter get someone famous to toot your book negatively or positively.

Aug 19, 2017

One Foot in Front of the Other


My cute baby granddaughter thought about Up. She watched her brothers running through the house, her little brow furrowed in concentration. How do they do that?  One day, at the ripe old age of eight months, Babykins pulled herself to standing, using the sofa for support.

 The first couple of weeks didn’t go well for her. She hadn’t learned how to un stand; when her little legs fatigued, she fell backwards. She quickly learned how to roll her spine so as not to whack her fuzzy head every time. Feet were another issue. Sometimes her little feet slid out from under her, and she ended up doing splits. They sometimes slid away from the sofa, leaving her at an untenable 45 degree angle, clutching the sofa, squawking for help. Her mother rescued her, picked her up for a hug, chuckling at the baby’s determination to get back and down and try again.

This all reminds me of the baby’s mother at that age. Once my daughter learned to stand and take two steps, she refused to crawl ever again. It was simply beneath her. That was fine once she could walk capably, but the first couple of weeks were rough. She’d stand up against a chair, take a few wobbly steps, invariably tip over, and scream as if she’d been attacked by lions. One of us would have to go stand her back on her little feet; she simply couldn’t bear to crawl the two feet to the chair. A pride issue, I think, along with early evidence of a stubborn streak wider than her head. She kept on practicing, and as other adults, she now walks without a thought.

No one criticized her when she was learning, and no one scolds Babykins for not doing it right, for falling over yet again. We praise her for trying again, clapping, smiling, telling her, “Good! Now try again,” knowing that, with practice, she’ll learn to walk like everyone else.

I’m an author of sixteen books. I suppose I know what I’m doing, to some degree, and I keep on learning daily, constantly improving my craft. Some of the phrases I string together are flat, hokey, even syrupy. Other times, I read over a paragraph in delight. Sometimes I kick paper wads in frustration, knowing what I want to convey, but unable to get my point across. 

I suppose what babies and toddlers deal with effects writers, too—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it.

My advice to writers is WRITE. Write a lot, good stuff, worthless stuff, keep on writing.  My baby granddaughter will be chasing after her brothers in no time, but it’s not only time that propels a child onward to more sophistication and skill. It takes effort and practice, and occasionally falling on one’s head. Write, write, write because the road to good writing is made of words strung together and not all of them are well-arranged words. With practice, it gets better.


We don’t scold a child for stumbling when learning to walk. We value their adorable attempts, and pick them up when they tip over. Do that for the writer inside you. Praise the good parts, encourage the weak parts, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Aug 5, 2017

Prejudice

by Deb Graham

Racism is a hot-button topic in our society these days. I’m not sure why: I really thought we’d be at a place beyond that by 2017. I’m happy to report I failed utterly at teaching my kids about racism, just as my parents failed to teach me.

I lived for the first ten years of my life in a blue-collar town in New York, only seven miles from Niagara Falls. Quite a few residents were a couple of generations, if that, from the Old Country, wherever that was. I knew people had different backgrounds, and I knew that made them different. I learned our Polish neighbors made the best cabbage rolls. The Lebanese woman down the block was legendary for her paper-thin bread and baklava, and our German friends played music I didn’t hear at home. In my little-girl mind, I registered differences.

My parents neglected to teach me that other races were Bad or Less Than. I knew some people were not worthy of respect; lazy, cruel, mean-spirited people who wouldn’t rise about their raising, those who did not value their family, mouth-breathers who put sports or card-playing obsessions above their wives. They were Not Good People, and I felt the shame when I heard my parents speak of them.

But my parents neglected to teach me about race. At age ten, my family moved to a small town in Georgia. I learned it was where the Ku Klux Klan was established. The calendar insisted it was 1969; the people there acted more like 1949.  Segregation was in the rearview mirror, but not there. Signs reading “Whites and Coloreds” still lingered over drinking fountains and doorways.  Proprietors excused themselves with “well, I ain’t got around to repainting that wall yet.”  Mom was shunned at PTA meetings. It seemed wherever we went, we heard whispers of “Yankees. They don’t know their place.”

 School was hard for me. On my first day, I was faced with a classroom full of resentful eyes turned on me, children on the left, children on the right, empty row of desks down the middle. I was shy, and felt I had done something wrong just by walking in the classroom. The teacher barked, “Ya’ll take yer seat nah.” I slid into the first available seat, just to get away from those accusing eyes.

Before long, I noticed the teacher stood in front of the left side of the classroom, never glancing at the students on the right. Children from the left were always chosen to be classroom helper and office runner and to answer questions, as if the others were not even in the room. The only time the teacher moved to the right side of the classroom was to break her ruler over the desk of a child who'd committed an offense; leaning into the aisle to retrieve a pencil he'd dropped. Even then, she never spoke, as if the child wasn't worth the words required for a scolding.

 It finally dawned on me that the kids on the right side of the room were uniformly white, while the other side was made up of black children. Puzzled, I looked closer, to see what valid differences had caused them to be shunned like this. Both sides wore similar clothes, overalls without shirts, or cotton shifts, some barefoot, some in tattered sneakers with holes cut out for toes. A few wore dungarees, which I later learned was almost worse than wearing nothing at all. I felt terribly overdressed in my new plaid skirt and white blouse with rosettes at the collar. I kept my shiny penny loafers tucked under my desk.

Culture shock was awful at school, bad in public, uncomfortable even at church, and nothing we could do helped one bit. I learned never to speak up in class, because the teacher led the taunts of my Yankee accent. Reading aloud was torture. I could plan on being mocked every time. How was a little New York girl supposed to know how to pronounce "victuals"? I'd never seen that word in my life, and sounding it out was a disaster. The teacher screeched, "It's vittles, stupid girl! Vittles, like ya'll eat at home!" No clarity there; I still didn't know what a vittles was, Mom never cooked it for dinner. 

After the longest four years of my family’s life, Dad took a new job and we moved North, to a Chicago suburb. I think my first day in the new school was the first time I’d drawn a full breath in months.

I vowed that whatever prejudices I had witnessed and experienced would not define my life. And I determined to not raise my children to discard whole classes of people differentiated solely by accent, geography, or skin color. If you dislike someone, you have to get to know them enough first to make sure your opinion is valid, not just by sight.

Years ago, my young daughter was excited about me being Room Mother. Before my first visit to the classroom, she jumped up and down telling me about her new friend. Jill had the cutest little braids, she liked to wear yellow, her favorite item was a ruffled sweater, and she had a pompom on her backpack. I looked forward to meeting Jill, and getting to know the rest of the class. 

I chuckled as I politely shook hands with Jill later that morning. My little girl had neglected to mention Jill was the only black child in the whole first grade. That detail completely escaped her. As they've grown, I've listened to the way my kids talk about their friends. The old prejudices my Dad taught shine through, about lazy people or willfully ignorant folks, but they interact with other races as easily as they do with other age groups and hair colors, and I love it. 


I succeeded. Now, what’s up with everybody else?

Aug 3, 2017

When the Family Gets Together

by Kari Diane Pike

About thirty years ago, my husband's parents came up with a plan for a family reunion every three years. Each of the seven siblings has taken turns as the "event planner" with everyone else pitching in to help make things happen. The location has varied: Mom and Pop's house in Calabasas, CA, Bear Lake in northern Utah, an empty school in Cottonwood, AZ, a beach side campground near Santa Barbara, CA, and even the Redwood forest. Activities have ranged from surfing and swimming to hiking and card playing and the giving and receiving of lots of hugs.

This year marked our tenth such reunion. We returned to Mom's house (Dad has been gone for nine years now) to celebrate "Grandma the Great turns 88".  For the first time in many years, all seven of the Ken and Delores Pike children were able to attend. Even most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the journey from as close as living in the same house to as far away as Anuktuvuk Pass, Alaska in order to celebrate our much beloved matriarch.

Dad Pike's family has a long history of family get-togethers - usually geared around Thanksgiving and Easter. With nine children in that family our numbers regularly fell between 80 and 100 people. This year was no exception. We laughed, talked, body surfed, browsed museums, discovered hermit crabs, sea anemones, and the occasional scorpion, and played games with about 117 links from our family chain. I'm happy to report that only one child wandered off and went missing for a few minutes at the beach and no one got run over.

We can't forget about the food. One night alone, we consumed 18 large Costco pizzas, three watermelons, 7 pineapples, 10 pounds of strawberries, 6 pounds of grapes, a #10 can of mandarin oranges, 4 large bags of Caesar Salad mix- plus croutons, and two entire sheet cakes. On other days, parents and grandparents alike pitched in to feed the masses with countless pb&j sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, granola bars, bagels, cold cereal, french toast and the requisite s'mores.

Our daughter Kati played a video she had created from snatches of old home movies taken over the years. Seeing the smiles and hearing the voices of children now grown and older relatives  who have passed on brought tears to my eyes. My sister-in-law Penni provided stories from the lives of Ken and Del and from each of their parents. We played a family trivia bingo game based on the stories and sang "Love is Spoken Here" and  "A Child's Prayer." Old wounds received healing and love and the hearts of the children truly turned to their fathers as we remembered who we are and why we are here.

Getting together is getting more difficult as our family grows and spreads around the world. Del is the last of her generation still living from her side of the family and only one of Dad Pike's siblings remains. The Pike reunions of days past fell by the way side as the older generation passed away. Some how the baton got dropped. I hope that we never drop this one. Families truly are forever.

Hugs~

Aug 1, 2017

A Useful Podcast for Writers from Joanna Penn, with Dean Wesley Smith

by Marsha Ward

I don't listen to many podcasts, because, well, you know, time. But recently I listened to one from author Joanna Penn's series at https://www.thecreativepenn.com/podcasts/

The title is "Your Magic Bakery Of Intellectual Property Rights With Dean Wesley Smith" and it's found at
https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/07/31/intellectual-property-rights-dean-wesley-smith/

If you know me at all, you know I count Dean Wesley Smith as a mentor, which is really why I listened to the program in the first place. I love Dean's view on many things, including keeping your intellectual property rights intact. I'm a control freak like he is, I guess.

The podcast lasts just over an hour, which includes an introductory discussion from Joanna, but if you can't bear to listen all that time, the site includes a transcript. DO read it. Go take a look here.

Marsha Ward is the Founder of American Night Writers Association. She is a writer and novelist who grew up with a love of American values that are reflected in her body of work. Her historical novels in "The Owen Family Saga" are Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Spinster's Folly, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, all available in print from her website, at WestWardBooks.com, from online booksellers such as BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com; and in ebook formats at Smashwords.com as well as the booksellers above. Her latest work is That Tender Light, the origin story novella for the Owen Family series.

Jul 27, 2017

Twitter Pitches: An Entirely New Experience

I've seen mention of Twitter Pitches in other writing forums. Usually I hear about them after the fact. A few months ago, after missing another one, I decided to do some research.

For those who have never heard of a Twitter Pitch before, is where those who have a completed, polished manuscript create a Twitter-length (140 characters) pitch about your book (you must leave room for hashtags describing genre, and twitter pitch hashtag).  For example, one of my pitches looks like this:

Homecoming Dances, Bullies, Kidnapping, and the Mexican Mafia are a typical day’s work for this teenaged spy. #IWSGPIT #YA #Ad

It's not fantastic, but I had all of 20 minutes to come up with my pitch because I forgot the Twitter Pitch was today. It ultimately doesn't matter though. What I'm really gearing up for are the Pitch Wars, and PitMad which occur in August and September.  Brenda Drake ( http://www.brenda-drake.com/) has a lot of great information on how to participate in a Twitter Pitch.

Today, I am taking part in the Insecure Writer's Support Group Twitter Pitch (#IWSGPit).  This is the first time they've hosted a Twitter Pitch and with more than 30 Literary Agencies represented, I thought I'd give it a go.

At the very least, I'll work on my elevator pitch or hook.  At the most, I might get one or two agents to request more information.

I'm two pitches in (I can submit one pitch per hour) and the only people liking my pitches are people who follow me on Twitter. But I'm treating this much like any other query prospect. It's a long shot and a learning experience which will better prepare me for the Twitter Pitches I'm preparing for in the future.

Have any of you participated in a Twitter Pitch? What did you think of it? Did you get any feedback?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.




Jul 25, 2017

Where's Cesar Milan?

by Terri Wagner

It started yesterday. And I am perplexed and worried. I have a roommate who has a chow/golden mix. Sandy is beautiful but her temperament is definitely that of a chow. My roommate has been extremely reluctant to socialize Sandy to other dogs because she is an alpha dog with snarling tendencies towards other dogs. With people, she's sweet as can be. Debbie had to up her move in time because her house is being fixed up to sell. After all what was the point in two of us paying bills separately when we could share the expenses.

So Sandy came to live with Daisy my lab mix. Daisy has a goofy temperament. She is not alpha, but does not take much. She won't start anything, but she would never back down. The problem is my Daisy is now around 14 years old, and has a slow growing cancer. My vet told me old age might "get" her before the cancer. Not comforting odds there.

First few weeks have been ok. Sandy is an escape artist so Debbie had been barricading her in the bedroom while we work. Apparently Sandy is a camel when it comes to needing to use the bathroom lol. Daisy is more like me. So we have to leave the doggie door open. At first, the two circled around each other, and seemed to be settling down.

However, last night, Sandy snarled at Daisy, then tried to clamp down on Daisy. Fortunately I saw it, so did Debbie, and we immediately handled the situation. Later, Sandy barked, and we heard Daisy leaving through the doggie door. I was worried about her so I hunted her up in the yard, and got Daisy back in the house. As Daisy came in the door, Sandy tried to snarl her off again.

I realize it's a jockeying for the pecking order, but I'm a bit sensitive about Daisy due to her age and health condition. She should be able to live out her time as sweetly and peacefully as can be. She has lost her "Pa" her Kota and Jasper all in less than six months. I need Cesar. We have to succeed in bringing Sandy to a happy place with other dogs. Daisy won't be my last furry companion on the planet. Anyone got any ideas????
Daisy and her BFF Kota.

Jul 22, 2017

To Those Who Came Before Me

To Those Who Came Before Me

I’ve always been interested in the stories of the American pioneer, those hardy souls who hitched up bootstraps and crossed the plains. Okay, I’ve never been really clear on what a bootstrap is, exactly, but still, the idea of a whole  body of faithful people leaving all and sundry behind and striking out to a new land, warms my heart. As a child, I lapped up pioneer stories; I still do. 

Brigham Young said something to the effect of the land in the West being so inhospitable, no one else would want it, so it’s ideal for the saints of God. Not exactly self-esteem food, yet off they went.

I have driven their route in my soft, air-conditioned car with a speedometer that may or may not have stuck to the posted limits. Nebraska is mighty long, after all. I’ve seen the ruts left by pioneer wagons, ground in the rocks in eastern Oregon. As I marveled at the ruts, a herd of vicious no-see-ums feasted on my exposed skin. As if heat, dust, fatigue, insufficient food and water, and endless walking wasn’t enough to try their souls, nasty little insects with teeth added to the experience.  

Two of my grown kids live with their families in the wilds of modern Utah. I spent two weeks visiting them in July, and my take away is this: those early pioneers were tough people! They arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in July, the same time as my visit, give or take a few days. It was hot, very, very hot there, and drier than your average desert. I found myself sucking down water bottles and wondering how long a tray of cookie dough would take to bake if left in the rear window of my car.

At the Independence Day parade, a bank thermometer read 110 degrees. I’m from western Washington, and I’m pretty sure our local banks only have two digits on their thermometers; a temp of over 80 triggers Extreme Heat Warnings in the local media. 110 here...? People would die, outright.
Even with shade, a spray bottle, and a giant Slurpee, I nearly melted into a greasy spot on the pavement. The most popular floats on the parade route were the ones that sprayed the crowd with high-powered water guns. 

And I thought about those early pioneers. They were tough people, I tell you!  I was uncomfortable, just sitting around...Imagine having to build a house and plant a crop in that heat, after a 1000 mile hike? Yet, if they collapsed under a scrawny tree, there’d be no food for the winter or protection from Utah’s harsh winters just a few months down the road. We think of them being tough, invincible people, leaders all. In reality, they were mostly city-folk who suffered from culture shock --imagine, downtown London to Missouri?--who wore preposterously small shoes, if they had any at all. And the dresses! Sociologists say a more impractical outfit could not have been designed for a trek of that magnitude. Yet they pioneered on. 

We're all pioneering in our own ways, but  I honor those who went ahead of us, laying the path! We owe them a debt of gratitude bigger than the wide prairie sky.


In Church recently, the choir sang a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s beautiful!*


To Those Who Came Before Me
To those who came before me in seasons long ago
To those who are the loved-ones that I have yet to know
To those whose noble names I bear,
whose light within me burns
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those whose lives of courage prepared the way for me
Whose works became my heritage,
whose harvest I may reap
Who left for me a legacy that I have yet to earn
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned
To those who came before me in days and years long past
To those who are the family that I shall know at last
To those who seek the blessings
of the truth that I have learned
To them in gratitude shall my heart be turned


* http://www.defordmusic.com/sheet-music/alphabetical-list/to-those-who-came-before-me/

Jul 13, 2017

Reading Through the Generations

Much of my childhood was filled with books, listening to stories, telling stories, and falling asleep to stories. On trips, my parents would play children's books, narrated on colored audio cassette tapes, each tape color coded for it's respective story.  We'd spend hours in the car reading along with the lively storyteller, letting the words come to life in our minds.

Before I was old enough for school, Mother would pile four or five of us on her lap or at her feet to read a few chapters before nap time, often featuring scripture-related themes. Colorful illustrations would fill the pages for us to view while Mother spoke.

At bedtime, Dad would come home, gather us onto a bed, and proceed to tell us lively renditions of The Three Billy Goat's Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood.  If we were particularly lucky, he'd make up an adventure of his own.  One all-time favorite was the Green-Handed Monster From Piccolo Street. Dad would gesture, change voices, and provide lots and lots of tickling. Then he'd tuck us into bed, kiss us goodnight, and our dreams would continue where his imagination left off.

As we got older, reading became second nature.  Mom and Dad had bookcases filled with layers of books in all shapes, sizes and genres.  I remember one particular wooden book case with scroll work and doors.  I'd spend hours pulling the books out and reorganizing them by shape, name, or color - depending on my mood.  When my father passed away, that was the item I requested from his estate.

In their closet, another bookshelf filled with the paperbacks, displayed their favorite titles.  Dad had nearly every Louis L'Amour book written.  Mother preferred romances, particularly Barbara Cartland stories.  As soon as I was old enough to read, I began sneaking into their paperback stash and borrowing a book or two.

Between my library books, and the borrowed books, I was constantly reading. While some children got in trouble for causing mischief, we were scolded for staying up till three or four in the morning reading.

Now that I'm a mother, I work to find new ways to introduce the love of reading to my children. There was no Internet, cellphones, and little TV for me growing up.  Now a days, these items seem to be the babysitter, entertainer, teacher, and friends to people of all ages.

My third child is now eight.  This year she began reading chapter books and exploring independent reading.  This opened new worlds to her, especially this summer when we limited her use of electronics and television.

Now, she's started her own blog, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook Page, and Twitter Account to review each of the books she's read and to give her opinions.  I don't know where she gets her ambition from (ahem), but she seems to be thriving. She mentioned to one of the local librarians that she was starting a vlog, and now the person in charge of author spotlights for all the libraries in the county has requested an interview. My sweet little pipsqueak is loving every minute of it.

I don't know if the vlog will continue past the end of summer, but at the very least Courtney is exploring new genres, authors, and books.  Plus she gets to wear lots of different outfits when she vlogs!

If I am lucky, she will continue her love of literature into adulthood and beyond. Hopefully she will share that love with others around her, reminding them there is more to this world than smart phones, vines, and Snapchat! And she will understand that with each story she reads, entire worlds will open up to her.

What things have you done to encourage reading and literacy with your children, grandchildren, and young ones? I'd love to know!  And if you happen to be a children's author and want Courtney to review your book, drop me a line!

Jul 11, 2017

There are some things I know

by Terri Wagner

I have always been so careful to say "I think" "I suspect" "I am 99% sure" rarely do I say "I know." Mostly I say I believe. Those two phrases have such different meanings. And I have particularly been careful in using "I believe" vs "I know" in my testimony of Christ (and His church). Mostly because as a historian, I realize that much of what we "know" is as Paul implied only true from a certain perspective. It has taken me many twists and turns to find that ultimate place God wants me (and all of us) to be. For lack of a better term, I simply call it living in the light. Some time ago, I was asked why I felt spiritually I was at a standstill. I related that I mostly thought of crossing up and over to a higher plane of understanding was like a door I was often brought to but never stepped through. I struggled to explain why I never would or could step through it. On some unconscious level, I feared it would require too much of me.

I don't know about many of you, but loving others has never come easy for me. I care, I serve, but really feel a deep down love....not so much. And I suspect God knew that. My childhood was military, and while that brings awesome opportunities, it also brings a sense of isolation. No one is really there long term but family; and no place is ever really home. And when my parents divorced, it only emphasized for me that I had no home. And one of the terrible consequences to the divorce was a feeling of aloneness I have never really gotten over....until now.

I was challenged by a very good friend to walk through the door and see what happened. It at once both electrifying and terrifying. I am so glad I went ahead and walked through the door and into the light. My whole world has opened up in ways I never thought I could comprehend. I really feel like a kid on a new adventure.

The very first thing that surprised me was the connection I now feel to my fellow earth travelers and to the earth itself. I always cared and served, but now I truly love. I hope this feeling never goes away. I feel connected in a way I have never felt before and eager to help everyone on their journey, where ever they are and where ever they may be traveling. And for me the best part is I don't have to worry about judging people. That's Heavenly Father's job. We live in a world where nearly every thing goes except being religious. Instead of concentrating on how "they" treat us, I am working on "how" I need to treat every fellow human being.

And so now I know!!!!