Sunday, November 28, 2010
"Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons." - Ruth Ann Schabacker.
December is almost here. That means Christmas is right around the corner with all the traditional activities. There's the reason for the season - the birth of the Savior. That's good to keep in the center of our thoughts. Shepherds in the field watching their flocks. Angels singing on a starry night. A baby born in a stable and laid in a manger. Wise men bringing gifts. Beautiful images of the greatest gift. Christmas carols and songs that make those holy goosebumps crawl up your back. Kids in bathrobes being shepherds and wise men. Sparkling lights and decorated houses.
I love Christmas. Really I do. It's just that it has gotten so it comes around so much faster than it used to. Every two of three months or so it seems. And it's like having a bunch of new deadlines. The getting the cards in the mail deadline. Shopping for gifts deadline. Decorating trees deadline. Baking cookies deadline. Wrapping those gifts deadline. As mothers and grandmothers, we feel like it's up to us to keep the traditions going. Our mothers did it. Our grandmothers did it. So we must do the same. We want to get the gifts that will bring smiles. We want to cook all the favorite foods. We want to make the day perfect for everybody.
It's that making things perfect deadline that is so hard to meet. As much as we want to make things perfect, that rarely happens. The tree is a bit crooked on its stand. The rolls are a little overdone. The cake cracks in the middle. The sweater doesn't fit. The toy doesn't entrance. Santa forgets to buy batteries. Somebody comes down with a virus and spends Christmas in the bathroom. You get the idea. All those things have happened to us at some Christmas in the past. But this Christmas you still want things to be perfect. You want Aunt Suzy and Uncle Bill not to argue about politics. You want the kids to be sweet and generous and not overtired and cranky. You want to eat that piece of jam cake with the caramel frosting and not think about the extra five pounds you're going to have to lose next week. You want to say, "Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus." And so each December you wipe away the less than perfect memories and remember all the wonderful times. You might not remember your favorite gift, but you remember how you felt because you felt loved. That's the tradition we're all trying to hang on to. The tradition of love.
Hope you'll meet all your deadlines and find those perfect gifts and most of all that the warm feeling of love will wrap around your family and then it won't matter so much if Aunt Suzy and Uncle Bill don't think alike on politics. They're family and they're loved. Enjoy the gift of each and every day.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." (William Arthur Ward)
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I definitely don't want to have a present of gratitude all wrapped up in my thoughts and not present it to those who have blessed me. You, my readers, are a blessing to me - those of you who read my "whatever comes to mind" thoughts in this on-line journal and also those of you who read my stories. Thank you so much.
I have so many blessings to count including the two books pictured here that will be released next year. The colors of the covers seem to have a complimentary scheme. Maybe that's so they'll look good on the store shelf next to each other. I can only hope. Angel Sister will release first in February and then The Blessed will come out in July next year. I'm being doubly blessed by that in 2011.
But of course, there are many other reasons for gratitude in my life. A loving husband, three wonderful children and the three people they brought into our family and our hearts when they married. My beautiful, brilliant, talented grandchildren. (You get the idea - I am a grandmother after all. LOL) But I'm most grateful those grandchildren are healthy and happy with good parents. I'm thankful for my own health and that I can go hiking with my dogs and still climb up and down the hills on my farm. I'm thankful for two sisters who are my best friends and for my loving and giving mother. Mom's struggling now. Her memory is fading and without memory life gets very difficult, but she has been a blessing to me and so many people in her lifetime. I'm thankful for the sisters and brothers I gained when I married Darrell. I'm so blessed to be part of the Gabhart family and to have the memories we share of times with his parents. I'm blessed by my pastor and my church family and grateful to the Lord for the many showers of blessings over the years.
I could name blessings until the cows came home. (Had to stick something country in here.) But I won't bore you with more. But I'd love to hear the blessings you're counting this weekend. Hearing from you is another blessing of my day. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
"The unthankful heart...discovers no mercies. But let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." Henry Ward Beecher
Sunday, November 21, 2010
- Do you like your name?
- Have you changed your name from the name your parents gave you?
- Are you burdened with a nickname you hate?
I'm creating characters right now. Well, a couple of the characters have been walking around with me for several weeks. One of them had a name before she had much of anything else. The name was the beginning of her created self. The other one waffled back and forth with a name and eventually found the one that fits. The third character is still nameless. At least mostly nameless. I've named him a couple of times, but I'm not sure either name is going to stick.
So when I'm in the "who in the world am I going to write about next" stage of story development, I think a lot about names. And look at a lot of names. I have a falling apart baby name book. I've bought a couple of newer ones, but it's that book with no cover and big sections coming loose that I go to. That is the naming book. I've been searching through it for a strong name for this third character. A name that lets you know right away that this character is the one you need to pay attention to. This character is going to play a major role in this story. This character is named......????
I may have told you before that I was never all that crazy about my name. I like it okay now, and even when I didn't, I would have never thought about changing the name my parents - or my big sister if you believe her story - picked. But characters are different. Characters can undergo name changes with hardly a bat of the eye. And no legal fees. So why not? A character needs a name that fits.
You see when we were born, our parents were just guessing at the kind of person we'd grow up to be. A Lucy? A Josephine? A Matilda? Harry? Hiram? Hastings? But it's different with characters. We know what kind of person he or she is or was. Our job is to help the reader meet that person. And one way to begin doing that is with the right name.
Do you think names shape people? I might have been a different person - say somebody who ran for office - if I'd been named Barbara. According to one of my name books - not the falling apart one - Barbara is a very strong name. And yet, I've never named a character Barbara. I don't know why not. It's a perfectly respectable name that can be shortened into a decent enough nickname or two and it doesn't end in "s." That's a sorry reason for rejecting a name, but I still think Hanks's looks awkward on the written page. Correct perhaps but awkward. I have enough to worry about ferreting awkward phrasing out of my writing without inviting any poorly named characters to my story.
But I do love coming up with the right names for my people. You know maybe we should have a childhood name and an adult name. They could be the same, but they wouldn't have to be. Some of the Native American tribes did this, didn't they? And I think I have heard the Amish have family names they don't share with the world people. Or could be I dreamed that. So maybe I'll dream the right name for my character.
And so? Do you like your name?
Words have meaning and names have power. ~Author Unknown
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I don't have any problem remembering seeing my first pieces in print in this or that magazine. And I actually had a poem printed. My second sale ever. As I told the group Friday, I got a whole three dollars for it. But seeing the words "by Ann Gabhart" was (as they say on that t.v. commercial) priceless. I didn't use the H. in my name then. I started doing that when I published The Scent of Lilacs. I was trying to make a new beginning with that book since I'd had several very discouraging writing years prior to that.
I was an interested observer as the writers' group picked a topic for a poem for their next meeting. They had written down suggestions for maybe ten or twelve topics. Then they voted and chose "A turn in the road." I wondered if I'd be able to write a poem about a turn in my road. Probably not. I was never much of a poet in spite of that three dollars I earned with four little rhyming lines once. But I might have thought about a story with a turn in the road. In fact every story has some turns in the roads of the characters. Without a few turns and bends, problems and challenges, you don't have much of a story. So I was impressed with their enthusiasm for writing and their willingness to use their creative energy on a suggested topic. I was never crazy about suggested topics for writing even in high school English. I always wanted to come up with my own idea. Guess that's why I've never been a member of a writers' group.
I did my character exercise with them. They weren't really into it the way most of the groups I've had do it. Maybe they were like me with my suggested topic reluctance. They all wanted to come up with their own names, their own person and not have a community person. One of the writers said he already had his story half written about our woman character named Reeny. I think that was her name. I liked Reena better, but it was their character. The point of the exercise is that we can invent a community character like Reeny but then each of us would write a totally different story from that jumping off spot. Someday when I have a longer workshop, maybe we'll write those stories. Gee, maybe I do like suggested topics after all if I'm doing the suggesting. ;-)
But our writing time ended and I had to hurry home to get ready for the Kentucky Book Fair on Saturday. I love book fairs when lots of readers are wandering around looking at everybody's books. And thank you to those of you who carried off my books. I heard from one of those readers who has already read my book, The Believer. In one day. I think she's my new best friend. Back when I wrote young adult fiction and was at this same book fair, a young girl bought one of my books in the morning and came back before I left that afternoon to say she'd already read it. Thank goodness she liked the story and didn't want a refund.
Thanks for reading. I hope you find lots of good books that keep you smiling. I smiled so much yesterday that I felt like a Miss America contestant. But a good book can always make me smile and there were good books all around me.
P.S. See, you guys at the writers' group were right. I did blog about you.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back. (Harvey MacKay)
That's a great quote for a day when we were gifted with an extra hour. Of course most of us slept through our gift as we got back that hour we lost last spring to Daylight Savings Time. Some people love DST. Some people say they'd rather be more in tune with nature and live by sun time. But gaining the hour got me to thinking about time and how our lives are so regulated by this or that clock. Then as I was looking through my pictures to come up with a clock or watch, I saw these trees. And they seemed timeless to me. Some of them have been growing in that place in California before California came to be. I was thinking time might strip away some of their limbs or turn their bark a ghostly gray, but the trees aren't worried about the minutes and hours ticking past the way we are. No wristwatches on their branches.
But then I stopped in my thought tracks and realized that trees do tell time. They mark their age by the rings of growth and show the change of the seasons with their leaves. The sea too as it pounds into the rocky shoreline is measuring time with its waves. Tides in and out can be predicted with the same precise timing as the sun rising and setting. Time is at the very center of nature.
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1. That has to be one of the most well known verses in the Bible. Time is part of our lives whether we ease along in life stretching out the hours and enjoying the ride or if we rush and run and think we must use every minute frantically getting something - anything - done. I'm afraid I've been in the rush and do time lane too much. I don't know that I want to stop doing. I just want to note the moments as they pass. Enjoy the time. Unwrap the gift of time I've been given.
I put a poem in our church bulletin today that I'm sure many of you have probably already seen in some pass along e-mails in the last few years. It is supposedly a poem written by a terminally ill girl. Now whether that is true or not, I don't know. No name or source was given in the little pamphlet where I found the poem. But these are the last few lines.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift...thrown away.
Life is not a race; do take it slower.
Hear the music before the song is over.
Hear the music and savor the minutes. Oh yeah, if you're in the area you can savor some of those minutes next Saturday enjoying a great day at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort. There will be over two hundred authors there - including yours truly - and it's a great day to do some Christmas shopping. An autographed book makes a fun gift. Come by and say hi if you come. I'll be smiling and doing my best to enjoy the moments. It won't be hard surrounded by all those authors and books. You can check out the author lists and books at www.kybookfair.org.