Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Green Theme

"Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises." (Pedro Calderon de la Barca)

What's your favorite color in the springtime? We have so many choices. The bright yellow of the forsythia that shout spring is really here, the rosy red of the redbud tree that pushes out blooms to light up the woods, and the pure white of the dogwood blossoms. So many colors to choose as favorites. 

But the true color of spring has to be green. One day the trees are bare and the grass is brown. Then the magic of spring happens and the world explodes in green. And we can breathe again. The trees and plants are making oxygen for us yet one more year. We return the favor breathing out the carbon dioxide they need.  What a great plan for the earth!

But when you talk about green, we can go so many ways. Kermit the Frog says it's not easy being green. A greenhorn doesn't know much about what's going on. Then again, these days being "green" means we're figuring out ways to keep the earth green. 

"An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind." (Albert Schweitzer) 

Not sure that quote fits my green theme, but I liked it so I'm sharing it. Guess I have a green light on what to put here on my on-line journal.  

That green light means go. But green on your hamburger means you'd better stop and think about eating a peanut butter sandwich instead. Or else your face might turn green when you get sick. Mold is green. And don't they make medicine from that so you might get well from something made from green? 
But without a doubt green is the color of spring. Green means growth and fresh starts and life.

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. (Thomas Carlyle)

When you hear the word green, what do you think of? Can you think of other ways to talk about green?
An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.

An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.
An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight... the truly wise person is colorblind.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Breaths of Nature

After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Every year I love walking to an area on our farm to see some of those miracles of nature. I've already shared a few of the photos I took on my Facebook page. I just took my phone camera because I didn't really plan to go wildflower hunting when I started out. But the day was glorious. It was Easter, but my family had visited the day before and what better day to give yourself the gift of nature than on Easter. Hunting flowers was better than hunting candy filled Easter eggs. At least, for me. I'm sure my grandkids would have disagreed. :)

So, Oscar and I, along with the two little neighbor dogs, took a hike down the cliff. I found flowers alongside the creek bubbling over rocks. The sun glittered off the clear water and rocks. The dogs didn't pay much attention to the flowers, but they did enjoy all the interesting creature smells and dipping into the water for a cool down now and again. I managed not to dip more than my hands and an occasionally clumsy foot into the creek.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~Author Unknown

That's the kind of place this is. Not an easy place to get to, but one that renews my spirit. And I did find flowers. Trilliums, larkspur, bluebells, rue anemone, yellow violets, bellwort, Dutchman's breeches, woods' poppy, squirrel corn, ginger root, Jack-in-a-pulpit, and more. And then I went a little nuts and even took one of those selfies. The creek and me. :) The surprise is that I didn't delete it.

 Every time I get to walk down to the creek or on any of my walks, I feel blessed to still go hiking and to see the gifts of nature that abound all around us. 

You don't have to hike down into wilderness areas to see gifts of nature. They're all around us. The sun shining down through new leaves. Birds singing in the trees. Dandelions making sunspots in the grass. What gifts of nature do you love most?
Happiness flutters in the air whilst we rest among the breaths of nature. ~Kelly Sheaffer

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Writer Sees Stars

As writers go, I have a skin of average thickness. I am pleased by a good review, disappointed by a bad. None of it penetrates far enough to influence the thing I write next. (Rachel Cusk)

Book reviews have been around as long as writers have been writing books. I'm guessing that even before books were printed, storytellers around the fire pits got reviews, and they probably weren't any happier with listeners spitting in their fire to show they didn't like a story than writers today are with bad reviews. Even famous writers don't like bad reviews.  Danielle Steele says, "A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it."

I've gotten bad reviews and I try to be like Rachel Cusk and let them slide off me. As much as I want to, I can't write a book every reader is going to love. But that sure would be nice. When I first began writing, any review a book received was a printed review in a magazine or newspaper. The average book didn't get many reviews. Now the internet has changed all that. Reviews are everywhere and anybody can write a review. Amazon and Barnes & Noble e-mail you and ask you to write reviews of the books you buy or download. And of everything else you buy too! A reader can join up with Goodreads and review every book she or he has ever read. On there you don't have to say anything. You can just click on a few stars and either make a writer jubilant with five stars or be in despair over the one star slams. 

All this to say that my free book, Scent of Lilacs, has been getting a lot of new reviews on Amazon. (By the way, it's still free if you haven't downloaded it yet or know an e-reading friend who might enjoy the story.) The reviews have all been surprisingly positive which is great. Sometimes with free books, the readers can slam the book because it isn't the type of story they would normally buy. I had one reviewer say about one of my Shaker books when it was offered free a while back that "free was too much to pay for this book." The very fact I remember that points out the problem with reading reviews. I can get a dozen glowing reviews and not remember a word of any of them, except maybe those lovely works "I couldn't put it down." But let me read one of those one star reviews and the words flash like a neon sign inside my head. 

But tonight, I'm going to share bits of some of the 5-star remarks about Scent of Lilacs with you. 

"A beautiful heartwarming story. I loved it. It is so human and full of love. Some beautiful lessons about God's love for all of us." (E Carlson)

"I loved the voice of Jocie, the thirteen year old pastor's daughter who tells most of the story."  (Breiann)

"Loved, loved, loved this book! I laughed and cried. I'm so glad I read it." (Cindy)

"It is clean, funny and good. I enjoyed it so much I bought the next book..." (Dianne)

(I love those that say my story made them smile or laugh. I've always wanted to be funny. Always!)

"...a moving mystery of life including narrative arcs for each of the characters." (IJ Palmer)

"Lots of unusual, imperfect characters add to the great story line." (Book Addict)

I could pull out lots more excerpts. To date, Amazon has 185 reviews for the title, including the one where the reader said she "tried and tried" to read the story but just couldn't it was so dull. Had to throw that bad one in to balance the  others. But most of the reviews have been kind, even enthusiastic and lighting up all five stars to make this writer happy to see stars.    

A good, sympathetic review is always a wonderful surprise. (Joyce Carol Oates)

It's enormously cheering to get a good review by someone who seems to understand your work. (Kenneth Koch)

I am glad to get good reviews, but I try not to dwell on those any more than on the ones that aren't so good. I just have to try to write the next book better. 

If you wrote one of the reviews on my books, thank you. Reviews matter. On the internet a review is sort of like word of mouth and everybody knows that having a friend recommend a book is the very best advertising a writer can get. 

Have you ever written a review online? Or told a friend about a book you've read?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seeing the Light through Dementia's Darkness

A Special Treat
I have a special treat for you on One Writer’s Journal this week – a guest post by Kristy Robinson Horine. 

I met Kristy at the Licking Valley Writers’ Conference when I was signing my books at a writer’s event last fall. At the time, Kristy was the executive director of the conference, but life was about to change for her. While her other three children have long since left babyhood behind, she was excited about expecting her fourth child. 

A New Season in Life
Now she’s entered a new season in her life with the care of her baby girl and she's using this time to explore new options in her writing. Kristy read my posts about my mother’s dementia and very generously sent me a beautiful piece she’d written about the journey into dementia she witnessed her grandmother taking. Not a good journey, but sometimes there is joy in the moments. She found that joy with her Meme and wrote about it. The photo is of her Meme at a nursing home on one of her last birthdays before she got to go on home to heaven. Can't you just see her personality shining through the dementia?

Kristy is letting me share her story forward so that her words can perhaps bless those of you who have walked this hard path with your loved ones. In some ways every journey for those suffering dementia is similar, but at the same time, each walk along this path is also different. But sharing what we experience can help us to see the light between the dark things.  

Riding Fences  
       by Kristy Robinson Horine

     Momma gave me The Look when they arrived. Papaw had packed Meme into his candy apple red Toyota and bumped along country roads to our house. It must have been pretty bad this time. I urged Meme toward the door.

     “Come look at the garden I planted Meme,” I said. I grabbed both of her hands and steadied her down the brick steps, across the cistern, down a concrete block step, and into the yard. Meme puffed hard, wheezing. After a few steps, we stopped to rest.

      Inside, Papaw was telling Mom how Meme had removed the gate from the hinges when she couldn’t get out of the padlocked yard. He was telling how she had escaped and told strangers passing by that someone in her house was trying to kill her. He was telling about the conversation with the police officer who didn’t know about Meme and her Alzheimer’s. 

      Outside, it was just me and a woman who could no longer remember my name.

     “Now, I want you to just look out there,” she breathed with her mouth open. “Do you remember when we was in Caden Town?”

      I looked at her eyes and knew I would lie. “Yes ma’am,” I said.

     “Do you remember how much work it was? Daddy made me work. Would take that razor strap to me if I didn’t do it. You know that Mamaw T and Papaw Tuttle were multi-millionaires, but I thought I had worked my ass off,” she said. I no longer flinched when Meme cussed. Her filters were just about gone, but this time, she had remembered to whisper talk the bad word.

     “Yes ma’am,” I said. “They didn’t want for anything, did they?”

     She hooked her elbow through mine: us against the world. I didn’t have a clue about Caden Town, but I liked the co-conspirator feeling. Her eyes shined in the sunlight.

     “We was born different,” she said. “The two of us.”

     “Yes Ma’am,” I said.

     The distance to the garden from the house stretched with every wheeze, but we made it. I secretly hoped that Papaw was giving my mother an earful. I also secretly hoped that God wouldn’t answer my prayers to take Meme before she got too bad, right there next to the garden. Meme had gotten a bit heavy since she couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten. She couldn’t remember that full meant stop. I just wasn’t certain I could lift her if she hit the ground.

    We settled down onto a swinging bench at the edge of the snow peas I planted. I told her about shoveling manure and spreading it around after everything had died off the season before. I told her about running the tiller for the first time ever. I told her about how the wind blew as I hoed my rows, moving the string I had tied up between two broken tobacco sticks. I told her that Papaw said I could plant more in a crooked row anyway. There was something like an apology in my voice. Suddenly, I wanted my garden to be full and thick with fruit. I wanted Meme to see even though I knew she wouldn’t remember. I stopped talking when I realized her mind wasn’t sitting with her body.

    “I want you to look out there,” she said. I thought she was going to ask me about Caden Town again.

     “Yes ma’am?”

     “Do you see how that dark goes like that?” she moved her hand in a horizontal line and wiggled her fingers as if to mimic a flitting bird. “Do you see that dark?”

      I squinted into the distance, hoping to catch a glimpse of what she described. I shook my head.

     “Those dark things there,” she said, waving her hand back and forth, more insistent. “The ones with the light in between.”

   Again I looked and realization came at once. “Are you talking about the black fence just on the other side of the garden?”

   Her hand relaxed, patted my knee. She exhaled then, after I named the darkness for her. “Yes. Fence. That fence. That’s right. Look there, between them.”

    I leaned my head closer to hers, tried to see what she saw, like a child trying to find a single constellation in a sky full of stars.

    “That’s what you need to see. The part that’s not dark,” she said. “You need to see the light.”

    In that moment, I rode the fence between my reality and hers. In that moment, we both saw the light.

About Kristy
~Writer, teacher, poet, artist, mother & wife Kristy Robinson Horine has worked as a journalist, studied through the Christian Writers Guild, and is now a freelance journalist. She writes for Kentucky Monthly and has a couple of blogs, A Kentuckian in Paris, and Write One Real Life.

Thanks, Kristy
Thank you, Kristy, for sharing. My mother is struggling more each week with communication, but she has begun to hold and talk to a doll and that seems to comfort her. Perhaps it gives her purpose to care for the “baby.” But each smile whether directed toward me or toward the doll is a moment to appreciate when I visit. As Kristy’s Meme said, you need to see the light.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Imagining Life's Coming Attractions

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. (Robert Frost) 

I love spring. A time when the spring peepers make music so loud that even with the windows closed I can hear them trying to convince some other peepers to be their dates. I like how one week the trees are winter bare and then a couple of weeks later leaves are waving in the breeze. I like how flowers start popping up out of the ground like magic as soon as the sun begins to warm the ground and then seem to grow tall overnight. 

I especially like those flowers that no one planted. That are just there. The wildflowers Mother Nature herself sowed in the woods and fields. Every year they show up again. Sometimes they spread out into bigger patches. Sometimes they shrink back and cling tightly to their little bit of earth and wait for a better year. But they keep blooming without fail. Flowers like the Dutchman's Breeches up above. 

They seem to be proof that, as Robert Frost says, life goes on. And if you look at my picture really closely, you'll see that even as I was taking that photograph, life was going on. A spider, that I surely didn't even notice, was building a web and using one of the blooms as an anchor post. It was paying me no mind. I was paying it no mind. We were just each in our own spring mode.

Life is going on in my work in progress too, but sometimes it seems to be still frozen in the winter of my mind instead of springing forth in the right words. 

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions. (Albert Einstein)

That's where my story is. In my imagination and I'm trying to tell it so that you might make it come to life in your imagination. While Albert Einstein isn't talking about fictional lives, the same can hold true for my characters. If I can imagine it, I can preview their lives' coming attractions. But I have to write it moment by moment or more aptly, scene by scene. Each scene has to flow into the next until the story is told. Because even in a fictional story, life goes on. My story might succeed if I can pull out the right succession of moments.

Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is to succeed. (Corita Kent)

In real life, we can't pick and choose among the moments that make up our stories. We have to live the ones that come to us. But we sometimes can preview our lives by imagining what is to come. 

When I was a kid, I imagined myself married and a mother. I remember the moment when I looked forward to that life with a certain surety. Then I also imagined myself a writer. With a dog by my side. Lots of things have happened that I didn't know to imagine, but those things I imagined true. 

What are some of the things you've imagined that have come to pass in your life?   

Thanks for reading. Check back Sunday for a real treat. I'm having a guest post from someone who writes about her grandmother's struggles with dementia. A beautiful story I know will touch your heart. 
Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is to succeed.

Life is a succession of moments, to live each one is to succeed.