Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Beautiful Day for a Homegoing

A beautiful day for a funeral - you might be wondering if you read that wrong. But that's how the preacher started the funeral service for Darrell's aunt today. Annie Pearl needed a few more weeks to reach her 96th birthday. This picture was taken when she was 91 on one of her rare visits to our house. 

She was a wonderful, loving Christian woman. The kind of woman that you know ran into heaven with the biggest smile ever on her face. Her three older sisters moved on up there ahead of her. Her parents and her husband and her son all already made the journey home. Her closest relative was one beloved granddaughter. She had many nieces and nephews that she enjoyed talking to and hearing about the great nieces and nephews and the great-great ones too. Let me think. There were even some great-great-great nieces and nephews. Families have a way of expanding, but we all could look to Annie Pearl and admire her steadfast faith and courage in facing some extremely hard times in her life. 

She had been married a while before World War II came along, and her husband joined the Army and was shipped overseas. She moved into an apartment and got a job at a factory in town the way so many soldiers' wives did. And then she watched the mailbox for letters. Sometimes they came in bunches and sometimes he got her letters the same way. He was in some of the worst fighting where most of the men in his unit did not return home. That stayed with him the rest of his life. 

Annie told the story about him coming home. She was expecting him on a certain day. She'd rolled up her hair and was planning to have the perfect homecoming for him. But he got an earlier train and got to town in the middle of the night. That was back in the days when front doors weren't all locked and so the hallway door that led up to their apartment was open. He ran up the steps to knock on Annie's door. She always laughed when she told about her hair still being in curlers. I doubt he noticed. 

I used hints of that homecoming story in my new Rosey Corner book, Love Comes Home, that releases July 1. Not the same, but the early arrival part. 

Annie Pearl's "going home" service was lovely as we celebrated this good woman's life. She gained much as she entered her eternal reward. We lost much when she suffered a stroke last week. She wasn't able to speak after that, and slowly she continued to drift away until finally she ran on home to her own special homecoming. 

We'll miss hearing all her great stories about the family. We never listen enough. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Freedom's Price


 Better than honor and glory, and History's iron pen, Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men. ~Richard Watson Gilder


Memorial Day weekend - the weekend that launches summer. Schools are out or will be soon. Seniors are graduating and getting ready to grab life by the horns and see what's next. Some young men and women came to that stage of life during a time of war. Their next thing was joining the military and fighting for freedom and their country. Many gave their all. This sign I saw at the traveling exhibit of the Vietnam War Memorial tells it all. The toll of dead and wounded and missing number in the thousands in every war. 


But a picture like this one brings home that truth in gut wrenching fashion. Row after row of crosses mark the graves of our soldiers who stepped up to the line for their country and did not come home. Tomorrow, Memorial Day, our nation pauses to remember and honor those soldiers.


These heroes are dead. They died for liberty - they died for us. They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars - they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

My father didn't serve in the army. He was exempted from the military in World War II because he was a farmer, but I've known many men, including two of my uncles and two of my husband's uncles, who did serve our country during that war. Then young men of my generation faced the challenge of the Vietnam War and many served with honor and courage. Still now, men and women are putting themselves in harm's way to defend our way of life and fight for freedom. May we ever keep them in our prayers. 

Do you have family members who have served or who are even now part of the military serving our country? 




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On the Hunt for "The End"



One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment. ~Hart Crane

Once more I am searching for the end of a story. Once more it seems to be hiding from me behind a crazy mixture of words that don’t seem to be paving the pathway I need to glide on toward “the end.” Once more I’m feeling the way I did back in 2009 when I wrote this:

It's been a hard work week so far with too many other things I have to do getting in the way of my five pages a day quota to make sure I meet my summer deadline. I've been writing and maybe almost getting my pages, but at the end of the day I sometimes end up thinking that I'm going to have to cut most of those words in the final draft. But I tell myself to just get the words out there where I can cut them or improve them, where I can tell the story I'm trying to tell. In the best way I can.

That’s one of the good things about keeping a writing journal. You can see you’ve been in the same place before. You can see that it wasn’t fatal. The story did get written. You can see that it even got published and people read it. Maybe not as many people as you might hope. Most all writers wouldn’t mind an appearance on the New York Times Bestseller list, but any reader’s list is good too.

I’m not sure which book I was writing in 2009. Maybe The Seeker or The Blessed. I’m almost sure it must have been one of my Shaker books. That’s what I’m searching for the end of once again. A Shaker book. I’m anxious to be at the end. I tremble a bit thinking about reading it over once I find those elusive words for fear I have not written the story I hoped to write when I first typed in the words “Chapter 1” and began.

The post back in 2009 was titled “Making the Words Disappear.” You can click on this link if you want to read the rest of what I wrote then. That is what a writer needs to do - make the words disappear. A writer wants readers to be living the story with the characters and not simply reading about them. Some years ago I was teaching a community ed class on writing and one of the sessions was how to make characters come to life. In the process of searching for something that might keep my wannabe writers interested in this very uneducated in writing processes teacher I searched for inspiring advice from other writers who were more educated in the writing process. One of the things I read that I have never forgotten was a writer saying she wanted to create characters who would crawl up into a reader’s heart and find a home there. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m trying to do with this book as I push my people out on the paths that will help me find an end of the story that will satisfy them and me and you, the reader.

Do the words disappear for you when you’re reading? 
Have you met characters that you invited into your heart and that you remembered long after you came to the end?

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth


Sunday, May 18, 2014

When Depression Turns Deadly


Forty-nine years ago on this date, I lost my beloved aunt, my father's sister. She was like a granny to me and to my sisters. She never married or lived away from her childhood home. She was a devoted daughter who took care of her mother who died when I was very young and then her father who died when I was sixteen.
She loved us girls. Every Friday we walked through the field and along the road over to her house that was maybe a mile from where we lived to spend the night with her. She nearly always had hot dogs for supper when we were there. That was a major treat for us and not something my dad liked so Mom never bought them. We had to make do at home with the beef and pork we raised on the farm. So when you're a kid and rarely get to eat them, hot dogs are a treat. She didn't get too extravagant. She didn't buy buns. We ate the hot dogs on light bread, but that was okay. They were still good. 
We not only got those wieners, but she also bought soft drinks. We could drink one each time we visited. I loved those neat orange crush bottles with all the ridges. Sometimes we got to make black cows - that is, ice cream in coke. I didn't like it all that much, but it sure was fun to make. And she had Wrigley peppermint or spearmint or Juicy Fruit gum. 
She would tell me I was a pretty child. Something I needed to hear when I was young. I loved her so much. 
Sadly, she suffered from periodic episodes of depression. After my grandfather died, she fell into depression again. Meanwhile I had gotten married and for a few months my husband and I lived in one of her upstairs rooms. She was so good to me then, but her depression worsened. So my parents moved in with her to help her and we moved over to their house until she got better. 
Then tragedy struck. She waited until she was alone one day and killed herself. Even now, all these years later, the very thought of that day makes me tremendously sad. I wish I had done so many things differently. And I'm sure the rest of the family felt the same. We had signs. She let the dogcatcher take the little dog she loved. She burned all her journals. Afterwards, I couldn't keep from wondering if I had stayed there with her, she might have believed I needed her and waited. She might have started feeling better. 
She left us a note. She told us how much she loved us. But she was supposed to go to the doctor the next week and the doctor had talked about shock treatments. That's how they treated chronic depression in those days. She could not face that and she was not thinking clearly enough to realize she could refuse that treatment. 
I wrote a little about this once before here back in 2010. My aunt had two peony bushes in her yard and I loved those flowers. They were in bloom when she died and so peonies always make me think of her. You can read about why on this post.
Suicide is a hard death - for the person who is so desperate he or she no longer wants to live and for the family that person leaves behind. Unfortunately, it's way too common. Several of the facts  below describe my aunt's death. Suicide seems to be something we don't like to talk about, but maybe we need to.
1. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year.
2. In the U.S., suicide rates are highest during the spring.
3. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
4. On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
5. Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
6. About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
7. There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
8. Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts.
9. 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year.
10. There are 2 times as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
11. Over 50% of all suicides are completed with a firearm.
(Statistics from DoSomething.org.)
 If your family has ever been touched by the tragedy of suicide, you know that some memories are hard. And regrets are many. Hoping the good memories of your loved one can push aside the sorrow. As I wrote back in 2010, I don't want to dwell on that sad day, but I do want to remember my aunt who loved me well. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ever Dream of Living in a Castle

http://southernguidetolife.com/a-castle-for-sale-in-versailles-kentucky/
A man's house is his castle. ~James Otis

You expect to see horse farms in Kentucky. Or farms with cows grazing on the hillsides. You expect to see small towns and even a few big towns with high rising buildings. What you might not expect to see in Kentucky is a castle. But right here in Central Kentucky in plain view of a major highway between Lexington and Versailles, there sits a castle with stone walls and turrets. 

It's been on the market for a while at a price of 30 million. That includes the 55 acres around it. And the tennis courts and pool inside the walls. Not to mention the basketball court. Of course there are the crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes and marble floors too. And more. Much more. You can see some of the interior rooms at the link under the photo up top. Or here at the Castle Post website

Okay, so now some of you are wondering about a castle in Kentucky. It's got an interesting history. The first builders were a couple who had toured Europe in the 1960s and decided it would be fun to live in a castle. So they came home to Kentucky and began planning and building. The outside walls and turrets were built and some of the castle inside the walls when the dream fell apart and they got divorced. The castle stood that way for years. More the promise of a castle instead of an actual one. Then the owner passed away and the castle was finally sold to new owner, Thomas Post, who set about finishing it. 

The builders were making progress when it caught fire and burned in 2004. Most of us who always took a look over at the castle as we drove by thought that would be the end of a castle in Kentucky. But the owner vowed to rebuild and after several years he opened the Castle Post as a luxury hotel and event site. 

The owner has also generously hosted charity events that opened the doors of the castle to curious local citizens who might never see inside the castle otherwise. Unfortunately, I have never been able to attend one of those events. I've never rented a room there and I won't be making an offer on the castle although my oldest granddaughter used to beg to stop and look through the castle every time she came home with me. She couldn't see why we couldn't just go knock on the drawbridge and be welcomed inside. That was before the new owners turned it into a hotel.

The castle is something of a landmark for us here in Central Kentucky. It's great for directions. You turn by the castle. Or you go so many miles past the castle. And you know, it's just not everywhere here in the states you can drive down the road and look over and see a real honest to gosh castle.  

But I'm happy with my little "castle" out here on the farm. I'll just be content to read a story set in an English castle now and again. Or maybe a story about a Kentucky castle if somebody writes one.

How about you? Have you ever dreamed of living in a castle?  





Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hands On Learning - Experience Not Required



This is the very first picture of me as a mother. I was very young. Seventeen. But I loved that baby from the first moment I knew I was expecting even though it meant my life was going to drastically change. My girlhood days would come to an end and I would have to be an adult. A mother. 

I didn't know anything about being the mother of a baby. I knew my mother. She was a wonderful mother to me, but I was the baby of the family. So while I was fascinated with babies, I had rarely held a baby before my own baby was born. My older sister had a baby a little over a year before I did, but her baby was a mama's girl and didn't take to other people holding her. So I had mostly smiled and played with her without picking her up. I was afraid I wouldn't know what to do if she cried. Actually, I do know what I would have done if she cried. I would have handed her off to her mother or my mother.

But suddenly (9 months can feel sudden sometimes) I was a mother. A baby boy was dependent on me for care. I had to hold him and keep him fed and dry and smiling if I could. I had to rock him through stuffy noses and teething and nights when he wouldn't sleep. Besides that, I had to put meals on the table and keep our old farmhouse relatively clean. I had to wash clothes and diapers and try to figure out how to treat diaper rash.

The one thing I didn't have to figure out was how to love him. That was with my whole heart. And somehow I stumbled along and with the help of my husband and my mother who was always ready with the answers I needed about what a mother should do, I managed to raise a wonderful son. Not quite two years later, my daughter came along and then some years after than, my youngest son. By then, I felt like an old hand at being a mom. 

But the first baby, it was all hands on learning. In spite of my inexperience, he turned out all right. Well, better than all right. He was a wonderful son and still is. Now he's a great husband and father too. Here we are probably when he was a senior in high school.



You know what got me through. Mother love. Mine for him and my mother's for me because she was always ready to help. She never said I was too young although she probably thought it. She was my rock when I needed someone to lean on. I treasure the days we spent together when my kids were little. A good time for me. A good time for them. A good time for Mom. And she loved my grandkids too. Here she is with my two oldest grandkids about twelve years ago.
 
Mom doesn't remember those times now. But I believe they are still part of her and at times the echoes of their happiness brings a smile to her face even if she can't remember what is being echoed in her heart. 

I put this quote I really liked in our church bulletin today. "My mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune." (Graycie Harmon)

That's Mom - remembering the tune of a loving mother even though she has forgotten the words. 

Did you know all about babies when you first became a mother? Or were you like me and had to learn on the motherhood job?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

If You Had Your Life to Live Over


"If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies." (Nadine Stair)

Have you ever thought about what you might do differently if you had your life to live over? Or maybe what you want to do in the days you have left? 

One time at a writers' retreat we were challenged to dream big and set goals for ourselves. What did we want to happen in the year ahead in our writing careers? I came up with a couple of big dreams. Neither thing happened that year or since. They are still dreams. 

Then, when I think about having over twenty-five of my books published, that would have been a really big dream for me when I started writing many years ago. But now sometimes I look back and wonder if I could have done this or that differently. Perhaps written more books or better books. At the same time, I feel blessed that I have been able to write some stories that have kept people reading. To have created some characters readers have invited into their hearts. 


We lost one of our church people this week. He had a good long life, but his family will miss him. Attending a funeral can make a person think about her own numbered days and wonder. Am I taking advantage of the blessings the Lord has showered down on me? What would I go back in time and do differently if I could? Would I lie in the grass and not worry about chiggers while I celebrated spring? Would I plant more flowers and eat more strawberries straight from the vine? Would I make more time away from my keyboard for family and friends? Would I take more time to listen and use less time talking? Would I cherish the moments and not rush the days? 

Regrets are useless. We can't go back. We can only live forward. Perhaps the thing we all need to do most is look around and enjoy the journey. 

What would you do differently if you could live your life over?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Procrastination - The Thief of Time

I knew I should have done it yesterday!!
Procrastination is the thief of time. ~Edward Young

Do you put things off? Even things you really want to do? I've been struggling with that while trying to finish the first draft of my work in progress. I want to write it. I really do. And I am writing it, but what seems at a snail's pace. It's time I hit the homestretch with a burst of speed, but instead procrastination is popping up like dandelions. I like dandelions better. 

How do I procrastinate? Let me count the ways. There are hundreds of them. But I can take solace in the fact that I'm far from the only person who has a tendency to put things off. Procrastination is a basic human impulse and a lot of us humans give in to it from time to time. Some of us more times than others. The word comes from a Latin term meaning "put off until tomorrow." 

Oh, how easy it is to put off until tomorrow! Tomorrow I'll have more time. Tomorrow I'll see the next scene more clearly. Tomorrow the day will somehow stretch and add those extra hours I need to get this writing done. 

Procrastination has been around for as long as there have been people. When you're self-employed, as I am, then you can get extremely good at procrastination. You set your work time. You can break your work times. That's not to indicate that self-employed people don't work hard. Most of the ones I know - whether they're writers, beauticians, car repair people, yard care workers, lawyers, or you name it job - they all work very hard and long hours. 

Plus, we can procrastinate about things other than our jobs. We procrastinate about washing those windows or cleaning out the refrigerator or weeding the garden or whatever chore. I'm sure you can come up with lots of things we put off. Even things like going to the dentist or to get our eyes checked. Things we shouldn't put off. Tomorrow, we'll do it. Next week for sure. Or we'll have more time this summer. Then, maybe in the fall. 

If you want to read a more detailed examination of why we procrastinate, here's a link to an article "Later" on the New York Times site. Some interesting theories and facts there. 

Of course the internet is a great procrastinating tool. There are even applications and software now that you can download to block the internet for a specific amount of time so that you CAN'T procrastinate by checking e-mails or surfing for that one more fact that you just have to know before you can write the next scene. I haven't downloaded any of them. I think I should be able to just use self-discipline, but then the phone will make that little bing that says I have a new e-mail. And while I'm looking at that, I'd better see what's going on over on my Facebook page. And is there a new review on one of my books? Or maybe I'd better pay those bills before they're overdue. Or take Oscar for a walk. Or it could be I just need to organize my pencils here on my desk. I wrote a post here a few years ago about sharpening pencils to delay the start of work.

On top of all those type of reasons for not getting the work I need to do done are the interruptions I have to allow in my day. A call about Mom. A visit to see about her. The church bulletin to do. Birthday gifts to buy. Blogs to write. All important things, but I don't need to use them to delay writing my book. Sometimes that's what I do. Just use them to put off the hard work of writing the next scene. 

So are you a procrastinator? Or what ways have you come up with to keep yourself on task?

Here's a quote I found out on the internet. I promise I wasn't procrastinating. I was looking for something I needed. Honest.

"I am taking care of my procrastination problem. You just wait and see." I think that means I'll get it done tomorrow. LOL.