Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Ready for Some Fun? Here's a Contest For You!

It’s that time of year. Back-to-School time. Want to have a little fun?

Thank You Pixabay!
Well, remember when you entered your high school English class and saw a writing prompt scrawled across the blackboard? 

Okay, maybe that wasn’t all that much fun. You knew your teacher was going to make you write about your summer vacation, right?

But the simple truth is this: Getting your brain muscle active with any sort of writing exercise engages your thinking in a new way. It can help you reset your the ol' mindset, get you refocused on problem solving, and give your brain a much needed rest from other work or issues. I have an idea but I would never ask you to write about your summer vacation. I am so beyond that. Never would I ask my readers to write something so lame.

So…the teacher in me coupled with the writer in me came up with something a bit different.

I love Yankee Candles. The store selling them smells wonderful. One thing I’ve found myself doing from time to time when I shop there is to think of stories to go with the interesting names of the candles. 

I’ve often thought I should tell the Yankee Candle Company some of my ideas, using the candle names as the titles of the stories. Of course I never have. Which brings us to this back-to-school type post.
Picture By Pixabay

Writing prompts can take all shapes and sizes. I selected a few names of Yankee Candles for us to use. Here’s an example: Coconut Splash. I’ve decided this is a sweet romance that takes place one summer at the ocean. A girl from Ohio goes with her family to West Palm Beach, Florida to spend time with her grandparents. Life in the retirement community is not exactly all she hoped for when the family started out… until the tall and good-looking grandson of one of the community residents comes to help his grandfather. Of course in my story he and the girl meet and date (at least for the summer) before school starts and both have to head home. Okay, it may have a “Gidget” sort of feel (if you’re old enough to remember her), but you get the idea. 

Here’s where you come in…
I’m going to give you a few Yankee Candle names from which to choose to use as the title of your story. Craft a short story: No more than 1500 words. The story must be a “clean read” (family friendly) and at least mention some sort of candle in it. Make every word count to tell your story. You have two weeks. Send me your story by Friday, September 6th. I’ll choose one story as a winner. What will you win? An Amazon gift card and I will publish your story on my blog along with your bio. Anyone can enter, both novice and experienced writers. Note: I reserve the right to edit but if I do, I’ll send any changes to you for your approval if you are selected.

Rules:
1.        Choose one of these Yankee Candle Names as Your Title 
A Calm and Quiet Place 
Midnight Jasmine
Seaside Woods
Garden by the Sea
Lemongrass and Ginger

2.        Craft a clean read story in any genre you like. (sweet romance, suspense, mystery, historical, sci-fi, etc.)

3.        Your story must not exceed 1500 words.

4.        Be sure you include a candle (of any sort) in your story.

5.        Proofread and edit your work before submitting.

6.        Send your story to me at rwaters.author@gmail.com on or by Friday, September 6.

7.        The winner will be notified by email at which time I will ask for your author bio.


8.        Most of all...have fun with this!

Ready…Set…Write!

By the way, if my teacher had given me a few different topics for my summer vacation?  Something along the lines of...

"I found a Genie in a bottle on the beach and she granted me these three wishes." 
"The most boring week of my summer vacation was..."
"If I had my summer to relive, I would..."
or
"My alien encounter..."

Want to Become a Published Author? Check out this ebook from the Writing to Publish Series: Writing With E's. Available on Amazon CLICK HERE.











Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Mark Time...It's a Band Term...and Life

This boy. This man. My oldest grandson will graduate from high school this year. I was privileged to tag along with him and my daughter to a photo shoot for his senior pictures. 

J.T. 
The “T” is after his grandpa, Thomas. He’s like him in many ways. He’s thoughtful and kind. And he’s smart. Both of J.T.’s parents are like that, but when I see this man-child, I see bits and pieces of Tom. 

J.T. was the first of our grands. Tom and I couldn’t stay away. We would head to our daughter and son-in-law’s house the minute we were off of work. It was J.T.’s arrival that revealed Tom was a baby-hog. He never changed. As each little one arrived, he was quick to grab the baby out of my arms or whoever was cuddling the child when Tom came on the scene. I understood. And while J.T,’s parents had to worry over feedings and diapers and such, Tom and I took our job of  “drinking in the moments” quite seriously.

It was like that at this photo shoot. My youngest daughter was the photographer. While she was busy framing the shots, my other daughter was attending to details like straightening J.T.’s collar. My job was to keep an eye on two of my granddaughters while their mother worked behind the camera. And capture a few moments of my own.

Like this one…



J.T. was taking a break. I look at him and see that little baby I once held in my arms. Then he was looking at my face. Now he is looking forward to a new chapter in his young life. In a few days he will start his senior year of high school. It’s a milestone and he knows it. On the other end of the platform is my youngest granddaughter. She’s gearing up for first grade, happy to finally be in “real school” like her sister. And the distance between the two? Not all that far…or long, actually. Not in space...or time.

And there were other “behind the scenes” shots I’ll treasure. J.T. is tall, like his grandfather; taller than his mom and aunt. He’s taller than all of his family. I watched as my oldest daughter supported her sister resting halfway up a wall like spider woman to get a better angle for a picture.


And I watched as my oldest granddaughter helped my youngest granddaughter learn how to play a game to keep her entertained. Sisters supporting sisters –it’s a theme of family life. 


J.T. was a good sport as we fussed over him, had him change his shirt, hold his trumpet, shift his weight, look one direction then the other. It was a good day. A day filled with laughter and memories. And I couldn’t help but think as we piled back in J.T.’s car for him to drive us home that getting your first car and losing your first tooth have a lot in common. 

For some, the events simply mark the passage of time but for most of us they mark the beginning of new adventures. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Reinvent? Redefine? Revise? Refine?- Living Life to the Fullest

I’m often asked to speak for church events, women’s organizations, and book clubs. This next month I have two local speaking engagements. One group has asked me to offer a talk about living in Kosovo. I love to talk about my stint in the Balkan country. 


The other group has asked me to speak about how I’ve reinvented myself after age fifty-five. I’ve been giving that one a lot of thought. I suppose I see myself as an unfinished novel. Like the characters in my books, my life is always being revised; sometimes by choices I make and other times by events I never saw coming.

I know the group’s leader, Connie, wants me to share how I made a decision to become a published author. We talked about it. I’ve often shared on this blog how I researched the writing world and how I created a rather crude business plan to move from being a professor at a college to a novelist.  I had prayed about what I would do when Tom and I left our jobs. The decision to move to Kosovo was more a part of the healing process God had in store for me after Tom died. Not so much a piece of reinventing myself as it was a part of refining me in my new role as Tom’s widow. Through that move, God showed me I still had something to offer. 

Many people think of retirement as a time to slow down, Sleep in late, and play more golf. But we’re not wired that way. We are happiest when we are productive and when we are able to contribute. Even Tom, who claimed he was going to golf and fish everyday once he retired, taught a biomechanics class each February in Trinidad, acted as a consultant to others, and continued to author research papers. He couldn’t help it. It was something he loved to do. 

My brother-in-law who worked for the telephone company works harder now that he’s retired. He helps rebuild homes and serves on mission trips. He is at this very moment (as I type this) in Panama City Beach, Florida, assessing damage remaining from Hurricane Michael. He’s helping make arrangements for a team of volunteers to serve the people still devastated by the storm’s destruction. In his “down time” he helps my niece with her business.

I have friends at church who spend more time volunteering than they ever did at work. They learn new skills and stretch themselves. And then there’s Charles and Debbie. They’ve kicked this attitude of service up a notch. Charles is the pastor of my Florida church. He was a year behind me in high school. He and Debbie have raised their family, served the church and worked in various areas. Now, yes, now as they are approaching retirement, they have become foster parents. We all know parenting is a 24/7 endeavor. 

As Charles explains it, there is a crisis in the foster care system. He and Debbie have the energy, experience, and time. They’re investing themselves in toddlers who need to be loved. These little ones need care –physical and emotional care.

Reinventing? Refining? Revising? Redefining? Whatever you call it, life is an ongoing process. And those who are the happiest are the ones not standing still in the middle of it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

First Man...Not Man First

I recently went to see the movie First Man based on the lunar landing and astronaut Neil Armstrong. I invited my family and some friends to go with me. In the end, my mom and I went alone to see the film. What intrigued me more than the movie was the response one of my friends offered by way of declining. He wasn’t interested in the notion of space exploration and thought money had been wasted on the whole endeavor. I don’t agree, but I understand his point of view. It was a staggering budget. 

There are Benefits of the Space Race.
I was quick to point out that outcomes of conquering the final frontier continue to serve us today. After all, we have microwaves and computers because of the NASA challenge. Transistor radios (if you’re old enough to remember them) were a direct outgrowth of research in space technology. There are hundreds of products and conveniences we enjoy every day because of the science and technology poured into NASA.  

I also cited the urgency the Americans felt to conquer space and rule over it largely because  of what we knew as the Cold War. When Russia launched the satellite Sputnik only a dozen years after the end of WWII, the United States was…had to be…on guard. The perception was simply that whoever controlled space, controlled the world.

Enough History.
After we talked, I thought of lessons learned (and taught) about child development. Urie Bronfenbrenner who was, curiously enough, a Russian born American psychologist, studied children’s social and emotional development. His work makes sense to us. In essence Bronfenbrenner spoke of social systems that shape our development. Our parents and family provide those first constructs and then our world expands to include friends and school and church. As our world expands, we learn and grow. Our understanding of how the world works changes with our experiences. 

Where am I going with this?
World events occurring at significant points in our lives shape our thinking forever. For example, my parents were young during the Great Depression. But that historic time induced them to be ever conservative. My mom still says, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” It is in direct conflict with our current “everything is disposable or can be easily replaced” mindset. World War II also shaped my parents view of the political climate and how it influenced their lives and future. The fears of communism potentially leading to World War III helped fund the race for space. 

My generation was shaped by the Space Age. Nothing was beyond us. We could conquer anything. It is a spirit of both “American know-how” and adventure. We embraced the possibilities of technology. My husband and I had those transistor radios “glued to our ears.” My mother-in-law used to fuss at Tom to “put that thing away while we eat.” (Sound familiar?) 

For graduate school, Tom traded in his slide rule for a calculator. We didn’t have the more than a hundred dollars it cost, but his mother bought it for him as a college graduation present. Yes, I said more than one hundred dollars for an instrument that could perform fewer functions than one you can pick up for ten bucks at a back-to-school sale today. 

Tom and I were the first people in the neighborhood to buy a home computer. A Commodore 64. I still have it. We also were the first people in our group of friends and family to own a video camera. It isn’t that we were flashy or flush with money.  We were neither. We were children of the space age and we were intrigued with all the possibilities. Possibilities made available through the space program.

My children and ultimately my grandchildren’s lives are forever shaped by the events of 9/11. It is a social-historical event that reaches deep into our thinking and way of life. My grandchildren will never know what it’s like to arrive at the airport ten to fifteen minutes before a flight and race to grab the seat assigned. They are learning what I call “airport culture”:a new way of life that includes hours at the airport and careful planning to make the time advantageous. 

And now instead of time on the family computer, they are reaping the benefits of “individualized” technology. The readily available hand-held technological devices threaten to make them more isolated at the very point in history where they are learning, we hope, how to be more inclusive. 

I think it is the book of Ecclesiastes where King Solomon writes “there is nothing new under the sun.” (By the way, I think Ecclesiastes reads like a sleepless night.) So while I may fret over my grandchildren and long for them to know a quieter, slower paced life, I also look forward to the next adventure. No matter the outcome I pray it will be the one that defines them in a most positive way and always has them–looking up.




Wednesday, July 24, 2019

It Started With A Pencil



Last week I wrote how although I was looking for a pencil, I wound up cleaning out a small drawer in my kitchen. I call it the junk drawer. If you didn’t catch that post, you can read it by clicking HERE. 

Since that post, I’ve reorganized my pantry and completed the huge…let me restate that…HUGE job of cleaning and organizing my office. It was as if de-cluttering that one drawer flipped a switch in my brain and set me on fire to take care of other areas of my life.

Now those of you who read my blog because you want to strengthen your own writing, hang in there. Those of you who enjoy a peek into my crazy life, hold on. Here it is. And I think the two go hand in hand.

I like to think (or at least placate myself with this notion) …where was I? Oh yes, I like to think creative people are often surrounded by a mess. Where the artist has spilled paint everywhere, paint brushes, sketches, and canvas strewn about, the writer has a plethora of post-it notes on walls and computer screens, endless reams of paper, countless pens, calendars and planners, and folders filled with story ideas (the equivalent of the artist’s sketches).

It shouldn’t be. I complete most of my writing on the computer yet I collect notepads and paper as if stockpiling for when the government decides to ration such necessities. I can’t pass up a free pen or a pad of sticky notes. 

I can almost understand those stationary store type items surfacing in my office. They are, after all, at least related to the work I do. But while tackling my office this week I found at least three paper napkins with ideas written on them for stories. I have a church bulletin insert with a scene for a past book written on it in the margin of the sermon notes I’d taken. Sorry, pastor, I may have not been fully engaged in the sermon that day. I found books I’ll never read and four canvas bags…with nothing in them.

I found artifacts from writing conferences, a roll of tape missing since Christmas and a sweet note written to me by my granddaughter when I was living in Kosovo. She sent it to me via her mother. It included a “mood ring.”  Nora instructed me to put it on and it would change color according to my attitude. Or as she wrote, my “atutood.”

You think I digress? Not at all. You see, now that I’ve reclaimed my office; now that I’ve appropriately filed the papers I’m keeping, shredded old documents, and filled trash bags with scraps of paper I’ll never need or use, my attitude has changed. I don’t need a ring to tell me that. 


I’m writing unfettered. My daily word count has increased. My next book is moving along swiftly as if the story unfolds itself each morning beneath my fingertips. And here’s the biggie: When I leave the office, I’m done. I don’t have this cloud hanging over me that I should be working. The work for the day is finished. The clear writing environment allows for that to happen. I have no distractions. I have no concerns that I should be doing something else in my office. My office is for writing. And I love it




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Junk Drawer

Does everyone have a  junk drawer?


I have one in my kitchen. It’s the place I put things that are useful but odd. I keep random pencils and pens there. A ruler, matches, and maybe a rubber band or two I pull off the newspaper. It’s where I go when I need scissors. I keep a screwdriver there; the kind you can change the head for different projects. It proves handy because then I don’t have to run out to the garage for a small project.

I think I’ve had such storage in every house I’ve occupied. If I didn’t have a drawer it was a basket on the counter or a small box on a shelf. There is value in having a junk drawer. Maybe.

The other day I needed a pencil so rather than go to my office, I decided to save time by grabbing one out of the kitchen junk drawer. 

Big mistake. The drawer has become a catchall. I started clawing through the mass of outdated coupons, batteries, a baggie with extra cabinet hinges, and pens. I found an old solar calculator I never use, a spool of red twine and the tape measure I’d been looking for since March.

I found a miniature toy truck that needs work, two padlocks with keys in a baggie, and a golf ball. There were three of those plug-in air fresheners but I’m pretty sure you can’t buy the refills anymore. 

I found markers, a pocket sized level and a baggie with allergy pills in it. There were several business cards stuck in the front. That is highly unusual because I have a special place for business cards in my desk.  (I’ve always kept them together since watching an episode of Dick Van Dyke as a kid…the one where Rob and Laura need to find a painter for their house and Laura pulls out a stack of business cards she’s kept together over the years.)

I could account for nearly every item. But I wasn’t sure why I stuffed a large purple ribbon in the drawer and why I kept a random church bulletin there. It wasn’t even from my church. 

I pulled everything out and spent an hour organizing it. 

Yes, I did find a pencil. The tip was broken. It didn’t matter. I forgot what I wanted to do with it anyway.

At least I ridded my kitchen of the clutter. I’ve always said there are two things that make you tired and rob you of time: clutter and procrastination. 

Case in point. Please tell me I’m not alone. Do you have a random storage area? Are you brave enough to share your own “junk drawer” experience?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Meet Sonja, Fish Creeks Newest Resident

While reading an article sharing fun blog posts, one woman suggested authors should try interviewing characters from their books. Intriguing. I hope you’ll bear with me as I give it a try. I’ve created here a radio journalist to interview the main character of Libby's Cuppa Joe, Sonja. Thank you to my friend, Geoff Fuller for lending his name to my radio personality.

Ready? Here goes…and be sure to let me know what you think.

Geoff Fuller: First let me welcome you to Door County, Sonja. I understand you’re from California. That’s a big move.

Sonja Parker: Well, yes, but I’m originally from Wisconsin. I took a job in California when I graduated from college, but I grew up in Kenosha. 

Geoff: What made you choose Door County?

Sonja: My family spent a lot of vacation time in Door County and every year we came for the Pumpkin Festival in Egg Harbor.

Geoff: So have you been here during what we call “the season”?

Sonja: We visited some during the summer, but more often we came the week after Easter or in the fall. I’ve always loved Door County.

Geoff: Were you in the coffee shop business in California?

Sonja:  (laughs) No. Actually, in California I worked in a logistics. We distributed faucets and the like, but I majored in business administration and minored in entrepreneurship in college. 

Geoff: That leads me to ask, why a coffee shop?

Sonja: Well, I always wanted to own my own business. My dad owns his own landscaping business in Kenosha. I guess it’s in my blood. Then, when Libby’s Cuppa Joe became available, I could see all of the possibilities. 

Geoff: Possibilities. Does that mean you see changes to Libby’s in the future? And by the way it’s good to see you didn’t change the name. Libby’s Cuppa Joe has been a part of the Fish Creek landscape as long as I can remember.

Sonja: Yes, I am keeping the name and of course I plan to continue to offer a great cup of coffee, but eventually I do hope to add a few specialty coffees to the list as well. 

Geoff: Well the folks here are happy to see Libby’s Cuppa Joe reopening. 

Sonja: Thank you, Geoff, I am very excited to be here. Door County is the gem of Wisconsin. Living and working here is a dream come true.

Geoff: Folks in Door County, Libby’s Cuppa Joe will be open for local traffic from 8 in the morning until noon weekdays starting in March and will officially open for the vacation season in May. You can read more about Sonja, the business and get the full scoop by purchasing Libby’s Cuppa Joe by Rebecca Waters. Now available through Amazon or your local Barnes and Noble.

Well, there you have it. What do you think? What else do you want to know about Sonja that isn’t in the book? By the way, if you haven’t read the book yet, grab your today.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE BOOK AND READ THE FIRST CHAPTER.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Ah...Summer? No. Argh, Summer!

This little guy doesn't
seem to mind the heat!
I must not complain about the sweltering, energy draining, oppressive heat we are experiencing in southern Ohio right now. I can’t. I complained when we had cold, gloomy days in winter. I longed for endless sunshine during those short days of January and February.

I remember clearly in March and April and well into May when I grumbled about the constant dark clouds and torrential rains. During that time I thumbed through back issues of Southern Living dreaming of the garden I would plant when the sun began to shine. I had visions of summer when I would lounge on the deck sipping sweet tea while enjoying an array of colorful flowers.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy the crisp air of a wintry day. I love the clean look of the soft snow covering bumps and flaws in my yard. I enjoy sitting by the fire and reading a good book. Winter can be beautiful.

And the spring rain? The sound of a thunderstorm is in many ways restful and welcome. Unless of course it goes on so many days the ground is saturated and the fear of flooding seeps into my thoughts late at night. 

Summer has at last arrived. Not as I imagined it, though. My air conditioner is working overtime. I plan the mowing of my lawn in segments. I mow the back yard in the morning before the sun is high in the sky (though not too early so I won’t disturb my neighbors) and the front yard in the evening hours as the sun begins its descent westward.

I water the flowers and vegetables I planted and pray they’ll make it. 

I MUST NOT COMPLAIN
ABOUT THE HEAT!
Instead of sitting on the deck reading or listening to music or painting (all part of my wintertime fantasy about this season), I find projects in my basement to keep me busy. The basement is the coolest part of my house.

The thing is, it feels like the middle of August instead of the first week of July. But I remind myself…I must not complain.

I know I’m not alone. Is it that we are never satisfied? Is it that we are always looking ahead? Or behind?

Or is it quite simply…the weather? I'm not sure. All I know is that I'm dreaming of autumn.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

He Said, She Said...Now I Know Why

Have you ever played out a conversation in your mind? You know. You have to talk with someone at work about an issue and you practice what you’ll say. You anticipate how he or she will respond. Then you think of what you’ll say next and so forth. Of course in real life the other person doesn’t always play his or her part the way you expected at all.

Or how about this one? You’re going to meet someone you admire so you try to think of something clever to say. Something memorable. 

Or maybe you replay a verbal encounter you had with someone and think about all of the things you could have or should have said. You rewrite the dialogue in your head. You rewrite it to win your case or to make you look better.

We all do it. Some more than others. 

Tom Thought With His Head...
I Tend to Think With My Heart
For example, when I had an idea about…well, anything…I would rehearse how to present it to Tom. You see, although Tom and I were pretty good at talking things through, I knew better than to suggest something in such a way as to elicit a yes or no response. He might say, “No” and that would be the end of it. 

We thought differently. For a long time, I thought there was Tom’s way of thinking and the right way of thinking. He was always so logical. 

His first responses came from the top of his head. Mine came from the bottom of my heart.

I’ve since learned that men simply think differently than women do –for the most part. I think God makes us that way so we can have some sort of balance in our problem solving. We need both ways. 

Although we often found some middle ground, sometimes we went with Tom’s approach and other times we went with mine. In the end, everything seemed to work out fine.

 I still have challenges. I have problems to solve and around-the-house items to fix. I find myself taking more time to figure things out. I try to think how Tom might respond to a problem or situation. I can almost hear the dialogue in my head. 

And sometimes I still disagree with his approach. I do it my way. If it works, I’m in the clear. If it doesn’t I quickly backpedal and try it the way he would have done in the first place. 

Perhaps one of the reasons I like writing is because I can create the dialogue I want without argument. My characters may act out or pose a differing viewpoint, but with a good strong flick of the pen I can generally bring them around to my way of thinking. 

I’m grateful for Tom showing me a different way of seeing life. I trust that experience brings depth and a genuine feel to my characters. I’ve enjoyed a few good conversations with male friends since Tom died. Now I know to appreciate them –though I’ll likely still follow my heart in the end.







Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Little Spunk and a Whole Lot of Resiliency

This week I had someone tell me I have “spunk and resiliency.” 
Seriously. An image of me as Katharine Hepburn came to mind. 

“Oh my…that is a frightful thought, now isn’t it?” 

Young Hepburn
Free Image From Pixabay
(Looks More Like Audrey than Katharine)

Then I looked up spunk and resiliency in the dictionary. 

The informal definition says spunk refers to courage and determination. Another definition says it applies to someone willing to take on a daunting task with energy and conviction.

Resiliency refers to the ability to be happy or successful again after a person has gone through a difficult time or experience.

Do those words really apply to me? 

This week marks one year since I returned from Europe. I took stock. Since my return I’ve built three dollhouses for my granddaughters, had knee surgery, installed a kitchenette in my basement (more about that in a later post), and pitched a proposed series to a major publishing house. 

Spunk? Maybe.

I’ve also taken on shoveling snow in the winter and mowing the lawn now that the weather is warm. I’m learning how to use Tom’s tools on an as needed basis.
Launch of Libby's Cuppa Joe

I’ve hosted dinners and brunches for friends and family. I’ve entertained people in my home and opened my doors to a family reunion. I’ve celebrated holidays and held my annual caroling party. I’ve played with my grandchildren and traveled with my daughters and my mother. 

I launched Libby’s Cuppa Joe and finished writing the first of a three book series. I’m now on book two.

Resiliency? I guess. 

So where does that come from? It isn’t my own invention. It is something of a legacy handed down to me by my parents. 

My Mom and Dad Modeled Spunk and Resiliency!
My mom, the middle of seven children, was the first in her family to graduate from high school and the only one to continue her education. Then she set off to see the world. She started that journey in Ohio where she met my dad.

My dad joined the US Navy and was the only one in his family to serve. He worked hard and boldly started several businesses, all of which were successful. 

When I was four-years-old, my parents left behind all they knew to move to Arizona. The doctor said it was the best way to treat my asthma. They didn’t know anyone who lived there. They had no idea where they would live. Dad left a good job in Ohio with no promise of work in Tucson.

The move was a success. My breathing improved and my parents carved out a good life while we lived there.

I've always described my parents as “positive thinkers.” Maybe that’s the best definition for both spunk and resiliency.

So maybe those are the words to describe me after all. I am a positive thinker. 
One Year Ago This Week I Returned From Kosovo

The thing is, though, I don’t feel all that spunky. And resilient? To my thinking, I just keep plugging along. Doing my best. 

But then maybe that’s all Katharine did, too. I’ll take “spunk” and “resiliency.” It sure beats “wimpy” and “stuck.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Good Sons, Good Men.

L-R Brian, Me, and Walt: Cousins
I had the privilege of spending some time this week with a couple of cousins I really never knew. Our fathers were first cousins. Actually, they were double first cousins. My grandmother was a Kadle who married a Williams and their grandmother was a Williams who married a Kadle. A brother and sister married a sister and brother. 

Confused? Don’t worry. It was all on the up and up.

Our paths likely crossed through the years at family reunions and funerals but I can’t say “the boys” and I really played together or ever had a meaningful conversation. Our parents stayed in touch, though. When my parents moved back to Ohio, they reconnected with my dad’s cousins. They went to Lake Cumberland together and occasionally shared a meal.

A few years ago, the younger of the two brothers and I became Facebook friends. Brian and I share a love for family history. Although both Brian and Walt live “out west,” I knew they faithfully visited their mother after their father died. I knew they supported her when she remarried. I watched on Facebook as they travelled to be with her when her health was failing. I mourned with them from afar as they buried their mother last fall.

They have been good sons.

This week they were faced with the daunting task of going through her house; making decisions about what to do with her things. They are spending the week sorting, packing, cleaning, and reliving a life well lived. 

My mother and I offered what little help we could. 

I’ve walked a similar road. When Tom died I did nothing at first with his things. It was hard to let go. Eventually, I offered some of his clothes to my sons-in-law. I gave some of his better shoes to my grandson and made sure each of my grandsons had at least one of his ties.  

The Kadle Boys Childhood Home
I couldn’t, for whatever reason, dump his things in a Goodwill bin. It felt disrespectful. I know Goodwill does good things, but they seemed like a “middle man” to get to the people I knew could use his shirts and pants and suits. When it came time to clear out the closet, I donated his good clothes left there to a homeless shelter. Helping others in need was part of Tom’s DNA. 

(Okay, true confession: A few of Tom's favorite shirts continue to have a place in my closet. But I digress.)

Brian lives in New Mexico and Walt lives in Arizona. It isn’t like they can make a couple of trips back and forth with a few boxes on the front seat of their car. And they don’t need most of the kitchen things. They held tight to the photos and those items steeped in childhood memories but gave other things to family members and friends who had a use for them. 

And they had a “yard sale.” Oh, it wasn’t like any yard sale I’ve ever seen. There were no prices on anything. If someone offered them a dollar or two for an item, they accepted it, but if the person obviously liked something and it was out of their price range, no problem. Brian and Walt would give it to them.

I watched as a little girl from a few houses away eyed a doll. Brian showed her how the doll transformed to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The little girl was delighted. “How many monies is the doll?” she asked. Before Brian could answer, the child’s mother said, “We just walked down here. I don’t have any money on me. I’ll have to go back to the house for it.” Brian squatted down and looked at the little girl eye-to-eye. He put the doll in her arms. “I think you should have this doll,” he said. 

I watched time and again as the men gave things to people stopping by. A few things they sold, pricing them well below any sort of “fair market value.” Why? Because they aren’t greedy. The way they handled themselves through this most difficult time actually honored their parents. 

The things their mother and father valued, they value. Those items that still have life and use in them will continue to be used by others in the neighborhood. They’re donating other things to community centers and gifting treasures to members of the family.

You see, Brian and Walt aren’t just good sons. They’re good men. And I’m honored to call them family.

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided for them but for the feeling that you cherished them. --Richard Evans

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

We Are All A Work In Progress

WIP…Work In Progress. 

A work in progress. We’re all there. Trying to figure out life and our role in it. Trying to be a little bit better as a human each day. Just as writers craft and draft a story then spend countless hours revising it and editing it to make it a little better, we do the same with our lives. 

Two of My Grands Figuring Out Life
Childhood resembles that first draft stage where we try many things as we discover what works best for us. I’ve watched as my children and now my grandchildren discover their gifts and talents. Childhood is that time to explore the world and get to know the people in it. We discover the ways in which we differ from others and, hopefully, the many ways we are the same. It’s also the time we learn to be kind and helpful to people around us.

As my oldest grandson enters his last year of high school, he is visiting colleges and determining which one will help him take his strengths to the next level. Education is definitely a state of revision. It’s where our thinking is challenged and we learn to articulate who we are and what we want to do in life with skill and accuracy. Mostly. 

We change. The characters in our personal story change over time. I went from being only a daughter to also being a wife and then a mother and now a grandmother. I was once defined only as a teacher or professor but now I’m a writer. Even my titles changed. Miss Williams to Mrs. Waters to Dr. Waters. And with each new role or experience, the main character in my story has added some new dimension to who she is and what she can do. 

And even though I don’t care for the term, I am unwillingly now a widow. That characterization brings with it significant changes to what I can or cannot do as my story continues to unfold. 

Through it all, I claim God as the author of my life and try to follow His writing of it, I know that I have it within me to determine if I am going to be a protagonist or antagonist. I choose protagonist. Hands down.

But editing? I’m pretty sure that is a lifelong venture.

Yep, when I started to write this post, I thought I would return to the subject of writing. I intended to tell my readers about my current WIP. I was going to tell you about the sweet romance series I’m crafting that takes place in Florida. I call it the Azalea Lakes Series and it has three books in it.

Then my daughter sent me the picture I featured here of my granddaughters sitting by a frozen lake in the mountains. Who knows what they’re talking about? All I know is that they’re in this place called childhood…in the beginning stages of a first draft.

Do leave a comment. I so enjoy hearing from my readers. Where are you in your story?


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Broken, Chipped, and Beautiful

The beginning of summer. 

I’ve longed for this time of year. As spring ended and summer was on the horizon, I spent a couple of weeks at the beach. The ocean is always a source of energy for me. Energy and renewal. 

I love the way the ocean is ever changing, yet always constant. 

The tides continually roll in and out with the soothing rhythm that lulls you to sleep at night and beckons you to chase the sun during the day.

I used to think people were like the ocean…always moving, ever changing, learning to go with the flow…

But this trip, I came to realize we are much more like the seashells we find along the shore. The waves of life sometimes knock us down or carry us places we never thought to go. Sometimes those waves serve to polish us and make us something beautiful or useful. 

Other times we wind up broken or at least a bit chipped. 

 Broken, Chipped & Beautiful
I used to always search the sand for the “perfect” shells. The unbroken, colorful, and shiny artifacts of a life once lived. But now I’ve come to appreciate the imperfect. The broken and interesting forms of a shell that once housed a living creature; A shell that traveled miles upon miles before being tossed at my feet. Or under them…broken and reshaped into the soft white sand squishing between my toes. 

I walk along the water’s edge and pick up bits and pieces of the ocean’s treasures. As I look at the fragments in my hand, I realize what I’m drawn to time and again is the core. The innermost core of a beautiful shell. 

The evidence of inner strength.

Perhaps that is what I embrace when I’m at the ocean. That inner strength. The power and energy of the waves and the sun. 

One night I could see Mars from my balcony. In the mornings I could look one direction and see the moon and look the other to see the sun rising over the water. People young and old stake a claim on the sandy shore, popping up umbrellas and folding canvas chairs. Others bake in the sun on a terry cloth cookie sheet. And yet when I look at them I see more shells. 

What Draws Me to People is What's At their Core
Some of them are beautiful. Others not so much…by human standards. Most of them are broken in one way or another. Many are chipped. All are flawed. 

And I love them. 

These people…these shells hold dreams and plans and ideas. They live and laugh and love. They cheer and mourn. And they were all…everyone of them…created by the same God who put that sun and moon and planets in the sky. The One who put the waves in motion and set us spinning in orbit. 

And in the end it is what’s at the core that matters.

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