Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Warming Up Winter: A Sweet Romance In My Life

It’s the middle of winter. It's cold and nasty outside but I'm feeling cuddly warm. I've entered the world of romance.  A sweet romance....a book. I'm writing it and loving it.  My characters are in their late twenties or early thirties. Her name (at least for now) is Carrie. His name is Parker. I really like the guy in the story. I pretty much took several characteristics from the special guy I fell in love with many years ago. Lots of things change. People have a ton more technology and probably more money than Tom and I had when we were dating but... the good stuff? The stuff that makes the hero in the story a guy worth keeping? That simply doesn’t change. 

So my new character is honest. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t think of himself more highly than others. He has values, morals, and a true sense of right and wrong. And he has a great smile.

It’s a boy meets girl and hopefully gets the girl in the end kind of story. Of course the trick is to keep the story moving and the reader guessing if things will ever work out for these two.

The Real Critic: My Mom
I’ve been talking about the book and about my characters with my mother. My mother is good at asking questions. “Why did he go to Florida to do the internship?” “What happened to her mother?” 

One My Best Critics...My Mom
She can be a good critic, too; a much needed person in any writer’s life. She hasn’t read any of it yet. I won’t let her do that until I finish laying down the first draft. But I’ve introduced her to the characters, the setting, and the plot.

She‘s a good listener. I’ve been filling her in on what is happening with these characters. I’ve shared with her some of the backstory. Even parts that will probably never make it into the book but it's stuff I need to know so I can understand where these folks are coming from, so to speak. 

These people –these characters –are becoming like members of the family. My mom asks how they’re doing or I’ll tell her something I learned about one of them. Like the day I discovered the picture on Carrie’s desk wasn’t her husband and baby as Parker thought.  And it wasn’t her dad holding her as a baby as I once considered. No, there’s another whole story behind that picture. I can’t wait until Parker learns the truth. Shhh –I’ll be revealing that to him soon.

When the characters start to seem real to my mom I know she’s hooked. So am I. So stay tuned. The best is yet to come.

Be sure to share your comments. I’ll answer.

And Remember: Ambassador International will release Libby’s Cuppa Joe in March! Message me or leave a comment if you want to get in on the fun!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cloudy With a Chance of...Sadness

As a newlywed, I kept a “diary “ of sorts. It wasn’t one where I chronicled our daily activity per se. Instead it was a diary noting the weather, what we ate, and discussions we had. It was a carryover from an assignment I had in one of my early college psychology classes.

After Tom and I talked a bit about what we discovered through the exercise, we decided to never make a major decision or discuss a problem between us at night or when it was raining. 
We tended to disagree heartily under those conditions. We were each prone to dig our heels in and not listen to the other person. 

We worked through things much better when it was sunny or at least during daylight hours. 

This snow fell January 13. It's still there.
Silly? I don’t think so. We took it pretty seriously and I think it helped us navigate those early years of marriage. 

I hadn’t thought about it until Tuesday’s Bible study. It came up in a discussion and made me realize how much the weather influences my mood. This past week I struggled through several days of feeling a bit “down.” I wasn’t particularly depressed. I was just feeling sad. 

It was snowy and cold and I couldn’t get out of the house.

I missed Tom. 
My energy level was virtually nonexistent.
I felt a little achy and wondered if I was maybe coming down with something.
I was better during the day, but as the sun went down, so did my emotional barometer.

So I did a little research. Though my mood swing has been temporal, there is something called Seasonal Affect Disorder. (Yes, it spells SAD…go figure) I had of course heard of it before, but for some reason I thought you had to live in Seattle to experience it. The truth is, SAD affects many people everywhere. And there are tons of articles supporting the notion that bad weather has a defined effect on your emotions. 

Some of the articles I read referenced the changes in atmospheric pressure as it not only changes our emotions but, can cause pain and even put pressure on our sinuses.

Cold and snow? Definite cues to our little bodies to slow down, forget about being productive and just snuggle under the covers, watch old movies, and drink hot chocolate. Not that any of that is bad. But when it interferes with your life and livelihood and self-esteem? Then you are snuggling a bit too much.

Okay…the truth. None of this was all that new to me. Remember, I’m the one who did a bit of this “research” on myself over 45 years ago.

My neighbor cleared my drive,
but I got a bit of exercise shoveling the walk.
But it is a good reminder that I have the ability to make changes. Just as Tom and I learned to save serious discussions for sunny daytime hours when possible, I can make changes in my routines. 

I am turning on the lights…lots of them in the evening.
I am getting outside. Short walks or parking further away from the front door at the grocery offer me short bursts of exercise, fresh air, and renewed energy.
And I’m scheduling my work time to write for the early hours of the day when the sun is shining.

But I think I’ll hold onto the fleece throw and hot chocolate for the late evening when I can catch at least one good old movie before hitting the hay.

Does the weather change your mood? What do you do to change your emotional track? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Cold and Snowy January

I’m looking out my window at the biggest snowfall I’ve seen in years. Icicles hang like crystal daggers from my roof. I don’t have to venture out to know it’s cold. Frigid. But I feel safe and warm in my house. My furnace is keeping the temperature constant. I have indoor plumbing and modern conveniences. 

I dedicated Breathing on Her Own
to my Mom. 1/17/32 Marks the Day She Was
Literally "Breathing on Her Own"
My thoughts drift to my grandparent’s house in the mountains. I remember visiting them when the temperatures were cold. I remember when they didn’t have electricity. The morning would come. I would hear Grandpa stoking the fire in the stove that sat in the middle of the living room. Soon, the smell of bacon cooking on Grandma’s wood stove and voices coming from the kitchen would pry me from the warmth of the featherbed and Grandma’s snuggly quilts. The floor would be cold and I would race to the kitchen. Those are good memories. Of course they didn't have indoor plumbing. That is not so good a memory.

But this week I think about what it must have been like for them in January of 1932. Back then, Grandma and Grandpa had three children: Flora, Jim, and Andrew. Another was due mid January. Of course people didn’t go to warm, modern hospitals to have their babies. Grandma was to have her baby at home. 

Love My Memories,
But Happy For Modern
My Furnace During this Snow!
The fourth, a little girl, arrived on a cold January morning… the seventeenth, to be exact. Her parents, Bill and Ophia looked at her sweet little face and dark hair and fell in love with her immediately. How do I know this? First, they were my grandparents and they were filled with love. Second, I’m a mom. I know what it’s like to see that baby in your arms. 

They named her Nora. They poured God’s love into her. 
That little baby grew up to be my mama. 
I am so blessed to have her in my life. 

So on this snowy day, I’m looking out the window, a warm cup of coffee in my hand and I think about the day my mother was born. I know it wasn’t easy. I know it was cold. But I imagine Grandma and Grandpa were filled with so much joy that day they didn’t notice the frigid temperature outside. 

As I write this it sounds like...well, it sounds like history. And it is. But it makes me wonder what my daughters will think of the way I grew up. My grandparents had a good life. Because it isn't about convenience. It's about family.

Happy Birthday, Mama! 
Live knowing that you are loved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Getting The Job Done or...Trust Me, It's In The Mail!

I have a mailbox. It’s at the end of my driveway. Not too far at all. It’s only a few steps from my front door and even fewer from my garage. The delivery truck comes to my house every day. You’d think mailing a letter would be easy.
Getting it in the Envelope is easy.
Getting it in the mail is hard!

Maybe for some.

I have a letter in my hand to mail on Wednesday. It’s in the envelope, stamped, addressed and ready to go. I walk out to my mailbox only to discover my mailman (yes, my deliverer is a man) has already come and gone.

I carry the assortment of advertisements and notifications into my house. Apparently, I am extremely lucky. I’m frequently notified as being a sweepstakes winner of some sort. I toss most of it in the trash bin.

I plan to go to the grocery in a bit. I’ll mail the letter then.

I forget. I’m back home before I notice the envelope sitting on the passenger seat of my car.

That’s okay. I’ll simply put it in the mail tomorrow. One day won’t make a difference.

Unless it’s raining. Who wants to run out to the mailbox in the rain? I’ll drop it in the box by the post office near my bank in the afternoon. I won’t even need to get out of my car. Perfect.

I pass two community mailboxes on my way to the bank. No problem, I’ll merely drop the letter off at the post office as planned. While at the bank I remember something I need from the “dollar” store. It isn’t that far from the bank so I do a little shopping. 

Post-it Notes are My best Friend!
I’m unloading my stash of “dollar” goodies from my car when I catch a glimpse of the letter sticking out of the corner of my purse. I’ve put it there so I won’t forget to mail it.

There’s always tomorrow. I start singing the song about tomorrow from “Annie.”

Friday is a productive day. I wake up early, read my Bible, take a look at my to do list in my planner and check items off one-by-one. I am one happy camper.

Too bad “mail the letter” didn’t make the list. I only remember it when I’m in bed that night. There was something else I meant to do today…what was that? I finally remember the letter. I get out of bed and put a post-it note on the coffee pot. Now I can rest.

I’m out several times over the weekend. The letter remains safe on my kitchen countertop until Monday when I finally walk it out to the mailbox and raise the flag.
 I feel so accomplished.

It’s not that I’m getting old. I mean, I am. We’re all aging. But I’ve always been like this. I have to use all sorts of devices and clues to remember to do the smallest of tasks. 

I’ve often wondered what I could accomplish if I were efficient. 

"It's in the Mail...Literally!"
Yet I do tend to get a lot done. I often have people ask me how I manage to get so much done in a single day or week. All I know is I keep plugging away. I fail over and over but keep trying to get the job done. 

Maybe that’s the answer. You don’t have to be superwoman…or superman. You just need to keep at the task and get it done. It may not be the timing you hoped for, but it is finished. That alone is reason to celebrate.

P.S. Sam, the letter is in the mail. Literally.

Your Turn: How Do You “Get the Job Done?”

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Hospitality and Social Justice: A Curious Mix to Start the New Year?

Resolutions. We all make them from time-to-time. A resolution is a firm commitment to do something…to see it through. 

If you read my blog time you know I choose a word or phase each year. Like many of you, I also make resolutions. When the words I choose and the resolutions work together life is good.

I hadn’t selected a word for the upcoming year until yesterday. 

I read my Bible every morning, but for the past few months I’ve been committing passages to memory. Not a verse here and there, but whole passages. I started studying Romans 12 a few weeks ago. I’ll continue that study, but for 2019 I am resolved to commit that passage to memory.

It is from that passage I have chosen the word “hospitality.” 

Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Romans 12:13

People who know me know I love to entertain people in my home. I enjoy setting a beautiful table. I enjoy cooking for people. I find energy in conversations and I enjoy playing games. I invite people into my home to stay and have never had a problem making friends.

It's easy to think of entertaining friends in my home
...but to entertain strangers?
That requires hospitality of the heart.

            But in my Sunday school class, we read the words of Jesus in Matthew when he speaks of the sheep and the goats. Chapter 25, verse 35 speaks to this act of hospitality…not to a select few but to those in need.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Matthew 25:35

These aren’t merely acts of kindness to people we know. They are acts of social justice. God calls us to be advocates for others, to seek justice for those who do not have a voice for themselves. 

Oh sure, I’ve shopped for the needy child on the wish tree at Christmas and I’ve donated canned goods to a food pantry or fixed a box of goodies to give away at Thanksgiving. But in what ways have I been called to offer hospitality to those in need? How have I acted on behalf of social justice? There is more to this than buying a turkey and signing a petition. So for this new year, I am looking for ways to serve God through being hospitable.
I enjoyed working on a house for a family in need...but I never thought of it in terms of hospitality.
I am looking for ways to help those who lack food and clean drinking water. People needing housing, clothing, and medical care. Visiting in prison? We’ll see how God opens doors. 

It’s a little scary. But the word I’ve selected every year holds that same tension. The unknown. And every word has played out to draw me closer to Jesus in ways I never expected. 

What word will shape your 2019?