Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Quiet in the Chaos

This past weekend I hosted a brunch at my house for my family. Actually, it wasn’t my idea. My youngest daughter had a yen for breakfast pizza. Not the college dorm leftovers from Friday night. This is a dish I made when we went on a ski trip or for special holidays. It features sausage, eggs, hash browns, and cheese baked on a crescent roll crust. My whole family likes it.

Kendall called me one day and told me she really wanted me to make it and they’d come to my house for brunch: Unless of course I wanted to come to her house. She called her sister who lives nearby and my mom. She then let me know everyone was coming to my house around 10:30 or so on February 22 for brunch. 

I made the pizza and coffee. I cut up a fresh pineapple. My son-in-law Scott made waffles and my daughter Allison scrambled eggs for the “littles” who preferred them with their waffles instead of the pizza. It was a wonderful Saturday. We ate and talked and played. As it was George Washington’s birthday, my youngest granddaughter brought a booklet she made in school about Washington and Lincoln. Everyone had a part.

HOSPITALITY. It was last year’s word resurfacing. We talked about how that word had a deeper meaning for me after living with it for the whole of 2019. (I choose a word to explore every year.)

Hospitality isn’t simply about the food. It’s that comfortable feeling when people feel free enough to invite themselves to spend time with you in your home. Sure, they’re family, but they lead busy lives. I’m blessed that given the wide range of options before them, they choose to spend time with me. 

And they feel comfortable enough to invite themselves over for a brunch.

In the midst of the chatter and laughter of Saturday’s gathering, my youngest daughter asked me how my word for 2020 was playing out. You may recall from an earlier post I chose the word QUIET for this year. My family found it humorous. The morning was anything but quiet.

But QUIET is an interesting word. I’m learning it means much more than “without noise.” It speaks to stillness and reflection. It doesn’t necessarily mean isolation. There is a quiet during communion time at church that is full of energy. It is a time when I’m joined together with other believers and a peace that transcends understanding wraps its arms around us and pulls us together.

There is a quietness that comes when I’m anxious about something and I remind myself to breathe deep. (“Breathe deep” was, by the way, one of Tom’s go-to cure-alls. That and “put ice on it.”) I draw in a breath and feel my shoulders relax. The tension quiets as I release my fears or apprehensions.

I’m bumping into the word everywhere. Softly.

So even in the midst of chaos…the moment of living and laughing together, there is this quiet strength of love and peace swelling inside. 

What word have you claimed for 2020? How is it playing out for you today?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Where Hope and Quirky Meet

Where Hope and Quirky Meet: Introducing Author Jodie Wolfe

Fellow Author Jodie Wolfe creates novels where hope and quirky meet. I’m very happy to have her here with me today for this interview and introduce her to my readers.

Me: Welcome, Jodie!

Jodie: Thank you. It’s so great to be here.

Me: Jodie, I’m always interested in the path successful writers have taken to get published so let’s get started.  How long have you been writing?

Jodie: Many years. JI started writing little stories while in grade school. I wrote my first full-length book as a young teenager.

Me: That sounds a lot like me. I mean, I started writing stories young, but a full-length book as a teen? Wow! That’s cool!

Jodie: It was! I wrote a lot when I was younger - poems, stories, plays, articles, books and then I got married and had kids. We were a homeschooling family so most of my energy went into educating my two sons. It wasn't until my oldest son had graduated from high school that I started fiction writing again.

Me: I’ll be honest here. You don’t look old enough to have a son graduating from high school, but I get it. Our lives are full. Many of us wait until the time is right. You started taking your writing seriously. How did you get published?

Jodie: My first two books were indie published. A few author friends of mine wanted to create a collection of novellas in one book. I agreed to help and that's how Hearts Tightly Knit came about.The compilation book is out of print now, but you can still get my novella from Amazon. It was so well received, I wrote a sequel about the twin sister in Love in the Seams.

Me: I love hearing about how the writing community works together. So where did you get the idea for your newest release?

Jodie: I've always loved mail-order bride stories and wanted to write one. I wondered what would happen if a guy advertised for a proper wife and what arrived was completely opposite of that.

Me: Fun! I can see all sorts of miscommunication, fun, and disaster in that scenario. Did your book take any unexpected turns as you crafted it? Maybe a character emerged you didn’t expect to find or the focus of the book shifted altogether.

Jodie: Oh my yes! My characters always have a way of taking over the story and going in the direction they want to go. J

Me: I’m laughing here because that happens to me with my characters all the time. So tell me, what is one take-away from your book with which you hope readers will identify?

Jodie: Simply that we can trust God to be working in our lives, even when we can't see it.

Me: I love it! And I appreciate you stopping by so we could talk. 

Jodie: Thank you so much for letting me be here today to interact with your followers. I appreciate your time!

Me: Jodie’s newest book is called Taming Julia and is published through the Pelican Group. You can buy it on Amazon by clicking here: AMAZON
Grab your copy at Barnes and Noble by clicking here: BARNES & NOBLE

Jodie Wolfe is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), and COMPEL Training. She's been a semi-finalist and finalist in various writing contests. A former columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine, her articles can be found online atCrosswalk Christian Devotions, and Heirloom Audio . She's a contributor and co-founder of Stitches Thru Time  blog. When not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband in Pennsylvania, reading, walking, and being a Grammie. Learn more about Jodie at

Blurb for Taming Julia

In 1875, Kansas bachelor Drew Montgomery's sole desire is to serve God, but his congregation's ultimatum that he marry or leave, forces him to advertise for a wife by proxy.

Jules Walker strides into Drew's life wearing breeches and toting a gun and saddle--more cowboy than bride. After years on the trail, she's not exactly wife material, but she longs for home and family, and will do anything to ensure Drew never discovers what she really is.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

My Own "Little Women"

“I want to be a veterinarian or a weather ‘woman,’” my youngest granddaughter told me, gesturing quotes with her fingers in the air. “Or maybe I’ll be a car designer. I have lots of options.”

My six-year-old granddaughter’s dreams are certainly different from my own at her age. I wanted to be a teacher, writer, and cowgirl. Okay, I completed the first two and for a while I rode my pony, Flicka, around our Ohio farm hunting buffalo with my trusty cap pistol…even if the beasts did look quite a bit like Holstein cows. 

Still, being a teacher was reinforced as a respectable job for any woman. Nursing fell into that category. But being a veterinarian or a weather forecaster or a car designer? My parents would have encouraged any route I took, but there simply were no role models out there. I had no Doc McStuffins to watch. The only weather reports on my three channels of television came from men. Design cars? Never even occurred to me anyone did that. Design Barbie clothes? That was possible but not of interest to me.

My mom was a bookkeeper. She enrolled in a business school in Nashville after being the first in her family to graduate from high school. Mom has a head for numbers. I have a heart for words.

My dad was a smart cookie and successful at everything he put his hand to. He knew and understood farming, but was also a successful entrepreneur. He and my mom made quite a team. And they both wanted the best for me. I say this because I don’t want anyone to think my parents raised me to think there were certain roles for women and certain roles for men. They didn’t put limitations on what I could or could not study. Pursue. Become.

Television, books, and culture in general fed that line to me, save one. Little Women. The novel by Louisa May Alcott was one of my favorites. I was sure Jo March, the main character, was modeled after me. 
My Own "Little Women"
(Minus my 2 Kenoshanites)
In the book, she’s a tomboy and fiercely independent. She crafts plays for her sisters to perform.  (My cousins were the cast and crew for my skits and plays.) And Jo loves to write. She creates worlds beyond her own. 

Moreover, even though the story was set in the mid 1800’s, the four girls in the story have different talents. Each is encouraged to develop her skills and abilities. Now that I look back, I realize the talents the girls cultivated were those expected of “well-bred young ladies” of the time. It didn’t matter to me. They were free to explore art and music and writing.

Recently, my mother, two of my daughters, two granddaughters and I went to see the movie Little Women. It spoke to all four generations, maybe in different ways, but all with the same emotion of care and accepting the challenges life hands out. My oldest granddaughter captured it perfectly. She said, “I liked the way they cared for each other and other people, too. Even though they were poor.”

I know that by the standards of the day they were not wealthy, but there is a richness to any life where there is love and encouragement to reach your full potential.

After the initial conversation with my youngest granddaughter, I asked my oldest granddaughter what avenue of study she might pursue one day. She’s in third grade. She didn’t hesitate. “Well, I sometimes think about being a rocket designer, or a coder, or maybe the mayor. But another part of me would like to be a librarian or a local journalist. And I wouldn’t mind being a movie director or a professional piano player.”

To quote her sister: “She has lots of options.”

But don’t we all? We put more limits on ourselves than others do. We need to ask God how He wants to use us. He has no limits. We need to pursue our dreams and get rid of the negative self-talk that holds us back. And that goes for both women and men. 

Okay, getting off my soapbox. Back to writing. It is the dream God has written on my heart. So maybe I'll have to write a story about a cowgirl. I bet she'll look a lot like me...and Jo March.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Complicating the Simple

I’m not sure why we tend to complicate things. Let me change that. 
I’m not sure why tend to complicate things. 

For example, my dishwasher stopped working. Several weeks ago. My family and I had just returned from Florida. My daughter and her family headed home to Kenosha and we all settled back into our various routines. 

I don’t use my dishwasher every day. Generally, I wash the few dishes I use after each meal. Occasionally, I entertain friends and throw the dirty dishes in the machine to simplify my life. But this time it didn’t work. Not even a light came on. I checked the breaker box, flipping the switch back and forth several times. Nothing.

I pulled everything out and hand washed the load. 

My dishwasher isn’t very old. I bought it in 2017. I didn’t buy an extended warranty. I started imagining the repairman coming, tearing the thing apart, water and grease and whatever’s inside all over my kitchen floor. 

I wondered how much he’d charge. Probably more than the cost of a new dishwasher. 

No problem. I would simply do without. A couple of weeks later I had someone over for lunch and automatically loaded the dirty dishes onto the racks of my impaired dishwasher. I was putting the last plate in when I remembered my machine was on the fritz. Bummer.

After the last fork was dry and in the drawer, I did an online search to determine what could be wrong with my machine. A “how-to-change-the-fuse” came up. I was all in. I opened the door of my dishwasher and inspected it. Yep, I located the screws. I could do this. 

I watched the how-to video. I knew how to turn off the breaker. Phooey, I’d play it safe and turn off the one above and the one below just to make sure. When it was time. I took inventory. I had all the tools required, including a tester for the fuse. 

I was feeling pretty confident...until the man in the video started taping certain wires and cutting others. Cutting electric wires in my dishwasher? Uh, I don’t think so.

Tom would have tackled something like that, but I couldn't even imagine attempting it. Besides, I had more important things to do. I went back to hand washing the dishes.

Then Sunday, I ran into my friend Randy at church. He is the builder I contracted to remodel the house when I bought it. We talked a bit about our families. When he asked how everything was going, I remembered the dishwasher. 

“I guess I’ll have to call Lowes. I mean that’s where I bought it,” I told him.

He asked me about the breaker. I told him I’d already checked that and then demonstrated my vast knowledge of what could be wrong by talking about the fuse. He listened. He nodded. Then he asked another question.

“How about the switch in the kitchen?”

“What switch?” I asked. I searched my memory for a switch. “The only switch plate on that wall is on the other side of the sink. There are three switches. The first one turns on the lights above the sink. The second one is for the disposal. The third one…I guess the third one is for another light.” I tried to sound confident.

“Well, try that,” he said. “Call me if you still have a problem. It could be a loose wire underneath. I’ll come over and check it out.”

It’s good to have friends who care. Smart friends. Randy is both caring and smart. But it couldn’t possibly be as simple as a switch. I was certain I’d be calling him. 

Sure enough, later that evening I called. “Thank you,” I told him. “Thank you for fixing my dishwasher. I guess with all the kids here, someone probably turned the switch off when they were doing something else.”
Of course…it could have been me. I tend to complicate things.

Please tell me I’m not alone!