MY DAD'S GARDEN

Our youngest daughter and I love Kari Jobe. Her recent release is called "The Garden" and it got me thinking about the vegetable garden my dad has grown all my life. Recently, she and I have gone down to help my mom and dad as they are in their 80's.  We have helped with the weeding, cutting back the overgrowth and of course helped them harvesting their produce. 

Growing up, Dad used our garbage~ egg shells, old coffee grounds, with dead leaves layered on top to build a pile of rich loam in the corner of the backyard of my childhood home.

He called it his compost pile. 

In the fall it was layered and turned every few months and by springtime it had decomposed and he was ready to use it as fertilizer for his garden.

With a gardener’s soul, no food was ever wasted. Just like our heavenly father who can use our deepest messes to produce goodness in our lives. 

There was no fast food at our house. We ate what was put in front of us and were told to sit there until the last drop of succotash was eaten. Or, in our West Oak Lane home, thrown behind the old time vintage cast iron radiator.

In the early 70’s we moved to the suburbs outside of Philadelphia with a bona fide backyard filled with trees. Instead of the paved driveway of the back alleys behind our tree lined city twin home. We now had a place to run and climb trees and be kids. 

Dad went to work building a small garden plot by the side of the house to grow his own tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, string beans and mint. Always with the mint because he enjoyed it in his sweet tea for the summer. Or, at least I did.

Sometimes, life throws us garbage in the form of loss, false friends, disappointments, dashed dreams, health and financial problems. But, I’m convinced that God has a plan and that he wastes nothing.

Just like my growing up years where winter soon turned into spring, the summer growth and fall harvest somehow produced good vegetables from Dad’s labor.

It’s a little harder to see on an electronic screen or in the eyes of our neighbors as we scurry around as life passes us by.

In this micro wave world, we can still see the eternal truth of the rewards of care by the light in our neighbor’s eyes when we drop off some food while they are going through a difficult time.

Or, take time to answer questions for a teenager who needs wisdom for future direction in his or her life.  Or it is captured in the smile of a young married as she shares about the adventures of being a newlywed and expecting her first child

While there are days where we see no rewards for our labor, it's then we need to take a closer look at the smaller yet real growth in our lives. 

It’s the family foundation that bring me back to a simpler time. And for this, I’m grateful to have learned about the truths of life from my dad's garden.  

 

BE BOLD ~ AN OPEN LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER AS SHE ENTERS COLLEGE

 

To my darling daughter,

It’s not about the grades, the books, the knowledge…the JOB. So much. 

My love ~ in one way or another you have heard about getting a job and making money to support yourself all your life. Our culture thrives on it.

Rather it is about finding that dream, that passion, that ‘JOY’ and staying committed to it no matter what.

So take that leap and try all that you can during the next four years. Take that step and try the course that makes your heart beat faster and your spirit come alive. Explore, climb the mountains, view the vistas of each experience you will be exposed to. 

Be bold.

Rest in your upbringing. Trust your self. Know you are surrounded by people who want to see you succeed. Ignore the taunts to believe in the lies. You know which ones I mean.

Each new attempt you make will bring you one step closer to your destiny.

You cannot fail. 

You are deeply gifted, rooted, grounded in truth. And, you know the path to go. 

Everything you have gone through the last 18 years has prepared you for this new place. 

So when you reach a point where you want to give up remind yourself of how far you have come. Remember the obstacles you have already faced and had victory over. 

You are ready for this time at this new place and wired to succeed. That you will do great things I have no doubt. 

You survived the trenches of middle school, the trauma of the rigors of high school and you are ready to face your next adventure in college. You, my daughter,  have learned your lessons well.

As you acquire new knowledge, skills and friends throughout the next four years keep your vision. Sometimes, no, usually, God will take us on the “scenic” route to our allotted place. But, that’s part of the fun. So whatever you do enjoy the ride. And, oh, the places you will go!

I have no doubt your dream job will come.

RUNNING FOR YOUR LIFE

Better health is trending. Boomers are getting older and anti-aging products abound. 

Ever since I watched “What Women Want” I’ve been somewhat fascinated. Do you remember the Nike scene where Mel Gibson is sharing what he got after ‘hearing’ the thoughts inHelen Hunt’s mind?  “You don’t stand in front of a mirror before a run wondering what the road will think of your outfit.” 

Love the line~ but, run myself? No thank you.

Some years later, I read that running is a great way to stimulate the creativity in the brain. Especially for writers. 

Well, ppppsshhh. Maybe for other writers not me.

Then, a close friend began running. We’d meet for coffee and she’d chat about her running. I’d chat about my writing. There’s the running and writing thing again.

More time passed as my writing life took on a whole new level of “serious” level. I had some articles, blogs, and a short memoir published. I finished a novel. I revised said novel. Then in 2015, I managed to attain representation from a major Christian literary agent. 

My striving for perfection in life caught up with me manifesting through an aching jaw from clenched teeth. I needed to do something to relieve the stress of every day living.

The final straw was when my dentist prescribed muscle relaxers for TMJ. I don’t like taking medicine so my dentist’s assistant said, “you should start running.”

It felt like a conspiracy. Ever had the moment when it feels like the whole world is against you?

So, I caved. And, I started to run.

Best decision I have ever made. Since then, I’ve lost 25 pounds and gained more energy. My jaw is fine and I’ve never slept better. My time on the trail is where I talk to God and listen… well, mostly listen. Funny how the one thing I fought against for so long has brought me so much life. I am so grateful to be sixteen years cancer -free and feeling better now then I did when I was in my 20’s. 

Here are some things I’ve learned on my running journey.

  • Buy a good pair of running sneakers.
  • Find a running path where fellow dog lovers and runners/bikers frequent.
  • Run with a partner. My running buddy is always up for a run. Her name is Layla and she is a rottweiler/golden retriever mix. 
  • Pace yourself. My first run ended up in a face plant in front of a gentleman who kindly gave me a hand up. And, the advice to “take it slow.”
  • Buy running shorts/capris with a good waist band. There is nothing worse than having to stop every two seconds to hike them up.
  • Ladies find excellent top support, you will need it.  And Gentleman, just do it. 

Is there anything you’ve learned to do that has made your life richer/healthier/better? Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

 

3 TIPS TO A SUCCESSFUL WRITERS CONFERENCE

It occurred to me after leaving Philadelphia for the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference that a well planned trip provides a more productive experience. It can be intimidating and over the years I’ve learned some ways to simplify my time. 

1. Key to enjoying your trip is a well thought out workshop schedule. Think of your greatest need as a writer and focus on the workshops covering those topics. There are so many choices made available, it benefits you to tailor your schedule to your greatest need. 

For example, I have a completed manuscript and will be publishing therefore a strong                interest of mine for now is learning how to market and promote a book. 

2. Good walking shoes. You may think that attending a conference in the summer warrants summer clothes. Makes sense right?

Once inside most venues offer air conditioning which requires longer sleeves and covered feet. I passed more women who were cold in long sleeve shirts and sandals. While the temperature may be tropical outside, inside it feels more like a cool fall day. 

Bring comfortable business dress shoes for men and women and layers of clothing. Especially for the women. I wore flat business casual shoes and heard the woman in front of me in my first workshop say how cold her feet were in sandals.

3. Stay at a relatives or a friends house to cut down on costs. Or, share a room with a friend. I don’t suggest rooming with a stranger unless you are very flexible with your schedule. I have roomed with strangers and friends and it is much easier to room with someone you know. If you choose a stranger find out his or her preferences for bedtime, showers and what to expect before the conference time arrives. 

This last conference I stayed with my mom and dad in the Philadelphia suburbs and had a fun time visiting them in between my workshops.

Oh, and bring paper and pens. Lots and lots of them. Unless you prefer your laptop or notepad of course. 

 

HOSTILE RESTING FACE IT'S A THING

Hostile Resting Face Syndrome is a thing... or is it?

It started with my youngest daughter. 

The beginning of the answer to the mystery of why so many people ask me “are you mad?” And I’m not.

We sat across from each other during lunch the other day. “Mom, are you okay?” 

Her question stopped the trajectory of my spoon towards my gaping mouth. “Yes.” Well, I was thinking about things other than what we’d been discussing. But, that was besides the point. “I’m fine… why?”

“You looked mad at the nail salon that’s all.” First, who could get mad while they are getting a treat? Second, I was thinking about missing said daughter when she leaves for college this fall. 

The topic came up again while I was scrolling through the internet looking for a pair of sunglasses.  An article captured my attention.

I’d looked for the best styles for a diamond shaped face. The writer made the point that sometimes an unsmiling diamond shaped face can be read as “catty.”  I have a diamond shaped face.

After reading the post, memories of people calling me snobby, catty and arrogant ran through my mind.

The struggle is real folks. I can sit by my lonesome with no thoughts of being superior to anyone, or just enjoying my soup and I am looking somehow arrogant. Or, snobby, or intimidating.

This is a complete mind blow to me. Because for the most part, I am a people person. In fact, I’ve gone so far as embarrassing my poor family by talking with “gasp” strangers. All. the. time.

So the next time you think someone is intimidating or arrogant, remember, they might be suffering from Hostile Resting Face Syndrome. I can't say it without smiling. Who knew they'd name a syndrome after my face? 

How about you? Have you ever been accused of something that is the polar opposite to who you are?  If so, what do you do to change the misperception?

The Suspense Is Killing Me...

Is it really Midsummer already?

You may be wondering what I've been doing this last year in between edits on my novel and returning to health after gall bladder surgery.

Helping our youngest choose the right college has been a time consuming yet gratifying endeavor as I’ve enjoyed each moment of watching her blossom into young womanhood.

We were all delighted when she was voted prom queen for her senior prom. We capped off the prom and graduation season with a large celebration in our home with family and her close friends.

Meanwhile, as my time of editing over the winter wound to a close, my agent sent book proposals to several publishers.

This, my friend, is the part where I’m learning how to “wait.” 

After 30 years of motherhood, I’m waiting to birth my first “book” baby. It’s been a process much like the proverbial butterfly turning to mush in it’s own cocoon. Oh, monarch butterfly how I’ve learned to appreciate your beauty all the more!

While we wait to hear about a book contract, my husband and I flew to Hawaii for our 35th wedding anniversary. After years of family vacations, the trip to the big island was paradise for us. Ten days on the beautiful island sped by and we headed back to Pennsylvania back to our busy lives.

One project we are involved in as our youngest leaves the nest is to renovate the master bathroom. My husband is treating me to yet another dream come true with a cast iron claw foot tub. 

As I sit here typing this post, the renovations on the bathroom are almost done.  

Hmmm... I think a good book and a bubble bath may be in order. 

What do you do while you wait?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, our youngest daughter received a partial scholarship to a liberal arts college 6 hours away. I can practically hear adventure calling her.

3 Ways To Bring Back Balance In Your Life

Take a moment and think about the last time you had a good belly laugh. Or, when was the last time you picked your feet up for ten minutes and did nothing?

Life has never been busier. Distractions from our work weigh on us and keep us from sleeping properly. We lay awake at night worrying about the finances, our families, our declining health.

Did you know your body at rest can repair itself after the barrage of stress and adrenalin dumped into it over the course of a day? Oftentimes the pain, inflammation and diseases we deal with are due to the lack of balance in our lives. 

Talk about fight or flight response. When my dental hygienist suggested I run to deal with my Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain I knew it was time to find alternative remedies for dealing with stress. 

In the past year, I have had my gall bladder removed, broken my middle finger, and dealt with major life changes we all deal with at one time or another. 

The pace of our daily routine has grown exponentially with the insertion of new technology. How much news do we really need to see? Is it even true what we are seeing on the news channels, the internet, publications?  

We need more balance in our lives. I know I do.

One of the ways to bring more balance into your life is by prioritizing your daily responsibilities. 

What is the first thing you do in the morning? It’s easy to hop out of bed and hit the floor running. Try this instead~

Wake up 15~ 20 mins. earlier and grab some fruit. Sit down in your quiet place and think about what is essential to do for that day. Meditate on the good things, hand over your worries to God. 

Even better, take your dog or just yourself and take a walk or run outdoors. This one habit has helped me so much I have no more need to have treatment for my TMJ. In fact, I sleep at night and feel rested when I wake up in the morning

My husband and I took a long awaited to trip to Hawaii for our 35th anniversary this summer. 

It was ten days of relaxation, exploring, long conversations, walks on the beach, and enjoying each other. 

I can’t tell you how many times I thought about that trip to get me through the challenges, work and responsibilities weighing me down throughout the months preceding the trip. 

The second way to bring more balance into our lives~ take some time away with your loved ones. Even if it’s a walk in the local park, a great movie, or just coffee at the local cafe. 

My nephew, a personal trainer, asked me to dinner recently. When I told him I was running he said, “that takes a lot of balance.”

That got me thinking about the balance thing. Do you have people in your life who can help balance the responsibilities in your life? Do you think about asking for help or do you try to do it all yourself?  

Our contractor talked about a cast iron clawfoot tub my husband is treating me to. It weighs a ton (maybe quite literally) and he had to bring in extra men to help him carry it up to our renovated bathroom. 

I asked him how it went. And, he said, “I brought straps to hook it onto my shoulders and balance the weight.” Success!

We all have heavy burdens. We do need each other. We need self care in the midst of all our activities. 

We most definitely need wisdom to help us carry the load. And, we need a God who will shoulder that burden for us.

SO YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE SUSPENSE FICTION ~ HERE'S A START

 
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So you want to write Suspense?

Every good story starts with a level of suspense and needs some tension or conflict to keep the reader interested enough to turn the pages of your book. 
Here are some ways to create the tension you need and keep your readers hooked. 
The hook of a story is usually the first sentence or in the first paragraph of your novel. By dropping your character into the middle of the action you can have your reader immediately wanting more. This is called the inciting incident. 

A good example of a hook comes from J.K. Rowlings epic fantasy Harry Potter. 

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."
The hook jumps right into the action, grounding the reader into the story while giving pertinent information of “who, what, where and why” of the novel. It also bears the weight of a universal question. "What makes the Dursleys normal? and, one might suspect, "why would the Dursleys need to make that statement?"

So, there must be a universal element to the hook as well. Raising the readers curiosity, he wants to continue reading in a state of suspended belief. 

The trick is to keep your readers in the story world without pulling them out. Writing the craft of suspense is harder in some ways because the reader must be carried along without any sense of the writers intent to do so.

Some call placing a time limit on the resolution of your conflict the "ticking bomb." This technique raises the suspense level as we wait to see if the characters will survive whether it is an emotional conflict or physical one. 

Keeping the stakes high for our hero or heroine will motivate your reader to want to know m ore. If the main character is involved in tracking a serial killer we'll want to know whether that killer is captured before he can kill again. 

Create Character Dilemmas ~ I call it “when life falls apart in your picture perfect world." Whatever can go wrong for your main character can go wrong. And in a suspense novel, it usually does. It helps to throw a curveball every now and then to keep your reader on his or her toes. The  unexpected plot twist mirrors life in a very real way. Doesn't it?

Another technique is the use of foreshadowing and a red herring. Foreshadowing is giving a hint of the trouble ahead for your characters. While a red herring is intended to divert the reader from difficulties ahead.                                               

"Suspense is creating a mess in your character's picture perfect world and leaving the reader waiting as he tries to get out."