Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Writing is Scary

I gave the first 55 pages of "Copper Penny" to Melody Groves yesterday. She's a local author and critiques manuscripts for money. If she says these are good, then I'll pay her to read all of it. But I'm holding my breath.

I've been in three critique groups and none of the three have told me the writing is bad/good/wonderful, the characters are bad/good/wonderful, the tension is bad/good/wonderful. If they have, they've made suggestions to make it better. But they all know me. Somehow I need someone who doesn't know me to give me a totally unbiased opinion.

When I gave her the pages, I realized just how insecure I am with my writing. I wonder if all writers feel the same way. Being so close to it, I honestly don't know if it is good or not. When I read another author who is REALLY good, then I shake my head in wonder at how someone can write like that.

I've read three books by Geraldine Brooks lately. She is phenomenal. People who can weave stories like she does make me want to close the lid on my keyboard and take up knitting (except that I have arthritis in my hands and it hurts to do that all the time.)

A lot of people read my first book--"The Demise of Bobby Mac." Many raved to me about it. Some I didn't hear from. In my book discussion group, some didn't bother to read it. I guess they thought it wouldn't be worth their time. (Insecurity rears it's ugly head!)

I told Melody I want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I'll let you know what she says.

By the way, I checked and my shirt is on the right way today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Look Out Daughters. You May Be Next.

One morning when we went to pick up my mother for church, she was dressed in a blouse and petticoat. She thought the petticoat was pretty and no one would notice. I got her into a skirt, and off we went to church. As we walked in she went up to two black women and asked them if Oprah was coming today.

A few years later on a Sunday morning I went to church wearing one large white clip-on earring. I was an altar counselor and had been to a meeting prior to the service, then had stood down in front of the entire 1000 member congegation, counseled a young woman and gone out to eat. It wasn't until I got home and started to change clothes that I saw my other earring next the phone where I'd taken it off that morning. Did anyone notice and say anything to me? My family? Nope.

Dementia was my mother's excuse for the petticoat and Oprah things. My sans earring was purely airheadedness. I was only in my 50s when that happened. My mother was in her 80s. She never outgrew being a rebel, but she was a funny rebel. She laughed at herself and loved people. I learned so much from her, and just hope my kids have learned lessons as good as the ones she taught me.

No one had a better grandma than she was to her grandkids. One of the lessons she taught my girls was that when they dated they should keep a quarter between their knees, and they'd get along great. Because she was such a hoot, if she'd been in her right mind, she'd have laughed off all her goofiness and gotten away with wearing the petticoat.

When we got home this morning from church, Reid asked me if my blouse was supposed to have the tag on the outside. You can guess the rest. I wore it wrong side out!

So, what was my excuse? Allergies? I've used that one too much lately. I can't use the blonde airheadedness since I let my hair go back to silver. And I certainly hope it isn't dementia. More important than why is how can I keep from doing something like that again? Stay home and never go out? Make Reid do a scan every time I get ready to leave the house? Do you think he'd notice if I wore a petticoat instead of a skirt? (Probably not.)

You know what's great about this? Knowing that I'm turning in to my mother. But I was hoping I'd just get her "good" qualities, not the petticoat part.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Allergies and Jesus

Our allergen-free day didn't last long. By noon the sun was out and the snow melted. Today the hated allergens are back in the air and busily attacking me.

We went to a movie earlier today to see "Last Chance Harvey." The only reason we wanted to see it was because it was filmed in London. A couple of scenes were filmed in the same Marriott hotel where we stayed when we were there a couple of times. It was a feel-good movie. Sad boy and sad girl meet. Some of the reasons for their sadnesses are changed, and we leave them walking away together--arm in arm--facing a brand new future. Of course, they live happily ever after. Evidently neither of them has allergies.

After the movie we went to Sweet Tomatoes to eat and right at the end of our meal I had a GINORMOUS allergy attack. We came home so I could recover from sneezing, burning, itching, watering eyes and itching throat. I Googled the worst and best places for allergic people to live. Surprisinly, Hartford, Conn. is the worst. El Paso and Tulsa are bad, and I've lived both of those places. The only "better but not great" place that I might not mind living is Colorado Springs. But I would only want to be there in the spring or fall. Summer might be all right.

I don't remember having allergies in Hawaii. Maybe that's because things bloom all the time and you don't have the pollens being released in the spring and whatever it is that's happening to the plants in the fall. The only way we could have a fall/spring home there is to win the lottery. Guess I'll have to check that place off my list of places I might live.

I wonder about London. Do people have allergies there? Maybe we should move to the North Pole or Antartica. Somehow I believe if a person is prone to allergies, wherever she goes there will be some kind of allergen attacking her. Leave it to me to be allergic to the only little lichen that blooms far north or south.

At the end of the book of Revelation in the Bible, John says, "Come Lord Jesus." When I feel like I do today, I have to agree. Surely there's nothing to be allergic to in Heaven!

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Beautiful Day

What is it about snow that is refreshing? Maybe if we had it all the time, it would lose its freshness, but today, it's beautiful.

Beautiful because it cuts down on the allergens.

I've completed editing *Copper Penny* and will hand it off to an author to read the first 50 pages and let me know if it is worthy of being published and thrust onto the public. Now I can let it rest and go on to *Plugged Nickel.*

That's another reason today is beautiful.

What about your life is beautiful?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This is for Eileen

Reid and I graduated from Amarillo High School in 1954. Our class has had a reunion every five years since that time. I went to a few of the early reunions then moved to El Paso and Beaumont, then to Tulsa, and they lost me. They didn't find me again until 1994. When I went back to that reunion, it was like I'd never left those people. The people I didn't run around with in high school were like old friends. All the "things" that separated us in the 50s no longer existed. I went to another one in 1999 and saw Reid for the first time since we graduated. He and Carol had lived all over the world and hadn't been back to a reunion in years--maybe ever.
Reid and I were married in 2003 and we attended the 50th reunion in 1954.

Two springs ago we were invited to the lake home (along with two other couples) of David and Eileen Kent. They went together in high school and got married during college. David was a tennis coach and coached Texas A & M teams to many championships. Eileen is a Bible teacher and has held Bible classes for coaches wives everywhere they've lived. They have three great kids, one who is the minister of a church.

They have a house on Lake Livingston and we were honored to be a guest there for two years. No one is as gracious a hostess as Eileen, and David is always a hoot. We were looking forward to another Kamp Kent meeting this spring. At the end of last year's meeting, we promised to pray for each other all year so we could meet again this year.

We couldn't believe it when we heard that Eileen had colon and liver cancer. She's been under some intensive chemo treatment that has done nothing toward killing the cancer. Her doctors are giving her a more aggressive treatment to try to save her life. Eileen has great faith, but in situations like this, we all need someone else's faith to bring us through.

As we get older and see more and more of our old friends (and some new ones) being stricken with illnesses, we can't help but wonder what is the cause. Is it the food we eat? Eileen took such good care of her health and tried to eat wholesome food. Is it the air we breathe? Is it built into our genes?

This next October we will be attending another reunion in Amarillo--this one for all the classes who have passed their 50th reunion. We will go and we pray Eileen will be there, healthy and whole. That's why I'm writing this. I'm hoping you will add her to your prayer list. And I'm praying you and the ones you love will not have to face anything like this in your life. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Would Jesus Do and Say?

I've read two blogs in the last two days that interest and bother me.

Westover Baptist Church is in Tulsa (they don't have a church in that town) picketing a Billy Joel-Elton John concert with signs saying "God hates fags." That makes me sick. I don't claim to know what God is thinking, but I do not believe this is something God would say. If I'm not mistaken, Jesus said to love your enemies. That isn't to say Billy and Elton are his enemies, but Westover must think they are.

I'm the kind of person (unfortunately) who steps into the fray when I probably shouldn't. If I was there, believe me, I'd be talking to those people. On the other side, if they're supposed to love their enemies, so am I. So, instead of "talking to" them, I should be praying for their eyes to be open to see just how much God loves them. Nobody who knows God's love can withhold love from anyone else. That's what Jesus was talking about.

The other blog was about a mom in the park who was teaching teens and younger girls how to walk seductively--as in modeling. The blogger pulled her 6 year old away from the scene, which was the smartest thing she could do. What upset her was the way the modeling mom twisted her words, "This isn't appropriate" that she spoke quietly in explanation to her daughter, into something ugly.

Twisting words is what the Pharisees did with what Jesus said. Isn't that why He was crucified? They managed to turn everything He did into how He was breaking their law.

I see Westover doing that, and modeling mom doing the same thing. I could leave it at "This world is messed up" but I won't. What I'll say instead is, thank God for people who take stands for what is good and decent and how God would do it. I'm going to take a stab at what Jesus would do at the Joel-John concert. He'd go see them after the show, tell them how great their performance was and then He would put His arms around them and tell them How much He and God love them. I think He'd do the same thing with modeling mom. He'd put his arms around her and say something like, "I spoke through my servant when she took her daughter away. Hear her."

What do you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Making Memories

I woke up this morning with negative thoughts. I've worked on a synopsis for *Copper Penny* for so long and still can't seem to make it flow. Writing a synopsis is harder than writing an entire 80,000 novel! It is supposed to be written in the same style as the book and to have the same elements of suspense, action and emotion. And, on top of that, most are supposed to be only one page. I re-wrote and re-wrote and finally have something half-way all right. Good? I'm not sure.

My thoughts were negative until I remembered where I was a year ago and everything changed.

My girls and I were in Maui for a week. I love Hawaii and wish I could go every year just to feel the air and sunshine that's not like any place else I've ever been. I love ocean sunsets and sunrises. I loved sitting on the beach one evening for a long time just watching the water as the sun finally set. We took pictures of the water, of the sand, the sun and our feet in the sand. Then we shared the pictures with each other. Although most of our pictures were the same, we exclaimed over their beauty.

Sweet memories. That week was the first time since around 1979 that the three of us had been alone for any length of time. We rented a Mustang convertible and did many touristy things: whale watching, Luau, Road to Hana, eating seafood. We even tried our hand at snorkeling but that didn't last long. Sherri saw a fish and almost jumped out of the water. Jo Lynn didn't even try, and the waves were too strong for me. We needed to find a quiet cove to pull snorkeling off.

A friend who read my last blog commented that in the summer when she wasn't teaching and her kids were out of school, she did little besides be with them and enjoy every moment of their time together. In my opinion she can't do anything any more important than that. I wish I had some of those moments when my girls were young and we were together--just the three of us. I would have made more memories with them than I did back then.

But we made some memories last year. I'm so grateful that we had that time together and hope we can do it again. It is never too late to make memories with people you love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What Retirement Has Taught Me

I've learned a few things by being retired. Here's one.

Life has been hectic lately. I'm sure some people wonder how a retiree's life can get hectic since we don't work and don't have kids at home, but it is. For one thing we move more slowly than we used to. Another thing is we have different priorities.

I remember being a "Just Do It Mom." I Had to do so many things in a certain length of time. Sometimes, instead of enjoying my kids, I drove them. By "drove" I mean, "Make up your bed," "Do your homework," "Don't chew with your mouth open," "Practice your piano," "Sit down, stand up," blah-blah-blah. (Isn't that the way Charlie Brown's mom sounds?) Even when I taught school and my daughter and grandson lived with us, I did the same thing. I feel like I spent most of my life hurrying from one thing to another.

So here I am at 72 and I'm doing it again. Monday night writer's class--I have to rewrite my Copper Penny synopsis for the twentieth time. It's easier to write an entire novel than to write a synopsis. I still don't know exactly how to do it right, but if I plan to send something to an agent, I have to get it right.

Continue editing "Copper Penny." I have a lot more of that to do than I thought.

Continue writing "Plugged Nickel." When I finally finish that, then I'll have to write another dreaded synopsis about it!!!

Read the minor prophet for tonight's small group meeting.

Do my five day lesson for Esther class before Thursday night meeting.

Meet friends for lunch today. Meet friends for breakfast at 8:30 Friday morning. (Don't ever let the socializing go!)

Go to Book Discussion Group Thursday morning. It's a pancake breakfast before we discuss the book, "Cold Sassy Tree," which was really a good one.

Read the two books I'm reading now. Knit the baby blanket for Care Net.

Prepare the house, shop for groceries at Smith's, Whole Foods and Costco before Saturday when we have the preacher and his entire family coming to stay during their spring break.

Exercise every day. Try to stay on my diet. Watch our favorite TV shows: American Idol and Dancing With the Stars because if we don't watch some of them and just keep taping we'll run out of room on our DVR and get nothing. (These are some of our priorities)

Last night I couldn't go to sleep quickly thinking about all we need to do in the next two weeks. This morning I got a revelation. Relax and let life happen. I can go through life relaxed and enjoy it, or I can rush through it all stressed out. After all, life is going to happen no matter what I do. Since that's the case, I'd rather do it relaxed.

That's what being retired has taught me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I've Got A Dream

I found out today that Peter Ackroyd has written a bio about Edgar Allen Poe. The review by Larry Cox in NM Market Place has really gotten me interested in reading this book. Poe is one of those authors a person reads in high school and college. I always liked his stories because they were so different, so weird and troubling. The reviewer said that all of his life he had to scramble for money. He received $9 for "The Raven." Evidently many of the famous authors we read today and who are our icons, didn't "make it" while they were alive.

Hmmmm. Might I have a better chance after I die? I'm not counting on it, but I'll keep writing just because I love doing it. Probably Poe did, too.

Right now I'm doing the final edit on "Copper Penny," writing "Plugged Nickel" and am already getting excited about beginning "Turn on a Dime." And nothing is even out there trying to get published yet.

As Oscar Hammerstein said, "If you don't have a dream, how are you going to make a dream come true?" I've got a dream. Do you?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Can Only Imagine

I talked to my nutritionist yesterday and he gave me a new diet to follow. Guaranteed to lose weight diet! I may have to try it but not today. I haven't even had time in a week to get on the elliptical much less think about what I have to eat.

What's up with this weather? Where did winter go? The juniper and cedar and everything else that makes a person sneeze is out in force. I put a picture of snow on my cell phone in hopes that would draw a little moisture our way.

Still and all, even with all the craziness going on here, I'm so at peace with where God has me. I can make a list of things I SHOULD be doing or things I WANT to do, but truth be told, it will either get done or not and the world will keep turning.

The main reason I started this post today was to talk about a man I've never met. His name is Oliver Foster. He was one of Reid's cousins. Oliver never progressed beyond about 6 years old. As his parents got older they made arrangements for him to be taken care of the rest of his life in a home in Stamford, Texas. His care fell to Reid's mother, and when she passed, it fell to Reid. The past few weeks Reid has been on the phone with the home, with the doctor and some of his staff at a hospital in Abilene. The decision was made to put Oliver on hospice care and he passed into the next world last night. He's to be cremated and his remains sent to Hereford, Texas. Reid and I will go there soon and have a small graveside service for him.

Although I've never met this man, I have a certain sadness about his passing. Death is that last victory that will be overcome when Jesus decides to do away with it--whenever and however that will be. We don't have any idea what it's like on the other side. We call it Heaven and we like to think it's much like our lives here only perfect. That's because we can't imagine beyond our own manner of existence on earth. Did Oliver meet, recognize and rejoice over seeing his family again? Was there a wonderment about having a clear, mature mind?

A few months ago I wrote a blog about one of Reid's relatives who watched from another realm while doctors worked to save him. He said he experienced God and a peace like he could never describe. He said it isn't what we expect? Was he in what we call Heaven? Is there more? I've read dozens of books by people who have been on the other side. They all have difficulty putting their experiences into words.

The questions of life after death have been with mankind since the Garden, and we still don't know.

What is life like for those who don't believe in an after life? I'd hate to live without knowing there's something more when I leave this life. But all I know for sure is that somewhere, somehow we will be in the actual presence of God in a way we won't know until we get there. The song says, "I can only imagine." I'm not sure I can begin to imagine, can you?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Take That To The Bank

We get so many catalogs--unwanted catalogs. We've never ordered from many of them. A friend sent us a web site where you can go in and tell the companies we don't want their catalogs. I copied and pasted the site here: http://www.catalogchoice.org/catalogs/browse/c/8 It's called Catalog Choice.

In the past I've cut off the mailing label, written a note saying "take us off your mailing list" but they still kept coming. We'll see if this works.

I wish there was a way to stop all the unwanted telephone calls and faxes. We get so many "invitations" to send money to different charities.

Junk mail. So much junk mail coming to us on the computer, on the telephone and in the mail box. Remember when the only mail we got in the mail box was a letter from Grandma or the electric bill?

My grandparents saw an explosion of technology in their lifetime: the telephone, automobile, electricity, flight, appliances, television. I remember when their telephone number was 139 and you had to call Central in order to get a call through to anyone else. When they got a dial phone in their house, I was really disappointed. I loved calling Central. Mail wasn't delivered to their house. They had to go to the post office to get it. Our big outing every day was going to the PO and picking up the one or two pieces of mail or not finding anything in the box.

What would they do today with cable and email and cell phones and junk mail? All the new technology is mind boggling to me. I have no idea how to work an i-Phone or a Blackberry. I guess I could learn. I've learned how to use the computer, drive an automatic transmission car, dial 7 numbers instead of the five we had for years.

I think it's amazing how resilient people are. With the messed up economy and those in power who seem to be doing all they can to wreck our way of life, we may have to learn how to be even more flexible.

Just so this doesn't end on a downer, I have to say that change may be all around us but one thing never changes. Jesus said He'd never leave us or forsake us. That's not junk mail. That's security and truth and peace. Our earthly bank accounts might be shrinking but God's isn't. He's got more than we'll ever need--and we can take that to the bank!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Just Trust

Life has been so full lately that I haven't had a chance to do any writing--not on my blog--not on either of my novels. I barely have a chance to read a little before going to sleep at night. Some people call the "thing" inside of a writer a muse. This muse helps the writer write. Well, my muse is frustrated. She has something to say--no, she has a lot to say--and wishes I'd give her the chance.

Last Wednesday I went to a critique meeting, and I have another one this coming Saturday. At the Wednesday one my writing partners made many suggestions about changes I need to make in novel #2. Before I go to the next meeting on Saturday I need to make those changes. I want to continue editing novel #1 and go forward in #2. I left my main character in #2 in a major crises, and I'm sure he's anxious for me to help him work it out. Little does he know, but his troubles are just beginning. I'm taking a class on Monday nights about getting published. The two teachers will read my synopsis and query letter and let me know if I have them right. I need time to get them ready to be read.

Reid's son, Andy, and his family came Friday to stay until in the morning. But they had major car trouble and can't leave until it's fixed. Our preacher will be here Thursday to stay over the week end. Hopefully they don't overlap or else somebody's going to be crowded in that king-sized bed!

Saturday we spent the entire day at an Irish dance competition. I started to write about it but decided there were more pressing issues. One of those issues is my busy life that's keeping me from doing what I think I need to be doing. Since I'm having trouble going to sleep tonight, I thought it a good time to write.

In the book I've been reading these sentences jumped out at me tonight. "It would seem to me that trusting God allows him to do whatever he desires. If I focus that trust on a specific outcome, then I am only trying to manipulate him." "Growing in trust allows us to walk with God through our concerns and disappointments, knowing he has something else in mind than we have thought."

In our class on Hebrews today, our teacher reminded us that we are souls living in bodies. In reality we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Worship is not the hour or two on Sunday morning we spend inside a building. Everything we do is worship.

Therefore, right now I am walking with God. If he wanted me to be somewhere else, that's where I'd be. If I was supposed to be writing, I'd be writing. What I'm doing is relationship and hospitality and worship. I believe with all my heart that's what's important to him. The synopsis and query and writing will happen when it happens. I believe that's what trust is all about.