Friday, December 13, 2013

Laura Ingalls Wilder


               For days, I have been thinking I need to put something out on my blog, but I have been busy with the holidays and a book covers class I have been taking.  I just went out to see when I last posted.  I am appalled!  So, here is a piece I wrote about a month ago.  I had the good fortune to talk my husband and daughter to drive a couple of hours to mark an item off my bucket list.  Here is the post I wrote but forgot to put on my blog.

                One of my favorite activities while traveling is discovering new places and visiting the lives of famous people from the past.  This past week my family and I journeyed to Missouri to see my younger son graduate from Military Police school for the National Guard at Fort Leonard Wood.  We flew out a couple days earlier grabbing the opportunity to see some sites. 

We drove to Mansfield, Missouri to see the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The rundown little town showed no signs of fame.  In fact many buildings stood in dilapidated ruins in need of repair.  In less than six blocks, we traveled down a country lane meandering through the hills with naked trees lining the asphalt.  Rusty and gold leaves carpeted the countryside forming a natural quilt keeping the tree roots warm in the colder temperatures.

                A sign distinguished the small white farmhouse from other properties along the road.  We turned up the drive to be greeted by an elderly volunteer.  She invited us into the warm building housing a nice size collection of family photos and treasures, including a fiddle.  I enjoyed the photographs which reminded me of my own family photos I have inherited.  My daughter loved the old typewriter.  The photos captured my interest, but I anxiously awaited the announcement for the tour to begin.  Old West museums bore me due to the fact that I have grown up with them all my life. 

                After sitting through a video and looking at farming implements, of which I have some in my garage, we finally entered the house, the little house.  Laura stood only 4 foot 11 inches.  The kitchen displayed the love Almanzo held for Laura.  He built custom countertops for her to cook on.  She hated making bread, so he installed two tall windows framing her counter to be able to look outside as a distraction as she kneaded the dough.  He also built a wood room to store all the firewood off the kitchen so Laura needn’t go outside in the cold.  This warmed my heart.

                In my favorite room of the house, Laura showed her love for Almanzo.  He slept lightly and awoke at the smallest sounds.  In the middle of the night, Laura would be inspired to write.  She softly walked to her writing room just off their bedroom.  Not much bigger than a closet, Laura sat at a small desk writing the beloved Little House on the Prairie books.  Instead of waking Almanzo up upon her return to bed, she instead spent the rest of the night sleeping on a chaise lounge in her little office.  Two nice big window on two of the walls let in the sun giving her plenty of light during the day.  Besides the desk and lounge, only enough room allowed for her to walk through to the living room.  I thought it a perfect writers retreat.

                The information I learned about Rose Wilder Lane, Laura and Almanzo’s only living child, surprised me.  I knew she worked as a journalist in San Francisco, but I didn’t know she was one of the highest paid writers of her day.  She wrote quite a few books.  With her money, she built her parents a retirement home just up the road and she installed the old home with electric lights and other modern conveniences.  I found two of her books on Amazon and downloaded them to my Kindle.  I look forward to reading them in the coming months.

                I loved learning all of these little details of Laura’s life.  When I was a little girl, I wanted to be just like her back in the world of riding in buggies, dancing to a fiddle, baking from scratch, and gardening.  Of course, I also dreamed of teaching, writing, and falling in love.  The simple life of Laura still calls to me.  Granted, I would be very hesitant to relinquish my kindle, computer, and modern machinery, but I look at my modest home and hope I am keeping to a simpler life than most.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Free Falling


            The jock slammed into the blonde’s elbow as he jumped to catch the ball in the middle of the hallway.  The rubber band around the note cards broke sending the small pieces of papers flying across the floor.  Laughter floated in the air as kids pointed at her as they disappeared into the classroom.  A young man in tattered jeans helped collect her cards.  She smiled in relief as he handed her the unorganized mess.

            The screech of the tardy bell caused him to groan.  He followed her into the room only to face the anger of their teacher.  The pretty blonde explained the reason for his third tardy, but no understanding flowed from the adult, detention.  She managed to slip him a note card later in the day suggesting they meet at the dance.  Hope welled up.

Walking into the gym, he ignored the lurid comments of his friends as they trailed in behind him.  The urge to turn around to leave left him as he caught sight of the golden blonde hair of the girl.  The skirt of her white dress swayed against her legs.  She looked like an angel.  He envisioned her with wings.  As if hypnotized, he skirted the dance floor finding a place on the bleachers.  The guys pointed out different girls they desired.  He disregarded them watching her every move.  Frozen in place, he watched in horror as she walked towards him with a smile on her face.

            “Man, I would like to tap that.” 

The crude words woke him.  He slid off the bleachers with cat calls following him.  The music played a new song drowning them out.  Her lips moved as he stopped in front of her but he couldn’t hear.  Smiling she took his hand leading him further onto the dance floor.  Wrapping her arms around him, she pressed in holding tightly.  Her hair smelled of coconut.  His heart stirred.

“I am sorry about today.  Mr. Ross should not have kicked you out of class.”  Her blue eyes peered into his. 

He shrugged afraid to break the spell he felt.  Neither of them spoke for the rest of the song.  They saw only the smiles on each other’s face.  All around them, her friends glared at them and whispered.  As the song ended, she caught sight of their teacher striding across the floor.  She pulled him to the exit before they could be reached.

Sliding onto the black car seat, he thanked her again for the ride.  The playlist in her stereo confused him.  Rock, Christian, country, classical, jazz, she listened to all genres.  His discomfort eased as she told funny stories of her quirky mom and serious dad.  She loved her family.  Pulling off the highway, he noticed his father sitting in a lawn chair next to the dilapidated stairs leading to their singlewide trailer house.  He cringed. Spontaneously, he kissed the back of her hand like he saw once when watching one of his mom’s favorite old movies.  Before the old man could interrupt, he jumped out of the car.  She blew him a kiss and sped down the four lane highway. 

            The smell of stale bear permeated the air.  His father roared at him for not introducing him to his classy new friend.  Mockery dripped from his father’s mouth as he talked about stepping across the social boundaries.  The young man defended with words.  A fist flew quicker then imaginable in a drunken state.  Blood flowed from his nose running down onto his old t-shirt.  He turned on his heel.  The old man’s swear words followed him in the night.

Standing at the top of the mountain, he felt her arms around him once again.  His mind struggled with the likelihood that she actually liked him.  She talked sincerely.  In the couple of months they shared the class, he felt safe in her presence.  Teasing him from time to time, a friendship developed.  He lived for her greeting.  In fact, his only interest in attending school was to see her.  He sat.  Smoke curled around his body sitting on the edge of the cliff face.  His legs dangled over the side.  Could they become a couple?  Could he escape the violence?  Visions of cruelty between his parents, his mother walking out the door with a suitcase in hand, hope floated away with the wind.  An owl swooped past, white wings.  The grace of flight intrigued him.  He longed to fly away.  His legs wobbled as he stood up.  Lifting his arms, the wind encouraged him forward.  For a few short moments, he glided until the world turned black.

            She wept.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Editing with Saga


            For years, I hated editing.  I heard the faint laughter of Saga, the Norse goddess associated with writing, while I painstakingly worried about every word not having a clue what I was doing.  After a long time searching for tools to make the process easier, I finally found them.  I still drag myself to the chair, but my focus stays strong with Saga nudging me in hopefully the right areas to make my stories clearer and more entertaining.

            This past month, I attacked my first novel written with gusto.  I spent 45 hours developing chapters 1 though 11.  At times, I actually enjoyed the process and happily watched the pages go walking by (note not flying by but not trudging either) in a finished state of being.  Last week, I started chapter 12.  Now, I knew this chapter would be a challenge.  When my husband read it a couple of years ago, he stopped at this point.  He never finished the book.  His comments where something like, “the beginning is a great story but then you got to this part and started rushing.”  Yesterday I called him and said he could tell me he told me so.  I think I have about 10 scenes crowded into about 22 pages.  The first three I rewrote and organized.  Yesterday it took me over an hour to fix 1.5 pages.  I took my main character and the rest of the dog sledding teams about 40 miles with some swishing sounds and a dashing rabbit and grazing deer.  Horrible.  I hadn’t even described the clothing they wore. 

I am happy to say now Corrion is bundled up in the bear fur her dear friend Guri gave her with wool socks on her feet.  Yes, she is wearing a hat and mittensJ  However, along the journey when she takes a corner too tightly, a tree branch clipped the top of her head spilling snow down the front of her shirt.  She then has to drive the rest of the way into the city with a frozen shirt and chattering teeth.  Now the scene is a solid 3 pages.  Today I get to rewrite the 1.5 page city scene after she changes out of the wet clothes of course.

Editing still isn’t my favorite task, but I am doing better with it as each day goes by.  Of course, I still hear a chuckle from time to time from Saga.  In fact, she has been laughing wholeheartedly at me while I write today.  Yet, I smile at her.  I am still working.  I haven’t given up.  I will finish this novel.  My goal had been to finish it last month and start editing book 2 this month.  I am behind, but I will prevail.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Declining NaNo


For the last couple of weeks, I have been struggling with what to do in November.  In 2010, I participated in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) or even shorter, the NaNo.  I had a blast and succeeded in reaching my 50,000 words.  Then I never finished the book.  In 2011, I took the year off from NaNo because I was very busy.  November is also the month my church does a huge retreat weekend.  I worked the entire weekend and knew I wouldn’t have the time with my son’s football games and Thanksgiving to get the needed 50,000 words written.  However, I missed the event terribly.  Last year, I again worked the month winning once again.  This second book is sitting in my yet to be finished folder.  Both NaNo’s taught me a ton and I loved the work.  This year though I have been debating to take part or not.

                I am working just a small part for the retreat weekend; however, I do have a weeklong obligation that will keep me from the keyboard.  Between both activities, I will not be writing for a good eight days.  This isn’t even factoring Thanksgiving!  Another problem is that I am doing an online book cover class.  I haven’t a clue how much time this is going to take out of my schedule.  I really want to put all my energy into learning this part of the business and I don’t want to be torn between the strict word deadlines along with the class deadlines.  Alas, I am also exhausted.  This last month, I hit editing really hard.  I doubled all my times with the goal of finishing my pre NaNo novel to be published early next year.  I didn’t realize how draining this would be.  I am burnt out.  Plus, I still have two more chapters to go to finish it up.

                So, I have been leaning towards not doing the NaNo.  My husband and I have talked about it and as he pointed out, I still have tons of work.  My second book that follows this first one in the series is at about 45,000 words.  I need to not only edit the book but also need to add about 50,000 words.  (Hum, this is the amount for the NaNo.)  After that I have my original NaNo that I need to finish and edit.  This is a really complicated book with three different points of view with three different timelines.  I am really saving it until I become a stronger writer so I don’t kill it too much.  But the fact remains, I have these two novels, a nonfiction book, and a bunch of short stories not finished.  Maybe it would best behoove me to finish my projects before starting a new one.

                This morning as I slogged through my morning tasks of reading the latest writers’ blogs that I follow and writing up pathetic morning pages (with the NaNo in the back of my thoughts), I came across a quote from a writer that I follow.  When you are finished with a story or novel, get it out and move on.” - See more at: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/#sthash.BHSmytYE.dpuf  I need to finish my work.  Since about April, that has been my main focus.  I have finished up five short stories and am almost finished with my novel, Pursuing Destiny.  I need to keep going.  So, with a heavy heart, I am going to decline the challenge of the NaNo.  Instead, I am continuing with my personal challenge to clean our my still working file until I am left just one novel project and one short story project.  If I find myself bored, I may try getting those 50,000 done for the book.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Time is Flying


                Two weeks have flown by with not one blog posted.  My writing life and personal life have exploded in an array of activities and I love it, but I find myself missing a little leisure time.  My typical week starts with a Bible Study in the morning, editing in the afternoon, a little family time, and a church meeting in the evening.  Tuesday is a little slower with writing activities mixed with house work during the day, a little family time, and a second Bible Study.  I am never quite sure my entire schedule on Wednesday.  Some mornings, I have my 4th Day group and I like running errands.  In the evening, I did have photography class, but this is over and I am going to work at keeping this evening free though last night I helped my daughter babysit until two in the morning.  Uff da!!!  Thursday’s I get to stay in my pajamas as long as I like in the morning with writing and housework as my only must dos.  Every other Thursday evening I help with my daughters Girl Scout troop.  On Fridays, I usually get to rest, but this week I have to hit the editing harder; plus, we are having an overnight troop activity.  My weekends are quiet and calm with just church and cleaning a computer office building which takes a little over an hour.  However, after last night, I need to work harder on the writing.

                As I reread one of the middle scenes in chapter 5, I realize it was horrid.  I needed to do a 20 minute rewrite that I learned from Natalie Goldberg.  My verbs were at a 1:0 ratio of active verses passive.  Instead of a fifteen minute edit, this put me into an hour to two hour edit if I am lucky on one single scene.  My hope of getting three chapters done in a ten hour week crumbled.  I know the rest of the novel will be this way because looking at the edits from this spring, I only made it through chapter 4.  The book is 13 chapters with no ending as of yet.  I am not sure how many hours I will now have to do in a week to get the book finished this month.  I see my next three weekends packed with editing.  Ugg!

                My motto for the month is “just keep editing, editing, editing.”  One author I know via the internet talks about all the fun he has with his writing career.  On many days, I agree with him wholeheartedly.  Today?  I am not going to think about the long hours of polishing, pulling verbs out of thin air, sitting my butt in the chair, ignoring my poor gardens that need a fall cleaning, and all of that.  Instead, I am going to listen to loud music and thank God I don’t have a day job to make this work twenty times harder.  I am also going to hope that my family doesn’t notice the extra chores they are going to get in the next three weeks and the missing matriarch of the house.

                Blessings.

 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Texts



         About a month ago, I read a short snippet of a book discussing short pieces of writing.  An idea of petite short stories came to my thoughts.  I became really excited and bought the book.  I have read about half the book only to be a bit disappointed.  The material is mainly about texts, tweets, Facebook comments and the like.  However, I still like my idea of writing a petite short story to post once a month here on my blog.  So, here is my first one.  Please feel free to tell me what you think.

 

Texts

The alarm’s incessant beeping interrupted her sleep as she reached across the pile of books on her night stand to hit the snooze button.  She closed her eyes trying to recapture the dream, but the images eluded her.  In defeat, she sat up in bed.  The scent of fresh coffee floated into the room, her favorite time of the day.  Standing up, she switched off the alarm and headed to the bathroom for her daily shower.  After dressing, she padded in stocking feet into the kitchen poring herself a cup of black liquid.  At the window she sat watching cars drive past in a hurry to get to their destination.  She flipped open her phone and texted, “I hope you are having a great day.”

            The morning rolled by with meetings, typing, and lunch.  In the afternoon, a colleague stepped in her office with a vein pulsing on his neck.  They discussed the ongoing crisis of his hating his job.  After he walked out the door a little less red and a little happier, she checked her messages.  None.  Sighing in disappointment, she tried again her fingers hit a multitude of letters.  “I am so tired of Greg’s complaining every day.  He needs to just find a new job.”  She caressed the smooth plastic on the front of the phone.

          As the sun descended to the tree line, B’elanna, the Welsh terrier, pulled on the leash as they circled around the lake path for the second time.  She released the cord to let the dog run free as she took a seat on the park bench pulling her phone out of her pocket, still no messages.  She longed to see his name pop up on her phone.  She wrote another.  “I hope you had a wonderful day.”  A cold wind stirred the colorful leaves.  Her hands pulled her sweater tighter.

          With the last light switched off in the apartment, she lay in bed reading until she eyes drooped.  Leaning over she switched the alarm on and the lamp off.  She checked the messages one last time.  Empty.  Falling asleep, her head rested on a damp pillow.
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Naysayers

          Naysayer, a person who habitually expresses negative or pessimistic views.  How many times does a naysayer come along and thwart our dreams if only for a moment?  I remember when I was a little girl playing the board game Risk.  I must have been in about fifth grade.  A couple of the countries names I struggled with pronouncing correctly.  Looking at the board today, I haven’t a clue which name I struggled with, probably Paraguay.  The naysayer made the comment that I would never be able to do any career in foreign affairs.  Even at that young age the comment fired me up and I had the fleeting thought of proving this person wrong.  Now, I never had the desire to go into that line of work, but I loved history at an early age and ended up with a history degree.  Yes, I still struggle with pronouncing names when first introduced to them, but once I get the hang of them, I love how the sounds roll through my mouth.

          As a young adult, a family friend gave me grief about going to college to get my MRS degree.  I had heard the comment before, but this person I respected and the comment hurt.  In reality, I did get the MRS degree before my BSED.  The fact haunted me and drove me to overcome some pretty big obstacles until I did get that second slip of paper.  The funny part is I have continuously used my MRS degree for the past 24 years.  I really only used the BSED for three years.  I so love irony in real life.

          From the time spelling entered my life, I knew it would be a handicap for education.  I studied and studied and failed and failed.  In third grade, I was introduced to Little House on the Prairie.  I wanted to be just like Laura when I grew up.  I wanted to write.  I can’t even begin to remember all the people that said my spelling was so horrible that I couldn’t go into an English field.  In fact, one teacher wouldn’t sign off for me to take College Prep English.  But how can you deny your heart’s desire?  I loved to write.  I loved playing with words either in my daydreams or on the page creating scenes and characters.  Did I listen to these people?  Heavens no!  I talked with my guidance counselor.  She gave me permission to take the class.  I also invested in a pocket dictionary.  My second degree on my certificate is English.  I also worked in the writing lab of the college I attended.  I taught English and journalism for three years.

          The latest naysayers in my life now make comments about me publishing.  I have written four books and ten short stories.  I technically started the process in 1993.  My first rejection threw me into a major case of writer’s block.  I actually listened to a naysayer.  Luckily a couple of supporters kept nudging me to write.  In the last six years, I have written 592,857 words.  I have been rejected three more times.  In that period, I have read a lot of books and blog sites about writing.  In the past two years, my fiction writing has improved a good 50% or more.  I am so excited.  I have struggled through the pathways of traditional brick and mortar publishing verses e-publishing independently.  I have chosen e-publishing for the time being, but this entails more work.  I am learning more then I could ever imagine in all areas related to publishing:  formatting, sales, promotion, uploading, and book covers.  This all takes a great amount of time, a little bit of money, and a ton of patience.  I am getting closer though, I can feel it.

          Thus, the latest comment about me still not being close to publishing really annoyed me.  I have two short stories that are done in the area of writing.  My third story is being read by 2nd readers.  My fourth needs one more run through and it will go to my 1st readers.  My fifth story needs a complete edit as does my first book with my readers giving more perspective.  These six pieces of writing will then need to be formatted.  I will need to work out publishing pages, blurbs, pricing, book covers, and promotions.  These last tasks I am learning how to do while I am still writing and editing.  This is a huge amount of work.  My goal is to have them out by this next spring after taking four various classes that should help in the process.

          So, what do we do about these negative comments that are thrown our way whether in all seriousness or in jest?  Definitely, don’t take them to heart.  I try to use them as fuel.  I blow at them coaxing them along.  Soon, the comments turn into an inferno that will create success.  Best of all though, listen to all of the coaches out there.  I am very blessed to have quite a few supporters.  I rely on them when I struggle with the naysayers.  Oh, and at times, I can be the worst of all naysayers.

          “I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me.”  Philippians 4:13.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two Amazing Artist Dates


                This past weekend, I traveled 308 miles for an artist’s date.  What is an artist date you ask?  It is time with yourself once a week with no companions for your inner-artist.  I am usually very bad at the whole artist date thing.  I get so wrapped up in my chores and writing goals that many times I skip them.  I must also confess that many times I do them with family members.  This weekend I technically only went on one date though I do counted two dates.

                Saturday morning I woke at 5:30 to drive out to Ross Creek Cedars.  I wanted to spend some time alone to take pictures for my photography class and for me.  I was also hoping to capture some settings for a couple of scenes in the next book I plan to write in November.  I was not disappointed with the setting.  My pictures lacked because of my deadline to be back in town to have breakfast with family, so the light was very poor.


Here is a picture that validated a scene from my very first book.  Two of my characters struggle in a scene getting through a forest of fallen trees.  These two trees were taller than me.  I would definitely have a hard time getting over them.  Luckily, the path went around them.
 
I love these two trees.  They will be a fairy castle.
 
This hollowed out tree will make a perfect hiding spot.



I won’t reveal how, but there is a battle scene with this fallen tree.

 
Here will be the home of my latest character.
 

The second part of my day I do count as an artist’s date even though my daughter tagged along.  I visited a mock Viking encampment.  I loved the tents and the cooking tripod.
 
                Amazing artist dates don’t happen very often.  Many times I just do some gardening, go for a hike, or splurge for a latte.  I am planning another date for next month that is hopefully as amazing as this date, but I am going to keep that a secret until it takes place.  Stay tunedJ


 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Covers and Proverbs


                With my son gone to Fort Leonard Wood for military training and my daughter in school, this week my goal for my writing was to tackle book covers.  Now, I realized I wouldn’t have a finished product by the end of the week, but I didn’t think the book covers would tackle me.

                On Monday and Tuesday, I worked on my ideas of a cover for my first short story, Brother and Sister.  In June, I took a picture of my son and daughter out in the woods.  I plopped this into PowerPoint put in a title and author name (oh, so pretty) and my author brand with a nice background.  Now, I realize PowerPoint is not designed for book covers, but it is the only software I know how to run successfully.  I produced two examples of potential covers.  I liked them though they weren’t exactly the way I wanted them, but that is why I need a graphic designer.

                Wednesday morning, I grabbed all my things and drove to town.  I started the morning holding a beautiful baby boy and chatting with friends.  My nerves did fairly well until after I left and drove to the graphic designers’ storefront.  I chatted with the receptionist.  None of the designers were in at the moment, so she took my name and e-mail address.  She asked for my card.  I really need to get cards!

                I also messaged a friend of a friend that day and waited.  I hate waiting!!!  My cousin heard my impatience and need, so he gave me the name of an old friend of his.  I quickly sent out an e-mail.  I liked this last one.  He is an amazing artist.  I would love his illustrations to grace the front of all my work.  I waited a little longer.

                Friday, the company here in town e-mailed me and called to give me a quote on pricing, $400 for a cover.  Ugh.  The illustrator quoted me between $1400 to $5000.  Oh, my.  Chatting with a graphic designer friend, she thought the $400 quote reasonable.  Well, now I know.  Book covers are not going to come about this way until I am making up to a thousand dollars per project.  I can’t justify paying this much for a $2 short story which hopefully will make me music money.

                Plan Alpha, pay for a few book covers until I learned how to do them on my own, crashed and burned.  Plan Bravo is now in effect.  I am going to take two photography classes, a class in Photoshop, and an on-line book cover class.  Instead of publishing my first stories this month, I will be publishing at the beginning of 2014.  Again, I am waiting.  Have I mentioned how I hate waiting?

                This morning, I read from the Bible and found this beautiful proverb.  “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty,” Proverbs 21:5.  All week I prayed about book covers.  I released the project for Him to work.  I must admit I was anxious for an answer.  Here it is.  Buying book covers was the hasty plan and not financially sound.  Spending all of this money could very well lead to poverty.  Hard work it is!!!

                Blessings.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder


                One of my favorite activities in writing is the research I do for the next story or novel.  Two weeks ago I realized the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) was fast approaching.  I decided my novel project for November would be my story about a young girl left for dead after watching her best friend killed by raiders.  Eventually, she will befriend a falcon.  To begin, I checked out a falconry book from the library and bought a book about PTSD.  The latter is a topic near and dear to my heart since my husband and many friends have been to the warzones in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

                In my readings, I came across some interesting information.  As a wife, the first two years after my husband returned from Iraq were tough.  Reading other stories, our story is a picnic, but it still wasn’t easy.  My husband returned different.  Yes, the basics of his personality remained the same: Catholic, husband, father, and soldier.  However, his personality became rougher, he smiled less, and socializing no longer was a priority.  I, being an introvert, miss the socializing of the past and his consistency in smiling.  Also, he has stretches of extreme tunnel vision that drive me crazy.  For the most part, all our energy went into finding a new normal for him.  We both went to counseling and have structured a new life which has more bumps in the road, but usually they are more manageable.

                In Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post-Traumatic Stress by Bob Delaney, he extends his topic to the spouses of individuals with PTSD.  The spouses of soldiers experience “another form of PTSD on a different level-something I describe as Active-Traumatic Stress Disorder (ATSD).  The circumstances that trigger the trauma in ATSD…unfolds with anxiety on the home front, but the impact on a person’s body chemistry may be the same.”  This anxiety remains after the spouse returns home as the adjustment process begins and the PTSD needs to be dealt with.  In my case, I lived with anxiety for about three years.  I still feel it from time to time.  I am sure my kids felt all of this as well though we tried to shelter them.

                Putting a name to my experience felt really good.  Seeing a person speak in such a way helped validate all the feelings I had and still feel.  The spouse that Bob interviewed for this section of the book stated, “’But I’ll never be the same Mary.’”  I relate so much to this sentiment.  I will never be the same Lisa.  Some people realize this about my husband, but even fewer realize or understand that about me.  While going through all the anxiety, many people criticized me in the way I survived.  With that, I became more of an introvert and trust people far less then in my younger years.

                The military, government, and television are working very hard to educate others about PTSD in our returning soldiers.  I am happy to see that this understanding is extending to all citizens who go through traumatic experiences in the civilian world.  I challenge all of you to broaden this understanding to the immediate family members who live with people with PTSD.  We change as well or we don’t succeed in the relationships.  I believe a lot of the time the spouses change in the same way.  Most days, I am okay with that.  Other days are a bit rougher.  Now I know it is normal.

                The information will help in my writing.  My character at the beginning of the book still lives at home with her parents and younger siblings.  I will write about her PTSD, but now I will also write about the ATSD that the family will experience especially her mother.  My prayer is that I will do both justice.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Transitions


                After retiring from the military after 20 years and leaving my government job after 11 years, I adventured out to become more involved in my church and to write.  In reality, I traveled down the road of new self discovery, a new definition.  Lately, I find myself still wondering who I am now that the military is in my past. 

The other day, I sat in a beautiful living room with a whimsical fish hanging in a little alcove above windows with wooden shutters giving the room an airy feel.  I almost expected a salty breeze to come through the room transporting me to one of my favorite places, the beach.  Across from me sat one of my mentors, a delightful lady who has been in my life for twenty-six or so odd years, my mother-in-law.

                “I really feel you are in transition.”  The statement gave me pause. 

Another comment during the talk, “writer doesn’t define Lisa” left me wanting to scratch my head. 

The conversation left me wondering, who is Lisa.  How do I define myself?  The obvious is wife, mother, daughter, and sister.  There is also Catholic, prior Protestant, conservative, retired staff sergeant, writer, photographer, gardener, crafty, musical, creative, driven, and the list goes on.  Yet, after I retired, I put my military self to the side and strove to be a Catholic writer leaving many of the other definitions by the wayside.  This past November, I realized I missed writing fantasy.  In about March, my desire to blog began to lag.  Other areas of my life started losing their value of fulfillment.  That wise woman was right, I am in transition.

                Now for the hard question, where do I go from here?  In a week, I am taking my first photography class.  I am giddy with anticipation to learn more in the area.  Besides taking spectacular pictures, I am going to apply what I learn to book covers because my other goal is to start indie publishing my writing.  Eventually, this will lead to a website and who knows.  I am learning in leaps and bounds in the area of the arts.  I have so many ideas and projects sparking fires that I have about three lifetimes of work ahead of me.

I also decided to change my blog.  When I began The Journey to Holiness, my dear friend just died from cancer.  I marveled at her strength and faith.  I wanted to emulate that and to bring meaning to our lives through faith.  I did hesitate and wonder about creating a blog about Lisa or one about writing.  In the end, I wrote about faith.  I loved the topic, but have felt confined.

When originally researching blogs, many of them focused on one idea, boxed in with parameters.  I am not good at being put in a box.  Thus, I am going to change to a Lisa blog.  I am going to talk about all things that define me with the goal of learning more of who I am.  I will chat about my frustrations with technology as I learn to format and load books onto Smashwords and Kindle.  I will definitely promote my writing once it is available.  I will explore my mass reflections when so inspired.  Watch out, because I may even become political from time to time.

The title of my blog, as can be seen from above, is changing to simply Lisa Nixon-Richard; however, I am keeping this address until I create a web page.  So stay tuned and farewell.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Making Plans


                “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”  Proverbs 19:21

I love this proverb.  Why?  It tells me nothing new.  I have always known the plans of man can be detoured for God’s plans to unfold instead.  My entire life has been filled with me planning my future only to have God change what takes place.

                When I started college, I planned to study hard, have fun dating, and graduate in five years.  God chuckled at me.  He sent my future husband into my life in the first three days and drained my bank account.  I dropped out after the second quarter and married the next year.  I joined the military, had two babies, and graduated in eight years.  God’s plan!

                My life contains many more examples of my planning and God changing.  Should I stop planning?  Should I throw up my hands in defeat and tell God, “Oh, just take over?”  I say no to both questions.  God made us independent with free choice.  He planted hopes and dreams into our souls to nourish.  Planning gives flight to these dreams.  A path unfolds in front of us like a red carpet.  God does want us to give up in defeat.  He wants us striving forward by being invigorated by the planning process.  I also don’t think He wants to take over.  So what do I take from this verse?

                God desires a relationship with us.  When we make plans, discuss them with Him.  Tweak the timeline when problems or opportunities are standing in front of you.  Simply be open for God’s involvement.

                About ten years ago, I planned to retire from the military with 25 years of service with no debt and the house paid off.  My husband and I agreed to the plan.  We prayed.  At year 18, my health started to decline.  I barely made it to work at 19 years, spending off time in bed or dragging myself to kid activities.  Finally the plan had to be changed.  I had to quit working.  I retired at 20 years with the house being our only debt.  We didn’t fail.  We tweaked with God’s help.

                The best part, God has blessed us beyond all comprehension.  I am writing, gardening, and am happy.  The kids love me being home and spending time together.  Everyone loves the fresh produce, especially the strawberries.  Our plan is now to have the house paid off in the next eight years.  I plan to be making money on sales from my short stories and novels. 

                Will I succeed?  Maybe.  Will I fail?  Heavens no.  I will have God’s plan filling in the details.  With Him by my side, there is only success in my future.  So go out and plan.

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Magic Closet


            I am feeling a bit nostalgic tonight.  My ten-year-old daughter lay on the floor reading the book she checked out this afternoon at the county library.  The scene transported me back to a different time and place when I was ten.

            The year was 1978.  My favorite part of the summer was spending every other week on my uncle’s little farm off Highway 57.  My father worked for the company in town.  Instead of “commuting” every night back to our hometown 56 miles north, he stayed in the cabin next to his brother’s house.  I cooked dinners for him during my weeks at the cabin and cleaned.  I spent my free time tagging along behind my older cousins going to movies, horseback riding, doing chores, and going to the bar for soda pop.  I really think no kid on Earth had better summers then I.

            In the house resided a magic closet.  Walking down the hallway, I would pass the bathroom, Worth’s room and Crystal’s room.  Family photos lined the walls.  Shag carpet silenced my footsteps.  At the end of the hall stood three doors.  To the right, the door opened to my aunt and uncle’s room.  I loved going into the room to the left.  Cath and Carol, whom I idolized, shared this room.  The bright deep purple walls helped shape my love for color I am sure.

            Stepping across the threshold of the middle door transported me into a magical world.  Now this compares to the magic tree house, but alas it doesn’t compare to the amour in the Narnia series, but for a small town Montana girl, I felt I found heaven.

            Walking into the closed, I turned on the overhead light.  All three walls held numerous shelves from the floor to the ceiling all lined with books.  I spent hours perusing the titles.  Many times my cousins suggested books like The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  I read for hours.

            Today books clutter my house.  I have sold books, given them away, and stored them in the shed and garage.  A couple of years ago my husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas.  I love that I am not storing more books; plus, I can take hundreds of books with me weighing less then a pound.

            Yet, I am saddened.  Will magic closets exist in the future?  I believe when my daughter leaves home, I will turn one of the extra bedrooms into a magic room.  I want my grandchildren to have such an experience.  Of course, hopefully they love to read.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Simple


                My morning started very rough.  Either the fibromyalgia or the rheumatoid arthritis was causing my body to ache.  My energy level with a scale of 1 to 10 stood at about -2.  I trudged to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee.  I decided to go out on the patio to do my daily Bible reading hoping the cool morning air would revive me.  God sat with me for a time.  The music of the birds played in the background.  I knew I may not conquer the day, but I would make it to church.

                As is Father’s style, three points were pulled from the readings.  I loved the first point of simple faith.  As humans, we try to complicate everything when really we are called to just love.  The first part of the Gospel reading states, “’You shall love the Lord, you God, with all you heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself’” Luke 10:27.  Loving God is very simple.  Loving my neighbor?  The concept is very simple; yet, I find it hard in practice.  I tend to not even be good at loving myself.  I complicate the love.  I put rules into the equation.  Instead, I need to simplify.

                I want to deviate a bit here from the Mass.  In my daily reading yesterday, I came across a passage that warmed my heart.  In Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes, “I’m eager to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.  In this way, each of us will be a blessing to the other” Romans 1:12.  Again, simple!  In our loving each other, we need to also encourage each other in our faith.  I knew when reading the passage I would be encouraged when I went to Mass.  And I was.  Hopefully I encouraged others as well. 

                The second point I took from Father’s homily was simple charity.  We shouldn’t wait for the big stuff.  We shouldn’t think we have to have money to make a difference.  Simply apply our love to our neighbor.  As I mentioned, I had no energy and my wrist felt like fire kept coursing through it.  Pain shot through my knee.  Two friends gave me comforting hugs, simple charity.  They knew I was struggling and helped me in my stress.  I received other hugs and kind words.  Yes, we are to step out of our comfort zone and help those less fortunate, but we can’t forget those around us.  Giving charity to each other encourages.

                Simple sight is the final point.  Our daily lives become so weighed down with negatives.  For me, I struggle with chronic pain.  I want God to fix it.  I ask Him to take away the pain.  Eventually He does, but not when I want it done.  I could easily only see Him when the pain leaves.  I could only look for Him in the sky or across the sea, Deuteronomy 30:10-14.  Instead, I need to look all around me.  I see Him in the flowers that bloom in my gardens.  I hear him in the twitter of the birds or the buzz of the bees.  I saw Him on the altar as my son stood next to his babysitter of years ago.  She took care of him after school, now they minister together through the Eucharist.   God is right there.  Don’t look past Him.

                Blessing to you all.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The IRS and My Front Yard


                Over graduation weekend, we received a lovely little notice from the IRS regarding a prior tax year.  Without going into detail, our summer is going to entail giving them money and tightening our belts quite a bit.  All gardening, patio, and longer trips have been put on standstill.  For about the last year, every time we turn around our finances keep taking a hit.  Frustration has set in not because we have to cut back in spending per say, but in that some dreams are being put on hold, again.

                For me, it means postponing a trip to Europe.  I have dreamed of traveling to Europe for the last 20 plus years.  I am also trying to establish my writing career.  In the next couple of months, I would like to independently publish a few of my short stories.  How am I going to afford the cover art?  I would like to attend a writer’s conference.  Also, I have been in need of a new laptop.  Mine died about a year ago.

                Alas, the laptop will wait.  I have a perfectly workable computer that I can share with my hubby and kids.  If I get up at six, I have a good four hours before any of them are clamoring for a turn.  They are also very supportive and willingly relinquish their time if I have a pressing task.  I will attend the local conference which is more affordable than the one in Seattle.  I am researching cover art and more affordable ways of getting that accomplished.  Italy isn’t going anywhere.  I will get there in God’s time.

                As for the other items, new outdoor furniture, new flooring, traveling out of state and patio building material can all wait for a later date.  I have plenty of projects I can do around the yard that will just take hard work, no money.  I am traveling a bit to the normal destinations of the Kootenai forest and other local areas.  I have plenty of places I haven’t explored in our region that only cost a tank of gas. 

My summer verses that I will meditate on come from Psalms 119:36-37.  “Give me an eagerness for your decrees; Do not inflict me with love for money!  Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.”  Thus, I will continue to read from the Bible.  I will look for the blessings God gives me daily.  So, with all that in mind, I went on a free artist date last week and want to share what I found.  I spent time in my front yard.  Later this week, I will take another artist date in my backyard.  God is so very good.



 
I found this idea on the internet.  This fall I will try to clean the dirt stain to make it more appealing.  Also, I think more flowers should be planted next year, but I still love my first attempt.
 
 
Here is a treasure I picked up when I went fishing with my dad a couple of years ago.  I think of him each time I walk by to get into my pickup.



 
After years of struggling, this section of garden is looking really good.  I love the little house.  When I walk by it, I always look for fairies to greet me.
 

Gardening for me is always an experiment.  I buy plants on a whim.  The next year, I never know what will come up.  This is one such plant.  I love the surprise of what will show up next.

 
Before the IRS notice, I bought this new pot and filled in this new section of garden.  I love anticipating how the new plants will grow.
 

Here is my beautiful statue of St. Francis among the lilies in the background and coral bells in the forefront.

My husband's favorite, the Bridal's Wreath.  This greets all our visits when they come to our home.  Every year, it seems to get more beautiful.
 
 

I started the turtle garden for my daughter a couple of years ago.  I added an internet idea of the tires this spring.  I still have to add flowers which I fortunately have a gift card that I will use.  I may add a photo later this year if it fills in better.
 
 

I hope you enjoyed a little tour of my front yard along with the little story of my experience with the IRS.
              Blessings to you all.