Alaska

Alaska
My Log Cabin in Alaska

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Walk in the Woods with the Lord


 
 
‘Twas a cold and rainy day. Gosh that sounds hokey. But face it, more than two days of cold weather in Texas is just bad! And that sounds whiney since I lived so long in Alaska. But at least Alaska is honest about its cold weather. Texas is just plain mean! And I’m sitting here feeling the effects, all worn out and uninspired. So I was staring out my upstairs window, trying to think of something new to write in one of the three pieces I’m currently working on and I thought of a thought I had a couple of decades ago. It made me feel better, so I thought I’d share it.

Another walk in the garden with the Lord

About twenty five years ago I found myself struggling terribly with a number of stresses. I went for a walk in the Piney Woods of East Texas; actually I was trying to run away. I intermittently cried and yelled, throwing blame and drowning in guilt over things which I finally figured out were beyond my control. It took a while, walking down that game trail, but I began to calm down and see things around me. Presently I saw a huge pine tree, a Loblolly Pine that had a broken trunk and had fallen. The tree seemed healthy, all its needles were intact, green, and the bark looked good. There had been no wind, no other trees were down. I left the trail to go investigate

Now, you know that God moves in mysterious ways, and his voice is not always booming. Sometimes the message just comes through as a tingling whisper. As I studied this giant tree (the diameter of the trunk was nearly three feet) I noticed tiny bugs under the bark. They were pine bark beetles, I learned later, but for me they were a message from the Lord.

The message was this; you may look strong, healthy, and may stand tall in your community, but sometimes little things get under your skin. These little things will fester and make you sick. They will cut off your spiritual circulation. Literally they will cut you off and make you grow sick and weak inside. You may be grand on the outside, but you are dying on the inside, and if you don’t rid yourself of the little bugs which are draining the life out of you, you will fall.

I was perplexed. That tree simply had no way of defending itself against the invading beetles. I thought it was unfair, to say the least. I was also having some trouble getting past the similarity of the fate of that tree and my own life. I sat and pondered. Okay, so I have little bugs under my skin. I, at least, do have a way of defending myself, of ridding myself of those bugs. (That’s another story altogether)

I was feeling somewhat better and continued on my way. Down the trail I saw the coolest piece of vine. It had been cut from a tree by the forest service, but I liked it. I don’t usually pick up anything from public lands, but I picked up this piece of dry vine, something to remind me of the inspiring day I had experienced.

This piece of vine was only about three feet long, all curly from winding itself around the tree branch it had grown on, and it weighed less than three pounds. I continued my walk, vine happily clutched in my fingers. I was finally feeling more like myself, the walk was really refreshing. The five mile loop I chose that day took me through some of the prettiest forest in that area, and I was nearly half way through. Then my arm began to ache, just a little, sort of a stiff elbow. That surprised me since I am a strong person, physically, and can carry heavy items or work in a garden all day.

I pondered this new mystery, this tiresome ache in my arm, and it hit me. I had picked up, and admired, something that had been wringing the life out of one of God’s creations. It had been physically cut away and cast out, but here I was, picking it up and carrying it like it was something wonderful. The pain it caused wasn’t devastating, just annoying, something I could ignore if I wanted. That is, until it was too late.

I got the message from Jesus fully then. When little things get under your skin, get rid of them. He, alone, can get rid of those pesky parasites. Try to deal with them yourself and you will be choked to death, or the life will be sucked out of you. We are to lay our burdens at the cross – and leave them there. Don’t pick them back up, and don’t pick up anyone else’s burdens either. Give them to God and let him deal with it.

It still amazes me how God can talk to me, not in church, not even through a Bible, but on a sunny afternoon on a walk in the woods, or even a cold rainy day in the corner of my office.
In case you might be wondering, the photo is Denali, Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America. It's one of my favorite photos taken a few years ago during a road trip through Alaska.
I'd like to hear from you, post your thoughts on inspiration.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

And Still I Plow Forward

Summer time is busy time and that's just the way it is. I used to think I could do anything (and do it better than anyone else) I believed I was Wonder Woman (I think I lost my magic bracelets) And I knew I was Supergirl (my cape seems to be a bit ragged)

Still I plow forward.

This week I have built a workbench in the blearing heat of Texas, planted a tree, fought fire-ants to no avail, put up turkeys (yea, it's a farm we raise our own meat), took care of my still injured hubby, did a whole pile of writing and not sure any of it is readable, did a whole pile of editing and hope I didn't miss another 500 mistakes, kept up with the housework 'cause it's the best excuse for not going out in the heat, and designed my display table for my first big book event!

Oh, yea! I get to go showcase my little book with all the good writers of Texas at the Texas Word Wrangler festival in Giddings! And I don't have a clue what to expect. So I do my research, pray, and plow forward....we will see what happens next.

But, I don't remember taking any time for me, and as I sit here trying to make sense of my keyboard, I realize that I'm not listening to the advise of my friend Candilynn. Take time to clear out the gunk, let the brain cells rest a bit, meditate and refocus. Now, where's my schedule book, I gotta pencil that in somewhere!

Wow, even the computer is tired, it won't upload my picture of my new tree!

Eventually when you keep plowing forward, you will bend something that you didn't mean to bend.  I think I will get a pretty picture and just look at it for a while, nothing else, no plowing.

What do you do to unwind, unplug, and relax the brain muscle?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Review: Ascending Spiral by Bob Rich

Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last ChanceAscending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance by Bob Rich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a thought provoking story I have never read before. Do I believe in reincarnation? Hardly. As a Bible believing Christian I believe in one life, one death and the resurrection of the eternal soul…. And just what does that mean. As an open minded intellectual I humorously entertain thoughts of what or who I may have been, or might become in different lives because of something that has just happened to me.

And the Question still begs for an answer, “Why am I here?”

I chose this book partly from curiosity, partly from personal need, and partly from a drive I had no control over. As a person who focuses mainly on children’s books or much lighter and predictable Westerns, I first found this book to be hard to read. But it was harder to put down. And now that I’ve turned that last page, it will be impossible to forget.

I followed Pip through his life. I struggled through many of ‘his’ other lives, and when I gaze at the myriad of stars over the Texas plains at night I really do wonder how many others are looking down on me. “What is my purpose here?” I feel the struggle as life continues, and the surprise as I begin to realize that one soul has moved on to a new lesson. Then more surprise as I discover that the soul may be able to choose the lessons. “What could possibly be next?” I was driven almost to the point of stress as Pip’s life became complex and confusing, the story bouncing from one time frame to another and back again. But, Isn’t that how life goes as we mature, grow, and find success?

I love the ‘spiral’ motif. It is motion, it is economy of motion. It can lift but it can also drill, or be a feather drifting lazily to settle in the shade of a willow tree. Do we spiral toward a more complex lifestyle or to a simpler one? Like Pip, I have choices. How can I know that each choice I make will result in peace of heart and mind for me and my children? And what about the temptation to choose wealth or just a tiny dab of celebrity? I pray that my choices will result in my being able to ‘pass’ this lesson, but even more than that, that my choices will result in my children being able to also learn and pass their own lessons.

Thank you, Bob, for your writing. And by the way, I’ve been a conservationist, and mostly off the grid, for a large part of my life. I now live in a ‘tiny house’ and the solar panels are on the way. And, thankfully, just as with Pip, the ‘taker’ has become the ‘giver’, the ‘destroyer’ has become the ‘builder’, and I hope that the stubborn will soon learn enough to become the teacher.

View all my reviews

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde


Published October 2nd 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers
(first published November 4th 2010)
 
I chose this book and bought a copy because I won the second in the series in First Reads through Goodreads and I just had to read the first in the series! Although I do enjoy dragon stories, I may not have selected this book to read without some other motivation, personally I prefer Westerns or horse books, and I must say that without this author and these books my reading experience has been lacking.

I enjoyed the fresh and subtle plot and the twists along the way which kept me engaged. I love, love, love the detailed descriptions and the colorful language (which was used as a point to separate the classes and was distained to the point of humor). The characters and made up creatures were fun and believable in a fantasy sort of way and I felt a true connection to the heroine, Jennifer Strange. One of the best elements of this story in my humble opinion is the melding of old and new. Medieval dragons, trolls, [and what in the world is a Quarkbeast?] and magic all combined in a world of cars, telephones, and computer code is just cool. And I appreciated the very hidden messages of conservation, loyalty, and standing up for one's own beliefs.

I quickly got into the story as young Jennifer, an orphan, a foundling indentured into work as manager of magic in the aging hotel full of mostly retired sorcerers. She faces her challenges with wit and courage that belies her age. I laughed with her, I feared for her, and I grieved as she faced her greatest challenge.

I recommend this book to young people, it will expand your horizons, and to adults, it will renew your belief in goodness.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reflections of the Fourth of July



 

I smell the tangy, mouthwatering smoke of a hundred charcoal grills cooking up delectable holiday meals. Later I smell the acrid scent of a thousand colorful bombs set in time to patriotic songs and messages.
I cannot fathom the grave responsibility of the safety and security of a nation as I sip a cold beverage and enjoy my barbequed chicken. I do not know the terror of tyranny and my only concept of oppression is a stack of dirty dishes awaiting my attention. But I am not soft and uncaring.
I cherish my freedom and with every exploding rainbow I am reminded of the cost.
I sit in the grass and I see the red explosion reflected in the eyes of a soldier who has seen this thing in a different light. The same eyes that have faced this fire for a hundred years and a thousand years, the same eyes that will continue to face this fire for a thousand years to come. Eyes that guard the beloved against harm.
To some this show is nothing more than a display of colorful lights and they hope that this show might be better than the last, but they are not sure they would actually pay to see it, and would someone pass the potato salad.
To me this show is an acknowledgement that men were willing-- not just once, not just long ago, but now--willing, ready, able to stop forward and defend me against harm.

I take that personally.

I thank you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

How to write a book in 10 easy steps


I am such a terrible blogger. I have neglected the little garden for so long that the weeds have grown up and I can't even find my way around this place again. But on a happier note, I finished a book. Not just finished writing, but got the thing on the shelf!

Yep, I got it, but not alone. If it takes a village to raise a child it takes half the USA to raise a book. And I used a good portion of the country to get'er done. And I'm pretty jazzed about it, just in case you couldn't tell.

If you are curious, here is my process:

1. Read, read, read, read, get something relaxing to drink, then read a bit more.
2. Collaborate with like minded souls, I joined the Brazos Valley chapter of SCBWI.
3. Find a critique partner or two or three or more, I have done this online and the face to face.
4. Create................ yea, it takes that long.
5. Edit, rewrite, check with your critique group, edit, rewrite, repeat. And go to several workshops.
6. Hire a professional editor.
7. Cry, rewrite, check, rewrite again, and check on that relaxing drink.
8. Hire a professional proofreader.
9. Cry, rewrite, check, head back to the store for more relaxing beverage.
10. Sign up for an account with Create Space and click a couple of buttons.

My final copy in no way shape or form looks the same as it did when I emailed it to my first critique partner, but I sure am happy with it.

For more details on this absolutely wonderful children's horse story, please visit my gallery of books.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Budget


 
Is that a four letter word? A word that makes us cringe or feel overwhelming guilt? I usually face my monthly chore of working out my budget with the same gusto I have for going to the doctor for a colonoscopy! But the financial budget is just as important to the health of my pocketbook as that other thing is to my personal health, so I do it.


That is altogether the wrong attitude.

In the effort to improve my feelings toward the topic, I shall attempt to redefine it. A budget is a plan. But, I don’t like that word very much either. If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plan. How about a map? I love, love, love maps. I grew up traveling and I could read a map before I could read a book. You have a start point, and end point, and a series of necessary stops in the middle. Love it, on my way to a new attitude.

Ok, now to apply it.

How is my lovely map like my unlovely monthly budget? I have a start point, X dollars. I have my end point, nothing in the red. Oooooh better yet, let’s have something in the savings account. We have all the necessary stops, the bills, the groceries, the discretionary fund, and whatever else I forgot to list. Make it fit and even take a picture of it for posterity. (And I have discovered that it is easier to cut out the junk that isn’t healthy for me or my financial budget.) That feels better already.

Can I apply this concept to the rest of my life and most especially to my writing? If I am to make a business of writing with any hope what so ever of putting a dollar or two in the bank, then I had better figure out how to apply this budget concept to my ‘list of things I gotta do’. I have my allotted hours to spend, and I know where I want to be at the end of the day. I also know where I want to be in a year. Here’s how I prepare my ‘Time Budget’:

1.       Make a list and prioritize it, be honest and thorough.

2.       Allow enough time for each event on your list.

3.       If you have to, assign a day of the week, or a day of the month, to accomplish each event, especially if it is a reoccurring event like paying bills.

4.       Absolutely must earmark a proper amount of time every day for these personal items:

a.       Meditation or prayer

b.      Personal hygiene

c.       Your significant other

5.       Select some new technology to learn.

6.       Take time to smell the roses, take a break, go on a picnic – rain or shine.

Now, make sure that everything fits in your time budget. How much time did you allow for your writing? Remember what your college English teacher told you? Two hours of homework for every hour of class. Write it all on a big desk calendar and stick to it.

Does this sound like preparing a schedule for work? That is exactly what it is. If I wish to be successful in writing, I must budget my time and stick to it.

Can I get quality writing done in two hours a day? How about four hours every other day?

 

How do you manage your time budget? How much time do you allow for your writing? Feel free to tap that little button down there and leave me a comment.