Living a Grateful Live, Part 3

Becoming frustrated with negative news and online comments, I decided the week before Advent (November 25, 2018), to start posting on my FaceBook page one thing per day for which I was grateful to God, and try not to repeat. It was mostly a personal challenge for me, but held accountable by the public, daily posts. It forced myself to focus on positive things, for the weight of the negatives were surely weighing me down.  I also chose a deadline because I wasn’t sure how I’d do, so decided on Epiphany, January 6th, which was yesterday. I posted daily thanks for 40 days — actually, it was 42 because I miscounted twice — a six week journey. Here is some of what I learned:

  • No matter how bleak things may seem, there are people and things everywhere, and every day, to be thankful for.
  • I shouldn’t worry about offending anyone by writing about God or being grateful or thankful. (Before, online, I sometimes felt like I treaded on eggs.)
  • I found myself “on the lookout” every day for something to post. It wasn’t difficult to find them; what was difficult was limiting myself to only one thing.
  • I ended up praying more – nearly entirely for others, but occasionally for me, too. It wasn’t so much that I was more aware of God in my life, but more how and what to share with others, as if my life experiences and thoughts were going through a filter.
  • I discovered the FaceBook algorithm changed many of the people who normally popped up – changed to more thoughtful and grateful posts. This probably had to do with the “Living a Grateful Life” phrase I wrote every day. (Now I’ve been tagged!)
  • Some days I felt like expounding in a super-long post (or blog or chapter) about what I’d mentioned. A possible book? asks this writer. Most likely not, I answer.
  • An unmet-yet writing friend commented how I didn’t focus on thankful for material things. But I realize material things come and go, and you certainly “can’t take it with you”, I didn’t even consider that (except for the bed bit).
  • I found it easy to skip posts or news articles which I knew were upsetting and would previously only draw me into dark places. I’m not saying I strove to ignore the bad, just not to dwell on them nor allow them to pull me down.
  • Although my thinking and thoughts seemed to be clearer these past few weeks, I felt like the days passed very quickly.
  • I know that upon further reflection I could drone on and on, but my point on my FB posts was brevity, as it rather is now, too.

Today I go in for outpatient cancer surgery. Instead of focusing on the negative (cancer, etc.), I will focus on people – praying for the attitudes, emotions, thoughts, and skills of the doctor and staff working on me, as well as for the thousands (most likely more) people who are also going through cancer surgery this very day, as well as for their families and friends.

God is good.

The Story of Walking Tree

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The forecast was for partly sunny skies. So we drove the 90 minutes to Michigan’s West Coast only to find it foggy. We wouldn’t have left home if we knew it would be foggy. But once there, and surrounded by December fog, we were up for the adventure. 

It had been a while since we had walked that particular beach. We could only see a few yards ahead of us. The ghostly silhouette of a large tree loomed in front of us. We certainly didn’t remember there being a tree in the middle of the beach, standing tall between the edge of the sand dune and the waves. But it was foggy. Perhaps so were our memories.

Our second thought, separate, yet the same idea struck us, that the water was quite high. It must have been to be so near the base of the tree.

We’d agreed that the turnaround point of our walk was at the tree. However, as we reached it, I had the urge to see it from the other side. I twisted between and beneath the dripping branches. It was then, from that other side, that it became much clearer what had actually happened: the tree had walked down to the beach.

Two other whole trees lay on their sides nearby, their spidery roots exposed to the white air. Following up the sand dune, we noticed other trees, bent out at angles over the dune’s edge. Enlightenment! Through erosion, The trees had slid down the dune. 

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We’ve been on mountain roads where there are signs warning of falling rocks. I recalled the story of Sleeping Bear Dunes and a man walking his dog when the dune collapsed. With the streams of water flowing from the dune base and headed for Lake Michigan, I became a little nervous of other tipped trees anxious to take a walk down to the beach. There ought to have been a warning sign: Beware of Falling Trees. 

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I hope the people in power will leave the tree alone — particularly that one which walked down the dune, remaining upright. It has a chance to continue growing, for it is sure to have sufficient water for its roots, which were fairly covered by the sand. Clear away the debris from the beach, but allow this graceful tree have its second life. Please?

Living a Grateful Life, Part 2

This is a followup to my last post of attempting to live a more thankful life. I intended it as a personal challenge, to rather counter all the negativity I see around me in life and in the media. I then wanted to share it with others, both friends and strangers through my blog, as well as daily on my FaceBook page.

Twelve days in, I’ve noticed that the FB algorithm now shows different people coming up in my feed, some I know and some I don’t. Each of them is more positive with more positive posts than my usual FB encounters. Already I feel more relaxed when logging onto FaceBook. Also, about every four days comes a pop-up for me to fill in a form and share whom I am thankful for. I never-ever saw that before starting this sharing a Life of Gratitude on line. Hurray for algorithms.

One last thing here: I started this, wanting to post just one thing a day for which I am thankful to God. A challenge. A discipline. This morning, before breakfast, I had perhaps a dozen thoughts vying for my attention. “Pick me for today.” “No, pick me.” I’m beginning to think that this Living a Grateful Life personal challenge is like a snowball, starting small enough to fit in my hands, but as it rolls through the perfect snow, it grows and grows and grows.

A Grateful Life

With 6 days until the New Year, I have decided that from today until the end of Christmas (January 6), I shall post something each day on my FB page for which I am grateful to God. I shall try to be more specific than “family” or such. It is a month-long personal challenge.

Especially in this age of so much dissent and separatism, I would like to encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Here is my FB page, if anyone is interested in my own journey: https://www.facebook.com/sandycarl

“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NASB, I Thessalonians 5:18). (Sandy’s comment: Not thankful for every circumstance, for some are evil, but find something even through bad circumstances to be grateful for.)

“And whatever you do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (NASB, Colossians 3:17).

New Fav TV Series – Time Team

Alright. I know I am four years (or 24 years) behind the times here. But I only recently discovered a marvelous British documentary series called “Time Team”. I’m sure it is marvelous to anyone interested in history, especially British history. The show aired from January of 1994 to September of 2014, but with my recent discovery of it, it has shot up to be my new favorite TV series. Each episode has professional archaeologists who go to various locations on a three-day dig (although some of the sites are on-going digs). The totally fun part of it is that “Baldrick” (from Blackadder, a Brit comedy from the 1980’s; aka actor Tony Robinson) is the narrator.

This week on Episode 51 of “Time Team” I learned for the first time about Doggerland. This was a land mass between Scotland and Denmark and the Netherlands before England-Scotland-Whales became an island. The fertile and populated Doggerland was flooded first by a tsunami about 6,000 BC, followed soon after by rising ocean levels from the last glacial retreat of the Ice Age.

Hearing about Doggerland for the first time made me feel like it was a fantasy world, only it was real. It also made me feel stupid for never having heard of it before. And, oh, but what a lovely diversion I have from NaNoWriMo.

I’m a little behind in my word count (of the 50,000 word goal for the month), but I seriously hope to finish my next War Unicorn novel by then, at least the rough draft of it, at least if I can be disciplined to write and not be glued to “Time Team”!

NaNoWriMo Prep and Promoting Books

This is the last day before NaNoWriMo 2018. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, although it’s gone international now, and encourages adult writers to produce 50,000 words on a new story in the 30 days of November. This will be my 10th year participating.

Personally, November is a horrible month to choose for pounding out 50K raw words (rough draft). There are holidays and family visits and company coming for 1/4 of the time and dear hubby’s birthday and, of course, one less day than half of the months of the year. Yet! What a writing challenge.

I used to cheat to get in my 50K, or about 17,000 words per day, and counted any writing, including letters and journaling pages. I don’t do that now. At least I try to focus on the one and only story I’m working on. O, discipline. It is so hard for me!

For my NaNoWriMo preparation, I have the characters already known to me (from three previous books in the series), but I’ve written out plot scenes on 3″ x 5″ cards and rubberbanded them into three acts. I’m all set to TAM (Type Away Madly). O, discipline. I feel the most prepared this year for NaNoWriMo than I have any previous year.

Besides focusing on NaNoWriMo, I had professional author photos taken for the first time yesterday. After ten books, I thought it was time for this. I normally hate being on “that side” of the camera, but it was so much fun–all outdoors, naturally. And my photographer, Dena Haas, is amazing. I can’t wait to see the results, and to share them.

I also have ongoing book promotion and marketing to keep on top of. SCBWI is featuring kids’ books published in 2018. I’m supposed to promote not only mine, but help others out as well by promoting theirs. It started last week and goes through November. I figured I’d let the wave of enthusiasm flow over me, and then in a week or so, when people fade out of promoting, I’ll get in there to market and promote some, all while writing 1,700 words a day and loving spending time with my family.

You writers: write. You readers: support your authors and buy their books, and review them, too. Come on, November. I’m ready for you.

 

Nature and Human Sounds

It’s in the 40’s, dark and rainy, but there’s a nice breeze going on outside. I had to step outside. So here I was, standing on our front porch in my bare feet and loving nature greeting me. It was only my human rationality which finally encouraged me to pull the doorknob to reenter the house, even though it was irrational to my soul. What would the neighbors think?

I thought that if I had my dream writer’s shack (a tiny camper), I’d have as many windows as possible, and all of them opened wide as I wrote away to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the patter of rain, the occasional bird and scampering squirrels. Of course, if it were nighttime, there would be deer and racoon and opossum wandering near.

All of my stories are set in the out of doors. For that very reason, sometimes it is difficult to write…inside. It would not be wise to leave windows opened inside the house when the outside temp is below fifty. Inside, there is the constant hum of the computer in the closed-in den. Leaving the room, there is the refrigerator hum, the lights humming, the kitchen clock tick-tocking away, and the furnace or furnace fan clicking on and off. (In the summertime it is air conditioning.) Of course, other neighborhood human reminders include loud lawncare machines, or airplanes or boats or racing cars or motorcycles. It makes it very distracting to ride a unicorn through a mountain meadow, seeing the tiny high-altitude flowers immediately below, the azure-blue sky above with falcon cry, the rocks and ranges extending to the horizon.

Rizzz. Rahhh. Zoom. Hum.

Oh, fiddlesticks. I’m going back on the porch for a while.  At least there, in the dark, in the rain, standing in my bare feet, natural noises give competition to the human-created sounds.

Writing Ghost Stories

(This book is loaded with ghost stories.)

When I was a kid, a favorite activity was to take my siblings, or cousins, or any willing friend into my closet (during daylight hours) and tell spooky stories. I’d block the light coming in at the base of the door with a towel to make it pitch black. I knew I’d told one scary enough when the kid(s) would scream and jump up to get out into the light.

Mine were never about blood and gore. There was the set up to the story, and then either a quiet-realization ending (“…then the boyfriend came around to open the girl’s car door and found a bloody hook on the handle.”) or it ended with rapid speech or creepy sound with a loud reveal (“…but it couldn’t have been her dog licking her; her dog had died the year before”, or simply a shouted: “Boo!”).

To create a spooky story, it’s as easy as 1-2-3. First, you need the set up, then the buildup (with foreshadowing of what’s to come), concluding with the final, quick ending.

Go try your own hand at doing this!

Cultural Hand Signals

I am guessing you have heard the story of the Texas football team which went Italy and the Texas fans started flashing the team’s bull horns. The Italian response was quite a surprise and very negative,  for apparently this sign is a huge insult in Italy.

As we must be aware of not only on culture but those around us.

When my husband and I ride our bicycles around the neighborhood we use hand signals to indicate turns.  I’m thinking we may be the only people in this area who still use hand signals while bicycles. For when drivers pass by us, they will enevitably wave to us. Don’t get me wrong. We wave while riding all the time. But a right hand turn is not a wave. Still, it’s nice to live in a friendly neighborhood.

 

 

Second Grade Wisdom: Love is When

Updating files lately, I came across something I’d kept from when I taught 2nd grade. They were all great, but I thought I’d share a few. It was Valentine’s Day, 2002. The journal topic was “Love is when…”.

 (f) True love is when you give someone a ring and marry each other.

(m) Love is when you know someone and you want to talk with them all you can.

(f) Love is when you share your toys. Love is when you like someone inside or outside. Love is when you share your feelings.

 (m) Love is when my mom broke her toe and she could hardly move. My dad took care of her and helped her.

 (f) Love is when a boy takes a girl’s breath away. Love is when a girl takes away a boy’s breath!!!!!

 (m) My mom loves me. She scratches my back.

 (f) I know my dad loves me because he stopped smoking when I was born.

(m) Love is when a person loves another person, like when my mom feeds me.

 (f) Love is when the moon never stops spinning around the earth. That’s because they were made for each other. Love is when a person’s name is in your heart. That is love.

 (m) Love is romantic….or yuck. Love. Yuck. Gross. I think I’m going to throw up.