What to Do on a Dreary Day?

It’s a dreary day at my house. Too cold and wet to be outside. So overcast my spirit feels depressed. What to do?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Today is National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. Did your heart speed up at the thought of bubble wrap? What is it about popping bubble wrap that can make you smile? Maybe it’s because it takes so little effort, or the patterns you can make, or the popping sound makes you think of happy things. I don’t know what it is, but it works to lift your mood.

Ever wondered how bubble wrap was invented? The story can be found here. The condensed version of the bubble wrap story is that it was a failure. But the inventor worked and worked until he found an excellent use for it. So it’s now a successful product that makes lots of money for the inventor and the people who make it.

I don’t have any packages coming that have bubble wrap in them but have a small stash for packing purposes. (Wink, wink)

And of course, there is an app for this activity.

Don’t stress over the day. Take it out on the bubble wrap.

Happy National Bubble Wrap Day.

From Wronged to Strong

There will always be people in your life who treat you wrong. Be sure to thank them for making you strong. Zig Ziglar

Okay, I never thought of being wronged as making me strong. But now I realize this is true. Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a witch named Zora worked in a broom factory. Every day Zora reported to work, put on her factory-issued hairnet, and took her place on the factory floor. Her job was to add the last piece of magic to the broom. This small amount of magic she weaved into the broom was something she took immense pride in doing. Some witches used their magic to carve and shape the brooms. While others specialized in the placement of the broom straws and finishing. It was a small operation where everyone knew each other and usually got along.

Then one day, the old manager retired. Dagny, a witch with great skill in finishing, was promoted to factory manager. Dagny felt that the appearance of the broom was the most essential part of the process and worked hard to get everyone to create perfectly formed and beautiful brooms.

Dagny and Zora had worked together for many years. Zora was surprised to learn that Dagny saw no value in Zora’s tiny, insignificant, invisible part. New requirements were put on Zora to make the spell visible and beautiful.

Zora tried to make the spell appear beautiful, like trimming the broom. She worked and worked to perfect the magic. Every day Dagny walked by and watched Zora, making sour faces at her attempts. Then one day Zora was fired.

What was Zora going to do? This work had been her life. She spent the next month sulking in her room. There she practiced more spells, and an idea began to form in her mind. She would open her own broom-making business.

It took several months to get the business started with two friends. The friends carved, assembled, and finished the brooms. Then Zora added her little bit of magic to them. The brooms became popular, and soon their small business grew.

During the time Zora had been without work, she created a new spell for the brooms. The original spell’s purpose was to make the broom respond to its owner’s command. The new spell went further. Not only did the brooms respond, but the broom would become colorful and decorated to match the witch’s personality. It could even change with the witch’s attitude.

A couple of years later, the Witches World News interviewed Zora about her successful business. Zora thanked Dagny for challenging and firing her during the interview, making Zora a better broom-making witch.

Moral: Just because something terrible happens doesn’t mean something better isn’t waiting for us.

Unexpected but not Defeating

Sometimes things just don’t go as you planned. Then what do you do?

It is time to assess the damage. This is what you always do when unexpected things happen, whether it is a fire, tornado, earthquake, or a human-caused event.

Accessing the damage frequently means changing your plan, if not tossing the plan out. For example, your house is burglarized, and that requires looking at your home in a different light. You begin asking questions like:

  • Do I need a security system?
  • What was stolen?
  • Why did the burglars choose my house, my things?
  • What was the purpose of damaging my home as they took what they wanted?
  • How come they stole my yearbook?

These questions are frequently followed by tears, yelling, and fits of anger. All these things are necessary but not where you should dwell. Remaining too long in this anger and grief stage will cause you to miss living your life and finding new opportunities. Accept that it happened and move to the next step.

Next step, a modified or new plan. As you look forward, you can rid yourself of some baggage that needed to go but couldn’t bring yourself to do it. Get help to clean up the mess and someone to talk with. Make improvements to your life. This new stage of your life can be exciting as you evaluate what you want going forward. That big box of high school memorabilia that you moved from one place to another is now gone. You have a whole shelf in the closet to use, the memories are still with you, and it could provide an opportunity to reconnect with these friends if you decide to find a replacement yearbook.

No one likes starting over. We are more comfortable with what we know, but sometimes we are forced to see new possibilities for our lives.

Happy is the Life that Includes a Dog

No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as much as the dog. Christopher Morley

If you live with a dog, you understand the quote above to a depth that cat owners never will. While I enjoy cats and appreciate their independent ways, hunting skills, and deep purrs that calm the spirit, dogs move my heart.

While working on a book I read it aloud. Frequently, my dog listens. She will lay or sit by my side as I read with an adoring look on her face. She watches me, tilts her head to hear my words better, and never – never – tells me how awful something is.

I can read the same passage to my husband, and he will roll his eyes, fall asleep, or tell me to start over. Did I really want him to do those things? No. But I’m not writing for the dogs of the world, so maybe I did want him to do those things. Sigh…

What if the readers were like my dog? They would hang on my written words, waiting for the next profound statement to leap from the page, and then fall asleep comforted that I had shared a part of my soul with them.

Yeah – that ain’t going to happen.

My dog loves me – everything about me. And what do I do for her? Well, I feed and water her. Make sure she gets exercise and watch over her health. I spend lots of time rubbing and talking with her. She is smart and learns quickly. When given the opportunity, she curls up with me and takes a nap, always alert to any strange sound.

I find that almost any breed of dog will respond to our voice. The dog’s sense of hearing is superior to ours by leaps and bounds. They can hear if we are tired, angry, lonely, happy, or worried. Without understanding our words, those ears know when we need an extra tail wag or some space to ourselves.

Talk to your dog. Tell them about your day, the misfortunes, and the joys. They like jokes, so practice your jokes on them before sharing them with humans. Talk with your dog about nature’s wonders, and don’t worry about what others think. After all, you have the dog to listen and affirm you are right.

Turning From One Season to the Next

I recently heard the song Turn! Turn! Turn! by the Byrds. It is from the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 where King Solomon wrote:

1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 

2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 

3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 

4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. 

5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 

6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. 

7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 

8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. 

Indeed, I am not as wise as Solomon, so I take his advice to help me through my life’s trying and challenging times. His words remind us that everything changes – just like the seasons.

I finished writing In Paul’s Wake, the Seer of Philippi during the past year. The book explores the lead character’s seasons – from her life as a child, to her life as a seer, and then her true life.

I have seen many seasons of change, but if I had focused only on the tough times, I never could have written the book (or function in life). Equally, I can’t focus only on the best times. There must be balance in life. A way to move through the bad and good incidents that make up every person’s life.

As King Solomon states in verse 11, Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

I trust that He has everything in His hands, and all things will work out.

So this is Christmas

Christmas time again.

As you read that statement, what emotion popped into your mind? Did you think about Christmas with joy, dread, exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, or reverence?

For me, I go through all those emotions. Having the family together, the food, and the season’s excitement all come together to cause many feelings.

  • Joy. I love my family and having them together makes me happy.
  • Dread. The holiday shopping. I am not a shopper.
  • Exhaustion. Trying to get everything ready, shipped, and cooked wears me out.
  • Anxiety. Trying to get everything done, but reality is I put this stress on me.
  • Sadness. There are empty seats at the Christmas table. Some are empty because of schedules or illness, and others are empty because the person has died.
  • Reverence. When I stop to contemplate the reason we are celebrating the season. I am in awe that God came to live on Earth as a man. Don’t be afraid to talk to Him about how you are feeling, because He truly understands and cares for you.

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases.

What Have You Missed?

During the COVID-19 pandemic what have you missed? Have you taken the opportunity to reflect on what is most important to you? Or have you curled up and told the world to check back with you after things get straightened up?

Some things I have missed the most are shopping, baseball, and gathering with family and friends. As I reflected on this, it was a surprise to find I miss shopping. I’m not a big shopper and ordering online is not the same. When you go to a store you have an opportunity to use your senses in the shopping experience, which helps you decide on what to buy. Sometimes you meet a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and viola lunch plans are made.

My sons played baseball and I have spent countless hours watching games and practices. I can keep score with the best. I am not bored with the slower play of the game as there is food most of the time. At the games you become part of a group that cheers for great plays (or for the 6-year-old that runs the right direction) and shakes their heads when plays go wrong. There are people to talk with and sometimes you don’t talk about baseball.

This year we celebrated Mother’s Day with signs and talking with Mom through a window at the retirement center where she lives. While we got comfortable with this form of celebration, it was cut short as there were others waiting to celebrate with their mothers.

Humans are not made to be hermits (with a few exceptions). We need and want to be with other people. For people that have experienced deaths, births, and marriages during this time things have been different. When a person is in their last hours of life and you cannot hold their hand or mourn together everything feels wrong. A newborn child is an opportunity for families to celebrate. But during this separation time, the celebration is with waves through the Internet. It feels like a missed opportunity. A marriage ceremony is a celebration. Today, we watch on our phones as the couple exchange their vows unable to hug them. It isn’t what we do. The separation has been eased with the Internet, but it doesn’t replace being there for these times.

When we can gather again, let’s not take these celebration opportunities for granted. Don’t find a reason to skip going to the hospital to say goodbye or miss the funeral. Don’t wait until later to see the new baby and parents. Go to the wedding and enjoy one more dance.

Summer Heat

Where I live July is one of the hottest months of the year. The heat and humidity can be oppressive, forcing natives to seek relief inside air-conditioned homes, buildings, and cars. When I lived in Wisconsin, I found July was hot but not like Texas hot. In Wisconsin you can be out during the day and the evenings are pleasant especially with a soft serve cone. People complain about the heat, and by Wisconsin standards it is hot, but I grew up in Texas where 100-degree days with evening temperatures in the 80s during July and August are expected.

The Wisconsin summer is enough reason to visit this part of the country. The popular ski shows are found all through the state and Door County fish boils are a treat for tourists and residents alike. Summer is a time for the farmers’ markets to open early and close around noon or when the produce and baked goods are gone. The fishing is good most of the day and swimming is a favorite activity when the fish aren’t biting. Jet skis and boats are found on all the lakes and rivers.

The days are long, over fourteen hours of sunlight in much of the state. That means there is still daylight after work providing time for family activities. With mild evening temperature people stay outdoors and soak up the warmth of summer knowing that autumn will bring the first freeze of the year.

Writing the Jameson stories set in Wisconsin helps me remember how much I loved living there – especially during the summers.

Celebration Memories

How do you make celebrations fun, meaningful, and memorable?

My parents divorced when I was ten and my mother became a single parent with no support from my father. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and almost any other celebration was an opportunity for my mom to shine. We didn’t have any money, but she wanted to make every day we had together special. She baked, cooked, sewed, and went without lunches so we, my siblings and I, could have good memories.

Like today it takes creativity and resourcefulness to take almost nothing and make it seem like the best celebration ever. Every year we would go to see the Forth Worth Independence Day fireworks display. It was free. We participated in a lot of free events.

July Fourth in Fort Worth, Texas is almost always hot and dry. I don’t remember a rained-out celebration. We would drive downtown, carrying a bag with some drinks and cookies, a couple of blankets, and walk many blocks with the pavement so hot you felt it through your shoes. There was a park along the Trinity River where we could watch the show. We would spread out the blankets, grab cookies, play with friends we brought with us and other children in the crowd until it got dark. And then a large booming firework would explode, and we would run to our families and lie back on blankets to watch the magic.

There would be oohs and aahs throughout the park with each volley of fireworks. I always felt a giddy happiness watching the dark sky light up with the colors and patterns. This would go on for about thirty minutes and then it was time to go home. The walk back to the car seemed further and more difficult because we were so tired.

During the show, the world didn’t feel so big – there was magic in the air and we could see it. We weren’t the poor kids – since everyone around us always asked for a homemade cookie we could share with others. But what stuck with me was that my mom would smile the entire evening – and that felt like the magic in the sky had crept into my mom giving her some relief from every day pressures.

Today, I still feel lighthearted and in awe of the magic found in fireworks. Celebrations don’t have to be expensive and filled with stress. They are what we make them. Remember to make them fun, meaningful, and memorable by enjoying the time together.

Challenge Completed = Change

When I accepted my son’s challenge to participate in the NaNoWriMo, I had no idea where that experience would lead me. For years I wrote stories for children. I’m a good storyteller and it was an easy way to entertain kids. The challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was outside of anything I had ever attempted.

That first night I began writing my first adult fiction. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. It seemed like the story told itself. By end of the thirty days my first novel was written. A few years later it became Canyon Riddle, my first published work.

Today, I received notification my fourth novel, Mystery on Cherry Ridge, is being released. I am excited about this book and hope the readers enjoy the story.

But if you had told me ten years ago, I would be writing adult fiction I would have laughed in your face. Now I know that writing adult fiction is a lot of fun with fewer limitations than writing children’s stories.

If you have any desire to write, I challenge you to sign up and participate in the Nation Novel Writing Month. You will be busy writing the entire month of November and with the holidays it will seem like too much to attempt. For me, at the end of the day I lock myself in my office with hot tea and chocolate, and then write no matter how busy the day or how late the hour, I write for at least an hour. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage you to find your inspiration, location, and the time that works for you.

Go ahead and accept the challenge. It could change your life in ways that will surprise you.