68 years – 68 reasons to be grateful

October 11 is my 68th birthday. I’ve had – am having – a great life. Borrowing another idea from Laurie Buchanan, author of the soon-to-be-released Note to Self, and to recognize the years with which I’ve been blessed, I’m sharing 68 reasons why I’m grateful.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. More than a house – a home
  2. My logical, practical husband who invariably has whatever I need
  3. My son and the happiness he’s finding in his life
  4. Two delightful granddaughtersCarol & Eliza on Tractor who give me so much joy
  5. Parents who loved me and gave me a solid foundation of values
  6. A lifelong love of education
  7. Hearing devices
  8. Glasses
  9. Living in an area with ready access to great medical care
  10. A positive attitude
  11. Readers who’ve supported my writing – and chosen to write and tell me what my stories meant to them
  12. Book club friends
  13. Bible study friends
  14. Lifelong friends and brand new ones
  15. My sister who’s living and another one I had for 58 wonderful years
  16. Good health
  17. The ability to travel
  18. The trips I’ve taken and the ones I see ahead
  19. Farmers
  20. The change of seasons
  21. My prairie and all the lessons I learn theremonarch in prairie
  22. Birds at the feeders and those in the trees
  23. Cheese
  24. The Percheron horses that pasture adjacent to our back yard
  25. The Internet and Google
  26. Libraries and librarians because Google doesn’t know everything
  27. Good editors
  28. The smell of lilacs
  29. Electricity
  30. More good memories than otherwise
  31. Curiosity
  32. Green trees, green grass, green
  33. Nurses like my sister and her daughter
  34. Teachers
  35. Authors who inspire me
  36. Our service men and women
  37. The police
  38. Summer tomatoes
  39. A deep freeze full of the bounty of our garden
  40. Hostas
  41. My washer and dryer
  42. My hair dresser
  43. A “good stick” at the blood bank
  44. October and the advent of cool weather
  45. April and the return of warm weather
  46. Chocolate chip cookies
  47. Vanilla ice cream
  48. Being ‘old enough
  49. Good health
  50. The ability to walk easily
  51. Colorful sunrisesIowa sunrise
  52. Thunderstorms
  53. Birkenstocks and Chacos
  54. Breathing
  55. All the colors of the rainbow
  56. Music of the 60’s and 70’s
  57. The breadboard my dad made me
  58. The smell of fresh-baked bread
  59. An appreciation for hard work
  60. My nieces and their families
  61. My smart phone
  62. Oakridge Neighborhood and all the places that help individuals, children and families in need achieve a better life
  63. Givers
  64. A good bed
  65. Children laughing
  66. My writing buddies
  67. A wealth of ideas for what comes next
  68. Another birthday

What things are you grateful for today? Leave a note with two or three.

Amazon Publishing acquires Go Away Home – I’m giddy!

Have you ever thought you were as happy as you could be and then something happens to make you realize you could reach a whole new level of happy? It happened to me this month.

When I completed the manuscript for my World War One-era novel Go Away Home earlier this year, the thought of finding an agent and a publisher flashed through my mind for all of a nanosecond. Since publishing my memoir Growing Up Country seven years ago, I’ve been proud to call myself an indie author and an indie publisher. I didn’t hesitate to walk down the indie road again.

Then one morning – six months after I published – I opened an email from Jodi Warshaw, a senior acquisitions editor for Amazon Publishing. Warshaw said, Go Away Home “caught my eye because of all the rave reader reviews. Then I dipped in and couldn’t put it down!”

Warshaw wanted to talk about my interest in partnering with Lake Union “to see the sales match the review intensity.” She got my interest, all right. There’s no organization that knows marketing like Amazon.

I was thrilled – then skeptical. Could this be real? I contacted my go-to person for all things of this sort. Melissa Foster (best-selling author and founder of the World Literary Cafe) confirmed that, “This is great news.”

Lake Union Publishing

Lake Union Publishing

So I am pleased – thrilled – head over heels – over the moon (all cliches apply) to announce that Go Away Home has been acquired by Amazon Publishing and will be released under the Lake Union Publishing imprint in July 2015.

Between now and then, the manuscript will go through an Amazon team of editors (because good can always be better), gain a new cover, and a marketing team will prepare for the launch. All these people working on my novel makes me positively giddy. Can you believe it? I have “people.”

I haven’t made out a Santa wish list in decades. Even if I had made one this year, signing with a publisher would NOT have been on it. That would have been too unbelievable. While I don’t know everything this new affiliation will mean, I do know I’m excited by the opportunity to learn, and I couldn’t be happier.

I would not be here without all the support and encouragement of readers, of writers, of friends, of you. So, I thank you. And I wish you a joy-filled Happy & Healthy New Year.

I’m thankful – Today and everyday

Thanksgiving Day gives us a reason to say thanks. It’s a little sad we may need a reason, though I understand how it happens. We’re busy. Too much to do. Not enough time.

Because I sometimes have a tendency to get wrapped up in doing rather than being, I have made an effort of late to purposely, intentionally, mindfully be thankful.

Here are some of the things I’m thankful for today and always.

Our home and the trees that surround it.

Maple tree & House

 

 

 

 

 

My granddaughters who show me what true joy looks like.

Making Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

The prairie where I revel in the beauty of nature and practice mindful patience.

Prairie Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband who still surprises me.

David & Carol Anniversary

 

 

 

 

 

Women friends who encourage me to greater heights and prop me up when I’m low.

Friends in hats

 

 

 

 

 

Readers who buy my books and then take time to tell me they enjoyed reading the stories.

Go Away Home Review

 

 

My son who is a fine man and a great dad.

Lance & Girls

 

 

 

 

 

My feet are thankful they get to spend a week on a warm beach when Iowa is bitterly and prematurely cold this winter.

feet

 

 

 

 

 

My sister. My nieces and their families. My neighbors. People like you who read my blog. Good health. The good fortune to have been born in America.

I could go on. And on. And on. I’m one lucky person, and I know it. My cup overflows. So on Thanksgiving Day, I am purposefully, intentionally, mindfully thankful as I join with so many others in saying thanks. Thanks!

A few of my favorite blogs – One Lovely Blog Award

When I began blogging in 2009, I posted my writing for a full year before telling anyone I was doing it. I was trying out my voice, learning the “rules” of blogging, and seeing if I would stick to it. one-lovely-blog-award_thumbFive years later, I’m still at it, my topics as eclectic as when I began.

Since I could not stick to one topic (one of the rules of successful blogging), I was surprised and honored when author Bernice L. Rocque nominated my blog for the One Lovely Blog Award this past week.

On her blog 3Houses, Bernice shares family history stories, recipes, seasonal crafts. Her topics are eclectic (no wonder I like her) and fun. I encourage you to take a look at Bernice’s blog.

As I reflected on all I’ve learned and the many friends I’ve made in the blogosphere, I thought this an appropriate time to recognize them and say thanks.

Here are the Rules for this Award

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog.
  • Share 7 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!).
  • Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award.

Seven (7) Things About Me

  1. I played the accordion for many years as a child. If I strapped an accordion on now today, I expect I could still play “Lady of Spain” and “The Beer Barrel Polka.”
  2. At my son’s urging, I joined him for a day of sky-diving. The thirty seconds of free-falling was a close to flying like a bird as I’ll ever get.
  3. I grew up on a dairy farm and actually enjoyed milking cows. If I could find a B&B that included milking cows, I’d be there.
  4. I have a prairie patch in my front yard where I enjoy learning the lessons of life and the names of each of the native plants. Someday, I plan to study the medicinal uses of each of these plants.
  5. My publishing company Rising Sun Press is named for the small unincorporated village I live in. I would have called it Rising Sun Publishing, but that was already taken.
  6. Enjoying the moment is a skill I continually work on. I work hard to remember, “Just this.” “Just now.”
  7. Oct. 1 – An edit after posting – I frequently miss details, like there were supposed to be 7 things about me 😉 Or maybe this was another rule I broke.

Bloggers I Admire

My Blogger Friends
Many moons ago I vowed to pass on the endless stream of chain mail-like opportunities that come through on social media. It’s a personal decision. No offense intended to anyone who likes them, participates in them, or tags me. Yet here I am. Many thanks to Bernice L. Rocque for nominating me.

I thank each of you for the wisdom and enjoyment I’ve gained from reading your blog. You’ve enriched my life. Please know that I release you from any obligation to continue this award/chain.

My Reading Friends
I find each of the blogs I’ve listed to be well written, interesting, entertaining, and educational. Check them out. You may find them worth regular reading, too.

How do you hold on to first-time awe?

My granddaughter started kindergarten this past week. When she told her dad about her first day in school, she could barely contain herself.

  • “Guess what? We played in the gym!”
  • “Guess what? We had music class!”
  • “Guess what? I met new friends!”
  • “Guess what? I ate my lunch there!”

She had a truly awesome, magical first day.

As I thought about the joy and awe with which my granddaughter launched into school, I realized how seldom I feel that sense of magical awe anymore. When you are five, most things in your life are glorious, untarnished firsts. When you are sixty-five, firsts – when I have them – occur in the midst of days crammed with responsibilities and in the context of a lifetime of experiences that tinge awe with reality.

I know I have so many reasons for joy and awe. Yet, often I rush past them, thinking instead and ahead to the next meeting, the calls waiting to be answered, the blogs to be written, the host of responsibilities that crowd every day. As a result, I look past the moments of joy and awe while they’re happening rather than reveling in the moments.

Part of the answer for me, I think, is to be conscious of the need to slow down, to live, to breathe, to take joy in each moment. Then I also need to spend more time celebrating those precious moments.

She lost her first tooth!

She lost her first tooth!

I can learn from my granddaughter. Before school started, she lost her first tooth. She was over the moon. She wanted every picture I took to show she’d lost that tooth. When she visited this weekend, she had a second tooth on the verge of coming out. She is just as excited. We took pictures of the loose tooth, and I know we’ll take more pictures when the tooth is gone.

The launch events last month for my novel Go Away Home were amazing, joyful experiences. I did have to run from event to event, but after the last event, my husband, son and I went out to celebrate. They were so happy for me – I was so happy for me. Celebrating at the moment expanded the joy – and kept me from rushing right into thinking about the next task on the ‘to do’ list.

Holding on to the joy and reveling in the joy, ensure special moments remain special. They allow me to squeeze every drop of pleasure out of those precious moments in my life.

My wish for my granddaughter is to be able to experience that first-day-of-school, first-lost-tooth, first-time awe many, many times in her life.

My wish for me is to remember that there is joy to be experienced if I slow down and absorb it.

 How about you? How do you keep a sense of joy and awe in your life?

A waffle iron for Christmas?

The humble gift of long-lasting love.

Making waffles on Christmas Eve.

We still make waffles on Christmas Eve.

As Christmas Eve rolls around, I check to make sure I have all the fixings for our waffle supper.  Waffles mark Christmas Eve in our house as surely as Santa and the Christmas tree.  It’s a tradition that goes back a long ways.

My father was never much of a present buyer. If someone didn’t remind him, he seldom got Mom a Christmas present at all. But occasionally, he would get her something, and Mom always welcomed the gesture.

My memory is dim on the specific year Mom opened her gift and found a waffle iron. My guess is it was sometime in the very early 1960s because I was old enough to know this type of gift was not quite what a woman would hope to get from her husband.

If Mom had any hesitations, you’d never have known it from her reaction. A gift from her husband was a gift to be treasured.

Mom received her new kitchen appliance with enthusiasm, going into the kitchen immediately to mix up a batch of waffles. Since none of us Iowa farm kids had ever seen waffles, we watched her create this exotic food with great interest. 

At our house, pancakes made it into the rotation of breakfast meals with some frequency. Pancakes can be whipped up and thrown on the griddle, creating stacks to feed the whole family in a matter of minutes. Waffles take time. Several minutes to make a waffle to feed one or two people. Then you cook another one. Meanwhile the troops get restless.

Day-to-day life on the farm was practical. The waffle iron proved not to be so. Mom used the waffle iron a few times in the first year. She wanted Dad to know she appreciated his gift. Gradually, the waffle iron came out less and less frequently until finally it only appeared on Christmas Eve. But it appeared every Christmas Eve, and we all came to expect waffles, to relish the uniqueness of the meal, to cherish the tradition.

The waffle iron and Mom’s devotion to Dad and his gift spoke to us all of the love of Christmas.

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Thank you for joining me in 2013 as I shared the challenges and triumphs the year offered.  I wish you all the best in the new year, and I hope to see you here again in 2014.

We will not grow old together

Finding perspective and gratitude after suicide.

When I thought about my senior years, I imagined spending a good deal of time with my older sister, Jane. Though she lived in Pennsylvania and I in Iowa, we found increasing time together as we grew into our retirement years.

We both enjoyed gardening, reading, travel. She doted on her grandchildren and I looked forward to grandchildren of my own. I felt relaxed and pampered in her home, which she opened as a bed and breakfast so that she could share her gifts of hospitality and cooking. She enjoyed coming to Iowa to re-connect with her rural roots.

Sisters enjoying moments together

Sisters enjoying moments together

My image of those golden years shattered when Jane died by suicide in 2008. Until then, my personal experiences with death included my parents and grandparents. Those deaths were difficult to absorb but they happened in the natural order of things. Jane’s did not.

Grieving Jane’s death unbalanced me in a way I often described as feeling as though the universe was out of kilter. This lack of balance manifested itself in car accidents. I had at least 13 accidents, ranging from scrapes to collisions, in three years. Thankfully, no one was killed.

It was three years before a friend who’d also lost her sister to suicide took me to the Survivors of Suicide annual conference in 2011. What a blessing it was to learn about the healing power of ceremony in addressing grief and to do so in the company of others who shared this unique kind of loss. After that conference, I performed a “letting go” ceremony for Jane that helped me tremendously.

I thought that ceremony made me okay, and in many ways it did. But when a friend lost her son to suicide earlier this year and we attended the Survivors of Suicide conference this past weekend, I realized my grief journey is ongoing.

During a breakout session when I joined others who lost siblings to suicide, the moderator asked each of us to answer this question: “What do you think your sibling would wish for you now?”

My first thought was flippant — Jane would want me not to cry so much! Upon reflection, though, I believe Jane would urge me to do what makes me happy and not to wait. She’d urge me to appreciate, be thankful for, and find joy in each moment, since each moment is precious and we don’t know how many moments we will have.

It’s no accident, I’m sure, that the Survivors of Suicide conferences are held worldwide on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. In the face of horrible loss, we may need help remembering to be thankful. We may need help putting the loss in perspective.

As a result of the conference, I’m consciously adjusting my focus from what I don’t have and won’t have since Jane died, to what I can be thankful for because of Jane’s life. I’m focusing on the positives of the past and the future.

No, Jane and I won’t grow old together, but I am lucky to have enjoyed life with her for 60 years. Jane modeled love and compassion and hospitality for me every day. She graciously shared gentle wisdom learned in her years as a nurse. She left a legacy of love in her daughters and grandchildren.

I honor her and help myself heal by recognizing this and sharing the beauty of her life with others.

** If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, find help at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

What can we learn from Fall? New book shares wisdom & gratitude

TIYG_FallCover_Press1_WDo see fall as the end or the beginning? For me, it’s both.

The fall equinox arrives this weekend and with it, the end of green leaves and grass and the beginning of reds and golds. I see the end of the flood of produce coming out of our garden (just as I am running out of stamina for dealing with it!) and the beginning of days when I make meals out of produce in the freezer. I feel regret that we are at the end of long sunny days and gratitude that my morning walks will happen in the peaceful quiet dark.

The equinox also marks a yearlong publishing venture by Tending Your Inner Garden. Today they launch Fall: Women’s Stories and Poems for the Season of Wisdom and Gratitude – the fourth volume in a series celebrating the wisdom of each of the seasons. 

I’m honored to join 80 other women from across the globe who wrote essays and poems for this anthology.

My essay tells the story of my struggle to let go of my older sister who took her own life five years ago. This, too, is a story of endings and beginnings. It took years for me to come to some level of peace with her death and to begin a new way of seeing life without her.

Writing this essay helped with my healing. In the writing, I continued the long journey toward letting go of anger, guilt and sadness. In the writing, I also experienced the gratitude of the fall season as I grew to treasure my sister’s life, hold on to love, and embrace the joy of today.

If you’re seeking a feeling of community with women on a deep spiritual level, you’ll find it in the pages of this volume. Plus, it’s a wonderful gift for anyone going through “fall” in her life.

To learn more about Tending Your Inner Garden and to see the Winter, Spring, and Summer volumes in this series, visit the TYIG website. All of the books in the series are available at the Tending Your Inner Garden Bookstore and on Amazon.

A high-class problem

The Hare - Crystal Bridges Museum

The Hare – Crystal Bridges Museum

If you could choose to do anything, what would you do? That’s a question life coaches ask to encourage their clients to explore where their passion really lies. What would make them the most happy/satisfied/fulfilled. It’s not an easy question to answer.

In a limited way, I’m exploring that question this month as I take a week to drive from Iowa to Utah for a writing retreat. Though I’ve often traveled alone on business, I’ve never made such a long driving trip on my own. I found the prospect hugely exciting and also challenging.  Every step of the way, I would decide – what, when, where, how. In other words, I have to know myself.

Rather than take the direct route west, I elected to head south for Arkansas – the only state I’d never had occasion to visit.  Now that I’m here, I have to say, I don’t know what took me so long. The land is beautiful, the people friendly, there are far more things to see and do than I can accomplish in the two days I’ve allotted.

Yesterday morning I spent wandering the trails of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, enjoying both natural and man-made art, relaxing on stone benches where I could appreciate both a bronze bear and spring temperatures that promised flowers soon, wandering off the paved trails to follow meandering trails with flagstones banked to test the skill of bikers and to make me think I was walking the Yellow Brick Road. When I finally wandered inside the museum, I found a wonderful collection that I spent only an hour or so exploring. Not nearly enough time, but after soaking in so much beauty outdoors, I found myself less interested in what hung inside.

I went back outside to my car to think about this while I ate lunch. As I ate, I unfolded a map over my steering wheel, dug out a variety of flyers from the welcome center, and considered my options. Return to the museum refreshed by lunch? Go back into history and visit the  Pea Ridge Civil War National Park? Search out the artist conclave at Eureka Springs? I could do anything. But, what?

At that moment, a man returned to his truck parked next to my car. When he got in, he opened his windows just as I had. It was a beautiful day. He looked over and asked, “Would you happen to be lost?”

“Oh, no,” I answered. “I’m just thinking about where I may go next.”

He laughed. “That’s a high class problem to have!”

“Yes,” I responded. “I guess it is.”

Just another day for you, too?

Welcome Home. Department of Defense Photo

This past Monday, I loaded a box in the car to drop at the post office. A grocery list was in my pocket for a trip to the grocery story. While I was out, I’d swing by the car wash. Monday was a day like most days.

When I got to the post office, the parking lot was full, there was a long line of people waiting, but the counter was closed.

“Do we know that someone’s coming back?” I asked. With the post office facing changes, staffing wasn’t a foregone conclusion, I didn’t think. Plus, the box I held was heavy and I had no desire to stand in line for an indefinite period unless the counter people would return soon.

Everyone looked at me as though I’d asked them if the sun would rise the next day. A man pointed to a sign by the mail drop slots. “It says 2:30.”

Though it was nearly 2:30, I turned and left. I’d get groceries, wash the car, and hit the post office on my return. When I returned an hour later, I was happy to see the parking lot was empty. I carried my box inside and saw that the counter was still closed. What? It took a few moments but finally it dawned on me that Monday was Veteran’s Day. Of course! I walked away shaking my head. And giving thanks.

I am grateful for the men and women who choose military service as a full time career to defend us. I’m equally grateful to those citizen soldiers who give up weekends and weeks and years to serve as part of the National Guard and Reserve forces overseas and at home.

Even though I’d read the Veteran’s Day articles in the paper, even though I’d thanked in person several people in active military service, even though I’d watched coverage of Veteran’s Day events on TV. Even then, I’d turned right around and lived the rest of the day without a care. I could do that because of our strong military. What a country we live in that I can go about my days with so little concern. Oh, yes. I’m thankful.