Guilt, Anxiety … Let it Go

You know that whole thing about getting up and out of your head? Well, pardon me while I involve you in the process today. I’d apologize, but the truth is, if I’m writing this, I don’t feel guilty about it (please chuckle there, okay?). If I was going to feel guilty, I just wouldn’t do it.

I just typed a bit about guilt in a chapter I wrote and that’s one of those lessons I learned in the two weeks before Mom died. All of a sudden one evening, it occurred to me that for most of my life, guilt revolved around her. She is the one who caused me to feel guilty when I did something wrong … it was to her that I looked for moral guidance. And my goodness, she was really good at it. I’m sure it’s a mom-thing, but that woman was a master.

One evening my brother came home and was in trouble for something or other. He was maybe thirteen years old … much too old for her to spank. She was angry, but sent him up to his room. Then she took a deep breath and at the bottom of the stairs, said, “Watch this. It won’t take me five minutes and I’ll have him in tears.” She wasn’t wrong. I doubt it even took that long.

There was really no worse punishment in our lives than disappointing our parents. They were more than willing to point it out to us and rather than face that again, we straightened up.

Anyway, the night Mom told us she was going into the hospital and wouldn’t be coming home again, I realized that guilt needed to be over for me. It was time for me to grow up. I couldn’t rely on her any longer for that moral compass thing. I was responsible for my own behavior. If I was going to do something I’d feel guilty for, I needed to make a different decision. If I went ahead with it, then I needed to simply go for it because I was going in with my eyes wide open and a clear decision made.

Now, to be honest, I’ve screwed plenty of things up and had to face down serious guilt for those things … but the best way to deal with that is to face it, release the guilt, and move forward. I have more than enough fears, anxiety, stress (on and on and on) floating around in my head – I don’t need guilt taking up extra space.

For some reason, the last few days have been filled up with free-floating anxiety. I can’t identify it. Sure, I have plenty of people to worry about … friends have things going on, family members have things going on, even TB is growly for some reason. Is that what I do to myself, though? Do I take so much of their stuff on that it hovers just out of sight in my mind until the pressure builds inside?

Oh, probably. I’m a nut that way.

The first job I had out of college was at a church in Spencer – six hours away from home. Argh! Mom and I talked on the phone all the time. One night I called her and was a complete mess. I cried over everything. I hated my job, I missed my family, on and on. When we hung up, I felt much better and went to bed. I slept great, got up the next morning and the phone rang. It was Mom. She hadn’t slept at all. She had worried all night long for me and let me tell you, when I expressed confusion over her worry and told her how well I’d slept, she was ticked off! (yes, please laugh there)

Apparently, I’d transferred all of my worry to her. Once I’d said everything out loud, I was fine. But she took it all and had no way to release it. I’d gotten up and outside of my head, but she couldn’t see that. At least she waited until I was awake before calling me back, right?

Well, I’m my mother’s daughter. Do you worry out loud? Here, let me take that for you. Do you have some stress you’d like to lay out there? I’ve got it and I’ll keep a good eye on it. Are you randomly concerned about someone I don’t even know? Perfect. That fills in the blank spots in my worry calendar. Oh, and by the way, if you have an unsolved issue that we talked about five years ago, I’m still fretting over that too.

Pray ...Martin Luther’s quote “Pray, and let God worry” has been showing up in my life a lot lately. All of this free-floating stuff I can’t specifically identify (even the stuff I can) is just like that guilt I decided to release. It isn’t worth the precious moments of my days. Those are much better spent doing something worthwhile … oh … like praying.

Now, if I could get the flies to stop buzzing around me, the squirrels to quit messing with my car, the cat to not hurt himself, this book to write itself and the temperature to drop about ten degrees, life would be pert-near perfect. Let it go Diane. Just let it go.

(By the way, if you’re reading this – I’m not looking for a fix or counseling. I just took care of that with a few words. A little humor from your own life or some commiseration (look it up) would be perfectly appropriate, though.)

Come On In

I processed through the opening words of this post and my heart lurched around like a drunken soldier when I realized that I was about to type “30 years ago.” Whoa. Anyway …

Thirty years ago, Mom asked if I would open a business with her. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and this was to be a short term venture. Dad would then retire early, come into the established business and Carol and I would take off and do our thing. That wasn’t quite what I’d planned for my life, but okay. I put my plans on hold and we opened a quick printing business in Omaha.

There are a million stories from that experience, but this morning I was thinking about the early days of actually owning a shop with a front door and counters and … oh my gosh, customers! They just walked in off the street!

scan0009We weren’t prepared for this. A month of training with the franchise corporation in Minneapolis, scared us to death. At the same time, it gave us an over-inflated sense of confidence. We were a mess.

One thing we caught ourselves doing was greeting every person who walked in the door as a guest. I’m surprised we didn’t move comfortable chairs in, put a coffee pot on and bake cookies. Not for lack of desire, though.

Dad & Carol - 1988.

Dad & Carol – 1988.

I laughed one day as Mom and I both turned away from the front door after walking a customer out, then waiting while they got into their car and drove away. Especially when I recognized that wasn’t the first time it had happened. We held the door for everyone and said good-bye to them from the doorway, not from behind the counter.

Over the next twenty+ years, our regular customers became more than just that, they were friends. There was a pharmacy in our plaza that catered to the elderly in the neighborhood. These older men and women discovered they were safe in our shop and could get immediate assistance, a chair and a smile from us. When one man came in one day, completely confused and lost, we called his wife. He had the car so she couldn’t come get him. Carol took the poor, frightened man home to the safety of his own house. We cried when one of our favorite old men died. He only spent thirty-five cents every few days making copies here and there, but he’d make a copy of his favorite things and hand them across the counter to us. They were treasured gifts, the words on those pages meant the world to him. When he couldn’t stand, we brought a chair out so he could sit and work.

We soon discovered that we’d made friends in several non-English speaking communities. Neither Carol nor I spoke any other language, yet they came in regularly. Because even though we couldn’t understand everything they said, it was important for us to be able to communicate and they knew we tried. They helped us and beamed when we figured out what they needed.

Our UPS delivery driver, our salespeople, our mailman, our neighbors … they were part of our community, not just part of our business. Because that’s how we grew up.

None of the houses we lived in were ever extravagant. Most of the time they weren’t terribly clean, but if there was a knock at the door (either the front or the back), we quickly grabbed up stray litter and shoved it into drawers and closets while Mom pushed the dogs out of the way and greeted whomever was there with a smile and welcome. Dad often brought people home for meals. Our dinner table welcomed everyone from the Bishop of the Methodist Conference to homeless transients and it was expected that each person receive the same welcome and respect.

A few months ago, I reached out to an author whose books had inspired me to move forward with writing and publishing. I wanted to express to her that not only did I enjoy reading her stories, but she had given me courage to do this for myself. By that point I had published the first three books and felt confident that I would continue.

The response I received was disappointing. An assistant returned my email, telling me that the author was too busy and couldn’t respond, but that she certainly appreciated my taking time to write. I was pretty disgusted.

Stranger, Friends, FamilyBut that’s not who I am or who I will ever be. I’d love to think I would be so busy someday that I’ll need an assistant (or 500), but my life revolves around the people I encounter in person and online. That’s where I discover new friendships and relationships. No matter how you enter my life, when it’s time for you to leave, I will walk you to the front door and wave until you’ve turned the corner and can no longer see me.

My stories aren’t just about characters or mysteries. They’re about relationships and how we live together to make this short period of time we share on earth the best we can for everyone. If you’re reading this – you are part of my story and I’m so glad you’re here. We have a lot more to tell before we’re finished. I’d probably better get busy on that.

What ‘cha doing, Diane?

The sun is shining, the cicadas are singing, the river is slowly finding its way back into its banks, the cat is asleep beside me (it’s the middle of the day, where else would he be?), and it’s time for me to settle down and work.

Except I don’t want to. I have a tendency to have a million things on my plate and when that happens, I try to play with all of them. So I make lists. That isn’t helpful at all. It just reminds me of how much I have to do. I prioritize. But then I usually run into a situation where five other things need to happen before I can work on the next item on the list and … whoosh, I’m back to being stall-foundered.

Stall-foundered. It’s not a real word. It’s two words. But it was one of my mother’s invented words and I like it. I didn’t know it wasn’t a real word. It had been part of my vocabulary for decades (I’m THAT old). I used it one day when I was working with a friend and he looked at me like I was nuts. “What?” I demanded. “It’s not a real word, Diane. Look it up.”

Whaddya know. My mother did it to me again. She had this gloriously immense vocabulary. Mom could come up with a word for anything … until she couldn’t and then she just made one up. (My goodness, I can get sidetracked.)

I’m at the point in the latest story where there is about to be a turn in the action. It’s a pivotal chapter. Those mess with me. I know what I’ve already written (good for me, right?) and I know what the end of the story is going to be. I even know where the action is taking place in the next few chapters here in the middle. I know the characters and the general plot line. But, what I don’t know is what shape the pivot point will take. I realize that I need to just write through it, but that is a lot of hard work and I’m feeling a little rebellious right now. It’s my go-to response, you know.

Last night I got excited about selling signed copies of my books through my website. That created a bit of a panic-storm as I had to pull out lethargic brain cells and force them to work. I tormented my poor brother, hoping that he would bring his rather hefty programming skills to the table and just do it for me. No such luck. He was willing to listen to me whine and help from a distance, but I was going to figure it out on my own. I’m smart enough for that. He’s a stinker.

But I did it. Now you can order Kindle and Paperback versions from Amazon through my site or, with Paypal, you can order signed copies from me! Right here on this website! Click on a book cover from this page (The Bellingwood Books in Order) and you will be taken to another page with ordering links galore. If you order signed copies, a shopping cart will show up on the right side of the page and you can check out when you’re finished. How awesome is this?! (It’s awesome, trust me.)

Now, if you’ve ordered copies personally from me in the past and sent a check, that’s still a wonderful way to do it. There’s nothing I love more (honestly) than the sweet notes I receive in my mailbox. Sometimes they make me a little emotional and I feel like I’ve just been hugged. I just wanted to make this option available to everyone out there because I have the technology!

Kitty at highest point 2Next on the list for my website is finding a way to introduce the Bellingwood characters to everyone. I haven’t figured out exactly what I want that to look like. There’s a lot of information about the characters and quite a few connections between people. The list of characters, both major and minor is pretty extensive, so I can’t just toss them out there without a little bit of organization. Entering Bellingwood through the books is kind of like moving into a new community. There are a lot of people to meet and get to know. Some will always sit out at the periphery, others will become friends, while still others will only be acquaintances. I’m going to develop a way for you to see who they all are and figure out how they interact with Polly. It’s also going to be extraordinarily helpful to me as I progress through the series. First comes the organization part, though and I’m not there yet. But, it’s happening in my head, so it will happen on paper pretty soon.

Okay, it’s time to get to work. Or maybe I’ll play with the cat. Either way, it will be fun.

 

Potatoes … a Generous Gift.

Methodist ministers didn’t make a lot of money in the sixties and early seventies when I was a kid. Small town pastors were fortunate to have a home provided for them, because they were going to make barely enough to squeak by. My father was as thrifty as they come, which was a good thing since Mom was used to having anything she wanted. She learned to be frugal, thanks to his sisters and his mother, but it was never easy for her.

Turkey & DadAnother wonderful thing that happened for small town pastors and their young families was the generosity of the people. When things were tight, there was never a chance that we would go hungry. Someone was always sharing with us. Now, sometimes, those gifts were quite entertaining … like the time we received a live turkey (Dad’s trying to get mom to come closer in that picture) or the regular gifts of cow’s tongues. I still have no idea who was giving those tongues to my father, and maybe they thought it was a joke, but nothing went to waste in our house. Dad was always having fun with them. The funniest was the day we came home from something-or-other and two tongues were placed decoratively in a vase on the dining room table. Oh, Dad.

When we were very young, someone gave our family a gift of pig’s brains. I have to tell you, we never knew whether they were having fun with my Dad or not, but things didn’t go to waste … remember that? Mom brought out the best china and silver, lit candles at the table, turned out the lights and served dinner. When we asked what we were having, she told us it was Cerebral Delight. We were too young to know any better. This was also the first time I discovered the truth of the old adage – you can fry anything in oil and make it palatable. We didn’t complain.

I remember opening the doors more often than not and greeting someone who had food to give us. It certainly helped Mom stretch a dollar.

One day an older woman in our church in Sigourney called Dad and asked him to come to her home. She was a dear, dear woman and he would take any opportunity to spend time with her. When he arrived, she presented him with not one, but two – 100 pound bags of potatoes for our family. They weren’t for the church, they were for him to take home. He was astounded. It was a generous gift, but it was also going to take all of Mom’s creativity to make sure we used these potatoes wisely so they didn’t spoil.

I don’t know how long we ate potatoes after that. It seems like it was years. My mother served potatoes at every meal – and sometimes that was the meal. She created many different recipes with potatoes, but more often than not, we ate either mashed potatoes or baked potatoes with dinner. The old parsonage in Sigourney had a cellar … and in the back corner of the cellar, was a deep, dark room cut out of the dirt for storing foodstuffs. Those potatoes lasted forever back there.

Now, you might think that the three of us kids would get tired of eating potatoes at every meal. What I find interesting is that none of us ever did. Carol still makes the best mashed potatoes around and one of the reasons I was even reminiscing about this was that I actually have a Pinterest board simply for potato recipes. Mom would have loved to have access to all of these different recipes.

We grew up knowing true generosity. Something as simple as a potato brings back floods of memories as I realize just how deep that generosity flowed through the people we knew and who cared about us. This is why I tell stories of great people. These are the people I’ve known throughout my life.

Bugs. Shudder.

Okay, I won’t say that I hate bugs, but I’m certainly weary of the bloody things. I turn lights on in other rooms so they’ll go there to die, rather than flutter and buzz around me when I’m working. My sister accuses me of working in a cave because it’s generally dark wherever I huddle. There’s so much more to it than just loving the night time – bugs leave me alone when it’s dark.

The entomologists among us will explain the many good reasons that bugs exist and I’m totally fine with that. I just wish they didn’t exist to fly up my nose when I breathe or drop on the top of my warmed butter (I forgot to put the lid on – whoops!). I’m not terribly fond of them waking me in the middle of the night by crawling along my skin or buzzing because they’ve been caught in a stray lock of hair. I’m tired of brushing aside cobwebs and then realizing that I’ve missed so many more than I found. Even though I was fascinated, watching a Daddy Longlegs suck the guts out of a bee was enough to make me finally just run away. I shudder at the black, wet things that crawl out of the ground and make their way onto my porch or the big yellow jackets or skinny wasps that catch TB’s eye.

Speaking of TB – here’s a quick cute picture to rid yourself of the hideous bug images that I might have created.

TB on Scratching Post

I’m pretty sure that God has laughed uproariously at my internal conflict. I love being here at the cabin and watching the glory of the season and the beauty of his creation. Until the bugs arrive. I’m not a fan of killing them. God’s creature have a right to live, so I do my best to scurry them outside. Until I’m just. freakin’. tired. of them. Getouttamyhouse, getouttamyhouse, getouttamyhouse! And take all your fuzzy friends with you.

One summer when we were very young, poor Carol had to put up with terrible abuse by her siblings. She hated (hates?) bugs more than I do and we were here at the cabin during a particularly entertaining box elder invasion. Jamie and I, being the loving sister and brother that we were, paid particular heed to her screams and found them entertaining. Until Mom had finally had enough, the poor girl was pelted with box elders every time we could get our hands on one. You know how those things move. Getting your hands on one is no issue. She’s not yet forgiven us for that and I don’t blame her.

I had hoped that with the incredible number of continuous below-zero days we had last winter, the life cycle of these annoyances might have been interrupted. But, you know what? That’s the glory of creation. It creates. While I am weary of bugs bothering me, that same creation has restored itself in beautiful ways. The trees are alive and their leaves are blowing in the wind; the grass is growing (faster than most of us would wish), the crops are alive and filling the fields. It is all part of a cycle and I prefer to live within that rather than in a sterile environment far from all of the beauty.

The bugs? I’ll whine about them, but I’ll put up with them. The beauty of creation is a gift.

Privacy to Read – Wherever You Find It

Mom was a character. She grew up in Boston, was a debutante, went to exclusive grammar and secondary schools. and proceeded to flunk out of two colleges because she preferred the party life.

She met Dad and left all of that excitement for a culture that was diametrically opposed to her known life. Mom knew she was marrying a Methodist preacher and knew they were moving to a small town in Iowa, but nothing prepared her for reality. Gravity, Iowa, a small town of 200 busybody old ladies (exaggeration, but only a little), wasn’t prepared for her either. All of a sudden, this poor twenty year old party girl was the local preacher’s wife. And before she knew it, she was a mom, too. Then, she was a mom twice more after that.

There are so many stories to tell about her transition from Boston to Iowa, but this morning I was thinking about books and … well … bathrooms.

Mom was a brilliant woman. Flunking out of college had nothing to do with that, it had everything to do with her attitude. When she finally decided to finish her degree, she put her high school and college aged kids to shame. It was difficult trying to justify anything other than an A when that’s all she brought home. High expectations at our house – let me tell you.

Mom on sofa Sigourney old house 2 dogsShe read everything and could discuss the deepest and most profound novels, as well as complete trash, with any single person alive. Dad and Mom had long discussions on books they’d read. He read quite a bit more slowly than she did, Dad was always reading something and his mind just trapped that information.

With three kids, Mom was always trying to find time to read. When we finally grew old enough to take on chores around the house, her life got a whole lot better. She could send us off to work and hide somewhere – reading.

But when we were very little, there weren’t a lot of places Mom could hide and get away with it … except the bathroom. We weren’t allowed to bother her in there. She would take a book in, lock the door, and stay. The three of us would play outside the bathroom door so she knew just where we were. If we got too noisy or started messing with each other, she’d growl at us and tell us to stop. We always did - punishment that came because Mom didn’t have a chance to read wasn’t pleasant.

Nashville MomDad always knew that if he couldn’t find her, the first place to look was the bathroom – she’d be in there hiding from the world – with a good book. She always said it was the most comfortable seat in the house – and for her, it probably was, because no one else was trying to occupy it at the same time.

Everything in Mom’s life was geared toward finding time to read. Dad accused her of being lazy because she found creative and innovative ways to get chores done quickly. She told him she was smarter than the average person and why waste time doing chores when she could be reading?

That love of reading was something both of my parents passed down to their kids. For mom it was more than just ‘love,’ it was almost a desperation to read. It nearly killed her to think that there might be words out there she wouldn’t have time to discover. So wherever she was, whatever she was doing … even if it was hiding in the bathroom from three children … Mom was reading.

Our memories of her are filled with many wild and woolly things, but mostly we remember her passion for words, stories and books. And when one of us walks into the bathroom with a book or a Kindle, it’s because we learned that’s where you can read in privacy!

50 Years Later, I’m a Cat Person

Lump under the comforter

My favorite TB shaped lump under the comforter

This morning I struggled to get out of bed because my cat had planted himself firmly against my legs. Now, this shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but TB’s favorite place to sleep in the morning is not on top of the blankets, not underneath the sheet, but between the comforter and the sheet.

Notice I said “in the morning.” During the cold winter months, TB crawls under the sheets and sleeps snuggled up against me with the warmth of a pile of blankets on top of us. Until 4:30 or so when both of us get up. I go potty, he starts checking out the world.

During warmer months, TB sleeps on top of the blankets, snuggled up against me until 4:30 or so when both of us get up. I go potty, then open the front door to the porch and he starts checking out the world.

OD (Other Dog) and Charcoal, 1975

OD (Other Dog) and Charcoal, 1975

I head back to bed, no matter what month it is and after about an hour or so, TB paws at the blankets until I lift the comforter so he can crawl in and snuggle up against me again. He doesn’t want to go all the way under. If I lift all the blankets, he just sits down and looks at me until I pay attention to his demand.

I’m a fully trained cat person by now. He’s the first cat I’ve had that has demanded I pay attention to what he needs and expected that I would learn my role.

Diane & Mac Dog, 1965

Diane & Mac Dog, 1965

I grew up as a dog person. After Mom died, Carol and I took the family dog and when Ghenghis (a shih-tzu named Ghenghis Khan, king of the mongrel hordes) was gone, I got my first dog – Isolde, a miniature poodle I rescued just before she was scheduled to be terminated at the Humane society. When Isolde died, I got a miniature dachshund. Bert was barely tolerant of all the changes in my life, but he loved me and put up with a husband and two cats joining us.

Isolde 1989

Isolde 1989

I’d never had much fondness for cats – my first experience had been with a friend’s two Siamese cats who tortured me. My next experience was my grandfather’s cat. After leaping over a banister and riding our dog down the stairs – with great screaming and howling, Tom went home with friends who had come up that very day to visit. He lived a full and happy life elsewhere.

Howard came into our home because we had a terrible problem with mice. One evening Max and I went to the pet store to purchase things for the new cuddly ball of love that would come into our home from the humane society. However … a rescue group was there adopting out rescued kitties.

Ghenghis 1988

Ghenghis 1988

I approached the cats that evening with great trepidation, but one was different. He was calm. When I approached his cage, he didn’t back away or even rush at me. I put my hand inside the cage and touched him and he didn’t try to bite me or claw me. He was mine. The next two weeks were entertaining. The poor boy was scared out of his mind and hid. If he was going to be a recluse, his name was Howard … Howard Hughes.

One night I came downstairs to get something. Howard was sitting on the bathroom floor and didn’t scurry away, so I sat down in the doorway and he walked past me times. I put my hand out and he walked under it, over and over. I called up to Max to lock the dog in the bedroom and come downstairs. Two crazy people were so happy the cat was reaching out to us, that we sat for an hour on the kitchen floor waiting for him to pass under our hands so we could touch him. That was the end of his reclusive behavior. He was part of the family.

Ichabod, Howard, and Bert

Ichabod, Howard, and Bert

Six months later, a friend of my sister’s was in a panic because her new boyfriend refused to let her keep her cat. Peekaboo came to live with us. I renamed him Ichabod. Kept most of the consonants, but Peekaboo didn’t fit his personality – nor mine, thank you very much. Ichabod was horrid and mean. I’d never heard a cat growl until Ichabod. Fortunately (and I’d never do this to a cat, but I was glad it had happened to him), he had no front claws. It took four weeks to acclimate that poor, angry cat. The first two weeks, he had his own room.  I’d spend 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes when I got home from work with him, just trying to get him to allow me to touch him. After two weeks, I opened the door and put a baby gate up. Howard could get in, but not Bert. Two weeks later, I told him it was time. The baby gate came down and he had to figure out how to be part of our family. He did.

Poor Leica and her new torturer.

Poor Leica and her new torturer.

Bert died, Leica came into our lives (another dachshund), Howard passed away, Ichabod passed away, TB joined me here at the cabin and Leica died a year ago.

I hadn’t planned on another animal. They take up a lot of time, you know. But TB insisted and I’ve discovered the joys of having a cat. I loved my dogs. They each gave me unconditional love. All I had to do was feed them, play with them, take them outside and accept love. Cats are so different. Howard and Ichabod learned to live in a dog’s environment. Howard never hissed or bared his claws at me. He was the perfect cat for a first-time cat owner. He didn’t want to be held, but he liked being close to me. Ichabod was a trial, but if there was anyone he loved, it was me. As soon as I would lie down, he wanted to be on top of me and have me stroke him.

Neither of those cats taught me, though, what it really meant to be a cat person. It took TB coming into my life to discover all of the ups and downs of having a cat. He fights me every single day for power. I’m definitely an alpha personality. He accepts that from me only under duress and spends most of the time reminding me that any power I have is because he allows it. The little brat is independent. If I don’t want him to do something – that’s exactly what he wants to do. He is the epitome of all that a cat should be and it’s more fun than I know how to handle.

He helps me ... not so much.

He helps me … not so much.

As a writer, TB is perfect. I’ve become a cat person, through and through.

And in the morning when I’m trapped under the blankets because the cat has finally settled down, I just chuckle and make my way out of bed. At his leisure, he’ll join me and rub on me as he walks past and demands that I open the front door. When he wants attention or has worn himself out, he’ll come back in and expect me to stop what I’m doing. That’s his time, no matter what. He’s as quirky as they come, but he’s a cat and that means he can get away with pretty much anything.

Morningszzzzzzz

I am not a natural morning person.

I can get up and be pleasant (see later paragraphs in this post), but it’s not my natural state.

Night time is a strange and odd beast to me. I love the peace and quiet it offers. If I fall asleep about 2:30 or so, I can sleep until 9:30 or 10 and have a wonderful day spill out in front of me.

When I was a child, Mom discovered that between 3:30 and 5:00 am was my lowest point in my biorhythm. My fevers spiked then, my body erupted into insanity – usually about 4:15. I haven’t changed. My body temperature always rises at that time of day. If it’s the middle of winter, I simply snuggle in a little closer with my blankets and all is good. Middle of summer … oh holy smokes, I’m cooking the cat under the blankets. Menopausal? Well, that’s when I’m going to be standing in front of a fan, begging for the heat to be turned down. Menopausal and middle of summer require the A/C to be at about 45 degrees. Unless I’ve only been asleep a couple of hours and then it’s all good.

Well, that was a bunch of random insanity and here’s why.

I went to bed early last night – around midnight. That means I woke up at 4:30 (old lady – gotta potty) … hot … wide-freakin’ awake. Oh well. I can sleep when I want to sleep, right? This is normal behavior and generally isn’t a problem.

Fell back to sleep about 6:45 – kind of. The cat was up, too. I let him out onto the front porch so he can greet all his nature friends. About 7:30, he woke me up because it was time for him to crawl under the comforter and get his next eight hours of sleep.

At 8:15, my phone rang. Groggy, groggy, what’s happening? Why is there noise in my world? What’s going on?

I couldn’t think, couldn’t find my phone, couldn’t read what was happening.

Crap. It’s the A/C repair guy and he never answers his phone and I didn’t get to the call in time. I stumbled around the house for a few minutes trying to decide what to do. Not sure why there needed to be a decision in there, but apparently there was.

I called back, he didn’t answer. I left a voicemail and stumbled around some more. Should I take a shower? What if they show up while that’s happening? What if he calls back while that’s happening? OMG, I need a keeper!

I never feel quite as stupid as I do in the morning. It takes me a while to get from sleep to fully alert and Dianelike. Most people know to let me do it quietly. It’s for their protection.

This isn’t new information. Thirty years ago (don’t make me hurt you – it’s still early), I was working in a church in northwest Iowa and the secretary there was the sweetest woman I’ve ever known. She figured out quite quickly that I needed caffeine and quiet first thing in the morning. Shirley thought it was funny. She’d say hello and smile as I stumbled about from my office to the staff room where I picked up the mail and a cup of tea. Then she’d grin when I’d stumble into the senior pastor’s office so the staff could pray at eight – bless his little pink heart - twenty-five. About nine o’clock, she’d come into my office and ask how I was doing and if there was anything I needed her to know that day. She loved me.

When I was a kid, Mom hated mornings with me. She finally told me that I had to at least try to be pleasant, even if I wasn’t awake. I learned to put a smile on (it was easier than having her yell at me regularly) and acknowledge the rest of the people in the house, even if I couldn’t make sense of everything that was happening.

In my last book, Polly drips water on Andrew to get him out of bed one morning. I didn’t make that up. Because he was in a sleeping bag, she dripped it on his face. Mom just pulled the blankets off the end of my bed and dripped water on my toes. Then she told me I couldn’t be in a bad mood. It wasn’t easy living with her.

The thing was, she was a night person, just like me. That’s why she wouldn’t let me get away with being nasty about it. I could be thunky and slow-witted, but I had to be pleasant.

So, I’ll be pleasant when the A/C repair guys get here, but I can’t guarantee anything beyond that.

Lighten Up, Diane!

LightenUpI’ve been looking back at some of my old blog posts from several (many) years ago. Yeah. I’ve been doing this for a while. I was hilarious. Well, I crack myself up – that’s all that counts, right?

THIS is one thing that Facebook has wrecked for me. I make random comments … sometimes … and then go no further. I’m telling ya, weird things are happening in my head and in my world all the time and I just ignore them because I don’t want to take the time to write them down.

Most of it is random stupidity, but you know what? I’ve forgotten a lot of the random stupidity that happened to me in the past and when I go back and re-read it, I’m thoroughly entertained.

No more uptight, old lady, ignoring the entertainment side of me because I don’t want to bore people or because I think people will not understand me or be offended by my entertaining self. It’s time to go back to the light-hearted insanity that prevailed for so long on my blogs.

I apologize for that which is about to happen, but you can always ignore it. It’s like turning the television off when you don’t like a show, or putting a book down when you don’t like the story, or ignoring those who don’t do what you think they should do. Please don’t click on the link to my blog if I bore you. It’s so stinking easy.

This afternoon, I’m waiting with bated (you know that is the right spelling, don’t you? Baited would be horrible! Worms, minnows, ooey stuff) breath for grand storms to hit. I’ve tucked the Jeep into the side of the cabin, brought in the one random plastic Adirondack chair so that the wind doesn’t slam it into something that means something to me, forced the cat to stay inside and locked the screen doors down. Which means that nothing will happen. I’m fine with that.

TB is tucked into my arms in front of the keyboard. He puts my left arm to sleep every time he does this, but I can’t bear to make him move, so it tingles a lot. Did you know that when that happens, you can make it better by moving your head and neck around? Uh huh. See, you’re learning something now, too!

My next new thing is to do better about taking pictures. Social media gurus tell me that I should be on Instagram. Uhhh … holy mackerel, it’s enough that I’m twittering, facebooking, pinning and blogging. I have to write the real stuff at some point in my day! I don’t take enough pictures to make Instagram a habit. I’ll be better, but not that much better.

Another random thought … I really wanted to type habit with two b’s. Not because I was making a mistake, but because it seemed like something I might want to do. In today’s grammar / spelling sensitive world, you don’t get to play with words. People get all uptight and look down their noses (if they aren’t all up in your face). I think about the wonderful way authors have played with words – creating them, making them interesting – in the past. I think I can come up with better words than twerk or selfie. Yes?

I prefer confussed to confused, bun-rab to bunny rabit (see what I did there?). I like adding syllables (emphasis on the second instead of the first – that’s how I said it in my head, thank you very much), and messing with endings. I combine words to make new words. It’s fun.

Yep, time to lighten up and play again. Here I go.

Contest Time

GiveawayDon’t you love my adorable cat? Well, I do. He’s always around to help me out, even if it’s for nothing more than a little entertainment.

I have to tell you a little story (it’s what I do, remember?).

After finally getting Book 6 to Amazon Thursday night, and then promoting it and making sure loose ends were tidied up, I went to bed Saturday night thinking about the next items on my to-do list. One of those was a giveaway to build my friends on the Facebook Bellingwood page. We were at 691. It would be easy to hit 700 and give away a Sycamore House mug. Yeah!

I slept horribly Saturday night – no air conditioning, too many things spinning around in my mind. You name it – I had it and was up through most of the middle of the night. When TB and I finally fell asleep about 5 am, I was in no hurry to get up. And I didn’t.

I woke up at 10:45 and I had completely missed 700. There were now 711. As happy as I was to see the numbers increased, my OCD brain twisted a little bit, because I’ve faithfully been taking screen shots of the round numbers. (Someone stop me!)

Now I had to scurry to think through the promotion. I’d just deal with it and give the mug away (as well as a couple of books). By Sunday afternoon, and then Sunday evening, I was at 735. What in the world was happening? (I still have no idea, but I’m a grateful girl!)

This morning when I got up, the number was at 751. My goodness, I can make this giveaway even better and now there’s a new number with zeros at the end to shoot for.

So … if you head over to my Facebook page and like it and then like the post where I announce the giveaway (there’s the rub – that’s the only place you can enter), when we get to 800 friends on that page, I’ll announce winners, ship out books and mugs, and it will be a party! Or something.

Anyway, thank you for loving my books and hanging out in our little corner of the Facebook world. It’s fun over there. Not quite as much fun as it would be to hang out in Bellingwood with all of you, but we make do in the real world, don’t we!