Monthly Archives: November 2014

Words Matter

This last week has been tough for those of us who believe the best about humanity. There’ve been a lot of hits. I’m always disappointed when I watch people attacking others … even when they believe they’re in the right. Bullying bullies isn’t any better than the original behavior, no matter the justification.

But I was tipped over the edge yesterday … in a little town post office. It had been at least a week since I’d picked up my mail, so I thought it might be important to check. As I was leaving, a woman came in and said, “You’re from Nebraska?” She’d seen my license plates. “What are you doing here?”

I told her that my family had some land up here and since I was a writer, I spent time there doing what I do. She asked my name to see if she might recognize it. Nope, but that’s okay.

Then she told me that her daughter wrote science fiction. I asked about it and the next thing she said was, “It’s horrible.”

I was taken aback. So I asked if she read science fiction. “No,” she responded, “but even if I did, she’s a terrible writer. I tell her that all the time.”

Whoa. She wasn’t kidding.

We both got back in our cars and I sat there for a moment … stunned.

Who does that to their own child?

And we wonder why there are so many broken people out there in the world. Folks, this woman was only a few years older than me. She raised kids along with my age group. This isn’t about how the olden days were better. All of us from those wonderful olden, golden days have been raising the kids that are messed up and are raising their own broken children. She drove a decent car – it isn’t about living in poverty and not having enough. She spoke articulately – more than likely had a decent education. There is no excuse that I can attribute to this behavior.

My heart broke for her daughter, who never heard the words “Good job.”

In fact, it wasn’t even about the writing itself. This woman took it one step further and made it personal to her daughter. The writing wasn’t bad – the daughter was a terrible writer. Think about the distinction there.

Grace-Love-MercyWhat words do we use every day? Maybe we believe snarky, nasty comments will help others get better. We’re wrong. From those we love and trust, those comments eat away at the parts of us which respond to love. This is an impossible cycle to break.

I don’t have the heart to come up with a funny story today. My heart still hurts for the brokenness that shows up so regularly. I want to thwap some people upside the back of the head and others, I want to hug so tightly they can feel what real love is.

Words matter. Fill yours with grace, mercy and love as we begin this Advent season.

The Boy with the Big Heart

An old friend of mine died yesterday. Actually, Brian was one of my first boyfriends and today, I’m thankful for memories that come from days when life was a little more innocent.

Brian had the tenderest heart of anyone I’ve ever known, but he hated that people might know that, so he covered it up. He wore his hair long, trying to cover his eyes. He tried to be tough … and failed miserably in so many ways, because he was such a good kid. He hung out with the tough kids, but when he was at my house, he was sweet and polite and kind and emotional at just the right times.

My mother saw his heart too and even though she and Dad thought I was too young to date (oh, there were more than a few arguments in the house about that), she knew that Brian would never hurt me or do anything that would get us into too much trouble. She loved him … because of that sweet heart.

That summer we were going together, Mom and Dad left for a week. A friend stayed with us in the evenings, but all of a sudden I had a lot of freedom and Brian could be in the house. Oh, I’m sure there were rules and we weren’t supposed to be doing that, but we did. The funny thing is that the only illicit activity happening was the fact that Brian brought over a stack of comedy records and for the first time in my sheltered life, I was exposed to Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, Bill Cosby and others. Brian and I sat on the settee in the living room, holding hands … nothing more, while we listened to those records and talked for hours. My goodness, we talked. It was with Brian that I got into the worst trouble with Mom for being on the phone for hours.

We broke up at some point and life moved on … into high school. And all of a sudden, we were going out again. And then one night, in the back of his parent’s station wagon, on the way home from a Holy Spirit Conference weekend in Des Moines, he kissed me. It was sweet, tentative and full of his heart. That’s as far as things ever went between me and Brian. Oh, we kissed a lot, but we were still pretty young and innocent and it was enough.

Life changed and we both moved on again, friends but never close. Graduation and college, we moved away from Sigourney and I lost contact with him. I knew life had been hard for him. He did it to himself. You can’t excuse the choices a person makes, but I know that for Brian, that very tender heart of his got in his way over and over again. He was either putting it in the hands of people who didn’t know what to do with it or he was trying to cover it up so no one knew it even existed.

I didn’t expect to ever see him again except maybe from a distance at a reunion or something. Our lives had diverged so much that there was no reason.

Until my father died. After the funeral, I was downstairs in the church greeting old friends and family when I looked up and there was Brian. He’d come alone to see me … to tell me what my family had meant to him … to tell me that he still cared for me … for us … that we’d been such an immense part of his life and his heart. Of all the hundreds of kids that my father had touched throughout his life, it was Brian who showed up that day. Alone. He’d driven his motorcycle up from Des Moines to make sure I was okay. He still tried to be tough – he dressed in jeans – hunched in on himself – dark and brooding, his face lined from years of a hard life, and he roared away on his motorcycle – but his beautiful heart is what I will always remember.

care for your heartI’ve never known another person with a heart that tender. It made him vulnerable and he took great measures to protect himself against the pain that the world wanted to inflict on him.

Today I pray that his soul has finally found comfort and peace and that his heart has found where it belongs … in the palm of God’s hand.

Dreams of Dead Bodies

It always seems as if my brain becomes molasses-like mush when I don’t have a lot going on. At a time when when I should have plenty of free time to be creative and write awesome words, no … I lose all focus. Figures, eh?

As soon as I have deadlines on top of me and immense amounts of work to do, my brain cells all explode and start sending signals through every corner of my brain, uncovering stories and thoughts and other creative things. Makes a girl crazy.

Lesser Prince Cover 6x9 100 dpiI finished editing my brother’s newest book – Lesser Prince – this week. It’s available for pre-order right now on Amazon. What a great story – filled with magic, elves, gnomes, family, friends … oh and an adorable dragon. Check it out.

One thing that happens regularly when I’m actively involved with writing is intense dreams. I try not to be embarrassed about the fact that I incorporate Bellingwood and its characters into my dreams, because I just can’t help it.

The other night, I woke from a crazy dream and had to laugh. First of all, you have to know that my sister and I owned a quick printing business for 22 years, so I often dream of working with Carol. In this dream, she and I were getting ready to start another day of work. I walked past a large swimming pool and noticed that there was a body floating in the water. A dead body, of course. My reaction (in my dreams) was to walk past it and think to myself, “This is nothing new – I’m always finding bodies. I will deal with it as soon as we get the shop opened. Then I will call the Sheriff and he’ll come take care of it.”

Book 8 - 2 100 dpiWhen I first started writing, some of my friends and early readers wondered how I could possibly pull off having so many dead bodies in one small town in one small state. That’s the best part about fiction – sometimes things don’t have to make perfect sense.

Now, however, I do have to draw the line at dead bodies showing up on a regular basis in my dreams. I’m pretty sure I should react more aggressively to them. I wish I had paid more attention to the story line behind the death. I might have been able to use it in a future book.

Book 8 – Through the Storm – will be out the first week of December. Now I need to get back to work. It won’t edit itself.

Lessons from Candy

A short trip to the grocery store in order to stock up for the coming snowpocalypse (okay, I jest) and I saw a bag of candy I couldn’t resist. Not because I love the stuff so much that I had to have it, but because of the memories it evoked (and maybe the lure of fodder for a blog post was too great).

CandyBrach’s ribbon and hard candy has been a part of my memory for what seems like an eternity. Again, not because I love the stuff, but because it was Dad’s candy. Whenever I visited him in his office, Dad would reach down into the lower drawer on the left side of his desk and take out a tin, open the lid, and allow me to choose a piece of candy. Over the years, I learned which pieces I didn’t like and which I loved, but I was never allowed to dig through and touch every piece. I had to take what was on top. If the level was low, we might shake it a little to bring something up that I liked, but otherwise, I took what was available. And you know what? I enjoyed it because it was Dad’s gift to me.

This same candy tin came out whenever there were kids in his office and sometimes even for adults … if they were very, very good.

There were a few things I learned because of this candy. First, the act of giving and receiving was more important than the actual gift. Those few moments with Dad when we shared a bit of hard candy were precious. Secondly, greed is unnecessary behavior. I received one piece of candy. That’s all I needed and Dad taught me to ensure that there was always plenty for others. Thirdly, I learned to be satisfied with what I had. I might not love every flavor of this candy. In fact, as I look at the bag in front of me today, I realize that I like the cinnamon bars, and nothing else. But, it was what I had and it was enough.

In a life where we live for excess and choices and believe the world revolves around us individually, it’s a good reminder for me to open a bag of candy and remember that simplicity, generosity, and a few limitations aren’t necessarily a bad way to live. Dad’s lessons still resonate. And over the next few months, I will slowly go through this bag, savoring even the flavors that aren’t my favorite because with them come memories that can’t be replaced by anything else.