Monthly Archives: September 2017

Thank You

TB is posing for me. This picture was taken two years ago – just before the kittens came into our lives. He had no idea what was about to happen to him. (Neither did I.)

This has been a terrific week.

Now, to be honest, most weeks are pretty awesome, but the week after I publish a new book is filled with generous words from you and it fills my heart.

One difficult thing for me, though, is responding in kind to your outpouring of love. ‘Thank you’ never seems to be enough when you tell me how my books have affected you in such personal ways. And yet … those are the times when you bring this mouthy girl to silence. I absorb it all and find that all I have are those two imperfectly perfect words – thank you.

I was very young when my mother spoke with me about this type of experience. As the daughter of a United Methodist minister who also played the piano and sang, I spent a lot of time performing in front of people. My sister and I sang together from an early age. People always stopped us to tell us how wonderful we sounded. As little girls, learning how to take compliments gracefully and gratefully was something that needed to be learned. It wasn’t innate. One Sunday, after I’d evidently not been gracious enough, Mom sat with me and discussed the relationship that was built between a performer and her audience. For those few minutes, that person connected with me. If they wanted to acknowledge how it made them feel, I needed to put myself in their place and ask what my expectation might be. I needed to change my perspective. The performance wasn’t about me – it was about them.

That discussion changed everything for me.

Writing and publishing these books is my job. This life is my passion and I am privileged in ways I can not describe that I can do this. I work hard and live through frustrations, fear, rejection … oh, and fear. LOL. The thing is – the end result isn’t about the published books. It’s about you. For the first time in my life, I’ve been able to be creative and establish relationships that last longer than the creative moment.

The snippets of life you share with me along the way are treasures that I hold close. I will often screw up and forget that you’ve already told me something or that your name is Donna, not Marie, or that you’ve given me your address three times already. Trust me, as soon as it happens, I feel horrible. I’m so danged human – it frustrates me more than you know. A little bit of superhero stuff would be helpful some days. But you mean the world to me.

So as I continue to do my job and you continue to respond, hopefully we will all recognize what an amazing relationship is being built here.

Sometimes all I can say is ‘thank you.’ My heart is so filled with wonder at your generosity it overwhelms my mind and I have no other words.

Thank you.

A Teacher’s Impact

Earl and TB snuggle because Earl wants to. TB only complains when he runs out of room.

For the last two days, you all have been commenting with stories of teachers who made an impact on your lives. (Facebook post on the Bellingwood page found here). What an extraordinary thing it has been to read through those stories. I found myself with tears in my eyes as I read stories of kindness, love, and generosity.

While a few of you were impacted negatively by a teacher, the overwhelming majority of you focused on those teachers who had touched your life in beautiful and wondrous ways. Two things leaped out at me.

The first was that the teachers who impacted you the most were those who made you (me, us) feel special, unique, and loved.

The second was that overwhelmingly, the one thing teachers gave to you that you’ve never forgotten was a love of reading. There were many other things teachers taught to you that you’ve carried throughout your lives, but reading and a love of the written word was predominant.

My sister is a fifth grade teacher, a job that she loves, no matter how difficult it gets. She read through the comments and told me that she came away inspired to do even better with the kids that she has in her classroom.

I was one of those kids who moved several times when I was in school and there was always a teacher there who was ready to lift me out of obscurity and allow me to shine. Mrs. Hill, my elementary music teacher, was the one whose caring still resounds within me. I was bullied by the cool kids because I was new, I was the preacher’s kid (horrors) and I was a nice girl who was fairly intelligent. But Mrs. Hill sat me at the piano when she needed to walk around the classroom and made me feel special when she asked me to play things that she wanted the class to hear. Other teachers allowed me to help slow readers when I finished my work early.

Until I read through your comments yesterday, it had never occurred to me that those teachers probably made the other children feel just as special and important, giving them different tasks suited to their own talents. Of course they did. That’s what made them such great teachers.

Teachers today are required to focus on content standards which takes up a huge amount of class time, leaving very little time to do extra things – like reading to the kids or teaching them how to knit or allowing them to explore their own curiosities. We don’t have a perfect system by any means, but our teachers still care for the children as those who cared for us did. They will go to great lengths to ensure that the kids have what they need to learn, whether it’s a pencil or a hug.

I do the silliest things for Carol’s classroom. On March 14th, they get Whoopie Pies to celebrate Pi Day. On May 4th, they get Star Wars bookmarks to celebrate May the Fourth Be With You. She’s reading “Wrinkle in Time” to them this year. I am going to do my best to find a way to celebrate that and I figure that once the movie comes out, there will be fun and inexpensive things to access. When I read about a fun book that has just come out for kids, I ask Carol if she could use it in her classroom – or even if it is something that would be fun to put in the school library. At the beginning of each year, I sew up little treat bags that she and I fill with pencils, fun erasers, a bit of candy, and other silly things for each kid. You all are creative – you have your own great ideas.

I can’t encourage you enough to care for the teachers who work in the schools around you. Honor the memory of that teacher who gave you so much by paying it forward to these teachers who hold our future in their hands. When they go home exhausted after a day of dealing with kids who face emotional, mental and physical challenges, imagine how different they would feel knowing there are people out there who support them. Adopt a teacher – adopt a classroom. It doesn’t have to be much, sometimes it’s a kind word or a note of encouragement – a reminder that they are doing something amazing and you are grateful. We all know teachers – don’t wait for them to ask for help – don’t ask them what they need – get creative. It doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to be.

Teachers impacted your lives – you can impact a teacher’s life. Tell them thank you for doing a job that very few of us could handle.

~~~

Book 19 – Boundless Dreams will be here Monday, September 25th! The email newsletter that arrives in your inbox at six o’clock that morning will have the link and as always, another vignette! I can hardly wait!

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 19, #3

Earl’s favorite place in the whole world is snuggled up to someone. Mostly TB, but the rest of us will do. TB is tolerant – generally only for the short term. He doesn’t really want anyone to know how much he likes being loved.

There are only a few more days until Book 19 – Boundless Dreams is released. I’m excited to have this one out and the find my way back to Bellingwood for Book 20.

My publication dates are always the 25th of March, June, September, and December.

To ensure you never miss any exciting news from Bellingwood, be sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter. It comes out on the 25th of every month and includes a vignette and other bits and pieces of information. Sign up here.

Make sure you check out this post on the Facebook Bellingwood page and comment there with a memory about one of the first teachers who impacted your life. I’ll be giving away copies of the Book 19 ebook. The giveaway ends tonight (Thursday) at 8 pm.

This little vignette is a few moments between Marie Sturtz, Noah, and Elijah. They’ve had a busy day and it’s time for bed.

Boys and Their Toys

   “Will you tell us a story?” Elijah asked Marie. He scooted across the bed, coming to rest practically on top of Noah.
  Marie Sturtz sat on the edge of the bed near the headboard, Noah nestled in her arms. She reached out and rubbed Elijah’s shoulder. “What story do you want to hear?”
  “Tell us about the storm again,” Elijah said.
  “You’ve heard that one before. Let’s see.” Marie looked up at the ceiling. “What would be a good story to tell two little boys who should be going to sleep.”
  “A long one,” Noah said, his eyes twinkling.
  “Did you have fun today?” she asked them. The boys were glad to do anything and today they’d helped her can tomatoes, make tomato sauce and put up frozen corn.
  Noah nodded. “I liked the corn the best.”
  “Yes you did,” Marie said with a laugh. He loved eating corn on the cob. Both boys had gotten their fill today and she still managed to put plenty of it in the freezer.
  “I like tomatoes,” Elijah said. He held up his index finger. “That pan was hot, though.”
  “That wasn’t a fun lesson to learn, was it?” she asked.
  Elijah shook his head, looked down and then brightened up. “At least it was only one finger, right? It could have been much worse.”
  Those were the exact words she’d use when he’d burned himself by reaching out to touch a jar after she pulled it out of the boiling water bath. He knew better. She’d told him to be careful, but hadn’t been surprise when he had to try it for himself. Marie nodded and brushed her finger along his cheek.
  He bounced up and away and ran over to the dresser where they’d made room for extra sets of clothes for him and Noah. Polly had dropped fresh clothes off for them earlier this evening with a couple of extra items so they could establish their own territory here.
  Elijah opened the drawer and took out a t-shirt. “Is this a good shirt to wear tomorrow when we go pick raspberries?”
  “It will be fine,” Marie said. “Why don’t you put it on the chair over there so it’s ready for you in the morning.”
  “Should I take out socks, too?”
  “Maybe just the shirt for now,” she said. “Come on back to bed. It’s time for you to wind down so you can sleep. You don’t want to stay awake all night.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew she’d made a mistake.
  “Yes I do,” Elijah countered. “I could, too. I’ve done it before.”
  Marie patted the pillow. “Come on back up here beside your brother.”
  When Elijah jumped back on the bed, he bounced a couple of times and then climbed across Noah to get close to Marie. Noah, ever-obliging, just moved to make room for his brother.
  Giving him a snuggle and a kiss, Marie pointed to the other side of Noah. “Climb back over to where you belong,” she said.
  Elijah gave her a quick look to see if she was serious, then clambered across his brother and scooted up close to Noah’s back. “Where’s Grandpa?” he asked, looking pointedly toward the bedroom door.
  “Right where we left him,” Marie replied.
  “Watching TV?”
  Marie nodded and grinned. “Yes.”
  “Do you think he misses us? Maybe we should keep him company.”
  She laughed out loud. It had been years since she’d had children this age. Too smart for their own good, yet still so innocent. She had never wanted to pressure Lonnie and Henry to have babies. They had their own lives to live. She wasn’t sure if Lonnie would ever settle down and have a family. If that’s what her daughter wanted, then Marie was thrilled to support her. When Henry met Polly, Marie knew right away that babies were either out of the question or would be a long time coming. Those two were so happy with their lives, how could she even begin to pressure them just because she loved having little ones around. Who would have thought that her life would be filled with children of all ages within just a couple of years of meeting Polly, though. Marie’s life was so full right now, she went to bed exhausted and satisfied every night.
  Bill had found Henry’s old red wagon a couple of weeks ago and this afternoon, when he brought it out for the boys to play with, it was like brand-new. Noah had been over the moon. The boys took turns pulling each other and Bill even pulled the two of them a couple of times around the parking lot in front of the shop.
  Then, Noah discovered that he could be helpful and after securing an old tarp from Bill to keep the wagon bed clean, he’d helped pick up branches and sticks around the yard, then helped Bill transfer some river rock from the back of the shop to spots around the house. Elijah ran alongside, asking a million questions of Bill. The boy never ran out of questions.
  Bill loved spending time with these two little boys. He’d been so busy trying to make a living when Henry and Lonnie were children that he’d missed out on some of these wonderful moments. She couldn’t wait to sit with him tonight and listen as he went on about their day. Every time the boys spent a night with them, Bill turned into a kid himself. He had just started talking about a dream he’d had ever since he was a young man – setting up a model railroad in the basement where they’d once had all of the cars and race tracks. When Henry was young, they couldn’t afford the time or the money to build out a railroad, so he’d done the plastic track and cars, winding racetrack all over the place. Once Henry was out of school, Bill hadn’t wanted to do it alone. Then when he had time and the money to work on it, he figured he was getting too old and no one would be around to enjoy it anyway.
  Now he was dreaming about it again and Marie was thrilled. They’d taken the boys down to the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad twice this summer. She was sure that if Bill had his way, he’d take them down every weekend. They were the perfect excuse for him to ride that train. Maybe she needed to ask more questions and find out which scale train he would like to start working with. That would make a fun Christmas gift for him.
  She looked at Elijah, who yawned as he leaned on his brother. “You two have had a busy day, haven’t you?”
  “It was a fun day,” Noah said. “I like coming over.”
  “Me too,” Elijah said, yawning again. “I miss Obiwan and Han. You should get a dog.”
  Marie chuckled. Bill had been talking about getting a puppy. She didn’t know if she could handle one more animal in her life, but if she was honest with herself, it sounded like a lot of fun. “Maybe someday,” she said quietly as Elijah’s eyes fluttered.
  He opened them wide and shook his head, refusing to accept that he was falling asleep. “You were going to tell us a story,” he said.
  “I was, wasn’t I?” Marie yawned. “What if I tell you a story tomorrow while we’re making raspberry jam? I’m awfully tired.”
  Elijah nodded in understanding.
  She looked down at Noah, who just watched her with a smile. “What are you thinking about, Noah?” she asked.
  “I love you,” he said so quietly she wasn’t sure she heard him.
  Marie leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I love you, Noah.” She stood up and bent over to kiss Elijah’s forehead. “And I love you, Elijah.”
  He reached up with both arms and wrapped them around her neck, then kissed her cheek. She couldn’t help the tears that sprang to her eyes as she held on to him in a tight hug.
  “Go to sleep, now,” she said, releasing him.
  Elijah dropped back down and scooted away from Noah, snuggling his face in his own pillow.
  Marie walked to the doorway, flipped the overhead light off, and stood watching the boys in the warm glow of the  nightlights on either side of the bed. She was thankful they were comfortable enough here to sleep on their own. Polly and Henry had been worried the first night the boys spent with Marie and Bill since it had taken them so long to feel safe again. Marie had stayed in their room that night until they fell asleep. She hadn’t slept well, waking with every sound, worrying that they would be frightened. The second time had been easier and each time they’d stayed, all of them grew more comfortable.
  A noise on the stairway caught Marie’s attention and she smiled at Bill who came to stand beside her. He put his arm around her waist as she put a finger up to her lip.
  He whispered in her ear. “The house is all closed up. Are you ready to be finished with the day?”
  Nodding, she took his hand and they walked into their bedroom. Once the door was closed, he grinned. “They wore me out today. How about you?”
  “I’m exhausted,” Marie agreed. “This is really early, but I’m ready to lie down and read for a while.”
  “That’s what I figured.”
  She sat down on the edge of the bed and removed her shoes, rubbing her feet as she did. “That feels good.” Smiling at him, she said, “I think you should consider building a model railroad. Those boys would love to do that with you.”
  “Really?” he asked, taken aback.
  “We could clear out the basement again. There’s no reason to keep all of that junk. Lonnie can take her boxes home. She’s never moving back. Henry has a huge house now and he can haul his own boxes around from now on.”
  “You don’t think I’m too old for this?”
  Marie waggled her eyes at him. “I don’t think you’re too old for anything.”
  “Honey, I’m awfully tired.”
  “I was just talking about model railroads,” she protested with a laugh. “But I think this might be the perfect time for you to start building them. I’ll bet you could get quite a bit of help from all your buddies.”
  Bill took a catalog off the bottom of a pile in the nightstand beside the bed. “I’ve been waiting to show this to you.” He opened it to the first page. “Look at everything that is available nowadays. They make it so easy for you to be creative. And I’ve been looking at videos on YouTube. There are guys out there who will teach me how to do it all.”
  “I’m not surprised,” Marie said, laughing out loud. “And if I’m honest, I can’t wait. This sounds like a lot of fun.”
  “You’ll help me?”
  “Absolutely. Which train gauge do you want to work with?”
  He sat beside her and the two lay back on the bed, turning on their sides to look through the catalog together. “I think HO. It’s the most common and I want to be able to easily find the things we need to work with.”
  Bill flipped a couple of pages and Marie stopped him, pointing at a river scene. “I want to build a campground.”
  “Honey, you can build anything you want. I will start clearing out that basement on Monday. Before you know it, we’ll have train track running all throughout the basement.”
  “Henry’s going to laugh at us.”
  “Let him.” Bill leaned over and kissed her. “I feel like a kid.”

Birthdays and Trivia and a Release Date, Oh My!

Here we are … two and a half weeks out from the release of Book 19 – Boundless Dreams. Sometimes It seems like that date is far, far away, and yet, it also feels like time is rushing forward so fast I can hardly catch my breath.

A few things will happen between now and September 25th and I don’t want you to miss out.

1. September 8th (Friday) is my birthday. Whee! Nope … not telling you how old I am. My life is filled with too much fun for me to concentrate on a number. Besides, most of the time, I’d probably be mistaken. I can never remember.

To celebrate my birthday, I think I want to give away a couple of mugs. To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is post a comment on Facebook (under this post) or here on the website as a response to this post. Tell me one place (one place only) on this earth that you dream of visiting. Just one place. Your biggest and wildest dream vacation place.

You have until Sunday evening (September 10) to respond. I’ll choose winners and reply to your comment as well as post names on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

2. September 15th (Friday) is our last Wine & Trivia Night of the year. I won’t host one prior to the December 25th release because the holiday season is so overwhelming. More information will come next week, but join us on the Facebook Bellingwood page between six o’clock and eleven o’clock central time for a lot of fun, trivia questions about Bellingwood and prizes!

3. September 18th – 20th. The Bellingwood Boxed Set: Books 1-3 will be FREE on Amazon. More notification will come regarding that, but if you have friends or family who should be part of this community, let them know!

4. September 20th (Wednesday). Keep an eye out on the Facebook Bellingwood page that day because it is Polly Giller’s birthday! I will post a fun question for you to respond to and then choose winners who will receive an eBook copy of Book 19 – Boundless Dreams.

5. September 25th (Monday) is release day! Make sure you’ve signed up for the email newsletter (you can do so here). At six o’clock in the morning, the newsletter will land in the email boxes of all the good little girls and boys (seriously, Diane – you should have saved that for the Christmas release).

I can hardly wait for you to get to this next chapter in Polly’s life. Things never slow down for that poor girl, but she loves her life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Book 20 is already in process, so my next target is December 25th. Hopefully there will be one more surprise between now and then. (The teasing will never end.)

Thank you all for being part of this wonderful community!