Category Archives: Diane’s Life

Oh Words, You Vex Me

TB likes words too. This was taken in 2013 – Book 3’s manuscript.

For the last week I’ve been head down in an online course taught by a Brit. Consequently, the pronunciation of words that ramble around my mind is a bit off-kilter. I may never be able to say some of these words correctly again.

I’ve also been completely caught up in the Maisie Dobbs series of books by Jacqueline Winspear. Set in London during the early twentieth century (1913 – 1939), I’ve been inundated with vocabulary that requires me to tap on the dictionary function of my Kindle. While I have a pretty good grasp of language and can generally intuit a word’s meaning from context, there’s nothing more fun for me than to be introduced to new words.

Today, as I attended a webinar led by this British speaker, he posted a slide that used the word instalment. As soon as it arrived on the screen, some helpful Hannah typed a comment regarding the typo. Well. No. Not really.  A moderator quickly posted back that in ‘English,’ it was not misspelled, which made me laugh out loud.

I believe that this points out several pieces of learning we should embrace.

  1. English is an incredibly fascinating language.
  2. American English is a young language, yet has bastardized many different languages and cultural references. Our way isn’t necessarily the right way for anyone but us.
  3. Discovering all we can about words, language, and etymology makes us smarter and increases our ability to communicate.
  4. By the way, we’re not always as smart as we think we are.

As immense as my vocabulary is, I recognize that I have barely tapped into the breadth of the English language.

Have you ever played the game “Balderdash”? You receive a card with a word and everyone writes down their definition. Points are awarded to those definitions that sound good enough to get people to believe they’re correct.

The first time I played that game, I was floored by the number of words I’d not yet experienced. Not just obscure words that dropped out of circulation or scientific terms, but words that just never made it into my circle of knowledge. That was quite distressing to someone who treasures words as much as I do.

My mother loved words more than anyone I’ve ever know. Her favorite thing to do, though, was to mash them to pieces and spit them back out, causing no end of conflict in her children’s vocabulary when in front of a teacher in school … or friends … or when leading a group … you know. Just plain trouble.

To this day, I have trouble saying the word rhinoceros.  Say the word quietly in your head for a moment. The accent is on the second syllable, right?

Well, not for me. Mom always pronounced it as rhi’ – no – sore – ass. Consequently (and it’s surprising how often this comes up), I begin the word with the accent on the first syllable and have to stop myself and start over. Sure, I could shorten the word to rhino, but that’s not usually what happens.

I’m still embarrassed about the day I argued with an office mate about a word I’d heard my entire life. He insisted that it wasn’t a real word. I pushed back. He sent me to the dictionary.

Stallfoundered is not a real word.

Thanks, Mom. It might be a great word, but nobody else uses it.

So this week, I’m embracing British pronunciations and learning words such as costermonger. I’m in no hurry to leave this headspace. It’s kind of fun. I have yet to exchange an ‘s’ for a ‘z’ in words like apologize (apologise) or add back the ‘u’ in words such as honor. British English adds an additional ‘l’ sometimes when adding ‘ing’ (travelling or fuelling- American English is traveling or fueling). Then I discover that somehow we’ve added those lost ‘l’s to install or enthrall.

I enjoy the fact that the world is filled with inconsistencies and differences. It makes things more interesting. We aren’t all the same. We haven’t completely homogenized our cultures to bland and boring.

What’s one thing about language (s) that fascinates you? I’m not asking what frustrates you – that’s a topic for another day. Something that you just love.

Of Coffee and M&Ms … or

The Care and Feeding of Your Favorite Authors

Grey (left) and Earl were so cute looking out the window. Then I leaned back to take a picture. Obviously that meant that I needed them to come my way. Cute little buggers.

A week ago, this post had an entirely different focus. But then, I was coming off a rather intense period of twelve – fourteen hour days and a book release. I might have been more than a little whiny. Better that I just keep those thoughts in my head.

Just after publication, I get a huge influx of communication. Most of it is wonderful, some of it is a little critical, but every once in a while, something really awful shows up in my in-box that just rips me to the core. Not with every book release – and not with this last book release. But it happens.

Growing up in a minister’s household … okay, my father’s household … I learned that keeping people in the community happy was a primary goal. So I do everything I can to keep the largest percentage of the population happy. When I discover that I fail – for even one person – it is hard on my soul.

In the beginning of my writing career, nasty (not just reasonable critiques) words would devastate me for an entire week. I’d come up for air, the words would resonate through my head again, and I wondered why I was even bothering.

People on the outside told me to toughen up, grow thicker skin. Seriously – there is no armor strong enough to hold back some of the barbs and lances that are hurled. I often wondered if that person realized that I was a real-live human being with feelings and a heart.

I’ve gotten much better at managing my way through those. The truth is, I rarely read reviews – whether positive or negative – because they mess so badly with my psyche. Even if I’m there to read a positive review, I can’t stop myself from looking at the negatives. They’re a magnet I can’t resist … and I end up staring at the computer screen with my mouth wide open at how much someone hates what I’ve written. I’m just not that polarizing.

Wow … that was a lot of words pouring out over something that’s actually pretty personal. Sorry about that.

Back to the point.

Last week I went to the post office and lo and behold, there was a wonderful package from a friend filled with various flavors of M&Ms. Yep. Perfect snack for the late night writer. Between those and coffee, I can write for hours!

But what else do authors and other artists you follow on Facebook need to sustain themselves?

A. Well, we need you to *like*, comment, and share posts from our FB page. Every time you like a post – as simple as that – the post is exposed to more people. It also helps Facebook know that you want to be engaged with us and they will deliver more of our posts to you. If you feel like you’ve been missing things – the way to fix it is to re-engage on a regular basis.

B. Sign up for email newsletters and engage with them. Open them, click on the links. If you decide you’re getting too much in your in-box, simply unsubscribe (don’t mark it as spam, that sends us into a tailspin because the provider freaks out that we’re doing something wrong). Authors, artists, musicians – we want to share what we’re doing with you because you’re interested. We spend hours trying to decide what is important to send out, so you can get to know us better and learn what we’re doing.

I send out one email newsletter on the twenty-fifth of every month  to the entire list. The last thing I want to be is intrusive, but I hate for you to miss anything.

Facebook limits how much will be delivered to your feed. Email newsletters show up with detail that you might miss otherwise. For instance, no matter how many times I tell you all that I publish Bellingwood books on March 25, June 25, September 25, and December 25, I get at least one question per day from readers wondering when the next book comes out. It’s not that they aren’t paying attention – they simply aren’t getting that information in front of them. (See what I did there? LOL)

C. Reviews. I despise asking for reviews. It’s enough that you pay to read my stories, I shouldn’t ask you to do anything else. I will never be able to express the depth of my appreciation.

But reviews have become an important part of an artist’s life. Many of us don’t think about writing a positive review, but when we’re upset about a product, we rush to write a one-star review. We want to warn people off a bad product, but don’t think to encourage them to purchase something we love.

Positive reviews are vitally important to us who are artists, authors, musicians … creatives. These increase our visibility and then when people end up on the book page, they encourage those folks to investigate further.  Whether it’s Amazon, Etsy, YouTube or another outlet, being a positive voice in a sea of trolls is important and necessary.

Oh … and unicorns. I like those.

Confusion … And a Tangent

Pretty boy is napping. I’m sure he’s simply preparing for another night of chasing the kittens around the house while I write.

I was working and writing away last night, as I am wont to do, when I looked at the time. What in the world? It was 4:15. How had that happened?

Oh yeah. It hadn’t. Well, not really. My computer jumped ahead when I wasn’t paying attention.

For the rest of the day, every time I looked at a clock, momentary confusion grabbed hold of my mind and relaxed when I reminded it that I was actually in control and aware of the time change. It will take nearly a week for me to stop translating what time my body thinks it is to what time it actually is.

Now … this isn’t the point of the post, though it’s what sent my mind off and wandering. Oddly enough, my thoughts wandered over into the ugly yellowish-brown land of complainers.

There have been a great many posts complaining about the continuation of Daylight Savings Time. Complaints, fury, annoyance, on and on. Because posts on FB and Twitter about this are so danged effective (cough, cough, ahem).

This is one of my pet peeves that I do my best to avoid, though admittedly sometimes I fail. I can not bear complaints about things that we can’t change or won’t work to change. It’s a negative and useless method of communication.

Leaders of any organization will tell you that listening to complaints is one of their biggest time-sucks. Not only does it waste incredible amounts of time, but they have to overcome the drain – the strain of that negative conversation in order to move on and do something good. It’s huge and destructive to the health of organizations and people do not understand that.

I remember speaking to a pastor friend about some things that were driving me nuts – things that needed to be changed so the church could grow, get healthy, become more connected to the community. The one thing I promised was that I would never complain about something I wasn’t willing to dig in and help fix. Unless I had a healthy response to my own concerns, they were nothing more than whiny complaints. We’d already heard too much whining and complaining from people on the outside of the issues, who only showed up at moments of crisis, but never participated in anything else. Not something I want to emulate.

Caveat: speaking with customer service about a problem, contacting your congressperson with what you believe, actively participating in movements for change (or against change as the case may be for you) … those are not examples of unproductive complaining.

Back to Daylight Savings Times. Would I prefer that we just live in the time frame we are given? Yeah. Probably. Am I willing to start a movement? Not so much. So … while I might whine about the confusion that my poor addled brain has to suffer through twice a year, complaining about how that elusive *someone* should change this is a ridiculous waste of words, effort and time. As it is for nearly anything we choose to complain about, by the way.

My words (numerous as they may be) are more important to me than to be used in a negative manner. I want the words you read from me to lift you up … to lift me up.

And I want to read words from you that …
– fill my heart with joy
– challenge me to be better
– tell me who you are
– tell me your dreams
– ask about my dreams
– share your life
– explore struggles we overcome
– bring light to the world
– make us laugh
– make us cry
– lift our spirits
– bring goodness to the world
– set the bar higher
– restore faith in humanity’s goodness

The next time we’re ready to complain about something in a public forum … what if we were to step back and ask how effective our communication will be. I’m guessing we could come up with something much better to say.

…and that’s my rant for the month.

The Sound of Silence

Silence.

Wow. No fans blowing, the furnace isn’t running, cats are sleeping, no vehicles moving outside. Pure silence. Well … the clicking of my fingers across the keyboard, but otherwise …

When my life was filled with meetings and customers, busyness and activity, I didn’t think I would ever hear the sound of silence again. (Are you humming the tune?) Now I wonder how I ever lived without it. Silence restores me.

Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. There is nothing more fun for me that watching a movie or binge-ing on a television series, but when I turn it all off, my blood pressure responds. My shoulders fall, my body relaxes, my mind re-boots.

Silence is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and I will continue to notice and appreciate it for the gift that it is.

~~~

It’s hard to believe that in just a little more than two weeks, Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime will be in your hands. Sometimes my life is so surreal. I work, work, work, work and then it happens. Another book is published.

Weird.

Even though Book 18’s first chapter hasn’t been written, notes and ideas are filling up pages in my notebook. The story is becoming clearer and pretty soon, the only thing left to do will be to get the words out of my mind. That’s the fun part.

If you don’t know the drill by now, I publish every quarter. March 25, June 25, September 25, and December 25. I can’t write any faster than that … so sorry! LOL. I appreciate your encouragement (that’s what we’ll call it, right?), though.

And for those of you who are new to this, I do not do pre-orders. Amazon’s rules around that make it impossible for me to run such a tight publishing schedule. You won’t find the book on Amazon until it is published.

~~~

For the last couple of weeks, Book 17 has been in the hands of my editors, leaving my brain extra time to process and come up with new ideas and new thoughts. It’s been awesome. But it’s also been overwhelming.

Once I land on a great idea, it isn’t enough to put it on a list and forget about it. I dig right in and find ways to make it real.

My brother (he’s also an author – you should check out his books) and I have been talking about so many different things lately. He’s just freakin’ useless. His standard comment to me is “Go! Do it.”

How can you not love that tummy? My Earl is so adorable.

Then when I get all uppity about there being too much on my plate, he reminds me to take it one step at a time. Smart-Alec. Sigh.

This week, I’ve been breaking things down. Instead of leaping into the deep end, I’m going to start at the four-foot level. Deep enough to satisfy my creativity, but not so much that I’m drowning. (I’m short, six feet of water might kill me.)

You see, I’m highly organized and manage my time really well. I build procrastination into my schedule so that when I can take no more, there is still time to breathe.

What overwhelms me is when my creativity explodes. I discover so many more things that I want to accomplish. Things that would never have occurred to me last year. But even in the midst of that insane pace, I find myself energized and excited. There is nothing better than knowing you can do what you dream about doing.

An evangelist that I knew and loved used to describe imagination as a ‘nation of images.’ The first time I heard him use that phrase, my mind leaped at it. That’s exactly how I feel when this frenzy of creativity, anticipation and expectation take over. There are millions of possibilities and they are all available for the taking.

I used to lament the fact that I wasn’t one of those people who chose one field of study, one talent, one ability, one thing to focus on so as to become an expert. That was never my personality. I wondered if I would ever discover a way to make use of the fact that I was quite good at a lot of things, but not an expert at anything.

My perspective has changed. The fact that I am not an expert at one single thing means that there are no limits to what I can do and explore. This doesn’t mean that I won’t always focus on getting better at the things that mean the most to me, but rather than feel as if I’m not something, now I understand that what I am is absolutely perfect for me.

Ahhh … enough babbling. It’s silent in here again and I think I’ll bask in that for a time.

Brain Dump

When my schedule isn’t on a do-or-die deadline, I actually have extra synapses available to write blog posts. As much as I love that, the last couple of days have been a bit unfocused. Today’s the day to recapture my brain (I had an image of a wrangler with a lasso and a rather naughty bronco racing around the pen, neighing in hysterical laughter – welcome to my brain).

1) You should read through the gratitude comments showing up on the FB Bellingwood page. Oh friends, you are amazing. You’ve made me emotional – I smile and get teary-eyed. We really do have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? I prefer placing my focus on those amazing things that happen in our lives. But you fill my heart. If you want more information on the journals, check them out here.

2) Have you ever said (or heard) “Stop whining”? We are automatically programmed to react to that pitch of the voice … right now. When it is nothing more than just a whine, it’s annoying. My cats all have that pitch down perfectly. That’s how Grey (my sweet little girl) landed in my life. She was quite persistent in her whining and crying that day. I couldn’t ignore her. Now, she uses that whine whenever she wants something.

Last night, she woke up from a nap across the room and started right in. She wanted my attention. Right now! So, I talked to her until she crossed the room. Grey didn’t want to jump up on the desk, so my job was to decide which side of the chair she was approaching and drop my hand until I felt her there and rub her head until she had enough. Earl does the same thing. If I don’t see him, he whines until I drop my hand to give him some love.

It’s all pretty wonderful, but no matter what I’m doing, if one of them whines (meows) at me, I react immediately. No wonder Mom was always telling us to stop whining. She had things to do other than meet our every need.

3) Did you notice the new “Shop Now” button on the FB page? It takes people directly to the book list on this website where people can order from Amazon. Invite your friends to join us and let them know how easy it is to find the books now.

4) While you’re there on the FB Bellingwood page, be sure to check out the Find Our Fans giveaway. It is going on until March 19th. What a fun opportunity. You are exposed to new authors AND get a chance to win things. Score!

5) Mark your calendars for fun in March. Wine & Trivia Night on March 17th – from 6-11 pm Central Time. I’m building up a wonderful stash of giveaways and we always have such fun.

6) The cover and title for Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime were revealed in last Saturday’s email newsletter. It is incredible to me that I have such a wonderful resource for images from Max. Who gets that lucky? Apparently, I do. The release date is March 25 and we are on target.

That’s enough random information for today. There are so many things around this place that need to be dealt with. Sewing to finish, dishes to wash, rugs to vacuum, stories to write, designs to work on. My To-Do list is ridiculous! No matter how many things I strike off it, the crazy thing fills right back up. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Boredom will never be part of my life.

That was another thing Mom never wanted to hear from us – “I’m bored.” She had lists. It was easier to just find a book and curl up in a chair somewhere. Nobody bothered us if we were reading.

Now I’m babbling. That list? It won’t go away, and chattering at you won’t get things finished.

I love you!

Send lawyers, gu … nah, I’ve got this.

First off … don’t any of you feel sorry for me or try to pat me on the head and tell me how to fix things. I’m fine. Seriously – take this with the grain of salt that I’m typing it. Laugh a little, tell me how bad you’ve got it. All of that is fine, but no advice or sympathy. I’m a big girl.

You know, the truth is – any post that I put out in public is generally for humor’s sake or just general information. If things are falling apart in my life, the only people who will know are my family and closest friends. It’s not really for public consumption. Each of you have your own things to deal with and no matter how much you care for me, the last thing you need is someone else to worry about. So … there’s that.

Wow, already with the ranting, Diane. Get on with it.

So … I just got back from a trip to the bathroom. The bathroom, the shower, and just as I fall asleep. What do they have in common? My best thinking happens then. (TMI? Hah. Sorry ’bout that.)

Anyway, as I walked over there, thinking about my next two weeks, THIS is the song that came into my mind. Why? Oh heck, who knows.

I thought about just posting it on FB with the comment that instead, send M&Ms, food, and coffee. But then I realized that some of you would do just that and it’s not necessary. (Insert riotous laughter here.)

Amazon Subscribe and Save has M&Ms now. Every month, a stash hits my front door. And as for food, I’ve signed up with Home Chef and the best food ever arrives each Wednesday. Max gave me fabulous coffee for Christmas, so I’m set.

You could send cards of encouragement and I wouldn’t hate that, but then there’s the whole getting to the post office. Which means I have to leave the house. My workaholic brain fights me for time. I tell it that I need fresh air and to see people – even if it’s my postmistress and the chickadees at the grocery store. Oh … and all of the farmers who give me the farmer wave on the road between here and town. No matter what I say, my brain reminds me that I need to stay busy, there’s no time and too much to do.

Where did this last month and a half go? There’s a deadline looming.

Believe it or not, I need to have Book 17 written by the end of next weekend – July 18 / 19 (I’m totally leaving this error in here, because it’s hilarious – July? Good heavens, I’m out of control!) It’s totally do-able, I just need to focus. Then I use a week to edit the biggest errors before sending it off to my team of proofreaders and editors (thank you, I have plenty right now). Now, crazy Diane set up her schedule so that I also have a newsletter to produce during the week that I’m editing. And a cover + title to create for the book (for the newsletter), too. And at least one, but maybe two vignettes. All of that has to happen by the 24th of February.

This month, I’ve also got a really fun new product for you. I’m still in the midst of design and creation, but it will be announced in the February 25th newsletter. I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve come up with. You’re going to love it! Stinking love it! Seriously – like love it! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but some of you are going to love it! (Insert more laughter here, please.)

Sound like I’m whining yet? Please know that I’m not. It’s the best life a girl could ask for, but I’m still curious as to how I’ve arrived at February 11th and still feel as if I should be in the middle of January.

TB is usually the one tucked in front of me while I write. He’s so cute when he’s asleep.

The next two weeks are going to be insane in Diane’s world. I’ve pretty much decided, though, that’s par for the course. I must like it that way since it happens so regularly. How can I complain when I get to live my dream and I have such wonderful friends like you in my life … and then these three cats. As I’m typing, TB is sleeping on a blanket on top of the printer/scanner beside me, Grey is sound asleep to the left of me and Earl is curled up in front of me. My arms are wrapped around him as I type on the keyboard. He’s a little ball of warm fluff.

No lawyers, guns or money and no M&Ms, food or coffee. I’ve all I need and so much more.

… unless you can send me back in time about a month. That would be cool. Who wants to work on that for me?

The Stuff of Memories

This is a small portion of things I’m managing. The cats want desperately to play with it all!

Over the last two days, I’ve been absorbed in memories. I received two boxes of … stuff … from the son of my Dad’s second wife. Dad died in 2007 (Mom died in 1987) and we were inundated with all of the things he’d saved over the years when that happened. To be honest, most of our lives have been spent dealing with memories and stuff. My family is not so great at throwing things away.

Check that. My brother is fantastic at it and my sister is better than me. I still have a lot of learning to do.

I opened the first (small) box and took pictures of the items in there, sent those to Carol and Jamie and asked if they wanted anything. I was met with resounding … silence. Carp (yep, spelled that the way I wanted to). I begged … more silence. More carp. The thing is, they both know how horrible I am with throwing out memories. Rotten siblings.

Then I dug into the much bigger box. Oh. My. Goodness. I would have been fine never knowing this stuff existed. It hadn’t for decades as far as I was concerned. And now, here it is again. I took more pictures and sent them off – met with a great deal of silence. I tried a little bit of shame. That got me nowhere. The thing is, we all have too much stuff in our lives, don’t we?

Now … as ridiculous as it might sound, one big pile of stuff was cards and pictures from my Dad’s retirement in 1995. As I looked through the cards, I was flooded with memories of people from all of the churches he served in Iowa. Names that I hadn’t thought of in years and years, but had been important to our family during the time we spent with them. It’s twenty-one years later and I know that many of them have passed away since then. But wow, did my parents touch their lives. That is so wonderful for me to know.

I’ll scan photographs and some of the cards with hand-written memories. There are several things in there from most all of the churches Dad served. It’s strange to realize that so many years have passed since his retirement, making it that many more years since we’d been in some of those communities.

As I read through the names on the cards and thought about all of the amazing people that we’ve known because of Dad’s ministry, it hit me again that this is why I write the Bellingwood stories (wow, I’m getting all emotional here).

I love these people, these memories, these stories. My life is so incredibly full and wonderful because of the amazing people I’ve been able to know. Bad memories have slipped away and what I will always remember are the ways our lives were touched and the incredible love that was offered to us no matter where we lived.

The stories rattling through my mind today are numerous. As much as we don’t really need anymore *stuff* in our lives, just reading the names of people who participated in our lives is more than enough. I never want to forget those, though I have before and I will again. But this is why I write and tell stories of good and wonderful people.

These are the good and wonderful people that I have known throughout a lifetime.

Jamie and Carol, are you sure you don’t want this stuff? (sigh)

Random Holiday Craziness

This last month has been absolutely wild. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but whoa!

It always feels strange to hit the other side of a holiday. There is so much anticipation and preparation, then it happens and we move on to the next thing. Thanksgiving was just yesterday, right?

But yes, I’m madly thinking about Christmas now. I have to tell you, it’s a good thing I began planning for it last January. I’m still going to be pushing it in my attempt to get everything accomplished. And again … wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not only because I’m celebrating the joy of Christ’s birth, but Book 16’s publication date happens on December 25th. Can you hardly believe it’s nearly here? Whee!

Don’t forget, a short story will be available on January 1st. Hmm, I should probably figure out what I’m going to title that story. I already have the cover image though, so that’s a good thing.

~~~

Postcard glimpse

A little fun for you. I would love to send you a Christmas postcard, but will never presume to keep your address. If you’d like to receive a postcard from me (and the kitty-kiddos), all you have to do is send an email to nammynools (@) gmail (dot) com or use the contact form on the website (that drops it right into my email).

Tell me what your physical mailing address is and I will send you a postcard. Easy as that. And yes, I will send these postcards internationally as long as my little post office has postage (heh, you think I’m kidding).

If you regularly order a paperback copy from me, you will automatically receive a postcard.

~~~

This last week, I’ve been head-down while editing my brother’s next book. Jamie McFarlane writes in several genres. The next book (Blockade Runner) is part of his Sci Fi / Space Adventure series – Privateer Tales and will be published right after the new year. Jamie writes amazing action scenes. No matter how many times I read them, I get into the middle of some of those scenes and find that I’m breathing too quickly and am really agitated. It’s fabulous.

He also writes a paranormal series – Witchy World and is just starting the third book in that series. Check out his website at fickledragon.com for more information.

~~~

I’m going to miss our pre-publication Wine & Trivia night this month. Sadly, there’s no way I could manage one of those in December. They’re crazy enough in the months without a major holiday. However, I plan to do a few giveaways on the Facebook page as December 25 approaches. Stay tuned!

~~~

I keep the place pretty cool. Earl and Grey stick close to each other for warmth … well, and love, too.

Keep an eye out this weekend. I’ve been editing so many things these last few weeks, that  actual writing has taken a back seat. My Bellingwood-ians aren’t terribly fond of that behavior and have let me know there needs to be another vignette.

Now if you are still catching up to Book 16, there might some spoilers in the vignettes, but mainly just characters that you’ve not yet met … or relationships that developed and flourished along the way. Otherwise, I try to never give away any large plot points.

Vignettes are written from the point of view of characters other than Polly, allowing us to get to know some of the people that she interacts with in Bellingwood. I began writing these at Book 9 and within a month of a book’s publication, the vignettes are collected and published on Amazon as well. You don’t have to miss a thing.

Email newsletters go out to subscribers on the twenty-fifth (25th) of every month. Along with major book announcements, etc., there is always a short vignette. Make sure you’ve signed up for the newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.

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Do You Know How Important You Are?

TB is really mellowing. All three cats do not fit on the desk, but he's comfortable and has chosen to just sleep through the whole thing.

TB is really mellowing. All three cats do not fit on the desk, but he’s comfortable and has chosen to just sleep through the whole thing.

If you were alive and near any kind of media in 2002, you heard about, studied, read, listened to sermons on … Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life.’

I’m not about to get into the pros and cons of his book – so, don’t bother trying to explain whatever side you might be on with it. That’s not what this is about.

But it was interesting to wrap words around why we even bother to be on this earth. And while I believe it is important to understand that we each have a purpose, I think that our secular purpose transforms as we live out our lives. Our spiritual purpose? That’s pretty much set in stone. You know … the cornerstone.

Anyway …

I’ve spent a lifetime knowing that I had a purpose. Why else would I have survived childhood and youth? There had to be a reason.

When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. In essence, the muscle that regulated my heartbeat would spasm, sending it off into out of control rhythm – sometimes approaching 220 beats per minute or greater. There was no trigger I could watch for in order to avoid it – my heart would spasm no matter what I did. I could be sitting still reading and it would take off, on the playground, practicing the piano, even sleeping. It didn’t matter. Our doctor taught me several techniques to bring it back into rhythm and after a particularly scary event when I ended up at University Hospital in Iowa City, I was on regular doses of digitalis.

The night I went to the hospital, no one and nothing seemed to be able to bring my heart back into normal rhythm. The worst pain I’d ever experienced to that point was when they jammed that needle filled with digitalis into my right thigh. My mind still remembers the intensity (and longevity) of that pain. The doctor told my parents that if I lived through the night, I would have such drastic heart damage I’d not be able to live a normal life.

The two of them sat by my bed all night long, praying.

I left the hospital with no heart damage and we were told that I would outgrow the worst of the condition, though it would continue to haunt me the rest of my life. I stopped taking digitalis after my sixth grade year and though my heart will race with no reason a few times a year, it’s something I can easily bring under control if I settle down and find peace and quiet.

Ten years later I was with my senior class on our trip to St. Louis. We’d chartered a bus and were off for a weekend of crazy fun. As we drove into the city, we laughed and chattered. The class sponsor was at the front of the bus and he called my name, needing to ask me a question.

I leaned forward to respond and all of a sudden, his face went pale and his eyes grew immense. My friend in the seat next to me yelped and grabbed my arm. A three inch bolt with the nut threaded onto it had flown in the window, ripped the headpiece of my seat, ricocheted (and cracked) a window across the aisle before falling to the floor. Had I not leaned forward, the hole would have been in my forehead.

Those two singular incidents brought my life into focus. Now … I didn’t try to do anything about it. God and I had long since worked out a plan. I’d let him direct me and not try to get too busy about bossing him. If he needed me to re-direct, it was his job to let me know. I wasn’t going to try to guess.

So I went about living my life. But every day I knew that my life had purpose. I wasn’t sure if I was fulfilling it – in fact, many times I’m pretty sure I was absolutely not. I still don’t know if I’ve done what I was put on earth to do, but I’m having fun moving forward.

It doesn’t really matter whether I think I’m fulfilling my purpose or not. That isn’t what my life is about. I don’t need to be reassured … because that doesn’t rest in any earthly words or actions.

You might want to tell me that writing the Bellingwood books is God’s purpose for me – and I’m really cool with that. He and I went through a lot to get me to the point where I could do it. Some of it good, some of it not great and some of it was awful. The not great and the awful were my fault. Sometimes I think I know best. As smart and wise as I am, I spend a lot of time being wrong.

But I also believe that long before I wrote that first book, I was fulfilling my purpose. I was given life in September of 1959, but over and over during these last (ahem, cough) years, I am constantly reminded that not only in big ways, but very little itsy bitsy ways, I have a reason for being here. Even if it is something as seemingly inconsequential as opening my door to a tiny kitten or smiling at a check out clerk.

Do you have a clear understanding of how important you are to the world? Because I have to tell you … you are very important to me. And if you need to know the truth of that in a more personal way, send me an email. I might not know you well and I absolutely don’t know all that is going on in your life, but I know how terrific you are, just because you’re here.

What’s your story? How have you known or learned how important you are?

Animals Change Our Lives

Sometimes stories absolutely destroy me and it’s all I can do to pull myself back together and move beyond what just happened. Then it’s all I can do to not send them every cent I have so the group can continue to do more of what they do.

Children (and adults) with autism wrench my heart. Not always because of what they face inside themselves, but often because of how the world disregards their needs in so many ways. And how difficult we make it for parents to bridge the gap.

I’ve never had difficulty learning – when I was young, I was the student the teacher asked to help with those who needed more time. I’ve never had trouble interacting with people – in school, the only negative remark on my report card was that I talked too much. The bullying I faced as a child was mitigated by an extremely loving home and parents who took time to remind me of my uniqueness and importance. I was incredibly lucky and the thing is, I always knew and appreciated that. I didn’t take what I had for granted.

But those children who look at the world differently than I do and have trouble making it all click are such wonderful people who need us to see them differently. They aren’t the easy children in the classroom … or in the home.

My sister, Carol, teaches fifth and sixth grade. She has worked with autistic children and all different types of parents of these children. From mothers who have completely given up and are just thankful to have the child out of the house for eight hours to families who are involved as much as possible in order to help their kids have a good life.

This story hit my feed tonight and wiped me out.

Amazing story. But then … the comments. From hundreds … thousands of others whose lives have been transformed by animals. I got through only a few before I could no longer read due to my tears.

Many of us know love that comes from having an animal in our lives. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Tell me how your animal makes your life different because it loves you. My cats allow me to work in the solitude I crave because they give me constant unconditional love.

This story touched me. There are a lot of kids who need … desperately need … a service animal to help them negotiate this crazy world. I need to help them.