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Want to Win an Ebook of Book 15?

capture-the-moments-100-dpi-2I feel like giving away a few Kindle copies of Book 15 – Capture the Moments.

All you have to do to enter is to comment (either on this post or, preferably, on the Bellingwood FB page) and tell me what you think is the first chapter in which Polly finds a body.

That’s it.

I’m not going to spoil it, so everybody has the potential to win. I will select five random winners on Wednesday afternoon and notify you by replying to your comment. Then I will write a quick post, so everyone knows who won.

This is going to be short and sweet – my plate is still full of editing and formatting. I do love y’all, though!

IT’S GETTING CLOSER! Make sure you’re signed up for the email newsletter to receive notification and the link to purchase the book bright and early Sunday morning!

Entrants release Facebook of any responsibility and this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Congratulations!

Earl (on the left) and Grey (on the right) were a little concerned about that balloon, but curiosity won out.

Earl (on the left) and Grey (on the right) were a little concerned about that balloon, but curiosity won out.

We have six winners. Congratulations to you all! Send me an email or private message with your mailing address so I can ship these out early next week. Whee!

Five Amazon ($10) Gift Cards
Raina Battista
Dawn Osborne
Sue Haskell McCreary
Deb Kampschnieder
Christine Broadston

KINDLE FIRE – 7″
Pat C. Wilson

If you haven’t taken the time to read through these stories – both on the FB page and as comments to the original blog post on the website, you really should. AND, if you have been waiting for the perfect time to tell these stories to your children and grandchildren – don’t wait any longer. These made me laugh and cry and even gasp at the craziness your families have gone through – the things they’ve done and the people they’ve known. These aren’t stories that should be lost.

One thing I was never able to get accomplished was recording my father when he started telling the stories of his family. We lost a lot. And it is so obvious – from all of the people who work on genealogy and family trees – these things are important to us. They give us the foundation for our lives.

I didn’t expect that this little venture would be so profound, but you have certainly given me an amazing gift with your stories. Thank you, thank you! I have learned so much and feel privileged to know you even better.

Bellingwood Vignette – Book 15, #4

Grey is almost floppy, she's so relaxed.

Grey is almost floppy, she’s so relaxed.

These short vignettes take a moment away from Polly’s life and focus on someone else in Bellingwood. While I write them during the same time I’m putting together a book (because seriously, when am I NOT putting together a book?), they won’t spoil any of the story. In fact, you might not even see a reference to the vignette anywhere in the book because … well … if Polly doesn’t know about it, I don’t get to tell the story.

Vignettes are published in each of the newsletters which arrive on the 25th of every month, but sometimes there are stories that insist on being told.

September 25th will be here soon, but we have a few events coming up in preparation. Thursday is my birthday giveaway – stay tuned. And don’t forget that Friday, September 16th is the final Wine & Trivia night of 2016. It’s a party!

Now for the story …

With a Little Help From My Friends

Book 15 – 04  – With a Little Help From My Friends

“I’m so glad you’re still open,” Stephanie said. She dropped her overstuffed messenger bag on the floor in front of the counter.

Skylar laughed. “Hello to you.” He gestured to the customers still sitting in booths and tables. “You’re fine. We’re open late the next two weeks until Bellingwood Days are over. What can I get for you?”

“One of those mocha caramel frappe things with an extra shot of espresso.” Stephanie stepped over to the dessert display, shook her head and walked away from it.

“Did you want something?” he asked.

Camille carried a tray of rolls and muffins out from the back. “Hi Stephanie, how are you doing?”

“Okay.” Stephanie lowered her eyes. “Actually I’m exhausted. I just got back from a meeting in Perry. I had to be there at seven o’clock and then I listened to the worst speaker ever blather on for five straight hours.”

“No break?” Skylar asked.

“Yeah. A break, but not nearly long enough. Then I raced back to take Kayla to Boone for an eye appointment, and then Kristen called and said I needed to rush home because Jeff had scheduled a meeting with someone who wants to rent the classrooms. He’d forgotten about it and he’s in Webster City or Clarion or somewhere up north.”

Skylar pushed the coffee across the counter to her. “Are you nearly done with your day?”

“I hope so.” She glanced at the baked goods one last time and gave another quick shake of her head. Things were going so well and she didn’t need to mess up her diet with anything more than the frappe. It was bad enough. Stephanie tried to justify it by telling herself she hadn’t eaten anything except for that apple at the break this morning.

Stephanie gave him her credit card and picked up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder.

“You should have whatever you want,” Skylar said quietly. “You look great.”

She took the credit card and receipt and gave him a perplexed look. “Thanks. It’s okay. I just need to sit in peace and quiet with caffeine. Are you really going to be open for a while?”

Camile grinned. “We’re open until seven o’clock for the next two weeks. You have hours and hours.”

“Good. I’m hiding in that booth over there with my laptop,” Stephanie said. “I told Kristen that I couldn’t take any more today.” She picked up her drink, gave Skylar another confused look, then headed for a booth in the corner, out of the way of everyone else.

Even though the speaker had been incredibly boring, he’d given them great ideas for running small hospitality businesses; how to market Sycamore House and ways to find out who might be looking for their services. She wanted to make sure her notes were in order before presenting them to Jeff, Sylvie, and Rachel.

She pushed her drink off to one side and set up the laptop, cursing when she realized that the power was so low. She’d have to work fast.

“Hey.” Skylar slid into the bench across the table from her and held out a plate with a chicken salad croissant sandwich on it. “I know you like these. It didn’t sound like you had time to eat today.”

Stephanie frowned. “You don’t have to do this.”

He grinned. “Yes I do. If I don’t take care of you, who will?”

She knew that Sky was being flippant, but his words took her aback. Nobody except Jeff had ever taken care of her and in the last couple of months, he’d gotten so busy that even he wasn’t didn’t have time. It was really okay. That just meant that he trusted her and believed she was handling things on her own.

“Thanks.” Stephanie breathed out a sigh. “I don’t think I realized what I was getting into. It’s all so much fun and totally crazy, but sometimes I don’t breathe until I drop in bed at night.”

“What ‘cha working on?” he asked.

“Just organizing my notes from this morning. If we use any of this guy’s ideas, it will only make my life busier, but we could increase Sycamore House’s business by ten to fifteen percent over the next year.”

“Wow. Do you have a business degree?”

Stephanie shrugged. “Not yet. Maybe someday I’ll find time to go to college.”

“You should totally do it. Even if you start at DMACC in Boone. I heard that’s how Sylvie got hers. And look what she’s doing.” He smiled. “But then, you’re already doing what you want without it. Maybe it doesn’t matter.”

“I know, but I wonder what I’m missing,” Stephanie said. “Jeff knows so much.” She shook her head. “I was never a very good student, though. I’d probably screw it up and get F’s.”

“Yeah, right. You’re helping run one of the growing businesses in Bellingwood. You ain’t no dummy.”

“What are you going to school for?” Now was as good a time as any to change the subject.

“Sociology.”

Stephanie had glanced at the laptop, frustrated at the falling battery level. She waited for him to expound on his degree and when he didn’t she looked up. “What do you want to do with that?”

Skylar shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just interesting. I like statistics and digging into data. I wouldn’t mind getting into a big law firm and doing research. Something like that.”

“You’re kidding.” Stephanie laughed at him.

“Why?”

“You? Stuck in a little room doing research? That would kill you.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad. I really like the work.”

She blinked at him. “You’re weird. You love people. You should totally be on the opposite side of that. Like working as a counselor or in family services or something.”

“It makes me mad when people keep doing stupid things and don’t try to fix themselves. I’m bad with those kind of people,” he said.

Stephanie swallowed and took a deep breath. “Oh.” She turned in her seat and looked down.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No, that’s okay. Thanks for the sandwich. I need to get to work,” she said.

Her laptop sounded an alert, telling her that it had crossed its last boundary for battery power. She cursed and slammed it shut.

“I said something to upset you.” Skylar put his hand out. “What did I say?”

“It’s nothing.” Stephanie jammed her laptop back into the bag. “I should go back to the office. I’m out of power.”

“There’s a plug right here.” He pointed at the power block on the wall. “But tell me what I said.”

She gave him a small smile. “Don’t worry about it. It’s my deal. Really.”

The front doorbell dinged and he frowned at her. “I don’t usually screw up this badly with people. Don’t leave. Plug your laptop in and eat your sandwich. You deserve a few quiet minutes. I’ll leave you alone.” He jumped up from the seat and ran over behind the counter.

“He didn’t know, you moron,” Stephanie said to herself. “Nobody knows. And when they do find out, they just pity you. Grow up and let this go.” The last place she wanted to be was at the office, but now she’d embarrassed herself and didn’t want to stay here either. Why couldn’t she just have come in here, had a quiet hour with her frappe and laptop with no one bothering her?

When Skylar had brought the sandwich over, Stephanie had been so happy that he was paying attention to her. He was really cute, and such a nice guy. But she’d sabotaged herself. That’s what her counselor warned her about. She didn’t trust men and so she’d find ways to make sure that no one could ever hurt her like her father had. Except Jeff. But then, he’d never do what her dad did to her. She chuckled. Last year she’d been infatuated with Jeff. He’d been kind and never threatened her. He just took care of her. It hadn’t taken Stephanie too long to realize that he would drive her freakin’ crazy, even if he did like girls. She loved him more than anyone else but Kayla.

Jeff would tell her to buck up and not let her embarrassment drive her away. She dug down into the bag and pulled out the power cord, attached it to the laptop and brought everything back to life. She’d get lost in her work. There was no reason to acknowledge that anyone else in the coffee shop even existed.

“Stephanie?”

She looked up and smiled at Sylvie. “Hi there. I’m just trying to get my notes together from this morning. You’re going to love some of the things I learned.

Sylvie sat down across from her. “I’m butting in.”

“Oh no, what?”

“Skylar said he upset you. That boy wears his heart on his sleeve,” Sylvie said. “Well, at least he talks about everything that bothers him.”

“He talks a lot.” Stephanie nodded in agreement.

“Sky doesn’t know about your past.”

“Nobody does. But it’s not his fault. It’s mine. I over reacted and then I didn’t know how to get out of it.”

“Are you okay?”

“Sure.” Stephanie lifted a shoulder. “Sometimes I think everything is just normal and for a few minutes I don’t have to think about my father or get sick to my stomach at the things he did to me. And then, boom, it’s all right there in front of my face again. I’m never going to be free of that.”

Sylvie’s eyes filled with tears. “No honey, you won’t. But I’ve learned that I don’t have to let it destroy my life. He took the years he took and the rest are mine. I won’t give anymore up to him.”

Stephanie looked at her in surprise. “You? Who?”

“My husband.” Sylvie leaned across the table. “Jason and Andrew’s father. He beat and raped me repeatedly until the day he threatened the boys. Then I left.”

“That’s when I left. When he threatened Kayla. I didn’t know that about you,” Stephanie said. “You seem so happy and normal.”

Sylvie laughed out loud. “Yep. That’s me. Normal. My friends keep trying to set me up with a man.”

“Eliseo,” Stephanie said with a nod.

“But I’m not ready to be married again,” Sylvie said. “I finally feel like I’m my own person. I can take of me and my sons. I really am happier every day. I like being just me.”

“Do you think about what your ex-husband did to you all the time?”

“I used to.” Sylvie reached out and took Stephanie’s hand. “I’ll bet that if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize you think about your father less now than you did when you moved to Bellingwood. Am I right?”

“Probably.” Stephanie smiled. “You’re right. It’s a lot less. Sometimes I just get hit with it and memories flood over me.”

“But even right now, they’re easing away, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. I guess they are.”

Sylvie gave Stephanie’s hand a quick squeeze and then sat back in the booth. “I think Skylar might like you.”

Stephanie’s eyes grew huge. “What? You’re kidding me.”

“Nope, I’m not.”

Stephanie giggled. “I’m never going to be able to come in here again.”

“You’d better,” Sylvie said. “You need to give him an opportunity to ask you out on a date.”

“I’ve never been out on a date.”

“Well, you’d better figure this out.”

“Like you and Eliseo?”

“Aren’t you the smart-mouthed little girl,” Sylvie said with a laugh. “If Skylar asks you out, you have to say yes. And I promise. If Eliseo ever gets up the courage to ask me out on a date, I’ll say yes, too.”

Stephanie looked at the counter and caught Skylar glancing their way. “This is just weird. I don’t know what to say now.”

“Say nothing. Just be your normal self.”

“You mean the girl who turns into an idiot because he made me remember my dad?”

“No, the wonderfully bright and beautiful young woman who has a huge future in front of her, despite what she faced in the past.” Sylvie stood up and stepped forward to give Stephanie a hug. “Don’t you dare believe anything other than that about yourself, either.”

Stephanie watched her walk away. Life was so strange now that she lived in Bellingwood. This group of people that she’d fallen into was like no one else she knew. They just took care of each other. She’d never have known that about Sylvie. Andrew and Jason seemed really normal and Sylvie was always so happy. Maybe it would end up being okay.

“I’m sorry,” Skylar said, showing up in front of her again. “I don’t know what I said to upset you, but I’m sorry.”

“It’s really okay. I’m not upset.” She checked her watch. “But I do need to get this done. I have to get back to Sycamore House before Jeff leaves.”

He looked a little stunned, then backed up. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”

“Yeah. Probably. Gotta have my fix, you know.” She held up her nearly empty glass. “Thanks for the sandwich. I really did need it.”

He smiled at her and turned away.

All Stephanie could think was “What in the world?” She chuckled to herself. This was nothing like what she had pictured for her future.

But Mom Said to Never Lie

We all need extra security for our phones.

We all need extra security for our phones.

Digital security has created monsters out of more people than ever before, because it’s so easy to make money by cheating and remain anonymous.

I know you don’t need one more person telling you what to do to better protect yourself, but this article showed up in my feed today:

Hackers Messed With the Wrong Guy

It’s a short read, but what really impacted me was the helpful hints at the bottom of the article:

  1. Turn off the automatic public Wi-Fi connectivity on your device. I’ve done that already. If you haven’t – you should.
  2.  THIS ONE MADE ME TWITCH. When you’re asked to respond to security questions, for pete’s sake, LIE! What? Lie? Me? Well, duh. Now you’ll need to use something that you will remember, but lie.

    Lying never occurred to me. When someone asks me a question, I automatically tell the truth – unless I’ve told myself previously that I need to lie. And this is why cheaters win, because most of us are so programmed to tell the truth. How easy is it for someone to discover our mother’s maiden name? Lie, for heaven’s sake.

  3. Turn off Wi-Fi immediately if you’re in public and think you’ve been hacked. It seems so obvious again, but we have become programmed to rely on the internet. Just turn it off and then start dealing with your world when you get back to safe wi-fi.

These days, digital safety is all about not trusting other people … and lying. It’s not an easy thing to do when you’re a good person.

We have to think about it, though.

And that, my friends, is my month’s PSA. I’m off to change up some security questions out there.

~~~

In Bellingwood … I’m planning for another vignette this week, AND I’m sketching away on a layout for the Bell House. It may not be ready by the time Book 15 – Capture the Moments is out, but it’s coming!

 

Rest … Maybe Too Much Thinking!

Everyone has been hanging pretty close. Earl up on top of the desk, TB in his cubby and Grey on top of the cubby, just in case TB might want to play.

Everyone has been hanging pretty close. Earl up on top of the desk, TB in his cubby and Grey on top of the cubby, just in case TB might want to play.

These last thirty hours or so have been glorious. Quiet. Restful. Thoughtful. Quiet.

My mind has wandered all over the place – on its own. No goal, no writing requirement, no trying to figure out a plot line or decide who is going where. And it has been quiet.

One of the things I know best about myself is that I can do a lot of stuff while I’m in the middle of chaos. I can work like the end of days is coming and get things done as fast as they need to be done. Focus is something I do well. Deadlines are my bread and butter.

But that’s not when I’m my most creative.

There are reasons that I only wrote little bits and pieces when I was working and living that crazy, wonderful life that had me running from first thing in the morning until I dropped onto the couch at night. My mind was running as fast as the rest of me was to keep up with all of the demands I placed on it.

Once in a while on a Friday night, when I knew there was nothing coming at me the next day, I stayed up until three or four in the morning and wrote crazy things that fluttered around in a mind that found its quiet.

I thought my life was at its fullest when I ran as fast as I could, doing as much as possible, meeting with everyone I knew. It was amazing and I wouldn’t be who I am now unless I had done all of that.

But every day, age and wisdom teaches me new things. One of those is that I know that the quiet is where my creativity resides; where peace and contentment allow my mind to explode beyond every day necessities.

It’s not for everyone today. But it is for me. You might not be ready for this. You might still be in the frenzied throes of a crazy, wonderful life that has you meeting yourself at the door each morning, unsure of whether you’re coming or going. Don’t negate that by trying to be where I have found myself. That might be what you want at this point in your life and it is exciting and thrilling.

If only we didn’t believe that another person’s life is what we must emulate. If only we didn’t think that the life we lived five years ago is better or worse than the one we’re living today. If only we would learn that life is what is happening right now. If only we trusted in ourselves for just this moment, and then for the next, and the next after that.

I’m grateful for what was and I’m grateful for what is and I am grateful for every moment of what is to come. I’m not alone in any of it. I don’t need to worry about who I was, who I am or who I will be. I don’t need anyone else to tell me what is right or wrong for my life.

And neither do you.

But tonight, I’m thankful for quiet that leads to creativity.

Tired of Words? Almost, But Not Quite.

I feel as if all I’ve done is manage words for the last week. I’ve written a blue million of them (exaggeration) and edited the rest. I’m not finished yet, either, though I have to tell you, I’m about ready to … oh heck, I can’t even describe what I’m about ready to do, because I’ve run out of words.

Several years ago, a friend asked if I saw words when I spoke. It took me a few minutes to respond because I had to process on that one. Then I realized, that yes, I actually see the words in front of me (in my mind’s eye). I’m constantly spelling and sounding things out, no matter what I’m doing. I always have.

If you tell me that you are holding a blue pen, I don’t see the image of the blue pen, because there are still yet too many variables. But I see “b-l-u-e-p-e-n.” And I know what you’re describing. We can still have a conversation about the blue pen that you’re holding because I translate all of those letters and words into a common understanding.

When I was in college, I discovered that my perfect pitch was more of a hindrance than a blessing. I took my first music listening courses at the University of Iowa where there were five of us with perfect pitch in the classroom. The professor decided that rather than seeing this as a good thing, we needed to … well, I’ll just say it … be punished. So … he insisted that everything he played be written in a specific key. If he played it in the key of D, we had to write what we were hearing in the key of G. He insisted that he was teaching us how to hear relative pitch, but the truth was, all of us simply translated what we heard as a D to a G. I didn’t learn any more about relative pitch then than I had ever known. I simply learned that he was a jerk and couldn’t see the benefit of us having perfect pitch.

It’s kind of like knowing two languages and encountering someone who knows two completely different languages. However, if the two of you find someone who speaks one of your languages and one of that person’s languages, they can translate and help you have a conversation.

Wait. Maybe it’s nothing like that. It appears I got lost in the word ‘translate’ and everything has gone to a weird place.

I should probably go back to my editing.

In case you didn’t get the email newsletter this morning, I made us a cover with a title for Book 15! I’m so in love with this image and the title fits with the book perfectly. Do you realize it’s less than a month now? There is so much left to do, but I’m right on schedule. It’s gonna be fun.

Tomorrow is Friday! And then it’s the weekend! I’m still out of food and need to head into town tomorrow, but YAY!

Okay – here’s the cover and I’ll chat at you later. Back to work, Diane!

Capture The Moments 100 dpi

Congratulations, Winners!

Reading through your posts about the friendships you all have, I found myself back and forth between giggling at your antics, blessed by your stories and weeping over yet other stories. You filled my heart for the last few days and it has been wonderful. Friendships and close relationships are such a wonderful gift.

And you all are a gift to me.

I had made a third gift bag, so that means (of course) that we can add a third winner. YAY!

Congratulations_zps35c2563e

Jim Fields, Betsey Hoyt and Sarah Franks … you have won a tote bag and your choice of one of the 14 books. Send me a message on FB or using the Contact Me form on the website letting me know your mailing address and which book you’d like.

And … if you are a cat lover, let me know that, too. One of these has cats on it and I’d like to get it to the one who might appreciate it! 🙂

Thank you all for sharing … and now I’ll send you back to your regularly scheduled Sunday.

Words

Earl is in the back, cleaning his sister, Grey's, head.

Earl is in the back, cleaning his sister, Grey’s, head.

How cool are words? You take twenty-six letters, create thousands of words and you have a language. Just. Wow.

Tonight, as I watched Olympic Men’s Volleyball (Brazil / Argentina), the commentator announced the score: Four-Love. That sent me wandering. Why do we call a score of zero – love? I’ve heard it all my life at tennis matches, but apparently today is the day I ask the question.

The word is not our word for love … not at all. It comes from the French l’oeuf – egg. Zero looks like an egg, so l’oeuf … and when English speakers got their lips around the word it became love. Awesome. Now I know.

My sister teaches fifth grade and one of the things she begins emphasizing to her students at this age is how language is developed from other languages. They look at the etymology of words – where words actually come from.

One of my favorite yearly expenditures is my subscription to Merriam-Webster’s Online Unabridged Dictionary. Not only do I get the entire definition, but synonyms and the origin of each word I look up. When I’m writing and editing, I spend an awful lot of time on this site. Sometimes I go there just for fun.

Okay, for instance, the word ‘word’ comes through the Middle English from Old English. And M-W takes us back through Old High German – wort, Old Norse – orth, Gothic – waurd, Latin – verbum, Greek – eirein (to say) or rhema (word) or rhetor (orator), Lithuanian vardas. All of that fabulous information that gives me a thick and fleshy understanding.

M-W also has a list of the most frequently looked up words in the past 7 days. So, on that list is misogyny. We all know that the definition is: a hatred of women. But I continued reading and discovered that its first known use was around 1656, which means this has been a problem for centuries (some men need to just get over themselves). But the dictionary tells me that this is a Greek word – misogynia. Gyne is the word for woman (from whence also comes gynecology). All of a sudden, a word that was simply a thought unto itself – hatred of women, leads me to consider all of the words that it is related to. It is no longer a singular unit, it is part of a much bigger thought. At least it is for me.

This is a rabbit hole I could slide into with ease. And please, I don’t want to be rescued.

By the way – the word ‘rescue’comes through Middle and Old French rescourre – to shake out, wrest away. But that comes from the Latin excutere – from quartere to shake. The dictionary tells me that there is more information at the word ‘quash.’

I do not need to get lost in this maze tonight. I’m so close to finishing Book 15. I’ll be done writing by this weekend and then I begin the re-writes (which there are often a lot) and editing. I’m on schedule and it feels pretty good.

I looked up the word ‘kiss’ because I wanted to use a picture of my kitties cleaning each other. Oh my goodness. Lots of languages have this word ‘kiss’ in them. Old High German – kussen; Old Norse – kyssa; Gothic – kukjan. All of these words lead back to the Greek word – kynein which through much insanity comes from Sanskrit – cusati, which means he sucks. Oh my.

Nation of Images

841300I frittered away a little time this afternoon, working on a jigsaw puzzle (online). The image was of the seven dwarfs in a mine. Classic Disney.

All of a sudden, there was more in the image than just what was on the screen. No, I wasn’t seeing things and life wasn’t turning into a strange fantasy novel, but hmmm …

Anyway.

No, what happened was that my mind was in the process of chasing down images from this movie that I had created as a child. It was bigger than just a two-dimensional puzzle. To be honest, it was even bigger than the movie, which I’ve seen several times as an adult. No, what my mind was attempting to chase was imagery that I had fully developed when my childhood brain saw the movie. I had gone far beyond what was on the screen, creating fully-fleshed-out, three-dimensional locations.

It seems that I did this quite often, because this is a phenomenon that has occurred more than once.

The first time I recognized it was when I picked up Seuss’s book, “The Cat in the Hat” to read to a friend’s little boy. I read through the book with him and when we were finished I felt like something was missing. The book was still fantastic, but this was probably the first time I’d read it since I’d been a child and it was flat. Gone were the living, breathing fish in the bowls. They were nothing more than pictures and words on a page.

Funny, though … as I write this now … what exists in my mind is a picture of fluttering fish as they try to regain their fishbowl! The words and pictures exist as my childhood’s mind remembers them.

This happens often with novels that I’ve re-read. The first time I read a book, my mind creates the entire scene in full detail, even if the author doesn’t write it out. In fact, I prefer that all they do is give me a frame of reference and release me to the story. My imagination will do the rest of the work.

Now, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate horror / slasher movies. I discovered that one of the reasons my vehemence is so strong is that I am not in control of my imagination during a movie. The gore, slashing and horror soon take precedence over the storyline and I get so caught up in it that my focus spins out of control. I can read those books with no problem because the author rarely presents the slasher / gore / horror with detail my mind can’t absorb.

The title of this post comes from years ago. One of my favorite evangelists (Tommy Tyson) often used it to describe the imagination. When I think of the diversity and interconnectedness of the people in just our nation – not even the entire world, that phrase excites me. That’s what I want my imagination to be.

Have you ever re-read a book and discovered that things were missing in the story – only to realize that was because you’d created so much around the story in your imagination?

College or Bust …

Oh my goodness. This was my college graduation - Coe, 1981. Jim even put on a vest for the event! Yep, we were ready for the future! Hah!

Oh my goodness. This was my college graduation – Coe, 1981. Jim even put on a vest for the event! Yep, we were ready for the future! Hah!

As much as I love the energy that is found in a college town, even more I love leaving it behind when I’m finished there.

Today was another day to run errands in Ames – home of Iowa State University. We can just call that poor planning on my part as thousands of freshman students and their families were in town to start their first semester of college.

On days like this, though, I love driving through campus town so I can observe the insanity of all that is going on. Kids walking along beside a parent, trying to look so nonchalant and confident, while the older family member actually is confident and nonchalant. They’ve been through this. They’ve been through much worse – this isn’t what will tip them over the edge. Not today.

The kids are wide-eyed and taking in every single sight in front of them, from the buildings they’re going to get to know intimately over the next four years to the coffee shops, pizza places, bookstores, and then the streets and sidewalks they will traverse every day. Everything is new. I saw groups of foreign students clustered at street corners, looking at their phones, pointing in one direction or another and talking to their friends.

Take a moment to imagine the courage of those kids. I remember the fear and excitement I had, knowing I was going to be meeting new people, learning about a new city, all while thrusting myself into new learning experiences. As I look back, I can’t believe I wasn’t more terrified. But then, top it off with learning about an entirely different culture. Think about their first time in an American fast food restaurant. We know all the rules about reading the menu before approaching the counter, or how to take your cup away and fill it with ice and then a choice of soda. Where do they keep the straws? What is a straw? And ketchup. We put it on potatoes. Doesn’t everyone? Consider shopping in a large department store. All of those choices that we have been exposed to for a lifetime … how many brands of toothpaste do we need?

Let’s say they speak English. The one thing I’ve had reinforced for me this week while watching the Olympics is how varied the English language truly is. What if you spoke British English (as many do throughout the world) and wanted something to erase your pencil marks. How embarrassed would you be after asking for a rubber and receiving a condom?

My college roommate still insists that a water fountain is something that I will find in a park, not a place where I can get a drink of water. That’s a bubbler, for pete’s sake. And she’s only from Wisconsin. That’s still in America, I’m pretty sure.

As I watched those kids, though, it hit me that this is the beginning of their lives away from the influence of their parents. For the next few years, they will make decisions and choices – still with some level of protection – but it’s all theirs. Some will have to pull themselves back from the brink of destruction after a semester or two of choosing parties over classwork, and others will discover that what they thought was their greatest passion has transformed into something quite different.

The excitement, tension, energy, and electricity that filled the air today is happening all over the country as young people continue their steps into adulthood. It’s such an exciting time and I’d hope that their peers, their professors, and their parents take as much joy in starting this journey with them as I saw on their faces today.

I will admit to feeling a little old, though. That was a lot of youth all in one place. But you know what? I’m good with that. I like being this age. It’s a lot less stressful. I’m having more fun now than ever before!