Sunday, July 26, 2015

On Adversity

What's on my mind this Sunday evening?  A lot.

My little family has suffered quite a few setbacks this year. It hasn't been easy to weather these times, but one thing I do know: it has brought us closer and made us stronger. I take comfort in this Bible verse:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."--2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"Hard-pressed" to me means that I am being molded and shaped and compressed - in other words, I am being strengthened. And there is joy in that.

When I look back on my life at all the struggles I've been through, I can see how they have made me stronger, more resilient. They haven't made me harder; instead, they've made me more compassionate. And doesn't this world need more compassion?

Adversity is not a curse - it is a blessing. Without it, we would not be able to connect with those who are suffering and offer them hope and understanding. Without it, we would be weak and easily broken.

Our culture likes to think that we should be happy all the time. I reject this. Sometimes, the things that make us happy can actually destroy us. "Being happy" doesn't necessarily equal "good for us." We've lost that in the cultural narrative, I think, and it's dangerous. I may want to eat a slice of pie and a cookie and two pieces of cake every single day because it makes me happy - but I won't be happy when my health deteriorates because of it. That's a small example, of course, but useful nonetheless.

Instead, we should be open to experiencing all that the human condition has to offer, even if it means we go through rough times. How else can we relate to others? How else can we truly live? How else can we learn?

Embrace life, even the bad times, because yes, it does build character, and it does make you stronger and it does make you more resilient. And even better? You can help others. People who see you going through adversity, enduring it, not buckling under, can find inspiration from you. And yes, you are definitely allowed to "lose it" sometimes - I've had several times in my life when I've cried and wailed and wondered, why me, God? But the point is, you keep moving forward. Always forward.

One day at a time. One hour, one minute, one second.

Remember this:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Writing: Setting the Mood

I'm a person who loves to be cozy. During the autumn and winter months, I thrive on snuggling under blankets and wearing long sweaters. I love sipping hot cocoa and making thick, hearty soups.

I need to feel cozy when I write, too. It sets the mood, makes me feel comfortable, puts me in a safe, warm place where I can put my thoughts on the page without fear of reprisal. That's why I usually can't write in busy cafes or parks. Being around too many people makes my introvert nature scream.

On summer evenings, being cozy can be a bit tricky. Using a blanket is likely to give one a heatstroke (especially in the middle of July) and sipping cups of warm cocoa just makes me hotter than I am already (thanks, menopause!).

So what do I do? I light candles. I turn on my lamps (no harsh overhead lights for me!). I turn on my classical radio station. I don't need to worry about shutting off the television because in this room (my living room), there IS no t.v. - and that's on purpose. I wanted a room I could retreat to without the lure of the blaring box. And of course, my cats always join me. (I'm beginning to think cats are integral to the writing process! Or maybe that's just me).

Lulu and Slick - being cozy!
One feature of summer that I thoroughly enjoy is listening to the cicadas singing outside. They're singing right now as I type this, and it's soothing and calming, reminding me of those long summer days when I was a kid and had nothing better to do than read all day and enjoy the freedom from adult responsibility. Oh, if only to go back and have a summer like that again!

Combined, all of these these things help put me in the mood to write. And for a few hours or so, I can forget the outside world and immerse myself in my fictional world.

How do you set the mood for your writing time?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Do you ever feel restless? I don't mean sitting around the house, bored, and wanting to do something but not knowing what. No, I mean restless with life. As in, let's change it up. Let's do something totally life-altering.

Move to a different town, a different state, a different country. Meet new people and experience new places. Do a job you've always wanted to do. Toss a ton of the stuff you've been carting around with you for years. Explore. Go out on a limb. Start over at the age of 40.

I'm feeling that way right now.

Except it's not that easy to just pick up and move to a new place and find a new job and all of the rest. There's responsibilities and family and reality to consider, not to mention the financial side of it all.

That's why I'm glad I'm headed to England in the fall. That will be my chance to get away for awhile, to experience and explore a country I love, and to assuage the restlessness in my soul.

Sometimes I wonder...if I won the lottery tomorrow, would I stay in the same town? Would I up and move to a foreign country or a different state, somewhere I always wanted to go? Or would I play it safe, stay here in Nebraska, where it's familiar?

I'd like to think I'd do something adventurous.

But the chances of me winning the lottery are virtually nonexistent (and I guess you actually have to buy a ticket to win, right?). And up and moving to a new state and getting a new job and all of the rest of it probably won't happen because my health stinks and I need good medical care, and my husband is quite content to stay put, and my daughter needs to finish school.

Which is why I write and why I read and why I watch miniseries like Poldark and Downton Abbey and Foyle's War.

Then again, we tend to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I remember the last time I went to England (in 2008). I was seriously considering moving there. At the time, my husband and I were separated (we since worked things out) and I thought it would be a fresh start for me. But once I got to England and traveled around, I realized how much I love living in America. My daughter is convinced she's going to live in the UK when she grows up, and honestly, I'd be fine with that - gives me an excuse to visit England as much as I want!

This house was near Chatsworth in Derbyshire. I love the blue door. 
But I'm happy with my life here. The restlessness gets to me once in awhile, and I must scratch the itch.

If I'm honest, though, I'd really liked to try living in another part of America. I've lived in Nebraska my entire life. So has all of my immediate family. What would it be like to live somewhere completely different? I think it would be an adventure. So I'm leaving that option open, though whether hubby will agree with me or not is another matter!

For now, though, I'll write my stories, take vacations when I can,
and count my blessings that I can do both.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Saved By "Poldark"

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I hate, loathe, and otherwise detest summer. I don't do well in the heat at. all. To make matters worse, I'm on a few new drugs for my rheumatoid arthritis and they cause sensitivity to the sun which means the sun has really turned into something of an enemy.

That means I'm housebound most of the time which usually doesn't bother me, but this year, it's been particularly irritating. Maybe that's because life has thrown me a whole slew of curveballs lately and I'm reeling from it all. Having these curveballs happen during the Most Awful Time of the Year (a.k.a. Summer) has made it worse.

But there is one thing that I have to look forward to each week that has kept me sane: Poldark.

I'm a sucker for stories set in eighteenth century Britain, and even more so if they include romance, adventure, incredibly good-looking actors, fantastic scenery, and gorgeous costumes.

Poldark has all of that and more.

When I found out about this television series, I was elated. What I didn't know was that it was a remake of a series done in the '70s that appeared on Masterpiece Theater here in the US. I was too young to watch that one, but thank goodness I'm around for this one!

Based on a series of novels by Winston Graham (the first was written in 1945) Poldark is set in 18th century Cornwall and centers on Ross Poldark, a soldier in the British Army who served in the American Revolution and was thought to be dead. When he returns home, his father has died, his home is in ruins, and his love is betrothed to his cousin. Ross struggles to get his mine back into working order, and he also falls in love with his kitchen maid, the high-spirited Demelza, a girl who isn't of the upper classes like Ross is, but is of mining stock herself. Drama! Conflict! Romance! This show has it all.

The first three episodes have aired here in the US and I've savored each and every one of them. Tonight is Episode 4 and I'm already glancing at the clock more than I should be (I'm trying to work on my novel) in eager anticipation of the appointed hour when Ross Poldark gallops onto my television screen.

And with Aidan Turner (he of The Hobbit movies fame) playing the lead role, honestly, why wouldn't you watch?

And I have to ask: why are the British so darned good at making costume dramas? Seriously. We did the Civil War series North and South in the '80s (I loved it, but looking back on it now, it was a bit, erm, over-the-top), but we can't consistently create good television dramas like the Brits can.

But as long as they keep producing shows that are this good, I'm ok with that.

Missing My Manuscript

After I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I wanted to take a break from it, get some distance before I started revisions. That didn...