Mini Post Monday!

Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone survived Mardi Gras this past weekend. I didn’t do a single thing to celebrate so…back to the grind!

Check out my new story!

I’ve been published again in Chicken Soup for the Soul! This time its in their annual dog compilation with a funny story about my pup Max. The book comes out Feb. 9th and you can get it at all the usual spots including here on Amazon. I’m so thrilled to be part of the Chicken Soup family. This is my second story published with them and I just sent in another one for consideration. If you think you have a good story suitable for their publications, check out their page for all the details of how you can submit. They have a plethora of great titles as well as dog and people food that they now sell!

 

What I’m Reading

I recently finished “Fear Mountain” by Mike Dellosso. Scary with a big dose of Christianity – I recommend it (as I do with most of Mike’s books.) Now I’m back to reading the E Series books by Kate Wrath. If you haven’t checked these out yet – DO IT. I rarely invest my money or time into a book series, but this one is SO worth it. I’ve only had to take a small break from it because the next in the series hasn’t come out yet! Now I know what all you Harry Potter people were talking about back in the day. The series starts in kind of an Old West sort of setting, but futuristic. (And, by the way, as a writer of book descriptions I typically think the descriptions most people use either 1) give too much away or 2) have nothing to do with the book. Not so with this series. The book descriptions are SPOT ON so if you like those – you’ll like the books.)

When I’m done with this series (I will weep and gnash my teeth I’m sure) it’ll be hard to move on to something else. I’m not even sure what I might read next. Not many on my Kindle will hold a candle to the E Series for sure. I may delve into some classics. What are you reading?

Writing Conferences

If you read my post last Monday you know I’m promoting the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference in Grove City, PA. I’m on the board there and it’s been such a blessing to me that I have to share it with all of you. If you live even remotely close and want to go to a conference, I HIGHLY suggest St. Davids. You will be blessed.

In addition, I’m looking at going to some other conferences this year and expanding my network and my knowledge about writing and editing. I’m thinking of going to the Lancaster Christian Writers Super Saturday event. They haven’t posted their dates and schedule yet though so… maybe not! (PS – Get on the ball folks! Your conference is in April!) (PPS – If you DO like Mike’s book I mentioned above, he will be at this one-day conference in Lancaster!)

On A Sadder Note

Last week my dad was informed that he would be a good candidate for open heart surgery. He had a small heart attack at the beginning of January and now they found two blockages in an artery intersection on the top of his heart. Because it’s in an intersection of arteries, they suggest a bypass instead of a stent or balloon procedure. He was given the option to have the surgery and he decided to do it. We’re hopeful about the surgery because Dad is in good health otherwise and the doctors feel that he’ll do well. Open heart surgery is still very serious though so I appreciate all prayers you would send our way. He’ll be in the hospital for about a week and will need a few months to completely recover. However, once the recovery is over he should feel better and may even be able to stop some medications he’s been on for his heart condition. If you pray – please do so. Thank you.

Hope each of you has a blessed and exciting week. Be sure to chime in below with what you’re reading and how your week is going. I love to stay in touch with you all and your comments give me life! God bless!

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Should We Celebrate Black History Month?

I’m sure most of you know that February is Black History Month. I’m also sure that you’re not immune to the stories about race relations in our country and the fact that some people (I won’t name names here) say that we shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month at all. And, if you’ve seen my picture, you know I’m not black.

But, I have an opinion!

I DO think we should celebrate Black History Month and here’s why. This country was founded by mostly white people. We celebrate that all through the year with holidays like President’s Day (okay, technically it DOES celebrate black presidents now too…), Independence Day (commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 – signed by white men), Thanksgiving (don’t get me started) and Columbus Day. Please keep in mind that these are federal holidays – not local, national or state holidays (of which there are too many to name here.) I’ve named only federal holidays because people tend to think of those when discussing why we shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month.

So that’s our first issue. BHM is an observance, not an official “holiday.” It is OBSERVED by some and not a federal holiday (a holiday recognized by the government). There is also an Employee Appreciation Day in May that is an observance… I’m sure not everyone observes that “holiday.” Look up the amount of “holidays” observed in the US alone. We, as a FREE country, can observe a whole slew of things (some weirder than others).

In addition, even if BHM WAS deemed a national or federal holiday I wouldn’t mind. In this country we have only ONE federal holiday dedicated to a black person (Martin Luther Kin, Jr. Day). Do you know the amount of black people that have shaped this country? And we honor only ONE of them?

Let me give you some examples:

Vivien Thomas – African-American surgical technician who developed the procedures used to treat blue baby syndrome in the 1940s.

Dr. Georgia Rooks Dwelle opened the Dwelle Infirmary, which was the first general hospital for African-Americans, the first “lying-in” obstetrical hospital for African-American women.

Garrett Morgan, Sr. – Inventor most famous for inventing the traffic light, but also created safety hoods for firefighters.

Daniel Hale Williams was an American general surgeon who, in 1893, performed the second documented successful pericardium surgery to repair a wound. He also founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States. (And born right here in PA!)

Patricia Bath – The first African-American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose – the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts, and “for ablating and removing cataract lenses”.

George Washington Carver – Perhaps the most famous of black inventors. Born into slavery, Mr. Carver reputedly developed 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. His goal was to aid poor farmers in growing alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life.

This is just a SMALL (VERY SMALL) sampling of the hundreds of black inventors, scientists, authors, artists and activists that have called this country home … but  many of us have rarely heard about. This is why I believe it is important to celebrate Black History Month because people of every color have shaped and molded this country and we need to recognize and embrace that. During this month, I encourage you to seek out what other black people have made a difference. Maybe it’s just been in your community or your state, maybe just someone who has made a difference in your life. Celebrate them, cherish them, and spread the love and the education to others.

God bless.

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Why Writing Conferences Are Awesome (Again)

I regularly attend the St. Davids Christian Writing Conference in Grove City, PA and am now a member of their board as well. This week registration for the conference is open and we’re excited to see who will attend and what new writers we’ll meet this year. (To check it out and to register, visit here.)

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With that in mind, I pulled up an old post that I wrote about why writing conferences are so awesome. I thought I’d share bits of that post again to get all of you excited about this year’s conference!

One aspect I love about conferences is that no matter what your particular brand of writing is; romance, speculative fiction, personal experience, devotionals or just blogging; you get exposed to a lot of other genres. One year we had a lot of spec fic (or science fiction-esque) people and it spurred me, the blog-writing-personal-experience-chick, to break out of my box and try it. I experimented with a bit of a paranormal type story on my blog for awhile and it got some good feedback. I thank conferences for the push that it took to put that out there. I’ve also dipped my pen into poetry and children’s writing too thanks to conferences I’ve attended.

(One thing I’d advise: Don’t go to a conference and JUST stick with your genre. Dip your toe into something else – maybe just one workshop. You’ll never know unless you try and it can be fun and get your creative juices flowing!)

The aspect of conferences that I love the most is meeting all sorts of new people. Because our particular group is a Christian group it is a very loving and supportive one as well. We pray for one another, share in each other’s heartaches and successes, and give each other boosts when we need them. I’ve connected to many on Facebook too and, after knowing them in person just one week, I can touch base with them all the time and receive great feedback on my writing. They are almost like family. And my perspectives often change too. Last year I met a lovely black woman at conference and I’ve learned so much about black lives and their struggle through our friendship. I’ve grown as a person and a writer.

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Just one of the fun and creative people I’ve met at conference!

No matter what conference you attend, (but we hope you come to ours!) remember to do the following:

  1. Listen and learn
  2. Expand and reach
  3. Step out of your comfort zone
  4. Be open to new things
  5. Write, write, write

Hope to see you at a conference soon!

 

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It’s Just Oxygen

My mom has had emphysema and COPD for about thirty years. Yes, she was a smoker (quit as soon as she got the disease) and she worked in factories without the proper ventilation systems. (She stained TV cabinets without a mask and worked in clothing factories breathing in fibers.) Over the years, we’ve adapted to her new “normal” and it’s not always been easy. One of the most difficult things is educating others.

That’s what I want to do today.

My mom uses compressed oxygen on a daily basis. Initially, she used oxygen only to help her sleep. When she would lie down her breathing would become constricted and prescription oxygen was needed. Yes, prescription. Now she uses it constantly – all day long – to help her breathe.

You see – most of us take oxygen for granted. For those of us without disease, we breathe in and out all day without much thought. But for her, and other COPD sufferers, it is a medicine that must be taken in. Her doctor prescribes oxygen for her. When we go to the doctor’s office and they go over her list of medicines – oxygen is one of them. It’s not a given – it’s medicine.

My mom is on three litres of oxygen for normal activity and four (or more) for exertion. This is like saying, “I take one Ambien at night to sleep.” To help you understand this amount, on her current oxygen portable tank the level can go up to 6 litres. When ill, she sometimes is on five.

Lack of oxygen can cause a boatload of health issues to a body. Your cells can stop working correctly without the right amount of oxygen, causing hypothermia (seen as blue lips and nails), changes in levels of consciousness, and even organ dysfunctions (including heart attacks). In addition, because her lungs do not work properly, even with the added oxygen, she cannot move quickly and cannot carry heavy objects. Walking at the pace of a healthy individual does not happen in her life – everything is slowed down. Any exertion causes her lungs distress – hence the oxygen to help.

Now here is the worst part. My mom is using liquid oxygen. This form makes it easy to carry tanks and for her to be mobile. Liquid oxygen is lighter than compressed oxygen and the tanks last much longer than compressed oxygen tanks, making it a good choice so she can go to church, go to the grocery store and just visit friends. (One tank, when filled, can last up to about 6 hours.) This blog post gives an excellent breakdown of the different types and the pros and cons. Compressed tanks are bulkier and heavier (especially for a 72 year old with breathing problems) to carry. (One smaller tank, when filled, will only last approximately 1-2 hours.)

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Courtesy of the.Firebottle on Flickr

But there is one thing I disagree with from the post mentioned above. They say, “Choosing an oxygen system that works best for you has to be a decision you and your doctor make.”

We have recently found this to not be true.

You see, there are suppliers of oxygen – just like pharmacies. My mother has had the same supplier for many years until just recently when they told her they would no longer provide her with liquid oxygen and she MUST switch to compressed. (They’d done this once before and we fought it. Medicare even says they cannot take it away, but they somehow get away with this practice.)

(Guess why suppliers want to stop supplying? Insurance companies don’t want to pay for the increased expense of liquid oxygen.)

This time, we fought and they didn’t budge. So, she switched companies. It was a LONG and ARDUOUS process for her to switch (because even the insurance company representative told her she had to switch), causing her much stress and many sleepless nights. No one seemed to CARE that she NEEDS the liquid oxygen. Her doctor has decided it is the best for her and that is what her prescription even says, but they don’t seem to care. They are uneducated about the differences.

If companies stop supplying it due to lack of insurance support … what will happen?

She will be home bound. Immobile. Easily susceptible to sickness due to lack of movement. That’s what.

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A day out like this might not be possible

So you see… it isn’t just oxygen. It’s her life support. It’s her life. She needs it to live, just like we all do, except she can’t just take it in easily like we can. She can’t heft around large bulky metal tanks every time she needs to go to the grocery store. A church visit would require at least two tanks that she would need to haul in her car, into the church and back again. Possibly with a cart that adds weight to her load.

Lacking oxygen is hard enough. Why does she have to suffer just to breathe when it doesn’t have to be that way?

Insurance companies – educate yourselves and your people. Let’s get back to the business of CARING instead of just business. Because it’s more than “just” oxygen.

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A Winter Poem

 

The wind whistles across the cornfield tracks

through trees that creak and groan their

protests against harsh winter’s sting.

Although the strong and unbending girth

soars high above my head,

they become weak in the season’s chilly slap

and I watch, with wary eyes, as they speak

their words of warning.

The trail looms out ahead of me,

Autumn leaves scurry to find safe places,

like I should seek,

but I continue forward, into the wind,

bracing myself against winter’s cold embrace.

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A Pleasant Surprise

A few weeks ago I hosted a Christmas party for a few friends. It was meant to be small, but more people came then I expected. I also hadn’t been feeling well so the crowd in my kitchen started to overwhelm me and I took a small break in the living room. As I sat in the cooler, quieter room by myself I began to feel a bit better. Then my seven-year-old god daughter came to join me. It seemed the party was a bit too much for her too. (We’re kind of pees in a pod sometimes.)

While we sat and chatted (something I truly enjoy now that she is this age and can hold almost adult-like conversations), she asked me about my writing.

“How do you get words into books?” she asked. “Do you buy a blank book and then type the words in?”

I love how a young person’s mind works sometimes. So I tried to explain to her about book binding and how books are put together. Then I promised her we would bind a book together in order to show her first hand. (She’s a hands on learner – also like me.)

Let me tell you something – when you promise a young child something, you better be prepared to do it! And, like, TODAY. For the next few weeks she’d ask me about it and when we were going to accomplish this task. Her mother told me it was all she talked about. So I set up a time for her and I to get it done on MLK day – because she had off school.

I fretted over it though for days beforehand. I wanted it to be a good experience for her and for her to learn. I gathered supplies and wanted to make it fun as well as educational. She would have these books possibly for years and I wanted her to remember we had made them together.

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Hard at work on her cover

We made one saddle stitched book and ALMOST made a Japanese stitched one. My needle broke so I promised her we’d make it soon once I got a new needle. We watched two videos too that showed how it was done. I also purchased her a spiral bound notebook so she could start keeping a journal. (I am excited to see what she writes!)

Although we failed a bit at the second book binding attempt, the day was complete for me with a conversation I never expected to have.

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Our failed attempt. But that cover is gorgeous!

I asked her, “Do you know why you have off school today?”

“Yes,” she said, “It’s Martin Luther King day.”

“Right. Do you know why we celebrate him?”

“Um… we watched a video on Friday in school. I’m not sure I remember it all. He gave a speech.”

“Right. Do you know what his speech was about?”

“He thought that every single person, no matter what color they were, could go to the same places. Like if you were white and I was black and we wanted to go over there together, we could.”

My heart swelled a bit at this point. It was a simplistic view of course, but one that I think even Dr. King would be proud of. I asked her if she knew any black children. I wasn’t sure she would. To be honest, blacks are certainly a minority in our area (meaning there aren’t many) and in her simple seven years she may not have ever truly met a person of a different color. I know that by that age I had not.

“I knew a girl in my kindergarten class. She had darker skin and they said she was black.”

“Ok!” I said, “And do you know that in Dr. King’s time and before that she would not have been allowed to be in your class? In fact, she would not have even gone to the same school! What do you think about that?”

“Everyone should be able to go wherever they want. What if I wanted to go over there and I wasn’t allowed? We should be able to go anywhere,” she said, with a bit of spark. She began to speak a bit with her hands (as some of us tend to do) – she was feeling passionate about this point.

“Right,” I said, “because really it’s not about the color of our skin. We’re all humans and we’re all God’s children. He loves us all, right?”

She agreed and we went back to our books. It was a simple, short conversation, but one I’m so proud of. Not only is she being taught good standards in her school (in a town that could easily be very racist) but she was feeling passion about it. She knew segregating was wrong. Although she may never truly understand it (because I hope she never has to experience it) – she has a love for people that transcends color, race, and personality. I pray that things never occur to take that passion away from her. I pray she will continue to show love and kindness to everyone she meets. For it is this that we must instill in our children in order for the future to be better. I’m proud to have been but a small cog in that process for this one young child.

And I thought today was all about making a book, but it was about continuing a story instead.

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Who is Your Spiritual Influencer?

We were talking the other day in Sunday School about “spiritual influencers.” Paul and the other apostles tried to be spiritual influencers for the people surrounding them. Jesus obviously was one too. Our pastor asked, “So who are some of your spiritual influencers.”

The first person who came to my mind was my grandmother Florence. My mom took me to church when I was little, but believe it or not, I don’t think of any of those church folks when I think of someone who influenced me towards God. (Sad, but so often the way with churches.) But my gram did. She did it in an unusual way though.

We would often have debates (Gram said I just liked to fight with her) and it would often end with her saying, “It’s in the Bible. Look it up.” I had never read the Bible, and I didn’t intend to, so the argument would end. She would be quite smug about it too. Eventually I decided to look things up. (We didn’t have wonderful things like Google and Bible Gateway back then so I really had to search the Bible.) Once I looked things up I found that she was often wrong! (Although even black type on white page would not convince her she was wrong. “My Bible is different,” she said to me more than once!)

When I related this story the other day, the Pastor asked me, “Do you think she did that intentionally?”

Well wouldn’t she have been one smart cookie if so. But I doubt it. She just wanted for me to stop arguing with her!

Like many other people I think Gram did know her Bible and she loved the Lord, but she had some skewed thoughts about what His word says. Those sayings that are not quite right that people still think are from the Bible. Like this one:

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”

(It’s not. Look it up.)

Whether Gram knew it or not – I still read my Bible to try and figure it out. She led me to the thing she truly wanted for me – salvation. I wish she were here today (now that I know the Word a bit better and am saved) so we could really argue it out! (Plus now I know she was wrong about a few things!)

As I got older and came more into my faith, other people influenced me too. But I still like to actually look it up for myself. And that’s a good practice to have. I have several people in my life that I am certain know every aspect of the Word and I still look it up for myself. That’s okay – those people are still influencing me, challenging me and encouraging me to firm up my faith with God.

Today I saw a video from a young woman I know (early 20’s) about her faith in God. I was so astounded that this young person was so wise and so willing to put her faith out there on the internet. And not just by writing, but a VIDEO. That’s scary stuff to me. But’s she’s influencing others for Christ and not afraid to do it. That’s, like, apostle stuff right there. That, my friends, is the Great Commission.

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” ~ Mark 16:15

In addition, she influenced me to reconsider that young people CAN make a difference!

Then I started wondering, “Who have I influenced for God?”

It’s hard to say. I like to think that I influence some of my readers here, I hope I have influenced other people in my family and some friends. Some of it comes from what I write here and some of it comes from just how I live my life. We can so easily influence people without even knowing it. I’ve been having more and more comments recently on these blog posts and I now know I do influence some. It makes me feel like I’m following His command too.

I think I’ll keep doing it.

So… who have you influenced for Christ today?

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