Friday, April 28, 2017

Flashback Friday: Flying Against the Wind

             **It's the last Friday of the month, so it's time for Flashback Friday! Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog.
            You know, while I did decide not to participate in the A to Z Challenge this year, I did not necessarily intend on taking nearly the entire month away from blogging, but that's what happened this month. This post from October 30, 2011 seemed appropriate for my state of mind lately. It often seems that time is against me, but April has not been entirely unproductive. I got some reading done, from both informational and fictional books, and I finally conquered a huge organizational project that has been on my to do list for over a year. Anyway, that's enough current news, now it's time to flashback.**

Flying Against the Wind

           One windy day, as I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, I saw a dragonfly. This particular dragonfly was determined to fly against the wind. It flapped its little wings as fast as it could. I watched as it flew forward a few feet, only to be pushed back by a gust of wind, over and over again. It kept going, even when its efforts only kept it in one place for a few seconds. I don't know if that dragonfly ever reached its destination, but I do know that it wasn't about to let a little wind change its course.

            Sometimes life is like that. You try as hard as you can, but something is always putting up a resistance. Sometimes you can't seem to get past a certain point, like you're suspended in mid-air, and, sometimes, you get pushed back to where you started. When this happens, you probably feel like giving in and just letting the current take you away. Instead, you should learn a lesson from the dragonfly: Don't give up. When the struggles and pressures of life try to push you backwards, push back. Life wasn't meant to be easy, and pushing against the wind helps us to grow stronger. Remember that if you know Jesus, you are not alone in your flight. He is there to help you along and lead you back to the right path if the wind gets you off course. God is there when you feel over taken: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Aren't the wings of an eagle so much stronger then those of a dragonfly? Also, remember that God has the power to stop the wind: "And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39) So, just keep flying, and remember the dragonfly when the wind blows against you.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG: Dutifully Determined

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.
            I was in deep denial and disappointment about not digging in to the demanding A to Z Challenge this year. That doesn’t deduce that I can’t delight in some alphabetic drollery. So, with the dictionary as my director I shall divulge you with this month’s disquiet. My daily writing is still delayed. I’ve been too distracted and distressed by work and other duties and disciplines. Like a drawn-out dance, I dash from being deliberate in the details to diversion or disarray. My determination is often detoured and it can become downright depressing. I must decide to keep driving forward. Don’t dwell on the difficulties; instead, discover and develop different ways to reach that writing destination.


This post has been brought to you by the letter D.

And now back to your regularly scheduled A to Z programming...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Flashback Friday: Cats

            **I forgot to pre-schedule my Flashback Friday post! But, it's alright because it is still Friday where I am. Since it is a bit late, I thought I would include something new at the end as a bonus. Flashback Friday occurs the last Friday of the month. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog.**

Just a Quick Word (With Cats!) - Previously published July 24, 2015
            Just for fun, I thought I would introduce everyone to my cats.  They have made some appearances in post pictures before, and I thought they deserved a proper introduction!

Here they are:
They're pretty lazy
This is Kitty:

We wanted to come up with a great name for her when she was a kitten, so we waited for her personality to develop.  But the next thing you know, we just couldn't come up with anything more fitting than Kitty or just The Cat since she was our only indoor cat for a while.
This is Sawyer:
He's my lap baby and a great comforter after a long day at work.  He also likes to sleep in a lot of strange positions, so he ends up in more pictures than the other two.
This is Sophie:

She is the bratty, "little sister" of this clowder.  She sometimes ninja-strikes all, whether cat, dog, or human, who cross her path.

And now (3/31/17), here is a little bonus picture. Can you spot the new cat?:
This is Arwen. While Kitty, Sawyer, and Sophie rule the indoors, Arwen is an outside cat who chose my family. She is a bit camera shy and she doesn't always come around, but I managed to capture her in a rare moment of getting cozy in the little house we got for her.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not This Time

            I must sadly say that I will not be participating in the A to Z Challenge this year.  :(
I put a lot of thought into this decision and I even started working on some posts, but I realized that I do not have the time for it this year. Any of my regular followers would know that I have been struggling with keeping things balanced the last few months, and since I’m still trying to manage my schedule, I know that I will not have the energy to keep up with daily blog visits and comments during the challenge.

Speaking of time and balance, my presence has not been felt in the blogging force very often lately and for this I apologize. There have been some things that have come up in the foreground of my life, both good and bad, that have taken precedence over blogging. Most of February and on into March, sicknesses have plagued my local area. The pharmacy has been bustling with endless cold and flu patients, schools canceled classes in February due to the flu, my church has had some low attendance days, and both of my parents have suffered from some congestion issues. I blame the weather. It has constantly gone up and down in temperature. On more than one occasion, yesterday's low was tomorrow's high. This instability has plagued my sinuses and I'm sure it has caused these adverse effects in others as well. Come to think of it, maybe the weather is part of the reason for my fatigue and exhaustion these past couple months. Although, I think the strain of extra patients at work has been the primary reason. I have been drained of mental reasoning and motivational energy most days. In fact, I fell asleep at 10:30 a high number of nights for this night owl, and when you get home from work around 7:30 some days, that doesn't leave much room for anything else besides dinner, de-stressing, and getting ready for bed. 
But it hasn't been all illness, fatigue, and canceled challenge plans. I am in the process of finally finishing up some courses and tutorials over a new writing-related project I decided to try out months ago. I still have some kinks to work out, but once I get it going I will be happy to share it with you. For now, it shall remain a secret! I also hope to work on getting more blog posts written in advance since I’ll have more time than I initially expected next month. Sometime this week, I will make some visits to see what themes my blogging friends are doing, and I still plan to follow some during the challenge.
Are you participating in A to Z this year? If so, I might go visit your theme reveal and I hope you have fun!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: One Step at a Time

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. Congratulations to the IWSG for making it on the 100 Best Websites for Writers list!
            I thought about being discouraged and talking about my typical lack of time and motivation, and how it is already March and what I have I done with my writing so far this year? But, you know, things are not always as bad as they seem. Change will come, but sometimes it only comes in small baby steps. Have I met my goal of writing every day? Not yet, but I do find myself making notes of ideas more often and I have written quite a bit in my journals. Journaling may not always feel like writing because it is not usually for others to see, but I think there is power in unleashing those inner thoughts and it taps into your source of creativity. Beyond journaling, I have made some decisions and plans for my writing this last month. The most immediate is that I decided I will attend the monthly writer’s group meeting at my local library tomorrow. From the way the librarian described the group, it sounds like a critique group, and I thought I would just sit in this time to see how it goes. I’m a little bit nervous, but I think it is a good step forward for my future writing pursuits. I will reveal my other plans and steps as I reach them. One step at a time.
March’s question is: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out? I did not think I had much of an answer to this, because most of my fictional writing is from the last couple years, besides a few from high school and college. Of course, there is my ongoing “quiet book” that I started collecting notes for about 10 years ago, but it has not entered the drafting phase yet. Today, I was looking through my high school (and beyond) diary, and I was actually thinking about how some of those early entries would make a pretty comical preteen book. I’m thinking something along the lines of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I’ll have to wait to see if that will work out or not. I have a long list of other projects to work on ahead of it. One step at a time. :)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flashback Friday: Witnessing a Miracle

            **It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for Flashback Friday. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog. It has now been two years since the accident I mentioned in this post and Victoria's progress continues to astound me.**
Witnessing a Miracle (previously posted February 25, 2016)

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)

Victoria, Sam, Aleigh and Lucas with their parents and grandparents
            This past Sunday, February 21, 2016 marked one year since Victoria Turner, two of her siblings, and her maternal grandparents were in a terrible car accident. Today Victoria, or Tori, as she’s often called, is a living, breathing miracle. I have shared her story before, but I haven’t given an update for a while. So, I thought I would share my own personal reflections of those months last year.
On February 14, 2015, I had the privilege of babysitting my friend’s three precious children while she was with her husband at our church’s sweetheart banquet. I absolutely adore her kids and consider them like family. One week later, late in the evening, those three children were in a terrible car accident with their maternal grandparents. The middle daughter, Aleigh, and grandparents were fine (which was a miracle in and of itself), but the oldest son, Samuel, and youngest daughter, Victoria, were critically injured. Samuel had a fractured ankle and pelvis and Victoria had multiple skull fractures and brain injuries; they didn’t think she was going to make it. When I heard the news the following morning at church I was struck with such a sense of hopelessness and concern. I had just held Tori and read to her the previous week, what was I to do? There wasn’t anything I could do except pray. So that is what I and my church did.     
Samuel was released within a couple weeks, but Victoria took a turn for the worst. She got pneumonia due to her weakened immune system, and had to be put on life support. So, in the weeks following we continued to pray for this precious two-year-old. There were so many ups and downs during those critical weeks when many people, including myself, checked the Facebook page repeatedly throughout the day hoping for good news. Eventually, the miracle we were praying for came and Victoria survived! After months of therapy, a transfer to a hospital closer to home, and slowly being weaned off the oxygen support, Tori was finally able to return home in June. One of many amazing things about all of this is that during her time on life support, the doctors were not able to treat her skull fractures, but when they finally took an x-ray they found that the fractures had healed on their own and no additional surgery was necessary.
This picture was taken the day I went with Victoria, her mom and little brother to her check-up
She is still undergoing speech therapy, but she communicates her needs fairly well with her limited vocabulary. I have had some opportunities to observe her at play, I even got to let her sit in my lap and read to her again, and I think she seems just as bright and eager to learn as ever. I was watching her run and play with another three-year-old at church the other day and every time she laughed or smiled I was reminded of what a miracle and a testimony her young life has already been to so many people.
My church was strengthened in prayer during that time. We came together as one body and the power of prayer was shown in a way that most of us will never forget. And we were not alone. The church has somewhere between 200 and 300 members, but the Pray for Tori and Sam Facebook page has over 9000 likes. It amazes me that so many people beyond our church were willing to pray and show support for Victoria and her family, and all of those lives were impacted by this tragedy. Prayer is powerful, but things may not always turn out the way we want them to. Even if things had gone the other way with Tori, her parents said they would still believe that God works out the good in all things. Of course, it is better to always be in prayer, whether we are in the midst of disaster or delight, but as incomplete works in progress, we probably lapse in our prayer time once in a while, especially if things are going smoothly.  Just remember that God is always just a prayer away and He wants to hear all of your needs, your desires, your worries, your fears, your praise, and your worship.

You can find more information about Victoria's journey on the Pray for Tori and Sam Facebook page, and the pictures I shared in this post are from that page.

Friday, February 10, 2017

If You Give a Page a Picture

            I really don’t know where the time goes. I feel as though I lose track of it so easily. I wanted to be more proactive with my blog posts this year, but I did not have a solid plan in place so it has fallen by the wayside yet again. I think of the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I mean to make amends to this, so I have spent the majority of my blogging absence analyzing my goals, schedule, and time usage. I even bought a Life Planner, which has encouraged a lot of journal writing. Elsewhere in writing, I started a couple short stories. My main problem is that I have a lot of starts and few finishes.

One reason for these infrequent finishes (and loss of time) is that I tend to make things too difficult for myself. I spend too much time on tasks that should be simple. For example, a few weeks ago, I wanted to start putting up a weekly quote on my Facebook page and I found one I liked. I was about to schedule it to be posted on a Monday, but then I thought it needed a picture. So, I searched through some internet memes and couldn’t quite find the right picture and quote combination. I have been wanting to start using more of my own photography and less from the internet, so I decided I’d put the quote on my own picture, and I opened up the rarely used GIMP program that my brother downloaded on my computer. GIMP has so many functions, too many, and I don’t understand most of it (it’s one of those programs that you need to watch video tutorials in order for it to be beneficial). After changing the font size ten times and endlessly shifting the position of my quote, I saw a shadow in my picture and thought, “I could probably edit that out.” After multiple attempts at finding a function that removes shadows, I gave up and my Facebook page still lacks this new update. I don’t even want to know how long this useless process took me, and in order to gain closure on it, I am sharing that photo (with unwanted car shadow) today.
The font still looks too small...
Sadly, this example is how many blog posts, writings, and other projects go for me. My life plays out like a never-ending If You Give a Mouse a Cookie story. I need to add this to the goal list in my planner: Simplify things! I think I will start that weekly quote on Facebook and I'll use a less-complex program, or just share the quote and photo separately. Watch for it on my page, Monday!
Anyone else guilty of overthinking/overdoing simple things?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: Reading as a Writer

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. The IWSG poses a question for us to answer in our monthly posts. Here is the question for February:
How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?
            Even though time has escaped me more often than not in the last few years, I will always love reading. I was the 10-year-old who huddled up next to a night light, past my bedtime, in order to read “just one more chapter”. Since then, I could not tell you how many times I’ve used that same line in the middle of the night. When I find a good book, I like to escape in the simple pleasure of reading. I could almost turn this question around to ask: How has reading shaped my experience as a writer? Reading is part of my motivation because I would love to be able to write one of those books people can escape into. My insecurity also stems from that, because I feel incapable of writing such a book. One thing that I will say in answer to this month’s question is that I sometimes use reading as a tool. I went through a dry spell with reading for a couple years; I just could not find a book worth diving into. As I got more involved with blogging and writing fiction, I got back into reading again. Reading a variety of authors and genres is an excellent form of research. It is helpful to see how others write and the techniques they use. Recently, I have also found a new addiction in audiobooks. Listening to a book allows you to enter a story through a different sense and it is a convenient way to “read” while driving, which is sometimes the only time I get to myself. I was stuck on descriptive details when I was writing my fantasy story until I listened to The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks for a few minutes. Of course, I still enjoy the moments of quiet when I can just sit and read, and if writing inspiration comes, I welcome it gladly!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Flashback Friday: A Mysterious Case of Spots

            **It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for Flashback Friday. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog. I skipped FF last month because of the holidays, but I still enjoy sharing my old posts. I almost feel as though I was a better writer five years ago than I am today. This post is from June 30, 2011. I think I need to take my own words to heart and slow down, cherish the small things, and get reacquainted with the pleasures of writing.**

A Mysterious Case of Spots
            You know, God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes, or at least amusing ways. The other day, I was in a rush all day long. I rushed to get ready for work, I rushed to work, I rushed at work, I rushed at lunch, I rushed home after work, and I rushed to get ready for a church camp meeting. As I was driving to the church camp, I glanced down at my knee to adjust my skirt and I saw these 3 big brown spots that weren’t there that morning. Being the worrywart that I am, all these crazy thoughts came rushing through my head: “What are those? Are they blood clots, have I been standing too much? Are they moles from being in the sun too long? Did I get blood blisters from running into something? What did I run into? That leg has been feeling kind of funny today, when was the last time I looked at it?” I said a prayer and hoped to God that it wasn’t anything serious. Well, those spots preoccupied my mind as the camp kids played games and sang songs, but I finally calmed down a little when the preacher started his sermon. As soon as I got home, I had to investigate those spots so I could determine my fate. I looked up and down my leg and found 2 more spots on the bottom of my foot. Then, I sat on my bed and pulled my knee close: “Hmm, those spots are raised, they must be moles…” I rubbed one and it started coming off, then it hit me…It was chocolate! In my rush between work and the camp service I had grabbed a half-melted energy bar and was eating it as I was changing. The melted chocolate had flaked off and got squished onto my skin. I am glad I didn’t ask anyone else for prayer that night, but I guess I did need prayer for my mental state.

            As funny and embarrassing to admit as that is, it really did make a few good points. First of all, I was reminded that I shouldn’t worry so much. Sadly, that is not the first time (and probably not the last) that I invented some horrendous scenarios in my head only to find that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation to my object of worry. When I was a teenager, I used to worry all the time if someone in my family was gone and got home late. I’ve imagined car accidents, fires, thieves, bridges collapsing, etc. and usually I would find out they just made an extra stop or there was a lot of traffic. I was reminded of Luke 12:25-26, which says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” In other words, worrying isn’t going to get me anywhere, so I might as well leave everything in God’s hands.

            Another thing those spots reminded me of is the need to slow down. The only reason I got them in the first place is because I was rushing around all day. I can still get things done without working myself up into a frenzy. Sometimes we just need to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and just savor the moment. I know I usually end up ignoring the most important things when I get too busy. I’m always trying to get everything done on my never-ending to-do list, and I can’t seem to give up even just 15 minutes for what really matters. I don’t leave enough time for prayer and Bible study, a phone call to my best friends, a chat with my mom, or even playing with my cats and dogs (they’re family too). Those are the things that my time should revolve around instead of meaningless repetitive tasks. I think of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Jesus told Martha in verse 41-42: “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary chose to stop and listen to Jesus instead of trying to take care of all the busywork, and I guess I should take a time out once in while, too.

            Finally, I was reminded that sometimes something that looks bad is actually something good. I thought some chocolate was a disease. Circumstances can be the same way, they may seem bad as you’re going through them, but they can end up being blessings in disguise. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So, the next time you’re feeling over-stressed, way too rushed, or worried beyond control: slow down, take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Dear Lord, please heal my chocolate!”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: Just Keep Writing

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. 

            Over the past few weeks, my motivation levels have flip flopped as much as the weather here in Oklahoma. I took a week of staycation in the middle of December which did not involve as much staying home as I’d hoped. I enjoyed some time with friends and family, though, so it was still a worthwhile time. When I was home, I had so many cleaning and organizing tasks to catch up on that I did not have much time to write. I guess taking time off is not necessarily the solution to my writing-time problem because my time gets booked up fast. I started the New Year feeling slightly motivated because I was off for the weekend and I felt refreshed and ready to start a daily writing session…then I went to work on Monday and all motivation was gone. I finally felt reenergized around 12:30 that night, which was terrible because I had work in the morning, so I had to stifle my creativity in order to wind myself down to go to sleep. Are there any other night owls out there who are forced to get up early for a day job? Add introversion and having to unwind after dealing with people all day and that is why I don’t have much energy to spare.
            Tuesday night, after another life-sucking day at work, I decided to find some New Year motivational articles to read and remind myself of the goals I would like to accomplish this year with my writing. Inspired by the articles in this month’s IWSG newsletter, I think my main goal for this year is to start a daily writing habit. Even if it is just a little bit of journaling, I need to write every single day. I know this will be a tough undertaking at first, but it will be rewarding once it becomes a regular part of my daily routine. I hope each of you find success in your goals for this year! Happy 2017!

Time to fill this notebook with stories!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Question of the Month: Growing Up

The Question of the Month is a bloghop that was started by Michael G D'Agostino and it occurs the first Monday of each month. Here is the question for January:
What was your “growing up” moment?
            For me, “growing up” was more of a series of moments rather than one particular time. It’s those moments when I reach a milestone and realize things may never be the same again. Driving alone for the first time, my first job at Subway, the first time I made a purchase over $100 with my own income, giving a speech at high school graduation, going to college and living in the dorms, going to Bible studies and church on my own, my first apartment and paying utility bills, graduating college and getting my teaching certificate, and those are just the moments that occurred around 10 or more years ago.
            Then there are the moments like seeing teenagers at the mall and calling them “kids”, coming across multiple phrases that younger people use that I don’t recognize, realizing (as I’m writing this) that this year will be my 10-year college reunion, but I veer off course because these are moments that make me feel old, not grown up.
            Honestly, I feel as though I still have a lot of “growing up” to do. There are many things I have not yet experienced, like getting married, having a baby, and buying a house, but I no longer believe those things make us adults. I know wives, parents, and homeowners who still feel as though they have no idea what they are doing. I think God uses all of our experiences in life to teach us and we never stop learning. Since learning is a part of growing and maturing, I feel as though there will always be room for more of these “growing up” moments.
Do you have a "growing up" moment? Do you ever have those moments of feeling "old"?
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