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Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

My newest book, A Calculated Risk, opens in a very unusual setting – a funeral.  Certainly not the typical scene to hook the readers and make them want to keep turning the page.  But it is at this funeral the male lead’s small and unexpected act of kindness causes the heroine to begin to realize there may be much more to his character than she’d initially thought.

I was in Pensacola, Florida a few days ago to attend my uncle’s funeral.  No, I didn’t meet my prince charming this week.  But I did witness hundreds of people making small and unexpected acts of kindness out of respect for the deceased and those of us mourning our loss.  And our whole family was so appreciative.  From the moment we left the parking lot of the funeral home, through every stop sign and street light as we wove our way through town, and until we pulled into the cemetery overlooking the bay, every single car in traffic stopped.  Even though some streets were several lanes across with a median dividing directional traffic, the other drivers waited until the entire procession had passed.  No one seemed irate that they might be a few minutes late getting to their destination.  No one sped away as soon as the hearse passed by.  It was truly impressive.

So I would like to say thank you.  First to the deputies with the Sherriff’s department, who moved in tandem with such precision as they cleared a path and got us safely to the grave site.  And next I want to thank the citizens and general public of the city of Pensacola.  It was a small thing.  But by pausing patiently in traffic, you showed respect and compassion.

It didn’t go unnoticed.

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Twenty four hours.  One day.

Some days pass uneventfully and we hardly notice them.  Others bring surprises – sometimes good and sometimes bad – that leave a lasting impression.

The twenty four hour period between this past Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon was full of unpleasant surprises for me.

First, my cat was involved in a totally freakish accident.  I won’t go into the gruesome details, but let’s just say she managed to get herself into a predicament that was a first for our veterinarian’s office.  And she had emergency surgery that very night.

Next, as I arrived at the office Friday morning, I found out a co-worker had unexpectedly died that morning at around 5:00.  Only a month ago he’d been told his cancer was in remission.  Cancer that had been first diagnosed less than a year ago.  Now, suddenly, he was gone.

To round things out, I visited my dad in the hospital that afternoon.  He told me that the doctor had spent a lot of time with him shortly before I got there.  It seems it is now very unlikely that Dad will make it to his birthday at the end of this month.  He had been soldiering on in his own war with cancer for a little over a year now, and looks like it’s almost time to raise the white flag.

It was a very emotional and “heavy” twenty-four hours for me.  Life is like that…it can throw you curve balls in a split second.  If you’re not careful, they can knock you down.

I will choose to look on the bright side of things.  My kitty’s appearance is now forever altered.  But she survived, and she’ll always be adorable in my eyes anyway.

My co-worker was a Vietnam veteran, and lived his life fully.  I mean VERY fully!  Despite his “hell’s angels” appearance, he was surprisingly very cultured and into the arts.  He also had an incredible talent for finding steals while antiquing with his wife.  He’d bring these diamonds in the rough (that he’d bought for pennies on the dollar) home and then refinish them to their original beauty.  Having once experienced the horrors of war firsthand (he’d been a sniper!), this handyman’s hobby gave him years of therapeutic tranquility and a peaceful end to a remarkable life.  He will be missed.

Finally, just over a year ago, I was told my dad only had a matter of months to live.  He more than doubled what we had anticipated.   And cancer can be a very cruel way to go.  But Dad has enjoyed what time he’s had, and has been miraculously pain free with it.  Sure, it hasn’t been a cake walk. Weakness set in pretty fast and he’s been more or less housebound except for doctors’ visits and trips to the hospital.  And he’s had a lot of discomfort in his body for various reasons.  But it hasn’t been overwhelming or unmanageable.  And his mind is sharp as ever and he hasn’t taken the first pain pill in over a year.  I am thankful for these blessings.  And when the end does come soon, there will hopefully be a peace about his passing, even as it leaves a huge hole in the hearts of all of us who love him so dearly.

So when you wake up each morning, take a moment to appreciate the gift of life and good health.  Don’t aimlessly wander through the day, using up precious moments that you’ll never get back.  Make the most out of each day, and hope that everyone has a good surprise in store for you.  If you make the effort to notice all the great things that life has to offer, then maybe it will help us handle the unpleasant things a little better when they come our way.

 

 

 

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Today is Mother’s Day.  It’s a day to celebrate motherhood, whether you have one, are one, hope to be one some day, or maybe you’re just an awesome friend to someone else who is a mother.  Having a great support group is one of the ways we moms cope with life and its challenges and rewards.  So no matter what role you play, celebrate the day and I hope it’s terrific for you!

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Growing up in the deep South, there are a lot of customs that are perhaps unique to living in the “Bible Belt”.  One of the ones that I always found humorous as a kid was the way my church honored mothers on Mother’s Day.  Of course, the service was centered around what it meant to be a mother.  Usually there was a gift for every single mother in attendance.  Some years it might be a flower (a carnation or a rose).  Some years it was a bookmark (usually imprinted with some scripture on it).  And then the fun part started…they would query the crowd and ask for a show of hands for three categories:  youngest mom, Mom with the most children, and oldest mom.  To help speed the process (and I can hear my own uncle’s voice in my head as I write this, since he often was in charge of this part at my grandparents’ church), he would say “Do we have any mothers here younger than 25?.  A flurry of activity followed, as there were usually several ladies who fit the bill.  Then he’d narrow it down, “Okay, how about any mothers younger than 24?” and so on and so on until only one hand was still raised.  Then she received a special gift to honor her.

Then they moved on to the number of children.  “Anyone here today with more than 4 children?”  and so forth.  You get the idea.

Finally, the last category was oldest mother.  Usually he’d start with 80, and go from there.  My own grandmother won this prize several times, as she lived to be almost 98 years old.  My sister and I were always so excited the years she won, and we wanted to see what her prize was!  Was it a box of candy?  Or maybe some perfume?  In truth, it was usually some sort of Christian literature, such as a daily devotional book or a book about being a Godly mother.  At the time, my sis and I felt like it was a little bit of a gyp, and we’d have preferred the candy!  🙂  But Granny always admired whatever it was and was thankful.

Let’s move forward to the present day.  Yesterday my sister and I shocked our mother by going to a church sponsored Mother/Daughter Tea.   She was excited beyond words when we said we’d go.  OF course, she is very smart, and used reverse psychology when she proposed the idea.  Rather than just ask if we would go with her, she said late Thursday night, “By the way, the church is having a mother-daughter tea on Saturday, but I know none of you is interested in going.  But Sister Brenda (as I said, I live in the South, so everyone in church is known as Brother this and Sister that!) said it was all right if I had to come alone.”

Well, how much of an immediate guilt trip is that???  I couldn’t possibly have said, “GLad you understand how to live with disappointment, because you’re right.  I don’t want to go.”  No, instead I said I could probably make it.  After I told my sister, she was more than willing to go too, just to make Mom happy.

Well, the surprise was on us, because it was an absolutely lovely experience!  The room was decorated beautifully, with gorgeous bouquets on every table.  The table linens were all in soft shades of pink and green.  The spread of food rivaled some of the nicest wedding receptions I’ve been to.  And all of mother’s friends acted like we were celebrities when they met us!  It is obvious that my mother does love to talk about her family all the time.  🙂  And one of the neatest ideas I thought was that each mother had been asked to bring her own personal favorite teacup from home to use for her hot tea.  I loved that idea!  It was fun to see what each lady brought, and some of them even shared the story behind where the cup came from, if it was special.

The ah-ha moment, however, was when we came to the end of the tea hour, and the wife of the senior pastor stood up and announced, “We have some prizes we want to give out today.”  Bam!  Instant memory blast, taking me right back to those church services of my childhood.  Yep, you guessed it, they were going to honor the oldest and youngest mothers.  There was a little competition on youngest mother, with it coming down to two ladies.  Diplomatically, the pastor’s wife didn’t choose between them – she gave them each a gift.

Then she said, “And now it is time for the oldest mother.  And I think I know who it is without even asking.”  My sister and I had already started scanning the room, and settled on one table across from us  that appeared to have two obvious candidates.  Imagine our surprise when the woman made a bee line straight to our table and handed a beautiful gift bag to our mother!!!  How could that be?  We don’t feel old.  How can our mom be?  And I have to say she certainly LOOKS much younger than either of those other two ladies.  But just to be sure, she was asked to reveal her age.  Mom stood up proudly and said “I’m 79 and next month I will turn 80 years old.”  There was an audible gasp from some of the ladies.  As I said, my mom looks so young for her age (and with no plastic surgery or botox, I might add).  But she won the award fair and square.  We were proud of her, and know we are so blessed to have grown up under her guidance and with her loving voice always there to teach or reassure us.  I will soon be 50, and I still depend on it at times!  Some days only your mama’s love can make things better!

I’m glad she won her first award as oldest mother, and I hope it’s just the first of many, many more, because that means I’ll have her with me for many more years.  And guess what – the gift she received was even awesome!  It was a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers, each in the shape of a small bird.  How great is that?

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

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Okay, it’s the fourteenth day of January already, and I have yet to make a New Year’s Resolution.  I make the same one every year, fail to achieve it, and then renew my vow to myself the next year.  So I’m taking my time this January as I choose something that I think will be achievable.

But why limit it to one specific goal?  Can’t broad, generic resolutions count?

Yesterday was Sunday, and my nine-year-old and I were driving to my dad’s house instead of going to church.  But on the way there, I asked her to tell me her favorite Bible story.  She said David and Goliath.  I was intrigued.  It wasn’t what I had expected.  Most kids seem to like baby Moses in the basket, or Christ’s birth in a manger.  Or, in her case since her older brother played him in a musical, Pharaoh and the plagues! 🙂

I asked why she chose David and Goliath, and her answer was very insightful, especially considering we were on the way to see her cancer-stricken grandpa.  “Because it’s about possibilities.  No one expected a boy with a slingshot to kill a giant, but he believed in himself and he did it.  If we believe in ourselves, we can do anything.”

I think my resolution should simply be to believe in myself.  No matter what I’m facing.  No matter the obstacles.  Believe in myself and the possibilities are endless!

My daughter is a pretty smart cookie, and she sure taught her momma an important lesson yesterday.

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Mark your calendars for next week on January 16th when I will be hosting Hazel Statham.  She will be presenting her Regency Romance book, For Love of Sarah.

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Hazel will be awarding winner’s choice of either a Cream Coin Freshwater Pearl necklace or a digital copy of DOMINIC or HIS SHADOWED HEART (international giveaway) to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a Choice of either Rhinestone Crystal Butterfly and Pearl earrings or a digital copy of DOMINIC or HIS SHADOWED HEART (international giveaway) to a randomly drawn host.

Come back on the 16th and I will share more from her wonderful book, in partnership with Goddess Fish, once again. 

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Today is the next to the last day of the year.  It is a time to both look ahead as well as look back over the past.  Many of us will set goals for the new year.  Some of us will look back at 2012 and assess our progress toward the goals we set this year.  We will take stock of the year’s blessings as well as its disappointments.

For me, today was spent doing something I have never had to do before.  It was something I never had a thought to needing to do, as 2012 began.  And it was difficult and sad and scary, all at once.  My sister and I sat by my dad’s bedside and discussed his burial arrangements.  As my long time followers know, he is battling cancer.  The type he has is incurable.  He courageously chose to take chemo in an attempt to extend his months, and I feel like we would have never had him for  Christmas if he hadn’t done this.  But today, he looked tiny and frail as he lay under layers of blankets and still said he felt chilled.  His stomach growls audibly, yet he has no appetite.  When he does feel like eating, it’s most likely to be only a few bites of fruit, or some soup or broth.   Up until a week or two ago, his attitude was positive and we all liked to imagine that we have years left with him to grace us with his still-so-beautiful smile, or to sing Christmas carols in his strong baritone voice for years to come.  This week, he wants to talk about the end being near and what to do when that day arrives.

For a long time, we would divert the conversation topic and move on to happy things, or reminisce about days gone by with loved ones we still hold so dear in our hearts.  But today, in that very quiet bedroom, as the Carolina Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints (with the volume muted as we kept Dad updated on the unfortunate score), my sister and I both knew we needed to let him talk.  And we needed to plan.  And we needed to give him peace of mind that when that day does come, he knows where he will finally rest.  And we all agreed on a place that brought a smile to his face.  And that smile – though it stemmed from such an unpleasant decision – was worth one million bucks to my sister and to me.  Because he has a peace about it now.  He knows he will be surrounded by many people who bear his same last name, who have gone on many years before him and who meant so much to him.  And even though we hope it isn’t needed for a long while yet, we are settled about it and can move on from that topic.

As you greet the year 2013, I hope it has only happy things in store for you and your family.  As for me, I’d settle for a miracle or two.  But no matter what happens, we’ll meet it head-on and together as a family unit.  And in the end, through the tears I suspect we’ll sing.  A lot.  And quite loudly.  And we’ll imagine we hear Dad’s voice joining ours as we raise the roof with old gospel songs.  And maybe even a Frank Sinatra tune or two.

After all, just like Frank, Dad has always done it his way.  🙂

 

 

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I have just come off both a Super Book Blast as well as several days of participating in The Romance Studio’s Christmas blog party.  I have done a lot of talking about my new book, The Christmas Dare.  In this book, the hero has suffered the sudden loss of loved ones, and the heroine helps pull him through the darkest days that followed.  She was also crucial in helping keep memories alive for his younger brother, who was too young to remember very much himself.

Memories of happier days can sustain us when we face difficult times.  When circumstances separate us from those we love, whether temporarily or permanently, those remembrances can make us smile, even through the sadness.

This year marked the first Christmas I have not spent following the same traditions I’ve known my entire life.  Even though my parents live apart, they have remained true friends.  And they always come together for holiday celebrations throughout the year, so the entire extended family can be in one place.  It is a privilege I know, and I have always been grateful for it.  I know many others who have to alternate holidays, or just live too far away to always get home.  But this year, my father’s health was not good, and he was just too weak to leave the home.  So for the first time in nearly fifty years, I had to go to his house to visit him, then went to my mom’s house to be with her (where we were joined by the other siblings, in-laws and neices/nephews).

Then on Christmas day, the weather turned wicked and a tornado cut through our town.  As sirens wailed in the distance, we watched the news and as they showed footage from a camera mounted on the roof of a downtown hotel, we literally watched as the cloud swirled itself into a tornado and touched down in the middle of Mobile.  As it cut a path along the ground, you could see the explosions as transformers and substations blew, and the debris cloud was even visible in some shots.  It was really scary, and the fact the weatherman said there would be several more bands behind it that would also be capable of spawning tornados caused us to choose to stay in the house rather than travel the roads for the planned evening holiday meal with all the relatives.  It was the right decision, and we came through it safely (my 9-year-old even thought it was fun to be homesteading in the bathtub!).  But it was the final nail in my Christmas 2012 traditions…not only had Christmas Eve been a departure from the norm, but now Mother Nature had robbed me of the traditional sit-down feast of turkey and dressing and all the trimmings as all the family members complimented each other on the fine cooking, and discussed what everyone had gotten from Santa that morning, and funny stories were exchanged and eventually talk wound up on Alabama football and how the team looked as it prepares to face Notre Dame.  It was sad, as I’d thought we’d have one last final one together.  I’ve been spoiled all these years, but I liked our routine.  It was comfortable and comforting.  It was something we could always rely on to be the same.  But this year it threw us a curveball.  It was different.

But in the light of today, the sun is shining. Very brightly, actually.  It’s crisp and cool outside.  My daughter is having a blast riding her new electric moped, and my son has been channeling Ralphie from The Christmas Story with his “oh ffuuddgggeee!” comments as he has been determined to make one of his new gifts work (and sadly, I think it is defective so no amount of his engineering skills will make it a success – I’m pretty sure it’s headed for the customer service desk and a gift exchange!).  And I know that I’m so blessed to have had almost half a century of perfect Christmases, with my parents looking on lovingly at their own children as they opened gifts, and now as their grandchildren do.  It ended this year, but I’m so appreciative of all the years up until 2012 that were idyllic and picture postcard perfect.

Just as in my new book, Gia, Ethan and Griffin sit and reminisce about happier days when everyone was together, my family wound up doing that too.  And it keeps the memory alive.  And it’s still special, and in its own way, it is still very real.  I’m also quick to remind myself that at least I still have both of my parents, even though our routine has now clearly changed for good.

So to those of you who are missing loved ones this year – whether through death or distance – comfort yourself with the memories of times spent together, and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face.  Sometimes we smile through our tears, but it’s still a smile.  And those are always welcomed.

 

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