Monday, June 18, 2018

My Greatest Source of Inspiration is...(drumroll please)

Aren't they FUN!?!!?
I recently revealed a few of the places I find inspiration.
It wasn't a complete list and I left out a biggie...(on purpose)
Vintage Photos.
I love them so much.
Snapshots are my favorite although sometimes you can find a very funny portrait.
This guy is thinking about the wedding night...
Photo booth photos hold a special place in my heart.
They are usually taken in fun...or while drunk.
Oh, the stories hiding in those tiny gems.
Which is why I love photos so much, they hint at a story.
Sometimes they inspire a character.
Isn't this lady just the SWEETEST?
They help me to think outside the box.
What's going on in this photo?
How did that boy get a shiner?
What is that woman doing in that tree?
Why are those people so close to that bear?
Nothing inspires a story like a three-year old having a tea party on the roof.
So many questions that only my imagination can answer because I have no idea what the real story is.
Is Great Aunt Helga evil or is little Suzy a tyrant? 
I've spent the past several days (weeks, actually) cleaning out my studio.
My collection of vintage photos must have the ability to reproduce because I certainly didn't buy all of those photos! (or maybe I did)
These might be full of photos...maybe...
Sometimes I buy photos individually,
But often I'll buy boxes of them.
When I get home, I set aside the ones I really, really like for myself.
This is where I keep my very favorites...
I like funny, curious, "what the heck is going on here" types of photos.
I have quite an interesting collection.
A HUGE COLLECTION. (translate: thousands of photos)
Many scenes in my novel are inspired by vintage photographs.
The expressions, the scenery, the simplicity of a time gone by...so much inspiration.

In my messy studio are thousands of stories just waiting to be written.
I'd better get busy!

Friday, June 15, 2018

First Father's Day...

It’s the first father’s day without my dad.
I'll admit that I've dreaded it.
I miss him.
The grief comes in waves.
And others are grieving too, but…
It’s personal.
It’s lonely.
It’s work we must do on our own.
Except…
I’m not alone.
So often since my dad died…
I’ve said to God, “Could you tell dad…”
And then I give God a message to relay.
(Usually something about his grandkids...he was so proud of them.)
Then I continue…
"I really wish he were here, Lord."
And I always hear Him whisper, “I’m your Father and I’m right here.”
Oh, yeah.
So I tell him the message again, only I direct it to God, my Father.
And I feel better somehow.
My Father heard me.

So on this father’s day, this first one…
I’m thankful that in my earthly father’s absence,
My Heavenly Father leans his ear toward me
And listens. (As He always has.)
And I’m thankful that I’ve learned to listen a little closer.
Because I didn’t lose my father,
Not really.
I’ll see him again.
But my Heavenly Father,
Has been here all along,
Advising,
Loving,
Caring,
Helping,
Teaching,
Soothing,
Encouraging,
Listening.
And He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where I Find Inspiration...

I'm still revising my novel while I drag my feet in the search for an agent.
And in the midst of rewriting a few scenes, I thought I'd share where I find my inspiration.

We were on a little trip on the Oregon coast when I saw this sign. I LOVE the name. I made my husband turn around so I could take this photo (I wasn't even writing a novel at that time). 
Stuff and Things is the name of a thrift shop in my novel...borrowed from this little boarded-up shop.
I find inspiration all around me and when I know it's gold, I snap a photo. But I have to pay attention--constantly scanning my surroundings for a nugget of inspiration.

People are endless sources of inspiration.
  • My best friend is in my novel - although I changed her name to protect her identity...as my main character's best friend. 
  • A woman I met at a church we visited several years ago is in my novel. She was a busybody in the nicest, funniest way. I wrote a scene where my character is accosted by her charm in the exact same way I was accosted when we visited that church.
  • An older "church lady" from my youth is in my novel. I'm pretty sure she's not living any more...plus I changed her name. Everyone knows one of those ladies, though.
  • The setting for my novel is a combination of two small towns, Goldendale, Washington and Glenville, Georgia. I loved small town life. 
  • YOU might be in my novel in some way. I'm a people watcher. Quirks and idiosyncrasies are so interesting and attractive. I love subtle mannerisms and outright insecurities and bold personalities. People are a treasure trove of writing inspiration.
Life experience is also a source of inspiration. The death of a loved one, a misunderstanding with a friend, a big move or an empty nest. Feeling judged, being disappointed or left out--all things relational or having to do with the passage of time. Life is inspiration.

God's faithfulness is inspiring to me. How He gently cares for me and provides all that I need. The surprising joy and the peace that can only be from Him. The kindness of God. And grace...the grace of God is always an inspiration. How can I show that grace in story form? It's a challenge I accept every time I sit down with my laptop. I want to write God's grace in every letter I type.

What inspires you? 

Leave a comment and let me know! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Identity


When I was in high school we were given the assignment to write down all of our identities—daughter, sister, friend, student, etc. After some thought, I was amazed by the number of titles by which I identified.
The difference between my identities back then and the identities people take on today, is that all of my identities were positive. I didn’t identify with negative characteristics or temporary conditions. If I was bummed about a break-up with my boyfriend, I didn’t add ‘depressed’ to the list. I also didn’t add ‘ex-girlfriend’. That wasn’t me—it was something that happened to me. Sure, I was down sometimes, and I felt alone and confused a lot of the time. But I embraced the knowledge that I was a teenager and that all of the shyness and awkwardness and moodiness was temporary.
Later in my life, when the days were long and the frustration of raising three kids weighed on me, I didn’t identify as lonely, depressed and anxious. I knew it was a time to pass through. My kids would not be little forever. I didn’t place labels on myself because I’ve always been in transition…everyone is.
Today, people are quick to identify with conditions, sexual preferences, and life changes. “I’m an ex-con” or “I’m gay” or “I’m a divorcee” or “I’m an addict” or “I’m autistic.” Even if a person is any one of those things, is that the sum of who they are? Why is it so important to advertise to the world our struggles or conditions or our past? Even real conditions are but a piece of the whole. You may be anxious, but you’re also funny and organized. You may be autistic, but you’re intelligent and kind too. You may be divorced but you’re also creative and patient. I realize that for some, labels are broadcast for attention. But the temporary coddling by others will eventually subside and, like a label on a bottle, you’ll be left with a negative residue on your life.
As believers, God does not call us by our conditions, our past or our life choices. He calls us beloved, accepted, adopted sons and daughters, heirs of God, royalty, valuable, created in His image. None of those things jive with any of the world’s identifiers.
The enemy of our souls would have us identify by the things of the world—by the temporary or the negative—to take on labels that cause disappointment, guilt and shame. The world’s labels lead to our dissatisfaction with God’s beloved creation—you and me. 
Romans 8:1 says: For there is no condemnation in Christ, for those who are in Christ Jesus. A rough translation: If I am in Christ, the world's labels do not define me.
I noticed something after the last school shooting (I'm so tired of school shootings). As the names of the victims were revealed, they were described as "compassionate, a friend to everyone, funny, loving, generous" and on and on. Is that how they identified when they were alive? Did they identify as compassionate when they left for school that morning or did another label supersede the positive one? Have you told someone today, how generous or loving or funny they are? 
No matter what we’re going through or how we see ourselves at this moment, time is passing. Circumstances are changing. Our lives are in motion. We may be broken today but tomorrow we will be mended. We may be weak in one area but we’re strong in others.
Consider the labels you attach to yourself. Choose a new identity. Claim the one that God has given to you—beloved.
Have a blessed day my precious reader.            

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Turn Grief into Joy in One Easy Step!

I was in a funk recently.
A grief-induced funk.
Blah...
So a couple weeks ago,
My brother, three of my nieces and my great-nephew came to visit.
I thought to myself,
I need to talk to my brother, see how he's doing. Maybe a talk with him will help me feel better.
And at the same time, I didn't want to bring him down.
Grief is weird.
It's solitary.
No matter how close you are to your family.
No matter who is grieving the same person,
You go at your own pace.
It's not something you can do WITH someone.
I didn't realize that.
Now I do.

So I waited for a chance to be alone with my brother to sob to him that I was hurting.
I never got the chance.
But...
We cheered for our runner girls and we cheered for strangers.
I played with Ace (my great nephew) and we bonded.
I had precious time with my nieces.
I heard what they're doing in their lives.
I listened to their goals and dreams and marveled at the women they've become.
And we laughed and laughed.
And when they left, I was walking on air with overwhelming joy.
How is that possible?
It's a God thing.
Before my family came to visit,
I was focussed on me.
On my grief.
On my pain.
When my focus shifted away from myself,
I received comfort.
It's a "last shall be first, first shall be last" type of God thing.
Who can understand how that works?
But it does.
It was a sweet, gentle reminder that self focus is never healthy, helpful or good.
Shifting my focus to loving others brought untold joy.
I'll try to remember that...
because joy is so much better than grief.

Monday, May 21, 2018

In the Laughter is the Love...

Our family came together to cheer for my daughter as she ran her first half-marathon a few weeks ago.
We're a loud group.
We've been known to be "not invited" to my niece's high school shooting meets...
Apparently the contestants prefer quiet while aiming.
I digress.
So, we lined the trails around Deception Pass as the runners made their way through trees, up and down steep hills, across the breathtaking bridge and along the scenic coastline.
It was a challenging course.
We had fun signs and since other people were running by, we cheered for them as well.
Some of them laughed,
Some of them said, "Thanks!"
Some of them high-fived,
All of them smiled.
I took a break to do a little beach combing (I found a bit of sea glass and an agate in case you wondered).
From the beach, I heard my family talking and laughing and cheering as runners went by.
Their voices echoed over the beach.
I rejoined the happy group.
Our voices traveled over the water and up to the trail where my daughter heard us before she could see us.
Our laughter spurred her on.
My daughter said that other runners asked her if we were her family.
She admitted that yes, we were. (I can't tell you how thankful I am that she actually claimed us.)
They appreciated our loud raucous encouragement. (And we do a killer "wave")
We did another cheer squad last weekend for my daughter and my niece...a five miler this time.
They rocked it.
Obviously.
It's the same when my family gathers in my home or any home for that matter, and nature calls,
I retreat to the rest room.
By myself, in the quiet of the "loo", the sounds of the house echo through the halls and under the door to where I sit.
What do I hear?
Laughter.
Always laughter.
My family loves to laugh.
It echoes in jumbled conversations peppered with chuckles and hilarity followed by gasps between guffaws.
I can't make out a single word but the laughter needs no interpretation.
I finish my business and wash my hands and listen.
I always hesitate to re-join the fun.
Why?
Because it's like a favorite song I don't want to end...
I dry my hands and smile.
I love those people.
We don't always get along, or see eye to eye.
That's okay.
There's no harm in disagreeing.
But when we spend time together,
We always laugh.
We laugh at stories, at idiosyncrasies, at each other, at ourselves.
We poke fun, we play tricks and we tell jokes.
And in the laughter is the love.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Our Great UK Adventure!

Before I left for the United Kingdom, I made a list of things I was excited about. The list is as follows, along with the reality of our experience in parentheses. :)
  • Castles (We saw several, my favorite being St. Michaels Mount - a beautiful castle on an island just off the coast of Cornwall...we were the last people of the day to go through the castle - Alex had to run to the ticket booth to get us in before the deadline - and as a result, we got a personal tour! I even got to ring the chapel bell! Pretty cool! Edinburgh castle was also very interesting as was the Tower of London, which was probably the most curious castle of all.)
A stormy day at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall
  • Accents (English, Scottish and every accent under the sun. We had a conversation with a waiter in Chester who asked where in America we were from. I said, "What does an American accent sound like to an Engish person...is it pretty? Your accent is so pretty." He said he liked our accent...I still don't think we have one though. His co-worker claimed his pet-peeve was the  American mispronunciation of aluminum. He claimed it should be properly pronounced: Al-U-Men-Ium. It does sound fancier, I'll grant him that.                                      
    Classic
  • Meadows filled with sheep (We were not disappointed...they're just so stinkin' cute!)
Eeeeeek!
  • Thatched roof cottages (Not as many as I'd anticipated. We did see a few but...only a few...even in The Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds...
Cops...
  • Old cathedrals (Beautiful...stunning...old. We attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey...it was glorious.)
  • Flea markets (A little disappointing if I'm honest. We mixed up the day for the flea market we were dying to attend. We went to a couple of others instead and they weren't that great. Lots of clothes but not a lot of antiques. Oh well. We also went to a boot sale - a car boot sale. Our bed and breakfast host warned us that we'd be looking at a lot of rubbish, but we went anyway. He was right. Rubbish.)

One of the only vintage booths at the flea...
  • Meeting nice people (SO MANY nice people! Always stay in bed and breakfasts when traveling abroad. It's just the best!)
  • Catching a glimpse of Will and Kate's new baby? (Nope. But we enjoyed how the people we met were waiting on pins and needles for the announcement of the new prince's name...we guessed his name would be Arthur, but we were biased due to the fact that it was my father's name. We were thrilled when Arthur was one of the chosen names! It was fun to be part of the excitement.)
  • New food (We learned what haggis is and tried it anyway. I have to admit, I liked it!)
  • Ornate architecture & ruins (Not so much in the UK...that's more an Ireland thing I guess.)
A raven at the Tower of London.
  • Kilts (We did see many kilts in Edinburgh...but not as many as I'd expected.)
  • Music (Shockingly, we ran across two - yes, only two - bagpipe players. One in Edinburgh and one in London. We didn't hear music wafting from pubs like we did in Ireland. I was a little surprised...and disappointed. I love music.)
  • Searching for English sea glass (Oh man. The sea glass was amazing. Now I have a gallon-sized ziplock bag of the most beautiful glass to display somehow, somewhere...so excited!)
  • Sitting in the drivers seat and not driving (Stressful and nerve-wracking but Alex did a great job keeping our van - yes, a mini-van - within the narrow lines. We may have been honked at more times than we can count and perhaps we went a bit slower than normal but we saw parts of the UK we couldn't have seen otherwise. So proud of my husband!)
Seen in London...




My prince in front of Buckingham Palace...

  • Staringawkwardly at palace guards (Nope. Couldn't get close to 'em. bummer.)
  • Fancy words (So many fancy words. Whilst listening for them, I learned that the English people make fun of us for using the word "awesome" so much.)
  • Not understanding English...but trying to understand English. (The struggle was real, especially in Scotland.)
  • Cobbled streets (Twisted ankles.)
  • The London Eye
  • Climbing King Arthur's Seat (Oh the views! Oh the climb! Oh the satisfaction of reaching the top and looking down at the kingdom of Edinburgh!)
Made it to the top of Arthur's Seat.
We were there.

  • Shortbread (I may have eaten too much.)
  • Giving tea another try (I didn't. I couldn't. I loathe tea.)
  • Walking the streets of Reykjavik. (Colorful buildings, lots of art, cute shops and wool everywhere...the thickest wool sweaters I've ever felt...FAR too warm for even the coldest day in the PNW.)

Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran Church of Iceland in Reykjavik.

  • Eating something daring in Iceland...but not from the sea...something that isn't fermented in a bucket in the ground for months on end...or something that doesn't have a name that ends in "death". (Alex and I ate - drum roll please - Puffin. It tasted like very lean beef. It was delicious although I had to NOT think about the cute puffins as I consumed it.)
The Tower Bridge
The Scottish Guard outside Buckingham Palace
My mom considers scaling the fence to storm the palace.


The Shard
The "loo with a view" at the top of the Shard.