Thursday, December 4, 2008

Learning from the best...

About three weeks ago, I attended the Christian Writers Guild Craftsman residency as part of the course I'm taking with them at the moment. This year-long Craftsman course follows the two-year Apprentice and the one-year Journeyman courses, both offered through the Guild, which is owned now by Jerry B. Jenkins. There are ten of us in this first of all Craftsman courses and it was a real pleasure to meet the others and get to know those who have the same dreams I do--to write for the Lord and to write to the best of our abilities. We bonded immediately and are looking forward to seeing one another again in February when we attend the Writing for the Soul Conference in Colorado Springs.

Another fantastic aspect of this five-day residency (aside from the wonderful lodgings, great location, and scrumptious meals) was meeting Jerry B. Jenkins, John Perrodin, James Scott Bell, Chris Fabry, and McNair Wilson. Sitting down one-on-one (on three separate occasions, no less) with the author of the Left Behind series (as well as over 150 other books) was a humbling, thrilling, fun, and learning-filled experience. Who'd think that I would be trading opinions, jokes, stories about our kids and grandkids, and ideas about the plot of my novel with the man who authored the greatest Christian fiction series of all time? Certainly not me. But there I was. The individual meetings with Jerry, and other great authors--Jim, McNair, Chris, and John--gave me memories to last a lifetime (I know, it's cliche) and enough knowledge to ponder for the next fifty years. Learning from the best places certain expectations on my work. I have no excuses now.

Until the next time...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Settled in...

It's been several months since I've written anything here. We moved safely (albeit not without our problems) to Anchorage, Alaska, in early August. We're now living on Elmendorf Air Force Base in a beautiful home. My son-in-law has been in Korea for nearly three months now, so the clock is ticking on that year-long tour.

Winter sets in early up here and this year was no exception. Our daylight hours are limited now to about five per day and that will continue to decrease until the first day of winter. After that, it's all downhill to spring! It began snowing earlier this afternoon and is still coming down lightly. Although this wasn't the first snow of the season, it did come in time to cover up some of the dirty stuff along the side of the road. There are outdoor Christmas decorations appearing here and there on base and the new fallen snow is a beautiful, fresh backdrop to the glowing lights.

I'm afraid Christmas may be a lonely proposition this year for my daughter and me. With her husband in Korea and the rest of our loved ones living in Michigan, Kentucky, and Florida, we're looking at spending the holidays in a quiet way. I'm still looking for a church up here and I'm hoping to find one before the holidays. Perhaps I'll find some friends there who are interested in celebrating the birth of our Lord in our home. I'll keep praying.

Today is also my daughter's birthday! She was born on Thanksgiving Day and I can't think of anything I could be more thankful for than another precious child!

Until the next time...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Old Home Week

I do believe that if I never see a cardboard box again, it'll be too soon. In the past week, we've packed dozens of boxes of our belongings and frankly, I'm beginning to think we have too much stuff.

The past few days have been eventful in other, more pleasant ways, too. I reconnected with an old friend, one I haven't spoken to, nor seen, in years. We talked for a long time, exchanging news of our families and mutual acquaintances, what we're up to now, and how life has treated us for the past few years. It was a wonderful way to touch base with someone who was a very important part of my life and who, though distance and circumstances may keep us from ever speaking with or seeing one another again, remains an important part of my past.

I also wrote a lot this week and was blessed with God's guidance about something that's been bothering me for a long time. I love it when I find His direction in unexpected places, when He speaks to me through others--oftentimes repeatedly, in case I don't get the message the first time! I believe He wants me to be patient and to rely on His timing, rather than on a timeline I feel is appropriate. So my goal for the next few weeks is to exercise patience, watch for His guidance, and read His Word.

Until the next time...

Monday, June 30, 2008

The clock is ticking...

The time is near. Soon we'll be bidding farewell to Mississippi and traveling on to Ron's next base. Anchorage, Alaska, here we come! Although packing up our belongings and moving from the house that's been our home for the past three years is wrenching, and leaving our loved ones in Michigan, Kentucky, and Florida is tough on the heartstrings, we're nevertheless anticipating our new home and the adventures that await us with high hopes and great expectations.

We're driving cross-country, then traveling the Alcan Highway into Canada for a couple of days, and back into the U.S. when we cross the Alaskan/Canadian line. I can't imagine the scenery that awaits us as we travel westward, then turn north toward our 49th state. We lived there before moving to Mississippi and it is truly one of God's greatest masterpieces.

This time, rather than living in the middle of the state near Fairbanks, we'll be on the coastline. Over 60% of the state's population lives in Anchorage and many of the same restaurants and stores that exist in the lower 48 can be found there as well. Although I'll miss seeing the northern lights as often as I did the first time I lived in Alaska, I'm sure the lower part of the state has enough beauty to delight me constantly.

I also look forward to continuing to write for the Lord, to greater inspiration and a renewed sense of responsibility toward fulfilling the purpose of my life. God has moved me (literally) in directions I never dreamed of when I was younger. I've seen more places, had more adventures, and been blessed in ways too numerous to list. I can't understand His generosity, but I will do my level best to live up to His expectations.

Until the next time...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mission Impossible? Never!

Who am I? What am I doing here? Do I have an assignment in life, a mission to perform? These and other questions are ones that, sooner or later, all human beings begin to ponder. I'm no exception.

My sister, Shelley, and I had an interesting email exchange today on that very topic. One of the characteristics I've always admired about my younger sister (younger by a mere thirteen months, mind you) is her drive. Shel has an enduring sense of direction; she sets a goal and attains it by literally writing down a list of things that must be done in order to reach that goal--and then doing them, one by one by one. It doesn't matter if it's as mundane as writing a shopping list or as complex as creating her own web site. It gets done because she gets it done. Despite a grueling painting schedule in her own art studio and gallery exhibitions of her work all around the country, multiple family fun-stuff occasions, her husband's heavy international business travel, a magazine-worthy herb and flower garden maintained strictly by the two of them, a huge house and no household help (other than her husband), three grown children (two in college, one married and forging her own career), and being in the late stages of developing an art residency along the rocky coast of Maine, she's also accepted a teaching position with Central Michigan University to teach art. I'd feel like Stretch Armstrong; she feels like the Energizer Bunny.

What does all this have to do with questioning who we are and what we're doing here? Everything. The point is, despite all the roles she plays in her life, Shelley knows who she is. Rather than being confused by the vigorous obligations of her busy life and getting lost in the drama and hub-bub of being so active in each one of them, she is instead invigorated by the pull and tug of the things she loves to do. She draws strength from what others might find exhausting; she grows and learns and stretches and succeeds because she dares to try.

Yes, she gets tired and there are times when she probably wonders if she'll get it all done. But she's made provisions for those times--she plans. She writes it down, reads it, does it, and then crosses it off her list. It sounds so simple and in theory, it is. The trick, of course, is in actually doing those four things and that's something Shel picked up on early in life. There's no way she could succeed as spectacularly as she has (and continues to do) if she didn't organize and then act on it. In order to do that, she has to know who she is and what she--with all her strengths and weaknesses, both her assets and her hang-ups--is capable of doing.

Successful writing is a similar proposition. We writers can dream and doodle and talk and participate in forums and form writing groups and read books and call ourselves writers all we want, but if we don't write, we aren't successful. If we don't know who we are, we can't do what we're supposed to do. And if we don't do what we're supposed to do, we're not fulfilling our mission or completing our assignment.

Bottom line: Knowing who we are + doing what we do best = fulfilling our dreams.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The new and improved DeeTales!

This is the inaugural post of my newly-designed, highly-improved, class-act blog. Many thanks go to George and Ashley Weis of Tekeme Studios for all their help in creating a blog design that so accurately reflects my wishes and the "feel" I wanted for my blog. I asked for a "writerly and Christian" design and they hit it spot-on. Not only were they incredibly friendly and easy to work with, but their professionalism and creativity were first rate. I highly recommend them and their studio to anyone looking for anything remotely associated with a web site, blog, copywriting, or any other professional needs along that line.

Thanks a million, George and Ashley! I will definitely be a repeat customer and look forward to working with you in the future when I need my web site and business cards designed.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Lazy days of summer

It's been a while since I've posted, but it's been time well-spent. Our week with 15-month-old Cannon is now behind us--aside from all our wonderful memories and tons of photos we need to have developed. Darice and Ron returned him to his mom this past Saturday and swapped him for his two older brothers. Dustin and Hunter will be staying for a full two weeks.

Already, we've had a blast. The boys have been swimming in their pool, played on the playground behind our house, ridden their bikes, had a movie and popcorn night, and had a little friend from down the street come to our house to visit. They played with our kitties, Maestro, and Mac the Bunny. Darice cleaned out the under-the-stairs closet so they can use it for their playroom/fort/toy stashaway. Frankly, they have it made. They're sleeping on a queen-sized inflatable mattress; they have lots of room and it's cushy and cozy. They've been very good about going to bed when we tell them to... and they're just as good about getting up in the morning. Early. Very, very early. But we wouldn't trade this time with them for any amount of sleeping-in time.

No, these are special days, days that will pass as quickly as water through a hose. At this moment in time, they think coming to visit Grandma and Aunt Darice and Uncle Ron is just the neatest thing imaginable. There will come a time, I know, when they will have little time for any of us. Sports, girls, friends, school, other activities, and just plain growing up will usurp the precious time we spend with them now. I will not forget a moment of it; I will keep these long, hot, lazy days of a Mississippi summer spent in the company of my grandsons in my mind and my heart for all time.

Until the next time...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Quality time

This Saturday, we'll be picking up our next-to-youngest grandson, Cannon, for a weeklong visit with Grandma and Aunt Darice and Uncle Ron. While his brothers, Dustin and Hunter, have visited us here many times, Cannon is just now getting to the age when he can be away from Mom for any length of time. We'll see how it goes. I'm looking forward to lots of giggles and hugs, sloppy kisses and sleepy cries. Whatever happens, though, we'll love being able to spend the uninterrupted time with him and relish the opportunity he'll have to feel at home at our house, to get to know us for more than a day or two at a time, and to show off all the things he's been learning at home. Mom tells me he's learned how to crawl out of his crib and other assorted escape measures that 15-month-old little boys (and girls) are thrilled to master. Even though he won't get more than a foot away before we scoop him up, he'll have the fun of knowing he did it--that he got one past us! There will be long walks and playground stops, splashing in the pool and going for rides, visiting the stores and getting a bite to eat somewhere.

Most of all, however, I'm looking forward to the quiet times when I can hold him and rock him and savor the oh-so-fleeting moments when he thinks being held by Grandma is the greatest thing in the world (short of being held by Mama, of course!). Those times, as do all precious times with our children and grandchildren, fly away at the "speed of growing up," that fastest of all phenonema experienced by little girls and boys the world over.

Then, a week from Saturday, we'll drive back up to our rendezvous point and swap little Cannon for his two brothers, who will begin their annual two-week summer visit at our house. They're old hands at visiting us here in Mississippi, so they no doubt have their itinerary all planned--if it's anything like it's been for the past few visits, it'll be an exhaustive one! But as with all wonderful things in this life, it's well worth the effort, time, money, short nights, long days, and skewed schedules just to have them with us.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us Dustin and Hunter and Cannon and Tyler to love and cherish, and for allowing us to help out their parents once in a while by having them spend quality time with us. We promise we'll do our part to see to it that these youngsters (and any others who may come along someday) are raised as children of You, our Heavenly Father.

Until the next time...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The countdown begins...

Life has taken on a new urgency in the past few days. Orders to McChord Air Force Base have been changed, and although my son-in-law is still going to Korea for a year, my daughter and I will be living in Anchorage, Alaska, rather than Tacoma, Washington, while he's gone. When he returns, he'll be stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base. We're all excited at the change in orders and looking forward to living once more in the land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. We'll be leaving on August 1st.

Before we moved to Mississippi, Darice and Ron completed a 4-year tour at Eielson AFB, near a small town called North Pole, Alaska, and just a few miles south of Fairbanks. I lived with them during their last year there. Eielson was a beautiful base, too, and the wildlife and scenery were breathtaking. But living in Anchorage will afford us a lot more of the comforts to which we've grown accustomed--malls, more restaurants from which to choose, warmer winters (although snowier than in the center of the state), a Barnes and Noble :-) and "up close and personal" views of the mountains. It will also be a bit easier to fly home from Anchorage than it was from Fairbanks, although it's still a hike back to Michigan, Kentucky and Florida! We'll make the necessary adjustments and arrangements, though, and hope to see our loved ones as often as possible.

The creative side of me is also thrilled to be moving to Alaska. Nothing invigorates me more than witnessing the awesome beauty of God's hand. In addition to being surrounded by mountains, water, and wildlife once we arrive in Anchorage, we have the trip out there to look forward to! Yes, it'll be a long one--about ten days, we calculate--but the experience will be well worth the sore bottoms and aching backs we might suffer from being in the car for hours on end each day. I've never driven across the United States or up through Canada on the ALCAN Highway. My excitement mounts daily as I think about the sights and sounds of a journey across the United States. God has truly been good to me!

Until the next time...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Family Time

Through the wise and ingenious efforts of my daughter, Darice, she and I will be driving to Kentucky tomorrow to meet with not only Dennae and her family, but my son and his wife, their 8-month old son, and my children's father and his second wife. This will be the first time in at least twelve years that I have had all three of my children in the same room with me--let alone with their father, too! Add to that happy mix the presence of all four of my grandsons and you've got a recipe for lots of fun and food, hundreds of pictures, and a weekend full of laughter, talk, and reminiscing.

My son and his wife haven't yet met Hunter and Cannon, nor have Darice and Dennae met Derek and Renee's son, Tyler. These four little boys will be meeting for the first time and I expect a good time will be had by all. As you can well imagine, I'm brimming with excitement at the thought of cuddling four little boys and hugging my grown children--all in the same day!

I pray for safe travel for all of my loved ones, for loving family time, for renewed appreciation of one another's opinions, decisions, goals, and for a weekend of fun and frivolity! Thank You, Lord, for my children, their spouses, and their children. Thank You for bringing me to a point in my life where this is even possible, and I ask that this be just the first of many more face-to-face reunions that our family is able to have in the years to come.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Family Ties

After a wonderful five-day visit, my dad left this morning (accompanied by his wife) to return to their home in Florida. He arrived last Friday and then his wife drove on to visit her daughter in Tennessee. She returned Tuesday afternoon and after spending the night, they took off early this morning.

For those few days, my dad and I enjoyed one another's company, shared memories, laughed, ate, cried, watched movies, and talked--a lot. We reminisced about family vacations, Mother (who died nearly six years ago), other loved ones, and our upcoming move to Washington. We shared silly jokes, took drives around the town and looked at beautiful historic homes with their yards awash in full-bloomed azaleas, shared breakfasts at McDonald's, and discussed cheesecake recipes.

Most of all, however, we reaffirmed our love for one another and for my brother and sister, all our children and grandchildren, and for my mother. We tightened those family ties and reinforced the bonds of love and memories that keep families together, no matter how far we may be from one another or how seldom we can visit.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us this time together and for those loved ones, on earth or in Heaven, we call family.

Until the next time...

Monday, March 31, 2008

On the move again...

Tacoma, Washington, here we come! Or more precisely, McChord Air Force Base just outside Tacoma, north of Olympia and south of Seattle, here we come. Ron was finally informed of the whereabouts of his next base, the one we'll be moving to this summer and that Darice and I will be living on, or close to, for the year he's in Korea.

The next few months are going to be busy ones. Not only is Darice trying to finish up some classes at Mississippi State University, but I'm embarking on a very ambitious path for my writing--one that will take enormous chunks of time and even more determination, thought, and dedication to the task-at-hand. Of course, Ron will be working his normal shift, as well as preparing for the move to his new duty station. There's a ton of outprocessing paperwork to be completed when a member of the military moves from one assignment to another. During all of this, we'll be packing our belongings, dividing them up into what we can't live without when we first get there and what we can get along without for however long it takes our furniture and other household items to catch up with us.

Hopefully, we're up to the challenge. The move is tentatively scheduled for some time in July. This is old stuff for Darice and Ron; they've moved to new duty stations several times. But for me, it's a relatively new procedure and I have to admit it's exciting. I'm looking forward to new surroundings, a cooler climate, gorgeous scenery, and an unfamiliar community to explore.

Until the next time...

Friday, March 21, 2008

If you ask me...

The last few days have been blessedly busy. A dear friend from Michigan drove all the way down here to Mississippi to visit me and we had a blast. Karen and I go back a long, long way. We worked together in the same office, married in 1970, became single parents in 1977, and had our children (two for her, three for me) one after another--starting in 1972 and working our way through 1976. To top it all off, our divorces were final during the same month of the same year.

There are other similarities in the twisting and turning paths our lives have taken, but one of the most interesting is that we're both writers. Karen and I even co-authored a newspaper column at one time. It was called "If You Ask Me..." and it appeared on Saturdays; she wrote it one week, I wrote it the next. But our shared column wasn't the only thing we wrote. Every spare minute of our adult lives, I believe, has been spent either jotting something down, observing others (and thinking of ways to incorporate their quirky ways into our latest work), reading, or actually sitting down and composing. We've helped one another with grammar, punctuation, wording, editing, titling--you name it, we've discussed it. We survived failed marriages, worked fulltime while raising little children in single-parent homes, and managed to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors when we were young and poor.

These last few days flew by. We laughed until our sides hurt at the crazy things we did (and thought) as idealistic young, single moms, and marveled at how well we turned out despite the frazzled lives we lived. We spent hours reminiscing, catching up with the events that transpired since we last saw one another. We reconnected in a way that emails and phone calls, as nice as they are, just can't do.

She's off to Gulf Shores now, and after that she'll travel to Tuscaloosa and then on up to Louisville to catch up with other old friends she holds dear. Karen may be a little on the crazy side, but that's exactly why I love her--and why her other friends cherish her friendship, as well. She shows me how to laugh in the face of adversity, how to cry when it's the only thing to do, to laugh when it's the best thing to do, and to be a friend under all circumstances. She brings out the best in me.

Thanks, Karen, for loving me enough to drive all this way for a visit and for reminding me once more what real friendship is all about. If you ask me, you're the best that ever was.

Until the next time...

Monday, March 10, 2008

New directions...

Sometimes I need a new direction, something new at which to take aim. I found that very thing a couple of days ago and I'm very excited about it. For a long time now, I've need a kick in the pants to reignite my passion for not only writing, but for submitting what I've written. For whatever reason, I've lost my confidence and stopped submitting pieces altogether. That's a very unsettling thing to happen to a writer, especially one who feels the days and months and years whizzing by at light speed.

Oh, I've written. Not a day goes by that I don't write something, and on most days, it's quite a bit. But I don't take it any further than that and that's not my purpose in this life. I firmly believe that I am to write for God; that He has called me to this passion and inspires me to do what He asks of me. The problem seems to be that I'm ignoring His direction--if not purposely, at least through pure laziness. I have the time, I have the equipment, I have the ability. What I don't have is an excuse for not submitting my work for publication on a timely and regular basis. As of right now, that's changing.

Until the next time...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ties that bind...

If home is where the heart is, then my heart is scattered in chunks across the nation. Some of it lies in Michigan, another chunk is in Kentucky, yet another in Florida. Still more pieces reside in Indiana and Georgia. My friends and loved ones aren't located in one handy place where I can keep tabs on them in person. No, the passage of time and circumstances beyond our control have sent us in different directions--geographically, at least. Emotionally, we are bound together with a long "bungee cord" of love that stretches as far as it needs to in order to keep us tethered. Whenever one of us needs a helping hand or emotional support or just feels the need to spend time in someone's company, a gentle tug on the cord is all it takes to bring us back together.

There's no place on this earth--or in the heavenly world beyond--where that cord can't reach. On earth, it keeps us bound; to the eternal kingdom above, it keeps us connected. There will come a time when I'll shimmy up that cord straight to Heaven and then watch my loved ones from above while they tug and pull and keep themselves bound not only to one another, but also to me, other loved ones in paradise, and to our Heavenly Father.

Until the next time...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Making the switch..

The clock continues to tick and in about 48 hours, I'll be meeting Darice and Ron at a Cracker Barrel where they will "make the switch" with Richie. In other words, we're meeting about midway to save everybody involved a drive longer than absolutely necessary. Since we're in the middle of another ice storm here in Kentucky, I'm praying for safe, dry roads on Saturday morning.

Although I've been able to maintain this blog, contribute to the Christian Writers Forum blog, and email my loved ones from here, it's been difficult to sit down and actually write. A household with four cats, two young boys, a one-year-old baby, and two working parents (one working third shift) creates a noisy, sometimes chaotic environment in which to concentrate for any length of time. It's darned near impossible, in fact. I'm looking forward to getting back into the writing groove and resuming some normalcy in my life. I've grown accustomed, I guess, to having my days largely to myself, being able to do just as I please (when I please), and not adhering to the schedules of schools, babies, or places of employment. Call me spoiled, but I've reached a point in my life where doing what I feel like doing or what I'm inspired to do at the moment has become very important to my well-being--not to mention avoiding bronchitis, stomach bugs, colds, sinus infections, and big bruises from falling down in the kitchen at night. Frankly, I need to get home just to stay in one piece!

Making the switch from full-time grandmother back to full-time "me" might be a welcome change, but it's no substitute for little boy hugs and slimy kisses, for checking three beds at night to make sure everyone's covered up and cozy, or waking up before dawn to big grins and happy giggles. I'm going to miss this place.

Until the next time...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Harvest

I can handle a lot of things--and I have. Two failed marriages, health and financial problems, the usual child-rearing scenarios and a multitude of other problems too numerous and mundane to mention are among the hassles I've experienced over time. Since they haven't killed me, I assume they've made me stronger.

But one thing I can't handle is betrayal. The loss of trust it creates is incalculable; the pain, heart-wrenching; and the ever-widening circle of suffering it triggers goes on forever. Who knows where a betrayal will end or when the pain will subside? Who can calculate the cost or measure the true repercussions? Certainly not us human beings. We're so limited in our thinking, in our capacity to see the big picture, to project our actions into the future and see just how, and who, we've hurt by our actions that we can only guess at what our behavior will ultimately harvest.

Being betrayed is bad enough. Watching your child being betrayed would be unthinkable. I know for a fact that it would bring out the very worst in me; perhaps that is yet another nasty side effect of this kind of treachery--in addition to the initial agony, it also causes others to sin against their fellow man and more importantly, their Heavenly Father. Our thoughts, if voiced aloud, would no doubt betray us and reveal the very real feelings of anger and blame and deep disappointment we would naturally feel--as loving, caring parents--on our child's behalf.

I pray I never face that situation.

Until the next time...

Monday, February 11, 2008

Time well-spent

It's true what they say: Time flies when you're having fun! It's been a week since I've posted and those seven days have flown by. But we've been busy here in Kentucky and the past few days have been well-spent.

We held a combined birthday party this past Saturday for Hunter, who turned five on February 7th, and his baby brother, Cannon, who will turn one year old on the 21st. It was a gala event with lots of family members in attendance, two birthday cakes (both puppy-themed), colorful balloons, and presents galore. It was well worth all the preparation that went into it and even though the boys may not remember the specifics, they'll grow up with the full knowledge that their mommy and daddy love them so much that they'll go to great lengths to make their birthdays memorable. The same thing will happen when Dustin turns seven in May.

I've been so busy having fun with the boys that I've neglected my writing and this blog. It's always been my intention to use this personal blog to glorify the Lord in any way possible and when I neglect it, I feel as though I've lost an opportunity to tell of His faithfulness and love. The fact that I'm in Kentucky and capable of helping out with the day care for my grandsons is proof of His unfailing love. He knows better (even than I do) of my love for the boys and my need to be useful. I want to be the best mother, mother-in-law, daughter, sister, and grandmother I can possibly be, but sometimes money, distance, and time restrictions don't allow as much participation as I would like. This opportunity to spend a long period of time with the boys has truly been a God-send!

By the time my visit ends here in Kentucky, I'll be ready to go back home to Darice and Ron and resume my life there with them and the pets. I'll need some rest, no doubt, but I'm doing surprisingly well and I give all the credit for that to the Lord. He's given me all the strength I've prayed for. He knows how I want to appear to my grandchildren, i.e., thriving, useful, caring, capable and loving. I don't want them to remember me for my physical limitations (as invisible as they are), but for what I was able to do with them. I want them to recall how we played and laughed and worked together, how we shared jokes and told stories and cuddled. I want them to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that their Grandma Harper loves them (and their little cousin, Tyler) as much as I love their parents--and that God loves them even more!

Until the next time...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Making hay in Kentucky

I've been in Kentucky for nine days. Each of those days has brought its sorrows (in the form of aches and pains and a horrible cold) and joys (just about everything else). My dream of being a hands-on grandma has come true and it's just as wonderful as I imagined it would be.

While I won't be here beyond February, this month will give me a chance to do all the things I've dreamed of doing for (and with) three of my four grandsons. Being here for them first thing in the morning, all through the day, and right up to the last thing at night have been goals of mine since I first learned I was going to be a grandmother. Helping them with homework and valentines, planning birthday parties, supervising playtime, making forts out of kitchen chairs and blankets, reading books, and sitting on the floor playing with cars--all of these are worthy and longed-for activities for a grandma who doesn't have a chance to do these things anytime she gets the urge. No, I have to make hay while the sun shines and I've got a lot of hay piled up--and a lot more ready to be baled.

By the time I return home to Mississippi, I fully expect to be exhausted, sore, and sad to leave my grandmothering days behind for the time being. But until then, I'm bound and determined to do what I can to make joyful memories for my little boys.

Until the next time...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Time flies and blessings flow...

After a very pleasant drive from Mississippi, I am once again in Kentucky. For the next month, I will have the great pleasure of taking care of three of my precious grandsons. Aside from much colder weather than we were having in Mississippi, my transition to Kentucky living has been a smooth one.

While I'm here, both Hunter and Cannon will have birthdays; Hunter turns 5 and Cannon will be a year old. It doesn't seem possible that twelve months have passed since I was here at this time last year, helping out Dennae when she was ordered to complete bedrest by her doctor. On February 21st, Cannon was born. And here we are, one year later. Time does certainly fly, but I've found that it does that whether or not you're having a good time! Fortunately for me, and thanks to the Good Lord, I have been having a good time. My life is filled with one blessing after another and the chance to be with three of my four grandchildren is wonderful!

Now if I could just find a way to get the fourth one down here!

Until the next time...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Turnabout

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday I was down and out because I'd decided I couldn't provide daycare for my three grandchildren. I reversed that decision last night and today I'm feeling good about it. I'll still have to be careful not to overextend myself--this body of mine is still rebelling against anything remotely "glutenified"--but as this is a lifelong affliction, I'll have to learn to live with it under any and all circumstances. And this won't be the two-month-long situation that I first envisioned. I have doctor's appointments and other obligations here at home to bring me back after a month, but at least I'll be doing what I can.

I'm praying that my decision is the best for everyone concerned. While I'll miss my daughter and son-in-law with whom I live, and my brand new baby kitty, Maple (along with our other pets), I'm looking forward to the opportunity to spend unlimited time with my grandsons and to make a lasting impression on them. Cannon, the youngest of this particular family (I have yet another lovable grandson, Tyler, who is only five months old), is going to be a year old on February 21st. He's getting ready to take his first steps and I want to be on-hand when he does.

I was blessed to be able to spend ample time with both Dustin and Hunter when they were babies. In fact, we lived under the same roof for a good share of their first years. That hasn't been the case with Cannon and although I know that actually living with your grandchildren is not a benefit that most grandparents have, I would like to have that same bonding experience with the youngest of the three boys. I want to be a positive influence in his life and starting when he's young will help me to do that. I firmly believe that grandparenting can be (and often is) done very well long-distance, but if I have a chance to spend time with him during his formative months, well, so much the better.

I'm trusting, as always, that the Lord will guide my steps and that I'm doing what is best for not only my grandsons, but for my children and me, as well. Juggling responsibilities, good intentions, realistic expectations, and distance is not easy. Throw in the desire to be a good grandparent and a helpful parent, and it really gets complicated.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Down and out...

I was very sad today. I had to tell my youngest daughter I couldn't go to Kentucky to help out with childcare for my three beloved grandsons for the next couple of months. Oh, I had a good reason--I'm so sick I can barely get my head off the pillow and I can blame that on accidentally "glutening" myself a day or so by eating soup in a restaurant. Being a newbie to this Celiac stuff, I didn't take the proper precautions against eating even the tinest amount of gluten--or food that could have gluten in it. I gambled and lost.

What does that have to do with not being able to babysit for the next couple of months? Just that I can't trust my body not to betray me again and nobody needs a grandma hanging around who's so sick she can't do what she's there to do in the first place. If there's one thing I know I can do, without a shadow of a doubt, it's that I can be a wonderful grandma to my grandsons. But I can't be wonderful if I feel cruddy. I can't help others if I can't help myself. I can't be Wonder Woman when I'm busy wondering what's making me sick this time.

That's a problem with me--trying to be Wonder Woman. I spent so many years promising myself that I would be a "hands on" grandma when my grandchildren came along (and up to this point, I've done just that) that I didn't allow any margin for error, or distance, or illness. I didn't count on being human. I thought I could do it all. I can't. I thought I could put aside my aches and pains, postpone my doctors' appointments, or take my meds and just not think about my ailments without serious repercussions. I'm slowly learning just how wrong I was.

Of course, my daughter understands completely and the boys don't even know their grandma let them down. Perhaps it's better this way. Maybe spending that length of time with them when I was feeling sick and miserable would put a different spin on their view of Grandma.

I think maybe God knows a lot more about me than He's letting on. I need to listen more and plan less. I need to ask for His guidance instead of relying on my desires. I need to take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.

But it still made me sad.

Until the next time...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Waiting it out...

I have had a cold now for a good two weeks. This isn't just your run-of-the-mill-sniffles type cold; no, this is a box-of-tissues-a-day cold. This is a "how on earth can my head produce so much gunk in such a short period of time" cold. This one has got me down.

I have a variety of things wrong with me, but because they're not life-threatening and don't cramp my style at all (thank goodness my style isn't Olympic hurtling or Mt. Everest-climbing), for the most part, I can ignore them. I take my meds, they do their job, and everyone's happy--particularly the drug companies. But this cold is different. Nothing I do for it puts a dent in its super-human ability to produce massive amounts of fluids. All I can do is stem their flow and wait it out.

Sometimes life is like that. We can't stop the dam from breaking, but we can slow it down and maybe channel its flow to a better place. We can't obliterate crime, but we can make sure we don't participate in it and take precautions to prevent our being victims. We can't stop sin from ruling our world, but we can take refuse to let it rule us and take heart that it's a temporary reign, that a sinless, disease-free, crime-free eternity awaits those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It's comforting to know that in Heaven, I won't have this cold, no matter how long it seems to be taking to pass. Sometimes I think the best part about suffering inconveniences is that we feel so darned good when they're behind us. If that's the case, I'm looking forward to feeling downright euphoric in a few days!

Until the next time...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Special delivery

I am so incredibly blessed! The postman just delivered a package to me--a very special one from my sister. Earlier this week she mentioned she had sent me a "mid-winter pick-me-up" and did she ever!

When I opened it, I discovered an adorable pair of orange slipper socks with colorful flowers and sparkly beaded centers, the perfect desk calender (Book Lover's Calendar for 2008), a copy of David Baldacci's Wish You Well (she knows how I love his writing), a tube of my very favorite (and very special) Sally Hansen peppermint foot creme, and a delicious-smelling Village Candle. (Well, I'm sure it smells delicious, although at the moment I can't smell a thing. But anything called "Angel Kisses" has to smell heavenly, doesn't it?!) And to top it all off, she sent me four pocket-packs of tissue. Now that might sound odd, but Shelley knows my constant need for tissues--at my bedside, in my bathroom, on my desk, around the house, and especially in my purse. I never have enough. She couldn't have sent anything more practical or useful or desired, for that matter.

And how does she do it? How does she know exactly what I need, what will comfort me, amuse me, inspire me, be useful to me? Because she loves me and she listens. She really and truly listens. She has amazed me time and again with her ability to give me things I thought no one knew I wanted but me. She doesn't shrug her shoulders and sigh, "I just don't know what to get her anymore." No, she constantly comes up with delightful gifts--either unexpectedly, like this one, or at Christmases or birthdays, or "just because." Shel astounds me with the way she shows me that she loves me, with the way she respects my needs and my wants and recognizes even those little things I know I don't need or deserve, but just would love to have.

Shelley is of the "use it up and get some more" school. No setting things up on a shelf because they're too pretty to use or to burn or scribble on or fill up with notes and ideas. Nope, she believes things should be enjoyed for what they are and when they're all gone--well, there are plenty more where they came from. She lives every moment of her life with a zest that few people can match. She appreciates the sights and sounds and smells and textures of all things. She delights in serving her family and guests delicious meals and then showering them with comfort and luxury and a feeling that you're the most special person in the whole wide world.

That's a gift--not only a gift that God has bestowed upon Shelley, but one that she uses freely to make others feel loved, appreciated and thought of. And all that love and thoughtfulness was tucked into my box today, surrounding all my wonderful gifts. I wonder if the mailman had any idea just what a special package he was delivering?

Until the next time...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hard Lesson Learned

After settling back into writer mode after my foray to the north to visit my daughter, her husband and the three young'uns, I found myself in a dilemma. A bad one. My trusty laptop, the machine I carry with me everywhere--Florida, Michigan, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississipppi--has died. I have a nice new one now, thanks to the knowledge and generosity of my daughter and son-in-law, and I love it. But I need some things that are still encased in the hard drive of my old computer and it simply refuses to boot up. Although I have those documents (supposedly) on a thumb drive, I can't seem to get it to open up and transfer to the new computer. So I'm resigned to being plagued with computer problems until my old one is somehow cured long enough for me to retrieve my things or someone figures out what to do with this reluctant thumb drive. That could be tomorrow or it could be five years from now. Let's hope it's somewhere between those two extremes.

I learned a very valuable lesson, though. I need to back up absolutely everything I write--every single day. I've heard the warnings, commiserated with those who have had similar problems, and thought about what would happen if that fate befell me... well, it has. And just thinking about backing up documents isn't good enough. I have to do it. Often.

Not all is lost, though. I know there's someone out there who can tease that information out of my laptop and I do have the majority of my work safely settled onto the hard drive of my new machine, thanks to a CD I burned a few months ago. If anyone reads this, I hope my disaster will serve not only as a hard lesson for me, but as a warning for others.

Until the next time...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Road trip...

The new year has been good to me so far. I returned a couple of days ago from a short visit to Kentucky for the purpose of delivering the bunkbeds and dresser that we bought for Dustin, Hunter and Cannon (and, of course, for spending time with my family). Those beds are now set up and being used by two very grateful and excited little boys. Their baby brother will no doubt have some fun with them when he gets a little older. Right now, his world revolves around Mommy and Daddy and his brothers--new bunkbeds and a boring new dresser in the bedroom he shares with Dustin and Hunter are of no consequence to a ten-month-old!

What made this visit a bit different from several other visits I've made to Kentucky from Mississippi was that I made the trip alone. Darice wasn't able to accompany me this time (the new term at Mississippi State started), so the driving was entirely up to me. Now I've driven many, many miles during my lifetime. I've made numerous solo trips over the years and despite the long list of things that can go wrong, the Lord has blessed me every time with a safe ride. The weather may not have been ideal, the traffic might have been busier than I would like, I may have gotten lost or forgotten to buy gas until it was a downright emergency, but all in all, I've emerged unscathed from my miles on the road alone.

This trip was no different. Despite being a bit leery at the outset, my confidence rose with each passing mile. I had forgotten just how much fun a road trip can be! The weather on the way up was fantastic--sunny skies, dry roads, lighter-than-expected traffic. The return trip was overcast and dreary, but despite dire predictions of nasty storms for the entire length of my journey, I didn't encounter any. (They hit later that night.) I listened to (and sang along with) the radio, watched the passing scenery, and kept a close eye on my map. I made the necessary bathroom stops and picked up a cup of coffee or iced tea once in a while and still made good time. Before I knew it, I was at my destination.

But I know I wasn't really traveling alone. I may not have had another person sitting in the passenger seat, but I know I had divine company in the form of ministering angels and the Holy Spirit Himself. I know just as sure as I'm sitting at my computer this very moment that the Lord was with me as I drove up and back, just as He will be with anyone who asks for His presence.

Thank You, Lord, not only for a safe journey, but for riding along with me.

Until the next time...