LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE

Hope for Hardscrabble Times – A Hill Country Christmas

Let me introduce you to my new writer friend, Shannon Mcfarland. She’s a “born writer” contributing a story to our A Hill Country Texas–Hope for Hardscrabble Times collection. You’ll see here how her observations on a simple snail flow. LOVELY! Reprinted with permission, first published on FB page Hope For Hardscrabble Times, August 20, 2022.

Hey y’all, Shannon here! I recently recovered from Covid. Thankfully, my symptoms were mild and the worst side effect was the frustration of being quarantined at home. I found working from home to be terribly boring and was anxious to get back to my normal routine of nonstop movement. Now my morning routine was taking a Covid test, being hopeful for a negative response, and being disappointed when it would read positive.

One morning I was especially pouty over my positive test (although I did make myself feel a little better with the reminder that at least it wasn’t a positive pregnancy test.) and decided to go water the plants in my drought stricken yard. I had transplanted a jasmine from our old house and was doing my best to keep it alive in the brutal summer heat. Usually, this means I hurriedly dump water on it as I rush off to do something else.

This morning, I decided to take my coffee out with me and sit on the porch next to the Jasmine while watering it slowly. As I gently poured out the water, I noticed the ground next to the jasmine moving… right before a tiny snail popped his head above ground looking for water. I looked around for a leaf that would make a suitable cup.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

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Then I carefully dripped water off of my finger tips into the curled underside of the leaf before positioning it close to the snail. I sat lost in the moment and watched captivated as the snail greedily drank the water from the leaf. The experience reminded me of a favorite childhood book about fairies and elves having picnics and dances with garden creatures under a full moon. I always wished I could join their fun.

Now here I was, sharing the morning with a snail. Me with my cup of coffee, him with his leaf of water. The snail was on his third leaf of water when it occurred to me to see if I could get a video. I have since sat on the porch with my coffee in hopes my snail friend might be enticed to come join me for a fresh leaf of water.

So far, Mr. Snail has declined. While I can’t say I am happy I had Covid, I can say that I will always be grateful one of the side effects was slowing down enough to enjoy a morning with a snail.

Gail here–hopefully, your end-of-summer is providing moments like this. Moments to reflect, to ponder, to connect! We have been having fun connecting over on the HOPE FOR HARDSCRABBLE TIMES FB page–come on over and join us for news of our Christmas Collection and the upcoming book tour!

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The Back Side of Summer (and suffering)

As August approaches full bloom, some surprises surface. Just outside our windows, some intrepid morning glories we DID NOT PLANT are all about decorating an old trellis after the clematis has died out for the year. I took the photo from the inside, through the screen, but these beauties are still gorgeous.

Not far away, this upstart sunflower lifts its head to its source. Thank you birds, for planting this one, and Granddaughter Cora for snapping this shot. We’ve noticed how every morning, the blossom turns eastward to greet the morning sun, and by afternoon, has revolved to the other side of our world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about pain lately–so many types to consider. My Texas friends post photos of deep crevasses in their soil because of the horrible drought. Such a heart-rending form of loss. A few weeks ago, a long-time friend of mine passed from this life after a seemingly endlesss battle with cancer.

Another friend faces surgery for breast cancer in two weeks, and another, only 38 years old with an infant and a young child, has entered the same struggle. You all have many other names to add to this list–suffering lurks everywhere around us.

Of course, we’ve all heard how it makes us better people in the long run. Some of us have memorized these promises, claimed them . . . but when sorrow or pain or terrible loss hits us, we may forget their consolation for a time.

To quote R. W. Emerson: Every moment instructs, and every object; for wisdom is infused into every form. It has been poured into us as blood; it convulsed us as pain; it slid into us as pleasure; it enveloped us in dull, melancholy days, or in days of cheerful labor; we did not guess its essence until after long time.

“We did not guess its essence until after long time.” Wisdom coming to us in pain? Sure doesn’t feel like it!

Every single moment instructs us–looking back over some of the worst situations of my life, I know this is true. One recent outstanding circumstance comes to mind–the April night before surgery for my broken femur. Confined to bed, watched over by caring nurses, I “got used to” my new state. And right in the middle of my conjectures, someone’s comment reminded me of all the good that had come my way during the past year.

A sense enveloped me that, based on these past experiences, all would be well this time, too. If my Creator could resolve those long-term struggles, surely this one lay within the reach of grace.

How many times have I traveled this route with one of my characters? A reader wrote me yesterday, asking if I had planned from the beginning for a horrendous loss to strike one of them. No, I hadn’t. As the story progressed, like real life, an almost unbearable grief entered his life–and he grew through the experience.

Just like we do.

Here’s the front side of the morning glories. Some years I’ve tried to transplant them, but they really do much better totally on their own. From the back, the glow of early morning sunshine makes this scene just as pretty. A new perspective…sunshine where we might not have expected it. Beauty poking into our kitchen.

Recently I read this on a FaceBook post, with no author mentioned:

Never regret a day in your life: good days give happiness, bad days give experience, worst days give lessons, and best days give memories.

When pain besets us, this becomes our challenge. Life is hard–yes, that’s true. But life also offers us so much that’s good, both on the front side and the back.

August Thoughts

Ttwitters outside my window tell the tale of a wren family’s second birthing this summer. Both of our wren houses have hosted these events–of course, we’re unsure if it’s two families, or one doing double-duty. Tell me if you know!

Lance has become such a great photographer–and as I’ve been mostly confined to watching from the window, his patience radiates to my heart. He’s been very patient with me, too, not an easy task since my second bone break/surgery this spring.

By July, I thought I’d be recuperated. By August, surely. But today I start a med I’ve always vowed to refuse. Shows what happens when you’re quite desperate.

Can we be “quite” desperate? Or is that like being quite pregnant?

Anyway, pain makes an intrepid teacher, and along with our courtyard flowers, our feathered family has provided a distraction. I can see them right this moment, Mama busy doing all she can to provide for her young, and Papa singing the most impressive songs. (I think he helps find worms, too, but am not sure.) Again, do tell if you know for sure!

Meanwhile, I’m so grateful I can still write most of the time. A Hill Country Christmas/Hope for Hardscrabble Times is about to go to press, thanks to Lynn Dean’s work…the sort of tedious labor that would drive me crazy.

We’re excited to look forward to more good times in Texas Hill Country in October, and I’m scheduled to facilitate an all-day workshop in Olathe, KS in November. To that end, I would really appreciate your prayers for this med to work. And if you’d like to boost our new FB page, we’d be thrilled. You’ve heard of FB jail? Well…let me just say one of our authors received an unwarranted penalty, so we could use your help in sharing/liking/etc.

https://www.facebook.com/ahillcountrychristmas/?notif_id=1658506714180216&notif_t=page_user_activity&ref=notif

Thanks for your support in so many ways!

The Old Days

For A Hill Country Christmas, each author has been sharing “stuff” about ourselves on our new FB page, Hope for Hardscrabble Times

In search of brilliant things to write, I came upon this tidbit from a rural 1960’s newspaper:

If you’re from the midwest, I imagine this won’t seem peculiar. But for my author friend out in Connecticut, it does. She marvels at the “stuff” written about friends and family, right in the weekly local newspaper.

The marked names (in yellow) are my cousin’s doing–she has the patience to find and send these remnants of the past my way, and I’m sograteful. In this instance, the farmer who lost his pinky finger in an accident played a huge role in my childhood, and reading about his accident tweaked one of my most vivid memories–the day he got tangled up in the corn picker.

It’s the only Thanksgiving I recall, at Grandpa and Grandma’s, eating turkey with all of the cousins, crammed into a plain small farmhouse. On warmer holidays we ran around outside, chased chickens, swung from the gate–figured out something to pass the time.

But late November in Iowa turns nasty cold, so we most likely sat around…maybe played cards or something. Lots of younger cousins kept me busy, and my aunts Donna and Shirley Donna and Shirley, mentioned in this issue, too, took an interest in us kids.

Then the phone rang. Dad had gotten hurt, so an uncle and Mom took off to drive him to the hospital. And we waited. My tendency for catastrophic thinking had a heyday…one of our uncles lost his entire arm in his corn picker and wore an interesting but kind of scary metal hook. Surely Dad would come home minus an arm, too.

Of course, it took forever to hear an update, so this scenes became stuck in time. I remember Aunt Shirley trying to comfort me, “Now, Gail. It’s probably just the very tip of his finger.”

In the end, “it” wasn’t as bad as I imagined–only a forfeited pinky finger. Dad had been through WWII, driven a truck across North Africa, watched a B47 fully loaded with soldiers returning home blow up on the tarmac.

That Thanksgiving day when I was about ten or eleven, he drove himself back to our house to clean up before going to the hospital. And he wore his lost pinky with pride, I might add.

Interesting how a few lines in a newspaper can make the memories flow!

If you like this step back into history, you’ll LOVE our FB page…HOPE FOR HARDSCRABBLE TIMES! Please give us a LIKE and a Follow.

https://www.facebook.com/ahillcountrychristmas

Riding in A Covered Wagon– not all it’s cracked up to be!

Donna Schlachter, Author and Story Teller, visits us this week with her new novel, Calli. Words that paint pictures, pictures that tell stories, and stories that change hearts. Read on for information she learned researching her latest novel and a GIVEAWAY.

I love western movies. The long rides into the sunset. Horses that always do what you ask of them. People who help you out of a tough spot. The bad guy always gets what’s coming to him. And, of course, travel in a covered wagon–comfortable, convenient, and carefree.

What’s that? Wrong!?

But that’s the way movies show them, isn’t it? Rolling along across the flat prairie. Children skipping alongside. Butter churned by the end of the day. Complete dinners prepared over a campfire. Coffee always available.

As any of the hundreds of thousands of westward emigrants could attest—and often did, in their journals, letters home, and books—covered wagons and their journeys weren’t as easy a way to journey as we think.

In researching my recent book, Calli, I discovered the following facts which I found very interesting:

  • Although most movies show Conestoga wagons, they were rarely used in the west because they were too heavy to pull up and down mountains. Instead, the small and lighter wagon, often a simple farm or cargo wagon, was used.
  • Oxen were used even more often than horses. Oxen are stronger, can pull for more hours a day, and are more durable than horses.
  • Clambering into a covered wagon involves getting your body up at least five feet above the ground. Step stools were rare, so unless somebody stood on the bed and hauled you up, your path usually involved the wheel hub, the top rim of the wheel, then gripping the side of the wagon and hoisting your leg over. All in a skirt and several layers of petticoats that reached to your ankles, if you’re a woman. 

Giveaway: I will gift one lucky randomly-drawn winner with an ebook copy of Calli. Leave your answer to the following question AND include your email address cleverly disguised in this format: donna AT livebytheword DOT com  That way the spammers can’t find you, but we can!

Question: What’s the strangest vehicle or method of conveyance you’ve ridden/driven in. For me, the moto-taxis in Lima Peru. 

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. 

Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter! www.DonnaSchlachter.com

BLOSSOMING

Recently my sis gave me this vase for my birthday. (We agree not to give each other gifts, but sometimes the temptation overwhelms us.)

Don’t you love the whole idea of blossoming? Blossoms, though fragile and short-lived, make such a difference in our world. This year, especially, when I’ve been pretty much confined to the house, flowers in bloom (seen through the windows) have really spread cheer.

BUT during the past few days, I’ve been able to walk about a little bit . . . water the pots on our deck, relocate a couple of misplaced plants, smell blossoms, even take a short walk on our back path with Lance right beside me. Ahh…lovely!

Seems to me that blossoming is what most of us truly long to do. We want to use our gifts to brighten this sad old world. I’m grateful for writing as a vehicle to do just that. To that end, I’ve been working on short stories lately, tales from history (both long ago and recent) that warm the heart.

These will appear in A Hill Country Christmas, releasing in September. How fun to work with Hill Country author Lynn Dean and several others to create a lovely book for readers to enjoy this winter!

It’s already nearly July, and soon autumn colors will brighten our blossoms. That’s okay, too–fall = my favorite season.

May this season of life bring you joy as you use your gifts.

Eighty Years Ago in Summer’s Heat

Sweltering temps have arrived in full force. Reminds me that eighty years ago, some American citizens had been ushered into poorly insulated camps to sweat out the summer. Taken from their homes in various areas of our country as potential enemy aliens and shipped to internment camps, they had no choice.

Years later, some government officials regretted these actions, especially in certain specific cases where very slim evidence led to arrests of innocent families and great hardship.

LAND THAT I LOVE addresses this historical situation that I discovered through my research for this novel. Of course, I knew about Japanese and Italian citizens forced from their homes and livelihoods. But who had heard of this occurring to German American citizens, as well?

Sometimes we uncover disheartening facts about the past–a camp specifically for German-American citizens sat deep in the heart of Texas. Imagine the heat these interned Americans endured! It’s good to understand the tensions people experienced during World War II, and to learn from the ways they coped.

If this bit of information intrigues you, I think you’d enjoy reading Land That I Love.

Anchored Hearts

Julie Arduini has visited DARE TO BLOOM before, but this time, she’s really been industrious! She’s introducing a the first novel in her six-book Surrendering Hearts series. She shares her unique plot idea with us, and is offering a choice of a paperback copy or an e-book to a commenter here.

I enjoy hearing the inspiration behind new things.  Couples and how they met. Employees and how they ended up in their career. Authors and how they came to the idea for their book. With my new release, Anchored Hearts, it’s quite the journey on how the book and series started.

 My new series, Surrendering Hearts, revolves around the question, what if a family with a unique birth story stayed in the national spotlight because of tragedy? It took a while to come to that question, but it all started with a chat one day I had with my sister. We were talking about unique birth stories and she encouraged me to write about it. One idea we tossed around was about donor siblings. We also talked about multiples.

I followed the McCaughey septuplets since their birth and looked forward to the annual interview Ann Curry would host showing the world how the family was doing. When that conversation came with my sister, I thought about a fictional family of multiples.

From there, I considered how inspired and challenged I was watching This is Us. The writing fascinated me. How did they create such complex characters and span those decades? When that drama started, I wondered could I even attempt writing anything with a big family at the center? 

It took years of starts and re-starts, but Surrendering Hearts is a fleshed-out six book series about the fictional Hart sextuplets from Upstate New York. Each sibling will get their own book to answer the question about the national spotlight. Each book will also show their quest to discover their own identity and find a love like the one their parents shared. 

First up is Jordyn, the oldest and the one having a hard time giving up control. What happens when she has a new job and colleague who is just like her?

Can two go-getters surrender their need to control and find a happily-ever-after?

Jordyn Bell Hart succeeds in most everything she does. Her promotion to morning show co-anchor blossoms her career in the same way her mother’s work did. Jordyn keeps tabs on her family and enjoys helping them grow. When life around Jordyn starts to change, can she surrender her desire to control?

Spencer Collins knows how to balance a busy life. He has his work as a reporter, his time caregiving for his grieving father, and looking out for his little brother. When he learns he’s the new co-anchor of a morning show with Jordyn Hart, can he handle working with a celebrity who brings a lot of challenges to life on and off the set?

Anchored Hearts

Genre: Christian/Clean & Wholesome romance

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Anchored-Hearts-Surrendering-Book-ebook/dp/B09XH1KVXD

Softcover: https://www.amazon.com/Anchored-Hearts-Julie-Arduini/dp/1733687645

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored HeartsRepairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at juliearduini.com and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://linktr.ee/JulieArduini.

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to find freedom in Christ by surrendering the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the new contemporary romance series SURRENDERING HEARTS (Anchored HeartsRepairing Hearts, +four more.) Her other romance series is SURRENDERING TIME (Entrusted, Entangled, Engaged.) She also co-wrote a YA series with her daughter, SURRENDERING STINKIN’ THINKIN’ (You’re Beautiful, You’re Amazing, You’re Brilliant.) Her stand-alone romances include MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN and RESTORING CHRISTMAS. Julie maintains a blog at juliearduini.com and participates in the team blog Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://linktr.ee/JulieArduini.

Primroses in June

What could be prettier than primroses in the dappled shade of a cottage garden?

Just ask Keats or Byron or another Romantic poet . . .

My reply– nothing could be prettier.

Or maybe primroses amidst a daisy patch?

But then I spied these. Best of all would be primroses in bright sunlight that highlights the unique patina of each petal.

And there you have it, my inspiration for today. I’m editing for someone, and the manuscript’s adjectives, metaphors, and other colorful language brings the characters to life. That’s our goal, always–whether writing fiction or nonfiction.

So many nuances to each lovely, delicate primrose!