August activities, and…comparing

My FB page report for the week says activity is up by 1,450 percent. That sounds great. The trouble is, I have no idea why.

I traveled to Ames this week to meet potential students for my September OLLIE memoir writing class, and had fun chatting with some writers. Ahh…my favorite folks–looking forward to getting to know them and their stories better in a few weeks!

Friday night we saw “Annie” performed by Cedar Summer Stock. All of their 2018 performances featured incredible voices, choreography, costumes, and scenery…what more could anyone ask? Watch for them next summer.

On Saturday, we went to a cousin’s house for a family picnic. Oh my, what a spread. My gluten-sugar-lactose free offering turned out fine, but compared to the other great fare, well…actually, another one of our granddaughter’s quotes says it best: Comparison is the THIEF of joy. 

So there you go–why compare? And that brings me to flowers: observe.

Specimen one, an amazing geranium.

Specimen two, Gerber daisies in full spread.

And last, but not least, this year’s spectacular yellow begonias. I can’t get over how from delicate pale yellow clamshells (lower right), such incredible blossoms emerge.

So what’s to compare, right? Three lovely floral beauties, each with so much to offer. Yet, we compare things…and people… constantly.

Merriam-Webster defines compare as to examine the character or qualities of especially in order to discover resemblances or differences or to view in relation to.

I’ve been comparing the manuscript I’m working on with its predecessors. Why would I do this? Maybe because this story  has given me lots of challenges from the get-go. The research  leads me deeper into comprehending the vast effects of World War II…but how can I possibly do this topic justice? Does comparing help? Not so much.

I’ve grown as a writer since the last one, so maybe I expected the process to be easier this time. Yes, maybe that’s it.

Yet this is a whole different flower. Yes, it’s that THIEF at it again! Just get back to this story unfolding right now. Forget about the others…seize the joys and frustrations of this one.

It’s healthy to have little self-chats like this from time to time, don’t you think?

Some World War II ladies we met at Bletchley Park

Talk about authentic…take a look at these women – oh, so stylish! The one with the white hat has a Veronica Lake “victory roll,” prevalent during World War II. This hair-do kept women’s hair out of the way in such a busy time, and helped them avoid accidents with machinery at their jobs, as well.

 

One of these ladies might work in a factory, like her American counterpart, Rosie the Riveter, or as a secretary to someone in Winston Churchill’s underground war rooms.

These are the types Addie and Kate would have encountered in Charles Tenney’s office, or on the streets of London.

 

Recalculating

For over a week I’ve been telling myself I must start blogging again, after quite a traumatic time of grief in our little church. This word recalculating keeps coming to mind – you know, the voice on the GPS that tells you to re-define your direction?

During times like this, support and encouragement arrive to cheer our hearts. Lance’s photography hobby stalled for a while, but this morning he captured this little wren singing her heart out in one of our lilac bushes.

Realizing how tragedies affect pastors, a friend sent us flowers. I’m drying the gorgeous yellow roses upside down to hoard something of this bouquet’s beauty, to remind me of his kindness.

It’s probably no coincidence that my sign Love deeply, be happy, and share the joy got included in this photo, albeit upside down. It’s a good reminder that loving deeply, though this kind of loss causes great pain, is worth the effort.

If you’re acquainted with Addie and Kate and Domingo from my books, you know how this concept applies. I’ll leave the analyzing to you this time, and share another cheerful birdie pic…

Such gloomy days here lately, but we had to smile when Iowa’s state bird paid us a visit.

There, I’ve written a blog again – thanks for waiting. I want to let you know, too, that Lance and I will be leaving this week for our fortieth anniversary journey to England. Lots of research ahead…soooo many WWII museums and airfields and STORIES – Oh MY!

I plan to send updates, so stay tuned. I imagine we’ll  be recalculating often during this trip! And thanks again for taking valuable time to read what I write and passing on the news.

 

Sunshine and Clouds

Last night’s storm produced a gorgeous landscape this morning.

I’ve been trying to capture the beauty – certainly wish Lance were here – he’d do a far better job. But still, I keep snapping shots.

These two look a lot alike, but the second highlights the sunshine a bit more. A little difference in perspective. Put together with the photos Lance sent of Iowa’s ice storm last week, it’s all about glistening and shimmering.

 

Not to mention frigid and frustrating to people with plans for the day.

But consider the shimmering. The storm immersed every single centimeter of each twig, blade of dried grass, and object in its path. No escape, for ice makes no exception.
As my husband says about situations we must accept, “it is what it is.” And from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, ice slashing down from the skies creates a beautiful scene.

Now, the storm that hit here last night is headed north, and I doubt many are looking forward to more cold and snow. Thankfully, winter cannot last forever.

Recently, a neighbor from my childhood contacted me. We’ve been sharing our perspectives and I’m learning so much. Our families weren’t close, so her perceptions of “the way we were” shine a fresh light on the past. Kind of like sunshine on snow.

Our correspondence takes me back…way back. And that, of course reminds me of Addie on her Iowa farm back in World War II, and her bff Kate writing her encouraging letters from London. An avid reader recently wrote me that she stayed up nights for two weeks reading this novel and its sequels.

In my youth, I’d NEVER have imagined I’d one day create such a series, though books were my best friends. The ups and downs back then, though, shaped me into a writer. It is what it is, and I’m determined to seek the sunshine

 

 

Glories

I’ve never had much luck with morning glories, but this year, decided to try again. Wow … it’s struck me how extremely fragile they are–yet many consider them a weed.

IMG_3856These didn’t bloom until the second week of September, but take a look…their periwinkle hue is So beautiful! In this photo of my husband’s, you can see how transparent the blossoms are…talk about delicate.

 

They burst open in the morning, but around noon, start to close up, and by mid-afternoon, you’d never know they’d shared their color with the world.

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Contemplating these gorgeous flowers’ short-lived blooming time set me to thinking of parallels. The most obvious, perhaps, is my faith. Though I’d rather it be constant, full-blossomed all the time, and reliable, reality says otherwise.

I waited all summer for these blossoms to show their glory, and truly appreciated them when they finally appeared. Not like steadfast marigolds that keep blooming the entire season, these frail lovelies can make their appearance and fade before you get a chance to observe.

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Still, they’re beautiful, if only in fits and starts. And all this reminds me of another fact: normal standards fall short when measuring worth.

Those who seem weakest may make a huge difference in small and seemingly insignificant ways. My World War II research overflows with people who tended their posts, no matter how mundane. No setting the world on fire, but still a certain glory in making a contribution.

My characters are like this, everyday folks intent on doing their best. One of them recently told me I’m not finished with her story, even if I thought I’d reach The End. No, she wants to contribute more, desires to make a greater sacrifice for the war effort.

Back to the drawing board … here’s hoping the result will enhance her story. And during the rainy, overcast day while I worked on that plot, guess what happened? More glories, multicolored!

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Scents and Sense

Here it is, September. Yesterday was the anniversary of the day my husband asked me to marry him. This will be our fortieth year of bliss/blessing/blundering on together. And something about the slip in the seasons–any Midwesterner can feel it in the air–makes me nostalgic.

Today I took some photos of the scents around me.

Rosemary, a heavenly aroma so akin to lavender.

Parsley, that clean drift in the wind.

Sage, bringing autumn flavors to mind. What would stuffing be without sage, and who wants to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy it?

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Peppermint, adding a little more pizazz to an end-of-summer breeze and some gorgeous blossoms, besides. Ahh…our sense of smell has delights to offer during this season.As writers and readers, sometimes we can let one of our senses go wild. Wish I could bottle these up and send them your way!

 

 

 

This morning, a nifty anonymous quote appeared on my teabag- thank you, whoever came up with this:

                  The ones who say, “You can’t” and “you won’t”

                  are probably the ones scared that you will.

 

 

Will this little house wren move into our rather dilapidated offering?

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Will this American tree sparrow father a healthy brood of chicks this summer?

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Will my poor tulips make it through the cold spell we’ve been having?

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And this early butterfly, will it …” I’ll let you think of a question about this delicate creature.

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And what about us? Will we take the plunge to submit our writing for publication? Will we go through with our plan simplify our lifestyle?

Will we … what ever decisions we face, chances are some naysayers exist. Mine live mostly in my own heart, so I’ve had to learn to ignore them. I used to hope they’d magically disappear, but that hasn’t happened in the past six decades, so I doubt it will.

Today, we’re attending our nephew’s high school graduation party. He’s such a cool young man – I hope he moves ahead through life with confidence and positivity.

Ignoring those who say we can’t or won’t–a good resolution to make as spring bursts into summer!

 

Oh MY!

Tonight when my husband and I returned from a walk at the close of this rainy Iowa day, we were looking up at the roof for some reason, and I spotted something that looked like a bird…sort of. But bigger.

Lance is nothing if he’s not persevering. He hung out until he captured an image of the creature…I can’t believe it! We have cardinals, house wrens, hummingbirds, and of course, crows in our yard. But this…never thought I’d see the like. Not here in our yard.

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Isn’t this the cutest baby owl? I’ve never spied one before, and this one added excitement to a rather gloomy, although productive day here in the Midwest. I’m a lot like my fiction characters, I guess – it doesn’t take a whole lot to make my day.

And this experience also goes to show that you can enjoy someone else’s hobby almost as much as you enjoy your own. Barn owls have made appearances in my historical fiction, and this little one…oh yes, you can bet she (or he) will pop up somewhere in a future story.

In the Swing of Spring

My baby kale’s peeking through the soil, and volunteer squash plants have emerged around the compost pile. The trees have leafed out, a sure sign that Spring isn’t just flirting with us anymore.

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And inside, I’ve experienced the fruits of my labor: the first box of In Times Like These arrived yesterday, on our thirty-eighth anniversary. This young World War II farm wife’s story has been long in the writing, and holding the finished creation brings undeniable satisfaction.

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Beside me on the wall hangs Emily Dickinson’s HOPE, which fits in with this season. It’s great to witness new birth all around us with our backyard cardinals, a multitude of robins, and flowers budding. We’ve even had our first butterfly visit. IMG_4839

 

I’ve always liked the way Proverbs puts it: “…the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul.” Sigh….winter is gone for good. Welcome back, Spring, and welcome to the world, Addie!

I’ll keep you updated on our flowers, and for more information on In Times LIke These, see the previous post, MY BOOKS, or go here: http://amzn.to/1VFEoYh

Maybe We Aren’t in Charge…

Another wonderful photo from my husband’s collection – see this mama cardinal’s bright red beak through the peephole? This image speaks to recent events in our lives.  (See the previous blog’s great pictures.)

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She seems as patient and determined as can be, awaiting her hatchlings’ births.

 

The next shot shows  her from above, in our cold Northern Iowa rain. At first, he thought the white dots were actual specks on her back. IMG_3780But they’re raindrops a-sparkle.

Rain or shine, cold or bitter, nasty winter wind, she’s faithful, with no idea when these chicks will burst forth from their shells.

After a wild night last night, I can relate! My first women’s fiction historical novel in a series of three was scheduled to release on June 6, D-Day. I thought the date fitting, since the theme is one woman’s personal growth and victory over fear in the violent backdrop of World War II.

Well, what do I know? The book seems to have a life of its own, because last night it went live, regardless of our posted schedule. I’ve almost gotten over the shock, but still wonder why, since I had readers/reviewers lined up to post on release day–I was doing everything RIGHT to make this book release a success. (Just like my heroine, Addie does everything possible to please her controlling husband.)

Which takes us back to our title–maybe I’m not in charge. Maybe God pried my tight little fingers away from this story and has things in mind for it I’d never have dreamed of. Whatever the case, Addie is now out there in the world–sometimes cold and cruel.

Dear readers, I hope you love her! Here’s the book blurb:

Pearl Harbor attacked! The United States is at war.

But Addie fights her own battles on the Iowa home front. Her controlling husband Harold vents his rage on her when his father’s stoke prevents him from joining the military. He degrades Addie, ridicules her productive victory garden, and even labels her childlessness as God’s punishment.

When he manipulates his way into a military unit bound for Normandy, Addie learns that her best friend Kate’s pilot husband has died on a mission, leaving her stranded in London in desperate straits.

Will Addie be able to help Kate, and find courage to trust God with her future?

Here’s the Amazon.com purchase link: http://amzn.to/1VFEoYh