Foundations

Every chance I get, I tell people of the foundation of faith, family, and love on which my parents built their lives. That, in turn, set such a wonderful example for their children and from there, their grandchildren.

I went to stay with them for a couple of weeks a while back as my dad was preparing to begin his journey of treatment for stomach cancer. That treatment consisted of rigorous and brutal chemotherapy, a total gastrectomy (stomach removal), followed by more chemotherapy.

The evening before surgery as I was going to bed, I walked past their room and this is what I saw. Each knelt by the side of their bed, heads bowed in prayer. Prayer has always been an important part of their lives, but this picture, this moment, caused me to pause and catch my breath. And it’s forever etched in my memory.

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Today my dad is cancer free. Their prayer life is every bit as important now as it ever has been. The difference their example has made to their family as well as friends, is without borders.

My question for all of us is what are we doing to make a positive difference in the lives of others–family, friends, and others looking on that we’re unaware of.

My challenge for all of us is this: If you can’t think of anything, why not start now? It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

A person's most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear r

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Fun

I participated in a craft and vendor show this past weekend at Harvest Fellowship Church, manning a table with my books. A writer friend of mine was there as well, her table next to mine. I’d been waiting a long time for this event, as it always promises to be a wonderful time and sets the mood for the beginning of the holiday season, including Christmas.

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Christmas? you say? But it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, I know. I, too, am not a fan of stores displaying their Christmas merchandise before Thanksgiving. It seems to be getting earlier every year, to the point that one of these days it will probably be in the stores year-round.

However, that being said, Christmas means different things to different people. For the world of retail it means money. It means starting sales as early as possible, taking advantage of the marketing opportunity to make as much money as possible. Christmas music pipes through the speakers in department stores, subconsciously inspiring people to buy, buy, buy.

For others, me included, celebrating the Christmas season in combination with Thanksgiving means something entirely different. I don’t believe it can ever be too early to celebrate the birth of Christ. To begin preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior. Thanksgiving isn’t only about remembering the Pilgrims, it’s about giving thanks to God for the thousands of blessings he gives me.

On October 3, 1863, in the third fall of the Civil War, President Lincoln issued a proclamation:
I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …

Giving thanks to the Father for the birth of His Son fits in nicely here. It’s never too early for that. So bring on the Thanksgiving holiday, complete with turkey, pumpkin pie, family, and football, while at the same time preparing my heart for the birth of Christ. And Christmas lights and music? When the heart is focused on Him, Christmas music isn’t about buying, it soothes and helps prepare. And lights? Who doesn’t love the beauty of lights.

Enjoy this holiday season, the entire season, for all it’s worth.

Wishing you a most blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude. – E.P. Powell

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

Like What You Do; Choose What You Love

What may appear to be a small difference between two things can lead to a significant difference in the ultimate enjoyment of something.

Examples that immediately come to mind include:

  • While a cup of coffee from Starbucks and a cup of Folgers are both coffee, there is a distinct difference between the two.
  • Nikon and Canon cameras both have obvious similarities, yet each has characteristics unique to each.
  • A Kindle and a Nook are both e-readers, but each has their distinct differences.
  • Liking what you choose to do vs. choosing to do what you like.

When I was a new mom I signed up to take an online journalism/short story writing course. I absolutely loved every moment of that course and should have kept my love for that in mind as I traveled blindly on the highway of life over the next couple of decades. However, since I already had my cosmetology license, it was more practical to find work in a salon and make instant money as I raised my children. Since money is an obvious necessity, especially while raising children, making instant money made sense and was the responsible thing to do.

As life passed by and the needs of my family changed, my boys’ dad worked, earning enough money to support our family.  I was able to stay home with my boys and provided daycare for a few children to supplement that income. While the children napped or during quiet times, when I could have been writing, I found myself whiling away the time by doing other things like cleaning up after a house full of children. Necessary? Yes. But I could have squeezed in a few minutes of writing throughout the day or after my children were tucked in for the night. Instead, I only thought about it.

As my children grew, I changed jobs to best accommodate their schedules. Never did I think to practice my writing skills by actually writing. Rather, I spent that time with even more dreaming of the day that I could write again.

As my children continued to grow, I survived through a divorce by working where I needed to in order to best accommodate my children’s schedules and to make instant money. It never occurred to me to actually write simply because I enjoyed it. Once again, I pushed that dream to the back of my mind for a later date when I would have the time.
That “time” never appeared as I continued my education for things that were more practical. Things I had a tendency at which to excel.  I took a medical transcription class not because I  loved to transcribe medical terminology, but because my typing skills were fast and accurate and because I wanted to work out of my home. That worked until life circumstances pushed me to get a job outside of my home.

When I landed a job in the legal profession and learned I had the capacity to do well at that, I decided to go back to school to receive my Associates of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. It was a wonderful opportunity that made sense, because my job provided a  tuition reimbursement program, which meant as long as I maintained a 4.0 GPA the entire program was paid for with the exception of books. So, essentially, I received a free degree. It was something I did because I could. Not because it was my dream. And while that education is something no one can ever take away from me and something I can always use, it wasn’t what I loved. I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

I liked what I did, but I didn’t choose to do what I love.

Since then, I work at a job that does not require that degree. A job that I truly like, nonetheless, but it’s a job that I chose, not a job that chose me.

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The difference is, in addition to my paying job, I now choose to write, the one thing that truly brings me joy. It’s something I’ve done–or dreamed of doing–throughout my entire life. Something that breathes air into my lungs and gives me life. Not something that takes my energy away, but something that gives me energy. And that, in turn, has breathed life into the job I do by day. And, hey, now that I’ve pursued my passion of writing, I even make money at doing what I love. Bonus!

It’s important to like what you do, but it’s critical to do what you love.

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The Golden Rule

We’ve all heard of The Golden Rule:
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While the idea is good to shoot for, it may not be good enough.

Simply stated, we can be harder on ourselves than anyone else is. We’re often our own worst enemy, constantly reminding ourselves of where we fall short, where we fail. This, in turn, can cause us to be more intolerant of other’s shortcomings, because we expect from others what we, ourselves, cannot even do to our own standards. And yet, ironically, we treat others better than we treat ourselves.

  • Thin people sometimes see someone overweight looking back at them in the mirror.
  • We’re not smart enough or pretty enough. We don’t do enough or have enough. We’re simply not enough.
  • We say things we wish we wouldn’t have, do things we wish we could erase, and beat ourselves up when we can’t.
  • We feel we don’t deserve happiness, forgiveness, or peace, because of what we’ve done in the past.

The other day when I was driving home from work there was car in front of me going sooooo sllooowww. Not only was this person driving slowly, s/he stopped for yellow lights, then allowed not one car from an incoming street to go in front of him/her, but two. Impatient to get home, to put the work day behind me, I was having all kinds of negative conversations with myself about the driver of this vehicle.

When I was finally able to pull into the next lane, I drove up next to the car, wanting to see the driver, sure s/he was talking on a cell phone rather than pay attention to the road. To my surprise, it was an elderly woman. A slightly confused elderly woman. Thankfully, she was oblivious to my impatience.

I felt oh, so small. I would be heartbroken if that woman had been my mother and someone else was as impatient and intolerant as I had been. God taught me a lesson in judging and patience that day.

On another occasion this past week, a young man called me at work. He was confused about his legal situation and I had to repeat three times the process of what he needed to do. I found myself getting impatient, but God’s voice spoke above my impatience. A little voice in my head asked, “What if this was your son calling, needing help with a process that’s confusing to someone not in the justice system, even if he needed to hear it three times?” My heart softened and I found patience I didn’t know I had, as I had to repeat the process yet another two times, wanting to be sure he understood completely before we disconnected.

How people treat me doesn’t affect me as much as how they treat my loved ones. I want my loved ones treated with love, with respect, with patience. In fact, when I’m mistreated I get over it. But seeing my loved ones mistreated? Well, that breaks my heart in two.

God spoke to me in a way I could hear loud and clear.

The Golden Rule I now strive to live by has changed a bit. e2809cdo-unto-others-as-you-would-have-them-do-unto-your-loved-ones-e2809d.png

Character Interview with Rose Donnelly

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This is the last of the character interviews from the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Melanie’s grandmother, but I’ve raised her since my daughter, Violet, left her with me when Melanie was just four years old. Violet broke Melanie’s heart when she decided that making it in Hollywood was more important than her own daughter. At first Melanie didn’t understand, but as she got older, her resentment grew. I pray that someday Violet will find peace and she and Melanie can have a relationship. But I have to say, raising Melanie has been my greatest joy. That child is more precious to me than anything in the world. I couldn’t ever imagine my life without her. Back when I was working as a nurse at St. Luke’s hospital, Melanie helped me take care of her granddad when he became ill. She has been a Godsend.

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota all my life. I was born here, and I’ll die here.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
No further than my own front porch. I love my home and every day I spend here is a blessing.

What is your favorite pastime?
Gardening and cooking. I love to work in my flower gardens and to teach Melanie how to cook. We Minnesotans love our hotdish, dontcha know, so there’s never a shortage of recipes to teach her. And there’s no better place to connect and spend time together as a family than in the kitchen. Melanie and I have had our best conversations while cooking or sitting at the kitchen table.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
When you’re retired, dear, every day is a weekend. My favorite way to spend any day is with Melanie and her friends. And they always make time for this old woman, those sweet kids.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie. And my memories of her granddad. It’s those memories that help me through my broken heart from Violet. But I believe there’s still hope for her.

What is your most fond memory?
When Melanie was young, watching her with her granddad in the garage. He loved to work on cars and she was right by his side, soaking up everything he taught her. She’d come in with grease smudged on her face and cute as a button.

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m the most blessed woman on this earth.

You wouldn’t change anything?
Well, maybe for Violet to finally find peace so she and Melanie could have a relationship. Maybe someday. Perhaps in one of the next books. Tune in to find out.

 

 

CI – Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy

Jack Dancy is the third party in Melanie and Claire’s circle in the Melanie Hogan cozy mysteries. Sit back, grab yourself a cold one, and get to know Jack.

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Can you provide the readers with a physical description of yourself?
My heritage is half Asian from my father’s side and half Caucasian from my mother’s. I look more like my father, unfortunately. I’m about 5’9, have thick black hair, moussed back so it’s distinctly different from my father. I wear black-rimmed glasses, loafers, and designer jeans. Since I’m a clothing and jewelry designer, I like to look the part. I also like sports jackets. Melanie tells me I’m stuffy and too proper, but I’m hoping maybe the proper part will rub off on her a little bit.

Where do you live?
In Minneapolis. I lived in upscale Linden Hills until my partner and I split. Now I own an apartment in Logan Park which is in the heart of Northeast’s Art District. It suits me fine.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Switzerland or Germany. Europe in general. Actually, anywhere but Asia. But that’s just because of my father.

What is your favorite pastime?
Wandering around the Art District. I enjoy short trips to California as well, gleaning inspiration for my designs. I also enjoy reading the classics. I especially like The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Hanging out with Melanie and Claire. I give those girls a lot of grief but they know how to give it back. Especially Melanie. But it’s a relationship I would do anything in the world for. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Lately, most of our time has been spent with me trying to keep her out of trouble. Man, that girl can find trouble! In her defense, though, her trouble landed her a find man. Let’s just hope she doesn’t go messing it up with her escapades.

What is your biggest secret?
I’m gay. It’s not exactly a secret, but I don’t flaunt it, either. It’s personal to me. I was dating Bryce for several years but he’s always been resentful of my relationship with Melanie. Forced to choose, I chose Melanie. His control and anger issues helped make that decision easier.

What makes you angry?
My father putting my mom in an uncomfortable spot with her only child–me. The man is stubborn as a mule, has disowned me because I’m gay, and makes my mom pay for not sharing his opinions. I don’t know why she stays with that old goat. She’s a good, honest, hard-working woman who deserves better.
And, also, people being late. Punctuality is non-negotiable. When someone is chronically late, it shows a lack of respect for another’s time.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie, Claire, my mom, and, of course, Melanie’s grandmother, Rose Donnelly. And my work. I love what I do. It’s an outlet for my creative side and I make a darn good living at it. Getting paid to do what I love is grand.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
I’d rather not say. Some people tend to remember those things and throw them in your face at the most inopportune times. Like Melanie did in Shear Malice. But I got her back. 🙂

What is your guilty pleasure?
Microbrew beer. I guess you could say I’m a beer snob.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Perhaps to be a little less uptight and take more time to enjoy life. Melanie is right about that, but I think I’ll keep that to myself.

 

***To read more about Melanie, Claire, and Jack, enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win one of three signed copies of Shear Madness. The giveaway runs September 1st through the 30th.

 

 

CI – Claire Davis

 

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CI = Character Interview, not Confidential Informant. 🙂

Welcome to the world of Claire Davis, side-kick of Melanie Hogan in the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries, and co-owner of Melanie’s hair salon, A Cut Above.

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Hmmm…that’s kind of awkward. Let’s see…I’m taller than Melanie, but that doesn’t take much. I’m 5’6, to be exact, so I wear flats a lot. I’m African-American with brown eyes and kinky-curly hair. I love bright-colored hair scarves and bright colors in general. I love to work out so there’s that, too. Melanie and I couldn’t possibly be more opposite from one another but it works for us. Our friendship is as solid as they come.

Where do you live?
I’m originally from Southern Florida, but I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota for several years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris! The city of love. Or Italy. I love the happy, robust Italian families I’ve see in movies. They’re always hugging and kissing and eating meals together.

What is your favorite pastime?
Being with my daughter, Sydney. She’s eight years old and looks so much like her daddy, my late husband. Tyler was in the military and died while on duty.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Saturday’s are spent at the salon. Mel and I own A Cut Above so Saturday’s really not a weekend for us. Our weekends are Sunday and Monday. Those days I love to spend with Syd, Mel, Jack—when he’s in Birch Haven—Rubie, and at Rose’s house with Melanie. Rose is Melanie’s grandmother and the sweetest, most kind-hearted, yet spirited, woman I know.

What is your biggest secret?
I don’t think I’ll ever be over my late husband. Tyler was everything to me. I’m super lucky to have my current boyfriend—and the only once since Tyler—Cole Mahoney, but I can’t ever give him my whole heart. Tyler will always have a huge part of that.

What makes you angry?
Life is too short to be angry.

What brings you the most joy?
My friends and family. There is nothing better than spending time with them and watching them when they don’t even know I am.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
When one of my flouncy-bouncy skirts got caught in the wind and flew up. Melanie never lets me forget that.

What is your most admirable character trait?
That’s the one thing Melanie and I have in common. I’m super loyal. Also, I don’t let things bother me. I don’t hold grudges or resentments. Life is too short for that stuff.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe to be a little more discerning about who I trust. I want to believe everyone is good and for the most part, I truly believe they are. But every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone is nice. Especially lately with all the trouble makers Melanie has been attracting lately.

You can catch me in Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and soon in Shear Murder.

Carpe Diem