The Season for Gratitude

Give ThanksDuring this holiday season, cultivating an attitude of gratitude is at the top of my to-do list. Family is top of the top, hands down. After family, my top 10 for 2016 is:

10.)  Election season being over! Nationally as well as locally. My day job is in a political office, which makes election season ultra stressful.

9.)   Chemotherapy and radiation. If you just said, “say what?!?” I totally get it. But as evil as these treatments can be, it’s what we have to kill the killer–cancer. It’s what made the cancer-free diagnosis for my dad possible. And it’s the hope for a dear friend who’s battling cancer.

8.)   The opportunity to attend an amazing Writer’s Conference, Colorado Gold, in September. It helped me grow as a writer in skill, confidence, and productivity; and the opportunity to participate in a 5-week online writing workshop hosted by the University of Iowa.

7.)   Spending priceless time with my kids and grandkids, and preparing to welcome another granddaughter to the mix!

6.)   My husband, a man of honor, integrity, and faith, retiring after 40 years serving in law enforcement, the last 21 years as Chief of Police. I couldn’t be more proud.

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5.)   Publishing two books this year, Shear Deception and Finding Abby, and hosting a successful book event that included several local authors.

4.)   The finances and job that allowed me several trips back to Minnesota to help my parents as my dad battled cancer.

3.)   Just three weeks away from 5 years of sobriety which led to the rebirth of my writing career.

2.)   Friends, old and new, who have each left a handprint on my heart.

1.)   God bestowing millions of blessings on my life throughout the year. All that and the year isn’t even over yet! 🙂

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Happy Father’s Day!

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Happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers out there, as well as to all of the uncles, step-dads, grandpas, friends, and anyone who is blessed to have the role of dad and make a difference in the life of a child.
You Rock!

Women’s History Month Spotlight – Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth & Billy

As far back as I can remember I’ve admired Ruth Bell Graham’s devotion to her husband and family. She’s always reminded me of the woman in Proverbs 31 – the woman I’ve always hoped to be.

Since I’ve gone through a divorce, I appreciate her strength and stamina even more. (This isn’t one of those “it was all his fault” stories, much as I wish it were. I fully claim my responsibility.) But even during those tumultuous times, when I was failing miserably at marriage, Ruth Bell Graham remained my mentor. It just takes me a while to learn. 🙂

I looked to her as a role model, as a woman who loved her husband, even when I’m sure she didn’t feel like it, (we all have those times, don’t we?) and yet she soldiered on with beauty and grace. Through her life, I’ve come to know that love is not just a feeling. It’s a choice. And learning that has made me one extremely happy, grateful, and blessed wife today.  Thank you Ruth.

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“The fact is that both husband and wife are rough when the marriage begins. They shape each other through the trials and struggles they face together. When a couple falls to their knees and prays together, that is where true shaping takes place. Those who abandon ship the first time it enters a storm miss the calm beyond. And the rougher the storms weathered together, the deeper and stronger real love grows.”  -Ruth Bell Graham

 

 

 

 

Women’s History Month Spotlight – Mary, Mother of Jesus

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As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a mother. Little did I know back then, that role would far surpass any joy I’ve ever experienced. And that it would rocket my capacity to worry past the moon. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of nights of uninterrupted sleep I’ve had since my boys were born. And this month they turn 24 and 27!

Mary, on the other hand, knew she was going to lose her son. She knew she was going to give birth to the Lord of heaven and earth, and knew from Jesus himself what was forthcoming. Could you imagine? I’m not sure–no, I am sure–I would never have been able to handle that with such grace, such trust in God, such beauty, as she did. She was the epitome of what a mother should be.

I’ve kept journals for each of my boys until they were 12 years old. I wrote in those journals every day when they were younger, a little less frequently as they got older, but even then, at least a few times a week. I tried to capture the miracle of everything life gave them every single day – the joy, the hurts, the lessons. When I read those journals, it’s like experiencing those magical days of motherhood again. What a miracle! My boys have taught me the definition of real and unconditional love. They’ve taught me how beautiful it is to see life through the eyes of a child. And through it all, they’ve taught me to trust Jesus.

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Another miracle of being a mother? I’m a grandmother. And what a joy that is! 🙂

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Women’s History Month

There are countless people who deserve recognition, but since March is women’s history month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, I’ve decided to spotlight one historical woman each week that has made a difference in my life in one way or another. Until I mention the first of four next week, following is a list of the top ten women, past and present, who have made, or continue to make, a difference in my life.

  1.  My Mom
  2. My Grandma Cielinski
  3. My Sponsors
  4. Mother Teresa
  5. Maya Angelou
  6. Mary, Mother of Jesus
  7. Ruth Bell Graham
  8. Barbara Bush
  9. Rahab (From the Old Testament)
  10. Ruth (Also from the Old Testament)

Women's Month

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who is the woman who has made the greatest impact in your life?

NaNoWriMo 2015

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I’ve participated in, and loved, NaNoWriMo for the past three years. This year, however, I decided not to because I have two WIP’s I really want to focus on editing.

The problem?

I’m not getting it done. I had a writing schedule that I followed faithfully for a while, but that “while” didn’t last very long.

Here’s how it goes more often than not, or some variation of it:

I see it’s time to sit down to write. I really should throw a load of laundry in first. The dishwasher needs to be started. I need to make a quick phone call first. Ok, now I can write. Oh wait! I need a cup of coffee/can of root beer/square of chocolate–you get the idea–first. Whew! That’s done. Okay, now I can write. I sit down at my desk, or usually my floor desk because I love to write sitting on the floor. The door is closed, I’m ready to write until I hear a little scratch on the door–the dog wants in. The dog is in the room laying by my side. NOW I can begin. My phone rings. It’s one of my boys. I have to take this call. Family first. Checking to see if I’m going to be home because he’s stopping by for a visit. Are you kidding me??? I LOVE when my boys come by. That takes priority over everything. Or it might be my other son asking if I can watch my granddaughter. Again, are you kidding me??? I would move mountains to be able to spend time with my precious princess.

Again, family first. I need to get the toys out, especially the playdoh, watercolors, and sidewalk chalk because she’s a budding little artist, child-proof the house, and figure out what I will feed her for lunch/dinner, etc. I may even need to run to the store to get a special snack for her.

So! I’m finally able to sit down to write and remember the laundry needs to be folded, the bathrooms need to be cleaned, I need to make dinner for my husband and perhaps even have a conversation with him…

You get the picture.

While I decided to spend time on my WIP’s rather than create a new project, it wasn’t getting done. And all because of one little word–well, okay, two words. Procrastination and guilt. They’re best friends, in case you didn’t know that. Putting everything else first to make writing time perfect, and feeling guilt over taking time to write when I should be doing something “important.” Oh, yes, that “should” word is a writer’s enemy in case you haven’t figured that out yet.

So NaNoWriMo it is! The fun, support, fun, motivation, fun, and inspiration I get from being part of a tribe of writers, the positive energy that flows through the keyboard knowing I’m part of such a huge mutual goal…WOW! It’s the justification I need to sit my butt down and write. Seat. In. Chair. Or on the floor, in my case. Family still comes first, and it always will, but the rest of what threatens to take control of my time no longer does during November. And who knows? Maybe that will stay with me for a while, however long that “while” may be.

It’s not too late to decide to jump on the NaNoWriMo train. Just hop on over to the website here and create your novel. Ready, set, go! 🙂

 

 

Birthday Blessings

Seize the Day

I’ve heard people talk about 50 as being “over the hill,” “half of a century old,” “on the downward slide,” etc.

When I woke up this morning, having turned 50 myself, the first thing that came to mind was:

I AM SO BLESSED!

I got out of bed, got dressed and headed out the door for an early morning run. As I ran, I reflected on my life. What a better time than a milestone birthday, right? And as I strolled down memory lane, my heart nearly exploded with gratitude. I am, at 50 years of age, at a place in my life that is the best it’s ever been. The heart breaking moments and tragedies of years past are a direct connection to where I’m at now. If every one of those crises hadn’t happened, my life literally would not be what it is today. I think of all the prayers I’ve prayed, disappointed when they weren’t answered, only to realize that they were answered. Thankfully not the way I had hoped for at the time.

So today, at 50 years old, let me share with you some of what makes me the richest woman in the world.

First of all, the people who have been placed in my life by God, at the exact time and in the exact role that He knew I needed exactly when I did.

  • An amazing husband, Clint, who has given me the marriage, friendship, and partnership in life that I’ve always dreamed of.
  • Two amazing boys, Ben and Alex, who have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love and acceptance.
  • A granddaughter, Zoey, who brings unmatched joy to my life, and a chance to experience part of her father as a little one all over again.
  • A step-daughter, Jennifer, and five step-grandchildren who have accepted me into their lives, my life all the more beautiful because of them.
  • A step-daughter, Becky, who enriched my life with her kindness, sparkle and beauty–inside and out–who has gone ahead to greet me at the gates of heaven when I’m called home.
  • Parents who gave me the gift of life and the foundation of family and faith. It took me a while to catch on, but I eventually got it. 🙂 And while they waited, they taught me patience and perseverance.
  • Sisters, Sandy and Brenda, my best friends chosen by God for me to share life with from beginning to end.
  • My grandma Cielinski and my Uncle Earl who helped carry me through some of the most difficult times of my life.
  • Mr. Rude, my high school English teacher, who made such a difference in the life of this high school student with a love of writing.
  • My “Brighton Group” (you know who you are), who have accepted me exactly as I am, broken and flawed, who have taught me how to live a clean life, honest and true, how to love, and how to be a friend.
  • A Church and Church Family that lifts me up.
  • A blogging community with which I’ve grown as a writer and as a person.

And beyond these angels in my life, I’m blessed with and grateful for:

  • A job in which I’m blessed to serve victims of crime. Since I was a victim of crime at one time, I’ve come full circle, blessed to use my tragedy for good.
  • The ability to sponsor three kiddos from Africa (Togo, Burkina Faso, and Tanzania) through Compassion International, helping to release them from poverty and give them hope. Alex, Amede and Mamounata have taught me compassion, that the gift of giving blesses the giver, and the power of prayer.
  • The ability to be a sponsor to Amazima Ministries in Uganda, furthering the work of Christ as he reaches the unreachable.
  • The ability to be a donor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I mention these things because it is not me or my money that helps in these areas, it’s all because of an amazing God who has laid these passions upon my heart and has given me the resources to be able to do so. And it’s this giving that has changed my heart as nothing else could ever do.
  • The gift of writing, which brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I published a book last year, The Inheritance, a dream I’ve had as far back as I’ve been able to dream, and another book, Shear Madness, due out next month.

And the blessings just go on and on. Go back to my thirties? Not a chance. Not even my forties. My best days, my best life, is right here, right now.

And as a side note, at the end of my run, still dancing on my pink cloud, I nearly stepped on not one, but two, squished flat as a pancake, messy toads. If that was the enemy’s way of bringing me down from my high, it didn’t work. It simply made me drive more carefully than ever to work. Just in case… 🙂

Carpe Diem