Character Interview

Grab a Cup of Java and get to Know Melanie Hogan

This month I’ll be posting character interviews from the world of the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, which thus far includes Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and coming in 2018, Shear Murder. This week’s interview is with Melanie Hogan, the protagonist in the series. I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie. 

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Other than my greener than average eyes, similar to a cat’s eyes according to Claire and Jack, I’m Plain Jane. I don’t like a lot of makeup, and typically wear my hair loose or in a ponytail. My favorite things to wear are jeans, black boots or black sandals, both with chunky high heels to make me a bit taller than my five-foot-two frame, and hoop earrings. I have hoops of every size and color.

Where do you live?
In a small town called Birch Haven, Minnesota. It’s up north about an hour from St. Cloud.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I rather like staying home or at my Nana’s. Those are my two favorite places in the world. If I ever get adventurous and travel outside of my comfort zone, I’d visit Ireland or Scotland.

What is your favorite pastime?
Hanging out with my best friends—Claire, Jack, and Rubie. And, of course, with Nana in her kitchen. She loves to teach me how to cook and we’ve made some pretty good progress, proving there’s hope for me in the kitchen. I’m also kind of a loner and love spending time alone.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Owning a salon, Saturdays are spent neck deep in hair color and perm solutions, inhaling fumes from artificial nails and hair spray, and listening to the hum of blow dryers, stationary hair dryers and the chatter and laughter from our clientele. I love hearing the secrets they tell. On the wall of my salon hangs a plaque that says If These Walls Could Talk. If they could talk indeed. Sundays, I love to spend hanging out at my log house. I enjoy sitting on the balcony that overlooks the lake reading my devotionals, drinking coffee, and an occasional glass of wine with Claire. I also like to take my little boat out on the lake and drift.

What is your biggest secret?
Well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you, now, would it?

What makes you angry?
Thanks to my birth mother, Violet, and my ex-husband, Cain, infidelity and dishonesty. I harbor just a wee resentment toward them but am working through it slowly. I might just get there before I die. Maybe. Also, anyone who hurts my friends and Nana.

What brings you the most joy?
Nana, Claire, Jack, Rubie, and Claire’s daughter, Sydney. I know it’s kind of creepy, but I love children, and since I can’t have them, sometimes I pretend she’s mine.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Showing up on the first day of beauty school wearing the ugly black polyester uniforms when everyone else showed up in “cool” clothes. Apparently, everyone else read their welcome and orientation packet better than I did. Which is super unlike me. I’m typically a more thorough and follow-the-rules kinda gal than the average person. Well, until a couple of years ago, that is, when dead bodies started littering my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My sarcasm. But it is what it is.

What is your most admirable character trait?
I’m more loyal than a dog to my friend and to Nana. That and I’m probably the most stable person you’ll ever meet. Well…there, again, until a couple years ago. My life was so stable, planned, and predictable, that I longed for some action and spontaneity. And boy did I get it! I quickly learned to be careful what I wish for. Carpe Diem

 

T.G.I.F. – Gratitude Friday

gratitude

My top three for the week:

3.)  Coffee! Something so simple and so ordinary, yet makes me so happy. 🙂

2.)  Painting with my husband the room my son just vacated to move to his own apartment–talking, laughing, and connecting. We make a darn good team!

1.)  Renewed appreciation for life, and the people in my life, after losing someone special.

Share with me what tops your list.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

– John F. Kennedy

 

Electronic Disconnection

Cell Phone

I’ve blogged about this exact thing once before, and as much peace as it brings when I do it, I still don’t seem to practice it nearly enough. Electronics can pull more energy from relationships than they add.

It makes me sad when I see a young child talking to mom or dad who is more connected with their cell phone than with the child.  Does that parent know that they can never get that moment back again?

My heart bleeds when I’m at the coffee shop and see a child with mom or dad, the child a happy chatterbox, full of animation, trying to get the attention of the one they look up to and love so much, but mom or dad is too connected to their open laptop to notice.

Or the couple at the table next to me in a restaurant, no conversation to be seen or heard, while one–or both–of them are texting, surfing the Internet on a cell phone, or watching the game on the TV hanging near their table.

And then there’s the occupants of the car next to me at a stoplight, each texting away on their respective cell phones, frequently even the driver.

And what makes my heart bleed even more is the frequency of which I’ve done those things myself without even realizing it.

It’s easy to see more clearly when we’re disconnected from a situation, so to think how much clearer I could see what’s right in front of my own face when I’m disconnected from electronics seems like it should be a no-brainer.  And yet, how much time has slipped through my fingers like a fist full of sand, as I fall into the habit of blocking out everything but the empty entertainment of the screen in front of me.

imagesSMV38ILU

If I could go back and have a “do-over” I would:

Leave the cell phone at home when taking my kids on an outing.  I would watch them take in their surroundings, watching as they see things for the first time, rather than see something on the screen of my cell phone for the umpteenth time.

I would sit on the floor playing with my children, rather than sit there watching a television program while they played around me.

I would read a book to them, engaging them in the story, rather than let them live their story without me present to watch.

I would listen intently to how their day was, their experiences, hopes and dreams, rather than listen to how the world was on the news, letting them know they are my world.

I would let them know that what they said truly mattered, more than anything in the world, as I gave them my undivided attention, listening to what they had to say rather than say “I’m busy. Can we talk later?”  Later may not come.

I would stop cleaning, cooking, playing a game on the computer or watching TV to simply be with them, 100% present.

If the phone was ringing, or beeping with an incoming text message, during a conversation with a loved one, or while spending quiet time together, I would let it ring without answering it, or even a sneak peak at the text message, letting my loved one know their presence is more important to me than the phone.

Rather than run back in the house two seconds after leaving to get the forgotten cell phone, I would run back in to give the forgotten hug or say the forgotten “I Love You” to the loved one remaining behind.

When I’m on a date with my husband, I would leave my phone at home, or tucked away in my purse, letting him know the time I spend with him is valuable to me.

And while I can’t go back and start over, getting back time that has past, it’s never too late to start over.  Right.  Now.   While I can’t start the day over, I can start over anytime during the day.  And that is a blessing I intend to take advantage of, practicing until it becomes more the norm than not.

No electronics

10 Things I’m Grateful for Today

1.) Every person who has ever played a role in my life. Those who have left imprints on my heart as they passed through, and those who continue to as we share life.

footprint

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Everything that makes up my life as I know it–my family; my marriage; my home that is warm, comfortable, and radiates peace; a job I enjoy that allows me to make a difference in the lives of others; interests that bring me complete joy such as writing, running, and music.

3.) A new opportunity each morning I wake up to be the best me I can be that day. And when I mess up, knowing that I can start over at any moment of the day to make it a better one, each moment a new beginning.

4.) Experiences, good and bad, that have led me to where I am and made me who I am exactly at this moment, right now.

5.) The gift of now. Despite goals, plans, and experiences of the past, I have right now to breathe, give thanks, and lift my heart to a loving God who is present in every “now” and to just “be.”

6.) Opportunities for growth given to me by failed attempts, bad days, difficult relationships, and hiccups in life.

7.) Someone asking, out of the blue, how I am or about my family, and really wanting to hear the answer. May I pay that forward to another.

Heart Candle

 

 

 

 

 

8.) The arts–books and music that bring me to that happy place. A story that brings a smile to my heart and music that speaks to my soul. Enhanced, of course, by a good cup of coffee, the flickering of a candle’s flame and lamp light. 🙂

9.) Morning’s light after a difficult night, the rainbow after the rain, the clear sky after the storm. Hope after despair and pain.

The Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.) A God who cares about lil ‘ole me in a universe that is so enormous, and loves me, flawed as I am. A God who knows my heart, my needs, and desires, and cares enough to give me the beauty of every seemingly small miracle that graces my daily life.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
―Epicurus

All is Grace.

Thankful Thursday-Magical Common Scents

Have you ever noticed how certain scents can draw you to another time and place, almost working as a sort of time machine? There are scents that take me back to times especially important in my life, bringing comfort and peace. And then there are those, as well, that take me to a time that I would never choose to revisit, but that also remind me how far I’ve come and that bad things do, indeed, pass.

For instance, it took me a very long time to be able to smell the exhaust of a car, even while running, when I didn’t get nauseated and feel as if I were going to faint from a very painful memory. I avoided running by busy streets and held my breath as best I could when a car would pass, and continued to run with the weight of a heavy heart.

Thanks to a loving, gracious God, when the smell of exhaust invades the air around me these days, I have the strength to continue on in thanksgiving that not only did I get through that most painful time, but with a less troubled heart and gratitude for the life I have.

On a lighter note, some of the most pleasant time-transcending scents I would love to capture and bottle are:

MN 2013 061
The Forrest–It brings me back to the times our family used to go into the woods to cut trees for firewood for cold Minnesota winters.  I can almost hear the fire hungrily licking the logs placed in that old barrel stove as they crackled and popped.

The Lake–Mmmmm…when I smell lake water in the air, I can almost feel the sun on my face, the little fishing boat rocking gently, and hear the waves lap softly at the shoreline.

The Ocean–The smell of that sticky, sea salt air makes me feel the sun warming me through and through, relaxing every muscle, and I can almost feel the silky sand between my toes and the breeze in my hair.

Rain–Inhaling slowly and deeply of a fresh rain, the earth’s fragrant aroma, makes any burden just a little bit lighter, my mind just a little bit clearer.

Well it is not great, but here is one of the c...

A Freshly Opened Box of Crayons and a Container of PlayDoh–I can never get enough of these. They bring so many beautiful, fun memories of being a child, creating and sculpting anything my mind could imagine.

A Library or Bookstore–There’s nothing like the smell of a room full of books. Opening a book, inhaling the scent of the pages can almost take me to a magical land. I enjoy my kindle, but the printed page is my first love.

Fresh Brewed Coffee–Brings joy to my heart and soul, reminding me of the invaluable and cherished conversations had with friends, solving the problems of the world, truly connecting, and the beautiful reunions with my sisters and my mom when I get back home to see them. Friends and family truly are the heartbeat of life.

fresh

All is Grace.

Ten of My Very Favorite Things

1)            The smell of a fresh rain–and the sound of it falling while snuggled in a sleeping bag in a tent with a good book.  It has been a long time, but the memory is vivid.

2.)           The smell of fresh brewed coffee, and that first cup of the morning. Yummmmm.

Coffee cup

3.)           Snuggling up with a quilt made from squares of my grandmother’s clothes after she went home to Jesus. Covering up with that quilt after a bad day or when I’m not feeling well is like being enveloped in a hug from my grandma, who was a second mother to me.

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4.)           Sitting around the bonfire after dark roasting marshmallows and making s’mores, listening to the crackling of the fire and watching the flames spark and the embers glow in hues of blue and orange, and watching the sparks of light from the fireflies off in the woods.S'more

5.)           Sitting on a dock by the lake watching  the sun sparkle on the water’s surface looking like a million sparkling diamonds.

6.)           The smell of Night Blooming Jasmine body lotion from Bath and Body Works.

7.)           The feeling of accomplishment after an intense kickboxing session or a long run drinking in all of nature surrounding me.

8.)           Beginning each day with prayer and ending each day in prayer and a gratitude list, naming and recognizing blessings given to me that day. That makes for a beautiful day and a restful night’s sleep.

9.)           Long bike rides on the Platte Trail in Colorado or the Paul Bunyan Trail in Minnesota to connect with God and that encourage and open my mind to create ideas for writing.

Paul Bunyan trail, Brainerd MN

10.)        And the very best of all, all of my family members–including my dog, Roxie–under one roof at the same time, watching them interact, knowing they are all safe and happy.  A mother’s greatest joy.

All is Grace.