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imageMom’s and Dad’s hands.

Do you believe in miracles? I do. I’ve stood in the middle of one in the last few weeks. Of course, sometimes as human beings attempting to explain the unexplainable, we soften the words, which takes away some of the impact. I do not want to diminish what I’ve experienced by putting my feelings into words. But what I’ve seen with my own eyes and felt in my own heart needs to be expressed. I feel compelled to share. I know I’m treading upon hallowed ground here, and usually I am very careful with my word choices because I have a wide range of friends and acquaintances with many differences and beliefs. It is my desire to live a life that impacts each in a positive way as much as possible, and not divide. Because what good am I if I cause division, when a softer word might turn it away? Unity is ultimately my desire. Therefore, I normally keep my spiritual beliefs where they belong — in my heart. Except sometimes, they need to spill over. Because maybe you need to be encouraged.

Sometimes the raw truth is the only way to express a thing. And that is what I am dealing with here. If you would like to experience my miracle by reading about it, read on.

On January 19 my dear father died of a heart attack. He was unresponsive for about 45 minutes, the rescue workers say. They performed CPR and finally got his heart beating and breath in his lungs. No one in our family was with him at that point. Thankfully, a nurse found his phone in his truck and dialed the last number dialed, my brother. We were soon on our way to be with Dad. My youngest brother made it to him first, in less than an hour.

My dad is a man of great faith. His light shines everywhere he goes. He is not afraid to speak out about it, either. But he doesn’t often have to. He lives it. Love spills out of him in buckets to all. He has a special gift with people — all kinds, great and small — many of the lovely and  unlovely beings of the world. That’s called unconditional love. My dad is the epitome of that title.

Me? Not so much. I can hold a grudge for ages. I can say that I’ve let something go, and even convince myself I have, but I’ll find myself dealing with past wounds over and over. I want to be like my dad. I wonder how he got to the place he did? He has surely borne as much pain in his life as me. More, I know for sure. Yet he is supreme at that forgive-and-forget-thing. Like he says, “like water off a duck’s back.” Yep. Wish I could.

But there we all were, finally gathered around my dad’s hospital bed, praying for a miracle. We had one at that moment, the fact that he was with us, the circumstances of the day … All of it overwhelming. He pushed on through the first day and into the night. But somehow, on my shift to stay the night of the 20th, in spite of my prayers and those surrounding me by our loved ones holding us up with their faith, he started to slip away from us again. His heart stopped twice. And by myself until family could reach us again, I had to instruct the medical team to revive him. They wanted me to go to the waiting room. “I’m standing right here,” I said. Desperate to hold onto my faith, I felt small and alone at that moment. Scarcely able to breathe myself, tears spilling uncontrollably, I remember tipping my head back at one point and howling into the ceiling, “Daddy!” Like that could call him back ….

When family arrived, the hospital staff expected us to say our good-byes. About ten of us held hands around his bedside and talked to Dad, sang to him, prayed, told him everything we could fit of a lifetime into a few minutes.

Individually, we are a bunch of hard-headed, hard-working, strong-willed, powerhouses in our own rights — every bit of it passed through strong genes and pioneering souls. But at that moment, we were losing our patriarch. Our rock. The glue of our family.

Mom’s prayer went something like this: “God, he’s my best friend. Dale, you’re my best friend. (They are coming up on 61 years of marriage.) I love you. God, I don’t want to let him go, I want him to live. But, if it’s time for him to go and be with You, then we will say, Your will be done.”

That is when the tide turned. I saw it. Each one of us, in our individuality, our own reasons why we wanted to keep Dad with us, with our own powers and weaknesses, strengths and failings, we each stepped up a little closer and I know for sure that each one moved into loving Dad with everything he ever put into us, and then some, because we united for one cause. And that was to let our love for him spill into him more than it ever had. And we continued to pray the prayer of faith, with that love carrying us.

I don’t want to say that we had given up and were ready for death. But that is some powerful stuff, to deal with life and death. Each of us, my mom, brothers, my daughters, one of my sons-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and nephews, and everyone else in the room moved into loving Dad with all of our might. We prayed to the God that Dad loves and serves so beautifully — each of us — in our failing human state — far from perfect. But full of love, love for Dad that came to life in each one of us.

Each one did and said beautiful things. My oldest stood tirelessly, her baby due in days, patiently holding Dad’s hands and gently applying essential oils. My youngest stood rock solid and sang favorite songs to him. My other daughter, one of the last to arrive, walked into the room, bent down into her Papa’s face and said straight out, “It’s not time for him to go!” And Dad snapped his eyes open like a lightning bolt and looked right into her eyes.

I knew he was back with us from that exact moment.

It’s not what she did or said was any different from what any one of us gathered around him were thinking or saying. But it was rather like a catalyst. It mixed with the rest of the material of faith that each one of us held in our hearts and our eyes and our hands for the love of that man and what he meant to us.

And I believe with all my heart that God reached down and said, “In your weakness, I am strong.” He showed us that life is His will.

The words, “one accord” keep running  through my mind. We were in one accord, more than any time we’ve ever all been together. We were more full of love, perfect love, than any time I’ve ever experienced it. And God took that, and mixed what we offered up with His grace, and it was done. Dad lived.

The doctors thought he would be brain dead. But miracles continue to occur. Dad is astounding. His brain waves are normal, he’s overcome hurdle after hurdle, baffled doctors, and had a steady string of hospital staff stopping in to take a look at this miracle man. And Dad usually figures out a way to shine. He passes out smiles like lollipops and compliments and encourages tired workers. He’s amazing.

I hardly feel I’ve done the miracle the justice I wanted to express. I think I’ll have to write about this in pieces. There is so much that comes to the light when you call on the light in all power. It brings things out that were covered up, lurking in the shadows — not-so-pretty-stuff that wants to take away the joy of the moment.

Human beings are so flawed. I am one, far, far from perfect. I don’t know why sometimes miracles occur and then, sometimes, they do not. All I know is that we got one that day. A big one. And I am grateful.

There are other steps to take. More promises to keep. And quite a bit of living to pack into the time we’ve been given with our treasure — my dad. The weight of reality and everyday life after facing the miraculous can seem so dreary. We should have a spring in our steps and undying enthusiasm, right? Yes. That thankfulness has to inhabit human flesh. I am holding onto hope with all I have in me. I want to change — be more like my dad and love the way he loves. I want to live like I’m thankful for this gift. I am.

Camp NaNoWriMo Winner!

If you have ever said, “I’m going to write a novel,” may I suggest that you use NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as your platform?  It is a wonderful tool to provide the motivation and encouragement from other writers that you may need to propel you from zero to one-hundred in thirty days!

Two years ago I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November of every year.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in thirty days.  That year, I was still in college classes, but it was a great way to put some fire behind one of my novel ideas.  I accomplished writing about 20,000 words that year.   The NaNo website, nanowrimo.org, acknowledges even your well-best intentions, but the “winners” achieve the 50,000 word mark.

I had it in my mind to achieve that, some day, but after graduation, I sort of crashed.  I gave myself a month to recuperate from college, then I was going to get back on the bandwagon and get writing.  But life got in the way and six months passed.  Horrors!

Thank goodness  I had the sense to “like” NaNoWriMo on facebook.  Every so often I would see their posts and the idea of finishing my novel that I wrote while in college continued to nag.

In July, the site hosts Camp NaNoWriMo, with the same goal as in November:  write 50,000 words in a month.  (There is also a level for rebels.  You set your own parameters and just participate and achieve success at your own rate.)  I considered this, but I really wanted to prove to myself that I have what it takes to be a writer who can really make it — and by that I mean:  work at writing, each and every day, in the midst of life.  That was the Camp slogan.  “Writing in the midst of your crazy life.”  Yep.  That fit.

Perfect.

I signed up.

They assign campers to an online “cabin.”  Like-minded writers, within a genre, age-group, or other criteria are assigned randomly, or you can choose your cabin mates.  I went for random and I could not have ended up happier with the situation.  The writers in my cabin were encouraging.  Each was at a different level in their writing, from “I wish I could write,” to “I write professionally.”    We were able to communicate on the assigned cabin message forum.  Each one of us achieved a level of success and one other camper besides me, made it over the 50,000 word goal.

I found that I was more competitive than I had ever imagined.  I wanted to meet my word goal each day, which was over 1600.  Some days I surpassed 3000 or 5000.  Once, I was side-lined for five days with zero words.  But I didn’t give up!  I came back at it determined to finish.  On day twenty-two when I knocked out the final word in 50,000, I was elated.  I did it!  Life and all.  Crazy life and all.  I ended up with a prequel to my first novel.

It was not my best writing, by any stretch of the imagination, but I got those words down in black and white.  Some of my ideas were great.  I can see what they will blossom into with some hard work.  It was just the doing, the discipline, the commitment, the promise to myself within the view of others that seemed to work for me.

Camp NaNoWriMo awards the winners with cool virtual badges and a certificate that can be printed out, as well as several online purchase discounts.  That was nice, but the best part was that I just did it.  I surpassed my goal.

Camp-NaNoWriMo-2013-Winner-Lantern-Facebook-Profile

I think that I will continue to participate in NaNoWriMo.  It was a great way to set a goal and achieve it, with daily markers right before my eyes.  I’ve committed to my goal and signed up for November 1!

I have also found a NaNoEdMo site.  (National Novel Editing Month takes place in March.)  It is setting aside about two hours per day for a month to edit a previously written novel.  Perfect again!  Just what I need, because I have two novels to edit and a third on the way!

I encourage you to check out the websites and set some goals.  November is just around the corner.  You can do this!  I did, I know you can.

Have you ever wanted to write a novel?  Do you think you might participate in NaNoWriMo?  Let me know. . . .

Sunflowers

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino)

Let’s discuss light and darkness in writing for a few minutes.  It’s been my experience that both are necessary in good fiction.  You have a protagonist working toward some achievement, stretching toward the light, hoping to make life better somehow.  You have his/her arch enemy, the antagonist, working toward the exact opposite.  Light + Dark = Conflict.  On-going conflict that reaches a resolution = a novel that will grip your readers.

I remember when I was first given permission to write about the dark side.  I didn’t know how acceptable that was, or not.  Of course, that is naive.  But I wanted to be a good writer.  Not just a good writer, but the very best that I could be.  So, I explored the dark side of my mind.  I had been taught to not think about things like that.  Like a lot of little girls, I was expected to dwell on “sweetness and light.”  Well, that is not very true to life.  Blackouts may not be pleasant, but they certainly do provide perspective and balance.  They also lend appreciation for the light.

I had read many books, but had not stopped to consider that light and darkness were most always involved in what I considered the good ones.  I just knew if the book held my attention or not — if I loved the characters or just tolerated them — if I finished a book in one night, or tossed it aside.

Take a look at the books that you love.  You may be well aware of the sparkle of the good versus the pits of blackness and despair or evil.  If you are a writer, you have probably considered the impact this has upon your writing — being able to see both sides.  If not, give it a shot.  Like a gifted painter, your art will benefit from the carefully applied highlights and depth added through the shading.

When you read, do you prefer more “sweetness and light” or more of the dark side?  Why?

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My Teacup of the Month plan has been derailed for a while, but with thoughts turning to the beginning of school for many, I thought it might be fun to get back on track.

I won’t be returning to classes this fall, since graduating in December, but my thoughts are with those who are.  I have a niece who is working hard to graduate college within a year.  My oldest daughter, Sara, is also taking online courses while taking care of three children and waiting for the fourth to arrive.  Whew!

I need a cup of tea just thinking about it.  :^)

With the words, back-to-school, my thoughts turn to  reading and writing.  I’m still working on slogging through some G.R.R. Martin.  I’ve spoken before about how much I love to love his characters.  And love to hate his characters, too.  The man sure is a prolific writer.  I think that’s the main point that I would like to learn from reading his books — writing that much!  I hope to achieve that some day.

I am super excited to say that I have written my second novel.  I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July and knocked out over 50,000 words in twenty-two days!  It was a great experience and an amazing learning curve.  I’ll write more about that later.

Now, about this teacup.

August Teacup 2

It’s a mix-match from my odd assortment of cups gathered from here and there.  I love the little saucer with the apples on it.  I couldn’t resist throwing a little nostalgia into the photo setting.  Jacks from my childhood, a marble collection in an old canning jar, a crocheted doily that I tea-dyed, vintage books (the one on the top is an autobiography of Ben Franklin, published in 1910.  I just love finds like that.)  (Thanks to my daughter, Lyndsey, who, by the way, is opening an antique, vintage-eclectic-stuff-shop on the plains.)  WooHoo!  Very exciting development.

And of course, in the photo I’ve included an apple for the teacher.  :^)  It’s my virtual thank-you to all of the wonderful teachers out there, helping to shape and mold the minds of students.  You deserve much honor and praise.

My youngest daughter is beginning her second year of teaching.  Her class is fourth-grade and they will be doing plenty of creative writing with Aubrey.  It’s exciting to watch this new journey unfold.

I would also like to say that since graduation, two of my writer friends and I have formed a writing group.  We’re staying accountable to each other and the writing world by setting goals, checking in, and . . . writing!  :^)

Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing this cup of tea with me.  Please pause to leave a few words to let me know that you’ve taken a moment to stop by.  It is important to me and I do appreciate the time you’ve taken,  because I know that time is often our most valuable gift.

What thoughts come to you when you think of back-to-school?

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I’ve mentioned the Mythology/Folklore course that I enjoyed last semester before graduation.  One of the requirements of the class was to build our own website and incorporate fairytales that we wrote into a theme.  I had such a great time with this assignment.  I shared with the instructor that I would like to find a way to do this full time, if only I could get paid.  ;^)  I researched original fairytales and folklore, then spun my own tales.  I used all of my own photography, as well.  My fellow students — bright, creative souls, had the generosity to vote my site as Best of Class.  I was over the moon excited — such a great honor.  I share it with you here:

Tea and Fairy Tales with Miss C

You’ll find four tales, including an Irish story for this Merry Month of March.  ;^)

Inspiration

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Where do you find your inspiration? As a writer, I’ll tell you, I look in many places. Nature, however, seems to be the place I gravitate to the most. If I can see a waterfall, or hear a stream, it immediately brings a sense of calm. Later, the creativity will follow, into an uncluttered, open mind. (Well, as uncluttered as it gets anyway. There’s always something that could use a little work.) ;^)

Also, I think the best writers are great readers. Devouring books is the perfect way to see how it’s done. Of course, most of us read to read. That is a term that I tossed around frequently while in writing courses these last few years. While dissecting fiction, I wondered if I would ever be able to read for fun again, rather than reading a fictional piece to analyze the techniques.

Last semester, I was in the middle of writing a paper on a book that I really wanted to enjoy and was having a difficult time muddling through the technicalities that hover in the mind of a writer once trained. I mentioned this to a professor. She said, “Oh no! I want you to just read it. Don’t analyze it. Read it. Then go back and see what stands out. See what makes an impact upon you.”

So that is what I’m also asking you — not only where do you gain inspiration for what you do, no matter what dream chasing it may be, but what books do you read that inspire you? Is there someone that you’ve read that made you want to write like them? Why?

My daughter bought A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin for me for Christmas. Looking at the 765 pages and the five or six volumes that follow, I was daunted, to say the least. But I found myself with a few idle days, (due to illness,) (boo) and I was able to read it. The praises of Mr. Martin have been sung far and wide. With an HBO series and untold volumes, he doesn’t need my praise. But I’ll tell you, I was inspired. I want to know history like he does. I want to design fully round characters like he does. I want to create antagonists that you love to hate and protagonists that you love to love, like he does.

I don’t want to be quite so graphic. Do you think that’s a requirement of a writer in this century? I don’t. I still believe that you can be effective without the gore and the four-letter words.  Eyes, ears, and hearts are assaulted on many fronts with access to extensive media and it is increasing.  Yet, I believe that we need more of the healing balm than ripping and shredding.    It  has to do with my views upon violence and its perpetuation.  Where do we draw the line?  On many subjects, I say, loose the boundaries.  But there are other places that I must say that I prefer the lines to be distinctly drawn.  I think that we need this as a society; not to take a head-in-the-sand approach, but to encourage innocence to flourish and gentleness to prevail.  I still hope that it can.

My youngest daughter, also a writer and the one who bought me the book, gave me the journal in the photograph for my graduation.  The embossed cover contains a Jane Austen quote. (She’s also the daughter who might chide me for being too uppity about this violence thing in the Thrones series.) But that’s okay. It takes all kinds. I appreciated reading the book. I loved it. I loved the characters. I want to know what happens to them. But I think that I will try a kinder, gentler writing style.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” (Jane Austen)

That’s how I feel.

Mary Stewart pulled it off in her epic series of Arthur and Merlin stories, Legacy — The Crystal Cave. She is brilliant at portraying the history, hooking the reader into a marvelous, sweeping tale, and leaves you wanting more.  She can write about the victim, but it’s more about the victory.

I think that is what inspiration is all about. Take a bit of this and a scrap of that, and work it into your own magnificent quilt.

One more quote for today then:
“Writers read.”

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The opportunity to begin again presents itself every morning and I am grateful for it.  I am excited to run into the new year armed with my recently conferred writing degree and a million ideas.  I hope that you’ll join me and see what we can discover.

In 2013, I would like this blog to be a place where we treasure words of wisdom by writers new and old.  I would like to dream here, of my perfect writer’s space.  I would like to write a little fun and fiction, and of course, sip a cup of tea, laugh, and relax.

All the best to you and yours in 2013!

Here’s today’s wisdom, which may be attributed to someone famous, but I could not find it in a quick “google.”  I will say that I heard it from my professors at the University of Oklahoma over and over again and I’m sure I’ve said it here several times myself.

“Writers write.”

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