Climbing Mountains

Mountains tell us what we’re made of.

Mountains have served as a source of spiritual revelation throughout history. The ancients believed their gods lived on Mt. Olympus. Moses met with Jehovah on Mt. Sinai. Mt. Tabor in Galilee was the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Mountains lift our gaze upward and beyond our mortality.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of his trip to the mountaintop the night before his death. From the mountaintop God enabled him to see the Promised Land of equality for all people. Mountaintops provide a bird’s eye view of our surroundings. From there we can gain new vision and direction.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”—John Muir

Like John Muir, I’m intrigued by mountains. The first time I saw a snow covered peak in Colorado, I was hooked. Since then, most of our family vacations include hiking in mountainous regions. I hear them speak. “Come on, come up here. You know you’re not satisfied where you are.” Unlike the ocean, which always changes, mountains remain constant.

Jon Krakauer describes the dangerous world of mountaineering in his book, Into Thin Air. Those who decide to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, must be prepared to sacrifice their bank account, and their life. People were simply not meant to breathe at a height of 29,000 feet. Mountains not only inspire us, they challenge us. Putting it another way, mountains tell us about ourselves. They reveal our physical and emotional weaknesses.

My most frightening experience in a high place occurred at Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing is a unique fin-like formation that juts out from the canyon walls. The landing’s elevation of 1500 feet might not seem very high until look down.

In order to access Angel’s Landing, hikers follow the West Rim Trail from the base of the canyon for 2.4 miles one way. (mostly up). I’ve hiked the West Rim twice. Both times I came to the same conclusion. I’m a weenie. When the trail levels out at the main rest stop I freeze up.

The path upward for the final viewpoint of Angel’s Landing.

The final viewpoint can only be reached by traversing a narrow rocky path bordered on both sides by steep drop offs. There is a chain “guard rail” to hold on to, but if your hands are already wet with sweat from fear, it doesn’t seem safe. In fact, as recently as last week a hiker fell to his death from the final viewpoint. This trail is very dangerous when wet. Two way traffic also complicates everyone’s progress.

Like I said, a mountain can tell us what we’re made of. I’m proud of my husband, Herb, for making it all the way to the top. Kuddos!

Herb’s feet dangling over the side of Angel’s Landing.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe. —Mohammed Ali

Angel’s Landing taught me about myself. My dreams are often bigger than what I’m capable of. Even so, I’m happy to enjoy the mountains just the same. I’ve let go of my desire to conquer them.

Enjoying the view of Zion Canyon from the “resting place.”

Have you come to know yourself better through outdoor experiences? Leave a comment.

Signs and Wonders

A poem about following God.

If I were a Hebrew

enslaved by Pharoah’s reign,

would I follow Moses

or labor just the same?

Oh, the great achievements,

our works of brick and stone,

traded for a lowly tent

in landscape so unknown.

Would I trade the coolness

of shade along the Nile,

for the sizzling desert

extending out for miles?

Would I question Moses

as I packed unleavened bread,

take along my animals

unless they could be fed?

Would I flee from Egypt

in the dark of night,

awaken all my children

before the morning light?

Would the signs and wonders,

the sacrificial lamb,

ease my hesitation

to trust the great I AM?

Have you ever felt like you were on a journey through new territory?

I imagine that’s the way the Hebrews felt when they decided to follow Moses out of Egypt. Passover marked their exodus from slavery.

But what if the Hebrews felt comfortable as slaves? After all the book of Exodus states that they lived in Egypt for 430 years. (Exodus 12:40) Slavery was familiar, freedom was not. What if God didn’t provide for them in the wilderness?

Following God usually leads us out of our comfort zones into new territory. I’m fascinated by the miraculous way God protected and provided for his people. He divided the water of the Red Sea so they could cross on dry ground and escape the Egyptians. He sent a cloud by day and fire by night to lead his people through the desert. He gave them manna and quail to eat. The wilderness tested their faith in God. Those who continued to trust and obey him were admitted to the promised land.

Are you afraid to follow God’s leading? Do you desire familiarity and comfort instead of the unknown? Following God is not always easy or popular. This week marks three special holidays, Passover, Good Friday, and Easter. I hope my poem inspires you to reflect upon your faith and relationship with God. Let go of the past and trust him to lead you out of doubt and fear. He will never leave you or forsake you. You may not witness miraculous signs and wonders, but you can know the peace of his presence.

My poem Signs and Wonders first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Time of Singing.

To read another of my favorite poems click here The Secret of the Cereus.

Musings from My Garden

Growth is the result of forces working together…

I’ve waged war with killer snails. I’ve celebrated the birth of marigold seedlings. This is my first backyard experience growing Sunpatiens and the plants are out of control.

True to their name, Sunpatiens love sun. They also like heat, humidity, and lots of water. All of which are abundant in Florida. I planted my little crop last fall. They thrived all winter. April is here and they continue to bloom like crazy.

Originally, I placed a pot of Dianthus in the center of my flowerbed to add a colorful focal point. About a month ago I placed bricks under the pot to elevate the pink blooms because I could barely see them. Now the Sunpatiens have grown even taller. What a terrible problem to have right?

If I apply this story to my writing life I can see a correlation. The fulfillment of a hoped for success brings new challenges. An author succeeds in publishing a book. The release of the book demands sales. It’s now up to the author to spend time marketing the product. All of a sudden I’m running a new business involving book signings, publicity, and sales tax.

I’m not sorry I planted the Sunpatiens. Nor am I sorry I wrote a book. Life would be quite boring if we never followed our passions. If conditions are right, flowers grow. I planted the seedlings, but the increase was due to nature. Honestly, I haven’t done much to encourage them. They took off on their own. In the same way if my book speaks to readers, they will share my message with others.

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together. —James Cash Penney

The forces which work together to encourage the Sunpatiens to grow are light, heat, and water. Location also enabled them to grow to their magnificent size. Sometimes we forget about the part of a plant we can’t see. A tree used to stand in my garden. The tree grew too big and we had to cut it down. Instead of covering the area with more pavers, we left the dirt in place for a new flower bed. The rich soil allows the roots of each plant to grow deep and spread out. Roots need space to grow.

Space is important for writers to grow as well. Most people work better when they have a block of uninterrupted time to create. I used to think writers created their masterpieces in charming little cabins in the woods. What a luxury. Here I am at my dining room table looking through a window at my patio garden.

Back to the Sunpatiens. They seem to be happy. The power is all mine to let them live or pull them out and plant new seedlings. I’ll wait to see what the forces of nature do next.

Enjoy more stories about my garden by reading “The Majestic Marigold.”

Get more info about my book here “Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street”.

Rain Song

Take a poetry break.

The rain continues its steady rhythm.

A musical pattern arranged by God.

Not concerned where or when it falls

Every drop completes its part

in a cycle of simple obedience

bringing life to earth.

My thoughts abound with little effort.

Where one thought ends another begins.

Like raindrops

descending to a final destination

Ultimately voiced in the garden of self-expression.

Bringing meaning to a blank page.

Friends,

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity for me, as I’ve involved myself in the promotion of my first book. Today I felt like taking time out and getting back to my roots. Returning to poetry helps me get in touch with the joy of creativity. It’s a wonderful feeling to just write.

I hope spring affords you the time to refresh your spirit.

The Invention of Pawz Dog Boots

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Art and science are closely related. I used to think of creative people as those who paint, write, or arrange music. My definition of creativity expanded when I heard about Gary Friedland. Who is he?

Gary Friedland is a retired art director who became an inventor. One day he tapped into his artistic talent to create Pawz dog boots. Here’s the back story (no pun intended) of how I came to learn about Pawz.

Our dog, Buddy, drags his feet on the pavement. Pawz boots help him walk without developing painful sores. We learned about Pawz from the physical therapist who worked with Buddy after he had back surgery. His red boots have become a conversation piece on the street. In fact, he’s wearing them on the cover of my new children’s book.

In the process of launching Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street, I contacted Andrea Friedland, manager of customer relations for Pawz. Andrea was happy to learn their product helped Buddy lead a healthier life. She was delighted that our beagle is shown wearing his red boots on the cover of my book. Now I’ve partnered with Pawz and the company is providing free samples of dog boots for my book signings.

Buddy meets Andrea Friedland, customer service representative from Pawz.

Buddy, Herb, and I met Andrea while she was in Orlando last week for the Global Pet Expo. During our meeting we learned all about the creation of Pawz. Andrea’s father in law, Gary Friedland, enjoyed taking his dog for walks in New York City. He wanted to protect Huckleberry’s feet from the salt and chemicals used to melt ice on city sidewalks. Every dog boot he tried had problems. Some boots fell off and disappeared in the snow. Other boots were not comfortable for Huckleberry. There’s an old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Gary designed and patented a rubber dog boot that stayed on Huckleberry’s feet. Unlike other boots, Huckleberry did not fight wearing Pawz because he could feel the ground when he walked. In 2005, Gary teamed up with his son, Michael, to form the Pawz company. Today their product is distributed by 8,000 independent retail stores in 26 countries.

I’m inspired by Gary’s story. For most of his life, he probably never thought of himself as an inventor. Now he is known for creating a new product that helps dogs live healthier lives. Opportunity knocked for Gary. Instead of thinking, “This is out of my wheelhouse.” He opened the door.

“The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers.” —Walter P. Chrysler

First, Gary wasn’t fearful of trying something new. Next, he turned to family members with business skills for help. Finally, he didn’t try to avoid the hard work necessary to succeed.

For information about my first book signing click here.

Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street is also available on Amazon.

Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street

A heartwarming story about an injured dog and his road to recovery.

I am delighted to announce the publication of my first children’s book. Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street (Elk Lake Publishing) is now available in paperback. I displayed a copy for Buddy to see but he seemed to be more interested in a belly rub. During the first year he lived with us, our little beagle would have chewed on the book’s cover. At age eight, Buddy is much more mature.

Although this little chapter book is written for children ages six to nine, the whole family will enjoy the inspiration it delivers. Buddy’s life story starts when Henry and Jen adopt him from a beagle rescue. Written from a dog’s point of view, Buddy shares his opinions about people, food, and the house rules. When a tragic accident paralyzes his hind legs, he finds he needs everyone’s help and months of therapy to recover. Buddy doesn’t give up trying to walk, even when Blitz, the neighborhood bully dog laughs at him.

Jenny Laskowski captures Buddy’s adorable personality in her illustrations.

My journey to become an author has been a lot like Buddy’s story. There were times I wanted to give up. As every writer knows, it takes perseverance to keep going when your manuscript is rejected. It was only through the encouragement of my friend Sherri Stewart, that I resumed working on this project after a long sabbatical. My next pitch to Deb Haggerty of Elk Lake resulted in a contract for publication. I am so thankful for Deb and my literary agent, Michelle Lazurek who made this book possible. Of course I want to give special thanks to my illustrator, Jenny Laskowski.

When Derinda, an Elk Lake designer, was assigned to my book I began a crash course in editing I will never forget. By working with Derinda I discovered I use too many exclamation marks when I write. (I tend to get excited.) I think it’s a habit I developed from writing comments on facebook. In all seriousness, Derinda helped me take my manuscript to the next level. The whole process gave me a new appreciation of the amount of work involved in producing a book.

To purchase Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street click here. I invite your honest and helpful reviews. I welcome you to help me launch my book by sharing this post on your social media sites.

“Any dog lover, young or old, will be able to relate to this heartwarming story about an injured dog and his road to recovery. Debbie Burton shares this real-life adventure with passion and humor.” —Dr. Randall Hart, Principal, Dover Shores Elementary.

The Making of a Champion

“You may not succeed, but you will lose for sure if you don’t try.”

Meet my neighbor, Reed Zuehkle. Although he excels in several sports, he is known for his achievements as an international ski jumper. So what’s a ski jumper doing in Orlando? To to be truthful, I don’t know those details. But I’m excited to share a few details of his life as an overcomer. Here are a few of Reed’s accomplishments in the sport of ski jumping:

  • qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 and 1984.
  • won the U.S. National championship in 1982.
  • placed fourth in the World Cup in 1985.

Reed’s stats are impressive. But what’s more impressive to me are the challenges he overcame to accomplish his goals. When he was five years old Reed was stricken with polio. Night after night he woke up screaming with severe leg pains. The pain only lessened when his mother came to his bedside and massaged his legs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

After his parents consulted a doctor about his symptoms, Reed was hospitalized for tests. Eventually the family learned his pain resulted from a reaction to the oral polio vaccine. Unfortunately, the vaccine which was supposed to protect him contained the live virus.

The doctor prescribed orthopedic shoes. Reed thought the shoes were ugly and took them off whenever his mother wasn’t looking. His leg pains continued for a year. Polio weakens a person’s muscles. The doctors advised his parents to not expect much out of him physically. In fact he was advised to not exert himself. This news crushed his parents. Reed and his family lived in Wisconsin and most of their family life revolved around skiing. In fact his father, Keith Zeuhkle, won the National Ski Jump Championship in 1956.

Home Therapy

Reed’s parents refused to accept the doctor’s advice. They started a daily regiment of exercise to help strengthen his leg muscles. This involved making Reed sit on a shelf in a closet and lift sand bags with his legs. He started with one pound bags. As he got stronger, the weight increased. Reed still remembers his sisters standing outside the open closet door and cheering him on. Eventually he could lift heavier sandbags than any of his four siblings and his leg pains stopped.

Pursuing His Dream

When Reed’s father wasn’t working to support his family, he coached at the local ski club. As a kid, Reed always hung out with his family at the club. Skiing was their way of life. At age ten, he won his first local competition. During his adolescent years he advanced to national and international events. In 1982 Reed won the same national competition his father won in 1956.

Polio wasn’t the only physical challenge Reed overcame. In December of 1978 he tore a ligament in his left knee during the Four Hills competition in Germany. This condition required surgery. In those days patients were required to wear a full leg cast for eight weeks. Consequently, his knee joint froze and wouldn’t bend. Reed had another surgery on his right knee for torn cartilage soon after the cast on his left leg was removed. He spent another eight weeks in a full cast which resulted in another frozen knee joint.

Determined to jump again, Reed spent the summer and fall of 1979 training hard to regain the flexibility in his joints. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic team one year after his accident at Four Hills.

“Don’t Give Up”

I asked Reed what advice he might offer to anyone facing a challenge. He responded, “It’s easy to give up. Anybody can do that. Unless you buy a lottery ticket, you’re not even in the running. You may not succeed but you will lose for sure if you don’t try. If you really believe in something, don’t give up.”

Since his father worked a lot, Reed considers his mother the driving force behind his motivation to be an overcomer. He was glad his parents set high expectations for his recovery. He knew sitting on the sidelines wasn’t for him. Reed knew what is was like “to be put on the shelf,” and he sure didn’t want to stay there.

Most of us will never become Olympic athletes but we all have challenges in our lives. Reed’s story helps me remember to persevere. Success might be right around the corner.