What My Dog Has Taught Me About Writing

I’ve learned a lot from following my dog around. Whenever Buddy picks up an interesting scent… he walks faster and faster with his nose to the ground. Buddy will not stop until he tracks the scent to its source. It might be as small as one goldfish cracker, but he will not give up until he gets what he’s after. I must admit I admire his persistance.

I’ve discovered I need to apply a few of Buddy’s good qualities to my writing life. Although Buddy is directed by his sense of smell, I’m directed by what I see. My focus determines the direction I will go. I’m trying to direct my focus and be more productive by thinking like a dog.

Keep Looking Forward

Buddy never looks back, but continues to forge strait ahead when he’s on a mission. Sometimes I think fondly of the past and wish I could go back. That happens a lot when I look in the mirror and see how I’ve aged. Allowing my age to stop me from pursuing my dreams as a writer is a non-starter and robs me of my motivation. I need to remember and be thankful I’m retired. My age gives me more time to spend on my craft.

Look Beyond The Obstacles

Buddy never lets anything get in his way. When his back legs were paralyzed, he used his front paws to pull himself forward while dragging his back feet behind him. Wherever he wanted to go, he went. If I had focused on my inexperience as a writer, I would have never moved forward. My husband believed I could write a children’s book before I did. With his support, the fact that I’d never written a book, didn’t stop me.

Stay Alert for Opportunities

Buddy can be on the other side of the room but the sound of chopping vegetables or rustling cellophane signals his attention. He trots over to assume his position at my feet, keeping watch for any crumbs I drop on the floor.

Ideas for writing pop up on my radar just like those noises in the kitchen. Good ideas can fall to floor as quick as kernel of popcorn. I need to keep a notebook, or my phone handy to capture them. If I’m stuck without an idea for a blog, poem, or plot, I can always consult my notes.

Take Time To Rest

I’ll admit I’m somewhat of a workaholic. It’s important to realize whether I’m being productive, or spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Busy work saps creativity. As I write this, Buddy is curled up sleeping. He doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows he can trust me to meet his needs. In the same way I need to remember everything doesn’t depend on me. Rest can be achieved in many ways, physically and spiritually. I rest physically when I stop hitting the keys. I rest spiritually by remembering that ultimately God is in control.

On that note, I’m thrilled to announce the release of my first children’s book, Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street  March 21, 2019! Click on the link to read more on the specifics of my book at Elk Lake Publishing.

Dear Readers,

Greetings on this last day of 2018. How was your year? Did you have some memorable moments? First, I want to thank all of you who have faithfully followed my blog. Some of you have not left comments, but I check my stats, and I know you’re out there!

When I started my site in 2016, I wanted to encourage people to find fulfillment in pursuing their interests. For me, writing is the spice of life, and this blog has given me an opportunity to share my passions. I’ve crossed paths with those who love nature, history, poetry, books, family life, beagles, and all things Florida.

Today I want to step back and reflect upon my blogging year. Here are my most read posts of 2018. Click on the link to see what others have enjoyed reading:

Dover Shores: Thanks for the Memories

Sharing Books with Kindred Spirits

Redefining Age with Valerie Ramsey

buddy’s world

Poetry: A Message in a Bottle

I’ll admit my blog is kind of a mixed bag. But it’s a reflection of me, and I’m a person with many interests. Narrowing myself to one area of expertise seems kind of boring.

In closing, I hope you have time to pause and reflect upon your life this year. This morning I made a list of all of my blessings. When compared with my challenges, the blessings won! I love this quote from Melody Beattie.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.”

I invite you to continue to follow me in 2019 as I meander the road less followed. Best wishes for a joyful January as we walk into 2019.

Feeling Deflated This December?

Are you tired of running the December rat race? My race to prepare for Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving and still continues. Social norms dictate my actions. My days are full of decorating, shopping, and baking. One week I attended nine social events. I feel like the burnt out Santa pictured above.

The Pressure to Maintain Tradition

I have friends who schedule a long cruise every December to purposely avoid the craziness. That’s not a bad idea, but I doubt if I would ever be bold enough to change. I’m too much of a traditionalist. Every year I tell myself I’m going to scale down my preparations. Do I really need to bake seven kinds of cookies? Do I need to send cards this year? It’s difficult to stop doing something you’ve always done. Sure, cookies are time consuming to make, but everyone loves to eat them. Cards take some effort to send, but they are a way of maintaining contact with loved ones who aren’t on facebook. 

The Pressure To Feel Happy

 Another dynamic that December brings is the pressure to be happy. Upbeat Christmas music plays in the stores. “Tis the season to be jolly” carries an expectation to be full of good cheer. Unfortunately tragedy never takes a holiday. For the countless number of people who’ve experienced a loss at this time of year, the anniversary of the event brings a time of renewed grief. The idea that it’s somehow wrong to to be sad only adds to their despair. 

The Pressure to Please Others

Each year we are inundated with keeping up with marketing trends. Advertisements pressure us to get new models of gadgets we already have that can do more things and do them faster. Desperate to please our loved ones, we overspend. I like this reminder:

You are not obligated to continue holiday traditions that leave you broke, overwhelmed, or tired.

A Matter of the Heart

One of my favorite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. The Whos of Who-ville had completed all of their holiday preparations. They decorated their homes, prepared for a feast, and hung their stockings on the mantel. But while they were sleeping, the Grinch stole everything. Yet, when they got up Christmas morning, they celebrated as if nothing was missing. They gathered in the town square, held hands and sang to welcome Christmas. This left the Grinch perplexed. 

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. ” 

Dr. Suess captured everything I feel in these two lines. Yes, Christmas will come without all the traditions I usually keep. The gifts I  hastily wrap and place beneath the tree are no comparison to God’s gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The traditions of man cannot match God’s love.  Knowing this helps me reframe the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is an intangible matter of the heart. I want to experience more of God’s love this December. That usually begins by taking the time to seek Him. That’s something I want to do more.

What are your thoughts on December? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you are feeling deflated, may this Christmas give you the opportunity to consider God’s love for you. 

Lock Up The Luggage of Worry

Worry robs today of creative energy.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”

The words of Jesus from John 14:1 remind me I have a choice every day. I can decide to trouble my  heart, or trust in God. I trouble my heart when I continue to play negative tapes in my mind. These tapes often include fears about the future. 

Worry robs today of creative energy. 

Sometimes people feel obligated to worry. As if worrying is necessary baggage to carry along on the journey of life. Some carry their worries in a briefcase, others drag an oversized suitcase behind them everywhere they go. I’m kind of in the middle. My worries fit neatly in a backpack but it’s heavy and the load keeps me from climbing the high places. 

Stop and think about the mental energy we use when we worry. Couldn’t that energy be spent writing, painting, or gardening? What could we accomplish if we set our suitcase to the side and refused to open it? 

Worry robs today of it’s joy.

When we live in the present we start to be more aware of our surroundings. We hear a bird chirping outside our window. We smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. Put your hand over your heart. Feel your pulse and rejoice because you are alive! 

Most of the time the exercise of “troubling our hearts” doesn’t solve whatever problem we’re dwelling upon. It only makes us feel anxious.  So how do we put a lock on our luggage?

Present your requests to God.

Once you’ve prayed about your concern, imagine tucking it away and locking it up. Allow the peace of God to fill your mind. Remember, God wants the best for you. He will be with you in all of your tomorrows. 

Do Something!

“You’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying.”

The quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption offers good advice. We can choose how to occupy our time. Each day is a gift. We can waste it by rearranging the worries in our luggage, or lock it up and set it aside. 

What does being busy living look like to you? Let’s not waste the gift of today. Take a walk. Read a good book. Bake cookies. Take a friend to coffee. Make a list of all the the things in your life you are thankful for. Enjoy today. Sleep well tonight. Enjoy tomorrow. 

“Whatever is lovely, think about such things. And may the God of peace be with you.” Phillippians 4:8,9

 

Giving Thanks

Writers are always looking for inspiration. Like many people, I find inspiration in Scripture and nature. This month I decided to read a psalm every day and journal a few notes about each one. If I continue this habit I’ll finish the book of Psalms by the end of March. The chapters are short, poetic, and emotional. In many of the passages, David despairs about his enemies, but closes with a proclamation of faith in the power of God to help him. He thanks God for protection and provision. David often thanks God for simply being God.

Psalm 19 is one of my favorites. Here are the first several verses from the NIV:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.

There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,

like a champion rejoicing to run its course.

It rises at one end of the heavens

and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,

reviving the soul.”

Wow! I hope this psalm blesses you as much it has blessed me. The heavens do declare the glory of God.  The stars do sing of his beauty and authority. The universal language spoken by his creation can be understood no matter what language someone speaks. I am humbled when I look at the work of his hands. It’s then that I’m reminded of how small I am and how much I need him.

The word holiday derives from “holy day.” A day set apart, not for the anticipation of Black Friday, but to give thanks to the one who set the planets in motion. Let’s remember to seek the giver of all things good.

The phrase “Happy Thanksgiving” is kind of an oxymoron. How can anyone give thanks and not be happy?

May your joy be full as you celebrate God’s goodness with loved ones this Thanksgiving.

Until next time…

 

 

 

Are We There Yet?

What parent hasn’t heard this question from their impatient child on a family road trip? It’s hard for kids to wait. Sometimes it’s hard for adults to wait. How many times have you felt impatient when traffic slows down to a crawl? The older I get the more I realize life is all about waiting. Human beings stand in one long line waiting for their turn. We experience waiting in lines at stoplights, the grocery, or theme parks. And most of us have let out a sigh of frustration when we take a number at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I think ninety percent of my life has been spent waiting.

Here’s a list of seven things I’ve waited for this week:

  • For a prescription to be filled by the pharmacy.
  • For our carpet to dry after being professionally cleaned.
  • For our car’s hitch to be repaired so that we can pull our camper.
  • For my poison ivy induced rash to stop itching and go away.
  • For updates to be installed on my phone.
  • For more people to follow my blog.
  • For cooler temperatures. (A desire of many Floridians in October.)

That’s all I can think of at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll come up with another list by next week. Sometimes delays result from my own choices. But delays which involve wait time usually depend upon people or forces beyond my control.

Does waiting frustrate you? I admit I have a hard time waiting.  Here’s a great quote from Joyce Meyer:

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait… it’s how we behave while we are waiting.”

When I was forced to wait for my prescription to be filled, I became angry. How dare the pharmacist go to lunch when I need my medication? Then I realized, I’m hungry, too, I think I’ll grab a sandwich while I wait and do a little shopping. Taking a break and eating something helped me accept the fact the world doesn’t revolve around me. I was able to be polite when the pharmacy staff took my order.

Sometimes I try to take shortcuts to decrease my wait time. If you’ve ever used the WAYS App while driving, you understand how the navigation system reroutes you around road congestion.

But taking a shortcut isn’t always the best way to deal with decreasing wait time. For instance, if the mechanic leaves a few steps out when he’s repairing our car, we could encounter a possible disaster on the road.

Stop and think, has the end result of anything ever improved because you hurried? Generally, the answer is no. Hurry makes us more anxious and accident prone. We can’t take ten days of antibiotics in one dose and hope we will get better faster. Physical healing is something we can’t rush.

Arnold H. Glasgow said, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

How do you deal with wait time?

Thank you for reading my blog, which by the way is a great way to pass the time when you’re sitting in a waiting room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Fear Trap You from Pursuing Your Dreams?

Two years ago my husband asked me to join him for a two-day guided mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. At first, I hesitated to give him an answer. I have no riding skills and I’m fearful of heights. His idea seemed out of the question.

Even so, I began to entertain the thought. I’ve always wanted the experience of being inside the canyon instead of standing at the rim, so I agreed to go. Once he made our reservations and flight arrangements, there was no turning back. In the meantime, I set my heart on trying to think positive thoughts about what might await us.

Have you ever allowed fear to keep you from following your dream? A few weeks ago one of my followers commented she wants to write more, but is fearful her work will be rejected by others. She avoids spending time writing by busying herself with other activities until she no longer has time available. Her fear has become a source of self-protection.

I appreciated her honesty. Good for you, the first step to overcoming fear is acknowledging it.

Author Tosca Lee said something I will never forget. “Write like no one will see this.” Writing like no one will see it chases fear away and permits us to create. We need to banish the self-critic in order to let our thoughts flow onto the paper. Until we engage in our art, we seldom move forward.

It’s true that not all of our creative works are worthy of publication. Rejection goes with the territory, whether it be from an editor, a friend, or a spouse. My husband is my sounding board. Sometimes he proofs my work and says, “I’m not getting this.” Then I know I haven’t made myself clear. Time for another revision. Rejection can make us better writers.

Accept the reality there are people who can write better than you. Comparing ourselves to others chokes our creativity. Our current culture demands instant success. But how do people achieve success? First, they decide to start. Then they decide to continue. Most marathon runners begin by competing in a 5K. Slowly, they continue to build their stamina by participating in longer races.

We can receive encouragement from Scripture when facing fearful situations. One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 29:25. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Just like a snare traps a small animal, fear traps us from pursuing our dreams. Pray for courage to throw off fear and trust God to take you where He wants you to go.

When I descended into the Grand Canyon, I didn’t look to the right or left of the trail. I kept my focus straight ahead on Olga, my mule. Olga, you know the way. You’ve traveled this path many times. As Olga continued to steadily plod along, I began to relax and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the canyon. For more details about the trip, see my previous post entitled, Trust and Obey.

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Ask yourself what matters. Are you content to stay in your comfort zone? Is it time to stop viewing the canyon from the rim?