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 straight 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 a 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.

I wrote this post in 2019 but the message endures today. Two years later, I’m working on book three of “The Tails of Blueberry Street” series. Buddy the Beagle is the main character of all my books. Join us for our back to school book signing this Friday in Casselberry, Florida.

A Decorating Dilemma

Whew! We’ve all been there. Moving from one place to another is pure chaos. Even though a moving company handled the packing and transporting, the process stressed me out.

I apologize for my long absence from cyberspace. In my last post I mentioned our upcoming plans to move to a retirement community. For the past month, I’ve been consumed with trying to create harmony between myself and my new living space.

Our new apartment is small. (1500 square feet) We no longer have a garage, which was quite useful for stashing items we didn’t use everyday. Now, every inch of storage space matters. Although we tried to downsize, our closets are full. The movers stacked our framed art against a wall in the guest room. Every time I walked in there I thought, “What are we going to do with all of these pictures?” We live in an open floor plan with less wall space, and more windows.

If you think God doesn’t care about the little things we deal with, think again. This is one dilemma I prayed about, and His answer increased my faith.

I felt a need to keep the art I still liked—colorful landscapes and nature scenes from trips we’ve taken. So, I carried each picture from room to room to envision how it might look on the wall. Still, I couldn’t see how this eclectic mix could possibly fit together. Most of all, I didn’t want to make unnecessary holes in any of the walls. Once the pictures were hung, that’s where I wanted them to stay.

Two years ago I repurposed these frames with photographs I took at Lue Gardens. The colors brightened up the dining room and complemented our chairs, so I decided to keep them.

Then I found a collection of small canvases Jenny, our daughter, had painted. For years they decorated a bedroom. When I carried them into the dining room, I realized they matched the chairs as well. Jenny and I found some rustic looking frames at Joann Fabrics, which my husband prepared for hanging. Originally I thought I would line them up horizontally on another wall.

Enter Shaun,O’Dwyer, a floral designer with an eye for hanging pictures. Shaun came up with a new idea. Create harmony by bringing these different elements together vertically. Then hang them high. The result is amazing. I always thought pictures had to be at eye level. Shaun opened my eyes to new possibilities.

If you are wondering what to do with something old, instead of throwing it out or giving it away, think about changing it. Enlist the help of someone who might see things differently and create a new look.

“Redecorating has the power to make us feel like we have created new energy, a new vibe, a new life” —Dr. Sherrie Campbell

I am so thankful God cares about the little details in our lives. When it comes to creativity, I want to remember to look to the master creator. Behold, He makes all things new! (Rev.21:5 KJV)

Thank you for reading my blog. Leave a comment. I’d love to hear how you solved a decorating dilemma.

How to Age Gracefully

A positive outlook about your age can help you live longer.

This week I received a phone call from a high school classmate inviting me to our fiftieth class reunion. The call hit me by surprise. What? Fifty years have passed since I graduated? After the shock wore off, I did the mental math. I graduated from high school in 1971. Just another reminder that time doesn’t stop. Sometimes I feel like my body is a driverless car on the road to an unknown destination.

The cosmetic industry has made billions from products which help hide or slow down the effects of aging, but nothing stops the process. For twenty-five years I colored my hair to hide my age. When the 2020 shut down closed the beauty shops, I let my hair return to its natural state. After awhile I began to like my salt and pepper look. Now a year later, I’ve accepted myself for who I am. After all, isn’t gray hair considered the “splendor of the old?”

Most women don’t want anyone to know how old they are. After age eighty, all of a sudden their attitude changes. They wear their age like a badge of honor to represent their personal victory over the struggles of life. I am thankful for the advancements in health care which make it possible for us to live longer.

Today people can expect to spend a quarter of their adult lives in retirement mode. These can be the best years of our lives if we approach them with the right attitude. That’s right, attitude means everything. Did you know a positive outlook about your age can help you live longer? In this post I’d like to share some tips for nurturing a healthy attitude.

Stop Feeling Sorry for Yourself

Are you someone who regularly complains about how bad they feel? Accept the reality that you are aging and do what you can to alleviate your aches and pains. Focus on the opportunities of today instead of regretting the mistakes of the past. People lose their “aliveness” when they weigh themselves down with negativity.

Exercise Your Mind

When we learn new skills our brain function increases. Routines create ruts and limit our growth. Our brains love stimulation. Try puzzles, read, learn new vocabulary, dance, listen to music. For more ideas go to this link for brain Exercises.

Stay Connected Socially and Spiritually

Keep in touch with old friends. Deepen your relationship with God by reading the Bible and praying. Connect with people who share a similar interests. Volunteer in your community.

Express Gratitude

Every day think of three things you are thankful for. Keep a journal of blessings. Express your thankfulness to and for others. Be thankful for your age. God has given you these years and it is indeed a wonderful life.

Soon my husband and I will be moving into a retirement community. We are excited about the opportunities ahead and treasure these years together.

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”

—Frank Lloyd Wright

Are You a Hugger?

If your answer is “YES,” I’m sure the past ten months have been difficult. Social distancing has made hugging a no-no.

I didn’t realize how much I miss hugging until I heard January 21 is National Hugging Day. Maybe that’s the problem in America lately. We need more love.

I hope you have someone within your circle of relationships you feel comfortable hugging. Did you know wrapping your arms around someone for twenty seconds releases a feel good hormone called oxytocin? Oxytocin is beneficial to our mental and physical health.

Hugging helps us by:

  • improving our sleep
  • reducing pain
  • reducing stress
  • lowering blood pressure
  • lowering the risk of heart disease
  • easing anxiety

In addition, people who enjoy more affectionate relationships are less likely to get sick!

Granted, many of us might not feel comfortable with a twenty second hug. (Personally, I’ve never timed my hugs.) A twenty second hug seems more appropriate for close relationships. At a time when handshakes are off limits, hugging anyone outside of our immediate family could be a social faux-pas.

Embracing our family members is important during these troubled and lonely times. When children see their parents embrace, they feel safe and secure. When children and teens receive hugs from their parents, they feel loved. Hugs encourage us in the midst of challenges, bolster our self esteem, and communicate support when words seem empty.

How many hugs a day do you give? How many do you receive? Virginia Satir was a pioneer in family therapy. She believed you can never receive too many hugs and families suffer when physical touch is absent from our interaction.

This is a short post about a simple action. Hugging is free and our supply is unlimited.

Have you hugged your loved ones today?

Thanks to Donna and Geren Baird for modeling the art of hugging.

Remembering “The Good Old Days”

“When we face challenges, human nature makes us think we were happier in the past.”

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I tend to do what seniors have always done. We romanticize the past. We say things like:

“The good old days were better than now.” I wish I could go back to the eighties.” (or seventies, or sixties)

“I wish I looked like I did ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. I used to be much thinner.”

“In my younger days I was a champion __________.” (Fill in the blank with any sport you want.)

I have to admit, so many changes have happened in 2020, I’m beginning to consider the year 2019 part of the good old days. Was it just last year I took a Viking River Cruise in France? Now the experience seems like a dream.

I don’t think 2020 will ever qualify as a candidate for the good old days. Will we have fond memories of wearing masks, social distancing, and cancellations? I doubt it. When we face challenges in the present, human nature makes us think we were happier in the past.

For years I’ve turned to Scripture to begin my day. Sometimes I underline verses which stand out to me. Once in awhile I write the date next to the verse. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is speaking to me personally and saying “Hey Debbie, you need to remember this.”

On July 8, 2012 I underlined this verse. “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 8:3

So why did the author (possibly Solomon) think it unwise to romanticize the past? Was it because romanticizing the past breeds greater dissatisfaction with the present?

Paul the apostle wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:12

How? The next verse tells his secret. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” v. 13

When we are weak, Christ is strong. When we are unable, Christ is able to sustain us. When we focus on the past, we miss the joy which can still be found today. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our own thoughts. Nothing, not even a pandemic, can separate us from Christ’s love. And he is waiting for us to seek him in prayer.

At last, 2020 is coming to an end. Will 2021 be just as challenging? I want to remember 2020 as the year I found contentment in spite of my circumstances.

Dear Reader, thank you for your time and attention. I would love to dialogue with you regarding your sentiments about this year. Has 2020 taught you something about yourself? Leave a comment.

An Imperfect Vessel

Maybe a broken pot serves an important purpose.

Excuse me, where is the gardener at a time like this? Isn’t it time to repot these plants? Haven’t they outgrown their broken container?

I snapped this photo on one of my recent walks in Leu Gardens. The scene is an affront to my desire for perfection. At first glance, one might consider the pot and its contents, ugly. Yet, the succulents continue to thrive.

I wondered how a cactus could survive in a subtropical climate like ours. After all, Leu Gardens is located in Orlando, Florida. This year we received 52 inches of rain. Doesn’t a cactus need to live in a desert?

Water aside, Florida has much in common with the deserts of the southwest. Both have sandy soil and receive lots of sunlight. Our average number of days with sunshine is 236. Roughly 2/3 of our year is sunny. Sounds like a great place for a cactus, except for the frequent rainstorms.

Let’s get back to the broken clay pot. Although one side seems to be missing, maybe the broken pot serves an important purpose. Since cactus plants will not grow well in standing water, did the gardener intend to use this imperfect vessel? If the water has a way to drain, a mini-desert environment has been created. This imperfect vessel could be just what these plants need.

Maybe this was part of some greater plan. The gardener actually planned to use a broken pot. Or maybe he broke it on purpose.

The more I think about it I realize I could apply this visual to our world. We are the like the cactus, trying to thrive in a broken vessel. The clay pot with one side missing represents loss. So far the year 2020 has taken lives, marriages, and income from many people. Often we wonder, where is the gardener? Has he forgotten about us? Why doesn’t he redeem all we have lost?

We hope science can save us. We expect our government officials to rescue us from the losses of this year. Still, we wait. But there is one greater than science or government. One who will wipe every tear from our eyes. The gardener will return and great will be our joy. He will make all things new!

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God; we trusted in him and he saved us. This is the Lord we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in our salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

Dear reader, I am hoping the days ahead bring joy and prosperity to your house. Never give up on the gardener. He knows what he his doing. Trust him.

Music Makes My World Go Round

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

How important is music to you? My passion for listening to music began with the purchase of my first record. In 1964 I scraped money together from my small weekly allowance to buy the Beatles 45, “Please, Please, Me.” I listened to it over and over and practically wore it out.

When I was old enough to babysit for the neighbors, I saved my fifty cents an hour salary to afford albums. One of my early purchases was “Disraeli Gears” by Cream. What an amazing album cover! Cream blended rock, blues, and jazz into a unique sound. The group consisted of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton. This powerful trio created a blueprint for every super group to follow including Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin.

The sixties brought forth a renaissance in music. Every month a new group surfaced. Each group seemed to build upon the creativity of others. In my opinion, this golden age of music has not been replicated since.

Like most teenagers I spent hours in my bedroom listening to music. It seemed like I was doing nothing but there was a lot of dreaming going on in there. For you see, music gives flight to the imagination.

In my post, True Confessions of a Memory Hoarder, I shared how difficult it is for me to give up my record collection. Guess what? My problem is solved. I’ve discovered Spotify! Granted, I might be late to the party, but I’m thrilled that the party waited for me.

Herb and I learned about Spotify from our adult children. Think about it. Every song ever recorded can be downloaded to your phone, and for a small monthly fee, you can listen anytime you want. Spotify enables you to create your own playlists of your favorite songs. You can make a high energy playlist for exercising, or a slower mix for times of relaxation.

When it comes to music, we all have our likes and dislikes. Spotify has organized the hits from each decade. Scrolling through the sixties list helped me remember songs I liked on the radio but never purchased. How could I ever forget “Spooky” by the Classics IV?

Herb and I enjoy playing our own version of “Name that Tune.” One of us will play the beginning of a song and the other person must identify the title and artist. (Fortunately, we both grew up listening to the same music.) Often we talk about what was happening in our lives at the time. “Radar Love” was popular the year we met at Lum’s Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.” However, we did not consider it “our song.” That honor was reserved for Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”

I always wanted to be a song writer. I think my love for poetry really began by listening to music. Remember the lyrics to “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel?

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Remember me to one who lives there.

She once was a true love of mine.

In addition to inspiring and entertaining us, music offers a refuge from the hardships of life. Work songs like “Sixteen Tons” break the monotony of manual labor through a repetitive rhythm. Blues songs like “The Thrill is Gone” empathize with those in despair from a lost love. Hymns like “Amazing Grace” lift our spirits to worship God and deepen our faith. Music is a vehicle for the expression of every human emotion.

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite musical artists. How has music made your world go round?

The Benefits of Being Still

Morning walks are great. The reflection of the bridge in the water demonstrates simple beauty created in stillness. In this post I want to explore how science and faith complement each other.

First, what causes a mirror image?

Reflection happens when light bounces off an object. If the surface is smooth and shiny, the light will bounce back at the same angle it hits the surface. The Latin root, reflectere refers to bending back. We see a mirror image.

The word reflection also means careful consideration or meditation. When I reflect, I allow my mind to think before I act. I hold my tongue before speaking. I seek wisdom before deciding which path to take.

Stillness is essential to receiving wisdom. Job was a man of God who experienced many trials. When trouble abounds, as it did in Job’s life, his friend told him to “Stop and consider the wonders of God.” (Job 36:14) NIV

When we pause long enough to see the wonders of God around us, we get a new perspective on our troubles. We stand face to face with someone bigger than ourselves, our creator. It’s only when we see ourselves in relation to him that we can be free from our misperceptions. God is God and I am not. The water reflects the bridge. It is not the bridge.

Who or what does your life reflect today?

A Little Encouragement Can Go a Long Way

I think everyone can agree 2020 has been tough. Has the pandemic erased your hopes and shattered your dreams? The economic slowdown has affected most of us, including writers. If you feel discouraged, consider the negative voices affecting the way you think about yourself and your work.

What messages influence your thoughts? If we listen to the news media we might wonder if our circumstances will ever change. Will the pandemic last for years? Will we ever be able to make public appearances again? If you’re like me, you can’t even think about scheduling any future events.

Eventually, all the bad news from the media begins to influence the way we think about ourselves. The voice of our inner critic grows louder. It is the voice which brings to mind our past failures and limitations. And if we compare ourselves to others who appear to be more successful, we hinder our own progress because we no longer feel like trying. I never thought the launch of my second children’s book would take place during such challenging times.

Return to Blueberry Street follows Buddy the beagle into a new adventure. When a porch pirate steals his dog treats, Buddy decides to organize a dog crime watch to catch the bandit.

But Buddy has a critic. A Doberman with an attitude bullies him at the dog park. Blitz constantly makes fun of Buddy because he can’t run with the big dogs. How could a loser in red booties like Buddy ever catch the bandit? The little beagle starts to doubt himself and considers giving up.

Buddy’s friend Max tells him, “Don’t worry, with your nose and my feet, we’ll catch the bandit.” Max didn’t ignore Buddy’s weakness. He knew Buddy couldn’t run because of a previous injury. But he recognized Buddy’s amazing sense of smell and encouraged him to not give up. Then Max came alongside to help.

Everyone has limitations. Personally, I started writing late in life. I don’t have a background in business and I struggle with marketing and technology. Everyday I must choose whether or not I will listen to the naysayers who tell me I’m doomed and the inner critic who tells me to quit.

My hope arises when I remember all the people in my life who are like Max. People who encourage me to utilize my strengths and never give up. People who read this blog, and share my posts. And once again I open my laptop and begin to write.

Think about this scripture: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Maybe the Apostle Paul knew when hope is absent, love can lift us up and help us fulfill the calling upon our lives. If you find yourself in a dark place today, think about all of people God placed in your life to encourage you and give you hope. Remember why you started writing in the first place and reconnect with your creativity. A little encouragement can go a long way.

Join Buddy as he learns about the power of friendship in my second book.

Return to Blueberry Street is available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. Click here to purchase.

(Ha! I had to get that last line in somewhere.)

True Confessions of a Memory Hoarder

“Your home is a living space, not a storage space.”

I never thought of myself as a hoarder. After all, I can still walk through my house. I take the trash out regularly and rarely keep something because I might use it “someday.”

However, I’m beginning to feel differently about myself. We are moving to a smaller place and the process of packing has taught me I am a hoarder. What do I hoard? Memories.

I have saved photos, awards, and every cute drawing each of my children gave me. I saved record albums, tapes, and compact discs. I’ve saved souvenirs from every family vacation. I could go and on. Over a period of forty years I continue to move these “treasures” along with me. Somehow I have failed to realize a person always collects more memories every year. Each year the number of boxes increases. Unless I rent a storage unit, I am out of space.

And what is the point of a storage unit anyway? I can’t imagine spending a few hours visiting the unit to gaze upon my treasures. After all, most of these valuables sit untouched year after year.

I’ve come to the end of the road. The moving van will pull up in two weeks. I’m facing one of the biggest decisions of my lifetime: How to let go.

I’ve got to get back to work. Taking a break to write this post has helped me process my plan. As I examine each artifact I will question its value to my family. Anything my children might want is important. If the item doesn’t pass this test, it can be donated, recycled, or worst case scenario, trashed. I love this quote:
“Your home is living space, not storage space.”
― Francine Jay

I’m ready to live more and remember less. Are you a memory hoarder? Leave a comment and tell me how you freed yourself.