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.)

Have You Hugged Your Hound Today?

September 8 is National Hug Your Hound Day.

The past month has been a challenge for us. Our beagle, Buddy, started limping on three legs. His lameness required a visit to a vet neurologist. At first we wondered if he might be having another episode with degenerative disk disease, but an MRI showed he did not have a significant level of spinal pressure to warrant another surgery. Whew! We were glad to hear that information.

The neurologist prescribed prednisone and crate rest for four weeks. Buddy likes his bed, which we’ve placed in a small pen in our family room. So that’s where he’s been confined for the past three weeks. The treatment is working. Lately, when we’ve taken him out to do his “business” he hasn’t limped anymore.

During this time of strict rest, I really missed petting and hugging Buddy. I missed having him under foot whenever I cooked a meal. I missed long walks with him around the neighborhood. I can watch him sleep and hear him breathing over there in his pen, but life just isn’t the same. One more week to go.

I’ve learned how much I need my dog. Did you know owning a dog has lots of benefits for people? Here are a few:

  • Improved heart health (studies have linked owning a dog with lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol)
  • Increased exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Improved social life (talking to neighbors who walk their dogs)
  • Reduced stress (spending a few minutes with your dog lowers anxiety)
  • Greater meaning and purpose to life.
  • Less depression
  • Prevention of allergies in children
  • Reduce doctor visits (especially among senior citizens)

Wow! Doesn’t this list inspire you to give your four legged friend a hug? Or if you don’t have the pleasure of owning a dog, you might consider the idea.

National Hug Your Hound Day is about observing the world from your dog’s point of view.

I share Buddy’s point of view in my book, Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street. The story follows his recovery from paralysis caused by a herniated disk in 2013. I appreciate this endorsement from our veterinarian, who helped us get through Buddy’s medical challenges.

“Buddy teaches us how to keep perspective and maintain a positive outlook on life no matter what the situation may be.” —Enrique G. Duprey, DVM

This post is for all of you dog lovers who continue to invest in the health of your pets. If they could speak human and thank you, they would! Dogs love unconditionally and inspire us to be better people. How has your dog enriched your life? Leave a comment.

Sacrificial Love: The Story of Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler learned that when someone is drowning, you jump in and help.

Irena Sendler never thought of herself as a person who did anything out of the ordinary. She believed she was just listening to her heart when she worked to rescue thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

I learned about Irena while touring the Holocaust Center of Maitland, Florida. Currently the museum is hosting the “Heroes of Warsaw” exhibit which shares the original artwork of illustrator Bill Farnsworth. The exhibit will be on display until December 28, 2018.

Farnsworth’s illustrations appear in the children’s book, Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin. (Holiday House 2011) I was so intrigued by Irena’s life, I borrowed a copy of the book from our local public library.

THE SETTING

After the German army invaded Poland in 1939, thousands of Jewish residents of Warsaw were rounded up and packed into a ghetto with eleven foot high walls. Soon a typhus epidemic broke out due to poor sanitation. The Germans were horrified the epidemic would expand beyond the walls of the ghetto. They permitted Polish authorities to take care of health and sanitation inside the walls since they were afraid to enter.

THE PLOT

Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker who dressed as a nurse to gain access to the Warsaw ghetto. Armed police were stationed at every entrance. As a member of the underground group Zegota, she used her cover to smuggle Jewish children to safe homes, where they assumed false identities. In the book the author describes the creative means by which Irena bypassed the armed police. Irena hid children in coffins and under the floorboards of ambulances. Babies were tucked into potato sacks and toolboxes.

Her efforts were not without personal sacrifice. Irena had become a prime mover in the Zagota organization.  Eventually she was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the Nazi’s. She escaped her execution with the help of a truck driver who accepted a bribe for her release. While Irena was in prison, her aunt saved the record of the children’s true identities. After her escape, Irena recovered the lists, stored them in glass bottles, and buried them under an apple tree.

After the war ended she gave the lists to Dr. Adolph Berman who placed the children in Jewish homes. Irena liberated four hundred children herself. Zegota saved over two thousand. Most of the parents of the surviving children were executed in the Treblinka death camp during the war.

THE MORAL

When asked why she risked her life to save others, Irena responded by sharing something she learned when she was young.

“I was taught by my father that when someone is drowning, you don’t just ask if they can swim, you jump in and help.”

Irena never thought of herself as heroic. She believed, like many selfless people she was simply doing what she had to do. Irena thought the real heroes were the Jewish mothers who gave up their children to unknown persons. 

IRENA’S LATER YEARS

On October 19, 1965 Irena was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance center of Jerusalem. Polish Communist leaders did not allow her to travel to Israel to receive the award. She was later presented the award in 1983.  

Irena Sendler died in Warsaw in 2008 at age 98. Her life reminds me of Psalm 41.

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and bless his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 

The Holocaust Center sponsors educational programs dedicated to combating ant-Semitism, racism, and prejudice. Plans have been unveiled to move it’s location to a newly renovated facility in downtown Orlando which will serve as a symbol of the city’s diversity and acceptance.