IWSG-Friends & Exploring Writing

I apologize. I seem to have had trouble migrating my subscriber list to my new place. I hope you’ll join me over there for today’s post on blogging friends. I am also at Inscribe today sharing an adventure story and encouragement on writing even through the hard. (And feel free to subscribe to the new site to stay updated on new posts!)

IWSG – What Makes Me Toss A Book Aside

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. 

January 6 question – Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books? 

A writing teacher first alerted me to the overuse of breathing to show a characters emotion. An intake of breath, a sigh, holding one’s breath, breathing out, and other character breathing descriptions are fine to use — but use sparingly. After all, if your character is alive, your reader will assume they can breathe (unless your character is something other than human and oxygen is not necessary for life). The teacher encouraged to write other ways to show your character’s distress, excitement or relief beyond “took a deep breath” or “breathed in” or “let out her breath.”

(Continue reading and see new Breathing Spaces at my new place at Lynn J Simpson)

Why Fun is Obedience! And for the love of Books!

First a Breathing Space for you. Abraham Lake, David Thompson County, Alberta, Canada

If I haven’t been to your places lately, know I am thinking about you. I do miss blogging regularly. My time priorities have included helping my writers group, Writers’ Café, launch their first collection, Hope Connections (that includes my photography); helping friends communicate their businesses and their art, grandchildren and navigating this pandemic emotionally.

Diving deep into Ecclesiastes has helped me be less worrisome and more present. Relieving the pressure of perfection, I’ve been more open to new experiences.

 So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15 (Read more here)

Life’s Unanswered Questions

Life will be full of unanswered questioned. Solomon’s wise remedy is accepting each day with joy and contentment. His advise is practical. Eat and drink every day for refreshment and strength so we can continue doing our work. Enjoy what God has given us. We will never understand all of life’s challenges and we will be forgotten after we die. Rest knowing God is sovereign. Take hold of the work He has for you today. That grammar mistake, that crooked photograph, that lopsided cake, that last place finish, is all part of His sovereignty. We judge our works from our human perspective, forgetting that God’s gifts are not to profit in life (for things are all meaningless eventually). Relieve the pressure to perform through life’s journey of learning to know God! He knows your end from the beginning.

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Can’t Stop Reading!

Reading is my joy activity. Below is a sample of my books that includes books from my middle-grade granddaughter (The Babysitters Club), other bloggers (The Advent Narrative and Rise Above Fear), and for my book club (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). To see more about these books and my thoughts, let’s connect at Goodreads!

And then there are all those books on my TBR lists including sweet romance from Jill Weatherholt to fantasy from Elle Cardy (also known as Lynda R Young) to the many choices at Mosaic Collection and at Dancing Lemur Press (Diane L Wolfe). For the young children in your life, check out Grumpy The Gator by Melissa Henderson

And last but not least, can you drop in on Thursday, December 3rd? All begins at 9 am MST. Love to see you there!

Join Us HERE

One more quick note! This place is moving to LynnJSimpson. It is currently ‘Under Construction’ and will let you know when the doors open!

What books are you recommending? Or do you have a book you are promoting currently? Tell us about them!

Importance of Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada to honour the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace. We wear poppies in remembrance, symbolizing that those who died in service will never be forgotten. At 11AM, all is stopped for a minute of silence in honour of those who served. Due to the pandemic, there will be less in-person events to commemorate Remembrance Day, however no less honoured.

This is also a day of remembrance of my best-friend, Rhonda, since I was a toddler. Today would have been her 55th birthday. She passed away from cancer just shy of her 50th birthday. In honour of her, I am re-publishing a personal essay I wrote. Two years after the loss of Rhonda, my brother, at 55 years old, passed away from cancer, too. He is also honoured in the essay.

As I get older, I am realizing the importance of remembering and finding ways to leave behind stories of ourselves for our future generations. This can be done through writing a polished memoir, but also through journalling, essays, quilting, scrapbooking, painting…even day timers. I have my late grandmother’s 3 x 3 black leather notebook that includes dates of her visits to her daughter in the hospital after she received the first successful kidney transplant. Seeing even my grandmother’s handwriting is a remembrance of her I cherish. Those things you craft, or write, or take pictures of may seem not significant, however they may become as cherished a memory as a poppy on Remembrance Day. Keep doing your craft. It matters.

Disappearing Ladders

     One summer when I was small, a ladder appeared against a corner piece of fence that separated my backyard from Rhonda’s, my best-friend. I saw the silver top of another ladder on Rhonda’s side of the fence. That ladder was taller than the one in my yard so I had to swing my leg high over the fence to reach the rungs on the other side. When journeying back over to my side, I’d turn backwards, balancing my tummy against the wood, and stretch my leg blindly until my foot reached the top step of my ladder. I learned early that flip flops were not the shoe of choice to climb ladders. Sometimes a pair of flip flops would be in my hands and bare-footed I navigated the hot metal steps between my backyard’s and Rhonda’s.

    I don’t know whose idea it was or remember who it was that added these ladders that linked my backyard with Rhonda’s. I do remember my mother, years later, telling me she’d once found me half way to Rhonda’s house after my three-year old self wandered out my front door. And she told me too, about the later times when I was five years old and she received a morning call from Rhonda’s mom to let her know I was safe at Rhonda’s house, pajama- dressed and shoeless. This all must have been before the appearing ladders.

     I don’t remember wanderings to Rhonda’s. Mom is gone so I cannot ask her more. I do remember Rhonda’s favourite breakfast of crust-less buttered toast. I thought it very special, to eat bread with the crust cut-off. I wonder if I ate Cheerios before I wandered over to Rhonda’s. I do remember floating Cheerios in milk, and my brother, Mark, beside me eating his cereal in our kitchen then. I can’t ask him either about my wanderings to Rhonda’s since he is gone too. At my last visit with Mark, he nibbled on a crust-less sandwich while the sound of distant chimes came from his open hospice window.

      I was too late to see Rhonda in hospice.

      Rhonda had the prettiest baby doll pajamas. I felt big around her but she was smarter. Her house had four big rooms on the main level—the living room where we made card houses and the family room where we watched cable television, the kitchen, and the dining room with tables bigger than the one at my house even though my family was bigger. I had four older siblings compared to her two however, a big space of nine to twelve years in ages is between the three eldest and I. I remember dinners in our kitchen, a small gathering most often, with my mom and Mark, and a plate of food in the oven kept warm for my dad.

    I don’t remember when the ladders were taken down. Maybe it was months before leaving to move west- my parents, Mark and me. Both my parents are gone now along with Rhonda and Mark; my memories behind fences only I’m left to climb.

    I miss those ladders.

What are some things you do that you will leave behind? What encouragement would you give to someone who thinks their craft has no value?

Are you looking to give Hope to someone this Christmas?

The Advent Narrative by Mary Geisen Hope Connections by Writers’ Café

Insecure Writers Support Group-Why do you write what you write?

Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

Recently a writer friend shared a Facebook Post that quoted author Kurt Vonnegurt. The quote, according to the post, came from a letter he wrote to high school students.

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” Kurt Vonnegurt

Before I set out to write, I’ll often read essays in collections such as Slice Me Some Truth and Small Victories (Anne Lamont). Sometimes I’ll feel like quitting writing after reading these essays, as my own writing is not anything like or as good as the writing by these excellent word smiths. Every word, phrase, and literary device develops the theme, moves the story forward, and keeps the reader engaged–all things I aspire for my writing to also be. But most importantly, they create a moment in time that I can imagine, creating a new experience that may only be in my mind but expanding my world nonetheless.

This is why I think I write what I write-to have new experiences even while just sitting in an office chair surrounded by four walls. Each sentence, each word, even each spelling mistake is something new created at that very moment that wasn’t there milliseconds before. Even if the writing is not good, I wouldn’t have found that out without first taking that step to just write. The writing may never be good, but I have had the experience of writing. And are we not sums of our experiences? Kurt Vonnegurt suggests that experience is what can ‘make your soul grow’ no matter how well or badly you do. I’m hoping that in my final days of life, even though I likely will not be famous or money rich, I can say I had a life rich in experiences. So I write on, well and badly.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.  

Why I stopped productivity tools (for a time)

“Be available.”

Recently I read those words “be available” in Bob Goff’s book, Dream Big. Challenging us to be available even when pursuing ambitions, Goff writes on how he encourages readers to contact him by adding his personal phone number in the back of his published books. He can get hundreds of calls a day, he explains, however he also receives new perspectives and ideas while serving others.

“Being available isn’t about about giving yourself away recklessly or wearing yourself down to the point where you have no energy to do your own work. It’s about keeping yourself open to the world around you so you don’t fall back asleep.” Bob Goff, in Dream Big

I am one who needs lists to get things done. I have a Polestar Business Planner for work and a pretty 52 List Planner for my other ambitions like writing, photography, and graphic design. Some days I am inspired by the checkmarks, and other days I get disappointed with myself for the lack of ticked off items. I’ve been trying to find a way to balance pushing myself and being realistic. Regardless, Goff’s words woke me up to how I was becoming a slave to my list.

I realized too, that focusing on my lists had me falling asleep to the present. My lists left little room to be open to new discoveries, new ideas, and especially to developing intimacy with others.

A me centred living is not a life-giving path.

Ecclesiastes 5:9-12 says:

Two are better than one,
  because they have a good return for their labor.
If either of them falls down,
  one can help them up.
But pity anyone who falls
  and no one to help them up.
Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
  But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
  two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken


I think all of us know intuitively that we are meant for relationship. Yet, we can hide away using our lists, our ambitions, and our judgements to avoid reaching out, or just picking up that call instead of letting it go to voicemail. I know I’ve been waking up to how I can isolate instead of opening myself up to an unknown adventure. Often, too, I have found when I say yes to an invitation (even when I feel too busy or tired to do so), I am renewed and blessed.

A ‘me’ centred living is not a life-giving path. A ‘we’ centred life leaves a legacy of comfort and healing by helping each other flourish, succeed, and create a safe community.

The people you spend time with will play the largest part in the ambitions you achieve, not the minutes you saved each day by avoiding them.” Bob Goff in Dream Big

What active step can you take today to engage in your community? Is there a list you need to let go or hold more loosely?

Other news!

Hope Connections is released! You can find out more at InspiringHopeInYou and Here.

NaNoWriMo is soon upon us. I’ve never fully participated in this challenge. Have you? I am beginning to work through Short Story Writing (WD) and Story Engineering (Larry Brooks). With an encouraging writing community, I am working through these writing crafts books.

If you are on Instagram, I’d love to connect with you there, too. Add your Instagram handle in the comments or you can follow me and I’ll follow you back!

A Trust of Timing

From where I write, when I glance up from my laptop, I see a framed picture of my best-friend and I. Both in summer tops, mine magenta and her’s white, we are standing in front of her backyard pool, our arms encircling each other’s waists. A moment taken and then like vapour, gone. And she left too, 8 months later, passing away from cancer at 49 years old.

As time has gone on, I observe how life goes on. The earth still spins, the sun rises and sets, and although the grief still remains, threads of joy weave through it’s strands, balancing the colours so one does not overwhelm the other. Death is a certainty, a leaving from an earth that continues to spin, repeating natures cycles long after we are gone. There will come a time, when we are not remembered anymore.

Striving to Find Meaning

So what is the point? In my most painful of times, when dreams seemed to vaporize and when overcome by losses, I’d wondered what really is there to gain from life when it is just taken away?

Wisdom is knowing we have limited access to the full picture. Trust God’s timing and be purposeful with the time you have.

Finding Freedom From Endless Searching

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:9

It’s easy to become wearisome when we try to search for answers in things that are in God’s timing. A loved ones death too soon, a job loss, a dream unfulfilled–all can leave us disillusioned and questioning when we try to reason out the why with our own limited understanding. Solomon’s teachings show us how earthly pleasure and pursuits can never satisfy us, but we have “eternity in the human heart.” In other words, we have a restlessness for His perfect creation. In our limited world view, we cannot comprehend everything, but are called to trust His timing to make all thing’s beautiful in it’s time. To free us from our endless striving for answers, let’s look up in trust and say “my time is your hands.”

What are ways that help you trust God’s ways and timing?

Becoming Free-Lessons from Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

While watching my grandchildren the other day, I followed the house rules by reminding my granddaughter that her homework had to be finished before she could play. The expectation became that once she finished her school work she could expect to play. I know when growing up I had similar expectations. The expectations of completing chores may have even included a few dollars from time and time, and later when working jobs a pay check, of course, was the expected result of my toils.

From completing our school assignments to working our jobs, we place an expectation that we will receive retribution for our efforts. When checking off our goals, or seeing our first book in print. or walking that 10,000th step of the day, we can measure our efforts as successful. When we exceed sales targets, or run that marathon, or declutter those office drawers, we can feel accomplished and successful from these things. Our expectation can grow that things are what make us a success and life meaningful. The idea that it is the stuff of the world that we can expect to make us feel successful, is planted in us at a very young age from well-meaning adults (something I still catch myself doing to the ones I love).

Things are Temporary

The thing is though, that things are just temporary. That A on that exam, that one marathon, that one completed book can make us wonder what is next to achieve. We search for meaning and happiness from what we have and do. We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God. Solomon called this endless toil for life’s pleasures as “chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Wind passes by us just like our good feelings from our accomplishments. All is temporary.

“We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God.”

What is Meaningful?

Celebrating our achievements, recognizing our talents and gifts, are good things, when we move our expectation from the thing itself being a means to an end. In other words, it is not in the achievements that we receive meaning. When we are no longer expectant of things to bring us meaning, our security and self-worth no-longer are dependent on our successes, accomplishments, or anything that is temporary. We become free to enjoy God’s gifts in our lives.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Ecclesiastes 9:7

And this brings me a cheerful heart! Joy Bailey, author and project manager of Hope Connections, after just picking up first copies for final, final edits (hopefully) of Hope Connections! You can find out more about the project at Inspiring Hope In You.

What gifts from God are you enjoying today? Is there anything you are placing your time and energy into that may one day be considered as a “chasing after the wind?”

Round and Round We Go

Maui Sunset

“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastes 1:5

Late in his life, around 935 B. C., Solomon wrote reflections that we now read in the wisdom book, Ecclesiastes. Although written approximately 3,000 years ago, his words apply as he intended for all future generations. Interestingly, we still say the sun rises and sets, even though we know now that the sun stays in place while the earth does a full rotation around the sun every 24 hours, passing through it’s light. Daily, around and around the earth spins on it’s axis, never changing it’s direction causing the sun to appear to rise in the east and set in the west.

Nothing is new under the sun.

Death is a Certainty

Round and round life goes, Solomon writes (Ecclesiastes 1:8). Anything you do will have been done again if not already done before. (9) No one will remember the generations that have been and yet to come. (1:11). You will be forgotten.

Maybe it’s because I am now in my mid-fifties that I find myself more curious about my family’s past generations. Maybe it is because I have had loved one’s pass away seemingly too soon and before the generation before them. Maybe I am questioning more what the meaning is of all this time I have left here on this side of heaven. If I take a measuring tape, and with my fingers on one hand on the number that reflects my age, and then the other hand’s fingers on the number when I think I will leave this place, I see a whole lot of tape fallen away from me, and less between my fingers. It is the less that is left.

Death is a life certainty for us all.

Maui

Our Insatiable Search

God’s plan for us though, goes beyond life and death.

“The world and it’s desires passes away, but who ever does the will of God lives forever” 1 John 2:17.

To grasp that there really is nothing new under the sun can be complex. Once I used a dial telephone that hung on a wall and now I punch numbers on a phone that I carry in my pocket. Generations before me that I do not know sent letters via a messenger or may have been the messengers sent on behalf of others. The way we communicate is new. Or has it just changed? The pursuit of communicating with others is not new, just the devices on how we communicate have changed. And will change again.

The search for what we think are better ways to navigate our world continues. The pursuit for better goes round and round, never changing, never new. Solomon calls the pursuit for world pleasures meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Pursuits not of God leave us feeling empty and insatiable. True happiness cannot be achieved from the pleasures of this world without God at our centre.

Maui

“Happiness is too noble and delicate a plant, to grow in this world’s soil.” – Thomas Watson

I hope you’ll join me over the next weeks as I do deep dive into the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. Gosh, I need it, I know! Together we’ll discover that understanding the meaningless pursuits in our lives leads us to using the time we have left here wisely and fulfilling.

If you haven’t taken a look yet, come on over to Inspiring Hope In You where you will meet the Hope Connections writers! The Hope Connections book is in final edits and hope to have a hard copy in our hands in the next couple of weeks. This week’s feature post is by contributing author and poet – Hope Defined by Connie Mae Inglis.

(And talking of things going round and round…who remembers the Banana Comb from the 80’s? I guess they are on a comeback! I had a favourite pink one I wore almost daily! And butterfly clips too, are back, but honestly, I never stopped wearing those. Is there something that you have continued to use beyond it’s popularity? Or something you’d like to see come back in popularity?)

Linked up today at Recharge Wednesday with Soaring in Him

Struggling with life

“The reality is not everyone wants to hear our messes or wounds. Not everyone will care or understand. Not everyone will believe or support us. But that doesn’t make our stories any less true or important.” Trudy Den Hoed at Freed to Fly

Trudy’s blog post this week challenged me. I want to hide away my struggles, bury them under smiles and justifications. When I find myself talking about a current challenges, there is an underlying shame that I’ve caused this messiness and don’t deserve to be accepted. Will this person that I am sharing with still accept me? Will they see me as bad mother? Or cold and unsympathetic? Or with too much mess in my life to be bothered with?

Shame too, comes from another question. Who am I to be admitting to these challenges when I have so much? And then the guilt. My struggles shouldn’t matter and don’t deserve attention. Is this self-pity?

Ironically, my purpose to write is to create connections. To create connections so one does not feel alone in the world. Trudy writes, “And even if our stories aren’t received by all, there just may be someone who needs to hear it and will feel less alone and more understood.”

Her words are what I needed to read. Are they words you also needed, dear readers?

Feeling less confident

Although I know that in life we will have struggles, the current pandemic environment has amplified my uncertainty about the future. Where once I felt like I was understanding how to navigate the bumpy and curved roads, now I grip the wheel with less confidence. I do hold on to hope for better days to come, particularly with my job that pays the bills and with my special-needs son whose defiant behaviour is again escalating.

Feeling Fearful

But I am fearful.

Although God calls us not to fear–I fear, my friends. I fear for my future, and I fear my son’s behaviour will damage his new living arrangements in a supportive group home.

I fear I am not good enough at my job and not a good enough mother, regardless of the current environment, to turn things around.

There have been days I struggle to stay awake. Somedays I loose that struggle and find myself covering myself up in a quilt and closing my eyes when hours of daylight still remain.

Better days

There also have been days with hikes in the mountains, neighbourhood walks with girlfriends, and star-gazing by campfires. There have been days with discovering new places among creeks and valleys and a first climb to the top of an old rusty grain bin to watch the deer in the distance and the hundreds of Canada Geese resting in a farmers field. There have been precious days, too, with the delightful laughter of grandchildren.

It’s these days that help keep me mentally okay. Family, friends and nature–oh do I need you even though I may hide behind smiles. Or be too proud to show that I need anyone. For to need seems just too vulnerable. What if you leave and never return?

Keeping it raw and real, I have no answers right now, wisdom or advise. I don’t want to water-down the reality with a feel-good meme or cliché. What I hope though, is you know that you are not alone in your struggles and even if your struggle is different from another’s, someone (maybe even me) understands how darn hard and messy it is. You are not alone.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Matt Maher, Lord I Need You.

Another blogging friend, Rolain Peterson, is releasing his first devotional book this week, Rise Above Fear, Choosing Faith in Fear-Filled World. Rolain’s post are real and encouraging, and steeped in God’s truth. I hope you’ll take a moment to discover his place, Kingspeech. Considering the fears I have been having, I see God’s hand in the timing of his book release!

Also, my writing group, Writers’ Cafe, is working through the final edits of their story collection, Hope Connections. To find out more and be the first to hear of the latest news on the Fall 2020 release, visit Inspiring Hope In You.

How are you are seeing God’s hand in your life right now? If you’re feeling alone in your struggles, please let me know if there is something we, as a community here, can help you with.