.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…
Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…
But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.
… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…
I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…
.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…
.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..
As I watched them play?
I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.
Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..
.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..
Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..
… job changes
… house fire
The point is?
The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..
Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??
…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…
… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..
“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”
I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.
Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..
…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.
As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..
But this season I also slowed down a little..
For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.
We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..
And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…
As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..
…and just like Jesus’s mom?
I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..
What memories are you saving in your heart ??
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.
Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..
For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..
You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.
But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.
And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..
So prepared or not? It was worth it…
As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..
The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..
.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…
And it brought tears to my eyes..
As a parent of a child with special needs?
I feel just like that tree..
.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…
I should have fallen over long ago..
… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…
The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..
As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”
Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…
We went to church yesterday for the first time in awhile. I love attending services.. but churches aren't always the safest places for kids with special needs.
I know.. I know.. I was surprised by this too..
You see? My son has Autism with a side order of Bipolar.. add in the fact that he is also still a kid? It can kind of be a mess at times …
When my son is distressed he quotes movies.. Blue's clues, Dora, Alone in the wilderness, Peter Pan.. you name it.. he quotes it..
…but talking in church is typically frowned on.. even if it's in the back corner of the back row by a cute boy with lots of freckles.
We have gotten a lot of dirty looks.. a lot of stares.. and shushed more than a few times… throughout the years…
The problem is?
The more shushes.. the more glares?? …the more anxious he would get… the more he would quote.. AND the more often we would end up in the lobby listening over the speakers.
So we stopped going to church for a while… choosing to worship at home.. where he was safe..
When we lived in Missouri we found a church that smiled at my son when he quotes randomly in the middle of service. They high fived him in the lobby.. and we went to church regularly…
It was amazing..
But when we moved back to Michigan .. finding a new church was a little daunting and my son was very unstable.. so we kept our services at home again.
Yesterday we attended church with some friends at their invitation. We have attended this church a couple times with these family friends and another family as well. But my son was unstable and it was still uncomfortable for us.
But this year has been a good year for us, and my son is making great strides. So? So we made plans.. marked it on the calendar like it was an appointment.. and we went to church.
We arrived at church .. my daughter in jeans.. my son in his favorite 3 piece suit.. and we were greeted by a handful of people.
ALL of us were greeted.. especially my son.. who was obviously overdressed.
The extra effort that the congregation put into making him feel welcome.. and the extra effort our friends went through ??
It meant that my son sat through the 2 hour service holding my hand … mostly quietly.
To someone who goes to church every week it might not seem like much..
But to a mom who thought church was an impossible task?
A little over a week ago, I took my exchange daughter to the airport. It’s always hard to say “see you later” to these girls. They truly become a part of my heart during the time that they stay with me.
But this last daughter was something that I didn’t expect. She was something I didn’t even know I needed.
She helped me grow.
Yes .. yes.. I know.. I should be done growing.
But I’m not.. and honestly I doubt I ever will be.
And today? Today I am so glad that she was a part of my year. I’m glad she taught me to live in the moment.. and to love myself.. and to remember what is truly important..
I can’t wait to hug her again.. but she is a part of my heart everyday from now until I do!!!
I love you Başak.. today and always… and I am EVER so thankful that God led you to my door.
Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once.
Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me.
But he only yelled at me once.
It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”
Wow did that hurt…
At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”
Well?? I see what my dad was talking about …now…
I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself..
I get really tired.
These days, I call these interests my “hats”..
There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies…
I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me.
My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory)
The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this..
House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on..
Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..
I could go on and on..
And I realized my dad was right..
I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre.
So this LAST year?
I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time..
But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided ..
So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard (because I love ALL the jobs I do)..
…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)
As I tried to find the perfect 500 word excerpt from Shadows this morning, I consulted my daughters… They quickly listed off a couple samples.. but I still couldn’t decide…
So I thought I would ask you..
Which section would make YOU more likely to download a copy of Shadows?
!The first Sample!
“I can’t believe my luck. Sure was happy to see ya walk past my horse. I was jest leavin’ town myself. Now I can escort ya home,” the stranger continued happily.
“You’ll hafta excuse me, sir, I must be hurryin’. My Da will be expectin’ me ta have dinner ready soon,” Emma stated.
“Well then, we musn’t keep him waitin’,” he replied. There was a chuckle behind her. The fair haired gentleman smiled in response to his friend’s laughter. “I’ll come along with ya. Ya can introduce me, so I can git permission ta call on ya. Official like. We can git our courtin’ started today.”
“I believe ya misunderstood me, sir,” Emma replied appalled.
“Misunderstood? Na, I think not. I see that ya waited fer me outside of town, so that we could walk together without all those busybodies watchin’ us and interuptin’.” Smiling, the man reached for her arm. Emma stepped back and bumped into the horse behind her. Feeling panic well up within her, she looked around for help and was amazed to see a pair of stormy eyes walking towards her.
From behind, Emma heard the man on the horse cleared his throat in warning. The fair haired gentleman stiffened in irritation as he turned towards the approaching man, demanding, “What do ya want now?”
Emma could not take her eyes off the approaching help, even though she knew it was rude to stare. The gray eyed man did not look away from her as he answered, “When this young lady fergot ta bring me my coffee before she left town, I started in ta worryin’.”
Looking down into her basket, Emma realized that she had indeed purchased the tin of coffee the man had intended only as a distraction. “I fergot,” she said weakly, trying to figure out why he would want the coffee she accidentally purchased.
Coming to stop a few steps from Emma, the gray eyed man smiled at her. “Ya steal a man’s heart and then ya steal his coffee, darlin’?” He winked at her. “Ya go too far.” The smile that touched his mouth, did not reach his stormy eyes. They tried to convey a meaning to her. A meaning that Emma could not quite grasp. “Ya shoulda waited fer me ta walk with ya. I’ve been wantin’ ta speak with yer Pa,” he paused briefly before continuing, “before the weddin’.”
Gasping as his plan dawned on her, Emma ducked around the fair haired gentleman and reached for her rescuer’s arm. He weaved her hand around his tense elbow and held it there. Wanting to look convincing in her new role, she desperately tried to remember how Abigail had looked at her David all those months while they were courting. Opening her eyes wide, she batted her eyelashes. “Oh do forgive me darling,” she said, attempting to mimic Abigail’s sugary tone. She hoped no one would notice how her voice quivered.
!!The second Sample!!
By the time she walked back from the field and made it to the hill by the creek, she had convinced herself that Thane would have left by now. When she arrived, it was indeed vacant. Emma sat down in disappointment, but intent on looking carefree. “Well Mama, it looks as if I brought ya a sandwich.”
“Ya’ve already given my sandwich away?” asked a voice that made her jump guiltily.
“Ah—No, of course not,” Emma replied, willing her heart to slow down. “But I almost dropped it in the water, ya scared me so,” she scolded. Thane sat down a couple paces from Emma. She handed him a sandwich, wrapped in a towel.
Thane took a bite of the sandwich. Looking thoughtful, he asked, “Ya gonna introduce me ta yer Mama?”
Emma looked up at him. She couldn’t decide if he was making fun of her. Finding no hint of teasing in his face, she replied, “Mr. Hawkins meet my Mama, Lilliana Wells. Lily, to those that loved her. Mama, this is Mr. Hawkins.. He’s taken ta savin’ me lately. Even promised ta marry me ta protect me from an ugly mess,” she ended with a smile.
“Pleasure ta meet ya ma’am. Please call me Thane.”
“Mama wants ta know where ya come from that we shouldna know ya already? We thought we knew everyone here in the valley,” Emma asked innocently.
“Well ma’am, I live in those hills,” nodding his head across the creek, “tucked in a valley. I come this way a couple times a year but spend most my time on the trail huntin’ and trappin’.”
“So yer a trapper?” Emma asked between bites.
“Call me Emma –,” she reminded him.
“Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, I thought I was talkin’ ta yer Mama,” he said with a lopsided smile.
She chose to ignore his teasing and looked toward the hills.
“Yer mama seems ta belong in this spot,” Thane observed.
“She does,” she stated simply. “A fever took her and my baby sister ta heaven a few years back.” Her final words were barely above a whisper.
“I’m sorry,” Thane said softly.
Emma blinked back a tear before she looked at him.
“Where is yer sister’s stone?” he asked.
“Isn’t one. She was so small, I couldna bear fer her ta be put by herself. Mama had wanted her so. And Da– well he couldna bear ta name her. So she sleeps in Mama’s arms, here in Mama’s favorite spot.” She waved her arm to indicate the hill top overlooking the little creek. “Da brought this rock here. When he dug it up outta the cornfield – he decided ta roll it here so Mama wouldna have grass stains on all her skirts. She always was sittin’ in the grass. She tried ta make them stop before they hurt themselves. But Da had jest teased how “embarrassed” he was ta have a wife with green dresses. She finally relented then …but wouldna come down here fer weeks,” Emma laughed sadly. “But when she did, she sat on the rock.” She paused, remembering. “She kept one skirt with an especially bad grass mark though. She hung it right in their room. It’s hangin’ there still. Da won’t even let me wash it.” She didn’t notice the tears on her cheeks until Thane handed her his towel.
“What about yer Ma?” Emma asked, trying to lighten the mood as she dried her cheeks. “Will I know her if she’s in town? Or will I have ta wait `til the weddin’?”
Thane looked back towards the hills. “Awhile beyond that, I expect,” he answered softly. “My Ma died when I was young. We went out trappin’ and when we returned.. she was gone.”
“Oh,” Emma replied, not knowing what to say. “How old were ya?”
“Not sure really. Probably 9 winters ago.”
“Ya don’t know how old ya are?” Emma asked incredulously.
Thane shrugged his shoulders. “Pa doesn’t keep track of such things-says they’re nonsense. I stopped askin’.”
Wiping her eyes again, she cleared her throat. “Maybe we should jest start plannin’ our weddin’ before I start cryin’ again.”
**Please Vote in the comments below**
… if you haven’t downloaded Shadows yet.. you should… It’s a bargain at 99 cents..
Sometimes I make plans… Oh can I make some detailed plans... Plans to be productive.. plans to be helpful… Plans to organize my plans…
And then God shows me that it is not MY will … But HIS that I should follow…
When I don't listen to what God's Will is.. things tend to go wrong. Just little things.. but there are enough "little" things that I have to deal with? That I start to feel like a salmon … fighting against the current to swim upstream. When I continue to fight against the current… YUP… I feel stressed and exasperated! You probably know the feeling…
When I tried working at the preschool my kids attended? I was good at my job.. and I enjoyed it! I REALLY enjoyed it. But I fought my kids to go to school every day.. with a child on the Autism Spectrum.. with a side of Bipolar? Fighting them to do something that stresses them? It doesn't really work out very well. I kept having to go pick him up from school because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed.. I was stressed.. my neighbor who was putting him on the bus was stressed…
Then one November? My kids were sick… the whole month. I missed a WHOLE month of work.. A runny nose here.. a sore throat there.. a cough… a wheeze… a fever… some bronchitis…
sigh…. and then I sat still and listened…
You see .. MY plan was not what God had in store for me. It took me 3 years to figure that out.. yes I said 3 YEARS.. I am stubborn and persistent. Once I decided to listen to the Still small voice of God.. I realized what He was telling me. HIS plan for me was not at that preschool that I loved… and I wasn't listening…
So at the end of the year I resigned… and I stayed home for the next 6 years. And God? God sent me family after family who needed in home care for their kiddos. I never had a shortage of work.. and I never felt like I was swimming upstream… Now it was challenging and was hard work.. don't get me wrong… but I never felt like I was fighting against every element to make it work…
With that slight change in will-power? I had turned it around, swimming in the direction God was trying to lead me… and BAM.. I was back in control..
Except control is an illusion… I never really had control in the first place….
My adrenaline was pumping (pretty healthily, I may add) this morning as I drove along the snow covered roads. A couple of the drifted areas were enough to make me hold my breath. By the time I arrived at my kids’ school to drop them off, I was exhausted.
That first snowy drive of the season is always the worst… but after today? After today I will be used to it… Slow and steady will get me there… Slow and steady will keep us safe.
Snowy roads are NOT the roads I dread though.
The road conditions I wish I could avoid completely would be fog.
Fog? you ask. (I saw you raise your eyebrow)..
You see snow covered roads make you prepare for battle… You know to leave early… you know to drive slower… no sudden steering changes… no sudden stopping… You basically leave the house with a complete manual on how to win against the snowy road conditions. And?!? And you can see where you are going.. what you are up against.
But with fog?
Yes fog is beautiful! It is so neat to be able to walk “among the clouds”.. while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground. It is so cool to run your hands through the heavenly clouds and see what the “heavens” feels like. You look out the window and those clouds, from the heavens above, give the world around you an unearthly look and feel. It’s eerie and spooky.. but still kind of cool.
But that isn’t why I don’t like to drive in fog… it’s not that it creeps me out.
When you drive in the snow.. you at least have partial visibility of what you are up against. You can be prepared.
With fog you have nothing. You don’t leave the driveway with a game plan, a battle manual…
You have no idea what is up ahead… so how can you prepare? Sometimes I pause at the end of my driveway.. take a deep breath… and breathe a prayer to God that I am putting our lives .. and my car in His capable hands. Because to me? To me.. driving in Fog is the ultimate leap of Faith.
It is the ultimate reminder that we are not the ones in control.
Everything can change in the blink of an eye..
Then?!? Then prepared to drive by Faith… I pull my car onto the fog enclosed road.
You know that part in a suspense movie?!? The part where the kids are looking for their lost friend and they know the answer lays down that foggy path to the creepy house? And you are yelling at them NOT TO GO IN THERE.. but still they tiptoe forward.. Tiptoeing in hopes to sneak past any danger.. tiptoeing because their brains are telling them the same thing.. whispering “don’t go in there”, over the loud pounding heartbeats.. Tiptoeing because they don’t want to go down that road at all…
That is what I feel like starting down that foggy road.. “Let’s not do this,” my heart whispers.. “who knows what we will encounter?” and then “what if we aren’t prepared? Maybe we should just stay to home..”
That is where the prayer of Faith comes in…. I simply pray that God takes my doubts away so that I can be prepared to meet what ever curve, puddle, branch, stop or deer God has chosen to be in my path. To not be so wrapped up in the “What if’s” that my mind will be clear for the actually obstacles as they appear through the fog.
A prayer for clear headed faith.. for a drive in Faith….
Fog covered roads are like our future.. all we can see is what is immediately before us.. like the next 15 mins.
We can take care of those 15 mins.. take care of those immediate needs. But beyond that? Beyond that you are operating on faith. You can apply this concept to anything in your life.
Especially parenting.. As you driving along that foggy road of parenting.. with your children safely buckled in the backseat? Here comes a sharp right hand curve.. SPECIAL NEEDS… Next comes something blocking your path.. branches, water puddle.. or a cow… and you have to stop and clear the path… EMERGENCY SURGERY… Or a detour sign. A sign pointing away from the easy road ahead and telling you to go down the road less travelled by.. SPECIAL DIETS. Or my personal fear.. a washed away road (a cliff)… When you chose the wrong road and now you have to turn your car around.. like when we chose the wrong Meds to treat my son’s mood disorder.
The marriage road is equally foggy.. you could encounter financial difficulties, parenting struggles.. along with finding old baggage in the road ahead….
On your career path you encounter disinterest, promotions, layoffs, new bosses…
YUP.. When you drive on ANY road through life.. it is exactly like that foggy road… You drive it by Faith. You drive knowing that you are not in control.. only God is.
This year I published a book.
Writing has been my whole life.. publishing a book is the ultimate dream. But when I headed down that publishing road?
You guess it…
When I pulled up to the beginning of that fog covered road to publishing a book? I paused.. (Ok.. really I didn’t just pause.. I put my car in park… I got out and walked around to the front of my car… then I knelt down in fear.. staring out into the eerie white clouds blocking my view. Like if I stared long enough, God would make a break in the fog and let me see the end of the road. But then I got back in my car…) I took a deep breath (or two..)… and breathed a prayer to God to help me trust Him.. A prayer telling God that I was placing my book into his capable hands to do with as He willed.
Was that easy?
In theory? In theory every Christian will tell you they trust God to steer their life according to His Will. But it is still hard. I want to plead with God to help my book to sell REALLY WELL because I have a message to tell. I want to argue that I believe that girls need to read stories where there are no Fairy Godmothers to smooth over the edges.. no happily ever afters awaiting in the wings… That girls need to see examples of how relationships and marriage are hard work.. acts of faith.. acts of love.. but are completely worth it..
With the financial commitment and the time commitment of publishing looming in the fog? What if God doesn’t want to use my lifetime’s work RIGHT NOW? Or what if He doesn’t want to use it at all? What if I put my best work forward and it isn’t good enough? These are the fears that all of us face.. The fear of the foggy path… HOW WILL THIS END?
SHOULD I GO IN THERE??
..and your heart full of dread whispering to you.. “Don’t do it. Don’t go down that path… it may not be worth it.”
So why would I do it? Why would I get into my car .. and inch down that foggy road? Driving only by Faith alone?
Because of a promise God made me..
A promise God made to all of us…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
This is the promise I have built my world around this year.. The promise that powers my car as I drive down that foggy road.. and it is the promise that I built my book around.
Yes.. Shadows is about Emma’s journey down a foggy road.. a road she travels by Faith… knowing that God has a plan for her.. a plan that she knows NOTHING about.. only that the path will be hard and full of intense emotions and choices… but in the end? In the end, God’s plan for Emma does not harm her.. it makes her stronger… and it gives her a future. A future full of hope. Not a happily ever after ending! Why? Because there is always another foggy road.. always another walk of Faith..
So if I want my book about taking that first step of Faith.. onto that foggy road.. to succeed??
Recently.. I launched my book, Shadows, into the world. To make it a momentous occasion, some friends of mine helped me host a book signing. I made sure I had books available to purchase.. I made sure I had pens to personally sign each book… We made coffee and cookies… And I decided I would give a brief talk.. followed by a question and answer opportunity. To prepare myself, I asked my Facebook friends and family what questions they would ask me. Things that they were curious to know. I used these questions at the launching… and I was asked many more.
After the Book Launching day passed.. I received messages from people who wished they could have come hear me speak. I understand this feeling. Life is so busy that it is impossible to do everything we would like to do. But in this one instance? In this instance, I can share a few of the questions (and answers) I talked about…
Here are a few of the most frequently asked…
#1. Is Shadows a continuation of your blog site?
Short answer… No!
Long answer… My blog site is made up of short stories from my life. Simply put.. it’s non-fiction. My thoughts, my memories, my sorrows, my hardships.. from the real life of Jules Nelson. Shadows is my first published work of fiction. It is about the thoughts, memories, sorrows and hardships of a fictional young lady named Emma Fern Wells. And while many people enjoy reading about the lives of both, they are NOT one and the same.
#2. What made you want to write a book?
Short answer … I am a writer. It is nice to put the works of my brain on paper.
Long answer… As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to write a book. Ever since I was a little girl, I have made up characters and mapped out their stories. Where ever I was, my mind would slip into my writer’s world. Whether I was folding laundry.. or washing dishes.. or raking leaves.. or vacuuming.. or sweeping… my mind would be a million miles away.. Sometimes hundreds of years away. Wondering how a young lady would do the same task 100 years earlier. OR wondering if a young lady would have been allowed to do that task… YES.. you can imagine that my mother was annoyed with me on more than one occasion… Everything I did was done to perfection.. but it took FOREVER. When I was old enough to write things down.. I did.. I often filled notebooks full of stories. My first stories just rambled.. weaving and wobbling along with no particular direction. By my teen years, I had gotten the hang of sticking to a plot.
#3. If you have been writing since childhood.. why did it take you so long to complete a novel?
Short answer… Life.
Long answer… Life during high school and college is so busy.. and packed full of activities.. there was NO time to write. I kept my usual journal for awhile… but that too fell by the wayside after a few years. Then I met my wonderful husband.. and had my 2 amazing kids. These 3 people consumed my life for a time. When my son was diagnosed with Autism, all my research went into learning new therapies and new concepts. Even when life was at its busiest, I never stopped making up stories. I would develop characters and tell adventures with them to my daughter. Make up new endings to terrible movies. But until recently? Until my husband’s job brought our family home to Michigan, my life was not simple enough for me to write a book.
#4. What inspired you to write Shadows?
Short answer… Hmm.. there isn’t one.
Long answer… I love History. Not the type of history that you learn in the classroom.. not all the dates and facts.. But history ITSELF. The clothes they wore in a certain time period.. What those particular clothes said about a person… How you could often tell what class a person was in by the clothes they wore… How they cooked… What they ate…
Whenever I learn something new, I try to tie it back to something I already knew. For instance, wagon trains were going on before and after the civil war. These were NOT two separate time periods .. but one and the same. So to head off to join the war? They traveled for WEEKS by wagon or horseback to meet up with the army.
There are photographs of the soldiers during the civil war. A strange mixture of primitive conditions. Pictures of living in tents and cooking over fires. Pictures of women washing the officer’s clothes. The more I thought about the photos… the more I thought about how SOME of these soldiers could have been on a wagon train. How none of the scenes in these pictures would have been unusual for them. They would have slept in tents.. and cooked over fires.. and washed clothes in any creek they could find. The more I thought about the soldiers.. the more I thought about the wives they left behind..
And then I decided that SOMEONE should write their story.. the story of the wives left behind to do the job of pioneer woman and man both.. left behind to do it all alone, in most cases. And I decided that I could do it.
#5. When did you know you would write Shadows?
Short answer.. As soon as I developed Emma’s character… and had a dream about her.
Long answer… Shadows is actually the prequel to the story I want to write about the civil war wives. The more I developed the character of Emma.. the young mother who will be left behind.. the more I longed to tell her story from the beginning. When I had a dream about the person she would have been? I woke up with the firm decision that I would start with Emma…. that I would write Shadows before I wrote Ashes… I would write where she came from.. who she was… write about how God shaped her character..
#6. Do you plan to write another book soon?
Short answer… Yes.
Long answer… I am already writing the next book. Shadows is the first of 3 books that follow Emma’s life. The next book.. the ONE that I am currently working on… will follow Emma’s first year of marriage (no spoilers here.. so I won’t tell you who she marries). I am hoping to have this second book, Road Home, finished by Spring 2015. The third book will follow Emma as the Civil War breaks out. When her young husband leaves her behind to take care of their growing family and the farm.
#7. Where do you find ideas for your books?
Short answer… Everywhere..
Long answer… Everywhere… Research… ballads… undeveloped characters in other novels… phrases in songs that leave you thinking.. photographs… pretty much anywhere…
#8. What is the most important aspects of writing?
Short answer… Details… and editing.
Long answer… Details! Lots of details.. If I can explain my story the way I see it in my mind? If I can describe my characters so that you can “see” them as you read? If I can do that? Well, then you won’t want to put my pages down. That is when my story becomes a book. AND THEN? And then I edit to make sure my words say EXACTLY what I want them to say. Nothing slows down a reader more than typing errors.. or words used in the wrong context.(I know this because I love to read.) So details and editing.
#9. How much (if any) does Shadows reflect your life experiences?
Short answer… A little…
Long answer… Emma’s faith is similar to mine. Unwavering and simple. I trust the Lord to provide for my needs.. and so does Emma. Emma has brothers.. and so do I. Brothers who are protective, supportive and loving.. Other than that? Other than that, Shadows reflects my life long pursuit of knowledge and everything history.
#10. What was your most life changing experience about writing this book (Shadows)?
Short answer.. Peace.
Long answer… Writing this book was exciting and fun… and fulfilling. But the most life changing experience would be the peace I feel. Writing is what I was meant to do.. and it feels so good to be doing it.
I hope you all have read Shadows.. and I hope you really enjoyed it.
Keep the questions coming.. but for now…
I need to get back to writing…
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.