WHAT A SWEET TREAT! Many thanks to children’s book author, Lauri Fortino, @Lauri14o for posting; with thanks to author/poet Jill Esbaum for sharing the story of COTTON CANDY in a new picture book by Ann Ingalls, illustrated by Miggy Blanco.
A friend and author, Vivian Kirkfield viviankirkfield , creator of the “50 Precious Words” contest, inspired me to write a Haiku for children, age 12 and under. Finally, after three tries, I’ve composed an entry to my satisfaction. In the end, it was great fun, Vivian. Thank you. Many stories in 50 words will be posted today on Vivian’s blog.
WINTER RUNNING LATE
by Pamela Miller
Faces peering out
“Why is Jack Frost not about?”
Fog-free window panes
Smelled the weighted air
February never fair
New red sled hangs ‘round
Cloudy, down pouring
Loud, the old Grandpa snoring
Soft, hair white as snow
March teased with flurries
Then shouting, sledding, I burst
Now? It’s April first!
Is this about God? Ah, yes, but this is not a comparison or renunciation of other faiths or non-believers. This is my faith story, one that recounts a Christmas story that I’ve told and retold and always remember this time of year.
I belief in God who is and always shall be. I believe God is absolute (meaning perfect) and divine (meaning not human) and omnipotent (meaning all powerful). I can’t produce God by scientific or logical means. But His presence can be felt. His love can shine through the eyes of others. His power can be known when miracles occur, as they still do today. (An event for which there is no scientific or logical explanation is, by definition, a miracle.)
In the simplest explanation, when I have believed, God’s presence happened to me. As a child, tiring of a morning-long service, I leaned on Grandma and watched her index finger following the words of the hymns. Hearing that God’s love was like her love, I easily accepted because I was always sure that Grandma loved me a lot.
Yet, in my adult life there were times when I didn’t pray, didn’t accept an opportunity to learn about Him, and I wondered how God could really know me and understand my problems.
An author, now deceased, Karleen Koen, wrote an extraordinary novel, Through a Glass Darkly, and an international best-selling sequel, Now Face to Face (Random House, 1995). In both novels, a couple of pages past the copyright and acknowledgements, these scripture verses were written:
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.”
I Corinthians 13:11-13
Karleen Koen likened the above scripture to her heroine’s moving from the past and facing the present. The understanding of “charity” is love, not romantic love but the love of God, oneself, and benevolence for all mankind.
To me, those verses reminded me that God does know me, now, and He will know me when I die. Perhaps, my challenge is to believe and accept God so that I might know Him.
On December 23, 1965, my husband and I began the drive from Nashville, Tennessee, to Springfield, Illinois, to be back with our families for our first Christmas together. We left after 11:00 p.m. because he attended school at night. We had traveled about two hours when I asked him to roll up the car window. His smoking bothered me, so the car window had been down, off and on.
Some of this story has been repeated many times to me by others because rolling up the window was the last thing I remembered, until I gained consciousness in the emergency room of a hospital in West Frankfort, Illinois.
On that newly finished, dark, empty stretch of highway, we were overcome by exhaust fumes in our old automobile. Asleep at the wheel, my husband’s foot depressed the accelerator as we left the curved road at an underpass. The car became airborne, flipping end over end about nine times. The pressure was so great inside the car that it pushed the rear window out and sent it sliding, all in one piece, down the highway.
A lone semi driver found us. My husband had landed in the back seat. His collapsed lung made his condition deadly. The driver thought he might have run over my leg. Reportedly, he was told that the leg would be smashed if he had. Fortunately, I had been thrown from the car on the first roll and had a compound fracture of one leg.
Under the heat of the emergency room lights, I became aware of the situation to some extent. I couldn’t see. I felt the light. And my voice was praying The Lord’s Prayer. I felt my clothes being separated from my body. A voice cried, “My God! This girl is pregnant!”
In and out of sleep, I wasn’t sure why I had to wait for my broken leg to be set; and I was uncertain of the ache in my low back. Trying to make me comfortable with pillows, my nurse asked that I lay as quietly as I could. I received an injection. And then, we waited.
Today, over 50 years and four children, 10 grandchildren, and one Angel grandson who could only stay seven months, my spouse and I don’t give our old injuries much thought. All our children were born healthy and strong and smart. Our first child, a boy, was more of a risk taker, but he has children of his own, now.
The point of sharing my story is to let you know that if you are lying flat on your back, on the highway, in the middle of the night, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You are always in the palm of God’s hand.
The humidity whacks me in the face every time I step outside, so yeah, it’s August. Already. Every summer I entertain grandiose plans to write outdoors while enjoying a picnic of luscious hom…
The winner of the GOOD NIGHT, BADDIES giveaway is: LILLIAN HECKINGER! Congratulations, Lillian. I will be emailing you shortly. Thanks for entering and I hope everyone will pick up a copy!
1. Keep the Faith – Let your children know what you stand for. Someday, you may be too ill to pray yourself.
2. Two Bathrooms – Without two, you could reach the age of 80 and still be hollering, “Aren’t you done in there yet?”
3. Share – Joy: I hope fathers will always be in the delivery room. That wasn’t allowed when our first three children (of four) were born. Work: He cleans the top of the refrigerator. I mop. From the beginning, we valued differences. I would iron. He would change the oil. Now, I iron less; we pay for oil change.
4. Learn how to Argue – To say, “You make me feel like . . .”, the reply begins a futile, argument. “No, I don’t.” “Yes, you do.” Instead, wait until strong feelings subside and assume responsibility for your feelings. “I felt [left out] . . .”. Now an exchange of insightful information is possible.
5. Kiss goodnight, good-bye, and good morning.
6. Treasure the feeling, that first made you special to him/her.
7. Value Commitment – It gained us 10 grandchildren and one angel in Heaven. They make us laugh at ourselves, move faster, and fall in love again.
As part of Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas program, I am looking back before moving into the new year. Below is how this year went for me.
In retrospect, the year was more about listening, learning, and appreciating authors, agents, publishers, and writers who were recently published and writers still trying to put books in the hands of children and the adults who read to them. I am most grateful for those who have taught me and pushed me along my writing journey, especially to my writing critique group.
- Beginning Jan. 5, grandchildren visited. They are my exercise, both physical and mental, and often my inspiration for kid words, kid interactions, and a Picture Book manuscript.
- Similarly, Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 Writing Challenge added many exciting and informative Webinars this year. I wrote notes, recommendations, and jotted down recent publishers to find online. As a GOLD member this year, I submitted three times to agents, and wrote query letters. Two agents returned rejections. One so nice that it could have read “Dearest Pamela.” Who knew agents could be so nice? The fear was gone.
- Something on my to-do list was finalized this year. The attorney did most of the writing, but the objectives were noted on my list that prepared a Will, a Living Will, Power of Attorney for property and health. It takes a bit of searching to find necessary records and research legal terms online. But sitting with your attorney and asking questions, immediately answered, will provide comfort and a legal document that no one can alter or question. It’s done. And one’s successors will not have to argue over the unknown but simply collect anything left to them.
- Writing makes one a clear communicator. If ever that will come in handy, it is during times of family stress. I certainly wanted to consider my feelings and those of my family when my sister died May 17, 2015, less than a month after I last sat with her and after flying to her home in Arizona. E-mails seemed to fly back and forth as her condition was updated. Her oldest daughter was most dedicated and responsible. I shared a poem with her that I wrote after my father died. For her mother’s service, she shared her poem with me. I wrote to thank her and posted to my sister’s obituary.
- Professor, Emma Walton Hamilton (I shamelessly name drop.) is the accomplished daughter of Julie Andrews, famous actress, singer of –duh –the world. Emma teaches “Just Write for Kids!” Her course was professional, college-level, and upgraded my writing. In completing the course, I learned to dissect a Picture Book. I used Emma’s choice of five classic titles: Whistle for Willie, Where the Wild Things Are, Olivia, Knuffle Bunny, and Owen.
- I continued through 2015 by mapping these Picture Books: One Big Pair of Underwear, Laura Gehl; Snowmen at Night, Carolyn Buehner; When a Dragon Moves In, Jodie Moore; Little Red Gliding Hood, Tara Lazar; and What If . . .? by Anthony Browne. I paid close attention to theme, plot, point of view, the story arc and the story question.
- And, of course, I mapped my own manuscripts to see if they were close to submission status.
- I wrote and updated a guest list for a 50th Wedding Anniversary dinner that our daughter planned for me and spouse, Jim, and a total of 51 people. I wrote thank you notes.
- I wrote and rewrote manuscripts. I now have 18 total (in various stages).
- I submitted one manuscript to a publisher. I won’t hear back for another two months.
- I completed PiBoIdMo a Winner in November. Two additional manuscript in the making and ideas circled on every page of my 30-day journal. I’m thankful that Tara Lazar has organized this challenge. It’s a needed shove into a new year at the very least, and so much more.
- I attended an SCBWI luncheon/workshop for Fraidy Cats. Signed up to Tweet, Link in, and created a Facebook author page with their guidance. Still working on the goals of fully understanding social media, but I’m connected. That was the promise. I became aware of the workshop because
- I printed and actually read the entire SCBWI Bulletin!
- Used my Pay Pal and Amazon Prime for business and to reward myself, on occasion, with another wonderful Picture Book to read to my children.
- Purchased an excellent reference/motivational book by author/entrepreneur, Katie Davis, HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK.
- I got up in the middle of the night to write. Driven by a solitary word that kids might need to learn, I wrote a page. Then I slept ‘til morning.
HAPPY NEW YEAR dear reader!
Finally, I got it. I watched this video (BELOW) by Ira Glass, “The Glass on Storytelling Part 3,” again. I read, updated, and wrote, sketching in a picture book story, one based on a Christmas song. (That’s how long I’ve kept the thought in my mind.)
A course offered by author/entrepreneur, Julie Hedlund, opened with the appropriate password. Finish this course and find the take-away was another goal.
A link prompted me to check out Chris Guillebeau.com and his book, THE $100 STARTUP. I stayed up later and later because the laundry did not speak to me. No one called or messaged me. My spouse slept, after folding clothes. There were no dishes in the sink. I concentrated on my goals for two hours without distraction.
Since my sister died a few months ago, I also read Chris Guillebeau’s blog on life/death/humanity, You Can’t Live as if You Only Had Three Months to Live. Chris wrote what many would do/say; such as,
- I would give up my job.
- I would give up my time with friends and start on my bucket list.
- I would give up eating or eat special food.
- I would give up spending or save more.
Chris and I agree on his surmise.
“Instead, ask: ‘How would I live if life stretched on endlessly?’
When last I saw my sister, I had flown to stay with her for the weekend. She already had that six-month diagnosis. And she was giving away a few things to make more room for the necessary changes as she continued living in her home with added health services and her diminishing strength and mobility. Her simple life would stretch before her.
Prior to the diagnosis my sister had decided to create another chocolate wrapper poster. The first one was about 3ft. by 4ft. and created excitement and lots of conversation both during and afterwards. There were many unusual wrappers tucked under this and that on her kitchen table. I helped sort them and everything else in the piles so she could continue the project on a clean table.
We talked and read and laughed into the wee hours. We prayed Psalm 23. I helped her get ready for bed, which was a lift chair for her and a comfy bed for me. In the morning, necessities in the bath room took almost an hour. Then, I scrambled an egg with a dab of melted butter and a capful of milk and cooked it for one minute in her microwave, now moved to a kitchen chair so that she could wheel up and get it herself.
I knew my sister’s life was not long when I returned home, but the cancer moved at warp speed to her brain. Less than a month afterwards, she died in a hospice facility.
How do you live while dying? My sister watered her Lillies. She played her Elvis music. Her chocolate collage kept her hopeful. She had something to converse about with family and friends. She made them coffee; she gave love. She accepted help from her children; she accepted love. Her love danced in their eyes, as she lived on.
Shake it off. My motto today drives me to the keyboard. Or, maybe you need a prompt – a favorite writing exercise to provide something to write about.
Pick a color (favorite, hated, one from a hat). Then write about it in terms of the 5 senses. List HEAR, SEE, TASTE, TEXTURE, FEELING across the top of your page. Set your timer for 3-5 minutes. In each column, list as many words as you can about your color. Example: Red is a bell ringing, a crown, a rich bon bon, a velvet skirt, and haughty. Now keep going . . .
. . . AND if you are wonderfing how to format your Picture Book manuscript, click this link provided by Julie Hedlund and the 12 x 12 Writing Challenge, 2015.
for Julie Hedlund’s short program The12 Days of Christmas. The videos are archived and enabled me to participate. One suggestion was to write this post on gratitude. THANKS, Julie.
for TIME spent with family. It’s the real gift that keeps on giving, especially when I’m with any one of 10 grandchildren. The youngest begins pre-school. He has left his presence in my heart and home; thus, this arrangement of the manger scene on 2014 Christmas Eve.
for overall good health, in spite of having to continue exercising one knee and reinstate my exercise habit of many years, after repairs this past year.
for my writing habit that continues to prepare me and push me closer to my goal of publishing children’s books.
for travels with spouse to California and Maine.
for new friends and old friends who lift my spirits and who, in SCBWI and 12 x 12, critique my manuscripts.
for faith that holds steadfast, telling me I am not alone, and brings a little magic into the world at Christmas. (See my Christmas poem on my Poetry Page.)
for a sharp physician who confirmed that I need less medication now. YAHOO!
for money – the lack of it shall not, solely, determine my goals.
for a habit that I developed while working under a leader and friend, Pat Easterling, who said to write my to-do list before I go to bed. When I awake, I’ll know what I have to do, even before I make the coffee.
And, on these chilly days, I often think of my mother and grandmother who taught me to cook and clean. I am thankful for choices and opportunities they weren’t afforded. I’m thankful for my cozy home, favorite recipes, and my husband who love my cooking.