American astronaut Scott Kelly is several months into a big experiment confined to a small space in space. He’s spending a year aboard the International Space Station. All the while, he’s traveling 17,000 miles an hour, two miles above the earth. What a view. What a ride. Wonder if he gets homesick.
Of course there are perks beyond the view and the ride. I’m sure any number of NASA astronauts and regular-Joe space junkies think that they would love such an assignment. I bet his paychecks are pretty nice. He’s getting lots of press (cover of TIME magazine and much more) and in comparing his space stats with his earth-bound identical twin, some interesting medical and psychological findings may well benefit others. I’m sure he’ll write an interesting book about it, probably even hit the nonfiction- bestseller list, and chat on all the talk shows when the year ends.
But still. No matter that he is at the top of the pecking order for such a plum assignment, that the notoriety is huge, and no matter what happens or how he feels in the wilder blue yonder, for a whole year, he can’t walk away. Or walk, period. He can’t hug a wife, or shake hands with a friend, or go to a store. A year in space. Now that’s a commitment.
His situation makes me wonder what hard thing I would be willing to do if I knew I had to stick with it for one year solid, no matter what.
Would I be willing to go after a job that terrified me because it was both harder than I thought I could do well, and paid a ridiculously large amount of money, and it had a private office (isn’t that every woman’s dream)?
If a publisher offered a lucrative book deal, would I be willing to endure something difficult, bordering on impossible, for 12 months?
Could I do something drastic in the homemaking department like not buy anything that wasn’t food or bathroom tissue for one year?
Could I agree to eat one obscure thing, or not even obscure but dull thing for one year if there was a special incentive?
Would I agree to take a boring second job of some kind for 12 months?
What would it be like to work in a complaint department (customer service) for one year?
To be a newspaper carrier, in the middle of the night, for four seasons?
To completely leave my comfort zone physically and go on a mission trip where I had zero personal connections?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to take a series of temp jobs for a year?
Attend a different church for 52 Sundays?
Write a thank-you note daily to 365 different people and mail them?
I don’t have those things as goals, and they aren’t on my bucket list. I just wonder what they, as examples, would be like and how life would be enriched, or not, as a result.
I’m curious if you have ever thought about what you would be willing to do—or what you wouldn’t.
My bottom line is that while I admire scientists like Scott Kelly, it sure would be tough to give up a year of life here on earth.
At the moment, nothing resonates with me more than the predictable moments and unpredictable joys of life on land. I love to go places and do things, but Dorothy was right: There’s no place like home.
What would you do? Would you go into space for a year?
NOTHING IS WASTED
I took a satchel of busy work with me to the Fayette County Public Library Authors Fair yesterday, thinking that I would get some paperwork done during the 11 to 4 stretch. I didn't. The authors there were far too interesting.
Generally at an authors fair, I don't spend much time visiting with the others. It can simply be, at least for me, too overwhelming to listen to everyone's various pitches about their stories and the stories behind their stories. It also makes me feel guilty that while I am telling them how interesting their topics are, I am not reaching for my wallet. It's simply impossible to buy everyone's work. I have to remember that I am there to sell, not to buy.
The one thing that helps me remember that is that they are not buying from my table, either.
But it's not often that I run into "local" authors that are, when I use the term "local," from my hometown area. In Connersville, there were several that were and we immediately found common ground.
The most commercially successful author there Saturday was Tricia Fields of Liberty who writes the Josie Gray Mystery Series for St. Martin's Press. She was also the most subdued and humble person there. She has her work down pat: She knows that she needs to crank out 2,000 words a week to release a new book a year. Tricia and I have a dear mutual friend in Debby Williams of Rushville.
I had a delightful visit with Susan Cohen-Spence, a retired Connersville teacher who penned a children's book about Connersville history. Susan also has deep roots in Brownsville as her mother was a Boggs. She grew up playing in Brownsville, visiting her aunt and uncle Dorothy and Ralph Boggs and their sons.
And then there was Brenn Pruet Kunkel, an illustrator whose close family members lived on a farm near me growing up and I knew the Rigsbys well as we rode the school bus together. Brenn also is friends with my illustrator, Marilyn Witt, and was around while Marilyn was working on the cover!
The event included a delightful retired Richmond teacher, Jeanne Nordstrom, who has released a memoir of her 41 years in the classroom. Also, one-time ESPN anchor Betsy Ross, a Connersville native, was in town to sell her book about women in sports, Playing Ball. And, children's author Bess Sturgis, a professional storyteller from Cambridge City was there.
When I headed home, I took Grand Avenue and drove by Spartan Bowl. It has been decades since I was there. That sunken gymnasium doesn't look big or special in any way. Not on the surface. But what a palace it is inside; a blast from the past when everyone went to high school basketball games on Friday nights. I have watched some amazing basketball played in that special place. I wish I had taken a photo. Why didn't I take a photo?
All told, I sold two books. I bought three. It was not a financially lucrative day. But there are other ways to measure success and one of them is in the people who come into your life and connect with you.
Last night, one of these authors was on Facebook telling her friends about MY book and suggesting that they read it as local lit. So you never know what pathways open up in new ways.
I only know that nothing is wasted.
happy first day of fall
I always do this. I forget how much I enjoy fall.
The weather of late has been nothing short of spectacular around these parts of central Indiana: sunny days, luscious breezes, blue skies, and even a few over-achieving trees offering hints of color.
This afternoon Brian and I went grocery shopping. People ask how I like his retirement, and I think they are sometimes surprised to hear that I think it’s great. We’ve shared grocery-shopping duties every week but one since he retired in June, and I’m amazed at how much faster it goes when double teamed. Today he asked me how we stood on laundry detergent. I realized that I had no idea since he’s been doing all the laundry. Then he asked if we needed dishwasher soap and the same is true in that area. He also vacuums, has become Reggie’s best buddy and well, what’s not to love if you are me? My work load at home is much less and I am grateful. As for Brian, he is still elated to have the gift of time.
All that is to say that I found myself on a mid-afternoon Wednesday with time to go to my favorite spot in the world, our back porch, and just soak in the wonder of a perfect-weather day. Do a little Bible Study Fellowship homework, work a little on a program I’m giving to the Union County Extension Homemakers in a couple of weeks, write this little blog, and enjoy one of the delicious Honey Crisp apples we bought at the grocery store. Life is GOOD.
Today’s email brought some fun too. Thanks to a post by Blaise Doubman about the recipes of Sweetland, (http://blaisethebaker.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/sweetland-of-liberty-bed-breakfast-review-and-guest-blogger-announcement/ ) one of his peeps ordered a copy directly from me. Another lady booked me for her church’s May women’s brunch. It’s a lovely thing to have a far-off booking. It means the fun this plump, middle-aged mom is having gets to continue into a distant season in another year.
I hope you are enjoying your hump day too. Maybe I’ll see you Saturday at the Fayette County (Ind.) Public Library where librarian Melissa Scott has planned a full day of local authors who will discuss their books and how they made some of the plot, place and character decisions they did, and also describe the entire publishing process, among other topics. I’ll be there from 10-4. I’d love to chat with you. Drop by.
And enjoy the weather! It is a slice of heaven, Hoosier style. Today reminds me of a quote by one of my all-time favorite feature-story subjects, the late, great Max Hiatt. Max was a Mooreland farmer who dearly loved his wife Madge, his Mooreland farm, and his life with both. I loved him. He looked to the good Lord's natural signs and wonders such as thickness of animal fur, insect activity and how tight the shucks were on the corn to predict the winter ahead. I miss interviewing him each fall. Max once said, "If the good Lord hadn't chosen Eden (for his perfect garden), I believe He would have chosen Mooreland."
On a day like today in Hoosierland, I'd have to agree.
CHANGE, IT IS A COMING
Fall is the season that always takes me by the most surprise. I never pine for its arrival, and maybe that’s because my mother used to say that she dreaded fall, or because I’ll soon claim an older age, or, most of all, because I’ll have to put away summer sandals.
Fall slips up on us in a way that the other seasons don’t. When winter arrives, we’ve already been in our heavy coats and using the ice scrapers for weeks. When spring comes, most Hoosiers have enjoyed the added daylight during our waking hours for a while, and by the time we call the season summer each June, we’ve been back in sandals and capris since May.
I have been so busy lately that I haven’t much thought about fall’s arrival in a few days. Yesterday morning as I monitored our garage sale from dawn until we closed, I watched a weather show, fall style. The morning started with sweatshirt weather, there were sprinkles, then a drenching rain. There was a dramatic display of clouds, the likes of which I had never seen, and there was heat, mugginess and a beautiful, sunny day.
It was a single day of many seasons. That’s fall. Or maybe that’s just Indiana.
Once we crossed the sale off the to-do list, hauled the leftovers to Goodwill and cleaned up the garage, I decorated our kitchen windowsill for the new season. Under the white-berry wreath I placed three small white pumpkins. I like the simplicity. I took the photo this dark, rainy morning.
I suppose today I should take down the summer wreath from the door and replace it with the big, autumn one with all the fall leaves on it.
By the way, I have four fairly gorgeous Boston ferns that have enjoyed the back porch all summer. I’m not bringing them inside (but might try wintering my beautiful fox-tail fern from the front porch). So before there is a cold snap and the Bostons turn on me, if you want any or all of them, they are yours free. Just let me know you are claiming them.
It’s going to be a busy fall. At the newspaper, I’ve got two magazines to put out: the first is a historic look at our 175 years. The Courier-Times is one of the eight oldest continuously operating newspapers in the state. The second is the fall issue of Her Magazine.
There’s my weekly Bible Study Fellowship, the challenging homework that comes with it and several book-related programs. The Fayette County Library is having an author fair from 10-4 Saturday, Sept. 26, complete with some lively seminars about writing. Come on out if it interests you; it’s free.
Today I’m working on a hometown October program for the Union County Extension Homemakers. I’m looking forward to it and will share more about that as we go on. I got pretty mailbox invitation from the group this week. And I smile, just thinking about it. It is a special privilege to give a program to the hometown crowd.
Thanks, in large part to Brian’s cousin, Beth, for hooking me up with a Hancock County Home Extension club, another program has emerged from that and I’ll be speaking to a New Palestine group on Oct. 5.
And next Friday, I am getting together for lunch with friend and writer Debbie McCray. She has played several roles in my life, starting with Sunday school classmate in 1989, then neighbor and mother of son Ben’s pal, Andy, to, becoming my friend and editor. Isn’t it amazing how God works? We didn’t even reach the friend or editor statuses until 10 years after the family moved to Ohio. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about Debbie, too.
For now though, I start this Saturday with a feeling of gratitude for a full, interesting life. Thank you, Lord.
And let me be the first, perhaps, to wish you a happy fall. OK, off to get busy!
It’s official. Two newspaper ads are in print so that means we are going through with our garage sale Friday:
ATTIC TREASURES, antiques, household, 8-4, Friday, Sept. 18, Fiddler’s Green, 8754 Carriage Lane, Pendleton.
The classified-ad rep said I still had space. Would I like to add anything? I could have gone specific: a porch swing, outdated technology, an entertainment center, a tin minnow bucket, a chamber pot. Nope. The ad sounds about right.
Sometimes, I have treated garage-sale ads like literature, but not this time. Don’t miss this one! my yard-sale ad stressed one year. The cars rolled in … then quickly rolled out when the people saw that they could, indeed, miss that one.
I try to leave a little mystery in a garage sale. For this ad, my best effort is ATTIC TREASURES. I’m banking on images of the TV show American Pickers popping up, of the myth that Oh, shucks, we’ll let that Rembrandt go for a dollar because it’s your lucky day. But of course, we have no Rembrandts.
The reality is that the ATTIC TREASURES include a nice hiking backpack from Sam’s Boy Scouting days, some wreaths I’m tired of, chair pads, etc. (Emphasis on etc.)
I am selling a few antiques, and I’m hoping those will fetch enough to make the sale worthwhile. There’s a children’s rocker, some crocks, a really old doll bed. And the “household” element – that’s just what it sounds like—the exact kind of miscellaneous stuff you have in your closets and drawers. We’re also selling a large entertainment center that nicely houses, you guessed it, old technology, a dresser and mirror, a non-antique wheelbarrow, fertilizer spreader.
It’s not one of those “estate sale-everything must go” sales. When we started really going through things, we decided that there was plenty we are just not ready to part with. Brian said it means that we are simply not yet ready for “the home.” Comforting, I suppose.
We'll see what happens.
So many of life’s rewards I find in that “see what happens” category. Learn something new from a neighbor. See an old friend. See a newer friend. The last time I had a garage sale, something special happened that I figured God arranged because God is like that. He can use even a common garage sale for good.
The sale was five years ago, the fall that both boys moved out in a single day – Sam to an apartment in Indy, and Ben back to sophomore year of college. That fall, I revamped Sam’s childhood room into guest quarters, cleared the clothes they didn’t want from their closets, had Brian do the same with his, and advertised that I had a large amount of young men’s and old man’s (but I didn’t say old man) clothes. The heaping piles of folded male clothing sat there at the sale. All day long. I planned to load it up and haul it to Goodwill.
But then just before closing, a man visited whom I recognized from the boys’ baseball years. He said he was with a prison ministry that provides clothing to men about to be released and who often have nothing to wear out the door. What would I take for the clothing?
I gave him all of it, plus a couple of suitcases we were selling besides. We also talked about an article for the newspaper since his ministry was in New Castle –where I work. I felt elated that there was a REASON I felt on a mission about gathering up all those clothes and putting them out there.
This is so much like the joys we have along life’s way. We set out with one goal, as in making a few bucks at a garage sale, but find other benefits that may have nothing to do with money. We bless others, as with the clothes. We enjoy an unexpected visit with a friend who drops by and chats for a while. And if nothing else, we purge the closets and drawers and attics of stuff.
And we begin again. Come on over Friday. Let’s see what happens.
Don’t miss this one. Not really. In fact, you can miss this one and be just fine. But I’d like to see you anyway. Do you need a minnow bucket?
READING, WRITING, AND BUBBLES
I scour the drug-store aisle brimming with body wash in every scent: Mango, tangerine, cucumber-mint. Am I actually in the produce section? Then there are the vacation-infused shower gels of Hawaiian Breeze and Ocean Paradise. Where is the bubble bath? Finally, I spot it: a lone bottle of the store-brand variety on a bottom shelf.
Apparently actual bubble bath, as opposed to body wash or shower gel, is such an oddity these days it isn’t even dignified with a lively label. No lavender sprigs or grapefruit slices artfully floating on the front, just an 8-point font of the words, Aloe Vera. I undo the lid and it smells wonderful –clean—even without the fruit or vacation.
Where have all the bath-takers gone? To shower stalls with fancy-head sprayers, I suppose. Not me. I am a bath girl. If nothing else, it’s the site of my continuing education. If I’m to get any book reading done, it’s in the tub; same goes for magazine flipping, and sometimes (though harder) copyediting and highlighting Bible-study lessons.
I don’t give a hoot for showers. They are only necessary evils if one is in a great hurry or has a plastic-covered cast.
My affinity for this evening ritual began as a child on the farm. We had crummy well water and only a fine stream of it, at that. I pulled the evening shift for cleanliness and good thing, because there wasn’t time enough mornings before school to wait on the tub to fill.
Well-established in my habit, I continued it as an adult and today, the evening isn’t complete until I’ve bathed and only then donned jammies, ready for bed or at least, getting cozy.
I especially relish winter baths. If I’m cold, which is most of the time in the winter, and usually in the fall and spring too, I can hardly wait to fill the tub with hot water and squirt in what soon becomes scented froth.
Then I read.
It’s a daily delight.
I was just thinking about this as I'm in the middle of reading a most delightful novel. It’s called The Writing Class, by Jincy Willett. It’s funny and entertaining; creative and well-written. I guess I should put my review on Amazon.
It’s from the library and yes, I could tell this book by its cover, which also happens to be charming.
By the way, what are you reading these days? Where do you do your reading and thinking and highlighting? Any tub dwellers out there? The only one I know is my friend Darnella. Darnella and I are avid bath girls. We have that in common and it’s a lot because there just don’t seem to be so many of us out there.
If there were, surely there would be more than a lone jug of cheap bubble bath on the shelf. I take that back. There was a bottle of children’s bubble bath next to the one I bought. I shouldn’t take that lightly. The day may come when Mr. Bubble is the last man standing on the bottom row. And then, I’ll have to take him home.
UPCOMING AUTHOR FAIR IS MORE LIKE A CONFERENCE, THANKS TO CONNERSVILLE LIBRARY STAFFER
It seems counter-intuitive, or maybe ungrateful, to say what I think of most author fairs, but stay with me a minute. There’s a bright side.
Let me begin by saying that I am thankful each and every time I am asked to do anything regarding my book. It would seem that an author fair would be the perfect avenue for sales for a room full of writers hoping to place their babies in the hands of patrons.
While I do well when I am asked to give a book program, I’ve found that with author fairs – not so much.
The truth of it is, generally there are many more local authors with their book babies swaddled in their arms than there are library patrons passing through with cash in their hands. I generally don’t like the whole vibe of an author fair because I feel like I’m competing with a room full of people just like me. It’s a bit awkward. I wish that I could buy all their books, but I just can't. And they can't buy mine. I also don’t like that vulture-on-the-make feeling that seems to come over a swarm of authors when someone shows an interest.
During the past year, I attended a few author fairs and while the hosts were always outstanding and did their best to make the fairs great, these venues didn’t work too well for me. Translation: I went home with about as many books as I came with. The one exception was the Indiana Historical Society Author Fair in December. It was pretty terrific, and the society even ended up buying some books off me rather than return them as was the original plan. There were tons of shoppers and it was the Christmas season. They came to buy books.
But I must say, I’m looking forward to trying this again from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Fayette County Library in Connersville. This time, it comes down to more than just because I was asked.
Library staffer Melissa Scott is pumped about putting together her debut author fair. But what intrigues me about this one is that she is taking the fair to a whole new level. We’re all not just sitting around waiting to pounce on potential buyers. No, there is an agenda that promises to keep the day interesting. We get to share; we get to talk; we get to listen and learn. The selling, of course, would be nice, but even if we don’t sell books, we get to hear things such as how other authors selected characters, location and artwork (from 11:30-12:15). Then over brown-bag lunches, (12:30-1:30) the library staff will talk about libraries and the importance of local authors.
From 1:45 to 2:30, some of the authors will discuss getting books into the hands of readers through the publishing-and-marketing process. At 2:30 we get to do what we love: tell our stories!
This author fair is more like a writing, reading and publishing conference than a run-of-the-mill author fair. And it’s free. Bring a notebook. I know that I will.
Besides yours truly, authors on hand will be Tricia Fields, Tristan Robert Kelly, Alexis Nunn, Betsy Ross, Susan Cohen-Spence and Bess Sturgis. Illustrator Brenda Pruet Kunkel will be there as well.
Another reason I chose to attend is that Connersville is the next town over from Liberty, the one that inspired my women’s Christian fiction novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and the sequel that will be released in late summer 2016.
I’d love to see friends and family from Fayette and Union counties drop by. Let’s talk books. Or, let’s just talk. I can’t speak for the other authors, but I’d be tickled to speak with area women in need of programs for about any occasion. It’s my joy to speak about empowering women. Groups that just might be interested in my work include book clubs featuring women’s Christian genres or cookbook clubs as well as sororities, social or service clubs. Stop by to chat.
The library would love to have you register at: www.fcplibrary.lib.in.us (click on events) or by phone (765) 827-0883. Drop ins are also welcome.
A WALK THROUGH MEGIDDO
Welcome to Megiddo, Israel, above. In ancient times, a narrow pass and trade route here connected Egypt and Assyria (Syria today). Located west of the Jordan River and south of the Lower Galilee region of Israel, it was the center of commercial and military operations, as well as some significant battles.
Starting to sound familiar?
Napoleon once visited the place, surveyed the land before him and said, “All the armies of the world could maneuver their forces on this vast plain."
Perhaps you’ll recognize this piece of property by its other name: Armageddon.
Napoleon’s words are interesting given the prophecy that one day all the world’s armies will do battle – the final one – right here.
Consider Revelation 16:12-16 from the Bible (New Living Translation):
“Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me, who keep their clothing ready so they will not have to walk around naked and ashamed. And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon.”
This month, the non-denominational international Bible Study Fellowship launches its new study on the fascinating book of Revelation. Wherever you live, you are probably within driving distance of a free weekly women's BSF class which starts the week after Labor Day through early May.
BSF’ers have looked forward to this study for a couple of years now and here it is. Classes are free, there is homework (but you’ll love it), and if you are interested in a thorough Bible study using the Bible as your direct source of study, consider BSF. I’d be happy to answer any questions for you (or find someone who has answers) about the classes.
For Madison, Delaware and Henry County women, the nearest classes are both in Henry County. The one I attend starts at 6:55 p.m. Mondays at the Middletown Church of the Nazarene. The first class is Monday, Sept. 14. Just show up. The day class is 9 a.m. Tuesday mornings starting Sept. 15 at First Baptist Church in New Castle. I know there is a Richmond class as well but I am not sure on the details.
I do promise you this: It will be a fascinating ride.
And so is a trip to Israel.
If you'd like to visit Megiddo yourself (along with a number of the Bible's greatest-hit sites), be prepared to have your life changed forever. My own church, Ovid Community Church in Madison County, is planning to take another group there either in fall 2016 or spring 2017. I can share more about that as details become available. Just give me a holler if you are interested or hit up Ovid Community Church on Facebook.