Now the manuscript has been turned in and it will be time to start the next project... in between tennis and beach walks. A girl has to keep her priorities in place.
Summer has been busy, busy, busy. (Of course, I realize I'm not unique in this - we're all busy.) We sold our little beach condo and built a beach house - which has meant a ton of site clean-ups and dump runs over the past few months. But now we have something that can almost keep pace with our rapidly growing family. So, in between frantically working to complete a manuscript and unpacking boxes, little Sheila has been breaking in the new digs, entertaining. It was a treat to have our dear friends of over twenty years down to help us party. They arrived bearing treats and a very fun goody basket. The long weekend was filled with everything from a trip to the beach to see a display of professional sand creations to attending a fashion show to benefit our local food bank, featuring clothes from the both the food bank's thrift store and the store that benefits PAWS. I've never been to such a unique fashion show, but I have to say this one was great fun, and thanks to an unexpected donation from a charity going out of business it was free evening gowns for all afterward. Sadly, I do believe these gowns were made for starving fashion models. Everyone that claimed to be my size refused to cooperate when it came time to zip it up. I felt like one of Cinderella's stepsisters. Oh, well. I got a great pair of dressy sandals. And I came away with a free hat so now I'm ready for next year's Kentucky Derby party. Woohoo!
Now the manuscript has been turned in and it will be time to start the next project... in between tennis and beach walks. A girl has to keep her priorities in place.
A much loved family member has started smoking again after two years of being smoke free. Needless to say, I'm grieved by this decision. Having battled cancer, I wouldn't wish it on anyone, especially lung cancer. Granted, we are all going to die - but I think most of us would prefer to do so as easily and painlessly as possible. And often the decisions we make on what to eat and how to live our daily lives affect that final outcome. Not only that, but many of those decisions affect the quality of life we have even before our earthly expiration date.
We inch our way to either good or bad health one decision at a time. Choosing to eat that extra doughnut, take that second helping of cake (Lord, help me!), deciding not to bother with going to the gym - they all add up. Conversely, that decision to eat better (and yes, take your vitamins), to go for a walk, to get a mammogram, to quit eating so much junk food - those all add up also, to better health and a longer shelf life.
When the time comes, I'll be happy to check out heaven and start living that true happily-ever-after, but meanwhile, while I'm still here, I want to stay as healthy as possible so I can accomplish everything I think God has for me to do, so I can enjoy my family and friends. Besides, I don't like being sick. So I want to make decisions that will help me to feel my best and function at my best.
We all have people in our lives who need us and care about us. Let's try to make wise decisions when it comes to our health for their sake. Let's not put them through unnecessary grief by deliberately putting ourselves in harm's way by making stupid health decisions. Deal?
Last night Gerhardt and I watched the movie, CREED, the last in a long line of ROCKY movies. In the final scene I alternately hid my eyes, shouted instructions to our hero in the ring, and punched the air. All this from a woman who is not a fan of boxing.
But I love boxing movies. Why is that? As the ending credits rolled I had to ask myself, "What is this about this movie genre that appeals to you?"
It didn't take me long to realize that it's not what's happening in the ring that is what appeals to me, it's the fight the hero wages to get there. Without all that training, without overcoming difficult circumstances there is no final battle in the ring, no big pay-off. These stories aren't just fictional accounts of men getting ready to go beat each other up - they are metaphors for life.
We all have times when we have to step in the ring and fight the fight of our life. That fight might be against depression or addiction. That fight might be to get through a divorce with our self-image and what's left of our family in tact. That fight might be to help a child who is struggling in school, facing bullies or fighting an addiction of his or her own. That fight might be against a disease or to carry a baby to full term.
Whatever the fight is, I think we need to prepare for it just as a boxer trains for a match. You see the boxer running, hitting punching bags, doing push-ups - working hard to get in shape, sweating and straining to make that dream come true. I think sometimes we need to get in shape as well.
As many of you know, my husband and I have had our share of battles over the years - financial struggles, dealing with the loss of a child, dealing with disease. How on earth to train for things like that?
I realized as I was battling cancer that I had to work to stay physically strong. "You must walk a mile every day," my doctor told me. "No matter what, rain or shine." With the exception of those few times when, a couple days after chemo I was so wiped out simply folding a blanket exhausted me, I did just that. I remember how I couldn't even walk up a few stairs without having to stop and catch my breath. The smallest hill felt like a mountain. But I kept walking, determined to follow the doctor's instructions. And for the most part, the pay-off was a good one. I managed to stay strong.
Staying strong emotionally was even more hard than staying strong physically. Prayer and my Bible were the tools that helped me keep my emotional muscles strong. And the support of friends. I'm convinced that when you are facing the battle of your life, you need to make sure you have someone in your corner. I will be forever grateful to my friends who came to see me in the hospital, who would come out to the house and bring food, to my critique group who hired a gardener to whip my garden into shape, to my agent and publisher, who sent gifts and good wishes. To my husband, who walked every step of the way with me. Friends and readers and business associates sent gifts and flowers - to the point that I began to worry I was going to fall prey to Munchausen syndrome. Thank you to all of you.
When our oldest daughter died - that was an even bigger fight. This was one battle that, even though I knew I had so many people in my corner, I had to wage alone. Only the hope of heaven carried me through. Sadness still often tries to take me down. I suspect this will be a lifelong battle.
Hopefully, we all have people rooting for us, people who are willing to help us train, to listen to our troubles, to encourage us. But in the end, we all step into the ring alone. It's there in the ring where our strength and faith are tested. It's there where we must choose whether to stay down when we're knocked down or to get back up and come up swinging.
If you're in the ring right now, I encourage you to not give up. There are people watching as you fight your battle, some are rooting for you, some may be hoping you fail. Either way, how you fight your fight people will be influenced. Hang in there. Don't let the bad things take you down. Get up. Keep swinging. The theme from ROCKY is playing. You can do it!
Another birthday has descended on me, dragging the old wrinkles (and other body parts) down. But not my spirits. Those are plenty high! Why? Because I'm happy to still be here. After a scare with uterine cancer in 2013 I don't take a year or even a day for granted. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and fabulous friends. So, what does it really matter if my hair has now turned gray? It just makes me a silver fox. (Well, in my mind, anyway.)
This birthday I suckered some girlfriends to come over and play games with me. Even though I told the little stinkers not to bring gifts or cards, they did. I love the adorable purse I got that is made from a Monopoly board and my supply of socks is now replenished. I'll be using the great mugs my daughter got me at our family gatherings at the beach, and I'll smell good using the soap I got. And I'll look hot wearing the red sequined dress my pal Elizabeth gave me. "It's not a gift. It's a reward," she told me. She'd offered to loan me that gown when I had my last red carpet party when Hallmark showed the movie version of THE NINE LIVES OF CHRISTMAS, but sadly, I was too pudgy to look good in it. Since then I've lost twenty-five pounds, and she figured I'd earned that cool, sparkly dress. I can hardly wait to wear it! My friend Dave Kragen gave me the first "Killware" mug, commemorating his sci-fi KILLWARE series. I'm honored. He and my B.F.F. Jan fed Gerhardt and me well after the party and kept the fun going. So, needless to say, today I'm not moping around about the fact that I'm older. Instead I'm grateful, grateful, grateful.
But I am also aware of the passing of time. (There comes a point, gang, when it does sink in that you're mortal.) As a Christian, the big question I'm asking myself with this birthday is, "How can I best follow God this coming year?" I hope I can be kinder, more patient, more generous, and definitely be listening with unplugged ears to whatever God may direct. It's a new year and I'm excited about it. Ready to be used by God, ready to be a good wife, mom, and friend. Ready to be a better person than I was last year. I suppose that's all a tall order. But I'm willing to try. Bring it on!
January can be a blah month, a let-down after the holidays. So, even though we have no Asian ancestors, Gerhardt and I decided to celebrate Chinese New Year. (Well, I decided and he went along with it.)
What a fun time we had! The closest I got to Chinese food was egg rolls, but everyone loved them. They also loved my peppermint cupcakes! (The recipe for those will be in my next Christmas novel, CHRISTMAS IN ICICLE FALLS, the last book in the LIFE IN ICICLE FALLS series. You'll want to get that one just to have all the fabulous recipes.)
I didn't find fortune cookies in time for the party, so I held a contest to see who could come up with the best fortune. Everyone wrote one out on a slip of paper, leaving it unsigned. Then I read the various ones and we all voted for our favorite. We had some great ones, like "Don't grin when you sin."... "The rooster who crows the loudest may not be right." And, my personal favorite: "Better to keep one's mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." Ha!
Fun and games, good times, good friends - I can't think of a better way to beat the blahs. Who says you have to go away someplace glamorous for a good time? Sometimes the best good times can be found in our own back yard!
Unlike many authors, little Sheila is a ham. I enjoy doing booksigning parties, interviews and TV appearances. It probably has something to do with being the baby of the family and getting hooked on all that attention.
High on my list of favorite things to do is to visit A.M. Northwest, a local TV show out of Portland. Everyone involved with that show is wonderful, and I'm always excited when I can come up with an excuse to go on there.
And we writers do need an excuse. Once upon a time writers were celebrities, but not any more. It's not enough to call a TV show or radio station and say, "Hey, I want to come on and talk about my latest book and how I came up with the idea." At least that's the case if you write fiction. Non-fiction writers are a different story because they already have an interesting topic and an area of expertise.
So, if you're a fiction writer, you have to become an expert on something. For me, that's often tied to the holidays. I've done everything from easy Christmas goody recipes to craft ideas. (This latest appearance was my eighth.) This time we were talking about party ideas (three of which you can find on the Christmas Central page). If there's one thing I'm an expert on it's parties. I love to entertain - and I have my mom, who was the world's best hostess, to thank for that. She was so clever! I like to think I'm following in her footsteps.
How about you? Are you a holiday party animal? Want to do something special this holiday season? Try snowball caroling or having a swap party (yes, those ideas are on the Christmas Central page) or maybe throw a party for your teens and send them on a scavenger hunt to collect items for your local food bank. Or throw an old fashioned parlor game party. Oh, I could go on and on.
And I did on the show, for a whole six minutes, which is a nice long time for a guest segment. The time sure flew!
So, how does this TV thing work? Well, it helps to bring visual aids, so I had a ton to pack up - everything from cookies to decorations and a home made craft. The show shifts quickly from segment to segment, so we set up our little display table ahead of time. Then it was wheeled onto the set right before I went on. Minutes are carefully counted from behind the camera and the host is very aware of the ticking clock. A minute of chitchat and then it's, Put on your smile - the world is watching.
Helen Raptis, the show's host, is lovely to work with. Sadly, we never get much time to visit before the cameras start rolling. But that's the way it is in showbiz. You're on - quick! And then you're off - quick! And the show moves on to the next guest.
That famous fifteen minutes of fame? It's a lot less than fifteen minutes when you're a struggling writer. But hey, I still have hopes for DANCING WITH THE STARS.
We had a fabulous Thanksgiving and a fun weekend following - time with family partying with friends - my idea of a perfect weekend! In the midst of all that fun I realized I didn't take much time to think about being thankful. So on Sunday I sat down and made a list. Here are the things that came to mind. I'm thankful for:
Having enough to eat (More than enough, obviously, since I'm currently dieting!)
A nice house and a warm bed - and someone special to share it with, which brings me to
My man! He's a good guy and a loving husband. And he can even admit when he's wrong. How's that for impressive?
Immediate and extended family that I love and enjoying being around
That fact that God has brought me through some very difficult times in the past few years but I'm still here and can smile.
Forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven
Parents who instilled faith and godly principles in their kids
My mom's great example of hospitality
Hair! (I still remember - not fondly- when I didn't have any)
The gift of writing
The ability to earn a living doing what I love
Loyal (and fun!) friends
A beautiful view out my living room window
A paid off house
A husband who is a good money manager (hence the paid off house)
Being able to still see and hear (not as good as when I was twenty but oh, well)
Living in a democracy where I can vote and express my opinions freely (and hopefully always politely)
The ability to worship without getting put in jail or tortured
Dentists (If I'd lived in another time half my teeth would have fallen out by now!)
Chocolate (and all those chocolatey treats that keep the dentists in business)
Holidays and the special celebrations that come with them
A car that runs
The ability to travel
A good night's sleep (when I can get it)
I love book signing parties! We always have so much fun. This last Saturday was no exception. We had games, goodies and give-aways and a drawing for a fabulous gift basket. A big thank you to all the friends who came out to join my pal Marie Bostwick and me as we celebrated the release of our latest holiday tales.
After the signing some of us went out to eat and keep the fun going. All in all, my idea of a perfect day!
If you're wishing you could have been part of the fun, here is a copy of the game we played at the party. Take the quiz and see how many Christmas characters you know. I've got the answers posted below the questions, so no peeking ahead. Okay, you ready to tell me who's who? Go!
1. He started out as a stingy man
2. He sees you when you're sleeping (isn't that kind of an ick factor?)
3. His nose turned out to be a plus
4. He played a mean drum
5. He blessed us, everyone
6. She never sees her husband on Christmas Eve
7. He nips at your nose
8. An old silk hat brought him to life
9. He stole Christmas
10. A famous holiday dancer
11. A good king
12. He was the first ghost to haunt Scrooge
Okay, how many do you think you got correct? Let's see. Here are the answers.
4. The Little Drummer Boy
5. Tiny Tim
6. Mrs. Claus
7. Jack Frost
8. Frosty the Snowman
9. The Grinch
10. The Sugarplum Fairy
Gerhardt and I had so much fun visiting the real life Icicle Falls (Leavenworth, WA) last weekend. Whenever I have a new book out our friends at A BOOK FOR ALL SEASONS invite us to come up and hang out in the store. It's always a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and make some new ones.
This visit was no exception. I met new readers - and was so surprised when one of my old church buddies, Paula, showed up with some friends in tow. Neither of us knew the other was going to be in town for the weekend. It was also wonderful to catch up with my old high school BFF Susan, and we enjoyed a true Bavarian meal with her and her husband.
For those of you who've never had the chance to visit this charming Bavarian village, I encourage you to put it on your bucket list. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous, and if you enjoy hiking or winter sports you'll be glad you made the trip there. (One hike will take you to Indian petroglyphs.) As for shopping, it's chick heaven - the place is filled with tons of shops from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can purchase lace or elegant china, designer chocolates, handcrafted soap, or a silly hat or t-shirt. (I purchased a gorgeous wreath of metal leaves in one of the art shops that I love.) You can eat schnitzel that's almost as good as what you'd find in Germany and you can hear some lively German music. This trip I noticed that carriage rides have been added. Too fun!
The place is beautiful all year round but Christmas is still my favorite time of year, when the whole town is lit up and the mountains are draped with snow. I must say though, that fall runs a close second with all the vibrant fall colors and the lovely decorations.
I could have stayed another day easily, taking it all in, spending money. But alas, work called and we had to leave. Ah, well, spring and a new book are right around the corner, so "Icicle Falls," in the words of the Terminator, "I'll be back."