Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Books-My #1 Favorite Type of Gift: Featuring an Interview with Author Jennifer Young

     It is one of my favorite times of year! I love the holidays,everything about them, including gathering with friends and family to celebrate the season. And this often includes the exchanging of gifts. And to me, the best gift to give or receive is a BOOK!
     Ever since I was a wee small child I have loved getting new books. It helps that my mother used to keep a stash of inexpensive "Golden Books" tucked away in a cupboard, wrapped in colorful tissue papers, for the occasions when I would wistfully say, "I sure wish someone would give me a present." At three, getting gifts twice a year-at Christmas or my birthday, just didn't seem adequate. My mother came up with an inexpensive solution that also promoted my life long love of reading books, especially storybooks.
     And that brings me to some exciting news about my friend and fellow author, Jennifer Young, and her new storybook that was just published! Her second book has just been released. I am quite excited about this second book as I very much enjoyed her first book, "Poison Apple Pie."

     I am excited about this new book for so many reasons-knowing it will be as inventive and intriguing as her first one-from the previews I have seen, and also because it is available in more than one medium.  
     The title of her newest storybook is "A Cherry Tomato on Top."

       I know that if my mother was still purchasing books to tuck away in  her cupboard of gifts, this one would be a great one to add to her collection. Even with the rush and business of this holiday season, Jennifer was able to do an interview with me about her books, writing, and publishing. I am always grateful for her willingness to share her knowledge as a writer, her fabulous books, and her generous spirit. 


Hi Terri! I have the answers. Let me know if you like me to send it to your email as well.
Have you always been a writer?
I’ve always loved to write, but I just started writing for kids since my first daughter was one. Now she’s six.
What was the first story you had published?
Poison Apple Pie was my first published picture book which came out with MeeGenius in March 2012.
We met through our affiliation with MeeGenius and their Author Challenge contest, please share with us your experience of taking this unusual route to publication?
Back in 2011,I had a manuscript ready to submit to the MeeGenius contest so I sent it in. It met the qualifications for their contest and I believe about 400 authors entered overall. The contest was set up so other people could vote for your story in order to get published. My story had many votes but it wasn’t one of the winners. MeeGenius decided to publish Poison Apple Pie anyway along with some other stories that didn’t win.
What has your experience been with being digitally published? Do you wish the book was available in print?
I can show people my story right from my iphone. Poison Apple Pie can be read to you with each word being highlighted or you can read it by yourself. I do wish the book was available in print since most people I talk to seem to want something tangible in their hands. At my author school visit, I was able to share my book with the help of a smart board. It was easy to use, not at all awkward and it was fun. I also attended two author meet and greets at my local town library. I gave away bookmarks and flyers since I didn’t have any actual books present to sign. Ideally, I could have easily showed them how to download the MeeGenius app and then from there they could purchase my book but the library didn’t have wifi available (therefore the downloading was very slow) It would be wonderful to have my books in both formats but I’m very happy with having them in at least one.
What is the title of that MeeGenius story, what inspired it?
Poison Apple Pie is the title. In the story the main character Winka is a witch in fairy tale land and she tries to find a job that she can’t mess up. She gets hired by The Magic Mirror on the wall and somehow figures out how to fix her mistake with a poison apple pie -Oops! I just gave away the ending! J
Please tell us about your newest book.
My newest picture book is called A CHERRY TOMATO ON TOP. It’s available in paperback and eBook. It was published on December 8th 2013 with Willow Moon Publishing. It’s about a boy named Gordy who lives in a backwards world where fruits and veggies are considered junk food. Gordy’s parents influence him to eat better by giving him healthy options like candy apples and marshmallows for meals. But all Gordy wants is to snack on is junk food, especially cherry tomatoes.
How has this publishing experience been different?
With MeeGenius, I submitted my manuscript as a contest entry in September of 2011 (which also meant I signed a contract with them by submitting it)They selected an illustrator and my story was completed in about three months, on March 23rd 2012. I didn’t have any collaboration in the illustration process. From start to finish it took about 6 months to publish.
With Willow Moon Publishing, I submitted a query letter for A CHERRY TOMATO ON TOP to the editor/publisher back on June 17th, 2011. She got back to me a month later and requested to read the full manuscript for review. In October, I signed my first publishing contract with her. In Late January 2013, the publisher assigned Elisa the illustrator. From there, Elisa and I collaborated on the illustrations of the book. From start to finish it took about 30 months to publish.
Will this book also be available digitally?
Yes, A CHERRY TOMATO ON TOP is available as a paperback and digitally in the Nook and Kindle edition.
Do you prefer the storybook genre overall?
Yes, writing picture books for kids ages 4-8 is my favorite. I also like writing stories for 2+. In the future, I’d like to try writing a serious of not-so-scary ghost stories for kids.
What is your next project?
My next picture book coming out is called BABY BUG’s YAWN with MeeGenius in March of 2014. It’s a rhyming bedtime story geared toward kids 2+
(Note from Terri-please make sure you all check here in March for Jennifer's next release: http://www.meegenius.com/ )
Any advice for aspiring writers?
If you love writing and want to get better join a critique group or two. Join Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 group. Join Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo. Join the SCBWI for an even larger community of writers. Keep writing and always keep reading.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog Terri!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Magical Time of Year

     So, for me, even as an adult, this is still a magical time of year. I eagerly anticipate the first snows. I enjoy the hanging up of  lights, getting a tree or putting up our artificial one, putting up ornaments, and baking cookies.
     I love the way the first snows blanket the world, changing the landscape into something vaguely familiar, yet newly beautiful and sparkly. The way the holiday lights interact with the crystals in the flakes is truly a wonder to me.
     And, yes, it gets a bit too hectic for me at times. Stress and other joy busters try to drop by for their annual holiday visits but I encourage them to leave as quickly as possible and not leave tracks in my freshly decorated house.
     I have had so many extra blessings added in to this already busy holiday season. I started a new job, which I am extremely grateful for and anticipate that I will really enjoy as I learn more each day. I also had the added bonus of receiving an email last weekend alerting me to the fact that my second storybook, "Emily Cat's Tale" had been released for digital publication.
     Then, I found out that my friend and fellow author, Jennifer Young, wanted to do an interview with me and two other MeeGenius authors that were releasing their second storybooks as well. I am truly blessed to have the support of a great online writing community and a fabulous publishing/production team at MeeGenius to support me as a writer!
      When you have a moment-please check out Jennifer's blog and the interview she wrote up.

     Also, when you have another spare moment, please check out this link to a preview of the first few pages of "Emily Cat's Tale" and perhaps, consider buying it as a gift for one of your favorite young readers in your life. It's a cute little story based on an incident with my niece when she was quite a little girl, back when she was the flower girl in our wedding.
     This is a brief description of the book:
          "Emily Cat is getting ready for her big role in the town play! Her whole family is
     even going to watch. Read along to find out if Emily will strike it big, or the
     curtains will come down around her!"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

To Honor Her

     It is that time of year when we reflect on our lives-what we have to be thankful for, what has occurred over the past year, and what we hope to accomplish in the year to come. As I think of the abundance of moments and events that I have to be grateful for, I also pause as twinges of regret snake their way through my thoughts.
     Those momentary whispers that glide through my soul are reserved for friends and family members that are no longer readily available for hugs or an exchange of words due to their having passed on ahead. The hint of tears that brim at the edge of the eyes when opening a box of decorations, seeing an shiny ornament from decades ago that reflects that bond that has been broken, at least in the physical world, by death.
     I am grateful for the fact that I have been allowed the luxury of living past the scorching emotions that color our youth, to this middle time where the embers from those passions still glow warmly, but allow for a clarity of understanding beyond the instant passions that can clutter ones thoughts and reactions.
     Time has allowed a clarity of perspective and also given me the opportunity to really search out the meanings in words that people have shared with me over the years. With age comes an ease of looking beyond the initial attempts at communications that people offer and the ability to really understand what people mean by awkward words and phrases. We all feel the poetry in our souls, it is just hard for us to express that song to others.
     Years ago I used to help out my grandmother quite a bit. One of regular events in our weekly schedule was a trip to the local hair dresser for a standing appointment for a curl and set, and also a permanent every so few months. It was a warm, friendly place. Grandma loved going there because the ladies were so nice and because then she felt beautiful and ready to go to church on Sunday when her weekly visit was done. One of the hair dressers offered me a compliment at one of our visits, that it was so nice how I faithfully brought my "mother" in for her appointments, that she never missed a week.
     I am thankful that I kept my immediate reaction locked tightly away in the dark recesses of my mind. I was alarmed. Why did she think this dear, sweet woman was my mother? Did I look that haggard and old? Had I best highlight and color those sneaky gray hairs that were now accenting my face?
     It took me a long while and much pondering to realize that what the woman was commenting on was not my physical condition, but the condition of my heart and my relationship with my grandma. She noted that my caring of my grandma was as a daughter caring for her mother, that there was not that barrier of a whole other generation between us.
     I now treasure these words and keep them tucked safely away in my heart. These words are a witness to how much I loved my grandma. And the fact that the dear hair dresser expressed this to me, means that I lived those feelings well enough that others knew their reality and I can carry the hope that this was evident to my grandma as well.
     This reminds me of another incident with my much younger sister. She is 11 and a half years younger then me. She was long awaited by me. I had wanted a sister from the time I was about 5 or 6 and could see the advantages to having a best friend that lived right at home with you. It never occurred to me that one might not always feel that way about a dear, younger sibling.
     I was lucky that we were always close. It started with me tirelessly reading books to her. I had the "Grinch" memorized for a time. It continued as she grew older and we became camping partners and travel buddies. We shared so many moments of our lives. And it culminated in an event where we were helping to put on a party. And someone asked my sister to go get her mother from in the other room to help with the food. Well, her mother wasn't there. It was me, her older sister, but not that old of a sister!
     My own insecurities caused the same panic as from years before. Good heavens, I need to take better care of myself. More sunscreen, more lotion, and I better get serious about meditation.
     Again, as time passed, I was able to ponder what was really meant by those words. It was another witness to the fact that we were that close, me and my sister, as if we were parent and child. There was no rivalry between us, only love and appreciation. This was the reality that was being conveyed by the other person's choice of words when she called me my sister's mother-it was a witness to the closeness of our relationship.
     Since it is that time of year, when we often are put into situations that can be stressful with hordes of people we don't see except at holiday events, my best advice to myself and others is to take the time to listen and reflect on the words that people share with you before you react to what they say. Really search out the meaning they are trying to convey. There might be a secret blessing hidden behind or within the words they choose to use.
     You never know where the words will come from that will become your talisman, your witness, your gift that you will hold dear and treasure for a lifetime.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Special thanks to Jennifer Young for this Liebster Award!

     I started my blog about a year and a half ago-for two reasons. One was that I needed a blogger profile so I could comment on a friend's blog. I also was encouraged to blog as a way to grow as a writer and try to interact with a community so as to be able to help self promote/market my storybook that was digitally published.
     The Liebster Award is an award that is giving out by fellow bloggers to help encourage those of us that don't have hundreds of subscribers to our blogs-yet. Jennifer has asked me 10 questions-that I will do my best to answer-and then  am to pick 5 other bloggers to pass the award to and question. I hope you enjoy this chance to meet other bloggers and read my answers!

Jennifer's Questions for me:

1.  If you could meet your favorite author what question would you ask him/her? If I could meet Agatha Christie-I would ask her how she felt about her writing, if she is amazed at her continued influence. I would also thank her for the pleasure that her books brought me-for the hours I spent hidden away in the library-just me and her books-as I happily read-immersed in her world-so I could avoid my world-which quite often involved me being the new kid at school.
 2. Favorite part of your day to write? My favorite time to write is pretty random-whenever I have a chunk of time and can focus-before work or after work.
 3. Funniest picture book you ever read? There are so many---I always enjoy Richard Scarry.
I also recommend these books:

4. What age group do you write for and why? My storybooks are for 3-8 year olds and I am also working on mid-grade chapter mystery books.
5. If there were no more computers would you still write? Yes-I used to write stories for family and friends by hand-and draw pictures for them-then staple them together to make booklets.
6. A book you've read more than three times? Ordinary People, The House Without a Christmas Tree, The Four Story Mistake.
 7. Three books that made you cry or laugh?  Ordinary People made me cry. 
8. Most fascinating world an author took you to in their book? I have enjoyed traveling through the Star Wars Universe-I started reading those books when I was in about 5th grade. I also have been able to "travel" to may countries and time frames as I have read mysteries set around the world and in different time frames. Such joy!
9. What was your favorite blog post you published? I want to check it out :) Most of my posts are about family and friends-and how important they are to me-so it is hard to pick one post-but this is a great example:
10. Thanksgiving is coming... What are you thankful for this year that's different then last year?
I have so much to be thankful for--but this year some of it is tinged with a wistful sorrow...I am grateful that I had my grandma hear for 44 years---she passed away in February-2 weeks after celebrating her 99th birthday. This will be my first Thanksgiving that I am not able to visit with her.
Please check out her blog when out have a moment!
These are the bloggers I am picking for the award: Beth Arnstein, Bethany Telles, Terri Zellar Wallace,
Jane Ann McLachlan, and Sharon Willett

These are my questions for them:
1.  If you could meet your favorite author what question would you ask him/her?
 2. When, where,why,  and how do you write? 
 3. What are some of your favorite picture books? 
4. What age group do you write for and why? 
5. Even if it is not your main job-will you continue to write? 
6. A book you've read more than three times?
 7. Three books that made you cry or laugh?
8. Most fascinating world an author took you to in their book?
9. What was your favorite blog post you published? I want to check it out :) 
10. Thanksgiving is coming... What are you thankful for this year that's different then last year?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October Memoir and Back Story Blog Challenge-Week 3: Secrets. Could I Be That Unaware?

     It has been interesting to take part in this challenge. I have had to come face to face with the fact that I am not as devoted to my craft as I would like to think I am. Maybe that is the big secret reveal for me. I have missed several deadlines-all with good excuses-but missed none the less. This has sort of shaken my core perception of myself.
     Maybe I am reading too much into my short comings. This is just one of many random self imposed goals-so what does it really mean? Does it speak toward being burned out? Is it a reflection on my real abilities or desires?
     I don't really recall there being any great secrets or mysteries over the course of my life. I am going too need to ponder this. It may be that I discover that the greatest secrets I have encountered are the ones I have kept from myself, tucked away, deep in my heart.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October Memoir and BackStory Blog Challenge - 2nd week: On Relationships. My Uncle, My Hero

     He has been gone for five years now. A stunning thought as I contemplate this passage of time. The rain pouring down outside adds to my melancholy. The sound of traffic in the distance speaks of trips that won't be taken, things that won't be seen. Faintly, at the back of my mind, I can conjure up a song, "the falling leaves drift by my window."
     Is it acceptable to think I still have a relationship with him, I mean, since he has been dead now for half a decade. Our relationship was one of the most important ones for me during my formative yeas and well into adulthood.
     I was a sickly child. I was born prematurely back in a day when there were not neonatal units and specialized care for preemies. My parents were given all sorts of dire predictions about my prognosis-which-fortunately-did not come too pass.
     One precaution they took-was keeping me some what isolated at first-to allow my immune system and nervous system more time to develop. One result of this-I was a very shy child. I would cry-even when left in the care of relatives-since I spent little time with them.
     My uncle looked and sounded exactly like my father, his younger brother, though. He could hold me when I was a toddler, briefly, because it would take me a bit to realize he was not my dad. There are several pictures from when I was quite young that show me jumping out of his arms-trying to reach for my father, who is just out of frame, as I have come to the conclusion that this is not my dad.
     I can remember being about 4 or 5 and seeing these pictures and feeling quite badly about having been such a fussy baby and wondering-had it hurt his feelings at all? I remember then it was my goal each year to make sure I had my picture taken with him-showing how happy I was to be with him, on his lap.
     I have always said that my uncle and my father were the bookends of my life. They allowed me to think the world was really a safe and happy place-even though they both knew better. My uncle being a police officer, then detective, then administrator, and my dad being a corrections officer.
     I can still remember paddling between them at a local campground's small lake. It was when I learned my first tentative dog paddle, that I could be safe and get around in the water on my own. I spent a whole afternoon swimming back and forth between them as they talked and talked and talked.
     Even though he is gone-I still will pause to reflect in a situation-to think what would he thing about this-what would he say if I did this? He still influences me to this day, so I think it is fine to continue to feel that my relationship with him is alive and well, beyond the limited boundaries as I understand them in this time and space.
Nat King Cole's Autumn Leaves

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Memoir and Back-Story Blog Challenge: My Other Grandmother

     My mother's mother was the only grandma I ever knew. And we were blessed that she lived just a tad (2 weeks) over 99 years.
     I know my life has been enriched because I was able to have her for 44 years. It has been just over six months since she died. She was ready too go and died peacefully. She wasn't alone. It was as she had wished it would be.
    And yet-it is still difficult for me. It is still surprising. I know it would seem sill or selfish to the average passer by, but I am still surprised she died. even as I type that statement, I know it seems unbelievable. It is just, well, I sort of thought that maybe my grandmother was eternal.
     She was always there. A strong, comforting presence-even if she was only barely over 5 feet something and really rather small. By the time I was 11 I towered over her.
     I am so fortunate that I have 40+ years of memories with her. But one of the most important could have been the most terrifying-for both of us. But it turned out okay. And we never talked of it again.
     I am staying at her house. It could have been for the afternoon, maybe I had stayed over night. I'm not sure. I spent lots of time at her house. It was one of my favorite places to be.
     She has made us sandwiches-roast beef, left over from one of her previous suppers, on white bread with a little lettuce and mayo. She cuts the sandwiches into triangles. I always think this is very fancy when she does this.
     I am happily eating my lunch, when suddenly I am not. Something goes wrong-and I am choking-in a can not draw in any air, panicky, what will I do sort of way. And she reacts calmly and swiftly-not necessarily the way that one is trained to do in first aid today-but it was what she knew to do and it worked.
     She always wore matching ensembles-house dress, shoes, polish, and lipstick. I can see her bright red talons coming at me. She pries open my mouth and snatches out the offending piece of beef, tears it right from my throat.
     My throat is raw and I am shaky, but I don't cry. I am too surprised by what has happened. She gets me a drink and we slowly regroup. And we never speak of this again. As I look back now, I bet she was just as scared as I was in that moment-but she acted swiftly-and I never knew if she was or wasn't.
     I think this is one reason why I always felt close to her-and believed she was capable of almost anything. If it hadn't been for her-I might not be here and able to write this at this moment.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Memoir and Back Story Blog Challenge: A Day Late and a Dollar Short

     I eagerly signed up for this challenge way back in September-when October seemed so very far away. And then time did its tricky thing and shifted-and suddenly it was October and I actually thought it was Monday yesterday-so-therefore still September.
     Now that I have come to grips with it being October-I am about to do my very first posting-which was meant for the first-today, on the second.
     I liked the idea of exploring what I think is my first known memory for this post. In my mind I can see the stairway landing as clearly as if it was before me right now. There is bright sunlight shining through the curtains that are pushed to the edges of the windows. This causes the wee bits of dust in the air to shimmer and shine in that appealing way that has always drawn me to an area or an object. I like shiny.
     I described the area to my father once-and he said it sounded like the stairway in his parents house. In talking about the toys I am playing with, he agreed that those would have been toys his mother had saved from his childhood.
     I know I am perfectly happy as I play. I am safe, it is warm, and life is good. As an adult, I also know that I have to be under the age of two and a half in this moment-because my grandmother died when I was 2 and a half. Her house was sold and I never played on that landing again.
     It is a sweet and lovely memory to me. But it also frustrates me. It frustrates me because I can conjure up this moment-but have no recollection of my own of the grandmother that saved those toys, that loved me so dearly. There are plenty of pictures that provide proof of this love. There are lots of stories from cousins and aunts and uncles that give life to that love she had for me. But there is no memory saved away in a dark corner of my mind for me to draw from on my own.
     It is further proof to me that we need to tell our stories and those of the folks that have gone before us. We need each other to be keeper of the love that is among us. It is by sharing stories that we keep connections alive. It is our way to nudge each other into eternity.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


     Often times in life-we get annoyed with people that want to give us advice on what choices we should make. Or we get worked up when someone says that if they had it to do over, they certainly wouldn't follow the course of action or pick the path we are on.
     When I was younger I didn't actually receive a lot of advice or guidance about certain things. I was the sort of kid that stayed out of trouble and tended to get good grades-not through any special effort but simply because I listened well in the classroom and was able to retain much of what I heard.
     Having this sort of freedom was fine until I had to make my way in the world. Then I ran into situations where you can have more than one boss that you report to simultaneously. Then I thought-hey, two jobs are not enough-I should take some college classes, too. Suddenly there were all sorts of demands on my time and a whole assortment of people that felt like they had the right to tell me what to do.
     It really was hard for me to take. And so many times the information would be conflicting. It would get to the point where I would just stop listening and hope for the best. Quite often, it seemed that if I just went my own way I could muddle through until I figured things out. This also gave me a false sense of achievement.
     But every now and then, a person comes along and manages to say something that catches me off guard. They manage to shake up my perceptions and open my eyes to a consideration of how the world might actually be.
     This happened for me a few months ago. There was a conversation at my work place that revolved around the different styles of leadership and communication used by various supervisors. We wondered what the exact element might be that set leaders apart, that made one seem much more effective than another. And it was then that one supervisor said something to that really made me think. It was just not something I had taken the time to ponder before.
     This guy said that he always makes the same assumption about the people that work for him, that each day they come to work with the intention of doing their best. This causes him to always give people the benefit of the doubt in a situation and also causes him to get at the root causes of issues if/when they crop up.
     This left me silent. It was so simple-and yet-I had never really thought it out that way. It's true. At least in regards to myself, I could be certain that 95% of the time, when I go to work I am absolutely there to do my very best. Now, there are a few days where things seem to go wrong-and then I aim for doing the best that I can and making the best possible choices in whatever difficult situation or issue is at hand. But the simple truth is, I am always wanting to give an honest effort while I am there.
     And if that is true of me, I should consider that will be true of my co-workers. It seems like such a simple notion. Yet it goes such a long way in creating an atmosphere of trust and respect. If someone makes a mistake-you don't react as harshly if you think-I know they were doing their best-what can I do to help them not have this negative outcome.
     The old model of thinking that other leaders had used in the past would have been-so and so screwed up-you always have to watch them. If given the chance they will goof off. These are assumptions that create a hostile atmosphere. And yet---this tends to be how we view each other. We can all be such harsh critics.
     Myself, I am embracing this piece of advice-and working to employ it in all aspects of my life-all relationships, not just at work. I have found that by thinking everyone has the best intentions-I am quite often discovering that they do.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Six Months

     Yesterday the weather was a bit dreary. Ordinarily it is the kind of gray day that I savor. Low, thick clouds, a hint of rain, and cool winds. This day just emphasized the fact to me that summer is quickly slipping away. Already the nights aren't quite as long, the chirp of the crickets has slowed to a less earnest tweet, and the evening breeze brings more chill than refreshment.
     Tied in with these thoughts are memories of many summer evenings spent either in my grandma's backyard or in her den/dining room. This room was on the west side of the house. The lighting at night often gorgeous shades of pink, red, and orange from the setting sun. There was always a fresh breeze that would weave through the trees and shrubs. My grandparents' home was often blessed by a gentle west wind. There was never much of  a need for air conditioning in their home. I can still hear the yearning tone of the call of mourning doves as the days gently wound down, the gray, blues, and purples of twilight swallowing up the last heat of the fading summer days as I gently rocked on the porch swing. These remembrances evoke such secure and happy memories for me.
     Today dawned cool and sunny. Gorgeous, puffy clouds gently floated across the sky as my father and I walked the farmer's market this morning. A gentle breeze caressed us as we strolled among the stalls filled with farm fresh vegetables, plump, juicy fruits, and tantalizing local baked goods. The smell of fresh blueberry doughnuts and peanut butter cookies reminded me of how my grandma loved to bake so she could keep her sweet tooth satisfied. Her cookie jar was always full when we were kids! This thought influenced my shopping choices.
     My father and I took our bag of treats to the local park to watch the kayaks and boats skim across the rolling, gentle waves of Lake Macatawa. It was good to be able to re-enforce old memories while creating new ones. It is hard to believe that six months has gone by already since grandma passed away. The time has mostly flown by. Maybe that is why I making such an effort to cling to and enjoy the moments of each and every ordinary day now.
    I know I am fortunate. I have a treasure chest full of memories that I can pull out at any moment and enjoy. Because I had my grandma for so long, I can still hear her voice as she often called me doll and how her voice would trail off as she said good-bye at the end of a phone conversation.
     Many years ago my grandma's second son passed away. This was a sudden, shocking loss for our family when my uncle died. I can still remember hearing about his three year old grandson's fresh grief several months later. When asked why he was crying, he said it was because he could no longer hear his paw paws voice in his head. I understood this right away. It was like his grandpa had died all over again, but in an even more permanent way.
     I suppose this is why I sometimes like to reflect and conjure up as many images and sounds as I can that I associate with my grandma, to keep her memory, her voice, her self, alive in my heart.

Johnny Cash singing "I'll Fly Away."


Wednesday, July 24, 2013


     The heat and humidity have been oppressive the last few weeks, at least to me. I cringe when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees. I always say that I prefer winter, as I can put on as much clothing as necessary, but no one wants to see me stripped down at work, plus it just wouldn't be allowed, dress codes being what they are at my job.
     As I was driving my friends home from work last night, I had the window rolled down and let the cool fresh air stream inside my car. It was my lucky night, the storms of yesterday having brought down the humidity and the temperature. At midnight the temp hovered in the lower sixties. One of my co-workers began lamenting the fact she had no sweater or sweatshirt. I laughed and said this night was meant for me, to make up for summer's misery.
     After I had dropped everyone else off, I relaxed as I cruised down the highway, the light of the moon guiding my route. And then ,out of no where, came the memory of a summer from maybe a decade ago. It was a late July night much like this. The temperature had plunged into the lower fifties, toying with the forties. I was rejoicing for the fact that it would be great sleeping weather, but when I got home it was nearly a sauna inside. I was staying with my dear grandmother at the time and she had cranked up the furnace. In July. I was flabbergasted. But, she liked to keep her house at near tropical conditions year round.
     The memory of this causes me to smile while my breath catches in my throat, my chest tightens, and tears pool at the edges of my eyes. It has been nearly six months since my grandma passed and sometimes that grief is still lurking just below the surface. But what a great gift to have so many personal memories of her and the times we shared.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

True Confession

     The latest project I am involved in has come as quite a surprise to me. I am involved in a project that takes my storybook that was digitally published last year and transforms it into an interactive children's theater program.
     Well, there are really so many aspects of this that are surprising to me. First of all, it is always a pleasant surprise to have such a great opportunity to do something new. Second of all, it is a surprise to be working on a project in a medium that I had never considered working in before.
     Ever since I was a young child and saw Star Wars for the first time, my heart has always been captivated by film. I had wished fervently to work in that industry. Maybe someday I will, maybe someday I won't. If I have learned anything in the last couple years, it is that all things are still possible no matter where you are in your life journey.
     But then there is my weird issue that I have with theater. I must confess-I actually find it somewhat distressing to go to a show. It is my own odd hang up. I have enjoyed every show I have been to, but they have fatigued me. It is difficult to watch the actors in a drama as they bring to life the sufferings of the characters. It is all too real. I actually worry for them as they bring to life such strong emotions.
     I suppose that is why I have always preferred film. The screen separates me from the intensity of what the actors are bringing to the roles they are playing. When I write, I have always pictured the scenes of the story unfolding as a mini film in my mind. I had never seen any of my stories in a theater format.
     That being said, it has been thrilling to have donated my time and efforts to the writing of a base script for the interactive children's theater experience presentation of my storybook Green Goo. I am very much looking forward to seeing it performed live at Deanna's Playhouse July 9-12. The show time is 10am. The tickets are $5 a person. I am most looking forward to the songs that Mindy Gerdes has written for this presentation!
     In an effort to aid True JEM Productions in this presentation, a Kickstarter Campaign has been started. I have made a donation to this as well. Hopefully other folks will consider joining me in helping out this theater company in launching their learning programs for kids.
     There is even an amusing video interview with the rather awkward author of Green Goo. All you have to do to find out more is follow the link to watch the brief and informative video.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sometimes I Forget

     As a writer, I know the value of words. I put such time, effort, and agonizing into putting words together in such a way as to carefully craft the image or emotion I mean to convey to the readers of my stories or posts.
     And yet, in my everyday life I can lose sight of what I know to be true. It is easy to get overwhelmed by day to day events and sometimes I forget.
     Sometimes I am careless with the what I treasure most-the words I choose to use and share. And this can negatively affect what I treasure most of all-the people I come in contact with in my daily life. I am fortunate to be blessed with so many positively influential people among my friends, family, and co-workers.
     They often say or do things that cause me to pause and reflect on what I am saying or doing. The other day a co-worker said something simple, to the effect of, "Heaven forgive me for what I am saying," and this was enough to make me pause and realize what I was contributing in a positive or negative way to the conversation at hand.
     Upon further reflection, I realized that all too often when I am speaking out of a place of fear or worry, I let all my convictions about speaking with care and caution disappear. This incident has allowed me to really consider how and what I communicate with the people I am in community with on a daily basis. She may not realize it, but this co-worker woke me up to an area in my own communication skills that I want and need to work on.
     Later in the evening this same co-worker was reading something on her phone and chuckling away. I was hopeful that she would share with me the details of what ever amusing anecdote she was reading. When she was done she turned and said to me, "That was really cute!" I was confused. Then she said, "Oh, I thought you knew. I downloaded your book!" That was one of the best compliments I have ever received on my writing!
     A few days later a letter was given to me from another co-worker that was moving on to new job. This was someone that I had worked with closely on several projects and have become good friends with as well. We have lifted each other up through a difficult situation and encouraged each other on our writing journeys. His note confirmed for me that he was appreciative of the same facts that I was. And it was such a shining moment for me to realize that I had helped a fellow writer out in the ways that he stated in his letter.
     I am glad I am still receptive to teachable moments. I still have a lot to learn as travel along. These moments this week reinforced the importance of taking caring with the words you say and put into print. You never know who you might be lifting up or encouraging or giving strength to with what you say.
     To encourage a writer friend of mine-I want to share a link to his blog. He writes really great music reviews. After reading many of them-I have learned much and found new artists to enjoy!


     On another note, I will be posting more later about my little storybook turned play. "Green Goo" will soon be on the stage. I am excited to see where this journey of words takes me!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Speaking of Change...

     Ever since the beginning of my career in production manufacturing, I have had to get used to the idea of logos to convey concepts in large group settings. One of the popular ones has always been the one that deals with the concept of change being good.
     Another one that is every popular right now is the concept that we need to be flexible in this ever changing world stage for manufacturing. Both of these concepts can be quite wearing on the average individual. Most of us are creatures of habit, homebodies that like to know what we can reasonably expect to experience out of each day we encounter.
     In a round about way, I actually address some of these very issues within the pages of the children's storybook that I wrote a while back. On the surface, the story seems to be a fun rhyming book that is a description of what happens when a little boy is disappointed by the pile of food he finds on his plate at dinner time.
     But as the story progresses, the reader gets a real feel for what is going on in the boy's mind. His imagination is on fire. It is being fueled by his fears. He doesn't like the smell, look, or texture of what he has found on his plate. He is soon overwhelmed by his anxiety and his fear that his sister may make fun of him.
     His parents then step in and provide the nurturing understanding that he needs in that moment. They describe to him what the food is and how it is made. As the young boy replaces his fear with information, he is able to make the empowering choice of trying something new. With his new found confidence, he discovers he really does like the new food.
     I have found that the basic concepts I share throughout the story are at the root of what I need to do to keep moving forward towards a successful, fulfilling, happy life. If I diligently seek out information through reading, seeking advice of peers and mentors, and through experimenting with new situations; I am also better able to make empowered choices and am able to help others do the same.
     Change is still overwhelming at times, but I am learning how to embrace it; whether it is in seeking to change the format of my blog, creating a script version of my storybook, or transferring to a new department at my day job. Being equipped with information is one way to reign to embrace change in a positive way. It isn't easy to make changes, but it can be very rewarding and lead to unimagined success.


Saturday, April 27, 2013


     A friend of mine explained time this way---the days seem to drag by, but the years are flying by now. That is often how I perceive time as well. The details of the every day stresses I encounter can bog me down if I let them. I often get caught up in day to day events either at work, at home, or in the news. This causes me to think that life is more difficult or that choices or opportunities are dwindling.
     But if I just calm down and look at the larger milestones of life, I realize how much has changed for the better or how much is up to the choices I make-whether of attitude or action.
     When I realized that this month marked the year anniversary of my keeping a blog, I was suddenly paralyzed and at a loss for words. I wondered what exactly I had learned from this process of publicily sharing my words. I suddenly felt the pressure of needing to say something profound to mark this moment.
     This only increased when I realized it would also be my 40th posting. That seems like such a serious number. Such a commitment. But what does it really say? What have I actually learned through this process, or in the last year for that matter?
     I have spent the last three weeks pondering this as I have been overwhelmed with the idea that I must search for some great truth to share. There must be something I have learned this past year that matters, to me, or to the reader I might be sharing with.
     Today, as the sun pours in my living room, I have decided to let myself off the hook. I may not have learned any great truths this year, but I have come to several small conclusions that have helped me out greatly.
     A former co-worker used to tell me to not worry about problems. If you step back and leave an issue alone, it will often sort itself out. I did not believe anything could be that easy. This year I decided to try this approach to work and life issues and happily discovered that it was true some of the time. The real root of that truth lies in my realizing what are actually my issues to do deal with and what issues I should just let go.
     Anxiety is insidious and can color how I feel about even day to day details. My way of finally dealing with this has been to embrace and enjoy the mundane moments of every day. At work, this meant finding the satisfaction and elegance in simple things. I have a colleague that is a capable and intuitive machinist. I am rather hopeless when it comes to mechanical repairs. It was hard for me to have to ask for help in problem solving. When I finally cornered my ego and was able to seek the help I needed, I could then appreciate the beauty in watching an expert set about their work, gathering the right tools for the job, laying out all the supplies, and delving into the working parts of the press or die.
     I was now able to understand the phrase about poetry in motion as I watched people engage in the every day around them. I found a new joy in watching a someone cook a meal, in watching my husband play with one of our cats. Slowing down my interactions with life allowed me to really see the beauty and joy that is abundant in every day if I calm myself enough to accept it.
     I also again learned the importance of not holding myself up to my perception of the achievements of others or to the trajectory that I have imagined my work or goals should be taking me. After spending years chasing dreams about writing and sharing my works with others, I was certain I had finally paid all my necessary dues and it would all be falling into place.
     Then I began to feel anxious that I wasn't meeting my self imposed goals and deadlines. I feared that I was not making any progress. Until a friend asked a simple question and that forced me to stop panicking and really reflect on what I have been doing the past several years.
     I keep taking steps forward. I keep learning. I keep sharing. I need to just keep my imagination and musings in check-and guide them so they work for me and don't overwhelm me. If I can just remember all the little things I have learned this past year and interject them into my every day, I will keep learning and growing and finding the happiness and beauty that surround me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Unsung Super Heroes=Teachers

     I have had the privilege of being out in the community to share my storybook with students at schools, children at play centers, and at a children's museum. It has been a pleasure for me to engage with these children and talk about books, reading, writing, and story telling.
     The children have offered up amazing insights, encouraging words, and treasured moments. One of these moments occurred  when a student immediately noticed one of the little jokes I included in my storybook about the main character having ants in his pants. It was gratifying to see the student pick out the small details that I labored over in my story telling.
     The main reason I have had such success in these setting has been due in large part to the teachers that have let me come into their classrooms, be a part of their day's programming, and have guided the sometimes lively classroom discussions.
     I always appreciated my teachers when I was a child, but seeing them in action as an adult has given me a whole new appreciation for all that they do within every moment of their day. I was so impressed with how they help keep focused children as young as 3-4 and teach them how to ask questions, how to talk to each other and other adults, and how encouraging they were to each child. It amazed me how much skill it takes to help students be fully engaged.
     These reading and speaking events have been a learning experience for me on so many levels. I have learned how to communicate with larger groups of people which has been a great area of growth for me since I tend to be rather reserved, to shy. It has helped me learn better how people receive the stories that I have to tell and has helped me learn more about the whole process of our shared stories.
     One of my favorite parts of these speaking engagements has been seeing these fabulous teachers/leaders in action, watching them instill confidence, skills, and leadership in these children who will one day be leaders themselves. I hope I have been as much of an encouragement to all of them as they have been to me.
     I love being able to share my love of reading, writing, and storytelling. I really think that when these skills are honed from a young age it truly helps develop people as leaders-whether they become future teachers, community leaders, or leaders on a larger scale, they will have the skills to be a leader in their own lives and that is one of the greatest gifts we can help instill in others.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Latest Buzz

     It has been a week of extremes for me. To be fair, each week usually has its ups and downs.  Though there are highs and lows,  most of them don't stray too far off course of our day to day existence so we don't feel the full impact of them most of the time. But then there are weeks like this one.
     It started with my grandmother passing away early Sunday morning.  That in itself was understandable. She had lived a long time and was more than ready for this to happen. She closed her eyes and woke up to eternity. I was taken aback only because she has been such a huge part of my life. I am happy for all the great memories I have that will soon move in to fill the hole that has been left in my heart by her passing.
     I am finding that the best way to honor my memories of such a treasured loved one is to embrace the opportunities that life has offered me. This moment is  about one of the extreme high points of my week when I had the privilege of sharing my storybook with students at a local Holland elementary school. It was such fun to share my words with eager young readers and writers. We enjoyed finding all the rhymes within the text of  "Green Goo."
     Over the course of the last few days I have baked cookies for The Holland Area Beekeepers Association's bee school. This class is all about introducing the public to the concepts of beekeeping and what it takes to get started in maintaining hives of your own and how that benefits our communities.

     This was the first time that I have made cookies since my grandmother's passing. It was an honor for me to be able to use her sugar cookies recipe to make some of the snacks that the students will be enjoying during their breaks at beekeeping school.
     Then, since I had bees on my mind I decided to check out the large library of books that Green Goo's publisher, MeeGenius.com, has on hand to see if there were any that dealt with bees or beekeeping. Happily, there is a charming little storybook that I can share with you titled "Buzzy the Bumblebee."


     Making these cookies, thinking about bees, and discovering this storybook reminded me that spring will again be here soon. Life has its cycles and all the moments are to be lived to their fullest and treasured because you never know when you might find your heart's fondest memories.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

One Last Thing

     I understand I should not be surprised. She was blessed with a long life. There are not many people that live to be 99 years old. But she is my grandma and I will miss her dearly.
     It is still a shock to me. I suppose I had just assumed she was a shoo in for 100. Happily, we had just celebrated her birthday with her less then two weeks ago. She had cake and ice cream. She ate every bit. She always loved her desserts. I inherited that from her.
     I also get my love of baking and reading from her. I use her sugar cookie recipe to this day and have shared it with hundreds of other people. It was part of the give away that we sent home with each guest at our wedding as our thank you-a heart cookie cutter and grandma's recipe, along with the phrase,"We are cut out for each other."
     I am off of my day job this week. I hoped to get a lot of writing done. I have gotten some done. In fact, I may have written one of the most important pieces of my life. If you had told me a week ago that I would be writing this, I would not have believed it. Yesterday I wrote up my grandma's obituary for our little local paper. My mom asked me to do this. It was hard to know what to say. There is so much I wanted to say, but I managed to come up with what I believe are just the right phrases to sum up grandma's 99 years, at least from my perspective. I hope it did her justice and honored her.
     I know I will be writing more about her in the coming months so that I can save her memories in my words, in my heart, and in my mind. One of the greatest gifts she gave me as a child was just simply allowing me to be me. There was never any time pressure at grandma's. We could play outside at our leisure, walk to the park or the playground, or walk down-town with her to the dime store, library, or local restaurant.
   I am glad that I had the opportunity to do this one last thing for her.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day Changer

     Today I was once again reminded that life is a lot like the weather in Michigan. If you don't like what is happening, stay calm as things could change for the better at any moment.
     I was having a less than great day. I had allowed myself to become frustrated with small details such as a project at work, a lack of progress with a writing project, and judging my abilities at interacting with others.
     I was to the point of being so frustrated that I was ornery the minute I walked in the door after I ran around town chasing through my errands after work. I am fortunate that my husband was readily available and able to talk me into a cheerier mood within moments. Then a friend of mine shared some great news with me about my storybook from last year. She alerted me to a newsletter that had went out from our publisher, MeeGenius. Among new users of their app my storybook "Green Goo" is currently trending #1.
     Due to my friend and fellow author, Jennifer Young, being so thoughtful and sharing this with me, my mood and outlook instantly improved. I am so grateful that she took a moment out of her hectic day to share these encouraging words with me.
     I want to actively express my gratitude to Jennifer by sharing her storybook with you. She has written a delightful book called "Poison Apple Pie." I encourage you all to buy and read it. It will be a fabulous addition to your virtual book shelf!

This is the link to her storybook:http://bit.ly/V7pXJe

I also want to share a link with you to the newsletter that our Publisher MeeGenius sent out that featured my good news:http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=3981a6e17629792c40af0db32&id=1c583414a0

I am so grateful and amazed at the support I have received in chasing my dreams of being a published author/story teller. Thank you all!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Change by Choice

     Over the years I have been exposed to a lot of on the job training that I am sure was meant to inspire me to be the best possible worker bee that I could be. It often left me feeling discouraged or disappointed. I was always uncomfortable with the catchy slogans that were used that were supposed to help re-frame our mindsets and aid us in thinking as our company wanted us to think about any given situation.
     One of the slogans that always got me down and was a real mainstay at one of my employers was the cheerful, mindless acclimatization that change is good. Well, no, in fact, it is not. Tell the person that just got the diagnosis for the grim disease that may take their life or their child's life that change is good. Tell that to the person that just received the message that their child will not be coming home from their deployment. Tell that to the 83 year old woman that was just widowed because her husband got hit by a truck and they were less then six months shy of their 60th anniversary.
     I always felt that it was such a cop out and trite to try to boil down a complex concept into such a compassion less statement. It always seemed like an insensitive declaration. I always felt I was being cheated when someone would parrot that phrase and I always felt like I was being asked to be less than human by attempting to embrace that three word slogan.
     I think that seizing the opportunity to change yourself, better your circumstances, or to pursue education is good. In fact, I think it is great. However, whenever people were teaching these inspiring change is good classes they were not usually trying to aid employees in any of those pursuits. Usually they were just using this slogan to convince you that it would be great that they had to cut your pay, cut staffing, and increase efficiency goals all at the same time. Change. Is. Good.
     Even if you are making a choice to change your diet and exercise more, that is good-if you are doing it as a preventative option. It is a choice and a good one. But if you are doing this because you suddenly find yourself in ill health, it is not a good thing that you are having to make that change. In this case, change is necessary. I suppose it is good that you are still able to do that, but I still think the use of the slogan would be misplaced.
     I think the new slogan that gets taught should be, "Change by Choice." This, to me, means you have put some thought into your circumstances, realzied you need a change of plan, and are actively acting on that.
     When I was younger I dreamed of being a filmmaker, of working with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. But I was a shy kid and I didn't have enough money to even apply to USC Film School, so I shelved that dream for a while. I still worked on my writing and went to a university locally. I always figured I would make a great success as a screenwriter some day. But then, I didn't.
     I did have an opportunity to enter a storybook contest. I had written plenty of stories for my friends' children. I just never thought about submitting them anywhere. I was going to be a screenwriter, you know. But then I heard about a contest. I researched it, reviewed materials and ideas I had on hand, and i changed my mind. I made the choice to change my approach to what type of a writer I envisioned myself as. My little storybook managed to earn a digital publishing contract.
     I have a friend that is a writer. He usually writes fantasy or urban fiction. But for some reason he recently made the choice to write a shorty story that was more along the lines of a mythology. I consider it to be one of the best short stories I have read in quite a while. I love his latest story. Several days after reading it, it still lingers at the back of my mind. He made a choice to change his style. I am hoping it works out well for him. His story is in a contest. When you have a few moments, please read Brother Wolf by Matt Rohr. You can vote on the story once a week until the end of January. I am hoping that his story will be illustrated and published as part of his prize for winning. Please follow the link:


     If and when I ever get to lead a training session my new classroom training slogan will definitely be change by choice is good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year: Your Next Chapter Begins

     As I have spent the last few days reflecting on the past, I have pondered about many of the gifts I am most grateful for and why. At the top of my list has been one of the gifts my parents gave me that was just a matter of course, of every day living, but was so very valuable to the foundation of my well being.
     My parents have always been communicators, storytellers, and have spared no details of the good, the bad, the hopeful, or hopeless situations of life. I can remember from a young age being told the story of how they met. For the record-it was at The Shamrock. The funny part about this-that was a local bar hang out in GR in the mid 1960s and if you know my mother-she is practically a teetotaler.
     I know by heart how my dad ended up in the Air Force, his misadventures in basic training, and what he did and where he was stationed. I also know how it was due to being in the service that he was not able to make it home for his father's funeral and just how real the sacrifice is by all those who work to serve and protect the citizens of this country.
     I also know and love the details of my parents' wedding. They were married the day after one of the saddest days in our nation's history-the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. My dad's brother, my beloved Uncle Bob, was my dad's best man. He was also a GR police officer. All officers were on call due to the potential for riots across the country, so my uncle's car was pulled right up by the open windows of the church so he could hear his radio during the ceremony, so I have been told.
     And the most important part of this sharing of the history of our lives as a family through storytelling was the fact that my parents also told me my own story; of how I was born very sickly and prematurely, of how my grandmothers came to visit me at the hospital, how they knew my cry above the cries of all the healthy babies as they could hear me gasping for air from down the hall as I tried to wail in my isolette, and of how I was released too soon to be cared for at home. And all the difficulty that caring for me was in the year that followed. There is a good reason that there is five years between me and my next sibling.
     The importance of this communication is that it taught me how my story intersected with that of my family and community. It instilled in me a sense of belonging and being a valuable part of the communities that intersected with our lives. This helped lay a healthy foundation for me when it became time for me to take responsibility for the telling of my own story and figuring out how my story fits and compliments the stories of all other people that I interact with.
     I am forever grateful that my parents helped me develop this sense of belonging and this desire to tell and learn my own story and learn of and from the stories of everyone I encounter. I am again excited for this turning of the page of the calender, for this calling of the new year and new opportunities to figure out what is next in my story, your story, and our story.
     It is sometimes in the small, every day moments that interesting things happen. I revel in the details of  the small stories. I am already fortunate to have one to add to my collection for the new year.
     As my brother and I were about to leave a party last night, I experienced an amazing moment. Some background: My car is 12 years old. I am hoping that we are in a very long term, committed relationship. As sometimes happens over time, things have been a bit bumpy for us lately. The car has required some up keep and has had some irregular moments as it ages.
      The key fob quit working years ago. A few weeks ago the driver's side lock on the door also quit working. It became necessary for me to first unlock the passenger door, then flip the interior lock, and then walk around and open my door and get in to the car to drive away. This was not a big deal when getting groceries as I generally dump the bags in the front seat, but at work it was awkward to me to have to engage in this routine.
     I managed to get the door lock repaired just before the holiday and was quite pleased with that. At least I was able to use the key on both doors now. I went to insert the key in driver side door lock last night when all of a sudden all the locks were sprung open. I looked to my brother who was grinning rather smugly. I was stunned as I wondered where he had learned this magic.
     It was then he showed me the key and fob. It had been laying by a scattering of books and papers at my parents house earlier in the day on the floor by my mother's chair. He picked it up, saw that it said Ford on it and wondered if it went to my car.
     It did. I had thought I gave a spare to my mother over a decade ago, but she had never been able to find it. And suddenly, yesterday, there it was. It is a small, strange thing. It will bring me a lot of ease and happiness this winter to have it back. Where it has been and how it ended up there on their floor at that moment is hard to say. I just know you never know what may be a key element in the telling of your story. Here is hoping for many interesting moments for storytelling for us all in 2013!