Friday, October 18, 2019

More Than One Dream - Part 3

I continued to be active in the writing group and have been instrumental in the production of three anthologies of members’ work. I joined another writer’s guild and now serve on its board of directors. The guild has partnered with a regional community college and we will host our fourth Writers Symposium this year. Along with several other board members I’ve served on the planning committee for the Symposium all four years.
As might be expected involvement with these activities takes time away from writing itself. I have managed a few more publication credits and did actually finish a novel, though not the first one I began. Fulfillment of my writing dreams gave me a feeling of validation as a person, something I could stand on. I am very sure God knew I would need that a few years down the road.
Less than a month after celebrating our fiftieth anniversary my husband suffered a massive stroke. He never regained use of the left side of his body and his condition steadily deteriorated over the next three years. The toll on my own health and mental state was heavy as I watched the strong young man I married become a shadow of himself until his final release.
I had managed to keep up some writing activities even while caring for my husband. But after his death it took about eight months before I could get my head back into writing seriously. An essay was accepted for a literary journal. I worked on another novel.
The first Christmas after my husband passed away I decided (a nudge from God? I think so.) to work on several short essays and pitch them to a local newspaper for a weekly column. A few days after I sent a dozen to the editor he emailed me to ask for a headshot to run with my column.
When the column first appeared in print I, trying for nonchalance, posted the news to my Facebook page. The paper has a website and my column is (edit: was) published on it as well, but I didn’t think to post the link. I signed off and took a shower. When I later signed back in to Facebook I was bowled over by the comments and congratulations from family and friends. A cousin had looked for the website and not found it. My sister-in-law found it and put it up for them. I am so grateful for the family God gave me and their unfailing support. Never once have any of them even hinted that I have some nerve calling myself a writer. That, too, I consider part of God’s gift in fulfilling my writing dreams.
(edit/update) The Writers Symposium I mention was quite successful and was an annual event for nine years, tho after the 4th or 5th, I resigned from the Planning Committee because it was going well and I tired of the long drive. This current year the Lost State Writers Guild, my local group, sponsored a one-day writing workshop (another long-held dream of mine) and many attendees requested that another be held next year.) 

Friday, October 11, 2019

More Than One Dream - Part 2

The acceptance of my story encouraged me to keep trying. I wrote essays and stories, submitted them, read books about writing. and attended my first writing conference. That conference helped me begin to think of myself as a writer, which even that first publication didn’t do.
I had bought my first personal computer when my company gave employees the opportunity. I was sure it would make writing easier and it did. I upgraded to a better computer and then the Internet opened up the cornucopia of instant knowledge and communication. Internet magazines, ezines, sprouted. A few accepted my stories, and then another print magazine accepted one.
I wanted very much to be among other ‘real’ writers, even though I still didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a writer. But something – God? – kept pushing me until I found a group and found the courage to go to a meeting. At first I didn’t tell them about my writing acceptances, the magazines were not mass circulation, who would care? Finally I did tell them and was amazed that they were impressed.
I learned of another larger writing group and joined it. The leader of the group and a few members had published books. I loved being associated with them and they actually accepted me as a writer. Several of us attended a writing conference out-of-state and the workshops galvanized me.
The first novel I had begun years before languished in a file folder. I began thinking of writing a book about my family, a memoir. But if I did how would I get it printed? Most vanity/self-publishing companies were very expensive. Eventually through the Internet I found a new self-publishing website that would format and publish one’s book and charged no upfront fees. Authors could buy as many or few of their books as they could afford instead of thousands.
Does the fulfillment of a dream always feel like you’re still dreaming? Did Joseph feel like that when he was finally released from his prison dungeon and made second in command under Pharaoh? Even when I held the first copy of Eight Miles of Muddy Road in my hand it felt as unreal as that first magazine publication. Later I found another company where my computer skills enabled me to have my books printed even more economically and have published two more.
(update)As of last count, 12 paperbacks and ebooks. Several more in pipeline.)


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

More Than One Dream - part 1

This post is the first part of a longer piece I wrote about my life and dreams. It was too long for one of my newspaper columns and I chose not to publish it in three parts at that time. I'm going to do so today and Friday this week and the last part next Tuesday. Just in case someone's interest is strong enough to want to read all of it! Most of the events in it have appeared in one form or another in my memoir, Eight Miles of Muddy Road or in other columns and posts.
* * *
    I always knew God gives dreams. The Bible is full of examples. In the Old Testament there is Abraham, told in a dream to leave his home country; his son, Joseph, dreaming his brothers would bow down to him; and the dream God gave Pharaoh and Joseph’s fellow prisoners. Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder to heaven. In the New Testament as well we find Joseph, Mary’s husband and his dream of an angel telling him to take his family to Egypt and then again when they could return.

     Are dreams from God today? If He gives us dreams while we sleep, are the dreams and longings in our hearts when we’re awake also from Him, too? I think the answer to both is – yes. Not all, of course. Sometimes it might be the cheese and pepperoni on the pizza we ate late in the evening. If we’re granted one dream, is that it? Or will God bless us with others? In my own life the answer to that question is also ‘yes.’
     A mother, grandmother and great grandmother now and can look back at a life filled with dream fulfillments, even though at the time I might not have fully realized it. We humans are so prone to attribute the realization of our deeply held desires as due to good luck, hard work, or just the way things worked out.
     I grew up dirt poor in rural Georgia. That I would ever fly in one of the airplanes I saw high above the cotton field was not a possibility even in my constant daydreams. But fifty years later my younger sister and I flew across the ocean as part of a group which toured Israel and also spent two nights in Rome, Italy. Forced early retirement from the job God provided twenty years earlier and a generous severance pay package made the dream trip possible.
     I dreamed that I’d grow up, strike out on my own, marry, become a mother. Time passed, I met a young man from Tennessee, we married, and God blessed us with a beautiful daughter. Amid the ups and downs of marriage, family, and job I always knew God was the Giver of answers to my dreams. But I didn’t consciously turn my dreams over to Him. And I had several that I never, ever mentioned to anybody.
     My older sister had dropped out of school and worked to help provide for our family of ten. I longed for college after high school graduation, but instead I found a job and also contributed to the family. Many years later came an opportunity for college, though I finished the last class needed for my degree after retirement.
     My husband loved to tell of my reaction when he told friends I’d earned my college ‘diploma.’
     I’d quickly correct him. “It’s a college degree.” God is indeed the fulfiller of dreams, but not necessarily on our timetable.
     I learned to read when I started school at five years old and immediately fell in love with books. That love only grew stronger as I grew up. Sometimes a fleeting thought that I might write something myself that would be published crept into my mind. No, too far-fetched. What did I have to say that anyone would want to publish? Or read.
     Over the years the thoughts of writing didn’t go away and I finally bought a used Underwood typewriter. I sent out a few things. Which were rejected. I worked on a novel, still unfinished.
     Sometime before my trip to Israel I had submitted a story to a small magazine. When we returned to the States we landed in Atlanta and I called my husband in Tennessee.
     We chatted a few minutes and then he told me, “A woman called, an editor. Something about wanting to publish your story.”
     It didn’t actually seem real to me until a couple of months later I held the magazine in my hand, my name and story title listed in the table of contents.

(next-part 2)

Friday, August 2, 2019

Frustration - redux

It's been more than a few years since I wrote the newspaper column below. A few things have changed, more than a few actually, in that time. Now living alone, so I have no one else to blame for many of the frustrations I encounter. Some are the normal aggravations in life that everyone encounters, of course. Some due to changes in the world around us, when we might prefer that things stayed the same.
Nowadays 'responsive' is the buzz word when it comes to web site building. An even steeper learning curve than first learning HTML code, I discovered. But, as with the coding, I've learned a smattering of the subject. And I'm glad I learned a little about coding. When my responsive design won't do what I want it to do, I can look at the code, and maybe, possibly, get a hint of the reason. And sometimes I look at the code and don't have a clue, to re-coin a hoary phrase.
* * *
I don’t deal well with frustration. So of course many things in life seem to conspire to frustrate me. Say I set out to tighten the drawer knobs on a small chest of drawers for which I’ll need several items. Can those items be found? Certainly not. That would make it too easy. Some gremlin has moved the screwdriver from where it has resided for years in the front of the junk drawer. After half an hour I locate it in the secondary junk drawer underneath the plastic baggie of tiny leftover screws from a DIY shelf unit.
Muttering inaudible, I hope, imprecations I clutch the screwdriver and go to the kitchen drawer which normally holds tools I use more often. I’ll need the needle-nose pliers to hold the washer inside the drawer while I tighten the knob. I use the pliers most often to rip open those tabs on milk and other liquid container plastic lids, another long-term source of frustration.
Frustration is not limited to the physical. It has been my daily fare for the last few weeks as I try to clean up the code on several web pages. I created the pages two and three or so years ago while attempting to learn the basic skills of website building with HTML code. I learned a little and made working pages, after a fashion. I kept learning in fits and starts as I wanted to make changes to the pages. Then other interests and duties kept me from working with code on a daily basis. Lately when I would look at my early coding in the source code I itched to do more than make minor changes, to clean and tighten it up. I just couldn’t seem to find time or feel I could concentrate enough to do it. Finally, housebound periodically by snow this winter, I tackled the job. Only to find that evidently my little gray cells failed to retain enough knowledge and I’ve had to dig to figure out how to get the pages to do what I want them to do. Perhaps another benefit for all this cerebral activity will be to keep some of the bugaboos of old age at bay.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

When I was in school, we used to sing this song the beginning of our school day. And recite the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts, turned toward the U. S. Stars and Stripes flag. Without these things, America might not have produced what is now called The Greatest Generation. Hundreds of thousands of young men and officers who were willing to lay down their very lives so that their families, the citizens of their United States, and most of the rest of the world, might not fall under the rule of tyrants. Tyrants named Hitler, Mussolini, and others. My heart breaks that so much of the world, including many in this country, have forgotten.Some elected leaders, sworn to uphold our Constitution and follow the clearly expressed will of the people, have not forgotten either. They simply choose to employ those same tactics used by the would-be tyrants to undermine and overthrow the will of the people. But as long as enough young and old Americans DO remember, those modern-day would-be tyrants who choose riches over integrity and patriotism will also fail.

Consider these lines, first stanza of the song title of this blog post:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of Liberty, Of thee, I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!