Morning Coffee: Giving Thanks (Week 4)

fallFor my final Giving Thanks blog I have to say I am thankful for my family; not only the family that shares my DNA, but the family I married into, my church family, my writer family, my work family, my community family, etc. We are all family, and that means we don’t always get along. But that doesn’t mean I’m not thankful that they are in my life because even the negative can have a positive effect. We learn from our negative experiences, at least we do after we stop crying and complaining and asking everyone why so-and-so is so mean. Just as our own mistakes can teach us why we don’t want to do that again, other people’s mistakes can teach us why we won’t want to do that ourselves.

And fair warning, as a writer my mistakes AND yours make great fodder for my stories. I’ve also been told that an excellent way to get past the anger of the “why is so-and-so so mean” question is to write that b____ into your next novel and then kill off him or her. Let’s call it “ink therapy”.

Now that the holidays are upon us and we are once again faced with dinners and parties that will include members of all our various families, here are some words of advice: 1) don’t debate politics, good advice even in a non-contentious election year; 2) don’t talk religion, unless you are with your church family; 3) let go of all the old complaints, dredging them up isn’t going to change the past; and 4) SMILE. If you smile, even when you don’t feel like smiling, before you know it your mood will begin to change for the positive. The day will not go on forever. It might feel like it will, but believe me, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and everyone will eventually go home.

So, I’m wishing you all Happy Holidays! Remember, family is a gift and a gift should always be received with gratitude and thankfulness, even if it isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.

Morning Coffee: Giving Thanks (Week 3)

fallThis week’s Giving Thanks is an easy one. I’m thankful for my writing community. Some are friends I’ve known personally for years, while others are just names and small pics in a Facebook group. But I credit all of them for keeping me going and getting me to where I am today: a completed novel requested and right now being read by two different publishers.

I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember. Not those kinds of stories…well, ok, maybe a few…but the kind where characters in my imagination go on adventures. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories I read in books and have always wanted to write one of my own. Over the years I’ve made several unsuccessful attempts but I never quit. Oh, there were times when I had to set aside my dream because, as we all know, life happens. I had children to raise, I went back to school, and then I had to work to help get them through college. But now that they’re independent and well-adjusted adults I’ve been able to turn back to my writing.

Then about a year and a half ago I met three women from WisRWA at an author event. I had just started writing “Mary Bishop”. It was to be a dark and twisty tale of revenge. Think Clint Eastwood spaghetti western where the main character wears a skirt. Not sure where all that anger came from that fueled that plotline, but that was the plan. Tina approached me after the reading and introduced herself, asked what I write, and I told her about my then new project. She suggested it could be a romance, maybe Earl wasn’t really dead. I told her no, he was definitely dead and I buried him. She said it could still be a romance and I replied that it was a revenge tale. She suggested I visit their next meeting and gave me the information. I said I’d think about it.

Well, I thought about it all the way home. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to at least visit their meeting. When I got home I emailed Tina that I would plan on coming to the next meeting. In the meantime, I kept writing. I struggled with the Christmas church service scene where Mary finds herself sitting next to her late husband’s best friend, Oliver. My thought was that his wife was sitting next to him, yet Oliver insisted on taking Mary’s hand during the service, giving it a light squeeze and smiling. Every time I typed that scene I’d go back and delete that part. I tried to tell him that was inappropriate, asked him what his wife would think of such a thing. His response to me: What wife? My wife passed away five years ago and I’ve been secretly in love with Mary Bishop for a long time now. That’s when I realized my book was, indeed, a romance.

As you know, I then joined RWA and WisRWA (Romance Writers of America and their Wisconsin chapter). Without my WisRWA group I’ve no doubt “Mary Bishop” would have floundered and become just one more unfinished novel in my filing cabinet. You see, no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get Mary to tell me how she planned on getting revenge on the town of Deer Creek. I wanted it, but I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t write it, and that’s because she didn’t want revenge. She wanted to be left alone. Or so she thought at the time. In reality, she wanted to find love again.

Now I have a completed manuscript that I believe will be published, if not by one of the two currently reading it, then by another. I know because Mary told me the story that was truly in her heart and that kind of story always wins in the end.

Morning Coffee: Giving Thanks (Week 2)

005It’s during the holiday season that we come to truly appreciate, and rely on, family traditions. One I’ve become very close to since we’ve been back in Wisconsin is “lefse day”. It’s that Tuesday in early November when I get together with my sister-in-law, Sue, and we spend the day making lefse. For you unfortunates not familiar with this treat, lefse is a traditional Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes, flour, sugar, salt, and butter. It’s my job to roll puck-sized pieces of dough into rounds so thin you can just start to see through them, then Sue cooks them on a special griddle. And they are delicious! Doesn’t matter if you like them with butter, butter and sugar, jam, or cream cheese; they are a treat. Eaten mostly around the holidays, we freeze them to enjoy year round.

For my annual batch I use 10lbs of potatoes, all of which have to be peeled, boiled, and then riced, the night before. From this we will make about 5 and a half loaves, and get a dozen lefse per full loaf. That’s 60+ pieces of lefse and will take us about an hour per loaf to roll and cook.

003What makes this a wonderful tradition and not just a chore is the social side of lefse-making. Sue arrives about 9:30 and after the loaves are formed and put into the refrigerator to set, we will have at least an hour of visiting over coffee and fresh baked goods. We remember past years by revisiting the journal we keep with the recipe: date, sunny vs cloudy, air temperature, snow or no snow, who stopped by, how many loaves we made and how many pieces we ended up with, any special event. Then we start the journal entry for that year.

But come afternoon the party really begins. While we roll/cook friends and relatives drop by (women, of course) and the wine and snacks come out with more visiting, more laughing, more gossip. And a little game we might call “What is that shape?” when my roll-out doesn’t turn out very round. The more wine, the better the guess and the harder we laugh. By the time we finish up and the ladies are leaving, our husbands show up and it’s time to rest our tired feet over a dinner of hot soup and fresh lefse.

Women have a tradition of getting together to make their more arduous or monotonous chores a pleasure. There were quilting bees, for one, and the process of preserving food for the winter table. As families we worked together to plant and harvest. There’s no better example than a good old-fashioned barn raising. It’s why we bring food to those who are sick or grieving. We know they would do the same for us, will do the same for us, when needed.

Family traditions, they remind us we are loved and appreciated, that we are not alone.


Morning Coffee: Giving Thanks (Week 1)

fallHalloween is over and November is here. We’re rushing head first into the holiday season and Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. For the month of November I’ll be blogging about the things I’m thankful for and I encourage my readers to comment, to share the things for which they give thanks. All I ask is that you keep it clean.

We are less than one week away from deciding who will be our next president after being subjected to what has arguably been the nastiest, the ugliest, of campaigns…at least in my lifetime. Despite this, I am thankful that we live in a country where we have this opportunity, the right to vote for our leaders. Granted, sometimes it feels like all we can do is pick the lesser of two evils, so to speak, but we have the right to do it. There are many countries where there are no options. Their leaders are the ones who carry the biggest guns and can intimidate (murder?) the most opponents. We don’t have to worry about that here in the United States. There are no military coups. There are no sham elections where your vote doesn’t matter because the winner has been predetermined. If an election doesn’t go as we wish, perhaps the only person we have to blame is ourselves.

Did you vote? No? Then you can’t complain about the outcome. Did you feel strongly about one of the candidates? Yes? Well, did you volunteer your time to help his or her campaign? No? Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but maybe it would have. We have options, and with those options comes great power.

I’m thankful I live in a democracy where we, as individuals as well as States and as a nation, have a voice. I love my country. I am proud to say I am an American. It seems every day we see on the news those who say they are not proud to be Americans; they are ashamed, even, to admit to being an American. That makes me sad. Are we a perfect country full of perfect citizens? No, of course not; there isn’t such a thing. That’s why we need our armed forces to protect us as a nation, our police to protect us as individuals, and our elected officials at all levels to consider our needs when passing legislation. It takes a village, as we’ve often heard, to raise a child. I say it takes a village to raise a proud and strong nation. We should try to be a part of the village that offers solutions, not the village that’s part of the problem. The democratic election process is part of the solution.

Remember this when you go to the polls. No matter which candidates win, be thankful you have this right. Be proud that you live in a country that honors and respects the people’s voice.

And don’t forget about those unable to get to the polls on their own. Help them contribute their voice to our great democracy by giving them a ride.