Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Passing of a Gem

Last week, my family experienced the passing of a dear friend.  The loss was felt by each of us in different ways.  Her name was Ruby, and she was a gem.  The close relationship she had with my mom, made Ruby feel like an aunt to me more so than my real aunts.  

Ruby and her husband Vernon came into our lives when I was just a little girl living in California, and continued for 50 some odd years after we moved to Arizona. That's a long time.  Cherished friendships like that, don't happen very often anymore.  

When I heard that Ruby had gone to be with Jesus, my first thought was that this world felt a little smaller without her.  Colors seemed a little dull. 

Ruby and her family spent many many hours in our home around our dinner table, eating, playing games, planning events, cooking, singing around the piano and organ and various other things. 

I don't really have any specific memories, but I can share some observations I had of Ruby over the years and a few lifelong lessons that I learned along the way.    

1:  She had a great laugh, and loved to do it.  It came from that deep place in the belly that brought tears to the eyes and pain to the sides.

2:  Her hair was typically what I called...BIG.  Now keep in mind this is coming from my thoughts as a young teen.  All I could think about was how much hairspray she must buy.  She was always perfectly coiffed, though. Oh, and she smelled really good. Wish I could remember the perfume she used.
3:  That smile!  It was lovely.  When she smiled at you, you knew she meant it and you couldn't help smiling back.
4:  She was a straight shooter.  I'm not talking about pistols, I'm talking about saying exactly what she thought.  If you were shopping with her, be prepared for honesty.  That outfit you loved while on the mannequin?  May not look quite as appealing on you.  If you asked Ruby, she wouldn't mince words.  But don't get hurt, trust me, that woman had good taste.  You're better off without the dress.

5:  Ruby was fiercely protective of those she loved.     
6:  She liked cleanliness.  Correction...she loved it. I honestly don't know if Ruby got that from my mom, or my mom got it from Ruby.  I'm nothing like the two of them were, but still, I'd like to think some of that rubbed off on me.  I'm happiest when my kitchen is clean!

7:  She was enormously proud of her daughter Michele.  She had every right to be.  For me, even though I was like the "older cousin" I found myself a tad bit intimidated by this beautiful young genius. 

Ruby always seemed a little in awe of the fact that she could have raised a child so amazing.  I never doubted it one bit.  Ruby and Vernon may have had their struggles and challenges in life, but one thing they were in total harmony with, was their little girl.  Michele was their world.  Their heart and soul.  They did an amazing job.  Michele, you are a beautiful legacy to your mom and dad.  
8:  Ruby and Vernon's adoption of Michele, was my first experience of understanding what "adoption" was all about.  After many years of watching the three of them, and seeing the bond of love that was formed and nurtured between parent and child, I was continuously reminded of my heavenly Father and how he chose me to be His child.  He adopted me.  His love for me was perfect, just like Ruby's love for Michele was perfect.  Not perfect, as many think (with no mistakes), but perfect as in "complete."
9:  Ruby loved my mom and mom loved Ruby.  They were best friends for as long as I can remember.  Their friendship was something that taught me a great lesson.  How important loyalty, honesty and being a kindred spirit is, in a relationship.

I had the privilege of watching them  pray together, until the answer came; laugh together until their sides hurt and the tears fell; cry together until the burden was lifted; shop together until they dropped together; hunt for antiques together until their trunks were full; plan weddings, receptions, bridal showers and baby showers together until they came off without a hitch; cook together, sing together, clean together and worship the Lord together...And when mom moved to Scottsdale, distance did not seem to be an issue.  No matter how much time passed in between, they always picked up where they left off.  

Watching the two of them over the years made me want a friend like that.  A kindred spirit friend.  I'm grateful to say, I've been blessed with a few. I am so thankful for their example to me as a young girl, of true friendship. 
10:  Ruby had opinions on most everything.  Some thought she was me, it made her interesting.  Sometimes they made me laugh, and other times they made me ponder. But rarely did she leave the room without giving me something to think about.  

11:  She was a good cook, (yummy banana nut bread); she loved her dogs; (and they loved her.)  She could sing and loved listening to good music.

12:  She loved the Lord with all her heart and soul and she had passion. 
13:  I have many fond memories of all of us going to Furr's Cafeteria after church on Sundays.  She thought it was hilarious when I got older and told her that it was an "old peoples restaurant." 

I will miss Ruby. I know she's having the time of her life in heaven right now. And I am absolutely certain she is enjoying her new body.  As much as she loved life here on Earth and loved her sweet daughter, Michele, she would never give up heaven for one second to come back. 

Her race is over, and her crown is won.  I'm really hoping her crown has Rubies on it.  Wouldn't that be just perfect?  I think she'd like that.  So this isn't goodbye, it's just so long until we meet again.   

Just thinking out loud,


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Five Finger Pitch

Now I realize by the title of this blog, you are probably thinking that this is going to be about baseball.  Well, as much as I love baseball, this is not about that!  Let me give you a little background.  A few weeks ago, I started taking a writing course online.  This particular course is on "Screenwriting."  Now, you know and I know that I have no plans of being a screenwriter, yet I knew that taking this course would help me be a better writer.  That's my goal.  I am constantly wanting to learn and improve, so that just maybe, one day, I will get one of my books published, and someone might actually pay money to read some of the stories that are forever brewing in my head.  
In week 3 of the course, they did a storyboard of a hand.  Just as if you were to outline your own hand on a piece of white paper.  Five fingers; blank background.  The professor, which happens to be a famous screenwriter, said that in order for a person to sell their story, they have to come up with a "pitch."  Sort of like the back flap of the book you pick up and look at when you go to the bookstore.  The front cover is not what's going to sell you.  Most of the time it will either be the author or the tagline, or the brief synopsis that is on the inside flap of the book.  Sometimes it's on the back.  
We were told in class, that the "pitch" had to be conversational.  You don't just give a bunch of bullet points of what's going to happen.  You'll have everyone in the room falling asleep.  It must be short, quick and to the point.  Five points!  This is also an easy way for you to remember your story.  Think about it.  You are standing in a room of 5-6 people that want to know if they should invest time and money into this story you think is so important to show to the world on the big screen (or in my case, a book) you better know your story and convince them in 3 minutes or less.  So, the Five Finger Pitch works like this.
1. (the pinky) is the genre of your story:  romance, comedy, fantasy, psychological thriller, etc... 

2.  (the ring finger) is the character, or what us writers like to call (The Protagonist).  For example Young twenty-something, single female in college far from home; 40-year-old widower raising two kids who just lost his job; a young teenage girl who ran away from her group home and is hitchhiking across the country. 

3.  (the middle finger) is what the character wants:  Young college girl wants confidence, bravery, stronger faith, her family and possible love.  40-year-old widower wants to be able to provide a future for his two children. And the young teenage runaway just wants to find her father and have a home where she belongs.

 4.  (the index finger) is the obstacles or troubles that they face along the way.  The young college girl has to face loneliness from being away from her close-knit family.  The widower may have to do things he would never normally do to make sure his children have a future.  And the teenage runaway only has a photograph and no name to go by to search for her father.

5.  (the thumb) is the reason why you love the story, and why you think its different from all the other stories in the same genre.  You give them a reason to be excited about the story you want to tell.  But keep it simple. 

Something like this:  

"This is a teen drama about a sixteen-year-old runaway, who flees her group home in Phoenix, to hitchhike to Seattle, on a mission to find the father she's never met.  She's convinced that she'll find him, but all she has to go on is an old picture.  She doesn't even know his name.  I love this story because it gives voice to kids that no one else seems to care about.  After all the years of group homes and fostering, she just wants to find someone, somewhere, anyone who might ground her and give her a home for the very first time."

Pretty cool, right?  So even though this is the general outline for cinematic filmmaking, I thought it was a perfect way to set up writing a novel.  I have seen a few adaptations from classic novels, made into movies.  Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibilities, Gone With The Wind.  Those happened to turn out really well.  I have always believed that if you have a choice between the book or the movie?  Read the book.  It's almost always better.  I say "almost" because there are some adaptations to screen that have been amazing.  What they do for me is fill in the color and the sound.  Even though I have read Gone With The Wind several times, I can't imagine the story now in my mind without the music.  The book alone could never describe the burning of Atlanta, or seeing Scarlet O'Hara out in the potato fields with dirt on her face shouting up at the sky saying, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."    It is true that a book can take 50 pages to describe something that a film can show the audience in 3 seconds...if the screenwriters have done their job right.  
It seems that people are in such a hurry these days.  They would rather watch a one hour and 30-minute film, rather than reading a 400-page book.  Go figure!  
I love books over film for mainly one reason.  A book can get into the mind of the character.  It can tell me what they are thinking.  It's much harder for a film to do that.  All they can do is "show" rather than "tell" so they have to use other ways to draw the audience in.  Music is one way.  Soundtracks can either make or break a movie.  But that's another story for another day.  
I was just excited about what I had learned this week and wanted to share it with whoever chooses to read this crazy blog I keep pounding out.  If anything, it's good exercise and practice for me.  
Until next time...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

That Time of Day

It’s Tuesday.  The work day is done. Clothes changed. Music on. Water boiling for my cup of cinnamon tea.  It’s too early to legitimately put my pj’s on and too light to turn on my night lights.  So I wash and cut up some celery with a glop of ranch dressing; curl up on my couch with lots of pillows and my laptop.  Might as well write, right?  My current book I’m working on just doesn’t seem to be calling me today.  I finished chapter 12 and was feeling very good about myself.  But today?…nada.  So, for now, I’m doodling on Tumblr and the Blogs.  It’s all about the "practice makes perfect;" so I write.  Whether it's on my novel or on a piece of scratch paper…I write.  Everyday.  Isn’t that what all the great writers tell us, newbies?  Write something…EVERY Day! 
I have hundreds of journals piled in my grandmother’s trunk filled with pages and pages of words.  I have hundreds of Word Docs saved on my computer of short stories; true stories; chapters 1-3 of a thriller and even an Amish love story that never got published.  My point?  Lots and lots of words.    On occasion, I will reach into that universe and pick up a gem that I wrote a year ago and read it.  It's always with a little shock that I find myself totally intrigued, absorbed and laughing out loud.  Other times I find myself humiliated and embarrassed (even without anyone around) and reach for the delete button (or the shredder).  I stop myself just in time and pause to realize that these words are part of my journey.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  They show growth; intelligence and yes sometimes total and complete poo.  But that’s part of the writers trip.  At least for me, it is.  Like life, there are parts of it we wish we could delete or erase.  We can't.  What we can do, is learn from those parts, and with God's help, change the now and the future.  The amazing part about God, is that He's the only One that can literally throw those "poo-parts" into the Sea of Forgetfulness!  Never to be remembered (by Him) anymore.  As humans, we still remember.  We dig way down deep and try to learn from poor past choices and move on.  Maybe God allows us to remember, so we stay humble.  Remember where we came from.  Its the same with writing.  I learn by periodically going back and blowing the dust off of the old.  
I like to see where I’ve been and where I am now.  Most of all, I love to dream about where I’m going.  So this is “that time of day” when I allow that to happen.  The sun has dipped below the horizon and I can go get my pj’s on and grab a book or my journal of blank pages with my cup of tea, and prepare for possibilities.  Life is good…even for a Tuesday. 
By the way, I love Tuesday's, but that's another story for another day. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Feeling Better - But Not Great

As some of you know, I've spent the last couple weeks battling bronchitis and all of the junk that goes with it.  It seems that if you've ever had one bad bout of pneumonia in your life, you will forever be plagued with the susceptibility of catching bronchial issues anytime a cold, cough or runny nose crosses your path.  Not fun; however, the actual having pneumonia part was much worse, so thanking the Lord that I haven't had to actually have that part of it since the 80's.  It was a horrific nightmare of sickness that I hope to never go through again.

The good news is, I'm feeling better.  The prayers and antibiotics seem to be doing their job.  The coughing has subsided from "every time I talk" to the "occasional moment when I try to talk too much."  My job requires that I talk a lot, so I am hoping and praying that my customers will be able to understand me when I walk them through why their premium doubled this year.  That conversation can be challenging enough when you have a strong and clear voice.

The antibiotics and meds that I have been on for almost a week are playing havoc with my body in other ways that I won't mention.  Today is my last dosage...Thank you Lord.  Doc said once the antibiotics are out of my system, my other issues should clear up.  Yeah!

The plan was to return to work today.  That didn't happen.  After talking on the phone with my Dr's nurse and my HR Case worker, we now have a return date of Wednesday.  The good news in all of this, is that being off work and spending a great deal of time in bed or the couch, has allowed me to work on my story writing.  It seems as though the "writers block" has been lifted!  Hallelujah.  I've written two more chapters in Sophia's Story and added some chapters to another story I've been working on for about a year.  It's about a spunky young woman I call Clare Donovan.  I cannot tell you how excited I am that the juices are flowing again.  Maybe this will be the year that I complete my books and get them published!

While off, I have also been having time to surf my travel websites in hopes of planning a trip for the not-too-distant future.  I use to travel a lot.  I loved the planning and the going.  Sadly, I haven't gone anywhere for the last last couple years.  Florida in 2015 was the last time my feet touched the white sandy beaches.  Very sad!  Well, Lord willing, I'm hoping that will change this year.  I really need a get-away.  Nothing far or fancy (at least this time), but somewhere that allows me to hear the ocean; feel the sand and sea and swing in a hammock!

Here's to a future of good health; fun road-trips with the windows down and great music.  A girl can dream, right?

Just thinking out-loud.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pondering My Friday Night

Last night as I was sitting up in bed listening to my favorite tunes and playing a game of Hill Climb Racing , I was pondering something.  How is it that a Hippie Van can climb higher hills and bounce over rugged terrain and make it further than a Jeep?  Also, why do I think if I press harder on my Kindle screen, it will help the car go up the impossibly steep incline any easier?  And the biggest question I ponder is why do I say "I'm so sorry" out loud when the vehicle crashes and flips upside down?

While David Phelps was belting out "Victory In Jesus" through my headphones, I was experiencing level 7 using a scooter bike trying to drive across the Arctic terrain.  I couldn't help but notice that the poor guy driving the scooter had no coat, scarf or beanie.  He must be freezing!  Then again, why would anyone drive a scooter across the frozen Arctic terrain?  By the way, David Phelps new CD called Hymnal is really good.  That guy has a voice on him.  If you've ever had the pleasure of hearing him live, than you know what I'm talking about.

As you can see, I stayed up way too late last night listening to great songs and pondering the "why's and what-not's" of who designs these games.  I can't wait to get enough points so I can move to the roller coaster.  Now that looks amazing.  I'm a coaster lover.  That goes for both roller coasters and the coast...any coast.  North, South, East or West.  I have favorite beaches on any coast.  Back to the game...once I get the roller coaster, I can pick my mode of transportation/vehicle.  The scooter would be terrifying.  The motor home would be way too clunky.  The Mustang might be good or the motorcycle could be interesting.

Many of you right now are probably thinking I need more of a life!  You might be right, but I'm actually very content right now.  I don't smoke, drink or party hardy, so the more simple things in life make me pretty happy.  After a long work week, I enjoy picking up something for dinner that's different from the rest of the week.  Maybe Pei Wei's or Chipotle's.  I might stop at the store and get a container of Tillamook Sumptown Cold Brew Coffee ice cream.  When I get home, I'll set up my laptop and put my headphones on and listen to music while working on one of my stories, or play a couple online games when my brain cannot figure out what to write for the next chapter.  I also love having my drawing paper and colored pencils close by.  I'm always doodling.  Most of the time it turns out to be nothing but a mixture of different shades of colors and maybe a tree in the middle.  I like adding quotes from different people right in the middle of the object I've drawn.  Sometimes its lyrics from a song I'm listening to, other times its a scripture verse that keeps going over and over in my mind.  In the end, I've filled my heart with something positive and creative.  Yes, I may be a little frustrated with the police car that consistently runs out of gas too soon or the people in the back of the hippie van that don't seem to be wearing seat belts, but other than that, when I close the laptop, turn off the music, put the drawing stuff away and reach over to turn off my light, I take a moment to thank the Lord for the day I've had.  I let Him know how grateful I am for life, breath, health, home and family.  I remind Him every night that without Him, I'm nothing and with Him, I can do all things.  He's my protector, my provider and my person.  I can tell Him everything.  The good and the bad, the hopes and the fears.  When I lay my head on my pillow I know two things for certain.  He is perfect and He loves me even though I'm not.

So pondering the why's and how-comes of an online game is just for a few minutes.  It's fun, but it's not everything.  It's an hour or two where my mind can slip away from the daily grind.  The positive and encouraging music I listen to calms my soul.  And my Heavenly Father that I communicate with before I fall everything to me.

Just thinking out-loud...