Monday’s Musings: It Was On a Monday!

It occurred to me recently that I forgot to celebrate my birthday. Or rather, my re-birthday.

Remember the old song? We’d work our way through the days of the week — “It was on a Monday, somebody touched me…” — with people standing while singing the verse that proclaimed the day of the week on which they’d met the Lord. Most people stood on the “Sunday” verse. But I used to stand, almost alone, on “Monday.” Glory, glory, glory, somebody touched me! It must have been the hand of the Lord.

I recently reminisced about that great day, remembering it was a Monday in June of 1972. So I found a 1972 calendar online and ascertained that it must have been June 12. (I’d known that at one time, but had forgotten the exact date.)

Speaking of songs, a couple mornings ago I awoke with a snippet of one in my mind. I often awake with words, phrases, or sentences rattling around in my brain. Usually they’re utter nonsense, and once I’m fully conscious, I wonder where such a strange thing came from. This time, though, I awoke with a line from a song going through my mind, and even before I opened my eyes, I smiled, eager to start my day: Awake, my soul, and sing of Him Who died for thee, and hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity!

I guess it’s never too late to celebrate a re-birthday. Forty years ago this summer — forty years!! — I was healed by the touch of the Great Physician, lifted out of the black hole of debilitating depression to walk in the light of  Christ.

I can think of no better occasion to celebrate. Let’s have some cake and ice cream! (But He gets to wear the crown.)

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Saturday Situation Report

Received my book shipment this week. Always fun! Took a pretty close look at Words in the Wind and didn’t find any glaring errors. Didn’t read every word, of course, but it looks great!

Still moving forward slowly on my WIP.

Just want to remind y’all that The Story in the Stars is available for only 99 cents on Kindle, but for a limited time only — on August 1, the price goes back up. So if you’ve been thinking about buying it, you’d better quit thinking about it and do it! (It’s also available in print, but that version’s not marked down.)

And you do know about the Kindle computer app, don’t you? Whether you have a Mac or a PC, you can download a free Kindle reader to your computer. It works just like the hand-held Kindle device, except on your bulky computer. I’ve read quite a few books on my laptop thanks to Kindle for Mac, and it’s eminently do-able. I prefer a print book, but I must admit, e-books are convenient and inexpensive.

Though the official release date (August 1) has not yet arrived, Words in the Wind is available now, too, both in print at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or for Kindle at Amazon. I also dropped off copies at the New Philly and Dover libraries, so once they get it processed and into circulation, you’ll be able to borrow it and read it for free.

Speaking of which, I see Amazon has made Words available to Amazon Prime members to borrow for two weeks for free.

For those of you who live near me, The Dayspring Christian Bookstore in New Philly has both books in stock as of today, so you can buy either or both there as well. Quicker than ordering them online and having to wait for them to arrive (a problem you don’t have with ebooks).

If you do read it, however the method, could I ask you to post a review on Amazon and B&N sites? Because there aren’t any there yet, and it looks sad and empty.

And, don’t forget the author talk and book signing at the Dover Public Library on Tuesday night, September 4, at 7:00 pm. I’ll have both books to sell there, too. If you want to buy an ebook instead but want an autograph, stop by and I’ll sign a bookmark for you.

Have a lovely weekend!

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Thursday’s Thoughts: Mental Meanderings Through the Grocery Aisles

I went grocery shopping yesterday morning. Planned to get it done early, then come home and write. It didn’t exactly work out that way, but that’s another subject.

Grocery shopping. Back in the day when we raised/sold enough of our own food that we ate for free, I used to spend about $25/week on groceries for a family of four.

I thought you just said you ate for free? We did. We sold enough to cover the expense, but we had to lay out the expense initially. The fact is, we spent more on animal feed than we did on groceries, but we got all that back, too, when we sold eggs and chickens and pork.

But quit distracting me. What I’m saying is, “then,” back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, I went to the grocery store every two weeks (after Craig’s payday) and spent about $40-50 each visit. This is approximate, okay? And I don’t have the receipts to prove it. Just work with me here.

Yesterday, I spent $106.34. My grocery receipt said I saved 31% on my total bill, thanks to buying things on sale. This is my weekly shopping. And it doesn’t count the other things I pick up elsewhere because the price is better. Again, for a family of four. Four adults, though, rather than two adults and two small children.

“Then,” we bought no junk food. Only necessities. Yesterday, I bought a couple bags of chips (on sale at 2/$5) and a box of Little Debbie fig bars. No huge extravagance, but those are things I wouldn’t have purchased “then.” However, I did stock up on some things that the store had on sale, and those purchases will last several months; it’s not like we’ll consume the whole $106 worth in a week.

I’ve been noticing, and I’ve heard several others comment, that it seems every time I go to the store, prices are higher on things I regularly buy. When I was younger and prices went up, so did income. That made it easier to take. Now, prices go up and incomes go down—or become well-nigh non-existent.

This summer has been tough on farmers across much of the nation. The corn crop in particular has been hard-hit, but also fruits and some vegetables.

For an example of the vegetable problem, let’s look at those purple beans as well as the ones of the more conventional green. The beans in our garden are not doing at all well this year. My oldest daughter, who lives in Columbus, participates in one of these harvest-sharing programs. That is, she’s a recipient, not a grower. And she hasn’t gotten any beans all summer, because apparently the growers there are having the same problem we’re having. Last week, we were talking with a friend who owns a restaurant, and she told us that three weeks ago she paid $20 a bushel for green beans; last week, she paid $40.

So what’s the big deal? Eat something else.

Here’s the deal. Not only are beans suffering, but so’s corn. I don’t care that much about sweetcorn, as it’s not something I buy. But field corn is a serious issue. A scarcity of that will affect the price of almost everything, because it’s used in so many things—not only cereal and cereal products, but think of everything that contains corn syrup, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup solids, and all that corny stuff. Besides that, it feeds livestock, thus impacting the cost of eggs, chicken, beef, pork, bacon, sausage, ham, turkey, etc. We can expect all those prices to rise in the near future, depending on how badly the corn crop is hurt this year.

I’m not going to look up the statistics, but traditionally, Americans have paid a far smaller percentage of their income for food than most (if any) other nation. We’ve grown up with it and have come to expect it. With our food costs edging up steadily, though, we’re closing the gap. Other countries might think fair’s fair, but we don’t like it.

Earlier yesterday morning, I’d been reading the Bible, in Acts 27, where the ship Paul was traveling on ran into some pretty severe weather conditions. Scotty called the bridge from engineering. “Captain, we’re breaking up!” Well, not exactly. But when he would have, if it were an old Star Trek episode instead of 1st-century earth reality, Paul advised everyone to eat hearty and then throw all their grain overboard to unburden the ship. “This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing,” he told them. “Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health.”

Say what? These sailors hadn’t eaten a thing for fourteen days? Holy hardtack!

I’ll admit: I don’t have much personal experience with or insight into the practical aspects of fasting. But I’d think anyone, even someone who’s not as spoiled and over-fed as I, would be pretty useless after a 14-day starvation diet. How could those sailors function?

I don’t know. It’s something to think about. But it would save on grocery bills.

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Monday’s Musings: Jah v. The Universe (Revisited)

Early last year I entitled a post “The Law of Attraction: The Universe vs. Jah.” A couple of recent experiences sent my thoughts along those lines again, so I thought I’d resurrect the topic.

I read a lovely story last week. It was skillfully written, thought-provoking, and had depth. The writer is seeking publication, and I expect he or she (I’m not sure which it is in the case) will succeed, because all the right stuff is there. But one thing gave me pause: in this tale, “the universe” causes two characters’ paths to cross in a poignant, meaningful way, to the benefit of both and their families as well.

The concept is not new. Most people don’t consider it the least bit “out there.” Even church-goers might nod approvingly, mentally substituting “God” for “the universe,” find it a heartwarming piece of spiritual inspiration.

It’s makes no sense, though, to consider the terms interchangeable. God is the Creator; the universe is His creation (check out Romans 1:25 for more on that thought). God is alive and loves us intimately; the universe is inanimate and has no more capacity to care about us than gravity. God knows and sees all, and draws people to Himself in order to lead them into truth; the universe has all the awareness and compassion of a water molecule.

This in no way exhausts the differences, but I’m going to get off this road and follow that “lead them into the truth” trail for a moment.

I recently had an online conversation with a fellow writer about how there’s such a thin line between myth and reality. The discussion began when he observed that sometimes a scientific theory sparks people’s imaginations and gives birth to lofty speculation. It can even evolve into a cult or belief system. But when the theory is disproved by a preponderance of evidence, the philosophy built upon it remains, despite proof that its basic premise is false. (If you’re thinking creation v. evolution here, so am I; but that wasn’t the issue that sparked this discussion.)

I commented that this is one reason why, though I write science fiction and enjoy a well-crafted fantasy, I’m careful to make sure the stories I write direct people to truth. In his reply, he said: “There are, without a doubt, still pockets of people out there today that believe in bizarre truths spawned by fiction and we should all take that as a caution.”

Did you catch that? …bizarre truths spawned by fiction? How can a truth come from fiction? I don’t see how it can. Is “truth” merely a commonly held belief, whether or not it’s a demonstrable fact? Wouldn’t that render the word wholly meaningless? If a doctrine’s built upon a falsehood, that teaching cannot be truth, no matter how widely accepted it may be.

But the writer may well have misspoken. Perhaps he didn’t intend to word his statement the way he did. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

This brings us to another thought: the most dangerous lies are those based on, or that contain a significant element of, truth. Such is the myth of “the wise universe.” If a white shirt is sparklingly, brilliantly clean everywhere except for one little stain, it’s not a clean shirt. If the stain can’t be removed, I must either throw it out or tear it up to use as cleaning rags.

There’s too much here to examine in a blog post, but these are the things I’m musing on today.

Happy Monday!

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Saturday Situation Report

Added two new chapters to my WIP this week. I know, nothing to brag about. But for me, that’s good progress, and I’m happy with it. If I were under a deadline, I’d make it a point to work faster.

Speaking of deadlines, you may notice that I’ve managed to maintain my self-imposed blogging schedule. This makes me happy too. It doesn’t count for a hill of beans, but it gives me a little pointless satisfaction.

The biggest news of the week, which I almost forgot to include (and yes, I honestly did almost forget!) is that The Story in the Stars is a finalist for the ACFW Carol Awards, Speculative Fiction category.

Possibly one reason it nearly slipped my mind is because the winner doesn’t get anything but bragging rights. I am happy about it, though, because, whether or not I win, being named a finalist confirms that I’m moving in the right direction. I’m not just a wannabe anymore, but an actual published writer who’s considered competent by people who know a thing or two.

So, yeah; it’s cool; and although it would be really cool if I won, I won’t be crushed if that doesn’t happen. I’m just delighted to follow the Lord on this weird adventure and see what happens in the next chapter.

In other news, Novel Rocket’s Launch Pad Contest: Boosting You Out of the Slush Pile is keeping me busy, as I not only administer the contest but also critique each entry — and this month’s category (Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction) has the largest number of entries ever. I’m not the only judge, though, and am glad it’s not up to me to decide who wins. I’m only about halfway through the entries so far, and I’ve already found several that are really excellent. It’s going to be tough to choose. The winner will be announced on August 13, so watch Novel Rocket to see who’s the cream of this genre’s crop.

And, finally, I’ve ordered a batch of books from the publisher. Woo hoo! I’m looking forward to seeing Words in the Wind in print! I’ve also ordered some more copies of The Story in the Stars, since I sold all I had in Iowa this spring and hadn’t bought more.

Although the official release date is August 1, my first local book signing this round won’t be until September 4. I’ll be at the Dover Public Library at 7 pm — so, all you local readers, mark your calendars! I’ve elected not to have an event in the church coffee shop, but will launch Words at the library instead. So if you want to hear me deliver my Y’s and wonderful words in person, that’s where you’ll have to go.

Incidentally, if you’re ever curious to see what appearances I have planned or what Gannah-related interviews or book reviews are posted on other people’s blogs, I have these listed on my “Events” page. They’re all there, in ascending order (that is, oldest to newest), and I’ve been pretty good about keeping it updated.

That reminds me: This spring I did a radio interview when I was in Iowa, and the DJ gave me a recording of it. I haven’t gotten around to trying to figure out how to post it to my blog. Maybe I’ll succeed in doing that this week. If I do, I’ll let you know in my next Situation Report.

Meanwhile, hurry over to Amazon and pre-order Words in the Wind. Then bring it with you to my author talk at the Dover Public Library in September, where I can autograph it. I’ll have some to sell there too, but the price will be the same as on Amazon, so waiting won’t save you any money.

It’s not available on Kindle yet, but it will be eventually, so if you insist on reading books electronically, you’ll have to wait a bit for that. However, The Story in the Stars is on sale for only 99c on Kindle until August 1. So if you don’t have it yet, now’s your chance.

And I think that concludes my report. Have a great weekend!



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Thursday’s Thoughts: Perfect!

Have you ever wondered why imperfection irritates us? Why every young child is quick to complain, “That’s not fair!” Why we’re drawn to beauty and avert our eyes from ugliness?

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s a holdover from Creation. You know, the old made-in-the-image-of-God thing. Humans seem to be instinctively drawn to what’s godlike, such as kindness. Wisdom. Exquisite detail. Gentleness. Awesome majesty. Patience. An intricate plan. Justice. Perfection. Selfless love.

When our kids whine, “That’s not fair!” we tell them, “Life’s not fair. Get over it.” And it’s true; in this world, life’s not fair, nothing’s perfect, and we need to learn to deal with that. But don’t we all long for godly perfection, to one degree or another? Don’t we all yearn for the Perfect God?

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Monday’s Musings: Why I Grow Purple Beans (Part V)

As you may recall, in our last episode, we were busy-busy-busy with the garden and farmer’s market. We also raised a few animals: chickens for eggs and others for meat, goats for milk, hogs for pork, and a couple steers for beef. We did the same with them as with the veggies: used what we needed and sold the rest. Bottom line? We sold enough that we ate for free. (If you don’t count the labor; we invested plenty of that.)

Lots of memories, nearly all of them good; but all things come to an end.  During this time, Craig was working for GE. In 1983, they closed the plant where Craig worked. They offered him a transfer to Dover, Ohio and paid our moving expenses.

Our “new” house, February 1984

I’ll spare you the details of all that transpired, but we moved to our current house in March of 1984. We loved the area and were happy to have a larger house, more property, and a barn. But the house was in bad shape, the barn was worse, and the mortgage payments were so crippling that despite Craig’s good job, I had to go back to work. There wasn’t enough time or money to do all we wanted. At first we tried resuming the mini-farm business, but circumstances weren’t in our favor, and we eventually settled into merely having a big garden but no livestock.

Then, an interesting thing happened in 1985, when I was pregnant with our third child. Arriving home after church on Sunday morning, I pulled into the driveway, and a big diesel pick-up truck pulled in after me. As I got out of my car, a middle-aged man exited the truck and strolled toward me. “Howdy! My name’s Don Cooper, and I’d like to buy your barn.”

February, 1984 – You can’t tell from the picture, but the back wall of the barn was falling in.

This seemed like an odd scenario. People don’t just walk up and say, “I’d like to buy your barn.” Especially when the barn is in such bad shape you can’t keep animals in it for fear it will fall in on them, and when your insurance agent tells you that if the barn blows down in a storm, they won’t cover it because it’s already on it’s way out. So I looked at the guy stupidly and said, “What?”

He repeated himself, a little louder this time, and added, “And maybe a few acres to go along with it, too.”

My mind whirled, trying to figure out if he was real.  It would be a huge relief to sell the ramshackle barn and a portion of the property, but why would anyone in his right mind want to buy it? I wondered if he was an angel, or a mortal not quite right in the head. “Have you seen it?” I asked. “It’s in pretty bad shape.”

“I don’t care. I’ll fix it.”

“I think you’d better talk to my husband.”

Turns out, though he may have been a godsend, he was neither an angel nor a lunatic. He was a racehorse trainer who kept his horses in a rented barn quite a few miles from his home, and he was tired of driving back and forth several times a day. He’d seen our barn not far from where he lived, noticed we weren’t using it, and thought it would be a lot nicer to keep his horses there than where they currently were.

So he bought our barn and ten acres, which enabled us to reduce our mortgage payment to a more comfortable amount. He hired Craig to help him with the extensive – and expensive – task of making the barn useable for keeping Thoroughbreds. That meant that not only was our debt reduced, but the deal provided a little extra income.

Once the barn was operational and the horses moved in, Don asked Craig, “Have you ever built a house?”

Craig’s always been a handyman, and he’s also never been one to back down from a challenge. So he said, “No, but I can.” So Don made plans to build a house on the property for himself and his wife and teenaged stepson. Once the foundation was done (something he had neither the equipment nor the knowledge to do), Craig took care of the rest, even though he was working 10-hr days at GE. Often, he’d get something started, show Don what to do, and let Don carry on while he was at work.

Good times. Well, kinda. We liked Don and Maxine and became lifelong friends (waving – hi, Maxine!).  Craig enjoyed the challenge of the project, and he always did say sleep was a waste of time. Also, he was much younger then.

But even when you’re young, there are only so many hours in a day. And early in 1987, when the Coopers broke ground for their house, I was pregnant again. I had two kids in grade school, a 1-yr-old, and was due to deliver the fourth in the summer. It wasn’t feasible to have a big garden that year; in fact, we didn’t plant any garden at all.

Until that time, I hadn’t particularly enjoyed the gardening process. But it had been a big part of my life for the past several years, and it seemed wrong, somehow, to suddenly abandon it. Craig agreed; but that didn’t change the fact that neither of us had the time or energy for it that summer.

One day, though, we learned that one of our neighbors was selling pick-your-own green and wax beans, so we went to pick some for the freezer. It was an exercise in frustration. We like our beans young and tender, and most of these were fat and tough. While foraging for useable pods, I thought of the scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett scrabbled in the soil for something to eat and vowed to never be hungry again. I said to myself, “As God as my witness, as long as I have a square of ground to dig in and can crawl on my hands and knees to tend it, I’ll never be without a garden again.”

And so far, I haven’t.

But that’s still not the end of the story. Stay tuned for Part VI sometime in the not-too-distant future.

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