Sunday, December 14, 2014

I've Been Tagged

I've been tagged by my friend Jess Ferguson. She tells me I'm supposed to write down what I was doing ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. That's what she says, but I think it's really a means to getting me to update my blog. Sad to say, I haven't done that lately. My excuse is that I'm finishing up the edits on my book that's due back to my editor by November 1st. However, I suppose I can take time out to try and recall those days gone by. Now let me see. . . .

10 Years Ago -- I was working as principal at Martin Primary School in Martin, Tennessee. My children were all grown and out of the house, and my fourth grandchild was born. Sydney, the daughter of my son, made her arrival that year to join the other grandchildren -- Jay who was nine at the time, Katie who was eight, and Megan who was six.

20 Years Ago -- Now this is getting harder. I had just completed a year's leave from my school system to work for the Tennessee Department of Education and had returned to Martin Elementary School where I was teaching music in grades 2 - 5. I went through the Career Ladder Program Evaluation that Tennessee had adopted to identify exemplary teachers and reached the highest level of the ladder. This program gave incentive pay to teachers who could achieve the higher levels of the program. Tennessee has since discontinued the program, but teachers who had taken advantage of the program were guaranteed of the continued salary supplements until retirement.

30 Years Ago -- Now this is REALLY hard. I can't remember back that far. I was teaching 5th grade at Martin Elementary School, and I received my Master's degree. I was so relieved to get that degree that I decided to do something totally outrageous -- I enrolled in another graduate program and proceeded to get my license in educational administration and supervision. I didn't know if I would ever get to be a principal, because at the time not many women were breaking into administration. But the Lord led me that way and later I spend 17 years as a school principal.

Now I hope Jess is happy. I've thought and thought until my poor brain is tired, but I must admit it's been good to remember events that marked those years. Thanks for tagging me, Jess.

A Day to Remember

Two years ago today dawned just as others had done in the past. No great revelation flashed in my mind to let me know that this day was not to play out like other Sundays had in the past. It was hot, I remember, as are all the August days in the South-a day to enjoy worship services at church, eat a leisurely lunch, and then settle down for an afternoon nap. But events were in progress 800 miles away that would impact every member in our family.

Our daughter and son-in-law had found out a few weeks before that a young woman about to give birth wanted to find an adoptive family for her child, and legal procedures had been started for them to adopt the baby. With a month left before the due date, we felt like we had enough time to prepare for the expected arrival.

However, on that day, nature intervened, and a healthy baby girl made her entrance into the world. In a matter of hours travel arrangements had to be made, baby clothes purchased , and leaves from work approved. Then with prayers for safe travel and God's will in the adoption, my anxious daughter and son-in-law headed on a journey like none they'd traveled before.

As I look back on that time, I can see how God worked to place this precious child in our family. She is a special gift, and we pray that we will always prove worthy of the great responsibility we have in bringing her up to love and serve the Lord.

She turned two years old today, but family and friends gathered on Saturday night to celebrate the addition of this child to our lives. But today is her birthday, and this grandmother wants her to know how much she is loved and treasured. Happy birthday, Kylie.

The Star Spangled Banner

The 4th of July is a day set aside for us to remember as Americans how blessed we are to live in this nation. We recall many events in history that have made us what we are--a strong, proud people who are grateful to those who struggled to make this nation what it is today.

One person I've always enjoyed reading about is Francis Scott Key. Held prisoner aboard a ship in 1814 as Baltimore was being attacked by the British, he held vigil all night to see if the American flag still waved. In the early morning hours when it became evident the British would not be victorious, he penned the words to The Star Spangled Banner. Later it was set to music with a familiar tune of the day.

Today we stand in reverence and place our hands on our hearts when the first strains of this melody are heard. I have heard people question why this song, so difficult for some to sing, is still used as our national anthem. However, sometimes I let my thoughts run free, and I imagine myself on that ship along side Francis Scott Key, staring into the night, trying to glimpse the symbol of our freedom waving against the rocket-lit sky. It gives me chills to think what it might have been like, and I find myself once again singing those familiar words:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous night
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Plotting a New Novel

For the last few days I've had all kinds of gruesome thoughts filtering into my mind. No, I'm not going mad, I'm just trying to plot my latest mystery novel.

I had the characters all set and had arrived at an outline of a plot that I thought would work. However, when I started to put together a synopsis, the plot soon began to fall apart. I discovered that from the very beginning the villain was too evident, and I had to do something about that.

"What to do?" I cried as I wrung my hands in anguish. The answer was simple -- plot some more. So I embarked on another journey through a maze of murder and mayhem trying to throw in red herrings while dropping clues that might escape even the most intense reader.

Finally I think I've got it figured out. The villain in the original plot now becomes a prime suspect although he's innocent. Someone else has taken his place as the cruel perpetrator of mayhem and havoc on the unsuspecting citizens in a small mountain community.

I'm sure I'll be telling you more about this book as I progress. But for now I'll try to whet your interest with the opening sentence:

Claire McCaslin, looking extremely healthy for a woman who’d been dead ten years, stuck her hand out the third floor window of the mansion and waved as Dani Tyler’s car approached the house.

Tune in for more trials and tribulations as I write my new novel Triad.

Tribute to a Hero

I paused to remember a hero yesterday.

There's a television show that has been on this past year titled Heroes, but I must admit I've never watched it. I think it has to do with a group of people with special powers and how they will use them to save the world. Maybe the reason I've never watched is because I became an admirer of a true hero many years ago, and I can't imagine anyone taking his place.

I was just a pre-teen when I first went to a movie and saw Audie Murphy on the screen. At the time I knew nothing about him except that he was handsome and he always beat the bad guys in the end. At that age I knew very little about World War II and the young man from Texas who became the most decorated soldier of that great conflict.

As the years passed and I grew older, I began to find out that Audie risked his life time after time in battle. His acts of bravery which earned him every medal that the United States has to offer and additional ones from Belgium and France have been written about and even made into a movie.

The young hero attracted the attention of those in Hollywood after the war, and for 25 years he made movies, thrilling young girls like me across the nation. His autobiography, To Hell and Back, was made into a movie starring him, and it held the record for the highest grossing movie for twenty years. Audie died in 1971 when the small plane in which he was a passenger crashed into the side of a mountain near Roanoke, VA. His grave in Arlington National Cemetery is the second most visited site there, the first being President Kennedy's.

Yestereday I relived some of my early thoughts about Audie Murphy as I toured the museum in his honor in Greeneville, Texas. I also learned so much about him. Not only was he a hero, but he was a writer. He wrote poetry, songs, and of course his autobiography. He was a man a of many talents, but he also was a troubled man, suffering from depression which at the time was called battle fatigue from all he'd seen and endured on the battlefield. At the time it was frowned on by the military to discuss anything about post traumatic stress, but he found the courage to speak out in defense of returning veterans from Korea and Vietnam.

As I think of what he did and what he sacrificed for our country, I couldn't help but think of the young men and women who are fighting in Iraq. What will they have to deal with when they finally come home? Will we as a nation support them for their contributions to democracy, or will we expect them to forget what they've seen and get on with their lives? Audie Murphy got on with his life, but he was haunted by his past.

We need to make sure our young men and women have every opportunity to heal both emotionally and physically from their battle scars. And we as Christians should be in prayer every day for those who serve us around the world.

Audie, you're my hero. I know you would want us to take care of those who came after you. I pray this nation will do just that.

A Writer's Retreat

What do six writers do when they get together? Brainstorm intriguing storylines that will produce a best selling novel and an academy award winning movie? Engage in intellectual conversation to broaden their horizons? Or just eat a lot?

The question was answered for me this last week when my daughter, also a writer, opened her home in San Antonio for my critique group to spend some quality time together. Plans to visit the Alamo and stroll along the River Walk soon gave way to hanging out in the den and enjoying being together. It reminded me so much of slumber parties from my high school days except this time nobody's underwear ended up in the freezer.

One of my friends mentioned the fact that probably none of us would have ever met if not for the internet. Three are from Texas, one from Louisiana, and one from Tennessee. We're all members of American Christian Fiction Writers and ended up in a critique group through that organization. All of our contact is over the internet. That's what made these few days together so special. Even though we've been to conferences togther, this was a time to learn things about each other we didn't know - to laugh, to cry, and to speak of dreams.

All in all, though, I suppose I would have to say that the time together only served to reinforce what I'd known all along. We may write in different voices and styles, but in the end we all share the common bond of sisterhood through Jesus Christ. This enables us to continue the calling He has given us to reach the world through the words He gives us and to deal with the rejections when they come.

We've all returned to our homes now, but I know we all went away with a resolve to face the unknown with hope. All we can do is pray, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be found acceptable in Thy sight." If we do that, we can never fail.

Crit 3 Pictures

For pictures of Crit 3 members enjoying an afternoon in San Antonio go to She's posted some there and also asks which of the group is fearless.

See if you can guess which one of these demure women could carve up a snake with a butcher knife. When she found a snake wrapped around the base of her hot water heater and stuck in one of those sticky traps just inches away from an imprisoned mouse, she sliced up the snake and killed the mouse with a blow from a hammer. Any wonder she now writes mysteries? LOL Now which one could it be?