Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Pictures of just a few things that I am thankful for. 
The Hubby
Yet another "daughter"
Wildlife in our yard
Our yard
Lake Superior - my favorite vacation spot
My favorite vacation activity - camping
Can't forget Dino

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Untitled, on purpose

At the beginning of the month, when I realized that the 22nd was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, I thought I would blog about that last week. I knew that I didn’t want to tell you about the events of that day in Dallas – haven’t we all heard enough about that. I sure didn’t want to tell you about any new conspiracy theories. I thought I would tell you what I was doing when I heard the news. It didn’t take long for me to realize that wouldn’t work. I was just shy of two years old.

At least I thought someone in my family would know. Surely I was home with Mom and she melted down over the news and being the loving daughter I was at even that tender age, I would’ve offered her comfort. That wasn’t the case. Mom was in Milwaukee in an apartment across the street from the hospital where they had just admitted Grandma. Mom seems to think that my sister Pat, who would have been four, was with them, but she didn’t remember where I was. My oldest sister Judy had been in school that day, and remembers clearly hearing the news, but has no memory of where I was. Pat and my dad could give me some clues as to my where abouts, because I am sure that they would have kept track of me, but neither one of them has sent those clues from heaven.

Which leaves me wondering if anyone in the family ever knew where I was. I do have a few memories of each of them. But the reality is that it doesn’t really matter. I remember what I was doing when I heard that Elvis had died and I had to talk to Pat about it. I remember where I was when I heard that Princess Diana had died and even though I knew that I should tear my daughter Val, only seven at the time, away from the TV coverage, I couldn’t do it. I remember hearing that Michael Jackson had died, and that neither my husband nor I were surprised, and we both agreed that it was ok to push Farrah Fawcett’s death the same day to the background, because why are we publicizing any of these deaths anyway.

So all of these thoughts were going through my head this weekend, as I kept thinking that I was behind on writing about this topic anyway, so why bother now, when my husband hollered from the living room that JayLeggett had died. What? I thought, no way. My hometown’s biggest claim to fame. And the nicest guy. His poor family.

I guess we never know. Whether it is an assassin’s bullet, cancer, poor choices, poor genes or a fairy tale gone horribly wrong, life can be cut short at any time. So don’t spend so much time looking back, spend time living for today.  
My sister Pat, 1959 to 1999, and our dad, 1915 to 1993.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 2 - Countdown to Christmas

But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John.”
 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news.”  Luke 1:13, 18-19 (The Message Bible)

Zachariah, a descendant of Aaron and Moses, was one of the priests of the temple. He and his wife Elizabeth were quite old and had never had any children. An angel came to him to tell him he and his wife would finally conceive a son. Zachariah certainly wanted to believe this, but then he had a reality check. He opened his mouth and said exactly what was on his mind. “My wife and I are both so old.”

No one is too old, too young, or too anything for God. God is able to use anyone of any age, shape, or form. Throughout the Bible, God used people who didn’t think they were worthy. Remember Moses? He had a speech impediment. Or how about David? He was a young boy when God called him to slay the giant. David would go on to be one of the great men of his time.

God is even able to use us. We may think that we are too old, or that we don’t have enough money, or that we are not smart enough or pretty enough. It doesn’t matter to God what our shortcomings are. In fact, to Him they are not shortcomings at all. He made us the way He wanted us to be, so when the time is right, He can use us for His work.

(Every Sunday from now until Christmas, I will be sharing an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy taking pictures of these ducks, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures over the next six weeks will keep you coming back for more. And if you don’t find my words boring, don’t forget to order your copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” before the forty days is up.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Peace in the Path of Destruction

I originally wrote and posted this blog on May 1, 2011. Things haven't changed much since then. Between the tornadoes that hit Illinois on Sunday and the worst typhoon on record that hit the Philippines, I would say that our weather has continued to fulfill prophecies. No matter what you believe, you have to wonder what's next. Please pray for everyone who has been effected by these storms.

We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. Lamentations 3:46-48 (New International Version)

Exactly three weeks ago, in the early evening, I was sitting home alone watching the clouds gather in the west. It had been a warm muggy early April day. The forecast was for severe weather; there was potential for a tornado. Not much happened at my house, though my mother, husband, and sister kept calling to make sure I was in the basement (which I was not). Had I been fifteen miles south, however, I better had been in the basement.

Yesterday, I drove through Merrill for the first time in three weeks and couldn’t believe the destruction. I had seen pictures on the internet, video on YouTube, but it just never really hit me. Not until I drove up Pier Street last night. Trees scattered like matchsticks, roofs missing, debris everywhere.

More recently, the news has been filled with storms that have taken out thousands of homes in southern states, killed hundreds of people. This April has seen more tornadoes than any in history.

What’s up with that, do you suppose? Has it got anything to do with that horrible earthquake in Japan or even the miserably long winter we have had? Do these weather patterns point to something?

Many would say it points to the End of Times. Those who have studied the book of Revelations say this weather, along with the wars and disease and economic issues we are experiencing are all spelled out in the last chapters of the Bible, that we are getting nearer and nearer to the second coming of Christ.

What does this mean to me? That I can rest in the knowledge that Christ is my savior and that He will come for me when the world comes to an end. What does it mean to you?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (New International Version)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week 1 - countdown to Christmas

(For the next six Sundays, I will be sharing an excerpt from “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. This first passage is the opening to the New Testament Book of Luke. The Book of Luke tells in detail the events leading up to the birth of Christ. )

So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. Luke 1:1-4 (The Message Bible)

Luke, a physician with an eye for detail, wrote with the utmost accuracy, verifying his facts and double-checking the stories he had heard. He had never personally met Jesus, but with the information he gathered for this work, he probably knew Jesus better than people who had walked with him in His lifetime.

Luke, as well as Theophilus to whom he wrote this letter, was born a Gentile, not a Jew. He reports on the life of Jesus from the viewpoint of an outsider.

Why is it important that Luke directed this book to people of the time who were not Jews? Wasn’t Jesus a Jew? Of course He was, and most of the people of the time thought He should only associate with the Jews. But He didn’t come just to save the Jewish people. Jesus came to save everyone – the outsiders, the lost, the unsaved. He came to save men like Luke and his friend Theophilus. He came to save us.

Do you know of someone, an outsider, who needs to be saved? How might you share Jesus Christ with that person this week?

(A friend of mine gave me a rubber duckie Nativity set to add to my rubber duckie collection. I went a little crazy with it, but hopefully, if you find my words boring, at least the pictures over the next six weeks will keep you coming back for more. And if you don’t find my words boring, don’t forget to order you copy of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” before the forty days is up.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I am a Certified Medical Assistant

I don’t write about my career as a medical assistant very much. I feel bad about that sometimes, but I think that after nine hours on my feet, dealing with every complaint imaginable – and those just from my co-workers (just kidding) – I like to go into my own little world and make believe with you all.

Once in a while, though, I should pay tribute to my career and this week I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to the individual who got me here. Who got all medical assistants where they are today.

Alice Budny was a young woman working at a doctor’s office in Milwaukee. People of the time may have called her the “office girl”, but she saw something more. She was a medical assistant and proud of it. She wanted medical assistants around the nation to be recognized.

She was in her mid-twenties when she became one of the founding members of the Milwaukee County Medical Assistants in 1945. Ten years later, she and Lois Pluckhan formed the Wisconsin State Medical Assistants Society. She wouldn’t stop there, though. Later that same year, Alice and Lois were invited to Kansas to aid in the formation of a national association for medical assistants. In 1956, Alice chaired the community which hosted the first ever national convention of the American Association of Medical Assistants held at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.

The last time I saw Alice, in 2004, at the state convention in LaCrosse, she was still promoting the profession of medical assisting. She was tireless in her commitment to the organizations she helped to build. Over the years she had even offered testimony before Congress on questions of professional practice and national health care. Where is she today when our nation is in a health care crisis?

I learned earlier this week that on November 5 Alice had peacefully passed away.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From Lake Superior to Miller Park

November 10, 1975. I don’t have a clue what I was doing that day. I bet in looking back, not a lot of people remember, expect for the families of 29 men who lost their lives that day. I bet that for most people, the events of that day only became known through a song written a year later.

If you haven’t guessed, Sunday was the 38th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Now that I told you that, you can recall everything else about that fateful night on Lake Superior. But I discovered something new the other night, new for me anyway.

Do you know who the iron ore freighter was named after? Ok, besides Mr. Edmund Fitzgerald.

The man Edmund Fitzgerald had been a business and civic leader in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for more than 50 years. He had been president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., which had built the 720-foot ship. When it came time for the board of trustees to vote on naming the freighter, someone made sure that Mr. Fitzgerald was out of the room. They knew that he didn’t want the boat named after him, but afterwards he admitted that it was one of his proudest moments. The sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald was one of his worst moments.

He died in 1986 at the age of 90.

His son, Edmund B. Fitzgerald should be well-known among baseball fans as he was instrumental in bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee. I was quite disappointed that my husband didn’t know that, but he recovered by telling me that the Brewers had originally been the Seattle Pilots.

Edmund B. Fitzgerald passed away this August. I totally missed that. How sad when someone dies and we don’t hear about it.

I could go on. I find all these little known facts fascinating. I have another story about someone who just passed but I will wait until Thursday. In the meantime, what does the B in Ed’s name stand for?

From a freighter on Lake Superior to the current home of the Milwaukee Brewers. 
I get around, don't I?  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Forty Days

I promise this will be the last blog answering your burning questions about my latest book, “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. Unless of course, you bombard me with more burning questions and then I will have to acquiesce to your wishes and go back on my word.

I’ve been asked why forty days. Why have I chosen to write forty days of devotions instead of 30 or 75 or 365? Forty just seemed the obvious number. 

“For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.” Genesis 7:17

“Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:18

“At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.” Numbers 13:25

“For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.” 1 Samuel 17:16

“So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” 1 Kings 19:8

“And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Mark 1:13
“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3

And finally, there are the forty days of Lent, going from Ash Wednesday until Easter. I don’t think that’s in the Bible, I couldn’t find it anyway. Plus for that to equal forty days, you have to take out one day a week, traditionally Sundays were removed. I don’t know exactly how that worked. But no matter how you look at things, God seems kind of fond of forty days. I hope He is fond of my “Forty Days” as well.  

Snow still on the ground the first part of April. But look what happened by the end of forty days.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

With Great Thanks and Appreciation

Christmas is less than 50 days away. Thanksgiving, I can tell you exactly, is 21 days away. Spring is many, many days away.

But let’s look backward for a bit. To 2008, and you know what happened about this time of year, if you read my blog post a few days ago. So, if I were to thank anyone at all for my latest book being written and published, it would have to be my kids, Nick and Val. I am as proud of them as any mother could possibly be. How they turned out as good as they did when I think of what I put them through when they were at such tender ages. They are both amazing adults now and I take no credit.

Move forward to the spring of 2010. I still have to thank my co-worker and neighbor, Ron, for talking me into going to a writer’s conference, which inspired me to go to my first Green Lake Christian Writers Conference. You may recall how I can trace the roots of my first book to that conference, but what about my second book.

At that first writers conference, I met an author by the name of Marshall Cook. He has written many mystery novels as well as “How to Write with the Skill of a Master and the Genius of a Child”, which I won in a contest during the talk he gave. In addition to that inspiring talk, he offered personal critique sessions. Because this was my first conference, I was too green to think I could send in my work to be critiqued and then actually meet with an actual writer to discuss it. The first day, though, when it was announced that Mr. Cook still had appointment times available, I decided, why not? And signed up.

The material I shared with Mr. Cook was the very rough draft of “The Christmas Story in 40 Days”. He made some helpful suggestions, but overall thought that the concept was great and that I should be able to find a suitable publisher.

Flash forward three years and seven rejections.

Jeremiah Zieset, with Life Sentence Publisher – my publisher – was getting on the elevator to head home. I never take the elevator – I am claustrophobic and a control-freak. I can’t tolerate the speed of a mechanical device dictating how long it will take to go from one floor to another. The voice in my head told me that I better just get on the elevator anyway.

He asked if I had any other books in the works which they could publish for me. I gave him the “elevator speech”. As we stepped off at our floor, he said he would love to read the book. We talked some more and I promised I would email the manuscript in the next few days. You know what happened after that. I can’t thank Jeremiah enough for once again having so much faith in me and my random words.

Then there are all the people on his team, people I have yet to meet. Amber Burger who once again came up with an outstanding cover design. Laura L. Paulson who edited the first draft and caught all of my amateur writing mistakes. Sheila Wilkinson, who edited my first book, did the final proofread on this one. She continues to be one my most dedicated Facebook supporters.

And final the greatest thanks of all goes to the technical person who put my pictures, words and some music I downloaded off the internet into this beautiful video of my first book.

I thank you all for letting me accomplish my dreams. And praise God for standing by us all.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where do the ideas come from? Part 2

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

This verse is reportedly the shortest verse in the Bible. Some versions of the Bible add a few words, but basically these two words are the gist of it. But how much power do these two words have. Why would Jesus weep? Was He in physical pain? Was He in emotional pain? Why would Jesus, the Son of God, be in any sort of pain? And he wasn’t just crying; he was weeping. Do you think there is a different between crying and weeping? What is that difference? What does it take to make you cry or weep? See what thoughts two simple little words can conjure up?

Many, many years ago several co-workers and their pastor started a Bible study group at my clinic. I became one of the inaugural members. We have studied several books of the Bible over the years. We kid each other about how long it takes us to get through some of the chapters. Some Tuesday mornings we might spend our entire one hour session on a single verse. Or even on a single word.

To me, that doesn’t mean we are a group of nit-pickers, obsessing over tiny little details. It means that the Bible has that much power that each word in it was chosen for a specific reason. Nothing in the Bible is random. (People who teach writing will tell you that each word you write needs to have significance; maybe more writers should study the Bible.)

When I started writing “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” a lot of those same thoughts came into my head. Not so much about my writing, but more about my reading.

How many times do we skim through chapters of the Bible thinking they are just background information or even filler? Do we ever think that instead of reading the whole Bible, we should just read the “important” parts? Thanks to my Tuesday morning Bible study, I decided that each and every word in the Bible is equally important. That is why I went through each and every verse in the first chapter of Luke to flesh out the entire story of the first Christmas. Not just Joseph and Mary, not just the angels and the manger, and certainly not the inn and the innkeeper (neither of which are in the book).

To me, most of the Bible stories are intricate stories woven in the rich fabric of the lives of the people of the time. Nothing in the Bible happened by coincidence; it was all part of God’s wonderful plan for us.

And so, “The Christmas Story in 40 Days” evolved. If you missed the previous post, go back and read it to see how the book really got its start.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Where do the ideas come from? Part 1

One question which writers frequently hear is, “where do you get your ideas from?” Even though I just published my second book, I don’t feel like a writer much of the time, but people still ask me this question. My answer runs something like, “I wish I could stop the ideas”. I lay awake at night with ideas running through my head; I wake up in the middle of the night with a dream which would make a great story. I meet people every day who I can picture running the show in one of my stories. With all these ideas for fictional stories, I have yet to publish any fiction. Hmm? What is up with that?

But back to the “where do your ideas come from” question.

“The Christmas Story in 40 Days” has just been released. It is a devotional which follows the first Christmas, from an angel telling Zachariah that he would have a son, to an angel telling Joseph that he too would have a son, to both those sons being born. It is not a book about the kings or the camels or a star. The donkey only makes a questionable appearance. This isn’t your typical Christmas story. So where did the idea for it come from?

Two places, and I’ll share one of those places this time and the other one on my next blog post.

In the fall of 2008, for the only time ever, both of my kids were away at college. As any Christian mother would be, I was worried about their spiritual journey. I wanted to mail them each a book which they might actually read, something short and easy to read, something that would strengthen their faith journey. It was mid-November, so I thought that a book about the first Christmas would be ideal. I looked on-line for several days for such a book, but didn’t find anything which fit my wish list.

I looked at the calendar. It was 41 days until Christmas. I opened my Bible to the book of Luke, to the story of the first Christmas. I sighed. You can do this, a voice came into my head. Ok, I will.

I counted out 40 passages leading up to that holiest of nights. The next night I sent out an email of Luke 1:1-4 along with my thoughts on those four verses. I kept it up until Christmas Eve, emailing my verses to my two kids and a few friends.

Can someone really write up to 200 words about only a few Bible verses? You’ll have to check back on Sunday for my post which answers that question.