Archive | December, 2015

State of the Portrait Writer Report

31 Dec

How Did We Fare in 2015?

As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time for the now-annual State of the Portrait Writer report, in which I will examine my writing progress thus far. In re-reading my year-old journal entry of expectations for 2015, I’m amazed at how many of the events I planned or promised last year (to myself and others) never materialized. This is to be expected because, as I’ve learned and re-learned throughout the year, I’m not in charge. In fact, if everything had turned out as I planned, it would have been quite the boring year. Instead, it’s been a year of victory and surprises, and a wee bit of sadness. However, it’s also been a year of seeing first-hand what God can do in our lives if we step aside.

Many of you who have been with me from the start might be bored by this list, but in celebration of the 130 new readers I picked up in 2015 (yay, and thank you!), for today’s blog I will recap the highlights of the Portrait Writer’s year:

In January, the hubby and I celebrated 31 years of marriage, which translates into 30 years of him listening to me yammer about being a “real writer” and one year of watching me in action. By that time I’d been working from home for 11 months and still had nothing to show for my efforts. After a financially challenging and emotionally frustrating year, however, he was, and miraculously still is, my greatest supporter, without whom there would be no Portrait Writer…and no cheesecake.

February was a month of learning to listen, or to discern exactly what I should be listening to. I was fooled by imitation voices in I Got Screwed!, and later fooled by lovely noises, in Ask Not for Whom the Phone Rings, both of which brought much frustration, until I wizened up. I sure hope I’m smarter now, but it’s a daily battle.



March brought sadness and a greater appreciation for love and family, when Willa, the Fitzsimmons’ matriarch, left us for a far better place. Although her four children are still reeling from the loss, and miss her more with every Bronco victory they wish she could be sharing with them this year, they are finding solace in knowing she’s no longer in pain. One beautiful ray of light that has emerged from this cloud, her children—the Fitzsimmons Four, who seemed to have been drifting apart, have created new, tighter bonds. Despite the California/Virginia divide, they spent more time together and kept in e-touch more in 2015 than they have in many years, and we’re all praying this trend will continue.

Food staring

Livin’ in the Fridge…

April started in a delightfully silly way with a foolish fridge, and then devolved into a month of contemplation. We examined the need for sports-fan-like loyalty for one’s spouse in Married for Life, and hubby tackled school lunches in No Fishy Business.

In May I shared with you my love/hate relationship with lists in My Ship Will Float, and I finished out the month on an overwhelming high with the cover reveal for my first book, “Caged Sparrow.” I also made promises I couldn’t keep for June, but that’s an entry for…

…in June, I realized I couldn’t make my self-appointed deadline for “Caged Sparrow,” and contemplated cutting corners, which gave me a new appreciation for my Best Boss Ever, in Deadlines and Rocket Surgery. I chose my next writing project in Who Says you Can’t Go Home Again?” That project quickly fell to the sidelines to make room for another and to show me that, once again, I’m not in charge. Rest assured, the project is still on the horizon.

Sparrow in prison book cover

Caged Sparrow

In July, “Caged Sparrow” became a reality, bringing to fruition my life-long dream of becoming a PUBLISHED AUTHOR. I gave my first Totally Made-up Interview in Let the Caged Sparrow Fly! And, while the book is not exactly flying off the shelves—more like falling off—sales are progressing as expected. Reviews on Amazon are quite kind, and some aren’t even from friends and family. Joe and I wanted only to hear that people’s perspective changed upon reading his story, and we received many notes and comments that this, indeed, is happening. Also in July, Hubby and I hit the open road and all the open doughnut stores between San Francisco and Pittsburgh, in Down Home America. This saga turned out to be so great it rolled into…

Corn and bean field: Succotash

Succotash, get it? Corn and beans? Nevermind.

…August, with Salt, Bugs and Doughnuts, which lulled me into inertia, nearly bringing my writing career to a halt with its Dangerously Pleasant Anchor. I’d say the biggest revelation of August was that not everyone gets my sense of humor. The succotash field pic is a joke. Get with it folks!

In September we explored the undervalue of Teachers (If You Can Read This…) and canines (Treat Each Other like Dogs), both of whom improve our lives significantly.

October was just plain fun. After examining the light in the darkness in Storms May be Brewing, I took you on a somewhat scary journey through a typical ADD writer’s sleep-deprived night in Left Brain, Right Brain. Then I took you to Naples, Florida for a book signing and interview with the now famous Joe Tuttolomondo. What a blast that was, and I haven’t even shared about it yet…hmmm…could be a January blog…

In November and December, I let my blog wind down, paying tribute to my friend Michele in Five Years Strong and Counting, remembering my non-Norman Rockwell Thanksgivings of long ago, and ending the year contemplating the preposterousness of Peace on Earth.

Last year the Portrait Writer published one book, edited two others, wrote 20 short stories and about 30 blog posts—all fulfilling, fun work. The short stories provided enough income to keep me writing, and I’m excited about what’s around the corner. More on that in 2016.

Have a happy and blessed new year, everyone. And remember, you’re not in charge.


In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. — Proverbs 16:9

That Seemingly Preposterous Peace on Earth

14 Dec

Hi everyone,

I’m so sorry to be absent for such a long time. Certain (good) priorities seem to be taking all my time lately. However, because people are asking if I’m still here, I will post a favorite Christmas piece from last year. I should be back in the writing saddle next week. Until then…be at peace!

Peace on Earth? Preposterous! Or is it?

We’re entering what the angels announced to the shepherds as a season of, “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” according to the King James’ version of Luke 2:14.

No other phrase I know makes less sense these days. As you read this, members of the Islamist group, Boko Haram, are marching across Nigeria, killing all Christians in their wake; ISIS members are beheading children and innocent civilians of all faiths who block their attempts to forcibly institute an Islamic State In Syria; and Russia-funded operations have now killed more than 4,300 people in eastern Ukraine. In our own country, hate mongers are cackling with joy as decent human beings are led astray by the promise of entitlement. “You don’t have to think—we’ll do it for you,” the hate-mongers say. “Don’t waste time examining your lifestyles and searching for answers, just burn, burn, burn and take, take, take!” Our nation is weighed down with rioting and protests, murders, rapes, theft, smuggling, drug dealing…and an increasingly pervasive hate-thy-neighbor attitude.

How did we get here? Does it not make a complete mockery of God’s promise that we would have Peace on Earth?

I don’t think so. I don’t believe the angels were heralding a healed world as much as an escape plan for those who must endure its gradual demise.

To clarify, let’s consider my youngest, who started driving this week (audible sigh). This event forces me to dwell on his impending adulthood. Soon, he will be out there “in the world” making daily decisions about right and wrong without our counsel. His father and I taught him as best we know how to respond to tough situations, but the rest is up to him. My parting words to him as he heads off to college will not be, “don’t murder and don’t hate.” Instead, I will tell him two things: “Remember your God, and remember you are a Fitzsimmons.”

That’s all he needs, in any situation. When he’s at a party that turns wild and learns that the punch he’s been drinking all evening has been spiked, I’m counting on him to remember God and say a prayer for protection. If he keeps a cool head, he will then call home, and his father or I will drive to wherever he is to pick him up. When we find him, will he be crying hysterically? Will he have joined the revelry and be hanging from the chandeliers? Not if he remembers who he is.

Instead, I prefer to believe he will be sitting on the couch, or on the curb, watching the world he knows crumble. He will have likely witnessed some incredibly bad behavior by people he’d thought were upright and responsible. Classmates will be smoking and drinking, and doing things they wouldn’t do in front of their families. Some poor girl will throw herself on a boy just to be liked and give away more than she should. Perhaps he will feel the same heartache we feel when we watch the evening news.

In the midst of the chaos, however, he will know peace. He will know his parents are on their way, and that there might be punishment in his future depending on the situation, at the very least, admonishment, but they will forgive him and love him as much as they did the day before. Then he will be wiser about the world, which should help him deal with the next tough situation.

On the other hand, he might choose to forget us and join the ranks of the lost. Should he choose this path, his life will falter, and he will struggle more than he has to, and bad things will happen. He will scoff cynically at the word “peace,” and perhaps convince himself that God is a liar. In his shame, he will likely turn from his parents. Nobody wants to be reminded of the good when they are pursuing evil. But the moment he decides to turn from that activity, the peace will return. His parents will forgive him and help him get back on his feet. They will never stop loving him. He knows that.

He may also fall victim to the revelers and be injured or even killed by their activity. This is a risk he takes, as we all take, just by being in the world. However, he cannot live in fear of attending parties just because someone might show up with a gun. He can have peace though, in knowing that if something does happen, he belongs to God and God will take care of him in life or death.

Luke 2:14 is translated in different ways, from one Bible to the next. When I struggle with a verse in King James, I’ve found the New International Version often does a better job of translating the original Bible into English as we know it today (and yes, Kevin, this book has been vetted, tested, and authenticated). The NIV version of Luke 2:14 is written, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.”   

Jesus My Savior

Peace on Earth starts in the heart.

Surprised? I was. Reading this translation changed everything for me. From this perspective, the angels did not proclaim a blanket promise of peace on earth at all. In fact, Jesus told anyone who would listen that there would never be peace on earth. Our world has become an increasingly wild frat party, enticing good people to forget who they are and seek only to make themselves happy, right now. In the process, innocents are hurt, the line between right and wrong is blurred, and many partiers fall hard into the abyss.

Peace on Earth starts in the heart.

Jesus came to remind us to remember God and remember family—you are a child of the King, after all! If you do that, then you will be able to find peace, even in a crumbling world. Wherever you are, and no matter how bad it looks, you can call him and he’ll go to wherever you are and help you escape.

No, you cannot change the world. It is dying. However, you can change a part of it. Use your talents, skills, and every blessing you’ve been given, to make a difference where you can. LOVE your neighbors (we’re talking the action verb, not the noun). In doing so, you will pull people from that frat party, one-by-one, and put hope and peace into their hearts by sending them back to the loving, forgiving arms of the Father they’re trying so hard to ignore.

If you’re still at the party, and you’re looking for Peace on Earth, try getting on your knees. You’ll find it there.

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7