Tag Archives: writing

My Ship Will Float, as Long as I’m Listing

4 May

I have a love/resent relationship with lists. I love them because they keep me on track—help me prioritize. Without lists I’d fall completely apart, and I’d have to change my standard salutation to “I’m so sorry…”

The resent side I’ll explain later.

Scattered through my home are myriad notebook pages, index cards, junk mail envelopes, and napkins, all bescrawled (sure, it’s a word) with reminders. I carry some from room to room as I work; others are actually filed. Filing is on my Saturday list.

Of all my memos, the most important is my daily “Priorities” list. I start this at the beginning of every week, optimistically attaching a huge “Monday” label to the top, which I then replace with a smaller “Tuesday,” and an apologetic-looking “Wednesday” as the week progresses. By Thursday, I usually have to start over because I’ve added and crossed off too much to make sense of it any more. I’ve never crossed off everything on the list. Well, I could, technically, so let’s say instead that I’ve never actually completed every task on a list.

Aside from my daily list, I keep lists of tasks other family members have to accomplish…particularly my teenager, whose most common query response is, “Sorry, I forgot.” This paper is usually left on the kitchen table so it can be easily spotted by said teenager. Somehow though, it often disappears.

Then there’s the “Some Day” list, which consists of all my promises to myself and others that I truly intend to get to, but…well, you know. This list survives on the premise that one day I’ll get to the end of my daily list and wonder what I should do next. Research phone plans? Make an eye appointment to see whether I need glasses? Visit that web page someone told me about? Spray the couch with fabric guard before it’s—what? That thing is five years old? Well then, I can cross that off the list. The good thing about the Some Day list is it kinda self-regulates that way.

I keep my Prayer List in a prominent place on a neon yellow card. Those of you with ADD know that a neon yellow card will not be ignored. I try to look at a different name each time the card catches my eye. Most days, I get through the entire list. If you’ve asked me to pray for you, know that I’m praying for you.

My “books I want to read” list gets longer every day. I rarely update this because I like remembering those I did read, and I jot notes beside them: Unbroken—highly recommend! Brave New World—good read but disturbing; Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love—not for me, thank you. (Which reminds me to ask you: I’m always looking for humorous books, and I’m SO often disappointed because humor requires more than a funny title…what hilarious books have you read lately?)

And yes, of course I have a bucket list. At the top is my hope to go a week without my lists. Just below that is the experience of seeing my book on a store shelf—and not because I put it there…

I also have lists of blog ideas, short-story ideas, potential publishers and magazines I’d like to check out, birthdays (a list I always seem to look at after someone’s birthday), quotes that touched me, and dogs I’d consider adopting when I one day move to a house with a huge back yard…I don’t think you should tell my husband I’m keeping that list.

So, what’s the down side of keeping lists? For one thing, I become dependent on a piece of paper I cannot always find. For another, it’s difficult to bend when a new item wants to not only work its way onto the list, but be seated at the top. And finally, some days I wonder whether I’m using the lists or they’re using me.

This past week was particularly busy, with my husband leaving for a trip that required some administrative and logistical assistance; a neighbor who left town and asked me to feed and walk her dog; a teen staring at SOL tests for which he’s woefully unprepared; doctor’s appointments; funky car noises that must be addressed; oh, and I work.

Interestingly, to me anyway, I felt peace as I worked through the lists. I was busy, and tired at the end of each day, but at peace. It was, dare I say, a fun challenge.

List of tasks

Sometimes you just have to walk away from the list…

With obsessive focus and a lot of prayer, I made it until Thursday before my ship started listing (see what I did there?). Then a sweet friend reminded me about something that should have been on my list but wasn’t, which needed to be done that day. As she was talking to me, I remembered I hadn’t picked up my son’s completed physical form from the base clinic, and that they’d said they would hold it only 10 days. I tried to focus on her words as my brain tried to calculate whether this was day 9 or 10. ADD will not let go at times like this. Nor will that voice that tells me I’ll never get it right. I went to my car and allowed myself a brief sob.

My sobs turned to prayer, as they often do, and I prayed for the peace I’d felt at the beginning of the week. Immediately I thought of my friend and former boss, Carrie. One reason I love her is because whenever someone pointed out a mistake her editors might have made, she’d respond with, “and how many words did they get right?”

She gets it. Instead of focusing on the …wait while I add ‘em up…FORTY-SEVEN tasks, responsibilities, and promises I made good on, I let myself melt into a woe-is-me puddle of self-proclaimed inadequacy over two I’d forgotten. In reality, I’m doing pretty darned well, thank you very much.

Long story short, it was day 9, and I did get the task accomplished, but not before accepting that none of us will ever get everything done. When I shed this temple and start on my Kick the Bucket list, I will leave behind many uncompleted tasks. As long as everything I do here, I do for the King, I’m doing just fine.

Ha. The devil thought he had my number…but it’s unlisted.

~~~~~

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” 

–Colossians 3:24

__________________________________________

May’s Christmas Year-round Suggestion

Invite a neighbor or two to your home for an evening, particularly some you don’t know. An evening can be so much more relaxing when it’s not one of many seasonal engagements. I recommend you nix the eggnog, however.

Saluting the Grammar Police…Heroes from a Whole Nother Era

4 Mar
Egg's and Chicken's

Last year’s sign (thanks Albert). Still funny, in a sad sort of way…

I just can’t let National Grammar Day go by without sending a shout out to all my red-pen-hearted peeps out there who are struggling mightily…to find the page-sized “X” option in the track changes menu so they can truly express their preferred course of action.

Sorry guys, but that type of editor satisfaction has become a thing of the past. Sadly, it appears the well-written sentence is fading as well.

We just don’t seem to pay attention to our words as much as we used to. I recently came across a briefing slide that claims, “The average American consumes more than 400 Africans,” and a parking lot sign warning that, “Violators will be towed and find $50.”

Words are losing their identity faster than department store credit card customers. Nouns are verbing (as in, “I don’t want to brain today” and “trending this week”), and verbs are nouning (“The accomplishment resulted in a pay increase.”) Worse still, we’re getting lazy with real words. Why do newscasters insist on using the terms, “terror plot” and “War on Terror,” when we’re actually fighting terrorists and terrorism?

Our dictionary writers are caving. Find a dictionary less than 5 years old and look up “nother,” as in, “that’s a whole nother story.” It’s in there.

The AP Style book is caving. Thanks to the wonderful world of advertising, the word “over” is now an acceptable substitute for “more than” and it’s okay to start a sentence “Hopefully” without a supporting pronoun. (It’s also okay to write “ok” but I can’t make my fingers do that.) The Chicago Manual of Style may be caving, but it’s too big so I don’t use it. (I was going to tell you about Super-editor Christina here because she is the only person I know who has cracked that tome open, but I can’t exactly say she uses it—she has it memorized.)

Fat free milk

It may be fat, but it’s also free!

Why are we taking our cues from the advertising world anyway? These are the same people who gave Victoria Secret the, “You’ve never seen body’s like this!” campaign, and had Michael Jordan touting the Lay Flat Collar! Not the sharpest tools in the shed, if you know what I mean.

Just look at the printed world around us. We live in a country where the milk we drink is not only fat, but also free. And, if that doesn’t satisfy, we can swap our milk for some orange juice toted as “the most tastiest.”

Now, before you jump on my blogwagon, yes, I understand that language evolves. One day we’ll need a dictionary to remember how to use “hash tag” as a noun and to learn the purpose of a selfie stick. However, it’s not the new words that add to my life’s uhtceare (There, find your own dictionary!); it’s the wrongly used words, and the wrongly punctuated words.

So, if you’re in the writing business, hug an editor today.  You’ve probably been saved at least once by that red pen tracked change luminary. If you’re an editor, dry you’re “tears” and take a heart. Sadly, the very existance of such a day ensures you’ll halve employment for as long as your want it.

Ask Not For Whom the Phone Rings…

9 Feb

I needed two quiet hours, that’s all.

An hour’s worth of un-transcribed audio notes from a recent phone interview sat on the table, screaming for my attention, but a litany of interruptions had been pulling me away all morning. So, when my awesome husband announced he’d be taking our teenager out for some father-son time, I was thrilled.

Even before they were out the door I started racing around to get settled. (That may sound oxymoronic, but ask any parent on the cusp of some quiet time—it’s a bona fide activity.)

Let’s see…Coffee? Check. Laptop plugged in? Check. Notebook? Check. Cell phone near so I don’t have to get up? Check. Cozy workin’ blanket? Check. Snack? Check.

Good to go.

I hit the button on the audio player and started typing. The sound quality was fantastic, for a change; our voices came through crystal clear (I could write a whole other blog on whisperers, bad connections, accents, and static-riddled conversations). I started typing like a madwoman.

I might just be able to pull this off before the boys get back.

Then the phone rang.

Not the cell phone, which, although annoying, I could have easily picked up. No, it was the house phone, ten whole feet away.

…Click off the tape, transfer the laptop onto the table, kick the cat off the blanket, pull off the blanket, race to the kitchen, and grab the phone.

Dial tone.

I can’t believe they hung up.

I brought the house phone over to the computer and settled back down. At least I’d be ready if it happened again.

I hit the audio button and resumed typing.

“Ring!”

Hah! I hit “pause” and grabbed the phone.

Nothing.

This happened about four more times, always one ring. I sent a text to the boys to see if they were trying to reach me. Perhaps they had a poor signal?

“Nope. Wasn’t us.”

I sent the same text to my best friend. Not her either.

Again it happened. And again.

Cat by broken phone

Careful everyone…she’s in a mood…

Yes, I considered the potential for a hidden camera, and even looked around with not a little paranoia before shaking my head. Hard.

Twice more I resumed my typing. Twice more the phone rang. The little girl in me was seriously ready to start crying.

Okay, I’m going to try to ignore it.

I started transcribing again, focusing on the voice on the tape with all I had. The phone rang once—you should know I have ADD and cannot ignore a ringing phone—twice—focus, focus, focus!—three times. If you can make it to four the machine will kick on.

Then I heard my voice on the tape saying, “Just ignore that, Sir; it will go to voicemail at four rings.”

I’d spent the better part of 30 minutes trying to answer a phone that wasn’t ringing.

Crystal clear audio. It’s not always your friend.

It made me wonder though…

How often, in my stubbornness, do I run on autopilot and not even notice that the one true voice has stopped talking? There are a lot of imitations out there…stay alert!

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24

————————————————————————-

Christmas Year-Round assignment for February

Okay, you’ve had your baking break. It’s time to get the pans out again. This month, bake a batch of cookies for a neighbor…and not one you know well, either. No, you don’t have to decorate them, and yes, deliver them in person. Write to me about your new friend!

Hope among the Embers

31 Dec Ocean

Author’s note: This blog was written in response to yesterday’s writing prompt challenge on A Writer’s Path: Ten Quote Tuesday, in which we were to write about “A human cage, built without a lock.” It’s a great writer’s site–very inspiring.

Hope among the Embers

My shelter sits on the edge of the Sea of Fear. I have all I need here.

I’ve been building this place for nearly 50 years, and I’ve stocked it well.

The floor is warm, lined with newspaper clippings and childhood essays with large, red A-plus marks scrawled across the top. The yellowed by-lines on some of the articles whisper my maiden name. I re-read the stories now and cringe at my poor grammar and worldly naiveté. Still, I keep them because of the accolades from teachers and publishers; their sparks ignited a fire that still burns in the shelter’s camp stove.

The shelter beams were fashioned over many years through friendships and mentorships. I run my fingers along the loving, encouraging messages engraved throughout in scrawling gnarled script. “I love your writing.” “Don’t ever give up.” “If you ever write a book, I’ll certainly read it.” Each beam is treasured. Some can never be replaced.

I’ve fortified the walls with tools of the trade. I’ve joined writers’ groups, taken tutorials, purchased How-To books, attended online seminars, and traveled to conferences. I’ve taken more notes and saved more useful files than I’ll ever be able to read, even if I knew where they’re stored on this blasted computer. Still, it gives me peace to know they’re there—if I ever need them.

Photographs pasted on the walls chronicle 40 years of growth and maturity, depicting victories over mind and body. Swimming across the Sakonnet River. Gaffing trees. Rappelling. The first time I fired Expert at the shooting range. Periods of extreme grief. The love of a good man. Raising two boys. Unspeakable joy. Jobs of increasing significance. Walking away from the last job to write. Writing a book. Rewriting the book. Rewriting the book.

Firelight from the camp stove illuminates the open front door and the sea beyond. I sit with my belongings and watch the water’s ripples kiss the shore. Hemmingway, Poe, Harper Lee, Erma Bombeck, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Orson Scott Card, Maya Angelou, Nicholas Sparks. My tables, my chairs, my blankets, my friends. Nestled here, I’m safe and I’m happy, but I’m not content.

There’s something out there, across the water, and it is good. My raft bobs at the pier, like hope ready to burst. It’s big enough to carry me and my shelter, and everything in it. But the sea is so vast. I don’t know what creatures lurk in its depths, or whether a storm sits on the horizon, preparing even now to churn the waters into a frenzy. If that happened, I’d lose everything. I look across the sea, and wonder…

Enough for today. I reach up and pull the shelter door closed, then snuggle against the cold with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Drowsily, I listen to him whisper from across the years:

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. 
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.” 

The fire in the camp stove has been refueled. Tomorrow, I will try again.

Ocean

Or perhaps it’s a sea of endless possibility…?

Bamboo Faith: Why I Can’t Quit Writing

9 Oct panda and bamboo

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your own ineptitude? I’ve been there for the past two weeks, and last night, it almost beat me.

panda and bamboo

Mei-Jing and bamboo (the flag was outside; the artist was 5 and all about details)

I was throwing away a bamboo stump that had been a living plant in our home for at least the past 12 years. It represented a simpler time in our lives, a time when watering plants was part of the weekly routine, and wishes were easily satisfied. We bought the plant when my youngest, who’d just acquired a stuffed panda named Mei-Jing (what else?) asked for bamboo for Christmas, explaining quite simply, “You can’t have a panda without bamboo.”

Bamboo is like cactus, in that it takes a lot to do it in. It thrives, even when neglected. My friend tossed a dying bamboo root in her back yard a few years back and now she has a forest out there that would make any panda feel right at home. But then, I’ve killed many a cactus plant in my day. And now I’ve killed Mei-Jing’s food supply as well, because I no longer have a weekly routine.

So last night, I stared at that clump of former life and had a pity party. I told myself it represented the past few weeks, in which I’ve been racing around to accomplish “stuff,” but really, I’ve gone nowhere. Joe’s story has received two rejections from publishers; I’m having trouble finding blog time, which is one of my favorite things to do; and when my fledgling business was begging for water, I prayed for water and got a firehose. I cannot operate a firehose, so I just about drowned everything in my…ineptitude.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve become accustomed to, and accepted the reality that…well, I’m not the brightest bulb in the dirt. (See how that doesn’t work? Nevermind.) I come by this quirk honestly. Once when my dad was in a hospital waiting room, fretting over Mom as the doctors worked behind closed doors (she was ok—that’s not the story), the doctor came out and told him it would help if he got some donors. My dad made a beeline for the exit and was gone for 20 minutes. When he came back, he presented a pink box to the doctor and said, “I didn’t know if you wanted glazed or jelly filled so I got some of both.”

So, yes, I’m a bit off, but I’m generally capable. I can juggle many tasks, write a fine short story (if I do say so myself), and make kids laugh without actually falling down. That’s why, when I left my job to write full-time, I had a certain degree of justifiable confidence in my ability—until this week.

Here’s the situation: Despite the negative news (so far) for Joe’s story, my freelance business is taking off. I’d been writing one story a week for some time now. Last week, because I forgot to take my name off a list of availability, I managed to sign up for three stories at once. Naturally, I was too proud to say it’s too much. I figured, the interviews have been averaging two hours (recorded on an mp3 file), and the stories are so intriguing they practically write themselves, so I thought I was up for the challenge. HOWEVER, both interviews this week have been well over three hours. One is with a woman who speaks with a heavy Romanian accent and the other had some sort of technical glitch forcing me to fight through static to transcribe the conversation. It has taken me six hours to transcribe the first hour of each tape. The rest awaits. Ineptitude. I woke this morning dreading my work for the first time because I have so much to do and still another interview tomorrow. I’m overwhelmed. I cried in my pity party and thought, perhaps I’m not cut out for this.

Here’s where I praise God for that few moments each day that ARE routine. You see, every morning I try to spend my first 30 minutes or so studying the Bible. Lately that’s been in the form of Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study of 1st Thessalonians, in which I read about Paul’s concern for the new believers after their trials. He wrote, not to assure them they’d be okay, but to remind them that they would be hard pressed to come out unscathed. He added, “I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.

And bam! I remembered: I’m not doing this on a whim, but because I believe it’s the Lord’s plan for me. Anything that comes against my decision to write is not of God. I know the “tempter” isn’t looking out for my best interests. What he holds out before me is not escape and relief, but surrender. When I’m wounded and angry, he’s delighted, because I’m close to giving in. (That’s one reason he attacks our loved ones, by the way—to get us where we’re vulnerable—but that’s another blog). Simply put: he plays dirty. And I know what he wants from me. Not my business. Not my stories. Not my hopes and dreams. These things mean nothing to him, except as a means to get what he really wants.

New bamboo plant

My plant of new hope…it better hope I remember to water it.

He wants my faith.

He’s not getting it.

So this morning I bought a new bamboo plant and set it in the same vase as the last one. I watered it (so that’s at least once…) and set it where I can see it. I’m not inept. I’m administratively challenged. But I have a Counselor who isn’t, and so I leave that part of this job to Him. These next few days will be challenging, and before I’m done I might be speaking with a static-y Romanian accent, but I know there’s victory coming.

Now, I’m heading back to finish my transcription; but this time, I’m armored up and ready to fight. Are you with me?

But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 1 Thessalonians 8

Writing Tips about Readers: One is Enough to Get You Started

19 Sep
Stephen King's On Writing

Good place to start a writing journey

Today’s blog is inspired by Stephen King, and an unknown reader.

I’ve just finished reading a book that I recommend to anyone who writes or wants to, whether for a living or just for the simple pleasure of putting words on the page.

It’s Stephen King’s On Writing; A Memoir of the Craft.

Author’s Note: Let me make it clear here, I tend to avoid Stephen King books because I have an imagination that cannot relinquish images once they flash before my mind’s eye. (The Green Mile’s John Coffey is as real to me as any person I’ve ever met; he scares me, and he’s one of the good guys.)  However, I appreciate good writing and admire King’s work because he can create those vivid images, and in a way that seems effortless. In fact, if he weren’t such a phenomenal writer, I wouldn’t have to avoid his work—how’s that for a back-handed compliment?

But this book is different. It’s a beautiful depiction of writing as a passion that, once it grabs you, simply must be acknowledged and satisfied. King’s memoir weaves stories of his personal journey with bits of advice and encouragement to writers and examples of beautiful prose in a way that would have inspired me to quit my day job if I hadn’t already. He makes me appreciate anew the joy of writing for writing’s sake.

And as a bonus, from the pages of King’s beautifully written narrative, I’ve picked up two valuable bits of advice that I’m incorporating into my life right away.

The first is that to write, one must read. If Stephen King says so, it must be so.

All I can say is, YAY!

(If there were a way to make that look happier without one of those flashy neon “marching ants” borders, I’d do it; it’s just that cool. But for now, “Yay!” will have to suffice).

So, in the Portrait Writer’s world, reading is now a sanctioned, necessary part of the job. That’s like sending a kid to a candy shop for time out. To all of you back at the office who are still suffering through those annual training classes on filling out travel claims and understanding the importance of submitting form 3C with your timecard request to adjust for an unanticipated increase in traffic volume on I95, I can only say…

“Boo-ya! I’m studying Barbara Kingsolver!”

Of course, I will share my reading adventures and recommendations along the way, so you can skip right to the good stuff on your own reading list. (Life’s too short to waste time reading bad books.)

The second concept I’m adopting is to write to an ideal audience, and this epiphany couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve learned over the past few weeks that not everyone likes everything I write (gasp!) and, if I took to heart all the advice I’ve received lately, my next blog would be a politically correct, non-offending piece of drivel. I’m grateful for every person who reads my blog, and I appreciate your feedback, particularly because it helps me see some things from different perspectives, but it won’t change my writing. In fact, I suspect that when I hit a nerve, it’s not the words that cause you to wince.

King suggests writers choose one person that they respect and know well, and write only to that person. And so I have identified my ideal reader as a young man we’ll call Fred. He’s well educated and knows who God is, but has never really read God’s love letter to mankind. He’s angry at this entity we call God and, as a matter of fact, is gathering evidence to support his claim that if God does exist, He can’t possibly care for us very much. I cannot convince Fred otherwise, but I can show him over time why I believe differently.

And by the way, Fred thinks I’m hilarious. That’s why every once in a while I have to write something silly, just to make him laugh.

Fred, I promise you that if you keep reading, I will keep writing. I wish I could promise more, but the rest is not up to me. I’m a Proverbs 16:9 girl; I’m not sure where this train is heading, but I’m glad to be along for the ride.

 

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

 

Love Tosses Caged Sparrow Over Another Hurdle

27 Aug

I honestly believe it will never be this special again.

First, some great news…We have an agent! Her name is Diana; she read my proposal for Joe’s story and asked for the manuscript Friday. Over the weekend I went through it one last time and pronounced it finished Sunday night. I sent a hard copy to Joe and electrons to Diana; she is now working on finding the right publisher. I couldn’t say for sure whether Joe or I was more excited, but as I listened to Joe’s elation over the phone Friday, I was tickled to pieces to have witnessed it. (I do believe he did a little jig.)

Completed manuscript

One step closer to the book rack!

It was a sobering moment, Sunday night when I hit the “send” button, and with one click, transmitted more than a year’s worth of work and dreams off to an unknown world in cyberspace. I sat there staring at the “message sent” notice for a long time, contemplating the true scope of this journey, which actually began in the early 70s, sitting with my Nana in her giant four-poster bed, listening to her read from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. I became so inspired by Laura’s storytelling gift that I knew, just knew, it was what I wanted to do for my life. I started writing with abandon, and when my English teacher, Mr. DeRobbio, said I had a gift, I positively soared. I was going to be a writer!

But I didn’t do it. Not really. I stifled the call to write, with a military career (during which I wrote as a journalist, but not for myself–yet even there I received encouragement from people I admired and still try to emulate, like Pat Gibbons, Tom Bartlett, and Ken Smith-Christmas…), and I put it aside for two wonderful children and years of busyness. All the while, I knew God was nudging me…“So, when are you going to start?”

Then He put friends in my life to nurture and encourage, each one sending me a little closer to the ledge—Susannah Johnson’s “The Artist’s Way” class pushed me to Sarah’s writing group, where she, Martha, Meredith, and Anne dared me to dream about “what if?”

One domino toppled the next. I found myself at a writers’ conference that fanned the spark into flame, and met inspiring people like Beth Pensinger and Erin Elizabeth Austin. Over the next year I was a fly on the FB wall, watching their struggles as Beth wrote and published a sweet read called, “Let Me Fall: The Love Story Between God and His Dimwitted Daughter,” and Erin inspired thousands by sharing her battles and victories over darkness and founded Broken but Priceless Ministries. I’ll never be able to express to these women how integral they’ve been in my journey, and yet we barely spoke to each other.

But I STILL didn’t listen, so God forced my hand. He sent Linda Rondeau, a fellow writer and perfect stranger. She just appeared outta’ nowhere, armed with a story about a man who went to prison for a crime he did not commit and looking for someone who might want to write it. Another domino. This led to Joe and his awesome story.

Desire, ability, a story that absolutely HAD to be told–I had no more excuses. I even had my husband’s wide-eyed, “I’m-a-bit-nervous-but-I-know-this-is-important-to-you” blessing, and two sons who were glad to see me doing what I loved. And then sweet, sweet Phanalphie, of RhueStill Inc., who didn’t even know me yet but read my writing and offered me a net to jump into, and she probably would have flown out here from Oklahoma and pushed me off if I’d asked her to.

And again, I didn’t leap off the cliff. I more or less attempted to inch my way over the rim, scraping my knees as I fumbled blindly for toeholds, and I found myself only a couple of feet down, clinging to a ledge by my fingernails, half in and half out of two vastly different worlds. It took more nudging, by many more friends. Carrie and Kevin, my best friends and confidantes from work, helped pry my fingers off the ledge by assuring me that “the gang” would be fine, and although they’d miss me, I had to leave or risk going through life not knowing. Since I left, both of them have sent me inspiring notes when I really needed them, and many others from work continue to check in. Chuck and Rebecca check in almost daily, and let me whine on their e-shoulders when things don’t quite work out the way I want them to.

I also received tremendous support from my prayer partners, Kathy, Dino, Linda, Chris, and Michele, from my neighbor Julie, and friends and family from all over like George, Heidi, Jo, and Willa.

And a book was born.

While I was writing this I thought, you probably wouldn’t want to read a bunch of names of people you don’t know, but then I realized, this isn’t about the names. You do know these people. They’re in your lives as well. You just call them something different.

The bottom line is, if there’s ANYTHING you want to do, you can do it, but not on your own. Dare to dream. Then surround yourself with positive, prayerful people, and listen to God’s nudging; remember that He put this desire in your heart in the first place.

I will write more books. Joe’s story is powerful, but it probably won’t make either of us famous. I will write better books, and more than likely a few flops. I may even receive recognition for some, although that is not my measurement of success.

But it will never be like this. This is special. This is the end of the beginning. And you helped.

Thank you.