The Gift

22 12 2012

Bright wrapping paper

Glossy, shiny bows

Warm lights twinkle

Shining in rows


Piles of presents

Under evergreen tree

Beckon to children

“Which one’s for me?”


Across the room

Nativity on display

Joseph, Mary, stable

God’s son in manger lay


Every true gift is

Motivated by love

Coming down from our father

In Heaven above


Those in bright colors

Are temporal today

Enjoyed for a moment

Later put away


Eternal life

Purchased by God’s Son

A gift that keeps on giving

He offers to everyone


Happy Birthday

19 12 2012

mom and thad“Happy Birthday to me,

Happy Birthday to me,

Why am I still working?

No happy birthday for me.”

I think it should be a federal law that people don’t go to work on their birthday. I mean, if the company they work for is too cheap budget conscious to pay them for the time off – it doesn’t have to be a paid holiday.

Of course, I’m really whining about this because it has been many years since I have had to work on my birthday. Since I work for the school district, most years my annual celebration of the day I was born is quite often during the winter break. This year, most of our two-week break falls after the actual holiday, rather than before.

I think that giving a person their birthday off from work shows great appreciation. Even someone who makes minimum wage can’t complain if they get to stay home on their birthday. It would be even better if they got paid!

When we reach a certain age, there aren’t many things we desire for our birthdays. The fact that we aren’t cooking dinner is a given (that is indeed a hint, dearest men of mine). It’s understandable that very few people send us cards or texts or gifts. Life is busy. We may have forgotten their birthday, too.

Let’s face it, there comes a point when we stop counting these yearly occurrences. Maybe I should say we stop increasing the number associated with them. It isn’t because I’m old and forgetful that I really have to stop and think how old I’ll be today. I JUST DON’T CARE!

You know I’m going to include another one of my polls with this post. Are there really people out there who don’t think every person in the world is entitled to a day off on their birthday?

Burnout or Blues?

15 12 2012

A childhood friend killed in a car accident the day before Thanksgiving. Repeated hospitalization of my mother, whose immune system is non-existent. Students who push every button (and found some I never knew existed) to avoid having to read or do work. Projects and papers for college classes that I wish were over.

“Christmas is coming…” since my sister says I don’t have the authority to cancel it.

Let’s add in some holiday cheer. Baking Christmas treats. Shopping for gifts and then wrapping them up. Add to that the plans for a Christmas Eve gathering in my home. Don’t forget to practice “O Holy Night” for the program at church. (Who feels like singing? Not me!)

Is it any wonder I have written not one word of fiction in two weeks? Whose muse would even come out under such a barrage of expectations?

I have some people telling me that I’m experiencing the blues. After all, the sky is constantly gray, rain drizzles or pours and there is light for a mere eight hours each day. We all know my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is making me sad gloomy and out of sorts.

When I add in the loss of my friend and the anxiety over my mother’s health, I guess we could chalk it up to the blues.

More people are depressed during the holiday season, statistics say. That has never made sense to me. This should be a joyous time when we reflect on God’s gift to us and gather with family and friends to shower them with love.

Most people believe Shari is just burnt out. She has been going to school and working full-time for the past two years, with never more than a two-week break. Her job hasn’t been fulfilling or joyful during those two years (one of the primary reasons she returned to college).

If burnout is the true diagnosis, will my two-week break cure it? Beginning December 22, I won’t have to go to work or college class until January 7. Is that enough time to recover my equilibrium and begin 2013 refreshed, recharged and ready to push through until those big dates in June?

What do you think? Have you experienced similar low points? What advice do you have for me so I will make the most of my two-week hiatus from those big responsibilities?



Family Portraits Shared

12 12 2012

This is how we started things off. Not too bad.

This is how we started things off. Not too bad.


"Mom! He's touching me!" Actually, no, he's not.

“Mom! He’s touching me!” Actually, no, he’s not.


Text Message: Can't. Have 2 get pic taken.

Text Message: Can’t. Have 2 get pic taken.

Who could ask for more handsome men? Not me!

Who could ask for more handsome men? Not me!

"I'm finally taller than you!" says the youngest

“I’m finally taller than you!” says the youngest

The things that make men gleeful...

The things that make men gleeful…

"What's that smell?"

“What’s that smell?”

Just another day

Just another day

They're thinking about that Taco Bell dad promised them

They’re thinking about that Taco Bell dad promised them

Effective Goal-Setting

8 12 2012

ROW80LogocopyI’m reaching the three-fourths point of the 80 day writing challenge I embarked upon at the beginning of October. It’s time to reflect on whether I did a good job setting my goals.

How often did I meet the goals?

  • 5,000 words per week: I met this goal two weeks out of 9. I revised it to 2,000 during Thanksgiving week and I met it that time. That translates to roughly 33.3 percent of the time, I met this goal.
  • Writing for four hours per week: I met (or exceeded) this goal six out of the nine weeks. That means I met this goal 66.6% of the time.

My analysis of these figures suggests that the amount of time I spend writing is easier to control than the amount of words that are written. This might mean that using time for goal-setting is a better measure for inspiring me to sit down and write.

How did I approach the goals?

I scheduled a set time to write on four days every week. If something came up on a Saturday during the allotted writing time, I redirected myself to a different day and time. Sometimes I spent extra hours when things were flowing well and then I could give myself a break on days when the creative juices seemed to dry up.

I committed myself to spending the time in the chair at the computer. While this didn’t guarantee superlative writing, it did get blog posts written and thousands of words added to the first draft of my WIP.

What wasn’t successful about these goals?

Not making the word count discouraged me, rather than encouraging me to write more the next week. When I didn’t make the word count for two consecutive weeks, my competitive side wanted to throw in the towel. After all, I had school work that was suffering because I diverted my attention to writing at the scheduled hour. If I couldn’t make the goal, why add the stress of feeling like my school work wasn’t top notch?

What will I change for future challenges?

The word count will be reduced to 1,000 words per hour. I’ve proven I can spew out that amount on a consistent basis. In fact, I managed to produce at least 4,000 words in a week for 55 percent of the time in this challenge so far.

What I learned from this challenge?

  • I can write a fair number of words of fiction every week.
  • If I sit it, they will come.
  • Goals compel me into action.

The bottom line: don’t count me out. I’ll be participating in this challenge or others like it, in the near future.


Counting Down

5 12 2012


Petition to graduate successfully completed? Check. Registrar concurs that only six more classes are required (after this term) to garner enough credits for a degree? Correct.

My husband doesn’t remember having to petition Oregon Institute of Technology for his degree back in 1988. Of course, he probably couldn’t tell you what he had for breakfast yesterday either.

What is the reasoning behind completing such formalities (or do I mean forms?) in the larger picture of life? Perhaps it’s a means for collecting additional fees. After all, isn’t that what a building permit from the city is all about?

I see that it accomplished several things; some of them were even beneficial to me.

  1. It verified for both the school and me that I am taking the correct courses required to complete my desired degree program.
  2. The Registrar now has all the official information needed to accurately complete my diploma.
  3. The college can add me into the “head count” for people they need to accommodate (and clothe in a delightful gown) at the ceremony in May 2013.
  4. By spelling out exactly the courses I must take and showing when I’m taking them, a finish line was marked in the sand road. Just like an Olympic runner (oh, yeah, I’m so NOT like an Olympic athlete), I’m inspired to keep moving forward now that I can see the finish line.

What’s your take on this whole process of petitioning to graduate? Can you think of other purposes it serves? What are other ways people “count down” to important events?

Plot & Structure – Making a Fantastic Scene

1 12 2012

Add this book to your writing craft library

I finally made it to chapter eight in this fantastic resource for writers. I recommend it for anyone who wants to improve their writing.

In accordance with my goal for the ROW 80 challenge last week, I read a chapter in James Scott Bell’s book. I marked it with a few sticky notes. I jotted down some acronyms.

I considered how helpful this new knowledge is going to be when I finally finish my first draft of this novel I’m writing. It will be quite illuminating to go back and re-read each scene to see how it measures up according to Bell.

The Four Chords of a Scene

I know, it sounds musical, right? I was ready to hum a few bars, sing along. But, no, there was a discordant note because he wasn’t being musical at all – even when he mentioned major chords and minor chords.

The parallel for any of you with musical background is that in any given key there are three primary chords used to build a song and a related seventh chord. Other chords might be used in the song, but these four chords are the building blocks.

The major chords in every scene are action and reaction. The protagonist does something (the action) to move them toward obtaining their ultimate goal. Some sort of conflict or complication prevents them from succeeding. Afterward, they react and make a new plan of action.

Setup and deepening are the minor chords in the scene. Early in the book, you’ll need to have a paragraph here and there to set up a base of knowledge.  Deepening is “the spice” according to Bell and it’s needed to help the reader understand characters better.

Getting HIP

You guessed it – this is the acronym I jotted on a sticky note. HIP stands for hook, intensity and prompt.

I think most writers are familiar with a hook. We need a hook in our query letter. Without a hook in the first paragraph of our novel, we should expect the thing to find the slush pile.

According to Bell, every scene needs a hook. Why should the reader continue? Dangle a carrot out there at the beginning of every scene and you’ll have a page-turner. The hook is to gain the reader’s attention.

Intensity is how the writer keeps that attention. Every scene needs some intensity to heat it up. Conflict is the primary kindler of that fire and if you have a scene without any, it might be time to use the delete key. Tension between characters is another way to ratchet up the intensity (notice the same root word).

The way to end every scene is with a prompt. This is something that keeps the reader from putting their bookmark in and closing the book. It’s a promise that something important will be revealed in the next chapter. A life-altering secret is revealed that changes everything for our hero.

Bell ends his chapter talking about an intensity scale. I have to admit that the way he wanted me to graph the intensity of every scene in the book deflated me. Is this essential? I guess I’ll find out if I get a letter from an agent or editor that tells me I’ve got too much intensity or not enough.

What’s your take on scene writing? Do you have some wisdom to add to the formulas presented here? I’m curious to know if there are writers who consider these formulas as they’re writing their first draft.

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