Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Quarter Inch from Crazy

I’m doing it all wrong.

Thanks to our friend Harv, I recently had new laminate flooring installed in my home office. Which prompted some rearranging of the furnishings. Which prompted some rearranging of the wall d├ęcor.

I thought I’d go a little funky displaying my canvas book covers. I Googled “cute ideas for hanging picture frames crooked” but the only images that appeared were crooked picture frames and none of them were cute. I charged ahead anyway, and this is what I ended up with. It was much cooler in my head.

I know, I know. It basically looks like someone banged on the other side of the wall until everything went wonky. And I’m just OCD enough that I won’t be able to stand it for long. It helps that the wall is behind me as I work.

But my wall provides a metaphor. As an author, I often feel I’m doing it all wrong. I don’t plot out my books ahead of time. I don’t create clear story arcs. My main characters tend to be unlikable. Every week, my inbox is filled with articles about how to do it right until I become overwhelmed with how thoroughly I’m doing it wrong.

I don’t have my own website, only this blog. I don’t use Twitter, just Facebook. A friend reminded me recently that I “ought” to be on Instagram. I’m not. I’ve turned down every speaking invitation I’ve received since my first book came out. Not that there have been dozens, but experts would tell me I’m committing career suicide. Which is ironic, because it kills me to say no

It’s that right now, with my physical limitations, I know it’s logistically impossible to pull that off, maintain my day job, keep writing, and still get the rest I need.

So I say no a lot. And I torture myself, because I ought to do all these things. I ought to say yes and I ought to trust God to provide the strength and resources I need to keep saying yes.


Unless God can be trusted to get my stories into the hands of those who need to read them, regardless of my shortcomings.

Unless, if a story is good enough, it will soar without my having to constantly push it in front of people’s faces. (Ever notice that the authors we love to read most are rarely the ones dishing out the how-to advice?)

Unless what Jesus said to Paul is the same thing he says to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Unless what he’s already accomplished with my books is more than enough.

Here’s the thing. There will always, always be more you ought to do. At some point, you must know your limitations and focus on what works for you. Yes, do your part. But trust God with his. And go write a really good book. Hopefully, without a wall full of crooked picture frames behind you.

What are you doing wrong? I'd love to hear about it. And here’s the rest of my office.

I love that I write WWII era novels on a WWII era desk.

Didn't change my book nook. Still love it.

Had to unload and move the bookcase to do the floor!

Monday, June 5, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 7: Finding God at the Circus

Summer’s here, when the farmer in my husband comes out to play—er, work—and we have barely seen each other for three weeks, let alone conquering anything on our list of forty. But yesterday we did something that is currently holding the record as my favorite and merits a blog post all its own. Sure beats that jigsaw puzzle still on our dining table at any rate.

#7 See Cirque du Soleil.

Because I’ve always wanted to go, I placed this on the list early in our list-creating process, not knowing whether there’d even be a cirque coming to Manitoba this year. I was thrilled when in January, tickets went on sale for the steampunk-themed show called Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities in Winnipeg. It premiered in Montreal three years ago and is still going strong. I booked our tickets immediately.

If you’ve been to any Cirque du Soleil show, you know how mind-blowing it is and how much it makes you want to run away to join the circus. And if you haven’t seen one, there’s not a lot of point in my trying to describe it for you. For a little taste of this one, you can watch a great little You Tube video here. 

No words adequately describe what you’ll see when you go, but here’s a few that flitted around in my head as I watched:

Beauty. Grace. Wonder. Strength. Balance. Agility. Crazy Creativity. Skill. Courage. Team work. Brilliance. All words that apply to God.

Wait, what? God? At a circus?

Oh, yes. You might not expect to find God there, but he was everywhere I turned. And here’s why. I can’t be a witness to that kind of outstanding, dazzling creativity and not be convinced yet again that humans are created in the image of an amazing artist.

It’s like this. Look around the room you’re sitting in right now. What do you see? Furniture? Technology? Art? Correct me if I’m wrong, but each and every thing you see was created by someone, yes? You probably don’t know who, and you likely don’t stop to think about how smart that person is or how they’ve added to your life, but I’m pretty sure you acknowledge that a designer exists and that they came up with something good.

Now tell me, what is the most complex thing in the room?

If you answered “computer” or any other man-made object, you’re wrong. You are the most complex thing in the room. You, and other people, will always be the answer to that question, in any room you ever enter. I am the most complicated creation in my room at the moment. How can I imagine I don’t have a creator?

And so when the spell-binding Cirque du Soliel performers mesmerize me with their displays of what the human mind and body can achieve, I have no choice but to look to the one who made them. Who made me. Who looks on his marvelous creation with a smile and says, “It is good.”

Kurios will be in Winnipeg through July 9 and you can order your tickets here. Two things you need to know in advance: onsite parking costs $15 and you should allow at least an extra 30-40 minutes before and after the show for getting parked and getting out. Some folks parked at IKEA and walked over—not a bad plan. Also, the tent is air conditioned and even if it’s hot outside, you might want a sweater or jacket. I did.

Monday, May 15, 2017

40 Adventures for 40 Years, Part 6

We’ve knocked three more items off our list since my last update, which brings our current total to twelve. My hope is that whatever we don’t manage to pull off this year will carry forward to next and we’ll have developed a new habit, finally becoming a little less “recreationally challenged.” It’s only taken 40 years!

#29. Eat a Jimmy’s Fat Boy. Anyone who lives in Portage la Prairie knows that Jimmy “the Greek” Sarlas has been an icon for years, as has his establishment, Jimmy’s Submarine and Dairy Delight. But somehow Jon and I had never actually tried one of his famous Fat Boys. Our grandsons’ visit seemed like the perfect opportunity to go to Jimmy’s and not have to cook.

Jon and I shared a Double Fat Boy and an order of fries—basically the equivalent of two burgers and two orders of fries anywhere else, and twice as delicious. And messy. But, oh so tasty. Really, seriously, yummy. And not a bad price, considering it’s all homemade. If I ate a Fat Boy every day, I wouldn’t turn into a Boy, but that other thing? Definitely.

Jon and I didn’t smooch at Jimmy’s, but Keegan reminded me later that while we’d sat in our booth, I’d given Rorin a little kiss on the top of his head. “You kissed the wrong man,” Keegan said.

The man I kissed.

 #33. Pin the Tail on the Bunny. Last summer when this list of 40 things was still a work in progress, we invited our kids and grandkids to add to it. This one was Allistar’s contribution. He’s a huge rabbit fan and has a pet one at home named Thumper. Jon and I decided we’d feel a tad silly playing Pin the Tail on the Bunny by ourselves unless, in Jon’s words, I was the bunny. This isn’t that sort of blog.

So with the grandboys here, we colored a large Easter bunny, stuck magnets to colored pompoms, took turns blindfolding and spinning each other around for a rousing round. I came in dead last. Keegan’s was probably the closest, but Grandpa claims Keegan cheated and used both hands. Competition is fierce around here.

Allistar spins Rorin

Final results

#22. Go Somewhere by Train. Because it sells out early, we booked tickets weeks ago for the Mother’s Day ride on the Prairie Dog Central, pulled by a coal-fueled steam engine over a century old. Departing from the old Inkster Station north of the Winnipeg perimeter, the train took us north for about an hour at a speed of 15 miles per hour (it could go faster, we were told, but they want it to keep working and there’s no place to buy parts!), and let us off in Grosse Isle. There, vendors waited to meet our refreshment and crafting needs while “Fire and Ice” provided live music. Museum buildings were free for the touring—an old home, school, and church. Young passengers enjoyed a petting zoo and miniature train.
Jon chats with a train man

As for me, I decided a new bauble to commemorate the day was in order and found the perfect item from the lady selling jewelry: a little pewter nest with three eggs to represent my three babies. I love it!

After 90 minutes, they called “All Aboard!” and we rode back, this time on the tail end instead of the first car behind the engine. The black coal smoke has quite the distinct odor that I’m sure triggers memories for those old enough to remember. While my extroverted husband chatted with the other passengers, I was content to sit quietly, imagining I was April or Bernadette or Emmaleen—the main characters in my current novel in progress—traveling in the style they would, right down to the pine wood interiors of the train cars to the pot-bellied stove in each car—thankfully, not in use.

I’m so glad we went, and I recommend it for all ages. Of course, it provided us with a new place to kiss—inside the train, as well as at Grosse Isle. So we’re making good progress on the kissing list.

The unfinished jigsaw puzzle, however, is still sitting there. I swear it scowls back at me every time I walk by.