Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mountains Called

The mountains called and we answered. Many people go to the beach for their summer vacations. That’s just fine, but my husband and I prefer the mountains. The idea of spending the bulk of our precious summer months in hot, humid Eastern Virginia gives us a severe case of the heebie-jeebies. The good news is that we can travel a mere three hours to reach the Blue Ridge with its lower humidity and cooler temperatures and still be in Virginia. There we can sleep with the windows open, dine al fresco, and hike without breaking a sweat. 

Our favorite get-away spot is Wintergreen Resort where

we rent a condo with a breathtaking view that includes

an abundance of stunning flowers and butterflies. We have access to tennis (golf, too, but we don’t play), and great hiking trails. We even hiked the Appalachian Trail this time...for about 100 yards. Whew! There are many good restaurants, wineries and cideries in the area, too. You might even catch a glimpse of a black bear. 

The best part of our annual get-away is the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, Erin Freeman, Artistic Director. After having to cancel last year’s event, Erin (no relation) outdid herself this year! We attended two of many concert offerings held in the Dunlop Pavilion, and both were stellar. From Bach to Brahms and Mendelssohn to a commissioned work for virtual chorus and live orchestra, every musical moment was mesmerizing. 

I know! This blog sounds like a copy ad for Wintergreen Resort, but trust me when I say, "Don’t go to Wintergreen Resort in the summer."

We prefer having it all to ourselves.


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Saturday, July 10, 2021



I tend to be a creature of isolation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with people, especially close friends and family members. It’s just that I feel comfortable with my alone time. Time alone allows me to ponder the universe, both macro and micro, both tangible and spiritual; and it allows me to express that pondering through my writing. So, last year, when social distancing became necessary, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice to me. Rather, it seemed like a gift. I could still take my walks and enjoy the beauty of nature; and with so much writing and editing to accomplish, I never grew bored. 

Last week, for the first time in eighteen months, I met three friends inside a restaurant, none of us wearing masks. At first it felt strange, uncomfortable. Typically, we would have hugged. Later, I realized the idea of hugging never occurred to me.   

At first our conversation felt strained, yet we were the same four women who had so much in common, so many shared experiences, so much history together...before COVID. The server brought menus, and we buried our heads, hiding in the decision of what to order. With that task accomplished, we looked at each other, heaved a collective sigh, and shared a laugh at our awkwardness. Finally, with the proverbial ice broken, the conversation entered familiar, but long-neglected territory. We ended up talking and laughing until the servers began setting up for dinner.  

I left the restaurant feeling refreshed and exhilarated by the human contact that can never be replaced by Zoom meetings, phone calls, Facebook, emails, or text messages. Yes, I value and protect my alone time, but the pandemic has shown me how much I need human contact, with or without hugs.

I would love to hear your post-pandemic stories. Please respond and share how reentry has felt to you. Have you had to make adjustments that surprised you or did you jump right into life-as-usual? How about your children? What effects from isolation have you observed in them?

Speaking of responses, I received feedback from another writer friend about how to dispel a creative crisis. Lynn says he goes to a public setting and observes people. Then he makes up stories about them in his head. Often, a character will emerge that inspires a new novel. Thanks for the tip, Lynn! Fortunately, we can frequent public settings again. 

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Tips for Managing a Creative Crisis

In my previous blog post, I wrote about feeling creatively depleted, uninspired, and a little panicky since summer flies by so quickly. Many writers call this phenomenon writer’s block, but that sounds so chopping block or road block. I asked my writer friends to weigh in with some ways they address a creative crisis...and don’t try to tell me you’ve never had one.

As promised, here are the suggestions submitted by some of my writer friends. 

Cyrus says, “Close your eyes. Inhale good thoughts; exhale bad thoughts. Breathing deeply, take your body and mind to the stars. Release your mind from any thoughts and continue to breathe. Re-engage your mind with thoughts of walking without floors, seeing without eyes, hearing without ears, and become one with yourself. Empty your mind, fill your heart and breathe. Let the thoughts and words come through you and not to you.”

Wow! That’s some existential stuff there, Cyrus...very meditative. I do meditate in preparation for prayer, but I never thought about preparing for writing this way. I’ll definitely try it.

Monti, another author friend, suggests, “Go for a walk, find a tree, and discover an image in the bark patterns. Write about that image, tell what it means to you, and what the important words are. Put it in the little notebook you are carrying with you.”

Yes to the walking part, Monti! It’s one of my favorite energizer activities, and it works equally well for increasing both physical and mental energy. I like the bark idea, too. That’s definitely a new one, and I will try it. The “little notebook” is my phone, but it’s the same concept.

This morning, after my first good night’s sleep in a week, I realized I wasn’t in a crisis. I was just plain tired. Sometimes I don’t recognize when I need to take a break. I think I’m supposed to trudge through the fog of fatigue when stopping to rest and recharge would be a better plan.

But I appreciate the excellent suggestions from Monti and Cyrus. How about you other creative writers? What do you do to re-engage your muse?

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Creative Crisis

Photo Courtesy of HighBabe

Okay, school is out for the summer, and I have time to write again. Yay! So, here I sit waiting for my muse to show up, and she is several days late. What to do! Let’s start with another cup of coffee.

Nope! That didn’t work, either. Even writing a blog post--something I normally enjoy--is a struggle. Is this how it’s going to be all summer? Do I just need to chill and wait until the mood strikes?

Some people call it writer’s block. For me it’s not so much a block as a fog. I can’t seem to concentrate or get my thoughts in order. Without an imposed schedule, I waste precious time and get distracted easily. Believe it or not, I have a YouTube channel. I was hoping to actually use it this post some videos about my writing career that might be helpful to other creative writers. But how can I advise others when I’m in a slump.

Fellow writers, what do you do to break the cycle of a creative crisis? I’d love to hear from you. Please send your helpful hints. I’ll compile and share them on my author page and website...maybe even on my YouTube channel. We’re all in this together.

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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Pigpen and Me


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We all remember the character, Pigpen, from the comic strip, Peanuts. Wherever Pigpen went, a cloud of dust enveloped him. Little boys seem to be drawn to dirt. I have a picture of my son as a toddler dressed for church on Easter Sunday. As soon as I turned my back he was out the door and heading for the drainage ditch in our backyard. Before I could scoop him up, he had squatted to play in the mud, hands submerged up to his wrists, shoes covered with muck, and pant legs drenched. At first I was horrified, but then I couldn’t resist laughing and grabbing my camera. Now that he’s a grown man, I treasure that photo. It reminds me of how quickly we can become covered with the dirt of living. It happens when we run away from God; when we ignore God’s Word and God’s will.

I consider myself to be a good person, one who cares about others, one who tries to be kind and compassionate and truthful. But, like every human, I am a sinner. In Romans 3:22 and 23, we learn, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “some” or “a few” or “everyone else” has sinned. It says “all.” This means every human is stained with the soil of sin. Fortunately, Paul doesn’t stop there. If he did, we would have no hope. In Verses 24 and 25, we learn that “All are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” 

When I think about all the mistakes I’ve made, all the little white lies I’ve told, all the times I’ve gossiped about someone or judged someone or envied someone or worried about a situation, I feel ashamed. I feel like Pigpen, surrounded by a cloud of dust, weighed down by my sins. But there is good news for every one of us sinners. God, through Jesus Christ, can wash away the dirt of sin that threatens to envelop us. How? Verse 25 makes it clear that redemption comes through believing in “Christ’s sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith.” In other words, Christ’s sacrifice--through his crucifixion--is a free gift which can be received simply by faith in the resurrection.    

What would happen if, instead of charging headlong toward the mud puddles of temptation, worry, and selfishness, I allowed God to scoop me into his arms of forgiveness? Would my life be free of problems and challenges? No. Would I be free of sin? No. Would I be forgiven? Yes!

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

It Must Be My Day


I don't claim to be a poet, but after editing numerous poetry books lately, I felt inspired to give it a try. Here's what I came up with yesterday when, in the words of newspaper columnist, Jack Neworth, "My birthday candles almost started a forest fire."

It Must Be My Day

Slept late, awakened to coffee made and breakfast in bed.

He hates coffee, can’t even stand the smell.

It must be my day.

A dozen roses, a subscription to Hulu

so I can watch season four of “Handmaid’s Tale.“

It must be my day.

Text messages from kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids;

Facebook greetings from friends near and far.

It must be my day.

Cards, emails, phone calls,

Car trip to a state park; he drove, I typed. 

It must be my day.

Hugs, whiffle ball with grands, picnic lunch;

Walking, talking, more hugs.

Yes, May 8 is my day,


But so is tomorrow since I’m a mom.

I wonder...will I get breakfast in bed again?

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Don't Change That!

Image by Craig T. Owens
I don’t like change. When things change I feel uncomfortable, insecure. Maybe that’s what it is about technology that annoys me. I just get used to doing something one way and the next time I go to do it, it has been updated and “improved.” I use technology every day. It seems reasonable that it would become instinctive after a while. 

I started taking piano lessons at age seven. That means, I’ve been playing the piano for more than sixty years. The process has not changed. There are still eighty-eight keys, and music notation has remained the same all these years. So, with practice I have gotten better; by applying the same procedures over and over, I have achieved a level of comfort and mastery. Likewise, when I don’t play for a while, that level diminishes. It’s all quite logical and predictable.

Like technology, life isn’t logical or predictable. Life changes constantly. All living creatures experience metamorphoses both in themselves and in the universe. I daresay humans are the only lifeforms that resist change. We might even become frustrated and angry when certain changes occur: the aging process with its physical alterations, the onset of a serious illness, the loss of a loved one. These are natural, expected metamorphoses. Yet, when they occur, they throw us into a tailspin. 

The more we resist change, the more frustrated and angry we become. Some changes can even challenge our faith in God. Why would a loving God put us through this? Why does God allow us (or a loved one) to suffer? How many times have you heard someone say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Poppycock! That saying isn’t even scriptural.

In John 16:33, Jesus is recorded as saying, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Perhaps the false saying comes from a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul is talking about temptation. “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape….” Even Jesus was tempted. It was not God who tempted His Son. Likewise, it is not God who tempts us, but offers us a means of escape. 

Even in the Old Testament, one Psalmist tells the Israelites, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea...the Lord of hosts is with us...cease striving and know that I am God (Psalm 46, selected verses).” According to bible scholars, this Psalm (hymn) was sung as long ago as the tenth century BC in response to the invasion of Israel by outside forces. The author reminds us that when change threatens to unravel our plans and even challenge our trust in God, it is not God who has changed. Rather, it is we who have rebelled against God (“our refuge and strength”).  

It has taken me a lifetime to learn that God is not the giver of trouble. Rather, God gives me strength and courage to face trouble head-on. When I abide in union with Him, God provides the means to handle whatever life, with all of its changes, deals me. 

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