Temporarily Closed

Sorry for the lack of a blog entry tonight. Wanna know what I did instead of writing a blog entry? Brace yourselves. I socialized.

Oh, and my friend Lelia Rose Foreman won the Desert Assassin Cloak in the raffle! I was so tickled for her.

See you all after I get back home some time on Tuesday. . .

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Up and Down

Today was kind of a mixed bag. I have been sleeping unusually well here, which is such a blessing. Still, I didn’t wake up feeling ready to take on the world, or even the conference. I didn’t go to breakfast in case someone wanted to come make tea (I have food left over from my trip). So I was sitting on my bed reading, and apparently someone DID come, but I never heard him knock!

The regular classes started this morning. I made tea in my travel mug before I left and it stayed piping hot to the last sip. I am kind of in love with this mug. The brand is Oggi. I can’t believe how well it keeps my tea hot. When I get home I am going to hide it where the kids will never find it. All my previous travel mugs have been “borrowed” by kids, only to disappear or lose their lids. This one will not be given that chance!

I had my first appointment this morning, with one of my roommates and her partner. I met with them last year and they were interested in one of my books, but wanted me to work on it some more. So today I was shaking uncontrollably as I waited. I had asked a friend to pray for me, and she assured me she was. As I waited, a young man who is also attending the conference came up and asked if I would like to be prayed for. He knelt down beside me and prayed a heartfelt prayer that really blessed me.

So the appointment went pretty well. I am going to resubmit the manuscript I revised, along with another one. I was so relieved when it was over though!

I had an enjoyable conversation over lunch and then experienced a small but much-appreciated act of kindness when a dining room employee let me take the “wrong” way out to avoid having to climb a LOT of stairs.

The afternoon classes went well also. I changed one of my choices when I found out the one I had intended to attend was in another building and up a long flight of stairs! The one I went to instead was excellent, so I am not sorry.

I skipped the very last session to come back to the room, put my feet up and have a mug of tea while doing some knitting. It was a wonderful oasis of calm after “peopling” all day. Then my roommates came back and I enjoyed getting to know them a little better before we all got dressed for the banquet. One of my roommates is a dragon boat racer. How cool is that?

Then I made the mistake of checking my email and guess what? There was another rejection—the second in two days. And this wasn’t one of those helpful rejections, where they tell you to submit something else or explain why they couldn’t accept it. This was a form rejection. Suddenly all my recovering confidence evaporated. When you have pitched a story to someone, and they sounded really interested in it, and then they send you a form rejection, it feels like a slap in the face. I can’t help thinking: so, you loved my story idea but once you read my actual writing you were so turned off you just cut and pasted a form rejection? Am I really that bad? *sigh*

Having spent all my creative energy on the cloak I made, I threw together some garb to wear to tonight’s banquet and announced that I was “middle-aged Maid Marian.” There were some truly awesome costumes tonight, from a sparkling unicorn with realistic hooves to a dwarf woman complete with beard! Not to mention a lady dressed as R2D2 and carrying her adorable little baby dressed as BB8.

It was a fun evening despite the fact that the gluten-free plate was nothing to get excited about. I enjoyed seeing the awards and all the costumes and our dinner table conversation. Tomorrow the conference will end and someone will go home with the cloak. I also have two more appointments and would appreciate prayer.

A Reunion & a Crisis

I slept better than expected last night and woke up this morning full of anticipation. I had arranged to meet my friend Mary for brunch this morning. As far as we can figure, the last time we saw each other was 35 years ago—at my wedding!

Oh, it was good to see my old friend! There was no awkwardness or trouble figuring out what to talk about. Our bond appears to be intact even with very little communication over the years. I was sorry when our time was up and she had to move on to another appointment.

After she left, I got my registration packet for the conference and took a power nap before getting in the car and trying to get over to the building where the classes are held. Once again, I got lost and drove all over the countryside before finally arriving at the right place—late.

By then I was having a full-blown crisis of confidence. If I can’t even navigate from one part of the campus to another, I thought, what makes me think I can write coherent stories? The knowledge that this is my last writers’ conference for the foreseeable future has colored my attitude also. Maybe, I tell myself, this is where the dream dies. All these years that I have pursued writing fiction, I have done so based on my own faith that this is a goal I can achieve. Most of those close to me do not believe that I can or will succeed, but I have stubbornly labored on. Today, I couldn’t help wondering, what if I’m just stupid? What if my faith in my own abilities is misplaced and what if I never write well enough to make someone want to publish my work?

So, it’s been kind of a rough day and I really need to get into a better frame of mind before I have my interviews tomorrow!

Another issue I’m facing is a lot of joint pain thanks to arthritis. Three days sitting in the car did not help. Tomorrow I’m going to suffer the humiliation of hauling my folding chair up to the conference center, because the chairs they have there are so uncomfortable for me that I found it very difficult to focus on what was being said. Having come all this way, I have to be willing to do what it takes to get the most out of the experience, and in my case that means bringing my own seating, I guess.

So, maybe I should get some rest in hopes of waking up with a more positive outlook tomorrow!

 

Three Days on the Road

So, didya miss me? My computer hasn’t even been out of my briefcase since I packed it on Monday morning–until now, of course!

I had planned for the first day of my trip to be the shortest, because I knew I’d have to run errands on Monday morning. I had to deposit some checks, pick up my prescriptions, and mail a package, not to mention filling up the gas tank! It was after 10:00 when I finally rolled out of the driveway.

This is my second solo road trip, and it’s almost twice as long as last year’s trip to this same conference (in a different location). This time I can’t afford to stop and buy meals on the way, and I found I didn’t want to spend the time doing so either. I had plenty of things to snack on in my cooler and my picnic basket. I only stopped to get gas, use a bathroom, or take a power nap.

That first day, though, I had a nice straight shot to Memphis, where I stayed with my cousin Mark and his family. It was such an enjoyable visit. I know I’ve said it before, but I kind of won the lottery when it comes to my family. Tuesday morning Mark’s wife was up early making eggs, bacon, and gluten-free muffins. That was great fuel for day two of my trip!

Tuesday was my longest day, distance wise. I did take a short nap in the morning. I’ve discovered that mornings are a huge struggle for me on the road. You’d think I’d be all perky and fresh after a good night’s sleep, but instead I am lethargic and sleepy, even with caffeine. A 20-minute nap late in the morning makes a huge difference in my alertness, I’ve found, and then once the afternoon rolls around I do much better. Just in case I didn’t already know that I’m not a morning person!

I made it to Columbus, Ohio right at sunset and was warmly welcomed by Lina’s college friend Jennifer, who lives in Columbus and is a newly-minted PhD–in Music Theory. (I’m kind of in awe, to be honest.) This morning it was Jennifer who was up making eggs and ham for breakfast, which came with yogurt too. Then she helped me deflate my air mattress (there was a trick to it that took us a while to figure out) and I was soon on my way again–at a snail’s pace, thanks to rush hour traffic.

Today was a real struggle. I have never in my life driven for three days straight before. I had printed out directions, but I gave up on them because the print was so small I was endangering my life by trying to decipher it while driving at high speed down the highway! So I decided to throw in my lot with Nigel, my troll of a phone GPS.

Nigel has a predilection for ordering me to make U-turns at random intervals, instead of instructing me to turn the right way the first time. That is frustrating enough. Today Nigel outdid himself. Instead of taking me by the most direct route, he apparently decided that I have not yet seen an adequate number of cornfields in the last two weeks. We merrily drove through West Virginia (twice) and Maryland (for a long ways) before finally heading up to Pennsylvania.

As the day wore on, I had to contact my friend Mary and warn her that I would not be able to meet with her until tomorrow morning. I drove past Gettysburg and Valley Forge. I drove through miles and miles of Amish country. I have seen thousands of cornfields in the last two weeks! When I stopped to get a couple of items at a grocery store, I drove in behind two Amish ladies in their horse-drawn buggy. When I came out of the store, another buggy was arriving, filled with eight Amish ladies!

I was very tired and frustrated by the time I reached Villanova. It was after sunset. Nigel took me through all kinds of residential neighborhoods and 35-mile speed limit roads to get here. Then I found the university, but I couldn’t find the buildings I needed and I couldn’t figure out where I was on the map! I drove and drove and drove. Finally I found a manned guard house (after nearly an hour) and the guard there was so helpful and friendly. At last I found Realm Makers, got signed in and assigned a room! It is surprisingly similar to the rooms we had in St. Louis last year, but these suites have an actual kitchen and living area so there is a good place to set up my tea making supplies for the benefit of my fellow tea drinkers here at the conference.

Now that I’ve somewhat recovered from my trip and had a cup of (decaf) tea, I’m able to look forward to the conference! I refuse to think about the three day drive back home yet . . .

 

Higher Ground

Higher Ground

Johnson Oatman Jr.

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain

Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Refrain

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

Refrain

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Refrain

 

I would really appreciate your prayers over the next three days as I “press on” toward my conference in Philadelphia.

The Lengthening List

My focus for today and tomorrow has to be on preparing for my next road trip, which also includes a writers’ conference, so this entry will be brief.

Yesterday we drove down from Wichita, Kansas, after spending the morning visiting Walter’s aunt, whom we hadn’t seen in 29 years, as far as we can remember. She lives in a very nice nursing home now where she is able to have her room set up with her own things. It was good to see her again after so many years!

Because we didn’t leave till after lunch, we got home very late. It was hard to get up and go to Walmart this morning! Since returning home I have been working on my ever-lengthening to-do list. So much to do before I can leave on Monday!

One of the things that needed to be done was laundry. The dryer, which has been screeching and rattling for some months now, picked today to die. Grrr! This means the “extra” money Walter made last month working projects will not be going into savings as planned. We have to have a dryer because Walter needs to wash mop heads every day. So after doing some research, Walter was ready to drive up to Sears and buy a new dryer. Except that the van died.

We had to wait for Spencer to get home so Walter could hitch the trailer up to the Suburban and then we finally made it to Sears before they closed and picked a bottom-of-the-line basic dryer. We’re not fancy around here!

Then, when we got it home, it turned out that the plug had to be rewired to fit our outlet. It sure is a good thing I’m married to Mr. Fix-it!

Now I can cross “write blog entry” off my list . . .

Two Days In South Dakota

In the time I have, the best I can do is a quick recap of the last two days. Yesterday we:

  • Visited a real ghost town and had fun walking around and taking photos.
  • Visited and explored Custer State Park. Saw exactly zero bison even after driving the route where you are “guaranteed” to see them.
  • Had a delicious lunch of German food in a nearby town
  • Went back to the park to drive the Needles Eye route
  • Stopped to visit Sylvan Lake and Mercy and Walter hiked around it.
  • Saw the Crazy Horse memorial from the road
  • Visited Mount Rushmore
  • Ate fabulous Indian food in Rapid City
  • Took Mercy shopping at Walmart
  • Arrived back at the ranch exhausted after 14 hours on the go, and after an incredible moonlit drive through the countryside.

Today was more laid back. Mercy had to work today, so Walter and I were on our own this morning. We drove to the Badlands National Park and spent some time learning about it in the visitor center before heading out to drive through the park. It was so stunning. So much rock. So much color. So much light. And today, so much heat. It was 105 degrees out there today! I was glad we could see and photograph most of it from the car, although we did get out to walk several times. We saw hundreds of prairie dogs. They are smaller than I imagined them. Despite seeing warning signs for bison in several places, we saw exactly zero bison. Everyone was surprised. Apparently they’re all over the place for everyone but us!

We were late getting back to the ranch for lunch, and then Mercy took us to the dam to show us where they go canoeing before driving us to the town of Wall to visit the famous drug store there. A tiny part of it is still a drugstore, though it doesn’t have much selection. It’s now a huge indoor tourist mall that takes up most of a city block. They average 20,000 visitors a day in the summer, and I think they were all there by the time we arrived!

There were a dizzying array of shops, from western clothing to tourist souvenirs, all kinds of food, rocks, jewelry, toys, camping gear, etc. There was even a lovely little chapel where weary travelers can stop to pray. Mercy insisted on buying a couple of the famous donuts and we tried the famous ice cream (good, but to Texan palates not as good as Blue Bell!). The famous free ice water was available in abundance and was very, very cold. Perfect for such a hot day. We saw the T-rex and heard him roar.

We also saw something else—a bison at last! True, he was dead and stuffed, but that just made it easier for us to pose for a photo with him.

I did not leave the store empty-handed. I found some things I needed and a few things I wanted too. It was a relief to get out of the crowded store and climb in the car for the long hot drive back to the ranch.

Mercy and her co-worker made us a fabulous supper and then Mercy and Walter went horseback riding at the invitation of a neighboring rancher. I wish I could have joined them, but I did not bring suitable clothing and am not of an ideal size, to be honest. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself. At least I got to see the sublimely beautiful full moon rise over the fringe of the badlands here on the ranch. Tomorrow: the first phase of the long drive home.

Yes, we have been taking photos. I won’t have the means to transfer them to my computer until I return home.

 

 

 

35 Years

Thirty-five years ago, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my husband and I got married. The officiating minister was my father-in-law. A lot has happened since then, of course, including seven children! This trip that we are on at the moment was the idea and the gift of our children, as a celebration of our anniversary.

We left yesterday morning, perhaps a bit later than we wanted to, after seeing the kids off to church. It was a long day in the car, driving first to Dallas and then heading north through Oklahoma and Kansas. We stopped for the night in York, Nebraska, where a room had been reserved for us. By then we had driven past a mind-boggling number of corn fields and grain silos.

This morning, it was back on the road past innumerable cornfields, with occasional soybeans thrown in for variety. Then, at last, the landscape began to change from crops to pastureland set on large rolling hills. Until today, we had never heard of the Sand Hills of Nebraska. They are so beautiful and lonesome-looking, and as I found out when I looked them up, for the most part they are a pristine ecosystem as the land is not suitable for growing crops.

Shortly after lunch we crossed into South Dakota. The landscape changed again as we drove along, now including gullies with water at the bottom and both bare and grassy buttes. There were miles and miles with no sign of human habitation other than the power lines which ran beside the road. Towns were tiny and the population size ran from 91 to a couple thousand. It was an enchanting drive, but I sure would hate to break down in such an isolated place!

We reached the ranch shortly after 3:00 this afternoon and Mercy was keeping a lookout for us. It sure was good to see her again! The view here is spectacular and we are looking forward to doing some sightseeing with Mercy tomorrow. Tonight, we had dinner with the ranch owners and their family and their other two summer workers. It is so fun to be exploring new territory! Walter and I have never been to Nebraska or South Dakota before.

 

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

35 years ago tomorrow, I was in church on a Saturday, walking with my dad down the aisle to the music of this hymn, which is still one of my favorites.

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

S. Trevor Francis

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

bride and groom

Perfectionism is a Cruel Mistress

I’ll admit this has been a tough week, and the last two days have been really hard, because I was driving myself to meet a self-imposed deadline, and things kept slowing me down.

Yesterday I sewed until time to meet my friend Robin for lunch. We had a good lunch and a good visit, but it went long enough that I had to cancel an errand I had planned to run, because I knew I really had to take a nap before driving to Waxahachie to pick up Lucy from ArtLife.

I had been told to pick her up at 7:00 as there would be no program this year. Secretly, I was relieved because that meant I would be home in time to get some sewing in before I went to bed. First I had to get there though. I was more than half an hour late due to a massive traffic jam caused by an accident on the interstate. I went two miles in half an hour!

Then, when I arrived, it turned out that there was a program after all, and Lucy’s part of it was already over! *sigh* I’m glad the kids got a chance to perform, but I’m sorry to say I couldn’t enjoy it because all I could think of was the sewing time I was losing. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, it was after 10:00 and I was in tears. I knew that all hope of making myself a costume for the banquet was lost. I’d be lucky to finish the cloak by tonight, and it HAD to be finished before dark so I could photograph it!

We made it home at about 12:40 a.m. and I just stayed in my clothes and slept on the couch for a while before getting up at 5:00 to sew some more before going to Walmart. Then I had to go to Walmart again when the pharmacy opened to get insulin for our trip, and after that it was all about sewing. The design I dreamed up over the last two years was very labor intensive. I went through two large spools of thread.

I wanted to quit sewing, because I was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but of course I could not quit because that would be failure. In my head, I believed the deadline had to be 7:30 at the latest, because there had to be enough daylight left to take pictures. (Since we are leaving in the morning, the cloak had to be finished and the photos taken before we go.)

I sewed and sewed and sewed. This is not the most labor-intensive cloak I’ve made–that honor goes to the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcloak–but it was certainly a great deal of effort, and I have no plans to ever make another one! Believe it or not, I finished with 30 minutes to spare and I commandeered Jasper to model the cloak so I could get the pictures up. He loved it and now wants one!

This cloak features the following:

Zippered arm openings that can be opened or closed as needed

Two knife/pen pockets

2 D-rings that you can clip your keys to

A large map pocket

A veil that hangs out of the way when not in use, but can be brought up to cover the wearer’s face

18 loops that can be used to turn the cloak into a shelter of some sort

2 rod pockets so you can use a staff or sword hilt to hold up one end of the cloak

8 narrow pockets containing lightweight aluminum tent stakes

2 pockets which each contain 30 feet of military grade paracord

So why did I go to all this trouble? I donate a cloak to the raffle every year but I’ve never put so much effort into it before–and am unlikely to do so again! Sure, I hope it brings in a lot of scholarship money, but the real reason I did it was for the creative challenge. I had the idea two years ago and spent the intervening time puzzling out how to make each feature work and planning the design. I literally spent hundreds of hours thinking about this cloak. Now the process is complete. I dreamed up the design and then I made it work! That’s what I enjoy.

Tomorrow, we leave for South Dakota and spend the night in a state we’ve never been to before–Nebraska!

Some cloak photos, for those of you who don’t have access to the Facebook album.

DA 3

The cloak from the outside. A lot of the stitching shows on the outside, but it couldn’t be helped.

DA 15

Pocket contents–paracord, knife, tent stakes

DA 17

The whole cloak spread out, showing the inside and all the loops.