Books And Gardens

When I’m not writing, my favorite thing to do is to garden. I inherited this love of plants and planting (and even weeding) honestly from a long line of fine gardeners on both sides of my family. As my husband will attest, I can spend hours happily looking at plants and flowers in a garden nursery…which is actually where we met!

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The back yard of my new home has nothing but grass, so I’m itching to begin digging in the dirt to create a flower garden. I’ve chosen a spot and made a rough garden plan but haven’t yet had the free time to get started outside.

My great-grandmother’s gardening book. It was published in 1960.

The parallels between my two favorite pastimes have not escaped me. Both writing books and planting gardens involve creating something new (and hopefully, beautiful) out of nothing but ideas and inspiration. I like this kind of challenge because it’s exciting to begin and not know where the journey will take me or even what I will have at the end.

Garden plans are a lot like book outlines. You begin with an idea and start working and new ideas evolve as you go. Often, those ideas turn into something even better than you originally imagined.

When I was turning my first story, “The Button Box” into a book, I had a hazy picture in my mind of how I wanted it to look. As I worked with my friend and illustrator, Vicki Guess, on the book, the picture gradually came into focus. At one point, I told Vicki that I saw realistic pictures in the original crayon colors for my story. I even gave her a box of the basic eight at one of our monthly work meetings.

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As the book progressed and I began working with the graphic designer on the layout, we tried different fonts for the story until we found the one that seemed to fit the best. The original checked background on the book cover was actually in blue, but we decided it wasn’t quite right. I think the tan check is the perfect background and actually highlights the pictures.

In June, Vicki and I will begin work on our fourth book together. I’m currently writing two stories but neither one is finished. I’m not sure yet which one will be the next book, but that’s part of the fun of the process!

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As winter comes to an end and we are on the threshold of spring (at least in Texas), I feel the seeds of ideas that I’ve been tossing around since the fall, begin to take shape. Spring reminds us that each ending is a new beginning. It’s seems appropriate that it’s springtime…the season of hope and rebirth…as I prepare to create both a new book and a new garden!

Happy Easter!

Can You Imagine?

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a huge movie buff. Last night, my husband and I saw the new movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s the personal story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian rock band, MercyMe.

Bart’s song, “I Can Only Imagine” is the best-selling Christian single of all time and it crossed over onto the pop and country charts as well after its release in 2001.  If you’ve heard the song, and I bet you have, you know it’s a soaring ballad that begins with a haunting piano intro.

The song is powerful, and the incredible true-story that inspired it is both difficult and riveting to watch.  I cried during parts of the movie and I wanted to get as far away as possible from the screen during others.  This is a movie that will stay with me for awhile.  If you see it, take some tissues.

Bart wrote “I Can Only Imagine” after the death of his abusive father when he was struggling with his loss and the idea of what happens when one dies and stands before God in Heaven. In the days after his father’s death, he found himself writing the words, “I can only imagine” whenever he was thinking of his dad. One night in the early morning hours, he wrote the song in about ten minutes.

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Creativity is a way for us to make sense and create meaning in our lives out of our ideas and experiences. Most of the things that are interesting, important and beautiful in life, are a result of someone’s creativity.

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We are all a product of our pasts…our upbringing, our experiences, and the people we have known. It takes a special kind of person who can take their own big personal pain and spin it into the inspiration to create something really beautiful for others.

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“I Can Only Imagine” is a powerful reminder of this creativity and of the transforming power of God’s grace.

Author’s note: Bart Millard grew up in Greenville, Texas.  He is still the lead singer of MercyMe and they now have ten albums. “I Can Only Imagine” was their first single from their first album.

Four Years And Counting!

Four years ago, on March 14, 2014, I started this blog. My very first post was entitled, “Write Me A Letter” and was about how nice it is to receive a hand-written letter in the mail. I went back and reread the post and it sounds like one I might still write today. I did notice that I add a lot more pictures to my posts now than I did in my first year.

Since that first post, I’ve written 187 more. During the last four years, I’ve had 65,000 views of my blog. I’m delighted that so many of you have been regular readers. Thank you for that!

I love writing this blog and I’m thrilled that my readership is still growing after four years! I also love the comments about my blog posts…thank you to all who take the time to comment.

My top ten most popular blog posts (by number of views) over the past four years have been:

1. Where Exactly Is The Mason-Dixon Line?
2. Do Drink The Water (This is my top post for comments)
3. The Kissing Bridges
4. Guess What Happened 95 Years Ago?
5. Whatever Happened To S & H Green Stamps?
6. Mumming, Souling, Guising, and Trick-Or-Treating
7. A Rose-Colored View Of Depression Glass
8. Patchwork Memories
9. Is Kindness Important?
10. Don’t Lose Your Marbles!

These are some of my personal favorites as well, but I would add to them my other favorite posts:

“To Everything There Is A Season” about my son’s wedding day.

“Not Your Grandmother’s Mason Jars” about how I use the Mason Jars I inherited from my grandmother.

“Road Trip…I-70 Exit 129” about an opportunity my husband and I had to help complete strangers one day while we were traveling.

“It’s How We Roll” about the not so long-ago history of the invention of toilet paper.

“Smith Corona” about the much longed-for typewriter I received for my 18th birthday. I posted it in typewriter font just for fun!

My blog is not fancy or sophisticated but hopefully, it’s well written. It’s about every-day things that we all deal with from time to time, and stories from my own life that I think might interest, or have value for others.

One day, a friend said, “I notice you never write about anything political or controversial in your blog posts.” She’s right. I deliberately steer clear of the political and controversial because there’s enough of that out there. Could I write that way? Of course, I could. I have opinions just like everyone else. But I choose to stay positive and as I said when I started this blog:

It’s my goal to give you something to think about as you go through your day. I hope to make you chuckle and I hope you occasionally say to yourself, “I didn’t know that” when I’ve written about something new to you.

As I begin year five of my blog, thank you to all who have walked down the lane with me. I hope I’ve made you chuckle from time to time and also given you some food for thought!

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Read Early And Often

I had the privilege of reading my latest book for children at a school last Friday, March 2nd. It was national Read Across America Day. This annual celebration of reading, is sponsored by the National Education Association and is held every year on the birthday of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

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Reading for kids is one of my favorite activities as an author. As a kid, I was the one who always had a book in my hand and would check out as many books as they would allow at my local library. As an author, it is my goal to spread my love of books and stories to as many children as I can.

A recent study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that was published in the August 2015 issue of Pediatrics Magazine, found that reading to 3- to 5-year-old children helps in literary and language development. The study found that preschool children who were read to by their parents and other caregivers, had the parts of their brains activated which help with mental imagery and the understanding of narrative…both keys in the development of literacy and language.

Dr. Seuss Quote Print Classroom poster or nursery by SSDdesign

One of my earliest memories, was being read to by my mother. We would curl up together against the pillows on my bed and read a chapter every night. I remember hearing “Heidi” and “Black Beauty” and “Charlotte’s Webb” and “The Secret Garden.” Later, we moved on to the Little House books, “Little Women” and Nancy Drew. By then, I was old enough to read for myself, but it was a time together that we both enjoyed and weren’t eager to give up.

As a parent, I loved reading to my own children. I read to my sons together, but my daughter was seven years younger, so they were both reading on their own by the time I began reading to her. I remember one night I read two books to her before I tucked her in. As I left her bedroom, I found both of my sons sitting against the wall outside her room. They had quietly come down the hall to listen to me read to their sister.

In addition to fostering language and literary development, reading to children creates nurturing relationships between parents and children. It also creates shared points of reference and memories and often (as in my case) a life-long love of reading. What a gift for both children and their parents!

I’ve already had the delightful opportunity to read for my grandson, Graham. I’m hopeful that I will be able to do that a lot more in his young life!

Author’s note: Last Friday was the 114th birthday of Dr. Seuss. If you have ever wondered where the “Seuss” came from, it was his middle name…Theodor Seuss Geisel. He added the “Dr.” to his name because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine.

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