A Gift of Time by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1Lately it seems as though I am simply surviving. I move from one task to the next with little ability or energy to plan beyond the next deadline or responsibility. I have been sick the last week or so, a cold that just won’t go away, but it’s more than that. I’m the one who plans for holidays and birthdays weeks or more in advance yet this Valentine’s Day I shopped for a little something for my daughter the night before. I don’t like living from one chore to the next but I can’t seem to get caught up enough to shift into a more thoughtful, intentional mode.

This issue has nagged at me for a few days because one of my closest friends, Jodi, had a birthday yesterday. We are celebrating together today and I want to do something to let her know how important she is to me. We met at the public pool when both of our daughters were around four or so. We clicked immediately and moved beyond the pool to having play-dates. It quickly became clear that while we were becoming friends, our daughters were not as compatible, so we ditched the kids play date but have made it a mission to have breakfast or lunch together one day a month during the school year. We’ve been doing this consistently since the girls started friendshipkindergarten, so it’s been about eight years.

Jodi is awesome because she supports me in everything I’m up to, gives great advice, and knows we can disagree on certain issues (mostly politics) without having it be personal. We both have busy lives and just knowing she’s there for me, as I am for her, is all we need. We don’t chat on the phone or spend lots of time together, but we know if we need anything, help, support, understanding, or just someone to say it’s okay, the other will be there – no questions asked.

For my birthday in September, Jodi made me a bag of gifts based on a blog I wrote. She filled it with several different things that she really enjoys and wanted to share with me. I was touched that she had read the blog but also that she put so much thought and effort into my gift.

And this leads me back to my issue of moving from one task to another. I want to do something as thoughtful for her as she did for me. CIMG1630This isn’t about a competition; I just want her to feel as special on her birthday as she made me feel on mine.

We are meeting at a French restaurant we like for her birthday lunch and I have purchased a few things that are “her” but they don’t feel special enough. I wanted something that was thoughtful and was a gift of effort as well as a “thing.” Then I knew what to do.

Yesterday I spent a good part of my time making home-made yeast bread. I used the recipe my paternal Erin_18AUG1977_Youth_Fairgrandmother baked almost every weekend and which she passed on to my mother. I earned “Best in Show” with a loaf I made from this recipe at the county fair when I was in High School. One of my best childhood memories is the smell of this bread baking in the oven. My own daughter loves this bread as much as I do, and can’t wait for it to cool before cutting a thick slice and slathering it with butter.

So, I am giving Jodi the time and effort that I used to make her something that’s both tasty and a piece of my history. I know she’ll appreciate the gift for all that it is and hope that it conveys what a gift she is in my life.

Some friends are just worth the extra effort.

Learn more about me at:

http://www.erinfarwell.com
https://www.facebook.com/erin.farwell.5
https://www.amazon.com/author/erinfarwell
http://www.goodreads.com/Erin50
http://www.pinterest.com/erinfarwell

ShadowlandsAHE New Cover8149g0+Rz-L._SL1500_

New Year Brings New Goals and an Uncertain But Hopeful Future

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

Looking back on my goals for 2014 recently I realized I didn’t attain as much as I’d hoped. Yet, despite what I thought and planned to attain, new opportunities and possibilities did emerge, and I walked those pathways. Another new year is upon us, and though we never know the future, we can continue striving toward goals, old and new, revived and updated.

For example, last year I had hopes of securing new children’s magazines for which to write. I received several rejections on various articles and by the time I thought I’d re-write, re-submit, and re-think topics and queries, I received three new assignments in addition to the four already given to me by WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News). I also continued my article writing for the Casper Journal newspaper, and, starting in July, my pet column ran EVERY WEEK in another newspaper (I’m used to writing one a month for two other publications). Plus, I gleaned two additional feature articles for Crossroads magazine, published by the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Chamber of Commerce (I wrote two articles for them in 2013). So, whereas I envisioned writing for children’s magazines, I received instead various other opportunities with an array of publications.

WREN  Mag

Now that 2015 has risen like a new day’s sun, I anticipate new opportunities and new pathways once again. I’m cutting back on submitting to the Casper Journal; WREN has assigned me only three articles for the entire year (though that may change); my weekly pet column is dormant for at least a few months while the newspaper undergoes layout and management changes; and I won’t know about Crossroads until mid-year. But, what I looked upon at first as negative I’ve now re-focused to the positive. I’ve been contacted and contracted by a state senator to write new releases and ghostwrite a few guest editorials for him. I’ve also been asked to contribute at least two stories on veterans for a special Wyoming Veteran’s project. So, not all my freelance opportunities have disappeared; new ones have emerged.

Baby New YearEven though there aren’t as many freelance gigs this new year as last, there is advantage to this more “quiet time”: ability to re-focus on my books as well as help my husband with some writing projects for his business. I now have five manuscripts in progress (including that pet rescue romance started a few months ago), and I am determined to finish them. Two manuscripts that I started more than three years ago simply need to be reviewed and edited as I completed the drafts in 2013 and just left them on the shelf because I wasn’t sure which publishing direction I wanted to go and 2014 became very busy. I am two-thirds of the way done with two others (both children’s books), and the pet romance is still in its infancy since I didn’t write as much during November’s NaNoWriMo as I had hoped. So, I have new writing goals for 2015, and I am excited to see where these stories, projects, and new pathways (including developing an emailed newsletter for my husband’s Alzheimer’s video business) take me.

How about you? What do you hope the new year has in store for you, personally and professionally? What are some of the goals and hopes you have for 2015 and into the future?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! And, HAPPY WRITING!

Happy New Year

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the August 2014 dog book The Dog Did What?. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Walking_FrontCover_small   SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small

Not so… great expectations

For CCThis blog is by Nancy Jardine

Four days to go…till Christmas Day!

Anticipation is what drives a lot of people round about now if they celebrate by giving gifts to family and friends. The anticipation in our house is high already and is likely to escalate during the next few days.

The Christmas tree has been up and decorated for eight days and the piles of wrapped gifts which are appearing beneath it, on a daily basis, are looking quite decadently generous – even though we declared we weren’t going to go overboard this year with too many gifts.

The wrapping papers are bright and colourful to cheer us up and to banish the winter chills outside. Come Christmas morning, our happiest moments are when we distribute the gifts as we sit around the tree. The very act of excitedly unwrapping those items brings back so many memories for me – of mostly good times and one not so good from my past.

Earlier this week I wrote a Christmas-themed short story as my contribution to a six week long Christmas extravaganza organised via my publisher – Crooked Cat publishing. Many of our authors are contributing a fictional story; posts that are non- fiction; and poems. This FREE writing can be accesssed through our special ‘Christmas With The Crooked Cats’ Facebook group page. ( Click here if interested in reading something new https://www.facebook.com/groups/737252102990447/ )

Reading something new at Christmas stuck in my mind, so much so that I decided to make it the writing theme of my blog post here today. I wrote another short story this week as a special gift to my fellow Wranglers, to thank you for your unfailing support. The one ‘less good’ Christmas time in my past could have remained a repressed story in my memory banks, but it hasn’t. Once started though, I couldn’t stop writing. It was a trip down a particular memory lane and at over five thousand words, it’s a little long to be here on the Wranglers blog. Instead of clogging up below… I’ve posted the whole story on my own blog to share with everyone. Here’s the beginning as a teaser…

(I’m adding a URL for Kate who nated to hear what the carol sounds like:

Not so… great expectations

Friday, 23rd December, 1960

Sometimes it was really difficult to go home. Even harder than leaving to go to school in the morning.

‘Enjoy your Monday off school next week and remember what Christmas Day is all about.” Mrs Locky never wasted unnecessary breath when the class was all lined up and ready to go home.

At precisely four o’clock, on the ring of the huge brass hand bell, Wee Missy forged her way out through the throngs as she exited Broadholm Primary School Annexe where there were a couple of overspill classrooms. Her class was one of the unfortunate ones in that it was housed in a decrepit and ancient old building, the school roll being too large for all of the pupils to be housed in the new school building. However, there was nothing to be done but suffer the situation for a whole school year.

‘In the bleak mid-winter…’ The words of the Christmas Carol they’d sung that afternoon refused to go away as Wee Missy said a fast farewell to some of her classmates. She felt utterly bleak about it but she couldn’t avoid going home. Sunday was Christmas Day but she knew that it wasn’t going to be a cheerful one for her. The events of last week were going to catch up with her come Christmas Day. She stifled the tears as she waved goodbye to her best friend June.

She’d been too ashamed to share her secret with anyone but keeping silent about it was so awful as well.

‘Frosty winds made moan…’ It was far too glacial to hang about as she scurried further into her scarf and tucked down her chin, the sky a dull leaden grey that heralded more snow…

Christmas is definitely for surprises – but are they always nice ones? Click HERE if you would like to read the whole story of my ‘Not so…great expectations.’

I’ll take the opportunity now to wish you all – contributors of this blog and readers of this blog – a very happy holiday season whether you celebrate in a religious way or in a secular form.

***

Nancy Jardine writes Historical Romantic Adventures and Contemporary Mysteries for the older generations. She also writes time-travel adventure for the Young Adult market.

Find her work on:

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Amazon US author page ;

Barnes and Noble

Crooked Cat Bookstore

Smashwords

and other ebook outlets.

Nancy can be found at her Website; Blog: Facebook and many other social media places.

The Greatest Gift

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

When I was three years old, it was a doll called “Miss Peep.” When I was eight, it was a bicycle painted in my favorite color (purple!), complete with a handle-barred white basket with pink and purple flowers. When I was 19, it was an engagement ring. When I was 25, it was my bachelor’s degree and my first job as a writer for a newspaper. Each time I thought, “This is the greatest gift!”

Miss Peep doll

Dolls come apart, bicycles get traded, engagements are broken (mine due to his infidelity and subsequent departure to marry someone else), papers dull, and jobs change (although I am still a writer). During the Christmas season, we’re bombarded by ads to BUY, BUY, BUY, and kids beg and whine to their parents to get them “the greatest gift.” We’re led to believe we need more stuff, bigger, stronger, faster … made to feel we can’t live without the latest gadget, largest TV, or fastest car. But, gadgets give out, TVs go on the fritz, and cars get T-boned. And, even with what we do have left when our time on earth is finished, as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you” … or as John Ortberg so succinctly says in his book, “it all goes back in the box.”

Gifts are amazing. The saying goes, “Your life is a gift from God; what you make of it is your gift to Him.” A recent sermon at my church spoke to that, mostly in the form of our work and our volunteerism. The minister reminded us work is a gift – whether we work outside or inside the home. We’re blessed to use our talents, to positively impact people, and to make a wage to pay bills … or not make a wage and serve/care for our families.

Gayle_ChrisjpgGifts also come to us in the forms of talents and abilities. Whether one has the gift of music, the gift of hospitality, the gift of managing, the gift of writing – each one is important and wonderful; I appreciate those traits in people. Again, our gifts/talents are from God and what we do with them is our gift to Him (and to others).

Gifts of material things, such as diamond jewelry, candy, flowers, a car – those are wonderful as well. I appreciate the gifts my family and friends give me on my birthday, for no “special reason,” and for Christmas. But, it’s not the “stuff” that makes me smile as much as the love and care with which those gifts are given. The relationships, those family members and friends, are gifts themselves. Recently my husband gave me the gift of taking our little family (us and the two dogs) to our mountain cabin. He had spent the previous weekend snow-blowing and plowing our long driveway from the main road to the cabin. This hasn’t been done in recent years because the blower/plow needed repair and we didn’t have the money to fix it. He spent two long afternoons ensuring we could drive in to the property so that our nearly 17-year-old Cody dog could go with us and not have to walk (or be carried). We spent a delightful, sunny Sunday afternoon basking in the beauty that is our mountain hideaway, and though I’m not much of a snow or winter person anymore, the majesty of brilliant blue, sunny skies, peace and quiet, and the aura of Christmas delighted my heart and relaxed my spirit. That was a special gift of love he gave me (plus, Greg enjoys winter much more than I do! But I still greatly appreciated the gift of his time spent making the trek possible and the time we shared eating soup, reading, and simply enjoying the scenery).

Cabin_back sideThe gift of love is the greatest gift, and during this Christmas season I’m reminded of the greatest gift of all – the love my Heavenly Father bestowed, giving his one and only Son, so that, as Scripture says, “whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.”

Christmas isn’t just packages under a tree, festive light displays on the lawn, or mistletoe above the doorway (although those are nice) – Christmas is love from friends family and the One who Created us. Christmas is loved wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager … then, 33 years later, dying on a cross and rising from the grave. Without Christ there is no “Christ-mas”, it’s just another day. The greatest gift of all is Jesus – He is love … and mercy … and hope … and so much more. I pray we each unwrap that precious present, the greatest gift of all – the very Love of God, which was given to each one of us that first Christmas, a present from the past that continues into the future, given to us every day.

Nativity movie scene

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Walking_FrontCover_small

Black Friday

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Black Friday. We begin to hear the never-ending commercials for the event in October and November.   Somehow Thanksgiving gets shoved aside as people eagerly anticipate the biggest shopping day of the year. I am not a fan, and here’s why.

You can read more about Black Friday HERE.

In my day (I’m sounding like an old lady again) Thanksgiving was a revered holiday.dinner It originated with early settlers of America and the Indians who owned the land coming together to make peace. As the day’s popularity grew, it became a time for reflection, thankfulness for our world,  families, the food on our tables, and most importantly, a God who loved us. No store was open in my Thanksgivings of the past. The whole world took a break to be thankful and it was almost as if time stopped for 24 hours while we counted our blessings. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and then helped Mom get things ready. We usually had cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone my turkeyfolks thought needed companionship. After eating our fill, the kids would run outside to play Duck, Duck, Goose in the snow. We played until we were wet and half-frozen but when we came in to dry off there was pumpkin pie! At the end of a special day with relatives and friends, I always felt full of love. At dinner we each said something we were thankful for before my Dad led us in prayer to bless the meal.

Read more about the 1st Thanksgiving HERE and HERE

Read about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade HERE

prayer

Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together to reminisce. The table is laden with food and everyone goes home with leftovers to enjoy later.

Enter Black Friday. It has commercialized Thanksgiving, but I harbor no bad feelings for those who love it. My sister, her three girls (whose husbands care for their children), a cousin and a few friends leavesnowroad immediately after the Thanksgiving meal is over and drive to Green Bay, WI, where they have secured motel rooms. Since my sister lives in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, they are only a 2-½ hour drive from Green Bay. They love the time together and although I’m always invited, I politely decline. It’s not my cup of tea. The entourage checks into their rooms and go out as soon pajamasas the sales start, often in their pajamas. They shop the sales they want and go back to the motel to sleep for a while. They do more shopping the next morning, then head to Appleton to catch the sales there. Another night in their Green Bay Motel and they’re on their way home, their cars laden down so much that the tires groan under the weight.moreshops

It’s not that I hate to shop that I don’t go along. Give me a music store, a bookstore,a fabric shop, or a yarn shop and I’ll make haste to get there.  Just not on Black Friday.  It makes no sense to me to stand in long lines for something that will probably be sold malleatout by the time your turn comes. I like to rest the day after Thanksgiving, often sewing or reading before hubby and I tackle the leftovers. I contemplate the life God has given me and the blessings I sometimes forget to count. I’m not fond of crowds of people pushing and shoving their way through stores, trying find a parking space, and waiting in the food court to get something to keep you sewinggoing. That being said, I love the stories my sister brings back about the wonderful deals they got and I’m very glad they have a good time together.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think of Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful; a day of rest and relaxation with family you may not have seen for a while. When I was working I protected Black Friday, because it was an extra day I could do something I wanted to do but never had time for.

What do you think about Black Friday? Are you a lover, a hater, or ambivalent? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

 

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You can read about the origin and rules of Duck, Duck, Goose HERE

Watch a video of the game HERE

 

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

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Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared The Fortune Teller Book Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

 

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

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13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

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You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews

Twitter

LinkedIn

Goodreads

Google+

 

Relishing Summer

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis blog post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

During summer it’s easy to “relish” – watermelon, apples, ice cream, ice tea, the occasional strawberry daiquiri or margarita (or both!): all quench a parched throat, dry from summer’ warmth.

But, there are other things to “relish” as well these days: the season itself with respite from snow and cold; hikes and walks in woodland splendor; laughter of children; companionship of family and friends – treasures of summer’s majesty.

Writers Group at CabinI’ve been fortunate to relish – and revel in – many things this season, like cabin solitude and cabin time shared with family and friends, including my parents, and good friends such as my writer’s group just a few weeks ago; and the spider-webbing of my writing through new magazine and blog opportunities, several of which will be published this fall. I recently received the new copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? and had my first sales of the book last Friday! I spoke at a library and senior center in a town about 90 miles south of Casper and connected with more dog people, and later this month I travel to Colorado to speak at the Fort Collins Senior Center. I relish these opportunities to share uplifting presentations with a call to action – to help animal rescue groups in the area. During this particular weekend I will continue my travel south to New Mexico, to visit a friend I’ve known more than 35 years, and then drive back north with a stop in Colorado Springs to visit places I’ve not seen, like Garden of the Gods and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I’m also planning to share dinner with Doris McGraw!

TetonsIn July I spent time with another friend, someone I’ve known about 30 years, when he and his family visited Teton National Park, therefore, I was fortunate to return to a lovely part of my state: Jackson, the Tetons, Yellowstone National Park. My parents visited at the end of July, and in September my father and I will visit national parks in Utah as well as the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to a few of these places; my dad never has. At 78 years of age, he’s put this trip on his “bucket list,” and I will “relish” sharing this vacation – and nature’s grandeur – with him.

I relish writing, speaking, travel, knowledge, my pets, family, and friends.

Many people make relish from summer gardens – I remember my mother doing that for years. I am neither a cook nor a gardener so my “relish” is a savoring of life’s sweetness when certain opportunities come my way: enjoyment of friends and family; sharing my passions, talents, and gifts in a variety of ways; and creating memories … and anticipating more in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

What “sweetness” will you be relishing soon? SAVOR!!

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Gayle with book buyerGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What? to be released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, Douglas Budget, and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

Walking_FrontCover_small       Dog Devotion Book_Cover_FinalChicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover    Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014    SageBigAdventureFront-small     SageLearnsShareFront-small

Gifts – Not Just Pretty Packages

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

Gift – the word conjures up images of brightly wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December – or small, white boxes adorned with a colorful bow and containing a beautiful gemstone.

christmas tree with packagesBut, gifts don’t always come in pretty packages or contain expensive jewelry. In fact, if you’re Fred Flintstone, a gift is a bowling ball or vacuum cleaner! Seriously, though, gifts are people, even things, that brighten our lives. Gifts are treasures, large or small, that sparkle in our hearts, within our eyes, and on our faces.

Friendship is a gift. Whether down the street or across the country, those people in our lives whom we call friends bring us joy, encourage us, and uplift us.

Parents and GayleLove is a gift. Spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren … all are a source of love, and they, too, bring us joy, give us encouragement, and uplift our spirits.

Health is a gift, noticed especially when we lack it.

Music is a gift. Some people have it, others don’t … but we all can enjoy it because the plethora of genres speak to various hearts and souls.

Writing is a gift … nearly ditto as with music.

One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:7: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s a gentle reminder of Who bestows my gifts of friendship, love, health, writing, and music (what I enjoy listening to, not my actual singing or playing – God didn’t grant me THAT gift!). God has blessed me with numerous friends, a loving family, good health (despite the Ding Dong and Oreo binges!), work, including my writing career, and loyal, delightful pets.

Cody_dog parkThis month I celebrate several gifts. On June 10th, my cocker spaniel Cody turns 16 years of age. Greg and I adopted Cody when he was nearly 10 years old – he came to our local Humane Society as a cast-off stud dog. Older canines are adopted less often even if they are small purebreds. One look into those mournful Spaniel eyes and I knew, though he may not live but a few years, we were meant to give him a home. It’s been six years, and they’ve been great years! Cody is one of my life’s best gifts!

My parents are another. They celebrate 54 years of marriage on June 17th. I’m an only child and I love and respect my parents immensely. Because of them, I appreciate nature, and I’m a writer.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningJune 6 – 8 is the Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference. This will be my seventh year attending writers’ conferences. Although I began writing at a young age, thanks to college and conferences, as well as experience, practice, and rejection, I am published in newspapers, magazines, and books. Writing is both a wonderful gift and a great challenge, but I LOVE doing it!

Because of writing, my friendship circle has expanded – that, too, is a great gift!

Good, perfect, simple gifts – from a colorful sunrise to the paw on my lap, from a loving hug to the writing paycheck … though they may not come in beautifully-wrapped packages, each one is a blessing I genuinely appreciate!

As the Shaker song, Simple Gifts, says:

‘Tis the gift to be simple
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight …

View this lovely song sung by the men’s ensemble Cantus on YouTube:

 

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as the Casper Journal, Douglas Budget, and River Press newspapers. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small      SageLearnsShareFront-small       Walking_FrontCover_small       Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

Through My Daughter’s Eyes by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1I love plans. I like to know what is coming up and what I need to do about it. I make weekly to do lists with some tasks to be performed on specific days and other just listed as it doesn’t matter when I complete them as long as I get them done. This helps me feel like I am accomplishing something even if it is just grocery shopping or cleaning the cat litter box. I can cross the task off the list as “done” and this is a good thing.

Since “the flood,” which I say as though it were of biblical proportions, making and keeping plans and schedules have been nearly impossible. The house is slowly coming together and we can now use the kitchen. The office is still in the bedroom but the television has moved back downstairs. Every task from painting to setting up a book-case takes longer than expected and unforeseen problems crop up like mushrooms in the rain.

Now we have two weeks left of school, I have a jewelry/book event up in Michigan over Memorial Day weekend, and a clay camp for eight to twelve-year-olds to teach the Tuesday through Friday after Memorial Day. I am stressed, worried, and unsettled.

And I have a blog to write.

I planned to discuss the treasure hunt that has been a part of my life since strangers packed my kitchen after the flood, but then something magical happened: Mother’s Day.

When Willow was young I received crayoned pictures, thumb-printed flower pots, and painted birdhouses. I cherish them and keep them safe, these mementos of a CIMG1462child past. As she’s grown older she still makes me a card every year and shops with my husband to get me something special.

This year Mike purchased soaps and body wash and made me bath salts, all designed to help manage my stress. Willow assisted by putting these things in a pretty basket that was a joy to receive, as was his hand-made card.

Willow also made me a card but she did so much more. She also created a “World’s Best Mom” certificate which she mounted on pretty paper. Then she gave an amazing gift. A jar that held scraps of paper on which she wrote all the reasons she loves me.

Some of these reasons are funny and sweet, like the fact that I take her shopping or that I am just awesome in general. Others are based on how I treat her:

• You listen to me
• You help me with homework
• You protect me
• You are always so happy when I come homeCIMG1464
• You help me fix my problems
• You take care of me
• You save my ipod/phone when I almost lose it
• You give me what I need
• You love me
• You are the perfect mom for me

My heart melted a bit with each slip of paper that I read. I told her I might cry. She asked me not to but I could tell she was pleased at how much I loved her gift. It is clear she understands that I am in her corner no matter what. I know she is on the right path when she says that I give her what she needs versus what she wants. This is a big difference and one she appreciates.

While these statements were wonderful, what astounded me was what she wrote about how she sees me:

• You are creative
• You are supportive and kind
• You are respectful, honest, and braveCIMG1459
• You can tell when someone needs help
• You are very smart
• You are a great author
• You are very forgiving
• You are daring
• You are inspiring
• You try to find solutions for problems
• You are beautiful inside and out

I am awed and humbled that she sees these qualities in me when I sometimes I can’t see them myself. I trust that she knows these traits are a part of her as well. If not, I am here to remind her, just as she did for me.

Nothing in my life has changed since I opened that jar and read the neat penmanship on the colorful slips of paper. There are still deadlines, obligations, post-disaster construction, and the general messy process of life. But my heart is lighter as I see myself through her eyes, for I am brave and daring. I am supportive and kind. I am the perfect mom for her.

You can learn more about me at:

http://www.erinfarwell.com
https://www.facebook.com/erin.farwell.5
https://www.amazon.com/author/erinfarwell
http://www.goodreads.com/Erin50
http://www.pinterest.com/erinfarwell/

Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.inddAHE New Cover

 

Reflections: Looking Back and Moving Ahead

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last week another year passed, and I turned 53. I recall being told antiques are things that are 50+ years old, so I guess I’m now an official antique!

I took a few moments on my birthday to reflect upon my life. Some memories weren’t the best: hurt from past relationships, including work-related associations, death of beloved friends and family … but other memories were wonderful: camping and fishing trips with my parents, walking the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree, visiting the ocean for the first time, listening to elk bugle on a September night in Yellowstone Park with geysers flaring toward a starry sky, sharing food and fodder with girlfriends, my wedding day with Greg… Then of course, there are the publications: articles in newspapers and magazines, stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the books and booksignings as well as the school visits with Sage. Memories, good and not-so-good, can roll in like a tidal wave.

School Kids_Mary
Gayle and Mary at school.

My “special day” can be a bummer because Sage died the day before my birthday, two years ago. In fact, I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad last year, but this year, though I could have traveled down that same sad trail, I found myself in a classroom of kindergarteners with Mary, the springer spaniel Greg and I adopted last year. I talked with the kids about taking care of pets, about Mary and her story of losing her special person, and of Sage’s passing – then I read my book Sage Learns to Share. We talked about how special our pets are and how they help us. Even with Sage’s passing, she still impacts kids with lessons of friendship, courage, perseverance, and acceptance of differences … and I smile despite the fact I still miss her greatly. Having Mary helps, and I’m thankful she’s as good with kids as Sage was – the kids can learn from both dogs simultaneously, and I get to be part of that – what an amazing journey!

Friendship was evident in my human relationships as well last week, as many friends sent me wonderful greetings, and my colleagues at the office gave me roses and wrote encouraging words on a lovely card. True friendship is an amazing gift!

BDayRoses 2014My husband, too, gave me a beautiful card and made me a special dinner, and we watched my favorite TV show together with the dogs between us. My cup-of-life truly overflowed!

I called my parents and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: I thanked them for being such supportive, loving parents, for setting my feet on a good path, and for always being there to cheer me on and to catch me when I fall. The three of us were choked up as I hung up the phone. I give my husband credit for this part – he wrote his parents a wonderful, loving letter last fall to thank them for raising him (and his siblings) as they did. His words touched their hearts … and mine, and prompted me to do something similar. I thought a phone call on my birthday was appropriate – and I guess it was.

As we get older, we have more things to look back on – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Hopefully, we won’t dwell so much on the bad and the ugly, but instead will cherish the good and the beautiful. We can’t change the past, and we don’t always have control of the future, but we do have the present – opportunity to relish the blessings we experience, and when we do reflect, we can focus on those beautiful, good things in our lives.

Grandma Mardy2
Grandma Mardy at 91 years old.

My maternal grandmother’s birthday was exactly a week after mine; April 1 will mark 115 years since her birth. Grandma Mardy, a stout German woman, died at age 91. Like Sage, she lived a persevering life, surviving the Depression, running a store and then a farm, and living nearly 24 years longer than her husband. She took her first plane ride when she was 80 and her third, and final one, at age 85. She possessed a strong faith and a fierce love for her only child (my mother) and her only grandchild (me). We shared many dinners at home and in our Iowa town, and when she came west to visit, I was able to share Yellowstone with her. Wonderful memories of a great lady … and great times together! She didn’t get to see me walk across that stage to receive my bachelor’s degree in communication, she never saw one of my newspaper articles or books, nor did she ever meet Sage or Mary, but she helped me with school expenses and encouraged my passion for pets – and because of my Grandma Mardy I finished my degree and eventually became an author of dog books and stories.

My latest birthday is now in my rear view mirror, but my freelance career is just beyond the windshield … and I have many people, and circumstances, to thank – the good and beautiful as well as the bad and the ugly … I wouldn’t be where I am today without them all.

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNook

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Learns to Share, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazines as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses, writing more magazine articles, and authoring additional books. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Walking_FrontCover_small

Merry Christmas 2013

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s here.  Christmas Day, the day we have been planning for all year.  Gifts are open and it’s nearly time for Christmas Dinner.  Can’t you smell the spicy aroma of ham cooking in the oven with pineapples pierced with cloves and basted with brown sugar and pineapple syrup?file0001795692878  Don’t you just love the sounds of the children oohing and aahing over their gifts?  Can’t you feel the love that abounds this time of the year with family and friends?

You sit in the midst of a floor strewn with wrapping paper and a jumble of toys, sweaters, and other things you handpicked for everyone.  You think about Christmases past, when it wasn’t all about the latest toy or hippest clothes everyone let you know they wanted for Christmas.  You allow your mind to drift (just for a moment) back to the Christmases of your childhood and realize they weren’t quite the same.

We always had soup on Christmas Eve.  Then Dad called Santa on the santatelephone to ask him if he could please come early to the Flory house.  We traditionally opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because my Father worked for the Michigan State Highway Department and was called out almost every year to plow snow.  Then we children went to a bedroom upstairs.  There were four of us and I read the Christmas Story from the Bible while we kept an eye out the window just in case we could see the lights from Santa’s sleigh as it landed on our rooftop.

All of a sudden a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” would boom up the stairs and we’d hear my Mother’s voice say “Santa Claus was here, you can come down now.”

We scampered down the winding staircase to see our Christmas tree all aglow and presents spread around it.  There weren’t a lot of presents, just enough.  Dad was the person who handed out gifts one by one.  We each watched the other open a gift and waited until my Father put the wrapping in a bag.  What fun we had.  My Mother had spent months crocheting special scarves, mittens and doll clothes.  She made pretty new dresses for us three girls and a cowboy shirt and pants for my brother.

We each got one toy and it was usually the thing we coveted most or something close to it.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year my Dad gave my Mom a box of potatoes.  She opened it and beamed at Dad.   “How did you know just what I wanted?” she asked as she set it aside.  With a big smile on his face Dad said, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Maybe you’d better look a little farther.”  Mom took the potatoes out one by one and at the bottom of the box was a brand new pair of Gingher Shears (most coveted by seamstresses) for her sewing room.  I still remember the tears of joy in her eyes.

We headed to the mantle for our Christmas stockings.  We each got a Naval orange, a Macintosh apple a banana and a scarf and mittens.

Next Dad pulled out a five-pound box of chocolates and a bowl of nuts to crack.  Bing Crosby played on the stereo; we sampled the chocolates, cracked nuts, and sat on the floor feeling the warmth of our close-knit family.

Christmas Day was the one day of the year my parents slept in due to Dad’s working until the wee hours of the morning clearing the state highways of snow so travelers could get to see their loved ones for Christmas dinner.

We had our own Christmas Dinner around two o’clock in the afternoon.   It was always the same, the glazed ham with mashed potatoes, a special fruit salad that I still make for Christmas every year, yeast rolls and pie for dessert.

My memories are intertwined with church services, prayer as we sat down to churcheat our dinner, the Christmas story told over and over (at church and at home), the nativity scenes and Christmas tree which stood in all it’s beauty while the star twinkled on top.  We knew it was all about Christ’s birthday, a little baby born in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole.  We accepted all these things as truth because Mom said so.  She also made sure we gave some of the money we had been given as allowance or worked for to the Salvation Army or a homeless shelter so that others could have Christmas too.  She told us “You reap what you sow.”

So, as you sit and watch the children play while you sip hot cider and visit with Aunt Minnie take time out to remember “the reason for the season.”  Praise God in all his glory that he sent his own Son to earth to take on the burdens of the world.  Thank Him for allowing us to give the magic of Santa Claus to our children, even while we teach them the true meaning of Christmas.merry

I’d like to take this time to wish each one of my Writing Wranglers and Warriors and their families a very Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year.  I cherish each and every one of you and enjoy the blessings we all give each other as we seek to promote each other’s work.  Have a blessed Christmas Day wherever you are!

In closing I leave you a link to a Christmas song by Joey and Rory, a duo my husband and I love to listen to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgg4AMLkTv4

Books by L.Leander: