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Why 2017 Will Be My Favorite

There are a number of things I am grateful for in 2016. It was great for a lot of reasons:

1. I survived. ?
2. Got sick and got well. ?
3. Finished 5 books. ?
4. Weathered some breakups, shakeups and uncertainties with grace and a pinch of humor. ?
5. Better prepared for the travels ahead. ?
6. Kept my focus, realigned my purpose, learned about some new opportunities. ?
7. Welcomed the New Year with an open heart, and a head full of stories. ?
8. Reinforced the power of gratitude and being light-hearted at the right times. ?
9. Re-fell in love with falling in love ALL-IN. ?
10. I start the year off being INSPIRED.  ???

So, here are some things I'm focusing on this New Year's Day. Hope you can join me along the way some of the time. We have a lot of work to do together, you and I. I can't wait. How about you?

MY 2017 FOCUS:

1. I write every day because it is my life.
2. I'd rather be in a book or story than anywhere else. It is my reality.
3. Concentrate on creativity and the flow will come.
4. Expect to be amazed, not understanding everything. Amazed, like a child.
5. Be a well-used character in my own life like a favorite toy and much-loved soul.
6. Pointy people grind the rough edges off me and make me shine.
7. Circumstances REVEAL a person, they don't make a person.
8. Getting up and getting started now is the most important attitude to have.
9. Learn from everyone, everything. Seek lessons like jewels.
10. Show gratitude, grace and humor more than anger, frustration or hurt.
11. Be loveable more than right.
12. Understand but keep to my side of the fence.
13. Have compassion but be strong enough to tell the truth.
14. Feel the healing power of love.
15. Take more chances, feel deeper, understand the strength to let go when needed.
16. I can't fix anybody. ANYbody.
17. Walk with other warm hearts and bright spirits. Close my doors and windows to negativity.
18. Notice, nurture, never forget.
19. Lead with love and kindness.
20. Hug the little girl inside me every day.

Hope you'll join me…


On Not Forgetting To Say Thanks

I won't be on land this Thanksgiving, so I guess this will be my Thanksgiving post. God willing, I'll be somewhere in the Atlantic. I will start out in Italy and will wind up in Brazil. I plan to sleep in, write my heart out every day, have meals served just the way I want them, and watch the big blue ocean all around me. I'm going to read some of my best friend's books. I'm going to work out every day and get a massage every week. I want to meet the captain and the staff, put my hands on the wheel and feel the power of the ship.

I'd like to meet new friends, learn how to talk to someone in a language that I didn't grow up with. Watch how other people treat their children. Look into the eyes of the elderly passengers and maybe ask them questions about things I will never see. Learn from them. I want to soak it all in so I can put some of it, maybe only about 1% of it, on paper.

Something I hadn't thought about when I booked this vacation was that when we travel across the Atlantic, we will be leaving the winter of Italy to the Summer of Brazil.

I plan to stand on the deck of the ship, because I want to see if I can feel it. Do you suppose I will? Will the water swirl in the opposite direction there? Will the stars look different? Would it be good luck to make love to my husband when we cross the Equator like all those seamen's legends?

A whispered wish on a starlit night,
The warmest kiss, quickening the fire.
Romance that lingers and never says goodbye.
Uncovered treasures of an ordinary life

I don't think I've ever studied the night sky from the southern hemisphere. There are people I have never met I will meet. I will learn about places I've never seen before. I've never been to South America. I'm going to walk off the ship and think of my hero Daniel, the Brazilian painter who stole my heart in the very first book I wrote, and who turned me into a writer. I didn't do it. The characters in my book did.

Because I can.

Are we all so insane we don't cherish every day? That we fill our lives with “news” when everything we need to know is all around us, in the magic and love of those around us? When the greatest gift is our ability to imagine things that could be so strong that they feel real. To connect people instead of running away from them. To give more than we take.

I want to leave a hole the size of a continent when I'm done being here. Like my beautiful (unnamed) heroine for a book I'm working on says to her damaged SEAL hero after he's told her he doesn't like complicated (excerpt from SEAL Destiny, a novella in High Octane Heroes):

She took in a sudden brief inhale. Her gaze quickly diverted to the ocean, giving him a full pure look at her upper torso, every curve and valley, until he thought perhaps he could even taste her skin. What Luke saw in profile was a strong, handsome woman with a body made for hard loving, who was unafraid. 

Then she turned back and faced him fully. Her body dropped to her knees in front of him so quickly he thought perhaps she'd gotten suddenly ill. “I don't do uncomplicated,” she whispered. “I like it complicated and rich. I like entangled. I like feeling everything and being sorely missed when I'm gone.”

My wish for you at Thanksgiving? Turn up the intensity and the capacity of your love.


D is for DUTY

Welcome to day 4 of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

D is for Duty. Visited one of the offices of the Wounded Warrior Project in Fayetteville. The words on the bottom of their card read: Duty, Honor, Courage, Commitment, Integrity, Country, Service.

This group often is the first bit of contact, outside of the military, a wounded U.S. Serviceman or woman receives when they come stateside. Sadly, it is sometimes the only connection they have. When they are first recuperating from their injuries, they receive support from this volunteer organization on behalf of all of us. There is also a package that can be given to a loved one who comes to be with the injured vet.

You can find more about this wonderful organization here.  There are several branch offices all over the U.S. Take a tour, learn about what you can do. Get involved, if you can. Make a difference for someone you don't even know.

I also walked through the Veterans Memorial Park in Fayetteville–a stunning and somber tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Every branch of the Armed Services was represented there in a stunning display of granite, glass, steel, remnants of military equipment and quotes from leaders going back to George Washington. His quote I love, “The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of a final moment. But it is no less a magnificant mixture of triumph and tragedy.”

It's truly hard to tell you how I feel about all of this, other than to say I'm grateful. Very grateful. And I plan to enjoy the freedoms I've been given all the more by remembering those who helped give me that gift.

Don't forget to catch the other A-Z Blog participants by clicking here

Never Quit: Plan B

More about this guy who never quit. We should all have it so tough. Look what he overcame. When I think of all the sacrifices others have made so I can have a “normal” life, sometimes taking for granted my health, and then someone like this comes along, well, it's a good reminder of what is important in life.

Enjoy the short video and watch it to the very end.

The Amazing Transformation of a Guy Who Didn’t Give Up!



Playing With The Food

We have a small gathering this year, which suits me. We've also opted out of the gift giving for Christmas, but will do some things for the grandkids. On Black Friday, I'll be participating in the Black Friday Bloghop, checking Amazon and reading instead of standing in line.

I am not in the least bit tempted by the seasonal craziness. Didn't we just have a year of that with the election? Just not feeling like being a lemming. Still recovering from the years of overdoing. Things are simple these days. I cherish the time spent with the family rather than the exchange that used to take up most the day. The excesses of the holidays starts with Thanksgiving. No wonder everyone goes on a diet in January. In more ways than one.

I bought my Willie Bird turkey yesterday at G&G Market, along with everything I'm going to use in the stuffing. Bought some special mushrooms for my famous soup and even found some 1/2 & 1/2, string beans, apples, potatoes and shrimp on sale. Bought the last jar of oysters, which we also like in stuffing.

Don and I will be making the house festive today, which is, I think, my real Thanksgiving. The more I do today, the more I get to enjoy tomorrow. All the desserts are going back with the people who bring them, so I won't be tempted. I'll save enough stuffing for my hubby, but I can have beans and mashed potatoes and the leftover turkey and stay on my food plan.

Waiting for my book to come back from the editor, and yes, I'm always nervous at this point. The last 6 months I've worked harder on my writing and the writing business than I ever have. I know I've put in the time and done the things I need to do. It's the waiting to see how it is received that is the hard part. But, need to remind myself, it's all in just doing what I love and know how to do. I just have to have trust and faith the rest will come along, in good time. Remind myself, it really isn't up to me, anyway.

I'm grateful my Dad is able to celebrate one more Thanksgiving. He will be missed. Read someone else's post about collapsing with tears and I burst into tears, too. I'm thinking about all the family meals we all shared, and all the people that are no longer with us–I hear them in my head and feel them in my heart like characters from my books. All the sights, smells and feelings of my childhood are washing over me. I wonder how I will be thought of some day, when I am gone too.

As someone much wiser than I said a few months ago, “Sharon, your job today is to just feel.”

Come back Friday for:

It makes a lot more sense spending Friday with your favorite authors than spending too much money, braving the crowds. Find some great new authors. Buy their books for your yourself and indulge in the freebies given away JUST THIS FRIDAY.


Being Grateful for the Long Path

I am filled with gratitude. Great friends. People around me willing to join the journey, lending me a hand, giving me encouragement. Family living as examples. I'm at a doorway. A changing of the guard. Almost feel like I'm walking along a garden wall and can see both sides. They are equally lush and inviting, and I cannot decide which place to go, so I keep walking.

We are living in a time of great change. I have hope for where we are going. There isn't anything I have to do, but be present. Someone much wiser told me, “Your job today is to feel, Sharon.”

Today, I get to have a full day of writing. I have to pinch myself I'm so happy. Settle into my favorite leather writing chair, and compose. No places to go. Listen to the sounds of the world coming alive. The moon is a bright orange orb in the early morning sky as I look West. Someone has blogged that it's called a Blue Moon, and hasn't happened since the 1960's, also a time of great change.

I'm looking forward to stimulating conversations over coffee, and the sharing of ideas that help make this world a better place. Here's to choice. And living.

And, of course, love.


Unlucky With Weather. Lucky In Love

My critique partner's daughter got married last summer. I think this is one of the funniest YouTubes out there. It went viral, wound up on America's Funniest Home Videos, the Ellen Degeneris show, and one guy from Africa pirated it and almost won second place in a wedding photo contest.

I do have permission to post this. But after all the attention last year, it was taken off for a bit. Well, now it's back. And I'm thrilled the couple allows us to share this with you. I wish all things on the internet were like this. But yes, I understand the rules.

It isn't a perfect world, is it? I watch this video and I'm reminded of my writing journey. Reminded of my 41 year marriage. Reminded of the ups and downs of raising 4 children. Reminded of all the best things in life, and all the little detours and unexpected paths that give us all that richness and meaning.

I've learned not to react so much. Oh, but I still do now and then. I've learned that I'm human, not perfect, and not going to ever have a day where everything goes 100% the way it should.

I do know that my life is pretty darned good. That most people would trade places with me. That looking across the dining table at my 3 year old granddaughter, who has just spilled her Lucky Stars soup all over my tablecloth and my Persian rug, I know the most important thing about this moment is her beautiful smile. Devilish as it is.

So I guess being unlucky sometimes means I enjoy the lucky things even more. What about you?

4TH of JULY CONTEST: LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG POST FROM NOW THROUGH JULY AND BE ENTERED TO WIN A NEW KINDLE FIRE ON AUGUST 1ST. You can also get 3 extra points for leaving a review on either/or Goodreads or Amazon or any other review site, and send me the link to that review. You can get 2 extra points for following this blog.

Happy reading. Happy commenting. Happy reviewing.
And thank you!

Sharon Hamilton

Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.

Accidental SEAL   SEAL Encounter    all at Amazon


Y is for You’ll Know When You Get There

Welcome back to almost the end of the A-Z Blog Challenge. My theme has been the Letters of Gratitude.

Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm in San Diego, taking a class for my Real Estate business. It is 3 intense days from 7:30-7:30 at night. I am exhausted. Not been on the computer much (well, I guess I can do that afterall), and trying to cram all the numbers and ideas into my head. Honestly, I can't think straight.

So, in order to lighten up my day, I'm posting the top ten reasons YOU'LL KNOW WHEN YOU GET THERE.

*****Idiot Alert*****This post has no redeeming value*****

10.  One of the several characters in your head said you'd arrived.
9.    No one else is anywhere around you.
8.    You now know being lost is normal. Being found is close to going to jail.
7.    Your computer keys are worn out and they smell like salmon.
6.    The review you got for your last book made you blush, and then you realized it was written by your father.
5.    You find yourself staring at kissing couples.
4.    You talk to books in the library.
3.    The books talk back.
2.    You're starting to think the garbage men uniforms are sexy.

And the number one reason you'll know when you get there is:

1.    Your dog whispers in your ear, “I always knew you were crazy.”

Humor. Friends. New Words. Good Books. Jimmy Thomas. Great stories. For all these things, I'm grateful!


V is for Violas

I love violas. They are cheerful, easy to grow, and make me look like I know what I'm doing as a gardener. They are perfect for filling in a potted grouping – they just grow where there's space and fill in the gaps other plants create. They are like the connectors in the flower container world, like Alyssum, another favorite of mine.

There are many beautiful varieties now. I usually grab them all. Last year I found some that were nearly black in color. Can't find them this year.

Even with all the rain we've had in April, these showy blooms brighten my spirit and tell me there are warm summer days ahead. And that's when they disappear!

I want color year-round, so I'm grateful these guys bloom their hearts out early, as the warm-up act to the showy zinnias, day lillies, roses, snapdragons and sweet williams that bloom for me in the summer.

So, from my garden to yours, have a wonderful April day.


F is for Falling In Love

F is for Falling In Love!

Welcome to Day 6 of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I'm talking about a month of gratitude.

Where would we be without love? Do you remember that fuzzy feeling in your belly when you've just met that “special” person? You can't sleep. You don't want to eat. You run into things and say words you have never said before. You do things you never thought you would do, like go skydiving, go hot tubbing in the nude, wear a string bikini or don Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland. You open the sunroof at night to watch the stars with the heater on full blast. You take more walks, hold hands, go see more movies. You smile a lot more.

In writing romance, I absolutely live for the scene when the hero and heroine meet. If I get that right, the whole book stands up and demands to be written. I mean, take no prisoners. Shout it from the highest hill. It makes me sing along to music in Safeway and do handstands on my shopping cart. I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

Romance is defined by two things:
     1. The woman always wins
     2. There is always a happily ever after.

Fact is, I think reading romance novels is actually good for your health. We live in a world of harsh reality. What's wrong with a little fantasy now and then? I've heard it said that great sex is between the ears. Do you doubt this in your own life?

You can call it animal attraction, or a divine gift from a father who only wants what is good and healthy for us. But falling in love, although invisible, can be measured by the actions it produces. I leave it up to your imagination.

Hey, it's spring. Did you think all my posts on gratitude would be heavy? Let's all get the heck knocked out of us by love. And feel grateful we can feel, we can love, we can have hope for a bright future with someone from our dreams.


E is for Envy

Welcome back to day 5 of the A-Z Blog tour, 26 days of gratitude. E is for Envy, the Enemy of gratitude.  My screaming little impetuous child self that has no sanity wants Everything, both what is mine and what belongs to Everyone Else. The root causes of this are many, but the most important one is a feeling that I lack something.

These days (I am a student, not an Expert) I speak the mantra over and over again: I have Enough. I do Enough. I am Enough. When I forget this, I want more than what I have, and it's not about improving the world, it's about feeling I have to do something so I don't feel less than. I've talked before about the God-shaped hole in my soul that wants to be filled with anything: chocolate, stimulants, overspending, other vices that don't serve me well. When I remember I have Everything I really need, that hole becomes smaller, or temporarily goes away completely.

Envy makes it impossible to really enjoy another's success because we think we are more deserving than the person who has Earned it. Or, we justify why they have it and we don't. Again, this comes from a basic feeling of a lack of something.

But when I remember to be grateful for what I have received, knowing that I don't always receive what I want, but what I need, the whole world opens up to me. It lets me share in the enjoyment of others, and it brings more happiness, opportunities, and lights my path in serendipitous ways. Coincidence becomes miracle. The next right action becomes a career path, a trajectory where all the riches of life reside.

I'll close with one of my favorite songs: Everyone's a Hero in Their Own Way by Nathan Fillion (Richard Castle) from the Dr. Horrible movie. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thursday, just because you deserve it…


D is for DOR

I have a special connection to the Navy SEALs, and editing my first SEAL romance, writing the second in the series I call SEAL of Honor. We were just in San Diego this past weekend, and I never hesitate to watch the boat crews work on the beach, as a new class is molded, melded and forged in steel. As I have said earlier, many men try out to become a SEAL just to find out where their limits are. You never know until you try.

D is for DOR. It means Drop On Request. There is no shame in trying out for the teams. There is also no shame if a man finds he can't complete the training. Many of them get injured, some seriously, and have to roll back to another class after they are healthy. And some, find out where their limits are.

The reality of that is also just that: reality. Doesn't make you a better or lesser person. It is in the trying that all the courage and mental metal is produced. Many, though disappointed, will say that it was the one thing in their lives they truly were glad they did. Imagine that in this world of instant gratification (a funny spin on the word gratitude, don't you think?). Going through all the grueling training, and failing, but being glad they did.

I interviewed one graduate, who was barely out of high school. He said he felt lucky to have found the SEAL teams at such a young age. He was glad that he didn't have to wait until he was 30, or 40 or beyond in years before he could find out what he loved to do, who he was. Lucky. He felt lucky to go through the harsh training.

There are many great books about the teams. Dick Crouch wrote a compelling book, The Warrior Elite, about one particular class, and in that graduating class, several of the men from Blackhawk Down prepared their way, even though some would not survive. Lone Survivor is the story of one of those boys, Marcus Luttrell.

I'm grateful for many things, especially the men and women who put themselves in harm's way so we can go to the store, to school, to church, so we can spend a leisurely day shopping or just having coffee with friends. Because of the sacrifice of a few we have today and tomorrow as gifts.

I'm also grateful that we get to try, and that we fail, and we get up again and try again. Remember, it isn't in the falling down, or failing that all the miracles come. It is what you do with yourself, how you pick yourself up afterwards that counts. We live to fight another battle another day. One day at a time.


B is for Believe

Welcome to Day 2 of my 30 days of Gratitude for the A-Z Blog Hop.

B is for belief. One of the reasons I wanted to do this blog hop is that I forget to say thank you for all the blessings I have received in my life. Fear can occupy a dark, cold and lonely place in a person's soul when they have no hope, when they find it difficult to believe. So, the opposite of fear, then is belief. When we focus on the negative, we become fearful. When we remember all our blessings, we believe in a compelling future.

Isn't it funny how quickly belief can spread? We watched The Hunger Games this weekend. I loved the part when the people in District 11 began to fight back, and how dangerous belief can be in an environment that doesn't tolerate that kernel of hope. How dangerous it is when people stand up and do the right thing.

My husband and I turned to each other after the movie and remarked that we felt like we'd just been through our own version of the Hunger Games in real life. And we are still here. We survived. And we believe in the future, our future.

I've heard it said that if we are to doubt something, we should doubt our limits, not our abilities. If we just do today what we know is the next right thing, everything is going to be just fine, good, and perfect.

I'm going to expand on that on Thursday when I do the letter D. I'm going to talk about the DOR (Drop On Request) bell the SEALs have during their BUDs training.

And about never giving up.


A is for Angel

Welcome to my first post in the 2012 A-Z Blog Challenge. I've decided to do a month of Gratitude, starting with the letter A.

Angels. I am sure there have been Guardian Angels watching over me for much of my life. That's not to say things have been perfect. But whenever things were darkest, I had the feeling there was something other than a father figure watching over me. Something special, with intention. Something spiritual and magical all in one.

I started dreaming about Guardian Angels after our house burned down in 2008. Each night I would go to bed with the story and in the morning a vivid scene was just right there, waiting for me to write down. I began what would be the first of three Guardian Angel romances, two of which are now uploaded to Kindle and Nook.

I began wondering what it would be like for a Guardian to fall in love with a human. What would happen if this angelic being discovered she would rather be human, and battle the forces of good and evil in the human world, rather than in the vanilla world of Heaven? That her higher calling was, in fact, amongst the human population, and not the angelic realm.

And of course, what would it feel like for an angel to fall in love?

After our house was destroyed, my husband and I spent about 8 months in temporary quarters, first in a motel, and later in a small one bedroom apartment. Everything about my life changed after the fire. Almost everything I valued materially was destroyed.

But what came in their place were the angels and the angel stories. And though my possessions are gone forever, these stories will live long after I'm no longer here. They were a gift. And for that, I am eternally grateful.


A-Z Blog Challenge

I've decided to choose a theme this year in the A-Z Blog Challenge, which starts April lst and goes the entire month, or until we get to letter 26. This will be the second year I have done it. I met some wonderful people last year. This year the group is about twice as large.

My new theme? GRATITUDE.

I've had a real blessing over the past three years. My good writing coach/friend, Kristen Lamb has reminded me in her workshops and posts the value of sharp pointy objects and sharp people–who then smooth and shape us, polish us into the jewels we become.

As I sit and write this, I know some day I will be a well known author. Right now, I work at other things until this dream can be realized. But the wandering garden path that looks so enticing comes up for me each day when I awaken. By the end of the day, I've seen garages and boxes of stuff, closing statements, bills, attorney memos, banks and title companies, inspection companies and reports, office meetings, happy people, upset people, traffic and frustrations of all species. It's a bit of a challenge to remember that lovely bucolic path I took in my dreams, during my quiet time, in the morning. Even quieter now that I have sent my chickens off to a better place for them. And for me.

I read a prayer a few Sundays ago in church which sums it up for me:

We confess the daily bread you give us is seldom enough to satisfy our indulgent appetites. Our craving for recognition and significance causes us to ignore the needs of our neighbors. Forgive our lip-service in worship when our actions beyond this sanctuary do not honor you. Renew us by your grace and remind us what it cost, that we might live in humble gratitude for Christ.

I'm not going to make this a religious experience or blog. One could substitute several words in the above prayer and it would apply to other religions or philosophies, and let me make sure to say that my way is by no means the right way. Afterall, I've said it before, I'm a Christian with a bent antennae. The passion with which we get to live and love has me falling down on my knees with gratitude. And to be blessed with the gift of storyteller, is one of the best gifts a person could receive.

And like the Bible stories, the gifts sometimes come at a terrible price. It's always darkest just before the light of a new day. In our stories, the black moment comes right before the resolution. And like in our romance novels, the Happily Ever After is always there, delivering the promise, perhaps not giving us what we want, but what we need.

I'm going to do 30 days of gratitude, one day at a time, starting April lst. I will humbly walk the path and would love to have your company.


Being Thankful for What I Do Have

A much wiser person than me said one time, “Don't compare your insides with someone else's outsides.” I have to remind myself about this all the time. Isn't it interesting, then, that I should pick careers that are highly dependent on what other people think: writer and Realtor?

Selling real estate for 25 years has taught me how to listen to what other people want, not what they say they want. Get the big picture. Be of service where they really need me. I tell my clients they could buy a better friend. But as far as getting the job done? I can definitely be counted on to tell them the truth. In an industry where people are often legends in their own mind, I became very successful because I tried to focus on the truth, not the fluff, the fantasy.

I even had rubber stamps made. One was a castle from one of the Disney brochures. Underneath it is the word Fantasyland. I'd stamp that in red on the lists of homes for sale, without offers. The other stamp said Reality, and it was a picture of a home with a sold sign across it. I would stamp that in green across the solds. Fantasyland or Reality?

Some days I want the Fantasyland, no question. I recently posted to my FB page the following:

There are definitely days when there is too much reality for me. Time for a good fantasy book, a spicy paranormal romance with characters I can fall in love with. Enough checking the stats on Amazon, checking other writer's stats on Amazon. I forget that not everyone can pop to the top of the charts with their first or second or even third book. I forget some days that the success lies in the words I write every day, not the checking my stats for what I don't have. No one writes like me. No one sold real estate like me, either.

One time I drove home from a very successful day. I had listed two homes, sold one and closed one. In the lingo of agents, it was a 4-deal day. I was on cloud 9. Until I drove past a home with someone else's sign in the front yard. I had thought they were my clients. But obviously, they thought otherwise. That yard sign stuck like a spear through my middle. Cursing and slapping the steering wheel all the way home, I am certain I made my family miserable. My husband reminded me, “What are you doing? You had a really great day!”

And he was right.

I've learned that I get to doubting things when I forget all the blessings in my life. I start focusing on what I don't have instead of what I do have. I have four wonderful children and 3.5 grandchildren. All healthy. All doing things they love. And despite my lapses in judgement, we've managed to have relationships I'm proud of. Adult relationships. I have the love of my life who has been by my side for over 40 years now. Who likes to read especially my spicy parts and believes in me.

Now how could stats on Amazon or Barnes and Noble ever compete with those things? Only if I let them.


The Silver Dollar

I was raised in the church. My grandfather started off as an evangelist, but he was one of the good guys. I learned early on what the meaning of love and sacrifice meant. My brother and I would visit him, stay in their guest bedroom (Grandpa never lived in anything but a 2-bedroom house the church provided him). Sometimes a battered woman would come in the middle of the night, usually bringing one or two kids. We would be moved to the living room couch so this poor woman could spend the night in the pastor's home, in a bed with her children, away from an abusive husband.

We also learned that homeless people, we called them hobos in those days, knew his house would offer food. They'd come to the back door, and be served. Sometimes they'd sit in the kitchen, huddled over a bowl of soup and bread. I was told not to talk to them. Although I knew my grandparents didn't have much money, they had enough to give a bowl of soup to someone who needed it, and never asked for a thing in return. We learned later that somehow a mark had been left on the fencepost, or the name or address had been communicated by some invisible trail of whispers, so people knew a decent person lived there.

On Sundays, Grandpa would stop between the 4th and 5th stanzas of the closing hymn, and ask people to come forward to pray with him. It used to bother me so much, that, if no one else came forward, I would. I had to be gently reminded that I didn't need to do that any longer, but it didn't stop me from feeling compelled to walk toward this kind, handsome man who had enough love in his heart for the whole world. And I was just a speck in it.

I think a lot about those days now. So much economic uncertainty in our world these days. It has affected all of us. With this as a humbling backdrop, the clanging of egos and harshness of hucksters has me wincing a lot. I seek the decent people who are nice to their fellow man. Isn't sexy, exciting and might not contribute to book sales, but seems like the right place for me. I'm having trust and faith in a plan laid down for me if I will just stop and listen to the words.

When I was about 6 or 7, my father brought home a silver dollar from Reno. My parents were the college advisors at our church, and they had taken their group skiing. I loved that silver dollar, and felt rich carrying it in my purse.

One Sunday, someone did a mission presentation in the sanctuary. There were pictures of brown children with dirty legs and distended bellies flashed up on the screen. They talked about the power of just one dollar and what it could do. When the offering plate came in front of me, I went into my purse and pulled out my silver dollar, and laid it proudly in the plate.

Someone had seen me do this, and after the service, my dad said, “Wonderful that you gave that dollar. But it didn't have to be THAT dollar.” He had replaced it with one of his own, and handed me back mine, and gave me a kiss.

If I could remember more things like that every day, I'd be a stronger person, better wife and mother, better writer.

I do enough, I have enough, I am enough.

What about you? What kinds of things do you think about that help fill you with gratitude for what you have so generously been given?


Welcome to 2012

2011 Has been a good year.

But then, I say that every year. We either get lessons, or we are blessed with abundance. Or we get both. I think 2011 was one of those.

One of the things I want to do more this year is just accept what is. I've been the director all my life, raising children, running two successful businesses, now my venturing into writing. Funny how I have to do the same things to be successful in each world.

Kristen Lamb once blogged that sharp pointy people are like diamonds that polish us into the jewels we all are. That post gave me clarity, and hope, that I could see some of the circumstances that may or may not have been in my full control, had turned out to be priceless in the end. Almost like I developed a Teflon exterior. If it hurts, it will make me better. Some day.

I've been fortunate to run across some fans and readers who love my words. Can't tell you what a joy that is. They aren't in the thousands, yet. But they are growing. And the emails I've gotten have helped sustain me during the darkest of the nights of my year.

I've met new friends. I've disassociated with people who made me feel bad. Good friends have shown me their worth, their value. False friends have fallen off my radar. I feel relieved of the burden of having to hold my tongue, or wondering if I was doing the right thing. I've learned that I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, just the way I am. With a little help from my friends, I have healed some of the turmoil in my gut, and come to accept that the world is really a pretty darned nice place, and I'm lucky enough to live in a tiny slice of Heaven.

My first words were wonderful, giving me a depth of emotions I'd never worked before, but they were an escape to a world of my own making. Now that I have written almost 6 books, in 2011 the characters began to speak to me as old friends, coming back over and over again, inspiring me. The stories have taken on a life of their own. Now when I read them, I learn things I didn't know I'd written. Amazing. Just simply amazing. Yesterday I was looking for something in one of my Guardian books, and actually got sucked into it. Had been about 4 months, and I actually almost couldn't put it down. It was a pleasant surprise.

In 2011 I've gotten over some sensitivity toward the steamy books I write. I do believe sex is good for people, and should be enjoyed a lot and often. One of my beta readers said she was going to read with her husband, taking turns. I thought that was a superb idea. Could one of my love stories actually help a couple become more close? Trained in psychology and wanting to be a marriage and family therapist at one time, I used these techniques in dealing with clients during my successful real estate career. Now can I do the same with my author platform?

This past year, there are lots of people who make me laugh, who are fun to play with and have given me advice I shall cherish and use every day. Tina Folsom has helped me get over myself (well, not always) and get stuff posted, though I have a fear of these computer things. Bella Andre has helped my confidence as a writer. Same for Virna DePaul. Early on, my first meetings with the San Francisco chapter of RWA, and meeting its president, Sophie Littlefield, I knew I had joined the right group. Rachel Herron and her writing journey has inspired me. Darynda Jones, so free with her kind and careful advice. Hannah Schwartz, Marina Chappie, Margie Lawson, Brenda Novak–all these people are like little guardian angels, coming along at just the right time. The first time Veronica Wolff said, “this is hot stuff and you can take that to the bank,” made me write day and night for about a month straight. And who can deny the inspiration Jimmy Thomas brings wearing anything, or even in his birthday suit.

My critique buddies: Shane, Arletta, Kent, Robin and Ronn, as well as Pam, have been gentle, but firm. When I hear, “you can do better” I know to trust that comment. I thank Tina and Grace and Virna for some early reads of my very rough stuff and not throwing up. To Julia Rachel Barrett for making me laugh and being there at a particularly challenging time last year. My goals group, going on about 2 years now: Delilah, Carly, Myla, Riley, Sidney and Susan have been important in questioning what I did and why, and helping me make it specific and measurable. My fellow bloggers at Ravencraft Romance: Danielle Ravencraft, Kay Dee Royal, Charlene Wilson, Deanna Jewel, Marsha Moore, and Bri Clark have helped me grow as a writer, and push me to keep my butt in the chair and churn out the words every week!

There are others.

With so much talent and wind behind my sails, how can I not have a great 2012. Because, I am truly not alone in this journey.