Getting Close

My book, Heaven Shining Through, is inching closer and closer to reality. I just received the galley proof and I’m awaiting the cover design.

While I’m getting excited about adding “author” to my resume, I share this because you, readers, were very much a part of this venture right from the start. Thus, I want to keep you in the proverbial loop.

As you might remember, this book was conceived as a social media experiment. Way back when — five and a half years ago, actually — I floated the idea of a community novel.

Simply put, I invited readers – and that included my Reveille/Between the Lakes readers as well – to contribute to an ongoing story. As long as there was interest, I promised to continue to advance the storyline.

I had no expectations about where the story would go. In fact, I didn’t even have a storyboard or outline. I trusted in your imagination and direction. Would it end up being a mystery? A romance? A comedy? A drama? A slice of life? Inspiration?

The plan was to get you started and have you submit continuing paragraph(s) each week. Together, I thought, we would flesh out the storyline, develop characters, possibly throw in some curves or red herrings. In the end I hoped we would be able to come up with a readable piece we all could be proud to share with family and friends.

Well. That was the plan. I did have interest — somewhere around 100 likes. I didn’t get much input.

If you remembered, I started with the first open ended paragraph …

I was driving alone on the dark black asphalt, seemingly darker because of ominous clouds on the horizon ranging from steel gray to puffs of white. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of white as the sun tried to peek out from behind the clouds. It didn’t succeed, but first a ray rained into the picture, followed by a halo of rays.

My name is …

Cathy suggested our lead character would be Samantha … my first challenge since I suddenly had to think as a woman and, as any man knows, that could be problematic. But I was sure I would get some help from my female readers. Guess what? It never came.

djmatticus added a paragraph, more of a reinforcement and continuation of the first paragraph.

That was the extent of my help.

With steely resolve, however, I revisited the story weekly, adding a few paragraphs at a time to advance the tale. I was pretty much left on my own, probably because I continued to get likes. I just didn’t get much in the way of comments. It became a Wednesday fixture for the next 24 weeks.

What I came up with was a story within a story. The underlining theme was the restoration of a relationship between Sam and her mother. It was told through the prism of a flashback to Sam’s life — her early home experiences, her wilder side, meeting the love of her life, Chad, her growth as a wife and mother through sorrow and blessings, and the presence of God in an ordinary life.

I tried to keep it real with appropriate language and activities. I purposely stayed away from being “preachy” but rather told a story that showed the presence of God in everyday, sometimes messy lives. The hope is readers will be able to see that.

A lot of the activity takes place in the greater Paterson, NJ area, which, of course, is where I called home as a youth. Some of the backdrops will be familiar to fellow Patersonians who grew up in the mid 60s.

It looks like we are about six to eight weeks from launch day! I still have to sign off on the cover.

I haven’t coordinated a launch date yet … that should be coming soon. I know it will be available online and I am planning book signings and presentations, at least in Maine, New York and New Jersey. I’ll keep you posted as they develop.

In the meantime, you can pre-order a copy of Heaven Shining Through simply by commenting and/or e-mailing me at revblt@rochester.rr.com. The book will retail for $9.99 plus shipping and handling. I will get back to you when the book becomes available. No upfront charges will be made.

If you’re interested in reviewing Heaven Shining Through let me know, especially if you have ties to media.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Always listen to the experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why. Then do it. — Robert Heinlein

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A Look Back

Before we get too far into 2018, I probably should take a look back at 2017 … not through my eyes, but through the eyes of my followers.

According to the stat tracker, I posted 102 times in 2017. Almost half of them — 50 — were Five Minute Friday submissions. Posts were followed by 695 supporters in 68 countries {I always find that amazing} from the U.S. to Qatar. Outside the United States,  visitors came from Canada (167 times), United Kingdom (87), India (79), Germany (71), Australia (70) and the Philippines (50) among others.

For whatever reason, February drew the most traffic, with 271 visitors and 4,796 views. Cumulatively, I have now posted 722 times drawing 17,407 visitors and 35,523 views.

Based on responses, The most widely read post was Nine Years, a reflective look back at life without my wife, https://wisdomfromafather.com/2017/09/27/nine-years/. It generated the most comments and likes — by far. Next was Five Minute Friday — Need, https://wisdomfromafather.com/2017/11/03/five-minute-friday-need/, then The Church Mouse, https://wisdomfromafather.com/2017/01/26/the-church-mouse/, and A Visit with Santa, https://wisdomfromafather.com/2017/11/21/a-visit-with-santa/.

Others with above average readership were Five Minute Friday — Visit, Five Minute Friday — Overcome, Five Minute Friday — Guide, Five Minute Friday — Depend, Five Minute Friday — Discover, Welcome to Rockwood,  ME,  I Lost a Sock and Five Minute Friday — Silence.

Well, that’s a brief look at 2017 through the rear view mirror. I had my favorites — some which made YOUR list and others I was personally pleased with. Now it’s time to look forward. Watch out 2018!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. — Ambrose Bierce

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Five Minute Friday — Simplify

It’s time to take five minutes on a specific word prompt and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing.

Yes, it’s Five Minute Friday time. The format is simple. Set the timer for five minutes and write. Don’t worry about mistakes, grammar, fonts or punctuation … just write from your mind and heart. Then, post and encourage others who have braved the exercise by linking up at Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com. That’s the fun part!

To entice you to check us out, I’ve also been sharing some of the experiences my fellow writers have shared as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll include the words contributed by an anonymous contributor. I hope the words inspire you to join our writing club.

“I’ll never forget the night the word prompt was FEAR. I thought THIS is fear. Writing for five minutes, no edits, no time to clarify or verify! But I did it and I felt free. Now? I don’t even sweat FMF — I have fun and love community of writers.”

This week’s prompt is SIMPLIFY. The time has been set, so I guess it’s time to GO…

When I retired, I thought my life would simplify. Hah! If anything, my life is more complex than ever, but you’ve probably heard that from retirees before.

There is a difference, though. I have shedded the rigors of deadlines. I now fill my calendar at will … accepting invitations, meetings, activities as I see fit.

In the six months since I bid adieu to the work place, I have taken two major trips, finished my book, re-joined Kiwanis and gotten involved in the community and at the local church . That has kept me quite busy — an certainly not simplified.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m enjoying my new roles. The hustle and bustle keeps my mind active … something I saw too many friends sqander in their later years. I’ve enjoyed meeting new friends and learning more about my adopted community. … STOP

… But simplify is not a word I would use.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: What would you do if you knew for sure it is impossible to fail?

 

 

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Five Minute Friday — Motivate

We’re back for another year of free write known as Five Minute Friday.

I hope you make it a new year’s resolution to follow — and join us — in 2018. It’s really a fun way to see how your mind reacts to a one word prompt and converts them into letters, words and sentences in just five minutes (more or less). But more important, it’s the encouragement we give to and get from our fellow writers that makes this such a valuable exercise. We get to “know” each other, support each other, lift each other up, pray for each other. It may not be in real life … but it’s certainly in real heart. It’s not just a writing group. It’s a community.

As an example, to entice you to check us out, I’ve also been sharing some of the experiences my fellow writers have shared as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll include the words contributed by Jodi. I hope her words inspire you to join our writing club.

“I may not be the most consistent FMF writer, in fact I can go months without posting at times. It is always in the background for me. Whenever I am stuck in my writing and need a kick-start, I go back to it. The prompts get me thinking differently. The time limit isn’t overwhelming. I am working on the not editing as I go part! It is always a good boost that often gets me writing again in dry spells.”

Our leader, Kate Motaung, sums it this way. “If you haven’t participated before, this week is a great time to give it a try! All you have to do is free write for five minutes flat. Even if you decide to write in a journal and keep the words to yourself without sharing with anyone, it’s a great exercise to stretch those writing muscles.”

After posting, we link with our fellow writers at at Kate’s spot on Facebook at http://www.fiveminutefriday.com. That’s the fun part!

This week’s prompt is MOTIVATE. The timer has been set, so it’s time to GO…

Motivate … Hmmm … What motivates me, not only to write but also in life?

Fortune and fame? No. It would be nice to make some jangle or have a name, but I can’t say it’s my motivation.

Proselytize or politics? No. That’s not me. I would love to help lead others to the Lord, but it’s not my job to save souls. I might be a conduit for them, but individuals have to make that decision on their own. I can support and I can offer words of encouragement, but I can only bring them to the water. It’s up to individuals to drink.

Politics? Really? Who needs another “expert” in a world full of armchair quarterbacks. Let the politicians slide back under a rock on their own. They don’t need my help.

Teaching? No. I’m not a teacher, especially when it comes to Scripture. I have more than enough questions of my own to be pontificating to others about what’s black and what’s white. I recognize a lot of gray — and those … STOP

… answers are above my pay grade. That doesn’t mean I don’t know the basics — and I’m willing to do some research on biblical points. When I put pen to paper, I try to focus on our similarities, not our differences. I do share those thoughts, but it’s not my motivation.

So, what motivates me? That’s a tough one. I would say faith and family. By faith, I don’t mean rote words. I don’t mean the pat answer. I mean living in faith, failing in faith, being redeemed by faith. If I don’t walk the walk, no one is going to care how I talk the talk.

Family, too, motivates me. I would do anything I can for my family, always have, expect I always will. That doesn’t mean I agree with their actions all the time {that’s a two-way street, by the way}, but I hope they know I love them unconditionally. My Faith Partner taught me that.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get. — Ray Kroc

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December to Remember

I may have mentioned I was taking a December road trip. While I had a couple of stops on my original itinerary, centered on a Packers-Browns game in Cleveland, it quickly escalated and when Thanksgiving with the family fell through, I went  to Plan B … visit each of my children and grandchildren (in five different states), added visits with my uncle and cousins in Ohio and Indiana, a second Packer game in Charlotte, a visit with my best friend from the fourth grade in Florida, Christmas in Nashville and First Night Ocean County (NJ) which ironically was cancelled but opened more time for a visit with Millie in Toms River. What a rush!

In all, there were so many memories packed into the 25 day, 5,267.3 mile trip to New York, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The blessing for the entire trip was no major incidents … just pure enjoyment with family and friends. Thank you Jesus!

While those states are where Angelina and I rested our heads, we also traveled through Canada, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and New Hampshire before rolling into the parking lot back in Maine.

I can’t put the impact of the experience down in words. But from start to finish, each mile … each visit … each experience will be forever etched in my mind. I will draw from the experiences for years to come. It truly was a December to Remember.

I will, however, pull out my blessings during the trip. Please indulge me. Maybe you might get a little insight as to why this December was so special.

Day 1 was completed without a hitch with a restful ride through the mountains and sunrise of western Maine, foothills of eastern Quebec, mountains and vistas in Quebec and Ontario and sunset in upstate New York. It was all capped with dinner with my daughter and four grandchildren.

Day 2 included a safe trip to Ohio and good dinner with Dee, Mike, the three grandsons, Kristine and my precious three year old great-granddaughter Addi. Angelina and I met Ryan’s new German shepherd Dexter. Most of the barking and snipping came from little Angelina.

Next, going to a pro game — good. Going to a Packer game — better. Cheering the Packers to victory –the best. Sharing the experience with Maddi and my three grandsons — precious and priceless!

My blessing on Day 4 was special face time with my Uncle Dave and cousin Sharon, Miguel, Kara and Alex. It was great sharing memories, conversation, catching up and a great meal! Thanks for the hospitality!

My blessing was another uneventful trip through the snow, sun and wind on day five of the great Christmas journey highlighted by a terrific visit with my cousin Jacqueline and Dave. We spent the nearly six hours catching up from a 50 year hiatus in face time, trying to fill in some family gaps. Thanks for the memories and pizza.

My blessing Day 6 was allowing myself some me time. I know it is often about me, but today I chose to visit the Studebaker Museum … something I have sidestepped for years. Since my son was working until 8, I journeyed the extra 120 miles or so … and was it worth it! Being a former Silver Hawk owner, I was transported back in time as I viewed the display. I could see myself back behind the wheel with the instrument cluster nestled in the mother of pearl dash. I remembered the good times I had with that car. I also learned so much about the Studebaker history … which I’ll leave for another day. The visit brought a peaceful smile to my face.

A successful drive to Kentucky for a night, then to South Carolina without incident is a blessing (I’m seven days and ,2485.1 miles in). Visiting with my oldest and youngest sons is a blessing. But this morning was the ah hah moment. I took Angelina out at sunup and we headed to the back of the property line where the fall’s leaves collected. Angelina had a blast running through the leaves, stopping when she heard the rooster crow, then exercising with the crunch of the leaves. When she came to me with leaves attached to her from nose to tail, I could envision her saying this is as much fun as snow … but not as cold. We even got into a leaf throwing contest. The neighbors probably were entertained … and I was at peace.

Spending time with my oldest and youngest sons is a blessing. Good conversation. Good food (we went out for dinner). Good catching up on their lives face to face. Getting ready for our football weekend!

My next blessing was spending the night at Packers Everywhere Pep Rally in Charlotte with my oldest and youngest sons. What a rush! Hundreds of Packer fans partying in anticipation of tomorrow’s game from all over the country. And to share it with family … what a blessing. Oh, and I won a sideline Packer knit hat!

Blessing … another great day with #1 and #3 sons at the Packers-Panthers game. Would have loved to have seen a GB win, but just being with the boys…what more could I want? Certainly blessed.

Next was a transitional travel day (overnight in Jacksonville) which gave me time to reflect on the blessing I have the health, resources and, most of all, the time to take and enjoy this current trip.

What a blessing on Dec. 19 … renewing a 60 year friendship. Good memories. Good fellowship. Great meal Sandy.

Another day of memories followed with a side trip to the Gulf.

There is nothing like tapping into memories with a lifelong friend. Bernie and I spent three days talking about the girls we loved and lost, hanging out with Carmen and Murray, our days at St. Anthony’s, the friends and experiences at DBT, trips to the shore and the city, staying in touch for around 60 years, filling in the blanks, sharing the “joys” of aging. A lifetime in three days … A true blessing.

I was blessed with another uneventful travel day. Half of my December odyssey is over. Each moment has been a blessing. Highlight today was actually seeing cotton fields on the Georgia landscape, then discovering the final edit was made on my book. I have a few alterations to make and a dedication to write before we go to production! It’s happening!

For me, next was a safe trip to Kentucky AND AAA service. Day started with a hiccup — the only one on the trip. I locked my keys in the car. A quick call and a short time later I was on the road … missing most of the torrential rains.

My next blessing was spending a spectacular Christmas Eve in Nashville with my oldest son. We took a walk around Gaylord Opryland Resort (about three hours worth), took in the Ice Show (Charlie Brown Christmas) including a turn down the ice tube and capped it off with dinner and Diamond Rio. Love it when a plan comes together. Thank you Lord!

Joe and I had quiet Christmas day which gave me a chance to reflect on the reason for the season. That was my blessing.

Next, a day visiting the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, not for the nostalgia but because I got to share it with my oldest son. We also chowed down at the Corvette Cafe and Roosters. Another blessed day on a blessed trip.

My blessing Dec. 27 was getting to make final adjustments to the book on my final day in Bowling Green while my eldest son worked [from home]. It’s been a very pleasant trip thus far. Tomorrow it’s off to New Jersey with an overnight stop in West Virginia.

They say a visit from a cardinal is a visit from a loved one. My blessing while eating breakfast before leaving my oldest son’s house this morning was not one, but two cardinals  My trip has been approved on the other side.

My oldest, Joe, got rid of me and is now entertaining his daughter (my granddaughter) Kayli (we missed connecting). He spent the day teaching her how to shoot. For me, I don’t usually play scratchoffs unless I stumble upon a loose coin. I found a shiny penny and played a $5 Folding Money card. One number was worth $10 … another was $10 five times and the bonus on the back matched four of the eight slots at $5 each. In all, $80 in folding money which was the blessing because it averted a stop at the ATM for some … folding, traveling cash!

More blessings. Finally found some real snow on my trip almost 5,000 miles in and, of all places, the Jersey shore. Angelina found a friend on the Long Branch beach, kicking up snow as they raced around the sand. She was intrigued by the ocean, mesmerized by the ebbs and flows of the water and fascinated by the waves. We worked our way south, stopping in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove before visiting Millie in Tom’s River. A great visit with a great woman. Blessings are days like these.

For me, sometimes disappointments are blessings in disguise. The reason for my Seaside stop was First Night Ocean County fireworks over the ocean. They were cancelled. Seems the FD and Borough felt the sub-zero wind chill was too low for the family-oriented crowd (and a few septuagenarians as well). They might have been right. My fingers were close to numb just waiting for my sausage and pepper sandwich to go. I was also able to see the new Ferris wheel light show. Amazing! Angelina and I also scooped up some beach sand and ocean water (I did the same with Florida sand and gulf water — any suggestions how I can display them?) and took Ocean Avenue from Long Branch to Seaside, stopping to take in the various beaches and decorations on the gorgeous old and new homes along the way.

Spending my last night of the trip at middle son’s house in Massachusetts. Blessing is spending the day with family and friends, enjoying a delicious prime rib dinner with all the trimmings.

So, that’s it. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your friends. Savor every moment. I had a December to remember. Let’s all have a 2018 to remember!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. — Ayn Rand

 

 

 

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A Christmas Prayer — 2017

As a Christmas gift to myself, I again vowed to take Christmas off. No writing. No work.

But I did want to share a Christmas message. What to do?

Well, as I’ve doing for the past few years, I “borrowed” some words my wife wrote, which became a staple for Christmas in the Reveille/Between the Lakes. I thought it was time to expand the readership and pass her words along to an entirely new audience. And I pre-posted the blog, scheduling its release Christmas Day.

Thanks, Karen, for your timeless words and a new tradition. And thanks to all followers and readers for the friendships and comments. May you all have a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with happiness, holiness and blessing.

And now, A Christmas Prayer from Karen…

For many of us, life seems to have shifted into the fast lane, and Christmas seems to come upon us earlier and earlier each year. With so much to do and little time to do it, we may find ourselves becoming grumpy, often mimicking familiar scenes from A Christmas Carol. With time at a premium, our thoughts seem to be consumed with what still has to be done or bought rather than focusing on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

It’s not the presents found under the tree on Christmas morning, the giving or the taking … It’s not the trees or wreaths or the fancy decorations … It’s certainly not the commercialism or hustle and bustle that often puts us in a foul mood, the exact opposite of what the Lord’s birth was designed to offer.

Jesus was born into poverty. Imagine for a moment a stable birth, simply because no one had room for them.

Do we have room for Jesus today? Is He the focal point in our days? Or is He being told there is no room (time) in our busy schedules?

Ironically, that was Christ’s first gift to us – HUMILITY. No one can be great until they humble themselves.

The Lord’s precious gifts to us don’t stop there. Throughout His life, He demonstrated CHARITY, oft proclaimed the greatest of virtue.

What do we do?

Take and take some more. Dollars will come and go, inflation continues to bounce up and down, yet, there is always something we can give, but so often forget to do. Rich or poor, we can give love, understanding, compassion, a kind word or deed or a warm smile on a cold wintry day. Gifts don’t always have to be equated with the material things in life. Our gifts from the heart are equally important and can be used to help feed our own lives as well as the lives of others.

We can’t forget FAITH and HOPE. Faith is the belief in things we can neither see nor understand. Hope keeps things in proper perspective. Together, they lead to TRUST.

This Christmas, let us ask for help in attaining these virtues. And as a New Year resolution – which we can start today – let’s attempt to practice them in our daily lives.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Without “Christ” in Christmas we really have nothing to celebrate.

Merry Christmas to all of our readers. May the PEACE and JOY our Lord brought with Him so many years ago be with each and everyone of you.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them. — Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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Five Minute Friday — Only

Time to turn in the missing assignment — ONLY from two weeks ago. As I alluded to, being on the road limited my access to the laptop. But with some down time today at my son’s, here goes.

But first, if you haven’t been following FMF in 2017, make it a new year’s resolution to follow — and join us — in 2018. It’s really a fun way to see how your mind reacts to a one word prompt and converts them into letters, words and sentences in just five minutes (more or less). But more important, it’s the encouragement we give to and get from our fellow writers that makes this such a valuable exercise. We get to “know” each other, support each other, lift each other up, pray for each other. It may not be in real life … but it’s certainly in real heart. It’s not just a writing group. It’s a community.

As an example, to entice you to check us out, I’ve also been sharing some of the experiences my fellow writers have shared as chronicled in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. This week, I’ll include the words contributed by Brandi. I hope her words inspire you to join our writing club.

“I joined the Five Minute Friday link up only a few short months after staring my blog. I’m not even sure how I came upon it, but the open invitation from Lisa-Jo Baker [who started the community] caught my eye and I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Writing was new to me, voicing my thoughts and feelings onto a public place was both freeing and frightening. I wanted to write, but wasn’t sure I really could. Until Five Minute Friday. I felt like the new kid in school standing with a tray of food in the school cafeteria. I was unsure of myself and most definitely nervous about letting people into the thoughts in my head. Yet, with open arms I was welcomed at the table with instant friends. They encouraged, we giggled, we cried, and I grew. Five Minute Friday gave me a place to be. I learned to listen to my heart and trust my fingers as I spelled out thoughts and stories and I found my heart. I learned to laugh at the mishaps and grow in my abilities to communicate. This was more than a regular link up, this was fertile soil for my dreams.”

Okay. The timer has been waiting to be set, so let’s GO…

If only I had studied more.

If only I hadn’t eaten that fourth chili dog.

If only I followed the road well traveled.

If only. If only. If only.

Actually, those are not valid concerns. In each instance, when we came to the pivotal minute, we made a decision. We decided to close the book and … go to sleep, party, watch tv. We decided to gulp down that extra chili dog … burp! We  decided to forge on unknown trails … and got lost.

If only there was peace in the world.

If only I had more money, or better looks, or different circumstances.

If only people respected each other.

Aanntt. Wrong perspective. Those are unrealistic expectations. We can not change the world. We can be part of the solution, but we can only be responsible for ourselves. We were placed right here, right now and our responsible is to make the best of the circumstances we have been given. We are not responsible for others, but we are responsible only for ourselves. And people tend to see our actions more than listen to our words.

Only we can make decisions. They may not always be the right one, but they are ours to make. … STOP

… We only have one God-given life. It’s up to us to make the best of it … and reflect the author along the way.

And, once again, I want to wish each and every one of you a Blessed and Merry Christmas and a Happy, Holy New Year! Keep following the Son!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: No matter what techniques and what disciplines you go through, I think there is one factor more intangible and that is the motivation to pick yourself off the ground when you’ve been totally bloodied and smashed and say, “Let’s fight some more.” — Jerome Hines

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