Monday, December 23, 2013

Two Days and Counting!

Surely by now everyone has received at least ten of these types of emails advertisements this season, right?   Only ten days left!  Hurry in!  You might miss out on something incredible!  What are you waiting for?  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!  Only eight days left!  Are you stupid?  Three days, people!  Where are you?  HURRY!  You’re going to miss it!

If you’re anything like me, by the time you get done reading an ad like the one above, your heart’s racing and you feel a building anxiety over the fact you might just miss something if you don’t indeed hurry.  Even if all was well in your world before you even knew that ad existed.  Even if you had things well in hand this holiday season, the ad most likely did its job.  Have you ever noticed how marketers play on emotions that sit way too close to the surface for many of us?  They unsettle you (Am I ready?).  They place doubt (Did I get the best deal?).  They might even play on fear (Is what I’ve done good enough?). 

I’m the first to admit I can easily get caught up in this hurry frenzy.  As the baby of five kids, I never wanted to miss out on anything growing up and I can proudly say in just over forty years, nothing’s changed.  I still hate missing out.  I’m the first one up on Black Friday and I’ve even been known to follow a certain big brown truck to a nearby game store on release day for a kiddo I happen to adore.  I can hear you laughing but don’t judge me.  My guess is you’ve probably done this same type of thing, especially if you have children.  Whether it happens to you during the holidays or at some other time of year, like a birthday or special occasion, it doesn’t matter.  Even though my kiddo is older now, I can still hear his pleas from past holidays ringing in my ears.  But mom, you have to hurry!  They open at 4am on Saturday but you only have an hour.  If you aren’t one of the first three in line, they’ll sell out and I’ll be the only kid without a copy of the game!  It’s a boatload of pressure, I’ll tell you.  Like the little angel knew what he was getting anyway.  Yet there I went, running around town in a constant panic, wondering if I was going fast enough, afraid I’d miss out.

The morning I shared the details of the delivery man stalking incident to a good friend over coffee was right about the time I had the good sense to hit the pause button and insert a little sanity check into my life.  I heard the words coming out of my mouth, my confession if you will, but honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was saying.  I did what?  Why?  And then it hit me.

There’s a truth out there advertisers don’t want us to know.  Save for one or two new electronic items you might not even want or need, there’s nothing new this season that you’re going to miss is if don’t hurry.  While it’s true you might save a few dollars here and there, research indicates that stores only deeply discount a small handful of items banking on the hope you’ll fill your cart with other regularly priced merchandise while waiting in line to grab one of only five Hero Princess figurines being sold in the next ten minutes for fifty cents.  They’re counting on your trip to snag Hero Princess for under a buck costing you closer to a hundred dollars before you leave their fine establishment.

Whether you’ll be spending a quiet evening curled up with a good book this Christmas or circulating a room filled with family and friends, my guess is what you most need to hear you won’t find in any advertisement set to hit your inbox in the coming days.  Friends, you don’t need to hurry.  In fact, if you can find a few hours, let yourself rest and try hard not to feel guilty about it.  Remind yourself that most likely, you’re ready.  And if you’re not, force yourself to make a sane to do list you actually have a shot at accomplishing rather than a manifesto that will leave you feeling inadequate when you fall short.  Trust that you got the best deal.  If you learn that Hero Princess is going to be on sale for a quarter for five minutes on Christmas Eve, say a prayer for the sucker that’s going to be standing in line rather than diving for your wallet and coat.

Is what you’ve done good enough?  I bet it is.  If you share your heart with someone this Christmas, if you reach out and make vulnerable a bit of yourself you otherwise keep guarded, you’ll ace Christmas 2013.  And if you don’t find yourself chasing a delivery truck?  That’s some serious extra credit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Housekeeper

There’s a touching moment in the movie Spanglish when the soft spoken, big hearted housekeeper swoops in and saves the day, or rather she saves the shy, sweetheart of an overweight teenage girl from the disapproving shadow of her perfectionist mom. 

In this particular scene, the teenager again fails to measure up and can’t begin to hope to please her mother by fitting into the size four jacket the mom buys her as a birthday gift.  “It’s way too small,” the teenager offers, shame lacing her quiet words.  ”You’ll diet into it,” the mother taunts to which the teen turns away and sighs.  “Yeah, right.”  The jacket gets tossed and lands in the bottom of the closet.  It’s a mountain too tall to tackle. 

Enter the housekeeper.  She sees what goes down and manages to stay out of it for the moment due to the language barrier that exists between her family and that of her employer (and she’s manages not to backhand the mom in the process which makes her a better woman than me) but as you’re watching the movie, you know it’s far from over.  There’s more going on than meets the eye and there’s this mountain of unfinished business to tend to.  So the housekeeper snags the jacket when no one’s looking and the movie rolls into an unrelated scene.

It’s my belief this is how it is for many of us this time of year.  There’s more going on than meets the eye.  Trees are going up and lights are twinkling.  Carols are ringing and there’s a very big reason to hold on to thoughts of joy and renewal.  But for most of us, there’s also unfinished business.  And yes, it’s far easier to toss it, whatever it is, to the bottom of the closet and roll to an unrelated scene than it is to deal with our mountain.

In my own family of origin, our mountain is formed by grief and fear.  My sister has been gone several years, but if anything, her absence is felt more deeply now than ever.  As her beautiful children grow and thrive and move fully into adulthood, there’s reason to celebrate.  A job promotion.  Nursing school graduation.  There’s even a wedding to plan.  Our sorrow over the fact my sister can’t be here to celebrate these milestones in her children’s lives is so overwhelming at times it’s as if we can reach out and squeeze it between our fingers.  It certainly dims the lights on all those trees.  My brother is in the grips of a hideous addiction and every time the phone rings, the fear rises. It steals our words and drowns out the lyrics to familiar tunes speaking of joy and peace.  If ever there was a mountain, surely this is the highest. 

As I watch the film, I’m reminded that my own family needs a soft-spoken, big-hearted housekeeper in the worst of ways.  In the movie, the housekeeper has a plan.  She has talent and the good sense to put it to use.  In her spare time, our gal’s been letting out that new jacket, easing the seams and adding fabric until she gets the size just right.  Then she musters the courage to overcome the lack of common language that stands between she and teen.  She knows the girl wants the jacket.  It was the gift meant to be the highlight of the teen’s birthday.  It’s important and the reason has little, if anything, to do with fashion.

“It’s no use,” the teen says.  “It doesn’t fit.”
“Just try it on,” the housekeeper manages in fairly decent English.  She’s been practicing. 
The teen shakes her head.
“Just try it on.”
A second refusal.
“Just try it on,” the housekeeper urges with a bit more gusto as the teen looks on, not making a move toward the garment. 

I took a cue from the housekeeper and invited my mom to the Christmas concert at our church.  It was big ask.  My mom is struggling right now because of that big mountain planted smack dab in the middle of our family.  She has next to no Christmas spirit and every song she hears on the radio makes her cry.  Seems everything makes her cry these days.

“It’s for a good cause,” I offer. (Just try it on).  Yes, I bought three tickets when I only needed two.  I’ve seen what’s going down in my family and I’ve been practicing.
“The weather’s going to be bad,” mom counters.
“I’ll drive.”  (Just try it on).
“All that Christmas music is going to make me cry and I’ll be embarrassed,” she lobs at me in a last ditch effort to shut me up.
“This year’s a bit different, mom.  We’re mixing traditional Christmas songs with music from The Story.  We’ve spent thirty-two weeks reading through the bible and the music has been amazing.” (Just try it on).  My mom knows this yet I feel the need to remind her.  She attends our church once every couple of months when she comes to visit.  She loves our church.  “I think Heather’s singing,” I add quickly.  (Just try it on).  Ha!  I’ve gone for the jugular.  I’m in this fight to win it.  My mom adores Heather and it just so happens Heather is a key member of the vocal team at our church.  Surely she’ll be singing something at the Christmas concert.  Right?

When we took our seats and the lights came up, we were blown away.  Matt Bays and the vocal team at our church, Northview Church, blew the doors off both the music of the Story and of many traditional Christmas songs we can all name within three notes.  With every song the night got better.  By the time we got to Run, Run Rudolph, it dawned on me my mom hadn’t cried but had laughed and clapped and sang along and been moved all in one.  And the mountain trembled.  I know it because I saw it with my own eyes.  Which leaves me more determined than ever to see through the eyes of the housekeeper more often.  How can I help?  What can I do to effect change?  If not me, do I know someone that can help?  My answer came in the form of a Christmas concert hosted by some amazingly talented artists who crafted something with heart and vision.  But I had to learn the English and be persistent.  Just try it on.

While I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, it’s my sincere belief a perfect fit is possible for all of us.  You’ve just got to be willing to be the housekeeper.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hope 22 is making the rounds!

My debut inspirational/Christian romance, Hope 22, released earlier this month and is making the rounds with readers everywhere.  I've been blessed to meet some wonderful new and fantastic people along this journey and I'm grateful that Hope 22 has been so well received.  In fact, Hope 22 reached best-seller status at All Romance ebooks opening weekend.  A big THANK YOU to all of my friends and family who have helped make this new journey such a rewarding one.  I appreciate anyone who takes time out their hectic schedule to read my work and I love hearing from each of you!  You can find Hope 22 at (digital and paperback format),, and   

When you're ready to read more, be sure to hop over to my works in progress page and check out book two in the Men of Faith series, Faith 15, releasing late spring 2014.  

Thank you, readers!

In the aftermath of losing his wife and unborn son, professional quarterback Brody Jackson turns to his faith, making a vow to live a life that will honor those he’s lost.  Yet on a field of endeavor where outrageous antics get a player noticed and if it feels good, do it often seems to be the maxim, walking the straight and narrow path can be a hard thing for a guy to do.

Whitney Ryan is in the mother of all slumps, struggling to watch as her player ranking dips into double digits.  With three weeks to go until she’s slated for her next tournament, Whitney would rather be anywhere than on the tennis court and under her mother’s constant glare.  When Whitney decides to run away from her responsibilities, her resolve is firm—she doesn’t need anyone getting in her way, especially a know-it-all with problems of his own.

When two household names holding widely varying views on how to live life in the spotlight and measure success are thrown together, is there any hope they can call a time out and find middle ground?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Family Aunt Betty

I have a confession to make.  I'm addicted to Who Do You Think You Are which airs on TLC Tuesday nights at 9pm.  And before you ask, the answer is no.  It has nothing to do with the particular "stars" the show has chosen to feature.  The producers could have picked random members of my local golf course maintenance team and I’d be just as intrigued.  Why?  Because unless your family has that particular and oh so studious Aunt Betty who's done all the work for you, I'm willing to put a Starbucks wager on the fact there’s a lot of stuff you don't know about your family.

I've always been fascinated by family history and as a young girl, I loved to listen to my grandma tell stories about our family.  Then again, I have a great Aunt Bunny and an Uncle Duck so it could've been I thought my grandma was reading me a fairy tale.  And therein lies the problem many of us face when we start climbing our family tree.  As dear as those memories are to me, the fact that none of the real details about Bunny and Duck ever got written down doesn't make for a very complete family tree now that I’m old enough to really care about preserving history.  Not to mention my grandma’s been gone ten years. 

For the past several weeks I’ve been an active occupant of my family tree, climbing up and down branches, looking for links between limbs and researching new growth.  While I attempted a similar thing many years ago, this time around, I’ve been met with tremendous success and the journey’s been nothing short of amazing.  For all of the unsavory avenues we can find ourselves travelling on the Internet, the lengths to which the National Archives, the Office of Military Records and many similar organizations have gone to to update and strengthen their databases is incredible.  To date I’ve learned of men of tremendous character who literally set aside their livelihoods on a moment’s notice and walked arm in arm with their neighbors and brothers into battle.  I’ve learned of the women that loved them.  I’ve found Union and Confederate soldiers sharing a branch, kissing cousins and a great great great great someone that stated in an 1820 census he owned eleven people.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to prune that branch but nonetheless, I’ve got archived documents to line the path and verify the good and the not so pretty branches of my tree. 

As you might have guessed, the Bunny and Duck from my grandma’s stories weren't actual names I was going to find on a 1930 Census form all these years later.  In fact, names are a funny beast on this journey.  While I remember laboring over decided what to name my own child, I never once thought about how that name might get mangled years down the road.  We have a Laura turned Lula turned Lulie.  A Siota turned Scota turned Siot turned Sophie and a Dilly, and Effie, a Mally and a Barbee.  But wait for it.  Barbee’s a guy!  My Grandpa!  In one census they spelled his name correctly but listed him as a girl.  In another they changed his name all together.  On the other side of my family, my great grandpa came through Ellis Island in 1910.  My great aunt documented her father’s life story in her thesis work when she was in college and while I remember she and my grandma talking about how names often got changed, it wasn’t until I found his immigration documents and saw it with my own eyes that it made sense to me.  The men and women serving as document clerks at Ellis Island often changed names based on their own levels of education and understanding.  For example, my great grandpa got on a boat in Patras, Greece as sixteen-year-old Demetrious Eusthathis Kakavecos and stepped into New York as James Kallas.  There’s a note on his immigration paperwork that he contested his new name and his real name is written off to the side in a different penmanship than that of the rest of the document.  A U.S. census taken just ten years later lists him by his correct name, married to my great grandma, a couple of kids in tow.  Hhmm.

Speaking of penmanship, when you start to research your own tree, get ready for some scrolls and cursive the likes of which deserve to be preserved by the National Archive.  It’s like the smaller the lines and the ledger, the more decorative the recorder tried to write.  Maybe these clerks were trying to make up for the sins of their Ellis Island document-recording kin.  Who knows?  In an effort to show the world their gorgeous penmanship, more a’s and e’s and o’s and i’s and c’s got flipped than pancakes at the local breakfast joint on a Sunday.  I can only imagine one of my great great grandma’s telling someone standing on her front porch to kiss her grits.  We’re southern.  Way southern.  I’m pretty sure one of the ladies in my tree would have said something like that.

So, too, will be the story of your tree.  There will be branches to keep, dead limbs you want to hide and leaves that either catch the light oh so perfectly or fight to exhaust it all together.  Yet through it all, if you’re willing to wade in and just start climbing, there’s a puzzle waiting to be put together that has your name written all over it.

Indeed I've become my family’s Aunt Betty and if anything, all of this research has shown me that it’s probably just as well.  I’ve been called Mary Beth, Theresa Beth and Betta Ann numerous times in my forty-three years so I’m certain I’ll get listed as Betty Ann in a census one day.  And while it won’t technically be correct, I have no doubt it will all work out in the end.  I’m counting on the fact my great great grandchild will be a climber.