Love it or hate, you just LOST an hour

sunrise with deer
The sun will STILL rise and set on its own schedule.

We’re now on Daylight Saving Time–or “fast time” as my grandmother called it (since that first day just flies by!). Blech. My circadian clock is firmly meshed in a standard 24-hour cycle. Yesterday, someone robbed me of an hour (hmmm, I think that was an hour of writing time!).

Some helpful folks out there offer tips for dealing with the lag created by the time change, but I’m not sure they’re all that practical.

The first is to set your clock ahead in 15 minute increments for four days prior to the change. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my schedule without changing a standing 10 a.m. appointment to 10:15, then 10:30 . . .

Another tip is to go to bed an hour early the night before. Done. But it’s DARK when I get up now, so I’m not fooling myself at all. I’m just well rested AND grumpy about how dark it still is when I take Thistle for her morning constitutional.

Studies even show that the incidence of heart attacks rise the day after we “spring forward” and decrease after we “fall back.” Can’t we leave the clock alone for the good of our collective health?!?

I know, soon enough I’ll be adjusted and will enjoy more daylight each evening for dog walking, writing, hiking, or just sitting on the porch. But I still don’t like the time change. Hopefully, one day I’ll live like my great-grandma Jane. She got up when it was light and went to bed when it was dark, letting her body tell her what was needed.

Because our bodies are smart. Waaaay smarter than whoever came up with Daylight Saving Time. And now, my body is suggesting that one of those peanut butter Easter eggs in the pantry would help me adjust–or at least distract me from the need to adjust.

Worry Fast Step 2–Identify

relationshipsLess than a week into my worry fast I thought I was doing pretty well. I’d avoided some of the big pitfalls (much to my surprise). Mostly, I’d managed not to fret over family issues–Mom, Dad, my niece–praying and leaving them in God’s capable hands.

Sunday morning I sat in church as the pastor talked about spiritual practices, feeling pretty good about this fast that I originally thought might be sort of impossible. Then it hit me. I’d been worrying all week.

It’s what you might call a low-grade kind of worry. Turns out I’m a relational worrier.

While I managed to think about the big issues without descending into worry, I absolutely fretted over things like:

  • Calling a friend I hadn’t seen in too long.
  • Visiting neighbors I keep meaning to visit.
  • Inviting a friend to use tickets another friend gave me.
  • Wondering if I’d spent enough quality time with a friend I see too rarely.
  • How often I should call family members.
  • Finding time to deepen and nurture relationships I care about without depleting myself or taking away from my relationship with my husband.

It’s not like I was waking up in the night wondering what should I DO?!? I just had all these niggling little thoughts–worries–popping up in my peripheral vision from time to time. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

So, step 2 in fasting from worry is realizing what it is, exactly, I worry about.

 

An Unconventional Valentine

ladies-of-the-churchLife is hard.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but just living life really does get tough some days. Sometimes you’ll run into a whole string of those tough days right in a row.

I’m part of a group of women at my church who gather for Sunday School and Bible study and food and fun and sometimes all of the above. And I’m grateful to have ladies who challenge me to dig deeper in my faith; who hold me accountable and encourage me.

But here’s why I’m especially grateful for this group of ladies. They make life, if not easier, at least more bearable. Because when life inevitably gets hard, there they are with hugs and smiles and casseroles and maybe even a measure of correction if it’s needed.

Our last few meetings have included tears. There’s been the loss of a child. There’s some tough stuff happening with parents in their 90s. And illness. And frustrations. And family challenges. But there’s also been joy. A health scare that miraculously turned out well. A child who got a good report. One of our own who passed her exams and is ready to be ordained.

But whether we’re laughing or crying, here’s what this group gives each other that I don’t ever want to do without. L.O.V.E. If we need to cry, there’s someone to cry with us. If we want to celebrate, there’s someone to cheer with us. Listening ears, soft shoulders, warm hugs, sage advice, and hearts lifted in prayer.

Your support group doesn’t have to be church ladies, but I hope you have one. I think we were designed to bushwhack our way through life as part of a community.

Life is hard. But when I’m with my girls, it’s not nearly as hard as it could be. Thanks ladies. I love you, too.

Burla Fitzgerald Loudin

burlaIf she’d lived longer than the 97 years God gave her, Grandma would have turned 102 this past weekend. That’s how old Aunt Bess was when she passed, so it’s not much of a stretch.

I wear the engagement ring my grandfather gave her on my right ring finger. She had largish hands and when she gave it to me she assumed I’d need to get it sized. It fit perfectly, which I think delighted her as much as giving it to me did.

Here’s what I miss about her:

  • Playing ring around the rosey in the side yard where the sweet william bloomed.
  • Games of button, button, who’s got the button, hide and seek, crazy eights and old maid.
  • Cutting roses, flags (irises), mountain laurel and peonies from the front yard.
  • Making popcorn and grilled cheese sandwiches in the same skillet on a gas stove.
  • The tick, tick, tick of the gas stove lighting and then the sulphur smell of matches.
  • Dirty socks from running around shoeless in a house with a coal-burning stove.
  • A TV tray at the front door with Halloween candy laid out, waiting for trick-or-treaters.

And Sunday dinners (usually ham, don’t forget the bread) and playing in the creek and “bless your heart” when I was sad and a jewelry box that unfurled when you lifted the lid and head scarves and white sweaters with shiny buttons . . .

But most of all, I miss, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck,” followed by the most wonderful, I-love-you-forever Grandma hugs.

And even though she’s gone, I know she does love me forever. And I love her, too. A bushel and a peck that run clear to heaven and back again.

Miss you Grandma.

I’m a cheater

Family photo
Me with two of my best sources for research.

I write historical fiction . . . but I cheat.

I only just realized this as my third novel was about to release last year. I’ve long struggled with genre and fitting what I write into a specific slot. Maybe it’s historical. Maybe it’s romance. Maybe it’s historical romance. OR it just MIGHT be women’s fiction.

Regardless of my dithering, my books are often characterized as historical fiction. Which is fine with me. But then I realized something . . . I don’t work nearly as hard as most other authors of historical fiction do.

I really enjoy the genre and often read it. Right now I’m listening to Newton & Polly by Jody Hedlund. It’s about John Newton–the author of Amazing Grace. The descriptions of clothing, social customs, and John’s time as a sailor are vivid. It all feels very real to me—I know Jody did her research.

Which brings me to cheating. I research very little. Oh, I look up timelines and newspaper headlines for context, but I’m not exactly immersing myself in 18th century England. I don’t have to research conditions aboard ship or the danger of opposing the slave trade. I don’t have to wonder about clothing and bathroom issues. And if I read someone’s diary, it’s just because I want to.

All I’ve really needed to do thus far in my writing journey is listen and ask questions.

The furthest back my novels have gone is 1948. My father was born in 1941 and he remembers a good bit. As did my grandmother who shared many a story before she passed.

It’s as though I’ve been researching my books all my life. In West Virginia, one of our primary forms of entertainment is sitting around telling stories. This drives my husband nuts. He’ll look at me as Dad launches into the story about a dog named Sloomer and mouth, “We’ve heard this one.”

Yes, we have. And hearing it again will only drive it a bit deeper into my psyche—will only make it that much more real when I translate it for my readers.

The upshot is, if you’re a writer, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Digging deep into research—becoming an expert on a specific time period—is wonderful. I have deep respect for writers who spend at least as much time researching as they do writing.

But when I took a notion to write historical fiction, all I had to do was dredge up the stories I heard at my father’s knee. All I have to do is close my eyes and think back to those stories I heard sitting on the porch of an evening.

Common advice is to write what you know. I say, write what you wish you knew.

You’re Never Too Old

I’m closer to the half-century mark than I used to be.

Which, I suppose, means I am undeniably a grown up whether I want to be or not.

But still . . . there are days when I just want my momma.

I recently spent several days at home in West Virginia. I wish it were just because I so love being there, but there was more to it than that. Mom recently had surgery and Dad was due to see his neurologist to monitor his Parkinson’s Disease.

They aren’t getting any younger, either.

So many of my friends are in the same position–parenting their parents in some form or fashion. Which is hard not only logistically, but also emotionally. For all those times I felt like they were smothering me with their rules, love, affection, and support–that’s exactly what I crave now.

And the funny thing is . . . there were moments on this last trip when that’s exactly what I got.

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Sunday evening I sat in the floor at my mother’s feet chatting and halfway watching football while she fiddled with my hair. If you aren’t aware, having your hair fiddled with is one of life’s great pleasures. And it’s something my mom used to do often when I was younger. Sometimes she was brushing or braiding my hair, but there was also plenty of soothing, affectionate fiddling. And for that hour or so, I was a child again, simply  being soothed by my momma.

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Then, just before I left to drive home, my Dad did something wonderful. His health and really his whole way of life is very much in limbo as we try to keep Parkinson’s at bay. He actually seems pretty stable right now,  but we both know there are decisions to be made and tough choices likely up ahead.

As I was saying goodbye, he wrapped me in his arms and said, “I don’t know how, but this will all work out.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear from the man who for so much of my life, seemed to have all the answers. And here’s the best part–I’m pretty sure he’s right.

Appalachian Thursday – 2016

I’m not a fan of looking at the turning of the calendar as any kind of clean slate. I figure most every day is the perfect time to begin doing whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. But in the spirit of the New Year, I took a moment to look back over 2016 in Appalachia. Whether at the house in North Carolina or the Farm in West Virginia, I don’t like to stray too far from my mountains. And flipping through a year’s worth of images reminds me why.