The Word Place Blog
A little about anything for anybody
Posted 1-2 times weekly

Writers are weird people...

Writers are weird people.

They didn’t use to be—I don’t think. I don’t consider myself weird now, but I can’t seem to find anyone else who writes who thinks along the same lines. Is it just fashionable/politically correct these days to embrace certain topics? When did we stop writing to inform and to entertain? When did writers become activists? Or was I just naive  about the whole concept of writing?

I get an almost daily newsletter with information about places to submit.

Maybe out of a list of twenty, there’s one I could consider. Sometimes there’s not even one. I can’t write about some of the topics these journals, magazines, and ezines want. Not only do I not know anything about the topics, but the bottom line is, I don’t want to know! And I won’t even detail what they are—most people reading this can guess.

Writers abound “out there”--those who really can and those who think they can.

The latter category is full of egotists who often pay big bucks to vanity publishers and then tout themselves as the next Hemingway or King. I’m not knocking on their doors—and because I’ve gone the traditional route (as well as some self-publishing) and had some success, they steer clear of me. I’ve had my share of writing rejections and lived with them, but I guess they don’t want to risk being told no thanks.

So wanted: one writer-friend.

Notice I didn’t say personal friend. A divide isn’t a bad thing. I just need someone to call and exchange ideas with. Someone to lunch with, hole up and write with, whine with when either of us is stuck. I don’t want to argue politics or ethics. We don’t have to agree on everything—even most things. I’ve had one excellent writing partner, and we were polar opposites. However, we worked well together, and I credit her with making some really positive suggestions which bettered my writing. I hope I did the same for her.

I write because I want to.

Yes, I’ve made some good money from time to time, but that’s not necessary either. I don’t want to be famous. I’ve never dreamed of book tours and being wined and dined by the literary world. Sometimes I even have trouble sending a press release to the local paper—and I’m a couple of books behind on that!

I love the research, crafting the characters who become my friends—and sometimes my enemies, struggling with the best place to take the action, and then feeling satisfied with how everything ends up.

If you feel good when you finish reading something I wrote, that’s great. If you think ho-hum, that’s okay, too. I write for myself—not selfishly but as anyone with a hobby does something because she enjoys it.

So for now I plow ahead alone. It’s doable—but it would be more fun with a friend.

~~Posted February 6

"The only thing we have to fear 
is fear itself."

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

On March 4, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke these works in his first inaugural address which came in the midst of the Great Depression.

Americans had plenty to be afraid of: no jobs, no money, no way to feed their families, lost businesses, a stock market which had crashed in ‘29, lost homes, and much more. It seemed the end of the world for many—and for many it was. Suicides weren’t uncommon. Bread lines weren’t plentiful enough. There were no food stamps and no stimulus payments. Without local taxes coming in, schools often had to pay their teachers with vouchers which could be discounted for necessities at local stores. Now many children aren’t even allowed to go to school except “virtually”. They miss their friends, and their education is lagging behind.

It was a dark time.

Most Americans who remember those days are gone now. We can read about it, but until now, perhaps we never understood the hopelessness into which people were plunged back then.

Now we can.

The “Pandemic” restrictions are coming up on a year now. Social distancing, masking, closed businesses, lost businesses, joblessness, fear (in some cases unreasoning fear) of becoming a victim of Covid19. Some governors, enjoying their power, have even turned their personal vindictiveness towards the hallowed institutions of churches, flying in the face of the First Amendment giving us freedom of religion. Despite court rulings, they are digging in their heels and finding new ways to keep people from coming together in faith.

Some scholars feel the Great Depression didn’t really end until the wartime economy kicked in after Pearl Harbor, twelve years after Black Friday on Wall Street. The media and certain medical “authorities” are telling us Pandemic restrictions won’t end soon either, despite vaccinations being available. Executive orders from the White House regarding restrictions are flying left and right (mostly left). It’s even rumored that domestic airline passengers soon can’t fly without testing negative for Covid19. The possbilities for expansion of that order are frightening.

I read about/hear from people who are hunkering down even now. The old quote “no man is an island” is apt. Emotional depression is rampant. Suicides aren’t uncommon. We are afraid, some much more than others.

This morning I went for my monthly shampoo and haircut. I stopped at the local grocery store for perhaps ten items although I do my “big orders” via the convenient Walmart pickup. I was doing that long before March 2020 because I don’t like grocery shopping. Then I went into the local pack and mail to drop off two letters and buy a book of stamps.

Basically, I do what I have to do. I refuse to be dominated by fear. I wear my mask and choose relatively uncrowded places to go in to shop and only for necessities. Browsing is on hold. Most of all, I get out of the house on mild, sunny days and drive to Sonic for “Happy Hour”, taking with me something to read or to work on. The rest of the time, there is always something to keep me busy at home. Some semblance of “normalcy” is imperative.

Being afraid is no way to live, and I know that from experience. In four years in Congo, I lived with the knowledge/fear I could lose my life, especially when trouble broke out again in this third-world country. For several months, I slept with my passport under my pillow and a small evacuation purse beside my bed—knowing full well the chances of making it to safety at the airport in an emergency were slim. Diseases for which there were no vaccinations—maybe a pill that worked or not—rampant. I often had to stay alone with no electricity—and trust me, Congo nights were darker than dark, at least in my mind. A break-in wasn’t unheard of, so at first I stayed up at night when I was alone and slept during the day. That abnormal lifestyle didn’t last long, of course.

During that time I was stopped on my bicycle by police with a rifle swinging from the handlebar. Was it loaded? Was it safe? Who knew? I managed to talk my way out of being fined or arrested. Later soldiers came into the house where I was staying and took our only means of communication—the shortwave radio. I managed to hide my regular radio so at least we’d get news. Despite carrying rifles on their backs, they walked out holding a BB gun used to scare off animals at arms length. Go figure.

I got back to my regular city the day the Belgian embassy had been stoned. There was no one to meet me at the airport that night, and I wasn’t about to take a taxi into the city. The people at the desk refused to let me use the phone. Only through the kindness and insistence of two European men who’d had a protective eye on me was I able to telephone for transportation.

I was 22 years old, and I knew fear.

Now I’m 76, and I swore years ago that I’d never live in fear, a death with no resurrection, again.

And I won’t.

~~Posted January 28

It doesn't take much...

 Here’s an interesting random blog topic plucked from a list I found online and keep handy: How much money have you ever had at one time?

The quick answer to that is, “Not much”, but the follow-up is, “I had a father who taught me to manage what I had/have.”

When I went to college, Daddy took me to the bank in Denton to open a small account. I forget how much he put in it, but it was minimal, because (1) I had a job at the college and (2) he and mother were doing well to send me to school anyway. Then, in front of the bank officer who opened the account, he turned to me and said, “You know how to keep up with your checkbook and reconcile a bank statement. If you overdraw, don’t you come crying to Daddy.”

Boom! I’d have lain down and died first!

But he was right—I knew how to keep up with money. In junior high and high school, I received a small allowance on Monday mornings. Out of that, I was expected to buy school supplies, lunches, tithe, pay for any entertainment like a movie, and hopefully save a bit toward Christmas shopping for others. I learned quickly.

I can squeeze a nickel until it begs for mercy.

When Jim and I came home from Congo and basically started over (we didn’t make much as missionaries anyway!), it was tighter than Dick’s hatband to quote an old adage. Every two weeks, I spent thirty dollars—not a penny more—at Safeway for groceries as well as needed cleaning supplies. I washed and hung out cloth diapers—no disposables in our household! Everything was made from scratch, and that wasn’t just because Jim preferred it that way. He gave up milk, which he loved, because what I bought was for our baby and cooking. Jim got clothes because he worked; Brian got clothes because he was growing fast. I did without—and not necessarily with a smile.

Jim told my Daddy once that if I hadn’t been taught to manage, we’d be up a creek. But I had, and we weren’t.

Do I regret the really lean times? Sure. Being young, there were “wants” which took a backseat to “needs”. But every year, I have fewer and fewer “wants”.

Someone once said to me, “It doesn’t take much to make you happy, does it?” I guess it doesn’t. What a blessing!

~~Posted January 22

Living with--or in spite of--regrets

 Regrets? We all have them. Most of the time we learn to live with them, and I guess I have. I couldn’t make a list of my personal regrets, but they all fall into one category: I regret I didn’t know who I was and didn’t live accordingly.

One of my mother’s favorite adages was “Be yourself.” That’s fine, Mother, but who am I? She also used to say regularly, “You don’t don’t can’t...” all in one breath with no explanation. I never asked for one.

Is it any wonder I never knew who or what I was?

One of my favorite scriptures is from Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. KJV

Only when I stumbled on those words and began to think about them did I find the answer to the question Who am I?

Asked to write a brief author bio to post various places, I had to think about it. I put in such things as widow, mother, grandmother, genealogist, traveler, writer, senior citizen having her adolescent rebellion 50+ years late. All of it is true. Yet, are those words all I am?

No. I’m myself. For good or ill, I’m who I am and never dared to be previously. I often say, “I’ve paid my dues in this life.” Actually, it’s something one of my characters said in a story, but it’s true. I did what I was supposed to do, not always as well as I might have wished, but I stayed the course. Some thought my best wasn’t good enough—but good enough for what and for whom?

So what does a broken and a contrite heart have to do with who I am—after all these years? I’m a child of God, and God doesn’t make mistakes. (I used to think He did, particularly when it came to me.) Contrite, repentant, resting safely in His love and care, I am a person of worth—not more than anyone else, of course, but finally open to allowing God to do with me what He wants to do. I’m not finished yet.

I thank Him every morning for life and health and ask Him for whatever needs I have that day—whether keeping my mind clear of thoughts displeasing to Him or something simpler like safe miles on an errand I have to run or accomplishing everything on my to-do list for the day. The words of the old hymn run through my mind daily: All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided...Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. We are who we allow God to be in us. That’s who I am.

Another old adage, “It’s never too late” is true. I won’t have one more day of life than God planned on the day of my birth nor one day less. And now I can live each day as the person He created me to be.

~~Posted January 18

Don't let the lightning strike your eggs!

Here’s an interesting topic to ponder: Thunder storms—inspiring or scary?

Lightning and thunder never frightened me when I was growing up. I remember standing with my father on our front porch watching the sky light up (in the far distance) and counting time until the familiar roll of thunder reached us.

Then I moved to the middle of Africa where thunder and lightning could strike fear into the soul of any sinner or saint. With corrugated tin roofs on most places, the constant bombardment of rain, accompanied by roaring thunder, set my teeth on edge every time.

However, one can always find the humor in the worst scenario.

After I’d married and moved up-country, I monitored my pilot-husband on a small Messavia radio. The antenna, strung in the trees outside the house, made a good target for a lightning strike (or so I was warned). So, when a storm came up, I disconnected the radio from its battery and waited things out.

This particular afternoon I dutifully disconnected, but then I returned to the kitchen where I was baking. However, something inside me said I should vacate the kitchen for the dining room, so I moved everything and got back to work.

At one point, I needed eggs. Now eggs were hard to come by out there. Sometimes you could only buy 3 or 4, so you were very careful and never ever wasted one. I pondered the need. The refrigerator ran on kerosene, not our practically non-existent and sporadic electricity, so I reasoned I could dash into the kitchen, retrieve the eggs, and be none of the worse for the wear.

After another round of lightning and thunder, I made the egg run. On the way back, about the time I hit the door between the kitchen and the dining room, lightning struck somewhere extremely close outside one of the kitchen windows. (Most of the houses in town, built during Belgian colonial rule, had metal bars on the windows.)

My dash turned into a dead-heat run as I picked up speed for the bedroom. Though the bed was too low to the floor to crawl under, I threw myself face down on it, arms outstretched with a precious egg in each hand.

I waited out the storm before returning to my baking—with both eggs safely intact. And the moral of this story is: Never lose two scarce eggs to anything, even a lightning strike.

~~Posted January 12

Middlin' to Very Good

Middlin’ is the way I’ve always described myself. Not that I haven’t wanted to be outstanding. Some people are, and some people aren’t.

For example, I’ve always wanted to play the piano like the late Anthony Burger of the Bill Gaither Gospel shows and videos. Instead, I played for various small churches who couldn’t get an Anthony Burger. But when someone called my offerings “heart music”, I glowed.

As a writer, I’m no New York Times best seller, and I’ve had my share of laughably bad reviews. But there are those who like what I write, and that’s good enough. I don’t like book events because I find it difficult to sit behind a table and look important. I’d much rather make the rounds meeting other people and chit-chatting.

I’ve been pretty good as a Mimi to the Small Person and the Bear Cub. They still like to hang out on occasion, but they’re growing up, so my role is changing somewhat. Still, I believe I’ll leave them some good, important things to remember.

But the thing I’m best at is keeping my mouth shut. I’ve had people blurt out dark, intimate secrets with no warning and then beg me never to tell. And I never will. I’ll take those secrets to my grave, not because I said I would but because they’re not mine to tell—and because someone trusted me to keep her confidence. It’s the right thing to do. Adding that to the list of wrong things I’ve done wouldn’t be something I could live—or die—with.

There are things I’ve never told and never will tell about myself. Things which have hurt or even damaged me. No one else needs to know. There are people I might trust with the information, but why would I even let it pass my lips? Keeping one’s own counsel, tending to one’s own business—good advice however it’s phrased. And if someone else tells me her business, it falls into the same category.

I’ve forgotten more than I remember being told, and that’s probably good. And what I remember is buried deep and forever.

~~Posted January 8

And into 2021...

The final two months of 2020 were a wash for me due to a fall and other issues. It’s difficult to get back on schedule, but that’s the goal for this week…or next…or the one after that! It will happen, however. Of that I’m sure.

Also, January is the month I do an annual cleanout of every closet, cabinet, and drawer. That may stretch into February, but it, too, will happen! My goal this year is not so much to make a yearly to-do list but rather to prioritize what needs to happen when.

Some projects I intend to finish and/or make progress on are:

v  Finish The Legacy of Diamond Springs

v  Continue to record family stories on tape for my children and grandchildren

v  Organize a mound of genealogical research

v  Submit one story a month for publication somewhere (rejections count!)

v  Travel to my hometown to work on the archives in the church where I grew up (this is a biggie!)

No, these aren’t New Year’s Resolutions. Somehow we always manage to break, forget, or simply shove aside those solemn promises. I just want to accomplish—or at least make progress on—the above-mentioned projects.

A side note: I’m cutting back on blogging from three times a week to two. Hopefully this schedule will be more manageable, since I also make entries in a writing journal (also cutting back to twice a week) which includes free writing from a prompt, writing reflections, and a short paragraph on “My Reality Today”.

Blogging, journaling, and finishing Diamond Springs will keep me happily busy.

And, I hope the next list of projects in January 2022 will reflect life settling back to normal at last.

~~Posted January 4