Life Choices


It never ceases to amaze me how often a friend says “How do you know Jane?” Insert any name you like. The response for me usually is through thirty-three years working at the same place, a lifetime of volunteering with Girl Scouts and a hospice group, or along my writing journey.

It’s fun to make the reconnection and it reminds me of how small our world really is. No matter where I’ve met them, they have a common link, they are good-hearted, respectful, caring friends who have made a difference in my life.

A few days ago, that very thing happened to me. It sparked one thought and then another. Before I knew it, the following poem came to life. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to share it with those people that have woven love into your life

A Tapestry of Hope

Threads of life connect us all.

Multi-colored ribbons of endless textiles

Tribal motifs, gentle cottons, sturdy burlaps, luxurious silks

Each strand has purpose, each purpose has worth

Some with frayed ends, others miraculously unspoiled

Common and uncommon, grounded by perspective

Woven with tenderness, this rainbow enchantment

Spreads a superlative quilt of warmth and refuge

Over mountains and oceans, religions and politics

Strengthened in crisis, prominent amid disasters

Immune to pandemics, persistent and loyal

These threads of life called LOVE

by Diane M How

Who are the people in your world?

Do you share the same morals and values?

How has it affected the life you are living today?

Time to Chill


Too much time in one place? Too much stress to deal with? Too few things to laugh about?

You are not alone. I’ve been trying to avoid making wine my evening meal. It goes great with chocolate, and I have to admit I keep it close on hand.

What can I say? At least I didn’t hoard toilet paper!

I have to exercise twice as long to keep the weight from packing on, so my husband and I take long walks admiring nature’s glorious treasures.

I heard someone say they were so desperate they were house cleaning. Thank goodness I haven’t reached that level, yet.

Seriously, wouldn’t it be more fun to escape to a quaint Georgia town and eavesdrop on some witty, endearing, and resilient sisters as they unravel the mystery of The Gold Miner Ring?

You’re in luck! For the next couple of weeks, the sisters are offering their e-book at a special price.

https://dashboard.bookfunnel.com/bundles/board/fgq2up6cng

Treat yourself to a little chill time. I think you’ll be glad you did.

What are you doing to adjust to our new normal?

What has been the hardest thing to adjust to?

What silver-linings have you found during this past month?

My Silver Lining


Seems like such a short time ago, our grand dog, Hammie was just a pup. He’s 11 years old now. How time flies, except when you’re confined to quarers for an unknown length of time.

It’s tough right now, trying to find the silver lining in our disrupted world. We’ve been invaded by an invisible, unexpected, and uncontainable virus. As unpredictable as the Corvid-19 journey has been, so have been our responses to it. Confusion, denial, fear, anger, frustration. All reasonable, all understandable. Yet, with any crisis, there is opportunity from which we can benefit. Even Hammie is taking the Shelter in place command seriously.

Some folks use humor to get through the stressful situations. That includes me. I love some of the social media pictures and quotes that make me laugh out loud.

I ignore the rants and raves that do nothing more than stir negative emotions. It doesn’t mean I am oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, but many of the political pokes and ventings do nothing but spread anger and fear. I choose to focus on the positive.

So here are a few of the positive opportunities I’ve been given.

I’m saving lots of money because I traded trips to the casino for daily runs to the store in search of toilet paper. Down to two rolls. I got desperate and ordered some on line. Good news, I found some. Bad news, the deliver day is May 22. I thought it was a typo, but Alexa confirmed it.

I’m getting my daily 10,000 steps in by walking room to room and taking note of the chaos I’ve neglected for some time. Every once in while, I find an object that’s been missing for months. Found a Christmas present I forgot to deliver yesterday. Now won’t they be happy when it shows up in their mailbox. Spreading the joy.

My daily wardrobe consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Haven’t had to wash a bra in a week! Just think about the water and soap I’m saving. I saw a Facebook post that said to cut them up to use as a mask when necessary.

I’m not gaining weight because we aren’t eating out. All the burger and chicken are gone by the time I get to the store, so we’re cleaning out the freezer, trying to identify what’s each shriveled, rock hard, frosted package contains.

I’ve got lots of time to clean those closets and organize the pantry now. Could wash windows too. Choosing to save those fun thing in case I get really desperate!

Best part is that I have more time to write, and I am. Veins of Gold is taking form. The Dahlonega Sisters are busy keeping me front and center by my laptop.

The girls wanted me to do something to brighten your day, so they suggested I reduce the price of their first book, The Gold Miner Ring. The e-book is now available for $1.99 at your favorite site. Here’s the link: https://books2read.com/links/ubl/mVrL2p

Stay safe everyone and don’t forget to lighten up. This too shall pass and with a little luck, we’ll all learn something positive from the experience.

What’s your silver lining?

The Threads That Bind Part Two


The Threads That Bind – Part Two

I rewrote a post a few days ago and forgot to change the title. If you haven’t read The Threads That Bind – Part One, you might want to visit that post first. This is a continuation of my journey.

My belief that a common thread connects us all was reinforced during my second life-story recording.

My manager led the way into the patient’s home. After brief introductions, I explained why I was there and handed the man a few papers. “These are questions, prompts of sort, to help you get started, if you decide you want to make an audio tape for your family.”

He drew his brows tight and twisted his mouth, pushing the papers aside. “I’m not doing the recording.”

The response did not surprise me. Few people feel they have a story to tell. Regardless, I wasn’t going to let the visit go to waste. While my role with the hospice group was primarily to record stories, I wanted to make a difference. “How about if I come by for a visit every week, just to talk?”

The man studied my face for a moment. “What would we talk about?”

I smiled. “Anything you’d like. Sports? Movies? Do you play cards or checkers?”

He thought about it and finally agreed. As promised, I returned with no agenda other than to brighten his day. I brought along fresh blueberry muffins, something he’d mentioned on our first visit. I chuckled when he suggested I could bring chocolate on my next visit.

On the fourth visit, he surprised me. He handed me the papers I’d left on my first visit. I glanced at them and noticed a one-word answer after each question.

A half smile pushed his slender cheek up before he spoke. “I’m ready.”

And so began the journey. As he talked, he became more comfortable with the process. When he shared stories of bar-hopping with a group of friends, I was intrigued. The recollections were the same as told by Tom. It turned out that my cousin’s husband was one of this man’s best friends with whom he made the tavern rounds. They had lost touch over the years. Unfortunately, Tom had passed, but his wife was delighted to be reconnected to someone who shared her past experiences.

The validation that I was exactly where I was supposed to be filled me with joy and anticipation of where my journey would take me next. I met many people, some whose stories I recorded, others who I listened to as a friend.

And then it happened. On the initial visit with another patient, the opportunity to achieve my dream presented itself.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon. A middle-aged woman invited me into the quaint, senior-living apartment. A bouquet of flowers scented the room. A young girl sat on the floor cross-stitching on fabric.

The woman made introductions, extending her hand toward the child. “This is my daughter. She likes to sew. Her grandmother taught her.”

I smiled and greeted her. “Nice to meet you. What beautiful work you do.”

The woman directed me to an older, robust woman who was busy rearranging a large stack of assorted papers and clippings. “This is my mother.”

I extended my hand, “It’s so nice to meet you. How are you today?”

“Fine.” Her voice was as firm as her handshake.

My curiosity urged me to ask, “Looks like you have some important papers there.”

“When can we get started?”

The abrupt response surprised me. “It sounds like you’re ready.” I sat down next to her. “I don’t usually start recording on the first visit. It helps if we prepare for it by getting to know each other a little first. That way I can be sure we meet your wishes and make the best audio we can. Would that be alright?”

A pained expression covered the woman’s face. “What I really want…” she hesitated before continuing, tears brimming. “I wanted to write my life story, but I don’t know where to start and I don’t have enough time.” Her eyes pleaded for understanding.

A tingle ricocheted through my body. I touched her hand in reassurance. “I love to write. I’ve always wanted to write someone’s life story or help them write it.” I drew in a breath while contemplating my offer. “Perhaps that’s why I’m here. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe I can help you.”

The words seemed to lift her frown. “Really? Would you? I can’t do it by myself.”

“I’d be happy to help. I’m excited and can’t wait to get started.”

She pushed the pile of papers in my direction. “Take these with you and read them, if you have time?”

“I’d be honored. How about 1:00 p.m. on Monday? Will that work for you?”

“Oh, yes. That would be fine.” She reached for my hand and squeezed it. “Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure. I’ll see you Monday and we’ll jump right in.”

I spent Saturday, reading the scribbled notes and brief stories, trying to place them in chronological order. The woman’s parents had owned a 350 acre farm in South Dakota and in the menagerie of papers, I found an essay written by her mother. It described the challenges of feeding twenty-five farmhands during harvesting in the 1900’s. It was a piece of history that had been entrusted to me.

On Sunday, I received a call from the volunteer manager telling me that the woman had passed away. My heart ached knowing her wish went unfulfilled. I planned to return all the paperwork to the family, but before I could, I received another phone call from the hospice manager. “The family asked if you could help write the book for the patient. They want to meet with you to discuss it if you are interested.”

A couple of meetings and two months of emails between family members allowed me to piece together the information. Additional stories were shared and incorporated by her children and surviving sister. The woman’s wish had been fulfilled. I have no doubt that a greater force brought us together for that very reason.

The simple act of giving my time returned ten-fold, not in money, but something much more gratuitous. I admire the people who share their life stories to create the audio recordings. They allow families to continue to hear their voice after they’re gone and by filling a void in their lives, they’ve filled the void in mine.

How has volunteering blessed you?  I’d love to hear your stories.

More Than Just Writing


I’m trying to juggle writing the second book in a series, editing a romantic suspense, drafting a short story and poem for upcoming contests, and marketing my first novel. It’s overwhelming.

Sometimes, I have to step away and play for a little bit. What do I do when I’m not stuck in front of my laptop pecking away at the keyboard?

I weave baskets. Yes, old fashion basketry. Did you know some of the oldest baskets date back 10,000 to 12,000 years? Believe it or not, I’m not the only one interested in this craft. In fact, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of men and women who belong to guilds all over the United States.

Every August, my daughter and I attend the Missouri Basketweavers Guild (see basketweavers.org) convention, spending the weekend creating amazing baskets and sharing time with other weavers. In order to keep our skills fresh, and just because we love doing it, we gather in my home with another dear friend about once a month and create something new.

I finished my first basket of the year this weekend. It’s called Lucky. The pattern was designed by Dianne Gleixner, a gifted instructor I met at one of the conventions I attended.

Basket weaving is my guilty pleasure, right after wine and dark chocolate. It uses another part of my brain that needs attention too. There’s something therapeutic about working the reed, packing the rows snug, and shaping it until it looks like the one in the picture.

Just for a little while, my mind isn’t consumed by plots and dialogues, inciting incidents and Amazon ads, Facebook posts and Book This or Book That. In order to achieve success in the craft, I have to focus on the pattern and use my hands and fingers in a different way. It frees my mind from writing, just for a short while.

What is it that you do when you need a distraction from your work? Do you sew? Read? Solve puzzles?

How about taking a few minutes to share, you never know when you might inspire someone to try something new.

Power of Touch


Some time ago, a friend and fellow author, Amanda Bretz (https://amandabretz.wordpress.com), described a tender moment between herself and her father. No words were uttered. A simple squeeze of the hand spoke as loud as a pastor from the pulpit. The power of touch amazes and encourages me, especially when words are not enough.

As a writer, I draw upon an infinite source of words to fill the pages of a book, yet there are times when words are not enough to convey the intensity of the moment. A gentle kiss, a stroke of a hand on one’s cheek, a strong embrace conveys emotions unreached by mere speech.

Perhaps that was why I wrote the following poem some years ago as my mother suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Although she could not verbalize her thoughts, we spent many hours just holding hands and sharing gentle squeezes, along with heartfelt smiles. I think if she could have expressed her thoughts, she would have said these words.

      Timeless Treasure

The memories of yesterday
Will become distorted over time
The written word will lose its strength
A verse will lose its rhyme

The laughs we shared will pass by me
My words will make no sense
Such simple things we once enjoyed
Will now seem rather dense

Old photographs will fade away
Your face may lose its name
You’ll think I’ve traveled far away
But my heart will know you came

No need for words, no bouquets bright
No trinkets made of gold
No promise for a miracle
Just your hand for me to hold

Your love’s the only treasure
It will endure through all the pain
Just speak to me in silence
You’ll be my sunshine in all the rain

Have you been struggling to find the right words? Could the answer be in the power of touch?

Tell me your story. I’d love to hear it.

Finding Inspiration


Writing often is a solitary calling, especially in winter months. You’d think I’d flourish when confined indoors with plenty of free time to devote to my passion. Instead, my mind hibernates, shuts down, and refuses to unveil any hint of creativity. Even the ink in my pen coagulates when cold winds blow.

During the other seasons, I have a fantastic (monthly) writing club, Saturday Writers, (saturdaywriters.org) to encourage me with contests, open mic nights, and amazing guest speakers, but they cease meeting for a couple of months, just when I need them the most.

Unfortunately, weather, health issues, and holiday commitments tend to cancel many of the biweekly critique group meetings, leaving a void in my face-to-face writing support system. Thank goodness for email and Facebook, but it’s not the same. I want and need to see the person’s face light up when a particular phrase I’ve written hits the mark or pay attention when a frown appears letting me know I need to rework a story.

My husband and daughter tend to tolerate my obsession for storytelling, and on rare occasions they provide a nod of approval after being urged to read something I’ve scripted. I get it. Writing doesn’t excite everyone. I try not to take it personally, but it would be refreshing to have one of them ask “What are you working on?” or even better, “I’d like to read that when you’re ready.”

Of course, showing interests goes both ways. Hubby likes sports, especially wrestling, and the weather and gardening. He spends many hours on-line reading about upcoming matches, baseball trades, and the daily forecast. I try not to half-listen when he shares his recent finds, but there are times when my attention fades.

My daughter loves cooking, basket weaving and shopping on-line, especially for shoes and purses. My purse selection is limited to two at any given time, one that’s worn and tattered and the one I bought to replace it. We do share the hobby of basket weaving. She’s an experienced weaver with a basement full of reeds, handles and patterns. She made this amazing basket one Saturday while I piddled with two simple ones.


I’m still an advance beginner. All of my supplies fit in a duffle bag.

My daughter’s also a speed reader and while she will read whatever I send her, her comments are normally limited to pointing out my mistakes.

I’ve found a rather simple, possibly sneaky, way of gaining their attention and giving them a reason to care. We do share some common interests such as nature, humor and a loveable dog named Hammie.

Personal anecdotes and yarns often become part of my short stories. Before I publish anything that involves my family, I make them read it and give their approval. Sometimes they provide a different version based on their memory of the event or they might remind me of another humorous tale.

Now that spring has arrived, my inspiration blossoms like the lovely ornamental cherry tree in my side yard.

 I’ve still not identified its exact variety, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s twisted, gnarled trunk and snowy white canopy bring me joy and signal a fresh start. The ink in my pen flows again.

Ready, Set, Whoa!


I remember the first time I attended a meeting with Saturday Writers, a charter member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Most people smiled or greeted me upon arrival and I sensed a contagious energy in the room. General introductions and door prizes were given out, generous amounts of food filled a few tables and coffee, an essential for any good meeting, was available at no cost.

When the President handed out certificates to the winners of a writing contest, the crowd exploded in applause. How fun. Immediately, I knew that giving up a Saturday, once a month, was going to be worth it. At last I’d found a group with whom I could connect, maybe even share my poetry and prose efforts, something I seldom did for fear of being rejected.

When they announced the theme for an upcoming contest, it struck a chord. By the end of the meeting, I couldn’t wait to get home and write. And I did. The next few weeks, I wrote, edited and printed out my story. Pleased with my efforts, I tucked it in my notebook, knowing the chance of my sharing it with anyone was minimal. I lacked confidence, but I was pleased that I made the effort.

At the next meeting, as I waited in line to check in, I watched dozens of people submit their paperwork at the registration table. Excitement and naivety surpassed my shyness. When I got to the table, I pulled out the story, paid my small fee and turned in my entry. Shocked and embarrassed by my impulsiveness, I hurried to find a seat, already regretting my foolishness.

And foolish I was. I skipped an essential part of any contest: Research the rules and guidelines before submitting. I’m pretty sure my entry went straight to the trash can. If it didn’t, it should have.

Who knows what font I used. It wasn’t double-spaced. Didn’t have a cover sheet or bio. Probably had my name typed at the top of my story. I sabotaged myself, but it was a helpful lesson, one I remember each time I enter any kind of contest.

As I attended more meetings, I became familiar with the requirements. They are clearly identified on the SW website https://www.saturdaywriters.org. I didn’t find the courage to submit again until a year later, but when I did, I received an honorable mention. With the help of two critique groups and persistent effort, I’ve entered and won seventeen more contests.

Bottom line, the opportunities are out there for all writers to be recognized for their talents. Just be sure to do your homework and read the rules and guidelines (and the fine print) for whatever contest you enter.

Back to Basics


I have a love/hate relationship with computers. It took me years to transition from pen and paper to pc and laptop. The number of hours and bottles of wine needed to write my first blog post would make one laugh out loud.

It’s not the computers fault. It’s my need to complete the entire experiential learning cycle (ELC) when learning something new. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I’ll try to explain.

Most people have a preferred way of learning. Some are visual, some are auditory and others like to jump in and get their hands dirty – also known as kinesthetic. Me? I need it all.

I must have the written directions in front of me. Every single step or keystroke. Then I want someone showing me and talking me through each step. Finally, I want to do it myself, make a few mistakes and have someone there telling me how to fix it in language I will understand.

So today, I’m going back to square one and trying to build a blog that others might want to visit. At least, that’s what the instructions in the tutorial say they can teach me. Wish me luck.


Hidden Treasures


Sometimes the thing we’re looking for is right where we are. Hope you enjoy this story.

Hidden Treasures

Julie Perkins’ crisp November morning started before sunrise, while nosy neighbors still slept and streets weren’t snarled in traffic. Other than a few boxes stacked near the door of her studio apartment, the room was bare. Julie sold the furniture and anything that didn’t have strings attached to her heart when she received the certified letter informing her of her father’s passing.

With a loud grunt, she hoisted a box of rejected screenplay manuscripts and spiral bound notebooks and carried them to the `65 Mustang that would take her back to Missouri, provided the tires didn’t go flat and the transmission held up. “Shit,” she moaned when she realized her car key was in her hip pocket. She tried to balance the overstuffed container on the bumper with one hand. The minute she popped the trunk, a gust of wind sent papers flying out into the street. “Crap,” she cursed and dropped the box into the trunk.

By the time everything was retrieved and the final boxes were loaded, sweat dripped down Julie’s neck. Now hot and exhausted, she rolled down the windows, put the car in gear and took off.  Screw this town. I wish I’d never come here. Tears stung with the acknowledgment.

As an only child, Julie swore Hollywood whispered her name in dreams. She envisioned walking on stage to receive an award for best screenplay. She wanted fame and fortune. She wanted to be somebody special. Growing up in the rural Ozark Mountains didn’t afford those opportunities. Julie’s mother, gone since she was twelve, would have understood. She took Julie to the matinee every time a new movie came out.

Her dad, on the other hand, fumed and cussed at Julie, calling her a fool for chasing an elusive dream. “Everything you need is right here,” he’d insisted. The more he talked, the more relentless she was to prove him wrong. Julie never forgot his hurtful words the morning she decided to go. ‘If you leave, don’t come crawling back.’ Too proud to admit defeat, she never returned. Spirit-broken and alone, the need to return to her childhood home tugged at her heart.

The man standing by the stoplight went unnoticed by Julie until he reached into the car and snatched her purse from the passenger seat. “Nooo!” she screamed. He took off down an alley with Julie following close behind in her car. “Stop!” The thief ducked between two buildings and disappeared. What the hell am I going to do now?

Julie circled back around determined to find her belongings. Surely the man would dispose of her purse quickly. A trash bin caught her eye and she threw the car in park, leaving it idle while she dug into the nasty metal container. “Got it.” Pleased with her find, she brushed off her jeans and straightened her blouse, just in time to see her car drive off. “Son of a bitch!”

The sun glared overhead as she stomped her way to the nearest police substation. In her furor, she hadn’t noticed the reporter standing within ear distance and armed with a camera. “Don’t you dare,” Julie protested in vain. The headlines would read, Free-Lance Writer Robbed Twice in One Day. The black mascara streaming down her tear-stained face was just the type of photo the sleazy magazine loved to print and not the kind of fame Julie imagined.

“Just doing my job, trying to make a dime. You know how it is.”

She plopped down on a park bench, distraught and homeless. On the following day, the police recovered Julie’s stolen car. Wanting no more delays, she dropped the charges against the teenage joyrider, withdrew the last of her money from the bank and with the warm California sun to her back, she headed east.

November winds had stripped the trees of their leaves, still the rolling Missouri hills brought nostalgia and a sense of peace that had escaped Julie for many years. She’d cherished the memories of picking fresh vegetables from the garden and the endless hours in the kitchen helping to snap the beans, shuck the corn and fry the chicken in preparation of the next meal.  When the sun went down, Dad would come in from tending the fields and give her a big hug.

As the Bloomsdale exit came into view, Julie noticed the addition of a large truck stop. Bet all the farmers love that. She wound her way through the back roads, past quaint little towns, and across low water bridges, in giddy anticipation of seeing the two-story home that held so many treasured memories. She hummed to the music on her radio as the miles clicked away.

The euphoric mood imploded when the house came into view. Abandoned for years, the deteriorating home mourned for attention. Not a window pane survived the solitude. The roof barely provided shelter for intrusive squirrels. Even the front door succumbed to the gravity of its unattended wounds.

“Oh my God,” Julie moaned as she shook her head in despair. The words echoed across the barren yard. Gone, the prized rose garden her mother tended to as if it were an innocent child. Gone, the field that once bore acres of corn, now overgrown with weeds. Gone, the man who protected it all. Puddles filled Julie’s eyes and she blinked to clear them. In the distance, an image appeared. Frozen in disbelief, she watched the man walk toward the house. “Dad?”

“Good, you’re finally home. Follow me.” His firm command, a faint whisper in the wind, wrapped around her and caused a shudder.

Still in command. That’s my dad. Julie smiled to herself. She reached out to touch him just as he disappeared and was met with the hard surface of the wood siding. “Dad?” Julie stepped toward the front of the house peeking through the collection of spider webs, brushing them aside as she stepped through the opening. Her father stood near the bedroom he’d shared with her mother.

“Should have given this to you sooner. Your mother wanted you to have it. I think it’s what you’ve been looking for.”

At the foot of the bed was a slat of wood, slightly ajar. She bent down and dusted off the area before removing the board. With both hands, she wiggled the old cigar box from the snug hiding place. “What is this, Dad?” She glanced up just as her father faded from view. “Dad! Don’t go!” Julie clutched the box close to her chest and hurried outside. Her father was gone. Julie collapsed to the ground sobbing.

***

Dr. James Howell escorted Julie to the front row of the theatre just as the lights flickered, indicating the play was about to begin. She glanced at her handsome date and smiled. Who would have thought I’d be here tonight? The journey had taken her thousands of mile and years of struggle, but the rewards exceeded her greatest expectations.

Her father had been right. The treasure she sought had been there all along. Had he shared it sooner, he might have celebrated with her. Inside the box had been a love story like none she had ever read. The handwritten journals provided Julie with the foundation for an award-winning screenplay and more. She’d never expected to find a family member.

The search to find her brother, placed for adoption years before Julie had been born, had taken longer than writing the screenplay but had been worth it.

Jimmy touched Julie’s hand and whispered, “I’m so glad you found me. We’re finally home.”

“Me too. Finally Home. I thought it was the perfect title for a play.”