Is it Really Quicksand????


Have you ever been mired in quicksand?

I remember the day I made my First Communion in the Catholic Church. I have a picture of myself in a white, frilly dress, wearing a veil and shiny patent leather shoes.  It was supposed to be a day that I would remember as a beginning of a new era in my life.

We went to visit my grandmother who lived next to a large field that led to a playground.  I begged my parents to let me walk with my brothers to the playground, promising not to get dirty or ruin my dress and shoes.  We had gone there before without any incident and I reassured mom and dad I could do it without any problem.  They finally relented and the three of us ran off to have some fun.

About half way to our destination, I became mired in quicksand, at least that is what my brothers called it.  I sank down to my knees in something muddy and deep.  The more I fought it, the worse it got.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not get out of the muck.

My brothers ran off to summon my father.  I still remember the feeling of desperation while I was immobile and alone.  The tears streamed down my cheeks as I stood in the middle of an open field embarrassed and wanting to disappear before my dad arrived.

My pain was not from the sting of the spanking I received for my mud-packed shoes, socks and dress.  It wasn’t from the cold water as dad hosed me off.  The look of anger and frustration on my parents face would have been enough, but I can still see my grandmother who wept at the sight of me.   It was the disappointment of not keeping my promise and for ending a special event on such a sour note.

Like many others, I dove into November by challenging myself to complete my second novel (50,000 words) in 30 days (NANOWRIMO).  I zoomed through the first 25,000 words and my novel came to an end.  I went back and tried to find places to add more words, but the story line was complete.

I got mired in quicksand.  I couldn’t move forward.  I pulled and tugged and wanted to cry when I realized I would not be successful in completing the NANOWRIMO challenge.  I stopped writing anything.

For the past 7 days, I have sat hopelessly in front of my laptop glaring at the computer screen.  I felt much like the five year old girl who could not move an inch without sinking further into the mud.  I could not seem to pull myself out.  I failed to live up to a commitment I made, one that probably means little to anyone except me, but feels much the same as.

Then I remembered, I’m not that five year old little girl and I’m not in quicksand.  Writing is more than a thirty day commitment.  I’ve printed out my manuscript and read it.  It needs work, but it is a beginning and today is a new day, worthy of a new beginning.

To all my fellow writers who think they are mired in quicksand, it’s probably not quicksand that is holding you back.  Write.  You’ll feel better soon!

Fall is Fading


My mother loved to make our annual trip to the apple orchard.  This time of year brings melancholy moments and today, my thoughts turned to her.  This poem found its way into my collection after one of our visits.  Perhaps another simple soul will enjoy it too.

Here’s to you mom.  You’re always just a thought away.

Memories of Autumn

Leaves painted in gold, slowly drift to the ground

Crisp autumn winds make them dance all around

The apples are ready, wagons stuffed full of hay

The trip to the orchard makes for a wonderful day

Mums bursting in color,Purple, rust and bright yellow

The cider’s been brewing, it’s sweet, warm and mellow

The sun’s warm on my back, fall has made quite a splash

I cherish the moment, it will fade in a flash


Inspiration is essential to writing passionately.  Soon I’ll be nestled in this rugged swing, listening to a nearby babbling brook, greeting the crisp morning chill as I put pen to paper and let my imagination flow.

Not only will I have the perfect inspiration, I’ll be visiting family.  The hours of endless chatter and laughter are priceless.  Georgia’s on my mind and life is good.

Where do you find inspiration?

From the Boughs of a Cradle


Poetry flows freely from my pen onto yellow pads, yet it seldom finds its voice at the keyboard.  Perhaps that makes sense since it’s difficult to walk leisurely through the woods while pecking away on a laptop.  My appreciation for the stimulation that Mother Nature provides began as a small child while wondering the hill of the Missouri Ozarks.  My love of poetry can be attributed to Robert Frost.

Mr. Frost shared the same love for God’s creations that I do.  He created his own footprints in The Road Not Taken and he touched the hollows of my soul through poems such as Bereft.  I felt a kindred connection to his need to share melancholy thoughts in the form of poems.

While I cannot compare my writings to such a master of the art, I share with you a poem that formed from my futile thoughts one evening after watching the local news.

From the Boughs of a Cradle

From the boughs of a cradle, much like you and me

So dependent on others, so innocent and free

He grinned with a smile that would capture your heart

No clue that his world would soon fall apart

Left alone once too often; forced to grow up too fast

The pleasures that warmed him were soon part of his past

The drugs and the booze became his whole life

Such a sense of abandon, such continuous strife

From street gangs to prison, he followed the path

Consumed by his anger, his hatred, his wrath

Now death by injection, the sentence he waits

So hopeless and helpless behind steel gates

The cradle is empty, the smile worn away

No family or friends to protect him today

 Will his soul die before us as inevitable fate

Or will a spirit embrace him?  Is it ever too late?

 

By Diane How

The Right Words at the Right Time


One of the books I picked up recently at a used book sale is The RIGHT WORDS at the RIGHT TIME by Marlo Thomas  and Friends.  It was published more than a decade ago, yet the messages contained within the pages are timeless.  The amazing short stories, by well-known men and women, describe how something that someone said changed their lives forever.

I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three stories when I had a few extra minutes.  Many of the messages were profound, some were surprising, a few were familiar.  Did you know that Dwight Eisenhower once said “Never question another man’s motive.  His wisdom, yes, but never his motives.”  Isn’t that thought provoking?

The only problem with the book is, it wasn’t enough.  I could have read two or three more volumes.

Words have a powerful impact on my life.  Many times someone has said something that stuck with me and helped me see a new angle on an issue.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could remember some of them now?  I could share them with other bloggers or start collecting them for future reference when  a senior moment sets in and stifles my attempt to write an interesting post.

Oooh, oooh, wait!  One truly inspirational thought comes to mind.  I’m going to start typing fast so I don’t forget it.

My brother Rob once told me “Problems are merely unresolved opportunities.”  That piece of advice helped me to focus on the result rather than be blocked by the challenge.  It helped me work through countless events at work and in my personal life.

OK, another one just flashed by, except I have no idea who said it and when I searched for the author on the internet, I got numerous unconfirmed responses.  Whereever you go, there you are.

Maybe you can help satisfy my need for more.  What right words were spoken to you or read at the right time?   Would you be willing to share?  I hope so.  My thirst for knowledge has not been satified.

A Glance Back


Trying to measure where the last two years have disappeared is like trying to hug a passing cloud.  I could no more complete an after action report accounting for the time than I could return to working full time every day.

Often, an inner voice urges me to accomplish more than I have done, yet another voice reminds me that I have crossed off a few bucket-list items.  Sometimes I yearn for more, but today, I choose to focus on those things that have brought me pleasure and a sense of fulfillment.

Writing tops my list of achievements.  No, I cannot proclaim a best-seller, but I did publish my first book, Peaks and Valleys.  The non-fiction memoir begins in the 50’s in my childhood hometown of Pine Lawn, Missouri.  As indicated by the title, many of the tales brought a smile to my face as I wrote them.  Some of them were written as tears fell from my eyes.  Revisiting the happy, and sometimes painful, times of my life had a therapeutic consequence.  When I finished, it brought me peace, comfort and an appreciation for the experiences that made me whom I am today.  The journey is worth taking, for everyone.  I hope others will be inspired to follow my path and clean out a few of their own closets along the way.  The book is available through Amazon.com and Kindle.

I also wrote a second book, Burning Embers, for which I am currently searching for a publisher.  Writing a romance/suspense novel in thirty days was not on my original bucket list, rather it was a challenge introduced to me through a writing club that I joined named Pen to Paper Writing Club.  I found the experience so rewarding that I drafted an outline for my next novel which I will begin shortly.  Who knew I had an imagination?

The poet in me continues to surface whenever I cannot find the words to speak directly to friends and family.  I have contemplated publishing some of my poems, but finding gratification in the positive effect the words provide the person for whom they were written is enough for now.

As a multi-tasking person, all that writing wasn’t quite enough to keep me busy, so I began this blog.  My social media skills are limited and until one of my fellow writers encouraged me, I had never visited a blog site.  Now I follow a few that tickle my interests or touch my soul.  I’m still in the beginning stages, but I find it another way to release the writer in me. (http://authordianemhow.com)

More recently, I began volunteering with VITAS Hospice Care as a Story Keeper.  This rewarding opportunity entails recording life stories of patients who are in hospice care so that they may leave a treasure for their loved ones and future generations.  I wrote about my first visit in one of my blogs.  It is amazing how God directs us on our journey to the right place at the right time.  If you have any doubts about following His lead, read When you volunteer are you giving or receiving?.

Every day has not been as uncomplicated as this post makes it sound, but as I said, today, I am sticking with the positive, happy times.  My husband and I have found time to fish, gamble and spend time with our daughter and her boyfriend.  We’ve even managed to get in a few short trips to Branson, Lake of the Ozarks and Georgia.  Lunch and dinner dates fill a few of the squares on my calendar and provide me with the chance to catch up with family, friends, former co-workers and my wonderful Girl Scout buddies.

I yearn to know what memories filter through when you look back a few days, months or years.

When you volunteer, are you giving or receiving?


Haven’t posted much these last few weeks because I started a volunteer position.  I wasn’t prepapred for the astonishing outcome, but it just goes to show that God knows where he wants you next, you just have to trust in Him.

I enjoy my leisure time since retiring and spend many hours writing.  Still, I yearned to become involved in an organization that would give me a sense of purpose.  As I skimmed a list of volunteer opportunities in my local newspaper, my eyes settled on two words, Story Keepers.  I paused to read more. 

VITAS Story Keepers capture the meaningful moments of a patient’s life.  The simple description intrigued me; yet, the thought of volunteering with a hospice care organization concerned me.  The emotional pain of watching my mother die a slow, difficult death from Alzheimer’s still weighed heavily on my heart.  I was not sure if I was ready for the task. 

I kept the clipping visible over the next week.  Finally, I picked up the phone and contacted the manager of volunteer services, Angela O’Hara, to learn more about the position.  Ms. O’Hara talked with me at length and explained that the position involved making an audio recording of the patient’s life.  Although I understood it would not involve writing in the capacity I had hoped, the thought of helping someone else document their life compelled me to become a Story Keeper.

 I completing all the necessary paperwork and training material provided by VITAS within a week.  It wasn’t long before I received the name of my first patient to interview.  Ms. O’Hara and I met the patient and his wife in their home.  After brief introductions, we settled down on the sofa and began conversing to get to know the elderly couple and to make them feel at ease with the Story Keeper process.

 The interview took an unusual and remarkable turn when the patient told us the school he attended.  I shared with him that I was familiar with the school, as I had attended a school in a bordering neighborhood.  Simultaneously, the patient and his wife remarked that she also attended the school which I mentioned.  The wife then turned to me and asked me if I was the daughter of Dorothy Hootselle (my mother).  She said she could see the resemblance when I first arrived, but could not place who I looked like.

 She introduced herself as my grandmother’s niece, who grew up just two blocks from my childhood home.  Both she and her husband knew my family intimately and shared stories with me that I would never have heard had it not been for the visit.  The patient’s wife even shared that my grandfather had saved her when she nearly drowned in a river.

The emotional journey over the next hour was overwhelming and rewarding.  The wonderful stories about my mother and her parents brought such joy to my heart, I left feeling like I was given a gift, one that I would treasure for life and share with my siblings.

Over the next few visits, I recorded heartwarming and memorable stories told to me by the patient and his wife.  From their heritage, to their marriage and their many life experiences, we worked together using the comprehensive questions offered in the Story Keepers Shared Stories User Guide to provide a gift for their children, grandchildren and future generations.  We completed the project and presented the audio recording to them on the patient’s 84th birthday.  The smile on their faces spoke volumes.

Being a Story Keeper for VITAS has provided me with a rewarding opportunity to influence the life of another.  The unexpected bonus of meeting two people who fulfilled a void in my life made the experience astonishing.  It is another example of how there is a thread of life that connects us all.