No blood and guts, please


I confess. I have never read the Twilight series http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. My remote control would never stop on a channel airing The Vampire Diaries http://www.stepheniemeyer.com/twilightseries.html. I’d rather go to the dentist than be forced to watch a blood and guts movie.

The ability to create fantasy escapes me. In fact, I have a difficult time closing my eyes and imagining that I am someplace I’m not. Perhaps my DNA makeup does not include much of the imagination gene.

My interests focus on real life stories, not the reality shows aired on television today, but the slice of life stories of everyday people. Humor often serves as my crutch in difficult times and I make light of challenging situations rather than defer to the martyr syndrome, as evident in my book, Peaks and Valleys http://www.amazon.com/Peaks-Valleys-Mrs-Diane-How/dp/0967490170.

While my imagination may be limited, I still love to write and my dream is to write other people’s stories. I firmly believe everyone has a story, although I find most people think no one would be interested in hearing about his or her life.

It doesn’t require imagination to write someone’s life review. It does take time to listen and ask open-ended questions and it takes honesty by the person who is sharing their story. The end product can serve as a legacy for younger generations who will someday want to know about their ancestors’ journey.

The Missouri Humanities Council and Warriors Arts Alliance http://www.mohumanities.org/proud-to-be-writing-by-american-warriors/ recognized that the unembellished stories and poems written by veterans do not need props or imaginary characters to be worthy of inclusion in their anthology of remarkable and inspiring stories. In fact, they currently are accepting admissions for their next book.

Proud_to_Be_website1

At a recent writers meeting http://www.saturdaywriters.org/, I listened while four American veterans read excerpts from the recently published book Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors. Their tales brought tears to my eyes and stirred intense feelings from years of reading similar letters while working for the Department of the Army.

Although the painful process of writing the story reflected in the quiver of each voice as the scripted words were read, there was a therapeutic benefit for each of the veterans. Each shared his reason for having done so during the question and answers period that followed.

Having listened to the veteran’s stories, I realized that not all writer’s need to have a vivid imagination. While my reading material and viewing time is limited to less imaginative works, there are many possibilities for me to suceed in my writing efforts.

How about you? Do fanciful characters dance in your head? What stirs you to pick up paper and pen and write?

Fight or Flight – The Black Cloud Theory (Part 1)


Today’s DP Post challenge reminded me of a story that I wrote sometime ago.  It is an excerp from my book, Peaks and Valleys.  I’ve divided it into two parts and hope you enjoy my Fight or Flight experience enough to read the second one tomorrow.

I have a theory that there are celestial forces that cause a black cloud to align over my head like a hovering spacecraft on a regular basis.   I have no concrete proof of this theory, but it repeats itself frequently enough that I am pretty sure I am right.

I encountered this unfortunate occurrence the first time my husband had to travel without us to Louisiana for a few weeks for his job.  Suddenly, I was like a single parent of our four-year-old daughter and sole caretaker of our mobile home.  Always the optimist, I believed this would be a great opportunity to show I could manage both tasks successfully.  The first few days weren’t bad.  I dropped Laura off at daycare, went to work, came home and fixed dinner.  Laura whimpered at bedtime when her daddy was not there to tuck in his baby girl.  The weekend came and I was oblivious to the unexplainable nebula of darkness that formed in the skies above.

Laura’s blue eyes widened with excitement as she watched me push the nearly immovable coffee table across the room.  An innocent look of wonder crossed Laura’s face as I unfolded the full size sofa-sleeper.  I had planned our little living room camp-out the night before as I tried comforting Laura to sleep.  I hoped she would someday cherish the memory as much as I cherished having a sleep over at my grandparent’s home when I was small.  Her long blond braids bounced as she grabbed her tattered flannel blanket and her hand-me-down stuffed dog, Henry, and jumped onto the newly made bed.

I read her a story and soon she was fast asleep.  Despite the metal frame from the stow-away bed poking my back and hips, I too drifted off to sleep about midnight.

“BAM! BAM! BAM!”   I was jolted awake by what sounded like shotgun blasts which vibrated the wall near my head.  It was pitch black when I jumped out of bed and slammed both shins into the anvil of a table.  I probably would have paused to tend to my injuries, but my heart was pounding out of my chest with anticipation of the next round of ammo coming through the wall.  I stumbled across the room and worked my trembling fingers between the slats on the tightly closed blinds, trying hopelessly to see from where the ghastly noise had come.

Silence filled the room.  All I could see was the familiar trailer next door and a starlit sky above it.  Anxiously, I moved from room to room checking every window in great expectation of some horrific monster with a gun.  At each window I saw nothing, but peaceful moonlit yards.  My breathing began to slow and my heart no longer pounded louder than the clock on the wall.

         I did not imagine that noise, I told myself.   I glanced at my daughter sleeping soundly and began to question my sanity even more.  If the noise had been as loud as I remember, how could she still be asleep?

A few minutes passed when I heard a light rap on a distant door and a voice say, “Hey Mike, get up.  The police are on the way.”   It was Jerry, the neighbor, from two trailers up the road trying to stir my next door neighbor.  He seemed relatively calm as he walked back and forth waiting for Mike to come out.

I could not go back to bed until I knew what had happened.  I quickly got dressed and decided to go outside to get an explanation.  I listened as Jerry explained to Mike that he had been home from work for just a short while when he heard the engine of his new car start up.  He grabbed his loaded 20-gauge shotgun and chased the would-be thieves down to my trailer where he pulled the trigger and let off a few rounds.  Now I understood why the shots I heard were so close to my house.  The boys had jumped out of his car and it rolled until it was stopped by Mike’s car.

The only casualties from the shotgun blast were a few cars across the street which looked like they had been sandblasted.  Within a few minutes, the police arrived with a canine unit and having a great fear of dogs, I excused myself to check on Laura.  She was still sleeping soundly and oblivious to the excitement of the night.  I put on a pot of coffee and settled down with a paperback until dawn.

to be continued…….

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

North, South, East or West?


Devoting time to the start of my third book and family emergencies have distracted me from writing on my blog recently, yet each day on my journey in life brings me closer to understanding the direction in which I am heading.

When I began my blog in March, my search for a purposeful life (after retirement) was evident in my posts What Now and What Now Continued.   I hoped that my mission would become evident to me through my writing.  I often find that the veiled truth is revealed in such subtle ways that only come to light when I script my thoughts.  I have struggled to find a constant theme for my blog, but I may be getting closer to identifying a topic of interest that would bring the results for which I was hoping.

Volunteering with a hospice group has provided me with an opportunity to share my poetry and books in a way that provides comfort and/or distraction to others who desperately want to find peace in their lives.  The satisfaction that it brings to me means more to me than any number of books that I have sold.  I would love to incorporate more of that into my blog.

Another opportunity to share what I consider a gift also presented itself this week.  I am blessed me with a calm, insightful demeanor that seems to sooth others during a time of crisis.  I find unexpected words of comfort and often, friends and family have related that my efforts helped them find peace.

My niece has been a caregiver for her grandmother for five years.  Her grandma is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and the time has come where caring for her in her home is no longer advisable.  While some may find it a relief to relinquish the responsibility, others struggle with strong emotions, such as guilt, that surface during such a transition.  Hopefully, my words are helping her to get through this painful experience.

My niece said she could not stop crying.  I shared with her that grieving is not only appropriate, but necessary.  It comforted her to realize what a special gift she has been given in the unique relationship with her grandmother she has served.  It cannot be replicated by anyone who did not serve in the same role.  For every difficult moment, there were many cherishing memories that she will be able to hold in her heart for years to come.

As caregiver, she served in a parenting role, always setting limits and having to insist on difficult tasks like bathing and taking medicines.  Now she has the opportunity to return to the role of granddaughter and enjoy the remaining time by bringing love and tenderness to her grandmother during her final days.

The Peaks and Valleys of my life have blessed me with peace, strength, and a sort of wisdom, which are meant to be shared through my blog.  Perhaps a new opportunity presents itself.

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.

Lightning Bolts and Saints


My brother, Rob, is gifted with a quick wit and great sense of humor.  He also can deliver a story or joke with the perfect amount of flair to evoke laughter by nearly anyone who listens.

Rob teasingly nicknamed me Saint Diane.  He suggests that I have a direct line to God.  I’m not sure how that came about, but on one occasion, he felt he had confirmed his belief.

My husband and I were riding with my brother and his wife on our way to Branson, Missouri, one of our favorite vacation spots.  We were near Rolla, Missouri and Rob reminisced about being pulled over by a State Highway Patrol on the same stretch of highway while on his way to his honeymoon destination nearly 40 years earlier.

Rob bragged that he was able to avoid a speeding ticket by pleading with the officer and telling a “little white lie” about enrolling in the police academy upon his return from his honeymoon.  The kind-hearted office let his go with a warning and his best wishes.

After listening to his embellished story, my husband, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, sarcastically inquired, “Now haven’t you felt terrible about that lie all these years?”

Bob chuckled and responded with strong exaggeration, “Oh, it has always weighed heavy on my mind!”  They both laughed heartily.

Sitting in the back seat, I pointed my finger toward my brother and said, “Put the lightning up there God.”

No more than five seconds had passed when my husband leaned forward and looked up toward a low flying plane that passed over the van in which we were riding.

“Did you see that?”  My husband’s question was nearly drowned out by the sound of sirens closing in behind us.

Rob looked at the speedometer and realized he had been speeding. “Why did you have to get Him involved?” The fury in his eyes reflected in the rear view mirror as he pulled the van to the shoulder of the highway.

The sharply dressed Patrolman approached and as expected, announced that my brother had been exceeding the speed limit.  Rob dug out his license and registration as the officer bent his head down to view the other passengers in the vehicle.  My sister-in-law and I were trying to contain the laughter that threatened to escape our mouths.

“Could you give me a break since I’m from out of town?”

The officer shook his head no and pointed toward the sky.  “Sorry, but when the guy up there gets you, there is no getting out of it.”

An explosion of laughter came from the back seat.  If God did have anything to do with it, He certainly has a sense of humor, too.

Rob didn’t share in our laughter until some years later when the pain of paying the ticket faded a little.  I’ve been banned from throwing any more lightning bolts in his direction.