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Living The Dream!

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins | 3 comments

The other day I posted some stats on Facebook about my recent school visits and other events. Here is the blip.   Here are some “stats” from my past two weeks of events.       Book Signings: 1 Awana Club: 1 School Visits: 6 School sessions taught: 22 Grades Included: K-12 Approximate number of children in all sessions: 450 Number of books sold: 148 Who did this: GOD! What a wonderful two weeks. I have so much for which I am thankful! The assignment I received from the students: Write another book.    Twenty-two sessions! The past two weeks I repeated my presentation so many times that I told my husband, “I’m about done with the story of A Boy Named George.” What does that mean? Let me explain.   You see, in most of my presentations I start by telling the students a bit about me and my books, and then I tell them that in order to explain why I became a writer I have to tell them about a boy named George. Then, with pictures and stories I share how eight year old George moved with his family from Kansas to Nebraska in October of 1913. That was 101 years ago this month. I explain that they traveled by covered wagon, they had nine horses and six people, they traveled 340 miles in 16 days, and they had adventures. I even share an adventure or two. Then I ask them how I know about this story.   I get varied responses to that question. My favorite was that I was the “bad teacher” in Kansas who wouldn’t stop the bullies! I’ve also had it suggested that I was George’s sister. Maybe I should dye my hair.   Eventually though, we get someone who says maybe it was someone in my family. Yes, George was my grandpa.   Then I show an adorable picture of my cousin Tony and my sister Vonda sitting on Grandpa’s lap. This is my favorite part of the presentation, the telling of George’s story. But this week, well after about eighteen times through that story I was ready for a new one!   Then I read a comment on the Facebook post I mentioned above. My friend said this:   “So glad you are living your dream!”             I smiled. That was sweet of her to say that. Then, like a bolt of lightning it hit me! It was true. I am living my dream. Here’s why I say that.            Back to George. I explain to the children that my grandpa, George Jones wrote three books about his life. He realized that he knew a lot of things and had experienced many things that very few living people had experienced. He believed he should write them down! He wanted people to know what it was really like.   Then I explain to the children that when three of my grandparents went to heaven in six weeks time I began to think about a way I could honor them. And THAT is when I decided to write stories. At first I thought of writing some children’s picture books telling the stories I had heard and read from both of my grandpas. But,...

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A Legacy of Happy Flowers

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on A Legacy of Happy Flowers

Last night I ate flowers. Yep, that’s right. I am staying with friends in Pennsylvania while I visit schools and my friend grows flowers. She has quite the ministry of making up arrangements of cut flowers to take to shut-ins, those suffering a loss, or just someone needing a little encouragement. This is actually a legacy she received from her mother who grew roses and gave them away.   She learned recently that you can eat nasturtiums. Now, I couldn’t have told you what nasturtiums looked like before this visit but overnight they have become one of my favorites. They are happy flowers. They shout happy. The bright yellow and orange petals make me smile every time I see them. So, when they were placed on the table to be used on top of our salad I was intrigued.   They didn’t taste bad. They really didn’t have a lot of taste at all, but my! They did make my salad happy.   Since the conversation at the table had turned to happy flowers I told them the story of my flowers this summer.   The other morning  I glanced out the back door and saw two bright spots in the fading garden. They were lone flowers waving bravely above the clover and weeds. I laughed.   “Look at those two flowers. Out of the three rows of flowers I planted this Spring, only two flowers came up. Disappointing, to say the least.   But, are they nothing but a disappointment? No, those flowers are delightful and possibly even more noticeable because there were only two.   I planted the rows of flowers in memory of a friend who died a couple of years ago. Besides, it reminded me of my Aunt Florence. Aunt Florence was Grandma Jones’ sister and her garden always seemed as much about flowers as food.   Then there was my Aunt Twyla. She always planted petunias in her flower beds. I loved the happy things and every Spring I plant some of my own. This year I put them on the front porch. There are still some of them blooming at the end of the porch.   But the crowning glory of my gardening this summer were the moss roses. The first time I ever saw moss roses was in California. Mom chose them because we lived in a desert and they work really well in severe heat and lots of sun.   “I’m going to plant moss roses on the back deck,” I enthusiastically informed  Bruce. “They will do well there. I love moss roses. They are so very beautiful.”  And on I went!   He was agreeable, but I could tell he didn’t understand my excitement.   So, I did. I planted several pots of moss roses and put them on the porch. Over the next few weeks they gradually gained their footing in the planters until one day they burst into a riotous mass of color. When I looked out onto the deck it took my breath away. So many happy colors all in one place.   And one day while I was at work I received a text message from Bruce. This is what I saw on my phone.   Yep, now he gets it!   So, whether it is...

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What is a Double Cousins Anyway?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins | Comments Off on What is a Double Cousins Anyway?

This week I visited two schools and spoke to nine classes. I found myself answering the question, “What does it mean to be a double cousin?” Several times. So, this afternoon I thought: Why not write a blog on that topic! Then I remembered something. I think I did that before! So I went back in my Double Cousins blog and found it.  So, this is a somewhat edited repeat from January of 2011. I hope it helps you understand! The Original Double Cousins When I chose the name for my book I had no idea that the term “Double Cousins” would be such a difficult concept for people. It was not difficult for me. In fact, it seemed rather normal. I guess not every family has the history that mine does. Let me explain. In 1929 my Grandma’s sister, Florence Trunnell married Ervin Jones. Shortly thereafter, my Grandma went to visit her sister and new brother-in-law and Ervin’s brother George was there. Evidently they noticed each other. In fact, they were married in 1930, after Grandma turned eighteen. George and Mildred Jones, early 1931 These events inevitably connected these two families—not once—but twice for all time. Ervin and Florence were married more than fifty years and Grandpa and Grandma Jones (George and Mildred) were married 67 years.There were eight children born out of these two marriages and they are double cousins. Through the past 71 years these two families have met over and over. Still, every other summer the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of Grandpa and Grandma Jones’ siblings meet in Broken Bow, NE for a reunion. What started as the George and Mildred Jones family reunion now encompasses any of my dad’s cousins and families that want to come. This includes the double cousins. The original double cousins. While I was growing up, this GREAT aunt and uncle came and went in our lives depending on where we lived in relation to them. Florence and Ervin were especially influential in our lives during the year-and-a-half between mothers. When Mommy died Grandma and Aunt Florence sewed our clothes. When we got snowed in at Christmas, we hunkered down and then went to Florence and Ervin’s at New Year’s to meet Grandma and Grandpa Jones and celebrate. They showed up on our door step to say hi, trade a few things, or just love on us with their presence. They were like another set of Grandparents. I wish I had realized how special they were to me in time to tell them. . . Florence and Ervin Jones, December 31, 1976 George and Mildred, approximately 1973  Fast forward two generations. In 1986 my sister, Cheryl married Norman Eggers. In 1993 my brother, Clark married Cindy Eggers.   Clark and Cindy (Eggers) Jones and Cheryl (Jones) and Norman Eggers Their twelve children are double cousins. The Jones and Eggers families are connected just like the Trunnell and Jones families. It is an amazing thing to watch. These twelve cousins are great friends. I hope that in fifty years they are still getting together to enjoy the family connection. I hope they are still getting together with descendents of all of Grandpa George and Grandma Mildred’s siblings. More importantly, though is the hope that all of them will meet again someday in heaven. Please,...

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The Power of Another Big Person

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on The Power of Another Big Person

It is no secret that my husband and I love children. They are some of our favorite people. But we don’t have any at our house.   Over the years we each developed friendships where we were able to invest time and love in the lives of children. It just came naturally. Now some of those children are grown up with children of their own.   That investment can reap great dividends.   Recently we attended the funeral of one of Bruce’s long-time friends. I knew they were close, way back when. I knew they valued their friendship. I also knew that their now-adult daughter valued her relationship with “Uncle Bruce.” The story goes that back in grad school if her Mama couldn’t find her, all she had to do was go over to Uncle Bruce’s and she would find them reading a book or making cookies. So I knew all of this.   But when we arrived at the funeral and Bruce greeted mother and daughter, it was obvious that this friendship meant more than I realized. This was a young woman who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Uncle Bruce’s love would help during this trying time. She counted on it.   Last Spring I had the privilege of speaking to a group of ladies at a church in Nebraska. Much to my surprise, many of the girls were from a Jr./Sr. High Sunday School class which I had taught were there. It was one of those full-circle moments. Here I was standing in front of them again. But this time they were all grown up, some with junior/senior high girls of their own! Then, this summer I was able to see another of their group and we keep in contact through Facebook. I love seeing them post messages about what God is doing in their lives.                     It all reminds me of a conversation I had with a professor in college many years ago. He shared with me just how much he and his wife depended on some of the single people who—as he put it—came along side and helped influence their children for God.   That’s what we are. Come-Along-Siders. Influencers. And we aren’t stopping.   There’s an entire new generation out there who need an Uncle Bruce and Aunt Miriam too!...

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Reading The End First

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on Reading The End First

A not so well-known fact about this author is that I read the end of books first. Well, at least after the first or second chapter. When I begin to connect with the characters I start worrying that it won’t turn out well for them. So I just have to read the end to make sure they are still all alive.   I am a happily ever after reader.  If an author betrays my trust by killing off a main character, or leaving things unfinished I am unlikely to read more books by that author. I don’t trust them anymore.   So, when my Bible reading took me to Psalm 77 it left me a little unsettled. The passage reminded me of America today. In verses 7-9 the following questions are posed. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?                          Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?                         Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. The Psalmist was in agony over this question, “Has God written us off?”   Since I’ve often wondered this about America, I read on in hopes of finding good news.   Here’s what I found. In verses 10-20 we see what our responses should be. The Psalmist says in verse 10,   This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.   This sets the stage for the rest of the chapter. The Psalmist, in the midst of uncertainty over God’s blessing on his world would remember the goodness and past blessing of the Lord.   Then it ends. Yep, that’s right. Read it for yourself.   The Psalmist never answers the question posed in verses seven to nine. It just ends.   ARGHHHH! Sigh.   My husband likes to tease that he is going to remove the last chapter from my next new book and hide it until I’ve read the rest of the book. I like to tell him that I’m pretty sure he is too smart to do that. If he really did that I would probably have to find the book elsewhere to read the end, or find somebody who knows the end of the story. I might even do a web search for a synopsis of the plot and read the end there. I would find a way!   But, in this case there is a difference.  The author of this Psalm is ultimately God. He inspired the Psalmist. So, in this situation I need to relax, remember who God is, follow the leader, and trust the author. But, then maybe that’s exactly what the Psalmist was saying in the last verse of the chapter.   Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77:20   I can follow the Good Shepherd with confidence, no matter the outcome. And THAT, my friends is a satisfactory ending!      ...

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Chocolate Chip Cookie and Coffee Friendships

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on Chocolate Chip Cookie and Coffee Friendships

I often laugh and tell people that the way to find out my life story is to give me chocolate chip cookies and coffee. It’s guaranteed to work.   I’m not kidding.   Back in the dark ages—well, the late 1980’s—I spent a year in Sheridan, Wyoming in nursing school. It was a grand adventure for me but the real value of the year wasn’t fully realized for years to come.   The first week I was there was kind of lonely. The older couple I was living with was gone on vacation and school hadn’t started. So, when the Pastor’s wife invited me to ride with their family up into the mountains for the annual church picnic I jumped at the opportunity. “Just come to the house and we’ll go from there,” she said.   When I arrived Donna had just brewed a fresh pot of coffee and was making chocolate chip cookies. While she finished the cookies and packed food for the picnic I drank a cup of coffee and ate a couple of cookies. Fast forward ten minutes. (That’s how long it takes coffee to kick in.)   I started talking and within thirty minutes she knew my life story. Now, I maintain that it wasn’t just the coffee and cookies. Donna is one of those people who invite confidence with a couple of simple questions. She is just sincerely interested.   That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!   Anyway, we have laughed about it over the years as our friendship grew.  During the year in Sheridan I babysat their children and spent many hours at their table visiting and seeking advice. Once I graduated and moved home I returned as frequently as I could. Over the years I attended graduations and weddings, we shared sorrows, joys, successes, and failures. I remember many conversations around their table with me seeking advice from this dear friend and her husband. And most of those times included coffee and sometimes chocolate chip cookies too!   For years Donna prayed diligently for me that God would send me a husband. I learned the precious truth of the value of a praying friend. Finally, God answered.   Since the wedding we had not seen each other. It had been nine years. That is a long time! But often, the mug I would pick from my mug wall was one of the two that Donna had given me. We occasionally spoke by phone, Donna always remembered my birthday and our anniversary, and I kept in contact with their children online.   This summer, when we were out in South Dakota we made the extra little trip over to Sheridan. I showed my husband around this town that I love. We went to church and I was able to introduce him to the people and church that have meant so much to me through the years. I had pictures taken with my friends and their children and their children’s children. Yes, it made me feel old, but so blessed.   One of the most precious moments though came the next morning when Donna made me coffee. Then she reached into the freezer, pulled out chocolate chip cookies and popped them in the microwave. Voila, there was our moment in time.  ...

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The Choir in the Pool

Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on The Choir in the Pool

  The other morning I went to the YMCA to do my water aerobics. It seems this is the best exercise for someone with a pitiful tendon. Besides, I actually enjoy it and I read somewhere recently that “The best exercise is the one you will do!” My floatie belt securely in place I bobbed around the deep end and performed my interval  exercises. Between watching the second-hand on the clock I observed the class at the shallow end. There were approximately twenty people doing what looked like a senior synchronized routine. The leader, a cheerful lady who enjoys verbal class participation, had them motivated. All of a sudden I heard singing. Now, if you have ever tried to talk in a large pool you know what the acoustics can do. It can be really hard to hear what anyone is saying, but guess what? I learned that it is an incredible place to sing. As the seniors marched underwater they held floatie noodles over their heads like a rainbow. With each step they raised and lowered the noodles. And they sang. Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. . . The sound swelled and filled the pool area. The beauty of the voices all joined in this classic song took my breath away. It was incredible. Almost like those videos where acapella  groups stand in a vast cathedral and sing. A few minutes  later they started singing “Oo” and “Ah” up intervals on the scale. They harmonized. Then I really felt like I was in a cathedral. Well, except for the water part. Suffice it to say that you never know when a moment of beauty might float into your day. And I bet you can’t guess which song I hummed all...

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A Sweet Legacy of Apples

Posted by on Sep 22, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on A Sweet Legacy of Apples

It is apple season here in the mountains of North Carolina. The apple festival took place Labor Day Weekend and ever since there are apples everywhere. We have two apple trees on our property but we’ve had trouble the past couple of years. Something was eating all of the apples before they were even ripe. I mean ALL of the apples. There weren’t even any leftovers on the ground. The apples just vanished. We suspect coons or deer, but we weren’t sure. This year, with the trees loaded with blossoms followed by tiny apples I decided enough was enough. Someone suggested hanging blank CD’s on the tree with string. Evidently the critters don’t like the shiny things and will stay away! Well, it was worth a try. Out to the tree we went and up went the CD’s. All summer I watched the shiny discs twirl gently in the breeze flashing their glare all over the yard. I also watched the apples grow and ripen. Wahoo! We won! Finally, they were ripe and we picked them. About the same time we stopped by our favorite fruit stand to see if there might be some peaches left. There weren’t, but they had apples! So, we bought some. Then my husband noticed bags of “seconds” on sale. So he bought more. Fortunately, Bruce’s Aunt Alva showed up soon thereafter. I knew Aunt Alva had just what I needed, the recipe for her Apple Honey. It is an incredible treat on toast, pancakes, ice cream, or biscuits. I think it would even make rice cakes edible! After all, I had to do something with all of the apples. So, we did. We made apple honey. We’ve also dried some apples in a dehydrator we got from Bruce’s brother and sister-in-law. I’ve made apple crisp twice using a recipe from a book my aunt gave me. We’ll be working on the apples for awhile. But, I’ll enjoy thinking about the apples from the trees Bruce’s daddy planted and the recipe from his aunt. Kind of cool isn’t it, the way legacy can sneak into your day? Then there are the tomatoes Aunt Alva discovered. Four bushel boxes. . .   Aunt Alva’s Apple Honey Peel, core, and slice ½ bushel of golden apples Put in a PLASTIC tub. Add:     2 large (20 ounce) cans crushed pineapple 5-7 pounds of sugar 2 Tablespoons lemon juice Stir and cover with a towel overnight. In the morning put the mixture in a canner and cook until the apples turn clear. Put in sterilized jars and seal....

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Of Failed Tendons and the Body of Christ

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

The past few weeks I have been dealing with a betrayal. A betrayal of my posterior tibial tendon. Yep, that’s right. The posterior tibial tendon in my left foot is failing. No biggy, you say? The rest of the foot can pick up the slack?   I don’t think so!   I’ve always walked flat-footed and my feet are flat—the arches are practically non-existent. My parents shelled out good money for my first pair of special orthotics when I was in my early teens. With the orthotics and avoidance of too many hours barefoot or in non-supportive shoes I’ve managed just fine. I’ve never had what could be called a graceful gait, but that didn’t really bother me. I am me and that’s who I am.   But, over the past few months I’ve developed a problem. First my left foot grew from an 8 ½ to a 10. Go figure. No wonder all my shoes hurt and my left great toe nail is bruised.   But that wasn’t all. “Miriam, your ankle has turned in. Look at it,” my husband said. “The right one is straight up and down; the left is completely laying inward.”   Yikes. Something I had noticed in passing but had failed to absorb into the problem-solving part of my brain suddenly shoved its way front and center.   So, after two weeks of vacation during which I let my little toesies be happy and free in flat sandals, I went to the store and bought size ten supportive running shoes for work. Wide-toed shoes that I find ugly. After all, I have to be able to walk/run for 12 hours and I had no work shoes that didn’t cause severe pain in my toe.   Oh boy. By the end of that first 12 hour shift in good shoes I had pulled/strained/sprained all of the muscles in that ankle. Suddenly forced into a semblance of alignment my foot rebelled. So started my odyssey.   After a visit to the doctor and a referral to the orthotics people I was presented with the diagnosis. Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction. It won’t go away. It is progressive. Orthotics should help for awhile.   After two more weeks of x-rays, icing, ibuprofen, elevating, and painful 12 hour shifts, I finally got my orthotics. But they weren’t the end all. They helped relieve the pain, but by now my foot was hopelessly out of sync. My toe spasmed under with each step. All the other toes seized in response.   Add physical therapy where I was shown on a human skeleton what is happening with my foot! Wow, who knew all of those bones were so interdependent? Not me! I just went along assuming what had always worked would continue to do its thing. With the new information and the tools I need I am learning a new gait, one that puts the weight on the outside of my foot where it belongs. Changing how you walk at 52 is not for wimps.   I’m amazed at how much disruption the failure of one little tendon can cause in my life.   I can’t think because I have to focus on walking and multi-tasking at 52 isn’t what it used to be. I am stressed. I fight worry...

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Why shouldn’t I? Why Shouldn’t You? Praise!

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on Why shouldn’t I? Why Shouldn’t You? Praise!

A few days ago I drove to work with my window down. I like doing that whenever it is warm enough. Somehow hearing all of the chirping birds that fill the neighborhoods between my house and the hospital makes me happy. And honestly, anything that can make me happy to be going to work at 6:30 in the morning is a good thing! I’ve always loved hearing chirping birds. They are so happy. Somehow, it lifts my soul. As I waited at the highway for traffic, a song from my childhood popped into my head.   The birds upon the treetops sing their song, The angels chant their chorus all day long. The flowers in the garden blend their hue, So why shouldn’t I, why shouldn’t you praise Him too?   It’s a simple song. At first I couldn’t remember where I learned it. It seems like one of those songs I’ve always known. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that my mommy and Grandma McKnight used to sing it to me.  But then I remembered it was on one of our childhood records. I wondered if the birds are chirping because it is morning and they are so glad the dark night is over? I wondered if they are saying good morning to each other? I wondered if they are thanking God for everything they have? Today I started looking online to find the author and copyright information for the song. I couldn’t find anything on the original author but I did find a site (www.hymnal.net) that played a clip of the song and then there were comments after the clip. I was amazed by the number of people who remembered learning this song fifty plus years ago. But, one comment caught my attention. “This was a favorite of mine about 50 years ago as well. I am now doing research and writing on ecotheology and a number of theologians stress the fact that all of creation praises God just by being what it is, a witness to God’s creativity. Whenever we worship, we are joining our voices to an unceasing universal praise. Indeed, this little chorus sums up this profound idea in such a simple way!” Allan Effa  Then I realized another message of this song. It is one that resonates greatly with me. It is this: the birds, the angels, and the flowers were all doing what God created them to do. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s what God wants from me. I am to do what He created me to do, nothing more, nothing less. And, if I listen He will be glad to let me know what that is! WOW. So, tomorrow when I drive to work I’ll roll down my windows and sing this song. Then I’ll proceed through the day surrendering to be used how God made me! To glorify...

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