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A Morning Prelude

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on A Morning Prelude

A Morning Prelude

I clutch the mug close in the cold morning air and let the smell of coffee awaken my brain. Leaning on the seventh floor patio rail, I gaze across the Atlantic Ocean. There’s water as far as my eyes can see. In the dawn—that half hour before the sun rises—the pastel light show begins, a prelude to the main event. For Myrtle Beach, SC the temperature is frigid, low thirties, and I have the patio to myself. Indeed, I seem to have the entire beach front to myself. I don’t see anyone down on the sand. No life at all. Except for the daily gathering of permanent residents, the seagulls. It is high tide this morning, there really isn’t much beach to walk on. I don’t know if that is the reason, but the surfside avian grandstands are empty, no flock of seagulls gathered at water’s edge today. Where are they? Then I spot them, floating just beyond the breaking surf. They rise and fall with the waves, tiny black and white dots on the gray water. Waiting. Watching. A few birds fly overhead, circling around the gathering throng until they eventually settle on the water. Maybe they found their friends or family, these latecomers who just could not get out of bed in time to leave with the rest of them. I don’t know. A peacefulness settles over the scene as the shifting pink, blue, gray, and peach hues push the pre-show to its climax. A mild disturbance to the gathering crowd occurs when six young birds—they must be young, don’t you think—skim across the water in front of the crowd. Their formation is impressive, a perfectly straight line. My heart is in my throat as they barely clear the waves, daring anyone to do it better. And, sure enough, here comes another group, taking up the challenge. They fly in from the other direction, same straight line, same get-as-close-to-the-water-as-you-can-without-touching-it flight plan. I imagine the grandparents shaking their heads and chuckling. One dad announces, “That’s my kid!” The mothers cover their eyes, hoping they don’t have to make a run to the birdie ER. As the sky lightens, the tension rises and all eyes turn toward the horizon. When will the star of the show arrive? I glance at my watch. Yep, due any moment. I fix my eyes on the horizon. Then, across the water one bird calls it. There! There! There! Other birds jump in, frustrated that Sally Seagull was the first to announce it AGAIN. Soon a chorus of cries arises from the grandstand. A few birds lift from the water, unable to stay in their seats. Over the horizon the top edge of an orange ball appears and the ocean grandstand breaks into verbal applause. From my perch I join the chorus. “There it is! Good morning...

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Breath Taking

Posted by on Feb 7, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on Breath Taking

Breath Taking

Early the other morning, I had the most amazing dream. I remember thinking, that is the perfect plot. Then I fell back asleep, and of course when I woke up, I couldn’t remember the first thing about that dream.   My mind wandered as I lay in bed, half awake. I thought about questions for interviewing elders. One question was, “What was a typical school day like when you were a kid?” Then I thought about my school day. I couldn’t remember many details about the start of the day, but I do remember coming home for lunch every day. We only lived two blocks from the school. Mommy would have lunch ready and we would eat and run back to school. My focus shifted—I’ve been working on point of view in my revisions—and I wondered what it was like from her point of view. The kids rush in, eat their lunch, Miriam dumps a bunch of words, and out the door they go. I smiled.   Sometimes, okay, often I read as I walked home. It was only two blocks after all. This line of thought led to one day in 1973, since I was walk-reading that day. When I arrived home I barely made it through the door before I plopped down in the overstuffed maroon chair by the front door, all with my eyes glued to the book. I continued reading while conversation swirled around me. A few minutes later, Mommy got up to start some supper.   I wondered, what was it like when she reached the doorway to the kitchen and stepped instead into heaven? What was she thinking? I bet it took her breath away.   After my forgotten dream the other morning, I climbed out of bed and opened the curtains for my first ocean view of the day.  It was gone. A thick fog completely obliterated any view of the ocean right outside my window. Even the next huge condo was nearly hid from view. But, I could hear it. Through the fog came the sound of the waves rushing up to meet the sandy beach. It was there whether I could see it or not.   Whew. I sat at the table; curtains opened and scanned Facebook, email, then the news. At one point I glanced up and there it was. The fog had lifted. I could see the ocean’s edge. Within moments the fog had lifted more and I could see half-way to the normal horizon. It was beautiful, even in the rain.   I couldn’t help but think of my earlier wakeful thoughts. Maybe that’s what it was like for my mother. One moment she views God through the fog of this earth, and the next, BAM! She sees clearly for the first time.   What a thought! It takes my breath away.   1 Corinthians 13:12  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am...

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My Book of Possibilities

Posted by on Feb 3, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | 2 comments

My Book of Possibilities

Knowing what to pack when you are going on a month long writing retreat is a bit tricky. It’s not the clothes thing. Which clothes to take rarely bothers me. I just throw some in and live with it. I guess I’m not a clothes person. I’m a book person. And therein lies the challenge. Let me put it this way. I came with one suitcase, packed in about ten minutes. I came with three bags of books, and they took me weeks to pack. I started with one canvas bag, then I pulled out some books and put others in. After a few days, I added more and put some of the original ones back in. Then the bag was too full, so I got a second bag. You get the picture. The problem is I didn’t know what I would want or need to read. I knew I would need my tried and true reference books, the ones I use with revisions. But, I wanted this retreat to be about more than just writing a book. I wanted to have times of learning new stuff. I also wanted a spiritual retreat. Oh, better put in some devotional books and journaling books. And talking about journaling books, I might need a  couple composition books for new projects I wanted to start. Then, there is the important work of reading for fun. I know that writers are readers, and sometimes you just need to run away into a book. I even put in a book of adult coloring pages for when I needed to figure out the next scene.   So, I came with three bags of books. After two weeks we went home for a weekend. I took one bag of books with me. These were books that I realized I wouldn’t need after all. Having only two bags of books to bring home at the end of the month would be just that much less to load up. It was a great plan. But. I had two new books waiting for me at home when I arrived. Books I had become aware of and ordered while I was gone. In addition, I found a pile of books I had intended to bring from the outset, but alas, they hadn’t made it into any of the bags. So, I emptied my third bag, refilled it and brought it with me.   Today I saw a quote that helped me realize why I always take so many books everywhere. Here it is.  “Having a huge number of books is not exactly about reading them all—it’s about having the possibility of reading them.” I like possibilities. My husband says my “Book of Possibilities” is an index to my home library! He may just be...

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When Morning Gilds The Skies

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on When Morning Gilds The Skies

When Morning Gilds The Skies

This morning I awoke before my alarm. I had a date with the sun. With no trouble whatsoever, I jumped out of bed, made a cup of coffee, threw on some clothes and headed down to the beach. It was dawn, but the sun hadn’t come up yet. The clouds hovered at the horizon, so I knew I wouldn’t see the sun in all its glory when it rose, but sometimes, when the clouds are there the show is even more spectacular. It didn’t disappoint.  I took my phone and started recording the sunrise as I stood there and let God’s creation speak to my soul. http://www.miriamjonesbradley.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/When-Morning-Gilds-the-Skies-160201b.mp4 Change seems to be coming faster and faster. My daddy has retired from the Pastorate after a life time of ministry. He and mom are preparing to move out of the parsonage, their home for the past 25 years and a family home for over forty, since my step-grandpa was Pastor there before Daddy. Yesterday the church we attend in Hendersonville said goodbye to their much loved, much respected Pastor and his family as they move on to a new ministry. The pains of change were palpable in the service, but the confidence in our mighty God was more so! Our church in Linville will be saying goodbye this year to a family who have ministered with them for several years. It all hurts, but it’s a good hurt. They are moving on to somewhere new, to what God has for them. But in a small church, every departure leaves a canyon. We have said goodbye to our grandparents, and some of our parents, but now it seems a continual drumbeat of farewells to the elders who helped make us who we are, reminding us that we are next. We will soon have the targets on our foreheads, so to speak. We see heartache and heartbreak on our social media. Children suffering terrible diseases, some incurable. Families suffering tragic loss. Our country teeters on the edge of an abyss with so little common sense and Godly wisdom being demonstrated that it seems hopeless. We recognize how evil we are in the sight of God and we wonder how He can show us mercy. But, as I stood at the water’s edge this morning and watched God’s glorious creation two songs flew into my mind. The first was this one: When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries, May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer, To Jesus I repair; May Jesus Christ be praised! Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised! Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! When sleep her balm denies, My silent spirit sighs, May Jesus Christ be praised! When evil thoughts molest, With this I shield my breast: May Jesus Christ be praised! The night becomes as day When from the heart we say: May Jesus Christ be praised! The pow’rs of darkness fear When this sweet chant they hear: May Jesus Christ be praised! In heav’n’s eternal bliss The loveliest strain is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! Let earth, and sea, and sky From depth to height reply, May Jesus Christ be praised! Be this, while life is mine,...

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A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words -Try Smiling!

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words -Try Smiling!

I’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. When I look at this picture I believe it might be true. In case you didn’t know I believe in laughing a lot. I believe in smiling. I especially believe in making other people laugh and smile. I think it’s in my DNA. Seriously. If you know my extended family you understand this. If you don’t, trust me! Now, I’m not always successful. There are even times when I fail miserably at making myself smile or laugh. Thankfully God gave me a husband who understands my need for the occasional—okay, the frequent–joyous outbursts, and he knows that if I am down he needs to make me laugh. Or smile. I found this photo awhile back. I’m not really sure who gave it to me. It’s a picture of me with one of those crazy plastic toys where you bopped the bottom and a plastic ball flew out, then you tried to catch it. As you can see, I wasn’t using it correctly. No surprise there. On the back of the photo someone wrote my name and the date. Miriam Jones 1/15/73. I didn’t need the date to remember when the picture was taken. I remembered exactly when. This picture was snapped the day of my Mommy’s funeral. I stood in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, the very spot where my mother stepped over the threshold into eternity four days earlier. Now, when that picture was taken none of that was going through my head. I don’t remember making a toy into a hat because I wanted to make people laugh, feel better, or forget for a few moments the horrific tragedy that had overtaken us. I don’t normally think such things through. I just do them. If in pain, laugh. If scared, joke about it. If worried, be silly. See, that’s how my brain works. If you can still laugh, it can’t be that horrible, can it? The thing about this photo that touches me the most though, is that someone—I suspect it was an aunt—decided to snap the photo. That person recognized the importance of the moment. They believed this was a moment in the middle of a difficult day that should be remembered. So, they snapped the picture. It is the only picture I have from that day. I’m okay with that. Because a picture is worth a thousand words. And, of all the pictures in my head from that day, I’m glad this is the one someone snapped. I found a poem the other day that sums up my philosophy on smiling and laughing. I share it with you today. TRY SMILING When the weather suits you not,    Try smiling. When your coffee isn’t hot,    Try smiling. When your neighbors don’t do right, Or your relatives all fight, Sure ‘tis hard, but then you might    Try smiling. Doesn’t change the things, of course-    Just smiling. But it cannot make them worse-    Just smiling. And it seems to help your case, Brightens up a gloomy place, Then it sort o’ rests your face-    Just smiling. Author...

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Ocean or Prairie View – Home Is Where You Make It

Posted by on Jan 21, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

I have this picture for the background on my phone. I put it there this autumn after our trip to South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. It reminds me of home. Let me tell you why. When I am at the ocean I have no problem waking up early. Most mornings I wake up automatically, while it is still dark. I don’t want to miss the sunrise. Oh, I’m not necessarily waiting for that moment when the sun creeps over the edge of the horizon, although I have to admit that the first pinpoint of orange does make my heart beat faster. “Here it comes! Good morning, Sunshine!” I love sunshine. No, the effect I like actually comes before the sunrise. It also comes just after sunset. It is the pastel phase. There is a blue, pink, peach, gray and green haze along the horizon that is just breathtaking. The colors mute together and remind of an impressionistic painting, my favorite type. As the sun comes or goes the colors continually change, but in such slow motion you hardly notice until BAM, there comes the sun. Then it changes all over again. It is incredible. In November we were driving from Rapid City, SD to Gordon, NE. Shortly after crossing the state line the sun set. I started snapping pictures with my cell phone. It was so beautiful, there on the edge of the Sandhills. So much wide-open space. Kind of like the ocean. I flipped back through the pictures and one caught my eye. It reminded me of. . .  no, it couldn’t be. But it was. It reminded me of the ocean. I stared at it. Then I knew. It was the colors. The blue, grey, pink, peach of the dusk. The brown of the winter grass contrasted with those colors and they stood out. Just like they do at the beach when they contrast with the sand along the beach. I smiled to myself. Maybe this is one reason I feel so much at home at the ocean, even though I did not grow up anywhere near one. Maybe it is like the quote from Sarah Plain and Tall, one of my favorite movies. There she is on the prairie, thousands of miles from her beloved ocean yet she, with the help of young Caleb, discovers a similarity. Caleb Witting: What color is the sea when it storms? Sarah Wheaton: Blue and gray and green. Caleb Witting: Now I know what’s missing from your drawing. Colors. Colors of the sea, blue and gray and green. So, maybe the prairie didn’t remind me of the ocean. Maybe it’s the ocean reminding me of the prairie. Either way, either place I am, it feels like home. And that reminds me of the words of advice Uncle Jim gave me when I married. “Home is where you make it, Miriam.” Yes. Yes, it...

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Let’s Celebrate: Winnie The Pooh Day – January 18th

Posted by on Jan 18, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | Comments Off on Let’s Celebrate: Winnie The Pooh Day – January 18th

    Winnie The Pooh has been a part of my life since I can remember. For one thing we had a set of THE books by A.A. Milne. I don’t really have memories of reading them as a child, but I’m sure they were read to me. I have definite memories of reading them to my little sister, Vonda. I also have memories of Grandpa Onstott reading them to her. What I do remember is the Winnie The Pooh record. This is a picture of the cover. No wonder all of my favorite songs are from the Honey Tree story! When my oldest nieces and nephew were small they watched Winnie The Pooh over and over. And over. It became a part of our daily conversation. When I told my husband I was going to find some of my favorite quotes from Winnie The Pooh, he asked, “Tut, tut. Looks like rain?” Apparently I say that a lot. So, here are some of my favorite quotes. How about your? I would love to have you comment on this post and let me know which are your favorites! Happy Winnie The Pooh Day!   “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”  “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”  “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”  “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”  “Think, think, think.”  “Bother.”   “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ”What day is it?” “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh. “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Winnie the Pooh: Christopher Robin! I think it would help with this deception if you would just kind of open your umbrella and say, “Tut-tut, it looks like rain.” Christopher Robin: Tut-tut, it looks like rain. Tut-tut, it looks like rain. “Oh yes, I’m rumbly in my tumbly. Time for something...

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Always The Same, New Every Morning.

Posted by on Jan 16, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

It is ever changing, the ocean. Yet, always the same. How incongruous.   From my vantage point twelve stories up, I watch. This time of year there aren’t many people out there, always less than ten. There’s the woman with her Irish setter. What a beautiful dog, even from here. They meander down the beach. A family with three teen agers stands on the edge of the water, huddled together in the cool morning air. Are they coming or going from the pancake house? They drift apart, each following his own thoughts and the element that has captured his interest until they come together again. For a picture.   The romantic couple walks hand in hand. They stand at the edge arms around each other and look out to sea. Are they just starting out? Are they here to rekindle their romance? Last ditch effort? No, these two don’t look like a last ditch effort. A woman races past them, her arms pumping. She is here for exercise. The elderly couple creeps along. No hurry. They have been here before. So many memories.   All day long I sit and watch the parade. Ever changing, yet always the same. Like the ocean.   Up the beach is a canyon of sorts. The storm drain at the next resort over has worn a path to the ocean. I first noticed it when the beach patrol pickup cruised right down to the water’s edge to avoid the crater. A river through the beach. That’s strange.   The sunrise this morning happened behind clouds so the show was delayed. An hour later the sun slithered its way out from behind the thinner clouds and a stream of light shot up through the clouds and down across the water where the beam of light made its own path, this time across the water and onto the beach. The cloud colors—not to be outdone—reflected off the water in the sand. The iridescence of the shallow water reminded me of the conch shell my daddy retrieved from the ocean in California. He came out drenched from head to toe, his hand triumphantly holding the shell overhead. That shell sat in our home and I could hear the ocean when I held it to my ear. Or was that shell really the one he rescued? Memories, real or how we remember them. I’ll have to ask today.   As the sun and water put on a spectacle, the birds get into the act. A line of black birds glides along the surf, barely skimming the top of the water. A perfect formation . . . almost. One, at the tail end can’t quite keep in line. He can’t fly straight. Must have missed his morning coffee. Either that or he’s a free spirit.   The sound of the waves breaking, always going in and out. Always the same. But, ever a different view. They remind me of God. Never changing. Always the same. But, no matter the need, no matter which beach walker we are, He is what we need. He is not limited by anything. And the more I study His Word, the more “new” I find. Always there. Always the same. Yet, new every morning.   “Great Is Thy Faithfulness. . . Morning by...

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Here, Let Me Show You . . .

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | 2 comments

Here, Let Me Show You . . .

What do my plans for the month, Mentoring Month, and you have in common? Let me tell you! I hear these questions often. “How do you write a book? How long does it take? Where do you get your ideas?” There are several questions here, but the bottom line is, “What is your process?”   I do my best to answer the specific question, but sometimes I can tell that the person asking would love a little more information. But telling someone how you do something in detail is a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?   This is National Mentor Month, something I didn’t know until I looked at my “National Day Calendar.” Who knew? Certainly, it seems that I have already had several opportunities to encourage beginning and young writers this year. I love it. It makes me happy to help someone who is just starting out, or maybe just needs a bit of encouragement. So, how can I celebrate National Mentor Month? God gave me an idea yesterday while on my way to Myrtle Beach for a working retreat. Yes, I will be at the beach for most of the next month to work on important projects. I have a list. A long one.   But, the number one item on the list—the priority—is to write the fifth mystery in the Double Cousins Mystery Series. I don’t have a title yet, but it will be set in North Platte, Nebraska, and I do have a pretty good idea of the plot! My goal is to go home with a completed manuscript, ready for my last-minute edits. During writing break times I’ll work on the rest of the list. So, what’s all of this about mentoring?   I would like to invite you along on this journey. There are many of you out there who love the Double Cousins. Some of you love writing.  You may be contemplating writing a book yourself. Now, I’m not here to say this is THE WAY to do it. I just want to share MY process and maybe you can gain a little information from it—and probably a whole lot of amusement!   So, if you are up for the experience, make sure you have “liked” my Double Cousins Mysteries (Ages 7-13) Facebook page because THAT is where the action will be. At least once a day, maybe several times, I’ll be journaling there about the process: the good, the bad, and the “what was I thinking!”   Some posts will be educational, some informational, some silly, and some probably mindless I’ve-been-writing-so-long-my-brain-is-fried. But, hopefully you can get a feel for what is involved. Here are a few possible  topics:   How I organize the project. How I stay focused. . . or not! How I work to overcome personal writing pitfalls. What happens when the story takes a turn I don’t expect. (It can happen, you know!) What I learn along the way about writing and editing. Things I pick up from writing books I read this month. What about other demands on my time . . . like the ongoing work on the book coming out this Spring! And more. . .   So, hang on to your computer mouse . . . here we...

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Jasmine and the Christmas Card

Posted by on Jan 11, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

It’s time to take down the decorations now that the Christmas season is over. Admittedly, at our house this year there aren’t many. I was more focused on getting things back in order after our crazy-busy Fall and didn’t really want to drag out the decorations. But, we had a wonderful Christmas. We enjoyed family on Christmas day, and we received a lot of cards in the mail.   I love receiving Christmas cards, but I’m not good at sending them—except to our friends, Paul and Chari. We really do try and get them a card every year. If we don’t, there are consequences. Well, not really consequences, but we might hear about it! And hear about. And did I say, hear about it!   So, this year we were early. In November we spent a couple of weeks in South Dakota and as usual we stayed with our friends, Paul and Chari. A couple of days before we left, we were at the store and happened into the card aisle.  Of course there were Christmas cards already on the shelf and one caught my eye. It had a cat on it. Chari likes cats. Paul—not so much. Hmmm.   You see, Paul loves Christmas cards and he wants lots of them. So we decided to get the card. After all, not only did it have a cat on it, the inside had action. Lots of it. When you opened the card there was a cat all rolled up in Christmas Lights and upon opening it the cat and lights started spinning and yowling! We hooted. It was perfect. It was also expensive enough we figured we could claim that it would make up for any years we have missed. Yep, it’s that kind of friendship.   So, before giving it to Paul and Chari, we decided to share it with my parents. First, Bruce handed it to Mom, who was sitting in her rocking chair. She opened it, jumped when the cat yowled, laughed and handed it back. Bruce took it over to Daddy and he opened it, jumped when the cat yowled—even though he knew what was coming. We all laughed and he handed it back to Bruce.   All of a sudden, out of nowhere came Jasmine, my sister’s cat. She growled, hissed, and attacked Bruce’s leg. This might look like a man, but she KNEW there was a cat in there somewhere and she wasn’t having any of that! She takes her job as “homeland security” very seriously.   It was kind of funny, but obviously Jasmine was VERY disturbed. Her fur stood straight out and her back was arched. She obviously thought there was a threat to her people and she was going to deal with it! She took quite awhile to settle down.   When Vonda came home from work we decided to show her the card. Mom and Daddy were gone, but Daddy had warned Vonda. “Make sure you go outside to look at that card,” he told her.   So, out on the back porch we traipsed. Raja, Jasmine’s feline friend, sat in the window gazing into the back yard. He was peaceful.   Vonda opened the card, the cat twirled and yowled, she laughed, then shut the card. We hurried...

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