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A Worthwhile Celebration

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | Comments Off on A Worthwhile Celebration

I learned something I didn’t know this month. February is National Library Lovers Month. Yep. That’s right.  I can’t say I celebrated, but I did take a trip to the library yesterday. I wanted to get some books on tape for my upcoming trip to Pennsylvania. Any time I need to drive a long distance I like to have several books with me to listen to. It makes the time go fast and I don’t have to worry about falling asleep! I’ve even discovered that I can listen to books that won’t hold my interest when I read them. Books like those by Charles Dickens, for instance. When I went to the library yesterday I was quite stressed. It was just one of those days where my brain doesn’t want to brain. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, when I got to the library and walked in I immediately started to relax. Libraries have that effect on me. I couldn’t help but think of the frequent trips we made to the library when we were kids. Every week we walked to the library and back home with a new stack of books in each of our arms. I loved the library. The smell of the books, the quiet, peaceful ambiance. It was just the perfect place. Last November we stopped in North Platte, Nebraska where I grew up. I was beside myself to discover that the library was in the very same place and it hasn’t changed a bit. I suppose the people of North Platte may wish sometimes for a new modern building, but not me. My breath caught in my throat when I walked in. It was just how I remembered it. I wanted to go pick out a pile of books, check them out, and go back to my house where I would grab an apple and disappear to my room for the afternoon. But, I had no house, no apple, and no time for such frivolity. Oh dear. I think I am too busy. After all, there should always be time for a good apple and a book, shouldn’t there? I guess I’ll throw some apples in the car too on Wednesday and I’ll eat an apple and listen to my books on tape all the way to Pennsylvania. That’s how I’m celebrating National Library Lovers Month. How about...

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Letting Go, Carrying On

Posted by on Feb 26, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | 1 comment

I woke up this morning feeling overwhelmed with all of the tasks I need to accomplish in the next few weeks. Once again I have overscheduled myself. So, as I’ve learned to do I completed a couple of small tasks, just to give myself some encouragement. Then, I picked up my Bible and found the Psalm for the day. When I reached Psalm 55:22 it caught my attention. This verse says:  Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. An image flashed through my mind. Several years ago, I helped with a kid’s club at church on Wednesday evenings. My mom taught the lesson during the message time, and then when the prayer time began I went downstairs and we switched places where I would an activity with the kids. Part of my job each week though, was to create a verse page. We would send home the sheet with a verse to read for each day and a memory verse, all surrounding the theme of the lesson that week. The parents signed off on the sheet each day they read the verse and they got points for bringing it back complete. We were trying to instill a pattern of daily bible reading. I always tried to make the pages interesting so I put clip art on each sheet, just for fun. One picture in the clip art book was of a young man carrying a HUGE bag full of stuff. It was bigger than he was and he bent under its weight. When I read the verse, that image is the one which popped into my head. Cast your burden on the Lord.  I imagined taking my huge bag of responsibilities and dropping them at Jesus feet. He just picked it up with his pinky like it was a cotton ball. Well, then! The next part of the verse says he will sustain me. Not that he will do the work for me. Not that he will make it easy. No, he will sustain me. So, I guess I’ll leave the burden there and pick the tasks up from him, one at a time until I get it done! That’s good enough for...

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A Lesson From Harper Lee

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | Comments Off on A Lesson From Harper Lee

A Lesson From Harper Lee

Like so many others I was sad to hear that Harper Lee died. I often cite To Kill A Mockingbird as my favorite book. I would say it definitely was the first “grown up” book I remember making me think about my assumptions and beliefs.   I must have picked it up and read it in junior high, because I was in high school when I watched the movie one New Year’s Eve while babysitting. It was the first movie I watched based on a book I had read and I learned that no matter how good the movie, it is never as good as the book, a fact I still hold to be true.   Scout captured my interest. In my mind, I was Scout. I could relate to her on so many levels. My mother had died too. I was a tomboy. I could be outspoken. And I had an Atticus for a father. Gentle, meek but definitely not weak, determined to do the right thing no matter the consequences, protective but eager to let his children learn from life, and as Harper Lee put it,  “Atticus Finch is the same in his house as he is on the public streets.” These traits describe my father.   I was thinking about this book earlier today and that is when I realized exactly why I so love the characters of Scout and Atticus. (For me the others are all just peripheral characters necessary to having a story.) In the character of these two people I see myself and my daddy. So as the story develops I am able to fully experience all of the different events and learn from them as if I were really there. I guess it was the perfect storm.   I believe telling a story in such a way that the reader can find herself in a character is a gift. One I, as an author, aspire to. Thank you, Harper Lee, for Scout and Atticus. And thank you for the creative writing lesson you gave me just by “the doing of...

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Public Displays of Affection . . . or Not

Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | Comments Off on Public Displays of Affection . . . or Not

Today is Valentine’s Day, the day the whole world seems to go crazy with displays of “love”. Everywhere you look there are flowers, chocolate, and public displays of affections. It reminded me of a piece from my book about legacy, All I Have Needed-A Legacy for Life. Today I am posting that piece. You see, I didn’t learn about love from society, television, or silly cards. I learned from people who knew what love was really about. So, here you are. Enjoy!   Public Displays of Affection . . . or Not My dad’s parents were ranch people. They grew up in Nebraska during simpler times when the work was hard and there weren’t many frills. They lived in a sod house (where Daddy was born), and they lost everything during the Depression. When people talked about the “good old days,” Grandma would say, “They weren’t so good.” They were loving but not demonstrative, at least not toward each other in front of others. That wasn’t their way.   When Grandpa was about ninety, he developed a lump on his neck. He ignored it as it got bigger and bigger. After all, he was ninety. He didn’t expect to live forever. One day it started causing trouble with his breathing, so they took him to the hospital, rushed him sixty-five miles from Broken Bow to Kearney, Nebraska. That lump had to be removed. The morning of surgery, the staff came in to take Grandpa to the procedure and told Grandma, “You can kiss him goodbye if you want.” To my parents’ amazement and delight, she did. It wouldn’t be considered a romantic moment by today’s standards, but it certainly impressed Daddy. After all, at age sixty-five he was watching—for the first time—his parents kiss. During the preparations for surgery, Grandpa’s IV came apart, and he bled some. He bled enough that the doctors decided they should take him back to his room and check his heart before doing surgery. After all, he was ninety. Once he was cleared for surgery, Grandma had her chance again, and she went for it. “Twice,” Daddy said. “I saw them kiss twice!” The look on his face when he was telling us was priceless. It was pure delight and comfort. Proof of what we all knew. They loved. (As if one hundred direct descendants and sixty-five years of marriage wasn’t enough proof.) A couple of years later, Grandpa was hospitalized with a mild heart attack. It was caused, it turned out, by prostate cancer, and he was dying. Grandma, herself well into her 80s, couldn’t care for him at home, so they put him in the nursing home attached to the hospital. During the next six weeks, Grandma went up every day to eat lunch with him … well, at least until she figured out that he wasn’t eating when she was there in hopes she would take pity on him and take him home. She certainly wanted him home, but it was impossible, so she started going after lunch and sitting with him all afternoon. Grandpa kept asking to see my youngest niece, who was about six months old, because he hadn’t seen her yet. So, my sister and I took the children and drove down to visit for a few days....

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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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