“30 Red Dresses”

A novella is longer than a short story and much shorter than a novel. It could be between 40K and 175K words. That is quite a range. The definition talks of a simpler plot, fewer problems for the protagonist to resolve, etc.

This is a fiction story for young adults. It is hard for me to clarify genres. There are over 47 listed when Googling “genre, books.” That is quite a few. I purchased the book after hearing author Johan Twiss speak at the Nebraska Authors Guild Conference in April, 2022. Johan impressed me with his presentation and wanted to experience his writing.

The story is about modern day slavery, a/k/a human trafficking. It is one of the most despicable things a powerful person can do to a less powerful one. The fact these are children entrusted to family members when parents die or are ill makes it even worse. An uncle sold his eight-year-old niece to a brothel owner. What a horrible man and deed.

These sorts of things happen all the time. The story took place in Cambodia. I could picture the girls very will thanks to Johan’s descriptive writing. With the language differences among the characters, and how integrity, honor, trust, and safety communicated by their actions was shown. Great writing by showing, not telling. And as if the evil antagonist isn’t enough, there is a flash flood threatening their very being. It’s non-stop action.

This is a story our teenagers could learn a lot from. We are so safe in our country most of the time. There is the ugly underworld of human trafficking in certain parts of our culture, too. Runaway kids often find this the only way they can buy food or shelter. By then, it is too late. They are indebted and their innocence lost. Drug and alcohol abuse is common.

I am so grateful my brothers and I had parents who did their best to take care of us and keep us as safe as they could. All families have troubles, all families have some defect. We have our issues, but nothing like these poor children experienced. It is a real eye-opener for sure.

On another topic:

When we think we have removed prejudices from our lives, sometimes we are unaware we have merely rearranged our prejudices. What? Prejudices in our lives are very difficult to overcome. I’m talking about our prejudice against ourselves. As adults, sometimes we still believe all the untruths we were told about ourselves as children. If you were constantly told you would never amount to anything, you could be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. If you are achieving and still have a doubt about the old messages you had about yourselves, your achievements will pale compared to what they actually are. Your mind and spirit need healing.

Only through healing will you discover you may not really know the limits of your skills and abilities. Your prejudices against yourself may be based on ignorance and a lack of genuine reflection. Can you analyze your abilities and skills objectively? If you believe you’re much less than you are based on what you’ve been told either by others (whether family, friends, co-workers or whomever), you need to ask better questions. Who said? What is the foundation of that idea? Is it true? If your answers are your cousin, because you’re a girl (you can’t do whatever), and it’s false, you have proved them wrong right there. See?

If someone says you can’t be a writer, you’ve never done this before, and you published a best-selling book, and earned a million bucks, they are wrong. We can prove lies and prejudices as wrong. Get busy! You can do this. Become a thinker, not just a believer in what they have also said about you. Don’t believe it any longer. We are not who our prejudices say we are.

Let’s experience the freedom of deciding what we want to believe about ourselves. Make your own conclusions about yourself and your abilities. It’s a new found freedom which will propel us forward and into the lives we deserve. You won’t be sorry you examined your ideas. Your future self will thank you for it. Thanks for reading today. Let’s see each other tomorrow.

Shhh! She’s Fixing the World!

The little lady in this header photograph today may not have access to enough bandages to fix the entire world. Do enough even exist? Will this cause a supply chain issue? Gosh, maybe she should stop. I mean, it’s a gigantic job. And she’s pretty young. Too little to go far alone. Why crush her dream?

Current attention spans aside, she may become bored and stop on her own. No need to crush her dream. It’s so important to let little children dream big. Not that they’ll be the next Bruce Springsteen, Shel Silverstein, or Pete Rose. (Yes, he should be in the hall of fame!) Big dreams help kids investigate how to achieve those dreams. Whether he or she needs music lessons and knowledge, writing lessons and practice, or baseball coaching one on one. Or science instruction, study, experiments. Let them dream and achieve.

Whether they’re male or female, we need to let them find their own way. Then they can fix the world around them. They learn to take ideas and make reality from them. Through creative things, they can heal the world. And show others how to do so. Art and music touch our hearts and make them feel better, from the inside out. All healing goes that way. Inside out. Anyone who heals from trauma and brokenness, including broken heartedness, knows the strength you feel upon healing. That is how we fix the world. One person at a time.

I cannot pass Mother’s Day without wishing the Mom’s out there to have a good day. It can be a hard day. Parts of mine are hard, parts are not. I don’t think this is unusual. Although things didn’t quite go as I would have liked, I would never trade my kids for anything. Raising them were some of the happiest years of my life. Living with their father wasn’t.

I believe a large group of women who serve as bonus mothers who deserve kudos. They’re the women who love their partner’s children because they belong to him. And they love the children. And the children love them back. I’m a lucky step-mom myself. I gained steps when they were adults. The Babe’s two children fit exactly in between my three. Making five kids spanning 7 years. We laugh and say it would have been all over if we’d met when they were little. That’s a lot of kids all in the same age groups!

It would have worked, and our kid’s lives would have been more integrated than now. They don’t really know each other. It’s impossible to get them all together. It’s ok. We get to enjoy them all separately. And we love them, different as they all are. We are blessed beyond our wildest dreams. It hasn’t always been this way. It took years individually and together to get here. Take heart, things are possible you can’t imagine right now. And the hard work is worth it.

Tomorrow will be the day I pick back up to get my studio/office back in order. We had two lovely days off, where all we did was see our grandson play ball, and today, where we spent time together at home, ate, took a nap, and had coffee on the deck in the chill of morning. It’s our favorite place in the summer. From zero dark thirty until the sun rises above the treeline, we talk, sit, and rock in our rocking chairs. It’s a daily vacation. Then we live our lives for the rest of the day.

Have a beautiful evening. Be positive. Keep ahead of the bad feelings. Make sure you talk with someone if you can’t come back from feelings of negativity, worthlessness, and not caring. We are human and we have to care. We have to be cared about. It’s what we’re made for. I care. We can walk together to get you where you need to be.

Healing and Forgiveness

Sometimes, I think life is a series of wounds from paper-cuts to severe injuries. We are constantly hurting, then healing. If you remain unhealed from what life gives you, you are wounded forever. Yes, forgiveness is hard, and they don’t deserve it, but you do. Unforgiveness makes you hard and jaded. For me, I’d rather be gentle and positive. It takes years off your heart and soul.

All the recovery programs stress making amends with those you’ve hurt. Only one of three people who hurt me because of their addictions, and that came very early in his recovery. He accurately depicted certain manipulations he used and apologized. I still thank God for that. I have a best friend because of that. The other two people haven’t recovered enough life to do that. I was writing about it and I healed just because I finally admitted how damaged I was by their situations. It was an amazing feeling once it happened. All these years, I thought their disrespect, gas-lighting, lies, secrets, and deceit did not affect me. I was wrong.

In my life, I’m able to submerge myself into creating. With words, fabric, thread, paint, imagination, pen and ink, whatever media speaks to me for that project. It makes me happy, and with the creativity, you can take those wounds and heal them powerfully. How the human mind and soul work together is another amazing journey. And I know I healed very painful things through that collaboration.

The last 25 years of my life have been everything I always wanted and more. The Babe appeared in my life as I was healing from not only a bad relationship of three years; and from a ground-breaking spine surgery that removed a tumor from my spine and enabled me to walk again. Both were huge obstacles in my early 40s. The wait for a real relationship was over. I slowly let my walls of protection crumble. I was loved and more able to love. My hurts gradually healed, one by one. I smiled more. I laughed every day. I gained confidence. I don’t have to question everything. I can trust.

Am I envious of the people who figured out all this stuff in their twenties? Maybe, a little. I choose to believe all the hard things I’ve survived helped make me who I am today. Yes, I’m strong but gentle. I’m not afraid to fail. I have no regrets. I refuse to beat myself up. I’ve come to terms with the people who seriously wronged me. I pray for them, even. Why? Because “they know not what they did.” Once they learn better, they become responsible for that behavior. God will sort it all out. Not my job.

We are all constantly healing and becoming whole. We have more to bring to relationships, life, and our passions. Can you imagine a world like this? We can all make our part of it like this. The more healthy the relationships and lives are, the more we heal. Like life itself, it is a continuing process. Let’s continue on our journeys, feeling the progress we’re making. Thanks for being here today. It’s a cloudy, chilly day, perfect for more de-cluttering. Followed by Netflix’s, The Politician, with Jessica Lange. She’s the best. Take care, and I’ll see you tomorrow. Be Kind. Be Courteous.

Winning Wednesday

My world was restored yesterday. We picked up Addison after school. It’s been a quarter of the year since we last did, since she ran Cross Country during that time, and it’s after school. She placed quite well for being a first timer. She is in incredible physical condition due to about twelve years of dance. She is probably more fit than many football players are. Gosh, I love that young lady. She’s smart, kind, thoughtful, funny, and beautiful.

What Toby Mac Writes, I Live! How Does He Know Me? He Knows LIFE. In That, He Knows Me.

My writing was productive yesterday. I fleshed out at least three scenes for the second chapter. The scenes are important to the story, they help with character definition and telling important history. The feat for the writer is to keep out anything that doesn’t further the story, that isn’t important, and isn’t pertinent. You don’t need to know how mean Katie’s kindergarten teacher was about nap time in 1957. Maybe the teacher didn’t help Katie’s fears, you just don’t need that bit of trivia in the story.

By writing an outline, I know where the story is going. Sometimes while writing, the story decides on it’s own to take a twist you hadn’t planned. And if it fits with the scene, it’s great. If not, you write the notes out to add in an appropriate place or simply put it on the shelf for another story. That can happen. This is certainly better than wandering around, clueless. Unless you’re a person who can do that, become clueful, then write a NYT bestseller! They do exist. My thought is they have more structure to their writing than they care to admit.

I just searched my free photo library for “words.” Sad to say, I had to page down four times to get to something other than “Black Friday” sayings. Isn’t that sad? I seldom care about Black Friday, even less this year, whatever date is is. If there were a time to make heartfelt gifts, homemade creations, works of our art for our family, it’s right now, during this Pandemic.

A special drawing from a grandchild, a photograph by an amateur neighbor kid, a baked goody from a car pool family can all lighten a heart during these times. We used to make time for these things every holiday season. I love when someone takes the time. They don’t have to. But they do. And that’s why it’s special. Make time for someone today. Before you can’t anymore.

I’m having another good writing opportunity today. The dogs are asleep for awhile, and I have on music I haven’t heard in awhile. Dayna Jones is another musician from South Dakota. She has a lovely, strong voice. Her lyrics are so telling. Maybe that’s why I enjoy music so much, and always hear the lyrics. It is storytelling at it’s finest. Putting impactful words to music. How much better can it get? Check Dayna Jones out wherever you secure your music. She even has CD’s for old folks like us!

Dayna Jones, Leaves. Get It Today!

As part of my research, I’m going to read “From Generation to Generation,” it is a memoir and a workbook in one. “Healing Intergenerational Trauma Through Storytelling” takes us to a second generation Holocaust Survivor. Serious traumas can be passed generation to generation even though the events are unspoken. Types of behavior reflect that trauma, and are passed, unknowingly, to the next and subsequent generations.

Of course, the Holocaust is an extreme, terrible event to survive. My traumas and your traumas will not be so dramatic. Ours are lesser, yet they are extreme, terrible events to our grandparents, parents, us, and our children. Do not minimize your trauma. Do not ignore it. It affects you. And your children.

Illness and addiction affect many generations in families. Coping behaviors become something to survive in and of themselves. It is amazing how the human mind protects itself, and the body that goes with it. Flight of Fight. Adrenaline Rushes. Amnesia of traumatic events. Thank God for creating us as He did. We’d never make it without these safety features.

That said, lingering below the hard, crusty surface of any Veteran I know, there are war stories too terrible for them to repeat out loud. There are things a regular person back home could not think of doing. Those same things are what we expect of our combat veterans and others. Male or female. Young and Older. It happens to everyone in some way. Self medicating is not the answer. Help is available, and it can stay off your record. Contact Moving Veterans Forward for a conversation that can save your life. 1-402-301-6300.

It’s time for me to switch the thinking and expand on my scenes to make the chapter I’m working on. Sam Tyler, Book Coach, you’re making my life easier. I’m hoping yours gets easier with this work I’m doing. Lol. I appreciate what you’ve taught me.

Thanks to all of you for your time. I appreciate it and plan to see you all tomorrow! It’s going to be a windy day today, so it’s a good day to write. Be safe out there. Be calm out there. Be courteous out there. We’ll get through this. I know we will. You will, too. Hang on. Hang in.

Marvelous Monday Morning

I’m actually starting this on Sunday just after posting my Sunday blog. Today (Monday) Mom starts her individual therapy for her back. I think she has eight sessions and we’re hoping she keeps using these mechanics and newly gained strength as she gets back out in her flower gardens this spring and summer. We talked to her doctor last fall (I spoke for my younger brothers and myself) about our seeing Mom as losing strength and tottering around, since her balance is impacted by her diminished vision and her hearing loss. Mom was not happy and felt picked on, but when I left, the doctor must have told her how lucky she was that we not only noticed her failing, but actually said something. Mom’s a very stubborn person and is hard to mention something that could be improved. And, as her ENT says, “All old people lie.” I like that statement, because they do! They all want to stay at home even when it becomes unsafe for them to do so. Many old folks turn the comment around, and point out things they don’t like that you do, and that makes it worse. At any rate, I hope she learns what she needs to so she can stay in her home for at least another year or so. Steps are dangerous at her age, and the bedrooms and bathroom are on the second story. Lots of opportunity for a disaster, especially adding in a cat who wanders all over the place. Yikes!

This is a special date for the Babe and me. On March 2, 1996, we met each other for our first date. The guy kept following me around and convincing me he wasn’t going anywhere. I folded like a cheap tent. Seriously, I did not have a great dating record. I picked people that weren’t right for me, and once I got over that, here comes this guy that tells the truth. He calls when he says he will. He wants to spend time with me. He thinks I’m wonderful. And I think he is. And he says, “I love you.” in the first week we’re together. I say, “Oh, no you don’t. You can’t. You won’t.” I just don’t want another disappointment. And here we are, married for 22 years this October. He’s not going anywhere. Neither am I. He’s my best friend and my greatest fan. I’m his, too. I told him it would be an honor to be his wife. It still is, Babe. So on this, our 24th anniversary of knowing each other, I say, “Thanks, Babe. For being who and what I always hoped for. I had been told it didn’t exist. But I found it in you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Love you.”

October 3, 1998 – we were 46 and 48, respectively. Babies! Photo courtesy of Janet Nichols.
Lucky us, to still have each other. This year, we’ll be 70 and 68, respectively. I’m his much younger wife.

The Babe is a man of his word. He vowed to turn my hair gray when we got married. Nearly twenty two years later, see what a good job he did! It’s been a wild ride, mostly due to health issues. Cancer (me), heart disease (him – over and over), a stroke (him), carotid artery surgery (him). From the beginning, we thought we’d be lucky if he lived twenty years – and he has beaten that number and we reap the benefits of it every day. We are grateful.

Enough mushy stuff, as my son Frankie would say. It’s pretty overcast this morning. We had a snow shower, but only in the back yard. There are piles of snowflakes there, but the front yard is bare. Go figure! This past weekend was Addison’s first Dance Competition, at the MAC in Council Bluffs. Waiting to hear how she did, but usually she’s high in the rankings. She has eight dances this year, so there are eight opportunities to shine.

It’s time to finish cutting out some fabric for my Poppy quilt. It’ll be good to have something new to hang on the freshly painted wall. Quilts will be my Art for the rest of the year. I want to concentrate on publishing my books, and quilting, not add any more to my plate. The Nebraska Writers Guild has created online training for Authors posting on social media. The concentration right now is on Pinterest. I need to make some time in the next couple months to learn this well, so it becomes second nature, kind of like Facebook is. So many pieces to create your marketing plan. It’s amazing.

Thank you so much for reading today, I appreciate it. I’ll be here tomorrow, I’d love to have you return. Have a beautiful Monday.