Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drifters and Killers

“I thought you were going to write something ‘Christiany’ and now you’re talking about drifters and someone getting killed.” My family was visiting and I was making conversation about the novel I am working on. As I relinquished a couple of details that didn’t give everything away this comment was tossed into the conversation. I found it kind of amusing and a little disturbing that the impression is out there that fiction written by a Christian shouldn’t have the elements of real life that make for a good story.

It’s true, I am a Christian and I am a writer. It is my hope to someday publish a great novel that many people will enjoy regardless of their beliefs. Will it have some aspects of faith? Yes, life is that way. Will it have a message of hope? Sure, I am that way. Will it be preachy and overbearing? No, I certainly hope not and if it is I have missed my mark. Will it have conflict, messy relationships, and death? Yep, if not it wouldn’t be true to life. My goal as a writer is to have people read and enjoy my work. If I water my writing down to take out the tough things it will lack the punch to make the reader want to continue.

All you have to do is walk into a book store or browse online to understand the truth facing authors today. There are millions of books out there all vying for the reader’s attention. The opportunity to catch a reader starts out slim. I heard it said once that a writer has the space the size of book spine to grab the reader’s eye. Many books that’s all that ever gets seen – the title on the spine. If it’s intriguing enough you then get a few more inches – the pitch on the back cover. If that is interesting enough you will hook a reader. After that you have just a few chapters to reel that reader in and make them want to finish the book. Those chapters have to offer the reader some impetus to make them want more. You have to tantalize and tease them to get them wanting to know more of the story. This is the only way to become an author who actually sells books. Truth is I want to reel in readers, preferably lots of them.

So, I am crafting my story. I think it will be a good story. But, it will be a messy story. It’s not fantasy; it’s based on real life. Life is messy. People get killed. Mistakes are made. Confrontation happens. This is reality and this is my story. But, as in reality, the people who populate my story survive. They fall down, but they keep on getting up each day and trying again. They argue and laugh, learn and grow, make mistakes and forgive, love and dislike, maybe even hate. My peeps are true to life. They live and breathe in my imagination. Someday, I hope they do the same in yours and I hope you find that you can relate to them.

Yes, my book will be full of human failings because the world we live in is full of human failings. Those failings will make the story more interesting because we can all relate. Conflict will happen, people will die, and people will go on living; without this there is no story, no reason to write my book, no reason for you to want to read it. The book won’t be all sunshine and roses. You know what? Life just isn’t, not even for Christians.

"Conflict is essential to a story. Nothing to fight against, nothing to win, nothing to lose...why bother reading it?" ~Anne Perry (International best selling historical novelist)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Am Lame-o!

“People who claim they love fall and don’t like summer are lame-o!” Ah, Facebook, it allows people to proclaim their inner most thoughts. These were the thoughts of my friend one day a few weeks ago. So, you want to know something? I am LAME-O! And I still love my friend who thinks I am :-) Fall is my favorite time of year.
I love that the mornings and evenings have begun to have that little nip in the air. The dark comes earlier in the evening and as crazy as it sounds I like that also. With autumn, comes the rich colors of orange, yellow, gold, green. Pumpkins sprout up everywhere and scarecrows can be found loitering around town. I don’t do fires my fireplace, but on cool fall days I love to curl up with a good book and a nice cup of tea. It’s all good to me.

The last part of the year is my time to take stock of my life and my brain begins to plan and think about goals. I get the urge to clean and as my mom always used to say “rid out.” I clean out the cobwebs and get rid of stuff I don’t need any more. That goes for my house and my life. I plan for the coming year which includes letting go of thoughts and habits that aren’t important anymore. Just as so much of nature does, I hibernate in order to prepare for new life.

One of the great things about living near the Rocky Mountains is this time of year when the tree leaves begin to turn colors before dropping away for the winter. I especially love this part of fall when nature is painted in brillant colors. This natural part of the life cycle makes for beautiful foliage. This time of year the roads to the high country are full of people wanting to take it all in and capture it on film. I haven't been to the high country this year, but the trees down here in the foothills are turning also and crunching through the dry leaves makes me happy. Of course, I dont' have to rake the leaves when they fall to the yard so that helps to love them :-)

I don’t know when my love of fall began; it just has been this way for a long time. So, fall is in the air and I am in my element!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

World Alzheimer's Day

Every 70 seconds someone crosses over the starting line of Alzheimer’s Disease and begins to walk the road of dementia. This statistic comes from the Alzheimer’s Association and startled me when I heard this at my city’s 20th annual Memory Walk last weekend. The Memory Walk is the Association’s largest fund raiser each year and funds their education, support, and research.

Photo ©Thomas H. Fickas Jr

Having walked this road with my own family I have been aware for the last few years of the growing prevalence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Still, when I think about the fact that every 70 seconds someone else begins the journey I am saddened. That’s over 1200 people a day. The problem with this statistic is that it doesn’t begin to show the extent of people affected. For each one of those 1200 people there are family members and friends who also travel the road. It is a growing problem and will continue to grow as our population ages.

Alzheimer's Disease International has released their 2009 World Alzheimer's Report. The research indicates that in 2010 there will be an estimated 35 million people around the world with any form of dementia. Again, this doesn’t include the number of people who will deal with the effects of knowing someone with dementia. This number includes all forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s Disease is the leading cause of dementia followed by Lewy Body Dementia as the second. There are many other forms of dementia and each form of dementia has its own unique symptoms, but they all devastate a person’s memory functions.

I have not had a chance to fully review the 24 page executive summary of the report, but what I have read just reaffirms my commitment to fighting this horrible disease. The numbers show that dementia is not a small problem, but rather one that will continue to grow and touch more people unless we do something now to staunch the progression. Following are the recommendations made by the authors of the report:

1. The World Health Organization (WHO) should declare dementia a world health priority.

2. National governments should declare dementia a health priority and develop national strategies to provide services and support for people with dementia and their families.

3. Low and medium income countries should create dementia strategies based first on enhancing primary healthcare and other community services.

4. High income countries should develop national dementia action plans with designated resource allocations.

5. Develop services that reflect the progressive nature of dementia.

6. Distribute services with the core principle of maximizing coverage and ensuring equity of access, to benefit people with dementia regardless of age, gender, wealth, disability, and rural or urban residence.

7. Create collaboration between governments, people with dementia, their carers (caregivers) and their Alzheimer associations, and other relevant Non-Governmental Organizations and professional healthcare bodies.

8. More research needs to be funded and conducted into the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, pharmacological and psychosocial treatments, the prevalence and impact of dementia, and the prevention of dementia.

Dementia is a world problem that has the potential to affect us all. Reading the above recommendations can be overwhelming. What can one person do? One person can’t solve the problem, but your contributions don’t stand alone. Each person can make a small difference and those differences can make huge changes. To find out more visit the Alzheimer's website. Together we can move this journey closer to the finish line.

Photo ©Thomas H. Fickas Jr

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Living Vicariously

This is a post I originally posted on my other blog back in June 2007. Some people when they read this have commented on how sad it is that my dreams weren't realized. I don't feel that way. I see my dreams coming to fruition in a different way than I planned, but the underlying desire to love and nurture a family was fulfilled. I have lived and loved and I wouldn't change a thing about how my life has turned out.

Years ago, in high school, I imagined a grown up life that included an early marriage to a loving husband and six kids. Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself single into my forties.

Instead of six children of my own I have been blessed with six nieces and nephews. My youngest sister's family lives a half mile from me. She and her husband have two children. She has shared her life with me in an incredible way.

When she was pregnant with her youngest and her husband, a Marine, was in Afghanistan, they weren't sure he would be back in time for delivery. They asked me to be her labor coach. I gladly accepted the role.

I got the calls when the baby was squeezing her so tight she couldn't breathe. I heard about the nights of sleeping sitting up. I accompanied her and her older child to the ultrasound that revealed the gender of the baby. And I was there the morning the false alarm took us to the hospital at 5:30am.

When the time came, I sat with her all day, I cut the cord and I placed that precious little one in daddy's arms for the first time.

Over the years I have experienced Barney, The Wiggles, Dance, Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero. I have picked up kids at daycare and stayed with them when they were sick and mom had to work.

I have been soccer mom and taxi service. I have been at school musicals, back to school night, birthday parties, karate practice, orthodontist visits and soccer games. I have been called to pick up kids when they missed the bus or forgot their art supplies.

Overnight visits have allowed mom and dad to get away for a night, a weekend or even a week. I know the joy of waking up beside the warm body that sprawled across the bed and kicked me all night. I grin when I think of waking to that smiling two year old face saying "Hi Tammie!"

I have been a horsey and a pillow and a mean lion. I have bouncy, bouncied on the trampoline and been laughed at when I went down and couldn't get back upright on the trampoline. I have played games, read stories and kissed hurts away.

My sister is an amazing mother and she has shared her two wonderful children with me. I have six nieces and nephews. I regret that I haven't been able to live close enough to share these things with all of them. I have never regretted the time spent to help when my sister needed me. I have lived vicariously!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wedding Day

As I logged into Facebook today I saw that two of my friends had tied the knot last night. I knew her from briefly working with her. I met him last spring when we all went indoor skydiving. (You can read about that adventure by clicking here. It was clear he adored her and they were obviously in love. Today they are Mr. and Mrs!

This weekend also marks the seven year anniversary of my dear friends Melanie and Brian. Theirs was a somewhat unconventional meeting. Her mom had a friend who had a daughter who knew Brian and after hearing about Melanie thought they would make a great match. So her mom gave her friend’s daughter Mel’s phone number. Brian did call and Mel’s roommate (me) forgot to give her the message. Still several weeks later they went on their first date and now have been married for all these years and have three beautiful children. (See, even my bumbling can’t deter what’s meant to be!)

Ah, as they say, love is in the air! These events have had me thinking about an old blog post I did for a site I participated in last year. So, this morning I dug it up and thought it might be worth posting here for you all to read. This was posted last year so Mike and Erlinda are now nearing their one year anniversary.

Today I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my dear friend Erlinda as she married her best friend, Mike. As Erlinda spoke her words of commitment to Mike a tear slipped down his cheek. He tried to control his emotions, but was overwhelmed by the love he felt and the joy at hearing Erlinda’s words. It was beautiful and sweet and soon the tears ran down my own cheeks.

Erlinda and Mike have walked a long road to meet at the altar today. Erlinda has been married before and from something the pastor said I believe Mike may have also. They have dated for several years as their friendship grew and finally, today, they are united as one.

Often at weddings my mind turns to thoughts of what my own would be like. I have never been married, but have to admit that I have thought of having a wedding many times over the years. While sitting in the congregation witnessing the ceremony I was suddenly overwhelmed with an image of being the bride of Christ. Isaiah 62:5 says “your children will care for you with joy, O Jerusalem, just as a young man cares for his bride. Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.” In all the years since I have become a Christian I have never had such a clear picture of this aspect of my relationship with Christ.

As the ceremony began Mike waited patiently at the altar for Erlinda to come down the aisle to him. When he saw her his face lit up in a huge smile. The love shone through his eyes. I imagine it was the same for the Lord as I lingered in coming to Him. He waited patiently. When the day finally came that I walked down that aisle to Him the love illuminated His face and His eyes were deep pools of emotion. I, the bride, approached nervously. This was the moment when rejection or acceptance could come. What joy when the bridegroom came down off the altar and to guide me to my place.

Like Erlinda I spoke the words of my commitment and love for Christ. Oh what beauty of knowing that He was so overwhelmed with emotion that tears fell from His eyes. He had waited for so long for me to come to Him and accept His gift of love. Finally, there I was and His love could no longer be contained. He rejoiced over me there at the altar.

This view of Christ as a bridegroom is one that is sometimes hard to get your mind around; especially for people who are not Christians. Many may have never even heard of this word picture if they haven’t been inside a church for many years. Honesty, it’s not something that is a frequent discussion topic in the church circles I have been involved with.

I think, too, that it is often harder for men to envision themselves as the bride of Christ than for women. We women are brought up knowing that if we choose to walk the marriage road we will someday be a bride. Men on the other hand see themselves as the groom. They see themselves waiting at the altar for their bride so the feminine picture of the bride doesn’t sit comfortably in their mindset.

But, I think this vision of us as the bride of Christ is important. It envelopes the whole idea of our coming to Christ and partnering with Him and that really is what is at the root of the Christian relationship just as it is for marriage, joining with the another in relationship to face day to day life. I believe that we were created to need relationship and I think that the world we currently live in highlights that desire. I see people who profess not to need Jesus (and people who know they need Jesus) searching for ways to fulfill our need for relationship. The ways vary and are many. Some choose to try to fill the void with human relationships; we jump from partner to partner and from marriage to marriage. We chase the latest fad diet, drug, or self help guru. We acquire material things, pursue bigger and better adventures, or grasp for more knowledge. These things don’t fulfill the need because they were never intended to do that.

I am not randomly pointing the finger. I have been down this road. My Christian friends have been down this road. The searching doesn’t necessarily get easier the moment we take Christ up on His offer. We still struggle with the same things everyone does; we are human after all and that humanity gets in our way a lot. Christ knows this. He walked the earth as a man and He understands the trials and temptations we face. But the truth is that Christ waits for us even as we wander down other paths. And just as in human marriages that moment of bliss at the altar doesn’t mean the road will suddenly smooth out and be bump free. It just means that we don’t walk it alone anymore. There is someone pledged to be with us throughout our journey.

The day I came to Christ, just as Erlinda and Mike were joined on their wedding day, I was joined with Christ. I left behind an old life and began a new life. This life was built on love, trust and respect. Just like Erlinda and Mike’s marriage it is intended to last forever. From this day forward I am a new person united in love. And, from today forward I will never think of being the bride of Christ without thinking of Mike’s tears of joy over his bride.

If you would like to know more about Christ and His love for us, please feel free to contact me at rockymountainwriter at