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Forgive me for being momentarily morbid, but I’m in the middle of another long, dreary winter, and it’s time I did something to cheer myself up. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive because my birthday is coming up, but it seems like every time I open the newspaper, someone very near my age has died. So my assignment for today is to take stock – to think about baskets full of blessings and all the things I have to look forward to. If I have to give a nod to the fact that I’m in my late fifties (which my young nieces and nephews assure me is very old), and that the end gets nearer every day, then I’ll write a bucket list one day soon.

Sunset 2014 Grass

What memories do I most cherish? What do I most regret? What do I have to look forward to?

Promise you won’t laugh. Writing about Shy Violet (my work in progress) has made me realize that I’m the one who is typically standing on the sidelines encouraging the people who are actually doing the things I want to do, perhaps even taking photos, or filing away observations for future characters, dialog or plot lines for my next book. Instead of entering into the merriment of the occasion, I hang back and let others have all of the fun.

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Some of my best memories are of the time I lived in Augsburg, Germany, when I admittedly went a little wild and acted like a crazy person, probably because I drank a wee bit too much Liebfraumilch. Among other things, I took disco lessons (you promised not to laugh) and danced many a night away to ABBA and the BeeGees, learned to soul dance with a big black man who taught me moves so smooth I can still feel them if I try, called a 3 star general on the phone and told him what I thought about what I perceived to be a bad decision on his part, took my dog, Ginger, and went on volksmarches by myself when my fuddy-dud husband wouldn’t budge off the sofa, and drove myself to Holland and the Italian Riviera and wherever else I wanted to go, just because I could.

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By the time the 80’s arrived, I had been hurt. I’d gone too far on a couple of occasions and realized certain things were very, very bad ideas. I retreated back into observation mode, sitting on the sidelines and watching as my friends lived out their fantasies, afraid to even say what I wanted, and more importantly, to follow where my heart led.

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For whatever reason, in the 90’s, I went a little wild again – I climbed Pikes Peak and almost Mount Massive, left Colorado Springs and moved to Iowa to buy a house everyone else though should have been bulldozed, opened my own business, and participated in a few adventures so reckless and unthinkable that I really can’t talk about them here. Have to save something for my tell-all memoir…

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But alas, when all was said and done, my soul once again felt singed. I was afraid of being hurt. I stopped riding my bicycle because my muscles and my heart ached, and I didn’t climb any more mountains because I stopped believing I could. I let myself be talked out of going to the Gaelic cèilidh on Iona when we were in Scotland because it might get too late and I didn’t insist we cross the bridge to Sweden because we might not have enough time, and I didn’t go on the side trip to take a dip in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon when in Iceland because it cost $45 extra per person. I let so many opportunities slip through my fingers, And the more I stopped doing, the more depressed I felt, and I was always tired. I passed by opportunities to have parties or be social because I was too timid to pick up the phone and call people or because my house isn’t tidy enough, or because I weighed too much or didn’t look the way I wish I did anymore. Or because I was afraid people would reject me.

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I let my light fade. In my third book, Water Lily, I wrote a scene where Michelle chooses not to join Jake and his boys in the swimming pool because she’s embarrassed about how she looks in a swimming suit. This scene is so typical of my life it is ridiculous. It is so hard for me to let go and let loose – except in my books, where my imagination takes those moments and makes them live.

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So I’m in my late fifties, and I’ve had a great life. I’ve gone places and done things that many people only dream of. But to be frank, I’m at that stage of life where if I plan to do anything else, it’s now or never. It’s time to start wishing again, to go to the places I dream of seeing and – more importantly – experiencing. It’s time to live life to the fullest and seize every opportunity – because a kiss to build a dream on is fine, and I do have a great imagination, but sometimes a kiss isn’t enough. Sometimes, I want wild, passionate lovemaking all night long. I want to live. I want to fly – to be the one in the picture instead of the one holding the camera.

Sherrie - dreads

So my husband just came home from working over at the church and asked if I wanted to go for a ride and take in the sunset. At first I said I needed to finished my blog and then call the computer guy, who is waiting to do a backup on my new laptop. But then I said yes and went out and got in the car. It’s a start.

Sunset 1-2015

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My books aren’t written about the most earth-shattering events. When you read one of my books, you can be fairly certain that the world isn’t going to end in 24 hours. Life as we know it isn’t going to cease to exist. Murders – at least of anyone you dearly love – aren’t likely and extreme violence is rare. But my characters do learn and grow from the world around them, be it a sleepy little town in the heartland where everybody knows way too much about everybody else, the coldest place in the USA, or a quaint village in Scotland or Denmark. My characters are smart, savvy, and intuitive, They know how to figure things out and make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it takes them awhile, but in the end, there’s always an ah-ha moment, a reawakening, an eyes-open-wide experience when they finally get it.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

Last night, I spoke about my latest books, Thistle Down and Wild Rose, at the library in Hudson, Iowa, where my husband is a pastor. We had only a small crowd, but my photo journey of Scotland on the big screen was well received, the caramel shortbread disappeared very quickly, and I sold 7 books. More importantly, it was good for me to get my slides and my impressions of Scotland organized in to a nice presentation, since my next two books will be set in Tobermory (Blue Belle) and on the Isle of Skye (Shy Violet). If anyone wants a speaker for their library or group, let me know! I’m all set now, as well as being inspired to start working on my Wildflowers of Scotland novels again.

Here’s part of what I spoke about – lessons learned while traveling in Scotland:

1. Don’t stay inside and miss out just because it’s raining a little.

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I’m not recommending that you venture out in a hurricane to see what’s up or become a storm chaser in tornado alley, or go looking for your cows in the middle of a raging blizzard, but so many people miss out on so many opportunities because it’s a little windy or overcast or too hot outside. The day we had designated for golfing St. Andrews, visiting the beautiful gardens on nearby Cambo Estates, and hiking down to the sea on the garden path, was alternately drizzly, and downright sopping wet. Between the 7th and 8th holes of the famous golf course, my husband was so wet that he ducked into the men’s room at the clubhouse, took off his shirt, and crouched under the hand dryer to take the chill off. Would he have missed the probably once in a lifetime chance to golf St. Andrews so he could stay warm and cozy? No way.

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Mark’s sister, Becky and I donned floppy hats and vinyl rain gear, shielded our cameras with a sheet of plastic and slipped at slid over the muddy paths that wound through the walled garden and down to the sea at Cambo Estates.

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Were we sorry? No. In fact, here’s another lesson learned.

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2. Colors are brighter on cloudy days and raindrops on roses are one of my favorite things.

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3. When your life appears to be crumbling around you and everything’s in ruins, there’s still beauty to be found. (On the beach at St. Andrews.)

203 Scotland St. Andrews

4. When everything around you feels sad and gray, add a splash of color to the mix and everything will look brighter.

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5. Keep looking up! There’s always a rainbow after the storm.

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6. Even the most nondescript things in life look better if you plant a few flowers.

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7. Find balance wherever you can. It helps.

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8.  Be thankful for what you have.

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While I was oohing and aahing over their little stone cottages and thinking they were like something straight out of the pages of a story book, the Scots were loving the photos of my Victorian B&B and saying it looked straight from the pages of a fairy tale.

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9. Never judge a book by it’s cover, or a house by it’s formidable exterior. There’s probably something nice and cozy waiting for you inside.

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10. No matter how impossible the path ahead looks, there is always a way through the mountains – or over whatever’s blocking your way .

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11. Bloom where you’re planted.

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12. Sometimes you have to dig your heels in and be tenacious. If you think you can do it, you probably can.

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13. The road may seem narrow, but there’s always enough room to get where you need to go – somehow.

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14. Pay attention to the little details. All information is useful, and bound to come in handy one day.

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15. Keep looking up. (This one bears repeating.) Often, what you see will point you in the direction you need to go.

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My life has changed drastically since I last blogged. My husband has resigned his call to the church where he’s been pastor for the last 11 years.  I knew his ministry there was coming to an end because of recent events within our church and the denomination that the church belongs to, but I did not know that it would happen so soon, or that it would be so sudden – or that the whole process of saying good-bye would be so painful.

One unfortunate consequence of this whole unfolding mess is that I have learned I am being cyber-stalked. Parts of my previous blogs, taken out of context, were read aloud at a church council meeting where my husband and I were then berated. This kind of thing hurts me deeply as a person and a writer.  I have always tried to be honest but discreet in my blog posts. My intention has never been to diss others, but to honestly express my own feelings about the impact of certain happenings and actions on me. I have never even thought a bad thing about the women who were upset with me. Quite the opposite! Knowing that my words were twisted and used against me, and my husband, is a horrible feeling.

So what to do from this point forward? Clam up? Shut down? Shut up? Stop writing at a time I most need to release my angst, vent my frustration, ask for prayers and gain support from friends and family, many of whom my only connection to is online?

I suspect I shouldn’t care what the people who criticized me because of what I wrote think of me (although I do), but a concern is that my husband is obviously looking for a new call, and I really, really don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his chances. But when I think of trying to live out the next however many years under a gag order, not able to say what I really think or be who I really am, is is so disheartening that I want to cry. Am crying.

A year and a half ago, I was in a group at Gather.com called Shedding Light, led by the wonderfully insightful Mariana T.  She asked us to make a list of the things we needed to shed, the things that are holding us back, and dragging us down. Among the things I listed were Clutter, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurity, Low Self-Esteem, Excess Weight, Inertia, Excessive Possessions,  Computer Games and other Time Wasters.

To the past and future church council members who may be reading this – there you have it. You now know all of my vices. Look no further. Dig no deeper. It’s all right here.

The sad thing, as I read this list, is that instead of shedding the things on the list, I seem to be attracting them like a magnet. I feel like I’m inside a huge snowball, gathering unwanted masses of the above items as I roll downhill. I feel like I’m about ready to hit a tree and explode into a million fragments of icy debris. I can’t concentrate.  I am terribly over-committed and way behind on everything, but I can’t seem to get anything done.

But maybe there is hope. I got my blog done, didn’t I?

Have you ever had Blog Fog – that sinking feeling that you have nothing blog-worthy to say?

That moment when you’re looking for the inspiration of a starburst and all you get is fizzle?

When you’re looking for a burst of life and all you get is thistles?

I’ve definitely been there… that moment when you’re craving bright sunshine, and what you get is a sunset in Death Valley…

When you’re convinced you’ll find crystal clear waters and all you see is rusty old crud…

When you desperately need a lighthouse to guide your way and what you see in front of you is a long, low, dark tunnel…

When you need a gushing waterfall of inspiration and all that bubbles up is mud.

Blog Fog is unlike Writer’s Block in that the words flow quite freely. But when you have Blog Fog, your brain is so bogged down in minutia that you can’t think of anything significant to say. It doesn’t work just to write, because all that comes out is drivel. There’s no comforting knowledge that you’ll re-write it twenty times before it goes to press anyway, so it doesn’t matter. When you blog, it’s out there immediately. As soon as you post it – and you have to, because it’s your day to blog – everyone will know that you’re not really brilliant after all, that your brain is just a pile of mush.

It’s hard to be clever when you’re under a lot of stress – when things are so busy at work that you’re putting in 12 hour days and still not making a dent in your pile of papers to file and things to be done. It’s difficult to think of a topic when a new first line for your book is running through your head and there are bills to pay and people coming for lunch and rooms to be cleaned and new employees who need to be told what to do.

But you have to try. You don’t want to gain a reputation as a difficult blogger – someone who misses their day or doesn’t attract the numbers the site is accustomed to. And you can forget about getting Freshly Pressed or Creating a Buzz, or getting Re-Tweeted or even Liked – not unless the fog clears.

You check your spam digest – maybe something will trigger an idea. Febreze Air Freshener… I’ll Help You… I Quit My Job and I’ve Never Been Happier. Hard to do when you own your own business. Although, there have been times I’ve been tempted. But maybe someday, someone will invent a pill that floods your brain with hard facts and novel ideas. It’s certainly possible.

Did you know that if you Google “blog ideas” you will get a list of helpful articles like “Need Ideas for Your Blog?”, “101+ Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Sizzle!”,  “12 Typical Blog Post Types to Kick Start Ideas”, “Blog Post Ideas That Generate Buzz”, “How to Create Viral Blog Posts”, and “Killer Blog Posts” will inundate your screen. Unfortunately, when you have Blog Fog, it’s going to take more than a bunch of stagnant, stodgy old lists to make the fog clear. What you need is a stiff breeze to blow the fog out to sea.

Maybe if I turned the ceiling fan on high…

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Daybreak – New Release! (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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