I Go With the Flow

dog-708376_1280Roll with the punches! Go with the flow (hand wave). Yes, these are dreaded cliches–the bane of a writer’s existence. But these two cliches illustrate a point I hope to make.

It all started with a funeral. Or rather, a celebration of a life. The man who died is connected by marriage to one of my sons, but had been part of our life for years. One of his grandsons gave the eulogy, which was touching and beautiful. One phrase stuck in my mind and touched me deeply.

“He lived his life on purpose.”

family-11883_1280This man did many good things. He worked hard and excelled in his career. He raised an awesome family, all of whom grew up to do well. He had a fifty-two-year happy marriage. He spent time with his wife and family. According to his grandson’s eulogy, he never went anywhere alone, but always desired one or all of them with him. They vacationed as a family. When he ran errands, he took one or more of the grandchildren along. He enjoyed their company.

Beyond family, he served his church. He visited and ministered to prisoners. And many other things. He did these things on purpose. To serve and show his gratitude and love. Not to receive a blessing in return, but to be a blessing, whether he ever received any recognition at all for what he had done.

On purpose and with one purpose in mind: to serve his God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Why did this strike such a chord with me?

I’ve always rolled with punches. Gone with the flow…which reminds me of my Aunt Jenny, who always had a smile, a chuckle, and a “Jenny-ism” to add to the conversation. She’d do a little dance, usually a few cha-cha or swing steps, wave her hand in the air and say, “I go with the flow. My flo’ lin-o-le-um.”

Aunt Jenny

Her antics never failed to elicit a smile, a chuckle, or an outright belly-laugh. Everyone loved Aunt Jenny, and she loved us. But looking back, I think she lived life on purpose. She served out of love. She’d received forgiveness and wanted to make sure everyone knew how they could receive the same gift. On purpose.

When you serve others, are you only fulfilling a requirement, expecting a return on your sacrifice? Or do you serve on purpose, with purpose, to be a blessing, no matter what comes of it? Maybe no one ever thanks you. Maybe you never receive any recognition. Do you go anyway–keep on serving those who are hurting and in need?

Are you simply surviving life, just getting by, living but not really alive? You may think there’s nothing you can do. But small acts of kindness can add up to a lifetime of good, if done on purpose. My mom writes letters to her friends and family. They’ve told me what a blessing it is to receive a letter from her. She’s always so upbeat and positive. Those letters are like little rays of sunshine. That’s purpose.

You may never travel to a foreign country to help dig hurting souls out of earthquake-torn buildings. Or help restore flooded homes. But do you allow someone with fewer items to pass in front of you at the grocery? Do you hold the door and allow others to enter a building before you? Do you smile and greet visitors when they enter your church? Make them feel at home? On purpose, with one purpose in mind–to be a blessing. To serve God, be His hands and feet in the world.

I think it’s okay to “go with the flow,” as long as you live life on purpose when it really counts. When you can fill a purpose or a need–do it. I hope the words of that eulogy stay with me for a good long time and prick my conscience when I desire to ride the waves instead of serve a purpose.

So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. (2 Corinthians 8:10-20 The Message)

From the Bluegrass to the Pacific (There and Back Again)

Today, I’m flying to Seattle for a short visit with friends and family. I was born in Seattle and some of my mother’s family still live there. My son married a Seattle girl and that was a double blessing, because I’ve had an excuse to return to the region and visit one of the most beautiful areas in the continental U.S.

My son and his wife are relocating to Kentucky, thus the reason for this trip. I get to make the journey, too. We plan to take full advantage of this opportunity to see places we’ve never seen. And we’ll be looking for dog-friendly places, since Gusto will be with us. As you can see, he’s happy to be included.

After we leave Seattle, we’ll head to Oregon, where we’ll stay a couple of days then head down the Pacific Coast, hoping to visit some new places we’ve never seen. I plan to post pictures and thoughts here and on Facebook, documenting this trip so my friends and family can see these places with us. Not like being there, I know. But hopefully it won’t be as bad as sitting through a long slide show of vacay pics with the neighbors. After all, if it’s boring, you can leave. I’ll try not to be boring and in any case, it’ll be short. Usually.

So thanks for stopping by and I hope you’ll drop back in during this series of blogposts. You can follow this blog or friend me on Facebook or like my Facebook author page to keep up with what I hope will be an interesting trip. In any case, I’d love to hear from you regarding your favorite Western or Midwestern stops, especially if you know of any dog-friendly places along the way.

In the Black and White ‘Fifties

Living in an imaginary world can be difficult. Especially when it’s a world that existed in the past. I’m listening to ‘fifties music, watching old black and white movies––and noticing their footwear, by the way. I’m pushing my memories back as far as they’ll go, and trying to remember the sights and the sounds of the era.

It was so much easier writing fantasy, because nothing in that world existed until I created it. I experimented and I had fun. I pulled out dreams and wishes and wove them into my stories. The land and the characters are loosely based on reality. 

But that could also be said of my work-in-progress; the historical. The characters are loosely based on people I’ve met. I love their language, because it brings back precious memories of some of my favorite people. The time seems enchanted, because it comes straight off a page in my childhood. A simpler time. Not so evil, and filled with violence as it is now. 

Sometimes, I have to remove my rosy glasses, and gaze past my perceptions into reality. There was violence. There was hate. There was prejudice. There was a strict moral code and an active class system.  Things never discussed in polite company. Lines you did not cross. Ugly signs on doors, limiting who entered. Trouble brewing beneath the surface.

And then there were long, lazy, summer days, homemade lemonade and ice cream. No one asked what was in the hot dogs they served at picnics. I loved my patent leather Mary Janes and my puffy crinoline skirts. I loved tire swings and playing corncob jail and kick the can. 

So I’m weaving all of these things into this story-in-progress. Pulling out all the stops and telling the story as it flows from my heart. At regular intervals, Samson lopes into the scene and provides warmth and maybe a chuckle or two. If you’re wondering who Samson is, read last week’s post. 

I’d love to hear some of your favorite memories, if you’re old enough to remember the ‘fifties. Please drop me a line. 

Thanks for reading,

Samson, the Bluetick Coonhound

If you’re on Facebook, you already know how popular pets are. I know I get a hundred cute pet pictures posted on my status every day. Knowing how important these four-legged friends are, I’ve included a pet in my present story-in-progress. There’s only one problem.

He tries to take over every scene he’s in. Samson is a Bluetick coonhound. As you can see from the photo, he has a very expressive face. Blueticks are very intelligent and energetic. And they sport a beautiful coat.

Samson spends his days chasing rabbits. His home in 1950’s West Tennessee affords plenty of opportunities to chase not only rabbits, but other wildlife as well. And lately, he’s taken to cozying up to a sweet young lady. She loves dogs, so she doesn’t mind.

Now just in case you’re attentive enough to notice that the hound in this picture is either missing something, or is not really a male dog, you’re right. I borrowed this pic from Wikipedia. It’s actually a female Bluetick coonhound named Juno. But for now, let’s just pretend this is an actual picture of my character’s dog. And he is most definitely male.

Here’s a short excerpt:

At that moment, Samson ran past Connie. He bolted into the front seat, planting himself firmly in the middle.
The dog’s big brown eyes greeted her as she settled into the seat next to him. He seemed placid enough. Smelly, but gentle. She remembered her first view of him at Thelma’s. He’d waited quietly in the truck while his master talked to Annabelle and the kidney bean barked and danced around. “Good dog,” she whispered.
He thumped his tail.
Alton climbed in and shut the door. “Hope you don’t mind dogs.”
She shook her head. 
“He’s fairly obedient.” He shifted into gear and backed the truck around.

 And he is, fairly obedient. Except when there’s a scent of rabbit in the air. I’m a big fan of dogs in general and especially hounds. So I’m looking forward to finishing this particular story, just to see what happens with Samson, the Bluetick coonhound.

For more information on Bluetick hounds you can start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluetick_Coonhound

Thanks for reading!