3/30/2015

From Eden to Gethsemane

 T
he Creator of the universe planted a perfect garden in Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy. He walked in the garden with them every evening. Then they believed Satan’s lie and their relationship with God was broken. They lost the garden. The Creator came back to this sin-filled earth to rescue us and as He finished his earthly ministry, it was in another garden—the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Jesus knew what faced him in the next few hours.  He would be arrested. He would be beaten and spit upon.  He would be accused by the religious leaders of his day, who would lie through their teeth about him.  And then he would be nailed to a cross and hung to die like a common criminal. It was all for you, and it was all for me.  Jesus didn’t run away and he didn’t give up, even though his most trusted disciples fell asleep during their Master’s greatest time of need.  He could have said it wasn’t worth it anymore, especially since the men he’d spent the most time with and invested so much in couldn’t even keep watch with Him. Jesus was still willing to go through with the Father’s perfect plan to save us from our sins even though we most assuredly did not deserve it. 

White Bleeding Heart
Jesaro Photos
















His sacrifice provides the only way to a restored relationship with God. It is eternal life—there is much more to come after life here on earth. His resurrection guarantees we will get back to the perfect garden of God, which Revelation 22 tells us is where the River of Life flows and fruit is always in season. Will you be there? Have you received His gift of eternal life?  


They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Mark 14:32-36 NLT

Excerpt from Gardens of the Heart

2/24/2015

In His Likeness

Bonsai is the fascinating Japanese art of shaping trees into miniature works of art. Tiny trees are potted, then trimmed, wired, and slowly formed into stunning displays. The process is not weeks or months, but years. Long years, patient years. It requires an artistic touch, understanding form, balance, and negative space. The gardener must understand the tree--diseases, light requirements, fertilizer. The gardener must also know how to bend the branches and know how much the tree can take. The gardener already sees in his or her mind what this tree can truly look like at its maturation. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the hurried. As a gardener, I admire the skill of master gardeners who painstakingly create such beauty.

The photos bear out the long process from the 10 year-old azalea on the left to the mature trees below that are 50 years or more.

Azalea - 10 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
I can't help but compare these intricate works of gardening art to the patient tending of the Master Gardener, who desires to shape our hearts and lives into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. His tools are trials and blessings to transform our minds, our desires, and our actions. He sees what we can truly be under His tender care. Are you willing to be transformed?


For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:3-4




Larch - 50 yrs old Photo: E. Morse






 









Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Romans 12:2





Japanese Yew - 100 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
























But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon

For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!” 
Psalm 92:12-15



Cherry  Photo: E. Morse






 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:11 

















2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



1/02/2015

Finding the Way in the New Year

Thick fog settled in over the high desert this morning. Fog so dense, mountains to the east and west couldn't be seen. How appropriate for the beginning of the new year.  As exciting as it is with fresh calendars, goals to lose weight, or get organized, we do not even know what this day will hold, much less what six months from now will be like. Maybe that's why we cling to the past. It's safe in a way. We know exactly what happens and how it turns out. The year now lying before us is unknown territory, shrouded in the mist, hidden from our eyes. A bit scary and exciting all at once.

The fog will lift today, its veil dissolving in the sunlight. It's much like the layers of each day being revealed as we do the living of them, trusting in the One who does know the future.  The dissipation of the fog is all about the light that clears away the grayness. The sunlight overcomes the fog one step at a time, and before you know it, the mountains are visible again. 

Take the light so necessary to living as you step out into a brand new year. Commit to read God's word daily,  put it into practice, and let its wisdom make all the difference in navigating this year. You can trust the Author every step of the way.

Photo by PF Flyer
The psalmist says it best:

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:130 - The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

Psalm 119:133 - Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.


as well as the prophet - Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

12/11/2014

Christmas Miracles

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of the miraculous circumstances and birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I never tire of reading about the angel visiting Mary, Joseph, and Zacharias. Or of the verses about the shepherds being scared out of their wits by an angel invasion, and taking off for Bethlehem to verify the angel's proclamation. And of course the passage about the wisemen heeding the angel's warning in a dream, sneaking out of Judea by an alternate route. Read the first couple of chapters in Luke and Matthew to see for yourself.

Miracles do happen during the Christmas season, although technically Jesus was most likely born sometime in September. This year marks seven years since our own December miracle, which was actually a double miracle. Our grandsons turn seven this week. And yes, the birth of a baby is always a miraculous thing, but quite frankly these boys are exceptional miracles.  Because of Twin-to-Twin Tranfusion Syndrome they were born eight weeks early, Austin under three pounds and Brayden just over four pounds. Our daughter had spent six weeks on bedrest in the hospital alternating between having labor stopped or amino fluid reductions over that time. Two days shy of 32 weeks they were delivered by emergency C-section. Breathing and heart issues were some of the most immediate problems. The doctors gave our daughter and son-in-law bleak news on what outcomes were possible--significant physical and mental disabilities or worse. Those tiny boys in their incubators hooked up to all sorts of machines were even too fragile to hold.

The next few months were a roller coaster of emotions as the boys struggled to get well. Brayden came home after four weeks and continued to progress, although reflux and apnea were concerns. Austin languished in the NICU, diagnosed with chronic lung disease, severe reflux, a hernia, and then MRSA. It seemed like there was a new complication every day.

During that time, we learned about the power of prayer from a network of family, friends, and strangers literally from around the world, who prayed for the health of the boys. God  worked in each of our lives strengthening our faith and giving extraordinary grace. The prayers of so many were answered graciously, miraculously, but in God's time.

I was finally able to hold Austin in the NICU and feed him a bottle for the first time at the end of February, 2008. His big bright eyes locked onto mine as he ate. I marveled that he was getting better--finally. He would go home in the next week after three months in the hospital, although he would be on oxygen until he was eight months old and suffer with painful reflux until he was two.

Today, you'd never know that they ever had any health issues. They're healthy and happy first graders with none of the predicted ill effects from such a traumatic entrance into the world.  I am reminded of Matthew 19:26 whenever I see their smiling faces.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."



 Grandpa & his boys - Mar. 2014
 

                                                        
                                                                        Brayden, Dec. 2007

                                                                     Austin, Dec. 2007

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14

For more information about TTTS visit www.fetalhope.org.

11/18/2014

All About Beta Readers

What's a beta reader? That question has been asked plenty of times when I mention the term. So here's the definition: a beta reader gets to read my manuscript after I've finished the revisions and before my editor gets her hands on it. Betas offer input on everything from the plot, to characters, to settings---everything. Nothing is off limits. My readers are six women who've agreed to give me honest feedback about each book I write. They were handpicked by me because they meet the qualifications below:

1. They love to read and know a good story a mile away.
2. They know and like me well enough to give honest opinions.
3. Each has a different perspective to offer and they're creative.

The betas have improved each book with their insights, corrections, and sound advice. Although I haven't taken 100% of the recommendations offered, the majority of comments have been incorporated into the manuscripts. This part of the editing process is indispensable to prepare for the editor and to polish the book.

Because beta readers are entrusted with an unpublished manuscript in electronic form (which tends to be extremely portable), I've developed beta reader guidelines which clarify responsibilities and expectations. I strongly recommend doing the same with either your current beta readers or for the group you may be forming. If you are serious about writing as a business, procedures for your business practices are fundamental. A great deal of trust is placed upon the beta readers, which is one of the reasons I choose readers I know and give them guidelines, so there's no guessing.

As a courtesy, my beta readers are contacted before a manuscript is ready and are asked for participation. Everyone's schedule is busy, and I never want to obligate/overload a beta reader. They are much too valuable for that.

Speaking of value--beta readers as a rule are not paid, but I always send a token of appreciation. A copy of the final product is always welcome.

A sample of beta reader guidelines is provided below.

SAMPLE
BETA READER GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES

Thank you for agreeing to be a beta reader for Your Publishing Name. We LOVE readers and we’re happy to have you as part of our team. Your input is essential to us in producing outstanding books for readers and it’s our intention to make this process interesting and fun.

How Beta Reading Works

1. Your Publishing Name does everything electronically. Manuscripts and your comments will all be by email.

2. You will receive the manuscript as a Word file. A deadline will be stated in the email. Deadlines are generous and will usually be about four (4) weeks.

3. Comments should be made using the insert comment feature in Word. Please do not worry about punctuation, missing words, or other mistakes in the copy. It is a draft and will be professionally edited before publication. We do endeavor to give you a clean copy so that typos, etc. are not distractions.

4. Once you have completed reading the manuscript and have made your comments, email the copy back to the author by the deadline.

5. You may be asked to read the book once more after the editing has been completed.

6. Beta reading doesn’t make you any money, but you will receive a token of our appreciation in your mailbox.

The Kind of Comments We Need

1. Characters –like or dislike and why.

2. Plot – too predictable, too slow, not enough action, or an absolutely fabulous plot.

3. Inconsistencies, errors about characters i.e. tall, dark, and handsome in one scene, short and geeky in another.

4. Is the story visual? Can you see the characters in your mind? Are the places descriptive enough? Is there too much description? Are there scenes that are confusing?

5. Is the dialogue natural or stilted?

6. What you liked and disliked about the book. What you’d do to make it better.

7. We want HONEST feedback. Please do not be a softie and like everything. Authors must have tough hides. Every story can be improved and we’re counting on you to help us do just that. Readers are discriminating, sophisticated, and know what they like in a good book. We want to provide that product and your help is vital.

After the Read

You have a special place of trust in being a beta reader. You’re getting the first peek at a book before it is published. The manuscript you are entrusted with has not been through the formal copyright process, although the copyright is technically in place when fingers hit the keyboard. All titles will be officially copyrighted before publication. Please adhere to the following “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”


After you have finished reading the manuscript and have emailed it back to the author, please DO delete the file completely from your computer. This means the trash basket on your desktop too.
Once you have received confirmation that your comments have been received by the author, DO delete “Sent” emails as well.
DO NOT share the manuscript with friends or family. We are in the business of selling books and would love to have them buy the title when it’s published.
DO brag about being a beta reader. Let friends and family know when a book is coming out. Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool and we need your help as our business gets underway. You played an important part in the book birthing process, so don’t hold back.
DO have fun as a beta reader. We’re readers ourselves and have spent many happy hours in the pages of a book.What's Needed From You

1. Contact information: Name, mailing address, email, and phone number.

2. Honesty, sense of humor, and some of your time.

10/22/2014

Just Kidding

One of the perks of working at a rural school district is the rural part. A small herd of goats resides close to my office, just past the playground. Boer goats to be exact, who provide moments of entertainment throughout the day. You need that when you constantly stare at a computer screen, answering emails, and entering all manner of data. Thankfully, a window gives me an excellent view of the herd.

The reason for the goats is a hobby farm next door to the District Office where I work.  A retired couple can be seen tending their livestock, and working in the garden every morning. It's such a peaceful and pastoral scene. (Sigh.)

Springtime with Maisey on the log
 and Daisy on the ground.
Along with the goats, the couple keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens. A magnificent rooster guards his harem. You definitely don't want to mess with him. He has no sense of humor and when he squawks, those girls come running to the safety of the hen house. These particular hens can be seen jumping in the air to catch bugs, scratching in the dirt, or dashing around the small pasture. The flock is definitely free range and seem delighted to be there. They have it pretty good.


Back to the goats. The goat herd started in February when one of the two resident does had twins. The kids were doelings; one is black-and-white (I've named her Maisey), and the other is brown-and-white (Daisy). The other doe produced another set of twins in early summer.  Mysteriously, that doe and one of twins are no longer part of the herd. The remaining kid is a buckling. His button horns appeared recently--he's growing up already. (Let's call him Maurice. It seems to fit for some reason.) He's a handsome boy, brown in color, with an edging of black on his coat.

Maurice
I began making friends with the doelings in the spring. Now they run to the fence when I call. Maisey is greedy for the handfuls of grass I offer. She's quick to jump, placing her hooves high on the fence to push her sister out of the way. I think she likes looking me in the eye too. Quite sassy and confident. Daisy, however, is reluctant to take any grass. She good-naturedly tolerates her sister and is resigned to second place. Mama sometimes appears and pushes both of her daughters to the side, taking the grass for herself. You have to let the offspring know that you're still in charge.

Maurice has recently warmed up to me and starts crying for attention when I appear for my lunchtime walk. Now I have to pet him before the girls, and he gets the first offering of grass. Boys! He complains rather loudly about the separate pasture he has from the girls from time to time.

My family had a milk goat on our farm long ago. I helped my mother milk the nanny everyday. I never cared for goat milk. A little too strong tasting for me, but my brother liked it. The point of this post? It's kind of nice to have that little piece of my childhood next to my office. And it's a bonus to find joy in the simple things, like feeding a handful of grass to a precocious goat. Who else gets to do that on their lunchtime?

Maisey and Mama

Maurice unhappy about his separate pasture.

Boer Goat Factoids


  • Developed in South Africa in the early 1900s
  • Boer means farmer
  • Bred for meat rather than milk production
  • Mature at five months
  • Adapt well to desert conditions
  • Has a high fertility rate - lots of twins
  • Scads of personality (my observation)





Mama

Daisy with Maurice on the left.

SimplyLife

Positively encouraging

3/30/2015

From Eden to Gethsemane

 T
he Creator of the universe planted a perfect garden in Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy. He walked in the garden with them every evening. Then they believed Satan’s lie and their relationship with God was broken. They lost the garden. The Creator came back to this sin-filled earth to rescue us and as He finished his earthly ministry, it was in another garden—the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Jesus knew what faced him in the next few hours.  He would be arrested. He would be beaten and spit upon.  He would be accused by the religious leaders of his day, who would lie through their teeth about him.  And then he would be nailed to a cross and hung to die like a common criminal. It was all for you, and it was all for me.  Jesus didn’t run away and he didn’t give up, even though his most trusted disciples fell asleep during their Master’s greatest time of need.  He could have said it wasn’t worth it anymore, especially since the men he’d spent the most time with and invested so much in couldn’t even keep watch with Him. Jesus was still willing to go through with the Father’s perfect plan to save us from our sins even though we most assuredly did not deserve it. 

White Bleeding Heart
Jesaro Photos
















His sacrifice provides the only way to a restored relationship with God. It is eternal life—there is much more to come after life here on earth. His resurrection guarantees we will get back to the perfect garden of God, which Revelation 22 tells us is where the River of Life flows and fruit is always in season. Will you be there? Have you received His gift of eternal life?  


They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. "Abba, Father," he cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."

Mark 14:32-36 NLT

Excerpt from Gardens of the Heart

2/24/2015

In His Likeness

Bonsai is the fascinating Japanese art of shaping trees into miniature works of art. Tiny trees are potted, then trimmed, wired, and slowly formed into stunning displays. The process is not weeks or months, but years. Long years, patient years. It requires an artistic touch, understanding form, balance, and negative space. The gardener must understand the tree--diseases, light requirements, fertilizer. The gardener must also know how to bend the branches and know how much the tree can take. The gardener already sees in his or her mind what this tree can truly look like at its maturation. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the hurried. As a gardener, I admire the skill of master gardeners who painstakingly create such beauty.

The photos bear out the long process from the 10 year-old azalea on the left to the mature trees below that are 50 years or more.

Azalea - 10 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
I can't help but compare these intricate works of gardening art to the patient tending of the Master Gardener, who desires to shape our hearts and lives into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. His tools are trials and blessings to transform our minds, our desires, and our actions. He sees what we can truly be under His tender care. Are you willing to be transformed?


For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  James 1:3-4




Larch - 50 yrs old Photo: E. Morse






 









Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Romans 12:2





Japanese Yew - 100 yrs old Photo: E. Morse
























But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon

For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!” 
Psalm 92:12-15



Cherry  Photo: E. Morse






 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:11 

















2/18/2015

Death and Taxes or How to Plan for the Eventual With a Minimum of Fuss

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." Cheery thoughts from one of our more colorful founding fathers. In this season of tax preparation--the gathering of documents and frustration of deciphering forms and convoluted formulas, preparing our taxes forces us to take a look at our finances for the past year. In that same vein, it's also a good to time to take stock of our preparations for when we are no longer around to work on those tax forms.

I worked as a paralegal for many years, handling the probate of estates both great and small. Preparation is the key for your family to navigate those choppy waters. Emotions run high and even the most mild-mannered can become unreasonable, argumentative, and yes, surprisingly greedy.  Take some of the drama out of this inevitable situation by gifting your family with a well thought out plan. Here's how to accomplish that dreaded task.

1.  Have a Last Will and Testament. No arguments that you don't have enough money to warrant one and it'll cost too much. Nonsense. It was my experience that more fights ensued over estates of $10,000 or less because there was no will. Everyone needs one. Young or old. Male or female. Married or single. If you have minor children, you certainly need one to appoint guardians for your offspring. You don't want a messy family fight in the funeral home parking lot over who gets the kids. And if you think that couldn't possible happen, think again. It does happen in even the most delightful of families.  An attorney is highly recommended for the drawing of a will, but there are online sites that can draft the document for a low fee if your estate is truly simple. Wills should be reviewed and updated as necessary. Your attorney can retain the original for safekeeping or you can keep it in a fireproof safe. A safe deposit box is not usually the best repository since it requires a court order to open upon your demise.

2.  Have a Durable Power of Attorney. A power of attorney enables your designee to handle a myriad of business transactions, from paying bills to selling real property. You can choose exactly what your POA can or cannot do. Usually spouses designate spouses and you may have an alternate or co-POAs. Should you be incapacitated, this document can be worth its weight in gold to handle day-to-day life. If you cease breathing, the POA becomes worthless and your will kicks in.

3. Health Proxy and Living Will. The marvelous medical technology we enjoy has created some complex end-of-life scenarios that require our attention. Who can make healthcare decisions if you should be unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself? What kind of end-of-life care do you really want? Feeding tube? Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order? No extraordinary measures? Every extraordinary measure?  Don't place a spouse or family member in a situation to try and guess what you would want. Healthcare providers want specific instructions--legal documents. Have the conversation ahead of time. It's not exactly a fun topic, but necessary. Once again an attorney is your best source for the drawing of these documents. They will also need review and updates as necessary.

4.  Online Accounts and Passwords.  Our lives are woven into the virtual fabric of online business accounts for banking, insurance, investing, memberships, and social media.  Usually one spouse handles the finances, while the other may blissfully ignore how to sign in to the bank account to pay bills or transfer funds. This can be one of the most frustrating and scary processes for a spouse or loved one who must now try and figure out how to gain access when they have no idea where to start.  First, keep a list of all your online accounts, including Face Book with the passwords. If you keep the list in a spreadsheet, print it off and update when you change passwords. A password document is highly sensitive, and I recommend that you store it on a flash drive rather than the hard drive of your computer. Second, sit down with your beloved spouse and show them how to log on to the various sites, pay a bill, etc. if he or she isn't familiar with the process.

5.  Life Insurance and Sundry Documents.  Corral any life insurance policies, beneficiary information for pensions and annuities in a file for easy access. Do the same with deeds, mortgages, car titles, loan papers--you get the idea. Make it easy for you and your family to locate important documents.

You're absolutely correct that it'll cost some time and money to put your affairs in order.  Consider it quality time and money well spent that expresses your love and concern for your family. A clear estate plan will eliminate a plethora of possible problems. And, it's also a good idea to talk about ... ahem ... those final arrangements.  Even Yogi Berra had that uncomfortable conversation with his wife.


“Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?” -Carmen Berra, Yogi’s wife. “Surprise me.” – Yogi



1/02/2015

Finding the Way in the New Year

Thick fog settled in over the high desert this morning. Fog so dense, mountains to the east and west couldn't be seen. How appropriate for the beginning of the new year.  As exciting as it is with fresh calendars, goals to lose weight, or get organized, we do not even know what this day will hold, much less what six months from now will be like. Maybe that's why we cling to the past. It's safe in a way. We know exactly what happens and how it turns out. The year now lying before us is unknown territory, shrouded in the mist, hidden from our eyes. A bit scary and exciting all at once.

The fog will lift today, its veil dissolving in the sunlight. It's much like the layers of each day being revealed as we do the living of them, trusting in the One who does know the future.  The dissipation of the fog is all about the light that clears away the grayness. The sunlight overcomes the fog one step at a time, and before you know it, the mountains are visible again. 

Take the light so necessary to living as you step out into a brand new year. Commit to read God's word daily,  put it into practice, and let its wisdom make all the difference in navigating this year. You can trust the Author every step of the way.

Photo by PF Flyer
The psalmist says it best:

Psalm 119:105 - Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:130 - The teaching of your word gives light, so even the simple can understand.

Psalm 119:133 - Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil.


as well as the prophet - Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

12/11/2014

Christmas Miracles

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell of the miraculous circumstances and birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I never tire of reading about the angel visiting Mary, Joseph, and Zacharias. Or of the verses about the shepherds being scared out of their wits by an angel invasion, and taking off for Bethlehem to verify the angel's proclamation. And of course the passage about the wisemen heeding the angel's warning in a dream, sneaking out of Judea by an alternate route. Read the first couple of chapters in Luke and Matthew to see for yourself.

Miracles do happen during the Christmas season, although technically Jesus was most likely born sometime in September. This year marks seven years since our own December miracle, which was actually a double miracle. Our grandsons turn seven this week. And yes, the birth of a baby is always a miraculous thing, but quite frankly these boys are exceptional miracles.  Because of Twin-to-Twin Tranfusion Syndrome they were born eight weeks early, Austin under three pounds and Brayden just over four pounds. Our daughter had spent six weeks on bedrest in the hospital alternating between having labor stopped or amino fluid reductions over that time. Two days shy of 32 weeks they were delivered by emergency C-section. Breathing and heart issues were some of the most immediate problems. The doctors gave our daughter and son-in-law bleak news on what outcomes were possible--significant physical and mental disabilities or worse. Those tiny boys in their incubators hooked up to all sorts of machines were even too fragile to hold.

The next few months were a roller coaster of emotions as the boys struggled to get well. Brayden came home after four weeks and continued to progress, although reflux and apnea were concerns. Austin languished in the NICU, diagnosed with chronic lung disease, severe reflux, a hernia, and then MRSA. It seemed like there was a new complication every day.

During that time, we learned about the power of prayer from a network of family, friends, and strangers literally from around the world, who prayed for the health of the boys. God  worked in each of our lives strengthening our faith and giving extraordinary grace. The prayers of so many were answered graciously, miraculously, but in God's time.

I was finally able to hold Austin in the NICU and feed him a bottle for the first time at the end of February, 2008. His big bright eyes locked onto mine as he ate. I marveled that he was getting better--finally. He would go home in the next week after three months in the hospital, although he would be on oxygen until he was eight months old and suffer with painful reflux until he was two.

Today, you'd never know that they ever had any health issues. They're healthy and happy first graders with none of the predicted ill effects from such a traumatic entrance into the world.  I am reminded of Matthew 19:26 whenever I see their smiling faces.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible."



 Grandpa & his boys - Mar. 2014
 

                                                        
                                                                        Brayden, Dec. 2007

                                                                     Austin, Dec. 2007

"Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Luke 2:14

For more information about TTTS visit www.fetalhope.org.

11/18/2014

All About Beta Readers

What's a beta reader? That question has been asked plenty of times when I mention the term. So here's the definition: a beta reader gets to read my manuscript after I've finished the revisions and before my editor gets her hands on it. Betas offer input on everything from the plot, to characters, to settings---everything. Nothing is off limits. My readers are six women who've agreed to give me honest feedback about each book I write. They were handpicked by me because they meet the qualifications below:

1. They love to read and know a good story a mile away.
2. They know and like me well enough to give honest opinions.
3. Each has a different perspective to offer and they're creative.

The betas have improved each book with their insights, corrections, and sound advice. Although I haven't taken 100% of the recommendations offered, the majority of comments have been incorporated into the manuscripts. This part of the editing process is indispensable to prepare for the editor and to polish the book.

Because beta readers are entrusted with an unpublished manuscript in electronic form (which tends to be extremely portable), I've developed beta reader guidelines which clarify responsibilities and expectations. I strongly recommend doing the same with either your current beta readers or for the group you may be forming. If you are serious about writing as a business, procedures for your business practices are fundamental. A great deal of trust is placed upon the beta readers, which is one of the reasons I choose readers I know and give them guidelines, so there's no guessing.

As a courtesy, my beta readers are contacted before a manuscript is ready and are asked for participation. Everyone's schedule is busy, and I never want to obligate/overload a beta reader. They are much too valuable for that.

Speaking of value--beta readers as a rule are not paid, but I always send a token of appreciation. A copy of the final product is always welcome.

A sample of beta reader guidelines is provided below.

SAMPLE
BETA READER GUIDELINES AND PROCEDURES

Thank you for agreeing to be a beta reader for Your Publishing Name. We LOVE readers and we’re happy to have you as part of our team. Your input is essential to us in producing outstanding books for readers and it’s our intention to make this process interesting and fun.

How Beta Reading Works

1. Your Publishing Name does everything electronically. Manuscripts and your comments will all be by email.

2. You will receive the manuscript as a Word file. A deadline will be stated in the email. Deadlines are generous and will usually be about four (4) weeks.

3. Comments should be made using the insert comment feature in Word. Please do not worry about punctuation, missing words, or other mistakes in the copy. It is a draft and will be professionally edited before publication. We do endeavor to give you a clean copy so that typos, etc. are not distractions.

4. Once you have completed reading the manuscript and have made your comments, email the copy back to the author by the deadline.

5. You may be asked to read the book once more after the editing has been completed.

6. Beta reading doesn’t make you any money, but you will receive a token of our appreciation in your mailbox.

The Kind of Comments We Need

1. Characters –like or dislike and why.

2. Plot – too predictable, too slow, not enough action, or an absolutely fabulous plot.

3. Inconsistencies, errors about characters i.e. tall, dark, and handsome in one scene, short and geeky in another.

4. Is the story visual? Can you see the characters in your mind? Are the places descriptive enough? Is there too much description? Are there scenes that are confusing?

5. Is the dialogue natural or stilted?

6. What you liked and disliked about the book. What you’d do to make it better.

7. We want HONEST feedback. Please do not be a softie and like everything. Authors must have tough hides. Every story can be improved and we’re counting on you to help us do just that. Readers are discriminating, sophisticated, and know what they like in a good book. We want to provide that product and your help is vital.

After the Read

You have a special place of trust in being a beta reader. You’re getting the first peek at a book before it is published. The manuscript you are entrusted with has not been through the formal copyright process, although the copyright is technically in place when fingers hit the keyboard. All titles will be officially copyrighted before publication. Please adhere to the following “Do’s” and “Don’ts.”


After you have finished reading the manuscript and have emailed it back to the author, please DO delete the file completely from your computer. This means the trash basket on your desktop too.
Once you have received confirmation that your comments have been received by the author, DO delete “Sent” emails as well.
DO NOT share the manuscript with friends or family. We are in the business of selling books and would love to have them buy the title when it’s published.
DO brag about being a beta reader. Let friends and family know when a book is coming out. Word of mouth marketing is a powerful tool and we need your help as our business gets underway. You played an important part in the book birthing process, so don’t hold back.
DO have fun as a beta reader. We’re readers ourselves and have spent many happy hours in the pages of a book.What's Needed From You

1. Contact information: Name, mailing address, email, and phone number.

2. Honesty, sense of humor, and some of your time.

10/22/2014

Just Kidding

One of the perks of working at a rural school district is the rural part. A small herd of goats resides close to my office, just past the playground. Boer goats to be exact, who provide moments of entertainment throughout the day. You need that when you constantly stare at a computer screen, answering emails, and entering all manner of data. Thankfully, a window gives me an excellent view of the herd.

The reason for the goats is a hobby farm next door to the District Office where I work.  A retired couple can be seen tending their livestock, and working in the garden every morning. It's such a peaceful and pastoral scene. (Sigh.)

Springtime with Maisey on the log
 and Daisy on the ground.
Along with the goats, the couple keeps a flock of Rhode Island Red chickens. A magnificent rooster guards his harem. You definitely don't want to mess with him. He has no sense of humor and when he squawks, those girls come running to the safety of the hen house. These particular hens can be seen jumping in the air to catch bugs, scratching in the dirt, or dashing around the small pasture. The flock is definitely free range and seem delighted to be there. They have it pretty good.


Back to the goats. The goat herd started in February when one of the two resident does had twins. The kids were doelings; one is black-and-white (I've named her Maisey), and the other is brown-and-white (Daisy). The other doe produced another set of twins in early summer.  Mysteriously, that doe and one of twins are no longer part of the herd. The remaining kid is a buckling. His button horns appeared recently--he's growing up already. (Let's call him Maurice. It seems to fit for some reason.) He's a handsome boy, brown in color, with an edging of black on his coat.

Maurice
I began making friends with the doelings in the spring. Now they run to the fence when I call. Maisey is greedy for the handfuls of grass I offer. She's quick to jump, placing her hooves high on the fence to push her sister out of the way. I think she likes looking me in the eye too. Quite sassy and confident. Daisy, however, is reluctant to take any grass. She good-naturedly tolerates her sister and is resigned to second place. Mama sometimes appears and pushes both of her daughters to the side, taking the grass for herself. You have to let the offspring know that you're still in charge.

Maurice has recently warmed up to me and starts crying for attention when I appear for my lunchtime walk. Now I have to pet him before the girls, and he gets the first offering of grass. Boys! He complains rather loudly about the separate pasture he has from the girls from time to time.

My family had a milk goat on our farm long ago. I helped my mother milk the nanny everyday. I never cared for goat milk. A little too strong tasting for me, but my brother liked it. The point of this post? It's kind of nice to have that little piece of my childhood next to my office. And it's a bonus to find joy in the simple things, like feeding a handful of grass to a precocious goat. Who else gets to do that on their lunchtime?

Maisey and Mama

Maurice unhappy about his separate pasture.

Boer Goat Factoids


  • Developed in South Africa in the early 1900s
  • Boer means farmer
  • Bred for meat rather than milk production
  • Mature at five months
  • Adapt well to desert conditions
  • Has a high fertility rate - lots of twins
  • Scads of personality (my observation)





Mama

Daisy with Maurice on the left.

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