A Life Well-Lived

As a stay-at-home mom for most of the years our children were growing up, I spent a good deal of time volunteering for their school system. When our last child graduated from high school in 2010, knowing that it was time to step aside, I was a bit out of sorts trying to figure out how I’d fill those volunteer hours.

As I considered my next volunteer gig, I chatted with my husband about various opportunities that I could pursue. While it’s great to help out the community as a whole, he said that I should consider making volunteering more personal and see if there was someone in our lives who could use my help.

My father-in-law, who had been widowed 11 years earlier, immediately came to mind. He lived in the house he had built with my mother-in-law a half century earlier where they raised their 12 children. Being a child of the Depression, Dad had a hard time letting go of things. The house hadn’t really been thoroughly gone through and decluttered in who knew how long. Consequently, there was more stuff packed into that two-story, five-plus bedroom home, than I could have imagined.

So, I made the offer to help Dad clear his house out. Being a bit of a hoarder, I wouldn’t say he jumped at the chance but was open to the concept. Enlisting the help of my mom, I made the commitment to go to Dad’s house every Tuesday morning from 8:00 until noon, for what I thought would be a couple of months, to work on the project.

And work, we did. The more we dug, the more we found. Sometimes it was easy, just going through stacks of paper but other times it was tough, both physically and psychologically. There was plenty of heavy lifting (thank goodness Dad was like the Energizer Bunny) but, from a psychological standpoint, it was difficult for Dad to let go of things. Part of this was the emotional attachment he had to various things but the bigger issue was the fact that every single thing in that house, in Dad’s mind, had value. While that may have been true, the value he placed on items didn’t always match up to what the marketplace would pay for them.

This project ended up taking a year to complete. We got to the point where we had gone through every square inch of the house and had given to the kids and grandkids, sold, recycled or thrown out just about anything that Dad had no use for anymore. The garage, which hadn’t had a car parked in it for 40 years, was another project that my husband, some of his work buddies and his siblings tackled a few years later.

While it was amazing to see the transformation of the house as we waded through piles of paper, clothing, housewares, toys, knickknacks, etc., the biggest transformation was actually in my relationship not only with Dad but with my own mom as well.

Most mornings when Mom and I got to Dad’s house, he’d be cooking up a kettle of his famous chocolate Cream of Wheat, which was a combo of plain Cream of Wheat, Nestle’s Quik, butter and milk. I don’t usually eat in the morning, but this was too yummy to pass up and eating with my mom and father-in-law was a nice way to start the day before the work commenced.

There’s nothing like spending hours next to a person, sorting through things, and conversing. While we had our share of light conversations, the deep ones crept in as well. I found out more about my father-in-law and my mom for that matter, than I ever could have imagined.

Dad shared how his mom had to sew his clothes when he was growing up on a farm in northeastern Wisconsin. She didn’t have a way to sew zippers into his pants and so he had buttoned-up flies. Being on the shorter and stockier side, he saw his share of bullying. One of the favorite misdeeds from the bullies was grabbing onto the fly of his pants and yanking so hard that all the buttons flew off.

He admitted that the bullying got so bad that he begged his mom to send him to another high school, and, surprisingly, since this was in the early ‘40s, his mom and step-dad actually allowed him to transfer schools.

Somehow, in his growing up years, Dad was led to believe that he wasn’t smart. I made it a point to tell him on a regular basis that he was one of the smartest men I’d ever met. He had such an ingenious mind; he could build or rig just about anything to solve any problem around his house or garage. On top of that, he had wonderful musical abilities as well.

According to Dad, someone in his life had, on more than one occasion, told him that he’d never amount to anything. For the rest of his life, Dad did everything in his power to prove that person wrong.

He did just that. On December 29, 2019, 21 years to the day after my mother-in-law died, Dad unexpectedly passed away as he was getting ready for Sunday morning Mass. In his 91 years, my father-in-law proved to be one of the most creative, industrious, energetic, passionate, faith-filled, and loving people I’ve ever met.

Miss you Dad. Glad I got to know you!

It’s getting exciting now

Wow, a lot has happened since A World Such as Heaven Intended was published in October. There have been book signings (that was somewhat surreal), virtual interviews, a story in The Post-Crescent newspaper, a blurb in The Compass newspaper, a free Kindle version giveaway (2,100 books distributed in 72 hours, wow!), the book has hit the #1 spot on Amazon Kindle several times in the last two months, and one day it was #1 on Amazon for Kindle and #3 on Amazon in paperbacks in its genre.

I’m so glad I have an amazing publisher, Full Quiver Publishing, headed up by Ellen Gable Hrkach, guiding me through this process. I thought writing the book was the hard part, that’s nothing compared to marketing it!

My next book signing is scheduled for Saturday, February 7 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the Christian bookstore On This Rock, 216 W. South Park Avenue, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Stop in and say hi if you’re in the area!

Recently I read something that the most big-time goals you should set for the year is three, that’s about the most any person can focus on in one year’s time. My big three for 2015 are 1) achieving the next rank advancement in my company (KangenWisconsin.com) by welcoming a lot more people to our Kangen Water family, 2) getting contracts on the sequel to A World Such as Heaven Intended and the novel I’m working on now, a young adult story set in the 1970s on the topic of bullying, and 3) having a family vacation with all of our children, their significant others/spouses and our grandson.

It’s going to take a lot of dedication and organization/time management to complete all of these, but I’m committed to the cause!

Hope everyone reading this has a blessed 2015 and you achieve all your goals! Feel free to share here if you’d like, I’ll root you on!

Beginning a Second Novel Today!

It’s super exciting to watch the process as my novel is being rolled out to the mass market. First came the launch on Kindle via Amazon. Every step of the way this book has been looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Consequently, there have been more tweaks than I ever could have imagined are possible. Of course, the more eyes that look at this, the more things are caught. Last Friday I received the proof copy in the mail. It’s really hard to describe the feeling holding the book in your hands that you’ve been working on for six years and seeing your name on the cover and the spine of the book. Yowza!

I was instructed to read the book over the weekend and see if there were any last fixes that needed to be made. I live for deadlines so consequently I scheduled the reading session starting late Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, I got a private message on Facebook from a gentleman who read the book and really enjoyed it. He had one question about the final page of the story. Without looking at the copy, I explained how things turned out and could set up the book for a possible sequel.

It took about seven hours to go through the book and find those minute details that needed addressing. Around midnight Sunday I got to the last page and stopped dead in my tracks. There was one word wrong that completely would change how the story was wrapped up. No wonder that gentleman was confused! I sent a panicked e-mail to my publisher and she assured me if it was just a typo, they’d let it slide until the next round of printing. This was much more than a typo! Talk about throwing a monkey wrench in the works! “Stop the presses” was no longer an expression you hear in the movies, it was literally what we had to do.

That threw the timing of everything off because we weren’t able to order copies of the book that day for the book launches in November. Thankfully everything was able to be fixed and the book went to press on October 29. This turned out to be the perfect day for printing to be begin. This is the note I got from my publisher late that day: “I spent a long time today going through this final proof and approved it this evening on the Feast of Blessed Maria Restituta (rather than waiting until Saturday). Blessed Maria was a martyr and beheaded by the Nazis, but her feisty spirit reminds me of Amara and…we can ask for Blessed Maria’s intercession for the success of your book!” Wow! To top it off, Blessed Maria was a nurse just like our heroine. Talk about divine intervention!

A World Such as Heaven Intended has been in the hands of beta readers and other folks for the last month or so with the hope that people will like it enough to write positive reviews on Amazon. So far, so good. After 10 reviews, we’re still at 5 stars! Even better news is the book is moving up in rank on Amazon as more people are purchasing copies for their Kindles. Heading to the topper-most of the popper-most. (Beatles fans should get this…)

Anyhow, someone read the book earlier this month and sent me a message asking when the sequel would be available. The picture below shows the expression on my face when I read her note…

Jinlge all the way

 

Apparently I need to get writing. Once again, providence has stepped in. Today is November 1, or as my fellow writing friends know, it’s the first day of Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month. Writers around the world are encouraged to write a 50,000-word novel between today and November 30. That’s 1,667 words per day in case anyone’s counting. In my estimation that’s a good 2 hours of writing per day. Seeing as I have so much free time on my hands, I signed up. Here’s the deal… I have two sequels on the drawing board for A World Such as Heaven Intended but both are quite labor-intensive in the research department. So I’m starting a completely different project, a young adult novel set in 1974 that centers on the topic of bullying and a young girl’s experience as the victim of a bully and how the issue is resolved in an unexpected way.

Guess it’s time to get writing! I’ll keep you in the loop and let you know how the manuscript is progressing!