Saturday, June 30, 2007
Where Is Home?
There's a sign I am thinking of getting to hang in my office that sums up what I am writing in my fiction--"Home is where your story begins."
We all have ideas of what or where "home" is. Some people have moved around a lot and home is wherever family or certain memories are. I have moved around a lot, but have only lived in Indiana and Tennessee. As a kid, I lived in 7 different places. As a married adult, I've had 6 different homes in four different towns(or near towns) in 26 years. We have lived in this home the longest, and it's where my boys basically grew up (elementary through college--10 years) but it hasn't really felt like "home" to me. It is "home" to my boys, and if/when we move from here, they will have memories of this being home.
I have always had a feeling of "home" in Tennessee. My dad's family has lived there for several generations. Originally they came from England and some came from Ireland. Rileys,Morrises, Throgmortons, Youngs, Warrens and Treadwells. They landed in North Carolina and Virginia, and made their way to a place in Middle Tennessee, down into a valley, near a river.(Your ears pop as you make the descent.) One part of my family were already there--Native Americans from the North Carolina/Tennessee border (Cherokee.)
Most of the family has stayed there in Tennessee. My dad left as a 16-year-old, and never moved back. But since I lived with my grandparents there as a baby/toddler when mom battled TB in a hospital, I always hoped we would move there to where he was from. Every year dad would get that "I've gotta go home" and would talk endlessly about moving "home," but we never did. I would cry for miles and miles and miles when we'd leave after a visit. I could hardly stand the ache of not being there.
It was not just the people whom I loved--it was also the landscape and feeling I had while being there. It was the smell of homecooking and pine and smoke. The taste of country ham, preserved pears,hush puppies and a Co-Cola with peanuts dumped into the green glass bottle. I could close my eyes and feel the heat and humidity that left you damp like you'd just had a steambath. The sounds (both of speech and nature)sounded natural and part of the rhythms in my heart. The undulating swells of land and the ribbons of river rested my eyes.
In Gone with the Wind, Scarlett always wanted to get back to Tara in Georgia every time something happened to her and she got homesick. "Home!" was the repeated word in her mind. I identified with Scarlett on that score. But today was the passing of a generation without the funeral. I wasn't there when some of my 92-year-old grandmother's things were partialled out to get ready to sell her home. Her house wasn't the house on Watertank Hill in the photo above (that seemed like home to me,)but it held things I remember.
Grandmother lives in a nursing home now, and both of my parents are dead (and I was the one who had to sell my parents' home.) I have aunts, an uncle and lots of cousins, and shirt-tail kin, but most of them think of their own homes and families now, and I wasn't a steady part of that since we've all grown up. I no longer have a "place" where I know I have a bed and a hot meal at the spur of the moment, if I get the urge to see home. It's like mom and dad dying all over again for me. It really will not be the same for me.
Today was a passing. And I know those down there feel it, too. But this place you see above in the photo is part of where my own story began. It was home. I can go there any time I close my eyes or even dump peanuts into my "Co-Cola." It's where my story began, but won't be where my story ends.
So where is home on earth for you?
(P.S. My Grandmother and Granddaddy in this photo were about the age I am now! I thought they were ancient. Now I know better.)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
When I Was Just a Kid...Karen Wingate
Karen and "Gunky" (her sock monkey)
Karen, as a teacher, knows first hand the thrill of reaching children for Christ. She has seized teachable moments over the years and found ways to reach even more children she will never meet by writing the VBS (Vacation Bible School) curriculum for Standard Publishing for eight years. With degrees in Christian education and a thirst for knowledge, she is always up for the next challenge. Now she is teaching teachers what she has learned with her blog.
As she shares her childhood, you can't help but see how this need to know and to reach out was a part of her that even she isn't sure how it came to be--except that God had special plans for her and she didn't shrink away from them. Always a doer, Karen gives 100 per cent: whether teaching (for 25 years,)writing her blog and curriculum, leading and speaking to groups in everything from historical research to teaching tips to writing, her much published writing, or playing her beloved piano (and she's taught piano,)helping her daughters grow into lovely young women, or helping her husband to meet his work's challenges as a pastor or just fixing a meal for the many visitors to their home and church.
Now, with a family of her own and as the wife of a minister in a very busy church life, Karen doesn't let things get her down for long. She trusts God and walks into challenges with faith that has grown over years of conversations with God and getting to know Him.
Let's see what it is that has given Karen a rich life of faith and determination:
Childhood Ambition: I was one of those enthusiastic children whose ambition was whatever struck my fancy at the moment. I flitted from one childhood dream to the next, one moment wanting to be a teacher, another, a librarian, yet another a professional musician. Most of all, I wanted to BE someone, someone important, someone others would notice. My mother couldn’t understand this drive I had to be in the limelight; I didn’t either. Perhaps it was because I didn’t get the attention at home I needed; perhaps it was also my desire to overcome the confines my severe visual loss I so craved to be known for something other than “Karen, the girl with the wiggly eyes and the Coke bottle bottom glasses.”
(Karen is the youngest in sibling photos--age 2 here)
Favorite Toy:When I was little, my grandma made me one of those sock monkeys. I couldn’t say Monkey, so I called it my 'Gunky' and the name stuck. (See photo at top)
Fondest Memory (then): James Whitcomb Riley wrote a poem entitled, “Out To Old Aunt Mary’s.” His reflections mirror my sentiments about Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Eldon’s home, the center of my fondest memories. Tucked against the foothills of the Rincon Mountains and on the threshold of the Saguaro National Monument in Tucson, Arizona, then home offered a place of serenity. I remember the hikes, the games, the meals, the slide shows of their most recent trip abroad. It wasn’t just the house; it was them. They are the most cheerful and positive people I know. They were always interested in us, always in for a good time, always willing to spend time with us.
Proudest Moment (now or then): I have written religious education curriculum for twenty years. We usually write material two years in advance. In 1999, I wrote VBS material for Standard Publishing with the title “Jesus to the Rescue.” The theme centered around rescue workers and rescue operations. It was slated to sell for VBS programs in 2001. In January 2002, I received a letter from the Direction of VBS ministries. She told how they had received numerous letters telling what a blessing the material had become to countless churches in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attack, that the theme of the material had prepared the children to see Jesus as our ultimate Rescuer. Two years before 9/11 happened, God knew and was guiding editors and writers to write the material that would minister to His people. I have won many awards and recognitions in my life that I could claim to be proud of. Yet at that moment, I was so proud to be part of a team of people that were working together to reach literally thousands of children with the comforting, saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: My biggest challenge was overcoming societal barriers because of my vision problem. I don’t think my parents realized how bad my vision was. I went to public school in an era before law mandated the education of the handicapped. I fought to be treated as normal, to do whatever everyone else did and maybe even go beyond what others did just to prove I could do it. My standards were irrationally high yet that struggle has made me strong and helped he realize just how much the human mind and body is capable of compensating for a loss.
My First Job: I worked for a summer as an interim activities director at the Tucson Association for the Blind. I was 19 years old. It still amazes me that the director had that confidence in me, for I planned events, arranged transportation, oversaw events. Most of my clients were elderly. On one of our excursions, a lady fell. She wasn’t hurt, but it scared her - and me too--but I acted calmly and reacted in ways I didn’t know existed within me.
Karen graduating with her mom from college
Karen says: My mom and I graduated together from college in 1982. She went back to college when she was 40 years old. It took her seven years, but she did it."
Childhood indulgence: Homemade ice cream! My family was very frugal and disciplined. Indulgence was a bad word. Yet when we made homemade ice cream, you just weren’t trying hard enough if you didn’t have at least two bowls of Grandma’s special recipe. Oh, and was it worthy!
(Crystal Editor's note: Karen has a great interest in food and cooking, and I've heard she is a fantastic cook--even taking up the challenge making tasty meals with dietary limitations.)
Also, much to my disciplined family’s duress, I indulged in reading. I remember hiding behind my grandmother’s couch to read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” Grandma reminded me of the Nazi Gestapo as she came into the living room, saying, “Where’s Karen? She’s probably reading. I have to find her some work to do so she’ll stop reading.” She didn’t find me – that day!
(Crystal Editor's note: Whoo hoo! You knew you loved Karen, didn't you? Now that girl was destined to be a writer and we are richer for it.)
Karen at age 9
Favorite Outfit as a Child: One year, my mother made a pilgrim costume for Halloween. The next year, I took off the cap, the collar and the apron, chose a different hat and apron, donned hiking boots and sashayed into the streets as Granny from “Beverly Hillbillies!” I saved the costume and years later, my older daughter went as a pilgrim and my younger daughter as an Indian!
Favorite Childhood Movie: I didn’t watch many movies as a child. I’d rather read the book. I still remember hiding in the back of our truck when my family went to the drive-in theatre to see “Swiss Family Robinson.” I’ve always been a whimp about scary movies!
Favorite Childhood Book: My favorite was the one I currently held in my hands – with a few exceptions.
Childhood Hero: Toss up between Helen Keller and Jim Elliot. Their writings and philosophies about life and God influence my life to this day.
Go to http://www.childrenteach.blogspot.com/ to read the latest on teachers in Christian education issues and the inside scoop on what it’s really like to be a children’s ministry worker.
(Teaching Helps Inside the Classroom with Karen Wingate.)
Karen has written numerous articles and will soon have an article published in Pray! magazine entitled, “God’s Waiting Room: How to Endure the Silence of Unanswered Prayer.”
She is the official writer of the Standard VBS material for Primaries and Middlers and has done this curriculum for eight years.
Her three book series, Five Minute Sunday School Activities will be published in 2008 by Rainbow Publishers.
Salvation Army has just published her two year curriculum guide for their youth program aimed at unchurched kids.
Also, check out her contributions to Ministry in Motion ezine with ministry-related articles and advice.
Karen's Favorite Christian Ed Sites:
Children's Ministry at Christianity Today
Children's Ministry at Group Publishing
VBS at Gospel Light
VBS at Standard Publishing
As Karen has said, "Teaching is a never ending learning process." We celebrate that kind of attitude here, but Karen exemplifies it!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
When I Was Just a Kid...Robert Elmer
WHEN I WAS JUST A KID...
There are some things about us that do not change as we grow up. Somewhere inside of each of us is a part of that kid, who over the years, grew up, had a multitude of experiences, got gray, got wrinkled, but still there beats a heart of that same person inside. When Bob Elmer gave me this photo for his "kid" memories here, I also got a few of his grown up photos--you tell me--something is vaguely familiar!
TODAY (JUNE 19th) Robert Elmer's fiction book LIKE ALWAYS released from WaterBrook.
As Will and Merit Sullivan hit their early forties, like many couples, they struggle with mid-life decisions. Their solution: Buy a new lifestyle—a small lake resort in north Idaho in need of a little… TLC. They’re welcomed to the small lakeside community, and the Sullivans work together to make a new home. But it’s not long before Merit finds that she’s unexpectedly pregnant—and that she has an aggressive form of cancer. Though she has a chance at survival if she aborts the baby, instead she chooses not to treat the cancer, in the belief that she cannot endanger the life of her unborn child at any cost. The Sullivans face Merit’s uncertain future together in this bittersweet story of faith, sacrifice
You can order it at Christianbooks.com or Amazon.com
He also has a series for young readers right now, called "The Wall." It's a three-book series of Cold War adventures set in Berlin.
Let's get a glimpse of Bob as a child...and how he came to be the versatile writer that he is today:
Where did you grow up? Born in California (San Francisco Bay Area)
but moved to the Chicago suburbs at a young age. Lived for three years in San Juan, Puerto Rico (second through fourth grades) and then back to California.
Childhood Ambition: The earliest goal I remember is that I wanted
to be a forest ranger, and I was a Smokey Bear Junior Forest Ranger when I was five. I could say the pledge and everything. Later I wanted to be a veterinarian, or in the Coast Guard. And all that time, of course, I was writing, writing, writing.
Fondest Memory (then): Family camping vacations to Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe),Devil's Lake (Wisconsin) and La Paguera (Puerto Rico).
Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:Starting in the fifth grade I used to find old wrecked boats and fix them up. That was always a challenge, but fun.
My First Job:
I was a worm shoveler at a bait farm. My job was to turn all the worm beds with a pitchfork, keeping them aerated. Fun, huh? My next job was a little better, driving an old Jeep around a golf course driving range, picking up golf balls and serving as a target.
Childhood indulgence: My dad, who is from Denmark, taught me to love black, salty Danish licorice. We still love that stuff, and I'll eat as much as I canfind. It's an acquired taste.
Favorite Childhood Play Time Activity: Probably bike riding. Once I got on two wheels, there was nostopping me. I would ride around the neighborhood for hours with my friends.Then as a young teen I would take longer and longer bike hikes.
Favorite Childhood Movie:
Hmm -- We didn't get out to see that many movies, except Sunday
nights we always enjoyed the TV movies on Disney's "Wonderful World of Disney." I loved the animal stories like "Old Yeller" or "The Incredible Journey."
Favorite Childhood Book: Probably my favorite author was Beverly Cleary, and I loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle. But I also loved the Henry Reed books and anything by Robert McCloskey, like Homer Price. I collected Hardy Boys books for a while. You know, boy books! Summer was always my favorite time because I could go to the library and stock up on great adventures.
One of my earliest heroes was Ranger Porter Ricks from the Flipper TV show, because he would always come in his big boat to rescue Bud and Sandy when they got in trouble. Interesting that a novelist's early hero was a fictional character, right? But of course my ultimate hero was my dad, and I always looked up to him. He was a salesman, and though I never wanted to be a salesman, I wanted to be like him.
As a kid, life was always a big adventure. Still is. I loved traveling with my family, camping,hiking, biking. I also loved listening to foreign broadcasts on my ancient short wave radio at night. Looking at the stars and building treehouses. Dreaming. Fixing up old boats and exploring San Francisco Bay as a Sea Scout. Training my dog Sheba to do new tricks. Raising and flying homing pigeons.
Now when I write I like to draw on that deep well of adventure, a very happy childhood and a family life where I knew without a doubt that my parents loved each other (and me and my sister)very much.
Though that kind of childhood may not be as common, anymore, I think it helps me instill a touch of optimism in my books, as my characters seek a deeper relationship with God and search for life as it ought to be. So for kids I write adventures, and for adults I write stories
of renewed hope and second chances.
Right now I’m immersed in another world, a sci-fi fantasy trilogy for kids called Shadowside that I’m working on with ZonderKidz. It’s the story of Orianon—a very unusual girl on a very unusual planet, where the people on the light side don’t know of the people on the shadow side… until an odd music teacher arrives to shake everything up. I hope kids will love this story as much as I’m loving the new writing challenge.
Crystal Editor says: One of my favorite Robert Elmer books, besides his fiction, is a little book he worked on as an editor called Practicing God's Presence by Brother Lawrence.
You can find out more about Robert Elmer and his many books at:
Bob also does speaking and school visits and you can find out more about having him in your school or event on his web site.
"Last fall I enjoyed speaking trips to a number of Christian schools in Minnesota and also Florida. This spring I’m planning a trip to California, a visit to a local public school, and then over the mountains to western Washington. If you have any contacts at schools where they might appreciate a visit from an author, just tell them to check out details here at http://www.robertelmerbooks.com/!"
Monday, June 11, 2007
Now kids go to some expensive ballroom/activity center ($70. for tickets!!!!!) and well, they might still make their outfits (Or rent something,) but this ain't their mama's and daddy's prom.
Number 3 son this year made his prom outfit out of duct tape. Some of you may already be aware of the duct-tape prom clothes. It was his date's idea and over a month before the prom, she came up with the designs and the color theme, and they worked hours. They even had duct-taped shoes. When they first told me what they were going to do, I was a little hesitant, but made one demand: "Make sure they'll let you into the prom."
Their outfits turned out super--and they looked like leather. Ultra-cool, they were the hit of their prom. (Maybe they don't say "cool" anymore...Sigh.)It took hours and hours (they didn't keep track of this) and 24 rolls. They used a shiny silver, bright blue, shiny brown and purple. It looked like leather and the outfits weighed a ton. They had to put "feathers" on them so they also made a "bird hat" that was kind of cool. Their art teacher made them talk about it in class. If they win, they both get scholarships, so I'll let you know if that happens! Big competition. But, they were winners in my book in design and ingenuity.
Friday, June 08, 2007
When I Was Just a Kid...Trish Perry
Trish Perry grew up as a middle child in a family of five kids. She fantasized a lot about things, which contributed to Trish's knack for thinking up good stories today! Check out what Trish has to say about this:
Okay, my Psych degree will peek out from behind the curtain here. I was a middle child and was thus rather invisible. My opinions and my preferences were never solicited. So I spent a great deal of time fantasizing about how I wished things were; how I would like them to be in the future. Absolute breeding ground for a control freak and/or a novelist! I loved the escape provided by books and movies. I embraced other people’s stories and quite easily placed myself in the heroine’s role. Now that I’m pretending to be a grown up, that personal quality has proven to be a big help in imagining stories to share with readers. And I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to end one of my books unhappily; not unless I get to do a sequel and make it all better!
So, what kind of a childhood did Trish have to turn her into the fun author she is today?
Where did you grow up? California, Colorado, and Virginia
Childhood Ambition: I know I fantasized plenty about becoming a famous actress. Total fantasy. I never even tried out for a part in a school play, because I was so shy.
Fondest Memory (then): My family didn’t take many vacations, because my sister had serious health issues. But one summer we spent a week in a cabin in Yosemite National Park. I remember how sweet the water from the spring tasted. I remember driving through the Redwoods (and literally driving through one, which was carved out for cars to pass through). I remember my teenaged brother growling like a bear outside our cabin window and how embarrassed he was when people thought he was growling at total strangers.
Proudest Moment: Veteran’s Day four years ago. My son’s elementary school invited family members who were Vets to a ceremony in their honor. When my father (then 82, and also pictured with Trish and two siblings on the horse above when he and Trish were much younger) was introduced, and his World War II record of 85 flight missions was announced (25 missions was more common), every Veteran there stood and applauded, followed by the rest of the adults, then all of the children. My father stood at attention, among all of that applause, looking straight ahead, just as the soldier he was all those years ago. I couldn’t have been more proud. I still cry when I think of that day.
Biggest Challenge as a child or teen: Overcoming my shyness! I was so shy I ended up having to stay after elementary school to finish a test, because I was afraid to ask if I could use the pencil sharpener once the test started. I was even too shy to ask to be excused to use the restroom, and you can imagine how that played out! The memory of my shyness gives me such a heart for children who feel unworthy of attention. Unfortunately, the way I overcame my shyness was by dabbling (as a teen) in illicit substances which lowered my inhibitions. I think many teens veer into vices for that very reason.
My First Job: I worked in a Konditorei, which is a German pastry shop. Whoa, Nelly, was I in Heaven. Sacher Torte, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, Linzer Torte, ach! I ate three outrageous pastries every day and never gained a pound. Those were the days. Today? I just put on two pounds typing this paragraph.
Childhood indulgence: Despite my shyness at school, my sisters and I used to put on plays for the neighborhood. Can you believe the other kids actually came? My older brother would handle the music, sound effects, and lighting, while my sisters and I wrote and performed. I don’t remember what the plays were about, but they were mysteries and often involved horrible attempts at British accents. I cringe (laughing) at the memory. We were such nerds!
Favorite Outfit as a child: My younger sister and I were two years apart and fought with each other constantly. But we enjoyed trying to make people think we were twins, so my favorite outfit was often the same thing my sister was wearing (Mom often bought us matching outfits). Of course, when we were teens that all changed. By then I was buying my own clothes. My sister still often wore the same things I wore, but they actually were my clothes, which she would secretly steal from my closet. She liked to wear them when she was eating spaghetti or mud wrestling, apparently.
Favorite Childhood Movie: My mother took me to see an old rerun of a movie called “Prince Valiant,” with Robert Taylor (old time actor) in the title role. I was so young, but I still remember thinking he was the most romantic figure ever, and I loved the movie. I still remember the first time I saw Robert Taylor as a modern man, without the pageboy hairdo. Oh, the disappointment! He looked like he could be my dad!
Favorite Childhood Book: My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett. I think it might have been the first book I checked out with my own library card, because the impression is so strong. I had such fond memories of the book that I bought it for my own kids, who weren’t quite as impressed with it as I was. Just thinking about it makes me want to go dig it out of the shelves for another look!
Childhood hero: I’d have to say my older brother had an enormous, positive effect upon me as a kid. He’s about seven years older than I am, and he’s brilliant and one of the wittiest men I know. When we were kids and he gave me encouragement, it stuck forever. I wish I had been under his wing more closely before he left for college—I think his influence would have been good for me.
As a Child I Never Expected as an Adult: I never expected I would love parenting as much as I do. I was one of five kids, and, as I said, my older sister’s health was so bad it was practically another person in the family. So my parents had their hands full and did the best they could to nurture all of us, but it often seemed as if parenting were a chore for them. Once I became a mom, though, I couldn’t believe how much I loved the job. I realized I had a chance to influence another person as I never could otherwise. My kids fulfill me by the way they’ve turned out; they bless me with assurance of a job well done.
If you would like a personally autographed copy of a book by Trish Perry go to:
Trish's Shoutlife site: http://www.shoutlife.com/profile_view.cfm?uid=12222
Books Trish has written!
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE (Harvest House 2007)
Trish Perry, author of the charming novel The Guy I’m Not Dating, follows up with a contemporary, humorous tale of how love and life unfold in surprising ways.
Rennie Young, heroine of Too Good to Be True, meets the gallant Truman Sayers after she faints in the boys’ department of the local super store. Despite this unromantic introduction, Tru Sayers, a handsome young labor–and–delivery nurse, seems like a gift from God. But a recent divorce and other life disappointments cause Ren to question whether she can trust her heart and God.
This clever novel encourages readers to lean on God’s leading and to be open to life after the hurt—even when it seems too good to be true.
Trish is also a 2007 Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest Finalist in the Long Contemporary category along with 2 other Christian authors!
The Guy I'm Not Dating-Trish Perry (Harvest House)
Allah's Fire-Gayle Roper (Multnomah)
Reclaiming Nick-Susan May Warren (Tyndale)
THE GUY I’M NOT DATING (Harvest House 2006)
“Yowza!” exclaims Kara Richardson when she sees the handsome proprietor of the new delicatessen in town, Gabe Paolino—who soon expresses mutual interest. This would be the start of a perfect love story, except for one thing—Kara has vowed to stop dating until she feels God’s leading.
But when humorous circumstances send Kara and Gabe on a road trip to Florida, hope springs anew. Even with Kara’s flirtatious coworker Tiffany—“a hyena in heels”—along for the ride, the uncouple begins a lively journey that could change their paths forever.
This memorable, charming story of love’s persistence captures the honor of waiting on God’s timing, and the adventure of finding the perfect guy to not date.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
When I Was Just a Kid...Jane Orcutt
(Words from Jane Orcutt's web site)
Jane achieved that dream with style, not only as a popular Christian novelist with fourteen published books to her credit, but also through her mentorship of many young writers.
On Sunday, March 18, 2007, after a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia, Jane stepped into the arms of her Savior. She now rests safely in His arms, while her powerful legacy lives on through her family and through her books. You can read a sample of the last book she published, All the Tea in China, here. Be sure to get your own copy in Christian bookstores now.
Monday, June 04, 2007
When I Was Just a Kid...Coming Soon!
It seems that I'm having trouble with my satellite feed. I live in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana and sometimes things move a bit slow (not counting me in this equation.) So, I haven't been able to upload photos, which are very important to my features, When I Was Just a Kid.
I have some great ones coming up in the next few months:
Nancy J. Ring
Susan May Warren
(Maybe YOU....leave me a comment if you'd like to be featured!)