Thursday, December 24, 2020

O Holy Night

May the dear Lord Jesus, perfect Love, cast out all fear and despair this Holy Night. Merry Christmas! 

The Holy Night, Carlo Maratta, 1652

Saturday, December 12, 2020


There is so much to celebrate right now! The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Gaudete Sunday--actually all of it falls in the octave of the Immaculate Conception. And truly, our country needs the prayers of our Lady, our Mother Mary to draw us near the Christ-Child. Oh, that He would make His home in our poor hearts. Dec. 8th was a very special night for us at Sacred Heart Catholic Church where we had a High Mass. Fr. West has been introducing his parish to the Latin Mass and we're grateful to be able to help build it up. Later we stopped at a brewery to sample their wares. 

Our Advent is low-key but busy with music preparation and sending out Christmas cards but I love how the focus is on preparation. Our pastor always reminds us of the wisdom of Holy Church to not try to celebrate Christmas until the Midnight Mass. He is near, and nearer still to the people who suffer. Take heart. Rejoice!

Some photos of our Advent: Bees too are preparing--they huddle and shiver and keep the hive warm. They have their honey stores for winter, though when it's warm in the afternoon I see them flying out to collect pollen and nectar. My shoulder is healing well and physical therapy is helping tremendously. I've stopped using the brace unless I need it. My orthopedic surgeon gave me the green light to start using those atrophied muscles. Michael jokes, "what muscles?" 

I bought this Catholic weekly planner from Angelus Press and love how well it's designed with liturgical feasts listed, some saints highlighted, space for daily, weekly, monthly notes. Perfect for my needs. And I already started using it because it begins on Dec. 1st. I'm reading a lot more too, but I won't post pictures of the books because...they're gifts for my family :) Do you have any to recommend?   


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

My kids are home for the holidays. So grateful for faith, family, friends, food, fun, and felines. This is the first Thanksgiving in four years that we'll all be home. And lucky for me, I get to sit like a maharani and read a book while the family cooks and cleans. There's a first time for everything. I am grateful for all of you who read my words and I pray for all of you to have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. 

And those ghost peppers are so wicked hot, Michael has taken to treating them like CoViD. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Symphony and Cacophony

I'm feeling soooo much better since I started physical therapy--fewer muscle spasms, better sleep, no more crying. We even went out to eat at Little Miss Ha, a new Vietnamese restaurant--so good. I was quite successful wielding my chopsticks with my left hand. I enjoy a glass of wine with my meal but this time got the Bushido sake because it said Way of the Warrior. This cute little can now sits on my desk. Why yes, the pen is mightier than the sword, and the rosary even more so. I'm battle ready. 

This reminds me of the wonderful little book, Jim Bell's The Art of War for Writers, that I won on Carol Baldwin's blog. She writes detailed reviews, using them to teach writing, and last month, reviewed and gave away a copy of Little Thief! Chota Chor! She also made a darling video. Please do take a look. It is so lovely to have friends promote your work when you are unable. So thank you, Carol.   

I've been listening to Handel's Messiah by Voces8 with the pets. Sublime--I love the intimate orchestral setting, the conductor, the pure voices of all the soloists and how they sing like one when together--I wonder whether angels stoop to listen. What a contrast to the media circus. I mostly avoid it. Today, we celebrate the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (link has beautiful history and art) and tomorrow the Kingship of Christ. Oh, to remember what's truly important. God help us all.   

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Silence and Prayer

I've gone through two surgeries in the past month and of all things, I miss writing the most. I can't do much of anything right now, except pray. It is my superpower. So please let me know any special intentions and I will pray. Right now, I offer a few thoughts but mostly some pictures of my convalescence, the many blessings. As you can imagine, Michael and the cats are a great comfort, as are many books. I did finish my chapter book, Max and Midnight. It's amazing how long these things take. Stories were polished in July, got art from Dagny in Aug, put it all together in Sept, and worked on cover/back in Oct. I managed to get it done a week after surgery #1 and 5 days before #2 knowing that any writing/typing would be difficult after. So please take a look. 

I was so pleased All Saints was a Sunday but I didn't go to All Souls Mass on Nov. 2nd. Instead, I sang along at home as Mass was livestreamed on youtube. The simple Gregorian chant was so beautiful and matched my ascetic mood. I also got out to vote and praying for the truth to be unveiled. Over and over, I am impressed with the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. God bless America. I find myself singing America the Beautiful a lot. 

There's not been a night that I don't cry. Pain is awful. Sleep is difficult. I have even managed to fall out of the recliner from feeling claustrophobic and trapped. I question whether this is God's will. My feelings can shift from peace to poverty in minutes. But thinking about favorite Scripture verses are a sure path to peace, like Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there's a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. I've taken off my sling/brace to type this post and I have to be extra vigilant with the cats' sudden movements. I cannot afford to tear the repaired tendons. I know I need to practice patience and humility. The silence has been good for me, brought tremendous clarity and closeness to our dear Savior. But as you can see, I succumb to the need to write and connect with you all. I should retreat again into the silence because I believe that is what God desires--it is a school of prayer and thanksgiving. Please pray for me and I, thee. Come, Lord Jesus. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Reality: Little Thief and World's Hottest Peppers

The first weekend of the month is always special because of our first Friday and first Saturday devotions, but this weekend was extra-special because my author copies of Little Thief! Chota Chor! arrived! Until now it didn't feel completely real. But to hold the book, lift the jacket flap, see the darling end-papers and read through the story slowly, savoring the gorgeous illustrations, well, there's nothing like it. My friends, when you have a story from the heart, never, ever give up. 

We also received a great bunch of Ghost peppers and the Carolina Reaper, the hottest peppers in the world, heat level orders of magnitude than the cayenne or jalapenos we eat on a regular basis. Both our pastors are good gardeners but I don't know what possessed them to plant these because they don't eat much spicy food. I used one with some leftover chicken, perhaps 10 oz. at most, sautéed with some garlic and onions to gauge the flavor and heat level and it was HOT! I ate plenty of rice with it and had mango lassi to cool the tongue. But it was delicious. I'm guessing one of these is enough to jazz up a big crockpot of beans. Given that the church potlucks are no longer a thing and I'm cooking small batches, we'll ferment these--make some hot sauce. Michael already made some pickles from the banana peppers--they're the complete opposite of ghosts.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Journey of Little Thief! Chota Chor!

I'm so excited to share my newest picture book with you all. It's Little Thief! or Chota Chor! in Hindi. Based on a real experience when I was a child in India, I wrote about it 18 years ago for my ICL Assignment 3, a description of a place we remember using all five senses. More on this later. 

So I wrote about the time I awoke in the middle of the night to my mother screaming, "Chor! Chor!" The door to our home was thrown wide open; we were terrified. The thief got away with a few things--my mother's watch, money, and a box of river rocks that my sister and I had collected. The thief also dragged a suitcase of our clothes outside and we were most worried he might've taken our American panties. Priorities! We had returned to India just a few months prior after living in the US for a year and loved our ultra-thin, ultra-comfortable, elasticized American underwear. My sister and I laughed in relief to find our precious panties, then laughed about those rocks; we imagined the thief opening the cardboard box and getting mad. Serves him right, we thought. 

Fast forward to 2017. There was a call for diverse stories on the SCBWI Blueboard from Benchmark Education. They were starting a trade imprint, Reycraft Books, with a focus on #ownvoices stories. I sent them a couple. No cigar. So I revised this memory with an outcome I've always dreamed of...and it was accepted! We went through several rounds of revision. One day I hope to do a revision workshop with Eileen Robinson, my editor. She is phenomenal. If she's ever teaching near you, sign up. You will learn so much. She asks the best questions and of course, it is in the answering that one finds the better path. My new Charleston critique partners gave me valuable suggestions too--Andrew Barton, Muffet Frische, Rebecca Ivester, and Mo Morris. Thank you! I hope we can meet soon. I miss you.

I received e-galleys earlier this year and was I blown away by the art! The colors are so vibrant. Although the story takes place at night, it's not a dark book. It's filled with light and shadows--and just look at those shadows--how menacing they can be! Now my husband finally understands why I still sleep-walk and talk. I love how the artist Nayantara Surendranath, captured the imagination of my child-self.

So about that ICL assignment 3: Memories are great but I discovered that adapting this to the present moment is a very easy way to work yourself out of writer's block, if it happens. Focus on the concrete without any judgments. Allow the words to flow and in a little while, you'll make connections with other things swirling in your head. I find that my blocks almost always occur because I have too many things on my mind and if I can tease out one thread, I can be very focused. I know that every writer is different but it's something to try. 

And now, I just have to share my wonderful instructor's response: I must confess that I was quite dazzled by this piece of work--which is more a description of an event than a place, but I'm certainly not about to quibble about that. What makes this piece especially fine is the quality and quantity of specific, concrete sensory impressions that you've woven into it; pots aren't merely stacked in a corner, they are "nested inside each other"; cockroaches aren't simply big, but are "the size of baby mice" (eeek!); Mother's purse isn't soft, but "soft as a moss growing on tree bark"--all of which provoke images in a reader's mind that stick there. 

She went on to make minor suggestions with big impact--word choice--with instructions for the next assignment, and ended with: Marvelous! I loved every word...  Such wonderful encouragement. I have learned to teach writing from one of the BEST. Pat Calvert, thank you! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

A Month of Birthdays

September is such a beautiful month--we have a lot of family birthdays on both sides and when we lived in WA it was lovely to gather and celebrate. This first picture was taken 17-18 years ago. Dagny is just a baby in Grandma's arms. I miss those monthly get-togethers, but what a treat to thumb through old photos. And this summer, Michael and the kids went to WA to spend time with family. They took in all their favorite sights and more. Max made a beautiful photobook so I wanted to share some of the beauty here as well. It was picture perfect.