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Back to the Books

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Photo credit: Lusi

I always have a niggling dread as the end of summer approaches. I just don’t feel ready to launch back into being teacher to my kids. I wasn’t prepared when the first week of September swept upon us; I hadn’t made up lesson plans or even had a good look at this year’s curriculum.

Life was just that busy. Last year’s school schedule was still on the wall, though, and it gave us the framework we needed to start the school year. (Ominous drum roll.) We faced the first day with fierce determination. But it was an awesome day. It felt so right to be back in the books. The children got along better. The hours of our day flew along with incredible efficiency. (I didn’t feel like I should be doing housework!)

I love being teacher to my children, but I forget that sometime in early spring. By Easter we’re tired and cranky and need a break. And by September, as the days cool off and the leaves start to change colour, we’re ready for structure and intensive learning again—even if I don’t know it yet!

To all the homeschooling moms out there: I wish you passion for your journey. May you pass onto your children a love of learning that will last a lifetime. <3

Is this Normal?

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Ten years ago, I brought two babies into the world. I prayed for twins and got them. The sense of fullness and completeness I felt as I held a baby in each arm is indescribable.

From the very start Ethan and Owen were completely different in their personalities and yet they’ve always got along beautifully. Even as babies they would look out for one another.

You can believe it when people say that twins are double the trouble, though. Together, those little munchkins could do anything. If they couldn’t reach something, then one would lay down so the other could climb on top. I’m serious! But they’ve been double the blessing too. I don’t regret praying for twins.

We had all the usual birthday stuff today: balloons, fruit faces (see Birthday Crazies ), presents. The kids even convinced me that they should have a day off of school and watched a movie instead.

When Kevin got home from work, he called me outside to see the helium balloons in the back of his work truck. He sheepishly told me that the balloons were cheaper if you bought the theme pack. There were two round spider-man balloons, two red stars, and one awesomely cool—and massive—spider-man shaped balloon.

Somehow the biggest balloon got away from the others, and Kevin and I stared stupidly at each other for a moment as the ribbon slipped out of reach. We watched the balloon spiral in awkward loops as it rose over the house.

Suddenly, Kevin sprinted towards the house. “I’m going to shoot it down!” he yelled back at me.

I followed him and called to the kids. “Come outside quick and see the spider-man balloon that’s floating away!” Everyone stormed outside, and we watched the balloon soaring higher and higher into the sky as their Dad tried to shoot it down.

I don’t even make this stuff up. My life really is this hilarious.

After dinner, my sugar high kids turned out the lights and ran around in the dark with glow sticks. Then the boys found out that the sticky hands and hex bugs that they got for their birthday were glow-in-the-dark too. The wild mayhem lasted and hour, and I laughed the whole time.

Yeah. My job rocks. :)

 

Is it any wonder people thought I had two sets of twins?

Is it any wonder people thought I had two sets of twins?

 

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Blackwater Crossing

I recently had the privilege of interviewing David Griffith—an author and  long-time resident of Vanderhoof. David (writing under the pen name David Griffin) has recently had the first three books of The Border Crossing Series published. Read on to find out the story behind the story and what makes this author write.

 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the pen. Years ago, I started writing for small publications, then dabbled with cowboy poetry, and finally decided that the stories that kept bubbling to the surface had to get onto paper.

When did the idea for the Border Series come to you and what is the story behind the books?

Rodeo and ranch life is what I know best, so it was natural for me to write about horses and the land. However, several real estate ventures forced me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about drugs and the resulting degradation to property and lives. Those negative experiences created a curiosity that has engendered hundreds of hours of research and driven me to poke around some of the less touristy areas of Mexico and Central America. Ultimately, Mexican drug cartels bear much of the responsibility for the property crime and drug related deaths that plague our country. Los Zetas, La Familia, the Sinaloa cartel, all use increasingly sophisticated means to evade detection as they move their product around the world. So the protagonist in the Border Series is a cowboy, but he’s also a drug agent for an elite security firm.

What was the journey like to publication?

Early in the process, I committed to the same tortuous journey all serious writers have trod. First—get a U.S. agent. They’re the established gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry. Publishers have one file for unsolicited manuscripts. The round file. After many months of sending out book proposals, I finally landed an agent. I had it made. It was only a matter of time before my new agent hooked me up with Thomas Nelson, or maybe even Bantam books. After all, I’d just written the best western romance since Louis L’Amour. Hadn’t I? The publishers said: Ahh . . . it’s good, but to sell in this market, you really need a female protagonist. We’ll pass. I hunkered over the keyboard for another year and wrote a novel with a female protagonist. Fired it off to my agent. Surely, this would be my ticket to the hallowed halls of traditional book publishing. Wrong. This time it was “not quite what we’re looking for.” Plan C? I had no other plan. Any other publishing option was unthinkable. Then my agent called. “We’re starting a new e-book publishing company. We think that’s the future in publishing. We want Blackwater Crossing.” It’s probably still too early to tell whether that was the right decision, but it’s been a great journey.

 I was amazed at the vivid details in your settings. You really brought me to those areas. How did you bring all those places to life? Have you visited all the cities, towns, and areas in your books?

Before I write a story, I visit every location, whether it’s out on the Blackwater River or deep in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. It’s important to me that when I write about places, the reader can know that whether it’s a creek with good water, or a restaurant with bad food, they can count on it being true. Sure, it’s fiction, but I think truth interwoven with the storyline makes for a better read.

You included Vanderhoof and the local area in your books. What was behind that decision?

There’s no place I know that has such a wealth of local authors telling real edge-of-your-seat stories from the past. For a fiction writer, there is an absolutely huge background of material to draw from. I think of writers like Jack Boudreau, R.M. Patterson, and our own Rich Hobson, June Wood, and Diana Phillips. The list is endless. They all wrote stories that are for the most part, true. Their stories, and the rich history of the area we live in are a wonderful resource for any fiction writer.

Lonnie, the main character in your books, is a prize-winning rodeo rider. Do you have personal experience in that area?

Lonnie Bowers is a bronc rider. I did that. For a lot of years. Once again, it’s what I know, and I think that for any writer, that’s important. Write from your strengths.

In Blackwater Crossing you deal with some heavy subjects like adultery, murder, and drug smuggling. You’ve also packed your book with a lot of action. Did you know that you were going to write such an intense book? Was this challenging?

Some writers can do a comprehensive outline. They know from the first sentence where they’re going with the plot. I wish I could do that—be that organized. I don’t know where the next paragraph is going—or at least until the characters tell me where it’s going. When I start a novel, I know the opening scene, and perhaps have a vague idea of the ending. Another writer said it this way, and I thought it was good advice. “Chase your protagonist up a tree, and then throw rocks at him.” I try to have a good supply of rocks.

How has your own faith affected the direction of your books? Would you call The Border Series Christian fiction?

Tough question. To write anything worth reading, you have to write from the heart, which means you’re going to leave some of your soul on the page—at least you’d better. So yes, my experiences with horses and cattle, drug dealers and Mexican cartels are part of my books. So is my worldview and faith. Does that mean they are Christian fiction? Probably not. They’re a little edgy to fit comfortably in that category. That said, does the Border Series have a message? Absolutely! But neither is it in your face. I want readers to be carried away by the story. If it challenges where you’re at in life—great.

Where can we buy the books? Are there plans for the series to be printed?

The Border Series can be bought through any e-Reader. Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo—pretty much any e-reader platform. Zeal Publishing, who put out the series is currently pursuing other print publishing options.

Are you currently working on another book? If so, can you give us a preview?

I’m currently editing the second book in the Winds of Passion series. The first book follows Dina Rodriguez, a Mexican girl who dreams of being a top barrel racer. But when she arrives in Miles City Montana, she soon realizes she hasn’t escaped her father’s criminal connections. And her love of barrel racing wasn’t supposed to collide with international terrorists or an enigmatic stranger who is determined to be more than her protector.

Where can we learn more about your books and get updates on your future projects?

I occasionally blog about updates and share cowboy poetry at www.davidgriffinsite.com. Writing is a contract of trust. When a reader purchases a novel, they expect it to be to a certain standard. I take that charge seriously, and I’m grateful to all those who have read and enjoyed the Border Series. I hope they will enjoy the Winds of Passion books as well. Some have asked whether there is going to be another book in the Border Series. Absolutely!

Check out Blackwater Crossing at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

David Griffin Photo

 

Loving the Birds

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

It’s been a joy to watch my oldest daughter’s love of birds blossom over the years. Every day, she counts the minutes until she can get outside.

In the fall and winter, Myra stands by her feeder holding birdseed, and the little chickadees swoop down and eat from her outstretched hands. It took amazing perseverance and patience to earn their trust—but she did. One sweet little bird would recognize her away from the feeder and land on her shoulder as she walked through the forest.

In the spring and summer, Myra scours the forest for nests. She checks on them daily and quietly observes the chicks’ growth. One day, as I was walking on the driveway, Myra waved me over. “Do you see the baby?” she asked with glowing eyes. A puffed up, nearly mature chick, bumbled around while the mother watched from a nearby tree. “There are three chicks, and their mother calls to them so she knows where they are.”

As much as Myra rejoiced over the chicks that matured and flew away, she mourned over the ones that didn’t. We learned that a third of wild birds die within their first year, and most of those die within the first few weeks.

Sometimes she was able to give a little help. One evening, our cat caught a young, new-to-flying bird. Myra was able to rescue it unharmed, but the little guy was in shock, so she kept it in a dark box overnight and then set it free in the morning.

Later that day, Myra found a robin chick that had fallen from its nest. We talked about putting it back in the nest, but the nest was too high, and the tree too narrow for us to put a ladder against it. Myra and Melanie watched the bird for several hours to see if the parents would care for it on the ground. But the parents didn’t, and the bird was getting weak.

She brought the bird in and then began the work of keeping it warm and fed. The little guy needed to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day. We’ve raised chicks successfully in the past, but this little one died after two days.

“Myra,” I said as I held her, “I’m sorry that it died, but I’m proud of you for all the hard work you’ve done to care for this chick. It definitely would have died if you had left it on the ground, and you gave it a chance. It just wasn’t meant to be, honey.”

I realized that I could learn for Myra’s perseverance. It takes strength  and courage to keep on loving and being vulnerable after experiencing hurt. But love…is always worth it.

 Myra

Planting Seeds

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I saw this quote on my box of granola one morning as I was eating breakfast. It made me smile. The granola makers had a sense of humour to pair their seedy cereal with these words.

It also made me think.

Many of us are moms with small children. There are many frustrations that we face every day. We toil. We struggle. We laugh. We cry.

I won’t tell you this job is easy. I never have. We are planting seeds—seeds of love, joy, faith, hope, perseverance, laughter, and tears into the lives of eternal souls. Is it worth the pain and the heartache? Definitely.

 

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season

we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

~Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Linder

Photo Credit: Linder

I had a request for a third chapter in this bizarre little series, and it just so happens that we had another crisis.

I was just drifting into sleep on Friday night when my phone rang. It was the camp where my daughters were at. This was not a good sign at 12:30 at night. I was informed that Melanie was having a asthma attack and was being taken into the hospital.

The weird thing about this was that Melanie doesn’t have asthma. I threw on my clothes and rushed to the hospital.

My stomach tightened when I saw a van—with the sliding door still opened—sitting in front of the hospital entrance. They must have been frightened for her to leave the door wide opened. Stay calm, I told myself.

The hospital had been recently renovated and it felt like I was dreaming as I rushed down unfamiliar corridors looking for my daughter.

I was led into emergency where I found Melanie grabbing her chest and gasping for air. Her wide eyes were filled with panic.

A mask was placed over Melanie’s face, and as she sucked in the steam and medication I felt her body begin to relax.

After the mask was removed Melanie’s eyes filled with tears, “I really missed you, Mom.”

“I missed you too, Sweety.” I held her close to me, and felt the tears spill onto my own cheeks.

Melanie was soon released from the hospital and decided that she wanted to come home instead of going back to camp that night. The asthma attack remains a bit of a mystery but seems to have been triggered from extreme excitement and exertion as well as smoke in the air from forest fires. The panic made things worse.

I’m so thankful for the camp director who drove Melanie to the hospital and to the camp nurse (my dear friend Miriam) who stayed with Melanie and offered her comfort and love. Most of all, I’m thankful that Melanie is fine now.

The truth is, things can always get worse. My lesson in all of these trials is to count my blessings—to realize that in spite of the difficulties, embarrassments, disappointments, and fears . . . my cup overflows.

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In my last post, I shared about our restaurant incident where Joel threw up—over and over again. (How long will it be before I feel safe in a restaurant again?) But that . . . was just the beginning of the story.

We drove across the road to our hotel and I went into the lobby to check-in. The receptionist handed me the key cards and told me where our room was. Just as I was headed out the door, I turned back. “Oh, can you tell me where the pool is?”

“I’m sorry, but the pool is closed for maintenance.”

Only 10 minutes earlier, our lovey dinner had turned into a nightmare and now the pool was closed too. “But we came here to go swimming,” I said. I was trying not to whine.

“I’m sorry, but the Four Seasons Pool is open until 9:00.”

I went back to the van and broke the news to the family. We contemplated going to the public pool, but there was only an hour before closing and it just wasn’t possible to get ourselves and six kids dressed and in and out of the pool in that time.

“What about going to another hotel?” Kevin asked.

“None of the other hotels will let us stay with six kids. Remember they told us not to come back to Esther’s Inn unless we get two rooms. That would cost a fortune and I don’t really want some of the kids in a separate room—do you?”

Kevin shook his head, “Let’s just go to the park.”

This whole scenario felt very familiar to me as we dove out of the parking lot. One year ago we’d taken our kids on a trip through the Rocky Mountains. I had told the kids, “We’re going to go to Fort Steele, and they have a real steam engine train that you can ride in!” But the train wasn’t running at the time so we skipped Fort Steele. Everyone was disappointed. “I’m so sorry you guys, but when we get to Jasper we’re going to ride in an air tram to the top of the mountain!”

But when we got to Jasper, we learned that there were no vacancies in any of the hotels. We went to the information centre and got a list of Bed and Breakfast accommodations and started calling. Nothing.

I rarely cry, but that did it. We’d missed the last air tram. There was nothing to do but keep on driving and arrive home in the middle of the night. I must have cried for two hours! It just hurt me so much that I’d broken my word to my kids.

Here I was again. I’d told the kids that we were going to Prince George to go swimming. During the whole 100 kilometre drive, the kids chattered excitedly about showing Daddy how they could swim and then I’d let them down—broken my word. It’s not your fault, I told myself. You can sit here and cry, or you can choose joy and go have fun with your kids. I chose joy.

The kids ran around, climbed on the monkey bars, pretended to drive the fire truck, flew down the slides, and played tag. “You’re it!” shouted Owen as he tapped me on the shoulder and gave me an impish grin.

I laughed and started chasing kids. We sprinted around the playground, tagging each other back and forth. I stopped when an elderly woman shot me a dirty look for nearly colliding with her.

We walked around the beautiful park and had a lovely evening. I snuck up to Kevin and whispered in his ear. “Can we go swimming at the public pool in the morning?”

“But we don’t have any towels.”

“Maybe I could borrow some from the hotel, or we could use Joel’s blankets.”

“Blankets?” Kevin raised his eyebrows at me and then smiled. “If it’s open in the morning we can go.”

I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. I had learned my lesson on not giving into disappointment and we would still get to go swimming!

I checked the pool’s schedule on my phone and it said they would be open at 9:00, so we told the kids we would get to go swimming after all and headed to the pool after breakfast.

The parking lot looked suspiciously empty as we pulled up to the pool. I ran to the door and gave it a pull, but it didn’t budge. I looked up at the schedule on the door. Closed.

“Sorry kids, but the pool is closed.” I can’t believe this! God, please help me to hold it together, I prayed. Joel started bawling as we drove out of the parking lot. I think everyone else felt like crying too.

We had some tension as we discussed going to the other pool in town. Kevin was just ready to go home. He’d had it. Besides we really didn’t like the other pool. I wanted to go, but not if he was going to be miserable.

We ended up driving across town to the other pool. We sat in the parking lot and waited for it to open. The tension was thick.

It turns out we did go swimming and we did have fun. The kids got to show their dad how they could swim, we floated in the “river,” and the kids scared me by jumping off of the diving board without a life jacket. (They actually can swim!)

At home later that day, Kevin gave me a hug. “Wow, that was a terrible trip,” he said while hanging his head on my shoulder. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. We did. :)

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