When Life Takes a Detour

DetourWe brought our youngest to college this past Sunday. Yes, college. Not kindergarten or middle school or even high school, but college. I have no clue how he got so old so fast!

By Saturday morning he was all packed with one important exception: he didn’t have his trombone. Have no fear, he’d just brought it in for a tune-up, which was scheduled to be completed Saturday morning. My son called the repair shop that Saturday morning, and was told it would be done in 20 minutes. Terrific! Since we were going to be in that area later in the afternoon, we decided to pick it up then.


What we didn’t know was that the repair shop (which is inside an instrument retailer) was not officially part of the retailer, therefore it kept different hours. So, when we arrived at 2:30, that repair shop was locked up tight. Until Monday. And the employees of the retailer couldn’t access it. Being our son was heading to college a week early specifically for marching band camp, having his trombone was a pretty big deal.

So, on Sunday we made the 3-1/2 hour trek to Fargo, ND, without his horn. We got him settled, treated him to a meal, then said our good-byes. We took a deep breath and made the long drive home.

Then, come Monday morning, I was at that repair shop bright and early to pick up his trombone so I could make that 7-hour round-trip trek all by my lonesome. I got a total of two minutes of face time with my son before he scurried back to camp, and I faced the long drive alone. Again.

Lemon Meringue PieYeah, it was a pain in the tookus, but I had a choice to make: I could grumble the entire way, or I could make lemon meringue pie out of lemons. (I prefer lemon the pie to lemonade.)

For a week, I’d been struggling with a few scenes in my novel, Memory Box Secrets (to be released in 2015). I liked them, but they slowed the beginning of the story down, so they had to go. But how do you squeeze all the important info from two long scenes into one smaller scene and make it interesting? I eeked out 700 words last week–words that were boring, sentences and paragraphs that leaped from one plot element to another, and a scene that had no cohesion. It was bleh and had to go.

I had no clue how to write this important scene, and include all the elements needed for the story, while making it riveting. No clue until this 7-hour trip. By the time I arrived home, I had the scene plotted, the pertinent info included, and just the right amount of conflict and tension to keep the reader engaged.

Could I have achieved this without the little detour? Sure, it would have come to me eventually, with a lot more wasted hours than the seven it took me to drive. Maybe the next time I’m struggling with a scene, I’ll just have to give my son a call and let him know I’m coming on up!

Now, to get that scene down on paper …

What True Love Is …

WeddingToday I celebrate 27 years together with my husband, Marvin. It’s been a fast 27 years, filled with a lot of ups and downs (mostly ups!) and a whole bunch of everyday moments. It’s living and loving through those everyday moments–doing dishes, mowing the lawn, changing diapers, etc.–when the euphoria of love has quieted, that shows what true love really is.

I’ve been blessed by this man who is my proudest cheerleader, a man who has selflessly provided for the family while I stayed home with the children, a man who loves Star Trek and books and roller coasters and baseball and Marvel movies as much as I do! Now that’s true love!

Henry Fonda says it perfectly in this scene from the 1968 version of Yours, Mine and Ours

Chain of Mercy Visits Target Field

Chain of Mercy at Target FieldOne of the things I enjoy about being an author is placing my characters in some of my favorite Minnesota locales. That’s something many of my readers have commented on–they’ve loved revisiting those sites in my book.

One location that plays a significant role in Chain of Mercy is Target Field, the home of our Minnesota Twins. (One of the best places to watch a baseball game!) Last Thursday, our family celebrated birthdays and graduations and Father’s Day and book releases at a Twins game. Since two scenes take place at Target Field, I had to bring my book along and get a picture!

And I had to find the seats where my character, Sheila Peterson, holds season tickets. These are cushioned seats located right behind the first base dugout. Wish I could have watched the game from there! Maybe someday. :)

Sheila's Seats

View from Sheila's seat

From Sheila’s seats looking waaaay out toward the grandstand seats in right field. That’s where our actual seats were.

Now, I did take a few liberties with the setting, particularly a scene that takes place in the concourse, but that’s authorial privilege, right? (Oh, in case you were wondering, we lost the game. :( But one of our guys hit a grand slam which was sweet to see.)

Question for you: Do you enjoy reading about familiar settings in novels? What’s one place you’d like to visit in a book?

It Happened in a Blink

Time FliesYesterday our youngest had his last day of high school. Forever. He graduates on Sunday, then in the fall, he heads off to college.

I look back over his 18+ years and wonder where did the time go? What happened to that roly-poly baby, that twinkling-eyed toddler?

He’s now a young man whom I look up to, both literally and figuratively.

And, it’s true, it happened in a blink.

The time did fly by, and as a family, we tried to capture each moment, to take vacations together, tour our state, catch baseball games, movies. And our kids have grown up liking us, even now! Best of all, they’ve all grown in their faith.

For those of you just beginning this journey with your children, don’t take your time together for granted, because when you blink, that precious time will have passed.

by Revive

Find Your Wings – A Graduation Prayer

Bald Eagle SoaringGraduation season is in full bloom in our household. Our daughter has just graduated college, and our son–our youngest–will graduate high school in a little over a week.

While this season brings many lasts, it also gives birth to exciting firsts. And as our children young adults move on to new ventures, it’s best to send them on backed with prayer. For those of us short on words as our children spread their wings, here’s a song by Mark Harris that prays those poignant words for us. (Warning: you might want to have a tissue or two handy)

by Mark Harris

Grad Party #3!

Graduation CelebrationOne would think that after planning three high school graduation parties within four years, I’d pretty much be an expert. Know what? I think I am. I have it down to a science–too bad (well, not really) this is our last graduate. The best advice I have is to Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

I’ve already purchased the basics: tableware, napkins, and tablecloths. The announcements went out today–a week later than I wanted them to, but at least they’re in the mail. I’ve lined up friends to hostess the party, so I can mingle with the guests (best idea ever!).

The menu is planned, and much of it is already purchased:

  • pulled beef
  • baked hot dogs (much easier than grilling and almost as good)
  • MP900314309[1]veggie & fruit tray
  • popcorn bar
  • bars (in Minnesota-speak, that means yummy desserts usually made in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet, and often involving chocolate)
  • cake

I do have a few items left on my to-do list:

  • Scan pictures from his 18 years. Year one is done, but that’s it.
  • Have child #3 create his slide show
  • Clean windows
  • Clean the house!

Unfortunately, painting the house exterior won’t get done until after the party, but that’s life.

Now, off to scan those pictures!

Have a Blessed New Year!

MP900309664[1]How are you spending the final minutes of 2013? With friends? Family? By yourself?

Our celebration may look humdrum to others, but it’s a day our family anticipates each year. It’s a day we spend together–bowling and watching movies. As our children get older (21, 19, & 17), I realize that these times are to be cherished–it won’t be long before it’ll just be me and my husband, so I’m so very grateful that our children still love celebrating with us.

MP900405096[1]A nearby bowling alley (Ham Lake Lanes) has a wonderful New Years package that allows us to bowl for two hours while enjoying all-you-can-eat pizza and all-you-can-drink pop. (My youngest son really likes the pizza part!) Sandwiched around bowling is movie watching. We typically pick a series or theme. Last year we watched all the Marvel Avenger movies, starting with Iron Man. This we’re we’ve picked a Pixar theme. I chose The Incredibles. One son chose Monsters University. The rest of the family hasn’t decided yet, but there’s no doubt we’ll like them all. And, of course, we’ll have the required chips, cheese, and chocolate to go along with the movies.

Tomorrow we plan to head to the theater to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (For the 2nd time! Last night, we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as prep). After tomorrow, it’ll be time to get serious about writing and blogging again.

How are you celebrating the end of 2013 and the birth of 2014?

The Wizard of Oz at the Ordway – Fantastic Family Fun!

Wizard of Oz, Mirvish Productions Toronto

Company in The Land of Oz. Original Toronto Cast. Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

Growing up, watching The Wizard of Oz when it came on TV was an annual family event. We’d never miss it! We’d sit in front of our black ‘n white TV set and be entranced for two and a half hours. (I didn’t know, till I was an older teen, that Oz was filmed in color!)

Wizard of Oz, Mirvish Productions Toronto

Jamie McKnight as Scarecrow. Original Toronto Cast. Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

Entranced is exactly how I felt last night at the Ordway Theater in St. Paull. Everything about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage adaptation of The Wizard of Oz was captivating: the familiar music (that I so wanted to sing along with!) plus some fun new pieces, the gifted musicians–both singers and orchestra, the bold and colorful sets and vibrant costumes, and, of course, the familiar story. A story that still reaches our children. Some of the loudest laughs came from the many children in the audience–when kids laugh, you know it’s funny. The scarecrow/Hunk (Jamie McKnight) and the cowardly lion/Zeke (Lee MacDougall provided much of the levity.

Danielle Wade as Dorothy

Danielle Wade as Dorothy. Original Toronto Cast. Photo Credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann

This production also welcomed newcomer, Danielle Wade, to the stage, and she filled those hard-to-fill ruby slippers with aplomb. Her voice was smooth and pitch-perfect, yet had a child-like quality. Danielle Wade was chosen for this part by Canadian viewers in the CBC’s reality TV show “Over the Rainbow.” (Much like the 2007 show, Grease: You’re the One That I Want, that chose Minnesota’s Laura Osnes to play the party of Sandy on Broadway.) The Canadian voters chose well.

It’s a magical show that families of all ages can and will enjoy.

(Note to parents: There are a few intense moments that could frighten very young children, but if they watch the movie, the play should be fine.)


The Wizard of Oz runs through December 29, 2013, at the Ordway
Tuesday-Sunday at 7:30 PM
Matinee shows at 2:00 PM every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
345 Washington Street
St. Paul, MN 55102

Ticket Office: 651.224.4222
Groups: 651.282.3111
Click <here> to purchase tickets online

I would like to thank the Ordway Theater for providing this opportunity to review The Wizard of Oz. I have given my honest opinion regarding this fabulous performance.

THORific Thursday

Thor the Dark World 2Okay, you’ll have to pardon the cheesy title, but you see, I have a very good excuse: on the same evening that our Minnesota Vikings managed to eke out only their second win of the season, I–along with my family plus four college students–watched the Norse demi-god lead Asgard to victory. To be more specific, we went to the 11:00 pm showing of Thor: The Dark World last night (November 7) and didn’t get home till about 2:00 in the morning. Fatigue can make a person a little loopy. But hey, it could have been worse–I could have titled this post THORific THORsday instead.

But goofy titles aside, there was nothing goofy about the movie. No, it likely won’t win any Oscars, but that’s not what movie watching is about for me and my family. When I view movies, I’m not looking for intellectual stimulation or to solve deep philosophical questions; I want to be entertained. And that’s exactly what Thor: The Dark World did. It was an evening of pure fun.

First of all, previews of X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier–all seen in 3D that didn’t distract but lent amazing depth to the scenery–got the audience in the proper mood. Then it was time for Thor, and it did not disappoint.

The show had intense action, dashes of humor, the requisite scene with a shirtless Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and even several eye-wiping moments. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stole the show with his duplicity. You didn’t know whether to trust him or not, or even know what was real and what was an illusion. Hiddleston plays evil with aplomb.


To cap the movie off, the ending was superb which prompted applause from the appreciative audience. And like all the movies in the Marvel universe, it  has post credit scenes (make certain you stay for both) that make you laugh, and hunger for the next Marvel movie. My kids could tell you which one that is …

But, to be truthful, while the movie was great fun, and the popcorn was delicious, the best part of the evening was spending time with my family. How many parents can brag that their 21, 19, and 17 year old children still like spending time with them? And my daughter brought four college friends to join us.

Note all the Marvel T-shirts, plus a Thor doll, and an Avengers popcorn bucket. Yes, we come prepared!

Note all the Marvel T-shirts, plus a Thor doll, and an Avengers popcorn bucket. Yes, we come prepared!

I realize these times will become less frequent as the kids go off on their own, so I cherish moments like last night–THORific Thursday–and thank God for the gift of family.

The Scariest Thing About Parenting

time square at night in manhattanWhen our daughter was born 21 years ago, my husband and I had help from my mom for a week. This parenting thing? No problem.

Then my mom left, driving 3-1/2 hours away where all our friends and relatives lived. My husband and I looked at each other, with fear and the question “Now what?” gleaming from our eyes. We had no clue how to do this on our own!

That had to be one of the most frightening moments of being a parent. There have been other incidents along the way: RSV, broken arms, squished fingers, hurt feelings, the usual parenting stuff, but nothing has compared to the fear of drivers training.

Think about it: we’re training muddle-headed teens to drive 1 ton killing machines at 70 mph. Is that crazy, or what? And no matter how well trained they are, there’s always the person in the lane beside them who’s texting while driving. Or there’s the inebriated driver coming at them from the opposite direction. What about the sleepy driver? Or the eating driver? Simply distracted driver? Then there’s driving in rain … snow … fog. Driving on ice-impacted roads. Hydro-planing on water-covered roads.


Right now I’m teaching my son to drive. It terrifies me. He hasn’t had the desire to drive, which makes it more difficult. He’s learning on city roads crammed with drivers thinking only about themselves. At least I got to learn on quiet country roads where the only worry I had was passing a tractor pulling a hay-filled wagon

Yes, as our children get older, we send them out into the big scary world, but few of those scary things require the quick reacting that driving does. Many of the choices they make that will impact their future are choices that have been that have been though over. Even if it’s just minutes of thought, those minutes can be infinitely longer than those split-second reactions that can mean life or death for the driver.

As I’m helping my son learn to drive, questions pop in my head: Why can’t parents have cars like the behind-the-wheel instructor, the kind with a brake peddle on the passenger side? Shouldn’t “Student Driver” window clings be given out in class? (You can buy one <here>) How can I drill my 30+ years of driving experience and instinct into his head within just a few months?

The problem is, I can’t. He knows the rules. He’s proven he can handle the car, but only experience will help him become a better driver; only experience will help him develop those all-important instincts.

And that’s the scary part.

But that’s also the part where I have to give it all completely over to God. I pray whenever my kids get behind the wheel–pray that they will use wisdom, pray that angels will keep them out of harms way. From the moment they take off, I have zero control.

For someone who thrives on being in control, this is a very difficult, yet vital lesson for me to learn.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9