Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Adventure of Seeking Noah

     You no doubt heard about the massive flooding in Colorado. This was one adventure we all could have done without. In the twenty-five plus years we've lived in these beautiful foothills, this was our first experience with the very real fear of flood. It's occurred here before, but not since about 1968.
     It all started when the rain refused to stop. Unusual for Colorado to say the least, but highly unusual for September. Some years we see the creeks rise due to the melting snow from the mountains to our west, if it is a fast melt, it's a lot of runoff. Most of the time, it's a nice slow process with the cold spring nights and bright sunshiny days. Muddy water until it settles down. No big deal.
     But last week we were caught up in days and days of heavy rain. Monsoon season struck hard this year. And wouldn't go away. The ground became saturated. We've never had such green grass in September.
     Leaky basements, sloppy yards, mushrooms grew like crazy - also very odd for here. Not much break in the clouds. Daily we could see the creek rise higher and higher. As the week went on, we saw reports on the news of evacuations, rescues in residential neighborhoods, cars stalling out - then floating away, story after story leading in only one direction. Worse. Areas to our north and east were already experiencing tragic results. Every night we went to bed wondering when the rain running off the Mt. Evans area would result in our creek overtaking the banks. I tend to run a bit on the paranoid side (those who know me, stop laughing), so I packed up the important stuff Thursday night to be ready - just in case. I had heard before bed that Upper Bear Creek was under pre-evac. We would be next. Vital papers, the photos of my new grandson, the jump drive with all my books and stories on it, my laptop, my Kindle, my book contract!!, medicines and changes of clothes for each of us went into cases. Before I went to bed, I looked around and had to decide, "If we flood, what will I miss?" There was a lot, but a new "value" or lack there of was applied in my mind. Terrible feeling.
     Friday morning we received the first reverse 911 call. At 4:06 AM. That just isn't a fun way to wake up. Ron was all set to go into work. Until he left and saw that a yard down a ways from us was flooded. He turned around and came home. We loaded up the evac stuff in the car, grabbed the camera and took a drive a little ways each way in the canyon to see what we were facing.
Creek overran the banks

The bridge leading to the highway. Our way out.
The water usually ran several feel below the bridge, now it was
kissing the underside.

One home down.

Not looking good for their private bridge.

Another bridge going in danger.

Another home being invaded by the creek.

    We went to our friend's home who also happens to be our pastor and wife. The four of us went out driving around again. Then word came out that there was a hole in the dam upstream in the next community. Now we were in a seriously scary situation. All four of us live on a hill on opposite sides of the canyon. We began to mentally calculate the amount of water in the lake, and how far could it possibly reach? Would it be able to fill the canyon and turn our home into beachfront? Would it be able to flood our home? We sit about 30 feet higher in elevation than the creek.
    Most of the day was spent in the turmoil of should we leave? Where would we go? How will we get anywhere? The flooding was closing our canyon in both directions. There was one road out that did not require crossing bridges to escape, but...where would we go? Widespread flooding down the hill to the east and knowing they would not let anyone back in created our quandary. After speaking with a county worker, he also didn't believe the water could reach our home if the dam broke. Neighbors were mulling around, talking to each other, trying to figure out what was going on, and watching the creek rise more and more. Our park was starting to flood and logs of various sizes rocketed downstream. One such log slammed into our bridge so hard the ground shook. 
     Our hearts were breaking as the water moved further into homes along the creek. Homes of our community members. One neighbor in the flood plain, had no words. Fear etched his face not knowing what would happen to their home as they watched the one across from them succumb to the filthy water. Worse yet to hear what was happening around the state, mostly to our north creating more and more fear and anxiety. When would it stop?
     There is a web site that allows you to see the water flow numbers of the creeks. Our creek above the next town up the canyon normally runs at about thirty cfs (cubic feet per second). At its peak over the weekend it ran around 1300 cfs. That water was moving! God help anything that got in the way.
     It churned and roared in the canyon eating away at the banks causing more and more erosion. Small bridges were topping with dirty water. Roads were beginning to be covered by creek water running and racing to the next point. New waterfalls were being created in odd places. Water freed from the confines of the creek bed transformed roads digging new and deeper ruts like never before. Washing them out completely in some areas.
     And the rain continued.
     We found out later, after word had spread far and wide, that an ill informed official had started the information about a hole in the dam. There wasn't a hole. There wasn't anything wrong with the dam. A collective deep sigh of relief could almost be audibly heard in town. It allowed us to step back to process what was happening all around us. The National Guard was called into our area.
     The water continued to rise.
     We got a bit of a break Saturday from the rain. Skies cleared for a while. More relief. But then later that day, the rain returned with a vengeance.
     While at church Sunday morning, rain got heavier and to our west obvious heavy downpour brought another reverse 911 call came out during Sunday school. It was a pre-evacuation order. Announcing it to the congregation, a couple of folks left because of the area where their home was and the prospect of not being able to make it there if they waited. Those of us that were left enjoyed church, and even had a pot luck lunch afterward. Why not? What else was there to do? We hoped Noah was on the way with his ark. Looked like we were going to need it.
     Again, we didn't leave. State Patrol blocked some roads and if you left, you weren't getting back. Of course, all the families that lived on the creek in the flood plain, were gone. They found higher ground with friends or hotels down in the city to ride out the time.
     Weather forecasters were intently watched and listened to. The Guard came into town with sand bags to try and protect a home on the creek. But the water was already in it. At midnight on Sunday, the neighbors banded together filling as many sandbags as they could find. A local company donated all their sand they use for landscaping. The road along the creek was lined with bags and the flooded homes were fortified with more. The water still splashed over the line.
The water receded. It was splashing over these.

     Monday morning brought us the blessed gift of sunshine and our gorgeous Colorado blue sky returned. The threat wasn't over, but it was lessened. Water still roared down the canyon, but levels had lowered some. Seeing some of the sights along the way could sober anyone.
     With the sun shining, a new day, the rain but a memory, life seemed to jump back to normal. People were out walking their dogs, kids played, bikes were riding up and down the canyon. Normal. But then you come across:

a front end loader clearing of a landslide. Bridges are blocked by caution tape, rocks litter the road and especially off to the side where they'd been cleared already, homes still sat in soggy ground. Just when we thought all was well in our canyon again, they barricade our bridge. Some officials say the crack in it was cause for concern. Others say the gas line below it was the concern. But the next afternoon it opened again. Problem over. We have two others, so that is good.

     So many fellow Coloradans are in so much worse shape. People have died in this. Some folks are still unaccounted for, countless homes destroyed, cars floated away from sight, roads are just gone, livestock stranded, some homes hanging by a corner as water rushes below it. Lives are forever changed. Their way of life abruptly halted. All most of us can do is pray. 
     The things that will last in my memory of this un-chosen adventure are the people. The loving, giving hearts of neighbors that worked together to help another. The laughter that can still occur when facing a growing disaster. The hugs among neighbors. The camaraderie in the streets. People helping victims save furniture and belongings. Folks opening their homes to victims. And that's just in our little canyon. Now the entire state is reacting the same way. People want to help. Strangers just showed up at damaged homes to help carry out the items that water destroyed. They are giving money to the Red Cross to help those who have lost everything. Our brave men and women of the National Guard, police departments, fire departments and even county workers are risking their lives to save and rescue those stranded. They are protecting us - from ourselves in some cases. In Frederick, CO, strangers have gathered to clear out the destroyed sheet rock and muddied belongings of a lady they've never met. All because of a plea from a Facebook page. 
     We may not like where the world seems to be heading some days, but when it comes down to it, folks just want to help each other. I think it's in our nature. There is still good in the world. Hopefully, times like this will remind us to always be on the lookout for someone in need of help. It could be you that makes the difference. Adventure can become disaster, but can be turned into blessings.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Best Adventure Ever was a Gift

   Fourteen and a half years ago, our family of three drove north of Denver to pick out a puppy at a rescue place. Our daughter was a teenager at the time. As we walked among the cages, there was one full of rambunctious pups, mostly black, but one with more brown that just played with his toys and ignored the siblings who were determined to be noticed by the potential owners. The one just didn't seem to care about the commotion. Our daughter knelt down, picked him up, and we took him to the play area. She fell in love with how he now played and acted silly. This one had personality!  She insisted he be ours.
   And there began our many blessed years with Gus.
   Being the one that spent the most time with him, he soon became my buddy. Followed me everywhere, was always underfoot, cried when I left for the store, yet he had an independent streak in him that annoyed the daylights out of me.
  That dog loved adventures. He was part of our family, so he went hiking, camping, four-wheeling, fishing, and loved every minute of it. Gus was such a people person and he needed to be with his people.
   The signs of his intelligence showed up quickly. Truly the smartest dog we’d ever had. He seemed to understand any and everything we said and responded in the necessary way. His personality was beyond enjoyable. If you talked to him, he would talk back with his “rouw, rouw, rouw” like Scooby Doo.
   He so enjoyed our adventures of four-wheeling in the Colorado mountains. He had a special stance to hold himself in position with his head out the window on the rough roads. He figured out how to hold on quickly.
   We went fishing one particular time with a good friend. Gus came along and sat patiently (most of the time) in the center of the boat. We had caught about four trout and had them in a wire basket over the side of the boat and continued fishing. It drove Gus nuts to see those fish hanging on the side of the boat. He was fascinated and wanted them bad. Not really paying him much attention, we continued to fish. Soon, there’s a scraping and flopping noise inside the boat, Gus barking and the basket hopping around. Gus found a way to lean over the side, grab the container with his teeth and brought those fish on board. He had more fun that day.
   Gus had a playful, happy heart. Content to just be with his family. He loved long trips and traveled very well. Once in the car, if the back window wasn't open for him to stick his head out, he would sit behind Ron knowing the control button was right there next to him. He would bump his nose into Ron’s shoulder then look like the RCA dog at the buttons. His subtle way of saying, “Come on. Open the window now.”
Gus with his buddy Chris
   His favorite people (other than me of course) were his girl (our daughter), her (at the time) boyfriend and future husband and his brother Chris. Chris has a way with animals. And when he pulled up for a visit, Gus barked and carried on like Santa Claus had arrived. I’d let him out and he’d run to the gate waiting and wiggling until Chris got in the yard. There they sat just inside the gate with Gus whining his love and Chris talking to him and petting him. Gus loved to lick our s-i-l's knees just because it drove him crazy.
   Our daughter married and moved away. You could tell Gus missed her and never forgot about her. When we’d go visit, we’d ask Gus if

"My girl came home!" They'd fall
on the floor in greeting. 
he wanted to go see his girl. He would get so excited and run for the door. He knew we’d go for a car ride to see her. And our son-in-law’s name would cause equal excitement. When they came to visit, it was a happy reunion for Gus.
   Then they got two Pomeranians. Gus had a great degree of tolerance for small, energetic dogs. They would try to get him to play and he’d just turn his head, do an Elvis lip and walk away.
   Around the house, when it was time to go do yard work or feed the birds, all I had to do was start putting in a ponytail and his ears went up and he ran for the door barking. He loved being outside. He loved when we were going with him out in the yard. Not that he would play or fetch or anything like that, he just wanted to be outside with his family.
   When he was younger, he would play fetch for a little while, until he got bored. Which happened after about four throws. Then he’d take his position on the top step of the porch and watch “his” neighborhood. If another dog came down our street, Gus ran to the fence and the race time began. There is a permanent path wore into the ground from our porch to the fence, around the lilac bush down to the spruce at the other end. As the other dog walked by with their master, Gus raced back and forth almost like a personal challenge of how many times he could make the laps before they made it past our property. Neighborhood kids ran with him encouraging him to race them. He was a character.
   He hated thunder and flashes of light, he loved to lick out the tuna cans, yogurt containers, fruit smoothies, chasing snakes, being with people and cool weather. He loved doggie play days in our yard when the neighborhood dogs would come hang out.
   He insisted on being right in the midst of everything we did, regardless of the task. It didn't work out too well for him the day we had to change the magenta toner cartridge for the printer. Have you ever tried to vacuum a dog?
   We never had to worry about him leaving the yard until one particular winter when we received 72 inches of snow (yes, really. SIX FEET of snow) in a couple days time. Once it finally finished snowing, he figured out that if he walked carefully on the crusted top of that six feet of white stuff that he managed to get on top of from the shoveled path we made for him, his gentle steps led him right over the top of the fence. Off he’d go to find us. As the snow melted, it trained him to jump higher until he could do it from bare ground. We’re talking a chain link fence here. From that point on, he had to stay in the house while we were gone.
   Our dog could tell time too. I’m not kidding. He got a treat in the morning, one at noon, one at 3:00 and one at bedtime. As the years went on, he began to sense when treat time was near. At first we’d just find him sitting in front of the stove by the fridge. The treats sat on top. He would start pacing and “talking” to me telling me it was time. In the last couple of years, his patience waned and the pacing started half an hour to the appointed treat time. His talking turned to constant barking, ordering me to get the treat now. Not. (Okay, so I did give in a lot.) At bedtime, he would get two jerky treats. The first a freebie, but then he had to work for the next one. We taught him hand signals rather than verbal commands. He picked up on those easily. He’d sit, shake, lay down and the best was a high five. If he really wanted that jerky right away, he’d do them all at once without any prompting.
   Ron taught him how to sing along with the Happy Birthday song. The dog would not “sing” to any other song, only Happy Birthday. Ron could sing that, the dog sang along, then Ron would start singing Amazing Grace or something, and Gus would just look at him. And of course we delighted family every year for their birthdays with a chorus over the phone with Gus.
   Gus loved to open his presents at Christmas and his birthday. Yes, I spoiled him with presents. He was my buddy. We had two cats at the same time as Gus. They’d all get something under the tree. One particular year, Gus had gained in the intelligence department and knew that under that tree were presents for HIM. There had been a lot of packages that year, so the pet presents were furthest to the
middle of the highly decorated tree. We’d gone to bed, and apparently Gus could not tolerate the suspense any longer. During the night, he pulled every present out from under the tree. He found his, I guess he learned to read as well, and opened ONLY his. The cat gifts lay to the side and all of our gifts were in disarray, but no paper torn. So we woke to his wrapping paper and the stuffing from his toys all over the living room, and a smiling happy dog lying in the midst of it all. That was the last time his presents were put under the tree. They were kept up high till Christmas morning.
   Gus had his favorite dog sitters too when we took trips and he couldn't come. Our neighbor with her dog Dudley, who I wrote about a while ago on this blog, were his favorite friends for a long time. Then it became our pastor and his wife. Gus would just stay home alone and they’d come let him out and play with him. He loved seeing them. Even when we were home and they pulled up, he would get SO excited.
   We got a camper a couple years ago. He seemed to agree, that is the only way to camp. We both had
arthritis setting in, so sleeping on the ground, no, not so much. He’d get so excited as we packed up the camper knowing he’d get to go. And it always included four-wheeling after the camp was set up. He loved the mountains as much as we do. He loved to romp through the forest, try to catch chipmunks, he’d put in miles on hikes to our half a mile walk. He could scramble up rocks like a mountain goat with no fear of the edge. In the car, his head stuck out the window, tongue hanging, he watched everything and even knew when to brace if a big hole was ahead in the dirt road.
   He struggled with his arthritis in recent years. At 14, in people years that was like 99, so it stands to reason he’d have difficulties. It broke our heart to see him struggle to stand, and laying down took extra long to position his legs to drop. He really didn't have any other health issues. Even his teeth were good.
   Thursday morning, June 27, I knew something had changed. Something was going wrong with his legs and it was happening rapidly. His mind was fine, he still wanted to do things, he saw a puppy in the next yard and literally dragged his back leg all the way down the steps and across the yard to go nose to nose with the little one. He kept trying. He fought to get around. He didn't want to be in the house, so I sat next to him on the cold flagstone all morning. I talked to him, I hugged him, I cried. I told him how great a dog he’d been. The best ever. He laid his head on the hard surface and just rested. I laid beside him and pet him.

   Ron came home early and we proceeded to do the hardest thing we’d ever done. The most heartbreaking time of our lives. We said goodbye to our best buddy. Our traveling companion. My eyes and ears, since mine don’t work very well. My friend. The friend who never judged me, never held a grudge, even if I got mad at him, he would be so sad that he’d disappointed me and immediately try to make up. He protected me, he loved me unconditionally, he stood by me through everything. He was my gift from God. I was blessed to have had this amazing dog for nearly 15 years and not one day will go by that I won’t miss him completely and totally. There is a little hole in my heart now where he took up residence. But his memory will eventually heal that hole and I’ll smile as I remember the best friend I ever had.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Bearly Adventurous

   We've lived in Colorado for around twenty-five years. I've seen a bear twice. Now three. The first time was while having dinner at the home of dear friend's near Idaho Springs. I had the vantage point at the dining table looking out the patio doors over the hills and the road below. Lovely view. I was gazing out at the pine covered steep hillsides of the canyon, the gorgeous blue sky (there's just something better about a blue sky in Colorado), when something black on the road below caught my eye. There he was. A big ol' black bear walking across the road below the house. He headed up the hill on our side of the canyon. We enjoyed watching him until he finally found the seclusion they treasure.
   That was many years ago. This spring, many folks around our little town here in the foothills have posted on Facebook or talk at the grocery store about seeing a bear in the creek, cubs in town, momma bear with her cubs. Lots of stories.
   I figured I wouldn't get to see one. But I hoped.
   We left for Texas a couple weeks ago, and I left the hummingbird feeders up since our little visitors had returned for the summer. I wanted to encourage them to be around when I got home. My friend was watching the house and dog, but reported to me via email, that something had gotten my feeders and broke them. Hmmm...could it be?
   Well obviously it was a bear that had been in our yard while we were gone. There was bear scat, a metal shepherds hook pole bent at ground level severely, and yes the broken feeders. Not to mention signs that our dog had been - shall we say - quite startled in the house, no doubt after seeing this creature right outside the window he likes to look out of.
   At night, I started to bring the feeders in so as to not encourage the animal that this was a good restaurant to continue patronizing. But I still hoped to see him.
   One day while talking to my sister on the phone, I was wandering around the yard while we talked. Around back under the kitchen window, I spotted rather disturbing prints on the siding just under the where the feeders hang during the day.
There was no doubt what that was.
Something was peeking in the window?

   He remembered the good eats. I knew he'd be back.
   Now here in Colorado, there are news stories all the time about bears breaking into homes, homeowners hearing a noise and rushing to the kitchen to find a bear sitting on their kitchen counter eating out of the cupboards, windows completely broken into by a bear. Yogi and Boo Boo get the snacks they want. We've had trash cans spilled over and trash dragged across the street in years past. Our neighbor relayed the tale several years ago that when she came home late one night, our trash was strewn across the street and as she pulled into her drive, the big bear was settled into her front yard snacking on our leftovers not fit for human consumption. She had to wait him out to go into her house that night since not much scares them off. We never saw him.
   Another night, we had been out enjoying our hot tub, gazing at the stars, soaking away the aches of the day. Gus, our dog, had been out with us, but he usually takes his place on the steps to watch over the neighborhood. Unbeknownst to us, a visitor was on the other side of our house. The dog didn't even know.
   We finished our soak, went in and settled in to watch the news before bed. Ron heard a noise, jumped up, ran for the side window (opposite from the side the hot tub is on). Thinking it was probably another raccoon getting into trouble, we were surprised to look out at the extremely large furry back end of our nocturnal visitor. Between us and the neighbor, huge flashlights scared him off. The yelling and pounding on the window, not so much.
   There is a metal trash can out there. We found large dents in each side of the can. The bear must have figured it was another special "pick-i-nick" basket and had learned a special way to open them by slamming his paws into the sides. He had to have been surprised by the face full of woodstove ash that no doubt covered him.
   So back to the original part of this story.
   Ron had gone to bed the other night, I stayed up to do some work on the computer. *BANG* Something slammed against the kitchen window. Uh oh...
   I ran to the kitchen, opened the blinds, but it was way too dark to see. I figured the light coming out would startle it away. So I ran to the dining room window and in the faint porch light, I saw him! Lumbering across the yard like it was his.
   My heart began a whole new beat.
   He checked out the empty feeder, walked over to the three person swing and rubbed his side against it. I gathered up my courage, which was waning fast, stepped out onto the porch and yelled at it hoping to scare it off. Funny thing about a 150 pound (or so) bear, they don't scare easy.
   He turned to come toward me. I rapidly ducked back into the house. When he turned away again, I stepped out, grabbed my dog's tennis ball and pitched it over at him. I missed.
   He proceeded into the darkness of the corner of the yard. I could hear the chain link fencing wiggle and clank against the poles, knowing he was working on climbing over it. That's when it struck me....why don't I have my camera? Okay, okay, so the excitement sort of made my brain take a break, what can I say. By the time I got it and returned to the scene, he was marching across the neighbors porch, while I prayed she wouldn't open the door about that moment.
   I finally got to see a bear. With my heart rate at that moment and the annoying shaking of my limbs, I remembered that saying, "Be careful what you wish for". But I was glad I got to see the culprit. Needless to say, Ron got woken up by his anxiety filled wife with a tale to tell.
   Ron and I stayed up the next night, waiting. I was sure he'd be back. It had already become a habit.
   No bear.
   He hasn't been back to our knowledge, but I will continue to bring in my feeders at night which I'm doing too early judging by the diving attacks by hummingbirds as we take them in. I just really prefer taking on the kamikaze birds over a large bruin with long claws.
Yep, that would leave a mark.

Closest picture I could find of what I saw. He was about
this size.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Adventure to Getting Published

     It's been a long road.
     I've been writing for as long as I can remember. It runs in my veins. Grandma wrote a lot. My mom writes so much, having self-published many books of her poetry; she also writes the many stories of her childhood and compiles it for us kids.
     In high school, I had written a lot of stories that my teacher had for grading. The day I was to pick them up from the teacher, I was home sick. A friend went to get them for me, but the teacher had already thrown them away. My mom is still sick about that. (And it was a long time ago...) I don't remember what they were about. So chalk that up to an "oh well" moment.
     When my daughter was three, which was 1983, I took a home study course on writing from The Institute of Children's Literature. You've probably seen the ads in magazines. Since I was now a mom, staying home to raise her, I thought learning more about the craft of writing might help in getting published.
     That class led to my first magazine article getting published. Sunshine Magazine printed my story, "What's the Best Pet". Wow, that was a long time ago. but the taste was put in me and I got bit bad for more. I even received FAN MAIL after that article came out. A few letters came, including an inmate at a prison that kept writing to me for a while.

My first published article! *ahem* 1985...
     Time passed, life with a daughter and husband kept me busy with little time to write. I dabbled, but nothing substantial. We made a huge move from Minnesota to Colorado. I'm not even sure when I got back to it seriously. It slowly built as life and time allowed.
     I finished a book, which I had prayed hard to do. But nothing ever came of it. I made a decision then to pray to get published and not just finishing a book. I had found some interest in it at writer's conferences. One of my writing heroes, Tracie Peterson, was an acquisitions editor at one conference. She was so encouraging and delightful to meet with. When she asked to take my manuscript with her, I was ecstatic. She had encouraged me to join a writer's group called the American Christian Romance Writers, which I foolishly didn't follow through with.    
     It didn't sell.
     So I kept rewriting, learning, studying publishers guidelines, anything I could find.
     I was prodded by a couple of close friends to start writing a community news column for our local newspaper. I summoned up the courage to go meet with the editor. It went really well and she signed me on as a columnist. She warned me that I was about to become "famous" in a sense. I laughed. Little did I know that my byline with a photo in my well recognized cowgirl hat would indeed become well known in our mountain community. I had folks recognize me uptown, at the store, out walking... I wrote about many things: town events, church events, dog bites, student accomplishments. One time I even got to interview one of the producers of a Perry Mason episode being shot in our little mountain town at the old, then empty hotel. "The Lady in the Lake" had one scene here. That was quite an experience.
     I tried to get an interview with Gary Hart, a local resident, when he was running for president (this was proir to his surrounding scandal). I didn't get that one. But I did write about the onslaught of media in our community. Helicopters circled overhead. National media outlets were interviewing six-year olds on the street about what they thought. Really? Desperation I guess.
     I also experienced the down side of being a community columnist. When I wrote about upcoming new county rules about a non-running vehicle on your property getting ticketed, I took the blame. Yep. Got chewed out by one resident. Trying to explain how to not blame the messenger was a challenge I did not succeed in.
     Ah, those were the days. Twelve years I did that column.
     When that ended (not by my choice), I got back to my books. And conferences. And networking. And studying. But most importantly, writing.
     I had a few articles published in Country magazines, but that was about it. One of those articles was read by an old friend I had lost contact with. She found me again.
     I had attended the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference (CCWC) for several years learning through workshops offered. One year it even led to being on a radio interview with two of my favorite radio personalities around here. (Thanks Roy and Joy) That was fun!
     I rediscovered the writing group that Tracie had told me about, but now it was called the American Christian Fiction Writers or ACFW. Smartest thing I've ever done. I quickly joined. Great organization where on line writing courses are free with membership. Networking and just finding people of like-mind (you know...kind of crazy and wild thinking processes...) helped me so much. I began to learn more about the business of writing as well as the craft.
     I attended my first ACFW conference in Denver. What a blessing that was. I met many of my favorite authors which was a real treat. Made new friends that I still cherish. Made connections that help a writer move along the path.
     During all of this, I had written another book titled Red Gold. I had the worst time coming up with a title. While pondering the whole thing with my hubby, he actually came up with the name. It was perfect. (Hope the editors will agree.)
     You know that old saying, Write what you know. Well, I know four-wheeling, I know Colorado, and loving both, I devised a story about a couple owning a guest ranch that caters to jeeping, wildlife, ghost town tours, fishing, hiking and since I love mysteries, I threw some of that in too. Guests check in and find adventures they never would have expected. I had a bunch of fun writing it.
     Then you try to sell it. Or find an agent to sell it. Neither of which is an easy thing to do.
     I'll skip most of that struggle, and just cut to the chase. After twelve rejections, I found another publisher that I didn't have to have an agent to submit to. I sent it off with an accompanying prayer.
     However, the editor sent along two pages of advice to fix it. What my problem areas were and what I should do about it. I held in my hand pure gold. I rewrote applying what she had said. I knew I wasn't getting it totally right, but I worked hard at it. I emailed her if I could resubmit which she welcomed.
     I thanked her profusely, but then said it was time to put it aside. She agreed. Truly the nicest rejections I had ever received, and I've got a file FULL of rejections.
     I worked on other projects. Got involved with three other gals and we are working on selling a set of four books under the same theme.
     But Red Gold kept calling me back. So I returned. I rewrote it AGAIN. Then I attended the ACFW conference in Dallas. I met with an editor from Pelican Book Group and told her all I had done and the rejections from the other editor. She looked over my One Sheet (a single sheet that basically tries to sell your book with a short blurb about it and my bio), and invited me to send it in again. Pelican has the imprint of White Rose (for Romances) and Harbourlight (for other genres).
     So off it went again on December 10, 2012. Then the waiting begins. But I just kept working on my other story. I spent more time in God's word and praying. I meet once a week with a writer friend and we mull over what we learn.
     I saw in my email inbox one day the editors name. I sat back into my chair staring. I couldn't click on it to open. I sat there steeling myself for the rejection. I prayed, I took a deep breath and clicked.
     It started out with much about areas still lacking. My shoulders dropped and I continued to read wondering if I'd ever "get it". But then...she said if I'm willing to work with them on some heavy edits, she'd like to offer me a contract. I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing for a few moments. And again, I stared. I reread it and reread it. She mentioned that she could see the work I had put into it after her other two rejections. She saw merit in that.
     For so many years I dreamt about how I would react. I didn't live up to those expectations. It seemed so unreal. I had so much to process. Instead of reacting, I took until the next day praying, seeking, wondering. And I told my closest family and friends. And...I did a little Snoopy Happy Dancing. Oh, and crying. Then I emailed her back that I was more than willing to do the work to make this story the best it can be. This opportunity is my gold. My treasure. My total blessing from God. I know it's from Him. There's no doubt.
     So on March 27, 2013 I signed my first book contract. I have a lot of work ahead of me as the edits start coming, but I can't wait. I love this story. I love my characters and now I feel like they will come to life even more.
     Stay tuned. You will definitely hear when it is due to be published. I so look forward to holding that baby in my hands. Whoo hoooooooo! Thank you Jesus!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Dustbunny Dudley

     We are pretty sad in the neighborhood this week. We lost a long time buddy to everyone around here. Dudley was 11. Pretty good to reach that age for a Golden Retriever, but when you have a terrific owner that takes really good care of you, you can reach that age.
     Dudley was just the best. He loved everyone, he loved the daycare kids for years, loved hiking, loved life. He was a great dog. I'm missing him and just wanted to share one of the funnier stories about him. It still falls under the category of an adventure. Just didn't have to leave home for this one.
    Ron and I were dog sitting one time years ago. Ron was recovering from hernia surgery at the time. We were sleeping peacefully early Friday morning, 4:30 a.m. to be exact, when I started being stirred awake by the bed jiggling.  In my fuzzy, not awake state of mind, I figured that Gus, our dog, was leaning against the bed scratching or something so I whispered, "Stop it!"  Not wanting to wake up fully, but the bed kept jiggling.  So I whispered again, a little louder, "What are you doing?" so as not to wake up Ron.   
     Then I heard claw marks on the wood floor kind of doing this spinning, sliding, clawing for dear life noise.  Now I am fully awake realizing that there is a dog under the bed.  So I reach over the side of the bed and snap my fingers and say, "Come out here whoever you are!"  Suddenly, a large Dudley face is stretching for all he's worth his way out from under the frame of the bed.  Only his face. So I say again, "Come on Dudley, what are you doing??"  Now he's clawing madly with his feet well away from each side of his head and spreading wider as he tries to pull himself out, doing his best to mind my command. He was doing the butterfly stroke like in swimming. So I say to myself, the - what 80 pound? - dog is stuck under the bed!  Thinking I better get off the bed because my weight must be hindering his process, so I try to pull on him, no that won't work.  He's wedged!  So I try to swing his leg under to get him on his side, much like a breach baby trying to be born, that's not working either.  Hmmmmm....Dudley now is just sort of looking up at me with those big, sad, Golden Retriever eyes while I call him a dummy.  Now Ron is awake and rolls over and says, "What's going on?"  I say, "Dudley is stuck under the bed!"  Ron -in his helpful way -starts cracking up!!  Meanwhile, I'm on my bad knees trying to pull a huge dog out from under a king size bed, then I figure I have to lift the bed to get him out, so I lift my side, and through a straining voice say, "Come on Dudley, come on!"  Ron is still laughing holding his belly.  Dudley is dragging, sliding, clawing, pulling his way out between the bed and my dresser while I'm holding the side of the bed up in the air. There is a serious lack of space for this long, big body. Ron is now laughing totally out of control ON THE BED.  Was I laughing, no, not so much. Remember, it's 4:30 in the morning.  Finally, Dudley is free!  He had a plastic newspaper dog toy in his mouth from under the bed (his mission accomplished) so then he starts making his Chewy Chewbacka noise with this toy in his mouth, happy as a clam.  Finally I get to crawl back under the covers, Ron is still laughing out of control and holding his gut.  He says, "I'm gonna blow another hernia cuz I can't quit laughing!"  I say, "Yea, explain this to the emergency room surgeon." It took us another hour I bet to stop the giggling.  Ron kept picturing in his mind what Dudley must have looked like under the bed then he'd crack up again just as I was nodding off.  We finally settled down realizing there would be no more dustbunnies under the bed for a very long time. Dudley took care of them all.
    We slept in that morning! 

We will miss you Dudders.