2022’s Final Gasp

We’re finally coming to the end of one of the roughest years of my life. Billy’s battle with cancer coincided with Mom’s battle with living. So many times everything hit at once. Like the day we took a rare trip together to the farm and returned to Mom’s ministroke and all the horrors that followed, or the day we finally got Billy a hospital bed after a two-hour wait, and less than an hour later, Mom fell and had to go to the ER. Or the times I couldn’t get either of them to eat. Or praying through Billy’s fear of dying and Mom’s fear she won’t. Or the threat I’d have both of them on hospice at the same time. Days of taking the brunt of their frustrations expressed in hurtful comments and hurt-filled cries. I never want to go through this again.

Now that 2023 is in sight, things are a little better. Billy’s cancer treatment and surgery were successful, and he’s gaining his weight back. Mom has come to terms with the fact that the doctor was wrong in how long she has to live. She’s still anxious to go Home, but she’s handling it better that the Lord hasn’t called her yet. The worst thing that happened in the final quarter of 2022 is that our calico, Molly, got out a few hours before the freeze and never came home. The freeze hit Thursday afternoon, and today is Monday, and I can’t find her anywhere. My prayer is that someone has her; my fear is that no one does.

My prayer is that 2023 will be better. Yes, I expect to lose my mother, but that would be a gift to both of us. It is so hard to see her in pain, to watch her get confused, and see her memory lapse so badly. God be praised that her mind is still basically good. She doesn’t have any form of dementia other than what comes with just being 90. But the fear is always there. The fear that she’ll fall from this dance along the edge, and I’ll lose her while she’s still here. I’m not sure I could bear that. I’m better with the thought of her going on to Heaven.

We’ve had one thing after another hit us since Billy’s retirement in 2019, and honestly, we don’t have a clue what ordinary days during retirement are going to look like. But I’m hoping 2023 will finally settle enough for us to find out. We had plans and hopes, and believe me, the stuff that’s been going on wasn’t on the list.

Among the good things of 2022 were the times with family and friends. I have some amazing friends whom God uses to call me just when I need them. They’ve stood by me through this ridiculous year, and I’m so thankful for them.

Molly may be gone, but she left us with two of her kittens, Tuck and Susy. They’re still in training on how to behave as house cats, but they’re fun and loving and I’m so thankful to have them.

And I’m thankful to have my husband and my mom as we face a new adventure in a new year. I don’t know whether I’ll get to go back to writing, but I know I’ll be reading everything I can get my hands on. And I’ll still be an editor. I’m thankful for that. My prayer is for more time with family and friends. After all, they’re what life is all about.

So, as we slip into the new year, I have some high hopes and old, delayed dreams. It’s going to be a great year.

God bless you throughout 2023 with the love of family and friends and with His presence if things get rough. Believe me, His help is real and His presence is almost tangible during hard times. I know this from experience.

Posted in Writing | 12 Comments

Cleanliness is Next to Writerliness

One of my favorite authors, Deborah Raney, told her Facebook followers how she does her best “thinking/plotting/brainstorming” while she does her household chores. She’ll stop in the middle of something to race to her computer and write that word she’d been trying to think of or add in a “great line of dialogue.”

I remember that. I remember being doubly productive when I was at my busiest. And I also remember riding a wave and ignoring the house entirely. I made sure we were properly fed and our clothes were clean. I’d remember to shower–most of the time. But the house? It could wait.

However, during those times when there were no waves to ride and the writing seas were calm, nothing could kick me into gear faster than cleaning the rungs on the dining room table. Probably because I hated cleaning the rungs on the dining room table and would do anything to get out of it. But it’s true. Menial tasks allow your mind to wander. Personally, mine wanders better if I don’t have even music as a distraction. When I hear music, I want to sing along, and my brain becomes flooded with lyrics instead of plot development. So I can promise you audiobooks are out. No point listening to someone else’s successful novel while I’m trying to write my own.

These days, for reasons already explained in this blog, I haven’t been writing much at all. I’ve been editing clients’ manuscripts, which has proven to be my solace during hard times, but I haven’t been able to write. And since I haven’t been writing, I haven’t been keeping the house as clean as I once did. Okay, admittedly, finding a clean house at my address was hit and miss at best, but at least there were times when the whole house was clean all at once.

You would think that now I’d have the cleanest house in the neighborhood. I really do have a lot of time on my hands, and housecleaning would be a better use of that time. Canning season is sporadic this year, and it’ll be a while before jelly fruits come ripe, so I ought to be doing something worthwhile, don’t you think? Something besides reading and gaining weight while I wait for one of my two patients to need me.

But now, I’ve rediscovered music and audiobooks, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, at least in that realm. I play with the idea of writing full time again. And it’ll happen. I think. God willing. And once it does, I’ll happily spend time cleaning the rungs on the dining room table while I try to think of that word that keeps eluding me or that plot twist I need to develop.

Or maybe I ought to start cleaning house first, then trying to write. If cleanliness really is next to writerliness, I wonder if it matters which order they come in. Hmmm . . .

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The WTL Explanation of WIB

You might need a little help interpreting the title. It’s “The Way-Too-Late Explanation of Where I’ve Been.” Seeing as how it’s been five months since I last posted–and that last post was a Christmas ad for my books–I figured I ought to touch base.

I’m not really sure where to start. The last time I did any update was in January of 2021, when I announced that Mom’s cancer was back. Never did report about Billy’s heart. The short of it is that, after several months spanning back to 2019, they finally figured out what was wrong and performed an ablation on him to regulate his heart rhythm again. Today, as far as his heart goes, he’s fine.

But he has lymphoma.

So now, Mom’s with hospice and doing amazingly well, and Billy is undergoing chemo. Which means, I’ve been a little bit busy.

She wasn’t supposed to make it to 90! Praise God she did!

Mom is basically doing good, considering she wasn’t supposed to make it beyond six months of them telling her the cancer was back. That was well over a year ago now. Fortunately, according to the doctor, she won’t experience pain unless the cancer lands on a nerve. It hasn’t. She is short-winded, but otherwise, you can’t tell she has cancer. She celebrated her 90th birthday in March. She amazes me.

Billy is doing well enough, I guess. Treatments get to him, of course, and food doesn’t appeal to him. He and Mom both are making it hard to feed them. Mom’s picky, and nothing tastes right to Billy–and if it does, it upsets his stomach.

Billy’s cap-tan. Can you see it?

But when he feels well enough, he’s super productive. It may take him three days to mow the front yard, but he gets it done. He’s always expanding the garden, overseeing the crops, harvesting what he can. He amazes me too.

And yes, we’re harvesting. I know some of my friends are, even now, battling snow and growing their garden plants indoors. But here on my little plot of Texas, we’ve harvested carrots, green beans, English peas, potatoes, onions, and garlic so far. Yellow squash and purple-hull peas are in the works, along with another round of green beans. Yank out one crop, fill the bed with another, fertilize, and keep going. Makes for a busy time.

With Billy so vulnerable to every virus bug going around, we haven’t had much chance to be with the littles, but we did recruit a couple of them to help harvest onions. Chloe and Gabriel love pulling things out of the dirt. I rarely get to keep carrots because Chloe eats as many as she pulls. This time, that wasn’t a threat–neither are fond of raw onions.

They deserved cookies and milk after bringing in this haul!

Even though they look like a lot, we’ll use every one of those onions. Last year, a friend of ours had a bumper crop of onions and gave us a load of them. Our daughter used several of her gifted crop to make and freeze French onion soup. I tried that too but overcooked the onions. Made a wonderful broth to use as a base for other soup and stew recipes, but as soup goes, eh–not so great.

Instead, I use mine in a relish recipe I got from an aunt in Georgia. Out of all Daddy’s brothers and sisters and their spouses (and there were a lot of them), my Aunt Hazel was the one most famous among the family for her cooking. She kept telling me to try her onion relish, and I kept sticking my nose up in the air because it didn’t even sound good to me. Oh, but when I gave in and tasted it, let me tell you I begged for her recipe. Bless her little forgiving heart, she gave it to me. I changed it a tad to personalize it to our preferences, and I make it whenever we run out–even if I have to use store-bought onions. MSB finds it addictive, especially in chicken salad. I use it instead of pickles, and it’s wonderful. Also great on hamburgers and hotdogs or over cream cheese and served with Ritz crackers.

Linda’s Onion Relish

5 lbs onions, chopped

3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped

5 cups sugar

4 cups cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 Tablespoon each: salt, turmeric, cloves, coarse-ground black pepper.

Make the syrup in a pot, then add the vegetables to it. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat for an hour. Pour hot product into hot, sterile jars and top with sterile lids. Makes 10 pints.

Aunt Hazel said there was no need to process the recipe, and I never do. I turn each jar upside down for a few minutes, then set them upright and listen to the glorious popping lids. But if you’re not comfortable with that, then cook the veggies for ten minutes instead of an hour, jar them with the syrup, and place the pint jars in a water bath. Process for 10 minutes.

Anyway, this just touches the surface of what I’ve been doing and where I’ve been, but I think it’s enough. I haven’t written since I finished a novella in early 2021, then the collection I wrote it for went bust. When I find time to write, I try to expand the novella into a novel, and I have ideas to make it a series, but I have no idea whether God is going to bring me back into the business or not. Everything in His time and under His guidance. Right now, He’s guiding me to be a wife and daughter to those who need me, and a grammy to the great-grands when we get to see them. In other words, I have the privilege of just being a woman for a while.

I’ll try to post more often. I’ve been reading some amazing books that, if nothing else, I could report on. Meanwhile, God bless!

Posted in Cooking and Recipes, Misc., Personal | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Christmas Sale!

The Circle Bar Ranch series is on sale for 99c at all your favorite ebook retailers, like Kindle, Nook, and Apple! The sale only lasts until January 2, 2022, so fill your ebook device now!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

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Time Out

Not long ago, I used this image to explain what all is going on in my life and career this year. Now I’m using it as a sticky-page image to let everyone know I won’t be blogging for a while. But be patient. I’ll be back!

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Grab a Book

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A Bit Much

Did you miss me last week? Seems I no sooner announced that I’m going to keep up with this blog that I turned around and missed three entire posts–a week’s worth. There is reason for that: overload.

Let’s skip all the overwhelming news and the internal battle I’m fighting to keep myself on even keel. Let’s skip the discussion about the Covid virus and the frustration of having to walk all the way back to the car because I forgot my face shield–or even the fact that I have to wear a shield instead of a mask (a story for another time). Let’s jump straight in to the two main reasons I can’t seem to keep my feet under me: my mom, and my inability to say no. This time at least, these are two separate issues.

Starting with the second first, my ongoing struggle with my inability to say no–a.k.a “What was I thinking?!”

It’s the beginning of the year, right? So at the beginning of the year, I have lots of reports coming in from the organization I volunteer for, American Christian Fiction Writers. I’m the Zone Coordinator, a position I enjoy most of the time, and a lot of things come my way before being presented to the national board of directors or filed away for future use. Year-end financial reports. New officers lists. New membership rosters. New members list. Purged members lists. For every email I answer and complete, five more are awaiting me. Whenever I clear the inbox one morning, it’s doubly stacked the next.

So why would I say yes to editing not one but two manuscripts during this time? I must be insane. In my defense, I accepted the manuscript from a new-to-me author presented by a managing editor I trust before I realized I’d be getting the manuscript of one of my favorite authors from another managing editor I trust. I couldn’t possibly turn down the second, so I have no other alternative but to do both. Also, in my defense, these are paying jobs while the ACFW position is voluntary. But on the flipside, and giving myself a good butt-kicking, having these jobs means I don’t have time to write. Not and still be a good wife/daughter/gramma. Somethin’s gotta give, and for now, it’s my writing, which includes blog posts. Sigh.

Lest you think I’m complaining, I’m not. Not really. I love being busy. This is more explaining than complaining. Explaining where I was last week while you, my readers, were expecting a blog post full of wit and wisdom from one of your favorite redheads.

And I’m still not complaining when I introduce the second reason I’ve been a bit overwhelmed: it appears Mom’s cancer is back. And I’m not complaining at all about taking care of her.

Four months ago, we got the wonderful news that the radiation worked on the troublesome spot everyone was worried about. The other spots hadn’t changed in almost a year, so the doctor seemed to doubt they were actually cancer. Not long after that, Mom had a miraculous healing from shortness of breath and her inability to walk from the bedroom to the den without huffing and puffing like she’d just finished a 10K run.

Then, two months ago–two months from the time she got her wonderful news–we got the report that her lungs are riddled with “nodules.” The doctor said he hesitated to call it cancer, but he couldn’t imagine what else it would be. Since he was the radiation oncologist, he had to recommend her to a medical oncologist to take over her treatment. The nodules are too many and too spread out in her lungs for concentrated beams of radiation. The treatment would damage her lungs far worse.

So, we returned to the doctor who treated Mom decades before. This is her third kind of cancer, and we’re not sure yet whether it really is lung cancer. According to the medical oncologist, this could be lung cancer or it could be that the breast cancer she had back in the early 2000s has returned or even the kidney cancer that showed up closer to 2010. Before, because of the location of the cancer in her lung, the doctors couldn’t do a biopsy of the mass that was ultimately obliterated with radiation because Mom–with her severe degenerative arthritis–couldn’t hold the required position long enough. So we had no clue at that time what kind of cancer she had.

But before Mom can undergo a biopsy this time, the doc wanted her to have a PET scan and a CT scan of her brain to see if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs. Considering it took only two months to go from “all clear” to “uh-oh,” anything’s possible. She had the scans last Friday. We find out the results sometime this week. If the cancer has spread, the method of treatment is basically to keep her comfortable. If it hasn’t, then she’ll have the biopsy and we can find out what method of treatment would be effective then. With one of the cancer types, the new immunotherapy might be effective. One of the other types can be treated with a pill. But the last type can be treated only with chemo, and she’s not capable of going through that–bringing us back to keeping her comfortable as she prepares to go home.

Mom amazes me. She seems to stay upbeat. She’s still interested in life and all the goings-on. She manages to get up every day, fix her own meals (although she’s limited to microwaving frozen dinners or leftovers from what I cook for her), dress herself, and despite limited mobility, just do for herself in general (sometimes with the help of an aid). She has adjusted to all her ailments and insists that as long as she is able, even to the extent she’s limited to now, she intends to continue doing for herself. What an amazing example she is.

But you can see why this blog has dropped considerably on my list of must-dos. The idea of keeping up with it–the New Year’s resolution of keeping up with it–is just as insane as any other resolution I come up with, but this one didn’t last as long. Second week of January, and I already failed.

Oh, well.

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Especially for Writers

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Favorite Reads of 2020

I didn’t get anywhere near my reading goal last year, despite including audio books in hopes of doing just that. Who knew living close to family could be so demanding? Well, okay, everyone knew but me, but there ya go. It’s demanding–and fun and rewarding and outright wonderful. But it wreaks havoc on my time.

However, I did read some goodies. I read a variety of books last year, but my favorites all land in the categories of Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, and Devotion-Inspirational.

Of the five devo/inspy books I read, I have three favorites and can’t choose a winner from among them. They were all wonderful for different reasons.

Jesus in Me by Anne Graham Lotz challenged me. Dared me to allow God to examine me closer and to heal what He finds. And, through her example, I learned how to let the Lord guide me through my Bible study. I’ve been rewarded with deeper, more satisfying studies ever since.

Keep a Quiet Heart was my first experience with Elizabeth Elliot, but it won’t be my last. Her no-nonsense approach to Christian living is edifying and comforting. Why do bad things happen to good people? Because this isn’t heaven. Don’t know what to do next? Do what is in front of you. Not getting your way? Give in to Him and do it His way. He’s God. You’re not–a comforting thought in itself.

This one took me totally by surprise. I wasn’t familiar with Lori Stanley Roeleveld, but I’ve met Jim Rubart and Jerry Jenkins and trust their recommendations, so Running from a Crazy Man climbed high on my TBR list in a hurry. Especially since the subtitle is “and other adventures traveling with Jesus.” Oh. My. Goodness! I laughed. I cried. I had epiphanies and head-smack moments. I was convicted and shamed and edified and pat on the back–all from a book with chapter titles of “Waiting for the Holy Abracadabra,” “Mom, Why are My Knees Foaming?” “My Precious! Why All of You Annoy Me!” and, one of my personal favorites, “Elephant Repellant.” (Seriously–just read the TOC to be convinced you need to read this one!)

My favorite young adult novel was both tons of fun and deeply impactful. Fifteen-year-old established actor, Jeralyn Rose, tries to keep her faith while working on set and on location. She battles all the typical teenage challenges and then some–and all in the public eye of teen magazines. But teen drama plus fame don’t equal anywhere near what her friend and new actor Mickey Keele faces. Only when he’s working is he safe from the dangers found in his own home. Pure Hollywood. An excellent read by Lesley Ann McDaniel.

My absolute favorite romance of the year was Practically Married, the debut novel written by Karin Beery–an exceptional freelance editor and no stranger to the publishing world. She wrote a refreshingly new plot and kept it twisting the entire time. Boy meets Girl–and tells her that her fiance, whom she’d never met in person, was killed. Fiance, through letters interpreted as his legal intent for the disbursement of his property, left his family home and farm to the woman he never told anyone else about, including his cousin and best friend–the “Boy” meeting the “Girl” who thinks she’s coming to town for her wedding. Twisty, I tell ya! Twisty! This one is juicy fun!

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Hopes for 2021

We finally made it: 2020 is now in the past. Of course, changing the calendar page didn’t make all the problems of 2020 go away, but who knows? 2021 might eventually be the reprieve we’ve been waiting for. The year things start going our way. The glorious time when the “new normal” can go back to the plain old normal, and we can see smiles and offer hugs again. That is my biggest hope and dream for 2021–to be able to see friends’ unmasked faces and offer more than a fist-bump.

My other hopes are more mundane.

First is the simple hope of actually keeping up with this blog. Don’t know whether you noticed, but I haven’t been all that great about keeping a regular schedule. 2019 brought cancer and heart problems to my family and 2020 had us moving from one town to another during a pandemic, so I admit to being a bit distracted. Not to mention the fact that WordPress changed its format, which is infuriating. I’m used to the old way. I knew every keystroke, every command, and typing a post was as natural as breathing. Now, I have to think about what I’m doing and figure out how to do it. This is not intuitive. Yes, they have a tutorial–aren’t we all proud of them for that?–but when all I want to do is to get my post written and scheduled so I can move on to the next thing on my ever-growing list of vital to-dos, I don’t want to waste time going through a tutorial so I can figure out how to do something I once could do without the slightest bit of effort.

You notice I have an image on this post, right? It took me all of 10 minutes to figure out how to upload it, edit it, resize it, center it, and check it to see if it’s okay. I assume it is. And it really was amazingly easy once I figured it out, but ten minutes is too long to waste on working out something that I could do without thinking using the old format.

My next hopes are all business related. As an editor, I’m in good shape. I’m booked well into the spring. Marketing bit the dust in 2020–at least all my in-person events and sales. I would love to get back on my circuit and shake hands with my fans again, but if not that, I’d at least like to do better in cyberspace this year than last. As a writer, the best I can manage is keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have time or at least be able to make time to write. My last publication was Loving a Harvey Girl, a novella in the 2019 collection The Cowboys. The last thing I wrote, Upstaged by Love, was a novella for a collection that didn’t pan out. So my hope for my writing career in 2021 is to turn that novella into a novel and then into a series.

Will any of these daydreams come true? I don’t know. I never know, actually. Neither do the rest of us, I suppose. But this year is different. This year, we’re revisiting 2019. Mom’s cancer, once thought gone for good, has apparently come back. MSB’s heart is still offering sensations that are odd enough and worrisome enough that he has to get it checked again. Sometimes his pulse hovers around 40, and he gets weak and dizzy. So with him and Mom and my own curiosities–a whole other story, believe me–I have no clue what’s going to happen as far as business goes. I might be spending another year visiting doctors and putting out fires.

This blog may again become another hodge-podge of writing, reading, and personal posts. But since I started it, back when it was 777 Peppermint Place instead of Linda W. Yezak, it has defied classification. It is what it is. I just hope I don’t neglect it as badly as I did last year.

So there ya go. Here’s a clink of the coffee mug to the first Monday of 2021. May this New Year’s infant grow into a happy, healthy adult that isn’t quite so stingy with its joy as 2020 was.

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