Angels All Around

Check out the Chicken Soup for the Soul Angels All Around Twitter block party happening tomorrow, September 4 from 1:00-2:00 ET. Meet Amy Newmark and some of the contributing authors of this book. Some authors will be posting pictures and you will have a chance to tweet with them.

Come join the fun!

https://mobile.twitter.com/chickensoupsoul/status/1167860900247638018

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It’s Here…

Today is a day that I never imagined could be a possibility. Ever since I was a teenager, I dreamed of one day becoming an author.

Today, I can officially say I am a published author.

Check out my story “Your Daughter Is Alive” on page 242

I have many thanks to give to many people but first and foremost, I thank my Heavenly Father. It is only through His guiding hand in my life that I am seeing this day come to fruition. In a time in my life when so much was happening and changing, He showed me that truly He cares about the desires of our hearts and that “…He will never leave us nor forsake us”. He has also taught me that He “…owns the cattle on a thousand hilltops”. He has provided in every way possible-way beyond what I could ever have done on my own!

Next, I want to thank my family-Dad, Mom, my sister and my extended family. They have supported, encouraged and shown their love in many ways; I couldn’t do without you guys.

And my friends-you guys have been amazing! Joining in by critiquing this story, expressing enthusiasm for this momentous event and encouraging me. I appreciate every single one of you guys!

I also want to thank you, my blog followers, for your awesome support!

Some of you may wonder how I came to be published in a Chicken Soup book. It was, quite honestly, not planned. I was actually scrolling through Facebook and I saw a call-out for story submissions to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I clicked on the link, read through their guidelines for story submissions. The story of my daughter’s miraculous save from death came immediately to my mind and I knew that that would fit well with the Angels All Around book title. I wrote the story, had a friend critique it, submitted it and then forgot about it. Until this summer.

I was casually looking through my emails when I spotted the header-Chicken Soup for the Soul in the inbox. With my heart thumping and the memory of the submission flooding my mind, I eagerly opened the email. My story had made it to the first selection round. I squealed and started dancing around, which scared my kids and they came dashing into the living room to see what all of the ruckus was about. When they realized what I was saying, they, too, shared in my excitement. About two weeks later, I received an email saying that the story had made it into the final selection round. Another fit of dancing and shouts ensued. About two weeks later, I received the ultimate email-“Your story-‘Your Daughter Is Alive’-has been selected to appear in the book”. Words cannot express how exciting, yet surreal and overwhelming this news was to me. This was something that I had dreamed of for years and now I could officially say I am a published author.

It has really been an amazing reminder to never give up. You never know when that one step might be the one that leads you to something more than you could have ever imagined. What will come of this for me? I don’t know. My goal is to continue writing, continue contributing and continue the dream of inspiring others and pointing them to Christ.

You can listen to an interview with the editor-in-chief and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Amy Newmark here.

You can also find the book Angels All Around here.

Thank you for joining me on this exciting journey!!

Coming Soon…

Five more days to go and the countdown has begun! It still seems so surreal. An opportunity, a choice to seize that opportunity and here I am. I have to admit, I have had to pinch myself over and over. In fact, more times than not, I have told myself that it is no big deal, that it was just a fluke; I don’t have what it takes to keep the momentum up. Despite the negativity that keeps knocking, there is a part of me that is still getting revved up with excitement. Imagine the possibilities this could open up! The doors that I can finally walk through that I wish I had walked through twenty years ago. My imagination is filled with dreams and ambitions…my heart is full of prayers for God’s plans to be upmost.

Five more days to strategize on how to make the most of this opportunity. Five more days for the excitement to build.

Are you curious to know what’s going on?

In five more days, I’ll let you know…

Until then, thanks for joining and supporting TLC!

The Heart of Grandma

Every Christmas, I unwrap the tiny nutcracker on his tiny prancing horse from his paper cocoon. Every Christmas I’m reminded of the special lady I called Grandma.

Loving, warm, quick to hug, quick to smile with her sparkling eyes, she was one who touched the hearts of many around her. I was proud of her-and I was proud that out of all the grand kids, I was the one who had the honor of decorating Grandma’s Christmas tree, for a time.

For many years, she had lugged the tree and boxes of decorations up from the basement into the living room by herself. But as time has a way of doing, she became more feeble. With a stent in her heart, hip replacement surgery, and knees that desperately needed surgery themselves, she could no longer bring the Christmas treasures up the narrow stairs of the basement and stand on the ladder she used for placing ornaments at the top of the tree. Since we lived within walking distance, she naturally turned to me for help. I happily agreed.

The first Christmas that marked the beginning of our tree decorating tradition was fraught with meaning for me. I was used to going to her house each year and seeing aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins, eating delicious food and noting the beautiful tree, but never had I experienced such a personal connection with Grandma and Christmas. There in the living room, she and I talked and laughed. As we pulled the Christmas tree out of the box, I noticed the branches with remnants of icicles from many Christmas’s before. As I attached a branch to the metal pole and spread it out, my thoughts took me to the previous Christmas’s in which Grandma had done the same. Carefully, I attached and spread each branch until there were no gaps in the tree and all was symmetrical and full. It had to be just as good as Grandma did it. I wrapped the strand of large colored bulbs, the kind that were hot to the touch, around and around the tree.

Next was the box of tree ornaments. I thought I knew her ornaments pretty well, but this Christmas showed me differently. As I picked each one up, unwrapped it, and hung it on the tree, Grandma shared stories of how she came to have that one, or how old another one was. There was the ornament made from olive wood that she had brought home from Israel and the little mouse with its fabric guitar that had been on the tree for as long as I could remember, and my favorite, the tiny little nutcracker on the tiny prancing horse. So many ornaments, so many memories.

I then pulled out the tree topper, a tall angel in a white dress that had aged to a cream color, her wings spread on each side of her. Gingerly, I placed her on top of the tree, ensuring that she stood straight and tall. Lastly, I draped the icicles evenly and carefully on every branch, making sure that all branches were covered appropriately. With pride, Grandma told me that it was beautiful; I had done a fine job. She plugged in the strand of lights and the angel. The beauty of the colored lights reflecting in the icicles and the dancing white lights surrounding the angel took my breath away. Now it wasn’t just a tree that I noticed at our Christmas gatherings; it was the expression of Grandma’s heart. I was humbled that I had had the privilege of being the vehicle for her expression that year.

The next three Christmas’s saw the two of us gathered in her living room, listening to Christmas music, relishing our time together. Then life happened. I moved and for whatever reason, our tradition ended just as quickly as it had started. She downsized to a ceramic tree sitting on a table since all of us grand kids were grown. It was never the same.

Many years later, in 2007, she passed away after a long, tiring battle with congestive heart failure. As my eldest aunt divided Grandma’s belongings between the siblings, she remembered our years of decorating the tree together. She wrapped an ornament, the one I loved most, in a square piece of paper and sent it, along with a Christmas cameo pin, to my parents to be given to me.

I don’t recall my initial reaction when I first received it but later that year, at Christmas time, I strategically placed Grandma’s ornament front-and-center on the tree. Tears spilled onto my cheeks as the memories of our four-year tradition filled my mind.

The tradition is still continuing, year-after-year, each time I unwrap the tiny nutcracker on his tiny prancing horse from his cocoon and place him on my tree; for it brings a flood of memories each season and, once more, I am back in my grandmother’s living room-talking, laughing and looking into her sparkling eyes.

How to Write a Great Blog Post: A Beginner’s Guide

Excellent tips for beginner bloggers. Check them out!

The Art of Blogging

There are more blogs in existence than ever, yet more and more people are seduced by the idea of sharing their thoughts and ideas with the rest of the world.

As a matter of fact, it does seem as if there’s a war out there. Everyone is fighting for attention, there are so many things to learn and master. So many social networks, marketing techniques. There’s even an awful lot of content on blogging itself, which makes it even more frustrating.

How do you write a great blog post?

I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t know the answer. Or would I …

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Lessons From Hobbs

Hobbs stretched his legs into the air and then curled his body forward until his head rested on his back legs, front legs spread out on either side of him. Inspiration hit me in that moment and I thought to myself-“Here he is, lying on the windowsill of the front window overlooking the road and neighbors and he has not a care in the world about who can see him and what they think of him.”

This then led me to thinking about my daughter who is in the middle of the tumultuous teen years. How many times I have heard the cries of distress-“Mom! I don’t have any clothes to wear”, even as I am looking at a pile on the floor. Or-“Mom, my face! I hate my nose!”. And then this one-“Mom! Not Walmart! Their clothes are cheap. It’s not cool to shop here!”.

I get it. It’s not easy being a teen in our self-focused society that bombards our young girls with the idea that they have to look perfect; but it makes me sad and angry that this is the reality in our world today. As a result, I see over and over the anxiety of teen girls as they look around and see the “other” girls who have the brand name clothing, the stylish, expensive backpack, the flawless skin.

As I watched Hobbs do his little yoga move in the windowsill, I made the decision to write to my daughter the lessons that Hobbs taught me in that moment.

Dear S,

Many times I see you distressed and feeling as though you aren’t good enough, that if you had the perfect nose or that certain brand then, somehow, you would become more cool.

I was watching Hobbs today being quite the silly boy and, as I watched, some things came to my mind that I want to share with you. I’ll call it-Lessons from Hobbs.

  1. When a fly is buzzing around on the front window, who cares if another cat is watching your crazy gyrations. It’s all about seizing the moment…and that fly sure looks appetizing!
  2. My fur is sticking up after chasing the fly? So? What’s the big deal? That’s what my tongue’s for. It only takes a quick second to plaster it into place. If that doesn’t work, then who cares! That juicy fly was worth it all!
  3. Speaking of my fur…you ask if I wouldn’t like a more cool, “what’s in” kind of pattern. I mean, well, that beautiful little orange striped coat on the lady was appealing but, hey, unless if it can help me get the fly faster, what’s the point?
  4. I have sour cream on my whiskers? I get to enjoy my treat a little longer. Yummy!
  5. Fred from down the road is looking my way? Now that is a big deal! He had better stay in his own territory or I’ll send him home yowling if he tries to cross the line. Afterwards, I’ll yawn, lick myself and take a little nap.
  6. What’s that you say? Snowball can jump higher than me and lands on his feet with more grace than I do? Yawn. I’m just after the fly.
  7. Now you’re bringing up the crush I had on Fluffy and how she snubbed me and went for Sambo instead? Again, yawn. No sense in “licking my wounds” and telling myself I’m no good; if that’s the way she acts then it would’ve been a waste of my time. There’s plenty of catfish in the pond!
  8. Just remember-what it all comes down to is…catching the next fly and loving the life!

Love,

Mom

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Psalm 139:14

9 Tips for Writing Better Short Stories

For anyone who wants to hone their writing skills, here are some simple and fantastic tips

A Writer's Path

by Allison Maruska

In April, I was a judge for two writing contests – Dan Alatorre’s Word Weaver contest and Ryan Lanz’s short story contest. I was honored to be asked to fill the role once, let alone twice. And while I enjoyed judging great stories, I also learned a few things about how to make short stories better because some patterns emerged.

These tips can be applied to any short story, but I would pay closer attention to them if I were entering a story in a contest. Simply put, stories that didn’t do these things didn’t stand out as the best, at least not to me.

So, let’s get cracking.

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