Friday, September 1, 2017

The Kindness of Strangers and Friends (and a GIVEAWAY announcement!)

Hello friends,



In case you are not subscribed to Story Sparks, not on my social media, etc... I wanted to provide the link to my current update on my website about All She Left Behind launch with a giveaway this month.

It's well worth your time and I would love to hear your story.

Visit here for all the details: GIVEAWAY

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Words of Encouragement has moved!
We are finding a streamline way to make everything available in one spot.  We are still working out the kinks to make it an easy transition for you, but right now there is not a "subscribe by email" option so until final decisions are made and we can instruct you correctly, here is the link to the most current post on the new website:

Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Friday, December 16, 2016

Telling our Stories

Story Time



“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” Shannon Alder.

Tabitha Moffat Brown was a grandmother when she headed west to Oregon Territory in 1846. Her story and that of her daughter and granddaughter is a part of the novel I wrote called This Road We Traveled. (Revell). On that journey, Tabby (as I called her) decided to write her memoir telling stories of her greatest challenges, a legacy gift she planned to leave her children.
  I used that fictional device as a way of sharing Tabby's history as the family dealt with trials  during a fateful trek on the Oregon Trail. I've long thought that stories are the sparks that light our ancestors lives; they're the embers we blow on to illuminate our own lives. Tabby did actually write letters about her life that became the basis for my novel. I had her use the occasion of a life-changing journey to share some of her stories. But I think any time of the year is a good time to write down memories and experiences, not in any great order, but as they come to us. They can be sparks for our own families to illuminate their lives.
The Christmas when my older sister got her first horse, a red and white paint named Bonnie comes to mind for me. I was only eight years old at the time but I remember the intrigue of my parents efforts to surprise my sister who at 12 had always longed to have a horse. My sister died 19 years ago but I still see her with her cowboy hat perched on black hair riding in the Wisconsin snow on that chubby red and white horse and she will always be alive to me in that image, a gift I give myself. Maybe it's a birthday story that you remember and want to share. You don't have to have a great insight about the meaning of the story, only that it's something you remember and would love someone else in your life to have it in their memory too.
Someone once wrote that the purpose of a novel is to move people. Sometimes that means moving their hearts and sometimes it means moving them off their couch to go visit a place mentioned in a novel; or to call a friend because something in the story spoke to friendship. Maybe the story moves a reader to write a letter or perhaps like Tabby, to write a story down. Nothing pleases me more as a novelist as when someone tells me how a story moved them to do something they'd been putting off like beginning their own memoir.
At a bookfair last week, a woman said she didn't usually "waste her time" on novels but she read mine because they were based on real people and incidents. I didn't disagree with her -- the reader is always right! -- but I did wish for a longer time to explore with her how fiction always grows from "real life," from our imaginations, from all those stories we were told as children and from the incidents we live out day to day and later weave through memory into story. There is truth to be found in fiction just as there is in biography and non-fiction works of all kinds. William Faulkner noted when he accepted the Pulitzer Prize in 1954, that "the only stories worth a writers blood and sweat and tears are stories of the human heart in conflict with itself." We all have stories like that inside of us and telling them -- even short ones like parables -- can bring joy and wisdom to others and ourselves.
Each of us are story-tellers because stories are the most powerful ways we have of organizing human experience. Tabby organized her stories around her life's challenges but you can organize your stories --whether you're a writer like Faulkner or a gramma or a dad or a student -- around any stories that you've kept in the pocket of your soul.
Give your stories as a gift to others and in the meantime you may well discover as Tabby did in This Road We Traveled things about yourself you otherwise might never have known.  Write your legacy this season on "hearts not tombstones."

  Merry Christmas and the very best in the New Year!  Warmly, Jane

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

July: A Homestead Celebration for Public Servants

My nephew is a police officer in a large Midwestern city. He has a servant's heart, working nights, participating on the SWAT team, teaching at the academy and spending days getting to know the neighborhood he serves.  I used to pray for his safety but it finally dawned on me that if he wanted to be safe he wouldn't have chosen police work. I told him that and said that now I pray that he will be alert, that he'll use good judgment, that he'll be a positive force within his city and offer his compassion and servant's heart. He said those were much better prayers! So far, so good.

I chose public servants as our final HOMESTEAD birthday celebration honorees because public servants have been so helpful in our lives. When we first moved to the ranch, our setter dog disappeared. It was the local postmistress who learned about a stray dog 12  miles downriver. Ricky's ID tag said "Bend" because we hadn't changed it yet so people didn't know how to reach us. But the postmistress did! She put a note in our mailbox telling us and voila, we got Ricky back (driving 50 miles to get him!).  When we needed help putting in the phone line, the head of the road department on a weekend helped us with the right-of-way; ambulance drivers (volunteers) came down our road more than once. Fires brought both neighbors and the volunteer fire departments. When we had trouble, we called the state police and Sheriff or BLM staff and they always came to assist. Today, I love my postal deliverers and those I take my books to mail to. The police have assisted during a scare; And once again we've used that ambulance!


I have two great nephews in the military and a cousin and niece and nephew used to serve. Kevin, Jerry's oldest son, lies in a veteran-marked grave. I always get teary when the local choral group and band put on the Fourth of July concert and all the former military are asked to stand during the playing of their branch of service's theme song. Remembering Milton's poem, I also think they serve "who only stand and wait" which brings to mind all the  families who send their sons and daughters, wives and husbands off to war.



It takes a community of public servants and I confess, they are who I remember when I pay my taxes. Those in my neighborhood and those around the world deserve our recognition. So this month of July, the last birthday month, consider nominating a public servant in your life! I'd love to share a lunch with them and with you!

July is our final month to celebrate Jane's 70th & Homestead's 25th!  If this is the first you have seen about this celebration, you can find much more information about what you could win HERE.  To nominate someone, fill out the the Google form HERE.  It's fast and easy!  We are looking forward to announcing the grand prize winners at the beginning of August.  Who will enjoy lunch with Jerry & Jane on the deck of Homestead?     

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June: A Homestead-Style Celebration for Fathers

My teenage friends loved my dad! He had a great sense of humor, would drive us to events and tell stories as he drove. He saw more than half of the sunrises of his life as he rose early to milk his herd of cows. I still remember standing beside him watching the sun come up and thinking how fortunate I was to have a dad to stand beside.

He could be intimidating for little kids as he stood 6’2” and weighed in at around 270 pounds. He lost fifty pounds of that weight in later years when he was told he needed a quadruple by-pass. He declined the surgery and changed his lifestyle instead, drinking less coffee, eating fewer carbs. He quit smoking and he exercised even though he was a farmer and got lots of exercise. It wasn’t the right kind to help his heart. He lived to be 85 so all those changes worked. The one and only letter I have from my dad was written to me when I was 18 and in college and had started smoking. There are no punctuation marks in the letter but it is full of heart and easily understandable. He prayed that I’d quit smoking. He was still smoking himself then but he saw the problem of it. And he wanted to extend my life. It was a wonderful letter of love. I did quit smoking. His words moved me. (later I started again for a year or so but when I met Jerry, I quit again and stayed that way)

My dad’s willingness to change, to learn new things, to take in new information – he’d drive three hours to the University to speak to specialists about agricultural issues – to work hard, to stand tall for others less fortunate, to cherish my mom and sister and brother – make him a giant in my heart.

This month, we’re celebrating dad’s, those giant guys who can fill our hearts and make us tremble when we mess up but who discipline us with love. (Yes, my dad could make me tremble by raising this one eyebrow that meant I’d blown it. He never laid a hand on me except to hold me while I cried. He also taught me how to put curlers in my hair when my mother had pulled her hair out trying to teach me!)



We’re looking for nominations of dad’s – and fathers – men who have made a difference in your lives. The winner will get a copy of Homestead and be put into nomination for lunch on our homestead. Incidentally, when Jerry and I had our plane accident, my parents spent a month there taking care of us. My dad watered the trees we’d newly planted and we’d sit at the window and watch the neighbor’s beef cattle make their way down the ridge to water. We had no television or radio…so we watched the world around us to pass time while Jerry and I healed. So my dad has a connection to that homestead.

Let’s celebrate good men who love in powerful ways. Please fill out the form found here. Those who nominate the winner will receive a book as well! Thanks for celebrating fathers and my birthday! Warmly, Jane

Monday, May 2, 2016

May: A Homestead-Style Celebration for Mothers

When I was far from home and a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, my friend Ann's mom would invite me to Sunday dinner every week. They lived in Madison -- a big city for someone who'd graduated with a class of 84 kids. My freshman class was 7,000.  Anyway, she'd prepare roast beef, cooked to perfection vegetables and always some sweet and comfy-food dessert. Leftovers were a given.  She made certain that I had at least one good meal a week. She was a fill-in  mom for my own mom living several hours away. Ann's mom has "walked on" as my Native American friends say as has my own mom but they are remembered with love.


This month as part of our celebration of my 70th and Homestead's 25th, I'm seeking nominations of moms. Fill-in moms; your mom; your neighbor who is a mom to bunches of kids in the neighborhood though she never had any kids of her own; moms who visit other moms at assisted living facilities or bring food to that elderly couple just down the street or who are super transport moms taking kids to preschool, soccer practice, the equestrian team practice.  Tell us your "mom" story.



Meet Evariste, our Batwa friend and his mom 
who motivated him to go to school and become a 
member of parliament and work on behalf of his people. 
In  May we celebrate Mother's Day, an observation begun in 1908 and formalized in 1914 in the United States. We all have moms and our experiences of them are as varied as snowflakes -- intricate and unique. Some moms are round and warm and funny. Some mom's are tall and lean and serious and some are both. Please consider nominating a mom in your life and tell us the story. Use the form please. We'll select a winner who will receive a signed copy of Homestead as will the nominator. All names go into the pool for selection of lunch in August with Jerry and me and three of the winner's friends.  At the homestead! Help me honor moms...I  miss mine immensely.  If this is the first you are hearing about our Homestead Celebration, you can read all about it here.

We continue to raise funds for Burundi as well through purchases on my website or monetary donations through PayPal.  You can read exactly how to give on the Homestead Celebration launch post here.

My September release, by the way, is about a woman named by the Oregon Legislature as the "Mother of Oregon." More to come on that....

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Cocoon of Cancer: An invitation to Lovely Deeply - an interview with author Abbe Rolnick

One of the joys of being a writer is attending events with tons of other writers and booksellers. A few years ago, at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers annual event, Jerry and I enjoyed a breakfast when a woman introduced herself to me as Abbe Rolnick. Her husband finished up his breakfast behind her and she joined us for a few minutes. She’d been reading my Story Sparks in which I’d shared about Jerry’s many vertebra fractures. She said her husband Jim had been dealing with the same thing and we both figured it was severe osteoporosis but were going through the cancer inquiries. Small world we caregivers find ourselves in.

We exchanged emails and not long after we connected again. I could tell her that Jerry’s diagnosis was severe osteoporosis and he’d begun daily injections (following his three kyphoplasty surgeries). She told me of Jim’s new diagnosis: Multiple Myeloma and his complex evolution of the cancer. Her emails spoke of hope wrapped in the reality of the fragility of morality. When she sent me her book Cocoon of Cancer: An Invitation to Love Deeply. I saw the writing as a healing force for her and that Abbe’s words could bring insight and hope for others. Abbe joins me today and I’m delighted to encourage the reading of her book by anyone touched by cancer – or any debilitating disease.

Thanks for joining me today, Abbe. Can you tell us what you mean by Cocoon of Cancer? 
The moment Jim and I entered into the world of cancer, I felt that we had left behind our normal life. A cocoon encases and protects. Jim has two tattoos, one on each arm. One is f a butterfly and one is a frog. Both go through a metamorphosis. With cancer the change is internal, and there is no guarantee that you will emerge. The world outside matters less. Jim and I view life differently than before. We saw others with cancer and connected on an emotional level. Bonds fortified and nurtured us. Even now with Jim in remission, there is a separation from the old way of living. The cocoon still holds us. We may look the same, but inside we are more aware: we care more, give more.

The cocoon is a great metaphor for all the changes you’ve had. Why did you write this book? 
I didn’t mean to write anything. My essays and poems were part of how I began my days. I’d get up early, before Jim woke, to find my center, to connect all my emotions. I wrote so that I could be strong for Jim. Jim wrote to understand scientifically the cancer and the protocols.
Somehow our words made a difference to our friends and gave them an inside view of cancer. I found that the staff and doctors valued the essays. They don’t often get to hear the thoughts of the patient and caregiver. The essays made us all more human and provoked questions and answers that no one anticipated.

Your words add to the good research about writing and healing. Is this your first involvement with cancer?
Just before Jim was diagnosed, I had started writing my third novel in which the main character’s twin sister had died of bone cancer. Fiction became reality when Jim called me up to tell me his fractured back wasn’t because of osteoporosis and that he had an advanced stage Multiple Myeloma.

During his year of treatment, my mother was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. In breaks between caring for Jim, I’d fly down to be with my mother. Ten days with Jim, five days with my mother. She passed after only three months. I was blessed to be able to hold her hand as she left this world.

Those are moments that stay with us always. Tell us a little more about your writing of this book. How long have you been at work on Cocoon of Cancer? How did the idea originate?
Months before Jim received his diagnosis, I noticed his decline. I wrote words of encouragement to keep us both going. When the actual diagnosis came, my writings became a way to share the journey with family, friends and even the staff at the cancer clinic. The by-product of Jim’s year treatment became, Cocoon of Cancer: An Invitation to Love Deeply.

A much more powerful by-product than pain! Did this book involve special research?
As a caregiver, I needed to know what to expect and independently gathered material from the internet, the cancer clinics, and magazines. Understanding Multiple Myeloma takes more than a simple definition. It isn’t a blood cancer, it isn’t a bone cancer. Plasma cells aren’t the same thing as the plasma in your blood. Months would go by and we would think we understood until determinations from doctors like “a mutation of your P53 gene puts you in the highest risk level,” set us off on more research. Jim and I went to the library at Fred Hutchinson Research Center, part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, to find the history of bone marrow transplants. We learned the term M-spike and how the excretion of this protein devastated Jim’s spine. We researched each and every trial and medication offered. Our understanding helped form new questions. Because now, according to Dr. Fred Appelbaum, is the ripest time in the world of cancer research, Jim saw more hope than frustration in his diagnosis. Our questions mirrored those of actual researchers. Did we find answers? Some, and with others we can only hope for more technological advances. Since this is a book of inspiration for those with cancer, the more important research was a journey of understanding and patience.

Caregiving encompasses a universe of feelings. Your book offers a map through some of the challenges. Did the book entail any unusual writing habits or places?
I wrote in the wee hours of the morning, before Jim awoke, or while he rested most of the day. I wrote in the doctors’ offices, and sometimes right after procedures to keep my mind occupied and off the sadness or worry of “what if”.

We writers are always having to explore marketing when we decide to open ourselves up to others through a book. What do you see as competition for your book and how does your book differ? What are the special markets and promotional key point of your book?
Cocoon of Cancer, is a memoir on the journey of cancer, and it is also an inspirational book that encourages the caregiver, the newly diagnosed, staff members, and anyone who faces a debilitating illness. While this book deals with the specifics of multiple myeloma, many cancers follow a similar protocol. The crossover allows for a wider audience. Because it is written from the caregiver’s and the patient’s viewpoint, it is less technical and more personal. As a gift book, the prose and poetry give voice to the ups and downs of any illness, and celebrates the spirit that lives on.

I thought of it as an inspirational memoir with poetic overtones. I like that it “celebrates the spirit that lives on.” Would you say this is a book about death?
The idea of death becomes a reality with the diagnosis of cancer. Cocoon of Cancer is about intimacy. It is about living. Both Jim and I never changed what we enjoyed. We talked about death, but each day we made a choice. We chose to laugh more. During the procedures, the chemo, radiation, the stem cell transplants, we didn’t plan for the future. Those days, we learned. We participated in his healing. This may seem odd, but death became our friend. Jim told me the other day he now has to rethink death. I smiled. He knows life.

Yes, it is a book about intimacy. What would you say to those newly diagnosed with cancer?
I would offer my hand with warmth. I would let them know that the process, while difficult, is doable. That the bond begins with each of them. That they have entered into a select group of people who have value not yet tapped. Their journey will teach lessons unasked for. The will live a life fuller and freer, as well as more defined.

Now that Jim is in remission, what is next? 
We will ignore the statistics. We will continue to live our life. We will pay attention. We are still in the cocoon.

Thanks so much for sharing this intimate journey with your readers and with me today. We’ll continue to hold you in our hearts as you continue to live your lives, still in the cocoon. 

To get a taste of Abbe's writings, subscribe to Abbe's notes, short and quick writes of her morning thoughts as the world sleeps and before the sun rises.  They are enlightening!  Read a few here an subscribe

Abbe is establishing her social media platform and enjoys connecting online.  You can find her here:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
Goodreads (and right now one of her fiction titles is a giveaway through the end of the month: River of Angels
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