Choose Life. . .

Bill McKenna has said: "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well- preserved piece,
but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!"

Moses said: "...therefore, choose life..." (Deuteronomy 30:19).

I choose life - with all its choices, challenges and changes!

How about you?

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Choice for A Challenge

With the turn of the calendar page I have subjected myself to a new challenge. My writer friends will recognize the term NaNoWriMo (shorthand for National November Writers Month), during which the goal is to write a previously unplanned new novel. I have never participated in that challenge. It's too near Thanksgiving and Christmas with their activities and priorities and time-consuming plans. Hats off to those writers who are able to devote that time in the fall. Besides, I have never been good at writing exercises that aren't related to a work I have in mind. I've often said it would be better to have a springtime challenge of that sort.

Someone else thought the same thing! A neat, new opportunity showed up this week via Facebook. Through a comment posted by an unmet writer friend on FB, I discovered Speedbo, a 31-day event for the month of March, sponsored by www. No "rules." We set our own goals: choice of project, word-counts; we can share those on the site, or not, as we choose, and there are incentives along the way. I find this very motivating and freeing.

I dug out early starts on a long-planned novel called "Whispers From the Dust" and spent the first hour reading to put me back in the frame of the story. Then I spent several hours freewriting a couple of scenes I knew had to happen. I didn't concern myself with chronology - that will come later. Much later. According to the only "rules" (really just guidelines), we're not to consider editing until the first draft is completed.

Aye, there's the rub. The Inner Editor who raises her grouchy head on nearly every line of print, demanding a better word here, a grammatical change there, even a correction of a typo over there. She is said to be the worst enemy of the first draft, which is expected to be crummy (and even a more graphic descriptor is used by many writing gurus).

I did find her to be very difficult yesterday. I've always edited and polished as I write--hence a difficulty in getting things finished. If you have the same problem, I refer you to Erica Vetch and her motivating blog at: She has a hilarious solution for dealing with your Inner Editor. I plan to follow her suggestion. It involves duct tape.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some Things Never Change - Guest Post

Last week I introduced you to my Grandpa Taylor and told you a bit about his quiet influence on my life. This week I’ve invited him to guest-blog on To Be Determined…No, he never heard the term, blog, and he passed away over half a century ago, but I found this “little story” as he called his jottings, from the early 1940’s, and thought it fitting to share with you, just as he wrote it.

By Clarence E. Taylor

There is standing by my window a large cherry tree and since it dropped its leaves last fall it has looked just like a dead tree. The winter storms beat and thrashed the branches till I wondered if it ever would show life again. But the days are getting longer and more sunshine, so I decided to examine the tree to see if it were really dead.
Well there seemed to be a tiny dark little lump on the branches. I will go again in about five days, so I did.  The dark little lump seemed to be a bit larger and not quite so dark. 

I will wait another five days before I visit the tree. Well of all things believe it or not my dark lump on the branch has bursted (sic), and there before my eyes was the tiniest little leaf, perfect in form, and a bright green, surely smiling down at me. 
Well was that a happen! 

My history tells me that thing has been going on for thousands of years, and if I ask the scientist he will say, yes and even for millions of years.
Well then, some power has done this and if it has really been doing this for so long that power is infinite, eternal and unchangeable and the Bible calls that God. So as I look at the little leaf smiling at me, I know surely God is close by. God in his nature.

Then I turn about and there is my little friend, Doc Robin, close by me. We are great friends. He does not want me to pick him up, no, just too busy to be that friendly.
He comes along every spring, I named him last spring. I see him make a little run, stop and listen, then again a run and he plunges his sharp bill into the soft ground and pulls out a worm.

Off he goes to the tall elm tree to Annie Robin who is keeping the eggs warm and dry. Doc has her breakfast with him for her. These robins are living the life that was intended for them since the first Robin. 

We read not even the sparrow falls to the ground but what God knows all about it.  Again I see God in the bird nature, so if we look about us carefully we will see God in many things.

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will….Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29, 31

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dominoes of Heritage

            This week marks the 150th anniversary of my Grandpa Taylor’s birth. He was born before the Civil War started, and he lived halfway into the Twentieth Century. He saw the birth of many technological and scientific changes, of course. And he saw wars begin and end. Because of circumstances in his life he lived in a dozen or more towns in seven states. He was no stranger to change. I don’t know if he welcomed it or not, but he “went with the flow” as we say today, with a good attitude.      

            There were challenges in his personal life. In Kansas, he sought out a healthier climate for his wife, the love of his life. But she died of tuberculosis, leaving him with a son and daughter to raise. Their son was twelve and their daughter was only seven. His wife’s unmarried sister came to help raise the children. He moved them to Colorado to form a home with his widowed mother—an interesting household of three generations, related, but not the typical nuclear family. Again, I think his attitude influenced the atmosphere of the home. His children grew to be fascinating adults with wonderful personalities. His daughter became my mother. He was in his 70s by the time I was born, the youngest of five children in our family.

            My family, too, saw lots of change. Our dad was a small-town minister who moved often, five times before I was born and six times after that. We confused the border guards at the Canadian border one vacation when the seven of us in the car reported we were born in seven different states.

            Eventually Grandpa Taylor came to live with us. He was a strong, quiet influence on my childhood years. His hobby, begun in middle age, to ward off the effects of arthritis in his hands, was decorative wood carving. In the early years he created many pieces of furniture. He wasn’t a fine cabinetmaker; much of his work was rather primitive, but the carving on the pieces was exquisite. I spent many hours watching him wield chisels to create floral wall plaques, bookends, bead necklaces, chess sets and tiny animals on a work table created from a large trunk that contained all sorts of mysterious memorabilia—a kaleidoscope of bits and pieces of his heritage.

            Sometimes we sat together under a cherry tree in the back yard, doing food preparation like shelling peas, shucking corn, or pitting cherries. We played games: Chinese checkers, caroms, even chess. He always won, but he was never condescending. After a win he’d set the pieces back a few moves, and say, “Let’s see what might have happened if you’d moved this way.” He let us learn by example how to play better.

            One of my enduring memories is the image of him sitting in a high-backed green velvet rocking chair in his room, spending most of Sunday afternoon reading his Bible.  A newspaper reporter sent to interview him about his woodcarving asked him for comments about growing older.  “I have more time to spend with the Psalms, especially Psalm 23.”  He pronounced it, as some did in those days, Sams.

            Grandpa was a man of quiet wisdom, gentle humility, and adaptability developed, I believe, from his love of and proper fear of the Lord.

     Just as many people influence our lives, our lives, in turn, touch others in ways we may never know. I am now grandmother to two of Grandpa Taylor’s great-great-grandsons. One is 21 years old, a senior in university, almost ready to launch out on his own. We’ve had twenty-one years of sharing our lives. I treasure those years. I won’t have as long with the second; he’s less than a year old. But I pray that whatever and whoever has made me who I am will be of positive influence on that little boy as he grows “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.”
Proverbs 15:33

Friday, January 27, 2012

Enough With the Address Labels, Already...

It’s difficult for me to throw stuff away. I admit it. I’m not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, but I do empathize with the hoarders’ mantra: “But I might need/use it someday.” Or if I can bring myself to put it in the donation box: “Someone with imagination will be able to use this (fill in the blank) and be glad to have it.”

Anything that was a gift is automatically sacred, never mind that it is twelve years old and ratty, and the person who gave it to me lives in another state and will never know of its disappearance.
I psyched myself to be ruthless when I prepared for our move to a new state just over a year ago. I knew the goal date a year ahead of time, so I took all year to purge and pack. The “handle an object only once” didn’t hold up for me, though. Some things were in and back out of the give-away boxes more than once.

Then I came to the drawer with the return address labels. I delayed that drawer right up to the last month. I wanted to be sure I had enough to cover our last days at the old address. Now, I’m a bit particular about the designs of things I use—my desk calendar, my schedule planners, my journals, and yes, even my return address labels. So, here I had a huge pile of labels I’d saved, but seldom used. From three patriotic organizations, two veterans groups, several disease advocates, a couple of children’s homes and hospitals—enough labels to last for thirteen more years at the old address. I rarely sent donations for them, and yet they kept coming. At least they didn’t have to be packed. And maybe with the move, they’d lose track of where I am.

Within a month of the move here they came, like migrating birds, nesting and reproducing in the mailbox. Please, folks, it’s only January, and I have enough new labels to hold me through 2057.
What’s a body to do?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I've tried to do it for years. I know it! It's only a letter. But the pattern doesn't change. Today it will! But, of course, I'm doing this instead of tackling the challenge.

I sat at my computer earlier today, face like flint, take charge attitude, willing the words to come. I admit my escapist tricks. I pick away at stuff on a messy desk. I check E-mail accounts (several of them). I write some answers. I check Facebook. I make some comments. I shiver. I turn up the furnace. I sip some water. Of course that calls for a trip down the hall. I even search for a file that holds previous attempts to handle the challenge.

Then I laugh out loud! Why do I spend so much energy to avoid the obvious? Tackle the challenge, mark it off the list and experience the relief and release that comes with that choice.

Time management gurus tell us to tackle the most difficult item on our "to-do" list first--get the hard stuff out of the way and sail through the rest of the day.

It's still "to be determined..."  I'll let you know.

But first, I think it's coffee time...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date...

Shortly before Christmas my friend Pam visited from Orange County (CA) where I lived in pre-Nevada days. We hadn't seen each other in over a year--notwithstanding Skype and Facebook and E-mail--so it was a great catch-up visit. But we scheduled the visit with a specific purpose.

We had a two-person writers' retreat.

Pam and I are both prolific idea-generators, which is exciting and great fun in brainquaking sessions, but sometimes leads to distraction from the main objective of a work-in-progress. Many projects initiated, but too few completed. This was the weekend to make changes with the intention of seeing more productivity in 2012!

The first session we sat, armed with new calendars, and made lists of all the writing projects we had in work or in mind or in desire. No particular order--just as they came to mind. The second session we evaluated each project: how close to completion, how pertinent to today's readers, how marketable, how dear to our hearts. We prioritized the projects and then calendared the increments of each one, literally scheduling each step on specific days.
And during the necessary waiting periods, i.e., for submissions and correspondence, we even dovetailed steps from the next project.

On paper my novel should have been in the mail last week! (You can quit laughing now.) Obviously I didn't consider the first week in January for all the packing away and clean up after Christmas. Or the fact that college-age grandson #1 would still be here visiting. Or the spontaneous visit to my second son and his wife and 7-month-old #2 grandson (a seven-hour drive away). Grandsons take precedence over the calendar, don't they?

So my calendar is totally messy with the actual scribbled over the scheduled. Fortunately I didn't schedule past January. I wanted to give the plan a trial and adjust as the need arose.
The need arose.

Choices, changes, challenges...It's still a good idea. Now that I'm back to a relative normal, even though  I'm more than a week behind, I can simply check the calendar, pull out the materials for the scheduled work and have at it without wasting time wondering what to do.

Excuse me now...It's time for coffee.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sing a Song of September

September - not my favorite month - but just as the robin is called the "harbinger of spring," September releases delicate hints that my season is on the way. Fall! I do a bit of organizing and planning in September, but I come alive in October and thrive in the grey poignancy of November.

But September was the inspiration for my favorite ballad of all time. Written in 1938 by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, for the Broadway show, Knickerbocker Holiday, September Song
tugs at every heartstring I have. Frankly, the verse is a bit corny. I'm sure it has something to do with the story line of the play, which I've never seen, but in reversing the adage "from the ridiculous to the sublime" here are the lyrics of the chorus.

Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game.

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you

It's a love song, of course, but I see it as a song of life and love and loss and challenge. And commitment.

This week we have been reminded of the tragic losses of 9/11 when our country was changed forever in the span of a few minutes. Thousands of people left their homes that morning, perhaps with a quick peck on the cheek of a husband or wife or child - or maybe not. Maybe there wasn't time. Maybe there'd been an argument. Maybe the kids were still asleep. Then there were those nagging details of the 10:00 o'clock meeting yet to solve, or what to pick up for dinner on the way home. And don't forget to stop at the cleaners.

I doubt that anyone thought they might not be coming home that night.

You know where this is going, don't you? The days grow short; it's already half-past September.
Don't play the waiting game. We haven't got time for that. Every day is a precious day. I want to live it! How about you?

Teach us to number our days aright
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)