Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Epic Fail Again On That New Year's Resolution To Diet

Every year I make a list of New Year's resolutions. Every. Year. And every year I fail at some or most of them. I always include diet and eating healthier, exercising more. The following is a cute tale I wrote for FaithWriters weekly challenge. Enjoy

TITLE: The Imaginary World of Edith and Joy
By Leola Ogle


Monday morning and I’m starting my usual beginning-of-the-week diet again. Those rascally gals, Edith and Joy, have already made wagers as to how many days I’ll last this time. I know Joy has faith in me, but that Edith! If she wasn’t such a glutton with an enormous sweet tooth, I’d be able to stick to a diet. Besides, she’s a real bully and I admit, I’ve always been a bit of a pushover. If I just had more backbone, I’d stand up to her.

If you ask my husband, he’ll say that Edith and Joy don’t exist; says it’s all in my mind. Humph! Not in my mind – somewhere between my taste buds and stomach. That’s where Edith and Joy live. 

Off to a good start this morning - oatmeal with fresh blueberries and skim milk. That flutter in my stomach is Joy doing her happy dance. I just love Joy; makes me feel good to make her happy. She’s that skinny girl in me trying to get out.

By ten o’clock my stomach’s rumbling, but I ignore it. It’s just Edith making her demands, “Hey, what about me?” Well, I’m the boss here. I will not succumb to her bullying today. Take that, you sneaky villain, I say with a smile. 

Diet goes hand-in-hand with exercise so I decide to watch the Olympics. Those sleek, athletic girls playing beach volleyball are an inspiration. I want to look like that, although I’ll not disappoint my Lord by wearing a skimpy swimsuit in public like they do. 

Fueled by this inspiration, I do a few jumping-jacks and torso-twists. Ugh! This is NOT fun. No more of that, but I promise myself to do some walking this evening. 

I better shut that pesky Edith up, though. That gal simply does not know the meaning of self-control, a fruit of the spirit. Maybe some apple with peanut butter will keep her quiet. She likes peanut butter, although she prefers it in cookies or those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s a struggle to pull my mind from the image of chocolate surrounding peanut butter, but I do it.

I sail on through to lunchtime feeling good about myself. As I dig through the refrigerator gathering salad fixings, I notice all those plastic bowls containing leftovers from the feast our family had after church yesterday. “Hm, some of that can be thrown away,” I say out loud for Edith’s and Joy’s benefit. “I’ll do that after I eat lunch.”

I love salads, and that’s no lie. I just wish they were more filling. I could throw some shredded cheese, avocado, walnuts, dried cranberries and a handful of M&M’s on it. Wait! What? I didn’t mean that about the M&M’s. Not sure how that slipped in there.

I watch the Olympic gymnastics competition while I eat my salad. My, oh my! I don’t think God created our bodies to twist and contort like that. Those girls fly in the air while twisting and turning and still manage to land on their feel. That certainly isn’t natural. I can’t help but smile. Just wait until they get to be my age. They’ll regret torturing their bodies like that. I’m sure they’ve injured joints and muscles that they’re just not aware of yet.

Sighing, I get off the sofa determined to clean out the refrigerator. I line all the bowls on the counter. Some I’ll save for my husband, some I’ll throw away. Mixed vegetable. Back in the fridge. Potato casserole. Back in the fridge. Meatloaf. Back in the fridge. Half a slice of banana cream pie. Back in the…now wait a minute. Bananas are healthy, aren’t they? And it’s only a half slice.

Rinsing the empty bowl and putting it in the dishwasher, I look back in the refrigerator. There should be a couple of leftover brownies that escaped the clutches of my grandchildren. Ah, yes, bless that Edith’s heart. I’m sure it was her that helped me remember that I’d hidden them in the vegetable bin. Clever of me!

Washing my hands after a restroom break, I’m stunned to see chocolate crumbs and yellow smudges around my mouth. That darned Edith; I can’t believe she tricked me into that. No worries, I just won’t eat dinner and get on the treadmill instead.

There’s my phone. “Sorry, Joy”, I mumble after hanging up, “my husband’s taking me out to dinner tonight. “Seriously, Joy, if you weren’t such a wimp, you’d send that Edith packing.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2015 - My Year in review

We are already several days into the new year of 2016; 2015 has come to an end. Some will say good riddance. Others will look back on 2015 with fond memories. Life, with all its twists and turns, happens. Our experiences are the sum of the all the good and the bad.

So how was 2015 for me? I’m glad you asked. It was a mixture of pleasant and not-so-pleasant happenings. But throughout it all, God was faithful, loving, and compassionate. He always is. A few highlights of my 2015:

In May, my mother-in-law, Shirley, went home to be with Jesus the Thursday before Mother’s Day. She had been ill for a while, but it was still heartbreaking. Her passing would begin an emotional journey for my husband that has still not been resolved. Sometimes we don’t know what wounds and unresolved issues are inside of us until circumstances reveal it.

The Sunday, Mother’s Day, after Shirley’s passing, our grandson, Judah, was born. He is beautiful and sweet-natured. We also had two great-granddaughters born in May and June within weeks of each other: Zoey in Ohio, the fifth child to my Air Force grandson and his Air Force wife. And Zoey in Phoenix, second daughter to my granddaughter and her husband. Two Zoeys make it Zoey-fabulous.

The Monday after Mother’s Day, I drove myself to the ER – my husband was in Prescott with his dad and brothers – with horrible pain in the right side of my forehead and eye that turned out to be shingles. I was admitted to the hospital that night in excruciating pain, and kept heavily sedated for the next several days. There was a possibility I could lose sight in my right eye because of shingles in that eye. Praise God – and that is a sincere, humble gratitude – that I didn’t.

Shirley’s memorial service wasn’t until June and held in beautiful Prescott, Arizona where my in-laws lived. It was a precious tribute to her – she would’ve loved every moment of it. Alas, crises and tragedies bring out the best and worst in people, and both things happened as a result of this memorial service. There are no perfect families. Toxicity resides in the best of people, but hateful cruelty spews from the heart of toxicity in some people. Only God can bring a spirit of love, peace, and forgiveness to hearts.

I attended my first ever ACFW – American Christian Fiction Writers – in September in Dallas, TX. We combined this trip with a visit by my husband, Jeff, and father-in-law, Phil, to family in Grand Prairie and Stephenville. God answered some of my prayers through this conference. I got to see/meet some favorite authors and people in the industry: Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins, Deborah Raney, Randy Ingermanson, Steve Laube, Chip MacGregor. I’m sure I’ve left out some names. I made new friendships. It was a treasured time for me.

Motivated by the conference, I had hoped to publish a book by the end of 2015, but it was not to happen. My life and wonderful, but huge family, can be overwhelming at times – especially around the holidays – and this year it seemed intensified. That’s my excuse/reason and I’m sticking to it. * happy face wink wink* But the conference seemed to point out that I should go the indie publishing route, and that is currently where I'm at with my writing.

I entered a contest with FaithWriters in 2015. My novel entry placed in the top 15, but didn't win. I appreciate the wonderful, helpful, and inspiring feedback I got from Deb Porter. She's a master at pointing out flaws and problem areas in your writing in a loving, encouraging manner.

In December, we got another great-granddaughter – a medical miracle baby – Isabelle. We thank God for a perfect, beautiful, healthy baby. Our family does babies very well. And my father-in-law, Phil, moved to Texas. We sure miss him, but will see him during the year.

So overall, it was a blessed year, fraught with some difficulties. My husband is still on a journey to resolve and reconcile some relationships – and because he is, I am also because I'm his wife and helpmate. God is so gentle and loving as He works in our lives. His mercies are new every morning and endure forever. We rest in the assurance that He has all things under control. We are blessed with a wonderful family and friends. 

I am believing God for a blessed and happy year of 2016. For God’s hand can be found in all that we encounter as we journey in our life on Earth. We are part of a destiny that is eternal. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans day -- God Bless Our Military

Today is Veteran’s Day. News and all social media reminds us to thank our veterans. And most of us do. But most have no idea of the true sacrifice our military makes. I truly don’t understand the sacrifices made. We hear on the news about some soldier losing his/her life in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we are sorrowful, maybe even share on Facebook, “remembering the family in prayer,” but it really hasn’t impacted our daily lives.

My first recollection of a military person was when I, as a young child, heard the whispered conversation of relatives discussing how my Uncle Paul had never been the same since his experiences during World War II. He thought it was the enemy creeping up on his foxhole, so he shot, but it was his best friend.

Uncle Paul seemed quite normal to me, but then, I never knew him before. As an adult, I have thought of him – he’s been in heaven for many years – with sorrow and gratitude for what he went through.

My granddaughter, Cierra’s husband, Zack, suffered PTSD from his time in Iraq. He is a quiet, gentle young man, and unless you knew, you wouldn’t know by his behavior or demeanor. The Army has determined he was traumatized enough to deserve disability.

My oldest grandchild, Ethan, and his wife, Rachel, both currently serve in the Air Force. Ethan has done two tours in Afghanistan and Rachel one. In fact, their tours overlapped once by three months. One was in Bagram and the other in Herat. During that time, their small children – my great-grandchildren – had to live with my daughter and her husband, their grandparents. When the two-year-old was hospitalized with pneumonia, there was a frantic couple of hours while phone connections were made to a worried mother in Afghanistan.

Ethan and Rachel are both in the medical field. When Ethan returned to Afghanistan, he requested to not be sent as an EMT again. It was traumatizing to work on his wounded friends, some who died. But, of course, medical is what they needed him for.

Another of my grandsons, Jacob, is in the Navy. While on a submarine for seven months, his marriage fell apart, and his wife left with, taking their toddler son. “I thought I could do this, but I can’t,” she said. When he returned, it took several months to reconcile, but they did. Thank God.

These are some of the sacrifices. So, with a heart filled with gratitude, I take this time on my blog to say THANK YOU to all military past, present, and future.  It seems an inadequate tribute to those who lay their lives on the line for our freedom. May God bless and keep you. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thank You Facebook, For Keeping Friendships Connected

I love and hate social media. I love Facebook. I hate Facebook. I love seeing pictures and updates of my military grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in other states…or occasionally are deployed. I love keeping up with old friends and making new friends. However, I dislike the way some people use it as a platform for drama or to vent their animosity or to attack others.  

I am sixty-seven years old. During my sixty seven years, I have met a lot of people, and many others have crossed my path. One of the greatest joys I have from Facebook is connecting or reconnecting with friends from my childhood.

With a name like Leola, I am fairly easy to find. Really, how many Leolas are there in the world? Well, more than I thought, but still…..My oldest friend found me, who since has dropped off of Facebook -- Joyce…it was Owens when we were kids, but her last name changed a couple of times. I knew her when we were five or six. She was in a family of eight kids: Aubrey, Noel, Elaine, Paulette, Joyce, Iris, Leah, Rita.

Then another childhood friend found me on Facebook, Ginny (Virginia) when we first met in fourth grade. It has been so much fun to follow each other on Facebook, although she now lives in a different state.

The most fun I’ve had with Facebook, though, is staying connected with my friends from my church youth group days. Oh, the fond, fond memories of my youth group days – and the occasional not-so-fond memories. My closest friends then were Sande and Carolyn. But also dear friends from that era who are on Facebook: Josie, Barbara, Brinda. And my brother, Gerald, also on Facebook from my youth group.

If you are a writer and draw a blank – writers’ block – and can’t think of anything to write about, you have undoubtedly hundreds of story plots from your own life and the people you know. Use your imagination and build and fictionalize on events in your life. Sande and I got married in the same year…as young, starry-eyed teenagers. We had five babies each (she later had a sixth), usually in the same years. Carolyn was the pastor’s daughter. Sande married the pastor’s son. Josie married another of the pastor’s sons.

My life entwining with theirs gives numerous fodder for building a story. Thank you Facebook. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Happy "Back to the Future" Day - October 21, 2015

Happy “Back to the Future” day. Today is the day, October 21, 2015, that took place in the future of the movie Back To The Future. The future – now – doesn’t look like it was portrayed in the movie. Hoverboards? Time travel? It didn’t happen that way. And some of the clothing….well, I’m glad it didn’t make a fashion statement for today.

As a child or a teenager, did you have expectations of what the future held? Goals? Dreams? I’m sure most of us did. Even at my age, I still have hopes and dreams for my future. Hoverboards….naw, I don’t think I care, or I’d even be interested in a hoverboard. When I was younger, maybe. Imagine a great-grandmother with a look of sheer terror on her face, riding a hoverboard and praying out loud, interspersed with squeals of fear, while she tries to remain an upright position. Yeah, that would be me.

What makes our dreams and goals a reality? Well, hard work and perseverance, for sure. It would be interesting to see into the future. Or not. It might be frightening.

I don’t know what my future holds – it won’t include hoverboards for me – but I know who holds my future. I don’t just who it is, I know him personally. It has been the single, most defining event in my life, when I, as a fourteen-year-old girl, knelt at an altar and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life. He has never failed me or let me down.

When I was younger and more immature in my relationship with Jesus, I thought he let me down plenty of times. But looking back, Jesus always had what was best for me in mind, although I didn’t always do what was best for me.

Marty McFly and Doc, you can have your hoverboards and DeLoreans. I have Jesus, and he is more than enough. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Agent Meetings at the ACFW Conference 2015

This year was my first ever to attend an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. It was in September and held in Dallas, TX. I have attended two other writers conferences held by organizations. The first was ACW (American Christian Writers) held in Mesa, AZ a few years ago, and the other was a FaithWriters held in Portland, OR.

The ACFW Conference was certainly the most phenomenal – phenomenal in that so many of my favorite authors were there: Francine Rivers, Brandilyn Collins, Cara Putnam, Deborah Raney, and others.

I loved that they prayed over everything. I loved that they had a praise and worship band led by Rachel Hauck that truly was praise and worship and not just entertainment. I loved the general sessions, the meals, the workshops, and our opportunity to have a one-on-one with top agents, editors, publishing houses, and mentors. I chose four agents with my understanding that I would get to meet with at least one of my choices, possibly two.

I got to meet with all of my choices except one, Karen Ball, with the Steve Laube Agency, because Karen was unable to attend. If Karen would have been there, I would've met with her, also. I’ll share what I gleaned from these meetings. Three meetings when I was expecting one, maybe two. Yikes!

The first thing I learned is to more thoroughly research who I choose to meet with. Why? Because they all want something different. And some personalities are not a match for me. Once I submitted my four choices weeks before the conference, I soon decided I needed to change two choices. When I contacted the ACFW person in charge of appointments, the if-you-want-to-change process seemed too detailed, plus I was in the middle of three weeks of stressful computer issues. I decided to not change my choices and simply take my chances. In hindsight, I should’ve made the changes – not because the agents I met with weren’t terrific people, but because by the time I got to two meetings, I already knew it wouldn’t be a fit for me.

My first appointment was on Friday with Tamela Hancock Murray with the Steve Laube Agency. (I really like the Steve Laube Agency). I was nervous going into this meeting and it showed. I wasn’t nervous because Tamela isn’t a delightful lady – she is. I was nervous because, #1: What I had to pitch to her had already been submitted to Karen Ball (same agency) in July. It’s kind of a no-no to submit to multiple people in an agency. I had to be honest with Tamela and tell her the minute I sat across from her that Karen Ball had this proposal. #2: From what I gather from Tamela’s website, she mostly represents Harlequin’s Love Inspired authors. At this point in my writing, I am not interested in writing for Love Inspired. My appointment with Tamela was not fruitful, but she is a lovely and gracious lady and I am glad I got to meet her. If I decide to do Love Inspired, I would love her as my agent.

My second appointment, also on Friday, was with Chip MacGregor. When I wanted to change my appointments prior to going to the conference, I wanted to change Chip and Tamela. But, as previously mentioned, I decided to just leave my choices the way they were. Chip MacGregor. What can I say about him? By his own admission (I follow him on Facebook and his blog), he is snarky. Trust me, he is snarky. But he is probably one of the most knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and one of the most successful agents in our nation. I wasn’t nervous meeting him because I decided I didn’t care. I had already sat in on a workshop with a panel of agents, and another workshop panel of indie authors. I am going to be an indie author, I decided, so I didn’t much care what Chip thought of me. But it was a good meeting. He was kind – said my writing was good, but he’s not the least bit interested in the book I was pitching him. No surprises there. I could go into more detail, but won’t, except to say prior to this meeting with Chip, I had had two other encounters with him. He was kind and gracious both times. My opinion is -- and this is strictly my opinion -- he's only snarky if you disagree with his political and religious views. But as agent, he will push and fight for you.

My last appointment was with Steve Laube on Saturday at 4 PM, one of his last appointments, I’m sure. He looked tired, and I was tired. I wasn’t nervous meeting with him, mostly because I had definitely, without a doubt, decided I want to be an indie author. So I was going to feel okay regardless of what Steve had to say. I will say, he is probably one of the kindest people I have met in the writing/publishing industry. )Another kind person is Deb Porter with FaithWriters and Breath of Fresh Air Publishing, but she’s not my topic.) I pitched my book – a different one than I pitched to Tamela, but the same I pitched to Chip. This book contains a controversial topic for the CBA – Christian Book Association – because it has a brief reference to abortion (the heroine has an abortion when she’s a teenager), and the main theme is an evangelist, the hero, has a brief, passionate affair. These topics will not fly in most CBA circles, especially from an unknown author.

Steve was very kind and gracious. I enjoyed my appointment with him the most – not because I landed him as an agent, but because of his personality. A sincerely nice person. 

So what are the main things I learned from my agent appointments? * Research thoroughly. * Next time, pick at least one mentor or critique appointment.  * Relax, they’re just human. * Ultimately the one I most want to please in my writing is God and not people. Still, to be successful, people have to read what I write or what’s the purpose of my message?

Write on, dear writers. Read on, dear readers. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Off To My First Ever ACFW Conference

"We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of........"

Naw, I'm not off to see any wizard -- well, unless agents, editors, authors, publishers and the like could be considered wizards. I am sure that they are wizards......of a sort.

In my household, there has been a lot of family drama for weeks now, plus I've had computer problems. Major computer problems. To say that preparing for a major conference is stressful -- at least for me -- and then to have all this added stress with the computer issues and family drama.....let's just say, I could use any and all additional prayers.

As a side note: My husband and I hate drama and friction. We love living a life filled with peace and harmony. But often drama and friction slap us in the face anyway. *heavy heavy sigh* For a large - very large - blended family, we really have been blessed with very little friction and drama.

But back to the conference. I committed my writing to God in the beginning. Having done that, my requirement is to continually learning as much as I can about then craft of writing, strive to do the best I can, work diligently, and endeavor to be positive and bring honor to to God with my writing.

So why am I stressing? Because as humans, it's easy to say we give control of something to God, but it's even easier to take back control. Stress and worrying is exactly that -- us taking control. God is capable of handling our situations, circumstances, and needs. We -- I -- need to just let go and let Him.

Father God, I pray for everyone attending this conference from the leadership on down. You are ultimately in control of the lives of Your children, but only to the extent we allow You control. My destiny, as well as all destinies, of those who commit their lives to You. I thank You in advance for whatever I receive at this conference.