Christmas in Australia


Another excerpt…

Within a couple of days, Brendan and I started talking about when we would see each other again. It was the first week of December so Christmas shopping and decorating had just barely begun, and Brendan felt a little lost regarding what to do. In the past, he had relied on his wife, who had all things for Christmas purchased, wrapped and ready to go by September. The first Christmas after her passing, Brendan had little to do as she, in her usual manner, had already completed most of the shopping and preparations, but this year he was on his own. As we discussed his situation, I offered some ideas that I had found helpful to me. I wondered if there was anything I could do for him from where I was, but obviously my options were limited. Suddenly, Brendan threw out a question.

“Do you think you would be willing to come here for Christmas?”

Heart stopping thrill and an onslaught of my own questions made me speechless.

“REALLY? Well…I…hmmm…,” I stumbled over my thoughts and words.

“That would be amazing, but I can’t be gone for Christmas. There’s no way I wouldn’t be with the kids. I don’t think I could do it. I just couldn’t.”

“I get it. I wouldn’t want to be apart from my kids on Christmas either.”

 “I mean, they are adults, and I’m not sure the boys will even be here. Chris is in Reno, and I’m not sure about Josh. I know Vici has Logan, but still she’d miss our family traditions like baking and stockings. And Ashley’s still just getting her life back together and already struggles with me being in a relationship. Can you imagine if I left her for Christmas?”

I tried to make it feel right in my heart, but I had never been away from them at Christmas, and I just couldn’t bring myself to be okay with it. It was one thing to have them move away as adults or share time with me and their in-laws, but quite another for me to toss away all of our special family time.

“What if I came now, but then flew back home in time for Christmas?”

Brendan agreed, and we checked out flights. Christmas is in the middle of summer there so tickets aren’t exactly cheap, but when we found a reasonable deal that would give me an almost two week visit we snatched it up.

“What do you think, darling? Can you be ready to leave in three days?”

I laughed. Me? The crazy non-traveler?

“Only by God’s grace and a miracle! But I’d better start right this minute.”

My mind raced with all the things I had to do here, whether I could get enough accomplished and what shopping I could do in Australia.

“I’ve got to tell the kids, finish shopping, pack and find a ride to the airport. Thank goodness we have a lot of Carol’s wedding stuff already done. Will you book the ticket?”

 “Doing it as we speak, beautiful girl.”

“Wow, Brendan! Nothing like jumping into the next step. Here we go! I’m so excited. And a little panicked! I love you. Talk to you later. Bye.”

I took a deep breath and grinned with a tear in my eye.

“Carol!!” I called down the hall. “Guess what? I’m going to Australia! In three days!”

What Makes a Writer a Writer?


I just read a blog post by Jeff Goins that challenged writers to believe we are a writer when we say we are. I love that!

Last April I attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference for the first time. I was terrified, but I wanted to write since I was a kid. Attending the conference made a statement to myself; you will take writing seriously. I set some goals and worked to learn the craft of writing. This blog confesses my amateur status, but when I read Jeff’s blog, I realized he’s right. Our confidence and professionalism begins when we decide to be a confident professional. The change may be gradual, as it has been for me this year, or it may come as an instantaneous choice to think differently.

A professional mindset will lead to success. If we work like a pro, we’ll be a pro.

This year I attended the conference again. At first, fear and insecurity ruled my thoughts, but eventually the surroundings felt familiar. Surrounded by professionals, I began to think like them, and act like them.

No, nothing is published…yet. But I’m having a blast being a writer,  and not many people can say that about their profession.

So, when did you decide you were a writer?

 

Furniture Styles


Another excerpt from “The Miracle of Us…”

Riding a cable car seemed like the most exciting way to get to Union Square where we planned to eat at The Cheesecake Factory on the top floor above Macy’s department store. After putting our name in, we took our little pager thingy and browsed around the furniture department. It seemed like a good time to get to know more of what Brendan liked since we would eventually set up house together.

“Timber and iron,” was the unembellished comment on furniture tastes.

“Uh…together?” I asked, not quite sure what that meant. I pictured Southwestern Native American with wooden logs and heavy wrought iron adornments. Not happening.

I tried to explain the image his words produced in my head and drew a blank look from Brendan. Clearly we weren’t on the same page.

“Well, maybe you could show me something you like. Perhaps that would be easier.” I’m forever optimistic.

“I guess it depends on the house,” Brendan said.

Again, I was confused.

“What do you mean?”

He seemed confused.

“You know, you buy furniture according to the style of house you live in. Like you buy colonial furniture for a colonial style house.”

Light was dawning.

“Ok, I kind of get what you’re saying. But, what if you end up renting or buying a colonial house, but you don’t like colonial furniture? Then what? And what if each of us likes different styles and neither of them are colonial? AND how do we know what style of house we will end up buying? What furniture do we put in a rental then??”

I could feel myself become more agitated as I thought of these things and pictured an empty non-descript house with a few mattresses on the floor. Brendan just looked at me kind of blankly like he wasn’t sure which question to answer first or if he should, in fact, attempt any of them. Deep breath, Laura. This was supposed to be fun, right? I took a deep breath, waited a minute and tried a new approach.

“Do you like this one, for example?” I asked pointing to a bed frame that I felt was particularly hideous.

“Well, not really. I mean, I guess if it fit the style of house…” he trailed off. It appeared that he may not be certain of what he did like.

I tried again. Oh persevering one that I am.

“How did you and Edyta pick the furniture for your house?” I asked, realizing that I was treading in uncomfortable waters for me.

“That’s easy. She picked everything, and I had no say. That worked,” Brendan stated with seeming relief as if that would settle it all.

The situation, now fully illuminated, brought up something else in my mind. Brendan, while easy-going, certainly has very strong opinions about most things. It didn’t seem like he was the kind of person who didn’t have likes and dislikes about his surrounding world even if some guys don’t. He was much more like my dad, brother and sons who had very distinct tastes about clothes and furniture and décor. I decided to toss the idea on the table and see what he thought.

“That’s interesting to me because you seem to be someone who would have an opinion of what you like. Maybe your situation with Edyta didn’t allow that, but I would love to know what you like and plan our house together. What do you think?”

A slow smile came over Brendan’s face and then he shrugged slightly. He grabbed my hand.

“I would like that. I’m not sure how it will work, but we can give it a try. I love you.”

“I love you too. Can we start by agreeing that this piece of furniture really is hideous?”

He laughed. “Yeah, actually it is. I just thought that if you liked it…”

I hugged him. “I love you,” I said, shaking my head. Then I kissed him hard on the mouth wishing we were somewhere a bit more private.

“We’re buzzing,” Brendan whispered.

“I know, right? Pretty good kiss, huh?”

“Yeah, but no, I meant the restaurant…”

I opened my eyes and found myself looking at Brendan’s bemused expression as he held up the buzzing, blinking disk. I felt a bit foolish.

“Guess we better go find Brian and Carol, huh?”

“Yes, we should,” he chuckled.

Chop, Chop, Chop


On Tuesday I finally finished my second full book. Hooray! Now the real work begins. Wednesday and Thursday my goal was to define the themes so I could begin editing and restructuring. When I started writing, the main idea revolved around online dating, and while that certainly remains a big part, the major theme speaks more about starting over in love and marriage after a messy, hurtful past. I discovered that I want to give readers hope that God can do the impossible things we only dream about.

In order to make the message clear, today I chopped up my precious “baby,” discarded parts, pieced some together and added bits to make it flow. It’s painful to read a section and like my writing, but know that I have to cut it out for the sake of the whole. I think I’ve become better at letting go. The wonderful folks at Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference taught me how to chop out words and use better ones to say more. I’m grateful for all the instructors and my Head Start critique group with leader Karen O’Conner. Their suggestions gave me constructive ways to improve my book. I also appreciate the advice from Susanne Lakin’s posts at Live Write Thrive!

Today was only the beginning. Out of 354 pages, I made it through nine (well, I cut out three so technically twelve). I worked hard and long. Wow! Can’t imagine how long it will take to polish. Just as in writing it, one step at a time will get the job done.

I love to write. I can’t change the way words fight for a place on the page some days and hide from my probing mind on others; or sometimes during the same writing session. I’m also learning what hard work writing is if you take it seriously. Like any job, you get better at it as you work at it. It’s great to love what you do. Waking up excited to get to work thrills me. I pray you feel the same about your work whether it’s writing or some other profession. Here’s looking forward to Monday and growth as an amateur writer…chop, chop, chop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Wine


The last post showcased the first poem Brendan wrote for me.  In honor of National Poetry Month, I share a poem I wrote for Brendan:

New Wine

His world is grey and rain pours down

His breath is gone, in pain he drowns

No sense, no comprehension found

Where did she go, and why, why now?

 

Hearts scream at God’s untimely plan

Death in spring, no place to stand

When life bursts forth with beauty grand

We say goodbye with empty hands

 

Young hearts and old will carry on

In numbness, grief, all hope, but gone

This tragic loss, paused life not done

These soldiers drag their bodies home

 

Memories flood the halls and rooms

Kids tucked in and bright full moons

Tears and laughter mingle soon

Dirge and melody played in tune

 

Then comes the time to say farewell

To hold the past, but lose the hell

Hearts cry less, and memories swell

No longer on the loss they dwell

 

Into his world a light has dawned

An unexpected gift from God

With ray of hope and life, a bond

Is formed in hearts and souls abroad

 

It makes no sense, and yet it brings

New life and once again, they sing

Where burdened hearts despaired, the King

Brought love and life, not former things

 

But now the challenge comes at last

To say goodbye, put down the past

Embrace new life and hold it fast

Trust Him who leads in all that’s passed

 

Old skins will never new wine hold

Without they burst with sorrow old

And lose the love and joy foretold

To forge ahead; be brave, be bold

 

What lies behind, now lies ahead

But with another heart instead

And greater joy surpasses dead

When love’s embraced, and past lives shed

INTERNET DATING FAQ


What Would You Like to Know?

People seemed stunned and curious when I tell them my husband, Brendan, and I met on christiancafe.com, an internet dating site. Usually questions fly as soon as I relate a few of the details like:

  1. He was widowed with three young children and I, divorced with four grown children;
  2. Brendan, who’s from Australia moved here to California, but first we traveled back and forth and dated via Skype
  3. We fell in love long before we ever met in person

 

 

One question leads to another and finally the interested folks I’m sharing with comment, “What a great story! You should write a book. I’d read that.

 

 

 

Questions range from “How did you know what site to try?” to “How did you manage to date from such a long distance?” And, of course, the standard “How did you know he was the one?”

This past week someone asked what we thought when we saw each other for the first time in person. I told her, “As soon as I saw him waiting for me in the airport, I threw my arms around him. (Almost hitting him in the head with my guitar!) We kissed for the first time right then, and my heart felt at home for the first time in my life.”

This week I thought it might be interesting to have readers ask questions. Questions about internet dating or dating in general, questions about our relationship, marriage, profiles, immigration, etc.  I’m open to answering those nagging questions that you wish you could pose to someone. I hope our experience benefits others. Or maybe, you know one or both of us and you’d like to know something specific…

Not only do we have an incredible story, but some of you may also. I’d love to hear from those who have experienced similar situations! What’s your story?