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We hear a lot these days about having a bucket list, ever since the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson came out in 2007. Many people have long lists of things they want to see, do and experience before they die.

I was thinking about that the other day as I sat on my sofa, basking in the leaf-filtered sunlight pouring in through my patio doors. I think I’ve had a subconscious bucket list before it was a thing.

As a young girl, one of my dreams (I suppose a “dream” can pass as a bucket list item) was to marry a man who loved me.

Check. Almost 44 years later we’re still enjoying married life!

Having lived in basic bungalow style homes throughout my childhood, I always wanted to live in an old two-storey home.

Check. The one we’re living in now is the second of two.

One of the books I read as a child featured a house where every bedroom included an ensuite. Wow!

Nope. As Mark Twain said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

As a child, I would lie in bed and dream of having a tree that leaned over the house and peeked into the second-floor window.

Check. A large birch tree leans protectively over my patio. (My dream did not include all the detritus this beloved tree sprinkles on the table and chairs much of the year.)

And wouldn’t it be lovely to have vines growing up the side of the house?

Check. Hops current cling to the rail fence, and Virginia Creepers grace part of the east wall of our house, and have totally taken over the south side of the garden shed.

These are a few examples of retro-bucketing.

You could also call it acknowledging God’s blessings.

Without my asking Him, God has graced my life with many beautiful and lovely things and people. I’m so thankful for these blessings and how they have enriched my life. I don’t have anything against a bucket list, a lineup of things still to be experienced, but in the anticipation of these oft-lofty goals, I don’t want to lose sight of all the things God has already gifted me.

If you were to make a retro-bucket list, what are some of the things that would be on it?

 

 

 

 

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It’s raspberry picking time again at my place on the Canadian prairies. The bushes are full this year, thanks to June rains after a very dry spring.

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If you’ve ever picked raspberries, have you noticed that after a rain they are harder to pull off the stem? Some innate force makes them tighten up so the rain doesn’t wash them off.

As I was picking and thinking about this, verses from John 15 popped into my mind: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine…I am the vine; you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5.

Those of us who follow Christ are to remain dependent on the Vine, holding on tightly. When storms come, we are to tighten our grip even more.

Such a simple analogy but so important in our lives. We need the nourishment provided by the Vine, that is, Christ, and so we hold fast to Him.

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I’m thankful for this example from nature of how to live in the strength of God. May you also remain in the Vine as you go through your peaceful times as well as your storms.

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I recently came across the following quote sometimes attributed to motivational speaker Tony Robbins: “If you do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.”

The quote resonates with me, because I am preparing to launch a new book the same way I launched the previous two, yet expecting it to sell better than they did. How can I honestly expect anything different if my plan of action is the same as it was? Or if I don’t really have a plan? Obviously, I desperately need to redirect the process this time.

              photo credit to pixabay.com

If my expectations aren’t being met, if my goals go unachieved, then something has to change.

How will I go about making the necessary changes?

  1. Become aware of the problem. In other words, stop pretending it’s not there. Stop denying.
  2. Decide what I want to accomplish. What are my goals? My expectations?
  3. Decide when I want to accomplish my goals.
  4. Decide how to meet these goals. This may take a bit more effort to break down, but this might be a good time to put the SMART method into action. I was reminded of this at an InScribe WorDshop I attended in Saskatoon this spring, in a workshop led by Sally Meadows, who expanded the acronym to SMARTER:

S — Specific

M— Measurable

A— Actionable

R— Risky (discomfort can be a catalyst for growth)

T— Time-keyed

E— Exciting

R— Relevant

  1. And one more thing. I need to make myself accountable to someone, at regular intervals. I need to reassess my progress from time to time. And I need that objective viewpoint to encourage me forward.

               photo credit to pixabay.com

Even if the changes I make are small, the outcome will improve. And life is for learning.

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If you’ve tracked along with me since October 4th, you will have read the entirety of my Christmas short story, The Christmas Sweater. I really hope you enjoyed it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice L. Dick, Author

Photo Credit: Glenda Siemens

Janice was born and raised on a farm in southern Alberta, Canada, and currently lives on a farm in central Saskatchewan with her husband. She has loved the written word all her life, and began writing purposefully in 1989. Since then she has traditionally published three historical novels and independently published two more (a third to be released shortly).

Besides historical and contemporary novels, Janice also writes short stories, blogs, articles and book reviews.

Blog/website:  www.janicedick.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/janicedick

If you enjoyed this story, please leave a review on Amazon. Thank you.

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I write mostly historical fiction, novel length, third person. This story was a divergence from my norm, and once I met Debbie, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I would identify more with Jeanne, and finding Debbie was, for me, an encouragement to live life more fully and to embrace each day with faith and joy. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I want to acknowledge G.G. for encouraging me to write not only a short story, but to write it in contemporary genre. I changed it up a bit more and used the first person point of view.

Thanks to Deanna Robertson and Jeanne Heal for reading my manuscript and giving me their honest suggestions about writing what I had not personally experienced.

Thanks also to Gwen Hernandez, who offers excellent courses in Scrivener, so I could figure out how to format this story and set the template for future independent publishing ventures.  Also to Susan Russo Anderson for her helpful how-to article on compiling Scrivener for .mobi.

 

BOOKS BY JANICE L. DICK

STORM SERIES

(these three titles are temporarily out-of-print, but will be re-released soon)

Calm Before the Storm

Eye of the Storm

Out of the Storm

 

IN SEARCH OF FREEDOM SERIES

Other Side of the River

In a Foreign Land

Far Side of the Sea (to be released shortly)

 

SHORT STORIES

The Christmas Sweater

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS! May the reason for the season be JESUS!

 

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I’m glad you’re still with me for this final scene of my Christmas short story, The Christmas Sweater. Read on and enjoy!

 

Chapter Three—Scene Eight(1425 w)

I called Debbie’s house after lunch and she answered the phone.

“It’s Jeannie. How are you?”

“Hey, girl,” she said in a ‘trying to be cheery’ voice. “Sorry I missed our walk this morning. I was really tired.”

“Don’t apologize,” I said. “Are you feeling a bit better now?”

“Yup. Come on over.”

I could tell when I saw her that she’d tried to fix herself up, but she couldn’t hide the dark circles under her eyes, or the lack of sparkle in her usually bubbly personality.

“Debbie, you’re going to be okay. I know it. Just trust that God has it all under control.”

“Whoa! No elephants allowed in this room. Way to get right to the point, sister.”

I smiled and shook my head, glancing up at the ceiling. “I’ve lived with elephants too long. I’m done with denial. Facing the problem is half the battle, right?”

She heaved a huge sigh and I wanted to bite back my words.

“I know you’re right,” she said, “but memories of the treatments from last time keep me from fully agreeing with you. It wasn’t fun.”

I used my head for once and kept my mouth shut. This was her time, not mine.

She glanced around to make sure Mickey wasn’t there and said, “Sometimes I wonder if I should forget about treatment and just enjoy whatever time I have.” She met my eyes. “It’s overwhelming when you know what’s coming…Oh, sorry. I promised you tea and here I am whining.”

Before she could pull herself to her feet, I jumped up. “If you can make tea in my house, I can make it in yours.”

She sighed again. “Upper cabinet beside the fridge.”

“Hey,” I said, “you have a 1-cup coffeemaker. Want me to make you a coffee instead?”

“I’d love that,” she said, and her face was as close to a smile as I’d seen that day.

“Coffee it is,” I said, hunting around in her cabinets until I found her stash of Dark Roast pop-ins. “Think I’ll have some too.”

That made her swivel around in her chair. “You? Coffee? Wonders never cease. By the way, how’s the packing coming?”

“Packing?” I needed time to figure out how to tell her.

“Yeah, packing. You’re going to Paris in a week or so. Paris, France, remember?”

I carried our cups to the table, along with a box of cookies I’d found on the counter, and sat beside her, avoiding her eyes. “I’m not going.”

“You’re not…” She pointed her finger at me before she even took a sip of her coffee. “Now you listen to me. You’ve been doing so well with all this, you’re finally looking forward to something. I’ve seen it in your eyes. Why on earth are you thinking of backing out now?”

My turn to do the Debbie thing. I pointed right back at her. “Now you listen. You’ve been there for me since you moved in, prodding me to pull myself together and start living for real. And look what you’ve accomplished.”

“I didn’t do anything,” she interrupted. “You and God did.”

“Don’t get picky. What I’m saying is that now it’s my turn to be here for you. I’m not taking off on the trip across the pond to leave you here with your fears and worries.”

She snorted and leaned back in her chair. “Well if that doesn’t beat all.” Then she glared at me with those big dark eyes that had rediscovered a definite twinkle. “I’m not dead yet. I may not even be dying. I haven’t even had the tests. Could be I just caught a virus or something.”

She sat forward again. “I promise that if I have to, I will singlehandedly drag you onto the plane. Do you hear me? And remember, you have a daughter who needs you.”

I stared at her, indecision dancing in my brain. If I canceled my trip, I would leave Emily on her own. What kind of Christmas would that be for her? She was now depending on me to share this time with her. On the other hand, Debbie needed me too.

“Good,” she said. “At least you’re starting to think. I’ll let you finish your coffee and then you get back home and finish packing. Mickey and I are taking you to the airport next Tuesday and you’d better be ready.”

A slow smile spread over my face. She was right, of course. I couldn’t do much for her right now except listen and pray, and she’d never forgive herself if I stayed home because of her.

“But when I come back,” I began…

“When you come back, we’ll talk about it. Until then, don’t worry. We’ll do coffee every day I’m not up to walking. And I’ll let you know what the doc says as soon as we know.”

I had to say it. “But what about Christmas? This is the first year you and Mickey are away from your family. It’s going to be lonely.”

“Forget about it,” she said, with a wave of her hand. “We want to make the season special for my folks so we’ll be spending most of our time there. And,” she emphasized the word, “Mike Jr. and Sally are flying out for New Years. You’ll even get to meet them.”

I heard the click of doggie toenails enter the room and watched the mutt stop beside Debbie for an ear-scratch. Then, to my surprise, she trotted over and put her head on my knee.

Debbie laughed. “I don’t believe it! You take her for a walk once and she’s all over you.”

“Yup,” I said. “Steena and I are buddies, aren’t we?” I ruffled her silky curls and enjoyed the adoring look in her eyes, then grabbed a cookie and dipped it in my coffee. “Mmm. These are good.”

“You need a dog,” said Debbie, tongue in cheek.

“You might be right,” I said, and she nearly choked on her coffee. “That just might be my belated Christmas gift this year.”

She stared at me then hollered for Mickey. He arrived in short order, worry on his face. It smoothed out when he saw the sparkle in her eyes. “Honey,” she said, “will you get that box on the top shelf of our bedroom closet?”

“Anything for you, Pumpkin,” he said as he hurried off.

“Pumpkin?” I squeaked.

“Shush.”

Mickey returned in a minute with a large flat box, the kind clothing stores use to pack your purchase in.

“Thanks, Sweetie,” Debbie said, and turned to me. “I bought this a while ago already. Was gonna wait till you got home, but I think now is the time.”

Frowning, I looked from her to the box. “What’s this for?”

She grinned. “It’s a retirement gift.”

“Retirement? First of all, I didn’t work enough to warrant a gift, and secondly, I quit working a few years ago already.”

“Agh! Just open it, woman.”

Tentatively, I took the box, which was fairly lightweight, and set it on the table in front of me, careful not to spill my coffee. I opened it and saw, nestled inside, a fluffy sweater in a shocking shade of orangey-red. At a loss for words, I stroked the fabric.

“Oh Debbie, I love it. But why do you call it a retirement gift?”

“Because I won’t let you take Sam’s shabby shirt with you to Paris. Time to retire it, preferably in the trash, and start a new phase. So try it on already.”

I held up the sweater—a cardigan style with three large buttons down the front—then removed Sam’s shirt and pulled on the sweater. It felt as soft as Steena’s curls, and I pulled it around myself like a hug. “It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect. Sam would love it. Red was his favourite color.”

“I’m not telling you to get rid of Sam’s old shirt, but let this sweater mark a new beginning.”

I laughed. “I love this shirt, but it’s going to fall off me in pieces one of these days.”

I hugged her fiercely, then stood on tiptoe and gave Mickey a kiss on the cheek. “You guys are the best. God sure knew what he was doing when he brought you here.” We were all getting a little red-eyed, so I grabbed up my stuff and turned to go.

“I have packing to do, folks. Thanks for the sweater. Bye Steena.” The mutt licked my hand and I grinned as I headed back home.

 

**Well, folks, that’s the end of the story. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you’d like to hear a little more about the story, the author, and other bookish things, please find me here next Thursday, December 6th.

If you enjoyed this story, and if you want to make an author (me) very happy, please take time to go HERE, scroll to the bottom of the page where it says Customer Reviews, and leave an honest review. Thanks in advance.

 

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Below, see the seventh installment of my Christmas short story, The Christmas Sweater. Curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and Christmas music in the background.

 

Chapter Two—Scene Seven

With the date of our trip coming up quickly, I spent a lot of time packing and making lists. I used the spare bedroom to lay everything out so I could see it at a glance and have a better idea if I’d missed anything. I even googled Paris and “what to take.”

I couldn’t remember being this excited in years and I knew I had no one to blame but myself. The more I thought about it, the more I felt badly for Sam and how I had kept him from doing some of the things he had really wanted to do. But I knew where he was now and that no earthly regrets bothered him.

I’d been living on the sidelines for so long I felt like a completely different person. I think my renewed excitement for life surprised even Debbie, which is a stretch. We’d been walking every day and as I grabbed my gear and headed out the door to pick her up, I thought of some things I needed to discuss with her about my trip.

It took several minutes for Mickey to answer the door, and when he did, I was stunned by his expression. His face was pale and pinched, his smile non-existent, and his manner subdued.

“Mickey, what’s the matter,” I asked as he stepped back to let me in. “Are you unwell? I just came by to pick up Debbie for our walk.”

He ran one of his large hands over his stubbly jaw and blinked rapidly a few times. “Listen, Jeannie,” he said. “Debbie isn’t feeling too well today, so you’ll have to excuse her. Sorry, I should have called and let you know.”

“Not well? How so? She looked fine yesterday. Maybe it’s a bug she’ll be able to shake in a day or so.” But in my heart I knew it could be something worse. When I stopped to think about it, Debbie had been quieter the past few days, and we had strolled more than hiked. Dread crept into my mind as I considered the possibilities.

“Can I see her?”

Mickey bunched his lips. “Can you give her a few hours? She didn’t sleep well and it’s taking her a while to pull herself together.”

I put a hand on his arm, aware that all the physical strength in the world couldn’t withstand emotional strain. “Of course. And count on my prayers in the meanwhile.” I paused, wondering if I should voice my worst guess, then thought of Debbie and plunged ahead. “Is it the cancer again?”

Tears formed in Mickey’s eyes. He turned his face away and shrugged. “Don’t know for sure. Going for more tests tomorrow, so we’ll see.”

“I’m so sorry. Please tell Debbie I love her.”

His grief kicked me in the gut and I turned to go. “Just let me know if there’s anything I can do.” An idea came to me. “Let me take Scruffy out. She’d love a walk.”

So I walked, more out of routine than anything else, but knowing the brisk air would clear my head. The silly mutt trotted along on her leash, as happy as if I’d given her a new chew toy. I’d done it again. First the endless months of grieving—not so much for Sam as for me I now knew, with my focus no more than six inches around me—then thinking of nothing but my upcoming trip. It was always about me, while Debbie spent her time counseling and encouraging me, even when she probably had a good idea her health was failing.

“Oh Lord,” I prayed as I walked. “Forgive me for my selfishness. I can’t believe what I’ve turned into this past year.” No, it had taken much more than a year to create the self-absorbed woman I’d become. Well, I had asked for forgiveness, and believed it granted, so now I had to do something about it. Walking Scooby was my first effort, and I’d continue to do so up until I left for Paris.

I stopped in my tracks, surprising the dog, and suddenly I knew what I had to do. Debbie had been there for me since she and Mickey had moved back. Now, when she really needed me, I was not going to take off on her.

 

**Only one more scene to go! Please come back next Thursday for the final installment!

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Here we are for the sixth scene of my Christmas short story, The Christmas Sweater. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Chapter Two—Scene Six

Debbie stuck her head in the door about suppertime and asked, “Have you called Emily yet?” Snuffles wagged behind her.

“No,” I admitted. “I will.”

I’d been thinking of Emily’s invitation all day, as well as Debbie’s counsel that I’d be sorry if I didn’t go but never sorry if I did. Wouldn’t they both be surprised if I accepted.

She glanced at her wristwatch. “You have an hour to call before I get back and call her myself.” She seemed a bit nervous, which was out of character. I waited.

“Listen, Oh Friend of Mine. Mickey’s at work and I have to go to an Alzheimers meeting at the  Seniors’ Centre and they won’t let me take Steena inside. I know you don’t like animals in your house, but could she stay right here in the entry? Just for an hour or so? I’d leave her at home but she’s been really scared of being left lately. I think she’s going through separation anxiety. We took her to Regina with us last time and it seemed to throw her to see my folks again but in a new place.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Not only was she commanding me to phone my daughter, she was requesting that I babysit her dog. In my home.

“Or you could come to my place and sit with her,” she said, as if reading my mind, “but I know you want to call Emily so I thought this made more sense.”

Well, I was tired of everyone thinking I was a wimp. I’d show them all, shut them up for good. The thought took root so quickly it shocked even me, spontaneity not being my forte.

“Go ahead. I’ll look after Stumpy,” I said, and tried to keep from laughing at her incredulous expression.

“Thanks…I think,” she said, and told the dog to stay put. I doubted the mutt understood, but it sat and wagged as Debbie backed out quickly, probably expecting me to change my mind.

When she’d gone, I sat down on the entry steps and spoke to my guest. “Well hello, Stinky. Nice of you to come by. I have nothing to offer you but my presence.” Tentatively, I reached out and patted her head. Her hair felt so soft and silky to my touch that I couldn’t help scratching her ears. She leaned her head on my knees and closed her eyes, and I had to chuckle. That launched a bout of tail wagging that made me laugh for real.

“You are a strange little creature,” I said. “Now I have to clear up my supper and make an important phone call. You remember what Debbie said: stay put right here while I call. The rug is quite comfortable enough for you.” I gave her one more pat on the head and went back into the kitchen.

I forgot all about the dog while I washed my few dishes and considered what I’d say to Emily. I hung the dishtowel under the sink and rubbed lotion onto my hands. Sam used to joke about the amount of lotion I rubbed into my skin, but he liked the resulting softness.

The phone sat mocking me from its cradle near the table, and I decided there was no time like the present. I had Em on speed dial, I’m not sure why since I rarely initiated the calls, so I hit the button and waited, wandering back and forth through the house just like Sam used to do when he spoke on the phone. Emily answered after three rings.

“Hello? Mom?” She sounded surprised I was calling and I guess I couldn’t blame her since it didn’t happen often.

“Hi, honey. How was your day?”

“Good, yours?”

Enough small talk. I was on a mission here. “Listen, about your invitation to Paris, you know how I feel about the timing and all, but I’ve decided, after a good deal of interference and coercion from an unnamed source, that I’ll take you up on it.”

Her silence lasted so long I thought the line had gone dead. “What did you say?”

“I said I’ll come. Have you changed your mind? You said you needed to know by today.”

The silence stretched between us, and a giggle escaped me at the incongruity of the situation.

“Are you jerking my chain, Mom? Because I was serious about the offer. I mean, if you don’t want to come, just say so.”

“After all this emotional upheaval, you want me to change my mind again? Sorry, Em, but the decision is final. I’m going—we’re going—to Paris. In two weeks.” I must be crazy.

I wasn’t prepared for her scream, but it ripped through the phone lines and into my house with such clarity that Stocky came running and buried her head in my lap. I started to chuckle and then the situation overcame me and I was laughing. In the background I heard Emily say, “Mom, are you all right? Have you started drinking?”

Her words made me laugh harder and that’s how Debbie found us, Spookie and me, when she returned from her meeting. She looked as troubled as Emily sounded. I knew I was on an adrenaline high, but I hadn’t had this much fun since…since Sam died. My laughter faded, but the bubble of joy inside didn’t go away.

“Listen, Em,” I said when I’d caught my breath. “I have to go. I’m babysitting Debbie’s dog and we’ve frightened her and Debbie’s here now. Just tell your friend I’m in and we can talk another day soon. Good night, my dear.”

“Goodnight, Mom.” I heard the uncertainty in her voice just before I disconnected.

“Hey, Debbie, how was your meeting?” The look on her face made me want to start laughing all over again, but I was too tired. It was exhausting being this happy.

 

**I hope you’re enjoying The Christmas Sweater. Only two more scenes to go. Join us next Thursday, November 22, for the seventh installment.

 

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