Pumpkin Pie

I can’t remember when I started the tradition, but somewhere in the past, it began. October 31 is the day I make the first pumpkin pie of the season. It isn’t just any pumpkin pie, mind you. It’s my grandmother’s recipe—more nutmeggy, more creamy than a traditional pumpkin pie. It’s something I can actually make, something that turns out the way it is supposed to every time.

And my family loves it. The five of us can polish off a whole pie in nothing flat.

So the season begins. I will make one or two pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, one or two for Christmas, and a few more here and there before Winter’s end. And all I know is I’d better keep to my exercise routine. Otherwise I’ll be round as a pumpkin by Spring!


Saying No

I’m usually a person to whom “no” comes easily.

“Can you be the team mom?” No.
“Can you sub for this teacher?” No.
“Can you head up this committee?” N—well . . .

I was asked this week to head up a committee in an organization/ministry I used to be very involved with. I have to admit, I was flattered. It stopped the No before it left my lips.

“I’ll think about it, pray about it,” I told the caller.

I hung up the phone in wonder. Someone had remembered me. They thought I could head up this very important committee. No meetings, mind you. Just email and a few phone calls to make some decisions. I can do this, I told myself. And maybe this is what God wants me to do. After all, they did call me.

Two days later, after prayers coupled with busy days, I laughed at my own ridiculousness. I can’t do it! I can’t add one more responsibility in my life right now. If I do, it will detract from the things God has clearly called me to already—-namely, to be a wife, a mother, and a writer.

It was nice to be thought of, to be asked. But I must return to my familiar refrain: I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to do that.


Ah, Fall

Fall is in the air, promising winter will come. I love the change from summer to winter, from winter to summer. It really isn’t about which season is my favorite, it’s about the fact that one will last for a while, we’ll wring every last drop from it, then it will fade into something different from what it was. So now I’m reveling in a return to jackets and crackling fires and the steam of a hot beverage warming my cold nose.


Comfort Reading

Looking back at my calendar, I realize just how stressful my life has been since school began. Eight weeks and not one even remotely “normal” one among them! So it’s no wonder I’ve reverted to my “comfort books.” I picked up Little Town on the Prairie the other day. Now I’m on These Happy Golden Years. I think I’m up for an L.M. Montgomery binge next.

Even after reading Laura Ingalls Wilder so many times, I forget how much I enjoy her books. I pick up something new every time, because each time I read them, I’m at a different place in my life. (I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve read these books, but since I’ve had the set for over 30 years, my guess is at least 25 times each!)

This time I loved how Pa didn’t just notice Laura’s need for a bit of fun in her life of work and study (she was 14-15 then), he validated it by putting together the Friday night literary society meetings during the winter months. He wanted her to have fun in those precious years just before having to take on all the responsibility of a grown-up. And good thing he did! You have to wonder if Almanzo would have noticed her if the whole town hadn’t been together having such fun gatherings!

I always love, too, Mary and Laura’s discussion of the goodness of God and Laura’s observation that Mary knows His goodness in a very special way because of her blindness. And Ma’s advice, that I go back to time and time again, both in my own life and to pass along to my children. “You may be well prepared to teach school and still not be a schoolteacher,” Ma tells Laura, “but if you are not prepared, it’s certain that you won’t be.”

And two things I’ve pondered for the first time from this reading: what happened to the Boasts? What was their story before they met the Ingalls? What was there life like between their occasional appearances over the last two books? Also, was Eliza Jane still alive when these were published? Laura doesn’t pull any punches “cleaning up” her future sister-in-law’s shortcomings. Did Laura and Eliza Jane ever reconcile to the place where they could be civil to each other?

I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about my “comfort” reading in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, search out those books that impacted you as a child and re-read them. I think you’ll be amazed and the different things you see in them as an adult.


Sandi Glahn

Today I’d like to introduce you to fellow writer Sandra Glahn.

Sandra Glahn, ThM, teaches in the media arts program at Dallas Theological Seminary, where she edits the award-winning magazine Kindred Spirit. The author of six books and co-author of seven others, she is pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies (Arts and Humanities) at the University of Texas at Dallas . She recently released her first solo medical suspense novel, Informed Consent (Cook). She is the co-author of three other such novels, which include the Christy Award finalist, Lethal Harvest.

I recently read Sandi’s new release Informed Consent. While medical thrillers are not the genre I generally gravitate to, this story held my attention—so much so that I finished it in one day! But I’ll let Sandi tell you a little bit about the book.

What’s Informed Consent about?

Jeremy Cramer, the next Einstein of research, is a medical resident specializing in infectious diseases. While working on a way to revive water submersion victims, he makes surprising discoveries, while also living with massive guilt over incidental infections that occur (which he could have prevented). Even as his marriage teeters, his career continues to skyrocket. Then, with a few twists along the way, he finds everything he has fought for threatened by the most personal, most heart-wrenching, choices of all.
I love exploring bioethics, and this book allowed me to consider end-of-life issues, patient rights, a compassionate response to HIV-AIDS…lots of edutainment.

How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?

The story had a thousand or more “what if” moments. I’m pursuing a PhD in Aesthetic Studies, and I worked on the setting, characters, a lot of the plot, as well as my narrative voice during three novel-writing classes taught by a novelist who writes fiction reviews for Publishers Weekly. And I got some great feedback from fellow students who don’t believe in Christ about ways to address faith issues more naturally. I also took a Dante class, which influenced my choice to give my characters five of the seven deadly sins. (I’m saving the other two for a future work.)

But the elements in the plot designed to keep readers up at night came through a brainstorming session with medical doctor, William Cutrer, with whom I’ve coauthored three medical novels.

Who is your favorite character in the book and why?

Dr. Nate Barlow. He’s imperfect, but he cares so much for his patients. And he’s a good friend. He has every reason to be arrogant, but he’s oblivious to his own greatness.

So if you are looking for a fast-paced read with lots of gut-wrenching emotion, find a copy of Sandi’s Informed Consent.


10-20-30: Where Was I When?

Ok, so this is a fun variation on the “tag” thing:

10-20-30. My friend Mary began it, my friend Carla Steward tagged me. So here goes. What were you doing 10, 20, 30 years ago?

Ten Years Ago: I was living in Dallas, still mourning my best friend’s move to Rowlett. I had a 3, 4, and 6 year old at home. After coming home from a weekend retreat that fall, my husband told me that if God wanted us to move to Rowlett, he was willing. A few weeks later, the lot NEXT DOOR to my best friend was released for sale. We bought it and began building our house. Writing was a latent dream. All my energy was spent figuring out how to deal with my children.

Twenty Years Ago: I married in June and moved to Dallas where my husband started law school at SMU. We were young and in love and loving the freedom of our own apartment two blocks from campus. I was finishing my undergraduate degree in history with the goal of writing Christian historical novels.

Thirty Years Ago: I was living in Ft. Worth. I switched schools that year, beginning fifth grade at a Christian school which required me to wear dresses every day! Yuck! I was skinny, wore big glasses and had just had my hair cut in a Dorothy Hamill wedge. I devoured books and had just discovered that I loved to write, too.

So, to further Mary’s experiment into how far into the blogosphere we can reach, I’m tagging a few friends:


Post your answers to 10-20-30 and link back to Mary’s blog or leave a comment and let her know how you came to participate.


Exercising My Non-Fiction Muscles

I finished and sent an 800-word non-fiction article last night. It is my first requested article from a query letter. (Let’s be clear here. NOT my first query letter!)

I’m not really a non-fiction girl, so this was definitely a challenge. My first draft came in at 1300 words! With the help of my critique group, I pared it down to 798 to met the requested length of 800 words. It felt so bare bones. (“Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday would say.) My example stories only received a few sentences instead of the paragraphs I had originally spun out.

But it was a good exercise, whether or not it gets accepted. I learned I CAN write non-fiction—at least I can when I have a good story idea and a request from an editor! I learned I CAN write sparingly but without losing the heart of the article. And I learned I CAN make time in my busy life to do what needs to be done.

I needed that encouragement in my writing life—even if this article never sees publication.


How 'Bout Them Cowboys?

Or, Life Lessons I Learned from Monday Night Football. (If you didn’t watch or read about last night’s Cowboys v. Bills game, you might not understand the following.)

1.It isn’t over ‘til it’s over—how many times did I almost turn off the game because, in my mind, it was a lost cause. And yet it wasn’t over until the last second ticked off the clock. Fortunately, the players knew that even if I didn’t.

2.Mistakes can be overcome—mistake after excruciating, humiliating mistake Tony Romo ran back onto the field and continued to lead his team. He didn’t cower from the task. He didn’t let his past mistakes affect his ability to keep trying. Each new down was just that—a new down.

3.Encouraging teammates are invaluable—as Tony endured his mistakes, not one of his teammates was seen yelling at him, or he at them. Several players and coaches went out of their way to say an encouraging word. And Tony didn’t blame his mistakes on others’ blunders, either. Oh how often we miss in our lives the blessing of being an encouraging “teammate” to someone having a hard time.

4.It doesn’t matter what the commentators say—the three men in the booth spent the entire evening talking up the significance of this win, even calling it the biggest upset of the season. Minute after minute they extolled the virtues of the Buffalo Bills. But it didn’t change the score in the end.

5.Even when you do things right, sometimes you still “lose”—in spite of so many “right” things, Buffalo lost the game. Yes, by one point. But it still goes in the “loss” column. And yet they played very well for a young team trying to rebuild. Good performances don’t always lead to desired outcomes. That is true in all of life.

6.Established confidence comes through in dire situations—Nick Folk’s confidence survived knowing he was kicking the game winning field goal from the longest point of his career on national TV as a rookie—and he had to do it twice! It wasn’t this situation that gave him confidence; the situation revealed the confidence already built inside of him. Every event in our lives can be a stepping stone for future success.

Ok, so I love football. I love watching human drama played out in front of me in the form of a game. And I especially love it when my Cowboys WIN!


Did They Really Mean That?

Don’t you just love public signs that don’t really mean what they first imply? I found this one yesterday at the Cotton Bowl, site of the annual UT-OU football game.

It’s even funnier when seen with the sign on the other side of the steps.

Seriously, we had a great time at the State Fair indulging in our annual fried food binge. We watched part of the Waffle House Waffle Eat-Off. Those people are insane! After 2 minutes some had already eaten 12 waffles! We watched a cooking demonstration by the Executive chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek—and even got to sample the dish afterwards. And we marveled at a sand castle of the Dallas skyline.


The Lion King

I love theatre and movies—the visual creativity with which a story is told spurs me to expand my ideas of what words can do. We went to see The Lion King on stage last night. All I can say is WOW! I spent the evening with my mouth hanging open, marveling at the “out of the box” creativity required to bring the Disney animated film to stage in such a realistic way. The costuming and choreography are worth the price of admission!

I loved watching actors portray the emotions of a human being with the physical attributes of their animal characters. The music and scenery transported me to Africa to watch the story unfold. (I asked my daughter if it felt familiar to her. She said it made her want to get on a plane and go!) I even liked the plot expansions they did for the play—they weren’t contrived but actually brought a bit more logic and “believability” to the story.

When we left, I felt re-inspired, eager to try new ways of expression that will capture an audience just as the creators of The Lion King innovatively brought their story to life before my eyes.


Competing at the State Fair

My sixteen-year-old daughter, who loves to cook and intends to pursue a culinary education after graduation, entered the State Fair of Texas Cheesecake Competition today. It was quite an interesting experience!

Cheesecakes were but one category of the entire “cheese” competition. We sat in the waiting area as judges tasted and wrote. We counted at least 15 cheesecakes. Hers went first. Not always a good thing in such a large field. But once we knew hers had been tasted, we relaxed and began to listen to the other contestants around us. Some of these people are hard core! I mean, they enter multiple competitions in the State Fair of Texas every year, many of them winning consistently. They all seemed to know each other, like a little sorority of which we were not a part. We listened, our eyes widening as they speculated on the winners of each category and of “Best in Show” for “Cheese.”

We said to one another that we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Honorable Mention would be a good thing. We plastered smiles on our faces and poised ourselves to clap for the winners.

“Third place in cheesecakes goes to . . .” The woman with the microphone faltered a bit. Then she announced my daughter’s name! Tears welled up in my eyes as the other women clapped for her and, I’m sure, wondered who she was. After all, this was her first ever competition! And she was quite a bit younger than all the other entrants.

We didn’t even hear the other names announced. We were too stunned, too excited. I know what it feels like to receive that kind of validation in the arena you feel God has gifted and called you to. It’s amazing.

So congratulations to my baby girl! I’m glad someone in this house knows how to cook!