The Line Between Involved and Over-Involved

 

The Line Between Involved and Over-Involved2

I’m one of those people who likes to be busy. I thrive on the craziness. But that was before I took on the responsibilities of being a mom and wife. That adds quite a bit to anyone’s plate. So, I’m realizing I can’t add as much more to that plate as I used to be able to. So, where is that line? While I don’t believe I am on this planet to indulge myself, but rather to give of my gifts for others, to pour into other lives for God’s glory, I also believe that my children and my husband are my primary mission. So, what’s a girl to do? How involved is too involved?

Check your priorities at the door. This has to be the number one thing we all do. We must be constantly cognizant of our priorities and how this new task/organization/leadership role fits in or disrupts our priorities. What are your priorities? If I’m at the top of the list, something’s not right. If taking on this new role will put my top priorities in jeopardy, it may not be the best option for me.

halfheartCheck your heart at the door. We must also be mindful of our intentions, our heart for taking on leadership roles and, specifically, ministry positions. If it is to bring the spotlight to shine more brightly on us, something’s out of whack. If we feel called and know that God has gifted us to serve as a member of His body in that capacity, may God bless your efforts and I believe He will make a way.

glowingcross1I mean, what could be wrong with Christian service? I fear that too often, we are well-intentioned about our service and sacrifice the priority of our personal relationship with God and do not give a first (or second) thought to whether or not God is calling us or equipping us for a leadership position because (let’s be honest here), we are so flattered that someone in authority has singled us out of the group and asked us to serve. And, hey, we’re supposed to serve the body, right?

I’m not saying that I am perfect at this. Or even that I do this well at all. I feel this challenge in myself and see it in my dear sisters (and brothers). I’m not asking you to NOT serve. By no means! Please do. We are called to give of ourselves. But not to the detriment of all else. Not at the risk of our primary relationship. Service should be an outpouring of what God is doing in your personal walk with Him. I suppose, then, that I’ve answered my own question. If you are giving of yourself only, that is the line. But if you are giving of what He is doing in you, that is the other side of the line.

So, please be discerning of spirit, dear brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes on Him first and then turn around and love others as it gushes out of you.

Off to War – Chapter 3, Scene 6

OffToWar_Medium

 

“Off to War”

Chapter Three ~ Battle

Scene 6

The battle raged on. All Elizabeth could do was sit and listen to the cannons and gunfire in the distance, grimacing at every sound. There was no laundry to do, no sewing that was called for, nothing to be done. Just sit and wait for news. It was the longest wait of her life. Looking at the water, she couldn’t help but imagine the laundry that they would have to do the next day. She envisioned the blood discoloring the water as they would work to clean the dark blue uniforms. Shaking her head to clear such morbid thoughts, she tried to think of something more pleasant. Nothing came to mind. What was there to think of at a time like this? Nothing but war and bloodshed. Not for the soldiers, and not for her.

Though she had long since been released from duty, she found herself unable to leave her post. The camp seemed abandoned with the troops gone, the hospital staffed, and the other women…where? Where were the other women? Waiting and praying in their tents? Elizabeth sank to her knees by the water tub and sobbed, praying for the men in their unit that were facing their mortality even then.

“Father, Keep Your gracious hand on these brave men. It is my will that You keep them safe from harm, but I know that it is Your will not mine that we should seek. Comfort those who are wounded. Give the doctors wisdom and skill. Be with John.”

“Elizabeth!” Melanie interrupted her thoughts. “Elizabeth!”

Elizabeth got to her feet. “What is it? Is there news?”

Melanie was almost out of breath as she stopped by Elizabeth. She nodded. “The fighting is over, but there are many wounded. They need help in the hospital. I told them I would bring you.” Melanie grabbed her hand and walked in the direction of the hospital.

Elizabeth froze. She wanted to help, but how could she avoid John in the hospital? He would see her and her plan, and her time here would be over. Her head fell. What purely self-serving thinking! There were men wounded and in need of care, and she was worried after something so selfish! Embarrassed by her reaction to Melanie’s request for help, she turned away.

When Elizabeth didn’t move, it caused Melanie to jerk back. “Come on. What are you waiting for?” Melanie asked, confused.

Determined to do what she could to help these men who were in such need, she took Melanie’s hand and followed her, rushing toward the hospital tent.

Nothing could have prepared Elizabeth for what she saw at the hospital tent. The battle had been gruesome. Every space available was filled with men in all states of horror. She did not have time to take it all in before a nurse approached.

“Take the men water, sit with them, and tell them the doctors are making it around. Do you know how to clean a wound?”

Elizabeth was numb to everything around her, but she nodded. Melanie shook her head.

“Good,” the nurse said to Elizabeth. “Do only superficial cleaning. You’ll find supplies over there,” she indicated a shelf at one end of the tent. And you,” she turned to Melanie. “Come watch me for a couple of patients and you’ll learn.”

Looking over the tent full of men in agony, being recognized by John was the furthest thing from her mind. Elizabeth made her way over to the shelf and grabbed some supplies. She stopped at the first man near the shelf unit. He was young, much younger than John. His sandy-blonde hair fell over deep brown eyes that looked up to her as if to find some reassurance that all would be well. There was a fear there. Fear remaining like an echo from the emotion of the battle and fear that nothing would ever be the same. Fear of what might happen to him. Elizabeth knew that she would never forget the look in his eyes.

“Hello, soldier.” She put on her best smile for him. “I’m Elizabeth. What’s your name?”

The man was shaking badly, with a terrible leg wound. He was in shock. In all likelihood he would lose the leg.

“A-Adam.”

She offered him some water. He drank it, thanking her. She began to clean the wound, but she didn’t see much point in it. The leg was in need of a deeper cleaning. Still, she did as the nurse had instructed her and basically put a strip of cloth on a gunshot wound.

“I-is it b-b-bad?” Adam asked.

She shook her head. “You’ll be fine,” she told a half-truth. “The doctor will see you in a while.”

Man after man, wound after wound, all Elizabeth could do was offer water and assurances that the doctors would see them soon. She could tell by looking at some of these men that they were not going to make it and it broke her heart. But she put on a brave smile for them, and spent more time by their bedside, talking with them, singing to them, praying with them. A few of them passed on while she was with them, but she refused to cry.

After a couple of hours, she noticed that she had not had to duck from John’s view. Glancing around the hospital, she couldn’t spot him anywhere. She excused herself between patients to find a nurse.

“I’m looking for Dr. Taylor. Dr. John Taylor,” she said, knowing her voice betrayed her worry.

“A doctor will be around to see each patient in turn,” the nurse said, a little annoyed.

“No,” Elizabeth grabbed her shoulders, desperate. “I’m looking for Dr. Taylor.”

The nurse stopped to think. “He went to the front lines to patch the wounded there and prepare them for transport. He hasn’t come back.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. She whirled around and took off running. Where to, she did not know. At first she turned this way and that, confused about what she was going to do. Then, she was struck with a plan and ran for the laundry. It was easy enough to get her hands on a small enough uniform, carry it back to her tent, and slip into it, binding her breasts. Shoving her hair up in a cap, she rubbed dirt and mud on her face to disguise her feminine features. And, making her way across the camp somewhat unnoticed with all of the mayhem from the recent battle, she ran toward the battlefield.

The field was littered with bodies and limbs. Elizabeth had thought the hospital was bad, but this was a million times worse. There were no words to describe the grisly state of the men there. She felt the urge to vomit, but held her stomach. Taking several deep breaths, she reminded herself that she was here for a reason, she had to find John. He might need her.

Walking the battlefield, she looked for signs of her beloved. With the front line a little ways in the distance and to the left of her position, she could search here for a while before risking being discovered. What was he doing out here in the first place? Why would he come? Hadn’t he promised to stay a safe distance from the fighting? But she knew he would go where he was needed. Stubborn, selfish fool!

She was getting close to what had at one time been the front line when the bodies thickened and the number of gray uniforms matched the blue ones. One look to her left told her that she was almost in line with the current front line, just in a section that wasn’t being patrolled. She found herself being forced to move bodies in order to check for John. Having to touch the bloodied corpses ended up to be too much for her stomach and she did vomit. But, her determination took over and she moved onward.

As she came upon one particular Union soldier stabbed with a bayonet, the blade protruding out of his back, she could see that the man underneath him was a Confederate soldier, so she turned to move on. But a hand shot up toward her. He was alive!

“Help me,” came the weak voice of the man trapped underneath the dead Union soldier.

Something in her told her to run, but another part of her bid her to stay. Gray uniform or blue, this man needed help. How could she, in good conscience, leave him to die knowing she could have saved his life?

With much effort, she pushed the dead soldier off of him and saw that the Confederate soldier had a wound in his upper arm. It began to bleed out. The weight and body of the Union soldier must have put enough pressure on it to stop the bleeding. Thinking quickly, she tore off enough sleeve from the Union soldier to fashion a tourniquet.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice still weak.

That’s when she looked into his eyes. It was hard to imagine that this man, whose blue eyes she found herself gazing into had played a part in the destruction around her, had killed men, perhaps this Union soldier she had just moved. But it was true.

There were sounds in the distance and she jerked her head up, standing when she saw more Confederate soldiers headed her way. What was she going to do?

“Stop! Thief!” One yelled out, raising his gun. He fired.

A hot searing pain in her left shoulder whipped her around and threw her to the ground. Elizabeth was still conscious when her head found a rock as she landed. And then all was black.

Want To Read a Fresh, Clean Romance With a Fairy Tale Twist?

fresh clean romance with fairy tale twist

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I have fallen in love with this clean Historical Romance author: Melanie Dickerson. Dickerson has written a few different series of books. One is her “Fairy Tale Romance Series” which, for the most part, is a retelling of those fairy tales we all know. But in a very clever and artful way. Another series she has is her “Medieval Fairy Tale” series. Which, as far as I can tell is not connected with established fairy tales, but is her own weaving of events set in during these centuries. Her other series is “The Regency Spies of London” series. Of which I have not read (but intend to), so I cannot comment.

the golden braidThe long and short of it is that Dickerson is phenomenal. Once I stumbled upon the book, The Golden Braid, (part of the “Fairy Tale Romance Series”) I began to consume her other fairy tale and medieval stories at an alarming rate. The other books I read include: The Healer’s Apprentice, The Fairest Beauty, The Captive Maiden, The Merchant’s Daughter, The Princess Spy, and The Huntress of Thornbeck. In fact, I loved these books so much, that I started buying them on ebook, but soon converted them to my “permanent” collection. (I had to have them in paperback as well.)

I love the way Dickerson draws the reader into the story and sweeps us along with the journey of the characters. We are no longer on our couch, in our comfy chairs, in the doctor’s waiting room. No, we are in the mythical city of Hagenheim with Rapunzel fearing for our safety or struggling with our mixed feelings about a certain knight. Every emotion feels like my own, the danger seems real to me, and the story becomes believable as I am caught up in this well-known fairy tale brought to new life through Dickerson’s craft.

If you enjoy clean Romance in any way, shape, or form, I would strongly recommend these books. Most of them are, again, beloved fairy tales that Dickerson has breathed new life into, taken the mystical and magic out of, and made believable in the real world. Let me give you a taste of what these books represent:

The Healer’s Apprentice ~ Sleeping Beauty

The Fairest Beauty ~ Snow White

The Captive Maiden ~ Cinderella

The Merchant’s Daughter ~ Beauty and the Beast

The Golden Braid ~ Rapunzel

There is an order to these books, but I’ll be honest, I read them out of order and was just fine. But I do recommend reading them in order as there is some small amount of story that ties in to the series that works best if you read them in the order intended.

Happy Reading!!

“Off to War” – Chapter Three, Scene 5

OffToWar_Medium

“Off to War”

Chapter Three

Scene 5

Jacob scrambled for cover as shots rang over his head. The battle had been raging for what seemed like forever. He was surrounded by cannons exploding and men screaming in pain. It was nothing like he had ever imagined. This was the worst kind of horror he could have pictured. He wished he could recall some of his training, but it was all a blank, replaced by images of bloodied soldiers. One by one, he saw his comrades fall. Blue uniforms stained with red littered the ground around him. In the distance, someone shouted commands, but he couldn’t make out anything clearly amidst the muskets firing.

As he moved through the field, he kept low. Bullets whizzed past his head left and right. It was surreal. He was a target in this open field and his eyes searched in the haze created by weapons’ fire to find a safe haven. His drive to survive pushed through the shock until that’s all there was. Survive. Moving almost by instinct, he made his way, stumbling, through the field of bodies. By luck, he came upon a ditch protected by a berm and he ducked into the safety it offered.

Many other soldiers lay in this ditch, fighting from this position. They had crawled up onto the berm on their bellies and were firing into the enemy line. Leaning back against the cool earth that made up the wall of the ditch, he took a few moments to catch his breath. His emotions washed over him. He was alive! And that was all that mattered.

Having survived the first wave and made it to a safe position from which to keep fighting, the thought to remain here throughout the rest of the battle was tempting. But he knew those men on the berm needed him. They counted on him to help them defend their position or else they would all be lost.

After he got a hold of himself and steeled his senses, he climbed out of the ditch and up onto the berm, staying on his stomach lest he create too much of a target. The man to his left nodded as he took position and began firing at the Confederate army. He did his best to aim at targets, as hard as they were to see. On occasion, he saw a glint of steel in the distance or the profile of a soldier running. And he tried his best to hit those targets. It was difficult to tell if he was successful.

That’s when Jacob spotted a dip on the far left flank. The Confederate line had shifted to the right in response to the Union’s first wave offensive. As the minutes of realizing he was alive passed, his confidence began to return. Then he remembered the briefing from his unit’s commander and the mention of flanking the Confederates on that side. It seemed their offensive had started to work, but something had gone wrong.

Jacob cursed himself for not listening more closely and instead assuming his platoon’s sergeant would be here to keep things in order. Then he remembered the plan of attack.

“The left unit. Hey! Where is the left unit? Aren’t they supposed to be moving in on the second wave?” he shouted to the others crouched with him behind the berm.

They looked at each other, more confused than he.

“I think they got pinned down back there,” one soldier responded, his thumb pointed behind them.

“What’s your name again?” Jacob asked.

“Daniel.” His voice broke for just a second.

“The Confederates have responded to the first wave and are moving to the right. It is up to us to move in to that dip over there and flank them from the left.” Jacob pointed to the weak spot in the enemy’s line.

Daniel nodded, probably ready to take orders from anybody. Jacob had a renewed sense of purpose, thinking that his ability to run fast might just pay off.

“We’ll split in half. Daniel, me, and you,” he said, tapping the soldier to his right. “We’ll make a fast run for that spot while you continue to cover us. When we get there and start shooting, the rest of you will follow. That may hold back the Confederates just enough for the rest of our unit to catch up and take ’em!”

The rest of his new war brothers nodded in quick agreement.

“I’m Steven,” the soldier he had tapped said, his voice shaking.

Jacob shook hands with him. He and his small crew loaded their Springfield muskets and gathered up to the left edge of the berm. With a quick visual signal to the others, they broke out in a fast run. Jacob’s legs flew. It was as if he rode the wind. Jacob soon noticed how far their target truly was. Could they make it? I’ve made it this far, we are going to get there!

Loud artillery fire boomed. It was deafening as it hit a spot they had just passed. The shock knocked him to the ground. Daniel and Steven were just as startled. They both looked to Jacob. Their courage and morale hinging on his own, he dragged himself to his feet and continued, as fast as he could. His comrades were close behind. As they ran across the fury of the battlefield, they wove around fallen soldiers. It was a bit much for Jacob, but he somehow held it together and kept moving.

How far is that dip in the line? How long does it take to get there? It seemed like an eternity. A moment later, he saw it! Jacob had pulled out well ahead of the others when a piece of shrapnel ripped through his jacket. Falling to the ground, his eyes feverishly sought out the direction it came from. Here he was, sprinting like it was a race, forgetting that they were fighting for their lives. Steven and Daniel caught up to him with wide eyes. Looking at the spot where he had been grazed by a ball, he felt a sting of pain. And he saw a torn part of his uniform near his shoulder, but then realized it hadn’t penetrated anything. Instead it had just missed him. While it left him a noticeable mark, it hadn’t entered his shoulder.

Jacob picked up his musket and started running again, at last diving into the dip in the line. Steven and Daniel had closed the gap enough to jump in right behind him. They raised their weapons, looking for targets. One enemy soldier looked in their direction. Was that the man who almost hit him? Before he could react, Daniel fired, and the man fell. Another Confederate moved up from behind the fallen soldier, and Steven took him out.

Jacob was shocked into action, eyeing his men as they hastily reloaded. Picking up his Springfield, he trained his sights on another Confederate rushing in. His fingers twitched, almost as if he couldn’t decide whether to accept the fate of killing another man. Everything had been surreal. Marching, inspections, field stripping, rations. Almost like a dream. But now it was real. This was what war was about: killing another man. In the instant it took him to trace his thoughts, he understood one thing: if he waited, he or one of his war buddies would be dead, so he pulled the trigger. He started to reload his weapon, when he felt the shakes and couldn’t keep it down anymore, vomiting on the ground.

“First kill?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah,” Jacob said, wiping his face with his sleeve. His legs were weak.

“I did the same.”

With that, Jacob crossed a threshold he never knew existed. His father had told him he looked like a real man. Those words echoed true. Jacob didn’t get lost in thought though. This plan would be a complete failure unless they provided enough cover for the rest of his unit to take this position. Having dropped three soldiers, there weren’t any more nearby. Most of the Confederate unit was much further down the line and just didn’t know they were about to be flanked. Filled with excitement, Jacob was about to tell Steven and Daniel to finish loading their Springfields when he noticed they were way ahead of him. Time to give the signal for the rest of his unit to join them and hold this position.

Jacob stood, more than he liked, but knew the men behind the berm would be looking for a signal. He took off his hat and waved, calling back to them. They were not quite visible, but as they grouped together on the left side, he could tell they had gotten his signal. Reaching over and grabbing his weapon, he put his hat back on.

The sound of more artillery firing in the distance shook him. Was it closer or further away? As he slid into the dip, seeking better cover, the crack of a rifle was followed by a hot, piercing pain in his left leg. Looking down, a lot of blood covered his leg. Stunned, his gaze shifted to take in his surroundings. The man he had hit earlier wasn’t dead, but had gotten in a final shot with his loaded weapon. Jacob let out a loud cry while Steven attacked the man with his bayonet. Then things started to swirl. Jacob’s vision blurred. As if everything was in a daze. Daniel came to his side, applying pressure to his leg. As he started to fade out, he kept looking back, wondering if the rest of his unit had caught up to them. And then, nothing.

How I Cured My 13-day-long Migraine

cured my 13-day-long migraine

Sorry I’ve been off the grid for a while. And I have something to share about that. The reason I was so out of touch for so long is that I had a MIGRAINE. For 13 days. That’s not only ridiculous, it’s pretty crazy. And my doctor did everything absolutely everything he could do to cure it, but to no avail. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…

migrainedogChronic Migraine Sufferer. First, you should know about me that I am a chronic migraine sufferer. That means, that without any medicinal intervention, I was having more than 3 migraines per week. Introduce Topamax. This is a prophylactic medication that I take daily to prevent migraines. I also have “rescue pills” for the occasional “breakthrough” migraine (or migraine I have despite the face that I’m on Topamax). I have been on several “rescue pills”, tried many in several categories and the one I’m on now doesn’t really work. But if I have the random intense migraine, I can go into the clinic, get the shot cocktail, go home, sleep, and be fine when I wake up…usually.

pillsSomething Different. This time, I went to the clinic and got my shots. Okay. I’m going to be fine. Woke up with the same headache. What? Went back to the clinic. They increased my Topamax dose, gave me another round of shots, and sent me on my merry way. Surely that will work. Nope. I waited, in pain, a few more days. Had a conference with my doctor over the phone. He wanted a CT scan. CT scan came back normal except for a sinus infection on the left side (Migraine is on the right side), probably not the cause. So, antibiotic, another prophylactic to work with Topamax, and another round of shots…yay! But I’ll be good to go now, right? Only…not so much.

Could There Be More To It? I visited my counselor and we talked about the spiritual and emotional underlying issues that can contribute to and even cause migraines. All right. We work through a lot of junk. I actually feel better. A lot better. Next day, migraine is back. I have a different type of therapy session (splankna) with my friend. God is dealing with a grief issue. It helps some. Obviously, there is more to this issue than simply physical. And I know several of my friends are praying for me at this point. But my friend says something interesting to me at this therapy session…that I should get an essential oil scan done. Mind you, I am ready to try anything. I mean, most people truly cannot imagine being in pretty intense pain fairly constantly for 13 days straight.

essential oil leafThe Essential Oils. I’ve always been a bit of a skeptic when it comes to Essential Oils. I do believe in their aromatherapeutic value. Always have. But, as I’ve been dipping my toes in the waters of knowledge of oils, I have been impressed with what they can do. They have silenced a stomach bug in me twice now. Eased my symptoms through a cold/sinus infection, among other things. And I had been using Young Livings PANAWAY, applying it and diffusing it to assist with the headache symptoms. And it was taking the edge off the pain, but not much more. But I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I did have the scan done and was not at all surprised with the kinds of oils that showed up I needed. Interested in a “that’s weird that that thing knew what I needed” kind of thing, but not at all shocked.

mgrainThe Cure. The doctor, in the meantime, put me on yet another “rescue pill” which did not work. And the oil I walked away from the oil scan with (M-GRAIN) was not taking care of the headache either. I was just ready to consign myself to perpetual pain. But when I notified the wonderful lady who did my scan, she recommended an oil regiment using THIEVES, PANAWAY, and M-GRAIN. I did it and the headache started to dissipate. I couldn’t believe it. She had told me to do the regiment three times, once every 10 minutes. The second round, more dissipation. By the third round, it was gone. And it didn’t come back.

I was BLOWN AWAY. Incredible is not quite adequate to describe it. The doctors with their powerful drugs had not been able to do what simple canisters of plant oil in the right combination could accomplish. Narcotic free! Now, I don’t blame you if you are still skeptical. I understand. But, as for me, I’m a believer.

Course Correcting Your Marketing Plan for Authors

course correcting blog

Both of my jobs are “high feedback” situations. As many of you already know, I work seasonally as a Zoo Educator, teaching kids of all ages about animals. There is no end to the feedback I get from my management and co-workers. All with the hope to improve my performance. As a writer, I get tons of feedback as well – from reviews, mentors, my critique group…just to name a few. So, what do you do when this feedback calls for a course correction?

listenAlways Listen. It is important to take in the advice. This is another perspective on your work. And, hopefully, as we are all adults, this person is looking out for your best interest. They are wanting you to succeed and improve. Another set of eyes or ears on your work can only benefit you.

Respect. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, I would advise you to be respectful. Even if the person is not published or is newer to the field than you are, it doesn’t mean their opinion is not valid. I would challenge you to consider what they have to say. Is there any merit to it? There may be. Maybe not. But let’s be careful to not be defensive. You never grow and improve that way.

considerConsider the Advice. Take some time to consider what the other person is saying. Seriously consider it. Especially if they are asking you to make a big change. You may initially balk at it, but there may be a good reason for the big change or maybe there may be smaller changes that can be made to improve your craft.

What does all of this amount to? Well…there is a story here. I was recently at a writers conference. And I had the opportunity to meet with a mentor. I had planned on doing a mock pitch to get feedback, but when she sat down, she started asking me questions about where I was in my career. Through those questions, she discovered what I already knew – that I was kind of weak in the area of marketing myself.

Well, why was that? I’ll share with you. I blog, tweet, and post to writers for the most part. But my audience (that I write for) is not necessarily writers. That is not really the audience I am hoping to attract. So, there is a problem. Not that it’s wrong for me to encourage other writers, but I need to also reach out to my target audience. So, I need to consider what that will entail and rethink my whole marketing strategy.

It’s generally a good thing to re-evaluate your marketing strategy periodically anyway. What is working? Why is that working? What isn’t working? What can you do to fix that?

What about you? Ever get advice that made you re-evaluate something you were doing?

“Off to War” – Chapter Three, Scene 3 & 4

OffToWar_Medium

“Off to War”

Chapter Three

Scene 3

Troop movement outside the thin fabric walls of the tent awakened Elizabeth. They would have risen before dawn in order to practice maneuvers. If she strained her ears, she could hear the artillery unit doing the same thing, loading cannons to prepare for battle. Would it be today? Would the men head to the front lines today?

Making slow movements, she sat up and stretched. Looking over, she saw that Melanie still slumbered. Elizabeth was not so blessed to be such a deep sleeper. Sarah and Lily, of course, were already gone, their mats made up.

Elizabeth begrudgingly moved out of the tent and toward the women’s common area. How she longed for those cozy mornings when her vanity was but a few steps away from her warm bed and she could freshen up in the privacy of her own bedchambers! But she had become accustomed to this new level of modesty, walking about in her nightshift, nodding to the women she passed on the way to the common area.

Once she arrived, she gathered some water to pour into the simple bowl. She splashed some water onto her face, hoping to liven her features and waken her senses. Rinsing her hands as well, she then dumped the water so the bowl would be ready for the next woman who came by.

She was more alert on the trip back to the tent, but not always in better spirits. It was still too early and she was still in naught but her nightclothes. Upon returning to the tent, she made her way over to her bag and pulled out yet another simple frock she had acquired from the maid servant in her parents’ home. Time to get ready for another day.

Home. Ah. Just thinking of her parents’ home brought back memories that seemed thousands of miles away. It had been quite an adjustment for her to be wakened by troops or a bugle blowing. At home, she was roused from sleep by a maid coming into her room to open the curtains and help prepare her for the day. She was then helped into her attire and her hair was done for her. Next it was downstairs to a hot breakfast that was prepared by the family cook. Elizabeth could almost smell the aromas of the numerous pastries and breakfast meats that she could indulge in each and every day. Then her day would be filled with hobbies and the things she wanted to do, not the menial tasks that filled her days here. Yes, she had taken that life for granted. When she had made the decision to leave, she had known she would be leaving all of that behind, but she had neglected to realize what an adjustment it would be.

Once she was dressed and her hair pinned, she shook Melanie.

“Time to rise and shine,” she said in her brightest voice.

A groan was the only response she got.

“See you at breakfast?” Elizabeth said, it was not truly a question.

Melanie waved from under her blanket. That meant ‘yes, but get out of my face or you’ll regret it’. Her new friend was not a morning person.

Elizabeth grabbed her papers and charcoal and stepped out of the tent. She wouldn’t have a lot of time to herself. Breakfast would start soon and then they would be on to the tasks of the day.

Moving a little ways outside of the camp and up the hill to give herself a bird’s-eye view, she found a spot to settle. This little patch of grass was far enough away from the sentry’s post to not give him grief, but far enough up the hill to still have a good view of the camp. So, she plopped down and, without ceremony, began to sketch. She had not the chance to capture these morning maneuvers and now was a prime opportunity.

This had become a favorite spot for her as she could see the whole camp from her vantage point. There were the family tents, the mens’ tents, her tent, the hospital, the place the women did laundry and cooked whenever they had something to cook. On one side of the camp, the soldiers were marching in lines and on the other, the artillery unit worked with the cannons. Though the camp already buzzed with activity, she tried to capture it all on paper.

Elizabeth could never have imagined this place would affect her so, but she had already begun to form relationships with so many of the people she came in contact with. If anything happened to any of them it would devastate her. Yes, Melanie had indeed been right in what she had said. War changed people. This war was already changing this girl who had been born to privilege and never faced any real hardship in her life.

Looking with an artist’s eyes, Elizabeth’s gaze swept over the camp again as she put the finishing touches on her sketch. Two figures walking on the outskirts of the camp caught her attention. They looked in her direction and waved. She responded in kind. Seconds later, she realized it was John and Dr. Smith. And they were headed straight for her!

Searching for some place to hide, she came up short. There was no where to go. And they had already spotted her. Elizabeth swallowed hard. So this was it. John would finally discover her. It would only be seconds now until they were close enough. She braced herself for his reaction as the two men came ever closer. Any moment her features would be clear enough that he would know.

Boom! The sound of cannon fire filled the air. Elizabeth hit the ground, covering her ears. Had the troops set off a cannon by accident? As she sat back up, she saw that John and Dr. Smith were crouched down, looking around, perhaps wondering the same thing. A glance over at the artillery unit told her that they were just as confused.

From her perch on the hillside, she saw a scout flying toward camp from the south. His form appeared out of the forest line moments after the cannon fire. Spotting the scout as well, the two doctors ran toward the camp. Elizabeth followed suit.

The camp was in utter chaos. Elizabeth tried to make her way to her station to get some information from her direct report, but there were too many people moving here and there. The troops were all moving in one direction, like a wave. It was difficult to push against them. At last, she spotted Melanie.

“Mel!” She called out, “Mel!”

Melanie jerked her head in Elizabeth’s direction and grabbed for her hand. Together they pushed through the crowd and found a space next to a tent where they were out of the rush of people.

“What’s going on?” Elizabeth panted with effort.

“It’s the Confederates. They’re here!”

Elizabeth’s heart stopped. What would happen to them all? To John?

“The troops are marching out to meet them,” Melanie continued.

Elizabeth nodded, feeling numb. “What can we do?” Her voice shook.

“Pray. Pray and get to your station!” Melanie squeezed Elizabeth’s hand once more before heading back out into the throngs of people.

Elizabeth was surprised how level-headed Melanie was in the face of crisis. And though Elizabeth was on laundry duty this morning, the last thing anyone would need, she did as Melanie had said and headed for her post.

 

“Off to War”

Chapter Three

Scene 4

The Moore family was seated around their dinner table. From the outside looking in, one might never know this was a family torn apart by the war, a family missing two of its members as they gathered together for this special family time. But Henry Moore knew differently. Their presence was indeed missed by each member present. And their empty chairs served as reminders of their absence. Still, those there reveled in the closeness they shared. And they put on brave faces for the others in their company. It was in the final stretches of the meal when, as Martha Moore watched, her husband produced a letter from his pocket.

“Who’s it from, Father?” Susan asked, wide-eyed.

Martha’s heart stopped and her eyes met her husband’s.

“It’s from Jacob,” he said as he was able to pull himself from his wife’s gaze.

“Please, do read it, Father!” Susan all but jumped up and down in her chair.

“You know how we do things,” he admonished her. “We’ll read it in the parlor once everyone is done with dinner.”

“Let’s go then,” Susan begged, pushing her plate away from herself.

“I’m finished.” Martha laid her napkin on the table.

“Me too!” Susan followed suit, setting her napkin next to her plate. She looked up at her father with wide, expectant eyes, willing him to say he was finished so they might retire to the parlor.

He waited a handful of seconds, eyeing Susan and Martha’s expressions. “Alright, then,” he said at long last, laying his own napkin down, signaling the end of dinner. “To the parlor, then.”

Henry led them to the small family room where they huddled in their spots around the fireplace. He took a seat to the left of the massive structure, Susan took a spot on the floor near his feet, and Martha sat nearby on the sofa, picking at her cross-stitch. Taking the letter back out of his pocket, he opened it and began to read.

“Dear Mother, Father, and Susan, I hope this letter finds you well. I miss you all. We settled in our camp and I’m trying to get the hang of things. I’m learning all kinds of stuff. There are definitely things that Benjamin failed to mention in his letters, but I understand. He just didn’t think it was interesting enough to mention. Like how we get up every day before dawn. That’s boring stuff. But it’s important, I guess, since we do it every day.

“We spend most of our time doing things to keep us from getting fat and lazy. But no one here cooks as well as you, Mother, so I don’t think anyone is going to get fat. Don’t worry, though, I’m eating well enough. I have met some people here and am making friends. I rode the train down here with one of our camp doctors named John. He gave me some good advice about life. My tent mate’s name is Phillip. He’s a couple of years older than me. We get along just fine, but he doesn’t talk much.

“Well, I’d better head out to lunch before it’s all gone. I’ll write again soon. Love, Jacob. P.S. I am eager to hear about Benjamin.”

“Well that was nice that he became acquainted with one of the doctors,” Martha said, working her cross-stitch, moving furiously with her fingers.

And Henry understood. She’d rather not allow her mind to wander to those places every mother’s mind must go to when receiving a letter from the front. Would this be the last letter?

“I wonder what he eats there,” Susan said, looking up at her father.

“It’s not as good as what you get to eat,” Henry said, patting her on the head.

“But is it yucky food or just a bad cook?” Susan’s brow furrowed.

“I think they get rations for the most part,” Henry sighed, looking back over the letter.

“Rations?” Susan tested the word.

Henry nodded, “An allotted amount of food. Crackers, pork, and coffee, stuff like that.”

“Coffee?” she blanched at that. “Jacob doesn’t drink coffee!”

“Chances are he will when he comes back.”

Susan looked at her father, eyebrow quirked.

“Susan, there may be other things that will have changed about Jacob and even Benjamin when they come home.” His voice softened. He’d rather not say more than he already had.

“Like what?”

She was so innocent to the goings on of war. Too innocent.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Henry forced himself to continue the conversation with Susan. “It’s just something I want you to know.” He prayed that would be enough for her.

Susan shrugged it off, “Okay, Father. Will you read the letter again?”

“Of course. ‘Dear Mother, Father, and Susan…’”

“In the Weeds”: When You Find Yourself Over-Committed and Overwhelmed

in the weeds graphic

Once upon a time, I was a server. Now that can be a stressful job. And it’s the right now kind of stress. That night-before-a-big-test, can’t put it off intense stress. I don’t miss it. In that industry, when you are overwhelmed and have too much happening that you just can’t keep up, you say you are “in the weeds”. That’s a cue to the others around you that you’d appreciate any and all assistance they can offer you. Do other professions have similar phrases for this state of being? I don’t know. If they have such a term for a writer/stay-at-home mom, that’s me this week. I’ve got “too many irons in the fire” and “too much on my plate”. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive on being busy and having a full schedule, but there is definitely a line there full and over-committed. So, what’s a person to do?

balance beamThink about your “beam“. I’ve written before about Jen Hatmaker’s gymnastics beam illustration. How you have the things you commit to “on the beam” and the things you delegate away or eliminate from your life “off the beam”. Well, let’s take a look at the beam first. Are there things you’ve allowed on the beam that shouldn’t be there in the first place? If so, let’s do what we can to remove them, either from the list altogether or from your list and onto someone else’s.

Delegate well. So, we’ve cleaned off the things that shouldn’t have ever been on your beam. Now look and see if anything on your beam can be delegated. There are others in your life that can take on things and do them very well. If you are anything like me, you feel responsible for the things on your beam and you want to keep a hold on them so you can make sure they are done properly. But you have to trust your village as well. By “village”, I mean your people, your circle, your family and friends. Can your spouse handle some of the kid stuff? Can a friend at church take on your duties there for one or two Sundays or on a more permanent basis?

organizeThe “TO DO” List is Your Friend. Make a list of everything you have to do in the next week, month, however long. Just get it all down on paper. No matter how scary it is. Break the bigger tasks down into its smaller steps. Then prioritize this list. Now, get out your calendar. Mark in your set appointments and fill in the to do list items, starting with the higher priority stuff. Plan on just 2-3 items per day. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you get more done, that’s fabulous! But set yourself up for success and be realistic with your expectations on what is possible to get done. Especially if you are like me and you have a family and house to care for as well. Or a full time job on top of these other things.

Protect Your Routines. I have an autistic son. So, I know all too well how important routine is. For myself, I find it very helpful to have somewhat of a night ritual where I go over my schedule and to do list for the next day, so I have some idea of what’s happening. I also do better when I keep a consistent morning routine (mine involves coffee, looking over my to do list again, and a time of quiet reflection and prayer). It just sets the right tempo for my day, a better mindset for myself, and an overall calmer me.

goalsKeep Your Eye On the Prize. Have goals. Life goals. Weekly goals that feed into those life goals. Know that you are contributing to something lasting and something that matters to you. Keep your goals written out and posted where you can see them often. Let them motivate you.

Again, I don’t have all of the answers. And perhaps the best advice of all is to guard your time on the front end. Your time is valuable and you are the gate-keeper. If there isn’t now, there will be others clamoring for a piece of you from multiple angles. The best word you can learn is “no”. It is not wrong or selfish to use that word. It is wisdom to know when you must.

Any other tips for helping someone “in the weeds”?

“Off to War” – Chapter 3, Scenes 1 & 2

OffToWar_Medium

“Off to War”

Chapter 3 – Battle

Scene 1

It didn’t take long for the other women to find out that Elizabeth didn’t know much about cooking or laundering or more than basic stitching. They all found this rather curious, Melanie reported to her, but they appreciated her willingness to learn. And they seemed pleased with how quickly she picked things up. By the end of the first week, she was performing all of the basic tasks with surprising proficiency, even if she was slower than the other women. Everyone became most impressed with her drawing skills. In her free time in the afternoons, she would draw portraits or scenes of the camp.

Melanie continued to feed Elizabeth a running commentary on the men in the unit: who was available, who was married, who was cute, who was plain, who was ‘husband material’, who wasn’t anything special. Elizabeth’s suspicions had been laid to rest. She was certain Melanie would go home with a fiancé.

Elizabeth and Melanie seldom saw their tent mates as the nurses’ time was taken up at the hospital, setting it up to receive casualties, only returning to the tent to sleep. Even then, Sarah wasn’t much of a conversationalist. Not even at the behest of the ever-chatty Melanie could they get more than rudimentary pleasantries out of her. Was she shy or tired or just not interested in concerning herself with making new friends? Lily, on the other hand, would engage in simple conversation, but was always more interested in hearing about Melanie or Elizabeth than talking about herself.

Everyone became more and more certain their unit would find themselves in combat soon. After getting to know some of the soldiers, it broke Elizabeth’s heart to think that some of them would leave the camp and not return. At least John would be safe. The doctors would stay in the hospital to receive the sick and wounded. They would remain a safe distance from the fighting. Still, that was of little comfort.

“What do you think, Elizabeth?” Melanie asked. They were in their tent, preparing for bed.

Elizabeth hadn’t been paying attention as Melanie went through her evening litany of the men she had encountered that day.

“I’m sorry, what?” Her face warmed in spite of herself.

“I met the young doctor. What was his name? John. He’s handsome. I may have found my match,” came Melanie’s gleeful voice.

Elizabeth dropped her apron. Her John? Was Melanie talking about her John?

“He has a girl back home,” Sarah piped up, startling Melanie. But she recovered well.

“Is that so?” Melanie fingered the edge of her pillow.

“Yes,” Lily said, settling herself onto her mat. “I hear they’re engaged.”

“Well, he didn’t marry her before joining up. That says something. War changes people. Maybe I still have a chance. After all, I’m here and she’s not,” Melanie met Lily’s gaze as she eased herself onto her own mat.

Elizabeth drifted back off into her own thoughts. War changes people. Was that true? Did war change people? Would it change her? Would it change John? Would it change the fact that they loved each other? Surely not. What they had was so deep, so real. Elizabeth could not, would not accept that the war could change that. Melanie didn’t know what she was saying. She didn’t know John.

“What do you think, Elizabeth?” Melanie interjected into her thoughts.

Elizabeth had missed Melanie’s question again.

“I think it’s time to get some shut eye,” was all Elizabeth could manage to say.

“I agree!” Lily said, her voice quite loud.

Melanie’s eyebrows furrowed and her bottom lip protruded as she crossed her arms.

Sarah leaned over and turned out the lantern, plunging the four women into darkness.

“Melanie,” Elizabeth said, as she slid down onto her thin bed, her voice gentle. “I think you need to realize that one day soon some of these men are going into battle and they’re not coming back.”

“I know that,” she said, her voice quiet and soft.

“Then why plan futures with so many of them?”

“Because it keeps me from thinking that way, that there’s a time clock on their lives.”

Elizabeth had to almost hold her breath to hear Melanie speak, her voice was so quiet.

“I don’t want to treat them that way. I don’t want to think about them like that.”

Elizabeth glanced in her direction in the dark, but was only able to see her silhouetted in the night. This was a deeper side to Melanie. Elizabeth never could have guessed that there was something more behind all of this boy craze.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth whispered. “I didn’t realize…”

“I know,” Melanie said into the darkness. “It’s all right. Let’s just get some sleep.”

“All right.” Elizabeth lay down on her pillow and listened to the gentle breathing sounds of the women in her company. But her thoughts were on John and on what Melanie had said about war changing people. And it kept her awake long into the night.

 

“Off to War”

Chapter 3 – Battle

Scene 2

Another early rise for the troops. Jacob sighed as he sat up and moved his legs to wake his limbs. This was definitely something Benjamin did not write about. They had been rising well before dawn these last few days. Yawning and stretching, he pulled on his uniform pants first, then his uniform jacket. He had to report soon.

His tent mate was already dressing as well. It wasn’t long before they were both regulation, gun in hand, and ready to go. Making their way outside of their tent, they reported to the command post, taking their places in the line up.

All of the soldiers stood at attention while the captain walked up and down the line, inspecting the troops. Jacob held his breath as the man passed by. On occasion, the captain would find what he considered a sloppy appearance and yell at the soldier. For the most part, they were a ship-shape unit, if not by nature, by fear of this particular commander. Their captain had a reputation for remembering anyone who dared show up sloppy. Thus far, Jacob had escaped that nightmare.

After inspection, they were released to breakfast. On occasion, the women would make a warm breakfast for them, but that all depended on what foodstuffs were available. This morning, it was the hard tack bread rations and some bacon, which had been cooked.

Jacob ate his food, all the while thinking about his mother’s flapjacks and maple syrup she often fed him if he had a test that day or needed cheering up. He appreciated the women who had given up so much to come stay at the camp and cook for the soldiers, but they could not compare to his mother’s home cooking. Especially the blonde girl they called Elizabeth. Whenever she had been cooking, he could hear the other men groaning. It just wasn’t her strong suit.

Forcing down the last of the hard tack, Jacob saw the captain signal the troops to line up for their early morning run. After a quick breakfast each day, they would line up again for maneuvers. This could mean any number of things physical. They would run for some length of time every morning. Sometimes they would have obstacle courses of sorts where they would have to crawl with their muskets in hand or climb with them. There were days they had exercises where they practiced hand to hand combat with their bayonets. And there was his least favorite – taking apart their muskets and putting them back together.

Even now, Jacob moved toward the front of the line for their morning run. One of the faster men in the camp, he could keep up his speed throughout the duration of the run. The captain counted them off and they started moving.

Though the never dared breathe a word of it, he found the morning run invigorating. He enjoyed the fresh air, the scenery, and, though he was sure most of the men did not find the run enjoyable, the camaraderie was something to be appreciated.

So they were off, out into the field. Jacob allowed his mind to wander during the run when, before he knew it, a couple of other soldiers began shouting at him from behind.

“Hey, you trying to make us look bad?”

“Yeah! What’s in your head?”

“Show off!”

“You’re just jealous,” Jacob yelled back with a slight grin on his face. That would bug them. After all, it was the same heckling every morning. A handful of them would get together after morning drills and chide each other. It almost seemed like everyone had a certain thing the others would tease about. They ribbed Frank about how he always had a piece left over during musket drills. George would be razzed about his poor time on ground drills. And they hassled Jacob about his running.

“What are you doing? Running from the front lines?” They tried to make him mad, but it wasn’t working. Jacob turned his head for a second, eyeing which ones managed to keep up with him.

“No, I’m leading a rag tag group of misfits,” he howled back, wanting to show them they weren’t getting to him. A hand landed on his shoulder. He glanced back. One of them had gotten close enough to touch him.

“So, one of you can actually run!”

Jacob feinted left and right, dodging this other soldier who tried to grab him. It brought back memories of he and Benjamin playing in the back yard when they were boys. He hurled out taunts. The guy behind him started to pant and lose his gain. Slowing down a bit, Jacob turned while still jogging.

“What now? Can’t keep it up, Old Man?” He laughed. The troops seemed as if they were chasing him.

Old Man sprinted faster.

Jacob’s eyes widened and he realized that Old Man just might get him. He turned back around and picked up the pace. Right as he did so, he hit a dip in the path. His feet stumbled, and Jacob hit the ground hard.

Old Man was so close behind him that he crashed into Jacob as well. They both lost their breath, the wind knocked out of them.

The captain was soon on the scene. “What is wrong with you two? Moore, Johnson!”

Jacob was just then catching his breath and pulling himself to his feet. He took the fall relatively unscathed. Old Man didn’t look too good though. When he got up, his ankle seemed twisted.

“Moore, you get Johnson back to the infirmary. Move out!”

Jacob extended a hand to help the man. “What’s your name?”

“Daniel. Daniel Johnson.” The man said, grimacing as he attempted to put weight on the injured ankle.

“Well, Daniel, congratulations on figuring a way out of morning drills.” Jacob offered the young man a smile. “I just hope the captain doesn’t clean your clock for it later.”

Daniel chuckled, leaning on Jacob while they limped back to the hospital. Once there, it wasn’t long before the doctor had wrapped Daniel’s ankle and told him to take it easy for the next few days. As the doctor walked away, Jacob decided to get one more jab in.

“See, I knew there was a way to slow you down!”

Daniel gave him a cross look and Jacob knew he had made a lifelong friend.

“Off to War” COVER REVEAL!!

cover revealIt’s that time again! I have decided to self publish one of my novels and Cora Graphics has been hard at work on the cover.

I want to thank the people in my life who make so many allowances for me and my craziness. My friends and family are so good to me, so patient and loving. You know who you are.

My husband is my tireless supporter and hero. He is my number one encourager and does whatever he can to further my goals and my career. To say I love that man would be an understatement.

My beta readers are awesome. They keep me honest and real. They not only help me with the words on the page, but give me feedback (often instantly) on cover concepts and details really anything I need help with. Y’all are the best.

And, of course, I am grateful for Cora Graphics. She is so talented and just amazing to work with!

So, without further ado…here is the cover (click on the “PLAY” button):