Monday, January 15, 2018

Training Your Brain

How are you? Hope this finds you all doing well and settling in to 2018. What does a new year bring to you? A fresh start? Time to reflect, adjust, move forward? Yeah, me too. :) 

One theme that's been constant for me in 2017 and now this year, has been my thought life. What thoughts do I allow to dominate my days? Which ones are good, fruitful, and healthy? Which are of no value, unproductive, and even destructive?

I've long known that our thoughts can be a guiding force, forming patterns and contributing to our worldview in nearly every area of our lives. Our self talk - what we speak to ourselves, and thoughts we allow to roll around in our mind can often mean the difference between failure and success in even the smallest things.

Harmful thoughts - those we allow to reside in our heads, can be death to a healthy spiritual life, relationships, and life and success in general. Think about it, what kinds of thoughts generally trail through your mind? Negative? Positive? Or both, depending on the topic? Can they contribute to an overall mindset about your traits, relationships, situations, and worldview? We have been, and daily continue to train our minds based on the thoughts we allow and perpetuate. While knowing this is helpful, it doesn't always translate into better awareness or change.

Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a book I read last year, offered great insight in this area. Dr. Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist, has worked in cognitive neuroscience for over 30 years. In a nutshell, her book explains the connection between our thoughts and physical bodies, and how altering harmful thought patterns yields healthy changes, mentally, physically, and spiritually. 

Dr. Leaf said, "When you think, you build thoughts, and these become physical substances in your brain." The best part is that negative, unhealthy thought patterns can be changed and yield positive results. Her extensive research illustrates the brain's function and capacity, from individuals in everyday circumstances to those with learning challenges and brain injuries. What I found most intriguing was how these scientific finds support Biblical principles of how our lives reflect our thoughts and mindset. What wonderful creations we are! Our God-given capacity to think and live is just amazing.

I was impressed and encouraged by her findings, and would highly recommend her book if this topic interests you. She does get a bit technical, so when I felt in over my head (no pun intended) I read the summaries at the end of each chapter to help process the info.

So how does this relate to writing and other creative pursuits? Our thoughts are key to peace, healthy function, and success. We can begin the year with a positive outlook, training our brains to do what they were created to do, flourishing with productive thoughts that translate into healthy living in all areas.

Although it is an intriguing book, it isn't necessary to read Dr. Leaf's book to begin. We often follow where our thoughts go, so we can start by tuning in to what's going on in our heads. Here are a few things I like to do to help with this process:
1) Actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones. My bottom line is this - I'm a child of God and a writer. No matter what's going on or how I feel, this is what God has called me to do. When I find myself being swallowed by the negative, I make an effort to replace lousy thoughts and regroup mentally. One question Dr. Leaf tells us to consider, "What thoughts do we want to become part of us?" (My paraphrase.)

2) Hang out with positive influences. In the writing arena, this includes all of you. Your support is a great treasure. You've been such an encouragement to me. This also includes other friends, like fellow church and other group members, etc. We cannot always avoid negative people, but we can be aware of this and set good boundaries.

3) Stay grounded by tapping into your faith. For me, this is being attentive to God's word and meditating on His principles. Our perspective is always better when focused on the right things.

4) Find good resources. From books like Dr. Leaf's to blogs, continued education, writer's  groups, etc. we can glean good things from seasoned creatives, teachers, preachers, and so on.
5) Heed sage advice. When my kids were young they watched a cowboy preacher by the name of Gospel Bill. GB told his young audience, "Garbage in, garbage out," Sowing negative things into our heads and lives causes us to reap the same. Sowing the positive and valuable reaps great long term benefits. Love this simple reminder.

Have you ever considered the impact your thoughts have on your writing and life? What steps do you take to stay positive and productive?

Happy writing,


Image credit - Pixabay

Monday, December 4, 2017

How to Avoid Being a Blog Snob

When I first began blogging nearly nine years ago, I was as green as they came. So I invested time in educating myself, gleaning from "how-to" articles, reading others' blogs, observing standard practices from successful bloggers, heeding veteran writing friends' advice, etc. My skills improved, as did my grasp on blog etiquette. I gained followers, generated and made comments and voila, I was a bona fide blogger! Or so I thought. I still had much to learn...

I learned that posting consistently is important. Readers need to know your schedule, appreciate return comments and visits to their blogs, and so on. As I strove to uphold this blogging code, I noticed at times where others did not always use this code I so diligently followed. I puzzled over why they did not follow suit. To be fair, most of those who I regularly interacted with were kind and consistent. But I did begin to form a bit of a prejudice against those who were not. That's right, for a short time, I became a blog snob. It wasn't that I was offended at their lack of attention or reciprocation, I just had an attitude of, "Hey, if I can keep up with this, why can't you?" Yeah well, I told you I was green. And quite the silly girl.

Thankfully, this state of snobbery did not last long. I got a healthy dose of reality when accosted by a busier schedule, book contract, and other assorted and necessary commitments. There simply weren't enough hours in the day to remain on top of things all the time. No doubt about it, I discovered that schedules and expectations had to be adjusted. The reality of all this offered the swift kick I needed; I was ashamed of the bit of smugness that crept in. Suddenly I had eyes to see what the reality of it was. These lovely bloggers were busy too, couldn't always reciprocate, didn't embrace the same things I did, and/or just had to let some things fall by the wayside. Blogging is a wonderful thing, but unless we have superpowers or a team of virtual assistants, it can become taxing to even the heartiest soul.

Now I'm sure that none of you have ever been tempted to be a blog snob. But if you happen to know anyone who might fall into that trap, here are four things I learned that lent perspective:

1) Extend Grace

We've often no idea what's going on in another person's life. So if they don't live up to our expectations, blogging or otherwise, we need to allow them the grace and space to be who and where they are. Yeah, there are times and instances to challenge others in a loving and diplomatic manner, but this probably isn't one of them.

2) Not Everyone Fits or Follows

As bloggers, we're a diverse group. We're good about crossing genres and topics when it comes to interacting, but sometimes it doesn't end up being fruitful or a good fit. We've all got 24 hours in the day to use wisely, and must prioritize accordingly. Which can mean we don't follow every blog all the time. And no one should hassle another about following, or not.

3) Your Cup of Tea

Lest we get tempted to be offended by others' actions, remember that our blogs, beliefs and principles, styles, etc. will not be everyone's cup of tea. 

4) Lend a Hand

If you know someone's going through challenging times, extend a hand. Most bloggers would welcome a guest post to take the heat off during a tough or busy stretch. Or stop and comment, share their post on social media, or simply send an email letting them know you're thinking of or praying for them.

I'd probably be remiss if I didn't include some tips I've learned since the blog snob days. These six items have helped me maintain blogging balance.

1) Short Posts Can Be Your Friend

Short posts, though not always as meaty as long ones, can offer great info, feedback, and connection potential. Share a quote, ask a question, highlight a topic - you can still engage readers in this manner. High word count doesn't guarantee quality content.

2) Schedule Posts

When possible, it's always great to schedule posts in advance. It can be a lifesaver for the busy blogger. 

3) Regular Features

Posts of this type provide good content, can be scheduled in advance, and can be the backbone to consistency. My Meet the Blogger and Miscellaneous Monday features have been successful staples.

4) Less is More

There are those who can post every day or several times a week, but if that's not your thing, that's okay. Post once a week, twice a month or whatever suits you best. It's got to be manageable, otherwise it'll be too much. Choose sanity over frustration.

5) Manage Your Time Wisely

This is tricky, and an ongoing challenge if we want to be healthy and productive. Family, work, social media, and necessary commitments - we need to find and maintain our right balance. Give yourself some grace, be flexible, set good boundaries.

6) Breaks are Good

Time to regroup, recharge, and catch up on other things is crucial. And therapeutic. The blogging world will carry on in our absence. We'll be missed, most likely, but it'll all be there when we return.

Have you ever been a blog or other kind of snob? Did I miss anything here? What helps you stay afloat with blogging and other commitments? What are you working on this month?

I'll be taking a break and will return on January 15, 2018. I hope you enjoy a lovely holiday season with your loved ones! Thanks so much for being so wonderful, kind, and faithful. :)

Happy writing, 

Photo image: Pexels

Monday, November 20, 2017

Blessed and Thankful

"For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have much to be grateful for, don't we? With Thanksgiving week upon us,  I appreciate the reminder and perspective Mr. Emerson's words offer.

I'm thankful for God's gift of salvation, for my wonderful family and friends, as well as the sacrifices made for the freedom we enjoy here in the United States. 

Thank you for blessing me with your kind friendship and support. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving week. May you enjoy great fellowship and food with those you love. 

Who and what do you count among your blessings?

Thanksgiving weekend note - I'd planned to write a shiny new post for 11/27/17, but this crazy busy week got away from me. So I'm carrying the thankful theme until 12/4/17. Have a great week! :)

Blessing to you,

P.S. The winner of the 11/13 giveaway of Ann Gabhart's book These Healing Hills is Susan J. Reinhardt. Congratulations, Susan! Thanks to everyone who stopped by to see us. 

Image credit:Pexels

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ann Gabhart Visits

Ann Gabhart is an excellent storyteller, and I'm excited to host her this week. She's sharing about her latest book, These Healing Hills. I haven't read it yet, but if it's anything like her previous books, it's sure to be a winner. 

I had the privilege of meeting Ann some years ago at a local writer's conference. Among my favorite authors, she's as sweet, friendly, and down to earth as she sounds in this interview. Ann's offered to give away a paperback copy of These Healing Hills to one of my followers, so don't forget to check out the details below.

Welcome, Ann. Congratulations on your latest book, These Healing Hills! What sparked the idea for this story?  

Thank you, Karen. I’ve been writing a long time. These Healing Hills is my 33rd published book, but I’m still excited each time a new book is out there for readers. Many of my books have been historical novels set in Kentucky with Kentucky history as background of the stories. So while searching for a new idea, I came across information about the Frontier Nursing Service. I was immediately fascinated by the history and wanted to know more about it and its founder, Mary Breckinridge. With a vision of better healthcare for impoverished mothers and children, Breckinridge established the Frontier Nursing Service in the Appalachian Mountains. As I delved deeper into her life, I knew I’d found my idea. I wanted to write a story about a woman who became one of her nurse midwives.  

Wow, 33 books, that's exciting and impressive. The story idea is intriguing. Can you give us a quick overview?

These Healing Hills is a stand-alone book set in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains at the end of World War II. The heroine, Francine, has her life planned out until the soldier she expected to marry after the war sends her a “Dear Joan” letter. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Meanwhile Ben Locke, deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. With his future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he has to find the right path for what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds...and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

That is the back cover copy and a little more. The fascinating history of the Frontier Nursing Service and the beautiful mountain setting were great additions to my characters’ story in These Healing Hills. I did really like my characters and I enjoyed letting Granny Em, who was a healer who helped families with their medical needs prior to the Frontier nurses showing up, step into some of the scenes with her mountain wisdom. I had fun salting in some mountain lingo too, such as the edge of dark for night falling or getting a soon start for leaving early in the morning.  
Sounds like a winning combination. I love a good story laced with genuine historical details. Looking forward to reading this one. Who are your main characters?  

Francine Howard is my main female character. She’s the one jilted by her high school sweetheart. She can’t stand the thought of staying in her Cincinnati neighborhood where everybody will feel sorry for her. So, already a nurse, she remembers a recruiter for the Frontier Nursing Service talking about training to be a midwife in the Appalachian Mountains. She packs up and starts a new life. 

Ben Locke has been across the ocean fighting in World War II for several years. Home has whispered through his head through every battle, along every march. If only he can get home to see his beloved mountains again. But then once the war ends and Ben makes it home, he is unsettled and not sure what's next. He wants to take care of his widowed mother and his younger siblings, but he knows he needs more. And then he gives Francine a dog and adds new complications to his life. 

Complications help make the best stories, don't they? Was there any special knowledge or research required to write this book? 

I did need to find out as much about the Frontier Nursing Service and its origins as I could. Mary Breckinridge started the Service in 1926 after seeing the need for professionally trained midwives to help the people in the Appalachian Mountains who had little access to medical care. Breckinridge had a heart for children and wanted to give them a better start in life by helping their mothers have healthy pregnancies and births. She established the Frontier Nurse Service in Leslie County, Kentucky with midwives from overseas since there were no midwifery schools in the States. When war broke out in England, years before America was drawn into the conflict, several of the English midwives felt compelled to return to England to help with the war effort. So Breckinridge established the Frontier Midwifery School in Hyden, Kentucky to train midwives to keep her Frontier Nursing Service going. One of the recruitment posters I came across in my research promised the nurses their own dog, their own horse and plenty of adventure as they saved children’s lives. That seemed the perfect start for my character.  

I read several first person accounts of midwives to help me get a better idea of what my character might face as she helped mothers deliver their babies in the mountains. I worried I might not know enough about the nuts and bolts of midwifery, but so far the story has received good response. 

If it's anything like your other books, I'm sure you did a wonderful job with every aspect. What's next on the horizon? Any new books or other adventures?  

Next up after These Healing Hills is another historical novel, River to Redemption. My initial idea for the story was a true event that occurred in the small Kentucky town of Springfield after the 1833 cholera epidemic. At that time, people thought cholera might be caused by bad air, perhaps from the discarded fruit and vegetable peels and other discarded garbage. So when they heard about a case of cholera, all those who had the means to do so, immediately left town. Sometimes this simply carried the disease with them to other places, but sometimes it did help them escape the disease which was actually due to contaminated water or exposure to others who were ill. So when Springfield was hit with a cholera epidemic in 1833, as was most of the United States, everybody who could left town. That included the owner of a local hotel, George Sansbury. He gave his slave Louis the keys to the hotel and told him to keep things going. Louis was one of those fortunate people unaffected by cholera. So he, along with another slave, a cook, Matilda Sims, tended those who were ill and Louis singlehandedly dug the graves and buried the fifty-five victims of the disease. 

Twelve years later George Sansbury died and his property, which included his slaves, was up for sale or auction. The citizens of the town collected money to buy Louis’s freedom in gratitude for his service to the town during the cholera epidemic and they also set him up in a blacksmith shop. A plaque to Louis Sansbury is in the Springfield, Kentucky graveyard. My book, which is completely fictional except for that true historical fact about Louis, is how I imagine that might have come about. River to Redemption is scheduled to release in the summer of 2018. The book is going through edits at the publishers. Now I’m working on coming up with a new story set in my fictional Shaker village of Harmony Hill. Every time I write a Shaker novel, I say it’s going to be my last, but I’m pretty sure I mean it this time. Pretty sure. 

That sounds like an excellent idea for a story. Will look forward to reading River to Redemption as well. :) You'll have to come back and see us when it releases. Thanks so much for stopping by, Ann. Wishing you all the best with your books and writing!  

Thank you for letting me come visit, Karen. Always fun to visit with you here. And I look forward to hearing what you and your reading friends have to say. 

How about I turn the tables on all of you a bit here and ask you a few questions? Do you know the history of the Frontier Nursing Service? If so, how do you know about it? If not, does a background history of nurse midwives helping mothers and children in the mountains sound interesting?  

More About Ann   

Ann is the bestselling author of over thirty novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. In addition to her popular Harmony Hill Shaker novels, Ann writes about family life in novels like Angel Sister and Love Come Home as well as cozy mysteries (as A.H. Gabhart) set in small towns like the Kentucky town where she grew up. These Healing Hills is her first historical novel set in the Appalachian Mountains. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and enjoy country life in Kentucky. 

Find Ann  

Giveaway Info

1) Please leave your email address with your comment. I'd also appreciate it if you were a Google Friend Connect Follower (see sidebar). Thanks so much.
2) Open to US residents only.
3) Deadline to enter is midnight Eastern time, Thursday, 11/16/17. Upon notification, winner will have 36 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen.

Do you have any answers to Ann's questions above? Do you have any questions for Ann? What are you reading this week?

Happy reading and writing,