Bethany wrote a song, guys! To accompany Book 5—”Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti.” Come listen and wear a sweater (because it gave me chills)

I hardly know how to write this post because nothing like this has happened before. I’m on the floor (because I was floored, literally) to receive an email from Bethany Cousins, a reader who’s become a friend (a side benefit I never realized that comes with writing: new friends!). She, with her husband (i.e. NuminousBand), wrote a beautiful song to go with Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti: “I Found My Life.”

I’m floored (and this floor needs mopping, but I can’t focus on that right now) because this song is so amazing: the melody, the key shifts, the words all so perfectly fit the book. I pictured Mahrree singing it, and I sobbed. Seriously, I sobbed. Listen to it, right here: (lyrics are below)

“I Found My Life”

V1
Darkness covered our steps
The woods were calling us deep into the night
What once meant danger has now turned
Into the safest place to hide

PC1
The impossible came to be before my weary eyes

C
When I found my life
Over the mountains, beyond the trees
My heart found a home
When I stepped out into the valley

V2
I cannot begin to count the years
That I have searched for something more
A life spent fighting for the truth
And now I’m hiding from the world

PC2
But I’m already forgetting what I left behind

C
When I found my life
Over the mountains, beyond the trees
My heart found a home
When I stepped out into the valley

B
Here is peace, here is mercy
Long-awaited happy ending
Promises of something better
This is what it feels like to come home

How could I ever wish for
Anything more than this
It’s everything the Creator intended
This is what it feels like to know
We are a family
We always have been

C
I found my life
Over the mountains, beyond the trees
My heart found a home
When I stepped out into the valley

Like Versa Thorne (books 6 and 7), I believe in “never letting them see my tears.” But I couldn’t hide them when I listened to this song.

I’m also floored (thank goodness my son just swept it) because I feel like I just became part of something actually magical. Someone was actually inspired by something I wrote, and they created a song for it?! An original melody is a precious gift—an exceedingly rare commodity–and for me, an impossibility. I can never come up with something original, so I’m always astonished when someone else can.

So to have the Cousins take this unique and beautiful melody, and apply it toward something I wrote, to so succinctly condense five massive books into one pure song . . . that’s gotta qualify as magic, doesn’t it?

(I also stink at poetry, as my students will testify to, so to see this story turned to poetry is another piece of magic.)

I’m so honored, and so tickled, and so needing to mop this floor, if ever I can pull myself off of it again.

Thanks, Bethany (and hubby), for “I Found My Life.” Amazing.

(And if this series is ever made into movies, I’ll insist this song gets played in the credits.)

Are you sure you’re happy? 12 Traits of Happy People

Despite the world’s best efforts, it’s not impossible to be happy.

That was the premise I began with as I stared at another dismal news day. Instead of ranting here about what’s wrong in the world, as usual, I decided instead to spend a few days observing how people remain happy, especially when all around is misery. I’ve been surprised and intrigued by what I’ve noticed.
Here are the results of my very unscientific observations:

1) Happy people have not lived trouble-free lives. Contrary to what you may think, happy people frequently have waded through a great deal of grief. Illness, financial woes, death, homelessness, divorce: some of the happiest people have been handed some of the roughest ordeals. But they’ve learned to cope, to adapt, and to fiercely—insistently—find the joy in their trials. They choose to find joy. Probably because of this . . .

2)  Happy people are generous. They will give their time, their love, their talents, even their money to ease the burdens of others. They’ve discovered that one of the many ways happiness comes is by giving it to someone else.

3) Happy people live for others. They’re not focused on themselves, which they’ve discovered is the surest way to become miserable. The happiest people are those who volunteer their time, who take care of those who can’t give anything back to them, and who rarely think of themselves.

4) Happy people are humble. They don’t boast about their accomplishments, or who they know, or what they own. In fact, you’d be surprised by just how much they’ve done with their lives, if ever you were to find out, because they don’t advertise it.

5) Happy people rarely talk about themselves. In conversations, they’ll focus all of their attention on you. When they ask about your day, they really want to know. When you leave their presence, you’ll feel like the most important person in the world, and only later will you realize you heard very little about them.

6) Happy people are respectful. They will not ridicule, mock, or deride you. They may gently tease, but are careful to never drag you down, like crabs in a bucket. They respect your decisions, even if you don’t respect theirs.

7) Happy people are content. They are satisfied with the choices they’ve made in their lives, so they have no issues with the choices you make in yours. They may make suggestions because they’re concerned about your happiness, but they’ll never force you to accept their way of doing things. They will let you live your life, your way.

8) Happy people smile. When you see happy people, you know it. By their eyes, which radiate joy, their smiles, which are genuine, and their body position, which is open and inviting. They have nothing to hide, nothing to guard, and everything to share.

9) Happy people are kind. To everyone and everything. They smile at children, give a weary parent a nod of approval, assist the elderly, and even pick up items that have fallen off of shelves at the store, because they want to make some employee’s day just that much easier. Happy people are those who gently shoo away bugs instead of squashing them, and who will politely ask the stray dog to not befoul their gardens.

10) Happy people are honest. About you, about themselves, about the world around them. They don’t deceive, and they don’t cover up the truth, especially about themselves. If they are at fault, or if they have caused harm, they will ask forgiveness and actively seek to make restitution.  Happy people take full responsibility for their behavior and consequences, because they don’t want to cause unhappiness in others.

11) Happy people don’t take offense. Even if it’s intended. They just let the words roll off their backs, like water off a duck, and generously decide that the potential offender has merely had a bad day. Happy people think the best of people in all circumstances, not the worst. In fact, it may be hard to convince a happy person that someone is truly bad. They just don’t want to believe it.

12) Happy people are at peace.  That doesn’t mean the world which they inhabit is peaceful. Indeed, some of the happiest people I’ve observed have been calm in the most chaotic of situations. But they are at peace with themselves, with their choices, with who they are becoming, and most importantly, they are at peace with God, whose peace surpasses all understanding.

A quote from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “He created us to have joy,” on an orange watercolor background.

I see happy people everywhere, when I bother to look for them. Each of the items I’ve listed above I’ve noticed a happy person doing. (It was my dad who would politely ask dogs to leave our yard; he was the most peaceful man I’ve ever known. And yes, the dogs would leave, every time. He’d thank them, too.)

So how do we all become such happy people? I’m still working on that. It’s the old chicken-and-the-egg question, I suppose. But one thing I’ve noticed in myself is when I do my best to have these happy traits–if I “feel” it or not–my happiness level automatically increases.

This is what I’ve discovered:

happiness is a choice

Watch for them, the happy people. Tell me what other traits you observe in them, in yourself.

Notice when you feel joy. It may be more frequently than you realize.
Most importantly, share that joy with others. We all need more happy people in our world.

There’d always be pain, and always suffering, Perrin knew–

“And also always relief, and also always joy. That’s the trial of life, son, and it all works for our good. But it will always end in joy, Perrin.”
~Book 5,
Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

Getting rid of things is not getting rid of people

Anyone else get paralyzed by decluttering?

By staring at that old, ratty thing that you’ve had in a box for years, but can’t throw away or donate because of memories, guilt, or because you’d hauled it around for 28 years and it seems ludicrous to finally dump it now?

On the other hand, I look around my house and think, “If that were lost in a fire, would I try to replace it?” The only things I’d want to preserve, aside from my family, are our photos.

Everything else? Nah, they can go.

So why can’t I just chuck them now?

My kids will have to, in a few years. I should save them the hassle.

When my parents started to decline about six years ago, we began the first of many moves, putting them progressively into more intensive care, and also smaller rooms. The first time my siblings and I walked through our old house, which could have served as a backdrop for “That 70’s Show,” I was a little weepy.

Until I took a good look at the green shag carpet, which had been there since my parents bought the house in 1978.

(Not my parents’ old house, but could have been.)

Hideous.

The longer I looked at items my parents no longer needed in their new residence, the more I found myself wanting to chuck them. We preserved photos, journals, my dad’s paintings, and a few books. But everything else?

Within an hour we were tossing the majority into a dumpster. And we couldn’t do it fast enough. Who really needs Tupperware that’s forty years old?

We had to go through the process three more times, as they moved again, and finally as they passed. Each time we took home fewer items, until when my dad died all I wanted were his scriptures. My siblings took a few items, and the rest we donated. It filled the back seat of a car.

As I looked around his room, I realized that he lived quite well with very little.

The entire tiny house movement is based on this: the fewer items we own, the freer we are to live. The less house we own, the more money, time, resources, and peace we have.

I’m fascinated by minimalist movements, like Becoming Minimalist , full of advice to getting rid of all of the stuff we accumulate, thinking it will bring us joy.

(From the Becoming Minimalist Facebook page.)

Or Marie Kondo’s konmari approach to keeping only items that “spark joy” and releasing all those things that no longer do. She suggests giving them to find a new home, to bring joy to someone else.

I did that a few years ago with a china set my parents bought me before I was married. I used it exactly twice. Then I sold it, 25 years later, to a family in our neighborhood for $50. I felt simultaneously guilty and relieved; guilty because I thought it was so important that I never used it (and took it with us on a dozen moves), and relieved that someone else could enjoy it.

Probably 1/2 of all I own I wish I could “send on its way,” but guilt holds me back. My husband made this, or my deceased sister bought me that, or my mom used to wear this, or I read this once, thirty years ago.

I need to remember that the love and memories associated with that person or event don’t leave with the item.

They’re just things I’m throwing away, not the people.

High Polish Tatra mountains

Writing Book 5, and forcing characters to leave behind all that they own, made me wonder how I’d face the same situation. I admit, it’s left me mixed. I want to be able to toss it all, but irrationality holds me back.

A friend told me of her parents’ house—true hoarders—and their many packed sheds in their backyard. They’d asked their grandson to pull some weeds so they could open the door again (it’d been that long since they’d been in there), and as the brawny boy leaned against the shed for leverage, the entire thing crashed down. Everything was destroyed.

The boy’s father cheered.

The boy’s grandparents mourned.

Nothing was salvageable, nor could they remember what they had stored in there for many decades (mostly old paint, it turned out). But they resented having to throw it all away anyway.

(Don’t let this be your children’s fate.)

The rest of the family was thrilled when that shed came down. In fact, they had the grandson lean against all of the other sheds, hoping for a similar result. When my friend’s parents finally die, they’ll need at least three dumpsters, she estimates, to unload all of the stuff no one—not even her parents—can use.

There’s some strange pride in not letting things go, in holding on to something beyond its usefulness.

In not allowing anyone else to have it.

In not acknowledging that you never needed it in the first place.

Some psychiatrists suggest it’s a mental illness, or maybe conditioning from grandparents who endured The Depression nearly one hundred years ago. I remember well the “get more attitude” of the 1980s, where acquiring stuff was all the rage, where your value was based upon what you owned. I think a lot of us in my generation still suffer from this early programming.

But there’s simply no good reason to hoard stuff. No one needs 12 hammers, as one elderly man I know possessed (among a great many other things). He said someone might need to borrow one. In the thirty years I knew him, no one ever came looking to borrow a hammer. Or one of his 15 hand saws. Or 20 screwdrivers. He could have given them away long before they became rusty, to someone who truly would have appreciated them. But no.

I have a friend who has an entire bedroom stuffed with bins and boxes, all for Christmas. It takes her a full week to decorate her house, inside and out, and three Christmas trees. She admits it stresses out her family, especially since every surface is covered in something breakable, but every item is wrapped up in memories, she insists.

The memories of her children, however, of their anxious Christmases, may not be so favorable.

Why do we keep old furniture that’s damaged or even moldy, clothes that don’t fit, knick-knacks that went out of fashion years ago, paintings that no longer interest us, and books we’ll never read again?

Stuff our kids will throw out in another generation with alacrity?

For reasons I don’t yet understand, we often choose to remain burdened and laden by all that we own.  I want to empty out my bedroom closet, but that means tossing a stack of yearbooks. All I need to do is scan in the handful of photos I appear in, then throw away the books I have never, ever looked at since I graduated in the 1980s.

I also have several paintings I did in high school, which I’ll never display because they’re pretty poor, but which I can’t bear to give away. I’ve needlessly hauled them around for decades.

Sometimes I wish we could have a random fire, hitting particular items so that I’ll be forced to get rid of them. Moving many times has helped; each time I had to throw away boxes of destroyed stuff I thought I couldn’t live without I was relieved that I had a reason to get rid of them.

I have to admit, I’ve purposely dropped one or two items during a move just so that I didn’t have to find a shelf for them later.

I’m slowly sliding closer to minimalism. Each shelf that gets emptier, each old box that vanishes, each bag I bring to charity lightens my heart and eases my conscience.

By the time our youngest leaves the house in 15 years, we anticipate we’ll be moving into a tiny home, and that should force me to get rid of the last of the crud. I hope that by the time my husband and I die, our kids will need only an hour to clean up what we left behind. 

Doesn’t this just feel so clean, so simple, so serene?

Until then, I’ll try each week to toss out 10 items I don’t need. That’s my goal for the summer, and we’ll see how it goes.

If you happen to be good at separating things from those who gave them to you, tell me how you did it. I’m gonna need some motivation by August!

Why in the world am I giving away my books for free?

As I’ve done with my other books, I’m offering Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti for free as a .pdf file on my website.

Book 5 FRONT COVER kindle

Click on the image above to access the .pdf file. Yeah, for free. Seriously. No strings attached. (I’m not that kind of a girl.)

No, this makes absolutely no financial sense whatsoever. It’s the second place I’m offering it for free (Smashwords has the download for free) and when Amazon notices, it too will make it for free (maybe in a week or so; I have no control over that).

So why in the world am I doing this?

Because it’s not about money. Nothing, really, should ever be about money.

It’s because in many ways I feel I was given this book, like a rough blueprint, along with a pile of supplies, and told to “Go for it.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a clumsy builder, but for the past few years I’ve been constructing a book series I’ve absolutely loved! Writing and rewriting has brought such immense joy, and I want to share it, with as many people as possible. I don’t want a few bucks to come in the way of someone accessing it, and while the paperbacks cost a bit, I literally do not make anything from them. The prices are set to the barest minimum I’m allowed to set them to. (Even I have to pay to get them!)

You see, years ago the phrase, “Freely given, freely shared,” came to me, and while I’ll average about 30-40 hours a week writing and editing and working on this series and website, I don’t feel right about profiting from them. The reasons why are explained in detail in Book 5, as you’ll see.

But because this blueprint and supplies were “Freely given” to me by our Creator, I feel He wants me to “freely share” them with you. Yes, I’ve put in a ton of labor, but I’ve been compensated in other ways, if not monetarily.

No, I’m not independently wealthy. Our income qualifies us for a variety of social services which we choose not to accept, because we can get by just fine since we’ve learned to temper our desires and we don’t chase after the trends of the world.

I feel deeply, earnestly, about the messages of these books, and Book 5 in particular, which I spent a year studying and researching before I attempted to start writing.

So share freely, enjoy, and get the word out: “There’s this slightly mad woman giving away her books. Snatch them up, quick, before she comes to her senses!” (No worry there; I’ve never come to my senses. I have no idea where they are, and they aren’t too worried about looking for me, either.)

Book 5 IS HERE! Get it in e-book or paperback!

It’s HERE! Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, Book 5 is now available as an e-book ($.99) and in paperback ($13.50) (soon to be as a paperback on Amazon, too).

You can also find it on Smashwords for FREE!  

(Why for free? When you read Chapter 13, I think you’ll understand. “Freely given, freely shared.” And where the heck is Medicetti? You’ll find out . . .)

book 5 published announcementThank you for your patience, and enjoy! (I’m gonna take a nap now . . .)

Book 5 Cover Reveal!

Book 5 Front Cover

Woo-hoo! One huge step down, about a dozen more to go until I can launch Book 5: Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti.

It WILL be out before May is over. I don’t yet dare set a date because then the Anxiety Gods see that number and take it as a challenge to thoroughly undo me before then.

But I’m deep into final edits and formatting which, because there are three completely different platforms for print and ebooks, with each taking about 10 hours for someone technically-disabled such as myself to properly format, means I need lots of chocolate chips to get me through and I’m trying to give up sugar right now. Yeah, I chose a bad time for that.

But it WILL get done!

In the meantime, thanks again to my oldest son for standing in for the cover, even though he and his siblings keep saying, “What did you do to him? It’s Teagan, but it’s not Teagan.”

“I know,” I tell them. “Because now he’s Peto.”

“Who?”

That’s when I remember they haven’t bothered to read the books. If it doesn’t have a Star Wars character on the cover (Happy May the Fourth everyone!) they won’t touch it.

(For my next book cover, I’ll put a Wookiee in the background so it’ll trick my family into reading it. Actually, a Wookiee would fit pretty good on this cover . . . I think I need to do a bit more photoshopping.)

Book 5 cover reveal coming next week!

By Wednesday I’ll have completed the cover for Book 5: Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti! 

Interestingly, I’m using my oldest son on the cover, the one I wrote about earlier  who’s been ill with a strange viral infection for the past week and a half, and now a secondary bacterial infection. After three hospital visits, he’s finally on the mend.

Just a couple of days before he fell ill, we did his preliminary photo shoot. I told him that past experience showed we’d need to do a second shoot, because even though I took fifty shots of him, I’d realize they were all wrong, and we’d have to redo them. And perhaps a third time. (Maybe this is why my family is reluctant to dress up for my book covers?)

Well, after going through his photos, I realized they were pretty good, and I didn’t need to redo them after all. Good thing, because being ill has taken a toll on him, and it’d be a few weeks before he’d be back in shape.  Tig as Peto (First off, he’d have to shave his two weeks’ beard growth, and that would nearly kill him. I purposely took pictures of him right after he got home from the army, so that he’d still be clean shaven. I didn’t need Goatee-Man on the cover, although he pulls off that look pretty well.)

I changed his eye color, turning his dark brown eyes to light gray. (Any ideas who he’s going to be when his editing’s all finished?)

I did the same thing to his brother, who I used on the cover of Book 2: Soldier at the Door. It’s strange how merely changing one’s eye color suddenly changes the whole person. Both of my sons have very dark brown eyes, but not here. They’re no longer my boys, but new characters.

Bubba with blue eyes

(This change to blue eyes still creeps me out.)

While the rest of my family groans quietly before agreeing to be on my covers (they work for cookies, fortunately) my 8-year-old daughter, however, is DYING to be on a cover, so I may have to write a small book, just for her. (Working title: The Life and Times of a 3rd Grade Narcissist.)

 

 

Thank You-Giveaway time! Free swag!

THIS IS AN OLD GIVEAWAY, FROM 4 MONTHS AGO; There is no more free stuff. 

Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, is getting closer to being published! It’ll be out before the end of May. 

I’m having so much fun working on the cover and finalizing edits that I want to thank you for your support and patience by hosting another giveaway. For until they run out, I’ll mail you a book mark and a magnet, just for the asking.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(These will be collector’s items some day, folks.)

I designed the magnet for my own selfish use–I tend to forget things, so my fridge now has reminders like this:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(Although I don’t think my 8-year-old wants me to remember this.)

Isn’t that awesome? And cool? Don’t you want a magnet and bookmark?

Then just fill out the form below. I promise I will never use your name and address for anything else but sending you free swag. Your information is safe with me (primarily because I tend to lose addresses right after I write them down).

I also have a limited amount of the magnets I gave away last time (I really should clean off my desk more often, to see what else is hiding under the baskets I never use). If you want a set of these older magnet as well, let me know. I’ll be giving them away until they’re gone.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

(Yep. Got these on  my fridge as well.)

So fill out the form below (and let me know if you want last year’s magnet, too, if still available) with your full address, and I’ll get them in the mail to you. And yes, I will ship internationally.

THIS IS AN OLD GIVEAWAY–NO LONGER AVAILABLE!

Thank you again for your support and patience, and I’ll keep you posted as to when Book 5 is published!