Monday, July 30, 2012

Choosing love - Family Party

            For me, getting together with my cousins is better than drinking champagne.   There is something about looking into their eyes, seeing those smiles and hearing their voices that energizes me.   This year, I finally made the commitment to host a party with my family. 

            I know that I wrote about family parties in Lies That Bind and the family members sniped at each other and formed cliques.  We didn’t have that type of party.  I seldom see a group of people who interact with as much love and respect as my cousins.  I love to watch them sharing their stories and retelling the old family stories.  I can almost see bonds forming, wisdom being passed and family members finding solid ground.

            The magic of a family that treats each other with love and respect seemed to permeate even into our pets.  For Saturday dinner we had fifty-eight people and eight dogs present.  The pack of dogs occasionally wandered through the crowd of people, but mostly they went off and played doggie games with each other.  They never got rowdy or growly with each other.  They were just a joy to watch as they explored my acre of gardens or followed the preschoolers.

            The preschoolers were another delight.  Our family is at the stage where another generation is having babies.  We had two tiny babies and three children who were three.  The three year olds started with sharing a few toys and running some trucks around then they discovered the fountain and my child sized pails for holding cut flowers.  The children industriously watered all the weeds in my garden.  When it was time for my niece to take her son home, he’d gotten totally in to the cousin thing and spontaneously hugged his three year-old, fourth cousin goodbye.  Those two caught the magic.

            It all sounds idyllic to talk about a family dedicated to loving each other.  I admit that I got hundreds of heartfelt hugs of gratitude for hosting the party.  We laughed a great deal.  From the outside it may appear that we don’t have problems.  It may look as if we all grew up in amazing, stable, loving homes.  No.  Most of us have had cancer—many of us have had it more than once.  I am officially classed as disabled as are some of the others.  Not all of us had two parents who knew how to parent.  Some of the cousins who came had a rough childhood.  Still each person came to the party and gave and received love.  How is it that we can get together and share such love that even the tiny children and dogs treat each other amiably and share the opportunity to explore the world together?

            I think the answer to that question lies in the decisions we make.  I could decide to recline on my sofa and whine about being tired or in pain, or I could get up and do something that makes me feel better.  I can decide to discipline myself to rest when my body needs to rest.  Most of all I can decide to love and be happy.  As I talked to my cousins, I understood that they have made the same decision.  We need to decide to treat each other with respect.  People must make a decision to love.  Yes, we’ve all been sick or disappointed, but have made the decision to be happy, love and find new life adventures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What About Maude?

            I have just gotten another manuscript ready to go to my poor editor. Well, Maudy is ready to send off except I don’t have a name for the book.

            Now, this is the twenty-first century I have several modern options for naming my book.  I tried Googling “what to name my book about Maude.”  I learned that the name, Maude, means Battle Maid, which is very appropriate for a United Methodist Pastor.  I’ve considered doing more research, writing a list of significant events in the story and incorporating something from that.  I could poll marketing people or look for the names of best selling books in the romance genre.  Alternatively, I could do the same thing I’ve been doing to solve my problems for most of my life.  I can ask my friends, “What do you think would be a good name for my book?”

            Maude is a widow in her early to mid forties.  Her daughter has finished college and her son is a junior.  Maude’s husband died of a brain injury ten years before the story opens.  His injury caused him to hallucinate so that just before he died, he tried, almost successfully, to kill Maude.  Part of her problem is the trauma this event has left on her family.  The other part of her problem is that she must learn to find the pieces of her life that went missing while she was hospitalized. 

            This story begins shortly after Maude has been assigned as the pastor to a church in the small town of Blackfish on the Kitsap peninsula.  On a Monday, she runs away to the city for a day where she trips and falls onto Ralph’s chest.  From this moment we know she is destined to spend the rest of her life with Ralph.

            While Maudy and Ralph are figuring out their relationship, she is kept busy and entertained by her congregation, her family and her cat, John Wesley.  When a boy at the high school attacks a girl in the hall causing the girl to suffer brain damage similar to Maudy’s experience, Maude makes certain the family will not be offended by the presence of clergy then plunges into their crisis, using all the wisdom and memories of her own injury, to love and support this family in crisis.  She explains her involvement by telling Ralph, “I realize that by helping these strangers--making certain they have meals delivered and sharing what I know--I am helping myself.  I am rewriting my own history, only with more love.”

            Maude’s congregation consists of twenty-three people.  The youngest is only seventy-nine.  She is certain the conference is planning on closing this church soon.  Her struggles include her own internal battle as to whether to fight for the church to grow or let it dwindle and die along with its elderly congregation.

            Part of Maude’s charm is that she has vivid dreams that usually include things she can’t have, like fresh groceries or cute shoes that are too charming to ever find in a store.  Ralph figures prominently in her frustrated dreams, not always in a frustrating manner. 

            She is a bit of a rebel.  When we first meet her, she takes conscious pleasure in the feel of Ralph’s shoulder under her hand.  We see her giggling in the hardware store with the town’s scarlet woman about the best place for disposing of dead bodies.  Ralph occasionally exclaims in frustration, “You don’t look like a preacher and you don’t fit any of my stereotypes about them either!” 

            Maudy’s Porsche is my favorite of her little anti-social rebellions.  To put the matter delicately, her car has had energy-source realignment surgery.  She found a mechanic to rip the gas engine out of a Porsche body and install batteries and an electric motor.  She plugs the thing into an outlet at night and giggles when men give her silent car funny looks.

            The story is a delightful mix of contemporary social commentary, romance, wisdom and voyeuristic fun.  Alas, it does not have a title.  Do you have any suggestions?

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