The Message of the Sunset

There’s something about a sunset, isn’t there? It’s more than just the beautiful colors across the horizon and the way the sun dips just behind it all until the edge of the Earth seems to drink it in and swallow it down. No matter where I am in the world, I am fascinated by sunsets. Oh yes, a sunrise is beautiful and signals the beginning of a new day, a new chance, but it doesn’t compare to a sunset.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the sunset from the top of a mountain in the Rockies, over the Arno in Florence, Italy, across the quicksand in Mont St. Michel, France, and from across the Caribbean Sea in the islands and in South America. Whether on a business trip with my husband or backpacking across Europe with my daughter after her high school graduation, each sunset has been spectacular and presented, not the promise, but the possibility of new day.

While the sunrise ensures that those who made it through the night will have the pleasure to welcome a new day, the sunset only fulfills the promise that you lived that day and the ones before it. Is that sad? I think not. While there are many roads you may travel tomorrow and many adventures still ahead, all we really have when we are called home is what we did and how we lived today, and yesterday, and before any of the countless sunsets we witnessed. Every sunset allows us to assess our day and our actions, to bathe in the glory of our current existence, and to relish in the simple things in life. To watch a flaming ball of fire as it seemingly falls into the ocean where it is extinguished amid a palette of blues, purples, and pinks is just a small gift we are given. Savor it every chance you get.

Where will you be at sunset tonight?

Keeping Balance

DSC00558Life is all about balance.  Have you ever given that any thought?  We have two eyes, ears, arms, legs, lungs, kidneys, even nostrils.  Our bodies are perfectly proportioned (given a genetic twist here and there); and even inside where we might have one organ, there is another organ (or two) opposite it that maintains that balance.  When you really think about, it’s amazing!  So how does that matter for the rest of our being?  Writer and theologian Thomas Merton taught that “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”  Sometimes we are in perfect balance within ourselves and our lives, and, well, sometimes we are not!

This morning, in my exercise class, we were practicing our “tree pose.”  You know, the one where you stand perfectly still on one leg while the other leg is bent with your foot pressed against your thigh, hands held above your head like branches.  I will admit that most mornings, I can do this without too much of a problem, at least on one of my legs.  This morning, I couldn’t balance myself on either leg.  Trying not to get frustrated, I began to wonder what was keeping me off balance.  I wasn’t too tired or hungry. My clothes fit right, so no slipping and sliding on loose fabric.  I was feeling good about myself (heck, I got up at 6 and went to class, right?), so what was going on?  Then I began to wonder if the imbalance was mental and not physical.  Maybe today needs to be about tying up loose ends and restoring balance, order, rhythm, and harmony to my life.  I’ll finish my edits on my next novel, get that stack or paperwork completed, make the phone calls I have been putting off, and begin to refocus on doing what I aspire to do best – writing my next tale.

And I should give a big thanks to those who help me to maintain balance in my life: my husband, my mother, my children, my closest friends, and God.  And thank you to those helping me to finish putting together Picture Me.  You all are the instruments that keep my life in perfect harmony.

Taking The Bull By The Horns

DSC00799Since most of my readers do not know me personally, I feel there is something you should know about me from the start: I do not go quietly into the night.  My family knows that, as do my friends, as well as everyone at the schools where my children attend, the parents of my Girl Scout Troop, my summer camp staff, my editor, and my cover artist.  I will fight to the end for what I believe is right, especially if it involves someone I love (and that includes my books and also you, my dear readers).

I may not always be the most tactful, and yes, sometimes I grab the bull by the horns before making sure I’m secure in my seat, but I do try to make things right no matter what the outcome of the fight.  I hold no grudges, and I think that’s important for everyone to know.  I can look you in the eye and tell you what you may not want to hear today, and then I will happily share a cup of coffee (or in my case, tea) with you tomorrow, all bad feelings aside.  If you ever hear that I’m talking about you behind your back, don’t believe it because trust is essential to me, and whoever has told you that is not somebody I would have entrusted information to in the first place.  I am what you get, and I live by nobody else’s rules or expectations (except,of course, my Divine Creator).

I tell you this because you will, no doubt, recognize these traits in all of my protagonists.  As a suspense writer, there is the ever present element of trust (and of course, mistrust) in my books, and the characters are always up against a brick wall in one way or another.  Rest assured that whether it’s Susan fighting for the lives of Cassie and Ellie in A Place to Call Home, or Eric fighting the ghosts of his past while Julie fights the terrors of her present in my upcoming novel, Picture Me, there will always be a bit of a tiger in my heroes and heroines.  After all, they have been created by and are all a part of me.

Did You Miss It?

total-lunar-eclipseWhere were you between and 6:00 and 6:30 this morning?  I was standing on my sun porch with my husband and two daughters (I’m assuming that my oldest daughter was snug in bed in her dorm room).  We watched as the shadow of the sun traveled across the blood moon leaving just a sliver of light on the right side of the moon’s face.  We stood as long as we could before heading back upstairs to get ready to start our day.

How often do you take a moment to celebrate life with your family?  It’s not always easy!  As my thirteen-year-old groaned and complained that she didn’t want to get up yet, it would have been easier on her, and honestly on me, to let her sleep.  But somehow I knew that the real joy in standing on the chilly porch in our pajamas wasn’t seeing the cosmic phenomenon, it was seeing it together as a family.

Family is a big theme in my writing – losing family, searching for family, and ultimately finding or creating a family (while in the midst of running for their lives, of course).  Our time here is so fleeting.  We are here today and possibly gone tomorrow.  Take the time to do those little things that will make your family life memorable.  Then nobody will never have to ask you, “Did you miss it?”

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What Do You See?

truckUntil I began talking to others about how I come up with my stories, I had no idea that all of my life, I have seen things differently than others.  For example, when you go to an airport, what do you see?  Business people heading to their next meeting or convention?  Families going on vacation?  Couples embarking on their honeymoon?  Or do you just see people waiting for a plane?  Have you ever thought about?  Put down your phones and look around…. What DO you see?

I see spies, runaways, kidnappers, even terrorists.  What is that man carrying in his attaché?  Why is the little girl with the pink bow in her hair crying and attempting to break loose from the man holding her hand?  Is all of that kissing and cuddling for real or for show in order to blend in while on assignment following a mobster to Grand Cayman?

Everywhere I go, there is a story.  The elderly lady in the wheelchair is the only survivor of her family, alive and well today thanks to a benevolent man who pretended she was his own daughter and saved her from a bus ride to Auschwitz. The man on the corner is waiting for his contact to bump into him “accidentally” and leave an encrypted flash drive in his pocket.  The young woman ordering coffee in front of me ended a long-term relationship after catching her fiancé and maid of honor in a compromising position and has just stepped off the train to begin a new life in the city.

Sitting at a stop light yesterday, I observed a red truck in front of me.  All lettering and logos had been painted over; there was nothing identifiable about the truck other than the bad paint job.  The back was coated with mud and dirt.  The license plate was unreadable.  Hmm…. I began to think.  What is that all about?  What’s in that truck?  Where are they heading?  If a crime was committed today, perhaps a robbery or an explosion in a parking garage, would this truck be involved?  Could I identify it?  My mind raced as I followed it down the road.  “Take a picture of that truck,” I told my daughter.  Raising her eyebrow, she turned towards me.  “You never know when it might come in handy,” I said mysteriously.  At this point, she knows better than to ask when this happens.  She knows that I am seeing something she doesn’t.  Lost in my thoughts I failed to ask her what I ask you now, “So, what do you see?”