When Bad Things Happen

It doesn’t take more than a minute of watching the news to be convinced that bad things happen every day. And most of the time, we’re accepting of this fact. Until the storm hits us.
In the case of my home state, fires are ravaging the scenic Columbia River Gorge. People I know have been displaced and might lose everything they own if the hungry flames aren’t stopped.


In the case of Texas, it was a hurricane named Harvey. That cruel man dumped a year’s worth of rain in a hour. Needless to say, things were swept away.


In the case of America, there have been shootings and attacks against innocents. This used to be the signature move of terrorists, but these days it seems anyone can get involved.


In every event, people affected by the fallout want to point a finger of blame.
Why is that? Will it make the bad things go away? If the guilty parties cough up whatever restitution deemed appropriate by the victims, will it change anything that has happened?
I’m a proponent of justice. Hello? Wonder Woman is an icon on this blog for a reason.


But sometimes unjust things happen and no one is to blame.
Can we truly blame the hurricane on someone?
Maybe those who ascribe to global warming will say these increasingly severe storms are in direct correlation with that.
I believe God is the Creator and Master of the universe. Does that mean he’s to blame for the severe weather and its damaging outcome?
But I try not to play the blame game.
Why?
Because it solves nothing.
It won’t reset the game table (our country, the planet) to pre-disaster condition. Nor will it put food, water and other necessities in the hands of the destitute.
Instead of pointing fingers, I go introspective.
I ask myself:

  1. What could I have done differently to change this outcome?
  2. What part did I play in this bad thing?
  3. If my bad decisions led to it, what did I learn from it?
  4. Who can I help overcome a similar bad thing?
  5. What is God trying to teach me during this difficult time?

Most of the time, this keeps me from wallowing too long in the slop called self pity.

But it doesn’t free me from making amends when the answers to the first two questions indicate I played a role in what happened.
And question four empowers me to use what I’ve learned to help other people.
When bad things happen, they hurt more when we face them alone.
When bad things happen, people probably can’t stop them or change them, but they can buoy up the ones suffering.
There’s been an ongoing “bad thing” happening in my personal world for many months. I’ve prayed about it. Ranted about it. Tried to stand up to it.

And it’s still happening.

Because I can’t change the minds of other people. I can’t force them to act according to my code of conduct or adhere to my moral standards and beliefs.
I’m not sure I’ve discovered what God is trying to teach me yet. But here are some things I’ve learned:

  • God is in control even when I don’t see it. Even when things are happening contrary to His perfect will
  • God’s love for me (and the people instigating the problems) is strong and secure
  • I have a spouse who will bolster me when I’m ready to quit and who needs me to do the same for him
  • Anything can become an idol, something worshiped above God, even a church

Life is filled with good and bad. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to people bent on evil and destruction.

The sun rises on the evil and on the good, and rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45 paraphrased).

And, Lord, we could really use some rain in Oregon. Although even that wonderful blessing won’t undo all the damage some illegal fireworks caused for so many in this state (and Washington since the fire jumped the mighty Columbia).
What bad things are happening in your world? How do you deal with bad things?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

In Memoriam: The Day When Everything Changed

As I prepared my blogs ahead of time, I came to 9/11. Monday is my regular posting day, and I had a post about writing ready to go. Then I typed the date.

And stopped.

Memories swamped me. Where I was. How I felt. How I needed to connect with my traveling husband, and the phone circuits didn’t work.
Even though it’s not a “special” anniversary this year, I recalled it all. I’ve never understood what makes one anniversary better than another. Twenty-five years is silver, and fifty years is golden.

Every year should be a celebration of the fact there is another year to celebrate.

Anniversaries of hard times aren’t celebrated at all. But they are marked on the calendars of our heart. Four years since Mom died. Eight years since Gram died. Five years since my friend moved away.

Today is that day.

A day loaded with melancholy and horror, grief and terror. On the flip side, it’s brightened by national pride and patriotism.

New York City skyline

In memoriam of This Day, I’m sharing an informal bit of poetry.

It Only Takes a Moment

One moment
Life is business as usual
Alarm clock and workout wear
Planning sack lunches
Checking the to-do list
Heading to the gym
Kickboxing and sweat
Another day in the life
Of a blessed American citizen

One moment later
Everything tilts sideways
Planes used as cannon balls
Sirens, smoking towers
People gaping, weeping
Unquenchable fires
No way to evacuate
This has to be special effects
But no, this moment is all too real

Only minutes later
Another plane crashes
The other tower flames
Too much horror
Not enough time
Rescuers become victims
Newscasters are speechless
Video gives awful detail
Life becomes a horror show

One hour later
Jumpers and screamers
A tower implodes
Thousands of innocents
Who woke up to normal
Sleep forever
No one escapes
Tragic terror
Every foundation rattles

Heroes step forth in this darkest of hours
Defined in their moment of sacrifice

One day later
Prayer vigils with candlelight
Fluttering flags at half-mast
Churches overflow
A nation of mourners
Stunned to silence
Awakened to need
God Bless America
News time sign-off

One week in slow motion
Weeping abates, anger stirs
Patriots stand, orders obeyed
Racial profiling
Fingers pointing
Vengeance and blame
Can justice prevail
To rebuild the ruins
Or repay the death toll

One new tomorrow
Greeted in gratitude
Forged in unity
Gained in freedom
Faded with time
Gone so soon
Forgotten in life
Until that one moment
When everything changes

Again


On September 11, 2001, I walked out of the gym after my kickboxing class at the fitness club. I glanced at the screen (they have TV monitors everywhere in those places) and wondered what movie trailer was playing.
Seriously. It was so horrifying, it had to be from a film.
In my car, the radio announcers explained the situation on the East Coast. Shock numbed me. Many hours later it sank in, devastated me.
The experience is beyond words, but maybe those I shared above touch a little bit of the significance of That Day When Everything Changed.
Where were you when you learned about the 9/11 terrorist attack?

Summer, Summer, Where Have You Gone?

Summer is my favorite season. Shortly after Christmas is past, I start wishing for warmer temperatures. Or at least sunny skies.
I have a cousin who would happily leave his Christmas tree up year-round. If there was a symbol for summer, I’d set that baby up and move it to more prominent positions as temperatures dropped.
Seriously. The only good thing about winter is Christmas. I learned that fact in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Narnia was cursed by the White Witch. How?

It was always winter, but never Christmas.

Ugh.
This entire year has sped by already but summer seemed in constant fast-forward. Can you believe this is the last day of the eighth month of 2017? Tomorrow is the ninth month.

Worst of all, the ninth month will bring the end of summer.

The weather man is predicting warm, sunny days for a few weeks still. But when the sun goes down, the heat goes away.
No more sitting out on the patio in the evening to chill. Unless you want to pull on warm socks, long pants and a sweatshirt. No more s’mores roasting.
Of course, it also means no more air-conditioned house 24/7. Once the temperature drops, you can switch the AC off and throw open the windows.
My husband has already started doing this.

Here’s a recap of my summer:

Writing like a whirlwind in Vancouver, BC


Querying agents at a brand new conference


Choosing a title for the nonfiction I was querying


Getting selected to write Christian romance in a new Kindle World


Installing a water feature in the back yard
Releasing the second book in my Virtual Match Romance series


Barbecuing with the family on the patio
Writing the Christian romance story


Meeting new writers to beta read this new genre
Attending Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference


Making writer friends at the conference


Enjoying a total eclipse of the sun with family

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Spending eclipse day with the birthday boy


A quick retreat at my sister’s beach house

Can you hear the shush? Smell the salinity?

Lots of reading in the evenings (but boy did my crocheting suffer)
It doesn’t seem like much when written in a list like this. But it filled three sunny months and made them whip by.
My favorite memory from this summer is that it didn’t rain. Only a couple of days were cloudy. After nine months of endless downpours, I needed this three-month reprieve.

Am I ready for the rainy season? Never.

What’s your favorite memory from this summer? Include a picture if my comment section allows it (or jet over to my FB page where you can surely post one in the comments on the post announcing this blog).

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

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Two Minutes of Darkness

 

Must see what others posted on Social Media

Did I drop gray-lenses glasses over my eyes? That’s what it looked like at ten this morning when the moon cast the sun in its shadow.

Yes, my home was near the path of “totality” in Oregon. Since today is my son’s birthday, we headed south to his house into the path of totality.

Two minutes of darkness on a bright sunny day must have sent people in the Middle Ages into a frenzy. (Maybe that’s why they called it the Dark Ages? Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I understand what made those “dark” times.)

The Setup

After I made a delicious birthday breakfast of French toast and bacon, we headed out into the sunlight. A golden ball shone from the crystalline aquamarine sky.

My husband had two camera rigged up. The rest of us were making bad puns, occasionally glimpsing through our “approved for eclipse” glasses.

The warning on the flimsy frames said I shouldn’t look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time.

Someone suggested an eclipse playlist. Of course, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” made the top of the chart. I quoted “You’re so Vain” because a local station played it yesterday, so it was fresh in my mind.

We made plenty of suppositions about how many human sacrifices the Aztecs fed to their volcanoes during the two-minutes of darkness during their hey day.

The shadows reflect the crescent shape of the sun behind the moon

And of course, I wondered what might happen if your shift to “werewolf” was tied to the solar eclipse rather than a full moon. In fact, we decided an Ocelot-shifter might be a better choice. Something that loved the sun but went into hunter mode when the sun set.

Look for that story in the near future.

The Reaction

After the Chiquita banana stage, I glimpsed through my special spectacles more frequently. Soon a bare cuticle of a thumbnail of sun could be seen.

The glasses came off and the midnight sky turned granite as the sun-powered corona transformed the mid-day-night-like sky.

Whoops rose in the air. Neighbors ignited fireworks (apparently, in Woodburn, OR, any time is a great time for fireworks). Crickets sang their songs.

It was a glorious view. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.

And story-inspiring for my author brain.

Faces were ringed with joyous smiles. Eyes sparked, lit with an inner fiery star.

Afterward

 

My daughter hightailed it to her job. Sadly, everyone had the same idea.

Traffic slowed. Suddenly, freeway travel between the Oregon state capital to the largest city in the state looks strangely like a day in Los Angeles.

Ugh.

Thankfully, my husband was telecommuting. And there’s internet at my son’s house (or the home of his second parents where we enjoyed the total eclipse of the sun outside by their gazebo) for me to do a little writing.

These pictures don’t do it justice. Once I can get to my computer and my husband can download his GoPro footage and his speedy-lens still photos, I’ll share the cream of the crop with you.

If you were in the path of totality, what was your experience? When have you been awed by two minutes (or less)? Continue reading “Two Minutes of Darkness”

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Four

Media and conversations continue to remind me how relieved I am NOT to be a kid these days. It’s like kids are expected to come from the womb knowing exactly who they are and what they want from life.

If you read my other posts in this series, you might recall that I wanted to be a secret agent at one point. Oh, and if I didn’t wish to be a horse, I pretended to be a boy. All of this to say school isn’t about learning the basics anymore.

Recently, I realized that I had another advantage over kids these days. Of course, movies and journalists will claim it means I was brainwashed, but I was expected to adhere to a specific set of rules. And my mother took me to the church she believed taught the right things.

So Many Beliefs

Our world is diverse in so many ways. There are different races and religions. People choose political affiliation.

Cultures stress family units or individual achievement. Books are written about things as vague as basketweaving to the ridiculous notion of a zombie apocalypse.

Who’s to say what’s right or wrong?

Well, in the world of what I want to believe, I get to decide what is right for me. And, as a parent, I’m responsible for teaching my child the difference between right behavior and wrong behavior.
How did any of us survive with our mothers feeding us cow’s mile in our bottles? Everyone knows babies can process all those harsh proteins. They need their mother’s milk or expensive formula.
But we did survive. Our parents fed us what they ate.
Medical research has since declared cow’s milk “unhealthy” for infants. But did babies die from drinking it back in the day when people didn’t know better?
Maybe. Most likely they developed some form of allergic reaction. Even I was allergic to the fat in milk. It made my skin bubble up and itch.
All this to say that no person can teach their child every different belief system. In fact, they should give due diligence to being consistent living their own beliefs and explaining them to their children.
This whole “We don’t take our kid to church because we want them to choose their own beliefs” mentality confuses me. Introducing your children to what you believe is choosing to believe it for them?
I think not. You’ll put the Crest toothpaste on the counter in the bathroom and watch them brush their teeth twice per day. Why Crest? Is it really better than Colgate or Aquafresh or the store brand?
How can you force your toothpaste choice on your child?
Even more to the point, why do you make them brush their teeth anyway? What if they believe bad breath is better?

Pressure to Conform

Children will face pressure to conform.
If the parents don’t give them a baseline of acceptable responses (based on their own worldviews and societal standards), they’re setting their child up to fall in with the loudest voice.
For a few years, parents can be the only voice a child hears. And believe me, they will choose to ignore that voice plenty of times. Hopefully there will be consequences when they do.
Fair and consistent outcomes won’t happen very often in the larger world, but parents can make sure they happen in their child’s pre-school world. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do it?
Because you’re brainwashing your child to be a Christian or a person who bathes or someone who eats three balanced meals per day?
As soon as they begin interacting with other kids, the pressure is on. Eventually, they’ll want different toys, different clothes, and different opportunities.
Do they really need these things to become a well-rounded individual?
Or if they conform to these expectations, are they being brainwashed by larger society to believe and act a certain way?

Freedom to Choose

God created humans to have free will.
Every person should have freedom to choose for themselves. God said so. He set the universe in place on that truth.

But if there is a choice, there is a right one and a wrong one.

Just because being a doctor is right for some people, it’s wrong for me. I don’t like to listen to a sick person’s list of complaints. I don’t want to go to school for a decade and be exposed to every bodily fluid.

But that doesn’t mean being a doctor is wrong. We need conscientious doctors who care about the physical and emotional well-being of people.

I wouldn’t be that doctor.

This is a case where the freedom to choose will give individuals unique outcomes. What’s right for one isn’t right for all.

However, children need to eat protein and vitamins. If they don’t, their brains and bodies won’t grow to optimum potential.

And fortified cereal isn’t the same as fresh fruit and organic eggs. Even if all the nutrients are the same, we know the foods aren’t equal. One choice is healthier for the developing human than the other.

In this case, freedom to choose can have a negative outcome if you choose poorly. And there is a better, more healthy choice.

All choices aren’t created equal even if the right to make them is consistent across the board.

I’m glad my mother didn’t give me a choice. Even though it meant eating liver and butternut squash, I didn’t get to choose to have a bologna and cheese sandwich instead. It meant I had to pick up rocks, pull weeds and clean toilets, but I’m not afraid to work hard and I know how to take care of my yard, garden (ugh, or how to NOT have one) and home.

I wouldn’t have been able to make good choices about many things in my life when I was a kid. If I’m honest, I still make poor choices as a middle-aged adult woman.

Let’s face it the $5 lunch from Dairy Queen sound delicious. And so much easier to make than fresh fruit, plain yogurt and sliced red peppers. But which one is a healthier choice?

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Two

Both of them have their phones in hand, fingers gyrating madly, half-smiles on their lips. My old fingers aren’t so coordinated, and here lies another reason I’m glad not to be a kid these days.
Technology is great. I love it. Obviously, you’re reading this via the Internet on my website as a blog post.
When I was a kid, none of those things existed. Most of them weren’t even under consideration. Heck, I learned computer programming in Basic as a sophomore in high school. And computers were as big and clunky as a TV (well, the TVs of the 1980s).
But those kids in the opening paragraph? They’re texting each other while seated on opposite ends of the couch.
How do I know this? Because they’re MY kids. I watched them do it, and shook my head thinking:

What has the world come to that we have to send messages to a person five feet away in the same room?

Social Engagement In Person

Although my kids are big with texting and private messaging, they know how to talk to people in person. And I’ve always made them put the phone away during family dinners.
Well, I did when they were kids. They’re still pretty good about respecting this and boy do they give me a hard time if I have MY phone out while we’re at the table.
Usually I’m just checking in on Facebook because…it’s the thing to do. Right?
I’m an introvert, but I can totally engage with people in person and especially in small group settings. A family dinner generally falls into this category.
Many kids don’t know how to make eye contact when they’re talking. They might mumble or fidget. Like the physical connection makes them itch.
Is this what we’re teaching them by letting them only engage via text, chat and messaging?

Social Engagement Via Device

It was funny the first time one of my kids texted me when I was across the room. Ha, ha. *waves*
It’s not funny that so many kids prefer this to face-to-face interactions. How will they learn the rules for good communication if they never engage in it?
Or are we moving to a society where the closest we get to face-to-face is Facetime? That’s a disheartening thought because people need physical connections.
It took me years to get a Facebook account, and I finally did it only to build my author platform. (And I’m not sure how much it’s helped with that as opposed to distracted me from writing books, but that’s another post.) Now, the younger generation has moved on from that.


They’re into SnapChat or Instagram. They want to post pictures more than have a conversation.
It all sounds so superficial to me. Where are they making friends they can talk to about their issues?

Why I Would Hate It This Way

As an introvert, I could hole up in my office all day. If I chatted with some friends via Messenger, that would satisfy my need for conversation.
But I would still be lonely for human interaction.
And the social media brand of communication is pretty me-focused. Look at what I’m wearing. This is where I’m eating lunch. Check out the view from my vacation.
To prove my point about the self-centered bent of engagement on social media, the day I began writing this post was National Selfie Day.
Really? Because that should be a thing?
I’m terrible at taking selfies, and I have no desire to get better. The best photo of me is the one I don’t know you’re taking.
As an author, I live to write. And my words are meant to be read and enjoyed by other people. That means I can’t be self-focused or no one will want to read my stuff.
I avoid the guy (or gal) in the room who’s talking all about their latest and greatest whatever without any thought to care about anyone else’s. Ugh.
It’s not just the thumb action that makes me glad I’m not a kid in this tech-enhanced-communication era. I need human touch and connection, eye-to-eye so I can see that the person cares about me.
Do you think social media is playing havoc without our ability to interact face-to-face?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Crazy Things Students Say

I’m a full-time author. At least two days each work week (when school is in session), I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
Due to a shortage of licensed substitutes, my state allows any person with a Bachelor’s Degree to go through the training and application process and attain what is called a Restricted Substitute License. Although I hold no teaching degree, I have more than a decade of experience in education.

Why would I subject myself to such a topsy-turvy schedule? Two reasons:

  1. It’s not conducive to creativity to spend everyday in an office without interacting with other people (and social media doesn’t replace actual human face-to-face contact)
  2. Most of my publishing contracts are “royalties only” and the schools give me a much more regular (and at this point, substantial) paycheck

Since my dream is to write fantasy novels for young adults, this subbing thing keeps me engaged with their worldview and voice.


Heard at the Middle School

“If you’re an author, why would you be a sub?”

Why indeed! I generally give them reason number two as outlined above. I have been known to use other reasons, as well, but not to the same student.
Yes, this is a common question. For some reason, they think a published author should be SO famous and well-paid that they wouldn’t submit themselves to the degradation of being a substitute. (I don’t find it degrading. I actually enjoy it…most days.)
“Are you the sub?” Isn’t this obvious? I’m always amazed by this question.
“YES!” I never know how to respond to this unabashed joy that they have a substitute. It would be ego-affirming if it was because they liked me so much, but the reality is much darker. Any sub is preferable to the regular teacher.
What does that mean? Is the teacher mean? Are subs easy? What?


Heard at the High School

“Do people ever call you Miss Texas?” (Do you need context for this? My last name is often mispronounced as Houston by students.) “I’m from Texas, and I’d like to call you Miss Texas.”
Well, thank you, freshman male student. Now I can feel like a beauty pageant contestant–for an hour of my life.
“At least I had a dad.” I’m not sure this one needs any explanation. FYI, the student was laughing in a pleasant manner when he said it. (And no, it wasn’t directed at me.)
“You look familiar” (and after I say I’ve subbed often in the building) “No that’s not it. I think it’s from Facebook.”
Just when I’m wondering if my author page is blowing up with my young adult audience, the bubble is burst.


“You were one of my suggested friends.” (What does that even mean? I know she meant FB suggested me as someone she might know, but what is a suggested friend?)
“Hey, I know you!” I’m squinting at the skinny junior boy at my old alma mater. I definitely know the kid in the back of the row beside him.
I try the, “I subbed here two weeks ago” response.
“No, that’s not it.” He gives his forehead an exaggerated pound. “The middle school. Right?”
“Are you sure you can remember that far back?” Three years is a lifetime for teenagers. But I smile and assure him that he’s nailed it. Too bad he doesn’t smile so proudly when I hand him the essay assignment a few minutes later.
There are priorities. Writing class is rarely one of them for high school students.
These teenagers offer me plenty of smiles. And eye rolls. But best of all, their vivacity contributes fodder for future fiction. (Yes, I do love my alliteration.)
So, I’m glad that the state hasn’t changed the substitute teaching requirements just yet. I’m on my way to being licensed for three more years of inspiration from the world of public school.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard lately?

Four Things that Keep me Awake at Night

I fall asleep easily when I first go to bed. Most nights, I can drop back into slumber after urgency wakes me for a trip across the tile floor to the bathroom. And it’s really not accurate to suggest things keep me awake.
To clarify: once I wake up, there are a number of things that prevent me from returning to the land of dreams.
Usually, I’ll start praying and that will tip me over the edge. I’m pretty sure God isn’t impressed that I fall asleep during so many of our conversations, but thankfully his mercy is great.


On the night in question, that didn’t work.
Snoring
Not mine. My husband’s.
Tonight, it only took two elbows and two adjustments of his position for the ear-grating noise to cease. Hallelujah!
Too bad that wasn’t the only enemy to my night of restful slumber.
Cats
I adore cats. In my mind, there is no such thing as “too many cats.”
Of course, I’ve never had more than three cats at one time, so perhaps it’s my lack of experience talking here.
Because one cat can be too many in the middle of the night when my body craves rest but my brain refuses to shut down.
One cat was resolutely positioned between me and hubby. Fine. Except when the other cat decided to walk over her to get to me.
Because there isn’t an entire mattress.
Purring soothes me and sometimes I can concentrate on the vibrations and that lulls me into sleep. But not if the cat in question has gas. Or is beating me with his tail.
Or must circle incessantly to find the best position, which always has to be much less comfortable for me than him. And this is nonsensical since we’ve all seen the memes of cats sleeping in the craziest contortions imaginable.
Thinking too Much
This one is sometimes related to the last think keeping me awake tonight.
Or it could be thoughts about:

  • What I need to do tomorrow
  • A story idea
  • A problem with a manuscript
  • Lists I need to make
  • Another story idea
  • Crochet projects and what colors of yarn I need to buy (see this post for more info)
  • Wondering if I’ll get called to substitute teach in a few hours
  • Mapping out my menu for the week
  • Outlining the next writing project (all of which will be forgotten in the light of day)
  • Testing out blurbs or loglines for a current manuscript


I would go on, but I’m pretty sure the list has already put 95 percent of the people reading it into a peaceful dream state.
                                                                             You’re welcome.
Replaying my own Stupidity
This is the reel that pushed me out of bed tonight (which is not the time you’re reading these words but it is the time I wrote them around 3:28am on a Tuesday).
How have I become so dependent on a navigation system? Not that I’ve ever been good with directions, mind you, but why can’t I follow road signs?
Did I really let the fact my phone wouldn’t sync with my car’s Bluetooth distract me from finding my way along the highway?
(Yes, these things are related. They are things that made me upset when I was traveling home from my most recent girls’ weekend.)
You call yourself smart and independent but you can’t even follow simple directions.
You should appreciate people who pump your gas more than you do.
Because I nearly ran out of gas on this same trip because “I just want to get somewhere that I don’t have to pump my own gas.” I know that most of the people reading this are thinking I’m insane. Everyone in the country knows how to pump their own gas. They do it every week when they need to refuel.
Except I don’t have to do it because I live in Oregon. And I’m happy not to do it.
The last time I pumped my gas, I had to remove a gas cap. Apparently, cars don’t have those these days.
And you really have to push the nozzle with force to get it inserted past the gatekeeper on this type of gas tank. Which is probably every gas tank on newer vehicles, but since I don’t pump gas, I’m ignorant of these things.
And I hate to say it, voluntarily in the dark, because I don’t think about how to pump gas.
But I had to call my husband when I cashed in my pride and pulled up to a gas station in Kelso, WA, to avoid the shame of running out of gas (which I have never done).
Wow! Is anyone else so prideful they nearly run out of gas? So spoiled they throw a tantrum when a gas tank looks like an object from a science fiction movie?
Needless to say, none of these things helped me regain my sleepy state of mind. Until I poured them onto the page, stifled a yawn and padded back to my Sleep Number 55 mattress.
What keeps you awake at night? Do you have any tactics for getting back to sleep?
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Reasons to Vacation at the World’s Longest Beach

The world’s longest beach is located on the West Coast of the United States? It seems like a stretch.


So…Google it.
You’ll discover that the 28-mile long peninsula in Washington State is indeed the longest “drivable” stretch of beach in the world. A beach in Bangladesh technically takes the title in distance of beach (but it isn’t vehicle accessible).
Two times in the past decade, we chose Long Beach, Washington as a March destination. Which probably isn’t the greatest choice weather-wise. The Evergreen State isn’t misnamed and in order to keep its verdant vegetation requires irrigation.
Nature obliges. In short, expect rain if you visit during a season other than summer. And don’t be surprised if precipitation accompanies your trip in June, July or August.
Since there is a Worldmark resort in Long Beach, and it’s located an easy drive from our home, it was an obvious choice for a “saving year” Spring Break when the kids lived at home.nd a mini-vacation when someone had “use it or lose it” vacation time.
Even without those tempting factors, it’s worth consideration if you’re looking for a beach destination for your next vacation.
Family Activities
An array of activities await all along the Long Beach Peninsula.
There is a family fun center (or three). Here you can find rides, like bumper cars and a carousel,, and games, maybe even Skee Ball, my favorite.
There are indoor AND outdoor miniature golf courses. This is entertaining for everyone, especially if you can’t make a single par.

What? Does he think my score is inaccurate?

Two go-kart tracks are an easy walk from the Worldmark resort where we stayed. If you’re unlucky, you might get the cart that has only one speed: putt, putt. You’ll put the pedal to the metal and eke along, slightly faster than a slug on slime.


Outdoor Fun
If you go to the coast, you’ll want to stop and see the lighthouses. There are two historic lighthouses on Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment light was build in 1856. Because of problems with the fog horn and light not reaching ships, the second lighthouse was built. Take a nice hike along the Cape Disappointment Trail. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

From our 2010 Spring Break trip…through the forest to the lighthouse

The North Head Lighthouse is on a rock headland in Cape Disappointment State Park and has been in service since 1897. If you’re fortunate, you might not get blown out to sea while visiting this site.


A paved trail offers a unique view of the peninsula. The Discover Trail runs 8.5 miles from Ilwaco to Long Beach. Mile markers track your progress, and side paths allow access to the beach. It’s perfect for walking, running or biking.
Horseback riding on the beach is another enjoyable way to pass the time on your vacation. A local rancher brings horses to a paddock adjacent to the Worldmark resort where we stayed, but there are other vendors, too.


Beach
Did I mention this is the longest stretch of beach in the United States?


Maybe you prefer a little sunshine with your beach outings. That’s fine. But you might be surprised to see the locals at the beach during slanting rain showers. They’ll be walking their dogs (without leashes), jogging, flying kites, windsurfing, parasailing or surfing.
In the evenings, cars will park in full view of the sinking sun. Trucks will have their beds facing the ocean while their occupants recline on camp chairs, eating and drinking.
People drove campers and motorhomes on to the beach. Talk about a drive-up ocean view for any meal! I wouldn’t recommend this when the sand is soft, but during the rainy season, even the dry sand doesn’t give way very easily.
What are your favorite beach activities?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Therapy or Obsession?

Everything in moderation. Even the Bible says so (well, not quite). Common sense (and maybe our mothers) tells us that a fine line exists between when something helpful becomes hurtful.

Dark chocolate has health benefits. What astonishing news this was to me! So of course I added a small serving to my diet.

Too much dark chocolate will pack the pounds on my mid-section. But what is too much? Who decides that?

As Therapy

Half-a -year ago, I picked up the crochet hook after a long hiatus. My mother and grandmother practiced old school child-rearing. They introduced my sister and me to all sorts of home crafting: embroidery, machine sewing, knitting, crocheting.
All those things were offered to me. I even tried three off the four options. But the only one I ever enjoyed was crocheting, and even that didn’t inspire my imagination the way writing stories did.

I picked up the crochet hook because the women in my church determined to make hats and scarfs for homeless families in our community. Such an awesome cause. I couldn’t exactly promote the activity if I didn’t participate.

One of the women gave me an extra set of crochet hooks and reminded me how to make a chain. My first scarf was hideously malformed.
Her items were smooth and appealing. I wanted to conquer this crochet thing so I could make scarves like that.

Something so pretty couldn’t be bad.

Once the scarves weren’t much of a challenge, she taught me about the magic ring. And I used the skill as a foundation for making hats for all the women on my Christmas list. Who doesn’t want a handmade gift?

I found crocheting in the evenings was a perfect way to unwind after work. Whether the work involved teaching students or writing stories, I’m not as young as I was last month. So, I get tired in the evening.

While my husband watches his silly sitcoms, I keep my hands busy with hook and yarn. Sometimes, I put my earbuds in and listen to an audiobook (since reading was my evening activity of choice before this crocheting craze).

It was sheer therapy. And I made slippers, headbands, cup warmers and more hats.

An Obsession

One day while I was struggling with a stitch, my church friend fired up her tablet. She logged onto her Pinterest boards and clicked through to a YouTube instructional video. It was amazing.

Pinterest dazzles me. If I start scrolling through kitten pictures, I can lose an hour without blinking.

There were so many crochet projects pictured. Sweaters, shrugs, blankets, baby booties, flip-flops, handbags and you name it.

Tons of the pins claimed to link to FREE patterns. Patterns that I could read and understand for stitches I knew how to do.

And you know what a sucker I am for anything free. Who isn’t?

In no time, the biggest board on my Pinterest page was the one I’d called “Crochet Project Ideas.” I found the easiest crochet heart pattern and whipped out half a dozen in various colors. I’ll glue those to a ribbon and make a bookmark.

Next, I saw these pretty coasters. Hadn’t I purchased coasters as a Christmas gift? Wouldn’t it be more fun and personalized if I made them instead? *nods head vigorously*

All remained therapeutic until I found a lovely granny square afghan. I whipped out some red, white and blue granny squares.

Then Pinterest showed me a different pattern for the crochet staple. And another. One with a daisy in the center got pinned to my project board. Once I found the starburst pattern, my evenings morphed into a granny square manufacturing line where I was the sole worker.
Soon enough, I was making one square before I did my morning chores. Another square on the back end of my lunch break.
Yes, my crochet habit began to affect my ability to concentrate on writerly pursuits, especially when they were tedious ones like line editing.
I surrounded my arm chair with the different starburst centers and the four skeins of yarn I was using. I surfed the web for the perfect way to join my granny squares into an afghan. You might be surprised at the number of YouTube videos on the subject.
Hours later, I’d found the winner.
Writing? What’s that? I’ve got to get these squares connected.
I dropped off the cliff into obsession.
But aren’t the fruits lovely?

A byproduct of my granny square obsession.

Do you struggle with hobbies turning into obsessions? What’s your Kryptonite?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.