Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mellow Yellow

Fall on my mountain
Autumn. The word itself is enough to make you wax poetic. Especially on my mountain.

Well, it's not really my mountain, but I've thought of it that way since my in-laws built the tiny cabin nestled deep in the Smoky Mt. woods at about 4200 ft elevation. When my kids were small, we trekked to the cabin every fall, and now that my kids are having kids, we still trek to the mountains every fall.

Sometimes tradition is a warm, snuggly blanket. 

A walk in the woods is simply magical. The normal green of the foliage has somehow melted into at least 30 shades of yellow (a nod here to Johnny Cash's song about the many shades of Irish green).

It's like an explosion of butter. You can almost taste the deliciousness of it. Every shade of yellow known to man is punctuated by that incredible deep blue of the sky that's unique to high elevations. A twinge of russet here and a smackling of crimson there are the perfect accents to the profusion of amber hues.  

A crisp breeze ruffles the feathers of the tallest of trees and you feel sure Papa God is leaning down from heaven, whispering something very, very important meant for your ears only.

I can't help but pull an Anne of Green Gables and rename "the woods" its rightful name: the Forest of Golden Whispers.

Actually, I get the feeling that the title has been here all along for centuries and I'm the slowpoke who's just now becoming enlightened. Kind of like when a novelist pens a story - it feels inexplicably like the story has been there all along; your task as the author is simply to hear the time-hewn words in your heart and write them down. 

So I take it all in. I feel peace whispered into my soul by the Creator of all this beauty.

And I'm so glad I came.

Where is your Forest of Golden Whispers, my friend?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Doesn't Love a 75% Off Sale?

On SUPER SALE for a limited time (sale ends 10/13/14): The Kindle edition of my brand new release is only $2.99!
Deb's newest release

I hope you'll hop on this one like a tick on a hound dog.

Here's the link:

Now don't tarry or you'll miss out!

And as an added bonus, my publisher is putting the Momma book of my 6 Baby Blessings on sale during the month of October. Yep - Too Blessed to be Stressed is only $1.99! 

If you've already got Too Blessed to be Stressedplease send this golden opportunity to a friend. As always, I'm VERY grateful for your support! 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Face of Kindness

Father Chris Fitzgerald, friend to all
I am not Catholic, in fact I'm a dyed-in-the-wool protestant. But for the past two decades, I've had my own priest. 

Actually he wasn't exclusively mine, but I admired, loved, and respected him as if he were. But then everyone felt that way about Father Fitz. He was that kind of guy.  

Father Fitz was not just our neighbor for 5 years, he was a lovely, funny, godly man, and a true friend to a bunch of crazy protestants (many others besides me and my family). 

Our relationship started out badly but grew to be a beautiful and unique thing.

The first time I met Father Fritz, I angrily presented him with a petition I had personally walked around my subdivision to attain signatures for, demanding that the brand new St. Francis of Assissi church install speed humps at the back entrance which bordered my property. For the ten years we'd lived there prior to the church being built, my house had been perched beside a nice, quiet dead end. When we bought our property, it was surrounded by orange groves. I was plenty torqued that urban sprawl had stolen my beautiful view. 

At the time I had two wee children and a dog and was miffed that this church I knew nothing about had the nerve to install a gate and entrance road for whizzing cars that I perceived as an endangerment to my family.

I foolishly thought that since I was (strongly) of a different religious persuasion, Father Fitz wouldn't care. Boy was I wrong. He graciously accepted the petition, enveloped my hand warmly in both of his, and to my utmost surprise, invited my family to dinner. 

That speed hump was already installed by the time our dinner engagement at Ben's Family Restaurant rolled around the following week and despite jokes back and forth about proselytizing each other, we became fast friends. The clincher was when this wonderful Catholic priest kept a (mostly) straight face when he asked my 4-year-old daughter if he could see her dolly (which she was holding tightly to her chest) and she replied, "Not right now. I'm milking her."

My husband began working out with Father Fitz at the gym and I even modeled one of the main characters in my first novel after him. There was no one else, really - it had to be a wise, kind, godly Irishman with a keen sense of humor. 

Yep. Father Fitz. No one else would do.

When The Distant Shore released, I hand delivered a copy to him and explained that he was the inspiration for Captain Stone and why. He seemed puzzled at first, but then I saw tears come to his eyes and I knew that he finally understood how special he was to me and my family.

We moved away and finally lost touch, but I'll never, ever forget the Catholic priest who touched my life and those of the myriad of readers who came to know and love him through my books.

Father Fitz graduated to heaven this week. I felt my heart break when I heard the news. In fact, my eyes are leaking as I write this. 

I have no doubt where Father Fitz is right now - in the Catholic section of the humongous heavenly sanctuary saving seats for all his protestant friends. But I can't help but feel that our world has a little less light without him in it.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Bet you didn't know you had a reason to celebrate today, right? And of all things, punctuation.

Well, dang it, why not? After all, where would we be without. punctuation; to Keep us, straight!?

Okay, so grab a celebratory cup of hot tea and chunk of chocolate. Then take this little test to see if you're truly a Punct Punk.

Can you find the errors in each sentence? (That is, if there are any.) *Spoiler alert: answers at bottom.

1. Joe's favorite era of music was 1960's Motown back when he was 15. He loves to share his CD's with his BFF's.

2. Watch out for the quicksand; it's enough ... to make you desert your dessert ... in the desert.

3. Andrea yelled, 'I'm leaving', as she slammed the door. 'I hate it when people use "quotations" incorrectly'.

4. Listen gordo if I'd wanted to see lisa in Vermont; I would have called her.

5. I'd like to thank my parents the Pope and Mother Teresa.

6. "Hello John;" she said. "Do you have all your 'ducks in a row'?"

7. I hate it when you think you "own" my opinion.

8. It's beginning to snow. I'd better bring the potted plant inside before it freezes it's new leaves off.

9. Whoa doggies! What a hoot! I can't believe you said that!

10. Oh no. How many times have I told you not to... it's been at least three-thousand-fourteen ...

1. Apostrophes denote possession (Joe's) but are not needed for dates or acronyms (1960s, CDs, BFFs). Also, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, numbers under 100 within dialogue should be spelled out (fifteen) because we don't speak in numerals; always spell out numbers that start a sentence.

2. Ellipses denote pauses longer than a period (and are not appropriate in this sentence), em dashes denote interruptions. Semicolons go between two independent but connected clauses and the one here is used correctly. (A little word fun at the end there - sort of like polishing the Polish furniture.)

3. Double quotation marks (") are used at the beginning and end of quoted phrases; single quotation marks (') are used for a quote within the quote. Commas and periods should be inside the quotation marks (unless you're writing in England, where it's the opposite). Use italics instead of quotation marks around single words to emphasize them (don't capitalize or bold them either - stick to italics unless you're a billboard painter).

4. Names and proper nouns are capitalized and set aside by commas: Listen, Gordo, if I ... (in other words, put commas around the name of the person spoken to). The semicolon in this sentence should be a comma.

5. Speaking of commas, if used incorrectly, they can scandalously alter the meaning of a sentence. Like this one versus "I'd like to thank my parents, the Pope, and Mother Teresa."

6. There should be a comma after addressing a name/noun (Hello, John). The use of single quotation marks for 'ducks in a row' is appropriate here (a quote within a quote) and the question mark is correctly placed between the single quotation mark and the double. However, semicolons go outside quotation marks (although in this case a comma would be in order).

7. Again, better to italicize own for emphasis than to place it in quotes.

8. It's (with an apostrophe as a contraction for it is) is correct in the beginning of this sentence, but toward the end of the sentence its little leaves is appropriate (no apostrophe for a possessive pronoun).

9. Three exclamation marks in a row is overkill. Overuse of any stylistic device (especially exclamation marks!) dilutes the emphasis you're hoping to achieve. Plus it appears that you're trying too hard to elicit emotion from your reader.

10. Oh, no should have a comma. One set of ellipses (the first) is appropriate here (three dots only with one space before and after). Numerals (3,014) should be used for numbers over 100 for better reading flow.

So how'd you do, my friend? How punct-savvy are you?

Hey, don't let it ruin your day if you're not a Punct Punk ... even professional writers depend on editors (who are paid to be Punct Punks) to catch all the riffraff.

So tell me - what's your most common punctuation mistake?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Put Down the Donkey

Feel like you're carrying around a few burdens?
I walked into the elevator as two southern belles exited, deep in drawled conversation.

The elevator doors had no sooner closed behind them when the gal in the corner with the distinctive New Jersey twang rolled her eyes at her slick chick chum. "Who says dhat? 'Can you carry me to da store tamarra?' Like you're a sack o' patatas. Whey'd dey learn English - in a baan?"

It took me a moment to yankee-translate then another long moment pondering what was wrong with asking someone to carry you to the store. I am and always have been, after all, a hick from the Florida-Georgia border sticks long before it was a smash band.

Oh. I finally got it. Carry me.

The proper verb should have probably been "take me" or "drive me" to the store, but I've heard "carry me somewhere" my whole backwoods life, so at first it seemed perfectly normal to me. Like mashing the light switch or saying, "I used to not" or "Quit that directly or I'm gonna slap you upside your punkin' head ... bless your little heart." (Southern etiquette demands that you add that final disclaimer whenever you say something bad to or about somebody.)

It wasn't until college that I was enlightened about the ... um, shall we say charming eloquence of regional colloquialisms and realized that carrying someone to the store taken literally would pretty much be the end of most of us. Carrying around ANYTHING for very long would get plum exhausting. If you don't believe that, just try holding a cotton ball over your head for ten minutes.

Since I've felt kind of droopy lately (both physically and emotionally), I stopped and thought about what I might be carrying around with me that would drag me down so. Didn't take long. Unforgiveness. For sure. I've been wearing it this week like a 50-pound sack of manure strapped to my back. Got so used to it, I hadn't really noticed it. Til now.

I know that by not forgiving, we carry people and wounds around with us, weighing us down with our invisible burdens. I forget sometimes that my outsides may look normal to you, but my insides look a lot like the poor dude in the picture above. I'm even heaving around the donkey that's supposed to be carrying me, for pity's sake.

I came home and looked up my chapter on forgiveness in my book Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate. (Yep, I actually do re-read my own books. I find them very helpful, actually, because I'm the kind of pigheaded person whom Papa God has to teach the same lessons to over and over.) Here's what I found:

"Harboring resentment is like chugging down strychnine and expecting the other person to die. Your anger doesn't hurt your offender. It hurts you. It wounds you and those who care about you, those who feel helpless and hopeless watching bitterness gnaw away like ravenous sewer rats at the you they love. Rats that will never be satiated."

"I've heard it said that apologizing doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value relationships more than your ego. And isn't that the way Papa wants us to prioritize?"

Yep. Just the elbow in the gut I needed to jar my need-to-forgive muscle. It gets stuck sometimes in all the fat and needs a little jolt to pop out and get some exercise.

So that's my job for this weekend. Exercise that poor flabby forgiveness muscle, unload the fertilizer and put down the dang donkey. How about you? Got any invisible burdens weighing you down?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jonah's in the Bag

Not the best hiding place
In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at our church, I was telling the story of Jonah and the Big Fish a few Sundays ago to the three and four-year-olds.

The hard part wasn't bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the level of little people who still get their fannies smacked every time they run from someone in charge. Same principle, Jonah's story, but how to tell it so they'd understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God without being caught eventually. 

It would be like Mama never coming to look for you and leaving you in your hiding place forever. Unfathomable.  

Even the wee-est ones get how ridiculous that is.  

So I simply said, "Jonah was afraid to do what God said (go to Ninevah and tell the people there they were being so naughty they would have to be punished). So he decided to disobey. Yep. He decided to hide from God." 

I then asked the children who liked to play hide-and-seek. All hands went up. 

"Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place? Like maybe this one." I put my hands over my eyes and said, "Okay, I'm hidden. I can't see you so you can't see me either."

The kids laughed hysterically.

"Or how about this one?" I walked over to an itty bitty kiddy chair and crouched down, trying desperately to squeeze my entire jumbo adult body behind it. "Can you see me now?" The kids howled.

"Or maybe you've been here." I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head and reached out with both hands, searching, groping, even becoming a little panicky and tearful as I fell to my knees. "Are you gone? Did you leave me? I can't find anybody so I must be all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. Nobody's here but me. And I'm feeling lonely and scared all by myself. I wish ... I wish someone would help me."

Silence. To my surprise, there was no laughter this time. Not even one snicker. Something about being scared and lonely in a dark place had resonated with those 30 little people. 

I hadn't expected this. Silence. So thick you could cut it with a meat cleaver. Maybe my acting was a little too good. As I continued waving my hands helplessly in the air, I wasn't sure what to do next. The kids were apparently identifying with me in my aloneness. With Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it and cover ourselves up like a grave. Isolated. Frightened. Confused. 

Then out of the unforeseen stillness, a little voice piped up. A warm little voice heavy with sympathy. 

"It's okay, Miss Debbie. We're still here. Don't be afraid. You're not alone." 

And then I heard footsteps mounting the small stage and felt a tiny hand take mine, and another and another reaching out to comfort me as dozens of little hands found my arms, my shoulders, my waist, surrounding me with comfort and hope. 

So there I was, kneeling on a stage with a bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a hoard of uninhibited children who even at an extremely young age, understood what it felt like to be alone in disobedience and separated from God and didn't want it to happen to me. 

I was incredibly moved. It was one of those rare teachable moments that knock your well ordered world off its axis and crack open the door for a peep into a completely different spiritual realm. 

So from now on, I suspect Jonah's story will hold new meaning for me. Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Adorable Baby Blessing Winners!

Abby's Baby Blessings
Kathy's Baby Blessing
Elisa's Baby Blessing
Woohoo! Here are the last five winners of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessings drawing.

If you didn't win, no worries! Another contest with awesome prizes (like a Kindle, free books, and Deb's fave chocolate)  is right around the corner to celebrate Too Loved to be Lost when it releases this fall. 

So if you don't already receive Deb's free quarterly e-newsletter, be sure to sign up at so you won't miss a thing!

Kim's Baby Blessing
Kay's Baby Blessing

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Winning Photos

If these Baby Blessings don't light your fire, hey, your wood's wet!

Missie's Baby Blessings
Gloria's Baby Blessing
Jen's Baby Blessing

Heather's Baby Blessings

Congrats once again to the winners of my Baby Blessings contest! Here are the first five drawing winners - I hope they bless your heart as much as they have mine!

Jan's Baby Blessings

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baby Blessings Contest Winners!

One of your 6 choices
A big THANK YOU to all who entered the Baby Blessings contest - I loved ooohing and aaahing over your baby blessings. Most were sweet little humans but we had our share of adorable 4-legged furry blessings and even a few terrific wheeled blessings.

Congrats to the ten winners in the drawing for your choice of my own Baby Blessings!

If your name's on the list below, just choose your prize - here they are: (if for some reason this doesn't show up as a clickable link, just go to my website and click on books and then "Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessings") and let me know at my private e-dress where you'd like your prize sent.

Also, if you don't mind me posting your Baby Blessing photo and name, in that same message, please give me your written permission and it will appear on a blog post later this week.

If you didn't win this time, stay tuned for another contest coming up soon with the release of Too Loved to be Lost this fall. And hey, the prizes will blow your mind!

 So without further ado, in order they were drawn, here are the Baby Blessings winners:

Kay Colson Waters                                     Abby Letourneau
Heather Miller                                             Gloria Foster
Kim Lockhart                                              Elisa Westlund      
Jennifer Deg                                                Kathy James
Missie Sadler-Wiggins                                 Jan McRae

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Skip This Spinning Class

Wish I knew what causes my ding dang vertigo. Drives me batty.  Heard of it? The Tilt-a-Whirl from Hades. The hangover that isn't. The devil’s last laugh.

Yep, vertigo is wicked all right. The world spins topsy-turvy out of control with every movement of the head. Or even eyes. It’s like you just rolled off a merry-go-round after being shoved round and round by a 250-pound linebacker. 

Only it doesn't stop after you get off and stagger around the playground.

This bout hit me the day we returned home from our beach week. I'd forgotten but Spouse reminded me that I got vertigo last year during our annual Daytona  week too. Go figure. I wonder if it has something to do with sand. Or glare. Or shrimp. Those are the things I do in Daytona that I don't do at home.

Hmm. I suspect it’s the cosmos’ way of telling me not to wear bathing suits.

Maybe it’s hereditary. My father suffers with it too, more frequently than me. We both take Antivert, which helps but doesn't cure it. At least with the medicine you can pseudo-function without throwing up every time you rise from a chair. But walls still have a way of jumping out and whacking you in the shoulder when you try to traverse hallways and the sidewalk still swerves away from you when you walk the dog and you end up in somebody’s shrubbery pretending that you’re looking for Rover’s lost ball.  

I recently found in my possession 1940-era British medical literature regarding vertigo that warned, among other clever things like “make sure your spectacle prescription is up to date,” that it is a very bad idea to walk along unlit stony paths late at night during a dizzy spell ... you might end up in the ditch. In which case you may well invoke a disgruntled bobby to escort you to the loo or worse, the slammer, under the erroneous impression that you’ve visited one too many pubs.

Dear me. Guess I'll just have to curb my late night unlit stony path hikes.

The brochure also said activities that require rapid side-to-side righting movements of the body and head are good therapy ... example: tennis. The risks, however, include falling flat on your face when you look up to hit your serve. Or impaling yourself on the back fence when you run after a lob.

Harrumph. Mere hiccups to true tennis addicts like me.

I’ve actually played tennis – more than once – in the throes of a vertigo episode (you can probably only understand this if you’re another full fledged tennis junkie). It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. Gives new meaning to the term “dizzy blonde.”

Why, you wonder, would anyone subject themselves to abject humiliation and certain defeat playing a competitive game with her head screwed on sideways? Um, I dunno. I suppose addiction is the operative word here.

It wasn't really that bad. Aside from only winning two games in two sets, the worst part was following the ball. Back and forth. Back and forth. Whack. Whack. Whack. By the time my already spinning eyes (a Vertigo symptom called nystagmus) could hone in on that little yellow sphere suddenly appearing just beyond the tip of my nose, the rest of me was flopping all over itself trying to remember how to be coordinated enough to connect my racquet with the ball.

You feel like a marionette being operated by a giant invisible hand hovering over the court. And the hand’s got a nasty twitch.

So you go home and take another pill.

Unfortunately, a side effect of Antivert is an anvil in your skull. It’s what I call the dead meat syndrome - meaning you can't think clearly and only want to lie on the couch all day trying not to draw flies.  

There's no good way to sleep. I usually end up propping myself upright in bed in a sitting position and sandbagging my head on all sides so it can’t move. This doesn't lend itself to rolling over once you've finally lost consciousness, which tends to pitch you right out of bed with arms flailing as you either blacken Spouse’s eye or send the bedside lamp flying.

Oh, you can be proactive if you choose. The vertigo exercises (mostly weird head/body positioning movements to dislodge stuck inner ear crystals) do help Daddy although they merely make me vomit. Even thinking about them now sends a wave of nausea through my gut. Rather like hanging upside down from the mast of a ship when you already have raging seasickness.

It’s enough to make me never, ever eat shrimp again. Just in case.