Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let's Decom-stress photo caption contest begins today!

Photo by nature photographer Marian Crawford,
Here it is! The first photo for our
Let's Decom-stress photo caption contest! 

I'll be posting a different awesome photo from nature photographer Marian Crawford each Monday throughout August and Sept. All you have to do is send in your one-line caption, loosely based on the theme, "Too Blessed to be Stressed," the title of my new book.

(To learn more about my books, check out my FaceBook author page or hop on over to my website, ).

Your caption can be funny, poignant, silly .. whatever helps you decom-stress. Just send your entries to (those who have already submitted entries to this blog, please resubmit to - thanks!).

The previous week's winner will be announced each Monday when a new picture is posted. It could be you!

All 9 winners will be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of  Too Blessed to be Stressed, plus a week's supply of your favorite Starbucks chill-out beverage (mine is chai latte).

So dear friends, without further ado, slap on your thinking caps and send in your ideas! You can enter as many times as you like.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Celebrating Wannabes

Shortly after I watched a dolphin arc through the air above the blue, blue waters off the shore of Daytona around 7:00 this morning, my attention was captured by the simple elegance and innate majesty of a V of nine brown pelicans. They didn't even know the alphabet, yet they adjusted their ranks to maintain that perfect letter from one end of the skyline to the other.

Wow. Warm and fuzzy inspiration from Papa God's magnificent creation spread from my broken right big toenail to my humidity-frizzied hair tips.

Then came the wannabe platoon. Just behind that gloriously regimented squadron flew five additional pelicans who were trying their durndest to emulate their role models. Four actually did pretty well, forming a perfectly straight line, tipping a wing here, snagging an up-current there to tweak their position and maintain a nice tight line.

Enter Herbie. I couldn't help but remember that poor little discombobulated elf from the animated TV Christmas show, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." You know, the one who never quite fit in at Santa's workshop and ran away to find himself. 

Well, try as he might, this avian Herbie could not toe the line. He just didn't fly like his biddy buddies. Maybe they were relatives or eggmates and their mothers made them, but the other birds in the group actually spread apart to make room for him in the middle of their rank and file. Sadly, Herbie dipped and weaved and flapped when he should have glided and nearly body-slammed the bird beside him.

It made me laugh. But I doubt Herbie thought it was funny.

When the others finally gave up on him and closed the gap to box him out, Herbie still didn't give up. Despite their obvious snub, he tagged himself onto the end of the line, bobbing and fluttering like a spastic dot at the bottom of an exclamation mark. 

Then they landed gracefully in the water to enjoy some fishy breakfast and Herbie plopped down about six feet away, still trying to be part of the group, though it was quite evident he was an outcast.

Boy could I identify with Herbie. Can't you? I think we all feel like we don't belong at some point in our lives. That we're different. That we're misfits. Maybe we're not overtly rejected by our peers, but we know deep down that we're the disgruntled dentist wannabe among happy elves.

I feel like that in my writing life sometimes. Like I'm the wobbling dot beneath the exclamation mark of successful authors and speakers with whom I'm trying to fit in. It may look like I belong, but deep down I know better. I'm just a wannabe.

But you know what? I don't think that's really such a bad thing. Being a Herbie keeps us striving to improve ourselves, to never stay complacent. To reject rejection. To keep practicing our dipping and weaving so that we can fly in formation when we want to, and not be ashamed to be the maverick when we don't. 

 So here's to all the Herbies of the world! Are you one of us?


Thursday, July 21, 2011

How do you get here from there?

With the August 1 release date of my new nonfiction, faith-based self-help book Too Blessed to be Stressed peeking around the corner, I've found myself contemplating how on God's green earth I got here. Not here as in this city, state or country. Here as in this chocolate-stained computer chair.

Ten years ago I was immersed in my tidy little life as a health care professional, mother, wife and tennis addict. I hadn't written anything deeper than Christmas letters for over 20 years.

And then one day in 2002, in a dentist's office of all places, I heard that still, small voice whisper into my heart's ear, "It's time, Deb."

"Um, what time would that be, Lord?"

"Time to follow your childhood dream of writing for my glory."

So the adventure began. And I've never looked back. Not through enough rejection slips to sculpt a life-sized paper mache rhinoceros in my living room. Not through waiting, waiting, and more waiting in publication purgatory. Not through $1.57 royalty checks (I ain't funnin' ya). Not during endless phone calls begging for speaking gigs. Not even through the fall of the book industry empire.

A seriously scary time, that.

I'll admit the journey to publication wasn't easy. I started out as a cyber-ninnyhead. I knew nothing about websites, widgets and WordServe. But I learned. Slowly and sometimes painfully. Now I not only have a humdinger website, I also write two blogs (check out my other writer's blog), tweet (does that make me a twit?) and even have FaceBook launch parties planned for my next two books

Who'd a thunk a chick from the sticks would co-found an annual writer's retreat or lead workshops at writer's conferences? Or receive endorsements from literary heroes like Martha Bolton and Patsy Clairmont? (Hey, take it from me, you've gotta get over your paralyzing fear and ask; the big cheeses had to start out as utter butter just like us, and many are gracious enough to offer newbies a helping hand ... if you only ask.)

Well, all of this is impossible, of course. That's why Ephesians 3:20 assures us that Papa God is "able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us."  His specialty is the impossible.

Looking back, I was blessed to be naive enough not to realize how many writerly accomplishments were considered impossible. So they weren't. But I did learn a lot along the way.
I learned the hard way that I can't do it all myself. That a good agent is better than a double mocha latte on a frigid night. That contracts are always negotiable. And money is not as important as readers.

But best of all, I've found that the most blessed, most magnificent, most incredible moment in a writer's life is when someone you don't even know shares how your words touched their heart. Maybe even changed their life.

It's then that you break down in complete humility, awestruck that Papa God used you as His instrument. The pen in His hand.

That's what it's all about, isn't it?

So here I sit, smearing more Godiva into my computer chair, thanking Him for the fantastic opportunity to sweat, fret, learn, and never stop growing as a writer. Care to join me?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Spielberg I Ain't.

Cut! The annoyed directer shouts. Again.

Okay, this is getting old. Like rancid fish.

Spouse and I are trying our hand at shooting a series of twelve short videos called, "2-Minute Stress Busters," to coincide with the August release of my new book, Too Blessed to Be Stressed. 

But we're finding out we're definitely not. Too blessed to be stressed, I mean.

Today's film topic is, "Friends are our best de-stessors." Ironically prophetic.

We've chosen 10 o'clock in the morning to begin shooting, assuming that most folks will be already gone to work and we'll have lots of peace and quiet in which to work. Spouse is behind the camera on a tripod in our driveway, director, cameraman and dolly grip (I don't know what that means but I always see it movie credits and love the way it sounds. Who wouldn't want to be a dolly grip?) Our makeshift "set" is perched at the top of a usually quiet, gently rolling cul-de-sac of five homes nestled beneath a canopy of oak trees. Birds are chirping, bees are buzzing, cicadas are humming. What could go wrong, right?

The first of three brief scenes has my girlfriend, Pam, and I rounding the corner together in a jovial power walk which proceeds across the length of the cul-de-sac and ends at the base of our driveway. We assume our starting positions down the street and Spouse the director gives us the hand signal. The camera is rolling.

Only neighbor #1 chooses this precise moment to drag his trashcans to the curb. Cut!

Take two. As we pass by his house, Neighbor #2 backs his tactical military training vehicle (looks like Rambo in a Hummer) out of his driveway and revs the engine. Cut!

Take three. We make it to the driveway this time and I totter up the slope to my mark in front of the camera and open my mouth to speak. Suddenly backyard Neighbor #3 cranks up his lawn mower.Cut!

We retreat inside the house to kill time until Mr. Green Thumb mows his way around to his front yard. The background noise fades to the level of a jet exhaust. The clock ticks. We can't wait any longer. I'll just have to speak above the din.

We've just resumed filming when Neighbor #4 to our left flings open her front door and lets her yippy dog out. Spouse makes the "keep going" hand motion behind the camera so I distractedly keep fumbling my way through the script until little Fido decides to come on over to our yard and lift his leg on the spider plant just behind me. Cut!           

Fido's owner, who has never been a hint-taker, wanders over in her jammies to see what we're doing. She won't leave. I'm ready to lose it. Spouse catches my eye. He senses the volcano about to erupt and gives me the look. You know that look. The one that all married people recognize. The one that silently says, "I know what you're about to do; don't do it."

I know he's right and it makes me madder. Here we are filming a chapter I wrote about loving your neighbor and I'm about to blast mine for no reason except she's lonely and wants to chat at an inopportune time. Okay, doctor Debbie, take your own medicine. I force a smile, wipe the sweat off my forehead, and try to ignore Fido digging up my impatiens.

More poetic irony. He's also uprooting my impatience. But maybe that's the point. Maybe Papa God is trying to show me something here.

What good is knowing something, even writing about it, or worse yet, filming it, if we don't live it?

I suspect that's what He's talking about in my meditation verse from yesterday, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord." (Col. 3:17).

Humph. I could've meditated on that verse until next spring and never quite gotten the message like this. Whatever I do - even the unexpected like dealing with irritating neighbors, things that don't go the way I think they should, blown schedules, and peeing Fidos - should be in the name of the Lord. Not just the easy stuff, the hard stuff. Especially the hard stuff.

After only a half-dozen more interruptions we finally finish shooting and the director calls a wrap. So when you see Stress Buster Number 7 (Nurturing Friendships) when it airs in August,* you'll hear the lawn mower, notice the trashcans, and be the only one who knows the behind-the-scenes story.

And know positively that our blessings can outweigh our stressings.

*Keep abreast of each new 2-Minute Stress Buster on my website (; click on "Stress Busters") as they're posted bi-weekly from July - September. Or for the easy route, just following this blog or like/befriend me on Twitter or FaceBook (you can find links for these on my website also).