Posted by: AMcGowan | 08/16/2013

So Far Away – Guest Post from April McGowan

Thanks to Susie Finkbeiner for hosting me!

Susie Finkbeiner

 

 

Today, I’d like to introduce you to April McGowan. Her first novel, Jasmine, just released in paper back. Go on over and check it out!

Jasmine front web

Jasmine tells the story of a women returning home after having run away twenty two years earlier to escape the abuse of her father. On the rocky path to attempted reconciliation, she has to face lost memories, the family she abandoned, and the boy (now man) who never gave up hope that she’d return one day. She’s been a counselor for at risk women for many years, helping those that remind her so much of herself. The last thing she ever wants to do is go home again— but the death of her mother forces her hand. As soon as she hits town, she’s confronted with the last thing she expected: people who loved and missed her. Perhaps none more than her brother, Bill.

“You want to tell…

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Posted by: AMcGowan | 08/23/2012

I’ve moved my blog

Greetings. A while back I began reading all the articles suggesting that writers should consider changing their sites from WordPress.com to .org. I resisted for quite a long time, but succumbed to the idea about two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been setting up my new web home, and I’m writing to say it’s DONE. You can now access my blog at http://aprilmcgowan.com

The bad news, which no one told me, or I missed some how, is that my followers from WordPress.com can’t be ported over to my new site. SO, I kindly ask (beg) that you subscribe via email on my new, permanent site. I don’t want to lose contact with folks who are following here, so PLEASE do me this favor and come follow along over there. Thanks so much!

If you got an announcement of change from my new web page, that means I was able to successfully import your email address and you don’t need to change a thing. But, if you didn’t, please do me this favor and hop over to my new site and sign up.

Thanks so very much! I look forward to hearing from you.

~April McGowan

Posted by: AMcGowan | 07/30/2012

You’ve Got A Friend

I might have mentioned once or twice that we homeschool. There are many reasons we’ve chosen to do so, and I won’t take the time to list them now. But I have to say, the evidence we saw last week solidified our certainty in our choice even more so.

We’ve had doubters in our lives. People that thought we were nuts to take on the job of teaching the kids. And more so, people that were worried about how they were being socialized. For some reason, folks outside the homeschooling environment have the idea that the best way to socialize kids is to throw them into a room with forty students, one teacher and an aid, and hope all will work out for the best. Coming from that environment, I can say that didn’t work out so well for me.

Back to last week: My children were invited to a friend’s birthday party. In attendance were a number of homeschooled children, ages sixteen down to nine (I’m not including the nineteen year old in this, because, legally he’s not a child, and he’s a college student now-you know who you are and you can thank me later). We were at a family-fun center, playing mini-golf, video games, laser tag and the like. In the package, they had the choice of a virtual ride or go-karts. Of course, they all rushed to the go-karts and got in line.

The two youngest (one being my son) were tall enough to ride in the go-karts, but unbeknownst to us, if they were under a certain age, they couldn’t ride alone, and that the other person had to be an adult. The adults didn’t have tickets. So, out of the line came two teary-eyed kids, leaving the rest behind. We walked away, deciding to try and look on the brighter side and comfort those who were left out of the fun.

Here’s the neat part: Quite suddenly all the rest of the kids (six of them) showed up around us. They’d, as a group, decided it wasn’t fair that they went on the go-karts when the younger two couldn’t go and instead opted for the virtual ride where they could all take part. Now, let me be clear—those six WANTED to go on the go-karts. Those six were mostly teens. And no adults tried to encourage them in any way, shape or form. In fact, we adults were heading inside with the younger ones.

I can’t tell you how good that made my son feel. His friends (one of them, his sister) had sacrificed their fun time out of a sense of fair-play and togetherness. They said, “It wouldn’t be right us getting to go and them feeling badly at a party.”

I can honestly say it’s been NEVER since I’d seen a mixed peer group give up something they wanted to do just so two little kids wouldn’t feel badly. I don’t know about you, but my heart warmed at the selflessness of those older ones. Yes, it was just a ride, and they went on to have fun on another ride—but it’s those little things that solidify relationships, reveal kindness and build us up. I was so glad to witness it.

 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (Full text here.)

Posted by: AMcGowan | 07/22/2012

Quitting Time

Quitting Time

A sharp horn sounded behind Mary as she headed up the steps to her duplex in the hot May sunshine. She turned towards the older model Buick, unable to see who was driving the car, but gave a friendly wave. As a rule, she waved to anyone. Fairly certain the father of her grandchildren belonged to a gang, she wanted to stay on good terms with everyone in the neighborhood.

Tossing her keys on the antique stand near the door, she entered the kitchen and opened the freezer. Inside, she found a frozen glass mug that she filled with ice and edged with a lemon slice. She stepped through the back door and retrieved a large jar of sun tea off the back stoop. It’d been brewing since 4AM, when she’d left for her job at the Dollar Mart—just about ten hours of steeping. The heat from the glass burned the tips of her fingers as she carried the jar back to the counter. As the liquid poured in over the crackling ice cubs, cooling the concoction, a sense of peace filled her. Mary’d been looking forward to this all day. She held the golden-brown drink near her nose and let the earthy scent of tea, sunshine and citrus draw her mind to easier times.

After flipping the switch on the oscillating fan sitting on the Formica counter top, she pulled up a chair at the kitchen table, directly in its path. Giving the crumbs from her hasty breakfast a sweep off the table, she drew the pile of mail toward her. She saw several envelopes addressed to Tina with ‘final notice’ highlighted in red letters. Mary clucked her tongue. What would ever become of that girl? She’d raised her better than this.

Sure that the tea had chilled long enough, she sipped it, letting the strong brew energize her from the inside out. It was just as good as she hoped it would be. She clucked her tongue again and sighed.

She couldn’t say that about much in her life these days.

Glancing at the clock, she saw her grandsons would be home any time now. Really, Jimmy was supposed to pick them up from school and take them home with him for a few hours, helping them with their schoolwork and spending ‘quality time’ with his sons. The social worker’s idea was a good one—and if Jimmy had been a good man, it would have worked. Knowing him as Mary did, he’d last about an hour with the boys and he’d be dragging them home to her instead. She’d be the one helping them with homework, fixing them dinner, giving them baths. Then Tina would saunter in and give them kisses goodnight, declaring once again how the day got away from her. Got away from her while she was having drinks at the bar near her work, most likely.

Best laid plans. That phrase had tumbled through Mary’s mind more than once in the past six years. Her daughter had shown up pregnant on her doorstep, and Jimmy made one false promise after another. As soon as he got a good job, they’d get married and he’d bring her and the baby home. Now there were two babies, and they weren’t babies anymore. How could Tina be so blind to mix her life up with that lazy, no-good man?

Mary shot a look at the ceiling. “Just like her mother, then, isn’t she, Lord?” As if Tina had written down Mary’s life story, her own life followed her mother’s map of failure—almost item for item. Except Mary only had Tina, and she certainly didn’t have any family to rely on in the early days. There wasn’t any escaping for Mary after work.

Even now—it was as if her day never ended.

Mary filled her mug with ice once again, and then with tea. This time, she grabbed a couple cookies from the package on the counter and sat down to enjoy the silence of her home for a few more minutes. Soon enough those boys would tumble through the door, and the house would fill with the sounds of laughing and arguing. She glanced at the wall covered with signed handprints and other artwork the boys had made her in school.

Pride nudged her as she remembered them giving those gifts to her on Mother’s day and holidays. They’d stopped making such things for their mother a long time ago. They knew who took care of them, who fed them, who could be counted on.

A sudden sadness washed over her. It wasn’t right, not any of it. Tina should be the one they came home to. Tina should be the one rocking them to sleep when they were scared, or reading them bedtime stories.

The newspaper on the table caught her attention. Mary flipped it open and began scanning the apartment section. There was a small two-bedroom four blocks away. She glanced around and took in the books, the papers, the toys strewn from one end of her house to the other. It’d take a whole lot of packing to move Tina and the boys from her place—and Tina wouldn’t want to help. Four blocks?

Mary flipped through the paper again, scanning, her mind forming a solid plan. It was time for change around here. Something had to. There it was, ten blocks away, a furnished one-bedroom. They could stay here, she’d leave. She picked up the phone and called. It was still available. A large Victorian, cut up into manageable units. She’d seen the place—it was in a quiet neighborhood on a dead end. Ten blocks. Perfect. She called back and made the arrangements. She needed boxes. The boys would help her pack. Tina could have her own room, and she and Jimmy could finally get married. Or not. Maybe when Tina forced his hand she’d see him for what he was and tell him to go for good.

The front door screen opened with a screech. Mary fixed a smile on her face to greet the boys, but instead of the boys, Tina came around the corner.

“I’m home early tonight. You happy?” Tina headed towards the table, a sour grimace on her face.

Mary took a deep breath to steady herself. “Before you sit down, grab a glass of tea. I’ve got some news for you.”

Copyright by April McGowan 2012

Posted by: AMcGowan | 07/12/2012

What a Fool Believes

Have you ever noticed how much people like to give advice? The other day my son had the hiccups—all day. We had tons of errands, and every time someone heard him hiccup, they’d offer him a sure-fire way to get rid of them. Wouldn’t you know it, every bit of advice was different from the next. These sage words came from a receptionist, a nurse, a doctor, the grocery store clerk, his sister and myself.

Hold your breath. Stand on your head. Drink a glass of water from the other side (okay…what? All that gets you is a wet front!). Hold your nose. Rub your tummy. Take long, controlled, deep breaths. Oh, this one is from my sister and passed on by me—eat a spoonful of sugar (he chose not to, sorry Chelli). He was assured each of these was a proven cure.

Guess what? I know. Yours works and I should have called you first. Sorry. Anyway, none of these worked! They naturally went away some time in the night, and he awoke to a hiccup free day.

Have you ever been given erroneous advice? When I was first so ill, I was given a truckload of advice by the well-meaning and by the meddling (don’t worry, you weren’t the meddling type, I don’t even see them anymore). Most people want to help. And most people have things that really have helped them, and they’re sure it’s going to help you, too. I get that. I’m a researcher, I tried everything I could think of on my own, and a bunch of other stuff that didn’t help a bit. But sometimes…you have to wait.

I waited a long time for the right treatment to come along and make me feel better (42 years). It wasn’t a quick fix, and it’s not sure-fire, but it’s working for me. It’s not a fun thing to infuse immunoglobulin subcutaneously (or for my IvIG friends, intravenously). I’m happy to say, that after 25 weeks of treatment, I’m finally starting to feel better. It’s an amazing thing, feeling good. If you already feel good, then revel in it, roll in it and keep it close. I’ve talked about my little windows of feeling better. The last week or so I’ve had several consecutive hours of feeling better. Not an entire day of it, but huge happy chunks. Enough to know I’m improving.

Waiting is hard. We’re a proactive people. We like action and immediate solutions. Easy answers are best. Patience is NOT a virtue associated with our lives. But a lot of the time, we just have to hang in there, hold on and pray. And pray some more.

Have you ever been given erroneous advice? Did you take it? What happened?

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Full text here.)

Posted by: AMcGowan | 06/26/2012

Dream Weaver

I’ve been dreaming, hoping, praying about getting a publishing contract for a long time. A long, long time. So, about two weeks ago I got the email every writer hopes to get, the one that said, “Good news! We’re going to publish your book.” (Although, it was probably more articulate than that).

After re-reading the email about five times, it sunk in. I proceeded to try and tell everyone I could think of—by the way, those of you that weren’t home…where were you??!! And then, it really sunk in. All my hard work, all my hopes and dreams were going to be out there for everyone to see. You might guess what follows: fear. Will I be able to keep up, will my health hold, what about all those unknowns?

Now, I know I’m not alone in this. I immediately went and panicked to my new author group and they reassured me they knew exactly what I felt like. My editor was very supportive (cool…my editor), and other writer friends were encouraging. All those things helped. But, it wasn’t until I turned to the One who planted the seed of this dream in my heart all those years ago that my fears subsided. I won’t say disappeared, because self-doubt looms over my shoulder (it’s rather black and fuzzy with green eyes..no wait, that’s my cat). But, when that self-doubt arises, I’m doing my best to remember the dream weaver, the original Author of life, has it all in hand.

I’d love to hear if you’ve ever had a dream come true—and what you did with those nagging doubts!

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Full text here.)

Posted by: AMcGowan | 06/02/2012

Wishing You Were Here

The past few years have been a struggle for my family health-wise. I’ve shared as much on my blog. This has made it hard for us to take vacations. But a couple months back, we planned one down to northern California, to see a good portion of our family—one of those being my Granny who, at the age of 96, was declining in health.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get there in time, but were able to attend her memorial. And while I love to write and do pretty well with my fingers on the keyboard, I’m not much of a speaker. I mean, I do fine—but it’s hard for me to talk in front of people, and especially difficult during such an emotional time. So, I waited until now.

I’ve been very blessed to have a number of grandparents in my life. I have four parents (due to remarriage), and were able to know most of their parents, and even a couple of their grandmother’s.

Both Granny, and her mother, Grandma Lind, were instrumental in my life. My mother and I moved to northern California when I was ten. To say I was lonely is a huge understatement. It was just a few short months later that my mother met and married my step-father. And thus, I was thrust into a new family with grandparents and a brother and sister (who were out of the house by my arrival), aunts and uncles and cousins. I felt very uneasy, and didn’t know what to expect.

Both Granny and Grandma Lind took me right into the family. If there were any doubts they had about me, I never knew it. As soon as my parents said, “I do” I was a grandkid and that was that. I can’t tell you what it meant to me to be accepted so quickly.

Granny was expert in making just about anyone feel at home, and I did. So much so, that one time, when she was babysitting me, I noticed that the clock on the piano was an hour off (Daylight savings time had come and gone). So, I fixed it. She had a funny look on her face when I told her how I’d taken care of it for her. I had no idea that a professional needed to set that clock…that expensive mantle clock. But, after explaining it to me, it was never mentioned again. I discovered later it had been quite expensive to repair. I kept a clear path between that clock and me from then on.

She loved music, and during a period of time when I was taking piano lessons, let me come over and practice at her house. I’m sure she must have gotten pretty tired of hearing me play the same pieces over and over again (I use the word play loosely)—but she just smiled and encouraged me. I never really mastered it, I wish I had.

Granny loved clowns and had a collection of figurines and pictures. One Halloween, I was about thirteen, I decided to be a clown for trick-o-treating. My friends and I canvassed the whole town (it felt like) and I needed to use the bathroom. We were nearby Granny’s house, so I knocked on the door. She answered and gave me a candy. I asked, “Can I use the bathroom?” Well, I’d never seen an incredulous look on her face before, but sure gave me one. When I stepped inside, she kindly asked me to leave, took me firmly by the arm and escorted me out, shutting and locking the door, flipping off the porch light. To say I was shocked didn’t begin to explain my feelings. My grandmother had just tossed me from the house! As I was standing in the dark, wondering what happened, I realized she had no idea who I was. So, I started knocking again. After a minute, she flipped on the porch light, opened the door a crack and told me to go away in a very stern voice. Had I been the miscreant she took me for, I’m sure I would have turned tail and ran. Instead I said, “But, Granny, it’s me, it’s April!” She was just as relieved as I was. I apparently made a very convincing clown.

Years later, when I got engaged, she lovingly sat my fiancé and I down and asked what our plans were (we were pretty young). She was matter-of-fact, yet kind. And over the twenty plus years we’ve been married, unendingly supportive.

People at her memorial talked about her classy appearance (always dressed to the nines); her love of travel (was even asked by a native New Guinea man to be one of his wives); her love of sporty cars; how she walked in her faith every day of her life, reaching out to strangers and making them feel like a friend. She so did. But, for me, I’ll always remember how she looked at this lonely ten-year-old girl and took her as one of her own—no questions asked—and loved her. Thanks, Granny.

Posted by: AMcGowan | 05/12/2012

Mamma Said

I’m sure there are a lot of blogs about Moms going up this weekend. And I’m no exception. But, I’ve got a bit of different take.

A year and a half ago I became a different kind of mom. I’m now a mom living with chronic illness. Up until then, I was a get-er-done mom. A homeschooling mom. A supportive mom. A writer mom. I kept a fairly clean house, I kept us organized and on track. But then, my CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency, or Hypogammaglobulinemia) went full-blown. And I went down. Hard.

I’ve had to change my idea of what a mom is and what a mom does and adjust my expectations. My kids have always been good kids. Thoughtful and considerate. But, things have changed with them during all this, too.

My kids notice when I don’t feel great. They tell me to go sit down. They take tools out of my hand and say, “That’s enough, Mom.” My daughter, in particular, will tell me to go lay down, sit down, stop. One particular day, I must have looked pretty done-in because after my daughter told me to go lay down, she proceeded to cook our dinner, get it all served and get her and her brother ready to go. I woke up to steak, potatoes and a salad. I have to admit, it tasted ten times as good as normal because she made it for me.

My kids are a huge blessing to me. I’ve often apologized for not being able to do more things, for not being able to keep up—but they just tell me, “It’s not your fault you’re sick. We love you.”

SO, this is a blog shout-out to my kids. I know it’s not easy living with a mom who gets worn out unexpectedly, who tells you to take a bath whenever we’ve been out in public (to protect us from germs I can’t fight), who won’t let you go certain places because you might get exposed to things—and most painful, who can’t hug you when you are sick. I know it’s a drag when I can’t run off to the park when it’s pretty out because my energy is already spent by noon. Or play games as often. Or, well, fill in your blank.

I hope you know how much I love and appreciate you both. How blessed I am to have you both in my life. I thank the Lord he gave you to me.

Psalm 173: 3-5 Children are a heritage from the Lord,offspring a reward from him.Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man (woman) whose quiver is full of them. (full text here)

Posted by: AMcGowan | 04/26/2012

Hard To Say I’m Sorry

My son will also do just about anything to stay out of trouble. I don’t mean actually avoiding trouble (he’s 9), but he hates to be caught at doing something wrong. Instead of fessing up, though, he just starts to yell, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” at the top of his lungs. It’s not a real apology—it’s just him trying avoid the consequences of having done something wrong.

So, the other day, during one of his sorry screaming fits, I came out with something brilliant. So brilliant that it convicted me to my bones. “You’re not really sorry. If you were, you’d quit doing the behavior you keep apologizing for, and you’d never do it again.”

Wow. Who said that?

It was one of those moments the flashlight I was shining on him turned back around and smacked me in the eyes. Don’t you hate when that happens? You’re busy trying to make an example out of an issue and it turns out…to be relevant to you.

No, this isn’t one of those dark confessions kinds of blogs. But it was worth thinking on. How many times do I repeatedly mess up and need to go to God and ask for forgiveness for the same thing? Everyone has issues where they fail and need to start over, and thankfully, God’s goodness and grace prevails through the glory of Jesus, and He remembers our sin no more. But I have to wonder…is He shaking His head at me when I ask for forgiveness for the same thing over and over again? Am I like my son, screaming I’m sorry at the top of my lungs just to avoid punishment?

Sometimes, it’s hard to say I’m sorry. I think those are the times we are being the most thoughtful about it—the most meaningful times. When I’m really sorry, it takes me a while to come around to it. I have to put down my ego and my pride and go to the person I’ve wronged. It’s very humbling. It’s life changing. It’s me changing.

 1 John 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (full text here.)

Posted by: AMcGowan | 03/04/2012

Help!

I’ve been helping my son clean his room. I have to do this in bits and pieces, because my energy level is in the tank, and if I work for more than an hour or so, I get a raging headache and start to feel sick to my stomach. I can work so long, and then I meet the wall. Meanwhile, we’ve discovered that although his room appeared clean, he’d actually been shoving stuff behind other stuff and cramming things behind other things for quite some time! Anyway, while cleaning, we’ve been putting aside toys he no longer uses or that he’s outgrown. One in particular, a battery operated toy chainsaw, brought up a vivid memory of a time where he tried to help me.

A few years ago, in the middle of a huge windstorm, our fifteen-foot long, twelve-foot high hedge fell over—into the street. It just so happened that my husband was recovering from surgery, and I was unable to uproot it enough to move it out of the way (picture me in a rainstorm in the middle of the street, pulling on a rain soaked hedge). And it had to be moved. So, we called on some friends we knew owned a chainsaw and a truck that could haul it away. We told them how much we needed their help, and they came.

As we were working in the rain, I head a funny noise on the porch. Standing there was my son—age 5—with his very own ‘chainsaw’. He wore his safety goggles and was revving the engine. I almost laughed at the cuteness, but I could see the seriousness in his eyes, so I bit my lip instead. His dad was down, but he, as the other man of the house, was going to do his best to help. I had to explain that his chainsaw wouldn’t quite do the job, but I told him he could help load the branches that were being trimmed down. That satisfied him—but I could see the disappointment in his eyes.

I feel that disappointment some days, too. I have an idea of what I want to do, and how I’m going to do it—I love to help others, I love getting things done. These days, I’m having to learn what I want to do isn’t always what I’m able to do. Talk about frustrating! I never thought I’d be praying for the strength to clean my son’s room. Or praying for patience with myself (from whence my frustration arises!). Or asking God to remind me when I need to take a step back (I’m a push-through kinda gal). There’s a verse that keeps going through my head:

Psalm 121: 1-2 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (full text here.)

When your will meets the wall, what do you do?

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