Today's blog is going to take a slightly different twist. Back in late 2017, I started writing a weekly post here, using chapter titles taken from my first novel Whispering Pines, and later from the second book in my series, Tangled Beginnings.
When writing my books, I created chapter titles based on the main events of each chapter. I believe we encounter many gifts in life as we go about our everyday existence. Sometimes it's the seemingly inconsequential things that turn out to be true blessings or gifts—a chance meeting, a wrong turn, or even picking up a surprising idea gleaned from something we watch on television. Other times, it's those difficult experiences that lead us down an unexpected path where we would never have gone if not forced to do so. Occasionally we find gold at the end of those paths. Good or bad, life is full of gifts.
Those chapter titles have proven to be fun writing prompts for my blog. But, to be honest, I sometimes wrestle with what to write each week. I struggle to find the time to write another post. My goal is to publish two more books in 2019, and I wonder if I'm making the best use of my time writing in here instead of sketching out another chapter in a book.
The reality is, I like the freedom of creating short posts in here, so I'll continue doing so. If there is a week when I can't get a new post written, I'll try not to stress about it. At this point, I have over sixty previous posts. I'll repost one I found particularly fun to write, or people seemed to enjoy and focus on my novel writing. Don't give up on me if I don't post brand new content every single week. I'll keep showing up as long as people seem to enjoy my posts. Maybe just not every single week. My goal is to enjoy my writing and not crack under the pressure like my poor crock did this winter!
I decided today was the day to finally focus on getting those questions written. I am so appreciative when groups select one of my books for their book club discussions, and I want to help make the process as easy as possible for them. I've been lucky enough to be invited to attend a number of these book clubs in person and I’ve enjoyed every single one.
I scoured the internet for guidance on how to write book club questions. Then I went back and reviewed my chapter summaries for my books. It was a great reminder of the many themes I tried to convey through my storylines. It also made me curious how often readers picked up on these. Did I go deep enough? What more do I want to say on these topics? What life lessons have I experienced that I can pass on, beyond what I was able to incorporate in my books or might have already talked about in my blog posts?
It was like a light bulb turned on. I don't always have to look externally for new things to talk about in my blog. When I'm searching for a topic, another option is to pull one out my books, or even use the reading guides I've now pulled together, and further expand on those topics.
For me, there are five central themes integral to my first novel, Whispering Pines. Fair warning: don't check out my actual Reading Guides I'll be posting on my website until after you've finished each book. They are full of spoilers, meant to spur meaningful discussions. But I did think it would be fun to share the high-level themes with you here (no spoilers). If you've read Whispering Pines, let me know if you think I missed anything. If you haven't yet picked up the book, or if you have it sitting on either your physical or eBook bookshelf, but you haven't gotten around to reading it yet, maybe these will intrigue you enough to want to dive in.
Sound interesting? I throw in some mystery, too.
These are big questions. Big things to ponder that go well beyond the boundaries of what can be touched upon in one book, or even one series. I'll try to dig deeper into these topics in future posts.
If you'd like to check out my new Reading Guide for Whispering Pines, click the button below. Please don't think the guide is only useful for book clubs. If you enjoyed Whispering Pines and you're not quite ready to move on to Tangled Beginnings, check out my new guide and ponder the questions I pose.
My most heartfelt desire is that my books will provide you with inspiring entertainment. I don't write for shock value, but I also don't mind throwing in a few swear words here and there and some intimacy. I like to write about real life, and for me, that doesn't mean whitewashing everything to avoid offending someone. If I can make you think, maybe cause you to tweak something in your own life that will give you a bit more joy, I've accomplished what I set out to do.
And I always like to add that if I keep you reading past your bedtime, that's even better.
Next week I'll share what I see as some of the main themes in my second book, Tangled Beginnings and share the link to that Reading Guide. And in the not too distant future, I'll share more about book 3! Thank you for joining me on this journey! Kim
The first time I threw a sandbag was in 1993, and the makeshift dike stretched across our backyard and the backyards of our neighbors. If I'm remembering right, we'd purchased our home on the Sheyenne river earlier that same year.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
When we were considering whether or not to purchase this house, I remember worrying about the potential risk the river might pose to the safety of our children. Granted, we didn't have any kids yet, but we hoped to. It wouldn't take me long to realize that shouldn't have been my only concern in regards to the river.
We've battled flooding numerous times in our small town over the years. As the waters began to rise back in 1993, we were about to learn not only how to fight a flood, but how important community is in the face of natural disasters.
It didn't take long before large numbers of neighbors, friends, and family showed up to lend a hand to protect our neighborhood. I'd never experienced anything like it before. Many of the locals knew what they were doing, having battled the water before. We didn't have a clue, but we could take orders!
If you've worked to either fill or place sandbags, you know it's hard, dirty work. The gritty sand gets into everything. That first year, I was kicked out of the line pretty quickly. Granted, it probably wasn't a great idea to be heaving and catching heavy bags, seeing as how I was pregnant with our first child. I found other ways to help. The teamwork paid off, and our properties stayed dry.
There would be more flood fights throughout the years. The spring of 1997 was particularly bad around here. Record snowfall and a spring ice storm led to record flooding. With a three-year-old and a newborn at home, we decided it wasn't safe to stay in the house with the kids. Floodwaters stretched in every direction. I left with the kids, but my husband and others remained behind to do what they could to protect our community.
Volunteers walked the dikes surrounding the town, night and day, watching for trouble spots. There were potlucks, neighbors checking on neighbors, and plenty of business for the local bar. There's nothing like a flood to get people outside, meeting their neighbors.
We are probably a couple of weeks away from knowing how much trouble, if any, we might face this year. There is still an awful lot of snow remaining in our yards. Today the river is quiet, low, still partially frozen. It won't stay that way. It'll awaken and rise. The question is always "how high?"
I took the photo above two weeks ago, on March 9th, from the riverbank behind our house during what I hope was our last storm of the year. I'm not expecting too much flooding trouble this year. And my fingers are crossed that I'm right.
My heart breaks at the scenes of devastation south of us, in Nebraska and parts of South Dakota. I hope people are pulling together in those communities as well, neighbors helping neighbors where possible. It can be a terrible, helpless feeling to face a flood. Water is a powerful thing, at times impossible to control.
Speaking from experience, I know your heart pounds a little faster when an earthen dike goes up at the end of your street, the sound of heavy equipment echoing through the chilled air. You appreciate the Red Cross vehicle as it drives down your street, checking on people and handing out treats to the rattled kids. When the National Guard shows up in your backyard, beefing up the dike protecting your neighborhood, you feel appreciation and gratitude.
Around here, much of our flooding issues arise in the spring, spurred on by snow melt. Land in the Red River Valley is very flat, allowing water to flow where it will with little to stand in its way. But at least we have time to prepare. A call has already gone out for volunteers to help build one million sandbags, in case they're needed. It's better to be safe than sorry.
It has been quite a few years since we've faced significant flooding issues around here. Back when we seemed to be in a cycle of too much water, things like the proposed diversion garnered plenty of attention. But it's been quieter on that front lately. Memories can be short. That's not to say there haven't been significant improvements since the last big flood. Permanent dikes have been built, homes in flood-prone areas have been bought out and removed, and roads have been raised. We should be in better shape now.
I've experienced enough instances of flooding around here to have faith in our communities. If help is needed, people will respond. Sandbags will be filled, and experts will stand ready. And the best possible outcome will be that none of it ends up being necessary.
Hopefully, our warm-up will be gradual this year. While I look forward to the day when there is nothing but green grass to see, a slow melt would be better. No one needs any additional water downstream from us right now. The warmth of summer will be here soon enough. I think most would appreciate a nice, slow arrival of spring, to keep our communities safe and dry.
After all, we don't need a flood for an excuse to get out and say hello to the neighbors again. Stay dry, stay safe everyone! Kim
Once a year, I feel a twinge of loss as I set the clocks ahead one hour. Spring is near, we are enjoying longer days in North Dakota, and it's time to spring ahead to Daylight Savings Time. So why the twinge?
Intuitively, I know it's silly. I haven't really lost an hour. Clocks are just another way to measure time, like calendars. These measurements serve a vital purpose without which the world would dissolve into chaos. Measurements of time allow us to coordinate our lives with others.
While it would be impossible to "do" life without these measurements of time, the ticking of the clock does evoke an endless array of emotions. Too often we fret that we "don't have enough time" to do all the things we want (or think we have) to do. We're constantly "running late," or "counting down the days," or even worrying about the ticking of our "biological clocks." It's enough to drive us crazy with anxiety and a sense of scarcity.
I've decided to do my best to flip this notion of time scarcity on its head. Now when I turn the clocks ahead by one hour, I'll let it serve as a reminder to appreciate the hours, days and years I've already experienced and those yet to come. No more moaning about another birthday. Instead, I'll strive to appreciate the opportunity to celebrate another trip around the sun and for the experiences gained during the rotation.
I've always been intrigued by little remnants of history. I love old trinkets left over from special times in other people's lives. They spark my imagination.
There is a small alcove in our house where I display my collection of vintage purses. I can't explain why, but these little beauties give me joy. There is absolutely nothing practical about them. Maybe that's what makes them special to me. A life filled with nothing but the practical would be painfully bleak and colorless.
I like to imagine the type of women that actually used these purses, decades ago. What kinds of parties did these purses travel to and what was a woman wearing when she looped one of these over her wrist? Perhaps one of these pretty little bags was part of a young woman's wedding trousseau. Maybe another was a gift from a soldier to his sweetheart when he returned from war.
Who designed these miniature works of art? The intricate metal scrollwork on some of the purses is breathtaking. Some are covered in row upon row of beading, likely done by hand. How were these created, so many years ago?
I'm purposefully including a picture here that displays a bit of damage on one of my favorites. I could have passed up the purse because it wasn't perfect. Or I could have turned it to the other side when I took this picture so you couldn't see the flaw. But I choose not to pretend they're perfect because I think we all might be just a little tired of the illusion of perfectionism. I know I am.
A few missing rhinestones or a loose thread and missing beads likely mean the purse was well used, enjoyed by someone on special occasions. They are still gorgeous creations, made all the more special because of their history.
,Nestled among my purses are two small angels. My grandmother gave these to me many years ago. Grandma used to put them on her Christmas tree. When I first got a place of my own, she thought I'd enjoy having these to start my own collection of ornaments. She gave me a set of four. I used them on our trees for years. Somewhere along the line, the blue and the green angels disappeared. I didn't want to chance losing the remaining two, so now instead of being tucked away for eleven months of the year with all my other ornaments, I keep them out where I can enjoy them, and they won't accidentally be lost among the tree branches.
Similar to my purses, these pretty little angels give me joy. I need only to look at them to remember many of the special times I enjoyed with my grandma as I was growing up. Just like so many of the women in my life, she shared priceless wisdom and love with me.
Experience is teaching me that hours are nothing more than markers as we travel through this life. We should seek out and partake in those experiences that bring us bliss and make the hours disappear. The hours aren't truly lost.
Maybe some of the small trinkets that accompany us on our own adventures will bring joy to someone in a future generation, too, long after we're gone.
Each of us will start to show some wear and tear as the years click by, just like my pretty little purses, but we need to stop thinking of the wrinkles and imperfections as problems and instead wear them as a badge of honor. What a blessing to sport laugh lines and wrinkles around the eyes when they are a testament to life, love, heartbreak, survival, and laughter.
Make the most of every hour and fill your life with experiences that will deepen your laugh lines. Kim
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word "persistence"?
I would guess the word itself does little to get your blood pumping. It implies hard work and patience. It reminds us that all those things we would love to achieve in our own lifetime won't happen through sheer luck. Darn.
Practicing persistence and tenacity can be a grind.
The word persistence is defined as "firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition."
So why do I even bring up the topic of persistence if it makes you cringe when you read the first few lines of today's post?
Because life has taught me the beauty of what can be achieved through persistence.
If I just showed up here, every week, and tried to encourage and inspire you to work towards whatever it is you want to accomplish, but never reminded you that it'll take a boatload of hard work to pull it off, I'd only be sharing half the story. Starting something is easy. Believe me, I've done my fair share of that. The real test comes when the excitement wears off, the finish line is far off in the distance, and there are plenty of roadblocks in-between.
We increase our odds of success if we go into something with our eyes wide open and try to prepare for the tough days. Give yourself the tools that can help you press on even when you don't feel like it.
Ways to make it easier to persist:
Remember, it's what you do behind the scenes when no one else is watching that will determine whether or not you accomplish whatever you set out to do. Put your head down, do what needs to be done, make it fun when you can, power through the mundane things, and then come up for air. See if you've made progress, adjust as needed, put your head back down, and do it again.
One year ago, I enjoyed an evening with a local book club. Even though it was a small group, three of us in the room were local, published authors. We compared notes and found we'd all gotten to that point following different paths, but we were all able to hold a physical book we'd each written in our hands. What I find so encouraging is that one year later, each of us has published another book. That takes persistence!
Congratulations to Laetitia Mizero Hellerud on her new book "Turning Points: True Stories of Thriving Through Adversity" and to Jeff Kolpack for publishing "North Dakota Tough." Their work is indeed full of inspiring stories.
I write novels and a weekly blog in addition to working a full-time job because I enjoy it.
No…wait…that isn't quite right. I do it because I love both the writing and the business end of publishing books. I put in early mornings and late nights, writing in the nooks and crannies of my days because I have a vision of where I want to go with my newfound passion. It won't happen overnight, and it won't be easy. But it'll be worth it.
What is it you want to do or become, in the months and years ahead? I hope you realize you have the power to make it happen if you commit and persist. It may take a long time, but the time will pass anyhow, so make it count.
Cheering on your tenacity! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!