Author: Sharon Hughson

Sharon Lee spent her youth talking to animals, who never replied, until she escaped to Narnia, where animals did talk back. The magical portal of reading made her a dream weaver. Now, she invites fantasy addicts and dreamers to time travel into immortal, mystical realms.

Join the Discussion

Discussion holds the power to enlighten and inform. Of course, it needs to be a two-way conversation where listening happens as often as talking…and from both sides.

In our crazy “You Can Do it All” world, it can be difficult to maintain the focus needed to accomplish any task well. That’s one of the things I mention in my study guide Finding Focus through the Lens of God’s Word.

Eight Bible lessons to help you discover your focus

For the rest of this year, I’ll be offering the content of that book FREE to members of my Friends of Author Facebook group.

This is the table of contents from the book.

Session One:  Your Life in Pictures

Session Two: Where’s the Auto Focus?

Session Three: Choosing what to Focus on

Session Four: Focus-Helping

Session Five: Focus-Mentoring

Session Six: Focus-Teaching

Session Seven: Focus-Mothering

Session Eight: When Life’s out of Focus

To kick things off, we’ll start at the beginning, but I won’t go through every chapter. If you’re interested in joining with this study and discussion, go here to join the group. Then follow this link to fill out the poll where you select the top three topics from the book that you’re interested in reading and discussing. The four topics that receive the most votes will be discussed beginning in September.

Why Am I Doing This?

First of all, I’m trying to see if there is a market for this information.

Secondly, I need to build a platform of active followers if I want to convince an agent to take on the proposal I’ve been working on. More about that later once I decide if I can make a “course” out of the information that people might be interested in paying to obtain.

And finally, I don’t get a lot of traction here on my blog. A few people comment. If Google Analytics are painting the best picture, a few more are reading the blog without leaving any feedback.

But mostly, my writing here goes into the Virtual Ether and that’s the end of it. So why do I keep posting here?

A New Focus

Speaking of focus, I promised earlier this year that the blog articles would take on a new focus. But I haven’t really delivered on that.

Now is the time for that delivery.

Next year, all the content on this blog will be either research related to the REFLECTIONS series, book reviews or opinions that relate to either the genre of Biblical fiction or Christian living. At least once each month, I’ll share an article that relates directly to the topic  of grief and grief recovery.

If you’re a regular reader, I’d love to hear your input on these changes.

As always, thanks for reading.

A Glimpse Inside What I’m Writing Now

The cover for the second book in the REFLECTIONS series will be unveiled soon.

A Laboring Hand is the story of Jesus told by Martha of Bethany. And it’s a story that’s had a profound effect on the author writing it.

I’ve always teased my sister about being bossy, but Martha has taken flak from preachers for a couple thousand years about her tendency to be bossy. We’re familiar with this scripture from Luke 10, right?

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

But what did it look like in Martha’s life?

Here’s a glimpse from A LABORING HAND, chapter four.

I washed my hands and began to chop the handfuls of pungent herbs I would add to the beans. The pestle in my hand smashed the beans with rhythmic efficiency. Mary pressed together more flour, salt and olive oil, intent on baking more bread.

“The stone was hot.” The words had barely left my mouth when Lazarus limped in followed by a boy carrying a jug on his head.

“Leave it in the shade outside,” I waved a hand to the boy. “We’ll draw out into my pitchers half-filled with water. That will make it last.”

Laz nodded to the boy, gesturing to a place further along the house, away from the cooking fire and the chimney. I heard the jingle of coins.

“It’s already watered.”

“What proportion?” My brain estimated the amount of drink a dozen thirsty men would need.

“Fifty percent.” Lazarus slouched against the wall. Weariness etched his features, but I knew he wouldn’t rest. He was more eager for the visitors than any of us.

“We can safely add another twenty percent. Will you see to it?”

“I’ll need to draw more water.” Mary’s hands hesitated over the dough. “They’ll need what I drew for washing.”

“They aren’t zealots.” I returned to my chopping. “They won’t care about washing before they eat. Could you reach me the bowl of olives?” I gestured to the line of pottery on the wall overhead.

Mary shoved Abba’s weaving stool into place and stepped up to grasp the bowl. “I intend to wash their feet.”

I froze. Why would she insist on doing that? It was a servant’s job, and since we didn’t have servants, none of our guests ever expected this service.

“They’ll just get dirty again when he leaves on Sunday.”

“But they’ll be clean for Sabbath.”

Like that really mattered in a small synagogue like ours.

“There isn’t enough water.” That would solve it.

“I’ll draw more.”

“The bread needs baking. And the floor should be swept and the cushions beaten. Plus, we’ll need to get out all the extra rugs.”

Lazarus sighed and pushed away from the wall. “I’ll get started on the cushions.”

I shook my head. With only one arm, it took him much longer to clean them. “I’ll do it. Draw out the wine.”

Laz blinked at me, sharing a look with Mary. It was an apologetic look. He’d tried to aid her plan, but the bossy big sister nixed it. Something gnawed at my heart, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.

Soon enough, the laughter and banter of a crowd of dusty men filled the room. I welcomed them with a small bowl of water and a clean linen cloth. Well, it was clean for the first man or two.

Yeshua reclined at the head of the table on the largest cushion. My parents had often shared it. John bar Zebedee, one of the Boanerges, sat on it with the master while the others filed onto other cushions, some choosing to lean against the wall on the rugs Lazarus had pulled from his room and ours. The dirt floor could hardly be seen once all of them sprawled around the room.

Mary and I circulated with pitchers of wine. Once we finished, I began to distribute the bowls of spiced beans and packets of bread, still warm from their place on the hearth. I turned to ask Mary to assist me, but she’d folded herself cross-legged at Yeshua’s feet, staring up as he started to talk.

I blinked hard. What on earth was she thinking? Was this her rebellion since I hadn’t let her get water for foot washing? She was certainly positioned in a way she could wash his feet if she had the supplies.

I continued to serve. His authoritative voice, usually so soothing, fueled the ire inside me. He could make her help me. I glanced at Laz, but my brother was watching the master and scribbling on a piece of parchment. Mary never once looked my way, even when I nudged her with my ankle as I passed to refill John’s cup.

With a careful eye, I glanced at every cup and bowl. They would need continual watching. Matthew raised his cup in my direction, and I sidled through the sprawled bodies to fill it, nearly tripping on another man’s filthy feet.

They weren’t drawn out of the way, so I turned and topped off his cup. He stared through me, as if I were invisible. I was used to that from working in the Pharisee’s home, but usually Yeshua’s friends were more gracious.

The unrest stirred inside me as I shuffled around, refilling cups and then fetching more bread to replenish the diminishing stacks. Soon, I would need to bake some more.

And that’s when it was too much. I strode toward Yeshua with my pitcher and jabbed my sister with a meaningful kick. She blinked.

As I filled his cup, I said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?”

A hush descended in the room. I heard the wine trickle against what was in his cup. Our eyes met.

“Bid her to help me.” Couldn’t he see how much work I was doing? Why should she just be sitting there?

“Martha.” His voice was quieter than it had been, almost gentle.

At the sound of my name from his lips, the turmoil loosened inside me. Why had I waited so long to ask for his assistance? His dark eyes filled with understanding and concern. He would help me because he cared about me.
“Martha, you’re anxious and worried about many things.”

The comfort turned to a prickle of conviction. Worry was sin. My father had told me so.

“But one thing is needful.”

One thing? I wanted to jerk my hand around at the crowd of hungry men who needed food, drink and places to sleep. There were many things that needed to be taken care of. I knew he could see that.

Yeshua sighed. His fingers rested on the handle of the pitcher beside mine. They were square and scuffed. Working man’s hands.

“And Mary hath chosen that good part.” His voice rose slightly, but not with anger or impatience, and his hand dropped to his cup. “And that won’t be taken away from her.”

Everything warred within me as I struggled to comprehend his words. Mary was sitting there while our guests needed things. How was that better than helping me meet their needs?

“A certain man,” his gaze scanned the rest of the room.

I recognized the beginning of a parable. Usually I loved his stories, they always carried so much spiritual significance. I couldn’t listen though because his words stung my heart.

I filled cups, my eyes lowered. Tears burned at the back of my eyelids whenever I blinked, but I widened my eyes, pulling my shawl which had dropped to my shoulders, up to cover most of my face.

Mary sat at his feet doing nothing, but Yeshua said she’d chosen the good part. The words kept echoing all evening.

Even now, as I’m writing all this, they sting me somewhere deep in my soul. Was there something wrong with my desire to make the men comfortable? Did Yeshua not want a meal and refreshment while he was talking?

What do you think? How had you imagined Martha in this moment that gets so much negative attention? Should women be more like Mary?

If you’re excited to learn more about the REFLECTIONS series, make sure you’re a member of my newsletter. I’ll be running special (including FREE audiobooks of A PONDERING HEART) to my subscribers FIRST!
Sign up here

Happy Independence Day: A Look at Freedom

July 4,1776, a crowd of rebellious patriots rally around a document written by Thomas Jefferson and sent to a king thousands of miles across the sea. This king taxed the “colonists” but in return they received nothing from him.

Today, I’ll celebrate our independence with a collection of links to posts with the title “Why Freedom Isn’t Free.”

I don’t endorse any of the products these posts might be selling. I am not saying I agree with all of the content. But, in the spirit of “free speech” I am sharing diverse opinions about this subject.


We’ll start with an old post of mine. I wrote it when the hubs and I walked the “Freedom Trail” in Boston.

Next up is a post from a life coach. He translates freedom in your personal life to freedom in your career and finances. Read it here


I especially agreed with the first line of this next post: “Years ago back in my days at the academy and in the military, I used to hear the phrase ‘freedom isn’t free’ over and over again. Not because I heard it in my military days, but because I think it’s a phrase that’s going out of style.

Read the rest of this post here

This final post has a religious bent with a text from Genesis chapter two. I’m including it because, I believe, that’s when this struggle for freedom truly began for mankind.
Read it here.

As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on freedom, but please don’t quote the other articles as if I stated them or agreed with them. I am only sharing them to offer some diversity.

Don’t you get tired of hearing only MY opinion on this blog?

Do you agree that “freedom isn’t free”? What price have you paid for freedom?

The Power of Discussion

In May, I spent most of the month working as the substitute teacher in the freshman global studies class at our local high school. My favorite days were the ones when we had discussion prompts and they voiced their opinions.

These days reminded me of the power inherent in discussion. Note, I’m not talking about arguments or one-sided lectures.

Discussion involves a sharing of multiple viewpoints.

I admit, I played the Devil’s Advocate when I could. I took portions of what they offered up in their claims and twisted it to represent the opposite viewpoint in a better light. Sound perspectives from early classes were used to foster discussion in later ones.

And it made me smile. The eight hours of constant interaction generally zap me. I leave the high school feeling like a zombie in need of a long hibernation.

But not on those discussion days. Because the brain-stimulating charge from the discussion kept the fatigue at bay. Powerful and empowering: discussion.

Power of Thought

Some topics are thought-provoking.  Other topics might not be all that interesting until presented in a way that speaks to the place a person lives.

In either case, discussion requires a brain to wake up and get to work.

Believe me when I tell you the youth I interact with in public school don’t do as much thinking as they should. Instead, they’re spoon fed information to regurgitate as test answers.

Not the case for a discussion. Although, I can tell you it was clear when students supplied a regurgitated answer. When asked questions about it or to give a logical path between the question and their answer, they were stumped.

Deep thinking requires analysis and evaluation. Information is input into our brain and when it comes out our mouths it’s been synthesized through our worldview, experiences, values and additional knowledge.

Power of Understanding

One of the biggest powers of discussion is its ability to impart understanding. This isn’t in the form of facts. It’s in the form of mind-expanding.

In a discussion, another side we hadn’t considered is presented. The reasoning behind that viewpoint is explained. A lightbulb goes on.

Even if we aren’t convinced by this shared information, we’re suddenly aware of where the “other side” comes from.

We understand their way of thinking, the process of their logic. Suddenly, there isn’t just a right way and a wrong way. Or even a my way and their way.

True understanding opens the avenue of compassion. This isn’t the road to tolerance or even acceptance. It’s a path that says, “You can get there a different way.” Even if it isn’t the shortest or fastest route, it isn’t wrong either. Just different.

And diversity should be appreciated.

Power to Compromise

Most things in the world don’t have to be one way. This is the biggest outcome to open discussion. Open discussion being that where everyone listens and everyone has input. People talk and their words are heard and considered as valuable.

Compromise is rarely the path of least resistance. Its very nature requires concessions from both sides.

As long as either side sticks with an unbending will, there can be no meeting in the middle.

However, compromise can agree to disagree. We don’t have to think exactly alike to be able to work together for a better world.

To work together, though, we’ll have to put a sock in our pride. We can’t look down our nose at the other side because that breeds contempt and resentment.

If I have the cure for cancer, does it matter if the cancer patient believes the same way I do about politics or religion or even the best way to administer the cure? Won’t it cure them no matter what they believe?

But if I withhold the cure to use as a “lever” to sway those other beliefs, I’m guilty of inhumanity.

What do you see as the powers of open discussion between people with various viewpoints?

The Power of Three

With a title like that, this article could be about Charmed or the Trinity or any number of things. Instead, it’s about the way many things are segmented into “just do these three things” and you’ll find success.

In the Book Proposal workshop I wrote about last week, the agent/instructor told us a major way we could build our platform was to write three articles.

Yes, the power of three strikes again. (Not the power of three strikes. All that gets you is OUT.)

Why Three?

It could be an arbitrary number. But there is some method to choosing three.

Three articles on one topic (but not the same elements of that topic) offer enough diversity that it can make your knowledge appear broad. In some cases, maybe broader than it is. Don’t get me started on that “pretending things” avenue.

These articles need to represent the “best” of my topic. They should showcase my hook and also what’s different about my approach to a common and well-covered topic.

They need to be well-written in the style of my book. And they need to be edited to perfection

Then What?

Now that I have three well-crafted articles showcasing my expertise on this subject, I’m set.

For what exactly?

To get the content out there.

I should pitch these articles to sites with large followings that would be interested in the topic. Maybe send the articles out to a magazine.

Yes, I have to be careful about reprint and copyright infringement, but that’s the main reason I have three articles. I can use some of them in forums that don’t require first or exclusive rights, and save one of them to sell to an exclusive market.

Also, I should reformat the information into live videos or coaching sessions. Anything that can get the information out into the world.

What’s the Point?

Other than getting my information out there, this exposure establishes me as an expert.

Which I’m not. However, every agent and editor will do an online search of me. These articles on so many different channels will show up as hits. And that looks like I have a large reach.

This is part of platform building that we often overlook. Especially since my experience is mostly with fiction platform building. That doesn’t lend itself in the same way.

As I mentioned last week, I’m not thrilled to spend all my energy talking about working through grief. It isn’t my primary gifting or calling.

But if I want to get a traditional contract for this book, I should do everything in my power to “follow the rules.”

That’s the main reason you’ll see my blog and my Facebook group focused on nonfiction topics for the rest of the year. It’s not because I’m not writing fiction, because you know I have five projects in the works.

My goal is to build a platform that appeals to a publisher. In reality, I’d rather talk about fictionalizing Bible stories and how that can further spiritual growth. Yes, everyone grieves, and I would be willing to speak on that topic too, but my passion is for the other.

Apparently, if you write a book, it’s because you’re an expert in that field. And from then on, you’ll only be seen as someone who can address that subject.

That’s so limiting. Especially for someone like me who can’t even decide on a single fiction genre to write in forever.

What is a topic you wish someone would write a book on?

Book Proposal Workshop Woes

A professional spends time and money on education. It’s no different for me as an author. I’ve spend money on conferences, retreats, online classes, books and most recently a workshop. This particular workshop claims to show me the best way to write a book proposal.

Fiction writers don’t generally have to write proposals. As the instructor of my workshop—literary agent Wendy Keller—is fond of saying, a book proposal is like a nonfiction book’s business plan. Because a nonfiction book is selling knowledge and the publisher who puts it out there wants to be sure the plan is sound (meaning has a good hope of making money).

This spring, I attended an online writing conference and one of the sessions advertised this workshop. Of course, like any good marketing campaign, it made it sound like there was a decent chance any sound proposals would be snapped up by the agency presenting the course.

Or not.

But what’s $199 among friends? Or would that be agent and possible future author client?

Or maybe, it’s a six-session course that gives feedback on every part of the proposal. By the time I finish, the whole proposal will have been seen by this agent and multiple editors. It should be as close to perfect as I can make it.

After that, I’ll be able to actually shop my nonfiction book Through the Valley of Shadows to my top agency choices. It might have the chance to be sold.

And this is one of my writing projects for 2020.

If only I wasn’t in the middle of writing first drafts and revising beta drafts and working eight-hour days teaching freshmen about refugees and imperialism.

If wishes were pennies, I’d be rich.

The Sessions

The first two webinars were horrible. Not because the information shared wasn’t good, but the first one had such horrible audio quality that it gave me a headache. The second one, the slides that the presenter shared weren’t actually shown. Not helpful if you’re trying to take notes.

After that, it wasn’t too bad. There was a combination of ideas and encouragement, but I didn’t feel encouraged.

Seriously. She basically said if you didn’t have a platform, her agency wouldn’t pick you up. And if you self-published your book, you were only hurting yourself. Unless you had a ready-made clientele.

I got the message…but not the T-shirt

Yes, she did give the framework necessary for writing a proposal. She had a few unique tips I hadn’t heard elsewhere, but in reality, there wasn’t much here.

Unless the idea that I “fabricate” speaking dates (nine to twelve months in the future) is to be considered an excellent piece of advice for a Christian author. (I wish I was joking.)

The Homework

The assignments were directly related to the lessons. The coursework divided the proposal into parts and each lesson covered one of these. The corresponding homework involved writing that part.

One of the pieces of the proposal that I hadn’t completed before was the comparative analysis. This involves reading as money books similar to the one you’re writing as possible. Our first week we had to find these books in the top 150,000 on Amazon.

During the following six weeks, we were supposed to read these six to eight books.

Yeah. Right.

A re-enactment of one of my THREE TBR piles before they collapsed

I read two books per week, but I didn’t want to read six books on the topic of grief. Not when the skies were gray and I had writing to do.

So, I’m still working on the last two of those books. Because I need to have read the by the time I send my proposal out. I can hope that the books will STILL be on the Amazon charts at that point.

The End Result

At the end, I had every piece of this proposal written. All except the final piece—Marketing Plan, also the second most important section of the document—had been read and reviewed by professional editors. I’d had the opportunity to rewrite each section according to the recommendations from said editors.

The entire proposal had final input from an editor. After implementing these suggestions, I would have the best book proposal I could possible write.

What I didn’t have was an agent.

But then again, did I truly expect the road to be easy? It hasn’t been this far.

And no matter what this agent says, if I don’t sell this book to a publisher, I’ll create an online course for it. I’ll get it out to people because I believe it has a needful message.

I know it’s helped me in the aftermath of grief, and I believe God can use it to help others find hope and healing, too.

What is something you’ve signed up for that didn’t have the expected outcome?

The END GAME for Marvel’s AVENGERS

You don’t even have to follow this blog to know I love superheroes and superhero movies. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you figured it out right away.

I mean, the thing is called HERO DELIVERY.

My memes for it feature my favorite super: Wonder Woman.

My TWO favorite supers: Wonder Woman and Captain America

And much of this love started because I have boys and they adored the X-Men movies. Just when I thought I might have to become a mutant to get special powers, along came Marvel with a whole universe of heroes for me and my family to fall in love with.

And I didn’t really love Iron Man. I mean, Downey Jr. is a great actor, and I totally loved his sarcastic wit. But he was all about being a rich playboy off the back of weapons that killed thousands. Until he was kidnapped and compromised and found out that he could become the weapon.

Oh, right, but he would fight for good. When all he really wanted was redemption from his past mistakes.

Yes, seeking redemption is utterly human and it drives plenty of stories, but it doesn’t make the best hero. Not in my mind anyway.

And while CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER might not have been the best film ever, Captain America won my heart. You can read about why in this old post. And see why I picked him in the CIVIL WAR film.

Because those CAPS totally keep their identity secret

Give Me a Team Any Day

But I’ve already said my favorite superhero is Wonder Woman and she’s from DC’s comic universe. They’ve tried to capture the audience that Marvel has sold by the blockbuster, but they don’t have the same writers, I guess. Or they try to make it all about Superman. Or their superheroes don’t really have abilities.

From JUSTICE LEAGUE:

Barry: What’s your super power again?

Bruce: I’m rich. (Yep. And he’s trying for redemption.)

So when Marvel gave me the AVENGERS, I was over the moon. I thought Thor was hunky (and has an accent to boot) but I admired Captain Steve Rogers. Sure, he woke up 70 years after going on a mission to save the world from Hydra and the Nazis, but he was still the same guy.

Sorry, Tony Stark, he’s “more” than just the serum your dad created. They would never have injected him with it if he hadn’t met their “hero” personality requirements. And he would fight to the death for the underdog then, too, but now that he’s a “super soldier” he can actually win.

I like that no one player can win on their own. That they need to push aside their egos and personalities and learn how to fit together.

That’s probably my basketball and softball playing/watching/love shining through.

How About Some Team Players

And just like when I play softball or volleyball or some other team sport, I want to be on a team that plays like a team. If all you have are a bunch of hot shot star players, you could find yourself losing.

That’s what the first AVENGERS movie was all about. These super powerful people had to learn to “play nice” and respect each other.

Sure, Marvel had a bigger picture. They gave most of the main players their own movies to keep building the story line. Did everyone have their favorites? I know I did.

And I loved that it wasn’t a closed team.

We love Spidey! And he makes the team…eventually

But the struggle for who would be the boss always played in the background. I mean, was it Tony’s team because he financed it? Or was it Cap’s team because he led it?

And in each movie, you saw the relationships between the team members grow, deepen and change.

Like in real life. Not everyone on a team is best friends, but they know their jobs and the do them. Yes, I loved the snark (from Tony Stark) and the way the members without superpowers were considered as valuable as those with them. (Whereas in JUSTICE LEAGUE, they were doomed without Superman.)

And at first I didn’t like INFINITY WAR because they lost. But then I realized that even the greatest teams have to lose. Why? Because there are lessons you can learn from losing that you’ll never know if you always win, win, win.

Read my review of that movie – you know Thanos’ story? – here.

END GAME was filled with epic battle scenes and an ending that made you gasp.

And I’m SO glad that the AVENGERS didn’t have Captain Marvel until the end. As much as I love her character, I’m glad she’s busy saving the universe elsewhere. Because she’s not as much of a team player as the others. Maybe that’s because her “team” ditched her and betrayed her. Or maybe because she’s so powerful she doesn’t need a team (and don’t we all LOVE playing on a team with a person like that?)

Go team! I was so glad to see them working together, all of them, in that final battle.

Watch the Movie

I planned to write a review of the movie. That’s what I sat down to do. I’ve watched it two times in the theater, and I have some definite opinions about it.

But when I sat down to write that’s not what came out.

If you’ve been watching the Marvel movies, you’ve probably already seen END GAME by now.

If you haven’t watched many of the other movies and wonder if that matters for this, I say yes. This movie gives head nods to almost every other movie in the series. If you haven’t watched them, you’ll miss much of the entertainment.

If you haven’t watched END GAME, dial back your expectations. Not because this movie won’t meet them–it will. But it probably won’t deliver exactly what you’re hoping for.

This guy will have HIS own series on the new Disney streaming channel

After all, Marvel is planning to continue the universe. But when the major stars are “done” being cast in the roles of America’s favorite heroes, what can a movie studio do? Sure, they can try to find other actors, but that won’t appease the fans who’ve been following this cast.

So, they do what TV series do when a contract isn’t renewed. They write the main characters “out” of the series.

Just for laughs because, “Hey, Chris!”

That doesn’t mean they killed them off, but it does mean they “ended” their part in the Marvel Universe–as far as this new, Thanos-free timeline is concerned anyway.

What’s your take on AVENGERS END GAME?

Take the Stairs! Laurel and Hardy’s Latest Adventure

April has come and gone. Which means so has another girls’ weekend with my high school BFF, Laurel. This year we tackled the “Take the Stairs” adage.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Oh sure, you’ve heard the saying, but you’re still wondering what it means for weekend plans.

Obviously, you need to get this book.

Yes, Portland, Oregon (close to home for me) was our destination of choice this year. My friend adores Portland, and her mother got her this book years ago. Since then, she’s wanted to discover all these hidden stairways.

And you know I’m all about helping people tackle their bucket lists.

I hope you have a BFF like mine

The Plan

It all started on a Friday afternoon. Laurel picked Hardy up and they drove to nearby Beaverton. There they used Hardy’s Hubby’s Hilton Honors points to nab a cheap room at the Embassy Suites. (Yes, I do love my alliteration.)

Once we determined that the author of The Portland Stairs Book was an authority, and picked out our FIRST hike for the next day, we walked to nearby Washington Square. Might as well get the tootsies prepped for the big outing, right?

Here is the first hike we settled on.

Yes, that really does say 3.5 miles. And yes, we really did ascend 169 steps and descend 364. All of that before LUNCH on Saturday.

The Execution

One of the things Laurel does NOT love about Portland, Oregon is the rain.

Joke’s on her. And maybe me because I was walking beside her all day.

It rained.

But that didn’t stop us. We reenacted some photos of stairs from the book. Like this one near a school in our first walk.

We walked up a ton of stairs.

Pictures from the top are more impressive than pictures from the bottom.

We walked down some MORE stairs.

And it rained. But it didn’t pour. And like good Oregonians, we put our hats on and sloshed through it all.

Whats a little frizzy or flat hair among friends?

Laurel got some great photos. I’m barely skimming the surface of them here.

And it wouldn’t be Portland if we didn’t see a weird thing or two.

It’s the goal of folks to “Keep Portland Weird” after all.

We enjoyed a great lunch at a small sandwich shop in NW and still made it back to our car before our four-hour parking limit expired.

We drove a few miles. And set out to conquer another hike. It looked like this.

Although we’d exceeded our 10,000 steps before lunch, we were determined to follow the path of this next hike. Yes, that would mean 5.25 more miles. And we ended the day with more than 24,000 steps.

In fact the 279 steps we climbed? They all were almost from ONE set of very creaky, creepy stairs that required 13 platforms to twist up the hillside in SW Portland near the VA Hospital. Crazy!

No, these are the stairs at the START of hike #2, not the creepy ones

You’d think going DOWN 252 stairs would be relaxing, right? Not when people are camped on them. I only wish I was kidding.

This second hike was SO crazy. We walked up steep inclines to an old cable car platform on top of the Sunset Tunnel. And the guidebook promised our burning legs would be erased by the amazing views.

Maybe for a moment.

There is a mansion here AND an amazing blue spruce.

Still it was an excellent adventure, and if you live near Portland, OR, you should consider checking out this book.

The Results

We ruled the stairs. We climbed the heights. We conquered. We saw amazing sights.

We are woman. Hear us roar!

And our feet were screaming too. Things like, “Get me out of these shoes” and “Are you done yet?”

Needless to say, our feet would have been up for a pedicure after this big adventure. But, who could walk that far? Instead, we had snacks at the hotel, devoured out leftover cheesecake and watched old movies in our room.

We’d tackled two of five “guided stair tours” and our legs wouldn’t let us forget it. So we slept in and lounged at the complimentary breakfast table.

Then it was time to meet with my husband. The perfect way to end an exceptional adventure? Black Bear Diner. Of course, plenty of other people thought so too, and we had to wait.

And then my order was wrong. And it was the worst experience I’d ever had at a place I generally LOVE to eat.

Oh well. Hugs, my friend. Same time next year.

We’ll tackle some hot springs then.

In Honor of Another Anniversary

In 1983, my husband and I were in newspaper class together. It was a riot. We became friends and went on a few dates. Now it’s time for another anniversary.

Renewing our vows – May 2001

Fast forward to 1988. It was a rainy Friday. We got married in a small ceremony, headed to his parents’ house for a “small” reception and then hit the road. We nearly missed the turn into our very unique hotel for the weekend at Canon Beach.

On the way home on Monday, I got a speeding ticket. Yep. Nothing makes a trip more memorable than ending it with flashing lights.

Now it’s 31 years later and we’re back at the beach for our wedding anniversary.

 

Yes, this is us too.

Rather than the “day” being Friday, this year it is the “observed” Memorial Day. And the beach is 70 miles or so further south: Gleneden Beach rather than Canon Beach.

We’re heading to the condo we “own” so there’s no chance we’ll miss the turn-off. No matter how dark or rainy it might be after a LONG week of work.

These days, I might go by Lolly and he might let me call him Pop. We have two adult sons and two beautiful daughters. There are three lovable grand-pups and a feisty grand-kitty.

Best of all, there’s an angelic little darling named Shana. She’s the newest love of my life. On this 31st anniversary of my wedding, I’m celebrating my first Memorial Day as a grandmother – chosen Grandma name: Lolly.

Shana on her BIRTH DATE

We’re doing some research for a family gathering nearby next month. We’ll eat out with my sister who lives a few miles away, and Hubby will have his clam chowder.

What do you do to celebrate anniversaries? Any anniversary will do! Especially if it means CHOCOLATE.

When You Need a Vacation

I saw this meme on Facebook. Yes, I know, that’s the first line of a TON of rants and blog posts. But it’s true. Here’s the meme:

This wasn’t it, but this is what it SAID

 

Although I agree with the sentiment BEHIND the meme, I disagree with the principle of it.

Leave it to the wordsmith to talk about semantics. You’re welcome.

The Sentiment

I take the meme to mean: “If you love what you do hard enough, you’ll never need a vacation.”

I love writing. I enjoy teaching (most of the time). According to this meme, I should never want or NEED a vacation because I’m passionate about my calling.

Be passionate about your calling. Strive to work within your called “career” and you won’t want a vacation every Friday afternoon.

Trust me. I’ve worked in a place where politics ruled. I’ve been a full-timer in our broken public education system. Those things EXHAUSTED me. Every week was another marathon. I’d chant, “It’s almost Friday. You can make it to Friday.”

Not anymore. Although, with the full-time subbing gig in a freshman social science classroom for three of the four weeks this month, you can bet I’m eager for the long weekend planned for my anniversary. But it isn’t because I’ve lost my passion.

The Principle

The principle of “a vacation” is a time to take a break from your routine. To get a change of scenery or just chance the pace of your days is just plain good for your brain and body.

Plenty of Americans don’t take vacations. And they are burned out. Their bodies run on stress and caffeine instead of food.

Maybe they’re passionate about their work, too, but that’s NOT going to keep their body, mind, spirit and soul from yearning for a break in the rut of routine.

Research shows that people who vacation regularly are BETTER at their jobs. They can focus better and they are all-around more healthy.

I haven’t had the most stress-free year around here. It could be because I’m a month behind my deadlines. It could be because my husband’s parents hit a health snafu that meant he needed to drop everything to care for them.

Or it might be because I’m getting an incredible walk-in shower. Or because I’m a first-time Lolly. I mean, who could be stressed when their granddaughter is an angel?

The reality is, we didn’t put a week-long trip on the calendar. It was supposed to be 10 days in Italy but with the bathroom expense and the extra time off to care for the parents, that wasn’t going to happen. So we had a few long weekend trips planned.

It’s NOT the same, but it will have to do.

What do you think? How often to you vacation from your daily routine? Does a virtual vacation via reading count?