All posts by Janet Sever Hull

Janet Sever Hull grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and is a graduate of Purdue University. She has been writing since the age of 16 and is the author of many stories. The Button Box is her first book. She lives in Corinth, Texas with her husband, Jeff, and writes for Lifestyles of Denton County Magazine.

For The Love Of Writing

Yesterday, was the third annual “Indie Author Day.” This is a day for libraries, stores, and literary organizations around the world to welcome and honor local independent authors and writers for their contributions to the writing world. Many places hosted a day of education, networking, writing, panel discussions, mingling and book signings.

If you aren’t sure what an “indie author” is, it’s an author who does not publish their books through a traditional publisher. The indie author is truly independent and has creative control of their work from concept to completion and beyond.

Some might think the indie author is just that because they cannot find a real publisher. While that may be true for some indie authors, it isn’t always the case. I know many indie authors who have had one or more books published by traditional publishers, but opted to self-publish some of their other works.

For most of us, being an indie author is about having creative control over the finished product, our books. I was offered a contract for my first book, “The Button Box.” As I read through the contract, I realized that I would be handing over my words and would have no say whatsoever about the illustrator or how the illustrations would look, the cover, the size of book, or even the way it would be edited. On occasion, I’ve wondered how my books might have turned out if I had sold my stories to a publishing company.

I did talk with the publisher and ask if there was any way I could be a part of the decision making for the look of the book. When they said that wouldn’t be possible, I turned down the contract and never looked back. I established my own company, Walk Down The Lane Publishing, and never even considered submitting my second and third books to publishers.

There are definitely times when I would love to have some help marketing my books. But my understanding is that even when one works with a traditional publisher, a certain amount of the marketing responsibility still falls upon the shoulders of the author.

Indie authors also pay for their own book publishing. I have several author friends who have had to take out big loans to fund their books, and many indie authors also work a day job just to pay the bills.

Most indie authors self-publish because they have a passion for writing and they want to share their books with the world. They write for the pure love of words, writing and stories. As the holiday shopping season begins, I hope you will consider the wonderful books by your local indie authors as gifts this year.

So Many Welcome Sights!

My husband and I just returned this evening from a 2200-mile car trip which we drove over the last five days. The purpose of the trip was to meet our new granddaughter who lives in Indianapolis and is just three weeks old.

Little Hallie Corinne made her appearance on September 15th and is almost exactly two years younger than her older brother, Graham. As you can imagine, we were over the moon to finally get to meet Hallie, and to see both of our grandchildren…as well as their parents!

Since I was going to be in Indiana, the folks at Das Dutchman Essenhaus Gift Shop in Middlebury asked if I would like to have a book signing there while I was visiting from Texas. The Essenhaus Gift Shop is very special to me, because it was the first store to carry my first book, “The Button Box.” Since that day in October of 2014, they have carried and sold many copies of all three of my books. I was delighted to be asked back for a third signing in their wonderful store!

It was a fun morning spent talking with people about my stories and signing books.  I was surprised over and over again by family members and friends who came by to say “hello” and to get a copy of my books.  One of my surprise visitors was my author friend, Donna Frisinger, who brought by a copy of her new book, “A Transistor Christmas” for me to see.  The illustrator is an artist named Vicki Guess!

We usually make the driving trip from Texas to Indiana once or twice a year, and one of the things I most enjoy, is watching for the different landmarks along the way. My very favorite landmark on the trip is the Effingham Cross. The first time I ever saw the Cross, I thought how odd it was that this very large, but simple symbol of Christianity, stood alone in the middle of one of the flyover states.

Called the “Cross at the Crossroads” in Effingham, Illinois, the Cross is located near the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70. It’s estimated that 20 million travelers pass by the Cross every year.

The Cross stands at 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide, and is the largest one in America. (The next largest is the Groom Cross which sits along I-40 in Groom, Texas and is 190 feet tall and 110 feet wide.) The builders of the Cross made sure it was under 200 feet tall because FAA regulations would have required a light on top if it were 200 feet or higher.

 

The Effingham Cross at the Crossroads was built in 2001 and is made of 180 tons of steel which is covered by a thick layer of cement. It’s visible up to 20 miles away and is illuminated at night. For me, it’s always a familiar, beautiful, and welcome sight. If you’re ever traveling near Effingham, Illinois, I encourage you to take a look for yourself!

www.janetseverhull.com

Going Home

As a writer and an author, one of the best things I get to do, is to go back home to do book signings. For me, home is Elkhart, Indiana, the city of my birth and where I grew up. Many of the places that shaped my writing and the settings for my stories, are in Elkhart. This week, I will have the privilege of doing three book signings in and around my hometown.

The Elkhart Public Library at 300 South Second Street, was a place where I spent a lot of time during my formative years and I also did a lot of writing there. I regularly checked out stacks of books and discovered many of the stories that remain my favorites to this day…Charlotte’s Webb, Black Beauty, Heidi, Little Women, Wuthering Heights, Gone With The Wind, Rebecca, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Old Man and the Sea, and anything by William Faulkner.

Since I grew up before the days of personal computers, all of my research for papers and articles was done at either my school library, or at the Elkhart Public Library. To this day, I still remember how kind and helpful the librarian always was to me. When I lived in Elkhart, there was only the one public library location. Today, there are multiple locations and they all have my books in their collections.

Because books played such a huge role in shaping my young mind and world view, it’s very important for me to promote reading and the love of books. I want children to love stories and books as much as I did and to understand that books can take them places where they may never be able to physically go. To that end, I often donate both my time and books to libraries and literacy programs across the country.

The house where I grew up and first discovered the buttons in my family’s button box is still there. It’s on Country Road 17 and isn’t nearly as rural as it was when I was young. Another family lives there and is filling it with memories now. Perhaps they have a button box like the one that inspired my first book, The Button Box.

My grandparent’s farm, which is the setting for my second book, Which Came First?, is located just outside of Elkhart. The old farmhouse and the barn are gone now, but the overgrown apple orchard and the lane that led to the back pasture, are still visible. I hope to visit the old farm while I’m in town.

If you’re in the area and have time, I’d love for you to stop by one of the signings and let me tell you about my books. I’ll be in town on Friday, October 5th and Saturday, October 6th. Here are the places you can find me:

*Friday, October 5th from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m click here .-private reading and signing at the Village at Arborwood Retirement Community in Granger

* viagra dapoxetine online purchase Friday, October 5th from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.-book signing at B on the River, 333 Nibco Pkwy in Elkhart

* go to site Saturday, October 6th from 9:00 a.m. to noon-book signing at the Das Dutchman Essenhaus Gift Shop in Middlebury

And while I’m in Indiana, I will have the pleasure of meeting this little love who joined our family on September 15, 2018! Hallie Corinne Sever is two weeks old. I’m excited to meet her for the first time and to get to visit with her big brother, Graham, and their mom and dad!

www.janetseverhull.com

 

Honor Flight #39

Around 8:30 Saturday night, my husband and I drove through the rain to Dallas Love Field to welcome home the WWII Veterans on Honor Flight #39. We each had a small flag in hand and as we walked into the airport terminal, we spotted other groups carrying flags, balloons, and homemade signs as they headed to the second floor.

The flight wasn’t due in until 9:30, so we had plenty of time to chat with many of the other folks who had gathered to welcome the flight back to Dallas-Fort Worth. Some had family members on the flight…husbands, fathers, grandfathers, guardians, medical personnel…and others were veterans themselves who simply came in support of the program.

People were pretty calm until a volunteer announced that the WWII Veterans were on their way to our hallway. As the members of Honor Flight #39 reached us, the excitement level in the room went sky high!

If you aren’t familiar with the Honor Flight Program, it’s a national network of volunteers established for the purpose of getting as many WWII Veterans as possible to Washington D.C. to view the World War II Memorial.  The Honor Flight Organization provides a 36 hour, overnight, all-expense paid trip for the veterans to visit not just the WWII Memorial, but also the Korean, Vietnam, Marine (Iwo Jima), Navy, and Air Force Memorials as well as Arlington Cemetery.

Each veteran is accompanied by a volunteer guardian who travels with them to ensure their safety and comfort. There is required training for the guardians and also a fee they must pay. Spouses are not allowed to be a guardian, so many veterans are accompanied by children or friends.

If a veteran doesn’t have a family member or friend who can go with them, there are a number of volunteer guardians who will step in.  The veterans wear blue shirts and the guardians wear red ones during the trip.

The idea for the first Honor Flight came from Earl Morse, who was a physician’s assistant and a pilot from Springfield, Ohio. After the National World War II Memorial was completed in 2004, Morse realized that many of his older patients would not be able to travel to Washington D.C. to visit their memorial.  So, Morse, the son of a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, pitched his idea of flying the veterans to see the WWII Memorial, to local pilots. By January of 2005, a board was formed, funds were raised, and other volunteers had joined the effort.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 640 WWII Veterans die each day. The Honor Flight Network has grown very quickly in communities across the country to get as many WWII Veterans as possible to Washington D.C.

2012 Honor Flight Documentary

Honor Flight DFW was established in September 2008 to bring the program to WWII Veterans in the Dallas/Ft Worth/North Texas area. The first Honor Flight from DFW departed in 2009. Since then, Honor Flight DFW has flown over 1100 WWII veterans to Washington, DC.

By the time the veterans on Honor Flight #39 had deplaned and began walking toward us Saturday night, at least 200 people had gathered to welcome them back. We felt so proud to be Americans as we joined the others who were clapping and cheering and honoring our WWII Veterans.

Among the WWII Veterans on Honor Flight #39, was James Leavelle. Leavelle was the homicide detective who was escorting Lee Harvey Oswald through the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters in 1963 when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.  Mr. Leavelle was in a wheelchair that was being pushed by his Honor Flight Guardian. He had his white cowboy hat on his lap.

Welcoming home the Honor Flight Veterans was an incredibly moving experience that I will never forget.  It was a privilege to be a part of the group at the airport Saturday night.

If you live in the DFW area and would like to welcome home an Honor Flight,  there will be one more flight this year.  Check www.honorflightdfw.org for more information.  In other parts of the country, you can search for “Honor Flights near you.”

www.janetseverhull.com

Life Full Circle

One evening last week, my 80-year-old dad called and asked if I would meet him Saturday morning at a local funeral home.

“Well, yes, but is there something you haven’t told me?”

Dad said that he had called around to different funeral homes about pre-planning his and mom’s funerals, and he had chosen one and set up a meeting. He said he had been thinking about taking care of the plans for a while to make things easier down the road and he wanted me to go with him. So, we arranged to meet Saturday morning at 10:30.

Coincidentally, Saturday was also the due date for my second grandchild…and my first granddaughter…who was soon to be born to my son and daughter-in-law in Indianapolis.

At 3:00 in the morning on Saturday I awoke from a sound sleep and I didn’t know why. I laid in bed awake for a while, and then dozed off again until about 6:00. As I was getting my second cup of coffee around 7:00, I heard a new text message come through on my phone. It was my son saying my daughter-in-law had gone into labor in the night (around 3:00 a.m.) and they were at the hospital waiting and timing her contractions. He said things were progressing pretty quickly.

While I showered and got ready to leave the house, I thought about the juxtaposition of waiting to hear of the birth of my second grandchild on the same day that I was meeting my dad to help plan my parents’ funerals. When I was a girl, my maternal grandmother would always say, “Old ones die and new ones are born.” At the time, I used to think, well of course; how obvious! But Saturday morning, and all these years later, I realized that she had been talking about the circle of life and how it just continues on.

As I climbed into the car to leave to meet my dad, my phone went off again. It was my son, Ryan, saying that little Hallie Corinne had arrived and both mom and baby were doing great. He said he would call me shortly.

When I arrived at the funeral home, I hugged my dad and said, “You have a new great-granddaughter.”

Hallie Corinne, the new little one whose arrival has brought much joy to our family!

When Did You Know You Wanted To Be A Writer?

If you ask a writer how or when they knew they wanted to write, there’s usually a story. Here’s mine:

On a Saturday in September of 1976, I met Ray Reitz. My friend, Noreen, had asked me to ride with her from where we lived in Elkhart, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois to visit Ray, who was in a rehabilitation hospital there. She told me that Ray was just two years older than me and that he had recently been paralyzed in a diving accident.

During the two-hour ride to Chicago, Noreen told me that Ray was also from our hometown and had broken his neck while swimming in a local creek several weeks after his high school graduation. She said that Ray was a quadriplegic and could not move his limbs below his shoulders.

When I first met Ray, he was quiet and the conversation between us was very awkward. I was 16 at the time and he was just 18. Even though we had never met, I recognized him from school.

Ray had been a senior during my sophomore year and I had noticed his athletic good looks in the school hallways. Later, he told me that he had played tennis for our high school and had been half of the number one doubles team during his senior year.

Shortly after that September visit in Chicago, Ray came home to Elkhart and moved in with his aunt who felt she could care for him. I began visiting him every week and over time we developed a close friendship. Sometimes we would watch TV together, but most of our visits were spent talking and listening to music.

Often, I would stop to see Ray after school and he would be asleep when I got to his room. I would study or sit quietly and wait for him to awake. When he did, he usually said something like, “What are you doing here?” or “Don’t you have anything better to do than watch me sleep?” His dry sense of humor always made me laugh and I knew he enjoyed our visits.

I would tell Ray about school and my classes and the stories I was working on for the school newsmagazine, Genesis. I paid attention to anything going on with the tennis team because I knew that would interest him. Since he was only two years older than me, he still knew a lot of teachers and kids at our high school and he seemed to like hearing about all the “normal things” that were going on.  Sometimes I took friends with me to visit Ray.

Looking back, I was probably a lifeline for him to the carefree youth that he had lost the day of his diving accident. As our friendship grew, he would let me feed him and hold the straw to his mouth when he needed a drink.

If his aunt was out and we were there alone, I would empty his urine bag, but he never liked for me to do that. I would tease him and ask if he’d rather pee the bed, but he would just look away. Having had teenage boys myself now, I know it must have been a very embarrassing thing for him to handle.

On a rainy Saturday in the spring of 1977, we were at his aunt’s house watching a Cubs game and talking. I asked Ray if he would consider letting me interview him and write an article for our high school newsmagazine about his accident and how it had changed his life. He said he would think about it and give me his answer the next time we were together.

During our next visit, Ray said it would be okay for me to write about him and he gave me a list of names of some of his tennis teammates and poker buddies to interview. I spent several weeks finding them at school and setting up interviews during the lunch hour or at night by phone. Most of the guys were happy to talk once I told them that Ray had given me their names and said it was okay.

I worked on the article for several weeks. Because I didn’t have a typewriter, and it was long before anyone had personal computers, I always wrote my articles in longhand on notebook paper at home, and then typed them in the Journalism room at school during my lunch hour.

I was the oldest of three children in my family and the house was always too noisy for me to write before everyone went to bed, so I would write my newsmagazine articles late in the evening. After my brothers were asleep, I would spread out my papers of collected research and my dictionary on the kitchen table and begin writing. Faintly in the distance, I would hear bits of Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show coming from my parent’s bedroom TV.

To this day, I remember the night I wrote the article about Ray. It was the first time I ever prayed before writing. Because he was my close friend, I wanted to get his story right. I wanted it to be factually sound, but I also wanted it to reflect the way he really felt. I wanted Ray to like the article I wrote about him because his friendship meant so much to me.  I wanted to tell his story and the stories of many others. I wanted to be a writer.

I worked on the article until well past midnight and I wrote the entire article in one sitting. As I wrote, I made a list of some facts I wanted to double check with Ray after school the next day.

The next day during lunch, I typed my pages of writing from the night before and then took it to Ray to read after school. He corrected a couple of small details and we discussed some of the quotes from his friends. Overall, Ray seemed pleased with what I had written, and I told him the article was scheduled to be in the final newsmagazine issue of the schoolyear.

In the summer of 1977, I spent a lot of time with Ray. I was working at a soda fountain in a local drugstore, and after work, I would tell him about my co-workers and all of the customers who came to the lunch counter. We often listened to music together and just talked, but if Ray was having a really good day, his aunt would help me get him seat belted into my mother’s big red Buick and we would go for a drive.  Ray was still a teenager and he spent most of his time in bed or in his wheelchair, so our drives were a welcome outing for him!

One evening late in the summer, we were sitting outside under a tree in his aunt’s yard and he asked me to lean toward him. I did and then he suddenly turned his head away and his expression became dark. He said, “If only things were different…I don’t have anything to offer you.” We never talked about that night.

In September of 1977, I started my senior year and I continued visiting Ray as often as I could. I was the “Feature Editor” for the school newsmagazine and was also in Varsity Singers and involved with several other school clubs. One morning near the end of October, I got called out of Chemistry class to go to the main office.

The school principal and Mrs. Dean, my Journalism advisor, were waiting for me. They were both smiling. I had no idea what was going on. Mrs. Dean told me I’d won a national high school writing contest sponsored by the Columbia University Scholastic Press Association.

“I submitted your article about Ray and I kept quiet about it in case the committee didn’t think it was as good as I did. The local newspaper wants to do an article on you and Ray and your friendship. They should be here soon to take our picture together.”

“Do I have time to make a phone call?” I asked Mrs. Dean.

“Are you going to call your mom?”

“Yes, but first I want to call Ray.”

The story of Ray’s accident and all that happened after, our friendship, and the writing competition I won, ran in our local Elkhart Truth Newspaper on Christmas Eve of 1977.   

Ray and I remained close while I finished high school and even after I left for college.   After my years at Purdue, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and we didn’t see one another very often. During those years, Ray took college classes and later became a computer analyst for the Internal Revenue Service in Indianapolis. He won several awards for his work, including a presidential citation for designing innovative computer programs. Ray died very suddenly in March of 2003 and I didn’t find out until several months later. He was only 44 years old.

I’ve never stopped writing.

Touching Lives From A Distance

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may know that my very first post four years ago, was titled “Write Me A Letter” and was about the simple joy of receiving a hand-written note meant especially for you. Last Friday, mixed in with all the catalogues and junk mail and credit card offers, was a small envelope personally addressed to me.

Before I tell you who it was from, I want to go back in time a bit and tell you that I grew up listening to old time country music. My mother had a stereo that was six feet wide and was a prominent and beautiful piece of furniture in our living room.

Just one side of the giant stereo of my youth!

On that stereo, she played her collection of hundreds of vinyl albums…everything from the Carter Family and Johnny Cash, to Porter and Dolly, George and Tammy, and Conway and Loretta. She was also a big fan of Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Bill Anderson, Crystal Gayle, The Statler Brothers, George Strait, Vern Gosdin, and Connie Smith. Music was a part of our daily lives and to this day, I still know every word to every song on those vinyl albums she played.

As I became an adult, I continued listening to country music and first bought cassette tapes, and then CDs, of Keith Whitley, Alabama, Emmylou Harris, Lorrie Morgan, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, Clint Black, Martina McBride, Colin Raye, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson, The Judds, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea, Sara Evans, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rodney Crowell. There are many more but you get the idea.

About four or five years ago, I was inside a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, waiting for a friend to join me for lunch. As I browsed in the store, there was music playing in the background. The beautiful voices singing the old Everly Brothers song, “Let It Be Me” caught my attention and I asked one of the employees if the CD was for sale.

The singers were Joey + Rory Feek, a husband and wife country singing and songwriting act, and I bought their CD that day. It was called Country Classics…A Tapestry of Our Musical Heritage. After listening to the entire CD, I was a fan. I looked them up online and found out that Joey was originally from Indiana just like me. I grew up in Elkhart and she was from Alexandria.

I never got to see Joey + Rory in concert, but I bought their other CDs and followed their career. I was delighted when Joey gave birth to their daughter and named her “Indiana”. Sometime after Indiana’s birth, it was announced that Joey had cervical cancer and I prayed for her recovery along with their many other fans. One day on Facebook, someone shared one of Rory Feek’s blog posts about his and Joey’s and their family’s personal journey, and it was both uplifting and heartrending.

Sadly, Joey passed away in March of 2016. Since then, Rory has continued to blog about his life and family as they adjust to the new configuration of their lives. He has shared behind the scenes insights into the books and other projects he has done, and the movie that was made about his and Joey’s life together.

Several weeks ago, Rory wrote about a new, one-room schoolhouse that he and friends from his community have built on his land in Tennessee. The school will be for little Indiana and 11 other children, and will open on September 10th. After reading the post, I decided to donate a copy of each of my books to the new schoolhouse.

You can read it here: https://www.roryfeek.com/the-blog/once-upon-a-schoolhouse

As a children’s book author and an avid reader, I want children to love books and stories as much as I do. Over the years, I’ve donated books to many libraries and literacy programs. It gives me great joy to think of children hearing or reading my books and learning about button boxes, laughing at the funny chickens and the rooster, Pretty Boy, and thinking about the people they are thankful for in their lives.

Which brings me back to the envelope I received last Friday. It was a personal thank you note from Rory Feek telling me the books are wonderful and that they will read them to the kids in the schoolhouse. As an author, it doesn’t get much better than that! And yes, I’m still a fan.

 

Summer Vacation

When I was a girl, summer vacation meant I was free to spend lots of time on my grandparent’s farm. It was my favorite place to be and I loved everything about summer when I was there.

There were often baby animals to pet and love and name. One summer, I “assisted” in the delivery of a baby pony, two goat kids, and a litter of puppies. I remember staying with my grandmother’s dog, Misha, until all of her puppies were born. I kept a cool washcloth on her head and told her what a good job she was doing. Later, my family adopted one of those puppies that I had helped deliver. Bandit was well loved by my family for 16 happy years.

My grandmother planted a huge garden every year, and I loved walking through it and checking the progress of the growing plants, and then later of the ripening fruits and vegetables. She would also plant huge yellow sunflowers on one side of the garden and we used to make bets about how tall they would grow.

Image result for huge garden with sunflowers on one side

Some years, I would help my grandmother attach foil pie pans to strings that hung from stakes in the ground to keep the rabbits out of her garden. We would also plant Marigolds on the perimeter because she said the rabbits didn’t like the smell of them.

Image result for piepans to scare rabbits

Image result for marigolds around garden

And yes, we would stuff old clothes with straw to make a scarecrow to keep the birds out of the garden. Usually, he would wear some old overalls and a discarded flannel shirt. Sometimes we drew his face with a Magic Marker on a burlap sack. Other times, we used a Halloween mask for a face. Our scarecrow would wear an old straw hat or a baseball cap, and we always gave him a name…such as Fred or Oliver or Sam.

Image result for Best Scarecrow for Garden

The apple orchard bordered one side of my grandmother’s huge garden. As the summer progressed, I would check the status of the apples, and of the pears that grew on the other side of the orchard. By August, the trees would be loaded down from the weight of the ripe fruit.

Image result for apple orchard

My favorite thing of all was to find a quiet place on the farm and read books. Sometimes I would climb to the top of my favorite apple tree and read. I had discovered a spot where three branches came together in a way that provided a safe reading perch. The other benefit was that I was high enough that I could look out over the entire farm.

Image result for reading a book in an apple tree

I also liked to take books to read up into the hayloft of the barn. This practice ended abruptly for me one lazy summer day when a mouse ran by me as I was lying on my stomach reading a book in the soft hay. After the mouse encounter, I would usually read under a tree. I liked the shade of the catalpa tree until the day I glanced up and saw the fat black and yellow worms munching away on the big catalpa leaves!

Image result for hayloft with hay

Image result for catalpa tree with worms

When I complained to my grandmother that I needed a place without critters to read, she tossed a patchwork quilt over the clothesline and then laid another quilt on the ground underneath and told me it would be safe to read there. I remember falling asleep while reading during many warm sunny days in my personal quilt tent.

The only thing I didn’t like about being at my grandparent’s farm during the summer, was that my grandmother would ask me to gather the eggs from the nests in the chicken coop that was attached to the red barn. I was very afraid of the hens and even more afraid of the roosters. My grandmother always named her roosters…Pretty Boy, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Sylvester…and I thought that was funny but I still kept my distance from them.

My grandmother felt that we learned by doing, and she was convinced that I would overcome my fear of the chickens if I gathered the eggs often enough. I did eventually learn to gather the eggs, but I never liked doing it.

Image result for gathering the eggs

I wrote about this experience in my second book, “Which Came First?” Originally, I wrote the story for my children so they would know a little about my childhood and about farm life. But now, I see the book as an entertaining story with a female protagonist who doesn’t give up and who finds a resourceful way to overcome her fear and get the task completed.

There are two parts of the book that always make me laugh because of the personal meaning attached to them. One is when the girl tells herself, “Don’t be a chicken liver” because that’s something my brother and I actually said to one another as kids when we were afraid. The other part that is funny to me, is that artist Vicki Guess hid a mouse for kids to find in all of the outside illustrations in the book. There’s even a mouse hidden in the hayloft of the barn on the front cover!

Have a good summer vacation and I hope you get to read a lot of books! If you have the chance to visit a farm or to take a child in your life to visit one, it’s a wonderful experience.

I’m going to take a summer vacation from this blog so I can work on my new book. I look forward to seeing you again in September!

Please check out my author website to order a signed copy of my books…I’ve made the shipping free for the summer!  www.janetseverhull.com

What Matters Most?

We found out recently, that another grandchild…a girl this time…will be joining our family in September. Her older brother, Graham, will be two years old that month. You can imagine how delighted and excited I am about being a grandmother again!

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I often mention my own two grandmothers…both of whom meant the world to me. My “city” grandmother had a personality that was very outgoing and vivacious. She laughed often and with big belly laughs. My “country” grandmother was the complete opposite in personality. She was soft spoken and when she laughed it was just a quiet chuckle.

And yet, they were alike in one way. They both gave the people in their lives…especially the grandchildren…their complete and undivided attention. When I think of my two grandmothers, I often think of a quote from author, Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I will never forget the way my two grandmothers made me feel. As different as their personalities were, they each made me feel completely loved and important. My grandmothers were fully present when they were with me. They weren’t on the phone or distracted by tasks. Even if they had things to get done, they included me and made it fun.

Have you ever been in a public place where you looked around to see what other people were doing?

My husband and I were attending a Rangers game last recently, and we noticed that all the people around us were looking at their phones. It’s the same way in stores, at concerts, on beaches, In airports, and even at graduations and other special events. In restaurants, people at the same table will often be looking at their phones instead of talking with one another.

Image result for people looking at cell phones at events

Image result for people looking at cell phones at events

Image result for people looking at cell phones at events

My father is a crossing guard at an elementary school and he says that parents are often on their cell phones when they pick up their kids at the end of the school day. Have our devices and social media become a greater priority to us than our friends and families?

According to a recent article on socialmediatoday.com, the average person spends two hours a day on social media, and some teenagers spend up to eight or nine hours a day on social platforms.  It alarms me that we live in such a connected world, yet we can be so disconnected from others in plain sight.

Image result for too much social media

The nightly news says that depression levels are up everywhere and it’s no wonder. How can individuals feel valued and important if the subtle messages we send and receive are that devices are more important than people?

Image result for too much social media

Don’t get me wrong, I too, enjoy social media and keeping up with what’s new in the lives of family and friends. I love the fact that my wonderful daughter-in-law sends pictures and videos of my grandson right to my cell phone.  But just like everything else, I believe we should  find a healthy balance of social media time.

Being fully present with others can be difficult but it’s also a gift we give to the people in our lives. That’s what my two grandmothers did that made me feel so very special. I’m committed to being fully present for not only my grandchildren, but also for others. After all, aren’t the people in our lives worth the effort?

Frozen Shoulders

In the fall of 2006, both of my shoulders began to ache and I felt a stiffness in them as well. I hadn’t fallen or injured them in any way, but the pain and stiffness worsened to the point where I realized I needed to see a doctor. I didn’t have any other health conditions, and I tended to stay away from doctors, so my family knew there must be something really wrong if I felt a need to make an appointment.

Image result for an apple a day keeps the doctor away

I was having trouble moving my arms and the intense shoulder pain at night kept me awake and walking the floor. My 41-year-old brother had died very suddenly at the end of July so I was also overwhelmed with grief.

By the time I actually got in to see the doctor, my shoulders had stiffened to the point where I could barely move them and my arms were almost frozen at my sides. Since I could only move my arms from my elbows down, my teenage son teasingly called me “Tyro-Mom.”

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The doctor said I had something called “adhesive capsulitis” which is also known as “frozen shoulder.” It happens when the tissue surrounding the shoulder (the shoulder capsule) becomes thick and tight and forms scar tissue.

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She told me that it affected about 3% of the population, most of whom are women between the ages of 40 and 60. (I was 46.) Typically, one shoulder freezes at a time, but for me it was both.

Menopause

She said the medical world didn’t really know what caused frozen shoulders, but they suspected that it was a perfect storm of the fluctuating hormones of middle age plus some type of physical or emotional trauma. She told me that my frozen shoulders could have been triggered by my brother’s death.

I was prescribed a course of physical therapy three times a week with a therapist, and the other four days I did stretching with different latex bands at home. I also used ibuprofen, a tens unit for stimulation, and went to a massage therapist who had experience helping people with frozen shoulders.

Image result for physical therapy on shoulder

Image result for physical therapy on shoulder

During this time, it was difficult to do even the most basic tasks. I had trouble washing my hair in the shower because I couldn’t raise my arms. Getting dressed alone was next to impossible, so I spent many days in sweats and stretchy tops. Driving was challenging too. I had to get very close to the steering wheel to be able to reach the top of it.

I couldn’t get dishes from the upper cabinets in my kitchen without the aid of a stepladder and trying to reach into the washing machine to put laundry into the dryer had me in tears. At the grocery store, I could only reach products on the lower shelves, so I needed to take someone with me if I had very many items to buy.

During this time, my family stepped up and helped me with everything, usually without me having to ask.

After six months of therapy, my shoulders began to loosen up, but it took over a year before I had full range of motion again. After a year and a half, I could finally lift my arms above my head, but there would be discomfort and a crunching sound made by the scar tissue when I moved.

Image result for adhesive capsulitis

Today, almost 12 years later, I have some discomfort if I raise my arms too quickly, but I still have full range of motion in both shoulders. Swimming can be uncomfortable, I cannot throw a ball like I used to be able to do, and my shoulders will sometimes ache during cold weather. However, I’m just thankful that my shoulders work again.

According to WebMD, adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder has three stages:
1. Freezing Stage (6-9 months) Pain in the shoulder with movement and this gets worse at night. Shoulders begin to get stiff.
2. Frozen Stage (4-12 months) The pain lessons but the stiffness becomes worse until the shoulder is immobile and daily tasks become difficult to do.
3. Thawing Stage (6 months-two years) Range of motion begins to return.

Some doctors are treating frozen shoulders with corticosteroid injections in the shoulder joint and/or with arthroscopic surgery. There is some evidence that an injection in the early stages can prevent the collagen buildup which causes the thickening of the shoulder capsule. This can spur a faster recovery time.

Author’s note: I have no medical training. This is simply the story of my own experience with frozen shoulders. I would love to hear if anyone else has any experience with this?