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A Garden of Variety by Hannah Alexander
Posted on June 6, 2017

I have never been a gardener. The last time my mother made me work in the garden pulling weeds, I pulled out all the carrots. And not on purpose to convince her to stop making me work.

When we moved to a place with a pre-planted flower garden, many of the flowers were already gone for the fall/winter months, but this spring has burst forth with so many colors and shapes and sizes that we often just stand amazed at the beauty.

None of these flowers are alike. Even the irises, purple and gold to denote school colors, smell differently and are different sizes.

These living things need to be planted in different spots, some take more water than others–not that I would know how to do that; the former owner set up a sprinkler system that runs automatically, and since he’s the sprinkler guy in town, I can always call him or his green-thumb wife with questions.

I thought roses were difficult to grow, but even though I did nothing with last year’s rose bushes, blooms still came out amongst the thorns. The determination of these blooms to return again and again amazes me.

Of course, surrounded by all this beauty, I can’t help getting philosophical. There is a huge pine tree that spreads across the flower garden in front of the house. I was told by the former owner that they’d had the weeds sprayed in the driveway a few years ago, and the sprayers got too aggressive. They poisoned that lovely tree, and now its branches are half dead. We’re hoping we can bring it out of those death throes, but someone more knowledgable than I will have to do it.

That poor tree could be chopped down, I suppose, leaving all the beautiful flowers to shine in all their glory, but I wonder, would we do that with a human being, perhaps a Christian who might be struggling with faith?

Is that what God would have us do? I have friends who have endured great loss and suffering, and unlike other friends who have come through their suffering with increased faith, many of my friends seem to be struggling. They need to be held up and loved, the way we keep watering our poor, sick tree

Okay, this shot is not of plants growing sideways, but Mel shot sideways to get a better look at the garlic, iris, and columbine blooms. How unique each bloom is. No two species are alike, and yet they make such a beautiful garden.

As Christians, we obviously read certain things differently in the Bible. Some of us need to dig deeply, seek out the hard stuff that might seem contradictory to the verses or books surrounding it. Some of us need to face the hard sayings and learn to deal with them. I’ve read through Hard Sayings of the Bible so many times that it fell apart.

Other Christians take the Bible at face value, allow it to nourish them, and never question God about the words written. We vary so widely in what we believe is most important or of lesser importance in the Bible that we have a vast array of denominations, and even within each denomination, church members will disagree on certain parts of the Bible.

But we, the believers in Christ as our Savior, have been charged by Him to love one another despite all the differences. That means you and me and the person who is struggling. There are Christians who can handle the questions of others without becoming confused or upset, and there are Christians who see these questions as attacks against their God.

Might I suggest that God planted all of His children to be used exactly where we are, even if we don’t always agree? See the columbine and the garlic blooms resting side by side in our garden? They serve different functions and their beauty differs. I was amazed to find that the garlic bloom smells wonderful, and that I can’t smell the columbine quite so strongly. I can squeeze the leaf of one of the mint leaves nearby, and get a rush of pleasure.

This peony, in all its brilliant color, smells so sweet, and yet it doesn’t flavor our salads the way new garlic or mint leaves or dandelions can do.

I find that those who are struggling with their faith or asking me questions I can’t answer actually help me strengthen my faith as I search for answers. Isn’t it amazing that those who might be weak and struggling through their faith walk are actually building up my own? They are being used of God in unique ways. They belong to God, and are being used according to His purpose. Whenever I think about it I’m amazed by the way God works.

The Apostle Paul said for us to challenge our faith daily so that we know we are doing God’s will (paraphrase mine.) I’m thankful for those challengers, because they cause me to dig more deeply into God’s Word.

And now, because Camy Tang’s extraordinary article about ten thousand reasons resonated so beautifully for me, I would love to point out that her passion for reaching those who speak the Japanese language is a powerful message.

I would also like to point out that at least since the time of Babel, none of us speaks the exact same language. That’s because each of us is unique. I have my own experiences that have shaped my outlook on life, my language. No one else uses words in quite the same way that I do, or in the same way you do. I can say something to Mel that makes perfect sense to me, but he looks like a deer in headlights because he doesn’t want to tell me he thinks I’ve lost my mind. And we’ve been married for over two decades.

I challenge myself and any who would accept this challenge to stop and listen to those who might speak differently from us. Don’t shut them down because their questions might make you uncomfortable. Don’t shut them out because you think they are seeking to destroy your faith. Be strong in the Lord and have faith that He will hold you in His arms against any power. Try to allow your love to show to even those who might seem unlovely to you, because they need Christian love as much as, or more than, any other Christian. Try to see past the words to the heart. Try to love despite language differences. That’s what Camy’s doing, and I want to do it, too.


Birth is Still a Miracle

by Hannah Alexander

KittensLet me show you some pictures of our recent miracles, then let me tell you how these little miracles came to us, specifically.

This was not my plan, of course. Kittens? Another stray cat? We've had ten come to our home in the past eleven years. Some of them were old when they came to us, and they died. Some grew ill and had to be gently eased out of life to stop their suffering. Some were feral cats we tamed, but they still refused to come inside for long, so they were taken by coyotes. Our 11-year-old, very tame, very loving cat, Data, is NOT interested in sharing us with anyone since he now has us all to himself. It's nice to be loved, and he effectively puts a stop to our having a house that always seemed filled with cats, as we had before we moved here to the wild, wild west.

When a frightened, hungry, needy young stray ginger tabby came to our front door begging a few weeks ago, I didn't have the heart to turn her away. Data did. He tried very hard to let her know he didn't want her here. I had hoped she belonged to one of the neighbors, but that was not to be. I asked them all.

So I fed the young cat--well under a year old--outside, simply because she was hungry. Then she started gaining weight. Did it occur to me that she was eating for five? NO! I only suspected someone else might be feeding her. That is, until Mel filled a box with towels and put it in the garage for her to sleep one night so she wouldn't freeze in the below-freezing temperatures. It didn't even occur to us that this was how we ended up with so many other cats when we lived in Missouri.

And then one morning, two Thursdays ago, ten minutes after Mel left for work, I walked out into the garage to see if our visitor was ready to go outside, and got the shock of my life to see three wet, golden babies in the box with our terrified little stray mother. I don't think she knew where they came from or why they were there. Of course I didn't think to take a picture of her wide and terrified eyes.

KittenI ran back inside the house and called Mel. I left a message on his cell. "Honey, d-d-did you....uh....did you see...uh...Honey, there are babies! B-b-baby kittens!" He still has that voice mail on his phone. He listens to it when he needs a laugh.

When I returned to the garage, there was a fourth kitten. Now, why hadn't I stayed out there to help her? But they had been licked dry, so instinct obviously took over. Three of the babies had markings like their mother (whom we now call Prancy because she prances with her front feet when she's nervous--or maybe she's trying to charm us into letting her stay.) One of the kittens, the girl, has Siamese markings. She's going to be very hard to resist. Actually, all of them are.

Today the little ones and their mother are at the vet's office. Here in cattle country there's not a lot of time to spend on stray cats, so I just took them in and left them so the vet can get to them when he's not tagging or vaccinating or helping brand thousands of head of cattle.

KittenFor the past few days I've been concerned that the kittens were getting sick because they sneezed when I picked them up. Today I was told at the vet's office that they aren't sneezing, they're spitting and trying to hiss. Yes, the ingrates. Even with their eyes closed, they have been learning to protect themselves. Now their eyes are open, and they're even more difficult to resist.

I should have known they were spitting, not sneezing, because it's the same kind of sound I've heard Data make when Prancy first tried to come into the house. He still makes that same sound. It wasn't the sound he made when he first saw one of the kittens. He tucked his tail and ran under the bed. Really? He caught a rat bigger than this little kitten a couple of weeks ago, and he's afraid of a helpless baby?

Sorry the picture here is so blurry, but you try holding a baby still long enough to snap a still shot of it. Maybe Angie Hunt, photographer, writer, and friend, could do it, but not Mel and me.

These little babies will stay with their mother in our garage until they're weaned and we can find homes for them. I will insist on the boys (three of them) being neutered, and the Siamese-looking female being spayed as soon as possible. Prancy will be spayed as soon as her kittens are weaned. No more of this kind of trauma for her. It will be a huge relief for everyone.

WARNING, some preaching here: I have always been very disappointed by the number of stray cats in the world because they're dumped, unwanted, at the end of a road, where the dumper seems to believe a good, country farmhouse might need a cat. Or maybe they just don't care because they think "Out of sight, out of mind." Then those poor cats become feral--and who can blame them when they've been left to fend for themselves in a strange place? And of course, nature takes over and they mate and have babies and the feral population grows until coyotes or other dangers pick the off, one by one. But even that never cuts back on the feral population.

I've always immediately neutered or spayed any stray cat who came to us, even if I had to use a live trap. I want our little ones to never experience the trials of mating or fighting over a mate, the terrors of giving birth, the damage caused by fighting. You can always tell if a cat has been in the wild for a while because there's usually a notch in an ear--this happens in fights. Prancy has a notch, young as she is. Many of our other strays had those notches.

I want these kittens in our garage, including Prancy, to have loving homes, so I will love on them and help Prancy teach them how to behave properly inside. The mama cat naturally teaches the babies how to use a litter box, even the stray, feral ones, so they're naturally housebroken. I know this from experience.

Cat Named DataThe reason we will find good homes for these five? Because of this cat, Data. Cats are excellent mousers, and after recently being told by neighbors that they've set out live traps and trapped 20 to 30 mice a DAY around their homes, I've seen very little mouse activity here, and that's because cats take care of that problem for us. I believe their scent frightens mice away. This picture of Data might make him look lazy, but don't underestimate him. A few weeks ago this fifteen-pounder went outside and lovingly brought us a rat almost as big as he was. He's our terminator. We want to keep him happy, and he isn't happy when another cat is receiving too much of our attention. If you live in our area (Nebraska Panhandle) and need to keep mice out of the house, I've got just what you need: Tame young cats who can grow up in your home and become wonderful companions. I've read that I should sell them, because free cats are not considered valuable. Plus, I'm investing a lot of money into caring for these little ones. But all the cats we've ever had were rescued strays from the streets, and I always valued them. I think the price would be a loving home.

However, to keep the mice out of the house, you will need to keep the cat IN the house. All you need is a scratching post or two so they'll avoid the furniture, a claw trimmer so they can get affectionate without damage to skin, and dry food so their teeth will remain clean. Oh, yeah, and a litter box that you can empty once a day--it isn't difficult with the right litter that is dust-free and clumps. These young cats will become very loving company for you if you want them to. Or they could just stay out of the way and keep the mice at bay. It's up to you.

After what I've seen of the mouse and rat population in this area, I think I'll always have a cat around, but I just hope Data, who was our youngest rescue kitten eleven years ago, will live at least twenty years.

Oh, yeah, I've been told that the huge ranches around here are always looking for cats for the feedlot to keep the mice away, but because of the coyote population, these cats might not last more than a week or two. I don't plan to invest time and love and energy on taming these kittens just so some coyote can eat them. I want them inside homes where they'll be loved and safe. Take a chance. Take a kitten. See how the company of a cat can change your life as our cats over the years have changed ours

A Ride on the Wild Side

by Hannah Alexander

Photo Mel & Cherl Hodde Mel and I recently took a research trip for a possible new setting for a book. We have moved to the edge of the sand hills in Western Nebraska, and had been told that the real sand hills were to the east of us. We had a map. We had gas in my car. Mel had a rare day off when it was pretty. After church, we came home, ate, and piled our hiking gear in the car. We expected the drive to take about an hour--two at most--and according to the map, there were tons of hiking trails in the Crescent Lake Wildlife Management area. I felt bold, excited, ready for adventure. I usually do when I'm with Mel. Poor Mel has to bear the brunt of it.

We were eager to hit the trail, and since I was driving, I was paying more attention to the road signs. I found the sign that pointed to the road that would take us to the reserve. I turned onto it.

"Wait," Mel said. "Are you sure we're supposed to turn here?"

"Sure. I saw a sign."

"Where? I didn't see it."

"Back there, honey. There was a turn lane and everything. That was it."
He didn't argue further, but I was so busy chattering about the pretty, tiny town we were driving through that I didn't notice his expression. Or his silence. Or his slightly bugged eyes.

We followed the paved road several miles out of town until it became a sand road. Nice and smooth, but we did have to slow down because that sand was pretty soft. We saw a herd of mule deer. I stopped so Mel could take pictures, then drove on.
"Sweetheart, are you sure you saw a sign back there?" He asked after a few more minutes of ever-dwindling road.

"Yes, I did, but if you think maybe I turned too soon, we can go back to the last road and go east. Do you want to?"

Mel HoddeHis silence told me he really did, but didn't want to admit he doubted me. So I turned around in the empty road--I was doubting a little, myself, since we'd seen one car in all that distance--and did some exploring. We ended up back at the town where we'd started and discovered we really had been on the correct road.

By this time, Mel was in his "grit it out" mode. He was determined to be enthusiastic for my sake because as we entered more deeply into sand hills, I was entranced, and was talking about the books I could set in a place like this. I LOVED the sand hills! Stephanie Grace Whitson once wrote about the land of the sand hills, and she was helpful in describing this place to me before we moved here. She sold me on the stark beauty of the place.

As the road continued to dwindle and we entered open range land--where we were actually entering private property with an easement for travelers on the road--we saw more mule deer, antelope, prairie dogs, dozens of kinds of songbirds, and of course cattle. And signs of bison. Big signs. Also beaver. And the sand hills rolled on forever, sometimes down to lakes too numerous to mention, sometimes hundreds of feet high--very few road signs, very few cars. In fact, we saw more mule deer than cars or signs. It was breathtaking. I finally noticed it had taken Mel's breath away. Especially when the sandy road we were on was bordered on either side by lakes. Marsh. Mosquitoes. No hiking for us.

"If you're feeling worried, we can always turn around and go back the same way," I told him, though we had planned to make a circle and drive through the sand hills up to a highway and back home on paved road.

"No, this is great. I'm loving it." He seemed to be saying it between gritted teeth, but perhaps I was reading too much into it
After four hours longer than we expected, we reached Highway 2, a scenic route in northern Nebraska.

Mel sighed and slumped in his seat. "I never doubted you, sweetheart."
"Of course you didn't. We have the map."
"Maps seem to be misleading."

I agreed, but I was happy. I wanted to dream about the hundreds of square miles of wilderness and the peace and tranquility I saw there. Yep, I plan to set a book there. Or books. Who knows? Others are bound to be as entranced by this place as I was. Oh, yes, and Mel. Of course. Or perhaps I mistook his relief at finding a highway as enjoyment of the journey.

Maybe I'll go alone next time while he's working. He works a lot these days. But I have all the time in the world for another trip. Maybe I'll try to grab him again if he gets another day off. We'll see. If you're ever in Northwestern Nebraska, I highly recommend that you take a detour into the sand hills. It's like driving on an alien planet.

True Fiction
by Hannah Alexander

Man getting his master's degree in Homeland SecurityI once was told by an editor that when a true story is written into a novel, it was called factionalization. My dictionary tells me that's not a real word, but it fits for me. I recently read a rich and detailed novel based on fact about a couple, a doctor and a nurse, who fell in love and got married just before they were shipped out to different locations during WWII.

As an aside: This handsome man in the picture was getting his master's degree in Homeland Security when I snapped it. He knows what it's like to be separated from his loved ones in service for his country. He's been a hero to me since he was ten. Those who risk their lives and give up the comforts of home for the benefit of our country are all heroes in my opinion.

The title of the fictionalized story I recently read is With Love, Wherever You Are, by Dandi Daley Mackall, the daughter of the couple in her story. One thing that kept me hopeful as I read the book was knowing that Dandi was their child, and I could look forward to a happy ending.

I knew for a long time that she wanted to write this story, which was based on the 600+ letters written between her parents throughout the war, so I was delighted when she finally announced that she was sending me an unedited copy to read for endorsement. Unfortunately--and this will not surprise you if you have read many of my blogs--I cannot manipulate the computer into giving me a picture of the actual book. I even tried to upload a picture of her. Couldn't do it. My computer just barely tolerates me. I can only tell you that she has a great website, and you can find some of her 500 plus books on Amazon at her Author's Page, as well as her personal website. Have I warned you I'm not a techie? The shortened Amazon address is: 2nBE12I

With Love, Wherever You Are gave me such a great insight into what Dandi's parents endured, how close and how often they came to death, how hard it was to have a marriage when they seldom saw each other and rumors flew between them faster than letters. Though I find it hard to read about the atrocities of war, Dandi personalized this novel to the point that, knowing the story was based on her parents' letters, I was totally engrossed in their stories as they struggled to keep their love alive.

Since many of my uncles served in that war, the book had extra special meaning to me. I had an uncle who survived Iwo Jima. My father worked on the Spruce Goose, and my mother was a machinist for Hughes Aircraft in their efforts to support family who was fighting. Because of that I can understand how Dandi prized the letters between her parents. Remember the title, With Love, Wherever You Are, because someday you might find it in a movie theater.

If You Love the Book of Ruth…
by Hannah Alexander

Redeeming Grace, by  Jill Eileen SnithI always loved the book of Ruth. It includes the best types of conflict but it also has a happy ending. Today is Valentine’s Day. What a fitting day for a book about Ruth, Redeeming Grace, to be released.

If you like Biblical fiction and you’ve never read a book by Jill Eileen Smith, you are in for a treat. She takes her research seriously and connects many of the dots that might have raised questions for you at some point in your reading of the Biblical account. However, remember that this is a work of fiction, so she makes things fall into place in the most logical way with her research, but she never takes the mystery out of the Bible. I learned that many years ago when I was judging a contest for unpublished writers. I knew when I first started reading her manuscript that I’d found a jewel of a book–one that must be published. I was not surprised to find that the other judges felt the same way. Jill won the contest that year. She never looked back.

That was the beginning of her writing career, and she’s on top of it now as she continues to research deeply to provide the most realistic story a reader can find without being overwhelmed my too much information.

Since I have been a fan of Jill Eileen Smith before she was even published, I can guarantee that her latest work, Redeeming Grace, will totally satisfy any reader of Biblical fiction. Check her out today and treat yourself to an excellent read.

And have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!


What Tracks do I Leave? by Hannah Alexander
Posted on January 31, 2017

Picking up where I left off two weeks ago, I’m still following tracks outside in the snow. But the snow has melted quite a bit since last week’s storm. What was once so light and powdery that I had no trouble shoveling has now been pressed down to a wetter level by the sun’s rays. The tracks we left last week have widened so much that our tracks look as if giants walked around outside the house. The coyote tracks look like those of much larger dogs, with claw marks that might resemble that of a bear. I’m glad I saw them when they were fresh.

I was sick over the weekend, so I had too much time on my hands. I contemplated those tracks outside the window and thought about the those imprints we leave behind in life. You know what I’m talking about? Tracks such as words I’ve spoken to someone out of compassion, or maybe out of anger. Maybe out of fear. What kind of impact do my actions and words make on others?

Two friends of mine from high school lost their mothers last week. Since I no longer live in that community, do I ignore their loss and go on with my life, or do I send cards of encouragement because I’ve lost my own mother and understand how they feel? Taking no action would leave no footprint. Maybe a card wouldn’t matter much to them, or maybe words written by a friend who understands their loss could impact them in ways I can never imagine. This is a time when I should consider my footprint.

An obviously very troubled woman tried to start a fight with me over a cart at the grocery store the other day. Yes, really! Her unwarranted hostility caught me off guard. I immediately got away from the woman and reached for another cart while someone else reprimanded both of us for fighting. That further caught me off guard, because I hadn’t said a word. The incident left a footprint in me. Instead of walking around the store with a friendly smile, I kept my head down, grabbed what I needed, and got out as quickly as possible.We can all be affected by someone else’s footprint. Others might have been affected by a smile from me that day, but I closed myself off out of fear of another attack.

The words we speak or write, the things we do for or against others, have chain reactions. If I speak caustic words to someone out of anger, that could affect that person’s life for days, weeks, even for life, depending on my words. It could also affect their loved ones, or even my loved ones, if that person holds a grudge.

I’m trying to pay more attention to the spread of my footprint in this world lately. How is your footprint doing?



My Freaky New Life by Hannah Alexander
Posted on January 17, 2017

I realize I’ve made it onerously apparent in posts from the past that Mel and I have moved 850 miles from a place we called home for many decades to the Nebraska Panhandle. Wow, what a move. It’s a whole ‘nother country out here, and we’re loving it, snow and all. We’re still looking for a church where we will feel more a part of this small town, but the neighbors, shopkeepers…pretty much every single person we’ve met reassure us by their kindness that we’ve made a good choice.

Um, see this picture? I believe it’s also one of our neighbors–not human. Coming from southern Missouri, where I hiked most of my life on logging trails, I’ve seen pretty much every kind of track available, including mountain lion. That’s why when I saw this set of tracks in our front drive, and noted that the stride matched mine, and that the tracks were all around our house, from dumpster in back to the country road several hundred feet from our house, I came running inside, squealing to Mel. He shoved a camera into my hand and sent me back out to take pictures–it was New Year’s Eve and he was recovering from the flu like everyone else.

So I went back outside, cluelessly unarmed, and followed the tracks, searching for some sign of claw mark, because if it has a claw mark it could be a large dog. Thing is, there are NO large dogs allowed to run wild in this area. Coyotes, yes, and I saw a lot of those tracks in the snow, as well. They came all the way up to our front door. But they have shorter, more hyper-looking steps, walking in circles, and they can’t retract their claws. Coyotes don’t scare me.

Mountain lions, however, make me very uncomfortable. I saw no claw marks in these tracks. It frightened me to the point that I emailed my uncle, whom I turn to with all my wild questions, and he told me this definitely sounded like a mountain lion and to watch my back. So we’ve called our neighbors and warned them so they can keep their dogs inside. We’ve dug out our weapons for protection just in case, and we won’t let the cat outside ever in a million years.

And now that I’ve managed to download these pictures I’ll be sending them to the state authorities to notify them of a presence in the area. Two mountain lions had to be shot in a town 35 miles northwest of us. They’d climbed into the backyards of homes. Have you watched the television show, Zoo? I know I’m freaking, but it feels kind of like that right now. Oh, yes, all that and I still LOVE it here. We have tumbleweeds! Right now I’m using them to decorate the front porch. No, I’m not kidding. I grew up in So CAL, where I built forts with tumbleweeds. I’m loving it!

Besides the wildlife–including the moose we’ve been warned about, and the prairie rattlesnakes–we’re learning that we can’t pop out to Walmart and be back home in less than an hour. We’ve learned that the Nebraska Panhandle is most definitely part of the wild, wild west, with formations such as Chimney Rock, Courthouse Rock, Jail Rock, Scotts Bluff National Monument, and the wildcat hills–all visions of beauty that take my breath away. We’ve learned that we love these wide open spaces, with sandhills to the north and east of us, prairie and hills and formations, plateaus and buttes to the south and west. I recently had a friend ask about where would be the best place to vacation between Colorado Springs and Mount Rushmore. Wow. I could keep her busy for weeks.

Don’t worry about the safety of the mountain lion; I couldn’t bring myself to shoot it unless it’s charging me or someone else. I did, however, score a 97% in my shooting course, and my weapon is fit for the task.

And now to alert the authorities.


Smiling Again by Hannah Alexander

Posted on December 6, 2016

Two at Pool TableYes, of course I've written about this before. After writing hundreds of posts with Christiansread, some of us are bound to cover the same territory twice. I do, however, believe this subject bears repeating.

December has always been my most depressing month of the year. I used to think it was because there were fewer hours of daylight, but we recently moved to a place where the sun seems to shine three times more than it did where we once lived, and December has again hit with the blues. It isn't just me. I have a lot of friends and readers who are attacked by the same enemy. You might be one of them. Maybe the time of year isn't causing the blues, but something else in your life right now is getting you down. Whatever the cause, I'd like to offer a few reminders about how to ease the heaviness.
  1. The gold standard is the Bible. Don't roll your eyes. I realize that's an easy fix. I also realize there are so many different personalities reading this that no single verse or passage works for everyone. For instance, I'll read through Lamentations for a lift. Obviously, that isn't appealing to many, but for me it tends to put everything into perspective and takes a load of guilt off my back. Others would be more blessed reading the book of Ruth or Esther, which have endings that satisfy your need for justice. Proverbs and Psalms are also great choices, but you choose what helps you the most.

  2. Read a novel or a non-fiction book with humor. Again, that could be many different things to different people. Humor is so very subjective that I find it difficult to write a full novel of humor, but you know what you like. Maybe you have a favorite book that has a hilarious scene on page 169 that you could read over and over and get a chuckle every time. For me, just reading about someone with a happy disposition can lift my spirits.

  3. Forced laughter is a must for me. I'm simplistic enough that an old sitcom on TV can make me laugh and lift my spirits. Some of the more contemporary shows, though they can provide laughable moments, actually have caused me nightmares because of the subject matter, so I look for something clean, even if it is older.

  4. A cathartic book or movie can bring on the tears, but tears can serve as a release for those blues. It all depends on your personality. One of my friends posted recently that she knew she would be crying in a little over an hour because she was planning to watch an old Christmas movie.

  5. Pretend you're someone else. No, that isn't cheating. As a novelist who lives with fictional characters more than with flesh and blood people, I find it easy to place myself into the viewpoint of one of my characters who has a better disposition than my own--and right now they all do. Then I'll get out amongst people and walk around with a smile on my face. I receive so many smiles in return that pretty soon I don't have to pretend to be someone happy because somehow I've found that well of joy for myself once more.

  6. SAD lights help in the morning when I wake up depressed again. Twenty minutes of SAD light every morning, plus vitamin D3K2, plus a walk in the sunshine, and the day is looking up again. Forcing myself to do those things can be a challenge, but the first step forward is a step toward conquering the blues.

  7. Make someone else happy. This could be anything from fixing your spouse's favorite meal to playing with your cat on HIS terms to sending a card of support to someone in need of a lift. Helping others out of the blues often helps us out, as well.

If the blues have hit you this season, do yourself and everyone else a favor and fight it every way you can. I'm sure you have some other fall-back measures you take to help you with the battle. Just take them. Fight the battle. Don't let the enemy win. Even the writer of Lamentations urges us to enjoy our lives, such as they are. The joy you find can be contagious. Spread it around for those you love.


Once Upon a Time by Hannah Alexander


This girl was already considered weird because of her tendency to make up stories, write poetry, and keep to herself while the Missouri kids played baseball at school recess. She could neither throw a ball in the right direction or hit a ball with a bat--even the recess equipment was different from anything she had ever used. More likely to trip over her own feet than to play in sports, the newcomer from California withdrew more completely into her shell. Living far out on a farm isolated her even more from possible friendships.

The classes in this new school were small, however, much smaller than the classes she'd been accustomed to in California. Despite her shyness, some of the braver classmates began to speak to her, talk to her on the school bus, even teach her to dance and hang out with her. To her surprise, some became closer to her than any siblings she could ever have had. They overlooked her tendency to blurt out inappropriate responses to their teacher in class.

It took a few years, as it always does in a small community, for this girl to become accepted as part of the class. In fact, it wasn't until their first reunion ten years after graduation that she felt as if everyone accepted her. As adults, these people welcomed her and included her in their conversations. They enjoyed the first couple of reunions so much they decided to have one every five years. The reunions continued until one day, one of the women suggested the rest of the women all get together for a pajama party.

Eleven years ago, five women out of a class of 40 got together for their first pajama party at a local resort. Last weekend, for the 11th year in a row, these same women had another pajama party, and this one lonely girl from California flew 850 miles to spend time with people who had become lifelong friends. They stayed inside a beautiful suite on the lake near Branson, MO, and talked, shared their lives, laughed until they...well, they laughed hard and long. They tried to play pool, they brought five times more food than they could possibly eat, and cried when they all had to say goodbye.

Bonds of friendship can be formed at any time of life, but as that lonely girl who never quite fit in, I believe older friendships can be stronger due to experiences shared and characters developed. Personalities can bond people for a time, but personality doesn't prove character. Shared interests can keep people coming together. But real, down-deep character, which shows itself through the years and leaves in its wake the shape of the true person beneath the personality--I believe that serves to form the most lasting of friendships.

During this week of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for friends who are far away in distance, but close to my heart forever. I hope you can be thankful for friends in your life, as well.


One Room at a Time by Hannah Alexander
September 13, 2016

Modle Air PlaneHave you ever been so overwhelmed by the clutter in your life that you can't face the thought of attacking it and whittling it down? It could be clutter in your home, clutter in your social life, or clutter in your thoughts. Even too much of a good thing can crowd out the best things and distract us from our purposes.

Mel have recently discovered that our model airplane collection has to go. Our basement is filled with them, and we're moving very soon to a place far away. The new home has no room for the airplanes. We will likely lose half the money invested in these things, but we have no choice. We can't move them with us.

Have you ever wondered what you would take with you and what you would leave if you had to move from your home? Maybe you've already moved recently and faced that monster of clutter. Maybe you've moved often and you know how to keep the clutter to a minimum. Good for you! I think the rest of us could really use your skill set.

We discovered the necessity of paring down our 22 year collection of memorabilia, gifts, whimsical decisions, and gadgets crammed into an overly large house when we hired a moving service, and the truck that came was too small. It was too late to turn them away and ask for a larger truck, so we were only able to fit half the furniture, boxes, and necessities onto the truck. We're being forced to leave half our household goods behind for auction.

What's left behind will have to be catalogued for sale with an auctioneer, and the house is still full of STUFF!

What do you do when you have to choose only a few items from your belongings? What treasures do you take and what do you leave behind?
I've found that pictures of family long gone, letters of buried loved ones, gifts from parents who are no longer with us--those are precious to us. Gifts from friends I'm leaving behind are also on the to-take list.

If you haven't done so in a while, walk through your home and do yourself a favor--do a little decluttering. Even if you don't plan to move for the rest of your life, have compassion on those children or loved ones who will be left behind, and declutter for them.

Our lives are usually too full of too much. The wealth in this country can choke us if we let it. Give yourself some breathing room and clear out the extraneous. You'll be glad you did.

How NOT to Move
by Hannah Alexander
August 16, 2016

Book Cover Necessary Measures, by Hannah AlexanderSee this guy in the picture? He's a doctor (well, actually, he's a guy dressed up as a doctor.) You might need one of those if you decide to move. Keep one handy just in case.

Nearly every American has moved at some time in life. I've moved. Not much, and always before when I moved I had very little, so there wasn't a lot to pack, but now, after more than twenty years in the same home, storing up STUFF and filling the basement and every room upstairs with far more than we have ever needed or even wanted, we're in the middle of a move.

My advice to you? Be cautious and organized. How I wish I'd followed my own advice, but then, I had to learn the hard way.

First of all, moving a whole home is dangerous. Nearly 70% of homes in Missouri have brown recluse spiders in them. They don't bother me. Or at least, they haven't until now. But when I'm reaching beneath a pile of things I haven't moved in ten years, I have to consider that some little creature under there might have staked out a claim, and if my fingers try to take it away, those little creatures will fight back. Fortunately, that was one thing that didn't happen. If you move, and if you live in Missouri, wear gloves and be cautious. Also, make sure you don't pick up these little creatures as hitchhikers to the next home.

Another danger--falling things. Things like large rolls of plastic furniture wrap. These rolls weigh probably 15 pounds. When one of these rolls falls on a big toe, one will scream loudly and then faint. When this happens, after reviving, wrap the wounded area with an ice pack.

Another falling thing: large mixing bowls. When one is so scattered, moving from room to room in an effort to decide what to do next--it's called the but-first syndrome--be cautious about lifting slippery things like large, heavy cooking items. They will almost surely slip from your hand and fall on your foot. And you will scream and pass out. By this time your spouse will be prepared with the frozen peas. Expect to limp for a few days.

Another danger--constant confusion. When one goes out to call the cat in for the night, and when that cat decides to tease one and stay just out of reach, be cautious about holding the door open with one leg while grabbing for the cat with the other. Storm doors that have always otherwise seemed harmless can become dangerous when one is distracted. They are spring-loaded, and they will swing back and slam into one's knee. And you will scream and frighten the cat away for the rest of the night. Make sure your spouse has frozen peas ready for the boo-boo. And be prepared to limp the next day. When the bruises appear, cover them. One does not want one's poor, belabored spouse to be accused of spousal abuse.

Another danger--handling exercise equipment for the first time in twenty years. Oh, sure, it might look great to have all that exercise equipment in the family room. Anyone who visits might think you're in great shape. The trick is using it and remaining familiar with the movements. When the tough, he-man spouse tries to fold it up to be moved so that it can sit in your new family room and make you appear to be in shape, caution spouse to move slowly and read directions. The spouse, of course, will not listen and will try to do it the way he's sure it should be done, and spouse will pinch his finger and shout loudly enough to frighten the cat who is still hiding outside. Get the smelling salts. Male spouses can pass out as easily as female spouses. Get peas for the boo-boo and reassure spouse he will not lose his finger.

Beware the danger of confusion. Someone I know who is well-versed in moving advised me to box one room at a time...no, wait a minute, more than one person told me that. I'm thinking maybe five or six people told me that. Did I listen? Ha! I find myself rambling from room to room in a daze, overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. You know that thing about how you eat a whole elephant one piece at a time? Not that I recommend this kind of repast, but still. Our house is like an unruly elephant, and not only have I tried to eat an ear, a tail, and a toenail at the same time, I've become so overwhelmed that I could not function with a clear mind. I'm still not focusing.

This is how NOT TO MOVE belongings in a house one has lived in for twenty years. If you're like me, you won't pay any attention to my warnings. So the first thing I advise is that you buy a bag or two of frozen peas and ask for help. Both will come in very handy.

Happy moving!


LATE BREAKING BLOG! by Hannah Alexander
Posted on August 3, 2016

Mel Hodde enter first Medical ClinicAnd I do mean late, since I’m writing this at ten o’clock at night instead of earlier in the day. Change is in the air, and stress is everywhere! I seldom use perfume, but today I slashed (yes, slashed) my wrists with much needed soothing essential oil. The phone at the clinic is ringing and people are coming in–and we’ve been closed since last Friday.

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes tend to wait until the last minute to get things done? Whether it’s writing that blog–like me–or cleaning the house, picking up your medical records a month after you’ve received a letter from your doctor who is going out of business (that would be something I’d do), it’s so easy to let things slide.

Why? Because we’re all so barraged by so many THINGS in our lives that we don’t have time to slow down and prioritize. Me, I haven’t written a new novel in over a year–not since I became a very unwilling clinic director. I also haven’t attended church as often as I would like. Time gets away.

See this picture above? That’s Mel walking into our first clinic. I would show a final picture of Mel walking out of our last clinic, but he hasn’t walked out for the last time yet. That’s because time gets away. Already, he’s working in local ERs, but he’s working to help us clear out the building. Will we get out in time? Will we get to the next job in time?

Will we find movers in time, or will we even find a house to move into?

How about you? What’s still on your To-Do list? Will you have time for it all?

Something I discovered following a death in the family: rushing through life doesn’t help. In fact, it steals your time. Take a step back and think about your priority list. No, really. Don’t just consider it, do it. Take a deep breath and strike out some of those extraneous things on your To-Do list. Do they matter as much as you think? If you lost someone precious to you, how would those things stack up?

People are more important than lists, or things, or timing. Yes, we need to be responsible, but what does that mean? Perhaps it means showing how you feel about your loved ones and friends before time gets away. You’ll never regret that.And I do mean late, since I’m writing this at ten o’clock at night instead of earlier in the day. Change is in the air, and stress is everywhere! I seldom use perfume, but today I slashed (yes, slashed) my wrists with much needed soothing essential oil. The phone at the clinic is ringing and people are coming in–and we’ve been closed since last Friday.

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes tend to wait until the last minute to get things done? Whether it’s writing that blog–like me–or cleaning the house, picking up your medical records a month after you’ve received a letter from your doctor who is going out of business (that would be something I’d do), it’s so easy to let things slide.

Why? Because we’re all so barraged by so many THINGS in our lives that we don’t have time to slow down and prioritize. Me, I haven’t written a new novel in over a year–not since I became a very unwilling clinic director. I also haven’t attended church as often as I would like. Time gets away.

See this picture above? That’s Mel walking into our first clinic. I would show a final picture of Mel walking out of our last clinic, but he hasn’t walked out for the last time yet. That’s because time gets away. Already, he’s working in local ERs, but he’s working to help us clear out the building. Will we get out in time? Will we get to the next job in time?

Will we find movers in time, or will we even find a house to move into?

How about you? What’s still on your To-Do list? Will you have time for it all?

Something I discovered following a death in the family: rushing through life doesn’t help. In fact, it steals your time. Take a step back and think about your priority list. No, really. Don’t just consider it, do it. Take a deep breath and strike out some of those extraneous things on your To-Do list. Do they matter as much as you think? If you lost someone precious to you, how would those things stack up?

People are more important than lists, or things, or timing. Yes, we need to be responsible, but what does that mean? Perhaps it means showing how you feel about your loved ones and friends before time gets away. You’ll never regret that.


Seek Peace by Hannah Alexander

RiverYou know how you forget how to have fun if you’ve gone six years without a vacation? I know some people enjoy their work so much they feel as if their lives are a vacation. Maybe you’re one of those people.

Probably not.

Mel and I haven’t had a vacation in over four years. In fact, this picture was taken on our last getaway four years ago, and that was at a medical conference–not a lot of time to play.

And now that I’ve seen first-hand how destructive constant work can be on the human body, I’m determined to find more time to play as soon as our clinic closes at the end of next week.

I told you about that, right? Independent private practices as well as independent hospitals are having their revenue cut to the point they’re being forced to shut down and either begin concierge services–hopefully the wave of the future–or they’re joining with other hospitals who can pay them, because they are not making a wage from the government services. Insurance follows closely behind government by telling the doctors what they can and cannot order for patients. Yes, that’s right, people who have no medical training–who count beans all day–are now directing your medical care. But enough about our little tempest in a teacup. The government forced us out of business. I’m angry for the sake of our patients, who are losing a good doctor.

But we’re moving to a beautiful tiny town near the Rockies where physicians are few, and where they are allowed to practice medicine as they see fit under the protection of the hospitals. The physician Mel will be replacing even did acupuncture. How cool is that? So he no longer has to fight to practice medicine with the good of the patient, and he won’t have to work weekends to keep us afloat while getting paid nothing from the clinic. We can drive an hour or two in any direction and find a lake, a monument, Oregon Trail, and six hours to Yellowstone.

It’s a new adventure, and that’s how we’re looking at it. How about you? Can you find a new adventure to enjoy? Follow a road you’ve never followed, hike a trail you’ve never hiked, read a book genre you’ve never read. Do something different with the small parts of your life. We plan to make the most of this new adventure.

YOU DID WHAT???!!! by Hannah Alexander

Chuch SteepleHave you ever become a little irritated by the guy in front of you on the road who keeps speeding up and slowing down and driving like a drunk? Do you ever get irritated and honk or mutter under your breath? I do. I'm not going to do it again.
A couple of days ago I was that driver. I wasn't drinking, I was lost in a town I wasn't familiar with, out of state, trying to find my turn. Someone in a little black car with a loud, obnoxious horn blared it at us while we were trying hard to find our way. I didn't honk back or give them any particular kind of wave, but I did have bad thoughts about someone so obnoxious and with such lack of compassion.

And now I'm watching my own thoughts a little more closely. I've noticed in the past that what goes around comes around. If I say something a little catty (which of course I seldom do) it comes back to haunt me in some way. If I react to someone in anger and express my opinion a little more strongly than necessary, I pay for it. Yes, God really is watching.

We can make up our minds to think the best of people, or we can allow a chip to ride on our shoulders and jump to wrong conclusions. Bad conclusions hurt not only others, but they hurt us. I'd rather have a good opinion about someone who doesn't deserve it than hurt a relationship with someone who would make a good friend.

So from now on I'm jumping to good conclusions about people as often as I can.


Beauty Secret by Hannah Alexander

Dr. Mel Hodde photoI'm letting the male side of Hannah Alexander's personality shine today by example. He smiles a lot. That's because he's a happy person, but also because he's a friendly person and was taught as a child that a smile would help him make better headway when interacting with others.

This smile seems to work for him. (It certainly works for me!) because he is well loved in our community. The smile you see here is his attitude in life.

I've never seen anyone as easy to be with (yes, he's my husband, so what?) and he's taught me the truth about a gentle answer turning away wrath. When we were first married the only one of us who ever started a fight was me. I was on the defensive because I'd been in some relationships that made me feel as if I was being forced to fight for my life. But the first time I yelled at my husband, I saw the hurt in his face. I never forgot that look, and tried to never see it again. As our marriage progressed I noticed an eagerness in him to make me happy, to get along, to be a peacemaker.

The attitude wore off on me. We don't fight. We discuss, we debate, we see one another's point of view, and we remain open to alternative options. We laugh a lot, we snuggle a lot, and we smile when we see each other--and working together in the clinic, that happens quite a bit during the day. That great attitude is because of my husband. He set the tone for our marriage, and over twenty years later it's set in stone.

All I can say is if you want a happy relationship with anyone, try a smile, a kind word in place of an angry one, a tender heart. It takes practice. You might not receive the reaction you'd hoped for the first or second time you try it. Some people are simply toxic. In that case, I'd smile and avoid. But if you want good relationships, the more you give, I've found that with the right kind of people, the more you receive.


A Place of Peace

Peace to You

This picture reminds me of a place we explored a few years ago. It's near Lake Tahoe where the hiking trails never seem to end, where we saw our first black bear in the woods--it was a baby bear. Quite frightening since we realized mama bear had to be somewhere nearby in protection mode. Those bears can be dangerous.

Mama bear didn't show up before we made it back to our car, but we sought out some of the locals the next day to reassure us that it was safe to hike in those mountains. We saw another bear on that trip to Tahoe, but after being reassured, we tried to pretend we were just passing another hiker along the trail. We did, however, allow that "other hiker" to take the main trail and we took a side trail, according to the advice of a wise man.

I've found that tactic works well when making friends. There are people who might be fine when you pass them on the street, but you can usually tell by watching them for a while if they are the kinds of people who are peace-loving, or if they're prone to strife. I'm sure it's just my introversion showing, but I tend to seek relationships with peaceful, easy-going people who don't make a habit of gossiping or making snide remarks about someone who isn't there--or even someone who is there. I avoid those with anger issues because I've been wounded by them before.

Do you remember the old series The Incredible Hulk? In several of those episodes, it seems to me Bill Bixby found himself warning people, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like it if I became angry." I've discovered there are a lot of hidden Hulks in our world who can only be pushed so far before they show the true beast within. To keep the peace, I leave people like that alone.

Oh, sure, some people are wounded and need help. That's a different kind of bear. Sometimes we take the chance necessary to help that wound heal. It isn't easy, but we'll have to decide if it's worth the trouble. Those wounded bears might even someday become friends--once they've healed.

So it's always a good idea to smile at those who walk our paths, who speak to us now and then, who might even need a gentle word of encouragement, but I'm pretty sure it's still wise not to poke a bear with a stick, not to set up camp in the area of a bear, or even feed the bear until you know it's safe. I keep the peace by keeping my distance from the bears in this world, and it saves me a great deal of stress.

May you have a week of peace.


Take a Slow Vacation by Hannah Alexander

Image of cat sleepingThis cat has the right idea. He has always known how to relax, and for years I've envied him. Of course, he doesn't have to work for food--unless he feels like hunting outdoors--and he doesn't have to worry about where his next paycheck is coming from. Nobody puts a cat on payroll. I think the secret is that he doesn't worry. I take care of him. Mel brushes him, I medicate his eyes, we take turns feeding him and emptying his litter box. Not much to worry about, but he still has a corner on the market of relaxing.

Wouldn't you love to be a cat for a day? Lay across the top of a cushy chair in the sunroom soaking up the warmth, legs splayed out, happy and secure? Lately, I wouldn't know that feeling. Do you? Even

Ah...to relax...

when we take vacations--which studies have shown doesn't happen enough in our society--we barely learn to relax before it's time to go back to work. Even if we love our work, the stressors of it can often get out of control and we walk around in a perpetual state of anxiety.

Let me suggest a slow vacation. It doesn't have to be a week or two if you don't have that much time to take. It could be no more than an afternoon--though a full day would be much better. A full week on a slow vacation can be life-affirming.

Have you ever been driving along the highway and seen a road you've never driven? May I suggest taking that road next time you have a little time? See where it goes. Sure, it might come to a dead-end. You might even get lost. I did that once, and got so lost I had to stop and ask for directions about how to get back home. The old man at the store frowned at me and said, "I don't think you can get there from here."

But I found my way back anyway. It was fun. It was exciting.

I started hiking that way. I'd be driving through the Mark Twain National Forest and see a logging trail with a numbered sign on it. Here in our area of the state, not many people go hiking, but I started parking at the heads of those logging trails and exploring them. When I found one that had pretty vistas, I invited friends to explore with me. We eventually became so enamored with hiking that we hiked the Grand Canyon. I've since hiked different Canyon trails nine times, and the memories are priceless.

When I explore I take my time and use my senses. I'll stop beside a creek and breathe the fresh air, skip some rocks across the surface, explore the bank for pretty flowers.

But I don't have to drive anywhere to enjoy nature. This is springtime in Missouri. Birds are building nests right outside my window. I love watching them. I'll walk outside before the yard is mowed and enjoy the wildflowers blooming. The smells, the sounds, the peace of nature surround me in those moments and I realize the love God must have for us to create so many things of beauty.

Next time you find yourself stressed by work and just keeping up with life, try hard to take a slow vacation. It doesn't matter that you can't get away for a week or two. I've found that I can take a vacation with just an hour or two of enjoying and relaxing in the peace of God's creation.

Try it a few times and see if it doesn't make you feel more like my cat for at least a few moments.


Free April 9-13! Second Opinion by Hannah Alexander

Free on Kindle April 9-13

Second Opinion by Hannah AlexanderIf you've never read a Hannah Alexander novel--or if you've read them and it's been a while since you read one, or if you just want to spread the word--now's your chance and it will cost you nothing!

Click here http://goo.gl/RKhxlT or forward it to a friend you think might enjoy the book, and it will take you and your friends to Second Opinion on Kindle, free from April 9 to 13. You can read more about the book there, or you can just download and start reading to see if you like it, because it's free! It will cost you nothing to download! It's also the first in a three-book series, so there's more if you like this one.

So here's the sales pitch if you're not convinced yet: Hannah Alexander (the pen name that represents my writing combined with my husband's expertise in medicine) is the winner of multiple awards, including the Christy Award, three Holt Medallions, two Reader's Choice Awards, Library Journal's Top Five Christian Novels of the Year, and we have been nominated for Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

Interested yet? Yes, there's medical intrigue in this book, but there are also fun characters to love and laugh with, a small-town vibe, romances, and plenty of drama. Come meet these people and see if you might enjoy them as much as I did when I was writing about them.

This book is the third edition, so I've updated it, honed it, and it's ready to read. I do hope you take advantage of this fun read!



Medical Inside Scoop by Hannah Alexander

Have you ever watched Person of Interest, a television show about how we're all being watched? Until recently I thought it was just a fun suspense show with lots of action. Now I'm becoming a conspiracy theorist--blame the novelist in me. But it's no longer as fun as it once was.

We Americans have to get insurance, right? If we don't, we're fined when we pay taxes. My husband and I are members of Samaritan Ministries, which is a healthcare sharing group that is growing very quickly, and so far is an acceptable alternative to buying insurance, so we don't get fined at tax time. For us, it's also much cheaper. Christians who attend church at least three times a month and live a clean and healthy lifestyle can join this group and help other Christians pay their medical bills. We pray for one another and it's a very encouraging set-up. Thousands are joining, more every year as people find they can't afford regular insurance--including one that yanked $1300.00 out of the bank account of a friend of mine against her wishes last week.

We've discovered a recent development taking place with some insurance companies that has disturbed us here at the clinic. We've begun to receive messages from the companies about the patients who are not "being compliant," meaning they aren't taking the medications the doctor has prescribed for them--of course, the insurance companies know everything about their patients. Now, at first I thought that just meant they were tattling so the doctor would be aware in case there's a problem--we do need to know if our patients aren't taking their blood pressure meds, etc., so we can perhaps prescribe something they're more likely to utilize.

Now we're concerned that those patients might lose their coverage if they continue to "disobey" the doctor. We have no intention of firing a patient for such a thing, but since the insurance companies are keeping track, if there's a bad outcome for that patient, whether or not it is related to the drug they failed to have filled at the pharmacy, the insurance companies might well reject treatment for that bad outcome.

This disturbs me. Of course we need to know if a patient needs further help but it's just a little creepy to know that if I had regular insurance, my insurance company might tattle on me if a doctor prescribes a medication I don't want, and gets me into trouble, either with the doctor, or with the insurance company, itself.

So remember that you are being watched....

GET UP AND DANCE! By Hannah Alexander

Hiking TrailI just read a depressing article in one of our medical journals. Then it made me angry, because it's so unfair. And then I decided to spread the "cheer." According to the Endocrinology Advisor (It's an online thing) modern day workers are becoming so sedentary that if we sit still for more than ten minutes at a time we're increasing our chances of diabetes and worse--metabolic syndrome, which affects most organs in our bodies.

That's the bad news, and it's really bad, because diabetes runs in my family and I've lost a lot of beloved relatives to this horrible disease. The good news is that if you live near a sidewalk, a walking/biking trail like the one shown here, or even if you have some music you can dance to, if you'll get up and utilize any kind of exercise option, you're increasing your chances of a longer and healthier life.

But really, if you sit for ten minutes you're increasing your chances of diabetes? How crazy is that? And then I read the fine print--it was medical gobbledygook so I didn't pick up on it at first, but that's for extremely obese people and their chances of developing diabetes. Well, that's not quite as encouraging as it could be, because it's easy to become obese in our world today.

So I thought about the word "sedentary." That means remaining perfectly still, right? I have an old high school buddy who, during class, could not sit still. He was always jiggling his leg, moving, tapping a pencil. I never gave it any thought at the time, but he always had a lot of nervous energy. Now, decades later, he's still slender. He never had trouble with weight. I think it's because he was always moving even when he was trying to sit still. Who knew hyperactivity could be healthy?

Here at the clinic I encourage the staff to get outside in the sunshine and at least walk around the building. Even around the block. It doesn't take much time at all, and that little bit of movement helps keep them healthy.

When you watch television do you sit still? I used to utilize that time to work out on the exercise bike or the elliptical machine. I don't anymore since I'm so tired when I get home at night. I just sit. But it's time to get up and at least dance when the theme song comes on the tube. I can do that, right? We can all move a little more each day. I even rock in my rocking chair. That's movement. It also helps with pain. Did you know that? Walking or other kinds of movement can help with pain, and the older you get the more you'll see that.

So next time you find yourself sitting for a long period of time at home or at work, get up and move. Even dance. Make it a fast dance. If you can, get outside for some vitamin D and walk around for a few minutes a few times a day. It'll not only help you feel better in the short term, but also in the long run.

Like It? Tell Someone! by Hannah Alexander

Necessary Measures by Hannah Alexander book coverI had to ask myself a very pointed question a couple of days ago. How many books have I read in the past year? How many of those books have I reviewed online? I realized I've read and enjoyed a lot more novels than I've taken the time to review for the sake of the author. Being a novelist, myself, I know how important it is for those authors to receive reviews--hopefully good ones, but I don't need five stars for every review. Honesty is important for those seeking a good read.

The thing is, I seldom complete a novel I don't really enjoy, so the only ones that get reviews from me are the ones I absolutely love. Since I put all my reviews on Amazon, because that's where I get most of my kindle novels, I like to give the highest rating. After all, if I'm coaxed to read all the way through a book, it's worth the read.

I encourage you to share with other readers if you happen to find a book that has kept you engaged to the end.

In this brave new world of independent publishing, you might be able to find a lot of excellent novels written by excellent writers who are no longer traditionally published. I encourage you to seek out a few. I will always read the sample pages on Amazon--or on the website of the novelist--to see if the book is well written with good editing before I purchase. You can usually get a good idea about the capabilities of the author within that amount of time. If it drags on without grabbing your interest, you will probably be bored by the story even though others may have loved it. If there are a lot of typos in the sample pages (and I've found typos in my own work--who hasn't?) it means you'll probably find them all the way through the book. If that kind of thing bothers you then you might want to pass on it.

Reviewing a book doesn't mean you have to actually "write a book report" the way you had to in school, although you can, and many people do write long reports. Don't let the challenge daunt you. Simply give the book a starred rating, state what you liked about the book, why you liked it, how it affected you. Please try not to give away any surprise endings, but giving a brief description of the book will help other readers know if that's a book they might like to read. It also helps the writer sell more books--you can't imagine how helpful that can be to a novelist who depends on reviews on Amazon or Goodreads or other sites to make an income from all her long hours of work.

Now that I've made myself feel guilty, I'm going to log a few more reviews for the novels I've read recently. I hope you do the same.


The Bad Wolf and the Greedy Pig by Hannah Alexander

Hannah Alexander (Mel and Cheryl Hodde) at Christy Award ceremonyThe picture you're looking at is of us at the Christy Award ceremony where we were blessed to win the Christy Award for one of our novels. It was a fun night I just came across the picture and enjoyed the memories so much that I thought I'd share. It has little to do with my story today except that the man you see in this picture has been caught up in the tragedy below, and was one of the doctors who worked at this hospital in question.

You might have read one or two of our novels. We set them, for the most part, in southern Missouri because that's where we live. That's where my story takes us today, and this story will likely end up in a novel before long.

Once upon a time there was a tiny hospital in the middle of a summer resort area in southern Missouri. This little hospital was the only facility in the center of a 120 mile radius, and from the beginning of trout season to the end of bow season--most of the year--outdoorsmen and campers, river floaters and hikers made great use of this wonderful outdoor wilderness.

They also made use of the hospital when fishhooks got caught in hands or other areas of the anatomy, when bows hit the wrong mark, when bullets flew wild, when off-road-vehicles ended up in ravines. This hospital was literally a lifesaver for the residents of this area and those thousands who came to this secluded paradise every year.

Unfortunately, a big, evil entity (we'll call it the wolf) that controlled this hospital for some years defrauded the government by overcharging for Medicaid patients. As it happens, some evil wolves get into trouble financially, and this is what happened to the owners of the hospital--er, the wolves. They were bought out by a kinder, more generous entity for many millions of dollars to get them out of the debt they'd dug themselves into.

Problem solved, right?

It didn't happen that way. The agency that was defrauded (we'll call this agency the pig for this story, and you'll see why) decided they needed more money to pay for the fraudulent activities of the wolf. But the wolf had declared bankruptcy, and the pig could not get its money back from the wolf. One would have expected the pig to eat its losses, right? That's what pigs do--they eat.

Wrong. The pig attacked the kinder, more generous entity, demanding they pay for the back taxes of the wolf, from whom this entity had purchased the hospital system, and they attacked it by demanding millions of dollars this entity didn't have. They had to close the doors to this hospital as well as the clinic in this same area. Medical care will be very scarce anywhere within this area.

So now this little hospital that has removed fishhooks, repaired broken bones, and saved lives in the middle of the wilderness area every year will no longer have its doors open. Those thousands of people who come from all over the state--and even other parts of the country every year--will no longer have a hospital nearby to take care of their illnesses and injuries. Lives will be lost and hospitals much farther away will be overloaded by patients who cannot find help closer--if they make it there alive.

Do you see a happy ending to this? Or do you see more heartache? I always like happy endings in my books, so when I write my novel about this, there will be one. In reality? I don't know. It doesn't look good. Endings in real life aren't always happy. Lives are lost because of bureaucratic idiocy and greed.

The only moral I can find for this story in this particular blog is that I hope someone learns from it, and that we will all be reminded that greed in any area is the act of serving another god besides the real One. We cannot serve God and money, as the Bible says.

Maybe we cannot help these people in need of a hospital, but we can live our lives in ways that seek the best for others as much as we seek the best for ourselves. Maybe we can learn to seek God's will in our situations, our decisions, our treatment of others, instead of our own will. No matter the cost, it can't be as high as the price God paid for us.


How to Handle a Trip to the Hospital by Hannah Alexander

We're still working on medical themes here because nearly everyone will eventually have an issue that will land them in the doctor's office or in the hospital. Nobody wants to think about it, but anyone who ever ends up there will be very happy for the preparation before an illness or accident hits you.

I would recommend that you keep a checklist of all the medicines and supplements you take daily, weekly, etc. Also keep track of your blood pressure, weight, and other aspects of your health if they would be vital for the doctor or nurse to note. A doctor worth seeing is a doctor who will check that med list and ensure there are no interactions between any of those ingredients or any of the additional meds you might receive, and will be interested to know if your blood pressure has risen or dropped. This will pertain not only to your family doctor or specialist, but the hospitalist or other personnel if you end up in the hospital.

Always keep a notebook with you--possibly in a purse, man-purse (murse) or close to the door in case of emergency so you can grab it as you go out the door. If you suddenly end up in the hospital without warning and don't have pad and pen, have a friend, enemy, next-door-neighbor or anyone you can grab from the hallway bring you something for making notes. It is estimated that seven out of ten hospital bills have some kind of mistake on them, often to the detriment of the patient. So keep tabs on how many pills you've received, make sure you know what those pills are for, and make sure your hospital physician, nurse or tech communicates with you. When you're back home and looking at the hospital bill, compare it to the notes you've taken. If there are discrepancies, call them to the attention of the billing department.

It doesn't hurt for hospital personnel to know you're keeping notes. If they're worth their titles, they will actually be glad you're sharp enough to keep track, because they're overworked and it helps to have someone backing them up.

Make sure the hospital where you're cared for is one that accepts the insurance that covers you. I have friends who were sent to outpatient sections of a hospital and weren't covered by insurance. Now they're paying out of pocket for something they thought would be paid otherwise.

Hospital stays typically cost in excess of 4,000.00 a day, depending on what part of the country you reside, so get well quickly. I realize that's easier said than done, but one way you can save money is by moving when you're told to walk up and down the hallway. Don't overdo it, but these days doctors have discovered that lying in bed doesn't help you heal. Get moving, get the blood carrying poisons out of your body more quickly. Drink more fluids if possible. Make sure the foods you're being fed are free of any food allergens you might have. Often the doctors and nurses might not communicate with the food services staff, and that can have a direct impact on your health, including interactions with the meds you're taking

Before you leave the hospital, BE SURE to get copies of every x-ray, test result, doctor comment, release form and medical chart you can get. Everything pertaining to your case is something you have a right to have. This way your family doc can see the paperwork and know how to follow up. Otherwise, your doctor might never see your hospital chart. Don't assume that just because your doctor and your hospital are in the same insurance loop that they will communicate. We have this problem all the time. It's even worse if they aren't in the same system. Never assume your doctor will see the vital information about your health if it's discovered by any other doctor or hospital. Patients are constantly being dropped through the cracks. Don't be one of those patients. It's your responsibility to ensure your doctor knows about every test result you've received.

The February issue of Reader's Digest magazine has an interesting and frightfully honest article about 50 things your hospital won't tell you--although I'm not sure about that last part. Some of those things are truths anyone who works in a hospital would want you to know. I highly recommend that you read that article, because it reminded me of many things I wish I could tell every patient who comes through our clinic doors. I read several of the paragraphs to Mel, and we both just shook our heads, because these are things we've been complaining about for years.

I repeat, take control of your own healthcare. If you're too sick to keep track of everything being done to you in the hospital, keep a friend or family member with you. If you're very sick, see if you can keep someone there to care for you overnight. Some hospital staffs are spread so thin that it takes far too long for a nurse to get to you if you need something.

As I've said before, no doctor is God. They're all humans, even the best of them, and as humans they make mistakes. This could affect your health in so many different ways. Make it your responsibility to ensure you receive the best medical care possible.

1. Give with an open heart. If you are sure God has nudged you to give to a particular person, do so with a heart of generosity, no matter how you feel about that person.

2. Before giving, make sure that call to give was from God, and not a simple feeling of guilt because you have something that someone else does not--or because someone has tried to "guilt" you into giving. Humans haven't blessed you with this gift of giving--that is from God, so follow God's wisdom, not human wisdom.

3. Find out more about the person or group to whom you wish to give. We once loaned a car to someone attending our church who was riding his bicycle to work in the cold. We felt sorry for him, and since we had an extra car we handed him the keys without doing any kind of background check. Had we realized he had lost his driver's license due to negligence, we would have known better. It was much more difficult to ask for those keys to be returned than it was to hand them over in the first place.

4. When possible, give in secret. I love anonymous giving because it focuses the spirit of giving on God, not me. That keeps my head from swelling when it shouldn't, and it gives the receiver notice that God knew about their need and cared enough to bless them. I was simply the secret vessel used for the giving.

5. It can't be said enough: don't allow pride to ruin the gift. The Bible has a lot to say about personal pride, and none of it good. When God has blessed you with a spiritual gift, never forget where that gift came from. It isn't your goodness, it's God's.

6. Beware when word gets out about your gift of giving. To our dismay, we've found that there is a lot of greed in the world, and often it comes from places and people we wouldn't expect. Those who already love to give can easily be manipulated into giving more than they are called to when word spreads about your generosity. We've had many requests we've felt led to turn down because we felt those requests were made because someone thought we simply wanted to give money away. That's why I specifically focus on giving anonymously when possible. Then word doesn't spread that I'm a generous person (which I'm not) and my head is less likely to swell, and those people with nefarious minds won't mentally draw a target on me and plan to set me up for a scam. We have enough of those in the world, and we don't want to tempt others to do the same.

7. Again, practice wisdom as you practice giving. Read Proverbs. In fact, bury yourself in the Bible and don't let go, because that is where you will find the wisdom you need for exercising your gift. Walk with God at all times. Test and retest your inclination to give to ensure your finances, time and belongings go to the right place.

8. Don't expect a thank-you. This is another reason I like anonymous giving, because then I won't be as likely to receive praise for something God asked me to do. I know someone who loves to do generous acts of love in secret. She once shoveled snow from an elderly neighbor's yard. She didn't think she'd been discovered, but when she was, not only did she not receive thanks, she was accused of shoveling that snow so they would feel inclined to pay her. Ouch. What began as a thoughtful act of love became a painful situation.

9. There is a difference between loaning someone money and giving it to them. You might be called to do one or the other. Learn to discern between the two, and remember the Bible teaches us not to charge high interest rates on a personal loan.

10. The gift of giving is a great gift to have. It is not something to be taken lightly, but an honor God has bestowed on certain people. If you've been given this gift, enjoy, but utilize it with wisdom and a generous heart.


One Path to Success by Hannah Alexander
October 19, 2015

I once had a third grade teacher who always told us to smile with our eyes, which never quite made sense to me. How does one smile with one's eyes? Doesn't the mouth have something to do with it? Not real helpful for an eight-year-old.

I think she was simply trying to confuse us so we'd shut up when we got a little wild in class. But she taught me more than how to crinkle up my eyes when I smiled. She taught me to smile at others in the hallway, in class, in the cafeteria. She taught me to put my best face forward to anyone I meet. For some reason, her attitude taught me to expect the best of others even if they weren't smiling back, and that long-ago lesson has held me in good stead.

Now, I'm not saying I'm the most successful person in the world. The way the writing world is changing, I might be forgotten soon. But when I greet people with a friendly smile, they have fonder memories of me than they do of the bitter complainers who find fault with every kind service they might receive.

It was surprising for me to hear that I'm always the one who encourages (really? Me? I'm the whiner) and lend strength to friends when they're in need. A smile will go a long way for those around you. Try smiling more often. And do it with your eyes, too. You know, those little crinkles that form around our eyes when our smile is genuine. I've always thought those lines were so attractive. Now I know why. It means warmth and acceptance. If you haven't gone through your day with a smile, you might find that you end your day on a sour note. A smile costs nothing, and it can be healthy, not only for the smiler, but the person who receives that smile.

Touch a heart or two today and smile. It's contagious.

WARNING by Hannah Alexander
September 29, 2015

Several years ago I had a particularly stressful month. Halfway through the month a streak of pain crossed my shoulders and down my spine and legs and would not relent. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't function. Finally I gave up and went to see my family doctor.

He told me I had fibromyalgia and gave me hydrocodone for the pain. Yeah, the hard stuff. I'd taken narcotics after an automobile accident a decade ago, and again after surgery, but I always quit taking it as soon as possible and never developed a dependency.

This time, however, the pain became chronic. I was told I would always have fibromyalgia and as hard as I tried I was unable to endure the pain without the hydrocodone. I tried alternative doctors and actually was able to improve my health, but the pain persisted year after year. Most days I could get through a day with only two doses, and I'm stubborn enough that I refused to increase the dose unless I was in agony.

Despite attempts to avoid becoming dependent, chronic use of a narcotic over the years makes us dependent no matter what we do. Several weeks ago, however, I was speaking to a naturopath who told me she'd heard of pain clinics that treated their patients by weaning them from their narcotics. That's all. She said that often the pain would go away after the narcotic was out of the system. This meant that the narcotic, itself, caused the uptick in pain.

I stopped taking my prescribed narcotic when I had a few days during which I could stay home. Since I had been stretching the time out between doses, I felt this could be done safely. I had accumulated several creams, over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements to help me through the worst of it. I needed that and more.
I stopped sleeping, the pain increased, I lost all appetite and despite my determination to keep eating, I lost ten pounds in two weeks--this is NOT a good way to lose weight. My skin became dry and stretchy, my head hurt and my stress level was off the charts. I had to take blood pressure meds for a couple of weeks. Did I mention I couldn't sleep? I still refused to take another pill because I didn't want to be addicted for the rest of my life.

It's been five weeks. I would not recommend that anyone withdraw from narcotics in this way. If I'd known how my body would behave I would have weaned myself much more gradually. I would still have done it. The pain I was feeling between doses for so many years was, indeed, caused by the narcotic for the most part.

Yes, I still have some pain, but the intensity is not nearly as high as it had been between doses when I was considered a "chronic" pain patient, and it doesn't return regularly the way it did when it was time for another dose of narcotic.

Why am I telling this to Christian readers? Because there are a lot of people in our country who are placed on narcotic pain meds and continue to take them, innocent of the addictive potential. Doctors were taught in med school that as long as a patient is truly in pain, narcotics are the best to control that. It's true. Now, however, doctors are being told that their patients can become dependent on those narcotics and it's difficult to get off them.

Everybody feels pain from time to time. A lot of people feel intense pain. Sometimes narcotics are necessary. Just be aware they are dangerously addictive if taken longterm. Don't let it happen to you.


Stressed Much?

September 15, 2015

How's your stress level? I recently listened in on an anxiety symposium that was quite helpful. In it, some experts in the use of alternative supplements suggested several possible aids that could help with a person's stress level without resorting to prescription medications. For instance, GABA or GABA Calm might help some people, while 5-HTP could help others. I've found that L Tryptophan and simple chamomile can help me. Holy basil is another favorite. I also take magnesium supplements to help me relax at night, but we're all different. No body responds to the same supplements, so it's sort of a trial and error approach.

I've also found that some essential oils can help with stress, and we even use one of those oils in the clinic, allowing the patient to inhale the oil for ten minutes if they happen to have white coat syndrome. Again, this could help some and not others, but we've found that simply allowing a patient to sit quietly and breathe a calming essential oil will lower the blood pressure if the problem is due to stress.

The most powerful antidote to anxiety, fear, stress, even depression, is turning back to Christ. I tend to drift away from reading my Bible every day, and I shoot up instaprayers during the day without actually digging deeply and spending quality time with Him. I can spend all day doing what I know God has called me to do, but all work and no love shared with Him? That doesn't cut it for me. I need that Holy Presence in my daily life to sustain me. I need to depend completely on Him, and not my own strength.

One way I've always drawn closer to God was to go out into the wilderness for a hike, to surround myself by His creation and talk to Him in the peace of nature. I seldom fail to come back with a full heart. Even a quick stroll in the sunshine can give me a spiritual lift.

In the past few weeks, hubby and I have both been ill. That's scary when neither of us can get out of bed to care for the other. We realized right away we needed to draw back to God more completely, that we'd been doing what we thought was right, but not spending quality time with the One for whom we were doing it.
It's a longterm goal, to walk more closely with Jesus Christ, but it's also instantaneous. I found that as soon as I turned back and repented of my independence, He was there. How does He do that? It has to be supernatural, because anyone at any time can turn to Him, repent, find His love and learn to walk with Him.

"Be anxious about nothing, but in everything make your requests known to God, with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7


What’s IN Your Mind?

by Hannah Alexander

September 1, 2015

I have notes taped up around the house with one of my favorite Bible passages, the "whatsoever" passage. "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely...think on these things."

I need to be reminded of this often because it's so easy to place some ugly, untrue, impure things into our minds.

Mel and I relax in front of our favorite shows at night when we crash from a day's work. Unfortunately, we've discovered lately that sometimes those shows, which are very popular with a lot of people, tend to be getting darker and darker. When we're weak or susceptible, those shows can cause depression--homicide cop shows, high adventure, even sometimes comedy. They give me nightmares.

The nightmares have brought home to me the truth of the favorite passage of scripture above. Some things can be fun to watch, to read, to do, but I need to ask myself if it's something that is uplifting, pure, lovely.

Sometimes a habit is hard to break. I'm in the middle of breaking a habit right now that is particularly difficult, but breaking bad habits, if we persist in doing good, will help heal us in the end.


Decisions, Decisions

JULY 21, 2015 Hannah Alexander

Have you ever been faced with a decision between two comparatively good choices? Which is the right one? We’ve all been there dozens of times, from small choices such as paint color for a wall, to larger choices such as job offers.

What do you do when faced with a choice you can’t seem to make? Close your eyes and pick one and hope it’s the right one? Call your friends for input? Sleep on it? Pray for wisdom? Of course, praying for wisdom is something I’ve found myself doing every day lately. Sometimes, however, even with those prayers, I find myself facing a decision in which I would need knowledge of the future in order to be certain of the right choice.

What to do?

I can gather all the information I want and still make the wrong choice. I can talk to every business person I know and crunch numbers all day long, but when faced with a particular decision, I can’t predict what will happen.

One company I know made a decision to move their business to a “better” location, but after all the expense and effort and lost time, they could not have predicted that one bean counter in one little office would make a decision that would cut that business off at the knees. Events like this can paralyze a person’s ability to make the next big decision.

Not all decisions are so life changing. Others are. What kind of treatment does one choose when faced with a life threatening illness? Go the traditional route with physicians under the control of government regulations and insurance companies? Or attempt to find some alternative treatments that might be dissed by the medical community, but would be healthier, though more expensive, in the long run?
I know one answer I’ve used over and over again, even when the decision deadline comes down to the wire. Wait.

When Mel and I were dating, we came to the point where we’d been seeing each other exclusively for nearly a year and we both wondered where the relationship was going. I knew for sure I loved him. He thought he loved me, but wanted to be certain. We prayed and prayed for direction. We were both frustrated. Our only reply was, “Wait.” So we waited. I actually got comfortable in that waiting state, though Mel never did. When God says wait, you wait. Believe it or not, we grow in that waiting room of life. If we skip ahead without God’s go-ahead, we could suffer in ways we might not if we had only done as we were told and waited.

It wasn’t until a very important person in our life passed away, jarring us emotionally, that the answer came. Only a few days after his funeral, Mel asked me to marry him. Our waiting time was over. At least, for our relationship. I’ll never regret the wait.
As for other instances in our lives, the waiting we’re doing right now? I plan to find peace with the waiting phase before we move on. God has something in store. We just have to hurry up and wait.


Experience Jesus

June 23, 2015 by Hannah Alexander

When was the last time you read a book that stayed with you, that reminded you over and over again that there’s a better way to look at life? As readers, we likely get tidbits from any kind of book we read that opens our eyes to something inspiring, or we probably wouldn’t be avid readers. Those of us who blog on this site always hope to touch hearts and change lives, which is on reason why we keep writing. Sure, there are other reasons, but for most of us our high comes from knowing we’ve touched the lives of others with the words we’ve written.

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation a couple of weeks ago I dowloaded the latest release by Bill Myers entitled The Jesus Experience: Journey Deeper into the Heart of God. The message I received from this gifted man was profound and life changing–even though I’ve learned the lesson multiple times before: Get to know Jesus. Love Him before you do anything else. Love God with all your life. Out of that love will flow the fruits of the Spirit that God calls us to utilize, but first we must love. I know the others who blog on this site have been saying the same thing–Love God. Love others. Love must be in our hearts before any of our works for Him can be meaningful.

I found it interesting that the Sunday morning after I completed reading Bill’s book, our Sunday school class discussed the difference between faith and works, the differences between the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. We agreed that the reason we gathered together at church was to love God–before anything else. Church attendance means nothing to God unless we meet together to love Him.

But of course, Bill writes the words in such an interesting way, at times humorous, at times heart-rending, and because of his own walk with Christ and his journey into knowing Jesus more completely, his words resonate in ways I fear mine haven’t always done. But I plan to start, and the way I’ll start is by drawing closer to Him, by loving Him above all things, by clinging to Him in everything, and considering all trials, all joys, to be something I’m sharing with Him.

I highly recommend The Jesus Experience. I think if you read it you’ll be glad you did.



A Real Character
June 9, 2015

Our cat, Data

You know how there are some people who tend to call attention to themselves with an extra loud voice or extravagantly dramatic behavior–as if they’re attempting to be on stage? Yeah, well, I speak with my hands, so some people might consider me to be one of those people. I might be. Hard to tell when you’re one of “those” people. Our kitty, Data (named after Star Trek’s artificial intelligence) has a right to spread out and claim his attention because he’s beautiful. Others? I wouldn’t advise it.

I call those attention seekers “characters.” They work well in a novel, but not all of them are fun. Some of them can seem downright obnoxious, and we still have to put up with them. Doing so graciously is a lesson I haven’t yet been able to grasp. I try. Honestly, I try.

Let’s consider a “character” we’ve had experience with recently. Let’s call her Gertrude (though I had a good friend by that name, and I’m not crazy about using it. Still, gotta name her something.)

So say Gertrude wants attention and she doesn’t receive the attention she feels she deserves. Instead of waiting her turn on the schedule at our place of business, she drags one of OUR waiting room chairs to the front reception window and plops down and crosses her arms, glaring at the receptionist until he looks at her. Causing a scene. Getting the attention in an obnoxious way–using vinegar instead of honey.

Now, this character needs to be cared for just as much as the next person, but it’s most tempting to pass over Gertrude-the-character and move on to someone who is sitting quietly in the corner waiting his turn. Very tempting. If someone from that waiting room happens to see this Gertrude character out on the street somewhere, do you think they’ll rush forward to greet her and embrace her with love? Sadly, they’ll cross the street to avoid her and she loses the attention she so desperately wants. Obnoxious characters tend to have that affect on people.

See the character on the picture? Data? He spreads himself all over the floor and gets in the way and whines and drools on me and sticks his cold nose on my arm or face in an attempt to get attention. But he’s a CAT! I love him because he’s a cat.

I really do believe that old adage–if you want something, use honey, not vinegar. I highly recommend the use of honey. Be a character all you want, but be a nice one. A sweet one. Lie on your back and twist sideways with a big grin, don’t grab a chair and plant yourself in someone else’s face and glare at everyone within glare distance. Create friendship, not hostility. Again, as I said last time, be nice

My Speech This Morning
July 7, 2015 by Hannah Alexander

I'm speaking at two libraries today, and when I walked into the first one I had an idea what I was going to say. I'd brought books to give away, so I knew those kind ladies would go home happy no matter what I said, but I had to ask whether they were all readers or if they were readers who were interested in writing. All were readers. That kind of killed my speech.

I was going to speak about the new indie markets and how to edit, edit, edit, because many new writers don't do that, and it hurts their sales. I was also going to explain to them how many people they could help with their writing if they used their own experiences to encourage others. But no, none of the ladies at the library had any interest in becoming writers, they simply loved to read and wanted to meet the writer. I changed my speech.

I still told them how they could touch lives with their words, whether written or spoken. If you've lived more than fifteen years--maybe even fewer--you've had some kind of experience that could help someone else. I do it all the time in my writing. I personalize what I write with snippets of my painful experiences in life to show readers that the worst times in life can be endured. I let them see that they aren't alone.

Of course, since the ladies to whom I was speaking don't think they'll be writing to readers, I told them that they can still touch a LOT of lives. All of us can. I love to touch lives through my writing, but I also love to share hope with anyone going through a life ordeal. Lost a loved one? I'm here to tell you that yes, you'll endure pain and it'll change you forever, but you can find a new normal. Injured in a care accident? Yes, the body can heal. If you have continued pain you might have to live with that pain, but I've lived with pain for nine years and it's given me a deeper appreciation for what remains of my health.

We can all offer hope. We don't want to explain in detail our own ordeals when we see someone who is struggling, because they're so caught up in their pain they don't want more added to their load. Just let them know there is hope and they aren't alone. It's amazing how much it helps to know someone understands. Be the one who understands. I guess that's my message for today because it's what I'm going to speak about at the next library. I'm leaving now, and on the drive I'll be thinking about how my words might be able to better heal those around me. Want to join me?

Are You Searching for Your Self?
April 28, 2015 by Hannah Alexander

If you live long enough, you've lost someone you love. Maybe it's through a breakup, maybe it's by death, but if you've lost a loved one you know the devastation, as if you've lost a part of yourself. For me, it's almost physical.

Three years and two months ago my mother, whom we'd cared for in our home, passed away. Being an only child, I guess I was extremely close to Mom. I didn't realize it so much when she was alive-you know, you just sort of take your mother for granted? But the connection was so solid that after Mom died, something in me died, and for three years I wasn't myself. I couldn't understand it. I knew Mom was in a better place, I believe in heaven and I knew what she believed, but that didn't seem to matter.

I lost something so vital in my life that Mel, my loving, attentive husband, was very afraid for me. I was afraid for me. I wanted my SELF back. I hid out in the house for three years, only getting out to attend church and get groceries. Crowds put me into a panic.

During that time I helped Mel build a clinic, but I directed things from home, preferably via email.

Two months ago I was forced out of the house and into the workplace--our clinic--when we decided to move our clinic to a larger town and I was forced to be there to direct things in person. I did things I didn't want to do, interacted with people in ways I didn't want to, but I did it.

I forced myself out, bought dressy clothing, even wore earrings again. I began to interact with others besides my cats and my husband.

Something happened. Now I wake up in the morning and look forward to coming to the clinic, seeing the patients come through and be treated with kindness by my fantastic husband and nurses and office personnel. I love being with our WONDERFUL staff and see my husband 24 hours a day, even though I'm a true introvert.

I don't know why it took three years to recover, but it did. I have friends who take longer than that. I'm back. If you're in that dark period after loss, allow yourself to grieve as long as you need to, but if you see an opportunity to do something, take it. Try it, anyway. Even if you can't function the first time you try, then you need to give yourself time and patience and try again later. It will happen if you let it.

I thought I'd lost my SELF forever, and then suddenly I was back. It's me again. I pray that if you're struggling, you'll find a way back to your Self, and maybe even a better Self than you ever had before. May God give you healing and peace.

Much love,


Kristen’s Crazy Little Thing–by Hannah Alexander
February 23, 2015

Friends, I don't want you to think I'm special or anything, but since Kristen Heitzmann and I have been friends for a very, very long time, and since I raised my hand higher than anyone else and shouted louder when she announced the new manuscript she wrote for fun, I get to be an endorser! Which means I finagled a first draft and started reading.

All I can say is: Write a note to yourself to be on the lookout for her announcement when she does release this book. She's showing a new side to herself that is delightful (not that she isn't already truly delightful or I wouldn't like her so much) and if you want to read a book that will make you smile and laugh and chuckle you'll want this book.

Yes, she has somehow changed genres without losing her style. Since I've attempted the same thing recently, I feel better knowing a fellow writer has done it, and done it very, very well. Don't be afraid to step into the waters. Kristen is going strong!

Advice to the Lovelorn Man

by Hannah Alexander

I've always wondered what it would be like to include an advice column in one of my novels. It isn't something I'd ever consider doing in real life, because I don't want the responsibility of messing up a living person's life with the wrong advice--and I'm capable of doing just that. I'm a novelist, after all, not a psychiatrist. However, I have a fictional character in need, and I'm going to attempt to help him here. If you have words of advice for him, I'd welcome them, because he's in dire straits emotionally right now in the novel I'm writing. Prepare to suspend disbelief...

Dear Hannah,

You're my last hope. I've done practically everything wrong my whole life, and in doing so have doubled my family's wealth while hurting those most dear to me. I would give away my billions for a do-over. I realize you're not a priest-confessor, but you have the power to change my life. I'm sorry for trampling the hearts of my ex-wife and my daughter in order to rake in the money. I nearly ruined the life of the best doctor who ever worked for me by breaking her engagement with lies to get her for myself. After a recent brush with death I've taken a new look at myself, and I hate what I see. My ex-wife has found love again, my daughter is growing up with me in the periphery of her life. There is a woman I truly love, but she's so much more honorable than I. How do I make up for all the harm I've done? How do I become worthy of this woman I love?


Dear Weston,

In the Bible, Jesus told the rich young ruler to give up all his wealth to follow Him. You said you'd be willing to give away your billions for a do-over, but would you really? Can you possibly stop depending on wealth to define yourself? You've lived so long for the next high of cutting a deal, manipulating others to serve you. Can you live without that? Money is all you've known or understood. If you were to marry this worthy woman you love, would you truly love her, or would you go back to your old habits? I'm sorry, but you'll need to prove yourself by doing what you said. Let me know what you decide.



True Character

One of the things I do when writing a new novel is look for people who would make good, interesting, heroic characters in my books. That's one of the most fun things to do, and I take them from real life. Here's an example:

We have an office manager in our clinic, Bonnie, who hates germs. When she drew up the plans for the construction of the clinic and oversaw the work, she didn't realize she'd soon be working there. She hates goo, she has a very weak stomach. When the rest of the staff starts talking shop, Bonnie gags, loses her appetite, covers her ears and gets away. She's also shy. She sits in the back row at church. She'll sneak over to an elderly neighbor's house and shovel snow when they're not looking, and get away before anyone knows. How she ended up in her position is a long story, but it wasn't where she started. She wouldn't have chosen to work in a doctor's office, but due to a job switch, and the fact that I knew what a good employee she was, I kind of dragged her into it.

One evening last week I got a call from Bonnie. Her voice was shaking, but she had to tell someone. That evening, I believe Bonnie showed the world--and to her, it felt like the whole world--what she was made of. She was driving the company car behind an elderly man who was riding his small motorcycle slowly with his groceries behind him. Cars raced past him, honking their horns, yelling at him and harassing him to the point he wrecked his bike, tumbling over right there in the middle of the road, scraping blacktop as his groceries went flying.

No one stopped except our shy, germophobe office manager. Bonnie got out and ran into the middle of the road to find out if he was okay, and helped him to the side of the road, despite his protests about his eighteen broken eggs. He had an oxygen mask, and his arm was bleeding. Instead of throwing up, which she expected would happen, she ran to the back of the car and pulled out the medical kit, wrapped his bleeding arm, comforted him by sitting beside him and rubbing his back so he'd stop shaking. (She also stopped him from lighting a cigarette when she saw gasoline leaking from his motorcycle). Then she talked to him while he calmed down. She discovered he was a war veteran. Shy Bonnie tried to flag someone else down to help them because she couldn't get the motorcycle out of the middle of the road, but no one would stop and help. All her patient was worried about was his eighteen broken eggs, but she knew there could be a worse accident if she didn't do something.

She finally called 911. In minutes, an ambulance, firetrucks, highway patrol (which had sped past them earlier without stopping) came screaming toward her and this injured old man. I'm sure it was quite a spectacle, and poor Bonnie was just sitting there in the middle of it all, the center of attention with no place to retreat. Then, of course, proving her devotion to us, she pulled out a card for our clinic, and wrote her phone number on it in case the patient needed anything.

When it was all over and the road was cleared and the professionals took over, Bonnie drove to the nearest parking lot and had a mini-panic attack. She was on her way home when she passed a police car sitting beside the road. The policeman flashed his lights at her. She thought it was because he thought she was speeding, but he didn't pull out and stop her. I think he was giving her a salute for caring enough to help when no one else would stop for an old man on a motorcycle.

Funny, Bonnie has this weird idea that she's unworthy of attention. She won't listen when I disagree. But next time she tells me what a mess-up she is, I'll remind her of this day, and someday soon, she's going to see her likeness in one of my heroines. It takes more strength to do something that terrifies you and hold it together, than it does if that's your everyday job, and you're just plain good at it.

I'm proud of Bonnie. She's earned herself a place in a novel one day.

alexanderhodde | July 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm


Too Perfect by Hannah Alexander

June 24 ,2014

I'm here at ICRS enjoying old friends and meeting new ones. If you haven't heard of ICRS, it's an international Christian retailer's convention. Today I slung on all the bling I could wear to garner attention, then took my place at a signing booth. I guess the bling worked. I had an honest to goodness line! That never happens when I'm at a book signing back home, but then, people come here from all over the world to get free books. Back at the bookstores at home people are expected to buy my books. Here, the stuff is given away. It's a reader's heaven.

The signing was fun, seeing all those people who wanted to read my novel, but a problem arose that I could do nothing about. They say horses sweat, men perspire and women glow. I'm apparently a racehorse. It was horribly humiliating to drip so badly in response to the humidity that followed me from home. The bling I was wearing attracted everyone walking into the convention center, but when they got close, there was no missing the droplets coursing down my face and dripping from my hair. My eyeglasses were even steaming. Ick. I guess looks didn't matter to them. No one declined when my publicist told us to draw close for a photo shoot.

After the signing I remarked to my publicist how embarrassing it was to break into a drenching sweat in front of all those people. She said she once fell down three stair-steps of chairs in front of a huge audience. She posted online about it the next day. You know what? People like us to have flaws. Especially if we're being honored publicly in some way, tripping over our own feet or smiling with spinach on our teeth or dripping sweat lets everyone know that, even though we might be selected for something special, we're still human. It's true. I feel more comfortable with people who are as imperfect as I am.

I have a good friend who has a PhD in theology. She takes classes online and learns new things every day. Last night she helped me develop a gorgeous cover for my next novel. But she's not perfect. She doesn't figure numbers in her head. I love that about her, because being around someone too perfect can make me feel a little too flawed. I know how flawed I am, but it isn't fun to have it rubbed in. I like my friends with flaws. So maybe sometimes it's our flaws who draw people to us. You think?

This armadillo in the picture might have a hard shell on top, but he has a furry, tender underbelly. We all have a weak spot somewhere. Sometimes it helps to show those weak places to others. Not always, but sometimes.


True Love Takes Time by Hannah Alexander

a beautiful streamSee this beautiful stream? It’s peaceful to me, even romantic. The small trickle of water has made a course down the easiest path, gently moving stones and earth, reeds and brush.

Flood it with too much water all at once, however, and instead of a peaceful work of natural art, you would see destruction, such as the tree that’s fallen over the stream–it probably happened when that same stream overflowed its banks following a storm. Had it been more destructive, a large tree might have blocked the stream altogether, destroying its beauty.

I’ve seen too many relationships and hearts broken–not just in romantic love, but in friendship–because those in the relationship made judgments based on immediate gratification, when the rush of emotion overflowed natural boundaries and the individuals placed too much trust too quickly in an unknown entity.

How do I know this? From far too much experience.

Have you met anyone online lately? Has someone contacted you on Facebook or Twitter because of something you said that resonated with them? Did you quickly develop a mutual admiration for one another? In just a few weeks, or even less, did you decide you would be forever friends because of those experiences shared? I have. I’ve also seen it happen to others.

I’ve then seen too many of those relationships blow apart like a dirty bomb, damaging those who thought they’d formed a lifelong friendship, or maybe even a lifelong love. Why? Because it’s human nature to present your very best face to someone you think you might like. We hide our ugliness with sweet smiles and kind words. It’s especially easy to keep up a good front online. How many minutes a day do you spend sharing yourself with someone else via internet? All they see are your written words, nothing else. They don’t smell your morning breath or watch you eat or sleep or hear you complain when you drive in traffic.

People think they know me when they read a blog or a novel I’ve written. They don’t realize I’ve edited myself to death, and then have been edited again and again by a professional with my novels. They don’t realize I’ve deleted my first, second, third drafts, and worked hard to make my words pleasing. Some readers even think they know me through the characters in my novels. They don’t see the research that goes into developing each one. Those characters aren’t me. Sure, they might have parts of me, but my readers have no way of knowing which parts.

How many times have you watched a television show or movie and loved the actor because of the part they played? You might follow up on that actor and read more about him online and be extremely disappointed. It’s all fiction. Often, when we communicate online, it’s also fiction. We only allow our readers to see who we want them to, not who we really are.

That goes for physical, face-to-face interactions, as well. I put my best face forward when I’m in public because that’s what I’ve been taught to do.

When Mel and I went out on our first real, fourteen-hour date, sure, we got to know one another a little better, but it took many months of experiencing different situations together, difficult times, conflict, deep discussions, and meeting the families, relating with others, each seeing the other relate to mutual friends, before we truly had a concept about what to expect in a relationship of our own. If Mel had told me on our first date, or second, or third, that he loved me and wanted to marry me, or if I’d done the same to him, it would have made for a difficult relationship. It might even have destroyed what has become a beautiful marriage, not because we aren’t suited to one another, but because we needed that time of learning about one another, of gently growing closer with that slow trickle, instead of rushing forward with a torrent of premature passion. The torrent would have left our relationship damaged, possibly beyond repair. There’s a good reason the Bible tells us to delay physical gratification until after marriage.

All I’m saying is do what I have my heroes and heroines do in my novels; take your time in a new relationship of any kind. Get to know a person, allow him or her time to prove loyalty and constancy before giving them your complete faith. Once you feel you really know this person, continue to give it time. Don’t move too quickly or trust immediately. Whether we intend to or not, or realize it or not, we each wear a mask of some kind. Beware of the masks around you, and get to know the real people behind them before placing your trust there. Am I repeating myself? Yeah. And I’m not editing that out, because it needs repeating.

You can always trust God, but never take anyone else at face value. Time is your friend.

June 10, 2014, By Hannah Alexander

The Language of Romance by Hannah Alexander

This is a true incident, so some points were changed to protect identities.

I was talking with a friend lately about the language of love. He’s seeing someone who is kind, witty, and always telling him how much she enjoys his company, how attractive he is, how much fun he is. My friend–we’ll call him Walter–very much enjoys Muriel’s (I’m calling her Muriel ;-) ) company. She’s generous with her time, cooks fabulous meals for him and wants him to meet her family.

He’s holding back. I asked why. You know we often talk about battered women in broken relationships, but men can be verbally abused–even physically abused–by their wives. It’s happened. Walter, a widower, is afraid to test the waters again. Who could blame him? But he doesn’t want to live the rest of his life alone, so he started dating again, but he’s hesitant to get too close because Muriel might turn out to be like his late wife. He doesn’t believe in divorce.

Walter is uncomfortable when Muriel says sweet things to him–”You’re a wonderful man…I love your eyes…you’re so much fun…I love you…” Yeah, scary to get that close, and because the tendency for verbally abusive people is to say sweet things to their victim, then undercut them with a slice of venom–”Of course, you’re a pathetic loser”–Walter keeps waiting for the follow-up he got for nearly thirty years.

“But you don’t get the follow-up, do you?” I asked.

“No. It’s never come, I just expect it to,” he said.

“And you like Muriel, right?”

“Oh, yes. She’s a wonderful woman, and I enjoy her company so much, but it makes me uncomfortable because she’s always saying such sweet things to me, and she’s getting too serious.”

“If she truly loves you,” I said, “she’ll wait until you’re ready. Don’t let her push you. On the other hand, it sounds to me as if words of affirmation, from the Five Love Languages, are her way of showing her affection. If that’s the case, then you can encourage her friendship by speaking words of affirmation to her, even while you’re asking her to move more slowly.”

“But wouldn’t that just lead her on?” he asked.

“Not if you’re honest with her about how you feel. You can tell her the truth about how you feel about her–which is friendship and affection. From the time Mel and I met until he told me he loved me, it was almost a year and a half. I had to wait to hear those words. If I can wait, so can Muriel, but we eventually did get married, and now I hear those words every day.”

“Okay, gotcha. Say nice things to her.”

“Not just nice things,” I said. “Tell her how you feel about her beauty, her cooking, anything complimentary that is true, but also tell her the truth, that you need to move more slowly.”

I’m a firm believer in trying to speak the language of love as often as possible to my husband. I also believe that words of affirmation are helpful for any relationship–as long as they’re honest, and not being used to manipulate. If I like a friend’s novel, I’ll tell her. If I like a hairstyle, blouse, someone’s laughter or smile, if the situation calls for it, I’ll speak up about it. Everyone can use more words of affirmation. I think in a relationship, even if the other person’s love language is something else. words of affirmation can give anyone a lift and a new view of themselves, fresh encouragement, and joy.

Try it on someone today. Tell them how much you appreciate them, how you love their honesty, their kindness, or whatever else you admire about them. Done appropriately, it can make their day better.

February 4, 2014 by Hannah Alexander


Love is a Journey by Hannah Alexander

Yep, I’m still writing about romance, both in my novels and on the blogs. Why? because what beats love? There is romance between God and mankind, and girlfriends (had me some good girlfriend time this weekend, and it gave me such strength again.) There is buddy love between men who just can’t always tell their women everything, there is love of friends who will keep you straight and tell you the truth no matter what because they love you and want what’s best for you. There is painful love, and there is love with tons of laughter.

This weekend Mel and I went on a special retreat with some people we love–our clinic staff. At our last get-together, one of our staff members brought a date and announced they’ve decided to get married. I screamed–which might be why I don’t have much of a voice lately. We all hugged and loved on them–you’ve got to see our staff to believe it. God has blessed us.

So anyway, this weekend was the weekend of truth, in which our precious staff member (who is a widow at 66) and her man were thoroughly vetted to make sure he’s right for her (he’s in his early 70s) and that she’s right for him. Both have recently lost their spouses, and so we wanted to make sure they weren’t jumping into something too quickly. I’ve always thought that those who have had a good marriage before will be eager to jump right back into marriage once again. Well, these two fit. We carried Pepto Bismol in our purses because there were to kissing couples at our retreat–Mel and me, and our two new lovebirds.

The wedding is set. Their romance is right. Why do we know? Because we questioned them both thoroughly, we made sure they both were able to accept one another’s denomination, that they were taking this all to God, and that they were both givers. Mel rode down and back to the retreat with our groom in question, and is convinced. They are now fast friends. The man makes our staff member laugh. He makes all of us laugh, he is trustworthy, and he doesn’t get mad when we forget his name and call him Fred…no, Lee..no, Allen…no… Ralph…Oh, whatever, it’s your roll of the dice!
When they first announced their marriage, they were planning to wait a year to please everyone else. Now it’s going to be in July. Set date, no more waiting. I think we might have had something to do with talking them into not waiting. Ah, romance when you’ve done it all before and know what it’s like, and know better what to look for the second time around. I so totally believe in romance in all stages of life. I do, of course, believe in chastity, but since I do believe in chastity before marriage, I also can tell you not to make the engagement too long. Just sayin’…

What to watch for in a good future spouse who has lost that spouse to death: did he treat his former wife with love and respect? Will he respect your chastity before marriage? Does he put you first? Is he giving and loving? Is he willing to talk about anything? Are you open to listening to him talk and continue to grieve his loss? Can he do the same? Is he open to spending time with your friends? I’m sure others have more ideas. If you have them, want to help us lovebirds out?

January 7, 2014 by Hannah Alexander


Romance–Warts and All

Remember your first date with a guy you really liked? If you were like me, you spent days trying to figure out how to shape your eyebrows properly, how to make your hair hang just right, how to match the right clothes, and even practiced how to hold a decent conversation. I even purchased books about keeping a conversation going, and kept one in my purse the first few times I went out with Mel, because I sensed he was extremely shy, and wanted to be able to draw him out, since I was also extremely shy.

After your first date you probably returned home plagued with doubts about what you might have said or done wrong. Would he ever ask you out again? Did he like you as much as you liked him? Did he see the wart on the back of your neck? Did your breath make him sick to his stomach? Should you call him and tell him what a great time you had?

I know the feeling. Not the sick to the stomach feeling, but the lump in the pit of the stomach that agonizes over whether or not you said the right thing at the right time to entice him to ask you out again. And of course, with Mel, I was head-over-heels after our first real, planned date–not counting the multitude of dates my church staff sprang on us for three months to get us jumpstarted. (I did mention we were shy, right?)

From the time my friends (including my beloved pastor and his wife) began pushing Mel and me together, I started reading books on dating. They didn’t work well for me since I just happened to be in my late thirties, not my teens. I already knew about purity and mutual respect because I’d dated men who didn’t believe in those things. What I didn’t know was how to decide if this man was right for me. After all, I’d chosen unwisely so many times before.

The morning Mel was scheduled to pick me up for our first date (we went to the zoo and saw the dinosaur exhibit, my choice, visited friends of Mel’s in the hospital, his choice, went to see Forrest Gump, our pastor’s choice, and went hiking, my choice. Plus we ate out twice. And I insisted on paying half) I settled in my mind that this time, for the first time in my life, I was going to show my underbelly. (NO, not literally!) I was going to insist on hearing his personal experience with Christ. I was also going to address the age difference. He seemed so much younger than I.

When he finally picked me up (his wart, he’s always late for everything, but that morning it was because he was nervous, forgot if he’d closed the garage door, had to drive twenty minutes back to his house to check, ran out of gas…and on and on) I was immediately impressed because he had a four-wheel-drive Pathfinder, the kind of ride my friends told me I needed since I tend to drive to far out into the wilderness to hike. I’m hard on cars. Pretty much the first thing I told him was, “I hope this doesn’t put a damper on things, but I think I’m a whole lot older than you.”

He looked at me in surprised. “Really? You’re forty-three? Wow, you sure don’t look it.” (We actually used this scene in our book, Sacred Trust, because I based my main male character on Mel.)

“NO! I just turned 38.” And so I discovered Mel’s second wart. He was cursed with the inability to read ages correctly. But at least he was much older than I thought. My age didn’t bother him, and though he was so much like a kid that he occasionally wore me out with his energy, his age didn’t bother me.

Later during our date, I told him that I’d made a vow to God that I would never again have a close relationship with a man unless he was a rabid Christian. When I explained what I meant by that, Mel said, “Isn’t that what every Christian is supposed to be?”

Hurdle cleared, I’ve spent many hours, days, months, years with Mel, and the more willing we are to show one another our underbellies–warts and all–the more our marriage deepens.

I have a friend who found her husband on e-bay. Hmmm…no, wait, I meant eharmony. Not a huge difference, because you’ll find as many liars on eharmony as you will on e-bay, and just as many scam artists. My friend beat the system, though. She not only showed warts and all, but she weeded out the bad seed by asking them to answer questions most men out for something besides a godly relationship wouldn’t take the time to deal with. The man who did take the time was the man who was serious about the same things she was. He’s a precious treasure, and their marriage has been truly blessed, because she took the time to skim the dross, no matter how many she scared away, and go for the gold.

If I were to walk a friend through the dating process right now, I’d tell her to do the same thing. Skim the dross, weed the crop, scare them off if you can. If they’re serious about a relationship blessed by God, she’ll dig deeply enough to find the real man God intends for her.

So…got that? First date, show the warts. Show the real you. Be outspoken about what you need and will and will not do, remain pure so sex doesn’t mess up the growth of a lifelong friendship. I guarantee this will take you a long way toward finding the right kind of man in your life.

November 19, 2013 by Hannah Alexander


Miracles do Happen

Much of the country has been watching and praying as Oklahoma City and surrounding towns dig out of the debris and devastation caused by a monster tornado attack last night. Many of us prayed for a friend of mine who was stuck in the path of the twister, had no shelter, and didn’t know if her children or husband were safe. But my friend, though often attacked by disaster in her life, is also blessed by miracles. Last night, as we watched live coverage, we saw the tornado skip over her house as all around her lay devastation. This was the second time. Years ago, she had the same thing happen–a tornado jumped over her house. Her friends all rejoiced when she found her husband and children safe, though she grieves today for her church family and friends as they dig out of the debris.

My husband, Mel, was working in ER yesterday here in Missouri and preparing to come home. A tornado was sighted heading in the direction of the hospital, so he was not allowed to leave. We prayed, the tornado missed the hospital, didn’t touch down, and he just made it home a little late. Living in tornado alley sometimes becomes routine.
I just pulled up another clip in which a lonely older lady had dug her way out of the debris of her home after the twister hit. She’d been huddling in the bathroom with her little dog. She was bleeding and cut, but alive and grieving the lost of her dog when all of a sudden they heard a whimper beneath some of the debris, and saw the frightened eyes of her dog. The lady and reporter dug the pup out as the lady suppressed tears. She’d had two prayers–one was that she would live through the tornado, and the other was that her doggie companion would. Both her prayers were answered.

Amongst all the destruction and loss, miracles seem to be more prevalent than at other times. Perhaps it’s the contrast between pain and relief that makes the miracles more obvious. I’m not sure what it is.

I do know there are many miracles taking place today in Oklahoma. As I experienced here in my hometown when a tornado destroyed our main street, Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse were on their way as soon as they heard. Locals prepared meals daily for those working to find people who were lost and clear out the debris. In Oklahoma, huge semi trucks will be parked as close as possible to the devastation where they can reach people who need help, food, water, shelter, basics for survival.

If you want to help, please pray, and then send a check to one of these organizations that do so much good during times of disaster. Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse are thePiza Hut two I can personally vouch for. They send kind and caring volunteers to help heal the hearts of those with losses, and they use the money they get to do all they can to help clean up the debris and help people.

You can be a part of the miracles. What you do matters. Your love and compassion can help lives devastated by loss find hope again.


By Hannah Alexander, May 21, 2013 on Christians Read

Fashion Changes

Women in 1855Although I do appreciate the gorgeous silhouette these dresses from 1855 offered women, I'm just so doggone glad I never have to worry about being poured into one of the corsets they had to use. I like to breathe too much. It wasn't until I started researching information on my earlier historical novels that I grasped the extent of discomfort women experienced to follow the rules of fashion. In fact, compassion for the characters in my book, plus the lack of logic displayed by all the accoutrements of dress, incited me to place my characters in the country, far from city life, where they were free to dress comfortably enough to ride a horse astride.

As for me, I've never been a style maven. I don't even like to shop, so when I find myself in need of something to wear, I'll rush into a store, purchase anything that looks halfway decent and feels comfortable, and it isn't until I get home that I realize I look better in vee neck tops, not mock-turtlenecks, or that the hem doesn't come down far enough to cover the widest part of my backside, or that the color makes me look washed out. It doesn't help that I change my hair color every few weeks. Colleen is going to faint dead away next time she sees me, because now I'm blond--it was simply easier and cheaper than having it highlighted every six weeks.

As for comfort, I stopped wearing heels thirty years ago. Now everything I wear is comfortable, walkable and supportive. Now my clothing and shoes fit my lifestyle--comfy, laid-back. I figure if I'm comfortable in my clothes, I'll be more able to put those around me at ease, so Mary Janes, Sketchers and Birkenstocks are my footwear these days. My pants are so stretchy I could sleep in them if need be, and my tunics are loose enough that I don't have to suck in my stomach. Ever. My biggest nod to fashion is an occasional wide belt to emphasize that there is a feminine shape beneath that loose clothing.

I would love any tips on comfy fashion these days, since I'm scheduled to speak at least a couple of times this year, and am finally presenting my face in public after a long year of hibernation. Any helpful hints?

Labels: comfort, comfy shoes, fashion, historical dress

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, April 26, 2013

Tornadoes and Cats (by Hannah Alexander)

CatAt 2:45 a.m. one morning this week, Mel and I were getting a good night's sleep after a tornado warning the evening before. These days those warnings are barely a blip on the radar for us, since we get them all the time this season of the year (actually, most seasons of the year) and it's been a couple of years since our town was hit by one. It's been almost a decade since a tornado took out the whole downtown, so we've become a little lax about the weather.

Despite the excellent earplugs I always wear to bed, I was awakened by the low-but-annoying squall of our town's tornado alert system. Too tired to function, I pushed a loose earplug back into place and buried my face in my pillow. The siren grew louder, echoed by another down the road. I tried to block it out and go back to sleep. We live in a brick house. Tornadoes have always missed us before. Besides, Mel always said he wanted us to go together. Here was our chance--I don't always think clearly when I'm half asleep.

Of course, then my conscience kicked in while Mel snored softly beside me, oblivious. What if we were hit by a tornado and badly injured? Instead of dying and going to heaven, we'd be stuck here in damaged bodies. I hadn't even asked Mel what he wanted to do, so I was making the decision for both of us without consulting him.

With great reluctance, I slid out of bed and pulled the covers off Mel. "Honey, we need a flashlight."

"Mmmfttt-t-t" Or at least, I think that's what he said, because I still had my earplugs in.

"We can sleep with the cats the rest of the night." The basement is the cat's domain at night, because if we don't shut them down there, they'll either wander around outside and get eaten by coyotes, or try to break down the bedroom door and sleep with us. And they are NOT easy to sleep with.

"Is that a tornado siren?" Mel asked. I think. I refused to remove my earplugs because if I did, I'd wake up and never get back to sleep.

"We can sleep on the bed in the tornado room,"I told him. "It'll be fun. Something we've never done." We have a beautifully decorated room with no windows in the basement. It has a mural on one wall of a peaceful lake scene, and there's a very comfortable bed down there about half the size of our king bed. We could do this.

But we got down there and discovered that someone (Mel) had allowed the cats into the back half of the basement at some point, and now there was cat hair all over the bedding. I reached for an ever-ready cat-hair sticky roller and got to work. We live with four cats in our faces, so there's not much difference between that and sleeping in their hair. With the siren still blaring--warning us that we'd better stay down there and not go back upstairs to bed--we finally shut the door on the four wide-awake cats who were in the mood to place. I fell fast asleep.

Thank you, dear Denise, for introducing me to those silicone earplugs. They rock at blocking out caterwauling. At some point during the night, Teddy Bear, who considers herself a rock star, decided to serenade us. She has a voice like a garbage truck without a muffler, and goes around the house in search of the best places for her voice to echo. Poor Mel, who typically sleeps like a lump of lead, doesn't wear earplugs. He didn't get much sleep that night, so it's a good thing he didn't work ER the next day.

Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate our small town's desire to protect its citizens with this great alarm system for dicey weather. I even appreciate the company of our four strays on occasion. But sometimes the mix just doesn't work.

Labels: cats screeching, late night siren, tornadoes

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, April 19, 2013


GeeseThis is the time of year when the wild geese and ducks can be seen flying in formation--or in confusion--all around our town. Spring is bursting forth! Since Di was recalling a long-ago memory, I thought I'd follow along the same line of thinking. Many, many years ago, when I was single-again and staying with my mother far, far, far out in the country after my father died, I enjoyed living on the farm. I think that isolated farm, 1/2 mile from the nearest neighbor and hidden from the world behind trees, was my favorite place in the world.

Of course, the cattle were no longer our responsibility. Daddy sold them to a neighbor before he passed on, so the only animal life we had to deal with were dogs, skunks, armadillos and the occasional deer. Except for the skunks and one brainless dog who didn't know when to stop teasing the pretty black and white "kitty," it was calm on the farm.

I recall driving to work one morning during that time and watching the sky and the surrounding trees for pretty birds. We had all kinds of birds, from whippoorwills to nuthatch to bluebirds and jays. This one morning, though, I became excited when a flock of geese dove from the sky in formation and flew barely a foot above my car! Rarely have I seen ducks or geese fly this low, and I was so honored to be a part of it! I even stopped the car, mouth open in awe. How I wished someone could have been there to share it! Have you ever had that kind of moment? The life of the wild, right outside your car window? I felt so blessed.

Seconds after, however, I received yet more evidence of life flying over my car. Something plopped on the hood. I get the feeling the geese weren't as enchanted by my presence as I was with theirs.

Suitably put in my place, I continued my drive to work, but throughout the day I thought about those geese and chuckled. Sometimes you get a little bird plop in your life, but take heart, at least it's a sign of the nature that surrounds us, in all its glory.

Labels: farm life, Goose poop, nature

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, April 12, 2013

Firefly, Anyone?

SunsetMel and I have become couch potatoes this past year. It seems when everything in life comes at you at once, it kind of knocks the breath out of you, so for the first time in my life, instead of taking things outside to the hiking trail, I've taken to lying on the love seat or the exercise floor while Mel lies on the sofa, and we watch shows on Netflix. I've blogged about this before and received some great TV show tips from this blogsite. Thanks, girls. You've told me about NCIS, Criminal Minds, The Mentalist, Bones, Castle, some of the most exciting shows out there. Some gave me nightmares, granted, and I've had to get away from those at times and fall back on lighter fare, but you've given me some interesting hours of couch potato time.

Some friends of mine recently talked me into checking out Firefly--something I'd passed over before, even though it looked interesting, because it only lasted one short season. I figured the viewing public knew what they were talking about when they canceled it. After my friends did some arm twisting--these friends are of the creative persuasion, and insisted I must study the show for it's creativity--I decided to check out Firefly. Mel gave up after we were halfway through the long pilot because there wasn't nearly enough man-action while they introduced characters. I went back to my friends and complained. They continued raving about it. As a writer, I must experience it, or some such nonsense.

So while Mel was gone last weekend at a medical conference, I fired up the television, put on my exercise gear and went to work. I was going to find something to like about this show for the sake of my friends. Nathan Fillion (the star of Castle, by the way) is a funny actor. In my opinion, he has good comedic timing, which made the character work even when he was coming across as a hard-nosed jerk. I'm really slow on the uptake, but by the third or fourth episode, I realized the show was very truly a space cowboy show. In fact, the intro is played with extreme country twang and the picture shows horses running beneath a low-flying spaceship. Maybe in 500 years horses will become accustomed to spaceships and not stampede--oh, wait, come to think of it, they ARE stampeding on the intro.

Most of the settings are on western-style planets far from the center of the galaxy, and on those planets, the people live as Americans lived in the 19th century in the desert, much like the picture above. The main characters have quirks aplenty, and they talk the way we perceive hillbillies talked far out in the middle of nowhere over a century ago. I wasn't able to complete my marathon of 22 hours of Firefly before Mel got home Sunday night, so I tied him down and forced him to watch the final shows, as well as the follow-up movie, with me. He didn't complain much. We watched the movie, Serenity, tonight. I don't know that the movie would stand alone, but it does an interesting and exciting job of tying up loose ends, and there was plenty of fighting and action to keep even Mel interested.

One other perk, every time I watched it I saw our own beautiful Denise Hunter in the guise of one of the characters. If Denise had dark brown, wavy hair, she would be the spitting image of this young woman.

If you get Netflix, you might want to check out Firefly. It might not be for you, but then again, the dialogue truly is more interesting than the average fare. I fast-forwarded one scene I did not like, but I played back some scenes so I could catch the rhythm of the words.

So...anyone else have some favorite shows to share? Now that I'm done with Firefly I'm back to watching reruns.

Labels: Eugene Patterson photography, Firefly, tv shows

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Thursday, March 07, 2013


Are You in Pain?

Dr Mel HoddeToday I didn't know what to blog about, so I called Mel at the clinic and asked him what he could tell me about pain, since I always seem to be in it. These are the highlights of our conversation:

"I'd love to help, sweetheart," he said.

"Oh, thank you, honey. Make it simple for me, okay?" I asked. And now you will see why I stressed that.

"Pain is usually a reflex arc," he said. "Every part of a pain response is a two-part. There is the afferent and there is efferent. Afferent is affect, and efferent is effect and--"

"Wait! Honey? What was it you just said?"

"The classic is you put your hand on a hot stove and you don't know it's hot. Pain is the afferent response. As a result of the brain feeling pain, it triggers you to pull your hand back, therefore it's efferent--or the effect. It's what the muscles do in response. So a reflex arc doesn't require a higher brain function."

"Um. Mel? Mel? Honey! Wait, I can't keep up! I can't type that fast--"

"--so treating pain is a process of cause and effect. You just have to remove what's causing the pain. It isn't usually as simple as taking a hand off the hot stove. The cause of most pain is not nearly as obvious. The best thing is to figure out what's causing the pain."

"Okay, wait, I have afferent and efferent. How do you spell those?"

"If you take away the cause, you take away the pain. While you're trying ot figure it out, you give pain blockers, which are narcotics--not something the doctor will willingly give you. Ultram is a newer pain med that works pretty well and doesn't have as much of an abuse potential, so the docs are more likely to give it to you. However, if you already take narcotics for pain--"

"Mel? Mel! Slow down! I have reflex arc for the second time. Is there another word for--"

"If you can't adequately block the pain, then you distract. That is how a tens unit works. It comes from the term trans cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It substitutes one pain for another, but the electrical stimulation distracts them from the old pain."

"Hold it. Wait. I'm trying to type this quickly, honey. What did you just--"

"Lidocaine, on the other hand, kills pain as an anesthetic. It doesn't block nerve endings, but it numbs them. It doesn't last long, so it doesn't work well for long-standing pain."

"Okay, lidocaine. Is that spelled with an e at the end, or--"

"General anesthesia puts the brain to sleep--another way of killing pain for surgery, though of course you can't use that for chronic pain. Epidurals are versions of lidocaine, going for bigger nerves to anesthetize, so it's a regional anesthesia."

"There! That's the word I want. Chronic pain. I need to know how to treat chronic pa--"

"For chronic pain, if you have a tens unit and use it daily, that could help distract from the pain. Capzacin has a distracting agent in it that burns the skin, but the burn tends to go away if you can stand it long enough."

"All right! Now we're on a roll!"

"Benzocaine is a topical lidocaine, so that's used for sunburns or toothache. Ambesol and Orajel are toothache benzocaines."

"How can that help with chronic pain?"

"A classic example for fixing pain is to liken it to a broken bone--not to gross anyone out-- that's out of place, when you reset it, lining the bone up is probably as good at pain control as blasting the patient with pain medi--"

"No, honey, please go back to the chronic pain treat--"

"It's the same with dislocations. It hurts when something is dislocated, and it hurts getting it back into place, but the body wants you to know about the problem with a lot of pain. You fix it, you're better. Like a thorn in the foot. You don't take pain meds for the thorn in the foot, you remove the thorn."

"Okay, honey." Sigh. "I love you! Thanks for helping. See you soon! Remember, I have an appointment for you to adjust my back today."

"Oh. Okay, sweetheart. Is that all you needed?"

"Yeah, once I get it sorted out."

So, girls, you got that? You slog through those brainiac words and decipher them. My job here is done.

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, February 15, 2013

Have You Crashed Lately?

Piza HutHere in Southwest Missouri we are prone to tornadoes, and though there is a specific season for that, we’ve had towns wiped out when it was totally not the season for tornadoes. Therefore we have designated shelters, lots of basements, storm watchers and wind-up weather radios. It’s a huge deal here.

One tornado sneaked in on us a couple of years ago and destroyed the local Pizza Hut and nearly missed the apartment complex where my mother lived, only three blocks away. We had no warning. Ten years ago our town was destroyed on May 4 except for four buildings on the main thoroughfare. We have our hidey-holes, believe me.

Today, however, I was caught off guard in a different way, which is why this post is later than I’d hoped. No tornadoes this time–not yet, anyway–but our internet/phone provider was apparently attacked and the main wiring was destroyed. It supplied the whole area of Southwest Missouri. Our clinic had no phones and no computers to treat patients, I had no access to internet, and no phones.

Mel and I are now discussing if we should have a backup system in place–perhaps with a different provider–so this doesn’t catch us off-guard again. I can miss posting a blog, but patients depend on their doctor to be up and running at any time, so Mel can’t afford to let his people down.

I read another blog today that impacted me, as well. I know we can’t live our lives in fear of attack, but do you take precautions when you’re driving at night to make sure no deer run out in front of you, ensure that you have working headlights and taillights, and if you stop somewhere at night, as mentioned on The Killing Zone blog, do you take precautions to protect yourself from attack? I was almost attacked once at night in the mall parking lot. I was just getting into my car when a man grabbed me and tried to shove me into my car so he could force me across the seat and he could follow. I screamed like a little girl and kept screaming, and the man ran away.

Do you have backups in place in case your primary system–any kind of system–fails you? I have only one primary source that never fails me, and that is Jesus Christ. For everything else, I need backup.

By Hannah Alexander, February 5, 2013 on Christians Read


Don’t Fence Me In…Or Should You?

FenceI’ve always been a bit of a rebel, and I’ve never understood why. It isn’t that I don’t believe in rules, because I do. Logic tells me that abiding by good rules is the smart way to live. Having discipline in our lives can make us much better people and give us abundant success, and since I’m a logical person, it would stand to reason I would abide by the rules, discipline myself, and be a success in whatever I choose to do in life. After all, this beautiful river retains its beauty because it follows the riverbed that’s been carved out over thousands of years. If not for the guidance of soil and boulders, the depth and quality of the water would be shallow, filled with sludge, useless. But do I always think about that before I rush into life headlong without a guide?

Nope. In fact, among novelists, I would be called an SOTP person–Seat of The Pants–even though I don’t typically write that way. Right now I’m baking a gluten-free, low carb blueberry-peach cobbler. I have no idea what it’ll taste like, because I didn’t first look for a recipe, I just made it up as I went with the ingredients I had at hand. My poor husband has learned to smile and say “yum” no matter what comes out of the oven. Thanks to experience and knowledge of foods and baking, I even get it right sometimes. Just not always. I tend to be spontaneous.

Do you ever find yourself doing that? Rushing into a situation without stopping to think of the consequences? Do you occasionally like to be spontaneous? Have you ever hopped into your car without the GPS turned on or a map spread across the seat, and just driven to see where the road would take you? Even more dangerous, have you ever taken a hiking trail, then veered from the main trail onto a place less traveled? Throughout my life, I have tended to take that trail less traveled. At times, I’ve been disappointed. At times, I’ve been lost (more times than I’d like to recall).Often, however, I’ve found new vistas I’d never dreamed were there, encountered fresh valleys, wild animals, trickling brooks of pure beauty I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

Our pictured river, after all, originally made its own way through the mountains, following the path of least resistance. I’m sure the formation of the banks changed over the years, and it’s different from what it once was. So even a river, especially during flood season, enjoys some spontaneity.

I still believe in following the rules, and as I’ve matured I’ve learned to do that more consistently. Still, at heart, I love it when I give in to a spontaneous spirit and explore life, trails, roads, cooking in a new way. I encourage you to try it. Live a little more often, forget the map and wander from the road once in a while. You might be surprised at the new discoveries just around an unknown corner.Signs of Life

By Hannah Alexander, JANUARY 22, 2013 on Christian Read


Pine treeI am crazy about this picture! Not only can I look at it and conjure the scent of vanilla, pine and hazelnut that is typical of the Tahoe area, but I love the image of life bursting forth from an image of death.

We are presently in the process of refurbishing my mother's country home (built like a modified A-frame lake cabin) for future resale. It's been ignored for a few months, and everyone who drives by can tell. Some of the decorative fence posts have fallen down, and the paint has faded inside and out. The carpeted areas need to be replaced, and curtains and windows, as well. It's the middle of winter, and the place looks lifeless. In the spring, all the trees and shrubs Mom planted in the huge yard will begin to bloom and show the life she invested into it over the years of her own life. She was so proud of that yard. I want to honor her efforts.

I was talking to a friend about what to do today, and she suggested that the inside of the house needs to show some evidence of life. Pictures on the walls need to have animals in them, or bright flowers. A bowl of waxed fruit would brighten the room. Even silk flowers would be nice. Huge oak beams separate the ground floor from the cathedral ceiling, with an-oak railed loft overlooking the downstairs area. The first time my mother and I walked into that house twenty years ago, we knew that was the place for her. Now that she's gone, we need someone else to fall in love with it and treat it with respect.
I'm wondering what new life would look like to someone else walking in that front door for the first time.

Can you imagine? What would you want to see? What do you think of when you're looking for evidence of life?

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hey Girls--Enjoy the Journey

This trail is a long one, wide enough for a vehicle, but I don't drive it, I walk it so I can enjoy it more completely. I have begun to take my time to listen to the birds, and for the rustle in the brush that could lead me to a live armadillo rooting for food, or the cry of an eagle overhead. I couldn't hear those things from a car with an engine running. I have met with God here so many times in the touch of the breeze and the feel of the sun and shadows sliding over my skin, even in the rain that once drenched me and had me shivering and numb all the way back home.

There are hardships on this trail. The rocks and potholes could break an ankle or sprain a knee if I'm not careful, and if I touch the wrong bush I could get poison ivy. Copperheads and rattlesnakes have greeted me on this trail from time to time, and ticks and chiggers are vile and vicious creatures that frighten me more than the snakes because there are so many more of them. I carry protection against anyone who might be guarding their marijuana harvest or meth lab.

I learned long ago that enjoyment and suffering, laughter and tears are two parts of the same package. You can't feel joy quite so exquisitely unless you've felt its opposite. In our journey through life, we will hit the proverbial potholes and rocks--some of which are dangerous boulders that can knock us sideways: illness, the loss of a beloved, a church split, rebellious children, abusive people with power over us in our jobs and homes. The more deeply we delve into life, the more easily we can be wounded, but with those wounds, we grow.

At the end of the journey, as at the end of each hike I take, I believe what matters is not so much what happened to us during the journey, but the choices we made in response. Inevitably, those choices are what will determine what we become. What choices have you made lately, or what has happened to you that will have an impact on your choices?

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, September 28, 2012

Hey Single Girls--You Rock!

Cheryl Hodde aka Hannah AlexanderI was single once when I was a senior in high school, and in college, but then I married. It would have been great had I actually tried to make a wise choice, but no, I just wanted to get married. It seemed so vital. When I decided it was time to have babies, hubby screamed like a little girl and ran for the hills. I needed a man in my life, so I remarried quickly. I got my children, though they belonged to another woman. I loved those kids. Little did I know that they would always be all I had. I eventually ended up a single woman again, and this time I was determined to stay that way. I could get away with it if I didn't spend much money, if I continued to live in the apartment in Mom's garage after Daddy died, and kept working my day job and writing at night. But along came Mel two years after my second husband screamed and ran like a little girl when I wanted to work on the marriage.

But you know what I discovered? Living single isn't for sissies. I knew a lot of other single women at that time, and many had to share apartments because they didn't make enough money to live alone. Those who did live alone--out of fear that common courtesy would not prevail and they would be labeled mean names--struggled to get by constantly. They still do. When one chooses to make it on her own, she's got a hard road. Often, women don't make the income men do, so they struggle financially more than most men. They can't do the hard work men often do to make more money.

So I'm proclaiming this Help a Single Woman Day. If you have a female friend who is single, take her out to lunch or give her a gift certificate for a mani-pedi or a new blouse or a good meal. Treasure these ladies who struggle to keep their heads above water much of their lives. Show them love and acceptance, and never let them feel like second class citizens, because they aren't. Being married doesn't make us better than single folk, it just means life is often easier financially and relationally for us. Count you blessings, and bless a single woman.

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, September 07, 2012

Journey Through the Bad Place

Last week Mel and I flew west to attend a conference for his upcoming change in career choice–from ER to private practice. We stayed at the resort where the conference was held at Lake Tahoe–one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion. Our stay there was perfect, and Mel learned more than he’d ever expected to learn. He’s so excited!

The travel to and from the conference, however, was like a trip through the bad place. Had I been given a choice, I wouldn’t have gone. I was struggling with strep throat, was taking antibiotics–therefore wasn’t contagious–and had no energy. A trip anywhere, even to one of my favorite places in the world, did not excite me. I was depressed, grumpy, sick. Mel, however, insisted. That’s not like him. I didn’t want to disappoint him, because he hates traveling without me, and he knows how much I love Tahoe. So I went, and tried hard to be sweet about it. Funny, all I did was grumble to God. I didn’t think to ask Him to help me enjoy it.

Our first clue that it would not go well was when the initial flight was late. Then we were loaded quickly into the jet, taxied to the take-off area, where the pilot turned off the engines. “Folks, there’s a weather problem at our destination, so we’ll have to just sit here awhile until we’re given the go-ahead.” We were assured that we would be there in time to catch the next flight in our layover–that they would wait for us. We weren’t. They didn’t. We did have a nice meal of sushi at the San Francisco airport before catching the next flight, which was also late. We saw no signs of weather problems, so we’re not sure what caused the delays. I know I complained a lot. Worse, because we arrived late at night, there was nighttime construction taking place on the road, so what would have taken us thirty minutes took us an hour. Poor Mel couldn’t help hearing me sigh and grumble under my breath. Funny, I didn’t think to pray.

Finally we arrived! Of course, it was way past our bedtime, so we tumbled into bed without unpacking, and I slept late the next morning. The next afternoon, when Mel came back from class, he was ecstatic, I was awake, and he insisted we explore the area. He took me on a hiking trail and I hiked for the first time in almost two years. I tried to be cheerful, but I was sick, sad, stuck in depression. This was my first time back in my home state of California since my mother’s death this past winter, and grief still held me–the reason I’ve been sick for so many months. I couldn’t walk very far that day, so we only hiked about a mile, and then caught a shuttle back from the Squaw Creek Square. I crawled into bed and Mel climbed in beside me. We watched TV the rest of the night. I spent no time in my Bible or talking to God. I just grieved.

The next day, however, I emailed some friends about my struggle, and those friends started praying. My throat still hurt and I still didn’t feel well, but when Mel returned to the room he was bouncing with excitement over what he was learning, and I caught some of that excitement. We hiked much farther that day, and the scent of Squaw Valley–hazelnut and vanilla combined with pine–began it’s work on me. The sunshine dazzled me, and my spirits lifted. They never dropped quite so low again for the rest of the trip. Finally, halfway through the week, as Mel and I were hiking again, I said, “Honey, did you know how badly I didn’t want to come on this trip?” He said, “Yes, Sweetheart. I knew. I also knew that you would start to feel better once you got here. You needed to get out of that house and start to live again.” I said, “Do you know how much I love you?” He took my hand, then took me into his arms and kissed me, then held me tightly there in the middle of the forest in the Sierras. “Yes, I know.” And I thanked God for such a wonderful husband. I started speaking to God a little more, as well.

We didn’t have any more trouble until we started back home. At the airport in Reno we returned to the bad place. No flight. Engine problems. We spent the night at a local hotel and spent hours trying to contact someone to get us out of there the next day. Mel got it worked out, though we no longer trusted this airline to tell us the truth about anything. The next day we finally boarded, after yet another delay, but by then I was on better speaking terms with God, and I asked hundreds of friends online to pray. Of course, as we sat in the plane, the hostess explained that they had to fix the bathroom door. We and the rest of the folks on the jet made a pact to never fly with this airline again, but my attitude was somewhat better, even after our flight out of Denver was also delayed. I’m so glad we didn’t know until the next day that that same airline had a jet lose an engine over Newark NJ about the same time we were flying. They circled for hours before landing safely. With all the problems this airline had, it could have been us.

So I still don’t like to fly. I probably will again, though not with this airline. And not without a lot of prayer. What was I thinking, to get onto a jet without praying first? Whew. I hope I never do that again. With God as the pilot of my life, everything goes smoother.
Have you ever had a discovery like that? Come pray with us.

Hey Girls--Need a Wife?

Cheryl Hodde aka Hannah AlexanderMy overly busy editor once remarked that she needed a wife to follow along behind her and help her keep up. She's a busy woman. She runs a slick, excellent team of editors and assistants, and yet even with that kind of help, she feels the need for a wife to help her in her daily life.

Sometimes our lives become so hectic that we need help. Some husbands pitch in and help, sometimes even without throwing tantrums, crying or making us pay them back double. Mel doesn't throw tantrums, but he is still busy switching from night to day shifts. We can never keep on top of his schedule, and that was especially difficult when my mother was staying with us last year. I needed help. I needed a clone, another me to get everything done that had to be done and see to it that Mom was well cared for.

Enter Bonnie, who was looking for a job. I found out she was looking for jobs in a small city with no job openings, especially not good enough for her qualifications. I asked her to take on the job of helping me. She could be my assistant, help me care for Mom as I tried to focus on writing. The decision for both of us was a gift from God. We'd known each other for 37 years, so there was already trust established. Bonnie did anything I asked. She spent lots of time with Mom to keep her occupied as Mom's dementia worsened and sundowner's caused everyone trouble.

Mom passed on to heaven this year, and since all her sisters went ahead of her, I'm sure she's still enjoying a family reunion. But after the funeral, after family returned home. Mel and I decided to keep Bonnie. She became my personal assistant in my writing job. She's read nearly all our Hannah Alexander novels and written honest reviews of them--and get this, they didn't all earn five star ratings. She speaks her mind, tells me to stop scratching my head and stop fiddling with this mole on my arm. She shows me how to decorate. It all goes in one ear and out the other, but Bonnie will soon have a wonderful chance to decorate a new clinic for Mel. She'll not only be my assistant, she'll be the decorator of the clinic, and then she'll be office manager at the clinic, because that's what she does with my real estate here at the house, plus our household accounting. She's a treasure. I think Mel and I will be fighting to see who gets her back, but we'll try to share nicely and not overwork her.

Have you ever dreamed of having someone come into your house first thing in the morning and clean your dishes from the night before, do laundry, never invade your private space, and yet talk to you as an equal, not someone of a different class. Someone who shares your faith in Christ, and therefore can remind you when you're down that God has it under control?

Can you imagine the joy of having someone help you as you help them? Many can't afford full-time assistance, but it's good for me to know that Mel and I are helping Bonnie stay in her home, and she deserves it, because she saved my life. What I was going through with Mom knocked my feet out from under me. I'm still reeling from it, getting sick constantly--right now I have a very painful form of strep. But even when Mel's at work, I can hide in my home and heal while Bonnie takes the load off my back shopping for groceries, getting the car taken care of, drawing up plans for the new clinic.

I highly advise it. Don't take on a job that's too big for you without getting someone to help. It can forge lifelong friendships and enlarge your family with good people.

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, August 10, 2012

The AWE Moment

I had an "awe" moment today in the grocery store. A couple had brought their tiny baby shopping with them, and the daddy held her. I never got a good look at her because it always seemed busy around them. My assistant, Bonnie, was shopping with me, and she couldn't get a good look at her, either. It wasn't that busy in the store, because we were able to get to a checker right away. We didn't have any trouble getting to the items we needed--how many people shop for special diet cat food and distilled water? Still, we just got tiny glimpses of the baby.

It wasn't until I was through the checkout line and unable to get further that I realized a handsome, tough looking elderly man was stopped in front of me with the most tender and loving look on his face. He was tall enough to see over other heads to the baby, who was surrounded by at least ten people.

While I waited for him to move--I wasn't about to interrupt the joy I saw in those wise old eyes--I started watching others who entered the store. Every single person who came into view of that tiny infant was immediately caught in wonder. Many of them, like the man blocking my way, simply stopped and gawked. I had to settle for the enjoyment of watching them, and that was quite a treat.

Any of those people whose eyes lit up could have been a likable character in one of my books. Another word for that could be a "pet the dog" moment, in which a character we want our readers to care about does something that tugs at our hearts, like becoming enthralled by the sight of a tiny baby.

What enthralls you? I'm not asking whether or not you're a writer, but what moments in your life have made you stop and catch your breath in awe?

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on July 06, 2012

Hey Girls--Good Stewardship Can be Fun!!

Catalina IslandWe finally did it! Mel and I took a vacation, including sun, sand--lots of sand--beach, of course, and salt water up our noses and other orifices, sand in our ears, lots of screaming and laughter and hideous pictures of me that I can't convince Mel to delete from his underwater camera. It was an absolute delight hitting those waves every evening after the sun had lost most of its power.

Here's where the stewardship comes in, though: we didn't plan the way we should have. I mean, I love to drive to our destination, especially when we're not too far away. I hate flying. But when you have ten days to enjoy yourself and relax into a different frame of mind, don't you think you would want to spend as much time as possible at the beach, which is your main destination? But no, not me. I hate to fly, and I was positive we could drive at my usual speed and reach our chosen beach in a day and a half. It took three days. I thought we could at least gain an hour going back, especially since we took the main interstate highways back home. No. Our trip to the beach took three days. We had four full days of hitting the waves and laughing and cuddling in our warm room at night, eating out, sharing with a friend who spent the night. Then we had three days to travel back--just in time for Mel to change into his scrubs and hit the ER doors.

What is wrong with this picture? Just because I hate flying, does that give me the right to deprive Mel of still more days on the beach? No, it does not. So on our next vacation, if Mel's employer agrees, we're taking ten days and we're flying. There's a place we've never been to on Myrtle Beach, and it's a part of our timeshare, right there on the beach. I'm looking up flight info now. No more of this depriving my man of more time on the surf, rescuing me as the waves catch me and roll me over and over until I can't catch a breath and don't know which way is up. I'm sure Mel enjoys proving his masculine strength and he-man nature at times like this, when he can show his love for his wife by rescuing her over and over and over again. And I can show my love for him by slathering him with sunblock when he goes snorkeling.

Ah...the beach. Vacation. Wise use of time. We're going to have it all next time. I don't suppose anyone has any super traveling tricks that will help us be more efficient in our packing and traveling next time...?

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, June 01, 2012


Hey Girls--Dream ON!

CatalinaOne of my dreams has always been to go to the island of Catalina, but I'm not talking about that kind of dream here. I'm talking about an honest to goodness REM sleep dream in which freaky things happen and leave you confused, weirded out or just plain frightened for days afterward. Have you had dreams like that?

I had one like that last night. It was actually set in a place like one of the houses pictured above. Mel and I were moving into a different house (in the dream), but the people who had lived there left their furniture, and it was old and dusty and ugly, and the people weren't even gone yet. One might gain some insight into what's going on in our lives just by knowing that much. So why am I confused? Yes, we're having some major life changes, and being one of those creative types, I tend to make whole ranges of mountains out of anthills. So I've thought about this dream all day. It seemed to me that there were some interesting possibilities for interpreting this dream, but I'm not getting much out of it. Care to take a stab at it? Moving new furniture into a house that already has furniture, making room for sleeping comfortably and in privacy, taking the bedroom out of the living room...that kind of thing.

And how about you? Do you have a particular dream that recurs and confuses you? Oh! Oh! I have a great dream every so often in which I realize that I'm dreaming, and that I have the ability to make myself fly. I love those dreams! Anything to share? And if you would like to try to give me a hint about why my dream was so weird, give it a try. I'd love to hear it!

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, May 11, 2012


Hey Girls--Vacation Plans, Anyone?

The BeachMel and I have been told by most of our friends that we need to take a vacation. I think that sounds like a wonderful idea and would have made plans long ago if I'd had any idea about where and when. We still aren't sure. I'd love to go to the beach--and to me that means the east or west coast, preferably the west, since I was born there and have a lot of family up and down the coastline. It all depends on time. We simply won't have enough time to drive to California in the short time we're being allotted.

Right now we're trying to save as much money as possible, so flying is out. Besides, I hate flying. I think, instead, what we'll do is take a slow vacation.

To me, a slow vacation means packing a couple of bags and hopping into the car, taking a two-lane road and looking for beauty along the way. When there's no destination in mind, every turn in the road reveals something new and interesting. When we're not in a rush, we can stop when we see a pretty stream and jump out of the car to explore, even wade and splash each other if we want to.

To me, a slow vacation means putting a cd of an audio book into the player and listening to a favorite author. It means stopping whenever we see a neat place to stay, using our AAA card for a discount, and turning in early if we wish.

I love I-40 west, and there have often been places we've passed up in our rush to "get there." I'd like to find the old Route 66 my parents used to drive to get back and forth from our home in California to their hometown in eastern Missouri. Since I'm writing some historicals now, driving west into Kansas and beyond might be good research for our next novel. And then there's always been this wide open space in New Mexico where we drove for miles and miles without ever seeing another car.

Another thing I love to do is find a pretty, small town and walk around exploring it for ideas for a new series.

Right now, I just can't decide. I could use some help. Have you seen any beautiful places you'd like to share with us? Where to you like to go on vacation when funds are tight and you just need to be calm and rest for awhile? We could use some help.

Labels: destinations, family vacations, summer fun

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, March 23, 2012


Hey Girls--Kick up Your Heels!
Women at tableOne of my favorite things to do, next to spending time with Mel playing gross-out to see who can watch the bloodiest episode of NCIS or Bones and maintain an appetite, is to spend time with girlfriends.

There hasn't been a lot of time for that lately. I did get to see my girlfriends from high school, who came to Mom's funeral, but we usually like to spend more time together than that, hence this picture of some of us blowing off steam on a recent retreat.

This week, however, Mel and Bonnie, our assistant, and I were told by the grief counselor that we needed to take some time away and just play. Well, I've had God tell me that same thing on a talk on one of my hikes in the past, but the words sounded strange coming from a real, live therapist who was once a minister. So on Monday he advised Mel and me to take the rest of the afternoon off and go to Joplin to Red Lobster. Since king crab is our favorite food, and safe on our gluten free diets, we did as we were told, leaving Bonnie at home to type one of our next projects. Poor Bonnie.

The food was great, since we both love crab legs, and we relaxed as we took our time driving back home to check on Mom's gravesite. It's beautiful out there in the middle of the country, serenaded by milk cows, and we held a serious discussion about what next in our lives. Mel had promised to live where we are as long as Mom was alive. He could now choose where he wanted to go, what hospital he wanted to work in, what kind of job he might be interested in.

Yesterday, Mel had to work, so Bonnie and I decided it was her turn to take a trip with me to Springfield, eat at Outback, shop for shoes (she needed a new pair) and just have some fun. No one warned me before we went that Bonnie is a shoe freak. Even Bonnie didn't warn me until we reached Sears and I saw the gleam in her eye at the 1/2 price sale signs all over the place in the shoe department. She had five pairs tried on and replaced before I could even figure out what she was looking for. I can tell you this for sure: her taste in shoes is the exact opposite of mine.

I go for hiking boots and Birkenstocks--one pair of which I did find at deep discount in Dillards. I salivated so heavily that by the time I made up my mind about them. they were so slobbered on I no longer wanted them. Besides, they were pea green. Yes, the same color as the shoes Bonnie had just purchased and loved, but her coloring matched that color of green. Mine definitely does not. I have to return to Springfield next week with Bonnie to have one of "those" follow-up check-ups where parts of your anatomy is hideously abused, and you have to take narcotics to bear the pain. I figure the shoe sales will still be on, and we missed at least one shoe store on the mall. I have a feeling I may go back and check on that one pair of green Birks that I might be able to dye when I get them back home.

But speaking as someone who isn't a shoe freak, I can still admire from afar the sparkling, high-heeled monstrosities of ankle-breaking seduction that has obviously drawn many a woman into crutches much too early in her life. The last time I wore high heels was when the heel broke on my right shoe. I twisted and fell on my face in the gravel, and was sure I was scarred for life. When it turned out I had jumped to conclusions I decided I wouldn't take that chance again. Now I love flats. Cute sandals with darling rows of straps and chains around the ankle. Oh, my. So may shoes, so little time!

How about you? Do you have a shoe preference? If so, is it modest and comfy, or would you be willing to suffer agony to wear a beautiful pair of high heeled shoes with gold sparkles and straps and even glitter on the soles of the shoes? How far are you willing to make sure your feet are beautifully adorned?

Labels: boots or slinky heels?, Girl fun, Shoe sales, Shoe shopping

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Thursday, March 15, 2012


What I Discovered in the Laundry Room

Sunset Nov 99, by Eugene Arthur PattersonColleen mentioned this week in her blog that my mother passed away two weeks ago. Caring for Mom in her illness has kept me focused on her for quite some time, and I've done little more. Hence, I've written few blogs to some of my favorite blog girls. I've missed y'all.

Though I'm an only child with no children of my own (except for my wonderful stepsons) I was surrounded by family from before the night Mom passed away and for a whole week afterward. Our house was packed, and those days I would otherwise have spent in grief recalling the awful last days of Mom's life, I spent instead with Mel, and cousins and my uncle and close friends keeping food in my mouth whether I wanted it or not, keeping me active and distracted, even taking me to get a massage.

The day after everyone left was the first time I had alone, and I cried all afternoon, despite the fact that Mom was a staunch believer, and I knew she was forever out of pain. I could close my eyes and see Mom's face, eyes open wide in fear when she didn't know what was happening to her in her demented state. The memories of Mom's suffering were like a haunting I could not shake, and I walked around the house devastated, sat on her bed and sobbed.

But then I received an email from yet another cousin, who is a missionary in China. She'd been trying to reach me for several days, but their systems don't always work where she lives. She'd had a dream the night before Mom died, in which she saw Mom in the arms of Jesus. Her words brushed away those awful memories that had haunted me. I don't even have to close my eyes to see that picture in my mind. Yet another cousin to the rescue. Have I mentioned that I love my cousins? So now I can attend grief counseling for six weeks and learn how to do this right--if there's really a right way to do it.

Last night I was alone again while Mel worked a late shift. I went down to the basement laundry room to check on his scrubs, and my attention caught on the row of Mom's clothing we'd hung there because we had run out of room in her small closet upstairs. For the first time, I didn't feel pain at the sight of something that reminded me of Mom. In fact, I smiled. I walked over to the first shirt and caressed it. Mom had no more use for these clothes because she is now dressed in her heavenly clothing, and she's in the arms of Jesus. There is sadness and pain in suffering, and there is a sense of loss when someone you love is no longer with you. But in truth, there is great joy with the realization that the one you love is with Christ in heaven, never again to be confused or frightened, never again to suffer pain.

Labels: Eugene Patterson photo, grief counseling, sunsets

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, March 09, 2012


Hey Girls--How do You Compete?

ElkI'll tell you right now, I hate competing, especially if the competition is against a friend I wouldn't want to hurt. And that's not to say I'd win any competition. Some, of course, are a no-brainer. I could eat my weight in maraschino cherries, and Mel can't stand them, so I'd win that contest without even a showdown.

My mother has a caretaker, Bonnie, who comes to our home every day to help us with Mom. I discovered a sad part of her character the other day--she loves sour balls, sour suckers, sour teas. That's not so bad, I don't suppose. We all have our weaknesses. I'm champion maraschino cherry eater (and cherry seed spitter, but that's a more romantic story about how I won Mel over during our courtship.) But when my husband AND Mom's caretaker compete against one another to see who can suck on a sour sucker the longest without making a face, I can't help wondering what this world has come to.

My favorite source of food competition is hot stuff. Not only hot Mexican sauces of some kind, but horseradish or wasabi sauce that can take the skull right off the top of your head and set it back in place backward.

You can take your ball games and your races and your speed writing. Give me a good ol' eating contest any day until the smoke is catching your hair on fire or your jaw is splitting from the tartness of a cherry sucker.

What's your pleasure when it comes to food competition?
Labels: Competition, men or women?, photos by Eugene Arthur Patterson, Who's better

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, January 20, 2012


Hey Girls--Don't Laugh, This is ME!
BearLook more closely. This little cutie isn't a bear. At least, I don't think it is. I think this is a sloth, and that's what I've been this month.

Typically, I rush around buying presents, buying the bags to shove them into--I haven't wrapped packages in twenty years--and even sent cards to those who sent cards to me. Due to social expectations, I made dinner, set the table, had Mel put up the tree, starting late so our company could help him finish it. So he's a sloth, too. Sue him.

Then one year we had deep snow on Christmas day. Christmas, of course, wasn't called off. In fact, the silence and peace of that day, when everyone stayed home to ponder Christ's birth in a new way, was a huge blessing to me. No one to complain because I didn't get all the meat off the turkey bone, didn't make the dressing moist enough, forgot to take the giblets out of the turkey before I placed it all, totally frozen, into the oven to bake. No one snooping through drawers in the kitchen and finding private-very private-notes I sent with Mel's lunches. Ahhh...it was pure peace.

I realize it may have been considered an insult for the innkeeper to send Joseph and Mary out to the barn, but I can imagine having the warm body of my own donkey and no noise besides a sheep bleating every so often must have been more relaxing than an inn full of people complaining about their taxes. But who am I to say? I wasn't there. I do believe it started a precedent, though, because Jesus often retreated to the wilderness when the crowds pressed too closely, wise Savior that He was. I've followed His example as often as I could. It's my favorite.

The Mexicans have a special day, January 6, when they believe the wise men visited Jesus with gifts. Since my stepson's wife, a beautiful and intelligent Mexican woman, is due to have her baby any time, they are hoping the little boy will be born on January 6 to receive a special blessing. I do know seeing that little darling--as well as my stepson, Jason, his wife Kenia, and Jason's mother, Linda--will be a special blessing for me this year.

Until I can get out there, however, I will be hiding out here at home, not attending parties or dinners or exchanging gifts, just spending special time with Mel and my mother and writing and being thankful for the special peace God has given us this Christmas.

If you had your druthers, what would your perfect Christmas be next year--what is peace to you?
Labels: next year's Christmas peace, peaceful barn. Being slothful., Perfect peace, photos by Eugene Arthur Patterson

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, December 30, 2011
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Hey Girls--How About That Baby Seal?
SealIt seems that nearly half the world was recently charmed by the photo of a baby seal in New Zealand who slipped in through the cat door and took a nap on someone's sofa. I suppose it's against the law to attempt to keep such an animal for a pet, but I'd be tempted. I wonder if they can be housebroken. Litterbox trained, perhaps? I figure if a seal at the zoo can be trained to balance a stemware glass on her nose, she can be trained to use proper facilities.

Animals fascinate me, sometimes too much for my fellow GWO bloggers. I distinctly remember Kristin's reaction when I posted a picture of a darling little armadillo snuggling against my hiking boot. And Colleen refused to even read one of my posts until I removed the picture of the spider and replaced it with something more innocuous. In fact, she screamed at me online. Honestly, Colleen, I didn't know you were terrified of spiders!

I pretty much overcame my fear of them the day a spider dropped down from the ceiling via web over the bed when Mel and I were retiring for the evening. I screamed at Mel that if that thing made it into the bedding we'd be sleeping on the floor that night, so I jumped up onto the bed and grabbed at the web far above the spider, and started pulling it back up. Mel, meanwhile, panicking as usual when it comes to spiders, ran toward the door--I thought to grab some paper towels to catch the thing. Instead, he turned out all the lights. With me standing on the bed with a spider hanging somewhere between my bare fingers and the bed. Mel, deafened by my screams, turned the lights back on and raced back to the bed with his handy dandy bug zapper. We searched half the night for that spider and never did find it. The next night, when Mel was getting comfortable in bed, I picked up a piece of black, spider-shaped lint and tossed it at him. I'm a mean, vindictive wife.

So, now that we've discussed cute, unusual pets, and even though I'm almost positive we've discussed them before but have forgotten, care to share about any unusual pets you've enjoyed, or funny, maybe even scary, stories about them?

Labels: Baby seal, Cute animals, Eugene Patterson photos, trained seals

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Thursday, December 15, 2011
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Hey Girls--Do You Have the Gift of Giving?
Cheryl and Mel HoddeI have two words for you today. Love offering. I'd like to explore the meaning of that phrase--not just those two words separately, but what those two words mean when they're put together.

First of all, I apologize if, being Southern Baptist, I'm talking about a phrase some of you may not recognize. Perhaps in your church you use a different name for it.

In my church I have always been led to believe that a love offering is something that is given in secret through the church to someone else in the church who is in financial need. That's supposed to be secret. I mean, as in--you never tell that person you gave that money to them, and no one else is supposed to tell them, either. It's a gift of love, of compassion, something from the heart that only God--and a trusted person from the church--ever sees coming from your hand. Then when the giver arrives in heaven, God Himself will reward the giver openly.

I've seen so many people crave praise from the masses and never consider the passages in the Bible that tell us to give in secret. To me, that's what a love offering is all about. Give privately, in secret, without expectation of praise or recognition or repayment of any kind. Do good to others NOT so they will return that goodness, but simply for the joy of doing good. Let God do the rewarding later, when it will mean so much more than any praise here on earth. Don't keep score. Let God keep score.

Am I preaching today? Hmm. Maybe a little. Because this is the season for gift giving, and often there are so many hidden meanings hidden inside the gifts given. Some people give expensive gifts out of pure love, while others give the largest gifts in order to seek approval from the receiver. Others go into debt to give gifts because they feel they have to keep up with the other set of grandparents or friends. Perhaps giving a gift, for some, is simply seeking love instead of sharing it.

I remember many years ago a man in a former church went blind. Another member, out of love for that man, purchased a Bible on audio tape and trusted another member to pass it on to the blind man, making the member promise to never tell who it came from. Unfortunately, the compassionate member chose the wrong person to keep the secret, and the blind man found out who gave him the gift. He told everyone in the church, and everyone in the church praised this compassionate member who had wanted to badly to remain anonymous. Some of the joy was taken from the giving member.

A love offering is not a loan. It isn't a loud, magnanimous act for public display. In my opinion it's meant to be an act of simple love, spoken privately into your ear by God. It isn't a way to hold sway over the person who receives the gift because, remember, that person should never know who has given the gift. You know why? Because that money was never ours to begin with. It all belongs to God. When God speaks to us and tells us to give a love offering to another church member--a brother or sister in Christ, or a family in need--God is directing you, His steward, where to deliver a portion of His money. So let go of something that belongs to God in the first place. Don't expect it to return to you. Then someday when you're facing God in heaven, you may hear Him say to you, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Some of us are gifted with the spiritual gift of giving. Others have different gifts. I'm curious about how easy it is for those of you gifted with the gift of giving to keep that giving secret even from the recipient. If you haven't done that yet, I urge you to try it this year, and see what a reward you will have simply with the act of anonymous giving.

Labels: Giving, keeping secrets, love offerings, secrets

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, December 1, 2011
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Hey Girls--Do You Need a Lift?
SunriseI love sunrises. Unfortunately, one reason for this is because they're so rare for me. I see sunsets much more often.

For me, a sunrise is a fresh beginning on a new opportunity to do things right that I may have missed the day before. It's funny that New Years Day doesn't do the same for me, but sunrises are rarer, even, than New Years. I get up at about ten, go to bed well after midnight, often as late as 2:00, because that is the best time to focus on writing. That, plus my poor mother having trouble sleeping at night, keeps me going into the early morning hours. That is why I love a sunset.

They can lift me in ways nothing else can. They hold promise, and such beauty. Recently I discovered a way to give myself a lift despite the lack of sunrises in my life. I surprise myself by recalling something I actually like about myself. Most of us have a bad habit of putting ourselves down and counting our faults. We can so easily keep track of our mistakes during the day. I have that tendency. But what if we were to focus on something we've done right recently?Did you allow someone to pull in front of you in traffic without muttering or honking the horn?

Have you ever smiled at someone and cheered them up? Have you helped someone out of a tough spot? Have you felt your heart go tender for someone whose heart was breaking? Think about it. Are you a kind person, do you have qualities that you appreciate in others? Do you have a creative personality?

Give yourself a sunrise today, lift yourself up. Look for the good in yourself, and not those things that the devil seems to love to whisper into your ear at every opportunity. Focus on the good in yourself, and that is the direction your heart will lean.

And then share here. I'd love to know what good things you are thinking about yourself today.

Labels: Eugene Arthur Patterson photography, helping others, losing ourselves in helping, Sunrise, relaxing

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, November 04, 2011

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Blowing Bubbles- Mel, Rich and CherylHey Girls--Share Your Memories
I'm sure you can tell by the facial hair on these three people that there aren't children in this picture. I hope you can see from the bubbles that Mel and Rich and I were having fun like children when Lissa took the shot. I'm here to remind you, once again, to take time to have fun and play no matter your age or circumstances. Laughter relieves stress. I particularly love laughing at myself, but today I'd love to laugh along with you.

Let me give you some examples:
When I was about three or four years old my cousins came to see me. Their mother was there, too, but I mostly played with my cousins. They were boys. I had a little fire engine with pedals. In an effort to impress my cousins, I jumped into my fire engine and pedaled hard down the sidewalk, mouth open wide as I screamed the siren song. Unfortunately, I choked on a fly.

When I was four we lived in a duplex on a busy street in Ventura, California. It was a long time ago, back when people didn't lock their doors as often as they do now. I overheard my parents talking about a poor little baby who lived next door. My imagination took over, even that long ago, and I decided that little baby needed to be rescued from his mean parents, and I was going to be the rescuer. So I waited outside on the front porch and peered through their screen door until I saw the baby crawling alone on the floor. I pulled open the screen door, raced into our neighbor's front room, grabbed the baby, turned back to run with the baby, and fell on him. He wasn't hurt, but can you imagine how my parents must have felt when I explained to the neighbors why I did what I did?

When I was in fourth grade I was still impulsive, and there were times when that impulsivity earned me public humiliation. I liked a guy in my class named Willy. I wasn't madly in love with him or anything, I just liked him. I was walking past his desk one day when, for no reason I could afterwards fathom, I leaned over, patted him on the cheek, asked how he was doing, and kissed him on the cheek. Willy turned red and ducked. The whole class, including the teacher, burst into laughter.

How about you? Have you ever done anything that your friends will never let you live down? Did you ever do anything so crazy and impulsive that you wonder if some UFO took over your mind for a few minutes one day? What's your most embarrassing moment? Think about your childhood today, and even if you don't come up with anything wildly memorable, I bet you'll have some fun reliving times from the past.

Labels: blowing bubbles, Childhood memories, girls having fun, Playing, relaxing

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, October 28, 2011

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Hey Girls--Let's Herd Those Details!
Cat and MiceWhat on earth can this cat be thinking? Cats eat small animals. They are carnivores. My cats would have been fighting over these little darlings and had them swallowed in one gulp. Do you suppose this cat has already had a full meal?

Do you ever feel like this poor, patient cat? Do the tiny, often appealing, details distract you from your plans for the day? You need to get a couple of loads of laundry washed and dried and ready for three different people tomorrow, but first you need to eat breakfast, but first you see a dustball in the corner and even though no one else in the family will ever notice it, someone may stop by, and then what would they say? But then of course the window in the front door needs to be washed, as well, and you need to check the porch to make sure the neighbor's little boy didn't leave his skateboard on the steps again, or dear hubby could end up back in the ER.

So you but-first your way through the day until that laundry never got done, you didn't get to the pharmacy to pick up the refill before they closed, and you have nothing in mind for dinner tonight. Your front window looks great, and the dustballs are gone, but nobody ever comes to your house to visit, anyway. What were you thinking?

Please tell me I'm not the only one with the but-first syndrome. Please? I know the distractions are appealing, but really, I don't need them. I need to NOT have them. Girls, what do you do about them? Any thoughts? Or can you commiserate?

Labels: cat and mice, funny picture, patience, scattered thoughts

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Friday, October 14, 2011

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Hey Girls--Try Something New!
Cheryl Hodde/Hannah AlexanderI'm sure I've said this before, but I love to color my hair. It began when I wanted to go blond with all the other girls in my high school freshman class, but I get bored easily, so after I tired of blond I went red, then green--yes, that was an accident by a hair stylist. My hair is accidentally red in the picture here, but I kind of like it.

I found out, however, that since I'm going silver now, I might as well follow that natural change, so my hair stylist really hit the light blond. Yeah, really natural, huh? Then she went on maternity leave. Because I learned the hard way that I should never cut my own hair ever, ever again, I'm actually waiting until she returns before I get a cut, so now it's grown past my shoulders. The other day I was walking down the sidewalk in town and turned to see some young punk hanging out his window gawking at me. He probably wet himself after he saw my fifty-something face, but I was too busy laughing to notice. What is it about men and blond hair? Brother.

Mel is accustomed to my changes, but I knew I'd taken things a little too far one day when I went to meet him for lunch immediately after my stylist appointment, and he walked right past me in his search for me. Didn't even look my way. And I thought I looked pretty good. So I keep trying. Maybe someday I'll catch his attention.

So that's what I like to change a lot, as well as style of glasses, clothes, makeup, as most of you probably already know. But I'd love to know about you. How many colors and styles has your hair been in, say, the past five years? What's your clothing style? How do you dress up for a night on the town? Have you ever thought about making a quick change? Getting a new kind of trim? Cutting your hair short or letting grow out longer than usual? Getting a mohawk or a bowl cut? Have you ever gone to a hair studio where they actually match your bone structure and hair type to the right hair cut?

And speaking of changing hair styles, our Diann wins the award for changes and bravery. Please continue to pray for her.

Labels: Hair change, Having fun, trying new things

Hannah Alexander

Posted to the blog: A Girls Write Out on Thursday, September 23, 2011
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Hannah Alexander

How long has it been since you had a vacation? How often have you worked through your vacation instead of taking a break? Have you felt guilty about taking the time off? I know I do. Why is it we feel guilty for doing anything for ourselves? Do we think God disapproves?Bear Track

I have to admit, I’m not good at taking breaks. Few of us are. A couple of years ago,however, I went on a forced Sabbatical that lasted for two years, and though I continued to write on different projects during that time, I also did a lot more reading than I’d been able to do previously. Mel–my husband, and the other half of our Hannah Alexander writing team–just happened to find a few days off from work, and we took a quick trip to Tahoe, where we hiked around deep forest lakes, explored small towns, took pictures of bears and huge bear tracks while trying not to wet ourselves, and wet our feet, instead, by wading in the cold waters of Lake Tahoe.

As we learned to relax for those few days, we battled guilt by reminding ourselves that Jesus, Himself, took time away from the crowds in the wilderness, where He communed with His Father in silence and peace.

That’s why I love hiking. I feel the sun on my face and know that little bit of warmth was meant for me. I hear the rustle of the leaves in the trees and hear music of angels. I catch the scent of clover and see deer or wild turkey skittering at the edge of the woods, and feel that God meant those moments for me. No one else is there but His creation and me. What a beautiful experience.

You may love walking along the beach, as I do, playing in the waves. You may love skiing, or snorkeling, or taking a cruise. What is it you most love to do? I urge you to find time soon to do it. Relax and enjoy. Push work and deadlines and stress from you for a time of peace and communion with God. For me, that’ss what it’s all about.

Originally posted on http://christiansread.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/you-need-a-break/

September 20, 2011, By Hannah Alexander