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Monday, August 25, 2014

Guest Blog and giveaway by Ann H. Gabhart


Readers, please read all the way through to find out how to win a copy of the book Love Comes Home by responding to Ann's question or leaving another comment with your email address so we can contact the winner. U.S. mailing addresses only. Drawing to be held on September 1st.
Writing Through It All
By Ann H. Gabhart

From the time I was old enough to read, I’ve wanted to be a writer.  So at about the age of ten, I picked up a pen and began writing my first novel. It was a mystery starring me, or at least the me I wished I was. Cute and smart and able to catch bad guys. Writing those chapters was probably the most fun I’ve had writing. No deadlines. No editors to please. No worries about readers liking my story. The only readers were my indulgent family members. My biggest worry was using up all the eraser before I ran out of pencil.

Then, with a few more years under my belt, I began to dream of being published, one of those writers who actually got paid for their words. So, while writing was still a dream, it also became a job. Not one with any regular paychecks, to be sure. Still, the occasional checks for this or that bit of writing encouraged me to keep going until at last, in 1978, my dream of having a published novel came true. I saw my book, my very own imagined story, on bookstore shelves. You might think having a book published would make the publication road easier to travel, but that didn’t happen for me. Through my writing years, I’ve bounced through plenty of potholes along my writing road, but I kept writing. More books were published even though I had to re-invent myself as a writer a couple of times in order to adjust with the market.

After having thirteen books published, a few years went by where nothing I wrote found any loving editors. So since I was struggling to hit market trends, I forgot about markets and editors and wrote the story I wanted to write. That book, Scent of Lilacs, about a preacher and his family opened the door to the Christian fiction market. (By the way, Scent of Lilacs, is a free download right now if you like reading e-books.) This time, since perhaps I had finally found the genre that best fits my storytelling style, my publication road did become smoother. For the first time in my long writing career, I had contracts for future books. That meant I had deadlines for getting the story ideas I’d pitched to my editor actually written, chapter after chapter, from the beginning through the middle to the end. I was in writer heaven. I didn’t mind deadlines. Deadlines were good because that meant somebody, that loving editor, was waiting for me to get a book written with the promise of publication if I could tell the story I had proposed. It had taken me a lot of years to get in that position, but I liked finally being able to say I was a writer with a certain confidence.

But isn’t it the way, that just when you think things are going smooth, life throws you a curve or two? My mother began to have declining health when she reached her late eighties. At first, it wasn’t too noticeable. Just little things. But then it became obvious she was suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. She could no long stay alone but needed 24/7 care. I have two sisters and my mother had resources. So we hired a couple of caretakers and split up the rest of the hours. Then both my sisters lost their husbands, one to cancer and the other to congestive heart failure. We had to fire one of the caretakers, but the Lord brought two other wonderful women with caring hearts to help care for Mom. One of my sisters was unable to handle the way dementia was stealing our mother’s mind and also had health problems that kept her from sitting with Mom. So, the other sister and I filled in the hours. It was like having a full time job. But I still had my deadlines too. I didn’t want to give up writing at this point in my life when I finally had achieved a small measure of success. So I found time to write.


At first I could do some writing while I sat with Mom, but as she steadily declined and became more agitated, I could only fire up my computer if she happened to fall asleep. As I was generally there in the afternoon when sundowner’s came into play, that didn’t happen often. Those deadlines loomed as the days slid past without enough hours. All my life, I’ve been one of those people who think they can do it all. Cook, clean, keep the grandkids, garden, write, take care of whoever needs taking care of. I found out that wasn’t true. I wasn’t Superwoman. One year, my beautiful, loving daughter came home and stayed a week with Mom in my place to let me finish one of my books. Other times, my editor gave me deadline extensions.

But my daughter couldn’t come to the rescue at every deadline crunch. My editor had to meet deadlines herself so couldn’t extend my deadline forever. So, as each new deadline neared with not enough words written, I had to figure out priorities. I had to take care of Mom. No choice there. I had to cook meals for my husband. No choice there. I had to have time for the grandbabies because grandkids grow up so fast and they are too wonderful a blessing to not take time to enjoy them. But I also had to write. Sleep, optional. Dust didn’t matter. Spot cleaning works on floors. I did keep canning beans and freezing other vegetables from the garden, but thankfully that was usually in the summer after I met my deadlines which generally fell in July. I had a new deadline but in July the next July seems far away.

My mother moved on up to heaven this summer right after I met one of those July deadlines. With her resources running low after more than three years of hiring part time caretakers–there are a lot of hours in a week–we finally moved her to a memory care home. She adjusted well, but steadily declined during the six months she was there. She was ready to go home. She had wanted to go “home” to see her mother and father for years. But I miss her. It was hard giving up her care when she moved into the facility. It was hard giving her up when she died.

I’m still thankful for deadlines. I’m still thankful that I’m able to live my dream of writing stories that find a way into reader’s hands. But I do know that writing is not just a dream. It’s hard work and life happens to sometimes make that work even more difficult. 

Without challenges, we don’t get stronger. And without life happening to us, maybe we wouldn’t be able to write about life happening to our characters. While all my Rosey Corner books are about family and life happening, Love Comes Home perhaps focuses around how the unexpected in life can change what we do and how we feel even more than the other two Rosey Corner  stories, Angel Sister and Small Town Girl. My characters face challenges. Good things happen. Bad things happen as they do in every life. But what stays constant with my Rosey Corner characters is how they trust God and depend on their family for support.

My journey with Mother was that way too. I had to lean on family and trust God to give me the strength for the journey. In Philippians 4:13, Paul says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That verse often came to mind when I was staying with Mom and wondering how I would make it through some of the hard days. The Lord answered my prayers and helped Mom be calmer and helped me be stronger. And who knows? Maybe the hard journey made my stories stronger too.

Thank you for reading. I know many of you have walked similar caretaking roads with your loved ones. How did you find strength for the journey?

Bio:
ANN H. GABHART, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. She keeps her keyboard warm on a farm in Kentucky. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren. To find out more about Ann’s books visit www.annhgabhart.com. Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, www.annhgabhart.blogspot.com or join her on Facebook. www.facebook.com/anngabhart

30 comments:

Rachel Lepree said...

Hi Ann - Being an only child, I relied totally on prayer, my husband and my friends to get me through the difficult days.

onorman said...

I still miss my Mama and it's been over ten years now!

Sonja said...

I'm an only child now, too and facing parents with health issues, too. Prayer and faith are what keeps things going.

Barbara Gravett said...

Ann, I just want to begin by saying I love your writing which is so true to life. I am so looking forward to reading LOVE COMES HOME which is your only book that I haven't read. As I have talked with you before about our Mothers (email), I still have mine with me but sometimes just barely. She too has dementia/Alzheimer's. I see her fading right before my eyes and know the worse is yet to come. But just as with you, I am trusting in God and family. After all my joy is in the ONE that has all the answers. I know you miss your Mom. Thank God you will see her again some day.

Gail H. said...

I am right smack in the middle of looking after my mother. She's getting more difficult as she gets older and I'm her only means of transportation. She insists on still living by herself and has fallen several times. She is 79 years old with neuropathy. I have insisted on her wearing a medic alert necklace. My means of coping? Antidepressants and lots of prayer!

Janice Hopkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice Hopkins said...

I too became the caregiver for my mom in her last years, and I was an only child. She died two years ago. I had been writing magazine articles, but when mom tied me down, I began my dream of writing a novel. One turned into ten manuscripts. Isn't it great how God uses even bad situations for good! My first book is being published and is supposed to be out in November. I'm also an avid reader and read over 200 books a year, so I'd really love to win this one.

Anonymous said...

My mom passed on a little over a year ago. Thank God she didn't get bad enough for us to stay with her until the last few days. (she was in a nursing home).Your mom made me think so much of my mother. Oh by the way ,I hope you still have that first book that you wrote when you were a young girl ! Faye Simer

Annie said...

Thank you for sharing your heart. Being the child, but having to take the role of caretaker is a hard one. I'm in a similar situation, but thankfully, Mom is in a long term care facility. It's still difficult to find the strength, and the frame of mind to go visit (she is 30 minutes away), but with God, all things all possible. Looking forward to reading your book, and I'm also looking to navigate those potholes, so my novel can come to fruition.

karenk said...

Ann,

What a beautiful story...my brother & me took care our mom until she passed away...and we did it one day at a time.

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

PS: go blue!!!!!!

Ann H Gabhart said...

Rachel - Prayer was my biggest help too, but I do have two sisters who were great support. But friends can often be like sisters to only children.

Ola - I don't think we ever stop missing our mamas. I know my mother didn't. Once she declined with dementia that was who she wanted all the time - to go home and be with her mother.

Sonja - It is difficult to be the sole caregiver for your parents. Hope you will find help through your church and friends. Prayer does help.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Barbara - thank you so much for reading my books. That's so neat that you've gone down my story road with me so many times. Hope when you get a chance to read Love comes Home that you will enjoy going back to Rosey Corner. Dementia is such a hard disease for the sufferer and for the family. But perhaps the progression will be slow with your mother and you'll have more good days than bad.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Gail, so sorry you are in the middle of a struggle with your mother. It is so hard to give up our independence. My mother used to say, even after she couldn't get up by herself, that she could stay alone. If she fell, she'd just crawl. We had to be with her all the time because of her memory problems. May your prayers bring better days for both you and your mother.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Janice - yes, it is wonderful how the Lord can bless us even in hard times. Congratulations on your coming book. That's great. And I hope one of my books will be in your number of read books this year and that you will enjoy it.

Faye, we did have some difficult days caring for Mom, but it was also a blessing to be there for her in her need. I'm sure you were a blessing to your mother too. And yes, I do have that half finished book from so many years ago. I can't seem to throw any of my writing away. Too much invested in those words, I suppose.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Annie - we moved Mom to a facility for the last few months of her life. She was actually happier there than she had been at home with us, but it was difficult to visit since she no longer knew us. Still my sister or I went every day and we sat with her and hugged her and kissed her cheeks. May God give you good visits as you remember that although she may no longer know your name, she still knows you in her heart and soul.

Ann H Gabhart said...

One day at a time, Karen. You know, that's all any of us really have and it is certainly the only way to deal with dementia. Sometimes five minutes at a time.

And wow! I should say Go, Big Blue. Can't wait for basketball season.

Sharon said...

SO thankful for my 83 yo mother and her good health... My father is 84 and has alzheimers... but he's happy most days in assisted living..

Ann H Gabhart said...


Sharon, so glad your mother is still enjoying good health and that happy most days for your dad is good too. Alzheimer's can affect people in different ways. My mother had happy times, but also very agitated and unhappy times too. The happy times are better.

Rose McCauley said...

Ann, thanks so much for sharing from your heart. We all will face this in some form--on the giving or receiving end, or both, and your words have given many encouragement to carry on when times are tough.

Thanks to all the commenters, too, for sharing your hearts with us.

Terri Tiffany said...

I find many of us are in that same situation right now. We just moved my father in law into a nursing home.
You definitely need support.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Terri, that's a tough move to have to make. We moved Mom to a memory facility a few months before she died. It was harder on my sister and me than it was on her, I think. I hope your father-in-law settles in without too much problem and that you have the support you need. You are absolutely correct that we need prayers and friends to walk the caretaker road with our parents.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Always fun to come visit here, Rose. Thanks for inviting me over. And I also appreciate the comments. It's good to reach out to one another with encouragement while we are struggling with some of the downs in our journeys along life's road. I do want my words to be encouraging.

Wendy Hood said...

We met last night at the Habitat benefit, and you met my daughter Jeannie as well. My mother in law is 95 and needs plenty of help. I stay overnight every night, and her sisters help with various things during the day. I cope by praying for strength and patience. And I make an effort to get sufficient rest and exercise myself. I have to take care of myself if I'm going to take care of someone else.

Ann H Gabhart said...

You're absolutely right, Wendy. And I think that's something not everyone does when they are taking care of a loved one. They ignore their own needs and forget to ask for help. Every night sounds like a hard schedule for you. Wishing you that strength and patience you need and that your mother-in-law will have good days and nights.

It was fun meeting your at the Habitat for Humanity dinner and fundraiser.

Rhonda's Doings said...

my mom age 80 has dementia now. There are 6 of us children. I love to go weekly and either take dinner or take ingredients and cook for mom. We are all able to share the burden. When she has needed someone to move in periodically, I was able to do that as I am on disablility. Rhonda
nashhall@aol.com

Bonnie Roof said...

Such a wonderful post, Ann, thank you!!

I loved reading about your writing journey through the years and how you persevered, re-invented your writing, etc.. Writing appears to be something writers "have" to do and the process requires hard work, patience, diligence, and prayer - no doubt!!

I am so thankful and blessed that you did persevere and write such wonderful books to inspire me!! I didn't know some of the events that transpired through your years of writing (such as the deaths of both your brother-in-laws, etc.) and they make me appreciate your writing all the more.

I do feel that writers ARE their books and their spirit and life experiences come through in their books to inspire others.

The verse you quoted is my comfort as I help care for the 3 elderly members of my family, in addition to my own health issues. God has given me a loving, caring, brother to help also - I am blessed!!

You remain in my thoughts and prayers!! Hugs!!

Post shared!!

Ann H Gabhart said...

Rhonda, it's so good that you are able to help your mother during this hard time. I hope and pray her dementia doesn't get worse and that she continues to know the blessing of the love of her children. It's good to have siblings to work together in the care of your mother.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Bonnie, so glad you dropped by to read about my writing journey. I always appreciate your comments. I know you are struggling with some hard times yourself and I'm glad that my stories have at times given you moments of reading joy and perhaps encouragement. May the Lord's strength continue to help you through the days and allow you to do what needs to be done.

Laura Frantz said...

Ann, I'm always encouraged and blessed by your heart for your mom and family and the way your gracefully handled this (even if you don't think you did)! You continue to bless us even beyond your wonderful books.

Ann H Gabhart said...

Laura, how nice of you to stop by. It's always good to hear from you. I am just beginning your book Love's Reckoning. I read Love's Awakening and really enjoyed the story. So I want to go back and read from the beginning and then it will be on to the third in the series, Love's Fortune, that's just now hitting store shelves. I'm in for some great reading.