Historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, and thoughts on life and writing. Purchase books, read Jenny's blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts highlighting the life of a writer.
The most precious stones on earth are forged in dark caverns under years of intense pressure. Still these gems require cutting, shaping to release their true beauty and become treasure forged in darkness.
I’ve always thought everything in nature has some parallel in our lives, in the spirit. So many of life’s lessons have made sense to me through the scope of that lens. From the magic of a tiger-lily in the weeds to a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Nature is our school and the Spirit our teacher. I’m always on the lookout for how to match up the world around me to what’s happening to me on the inside.
One of my favorite Bible verses opens my first novel, Ruby Moon—“He will give you the treasures of the darkness and hidden riches of secret places.” Isaiah 43:1 I’ve lived this. I know it’s true.
For years I struggled on and off with depression. Trust me; there is no darker, hopeless place to be. Depression paints everything in life gray or black. I knew what I should be thinking, but I could not make myself think it. I prayed, begged, and pleaded for help from God. He answered via various means and most of the time not in the way I expected.
During this deep cavern time, the mining began in earnest. He pic-axed through the rocky portions of my heart to unearth the gems that He knew were there. I wrote my heart out. Poems and songs came from this time–deep thoughts ringing with the echo of all I’d passed through. After, I figured life could not get any rougher. I was wrong.
My world gradually fell a part five years ago when I had a lengthy MS attack, which has left me with permanent nerve damage and on a gradual slope of decline. There were times when I felt stripped of everything, all that I knew to be me. All the gifts I had used throughout the years seeped away. I remember one day so crisply.
I sat in my favorite spot by our south-facing bay window, where I have many green and blooming plants. My head hurt with a two-month migraine, I couldn’t read, write, talk, sing, walk, watch TV, listen to or make music, or use my right arm and hand without difficulty or pain. But in this place I prayed. Me, sitting and silently, pouring my heart out to God. Gradually, my thoughts turned to worship, and my heart to peace. He was with me beyond my understanding; when I was at my least, he was at His greatest.
Since, I’ve endured various levels of pain, depression, grief, and sorrow. And you know what? I never endured alone. In those dark places, I saw God and knew that He loved me and would never leave me. He molded each tear, fear, and pain into something brighter and better. Something that sparkled when held up to the sun. I got to know the Him better, as comforter, friend, savior, and the one who sings over me in the night. And I changed.
As a Result:
My faith grew as God met me in the promises of His word. Treasure indeed. This kind of treasure cannot be corrupted, like the material items we place value on. I became more gracious, understanding, and patient with myself and others. And I hope wiser.
A most interesting thing came from that time. When all else fell away, I saw what really mattered: my relationship with God, from which everything else should flow.
My Prayer for You Today:
You would pour out your worry, fear, pain, sorrow, and grief to Someone who loves you and sees it all. See yourself as a gem—imagine your favorite—being crafted in these deep places of life. Trust that if you give whatever you’re going through to God that He will mold something precious from it, and your pain need not be in vain.
Hope for the best: knowing Him more because of your trials.
With our current health crisis, we have been told to distance ourselves socially from others and stay at home in our nest.
Home. It conjures up a feeling of safety, warmth, and love. It’s where my husband and I have built a comfortable nest. I’ve surrounded myself with things that I like: cozy furniture, plants, books, dishes, special momentos, crafting paraphernalia, home decor. But mainly home means being with the people closest to me. At this stage in life that amounts to my hubby and Ruby, our dog; yes, I consider Ruby a person. My oldest son stays with us too, for now, but I hardly see him. He’s either busy working, relaxing after work, fishing, or spending time with friends. I love the days when we all—hubby, me, our two sons, daughter-in-law, and grandson—gather around the table, sharing a meal.
For some folks the idea of social distancing and staying at home for lengthy periods of time causes anxiety, boredom, and a longing to be with others. If you are an extrovert, the idea of being penned-up in your home away from people could be troubling. Luckily these days it’s easy to stay connected via social media and visual calls.
But maybe you’re the person who finds the thought of enduring days of your own company unnerving. I’ve never had a problem with tolerating my own company. Then again, I’m an introvert. I often experience secret glee when an appointment on my calendar gets canceled—for one reason or another—and I get to stay home. As long as I would be able to have a pet, I’d be a passable hermit.
How I manage social distancing?
Because of my health and my mobility issues, I’ve been practicing social distancing for many months without realizing it. What do I do all day at home?
I check social media. This has been a way for me to interact with readers and writers as an author and hear from friends and family that I don’t often see. Many people complain about the negativity of social media. I pass over those types of posts and concentrate in reading and posting more positive thoughts.
I call a friend or family member. Talking on the phone has never been a favorite pastime of mine, but I do it now and then to connect with family and friends who are not nearby.
I do some author-like business: I record bills and income, check emails and ads, work on a social, blog, or podcast posts, etc.
I read, write, or edit: To see what I’ve been reading, check Facebook, Instagram, or click on my Goodreads page and read my reviews. Click on reviews under my profile picture. I am on the home stretch of my 6th novel, Under the Weeping Willow. The next book tickles my thoughts now and then, but I need to do another passthrough of Under the Weeping Willow before I allow myself the freedom to listen to the new characters, brewing in my head.
I sew, color, or bead: I have some pouches to stitch up for gifts and a prayer bead set to make. They are on my goal list this week.
I sit in the sun or get outside: I can’t go for a walk anymore, but on nice days I push my walker around on the deck, getting a few steps in the fresh air. On less weather-friendly days, I sit in a comfy chair near our large south-facing window and read; it makes me happy.
I search Pinterest for a new craft to try: I’ve found so many fun decorating, craft, and cooking ideas on Pinterest. Find my page HERE to see my pins.
I do some household chores, a bit of cooking, or take care of my many plants: I’m thankful to have a kind lady who comes to do the harder chores, like cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors, and vacuuming. I still manage dishes, meals (hubby helps a lot with this one), and laundry, for the most part. I sometimes ask Google to play some music while I dust or cook.
I pray and meditate: I need to be better at making this a regular part of my day. I need to nourish my spirit as much as my body. I usually fall asleep praying for others.
I stretch and force myself to do what I can for exercise: This represents a tough one for me. My muscles fluctuate between feeling like mush and hard as steel. Too much motion, and I have pain; too little, and I clamp up. It’s a balancing act. One that I haven’t quite figured out yet. It seems to be changing all the time.
I play with the dog: I’m so thankful for our mini Yorkie, Ruby. She brings joy and laughter to every day.
I watch TV shows and movies on my streaming channels: OK, you can call me a chair potato. That’s what I felt like the last few weeks. My energy level has been low, and I pulled a muscle in my calf. Thus, I required more rest than usual. Currently, I’m watching Heartland and loving it.
All in all, my days pass fairly fast, here at home in my cozy nest. Maybe I’ve given you an idea of something you can add to your day as you keep closer to home in your nest.
Fear can be a savage beast. It makes us sick, paralyses our progress, and eats our hope. In short, fear often plays the role of the big bad wolf.
I’m not talking about the kind of fear that speaks caution to us in potentially dangerous situations. To me such a voice represents reason. Caution and our conscience telling us to be watchful, careful, or move into action to escape a danger can be a healthy thing and can literally save our lives and prevent harm. This often works from learned pain experiences—think of touching a hot stove. Fear and pain have important roles. We were given emotions for a reason. The problem comes when some grow out of proportion and take on the role of devourer.
Have you watched the movieInside Out by Disney/Pixar studios? I have and loved it. The story pointed out a fact: all emotions serve a purpose. Ridding our life of the more unpleasant ones, like sadness or even fear, can cause problems and keep us from growing in character. I can testify—sadness has opened my heart up and brought me more wisdom than happiness.
The fear which waits to devour us like a hungry wolf comes from not the preservation of life but the destruction of it. God’s message of “Do not be afraid” repeats throughout the Bible more than almost any other. As our maker, God knows we are prone to fear. Poor little Much Afraid from Hannah Whitall Smith’s book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, comes to mind when I picture a down-trodden person incapacitated by fear. The story is an allegory to how we can trust God in the midst of frightening circumstances.
With this present health crisis, I would urge you to remember who holds all things. Picture a cataclysmic event so devastating that the mountains would tumble and the earth crumble as if they were nothing more than Lincoln Logs. Even in this, God tells us not to fear.
Long ago I trusted God with my life. He holds the span of it in his hands. I can honestly say—I hold no fear when it comes to the newest virus threatening mankind. My todays and tomorrows are numbered exactly as they should be. In this I rest. The fact that an illness could come and wipe me out in a manner of days doesn’t phase me. I’m more afraid of what I live with every single day: MS.
March is national MS awareness month. Here’s MS in a nutshell: anything that the nerves control can go awry. When a person has MS, their body’s own white blood cells attack the nerve coverings, thinking they are an enemy to be destroyed. When the cells break through the myelin sheath, electrical shortages occur and bodily functions and motion don’t work in varying degrees of disability. MS also effects individuals differently, making it more difficult to diagnosis and treat.
Although MS waged war behind the scenes in my life for some time, I woke up one morning in 2014 instantly experiencing the results. It was terrifying. In a manner of days, a foreign numbness, tightness, and dizziness took over. I felt like my body had been invaded. I’ve seen ups and downs since then. Currently, I am on a gradual downward trend that will continue until my body gives up.
What scares me is that I could wake up with God-knows-what tomorrow in this war. Every night I go to bed and the Big Bad Wolf tempts me to be afraid of what the dawn may bring. Every. Single. Day.
However, I have learned to be brave, trust God, and rest in peace knowing that He is larger than my fear.
I am happy to introduce fellow Wisconsinite and author, Brenda Marie Webb. Last year Brenda and I connected on Instagram, and I bought and read her book, A Thousand Mothers.
Brenda is a self-proclaimed history nerd and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, 2 crazy rescue dogs, and a lot of cats.
A Thousand Mothers is Brenda’s first historical fiction novel. She recently finished working with other writers from around the world on a Holocaust Survivor interview project through the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia. The project paired historians, professional writers, journalists, teachers, and professors with a Holocaust survivor, liberator or resistor to document history based on their testimonies. The essays have been published and are available as academic resources for educators and students.
Brenda has a BA in history and has taken advanced courses in Holocaust studies through Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. She has a passion for helping Holocaust and concentration camp survivors tell their stories.
My Author Interview with Brenda:
what A Thousand Mothers is about.
To sum up A Thousand Mothers in just a few words would be to say that it’s about love and bravery. It tells the story of beautiful, courageous women and what they had to do to survive the misery surrounding them in a concentration camp.
A Thousand Mothers starts out in December 1942 in the Plonsk ghetto in Poland. The ghetto is being liquidated and a young wife, Perl, is being deported to an unknown destination. Perl is sent to Ravensbruck where she meets a group of women who become her family. Tragedy strikes and the women do whatever they have to do to honor a promise they made to Perl.
The women are strong, brave, and loyal and form bonds that last through the horrors of life in a concentration camp, through liberation and into the future.
you start working with the Holocaust Survivor interview project through the
Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center in Philadelphia?
I was taking an online class on Nazi Antisemitism and The
Evolution of the Final Solution through Yad Vashem in Israel and my professor sent
me an email about a writing opportunity that he thought I would be interested
in. I filled out the application and
sent in a sample of my writing along with a letter of recommendation from my
professor and to my surprise, I was one of the twenty applicants from around
the world selected to work on the project.
I was paired with a Holocaust survivor in Pennsylvania and I was able to go to Pennsylvania and spend two days with him and his lovely wife.
Why is it
important for you to tell the stories of the survivors?
The average age of remaining Holocaust survivors today is
83. We’re losing them every day and when they’re gone, their stories will be
gone, also. It’s so important to get their collective memories and testimonies
After liberation, many of the survivors wouldn’t talk about their experiences. Some out of fear of not being believed and some because they were told to forget about what happened to them and move on. Just because the war was over and the camps liberated, it didn’t mean the end of anti-Semitism. It was still widespread, and Jews were still being persecuted.
prompted you to take your project further and craft a novel from your work?
I want to write about what I’m passionate about and I want
to give a voice to those extraordinary, fearless victims history may have
forgotten. The Holocaust is a subject that many people, especially young
people, don’t know about.
I read Martha Hall Kelly’s book, Lilac Girls, in 2017, and the concept of a female-only concentration camp, staffed with female guards fascinated and horrified me. These guards were wives and mothers and yet treated their prisoners worse than their male counterparts. I started reading everything I could about the camp and the more I learned about the camp and the “rabbits” of Ravensbruck, a vague idea for a story came to me and I began outlining A Thousand Mothers.
The Holocaust survivor that I was paired with had spent some time Ravensbruck before finally being liberated from Bergen-Belen. He was a small boy but still remembers the horrors of the camp and being terrorized by the female guards. After hearing his story, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.
Please tell us about your road to publication with A Thousand Mothers.
My road to publication started with a year of research and
outlining. I read everything I could get my hands on and filled notebooks with
facts, dates, and ideas. I finally had to force myself to stop researching and
concentrate on writing. It was easy to fall down the “research” rabbit hole
because it was comfortable.
I’m a plotter and as I had mentioned, before I ever started
writing, I had an outline and a timeline in place. It was important to me to
make sure it was as historically accurate as I could make it. It is a fiction book, and I had to change
some facts to make them fit the story, but the setting of Ravensbruck is true
and is described as accurately as possible.
After my year of research, the first draft of A Thousand Mothers was written pretty quickly. I sent the very rough first draft to alpha readers and then spent about 4 months working on edits and revisions. After that, it was off to a round of beta readers followed by a month of more edits and revisions.
I sent it off to my editor for developmental edits and copy
edits in June 2019 and then it went to the proofreader and formatter.
It was published November 25, 2019
with an independent publishing group or self-published?
I went the self-publishing route. I didn’t want to spend
years querying publishers. I’m old! I wanted to see ATM published in my lifetime.
I also wanted full control over my book.
surprised you most about being an author?
There are a few things that surprise me. The first thing that surprised me was how hard it was to get ATM published. There are so many steps involved to get a book ready for publication. Writing the 1st draft was easy! There are beta readers and more edits, developmental editors and more edits, copy editors and more edits. Formatting, proofreaders……
Then there is the never-ending marketing that must
be done. You need to have a social media presence, a website, a newsletter,
etc. I’m still trying to find a balance to get everything done and continue
I had a book signing on February 15th
at a local bookstore and the turnout was amazing. I was so stunned that all
these people gave up their time on a cold, snowy Saturday afternoon to come to
see me. A teacher I had in high school came to the book signing and an old
friend that I haven’t seen in years came out. I’m so honored and touched!
The other thing that surprises me is that people
want me to sign their book. It makes me laugh every time someone asks me for an
aspect of being an author/writer do you struggle with the most?
My biggest struggle is self-confidence, or in my case, lack
of self-confidence. One-hundred people can tell me how much they loved my book,
and I feel the need to tell them how awful it is! I’ve given away so many
copies of ATM because I don’t feel I should be taking money for my novel.
My MIL asked for a copy at least 4 times before I finally
gave one to her and I pleaded with her not to read it.
I just read a book about “self-worth” and a sentence really
resonated with me. It said “Confidence is internal. It has nothing to do with
My 2nd struggle is marketing, which sort of ties
into my confidence struggle. Marketing doesn’t end when your book is published,
which you know. BTW, I just read Ruby Moon and it’s wonderful! Your story is so
interesting and unique. I love your style of writing, it’s poetic. I got lost
in your words.
I know I should be pitching my book to bloggers and
podcasters, but I can’t. I also should
be asking for reviews, but it’s so hard to put yourself out there.
inspires you most as a writer?
I’m inspired when I read other author’s beautiful writings.
Anne Franke was 15 years when she died in Bergen-Belsen, but her book changed
the world. I’m inspired by people who give their best to make the world a
History inspires me, photos, quotes, art. They all get my
could give a couple of tips to other aspiring writers out there who are
dreaming of publishing their work, what would you say?
#1 Don’t give up! It’s a long, arduous process but you’ll
get there, and it will be worth it!
#2 Take your time and make it as perfect as you can.
#3 Edit Edit Edit!
Don’t be surprised if your final draft is completely different from your
1st draft. If you can afford it, hire a developmental and copy editor. They’re
#4 Believe in yourself! You have something to say!!
working on future projects?
Yes! I’m working on my 2nd novel, which is a follow up to A Thousand Mothers and tells Mattie Kaczlowicz’s story and his journey through the horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp.
I don’t have a title yet, but I hope to have it published in
the spring of 2021.
Thank you, Brenda for guest blogging and answering my author interview questions! It was a pleasure to host you, and I look forward to doing so in the future. Following is my brief review of A Thousand Mother’s.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️I found A Thousand Mothers an inspiring and hopeful story despite the depiction of the horrific circumstances of the Nazi death camps. I had to take breaks between readings. The suffering of the characters became real as I read. I could taste the tears, feel the pain, and yet sense the determination to keep going.
The story unfolds in part at the camps through different perspectives, which all revolve around keeping one baby alive. Against odds the women of Ravensbruck band together to preserve the life of Flora. The second half of the book tells the story of the survivors and their lives after the war. The story is ripe with history and well-researched.
I found the varied view points throughout the book a little confusing. I think the story would have benefited from less perspectives, but I can see in the passing of the responsibility of Flora from one woman to another that may have not been feasible in the storyline. Time stamps at the beginning of chapters would have been helpful as well.
All in all, Webb wove an intricate tale of hope in the darkest of times. A Thousand Mothers is well-worth the read!
Thanks for reading!
As always, thank you for following my blog and reading. I hope you’ll take the time to read Brenda’s inspiring book, A Thousand Mothers. The ebook if only $2.99 in Amazon. Click the above graphic to purchase. To connect with Brenda, follow her on Instagram or Facebook.
Tomorrow I will publish a podcast at Jenny Knipfer–Author Podcasts about my imagination process when I write, so I wanted to link a similar theme here on my blog. My interview with Sarah Letourneau in my post last week inspired me to write a poem about imagination and crafting characters for a story . . .
Today I happily introduce friend and fellow poet, Sara Letourneau. Not long ago I met Sara on social media; I have enjoyed her wonderful writing tips and learning about her life as a writer and editor. When I found out Sara wrote poetry, I connected further with her and asked her to write a guest blog. Sara agreed. I know you’ll enjoy reading Sara’s thoughts on: poetry being part of her spiritual practice. Her bio, links to connect with her, and my review of The Aurorean, the journal which published several of Sara’s poems, follow the post. Enjoy!
How Poetry is Part of My Spiritual Practice
What does it
mean when a poet’s craft is part of their spiritual practice? In most cases,
it’s not just about describing our observations or ideas in an artful way. It’s
also about more than being moved by what inspires us. In other words, it has
nothing to do with craft, talent, or motivation¾in fact, it transcends all that.
For me, poetry has long been part of
my spiritual practice. It beckons me to hit the “pause” button on life and
witness . . . well, everything. The
vivid colors of sunset, the sulfurous smell of hot springs in Iceland, the way
my body moves during yoga class¾and, most importantly, the intensity
of my thoughts and feelings at the time, no matter if they’re anxious or
peaceful, sorrowful or joyful.
When I write a poem, I know better
than to rush things. Instead, I sit quietly, with music playing in the
background, and take stock of the poem that’s begging to be written. If I’m
struggling to focus, I’ll write a mission statement about the poem: two or
three sentences that remind me of what I want to write about, why I want to
write it, and how I hope the reader will feel at the end. In this way, the act
of writing poetry asks me to be patient, clear-headed, and intentional about
And just as other aspects of my
spiritual practice have changed my life, so has my approach to writing poetry.
By making it my “poet’s mission” to magnify the extraordinary in the ordinary,
I’ve learned to walk through the world with all five senses open and awake. I
now view each moment, big or small, as a blessing and with childlike
excitement. I’m not kidding. I get excited about everything from the first flowers
of spring to the blinding brightness of the sun after a storm. It may sound
cliché, but beauty really is everywhere. And so are sources of inspiration for
The funny thing is, if I had to
choose three poems of mine that are good examples of my spiritual practice at
work, it would be the three poems featured in the latest issue of The Aurorean, which Jenny has been kind
enough to review here at her site. Let
me explain each one briefly.
“Glimpse of a Bald Eagle”: The idea for this poem came to me while
I was traveling to visit relatives in Maine with my parents. I was busy writing
in the backseat—so busy that if my dad hadn’t said, “I think that’s a bald
eagle,” I probably wouldn’t have looked up! But I did, just as we passed the
eagle sitting on the snow-covered ground and before it was too far out of
sight. That idea of being just in time was really what inspired the poem. It
may be about a regal and iconic bird of prey, but it’s also about the act of
glimpsing itself: the thrill of a split-second sighting, and the gratitude that
comes with knowing you didn’t miss it.
“Late Winter Cardinal”: One early March morning, while I was
driving to my day job, a cardinal flew into view. If you’ve ever seen this
bright red bird fly, you may have noticed it does so with a quick, bobbing
rhythm. And because the sun was rising, the angle of the morning light accented
the cardinal’s feathers in a way that the bird looked like a huge ember. It was
gorgeous; and like with the bald eagle sighting, it happened so quickly. I was
so elated that I knew I’d write a poem about all of the layers of that moment:
the musicality of the cardinal’s flight, the vividness of the feathers’ colors,
and the reminder that my favorite season (spring) was just around the corner.
“Hunter’s Moon”: Yet another poem that came to me while
I was in the car! This time, it was an October night, and I was driving home
after meeting up with one of my friends when I saw the full moon. I’d already
been fascinated with the moon for years, so moon-watching is one of my favorite
nighttime habits. But on that particular night, when the moon was that buttery
yellow color instead of its usual silver-white, and with thin cirrus clouds
drifting across like fingers . . . gosh, it was beautiful. And, of course, that
moment turned into a poem. One that’s about not just the beauty of the October
full moon (Hunter’s Moon is the nickname for this full moon), but also how
different people perceive that beauty and the strange affinity we have for our
How about you? How is writing—either poetry, novels, or other forms—part of your spiritual practice? What has your writing practice taught you that has transformed your life?
is a poet, freelance editor, and writing coach who lives in Massachusetts. Her poems
have appeared or are forthcoming in Mass Poetry’s Poem of the Moment, The Aurorean, Golden Walkman Magazine, From
the Farther Shore, The Bookends Review, The Avocet, Soul-Lit, Amethyst Review,
and elsewhere. She can often be found performing her poems at local open mic
nights, reading good books, and enjoying a cup of tea. Learn more about how
Sara can help you with your writing at Heart
of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services. You can also connect with her at her
writer website, Twitter, Goodreads,
The Aurorean is a poetry journal containing the work of over sixty poets from the New England area. The journal contains a wide variety of poems reflecting the fall and winter months. Within its pages a reader will surely find poems which resonate with their soul, as I did. The offering compiles a diverse smorgasbord of poetry, which touches on the everyday experiences of life to the depths of loss and the heights of joy and wonder.
Those poems which struck a chord with me painted vivid word pictures of nature and the painfully beautiful moments of life. I am a poet, and I enjoy reading the poems of fellow poets. The poems of the featured poets, Martin Willitts Jr. and Sara Letourneau, were my favorite, along with Carol Grametbauer and Russel Rowland. The poem, “Hunter’s Moon”, by Sara Letourneau spoke to my fascination with the moon. I love these lines: “How many thinkers have found clarity in her fullness? How many lost souls have found home in her light? Me? I sometimes see myself in her, which means either I am partly satellite or she is partly human.”
I found The Aurorean a very enjoyable read, which I am sure I will pick up in the future and savor again.
I set out to write my thoughts down this morning, because my circumstances are getting the better of me again. I didn’t intend to craft this into a post, but that’s what happened. My words are honest. Maybe my honesty can help you deal with whatever difficult circumstances you might be facing. We all long for peace in the midst of life’s storms. I feel like I am trapped in a continual squall. Read on to hear how I cope.
I fell down again, carrying dishes from the dining table to the kitchen. Thankfully, I slid along the counter first before I twisted and fell, so it wasn’t an all out “Timber!” Every day I teeter from object to object in my home. I feel more stable if I hold on to something before I move. Counter to buffet—to metal plant stand—to dining chair—to bookshelf—to sliding door—to my chair. That’s the pattern I follow from the kitchen to the living room. The doctor calls this cruising, which sounds like more fun than it actually is.
As I write this, my head ticks on my left side like I’m being mildly shocked with electric current. I hate this sensation because it has always preceded something worse. What’s around the corner with my disease? I don’t exactly know, but I do know my MS has progressed. My doctor says that I am in the second phase, which I picture is like a sled ride down a gradual slope with a crash landing at the end.
I can still manage my personal care but just. After I shower, dress, and get ready for the day, I’m ready to rest in my chair for a good hour before I can do anythings else. Tasks takes twice as long, and I exude twice the effort to complete them. I’m tired all the time. My energy comes in small spurts like the rev of an engine. I feel like I’m in my late eighties instead of forties.
The function of my limbs is unpredictable and often painful, accompanied by strange sensations. I move as if I am the tin man from The Wizard of Oz: clumsy, slow, and creaky. I fill my days with frequent stretching and various therapies—medicinal, natural, and stimulating devices—to try to relax my muscles. Still I wonder how far away I am from being in a wheelchair or bed 24/7. Probably not far. The thought depresses me.
My Coping Methods:
Limited Focus: I pare back my imagination and focus on the now and what I need to do next. Sometimes that’s just breathing, bringing myself back to a simple necessity of life, filling my lungs with conscious action. I set down the binoculars of far-off vision and keep my sight in the present. It’s really all that I have.
Finding Joy: I often search too hard for this state of being. It’s usually found in the simple things of life: spending time with loved ones or doing a hobby. At times, visuals like sunsets, sunrises, or the way the leaves dance atop the water in the wind at my favorite fishing hole speaks joy to my heart. The smile of my grandson brings particular joy to my heart.
I find myself smiling and losing myself in the moment when I: write, spend time with family, read, quilt, tend my potted plants and gaze at my orchid blooms. The company of my little dog, Ruby, comforts me as well. Peace settles on me when I pet her silky hair. I smile when she tilts her petite head back and looks at me with her big brown eyes, boarded at the corners with a fringe of curled lashes. Sitting in the sunshine near my bay window, which is filled with plants, brings me peace and joy. Life stills in this location, and I can simply be. I think this is when I have the most joy—when I pin myself to a moment and I am. I exist. I live.
Prayer and Meditations: Lately, I’ve gotten out of the practice of reserving a daily time for this, and I can feel it. I feel less settled. Grounded. I used to pray while I walked, but I can no longer go for a walk. The activity of moving helped me stay focused, and I miss it. Using prayer beads helps me keep my thoughts on track. I created a system of my own and made several sets, which I have conveniently located by my chairs.
Also, I used to keep a prayer journey, which I wrote in frequently. It helped me feel more connected to God and assisted me in emptying myself of the things which weighed me down. I want to start that again, although it will have to be a digital journal this time.
Every once in a while I try to do a focused muscle relaxing and meditative process. This helps me feel more calm and at peace, but again this has fallen by the wayside. I want to change that and make it a daily event once more.
Remember What it’s All About: I must remember that my life it’s so much about what I can or cannot do or produce, but about how well I love and connect with people. My physical social circle is small; I don’t go out much. Online social activities have filled a void for me. I gain encouragement from interacting online with people from around the world, and It’s also a way for me to encourage others. It brings some purpose to my life. However, I know that no matter how much I scroll through and comment on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, that I still need those core contacts, whom I know will assist me and be there when life gets more difficult than usual and vice versa.
My recommendation for when you feel overwhelmed:
Limit your focus. Focus on the now and don’t try to see too far down the road. We weren’t meant to see miles clearly. What we see clearly and can enjoy is around us. Live in that space.
Find what brings you joy. Find the peaceful places which bring you back to simply being. Spending time in those locations, figuratively or literally, will help you keep going on whatever path your feet are on.
Spend time in prayer or focused relaxation. Your spirit and body with thank you for doing so.
Remember what it’s all about—relationships. People. This may be easier or more difficult for you depending on your personality. But whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you still need people in your life, and they need you. Take the time to cherish the relationships you have and work on making some new ones. Like much of life, it’s more about quality than quantity.
Valentine’s Day approaches, and I thought I would do a Valentine’s special blog post. ‘Tis the season of love. Of flowers and chocolate, wine and kisses. Just what does this time of year mean?
When I think of what Love is or is not, I think of the similes in the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13. I memorized those verses years ago, and I can still recite them today.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
That pretty much sums up how love should operate.
Through the years, one of the best nonfiction books that I’ve read on love has been The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, Gary talks about how we all have a love language through which we give and receive love. If you’re wondering more about what those are, you can read about them by clicking on the picture of the book.
Words mean the most to me; they are my love language. My husband’s is gifts. I think that why he always does so well at gift-giving. He puts thought into giving, and he makes me and others feel loved when he does.
At the Flower Shop
I used to look forward to Valentine’s Day, in the years before I worked at a floral shop. Everyone thinks “playing with flowers” at a shop sounds like fun and romantic, but not always. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy flowers and their: colors, textures, shapes, and fragrance, but Valentines Day at the flower shop jaded me a little.
It’s hands down the biggest floral holiday of the year, and thus, we had the most orders, which can only be made so far in advance. Flowers are a perishable product, and we had a narrow window of time to complete all of the orders. Think pressure and stress, and picture a chicken running around with its head cut off (I have seen one of those). In short, it was often a mad-house. Plus, the redundancy of orders got old. After making 50 of one arrangement, 30 of the next, and 25 of another, I hadn’t wanted to see any more roses, carnations, daisies, or lilies.
Regardless, on one occasion—many years ago—my dear hubby heard me mention all the beautiful arrangements that I had made at work and how sad it made me not to be able to take one home. From then on, he saw to it that I did. The first time that happened, he tricked me into making my own Valentine’s arrangement. I’ll always remember how happy it made me to take that beautiful vase of flowers home with me. The point of love in this story is that he listened. He heard my longing, and he met it. That’s love. My flower shop days have been done with for some years now, but he still gives me flowers every year at Valentines.
The Red Dress
I can’t remember what year anniversary we had celebrated, but somehow in passing I’d mentioned to my hubby that I had always wanted a red dress. When we were opening gifts that year at Christmas—our anniversary is near the holiday—he handed me a box and said, “Happy Anniversary,” with a big grin.
I dug in, ripped off the paper, and pulled out the most beautiful red dress. The design comprised of a sleeveless, sequined bodice with a jersey, flowing asymmetrical skirt. I cried. He told me how he went to 4 or 5 different stores before he found the right one. He had listened and had given me my heart’s desire… again.
I still have the dress. It’s 3 sizes too small now, but it hangs in my closet as a reminder to me that love should mean we care enough to listen, to really hear those we say we love.
Love is Eternal
One of my favorite historical fiction books is Love is Eternal by Irving Stone. It’s a meaty, detailed drama of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln’s romance and life together.
Sometimes I crave a book I can sink my teeth into and take my time reading. Love Is Eternal fits that quota. It’s not a quick read or a page turner but satisfies all the same. My favorite quote from the book:
“She must always remember that: love ebbed and flowed, now rich and shining, now shabby and disconsolate. One must survive the bad in order to realize the good. Therein lay the miracle of love, that it could eternally recreate itself. She must always be dedicated, no matter what the years held, what the hardships or disappointments, the sorrows or tragedies: she must come through them all, through the most violet and the frightening storms; for at the other end, no matter how long it might take or how dark the passage, one could emerge into the clear warm sunlight.”
My love and I have seen many such tragedies and sorrows. We’ve so far weathered the “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse” part of our marriage vows. This season we find ourselves in has many challenges. The chief being my disease. It comes between and separates us. I hate that, but my illness has taught us to care and trust on a deeper level than if we’ve never had to struggle through this storm. I hope at the end of it all, when we spend our patience or days, that we can both say, “Love brought us into the sunlight.”
To hear some of the more romantic portions of my books, tune into my podcast tomorrow afternoon at https://Anchor.fm.jennyknipfer-author/ I’ll read several original poems and read excerpts from several of my books.
Thank you for reading my thoughts. I encourage you to listen, love, and persevere with your sweetheart. Happy Valentine’s Day!
I am excited to share the prologue of my upcoming historical fiction book, Silver Moon with you! At the core Silver Moon is a tale of courage and hope during the darkest of times. I set Silver Moon during WWI from three male characters’ perspectives and their counterparts at home. Read the back cover blurb HERE.
It has a slightly different feel than my previous two books Ruby Moon and Blue Moon. The aspect of war crafted Silver Moon with a sharper, more poignant voice, but at the heart of Silver Moon still rests the fact that God is with us in the darkest of times.
. . . We were the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt
dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were
loved, and now we lie
In Flander’s Fields
. . .
From the poem, In
By Dr. John McCrae
Yea, though I walk
The valley of the
shadow of death,
I will fear no evil
. . .
Vimy Ridge, France
The wee hours of
April 9th, 1917
The door between death and life is so
thin. I could melt into the passageway as easyily as floating on water. It is a
place just one step away from drowning. I could be buoyant and breathing one
minute, then not. Death’s door becoming a fluid birth.
Will they find me and
the intelligence stowed away in my shoe before I die? Will I die before I can make
a break for freedom? Death resembles a sort of freedom, I suppose, one I find
almost welcoming. My mind tells me it would be easy to surrender to the pull of
the mud and the slimy, icy water, but my body won’t let me. It struggles to
survive. My lungs suck in quick gasps of air through a copper tube as I stay
covered in my watery grave, but I need more. Soon, I will need to breathe,
really breathe, for I am starving for oxygen. Unless I die of hypothermia
first. Perhaps the mud acts as an insulating layer.
Should I listen and
give in to death’s call?
Maybe, for I don’t
even know who I am anymore. The man I used to be haunts me and grieves me with
accusations. I am a killer. I am a liar. I am a cheater. I’m worse than my
father ever was.
Does war really give
us a bill of rights to become such things?
Maybe death would
erase the wrongs I have done and the atrocities I have seen, the images of men
blown to bits before my very eyes, their visceral remains flecked upon my face
like macabre confetti. Skewered, bayoneted bodies pile up in my memory like
stuck pigs ready for the roasting. We are all preparing to be roasted, for the
way of mankind has delved into the depths of hell. Here, I rest in this muddy
trench, a narrow sea of mud, water, rats—the living and the dead.
go. It’ll be easy . . .
reverberates in my tired soul. But I can’t. An image of myself as a boy flashes
before me—hanging off of the cliff at home by the distant shores of Superior.
My fingers grip the dirt and rocks again as if it were yesterday and not twenty
years ago. In the vision my feet slip, and I am a fall away from death’s embrace,
but Someone intervenes. My soul now cries as that boy once cried.
“Help me! Save me!”
I open my eyes and see
by the light of the silver moon—a face, smeared like a dark watercolor painting
through the water. I see a shadow pass before the moon, and before I know what
is happening, I feel a tug. I am pulled from the black embrace which called me
to release, and I break the plane of the frigid, murky water at the bottom of
the trench wondering who has me in their grasp.
“Luis? Luis!” a voice
fiercely whispers, inches from my face.
He looks like . . . Oshki?
Am I dreaming? How can
this be? My ragged lungs take a deep surge of air as I spit out a thin, metal
pipe which has kept me alive for the last . . . how long has it been? Hours?
Minutes? I can’t be sure. I shake and shiver in the night air.
Oshki, my young
friend. He represents home, hope, and everything good. But I am not of that
world anymore. I have been sculpted by darkness.
“O-sh-ki?” I finally
sputter out. The tremors of my body make my voice rattle in my chest.
He pulls me into a
standing position. The water sloshes around us like a simpering witch’s
cauldron. We stand thigh deep in the lifeless dirge of the trench. I must look
like a frightened fool to him. My eyes focus only on his.
We are in an outlying
spot that is supposed to be occupied but has recently become flooded. I hoped
they wouldn’t think to look for me in this deserted portion of Pan’s labyrinth,
and I certainly didn’t think my own countrymen would find me.
“You’re safe, Luis.
There are no Krauts here. But how did you . . .?” Oshki’s hands grip the lapels
of my uniform.
I want to believe he’s
real. I do. But the mind plays funny tricks in the darkness.
I focus on nothing but
him. “How did you know I was here?”
“A fella named Rooster
told us, a German turncoat. He escaped and mentioned an escaped prisoner with
him. We were told to investigate, and what do I find?” Oshki slaps me on the
back with a splat. “You are one crazy Canadian, my friend.”
made it. I hope he hasn’t told Oshki too much. Besides the major, he’s the only
other person who knows the truth.
I glimpse the outline
of another man at Oshki’s side, but I concentrate on my friend. He offers an
explanation of their appearance.
“We were going out
this way anyway ‘cause Staff Sergeant Jenkins sent Lenny and me to gauge the
state of the trenches at this end and if they were passable or not.” He pauses
and looks deeper into my eyes. I avert my gaze and busy myself with wringing
some water from my drenched clothes.
“Why were you acting
like a sewer rat?” he asks.
“I got a bit lost in
the dark is all, and I thought I’d attract too much attention sloshing around.
They were close on my tail.” I stand up straighter and back away from him
a bit, hoping he doesn’t notice my German military jacket. Oshki doesn’t know
who I really am or what my position really is. He just knew of my recent
placement as a lieutenant with the Allied ground forces near here. The men were
told I was captured.
“Well, lucky for you
they moved on a while ago.” He points to the hands of the serviceman waiting
to lift me up out of the place I thought would be my grave. “Come. We’ve
got to get ya warm but stay low.” He moves ahead, but suddenly he turns and
looks at me incredulously. “I still can’t believe you’re alive and . . . free.”
I am reminded of my
prayer. “I had a little help, it seems.”
Oshki grins at me in
the silver light and thumps me affectionately on the back. He’s shorter than me but stronger. I try to
grin back to hide who I’ve become. But war has changed us all irrevocably—even
he looks older to me.
He says nothing, but I
catch his eyes searching me to the core. He must sense more to my story. The
spirit of an Ojibwe wise man rests in this young man. Even though his eyes
shine hazel, they remind me of the knowing, black eyes of his aunt, Maang-ikwe.
Eyes which can see every part of you. It makes me want to hide again. But no, I
must be brave.
Brave. I have been
brave for years. I am tired of being brave.
But I choke down my
fatigue and force myself to move. It is what I do, because I am a soldier and .
I am a spy.
I hope you enjoyed reading the prologue of Silver Moon and will check back here on my website for more details further on this spring when the release date approaches.
Art and life require a matter of perspective. You can’t make sense of what you see until you take into account the scope of what’s around you. On Dictionary.com perspective is defined as:
the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.
a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.
The key words to focus on—“giving the right impression … when viewed from a particular point”. Let me explain…
One of the first things I learned in art class was perspective. Imagine marking a dot anywhere on a paper. Now draw a square anywhere on the paper. Use a straightedge ruler to make a line from each corner of the box to the dot. Notice how when the line draws nearer to the dot the box becomes smaller. The dot is the vanishing point and the place where everything drawn on the paper must be orientated to.
I love the impressionistic paintings. Think Monet and Renoir. They are built with small sections of color like the modern day pixel. You can’t see the true picture if you’re up close. It’s just a bunch of dots or dabs of paint. The artist still keeps in mind a point on the page in which all the objects are set to when painting, but it isn’t until standing away that the true image and scope of the art comes into focus.
That’s how life often is. We get discouraged by how little progress we’ve made in the interim, but when taking gauge of a longer span of time—like those draw out lines from the box to the dot—changes can be perceived.
I accomplish so few things in a day compared to what I used to be able to do pre-MS. Standing back, I see my physical decline. Most afternoons I rest in my recliner for an hour or two and wonder how I am going to accomplish the rest of the things on my list before my husband gets home. Taking a shower and getting ready in the morning wipe me out. Chores like laundry and dishes have to be partitioned into short segments of time, and even then I push myself to complete a task. I often end up looking around the house at the end of the day tallying the few things I finished or even started.
Though my physical energy and strength have declined, when I look back to when I really started pursuing this author path, I’ve come a long way, baby!
I quit my job in April of 2018, and before the end of the year I had written two novels.
In the spring of 2019 I published my first book, Ruby Moon. I learned a lot and made a few mistakes. I worked hard at building an online platform of website and social media connections.
By October of 2019 I published Blue Moon and had written two more books.
This month I’ve made headway as well. I started a podcast focusing on what I have and am learning on my path, sharing methods and tips for writing, my stories, and indie author interviews.
My third book, Silver Moon, will be released this May/June.
I plan to release the last book in the moon series this fall.
Next year I hope to publish the first two books in the Sheltering Trees series.
Looking back, I see just how far I’ve come in less than a year, and it makes me feel better about my physical turtle-like capabilities in the day to day operations of life.
I do remember the days where I could do next to nothing using my eyes and brain power. My head hurt so much that I could only tolerate a limited time viewing a computer/tablet screen and I couldn’t read a book. I am glad I have improved. I’ll happily take my decrease in mobility over the decrease in the use of my vision and mind.
But all in all, we are more than our accomplishments. More than what we put out. We are important because we are loved and made in God’s image. Even at my most disabled, I found a way to share that love with others. If we can do that, life holds meaning.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or frustrated with what you see in your life, take a step back, and take in the whole picture. Getting a little perspective of your situation may enable you to understand and see more than you think. Be encouraged. 😊