Get Your Affairs in Order

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The issue of impending death arises early in my new novel CeeGee’s Gift. When CeeGee has a Knowing, an event that reveals knowledge of the future, she blurts out to her new friend Mr. Tindale that the things he worries about don’t matter. When he challenges what she means by this, she replies, “What I mean is, if you have something you need to do, well, you’d best do it—and soon. Fact is, you don’t have much time, Mr. Tindale. So, you best get yourself ready. Your time is real short.”

At first, he is angry at her for invading his privacy and acting as if she knows so much, but then he realizes she has given him a great gift. He has a window to plan for an inevitable future. He decides he will do exactly as she advises, get his affairs in order. 

Mr. Tindale begins by ordering a custom-made oak coffin and adding the lining himself. Before he passes on a few months later he has settled his estate, and with these assets he is able to fund a remodel of the town library, provide books to stock the shelves, pay for CeeGee’s college tuition until graduation, and start a scholarship fund at the high school. Other citizens are inspired by his generosity and host a fundraiser to add to the fund, which is named after Mr. Tindale and his beloved wife, Maggie May.

Many of us resist this planning, we don’t want to think about death. But we also give up the opportunity to create our own legacy. It may not be financial gifts that we leave, but thoughtful letters to loved ones, or hosting a special event while the opportunity is still there. It may be offering forgiveness or simply saying, ‘I love you’. One does not have to be wealthy to leave a legacy, but one does have to be brave enough to face an inevitable fate—in advance. Are you?in

What Does it Mean to be Gifted?

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We take a lot of care in our education systems to recognize and nurture gifted children. They are often placed in special, smaller classes and encouraged to work at their own pace, moving ahead as quickly as they can. Some parents take their gifted children out of the education system and home school them, nurturing their gifts while encouraging them to thrive. They are presented to the world as outside the norm as they play the piano, explain their invention, excel in sports. Whether physical or intellectual, their gifts are held in high regard.

The discussion of what it means to be gifted in the novel, CeeGee’s Gift, has an entirely different take. CeeGee’s gift comes with the responsibility to be generous, to offer her gift with kindness and a desire to help others. That is the only reason she has it.

As I wrote the story, I began by thinking about who we would become if misfortune or illness robbed us of our gifts. And then I thought, ‘Well, if you can no longer give one gift, you must find another one to give.’ I came to believe that being gifted was not about being special and pampered, it was about a responsibility to find ways we can each do good in the world. 

I hope as children, parents and grandparents read this book, they share a discussion that is two-fold. First to the child, ‘Are you gifted? What are your gifts?’ Followed by the second, more important question, ‘Are you giving your gift generously? In what ways have you helped others by giving your gift?’ I hope readers will let me know if they have this conversation and what the outcome was. I would love for you to share with me, so I can share with others.

It's Never too Late to Create

In recent months several friends of mine have discovered they are creatives. These are women 50 and older who were a little dejected, a bit unfulfilled with the present, and each began a project. One involved scrapbooking with old bits of fabric that carried fond memories, the other worked on painting skills to illustrate a family story book. They were transformed by these experiences and began to approach work, life, time and space with new eyes. They had a new way of looking at the world. 

I was raised by a fearless creative. My mother would try any art form—oil painting, stitchery, collage, mixed media, anything—and I never recall her worrying or being fearful that she would not be good at it. She just thought creativity was fun. She was not brought up this way. As the dirt-poor daughter of a hell-fire-and-damnation Baptist minister, she was not taught to find joy in creativity. It was just in her. Or, like my other friends, she looked inside and found it.

My own creativity is less tactile than my mother’s or my friends. As a child I found creativity in singing, dancing and acting, then as I grew older, increasingly in writing. When I am writing there is no linear time, there are no boundaries. These are the most liberating moments of my day. And if I don’t write, like my friends, I feel a little dejected, a bit unfulfilled. I wrote CeeGee’s Giftover many years, but the final manuscript was written during a tense time in America, a time of hate and despair. While writing, I did not have to live in that time. I was with a magical young girl, and a dear old man, in a town where people were kind and time stood still. Perhaps this ability to enter other places and spaces is why we must create. What drives your creativity?


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