Facing Fears


Public speaking has always been fairly terrifying for me, but I’m facing my fears and slowly but surely, getting over them. It helps a lot when one know what they’re talking about. But it helps even more when I can get out of my own neurotic head, and move from thinking, Oh, my God… they’re all looking at me! to It’s my job to make them comfortable and to teach them something. They’re all counting on me.

It does not help to pretend everyone is naked. I have a very good imagination, but not that good. Or bad.

I spoke twice this past weekend. I won’t deny, that kind of pressure takes a toll on me. I was so exhausted from it, I slept all afternoon on Sunday. But I think both presentations went as well as I could make them, and that’s all I can expect of myself: My best.

So, thank you to the Henderson Heritage Park, and St. Luke’s United Methodist Women; the two groups who gave me the opportunity to speak. Both events were blessings I enjoyed very much. Some day, I hope I can get up and speak without feeling wiped out afterward or nervous before and during. That’s my goal. To become good at public speaking. It’s my new quest. There. I’ve put it out to the world. Now let’s see where it goes.

What are your fears and are you trying to conquer any of them?

Too Much Great Food


I’m all excited about some new food discoveries:

Blue Apron:  This is a meal delivery business. I was given a free week of food from my daughter for Mother’s Day. Basically, a big box came to my door and inside was all the ingredients I need to make three meals for two. The recipesare included and it takes you step by step through making a  delicious meal I might not have normally made. Iwas prepared to poo-poo this concept, but by golly, in the end, I do believe there is a market for this and I have to give a nod to those companies who are serving this niche market. Cost-wise… not sure it’s a financially sound idea unless you have plenty of money to spend. I could buy all of the products to make these six meals for far less than the amount they charge. But… would they be delivered to me? Measured out? Including the steps for the entire meal? Without me having to even think? Nope. I’d have to go to the grocery store, plan the menu, find the recipes, unpack the groceries. Chances are, I’d buy more than I needed and have waste. OR… more likely, I wouldn’t do it at all. I’d order out and have more calories and a higher price tag on the meal.

Tonight I made Seared Cod with spring vegetables in a vinaigrette. Delish! I would have never thought of this spring veggie salad and I know I’ll be making it again. It was outstanding. So, I’m pretty excited about Blue Apron delivered meals. It’s in-home cooking school. It’s fun. It’s nutritious. I’d recommend it to anyone who can afford it, has very little time to spare to eat well, and who enjoys trying new recipes and foods. Especially a single person or a couple who is only home in the evening for one meal.

My husband’s garden: There really isn’t much my husband can’t do, and do well. Turns out, gardening is also among his talents. Right now the peas and beans are flowering in his beautiful garden. The tomatoes and peppers look great. We’ve been enjoying lettuce, kale, spinach and radishes. He keeps it beautifully weeded. It’s a thing of beauty. I couldn’t be more proud of him. And because he also makes lunch sometimes, I now know how much I love….

Radish sandwiches. Because of my husband’s garden and cooking, I now am in love with a radish sandwich. Recipe? Cut up radishes in thin slices. Put on white bread with mayo and butter. Lettuce is nice, too, but not a must. Yeah. It’s really, really good. I know. Who would have ever thought?

Cake donuts: I really don’t want to think about them because it only makes me want a dozen. We have a small business in our area who sells their baked goods at a local grocery story a couple of mornings a week. All these years I thought I only liked fluffy glazed donuts. Then I tasted these cake donuts. Curses. Now I know that twice a week I can go buy as many cake donuts as I can carry out, and they are, to me, heavenly. I think this is just cruel. Why? Why me? Why did I have to go and fall in love with cake donuts from Buresh Bakery? In all the grocery joints in all the world… why’d they have to walk into mine?

I’m doomed.


I Can Fix That For Ya



Writers create characters from  many people in their past. Actors in movies, our teachers, friends, and, of course, our relatives. One relative from my past would certainly be Aunt Virginia, who everyone called, Jidge. I have a classic tale about Jidge that should leave you having an image of this woman from my childhood, and yet another goofy story about my silly life.

Aunt Jidge had wire-like grayish white hair. It stood out around her head in a type of afro, which I assume resulted from an old-lady perm gone terribly wrong. Jidge had pop-eyes which left her looking curious, in an astounded sort of way. I don’t have a specific memory of her smoking, but she must have because her voice had a sandpaper quality. She was a big woman with layers of chins and arms. I remember big brown moles on her face and some stray hairs on her chinny-chin-chin. So, yeah. Aunt Jidge was kind of a frightening looking woman to a kid, but I was used to her, so she didn’t scare me… but, I wouldn’t have crossed her without first preparing to take off at a sprint.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I tended to miss a couple of days of school here and there because of dreaded awful menstrual cramps. I would have been loathsome to discuss this when I was younger, but over the years, doctors have done things to me that have quite effectively eliminated most of my pride. Plus, we now listen to Viagra and Depends commercials during dinner… so, really, once those topics are up for conversation, what isn’t on the table to discuss?

So I’m home one school day when I was around sixteen, writhing on the couch, clutching my gut, and cursing being female, when Aunt Jidge takes a look at me and says, “I can fix that for ya.”

Since my pain was at a point I could almost no longer bear, I was completely up for whatever cure scary old Aunt Jidge had up the sleeve of her sweater.

She waddled into the kitchen, got out a glass from the cupboard and filled it half full with water. She put it in the microwave. Heated it to boiling. Then she took my Dad’s bottle of whiskey and filled the rest of the glass with its dangerous amber liquid. “Now, drink it all at once!” She hands the warm concoction to me.

She had a look in her eye, sort of a cross between demanding, knowing, and just plain devilish. I did what I was told. I’m pretty sure I was unconscious within five minutes, and there is the story of the first time I got drunk and passed out. Essentially, a crazy old aunt slipped me a hot toddy. I slept right through my cramps in an utterly relaxed state. Yea for crazy Aunt Jidge! It’s amazing what adults could do to kids back in the seventies!



Malcolm’s Choice


The picture above is old. Maybe 29 years old. Something like that. It’s of me at maybe 22, and my dog Malcolm. I’m laying on a super-cheap couch Steve and I bought for our first home; an old two-story farmhouse belonging to the family my husband worked for as a hired hand.

Malcolm had quite the history in my family. He first belonged to my sister, Gwen and her husband John. I believe they owned him when they lived in St. Joseph Missouri. Then they had their first child, Jackie, and I think that was the reason behind Gwen and John bringing Malcolm to live at my parent’s farm… on which I was living too… at the time I was probably 14 years old.

Malcolm was a Labrador, and anyone who has had labs knows they have great personalities. That dog was like the cool guy at the party. He had all kinds of swagger and strut and I spent a lot of time hugging on that dog. He was an excellent listener.  I completely trusted Malcolm.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about my teen years. I know Malcolm didn’t like every guy I dated. He barked at some and wouldn’t let others pet him. I remember saying I wouldn’t marry a guy unless Malcolm approved of him. Well, I held to my word. Along came Steve and lo and behold, Malcolm didn’t as much as bark at him. He loved Steve right from the beginning. So did my mom now that I think of it. I remember getting head to head with that dog. I said, “This one? Are you sure?” His tail wagged.

Our wedding day

Our wedding day

That dog did not steer me wrong. I haven’t always realized it, but Steve is just what the dogtor ordered… sorry, couldn’t resist the bad pun. My husband married me 31 years ago today. I’m lucky to have him. And I’m very glad I listened to my good old dog, Malcolm!

Potential Stories


It’s time for me to move on, but I’m stuck. Quagmired in my vacation. My brain keeps recalling little things, preventing me from doing big things. Real things. Like laundry, making meals, cleaning things. Writing my book. Writing the next book. Balancing my checkbook. So I’ll write down the little things and hope it will be like facing fears… If I deal with it, then I might be able to get on with it. Because, seriously, I have things to do!

So, here are the little things that I think are little scenes or stories I’ll always remember and may like to tell.

  • The bird in the breadbox.
  • Biduie spanks the cat.
  • Singing, “Oh, Champs Elysees.”
  • The man with the green scarf.
  • The Birds liked Eric Clapton.
  • Drinking in the dark.
  • Mis-using French. Au Revoir means goodbye, not hello.
  • Twisting the nose.
  • Viola!
  •  Three valium and the last plane ride.
  • Madame Marchand.

Now, we’ll see if there’s a story in any of these tidbits. Let me know if one, in particular, sparks your interest.


On Flying



For many years, I refused to fly. Yes. I’m one of those people. Flying is something I dread. Fear, actually. Oh, let’s face it. Here’s the truth. Every time I get on a plane, I assume I’m going to die.

For as many years as I’ve been afraid of flying, people have laughed at me and said, “Why?” or “Oh, I LOVE flying!” or the good old standard, “More people die in car accidents than in plane crashes!”

None of these quips are a comfort to me. You might as well be talking to a liberal democrat, saying, “No, seriously. Right wing republicans have some good points!” Neither those democrats nor me, in regard to flying, are going to just stop, and say, “Oh. Okay! I hadn’t thought of that.”

Back to that deep soul wrenching thought I might die… today by the way… I’m getting on a plane to Paris this evening.

Yup. Flying across the ocean. Gulp.

The question begs answering. What if I did… you know… leave this cruel world?

Alas… adieu.

(How morbid! How draconian! Bobby McFerrin would say, “don’t bring everybody down like this.”) Well, hang in there, kids. I’m not just playing at theatrics. I’ve got a point to make.

In the idea I am about to face my demise, here are my parting thoughts. They are streamlined. There are only two things I would credit in my life. God, and my husband. Everything else in my world falls under one of those two categories. Children, family, friends, health, home, experiences, beauty, love. Essentially, God gives me everything, including my husband, and my husband is really the only relationship I need to keep healthy. Everything falls right into place after that.

I’ve got a strong faith and can’t imagine life without it. And I have a very good… the perfect one for me… husband. Really, I don’t think anything else matters. All I ever need to do in this life is to keep those two at the forefront of my mind and all else will be what it will be. That knowledge makes me smile. I’m so glad I have finally become old and wise enough to know these things. And knowing this really does put my mind at ease. That and a nice little pill for relaxing and a glass of wine.

So, fears – I’ll keep facing them.

Delta Airlines? Treat me well. S’il vous plait.

Paris France? Be kind to this American. Merci, beaucoup.

C’est la vie. Au revoir. The next I write will be all about this new land I’m about to meet and friends with whom I’m going to have adventures. Tres Bien.

When Women Roam


I looked at the date this morning and squealed. I leave for France in 13 days. OMG!

Beverly Teche, a member of my writing group, came home from France to visit last fall. We all talked about how awesome it would be to go visit her in her little French village, Fresnay. Then Dee Schmid said, “I think I’d actually like to go!” (She used to live in France and can speak French.) I said, “I want to go too, but I’m sure I can’t.” “Why not?” Bev asked. And that’s where this ball started rolling.

Why not? Not often do opportunities like this come along. I’m going to get to experience France with one friend who lives there and another who used to live there. Both speak French very well. I’ll have two French-speaking tour guides! It’s sort of a no-brainer.

So, to record this wonderful excursion, Bev, Dee and I will post to a dedicated blog so friends and family can see pictures and read about the places we go. Each of us will add our own thoughts and pictures. I’m looking forward to the writing almost as much as time with friends and the sights, sounds and smells we’ll see.

The blog site is pretty and will be filled with our pictures and thoughts about this grand excursion! The blog is titled, When Women Roam. We each wrote our thoughts on travel. I hope you’ll visit the site! Merci, beaucoup!

Writers Helping Writers


Last Saturday, my good friend Victorine Lieske and I had the opportunity to speak to the Omaha chapter of the National League of Pen Women. They bought us lunch, we met some very nice women and saw a couple of friends from other writing connections we have. And, as always with writers, we had good conversation and plenty of laughs. You can read all about the history of the National League of American Pen Women at their website: NLAPW.org.

I love speaking at events with Victorine because she’s a writing, marketing, ebook guru known all over the country. She sells books in her sleep! So, it’s pretty cool she lets me come along and share the floor.

I know not to talk about writing or marketing because I’m just a beginner learning the ropes. But I can talk about the importance of critique to work a book and make yourself accountable to your readers. I can also talk about networking.

Here’s what Connie Spittler, the group’s current president, had to say about my portion of the program. “Gina Barlean’s main and best points. As friends, we can give each other free publicity.” It’s a simple premise. Just common sense—one thing this country girl has, at least on occasion. I like to break things down into language we can all embrace. I try to do that in my book, Build a Writing Team. In that book, I talk about networking. It’s a word that can simply translate into, be a friend to each other.

  • I’ll promote you and you promote me.
  • I’ll support you, you support me.
  • I’ll help you and you help me.

Sorry to take the mystery out of it. If you want people to help you out, help them out. If you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. Let’s combine our talents and see where it takes us.

What I pointed out to the NLPW was that women already have this skill perfected. Those who are successful do this for each other from the time they’re very young. They rally behind each other and build each other up. So I thought it was pretty neat to find out the organization’s original goal was,“mutual aid, advice, and future development” for each other and their careers. 

Interestingly enough, the Nebraska Writers Guild also had women writers of the era—Aldrich, Cather, Sandoz. And their history is quoted to say among their goals was, “…to foster the development of the talent of those who desire to write and who show definite possibilities of authorship.” Similar era, similar women, similar thoughts. Pretty cool, I think. Essentially, they encourage women authors to help each other out, and to support and give advice to other writers.

I guess our foremothers had this networking thing figured out long before we ever did. It’s true. There really is nothing new under the sun. Funny, though, how our world wants to put new names and spins on what the past already knew so well.

Great Blog Posts


Scatter brained seems to be my mental state as of late. I really don’t know how I juggled life when I was young. I never even had to think about it. Just like I never had to think about dieting or being in shape, or how I would ever get everything done. Nope. Never crossed my mind. I just did it. Now, ooh, la, la… I need lists, and then notes to remind me of where I put my lists!

This leads me to my blog posts. At least 20 times a day I think of awesome ideas for blog posts! Do I remember them when I sit down to actually write the blog? Heavens no. It’s a totally blank page up there in my noggin. Not a clue what that amazing idea I had in the shower was. No recollection of the epiphany I had in church or during a session at conference. So, you, my poor readers, get a half-assed jumble of shinola. Woe is you.

I decided to do some blog reading today in hopes of either remembering or getting a fresh idea for a blog post. I found that other people must still be able to think, so I’m going to share their posts with you. They did a bang up job! I think all of their ideas are well worth reading.

Brian Crouse wrote a wonderful blog about gratitude today. I love to practice gratitude. The older I get, the more lucky I know I am. I like that he considers gratitude a super power.  Suspending Belief

Then I read a post by Charrissa Stastny.  She always sees the bright side and shows us the beauty in the world. She’s the kind of person I want to always be around. I’ve never met her in person, but just reading her blog makes me happy every time! Joy in the Moments

My friend Becky Breed took me back to childhood with this article about road trips. Boy, it was just like being there. Everyone has these kinds of memories. And aren’t memories a kind of trip in themselves?! Write in Community

Carrie Reuben and I have been following each other’s blogs for a few years now. Today she wrote about when writers use big words. She makes me laugh, and think. Both of which do me good. The Write Transition

The other blog post I read this morning was Faith Colbourn’s. She talks about how nurturing each other can actually affect our DNA. I believe it. Kindness is key. Prairie Wind Press

I hope you’ll check out all of these blogs. I read them because I respect these people and I find what they have to say to be intelligent and of value. I think you will, too.