Monday, November 26, 2007

HUGE Fiction Giveaway

My daughter Christina and I cowrite books about relationships. We are a relationship. We want to dominate the relationship brand. And we want to have at least 500 subscribers to the Ashberry Lane Newsletter by the first of the year. Should we expect you to sign up and work hard at strong-arming your friends to sign up while you get nothing out of the deal? No way!

Compassionate as we are, we've worked up a HUGE new incentive. How better to promote our relational fiction than featuring other fiction that focuses on different types of relationship? Why don't we give our supporters a chance to win EIGHT autographed books? What a great Christmas present that would be! Or what a lot of Christmas shopping done for you!
Without further ado, we present, with a booming voice,


For the Friend Relationship: Roxanne Henke's After Anne

One of our absolute favorite books. As you watch Olivia and Anne struggle through a difficult challenge, you'll want to be a better friend.

For the Prodigal Relationship: Robin Lee Hatcher's Return to Me

How many of us have walked away from what our father wanted for us? Or away from our Father? This story will remind you that the you can go home again.

For the Marriage Relationship: Robin Jones Gunn's Wildflowers Wildflowers

Married Genevieve falls in love with the man she least expected could win her heart. It's not who you might think ....

For the Sibling Relationship: Lauraine Snelling's Ruby (Dakotah Treasures #1)

In the first of this frontier series, Ruby must deal with her new "inheritance" while protecting her sister from its influences.

For the Man's Perspective on Relationships: James Scott Bell's Breach of Promise

A heart-rending story of a man trying to keep his family together.

For the Supernatural Relationship: Tosca Lee's Demon: A Memoir

Don't let the title of this book scare you away. There is no glorification of the demonic, but an enlightened fresh look at what History means.

For the Relationships Gone Bad: Bette Nordberg's Serenity Bay

A truly terrifying story of woman who married Prince Charming and discovered he wasn't.

For the Single Among the Marriage-Minded: Camy Tang's Sushi for One? (The Sushi Series, Book 1)

You'll laugh. You'll relate. You'll be impressed with this debut novel from up-and-coming author Camy Tang.

EIGHT books. ONE winner. Here are the ways to win:

Current subscriber and previous referrals are already in the hat. Any new subscriber or referral will gain another entry.

Publicize this to your homeys through newsletters: one entry.

Blog about the contest: one entry. (Email us if you need what to post.)

Include it in your Christmas cards: two entries.

Tuck it in the gift bag with the fruitcake you'll be leaving on random doorsteps: five entries.

Subscribe! Spread the word! Flood the blogosphere! Take over the world!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Last Update About the Fire

This picture of my precious Ashcraft grandchildren was taken just hours before the fire last Sunday.Every thing in the photo was lost, but every body was saved. We are so blessed.

The Red Cross put the family up in a motel for four nights before they were able to move into a small rental house. When I talked to Johnathan on the phone his first night there, he sounded very excited. "Grandma, at my new house I have windows AND curtains AND walls!" Nothing like losing all those things to make one appreciate what we take for granted. The community has rallied around them, providing the family with basic necessities and lots of love.

Speaking of community, that is about to change. Several weeks before the fire, Mark had been approached by the Athena Police Department, asking him to apply for an opening they had. Athena is a small town NE of Pendleton, heading toward Walla Walla, WA. Mark had the interview on November 1st and knew he wouldn't find out the results until the 16th. Meanwhile, the fire occured on the 11th. As Mark and I stood before his burning house he quietly said, "I've been asking God for a sign." I replied, "I think this is about as close to a lightening bolt as you're going to get!" He was informed on Friday that Athena wanted him, and he accepted.

No one in Pilot Rock, including his kids, knew of this possibility. The girls (Brenna 15, Cassie 13) have grown up there. They were devestated when told that they'd be moving. In the span of 5 days they lost their house, their church, and now their school and friends. I would really appreciate your prayers for them as they work through all the emotions pounding through them. (And we're talking teenage girls, here!)

Holly's parents spent the weekend with them, helping sort through the few things they were able to salvage from the house. Strange things made it through, like Holly's spider plant she's had for years and the collection of crosses she had in her basement bedroom. Probably the strangest thing was the survival of the unity candle from their wedding. You just don't expect a candle to make it through a fire!

The four kids came back to Salem with Holly's parents yesterday, and will be spending the week with them. That will give Mark and Holly time together as a couple to deal with the changes and challenges ahead of them. A job change is a big enough stress, but to have all the rest of this going on at the same time...

The upside is that we'll get to have the kids with us on Thanksgiving Day. There'll be cousins here, as well as great grandparents and aunts and uncles. At this fragile time in their life, they'll be surrounded with family.

I pray you'll have that same blessing this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Newspaper Article with Pictures

This is a really good article about the fire. Our son, Mark, is featured in it. When the reporter mentions that Mark chuckles, just be aware that he is famous for his chuckle--a deep bass going ha-ha-ha, with pauses between each one! Follow this link to the article: East Oregonian.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fire Update

My heartfelt thanks to the many of you who have contacted me directly or left a comment here in response to my blog about the fire early Sunday morning. (If you haven't read that particular blog, scroll down and read it now before continuing with this one.)

I've called Mark and Holly on a daily basis and they are coping well and sounding strong. The family has spent the two nights since the fire at the Best Western Motel in Pendleton, as there are no motels in the small town of Pilot Rock. A member of their church has a vacant rental and will let them have temporary shelter there. It will be a tight fit for their family of six, but as Holly says, "At least it will be a roof over our heads, which is more than we have now!" The insurance adjuster toured their former house yesterday and declared it a total loss. The foundation is all that might possibly be useable.

Here are pictures taken by a neighbor that morning. I don't know if anyone got photos of the house with flames, but the ones of the burning church next door are pretty powerful. The outside walls of the house are still standing, but the inside is gutted. In fact, fire reignited in Cassie's bedroom yesterday, more than 24 hours after it started.

(I don't know why the pictures and text look just fine when I preview this blog, and are messed up when I do the actual post. And Christina's not able to help me figure it out, as she can't navigate the stairs with her bum knee!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where There's Smoke...

I sat in front of my computer last night, wanting to share about my experiences of the day, but having no idea where to start. So I didn't.

This morning I woke up at 5:02. The quiet and darkness were as comforting as the blanket that hugged my shoulders. A stark contrast to 24 hours earlier, when the waning hours of night were broken by shouts, flames, and cold.

John and I had gone to eastern Oregon for the weekend. We'd spent Friday night with an older couple in Condon. I got to visit my heart out while John tuned pianos at their church and the Elks lodge. We left Friday morning and headed to Pendleton. John tuned four pianos there while I spent time in the local Christian bookstore, library, and went to lunch with a friend. My daughter-in-law, Holly, works at Walmart, so I spent some time (and money) there while waiting for her to get off work at 3:30. I rode out to Pilot Rock with her and was greeted with delicious hugs by our four grandkids. (These are the ones we took to Disneyland in August.) John arrived in time for dinner and we had a great time as a family that evening. Cassie is turning 13 next Sunday, and I had bought 7 books for her at the Oregon Christian Writer's Conference last summer, and had them autographed. She is a voracious reader and writer and I was sure she'd be thrilled with autographed books. We celebrated her birthday that night and she was overjoyed with her gift. I done good!

Things quieted down in the house around 10:30. John and I got to sleep in 4-year-old Johnathan's room. That handsome little guy slept on the top bunk, John and I on the bottom. We put our ear plugs in and closed the bedroom door so the dogs wouldn't join us during the night. At 5 yesterday morning, I woke up and turned over in bed and one of my ear plugs fell out. I tucked it under my pillow and heard a man's voice yell, "If they're going, they need to go now!" Honestly, my very first thought was, "How rude! It's early Sunday morning. No one needs to go anywhere!" I had a second to wonder whose voice it was, as I knew it wasn't my son Mark's. They had another guest (also named Mark) spending the night, and he had bedded down on the couch in the living room. It didn't sound like his voice, either.

Our bedroom door burst open and Holly flipped the light switch. She swooped sleeping Johnathan off his bunk as she yelled, "Mom, Dad, get up! The church is on fire!" (Their house is next-door to a 95-year-old Presbyterian church.) I reached beside the bed for my glasses, slid my slippers on, and tore a blanket from the bed to wrap around me. John was scrambling beside me. As I left the room and headed for the front door I could feel intense heat on my face. A neighbor woman had Kaylee bundled in a blanket and was tearing through the living room. I follwed them out. Holly was right in front of me (I think--things are kind of a blur!) and she yelled that the two older kids, Cassie and Brenna, were already out. We all ran across the street, except for Mark, who was in his backyard, spraying the church-side of the house with the garden hose, trying to keep the fire from spreading to the house. But the heat was so intense, the water evaporated before it could do any good. Once her kids were safe Holly went to move her van from in front of the house. The plastic handle was already bubbling from the heat, and she singed her hand a bit, but was able to move the car to safety. Mark got his truck moved, a neighbor moved Mark's new motorcycle, and John had "happened" to pick up a pair of pants as he ran from the house, and his car keys were in the pocket, so he could move our car, too.

I cannot yet describe the sight that met my eyes as I looked across the street from my safe vantage point. The three-storied church was ablaze, flames leaping in the air. The sounds of wood crackling and windows exploding filled the air. I couldn't even pray. Couldn't form a coherent thought beyond, "Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord." The kids had been taken to a neighbor's house across the street and I knew they were all safe. I stood in the street with my arms around Holly. She was moaning and then exclaimed, "My house in on fire!" The heat from the conflagaration had started a fire in their attic. We'd been out of the house for ten minutes, if that.

The Pilot Rock volunteer fire department showed up with two pumpers, and finally a tower truck from Pendleton. For hours, literally hours, we stood and watched both structures burn. Soon into the process Holly asked a friend to take Cassie and the twins across town to a friend's, so they wouldn't be watching their house burn. Neighbors brought out blankets and coffee, gave hugs and condolences, and the classic offer of "If you need anything, let me know. We'll help however we can." Pilot Rock is a very small town and that community knows how to pull together. Not only had they lost their historic church, but also the house of their senior police officer. The house burned for hours. For some reason, the fire fighters were unable to get the blaze subdued.

But God is good. And may I say again, GOD IS GOOD! There were nine people sleeping in that house, on two levels. All of us got out safely, including three dogs. A neighbor across the street had been awakened by his dogs barking. He and his wife saw the engulfed church and ran over and saved our lives by pounding on the door and yelling. If that other Mark hadn't been sleeping on the couch in the living room and heard the pounding, it would have taken more time and effort to alert us to the danger, and who knows what might have happened. I think we were all out of the house within a minute's time.

We all scooted out with only the clothes on our back. John's and my carry-on bags that we travel with were in our room, along with our credit cards, my purse, medications, etc. We knew it would be a real bother to have to replace those things, but nothing compared to what Mark and Holly were facing. Four hours into the fire, Mark and Holly were allowed to make a trip into the section of the house that wasn't currently burning, and bring out a few things. I looked up to see Mark carrying our bags to us. I couldn't believe it, but my purse survived, as did all the contents of my wallet. Even my cell phone made it through and still works! Holly brought out her precious wedding gown that her mother had made for her years ago. It wasn't damaged. And Mark rescued the flag that had covered his grandfather's coffin years ago. Very fitting, as yesterday was Veteran's Day.

A friend drove Holly and me over to where the kids were. The twins ran to us, wanting held and hugged. Johnathan said, "Grandma, my house got break-ed." Kaylee told me her house was "fired." As I loved on those two little ones, that's when the tears welled. What if we had lost one of them? What if something had happened to the older girls? As the grandmother, I found myself dealing with the what-ifs. Poor Mark and Holly have to deal not only with the what-ifs, but also the what-is. The work ahead of them is staggering. Yes, the house was fully insured, but that doesn't make replacing everything an easy job. It's all going to take time. The kids have lost their house and their church, all at the same time. Life will be very different.

John and I left around noon, as there was nothing more we could do. I was so thankful we'd been there and able to be a support for our kids. John had only bedroom slippers to drive in.(Well, and his clothes!) A neighbor girl gave me a pair of socks and shoes, and over my pajama bottoms I wore a pair of pants Mark had found in his truck. I had sleep-top on, but no bra. (I finally joined the Women's Liberation Movement of the '70s and burned it! I did have a light-weight jacket that had been in our car overnight, and could wear that when needed so I didn't look indecent.) I had my glasses on, no makeup, and hadn't combed my hair since Saturday morning.) And that's what we looked like as we traveled home. As we stopped at McDonald's for something to eat. As we went into Fred Meyers to buy a new pillow for John. And you know what? I really didn't care. We had survived a near-tragedy. We might not have looked pretty or smelled very good, but our whole family was alive. Nothing else mattered.

Other people were taking pictures, and when those are sent to me I'll definitely post them. I think this particular blog is long enough. I don't even know if many people will read it, but I needed the cathartic release of getting some of my thoughts down on paper, so to speak. I'm so thankful for the prayers of those of you who knew what was going on. For those of you who hear about it this way, please pray for the Mark Ashcraft family as they go through this difficult time. I'm sure I'll need to write more about the experience, but this it for now. Go love on your family!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

One Fine Day

Friday was a glorious fall day here in the Pacific Northwest.The azure sky was punctuated by the orange, yellows, and reds of deciduous trees, and the air was fresh. It was the kind of day that screamed to be used in reckless abandon instead of wasted indoors. Luckily for me, the grandkids had no school due to teacher in-services. I wouldn't have to play by myself.

A few days earlier I had been walking the back part of our 15 acres and came across a couple of trees that took me back to memories of my childhood. My dad was with the Forest Service and there were times we lived in the mountains. As the oldest of five children, I took it upon myself to direct what and where we would play. One of our most favorite things was to find a place to build a fort. Sometimes we actually constructed a structure, but usually we would clear out an area under some trees and use it for a base. We played for hours in an innocent world of Cowboys and Indians, soldiers (I always got to be the nurse for the wounded ones) and just playing house.

I invited Andrea and Joshua to join me in fixing up a fort here on the Ashberry property. The forest floor was covered with windfall and tangles of blackberry vines. But we were the mighty conquerors and within an hour I had sawn off lower dead limbs, which the kids carried to a nearby area. I was able to make short work of the berry vines, too. As you can see in the picture, I left branches that they are able to climb up, swing from, and bounce on. They ate their sandwiches in their new fort, gathered leaves to use as money, and began playing Star Wars. A new generation, but with the age-old ability to use their imagination!!