Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
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Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Loving Our Neighbors…

Some days I feel so far away—especially when our nation is in crisis, and I so desperately want to do something, anything, to help. But even though I can’t do much from Germany, I’m inspired when I see how many Americans have responded with overwhelming love to help neighbors they don’t even know.

I’ve been meeting people from around the world here in Berlin. Not all countries are like the United States where so many people want to help others in need.

One family’s story…

When Katrina devastated New Orleans, my friend Brandi opened up her home in northern Mississippi to her parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins who lost everything in the hurricane. Thirty people and eight dogs lived with her for weeks as they tried to recover from the shock.

Brandi sent out an e-mail for help. They needed clothes to fit everyone from her two-year-old niece to her eighty-year-old grandmother.

People responded with an amazing speed, and in days, the post office called to say they had a truck full of packages to deliver—clothes and gift certificates from across the country. Many from people they didn’t even know.

My step mom rallied a group of churches and businesses and people in Central Ohio who donated an overwhelming amount of gift certificates, cash, and household goods to help them start over. My dad delivered these things to Brandi's family via U-Haul this week.

I’m grateful to be a citizen of a country where people generously and sacrificially give their time and money to help others in need—loving their neighbors as well as hurting people around the world.

God bless the U.S.A.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Why I Write...

Some people wake up one day with an idea and decide to write a book. They publish, sell thousands of copies, and then they’re done. They never feel compelled to write again.

Some days I wish I could stop writing. Stroll through a museum or a park without etching every detail into my mind for reference. Enjoy a dinner out without eavesdropping on conversations for dialogue clips. Or savor a sunset or a river cruise without wondering how I’ll describe my experience later in paragraph form.

It’s annoying. Obsessive. But I can’t stop. Writing is integral to who I am.

I started writing when I was seven. I journaled about pizza nights and visiting Grandpa and Grandma and what my best friends said at school. When I was nine, I wrote my autobiography. It was short but typed with splotches of Wite-Out smeared across each line.

When I was eleven, I started a novel—a mystery about an old house and some detective kids. About fifty handwritten pages into it, I quit because I didn’t have a clue where it was going. But I fell in love with the creative process. I wanted to write fiction.

In sixth grade, I wrote a weekly newsletter for my class. By high school, I was writing for the school newspaper and yearbook. And when I graduated, I wrote articles for my hometown newspaper to help pay for college—a journalism degree, of course.

You get the idea…

When I started writing fiction, I began writing in small chunks. Ten minutes before breakfast. An hour when my girls napped. For as long as I could stay awake at night (which wasn’t very long). Then I thought about my next idea as I ate lunch, pushed the stroller, and shopped at the grocery store.

My issue is not about finding time to write. It’s about finding time to live around my writing.

God gave me this passion…desire…dream. If I never publish again, I’ll keep writing the journal entries and stories and articles like I did as a kid. I can’t help myself.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tearing Down My Walls

Two blocks to the west of our flat stands one of the last sections of the Berlin Wall. This cement block is covered with slurs of graffiti—the lonely cross beside it a grim reminder of No Man’s Land.

The wall is hidden at the far end of a stately cemetery with shell-damaged mausoleums and polished new stones. Giant oak trees line the walkway between the stones, shafts of sunlight peeking through their leaves.

When I walk along this quiet path, I can almost hear the whispers from twenty, thirty, and forty years ago when secrets were traded, information passed between dissenters who dreamed of freedom without the wall. I walk in the footsteps of people who were trapped within the wall, many whom fought and died for life on the other side.

The Stasi (Secret Police) permeated every part of East Berlin society, generating fear into those who weren’t loyal. For almost thirty years, the people in my new neighborhood couldn’t see over the Wall. Crosses were torn down. Churches were disbanded. Colored paint was replaced with browns and gray. Government controlled education, work, religion, and the raising of Communist kids.

Then hope arrived in East Berlin in 1989. Freedom! The wall came down.

Yet in spite of their freedom, half of East Berliners still vote for the Communist party in local elections. Why? Because they miss the good ole days when loyalists lived in the shadow of security and were guaranteed a job. I could scoff and say I don’t understand their rejection of freedom, but maybe in a slight way, I do.

Living so close to this once formidable wall makes me wonder…

Can I tear down the walls in my own life? Knock down my fear of failure, my guard against rejection, the shield I carry to deflect criticism, even the intimidation that comes from something as simple as writing a blog.

And more important, when the walls come down, can I be grateful for the new adventures God has given me? I hope and pray that on this writing journey, I’ll keep striving, trying new things instead of getting stuck reminiscing about the good ole days when life seemed easier, and I lived in the shadow of security and a “real” job.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey as a writer, traveler, follower of Christ, and mom. In the bright light of freedom, it’s guaranteed to be one wild ride.