Carol Ann Erhardt!
Carol Ann, come on out!
The swooshing of helicopter blades whoop across the azure blue sky. Then the purple helicopter comes into view from a puff of billowy white clouds. As the aircraft circles the English garden, a white staircase swoops down and Carol Ann gracefully descends. She waves at Sharon, rushing onto the teakwood terrace where honeysuckle, rustic bittersweet and lavender scent the air with their delicate fragrance.
Sharon: Rushes over to hug her friend. Well, Carol Ann. You certainly know how to make an entrance, don’t you?
Carol Ann: You liked the purple helicopter, huh? I wanted to “rise” to the occasion of being here with you, but I must admit my fear of heights almost made me back out. However, the view was spectacular! Besides, purple is one of my favorite colors.
Sharon: Do have a seat in one of the plush teakwood chaise lounges and Oliver will serve refreshments. Isn’t it a lovely day?
Carol Ann: Gorgeous!
Oliver glides out, pushing a sterling silver caddy. With a sweeping bow, he pours two glasses of ice water into crystal glasses. Then he uncovers a platter of cheese and crackers. Strutting over to the rose arbor, he snaps a white rose from its glossy green foliage and hands it to Carol.
Carol Ann: Why, thank you, Oliver. You remember…so much.
Sharon: He remembers carting around the mug of white roses and says you planted the white roses in his garden. Is this true, Carol Ann? Or just another one of Oliver’s fantasies? He says you coordinated the fall contest for the white roses, Cup Runneth Over Contest. Do dish about this contest?
Carol Ann: Yes, it’s all true. Oliver was such a good sport carting around that mug on his tray. But, he looked so handsome doing his balancing act. I did plant white roses in his garden…well, we kind of did it together. As for the fall contest, it was so much fun! So many authors participated and we enticed a lot of readers to join in the fun. They searched through author websites and blogs to find hidden mugs of white roses. Each week, one person won a free e-book, and the grand prize winner, Crystal Renfro, won eight e-books, a white rose mug, a basket of Arbonne beauty products, and a box of white organic tea. The only bad thing about being the coordinator was that I couldn’t participate. I sure would have loved being the grand prize winner.
Sharon: Now let’s chat about how you keep it all balanced. Your mother has recently moved in with you and your husband. How is that going?
Carol Ann: I have to be honest and say that most days it is very trying. My mother wasn’t what you’d call an ideal mother in any sense of the word. I grew up never feeling loved or wanted. In fact, I moved in with my grandparents the day after I graduated high school. But, she’s my mom. The only mom I’ll ever have. After my stepdad passed away, we invited her to live with us but she wanted to stay in her house. I’m sure I’d be the same way, but we let her know the option was there. I called her at least three times a week to chat and to try and add some smiles to her life. Two years after Dad passed, the doctors diagnosed her with a bad heart valve. She refused to consider operation as an alternative. They gave her a two year time-frame. Eventually, she had to make the decision to move. She couldn’t keep up the house and she had very little money in her bank account.
We remodeled our bathroom to accommodate her. She’s been bitter and lashes out because she had to leave her home, but I know she’s angry at the situation, not at us. In her own way, she loves me. And, I’ve forgiven her. God and I have had many talks about Mom, and He’s shown me how to love her unconditionally. However, this has definitely added more responsibility onto my already full agenda.
Sharon: I’m sure that can be very distressing. But your wonderful faith in God has no doubt guided you during this trying time. Bless you, dear friend. And your husband has emphysema? Oh dear, I hope the roses Oliver is over there pruning for you won’t do any harm? I know I suffer from allergies (ha shoo) and even though I adore my flowers, they don’t always adore me! How is your husband?
Carol Ann: My wonderful, soul-mate husband loves roses. He loves to garden and work in the yard. The main problem is the condition he has prevents him from being able to do all the things he used to do. He has trouble breathing when he exerts himself too much. It’s scary to watch the one you love struggle to breathe. But, as long as he isn’t overdoing, he gets along pretty well.
Sharon: Doing what we love and enjoy is so good for the soul, isn’t it? I think that adds balance to the things we don’t particularly like. And you work full time? Tell us about your job and what it entails?
Carol Ann: I do. I’m a full time Executive Assistant to the President of a wine and spirits distributor. Mostly I handle a lot of reporting. He’s a good boss, and I love my co-workers. Since I love working on a computer, and that’s what I do all day, it’s a good fit. However, I have made the decision to retire at the end of this year.
Sharon: So how do you keep it all balanced? What is your secret? Do dish with us, girlfriend!
Carol Ann: Jesus keeps me balanced. Starting each morning with devotions centers me for the day. I do a lot of talking to God during the day, and when I come home at night, I’m always walking into a warm, safe place. As a mother of eight, who worked full-time, I learned to be organized. I don’t rigidly set a schedule, and I do allow interruptions. Rarely is there a time when I “plan” to write or read, when one of our children and their families drop in. But, knowing my priorities are God first and then family, the rest of the stuff can wait. Building good relationships is important both spiritually and emotionally. I’ve learned to “go with the flow.” My husband helps me a lot. He keeps things picked up during the day when I’m at work, does some of the grocery shopping, and always helps me clear up the dishes after dinner. He’s been so good about accepting Mom into our home, although it’s a test of faith daily for both of us. I remember how God walked with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and saved them. I know that He walks with me daily as I go through the fires. Balancing priorities becomes a manageable task with Jesus.
Sharon: Amazing! A mother of eight! And you are still so young and vivacious! And I admire you for building such loving and emotionally strong relationships with your family. That’s the key to a healthy environment. They are all so fortunate to have you in their lives. And your husband does indeed sound like a gem. Tell me about your hobby? You like to look out the window and wait to hear God’s voice. That is so inspiring. Tell us what you hear.
Carol Ann: When you asked me what my hobbies were beside reading and writing, I had to stop and truly look at my life. In my spare time, that’s what I do! I read and I write. But as I pondered the question, I was looking outside my office windows at the beautiful world God created. This has become a ritual for me. My office is on the ground floor of our bi-level home. I face the windows and it’s so peaceful to just sit and stare out at the beauty His hands have created. I feel Him so close and I just sit back and listen for His voice. Sometimes I sit outside in the swing in our backyard, or walk the paths in our local park. I see God in the birds, in the butterflies, in the flowers, and in the puffy white clouds in the sky. What do I hear? Many times I hear Him telling me what I should write. Sometimes, He gives me direction on which path to choose when faced with a decision. He’s always there. Sometimes I just close my eyes and listen to His voice in nature. It’s such a calming, peaceful feeling. Even when I’m feeling low, He brings me comfort.
Sharon: That is so beautiful, Carol Ann. Thank you for sharing that with us.
Oliver, finished with his clipping and pruning, struts out with two bowls of butter pecan ice cream. He dips the silver spoon into a huge hunk and feeds it to Carol Ann.
Carol Ann: Mmmmmm. Now that’s pure delight. Oliver, you do know the way to a woman’s heart.
Sharon: I dare say he has a wee bit of a crush on you. He’s been pampering the roses and fussing all morning, counting the hours until your arrival. And what about your writing? You’ve written such beautiful and heart-warming stories. What are you working on now?
Carol Ann: The working title is Trapped. It’s the story of a woman who has an unfortunate auto accident, which leaves her incapacitated for several weeks in a small town where she knows no one. She’s been running from a man bent on destroying her and anyone she cares for. She has never known much about God. But when the entire town wraps their arms around her, showing her unconditional love, she begins to understand the power of faith. However, when her nemesis finds her, she’s got to make a decision. Run away to protect the man she’s falling in love with, or stay and trust that God has a plan?
Sharon: That sounds like another best seller! Where does your energy come from? Your source of inspiration?
Carol Ann: It comes every day when I put my feet on the floor and thank God for another day. He shows me things to strengthen my faith, brings a smile to my face, and presents opportunities for using my gift of words to bring Him honor.
Sharon: How would you like to be remembered when you leave this earth?
Carol Ann: As someone who served others with a cheerful heart.
Sharon: What do you do when you are zapped of all energy? Any secrets to share?
Carol Ann: I retreat. I need time alone, away from the hustle and bustle, to just relax and recoup. Having as many kids as we do, there were times when I would go into the bathroom to soak in a bubble bath with a book. I have to laugh when I remember the times the door would open and my youngest daughter would come in to ask a question. Then my husband would follow to try and get her to leave me alone, and in the midst of that, our large black lab would come lumbering in and splash his paws in my bubbles. Precious memories now, that was very frustrating back then. Finding times to be alone then was difficult. Today, I am allowed that privacy. And most times, I use that alone time to remember all those wonderful moments.
Sharon: That’s so sweet. And finally, can you give us some words of wisdom today, a quote from a poem or the Bible we can cling to in today’s trying world?
Carol Ann: Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
Just then, Oliver presents Carol Ann with a bouquet of freshly cut white roses. Taking her hand, he serenades her with her favorite song:
"There's Just Something About That Name" by Gloria and
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.”
As the helicopter comes to pick up Carol Ann, she is still smiling as she blows Oliver a kiss.
Carol Ann Erhardt, is mother of eight and caretaker for thirteen feral cats. She insists she isn't a crazy cat lady, but rather a "purr-petual" romantic who took action to spay/neuter the growing population of unwanted felines in her neighborhood. This romantic suspense novelist loves to read as well as write. Her novels are set in small Appalachian communities nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. To learn more about Carol Ann and her work, visit her website at www.carolannerhardt.com.