Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Gwen M. Plano

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

Today Gwen Plano shares her appreciation of the love and strength she received from her father throughout her life and the lessons she absorbed.

I wish I knew then what I know now. by Gwen Plano

 A few weeks ago, in Sedona, AZ

When I was a child, I knew that life had ups and downs. It was everywhere visible on the farm. But I didn’t understand that each moment is a gift. It’s only these latter years that have helped me realize this fact. I’ll backtrack a little to explain what I mean.

Through tears and plenty of fearful situations, my dad would make sure his seven children were safe. When I was thrown from a horse face down on a gravel road, it was my dad who picked me up and took me to the hospital where I remained for the week. When I had pneumonia and could no longer breathe, it was my dad who rescued me. Time and time again, he did that for me and my siblings. And because of his actions, I always knew he would take care of things, take care of me.

Gwen holding her youngest sister. 

What I didn’t know was that there would come a time when I would be on my own. Truly on my own. Such a thought didn’t register when I was young. I wasn’t reflective about life in that way. Dad was there, and he was larger than life.

Gwen and her parents at her first wedding.

As I moved into adulthood, my dad slipped slowly to the background and with that movement, I became responsible for my life and soon the lives of my four children. I always worked at one college or another, and when I returned home in the evenings, I attended to other demands. Sometimes life was a blur – diapers to change, little bellies to fill, appointments to keep. And imperceptibly, I slipped into a world that barely included me.

It was tragedy that woke me up, opened my eyes and my heart. And I realized that Dad’s strength was mine. At first, I didn’t understand all the ‘whys’ of the challenges of life. But as the years passed, I began to see the hidden giftedness of those trials. I experienced how pain could bring me into compassion for others, and how fear drew me to a crossroads of choices.

At some point, I stopped thinking in terms of what is fair or not. Life simply isn’t fair in the ways we normally think of it. Rather, I began seeing that life is about learning – learning how to love ourselves and others. Learning about who we are and finding our voice.

Learning about why we are given life in the first place.

Gwen at 22, with her first son. Living in the country, attending Purdue University in Indiana. 

When this shift began, I thought a lot about my dad. As a farmer, he wasn’t one for words, but when he spoke, I listened. He lost his arm in a farm accident, but after recovering, he determined he would learn to do what any man could do with his one arm. And he did. “If you put your mind to it,” he’d say, “you can do anything.” I didn’t believe him at that time, but I do now.

As my dad aged into his 90s, he struggled to stand, sometimes to remember. But with a few laughs, he’d claim, “This is better than the alternative.” When he was about 92, I drove him to the hospital for surgery. He asked that I first drive him past his fields. One by one we paused by expanses of wheat, sugar beets, and cotton. Dad would take a deep breath and say, “Isn’t it beautiful, Gwen?” I’d always acknowledge that it was, and in heart I registered that he needed that glimpse of beauty before undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer.

The above experience prompted the realization that my dad and I were more alike than not. Nothing calms my soul more than nature, and clearly this was true of him as well.
So, what do I wish I knew as a young person that I know now? I wish I really, really understood that though life is full of challenges, every moment is a gift worth embracing. I wish I knew that we are given life to learn and to become more fully the gift itself. I wish I understood that sorrow pursues each of us – the good and the bad, the rich and the poor.

But through sorrow’s arrival, we learn. I wish I knew that beauty is inherent in our spirits, and it can lift our souls during the darkest moments. I wish I knew that Dad not only protected me, saved me, he loved me tenderly – even though he never said the words.

©Gwen Plano 2022

My thanks to Gwen for this post that underlines the need to appreciate that we all face sorrow in our lives but we can learn from this and treasure the support and love others give us.  I know Gwen would love to receive your thoughts on this.

About Gwen M. Plano

Gwen M. Plano, aka Gwendolyn M. Plano, grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen’s academic background is in theology and counseling. Recently retired, she now lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys writing and travel.

Gwen’s first book is an acclaimed memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. Her second book, The Contract between heaven and earth, is a thriller fiction novel, co-authored by John W. Howell. It has received multiple awards and is an Amazon Best Seller. The Choice, the unexpected heroes is the sequel to The Contract. It is also a thriller, involving the attempt of an unfriendly nation to take over the world. The third book in the series, The Culmination, a new beginning is an action-packed military thriller that spans the globe and involves multiple Heads of State and the threat of World War III. Only love can change the fate of humanity.

When Gwen is not writing, she out and about in the beautiful Ozark mountains which she now calls home.

Read the reviews and buy the books: : Amazon UKand : Amazon USfollow Gwen : Goodreads –website:Gwen PlanoTwitter: @gmplano

Books by Gwen M. Plano

One of the reviews for Culmination

Book three in a series, The Culmination reads easily as a standalone novel. A political thriller, that addresses denuclearization, tensions in the Middle East, and the fate of refugees, much of the story echoes current headlines. The plot is complex involving multiple heads of state, along with the strategical give and take of political maneuvering on a global level. The author clearly put an extensive amount of research into this book, and it shows. Adrenalin-fueled scenes alter with more cerebral moments, and even a few romantic interludes.

I especially loved the evolution of the relationship between the two central characters, Margaret Adler, VP of the United States and Ivan Smirnov, acting President of Russia. During the course of the novel those titles change, and we learn more about each, including richly developed backgrounds. I was thoroughly invested in the difficulties Margaret and Ivan faced, both on personal and political levels. Their scenes together were among my favorites of the book. There’s also a young refugee child who factors into the story and who stole my heart.

A unique combination of character-driven and plot-driven fiction, I recommend this compelling tale to readers who enjoy strong character development and complexly-plotted intrigue.  


Thanks for dropping by today and it would be great if you could share Gwen’s post. Thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore Update – #Reviews – #Mystery James J. Cudney, #Memoir Liesbet Collaert, #ParanormalThriller John W. Howell and Gwen Plano

Welcome to the Friday edition of the Cafe and Bookstore with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author today is James J. Cudney with a review for Legally Blind Luck (book 7 the Braxton Campus Mysteries)

About the book

Surprising new family members. A hidden talisman. Deadly curses. Horrific murder. Months after tragically losing a loved one, Kellan learns his relative’s death wasn’t an accident.

Someone discovered Queen Tessa’s cursed talisman, and a rogue government agent will stop at nothing to retrieve the heirloom. Too bad it changed hands during an anonymous auction and found its way on campus. Moments before Braxton’s controversial art exhibition opens, Kellan stumbles upon another murder victim. It appears he might be next on the avenger’s list too.

Will Kellan protect Tessa’s true heir and prevent a killer’s nefarious plan from ending the curse? Given all the suspects have ties to prominent Braxton citizens, he’s uncertain whom to trust. Together, Kellan and Sheriff April are determined to solve the mystery via legal means or purely through blind luck.

One of the recent reviews for the book on Goodreads

Jul 29, 2021 SA Krishnan rated it five stars

Entertaining read.

Kellan is one of the most hilarious detectives I have read about in recent times. His supporting cast deserve a special mention and Nana D and April, stand out of the crowd.

Among the others, what surprised me is the complex relationships between the people.

Fox is really something. I nearly laughed out aloud when I came to know his real name.

The mystery about Queen Tessa and the missing figurine and Uncle Zach’s death all came together as an intricate puzzle and the way Kellan gets about solving the pieces was an enjoyable read.

The cosy mystery was thoroughly entertaining at all levels.

A selection of other books by James J. Cudney

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US and: Amazon UKWebsite/Blog: This is my truth nowGoodreads: James J. Cudney – Twitter: @Jamescudney4

The next review today is for Liesbet Collaert and her memoir Plunge: One Woman’s Pursuit of a Life Less Ordinary.

About the book

Tropical waters turn tumultuous in this travel memoir, as a free-spirited woman jumps headfirst into a sailing adventure with a new man and his two dogs.

Join Liesbet as she faces a decision that sends her into a whirlwind of love, loss, and living in the moment. When she swaps life as she knows it for an uncertain future on a sailboat, she succumbs to seasickness and a growing desire to be alone.

Guided by impulsiveness and the joys of an alternative lifestyle, she must navigate personal storms, trouble with US immigration, adverse weather conditions, and doubts about her newfound love.

Does Liesbet find happiness? Will the dogs outlast the man? Or is this just another reality check on a dream to live at sea?


Have you ever wondered how life could be if you had made different choices? If you didn’t marry early, commit to a large loan for the house, focus on your career, start a family?

Maybe you’re just curious about how a person thinking outside the box manages? A person without boundaries, striving to be flexible, happy, and free. What you are about to read is how one such person follows her dreams, no, her intuition, and how she survives her naivety, life altering twists, and a relationship in close quarters.

Plunge is a story of what happens when you go with the flow, when you have a bright idea – or thought you had one – and ride the waves of the unknown. Ready to hop aboard and delve in?

One of the recent reviews for the book

Rachel Caldecott 5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally honest  Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2021

I’m not particularly into sailing (I went a few times when I was in my teens), I don’t particularly like beaches (give me an ancient ruin any day), and I don’t like putting my head underwater (I’m a wuss). BUT, I was riveted by this book. I’m now even more convinced than before that the sailing life is not for me.

Like all really good memoirs, it is incredibly honest, and the reader can easily recognise themselves in parts. Liesbet even has the courage to reveal her less than noble thoughts.

There were certainly moments when I thought that either the author or her husband would find themselves tipped into the ocean never to be seen again. You really got a sense of the frustrations of living together in cramped conditions under dangerous situations. The honesty of her feelings about sickness and death was refreshing, if not sometimes uncomfortable. (I don’t want to give any spoilers). But she did make me cry a few times.

Liesbet wrote in the present tense, which I thought was an unusual move for a memoir, but it worked very well for the action scenes (of which there are many) and for the inner voice; the writer’s confessional.

Highly recommend this book and look forward to more adventures.  

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Find more reviews on: Goodreads

Also by Liesbet Collaert

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon USAnd: Amazon UK – Follow Liesbet: GoodreadsBlogs: Roaming About Cruising the World the way it is – Facebook pages: Personal Liesbet CollaertRoamingsaboutItsIrie – Twitter: @LiesbetCollaert

My final review  today is for The Contract: Between Heaven and Earth by John W. Howell and Gwen Plano.

About The Contract

The earth is threatened with a catastrophic political event which could result in international warfare and destroy all life on the planet. In heaven, a divine council decides that extraordinary measures are essential. They call for an intervention that involves two souls returning to earth. The chosen two sign a contract that they will work to avert the disaster.

Brad Channing, a Navy SEAL, and Sarah O’Brien, a teacher, become heaven’s representatives on earth. The story follows them as they individually and then together face overwhelming obstacles and eventually end up on a strategic Air Force base in California. It is there that they discover a conspiracy to assassinate the President of the United States. The terrorists have a plan for global dominance and they are determined to complete their mission. Although military leadership appears to have the President’s best interests at heart, it is not clear who can be trusted and who should be feared. The action is rough and tumble as Brad and Sarah try to figure out the culprits for the plot that will turn into a worldwide conflagration unless stopped.

If you enjoy thrillers, this is one with enough twists and adventure to keep you riveted and guessing. If you like your thriller along with a good romance, Brad and Sarah’s initial attraction and eventual love will sustain you as they live out their heavenly and earthly desires. A Great summer read.

A recent review for the book

Bookworm 92 4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Action  Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2021

An easy read that is part thriller, part love story, a part supernatural. Peter and Teresa are two angels who are sent to earth to thwart an assassination attempt on the president. They assume the identities of Brad, a former Navy SEAL, and Sarah, a woman caught in an abusive marriage.

The action is fast-paced with a cast of characters that keep the reader guessing the identities of those involved in the assassination attempt. Coauthoring a book can’t be an easy task but this was well done so readers aren’t aware of different voices. There were places where the dialogue seemed a bit formal and out of character. Otherwise, an enjoyable book.  

Other books by John Howell

. Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon USand on: Amazon UK – Goodreads:John Howell Goodreads Blog: John W. Howell. com – Twitter@HowellWave

Other books by Gwen Plano

Gwen Plano, Buy: Amazon US – and : Amazon UK – follow Gwen : Goodreads – website:Gwen PlanoTwitter: @gmplano


Thanks very much for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.