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Lilac bush – update!

My little lilac bush I’d transplanted from my South Dakota trip last summer has survived the brutal southern winter. It dropped all its pretty heart-shaped leaves in anticipation of harsher times to come, I’m sure, but it never froze. Well, maybe it did that one night–for about an hour, just before dawn. But, does that even count? Ha! I’ll be watching these buds, hoping they’re nourished and thriving, eager to burst forth with glossy dark leaves. Fingers crossed!Spring Buds 3-17-2016

Letting Go, with Love!

J Logo sm[NOTE: this is a repost from two years ago, but worth revisiting.]

Isn’t it odd, that when the time is right, the Universe sends you the one message you need to hear on any given day? I found that to be true, today. This is Saturday morning, late September, and I’d slept in. I’d just finished my coffee so thought I’d empty the dishwasher. That load had been waiting several days already. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re busy people. Don’t judge, okay? Okay.

The bottom rack has the utensil basket and I always start with that, then move on to everything else. With all the hardware back in their slots and bins, I noticed a three inch long piece of masking tape, edges curled and crisp from age, in the bottom of the utility basket. The tape had finally come loose from a pie server that had belonged to my mother.

Mom had been a second grade school teacher for 32 years, played the organ every Sunday at mass, and sang at many weddings in our little community. It was her habit to mark stuff when taking a pot luck dish to the numerous events, and over the years, I got used to having my last name on the back or bottom of most everything we owned.

"Giddy-up, Grandma!" Many years ago, my sons and my mom. Great memories!

“Giddy-up, Grandma!”
Many years ago, my sons and my mom.
Great memories!

Mom passed away eight years ago and, like everyone else who’s suffered a similar loss, I’ve missed her every day. I’ve since incorporated many of her kitchen items into my own, but that one pie server is the only item that refused to let loose of the pesky label. Who knew that masking tape was that strong? I’d dug my fingernail into the ends of the tape, run the thing through the dishwasher numerous times, and it’s never let go. Until today.

Tears filled my eyes as I saw that bit of tape—with my maiden name inscribed in my mom’s unique handwriting—at the bottom of that basket. It was like mom was hugging me from Heaven. Of all the days in the year, she picked this one day to let me know she’s never truly gone away. You see, today is my birthday.

Thanks Mom, I love you, too!

Saga of my little Lilac Bush

J Logo 75My recent road trip up north brought back many fond memories of home and all things South Dakota. How much I’ve missed my favorite flower, the lilac! Their beauty is unmatched, especially when paired with their unique scent. Sadly, my home in coastal Texas has been too far south for a lilac bush to survive, let alone, thrive and blossom. It’s not the intense southern heat, it’s the lack of a real winter. These hardy bushes actually need the longer winter months to generate those huge, heavenly scented blossoms.

Well, with our recent move to the edge of the Texas Hill Country, I’m giving lilac bushes a try. My dear friends near my home town of Mission, Walt and Sonja Lurz, donated part of their bush and a bucket of native soil. I’m giving that bush every possible chance, including scattering ice chips near the root system to extend my southern winter. LOL! Wish me luck. I’ll keep y’all posted on my little lilac’s progress.

My favorite flower, lilacs!

My favorite flower, lilacs!

2015 Road Trip: Texas to South Dakota, and back!

J Logo 75Made it HOME, and wow, what a great time we had. Just might take the rest of July to recover, but it was so worth it! Met my sister’s best friend from high school days, Sandy Hunger Hendley, up in the Dallas area and we made the rest of the trip together. Just like a couple teenagers, we shared memories and giggled the whole way.

Nazareth Convent Sisters of St. Joseph Est. 1913

Nazareth Convent
Sisters of St. Joseph
Est. 1913

Sandy Hunger Hendley under the front gate of the convent.

Sandy Hunger Hendley under the front gate of the convent.

We stopped for a break in Concordia, Kansas, and stumbled across Nazareth Convent, established in 1913 when my dad was just one year old. Enjoyed lunch at Kristy’s Family Restaurant [Great food!] and fell in love with the town.

Brownstone Hall

Brownstone Hall

In fact, Brownstone Hall is the old mansion at the top of the hill that I must use in my next story. Love the lions! Can you find them?

 

 

 

 

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Home of Walt and Sonja Lurz near Mission, SD.

Home of Walt and Sonja Lurz near Mission, SD.

We stayed at a lovely ranch near Mission, the home of Walt and Sonja Lurz. Sandy and Sonja are sisters. We loved every minute with them and hated to leave, but vacations don’t last forever. Never enjoyed myself more and I’ve adopted their whole family.

 

 

 

 

TCHS: the gymnasium

TCHS: the gymnasium

My home town, Mission, SD, is the home of the mighty Falcons! Awesome high school reunion, but before you start yawning, the town isn’t very big. It’s so small, they only host reunions once every five years, and you have to have graduated at least ten years prior to be included. Let’s just say that as a 1969 graduate, I definitely qualified. LOL!

 

Yeah, I created my share of trouble/fun. The 1968 annual staff photographer asked me to pose. What would you have done? LOL!

Yeah, I created my share of trouble/fun. The 1968 annual staff photographer asked me to pose. What would you have done? LOL!

Me, revisiting The Wall (sort of), in the lobby of TCHS.

Me, revisiting The Wall (sort of), in the lobby of TCHS.

Here’s a picture of me in the 1968 yearbook. Yeah, I’m hanging from The Wall. The annual staff photographer caught me in one of my more unique moments while I was out of class and wandering the hallways. I’m blaming my wedge heels for not being able to climb that wall this time. [Okay, just go with it. I tried. Ha!]

Street Dance after the high school reunion dinner. Shut down the whole street!

Street Dance after the high school reunion dinner. Shut down the whole street!

After the banquet and much greeting and hugging of old friends and neighbors, we found our way to the center of town and the Main Street dance. Yeah, they shut down the street for us. [Like I said, it’s a very small town!]

 

 

Hidden Timber, SD (The dam/lake is new, to me!)

Hidden Timber, SD
(The lake is new, to me!)

We took a couple extra days to travel around the county from Hidden Timber to Parmalee, then to Wood, Witten, and O’Kreek. Remember Jordan Hill? So many changes, yet things somehow remained the same. Loved that! There never used to be a dam along Hidden Timber road, but the little valley is absolutely lovely.

The cliffs and dock at the Rosebud dam.

The cliffs and dock at the Rosebud dam.

Summertime fun, sunbathing at the dock in the middle of Rosebud Dam.

Summertime fun, sunbathing at the dock in the middle of Rosebud Dam.

And, here’s the Rosebud Dam. Never used to be moss in the water, and there weren’t any trees or shrubs below the cliffs. It has been quite a few years, and nature takes over. We used to dive off those cliffs and swim out to the dock and sunbathe. Great memories!

 

 

 

 

Francis Case Bridge over The Missouri River.

Francis Case Bridge
over The Missouri River.

My new bed partner, Nick!

My new bed partner, Nick!

Katie with her sweet and cuddly cat, Nick.

Katie with her sweet and cuddly cat, Nick.

We crossed The Missouri River on our way to Sioux Falls where we spent several days with my niece, Julie Sell. Julie’s daughter, Katie, kept us giggling and her cat, Nick, became my new bed partner. So cuddly!

 

 

 

IMG_1606IMG_1592On our way out of town, we toured the reason for the town’s name: The Falls on the Big Sioux River.

 

 

 

 

Entrance to The Palmer Candy Shoppe, home of the notorious Twin Bing candy bars. Yum!

Entrance to The Palmer Candy Shoppe, home of the notorious Twin Bing candy bars. Yum!

An old fashioned candy vat sitting at the entrance to the shoppe.

An old fashioned candy vat sitting at the entrance to the shoppe.

Just a sample of the goodies to be found inside the candy shoppe. See the Twin Bings?

Just a sample of the goodies to be found inside the candy shoppe. See the Twin Bings?

Our last official stop was The Palmer Candy Shoppe in Sioux City, Iowa. If you’re from the Great Plains and moved away, you know you can’t get Twin Bing candy bars where you now reside. So, while there, I bought a couple boxes of ‘em, along with a few souveniers. And, high on a shoppe shelf, I also found a couple small jars of Choke Cherry Jelly—another item not found in Texas.

Here's my haul: Palmer Candy hat, cookbook, and a whole box of Twin Bings. Yes!

Here’s my haul: Palmer Candy hat, cookbook, and a whole box of Twin Bings. Yes!

We’ll see how long the candy lasts. Between me, my kids, and my sister, I may have to hoard a few Twin Bings. LOL!

Thanks for coming along with me down Memory Lane. What’s your favorite childhood or teen years memory? Lazing on a dock in the middle of a lake? Horseback riding? Or, a candy bar you can no longer get? Careful, it just might end up in a book!

Luggage, Road Trips, and a Sleepy Muse!

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My new luggage. Love!

My new luggage. Love!

I’m in luggage heaven. Look what just arrived! I’ve been searching for carry-on size luggage pieces that are suitable for a long weekend trip, or longer. These fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, are very light weight, have space for my writing stuff as well as clothes and toiletries. And, the unexpected bonus: the two pieces fit inside the itty-bitty trunk of my Z4 with plenty of room left for my travel partner’s stuff. Road trip!

Speaking of road trips, I’ve got two trips scheduled for 2015. My sister and I will be heading up to our old stomping grounds this coming summer. We plan to see a few family members as well as attend our high school reunion. It’s been a while since either of us have seen the home town crew, so I’m sure we’ll be checking out those name tags. Ha! The trip will take us from Houston up to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and back to Texas, with various stops along the way. With all that gorgeous scenery and fun, my artist’s well is sure to be restocked and well fortified by the time we get home.

My second road trip in 2015 will be to attend a week-long writer’s retreat near Nashville. I’ll be meeting up with my online critique group, The Lalalas. This is still in the planning stages, but be forewarned, there will be about 18 of us in the neighborhood sometime in October. Oh, yes, while we’re there, many books will be plotted, brainstormed, revised, edited, and written. I know this is a whole year away, but I can hardly wait to spend time with these incredibly talented ladies. I’ll be plotting and storyboarding a new writing project just for this event.

See what a couple pieces of new luggage did for my sleepy muse? I’m all but salivating with the urge to pick up the pen. I can already visualize the settings for a story, and a couple characters have popped into the fray, ready to create some mischief. So, have you ever stumbled onto a strange way to kick-start your muse? I’d love to hear what works for you. Apparently, my muse has been pouting for luggage.

 

The Care & Feeding of Our Support Systems

J Logo 75

It’s almost my birthday. Well, not mine, actually. On August 27th, it will be the first anniversary for the release of my debut novel, THE 25th HOUR. It’s the Book Birthday! Yeah, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Recently, I had a conversation with another author about cramming our writing life into our daily activities. So, it seems like the perfect time to repost a blog I wrote a while back. This post is just as relevant today as the day I wrote it. 

FROM 4/29/13:Once again, this blog was born from a phone conversation I had with a friend. While making a point, I realized I’d just thought of another idea that deserved a little discussion. How many of us work like dogs trying to scratch out a few minutes, here and there, to write? Yes, just about everyone. You’re lucky if you’re free to schedule your writing time around your life. If you’re that person, you may as well stop reading right now. But, most of us squeeze writing into our everyday worlds. If you’re that person, then I hope my comments will be helpful.

Me, in Captain Bulldog's arms, dancing!

Me, in Captain Bulldog’s arms, dancing!

My day job consumes the bulk of my conscious moments. Once I get home every day, my energy turns to all the normal family duties. When the basic chores are done, I rush upstairs to my office and dig in for the night. Hubby Dear has a longer work day than me, and I never know for sure what time he’ll be home. Through the years, we’ve settled on our evening meal being take-out a lot more often than I’d like to admit.

We have this “You fly, I buy” deal going. Whoever drives doesn’t pay for dinner, the one who stays home picks up the tab. That works in my favor when my budget is tight and against me when a deadline is looming. I’m sure this mode of dealing with the necessary evils of cooking and washing up has averted many an argument in the house.

This is where I have to stop and tell you that I’m probably married to the most supportive husband in the world. It would take a whole other blog to explain just how seriously he supports my writing. Just know that he understands how driven I am to succeed in this crazy writing business.

Captain Bulldog and me, boating on Killarney Lake, southwestern Ireland.

Captain Bulldog and me, boating on Killarney Lake, southwestern Ireland.

The hours we writers spend at the keyboard can suck the life out of a good marriage, but we can’t forget to maintain our relationships. That’s an ongoing need and it’s easily overlooked. If we don’t put effort into our immediate support system, our loved ones won’t stick around long enough to help us celebrate when our dreams become reality.

We’ve all heard others say they feel like they’re butting their heads against a brick wall, that they’re never going to get a publishing contract. We’ve all faced those self-doubts. It’s inevitable. Well, a while back, I came downstairs well before bed time and joined my hubby on the sofa. Apparently, he knows me fairly well. He said, “What’s wrong?” Seeing that he truly was concerned, I relented and let the ugly truth spill from trembling lips. “I’m so tired. I don’t know if I can keep going at this pace. Maybe I should put writing aside…for a while.” His response shattered me to the core. “You’ve been working so hard. I hardly ever see you.”

Wow. Just…wow. This man, this wonderfully supportive soul obviously felt alone and he missed me. He’d been suffering in silence while I worked to perfect my craft. Talk about facing the grim reaper of failed marriages, if I didn’t change my routine, I stood a real chance of losing the best thing that ever happened to me.

Texas Bluebonnets

Love our Texas Bluebonnets!

We talked things over and I made some changes, right then. We now go on dates. Real dates. Dates where we ink our schedules with time for just the two of us, like once a week or so. It doesn’t have to be a huge chunk of time, but it could be a weekend get-a-way, too. We started with a Friday night dinner and a movie. That was fabulous! The next week, both our schedules were pretty full so we enjoyed a simple but healthy lunch after Sunday mass. Last weekend, we drove up to a lake north of Houston, stopped at a restaurant overlooking the water and enjoyed the sights and the best burgers within three counties, drove the neighborhoods and picked out possible dream retirement homes, saw the Texas bluebonnets, and giggled like kids again.

Released: August 27, 2013

Released: August 27, 2013

The trip, though only a few hours out of the whole weekend, made us feel like honeymooners again. So worth the time.

That investment reinforced what we both need, each other. Giving away a few precious moments of writing time is like insurance against catastrophe. I’ve noticed since then that Hubby is even more excited about the upcoming release of my first novel.

I’m so fortunate to have my very special hero-hubby in my life, and to have had him fight for our marriage. Yup, I’m one lucky writer.

The whole point of this blog is this: I, alone, chose this career, this writing life. My family didn’t, but they’re left to deal with the consequences…the fallout, if you will…of my being there physically, but not in reality. It’s not always about us or our writing. Sometimes, it’s about our support systems. Hug your family!

Okay, I’m back. Take heart, y’all. With grit, determination, and one eye on the most important things in life, we can do it all–eventually. We need to know we’re not alone in this, the thing we can’t not do–write. Who’s your biggest cheerleader? Has that person ever hinted, like my hubby did, that you could spend more time with them? What did you do to remedy the issue? I’m needing ideas for my next Hubby Date, so please share. Thanks bunches, y’all!