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8 12, 2023

Old Dog New Tricks

By |2023-12-07T20:34:21-06:00December 8th, 2023|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara


We got our first dog, Marv, from the vet school in town. He was a lab mix and lived in our backyard. We got him a food bowl but the first thing he did when we put food in it was to sling it all over the ground.

We decided to save him from that step and just dumped his food on the ground instead of using the bowl. He was happy.

Now we have smaller dogs that live inside. They each have their own bowl and their own spot in the kitchen.

None of them can pick up their bowls and dump them out but Max has learned a new trick. He flicks the pieces of food out of the bowl with his tongue.

They end up all over the floor. It is impressive. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!

 

4 12, 2023

Christmas Card Time

By |2023-12-03T12:56:03-06:00December 4th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is receiving Christmas cards from family and friends with newsy letters. I bundle the cards by year with a ribbon and store them in baskets. The baskets then become part of our holiday decorations.

I like to take a packet from the baskets, look at the photos, and read the letters. It always sparks memories. Some sad knowing the original writer is no longer with us. But mostly the cards trigger good thoughts. It’s almost like having the senders here with me again.

I’m not alone in my love of sending and receiving Christmas cards. As outdated as the practice may seem to some, others cling to the tradition along with me. Americans buy approximately 1.6 billion Christmas cards a year!

The tradition began in the 1800s. As printing techniques improved, and costs dropped, Christmas cards increased in popularity. Read a detailed history here.

When postage dropped to half a penny, more people were able to send greetings. I collect those vintage postcards. Some date back to the 1900s. I love reading through the handwritten notes and looking at the intricate designs.

Many people today send handcrafted cards or order family picture cards. Handcrafted ones are extra special. So are the ones with family pictures.

What is it about this old-fashioned tradition that appeals to me and so many others?

The Greeting Card Association research suggests: “The tradition of giving greeting cards is a meaningful expression of personal affection for another person…”

Some question whether that appeal will be compelling enough to survive the conveniences of the digital era.

I believe it will.

If you want to start the tradition yourself, create a Christmas card list. Gathering addresses is as easy as gathering email addresses and holding a card in your hand beats reading a screen, in my opinion.

My list is on a spreadsheet that I update every year. It’s an easy way to correct addresses and keep track of cards sent and/or received. Because I prefer holiday-themed stamps, I order seasonal stamps online https://store.usps.com/store/results/stamps/holiday/_/N-9y93lvZ1mzlvsg

To make the task less daunting, I use address labels and newsy letters. Some don’t like newsletters. I love them. Makes me feel like I’ve been a part of my friend’s world.

Christmas cards – sending and receiving – will always be a favorite part of the holiday season for me. They are a way to stay in touch, to share our lives even though we may live an ocean apart.

What do you think? Do you send Christmas cards?

1 12, 2023

Thankful for Parks

By |2023-11-30T08:25:09-06:00December 1st, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara


Our grandsons brought their mother to see us the week of Thanksgiving.

They arrived on Monday evening. Tuesday, we drove to see their great-grandfather. It was quite an adventure.

The boys are now three and a half and eighteen months old. And they are boys – in constant motion. Opa had some fire trucks and a monster truck to add to the collection of toys Mom packed for them. They still needed room to run so we went to the neighborhood park tucked away behind all the houses.

There was no path to it so we traipsed through the grass. It was well worth the effort. The park had a marsh theme with structures, unlike any park we visited. There was a dragonfly whose wings made a seesaw.

There was also a puzzle that had frogs to put into the slots on lily pads and move around the pond. Alex really liked that.

Theo was unsure, however, about the lily pads connecting the parts of the playground. Maybe next year.

Back at Grandma and Pawpaw’s, we visited another park designed for people of all ages and abilities.

It is completely fenced in with double gates so we were comfortable letting the boys loose to run.

Their favorite part was the conveyor belt-like apparatus that allowed them to run, or crawl, in place.

 

Alex also enjoyed the train. Theo just liked running around.  We had such a wonderful time.

I am very thankful for parks!

27 11, 2023

Christmas Tree Time

By |2023-11-26T10:07:41-06:00November 27th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Live Christmas trees are standing outside my grocery store. I remember when you bought your tree from roadside Christmas tree lots like you see in Hallmark movies set in New York City. Nowadays grocery and big box stores in our area are the ones with fresh trees for sale.

Christmas décor has been out since Halloween competing with ghosts and jack-o-lanterns and pilgrims and turkeys. But there’s something about the scent of fresh trees that truly sends me into the Christmas mood.

My family went out searching for the perfect cedar along the rural roads in the hill country of Texas when I was young. We’d spot one and holler for Daddy to stop. He’d hop out of the 1957 Ford station wagon and check it out.

“Two trunks. No good.” He’d say as he climbed back into the car. Or “Too skinny” he’d mumble with a head shake not even stopping.

Finally, we’d find the perfect tree. He’d carry his ax over and chop it down. We had to watch from the car. We were never allowed to stand by the tree while he chopped. “Too dangerous, the ax could slip,” he said.

Years later, we learned the perfect tree was always on the other side of the barbed wire fence on someone’s property and he might have to run fast.

Fond memories.

Growing up my Aunt’s Christmas tree, fully decorated, always stood in the garage wrapped in a plastic bag year-round. Some time in early December she’d move the tree into the den to the same place it stood every year.

We call the trees pencil trees these days. Back then, it was simply a skinny, little pre-decorated tree. As the years went by, the tree lost most of its ornaments. It stood like a sparkling light tree. We never cared.

It wasn’t the tree we’d come for, but the family celebration.

We’ll be dragging our tree from the barn soon. It’s not fully decorated or the live cedar of my memories. We call it “Charlie Brown.”

Soon our three adult children, their spouses, eleven grandchildren, two grand-spouses, and three great-grands will be here building holiday memories around our little tree all decked out in its holiday finery.

I can hear them sharing their memories years later. “Remember Nana and Pepa’s skinny beanpole tree.”

They’ll have a chuckle and, hopefully, remember most of all the love and fun of family gathered like I do.

For some, the holidays have no fond memories. To you, I send a cyber hug and prayers.

To the others, are you getting your Christmas tree ready for your holiday gatherings?

23 11, 2023

By |2023-11-19T13:58:30-06:00November 23rd, 2023|Author Interview, Holidays|0 Comments

Today I want to tell you how thankful I am that you read books, engage with me on social media, and let me know when you enjoy what I’ve written both books and blogs. Your emails and comments are a blessing to Chicken Wrangler Sara and me.

We offer this Old Irish Blessing for you and yours this Thanksgiving Day.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

 

20 11, 2023

Traditions at Thanksgiving

By |2023-11-19T12:58:16-06:00November 20th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week in the United States.

Time for family reunions, food, fun, travel, football games, Black Friday,

and expressing thankfulness

The American celebration of the day began during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Football games and Black Friday were not included on that first Pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621, but the basis for our modern Thanksgiving festivities remains the same.

Families will gather to give thanks for their blessings.

Our clan will bring all the Thanksgiving feast fixings to our youngest daughter’s home where her famous brine turkey will fill the house with yummy scents.

Years ago, she started a family tradition that has become our favorite part of the day. Besides being the best turkey cooker, she’s a professional photographer and scrapbooker. Every year when we arrive at her house, she hands out cards.

On that card, we write what we are thankful for that year. She snaps a picture with her Polaroid Instant Camera which we affix to our thankful card. Before we eat, we share what we’ve written on our cards.

At the end of the day, she gathers all the cards and puts them into a yearly scrapbook. The highlight of our yearly gatherings is looking back through Thanksgiving scrapbooks from years past.

We have a lovely day filled with traditions that remind me of Tevye’s words in the song from Fiddler on the Roof.

"Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!"

Thanksgiving traditions, while lovely and touching, aren’t based on the things on the table or around the table but on the love that surrounds us.

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving filled with love.

13 11, 2023

Then this happened

By |2023-11-12T15:58:35-06:00November 13th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

I’m usually deep into an imaginary story dreaming up havoc to dump on my characters. Conflict is a critical component of storytelling.

The characters and the readers should be surprised when a writer “throws another bear into their canoe.

That’s a direct quote from writer friend JoAnn Ross during a writing class she taught. It refers to adding twists and turns to complicate characters’ lives when plotting.

Bears can be good things or bad things, whatever adds conflict to the lives of the story characters.

This week Mother Nature dumped a surprise bear at our house.

The beautiful 200-year-old oak in our front yard lost a massive limb on a bright sunny day with zero wind. Just kaboom and it was on the ground.

We don’t know what caused the limb to fall, but the theory is that the hard freeze of 2021 followed by the extended, excessive heat this summer has weakened the massive oaks that populate our neighborhood. Several smaller limbs have fallen throughout the neighborhood and many trees have died.

Our tree disaster is a perfect example of how story-plotting bears should work.

All those limbs and leaves in our front yard are a problem. Ever since its fall, it’s been raining which makes it impossible to get a tree company to come out, and clearing it ourselves is impossible.

The branch will just have to stay there until we get some dry weather.

Plotting bears work the same for writers. They can be good or bad things that complicate a character’s life as things happening in real life can be good or bad.

Have you had any complicating bears drop into your life lately?

10 11, 2023

Flexibility

By |2023-11-09T08:56:06-06:00November 10th, 2023|Friday on the Miller Farm, Miller Farm Friday|1 Comment

A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara


Honor likes to sleep on my lap when I am sitting at my desk. At first, she could curl up and fit easily. As she has grown, it has become more of a challenge.

Last week, I looked down and she had put her back leg over her nose to make herself into a smaller ball. I was impressed with her flexibility.

We have a Veterans Day program at school this week and then we start work on Christmas music. Between now and the end of the semester, things are pretty chaotic.

I think I need to print out this picture of honor and post it in my room to remind me to be flexible.

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