A Writer’s Life

24 06, 2024

Fires, Hurricanes, and Evacuations

By |2024-06-22T09:38:32-05:00June 24th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|2 Comments

CBS News reported fires burning in the Ruidoso, New Mexico area recently, which triggered memories for me.

Eleven years ago this month, the West Fork Complex East Zone FIRE erupted where we lived in southern Colorado.

As the name West Fork Complex implies, multiple fires surrounded our home in the Rio Grande National Forest. Lightning started all three fires that exploded into forests of heavy dead timber and pine bark beetle-infested pines.

That experience changed my whole outlook on the words we hear so often during hurricanes, fires, and floods: mandatory evacuation.

Our skies looked like this.

At first, there was no raised concern because forest fires in the summer are a common occurrence in Colorado. We lived with the smoke and kept going. Ashes landed on our decks and in our yards, on our houses and cars, and on us as the fire encroached upon our world.

That’s black ashes. It was everywhere, inside and outside.

At first, there was too much wind, too high elevations, and too much dead tree fuel to risk the lives of firefighters. Instead, they watched the West Fork fire closely.

Life became scary as we gathered in the Community Center to get details and updates.

We heard words I’d only heard applied to hurricanes – pre-evacuation notice. Reverse 911 calls began with updates on the status coming in. At six a.m. on Friday, June 21, 2013, the scary message came:

MANDATORY EVACUATION: be out by 10 a.m.

Thanks to Bob Mayer’s The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide we were prepared. It’s a super book with lists of what you need to have ready in case of any emergency. Buy a copy here.

We finished loading our cars with possessions we wanted to save and left not knowing if we’d have a house when we returned. From our rearview mirror:

By the time the fires were contained on July 15, 2013, a total of 109,049 acres of public and private land had been destroyed. Amazingly no deaths and only a few structures were lost. It was the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history and cost about $33 million to fight.

Hopefully, those affected by the Ruidoso, New Mexico fire left when their Mandatory Evacuation order came. We’ve been there, done that and it’s not easy.

3 06, 2024

June Weddings and Wedding Dresses

By |2024-05-25T13:20:08-05:00June 3rd, 2024|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|2 Comments

June is the most popular month for weddings. 

But why?

According to Bridetide, there are several reasons:


Temperatures are moderate in June, not too warm and rarely too cold, making outdoor weddings a choice.


June offers a wider (and cheaper) choice of colorful flowers to help lower the cost of a wedding.

Favor from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.

Romans planned weddings in June believing their marriage would be showered with luck and good wishes from the gods above. The tradition continued.

Historical reasons include:


Wedding dates in the past were chosen based on peak harvest times. If you married in June, a summer pregnancy would still be early enough in the season that a wife could help with manual work during that year’s harvest period. A spring birth meant the recovered bride would be able to help in the next year’s harvest.


At one time in our culture, regular bathing was a once-a-year event usually during the last part of May or the beginning of June. A June wedding meant the couple would have had their “annual bath” and were the most presentable (less stinky).

Back in 1938, my parents scheduled a June wedding most likely because of the weather. We live in Texas and it’s not yet unbearably hot. Her mother made her wedding dress of imported Alençon lace.

It’s a wedding dress with a unique story to tell.

Twenty-five years after my mother and father’s June wedding, I wore the same dress.

We chose our non-June wedding date for practical reasons. Back then, the Memorial Day holiday was celebrated on May 30 and that year it was a Thursday, the day we married. We honeymooned nearby over the weekend and returned on Monday to classes and jobs.

Twenty-four years later, our daughter aka Chicken Wrangler Sara wore the dress at her wedding. Sara chose the second most popular month for weddings – August.

Three times a firstborn daughter has worn the beautiful hand-stitched dress. Each time with only minor alterations.

My mother was only four feet eleven inches tall, so my grandmother let the hem out for me to wear, then I added lace to the hem for my daughter, who was a couple of inches taller than I am.

Between weddings, the dress stays tucked safely in a cedar chest which was originally my mother’s hope chest.

24 05, 2024

Memorial Day Weekend

By |2024-05-23T09:13:24-05:00May 24th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays|2 Comments

Hearing “Happy Memorial Day” greetings is hard for me. I understand we equate the weekend as the beginning of summer and that is a happy thing.

BUT Memorial Day is not about going to the beach or having a cookout.

Those things aren’t wrong. Not at all. I enjoy a hot dog or a hamburger with family and friends and celebrating what signals the start of summer same as anyone else.

I’m just saying that we should also remember why Memorial Day was originally set up.

Memorial Day is for all those soldiers who are gone but never forgotten.

If you are a military family, it’s a day filled with hard memories, not a carefree day. Even if you have no military connection, most likely you’ve lost friends who served. Memorial Day is a day to remember them.

The whole month of May is designated Military Appreciation Month which makes confusion understandable.

Armed Forces Day (May 18) and Veterans Day (November 11) give Americans a way to thank current service members. Thank you for your service, greetings are welcome.

Memorial Day honors those who have paid the ultimate price in service to our nation. If you know a Gold Star family, perhaps a Sorry for your loss is more appropriate than Happy Memorial Day.

This chart explains.

Sometime during this Memorial Day weekend why not stop for a minute to remember our fallen heroes?

20 05, 2024


By |2024-05-17T10:22:57-05:00May 20th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

That’s been the situation where I live for too many days lately. Yesterday, we had another wild storm.

As the rain and wind increased, a poem my grandmother quoted during rainstorms ran through my head.

It’s raining, it’s pouring, The old man is snoring.
He went to bed, and he bumped his head,
And couldn’t get up in the morning.

With a quick Google check for the origin, I was gravely disappointed to learn that the nursery rhyme wasn’t talking about the weather at all, but a tale of a man who liked to drink.

I prefer thinking it’s about rain. That’s what my grandmother said, and she was smarter than Google.

The poem is also a catchy folk song.

The rains are gone today, but I’m not singing. The devastating storm with one-hundred-mile-an-hour winds knocked out power lines. Take a look at this screen capture from our local news station:

Plus there were lots of trees and limbs downed. Predictions range from hours to days to weeks to get everything up and running again.

I’ll still be singing my grandmother’s nursery rhyme during the next storm, but for now, I’m thankful we have a whole house generator.

13 05, 2024

Mother’s Day and Flowers

By |2024-05-12T09:53:58-05:00May 13th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

love background with mothers day illustration

Did you wear a corsage for Mother’s Day Sunday at church services? I did.

Growing up in the Hill Country of Texas, almost everyone at church sported a carnation or a corsage on Mother’s Day. It’s a longstanding Southern tradition, and, even though you’re the one wearing the flower, the purpose is to celebrate your mother’s presence in your life.

Color matters. Red or pink flowers meant your mother was still with us. If she’d crossed over, you wore white.

Every Mother’s Day, my mother would load us into the station wagon and take us to her mother’s house before church. Grandmother grew red and white rose bushes. We’d pick a blossom to wear on our Sunday dress or shirt.

Because our Mother was very much alive, all three of us cut red roses. Nowadays, I wear a white rose.

Wearing a Mother’s Day corsage is a Southerner’s way to say, “I love you, Mom and I’m so glad to share this day with you” or “I’ll never forget you and I’ll love you always.”

Flowers on Mother’s Day is one of the many ways Southerners show their manners without words. Like when we pull over for a funeral procession to let the bereaved know we understand their grief and we’re sorry for their loss.

Or “carry food” to a neighbor or to church after a funeral to offer support and love.

Or open doors for the person behind us to be helpful and show respect.

For me, it’s a matter of being polite. Something that’s stressed to all Southern children until it’s automatic.

If you’re not into corsages, cut flowers also work for Mother’s Day remembrance. Flower colors in bouquets silently speak too. According to Pantone, the color specialist,

Green reflects a mother’s protective nature,

Yellow– Mom’s optimistic outlook towards life and her children,

Pink – her compassionate and nurturing soul, and

Red – a mother’s passion and empowerment.

If you missed Mother’s Day, flowers are welcome any day.

I’m sure you’ll find lots of flower bouquet choices half-price today. My supermarket sure had Mother’s Day flowers everywhere.

29 04, 2024

Wind Chimes – Yea or Nay

By |2024-04-28T15:40:45-05:00April 29th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Wind chimes are one of my favorite yard art forms. The high winds we’ve been having lately have my chimes whipping up lots of music.

Did you know wind chimes date from around 1100 BC in Ancient Rome? The first wind chime was an assemblage of bells on a pole called a tintinnabulum. It served to ward off evil and bring good fortune and prosperity. Tintinnabulum chimes were often found hanging in temples.

From Rome, “modern” wind chimes spread to countries like Japan and India eventually worldwide. Today, wind chimes have other uses besides warding off evil spirits.

Besides the obvious yard art, other uses include:

  • Scare birds from farming lands.
  • Feng Shui arrangements.
  • Hung in memory of a loved one.

Most people use wind chimes like I do for decorative purposes and to listen to nice sounds.

It is true some wind chimes don’t make pleasant noise, but those constructed with tuned tubes make lovely soft tinkling sounds. You can even choose the musical key you want.

This article from Better Homes & Gardens suggests “The 13 Best Wind Chimes of 2024 to Create a Soothing Soundscape”

My newest wind chime is a glass chime with bluebonnets, a Christmas gift. The glass adds the perfect tingling sound to my collection.

What about you? Are you a fan of wind chimes or do you fall in the don’t-like-the-noise category?

26 02, 2024

Swimming and Books

By |2024-02-25T14:54:57-06:00February 26th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

 There’s a new feature at the gym where I swim. A book table is now in the hallway to the indoor pool.

That’s right, a free books table and it warms the heart of this writer/reader.  

You can leave a book or simply choose from the selection available. Sometimes the books are fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes how-to and biographies.

SOURCE: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383017143282395248/

It’s like one of those Little Free Libraries on a stand that neighborhoods have only this free library is on a table.

I leave the gym after my early morning swim refreshed in body and a brand-new or slightly used book tucked inside my swim bag.

 Life is good for this writer who is also an avid reader.

12 02, 2024

Valentines Say I Love You

By |2024-02-10T07:59:52-06:00February 12th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Valentine cards say the words we sometimes find difficult to voice.

When I was in grade school – not Little House of the Prairie days, but close – we had Valentine’s Day parties at school and gave our friends homemade cards. We made mailboxes from shoe boxes or decorated envelopes to collect our cards.

Those years helped form my love of Valentine cards and began my Valentine card collection. And, yes, I still have a few cards from that era. For sure, I’ve collected cards from those days.

Vintage valentines can be very valuable, especially Victorian-era pop-up honeycomb ones. Value varies and can range from the hundreds of dollars up to thousands. Check Kovels Valentine’s Day collectibles Pinterest board for examples and values.

Interested in becoming a Valentine card collector, here are some tips on how to start.

What to look for

  1. Cards that relate to the news of the day
  2. Valentines signed by someone known
  3. Older homemade cards
  4. Victorian three-dimensional valentines
  5. Postcard valentines
  6. Die-cut school-type valentines from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s
  7. Mechanical valentines with moving parts

Hairstyles, clothes, cars, or trains pictured in older valentines will help date the card.

Where should you look?

  1. Old scrapbooks
  2. Keepsake boxes for sentimental ephemera
  3. Old heart-shaped candy boxes
  4. Flea markets or ephemera shows
  5. House sales, garage/yard sales, and thrift shops

Are contemporary valentines worth collecting?

The simple answer is yes. According to Terry Kovel of Kovel’s Antiques, Inc., look for cards with certain characteristics:

  1. Current news, pop culture, and/or historical events.
  2. Cards depicting characters from Disney, children’s books, cartoons, movies, and television shows.
  3. Be cautious about modern technology cards. Those record-your-own-voice cards will stop talking as they age.

Learn more about Valentine collecting from these sites:

The Ephemera Society on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheEphemeraSociety

National Valentine Collectors Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/126503137423748/posts/412749768799082/

National Valentine Collectors Association. Marketplace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411386215859744

Here’s a peek at some from my collection. I love displaying them for Valentine’s Day each February.

5 02, 2024

The Nana Block

By |2024-02-04T14:14:02-06:00February 5th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

At one time our son and his family lived next door. Having four grandchildren right next door was great fun.

The children would slip next door any time they wanted. Especially the oldest grandson and often his brother. Their momma was a late sleeper, and he knew his Nana was an early bird.

Just about every morning, he’d come across the driveway over to where the Captain Crunch cereal and Pop Tarts were and spend the day.

I’d ask, “Does your mother know you’re here?”His answer was always yes.

This was long before cell phone texting, back when phones with long stretchy chords hung on the kitchen wall. My wee hour calls to verify they had permission always woke their whole household.

Because that didn’t work so well, we devised what we called the Nana block, a wooden block from their bucket of blocks with Nana written on it. If they had that, then I was to let them in for Nana time.

No Nana block. No entrance.

This worked nicely until I discovered our clever little grandson who was tall and resourceful was snitching the block.

He’d climb from a chair to the counter to get the block from the refrigerator or stand on an upside-down pot on the counter to reach it from the top of the kitchen cabinets. Totally bypassing the ask mommy part.

We went back to confirmation calls.

Fast forward to now. I get up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings to go swim at the gym. Before I leave I take the dog out. Sometimes when I walk Finnegan that early, he takes care of business. Other times he doesn’t.

We needed a way for hubby-dear to know if he should walk our Finnegan. One that didn’t involve sticky notes, which never seem to stick.

He made a new sorta of Nana Block from a keychain disk. I set it beside his coffee station.

Works like a charm. No wake-up texts or phone calls are needed.

22 01, 2024

The Wet Suit

By |2024-01-21T12:42:11-06:00January 22nd, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|2 Comments

The recent cold snap here on the Gulf Coast did nowhere near the damage of the Texas Ice Apocalypse of 2021.

Mainly because the sub-zero temperatures didn’t last as long and the power grid did not fail, but also because everyone heeded the warnings and prepared. Plants were covered. Faucets insulated. People didn’t drive on icy roads and conserved electricity.

The only damage affecting me was the frozen indoor pool heater at the gym I use. That was a bummer because I swim there two to three days a week.

As the temperatures warmed to the high twenties and low thirties later in the week, I was eager to go to the pool after days of no swimming. Only, with no pool heater, the water temperatures dropped well below my comfort levels of 85o – 92o.

Swimming in chilly water is not my thing. But I had a fix—my wet suit.

No, I’m not a diver or a surfer. I’m not even a good swimmer.

Years ago, I bought a wet suit to prolong the time I could swim in our backyard pool.

Cool nights in the fall meant the pool temperatures fell well below my comfort level. We did not have a heater so, wearing a wet suit, I could get my exercise and be warm.

I never could bring myself to get rid of it even though I haven’t used it in years.

I pulled it out and headed to the pool. At the gym, two other brave swimmers joined me. One, who is training for a triathlon, wore a full wet suit. The other woman who only had on a swimsuit didn’t last very long.

We’re not sure when the new part to fix the pool heater will arrive. Thanks to my trusty wet suit it’s not a problem for me.

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