A Writer’s Life

19 10, 2020

Digging Ditches and Writing Novels

By |2020-10-19T08:29:12-05:00October 19th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life, Writing Craft|1 Comment

I’m working away — in fits and starts — on the next novella in my Fitzpatrick Family series. But something’s bothering me about the story. The words aren’t flowing.

I attributed my lack of word flow to pandemic brain fog and put the manuscript aside to watch the drainage ditch being dug in our front yard.

Distraction comes easy when you’re stuck.

The ditch work on the main road in our subdivision had finally been completed. We live on a side street and, after three years, it was our turn.

I stood watching like an awe-struck kindergartner listening to his teacher read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel named Mary Ann. Written by Virginia Burton, it was my son’s favorite story book.

steam shovel, Judythe MorganThe shovel bucket started at the top of our rise then went down the slope adjusting the depth with each shovel load.

One scoop after the other. Not one scoop on our side of the street and another scoop across the street.

But one after the other down our side of the road. dump truck, judythe morganScoop – dump, scoop dump. Inching slowly  down the slope.

Scoop – dump, scoop dump. One after the other.

Kinda like a timeline when plotting a story.

As that thought flowed through my head, I realized what was wrong in my Fitzpatrick Family story. My timeline was out of kilter. I’d gone from one side of the street to the other.

Scenes were happening sequentially, but the reader would quickly figure out the passage of time I’d written didn’t allow enough time for what needed to happen.

Like the steam shovel ditch digging, I had to proceed one shovel width at a time to get a properly sloped ditch.ditch Or, in my case, a story timeline that didn’t confuse the reader.

21 09, 2020

Pandemic Fatigue and the 2020 Craziness

By |2020-09-20T07:25:21-05:00September 21st, 2020|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

September is the height of the hurricane season on the Texas Gulf coast. A month loaded with angst as we watch the weather forecasts. This year in particular it’s a nightmare.

Add the pandemic-induced mess of 2020 and I feel like I’m teetering on the brink of crazy.

Days run together. I lose track of what day it really is. My memory’s totally shot. Argh.

Recently, I inserted my Wii Fit DVD into the player to do my exercise. The disc wouldn’t run, I tried to eject said disk. It wouldn’t jump out.

After several failed attempts to get the disc out, I gave up. A short time later, Hubby-Dear asked me what the Wii Fit DVD was doing on the table with the TV remote.

I’d never actually inserted the disc!

Other times, I load clothes in the dryer. Come back later to fold and find I never pushed start.

Attachments don’t make it to emails I’m sending.

Multi-tasking becomes a multi-mess. Stuff ‘s misplaced constantly. Minor things, I know. But, for me it’s frustrating. It makes me crazy.

Maybe, like me, you feel you’re losing your mind while trying to keep it all together and stay focused at the same time.

Well, we’re not crazy because things aren’t normal right now. We’re coping as best we can. Any way we can.

We’re feeling stressed for very real reasons. Who wouldn’t with all the COVID-19 hype? Newscasts filled with horrid visuals of violence and civil unrest. Tropical storms spinning into hurricanes and reeking unfathomable damage. Fires burning unchecked. An ugly presidential election on the horizon.

Any one of which would be troubling alone. We’re got all of the above pounding us daily.

We have “pandemic fatigue,” which means daily stuff may take a little longer to accomplish or may not go as planned.

That’s okay.

We’re getting through these weird times. One day at a time. The next months will likely be the toughest yet. We’ll struggle more, but, I’m confident, we will come through.

All we have to do is stop and breathe. Slow, even breaths. In for one-1000, two-1000, three-1000. Out again one-1000, two-1000, three-1000. Repeat.

Seriously, STOP. Take deep breaths then proceed.

It’s helped me. So do M&Ms, but breathing is so much healthier.

Next time you’re feeling crazy and want to pull the covers back over your head, try taking a few deep breaths. I think you’ll find those provide calm in this uncalm world.

24 08, 2020

Familiar Things in Pandemic Times

By |2020-08-24T10:13:20-05:00August 24th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Finn and Buster, Writer's Life|0 Comments

The limbo of this pandemic keeps just hanging on. Familiar is gone.

It’s hard to adjust to this new normal. At least around our house. Hubby-dear gets out of the car twice when we make our necessary supply runs. Once like normal-happy and carefree. Then again when he returns to put his mask on. I do the same.

We miss the old ways and familiar.Finnegan MacCool, judythemorgan.com

Our Finnegan MacCool does too. How do I know? I found his baby lovey, a blue elephant, beside his bean bag recently.

The little elephant came with him when we picked him up four years ago and it was always the one toy from his basket of toys that he’d carry with him. The breeder’s daughter bought it for him.

We met Finn at eight weeks but, with a long car trip from Colorado to Texas scheduled, asked the breeder to keep him an extra couple of weeks before we took him home. We didn’t think it’d be good idea for a young puppy to be confined in a car for such a long drive.

She agreed and her daughter, Taylor, said she’d watch out for our baby Finn. Taylor was in junior dog handling training for their show Old English sheepdogs. She was thrilled to have Finn to work with.

When we picked him up, she wanted to be sure he had his special lovey to comfort him in case he missed her. At first, he did miss Taylor. Blue elephant was always with him no matter what other toys he had. Other times of stress like the move back to Texas, he’d find his blue elephant to keep close.

Then as he settled into his new surroundings, he kinda forgot about blue elephant. Until this pandemic and blue elephant has reappeared.

judythemorgan.comI don’t blame him. I’m looking for familiar things too. Are you?

17 08, 2020

Walking, walking

By |2020-08-17T07:31:23-05:00August 17th, 2020|A Writer's Life, Exercise, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Walking is my most favorite exercise next to being in the swimming pool. When we lived in the mountains, some days I walked 5+ miles. Lovely weather, lovely views.

My four-legged boys always went with me. Most times, hubby-dear did. We walked no matter the weather.

walking in the snow with an Old English Sheepdog, judythe morganThat’s Toby and Buster walking with me. Toby crossed over the Rainbow Bridge before we moved to Texas.

Old English sheepdog, Judythe Morgan, man walking his dogNow, Finnegan MacCool joins Buster and me.

We don’t have the cool weather walks any more or the mountains. Our view is filled with massive, hundred-year-old oaks that shade our way.

And we go early in the mornings before the sun rises enough to crest the treetops.

Buster’s thirteen so he doesn’t move as fast. Finn turns around and checks on us often. He does not grasp social distancing.

Even though we’re in the dog days of AugOld English sheepdog, judythe morganust with its heat indexes in the triple digits where we live now, I still enjoy getting out of the house for lots of reasons.

Walking’s safe and an easy form of exercise. No added athletic skill needed, no training, or special equipment required. Well, you do need a good pair of walking shoes, but then you need good shoes anyway.

Walking is easy…you might say automatic. No thinking involved with the exception that you do need to make sure you don’t trip or walk into something.

Walking allows our five senses to experience what’s around us. The sound of a bird’s song, the breeze rustling the leaves. The scent of fresh cut grass. The sweet aroma of honeysuckle blooming on a neighborhood fence.

Walking reminds us of the real world around us. One that isn’t from the news or a movie or a tv series. Sequestered inside we sometimes forget the good that’s outside our door.

Walking can help us feel better physically and mentally. When I walk the dogs placing one foot in front of the other and taking in the sights refreshes my brain and my spirit.

Walking can take our minds off these troubling times of this pandemic.

My walking companions and I recommend going for a walk. We always feel better when we do. You might too.

29 06, 2020

The Homegrown Tomato Quest Continues

By |2020-06-27T10:19:04-05:00June 29th, 2020|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

Growing tomatoes in our yard is such a struggle. I woke up to this scene recently.

It wasn’t a stormy night so, what had happened?

I suspected a deer.

They’re in our yard All. The. Time. munching down on whatever suits their fancy.

Not usually so close to the backdoor when they’re in the backyard.

I must have frightened them when I turned on the kitchen light and they got a whiff of Finn’s scent.

But where had the tomato cage gone?

It was too dark to explore, so I took Finn and Buster for their morning constitutional, came back inside, and had a cup of tea while I waited. When daylight arrived, I found the telltale footprint beside the downed bottle tree. Plus, a piece of the patriotic pinwheel that was mounted on the tomato cage.
I searched our front and back yard but found nothing.

Somewhere in our neighborhood there must be a deer with a tomato cage stuck to its body.

Or, a neighbor woke to find a tomato cage in his yard with a broken patriotic pinwheel attached. He probably scratched his head and said, “Huh?”

The pot has now been righted and the plant re-staked. Only two tiny green tomato casualties, thankful. Hopefully the survivors will eventually mature and produce Hubby-dear’s homegrown tomato.

But people, I tell you this quest is a REAL struggle. What can happen next?

25 11, 2019

Thanksgiving Week? Really, Oranges?

By |2019-11-24T18:27:44-06:00November 25th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Holidays|1 Comment

We’ve been watching our two orange trees beside the driveway. Every day the oranges slow turn from green and hidden in the leaves and branches to orange and shouting, “It’s time!”

This weekend they screamed, “Now!”

Here it is Thanksgiving week, the time when there are a million other things to be doing in the kitchen besides squeezing oranges.

But no. The oranges couldn’t wait.

Hubby dear selected the most need-to-be-picked ones and loaded the picking crates and bucket.

Twice.

I prepared the sink area. Because orange juice tends to squirt when juicing, I drape the counters and cabinet doors with towels. Makes cleanup easier-no sticky floor or counters. I also sit on my vintage kitchen chair while I work.This is our third year of juicing. We have a system—an assembly line. He washes then slices the oranges in half and pitches the halves into the colander. I run the juicer and pour through the strained until the pitcher is full then pour the strained juice into quart jars. He seals, dates the lids, and carries to the garage freezer.We recently found a great, small freezer at a garage sale unbelievably cheap and it’s now the orange juice freezer.We prepared five gallons of juice this weekend and there’s another five or more crates on the tree starting to whisper our names. It looks like, while the rest of the world is wrestling and grabbing for bargains on Black Friday, we’ll be into orange juice manufacturing.

I know I’ll be happy come February when I’m sipping fresh orange juice. And, some lucky people on our Christmas list will be excited too.

Except right now, I’m not happy with the oranges. I need to be baking!

30 09, 2019

Birthday of surprises

By |2019-09-29T20:09:55-05:00September 30th, 2019|A Writer's Life, writer, Writer's Life|0 Comments

September is my birth month. This year I celebrated big time.

The festivities started early with a chocolate pinata. The chocolate ball is suspended then cracked open in true pinata style. Pineapple, strawberry, and churro pieces fall on a tray edged in whipped cream with cups of dipping sauces like caramel. Yummy confection.

Then on my actual birthday a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my youngest daughter arrived mid-afternoon. A surprise treat. And, I so love fresh flowers, especially roses.

 

Next Husband-dear surprised me when our dinner-for-two turned into dinner with our two best friends at a local Italian restaurant. Good food, good friends, and great conversation. A lovely evening.

Husband-dear collaborated with my favorite artist on another painting for my Barbara Rudolph collection, my fifth. Each has a specific significance for me. That’s Barbara’s unique gift building your interests into her paintings. Check out her gallery. She accepts commissions for specific paintings.

This delightful little chickadee painted on a vintage postcard is extra special. Our street is called Chickadee Lane and I collect vintage postcards.It was a delightful evening. But my celebration wasn’t over.

On the weekend my sister invited Husband-dear and me to dinner then surprised me by including my brother and my oldest daughter. Another lovely evening around the table with family. My sister also gave me a huge bouquet of carnations

and a picture of us…I’m not sure next year can top this year with surprises.

23 09, 2019

Footprints in the Concrete

By |2019-09-29T20:11:23-05:00September 23rd, 2019|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Over 300 hand prints, footprints, and autographs can be found in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. Celebrities have pressed their hands and feet into wet cement since the 1920s.

Not only people but ventriloquist dummies, horse prints of Trigger and Champion, and tires of “The Love Bug” have left their mark.

Leaving impressions in fresh concrete is a tradition that’s been around for ages. Something about wet cement calls for hands or feet or initials or just the date to be pressed on the surface.

I’ve left my print on patio slabs, stairs, and sidewalks over the years. So has my husband.

Back in the 80s, during our first return to Texas, we visited a home where he’d lived in 1946. The house, in Austin, was being renovated. The back sidewalk with his family’s embedded footprints was to be demolished. That made us both sad.

He located the new owners and asked permission to remove the section of sidewalk with his family footprints. The contractor used a diamond blade to cut the four-inch thick concrete and removed the section with his family’s footprints.

The slab weighed a ton. Well, maybe not a ton, but it was heavy. Three men loaded it into our station wagon and my husband brought it home.

Once in back Houston, we loaded it onto a little red wagon and wheeled it into the house. The slab fit on our raised hearth in the living room as though custom cut. It was quite the conversation piece!

Then we moved to Colorado where the slab lived on our covered front porch, protected from the ice and snow. Now it’s back in Texas again, on our front porch here, protected from the hot sun.I rubbed the footprints with stain to make their impressions more visible. The date 9-30-46 has worn a bit. It’s barely visible.

We smile when we pass by and think of those four footprints that now walk the streets of heaven.

9 09, 2019

Took A little Trip to the Gulf of Mexico

By |2019-09-09T06:54:24-05:00September 9th, 2019|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

As I rode in the car, a line from an very old ballad played in my head.

“In 1814 we took a little trip … on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Chances are you won’t recognize the lyrics.

The song, “The Battle of New Orleans,” was #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 and Johnny Horton won Best Country and Western Performance for his rendition.

I love those oldie ballads that tell such great stories. “Trailer for Sale or Rent,” “Big Bad John,” and all of Harry Chapin’s song are other favorites.

“The Battle of New Orleans” was an educational ballad. If you’re a history buff, you know there was a battle for New Orleans in 1814. And, the story song was accurate.

But New Orleans wasn’t my destination on my trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

I was headed to Corpus Christi with my youngest daughter and her oldest son to get him settled at the A&M campus there.

Taking a child to college is such a mixed bag of emotions. Exciting and sad at the same time.

My eyes teared up as we bid him farewell at the end of the day. Grandson looked a little apprehensive at the prospect of being totally on his own so far away from home and family to me.

His Mom managed the drop off better than I did. She knew her kid, had confidence in his ability to handle the new situation.

By Marcom.tamucc – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I made a second trip to The Island University on Labor Day weekend with his Pepa. This time  to bring him back home for the holiday.

Grandson was all smiles. He’d loved his first week and couldn’t wait to get back!

Growing up and turning loose can be so hard on those of us watching. At least for this Nana it is.

26 08, 2019

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs

By |2019-08-26T09:02:43-05:00August 26th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

I’m 100% a dog person and proud of it. My dogs are a constant source of love and amusement.

My breed of choice is Old English Sheepdogs who are natural clowns and always make me smile. In addition to all the smiles and unconditional love, my dogs have offered some great life lessons.

  1. When your loved one comes home, run to greet him.
  2. Eat with gusto.
  3. When it’s hot, drink lots of water.
  4. Take naps.
  5. Don’t bite, just growl.
  6. Give unconditional love.
  7. Stay close to your loved ones in times of distress.

This list appeared in an Ann Landers’ newspaper column years and years ago. It’s still great advice and important lessons to learn. You can find dozens of other longer lists with equally as important things dogs teach us.

My Finnegan turned three this year and his brother Buster, twelve years. Every birthday means another year less with my best friend. As every dog lover knows our time with our four-legged best friends is all too short.

And because I know no matter how long they live, it will never be long enough, all my dogs have taught me the most important and hardest lesson of life:

Enjoy every single moment we have with our loved ones.

Knowing Finnegan and Buster and all the others who’ve gone before will only be with me a short time reminds me to soak up every second because life is too short to do anything less.

Get off the couch. Go for a walk or chase a squirrel. Have fun. Love. Laugh. Dance in the rain. Time is too short.

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