A Writer’s Life

2 10, 2023

My Favorite Dog Breed

By |2023-09-29T15:42:34-05:00October 2nd, 2023|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

Old English Sheepdogs are not seen much in Texas, but they’re my favorite breed. The OES loves people and can be quite the clown. They are good-natured and sociable, enthusiastic and bumptious.

Our first OES, Obadiah came to live with us after our move from New England back to Texas and we’ve had one ever since.

Obie never quite understood he was a dog. Our daughter treated him like the little brother she never had. Such a kind gentle soul. He never once complained or growled.

The sad part of owning an OES is their short life span of ten to twelve years.

When we lost Obie, we found Micah at a breeder in Colorado. Our furry bundle of energy arrived for Christmas and filled our sad hearts with fun and laughter.

Micah took it in stride when our granddog Bernie came to live with us when our son went off to seminary. A short time later, a rescue OES, Rhinestone, joined us. They made quite the trio walking through our neighborhood. We lost Micah and Bernie (at age 17) close to the same time. Rhinestone, already skittish from her early life, became even more attached to me. When we had hardwood floors installed, she went to stay with my sister-in-law, who had recently lost her dog. Two lovely ladies found one another and became best buds. Rhinestone went to live with Keta.

I wrote about their story in The Dog Next Door.

After Rhinestone, we were dog-less for a time. we hated it and began yet another OES search.

Finally, we found a breeder in Florida with a litter ready to go to furever homes.

Tobias (Toby) arrived one hot summer day.  It was love at first sight.

A couple of years later Buster, a twelve-pound Maltese, came to live with us. And once again we were a big happy family. Buster loved to sit on my lap and help me write.

When Toby crossed the rainbow bridge, we thought Buster would be a fine only dog. But the three of us missed having a big guy around.

After another OES search, we found Micah’s breeder in Colorado had puppies ready. We picked up Finnegan MacCool on a crisp October day. Buster was delighted to share his bean bag again.

Sadly, we lost Buster in 2021 and now Finn is an only dog. It’s working fine. Finn misses Buster but Buster bossed him around and wouldn’t share my lap willingly. Now Finn has my lap all to himself. He’s a happy dog.

25 09, 2023

Farming and Farm Animal Myths

By |2023-09-22T12:19:46-05:00September 25th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Recently we watched Clarkson’s Farm documentary. The series documents British personality Jeremy Clarkson’s attempts at running Diddly Squat Farm, a 1,000-acre farm in the Cotswold, England.

It was fascinating learning the details of running a large farm. Plus, the farm name intrigued me. If you’re not familiar with the word, it’s a slang term that means doing nothing.

I think Clarkson was making a play on words when he named the farm. He expected running it would be easy. In the end, he admitted farming was a lot more work than he thought.

The series, besides teaching me a lot about farming, debunked several farm animal myths.

  1. Cow tipping isn’t really a thing. Cow’s eyes are on the sides of their heads, they can see about three hundred degrees around them without moving which makes them very difficult to sneak up on. Plus, cows weigh 1,200 to 1,600 pounds. It would take a bunch of people to push one over, assuming they wouldn’t move out of your way in the first place.
  2. Brown cows do not make chocolate milk contrary to what my daddy told me when I was a kid. Interesting that seven percent of the American population believes the myth.
  3. Pigs are not dirty animals. They roll in the mud to cool off and protect themselves from the sun but actually prefer to be clean.
  4. Goats don’t eat tin cans. They may gnaw the tin can but they’re eating the label and glue, not the tin. Goats prefer what’s up high, like leaves and berries on trees, as well as grasses, weeds, and other things on the ground.
  5. Roosters only crow at sunrise. Wrong they crow all the time, not just at sunrise. Their “cock-a-doodle-doo” asserts dominance, warns of danger, and communicates with their flock.

We see lots of cows and horses in the pastures as we drive into town for shopping and activities. My respect and understanding of what the farmers and ranchers go through increased dramatically for them after watching the series. I am disappointed that brown cows don’t make chocolate milk, though.

I recommend Clarkson’s Farm series on Amazon. It’s entertaining, informative, and filled with some laugh-out-loud moments. Watching it might debunk some of your farming myths too.

18 09, 2023

Hummingbird Watch

By |2023-09-17T16:48:39-05:00September 18th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|1 Comment

SOURCE: David Dilbert @Pexels.com

Hummingbirds – those tiny, colorful, thin-beaked birds, called hummers from the noise that occurs when they flap their wings – are back at our feeders.

Fall migration is from mid-July through August or early September, so they’re migrating. That usually means we fill our feeders every day instead of once a week like we do for the little flock that winters over with us.

There are lots more hummingbirds than usual this year and we’re filling the feeders twice a day!

We watch their shenanigans at the feeders and have learned a lot about the fascinating tiny birds . . .

  • They cannot walk or hop on their tiny feet. They can scoot sideways while perched at feeders. Their small feet have evolved for more efficient flying.
  • Their long beak does not work like a straw but they have a fringed, forked tongue to lick nectar up into their throat.
  • A hummingbird egg is smaller than a jellybean.
  • The average lifespan is three to five years.
  • They have no sense of smell but very keen eyesight.

About their migration . . .

  1. The ruby-throated hummingbird flies five hundred miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during migrations. They do not hitch rides on other birds.
  2. Their maximum forward flight speed is thirty miles per hour but can reach up to sixty miles per hour in a dive.
  3. Their wings beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second depending on the direction of flight, the purpose of their flight, and the surrounding air conditions.
  4. Their wings rotate 180 degrees, enabling backward flight and stationary hovering.

About their behavior . . .

  • They have superior memories and will return to the same feeders and gardens every year.
  • They’re not always docile creatures and will regularly attack jays, crows, and hawks that infringe on their territory.
  • They consume one-half of their weight in sugar daily and feed on average five to eight times per hour, which explains why we have to fill the feeders so often.
  • One hummingbird will guard all the feeders, chasing intruders away. Here’s our little guard hummer protecting one feeder.

The most important thing we’ve learned is hummingbirds prefer plain, clear homemade nectar to red dye which may be dangerous.  When we tested the claim, our hummers refused to drink the red stuff and disappeared until clear nectar reappeared.


My homemade nectar recipe: One cup of sugar dissolved in four cups of boiling water and then cooled before filling feeders. I store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Your hummers will love it too and you can enjoy a hummingbird show like we do.

21 08, 2023

Garage Sailing

By |2023-08-19T17:48:16-05:00August 21st, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Unfamiliar with the term garage sailing? No surprise. I made the word up to describe the habit of perusing garage/estate sales.

A habit or addiction that I share with many others. I can’t resist a sale sign stuck by the side of the road. I’ve been known to make U-turns on busy streets to follow the arrows.

Do I need anything? Heavens no!

My house is overflowing with stuff and I should be downsizing not collecting.

Should I be writing my next book? Of course. But the thrill of the hunt is too hard to resist.

You just never know what you might discover while garage sailing. And, if the seller is motivated to get rid of stuff, the prices can be cut-rate.

Finds are hit or miss. One time I scored flowerpots for $1.00 that retail for $30 or more. I’ve replaced broken water glasses with matched sets or found the exact glass.

Another time I found nothing. No treasures or great buys, but I met interesting people, who shared fascinating stories. That was still a win for me. I store away lots of ideas for character traits and plot twists.

Outdoor sales where I live are held pretty much year-round. Spring and summer temperatures near broiling this year cut down on my garage sailing. Not too many sales and way too hot to be outside shopping.

I fed my habit from Facebook Marketplace and other online markets in the air-conditioned comfort of my home.

But it wasn’t nearly as much fun.

I’m looking forward to fall and cooler temperatures so I can garage sail again.

24 07, 2023

We had squatters while we were away.

By |2023-07-21T10:22:37-05:00July 24th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We took a short trip to New Mexico and Colorado recently. Visiting family and friends was great. Wonderful. The heat that followed us surprised us.

High summer temperatures aren’t usually a part of summer in the mountains of Colorado or New Mexico. This year the heat dome that hovered over Texas spread to those states too and greatly limited our outdoor time. We still had fun seeing folks we hadn’t seen in a while.

Anticipating increased hot temperatures while we were gone, I placed all the backyard patio plants where the yard sprinkler would reach them and in shady spots so the sun wouldn’t bake anything in its rays.

When we returned, I was shocked to discover the plants I’d moved to save from the heat were stripped bare. Squatters had munched down just about EVERYTHING.

I was upset and a little mad.

While we are a habitat for all the creatures that visit, our backyard has always been off-limits. Finnegan, our ninety-five-pound Old English sheepdog, takes care of that.

Creatures may wander in the backyard but quickly leave when the backdoor opens.

The front yard is different.

I know whatever I plant in the front, deer-resistant or not, is food for the deer. The deer know it too.

They also know Finnegan won’t be loose in the front yard or street. I’ll always have him on a lead. The deer know they are safe.

Recently a doe trusted our safe front yard enough to leave her fawn in the shade of our giant oak for us to watch during the day while she foraged elsewhere.

I guess when the doe realized we were gone, she bedded her baby in the shrubs on the front side of the house and jumped the fence to the backyard flower garden.

She was nibbling the firecracker plants around the fountain when we pulled in and jumped the fence fast when Finn got out of the car. She knew she didn’t belong in the backyard.

I quickly forgot my mad the next morning when this year’s fawns came through our yard.

Flowers can grow again but the babies and their mommas need nourishment.

12 06, 2023

Father’s Day

By |2023-06-11T10:17:00-05:00June 12th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We will honor our father figures the third weekend of June. For some that father figure might be a birth father. For others, it’s a stepfather or a relative or friend that serves the father’s role.

Me, I’ve been blessed with three men who share their father’s love with me.

  • My father.

Daddy taught me how to fish, how to hunt, and how to dress out my bounty. He taught me how to build things, fix things, grow things, and cook things around a campfire. He taught me raunchy songs and words, then reminded me to always be a lady.


  • My beloved uncle—a Marine on Iwo Jimo when I was born—was a second father to me.

Uncle Dub taught me to shoot straight, with a firearm and with my words. He taught me the fun of antique auctions and the beauty of old things. He showed unconditional love in through my tough times and tough love when needed. He was a wise counselor.


  • I inherited my third father when I married his only son.

Rev. L. O., my preacher father-in-love shared his Bible wisdom and whetted my appetite for Bible study. And, best of all he raised his only son to be the best husband ever and a godly father.

I’m so thankful for having his son by my side as we raised our three children and now love and enjoy eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He’s been a vital force in all their lives.

My three daddies are gone now, which makes Father’s Day a bit sad for me.

I miss them but remembering all of them on their special day brings back fond memories and makes me smile.

22 05, 2023

Backyard Food

By |2023-05-21T10:37:20-05:00May 22nd, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Gardening has been around forever. Well, at least since the Garden of Eden.

The Pilgrims gardened to survive. Pioneers carried seeds and planted their food for their survival. The economy and lack of food supplies dictated home gardening during the Depression and war years.

Home gardening feeds our bodies and our need for self-sufficiency. If you don’t grow food for yourself, there are farmers’ markets where fresh produce, eggs, and even meat can be found.

We’ve been backyard gardeners off and on through the years. At first, we gardened because we couldn’t afford the fresh (or easily find it) and we wanted to teach how kiddos how to grow their food. The better taste of homegrown has made us continue.

We began with plots in community gardens. Once, when we lived in West Virginia, we plowed our entire backyard and planted a garden. The preserved bounties of that garden fed us well for years.

I became quite proficient in the art of canning and preserving. My jams and canned veggies even earned blue ribbons at many state fairs through the years.

We downsized our garden space considerably when we left West Virginia. But tomato plants in pots remain a standard planting in all our backyard landscapes. This year we expanded our backyard container garden with zucchini, yellow squash, and bush beans.

After weeks and weeks of heavy rain, the sun has finally come out and we’re reaping the bounty.















Nothing better than a meal of homegrown green beans cooked with petite red potatoes and served with a side of cornbread, tomatoes, and canned peaches.

Read more about the history of growing your food here: A Brief History of Gardening.

And here: The Story of farming

And here: Types of gardens

And here for how to start your own backyard garden

15 05, 2023

Scary, Scary Thunderstorms

By |2023-05-14T16:10:50-05:00May 15th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

We’ve been having severe thunderstorms in our area for the last three weeks.

A recent storm with heavy, heavy thunder and lightning sent our Finnegan jumping into my lap at the first clap. The next strike practically lifted us off the couch.

I knew it had struck very close because the flash lit up the night like those old floodlights stores used to highlight their grand openings. The beam circling the sky could be seen for miles.

The storms lasted off and on all night.

Finnegan was glued to us. He normally sleeps at the foot of the bed. Not this time. He was right between us.

All I can say is, thank heavens we have a king-size bed.

We realized how close the lightning strike came when we took Finnegan for a walk the next day and saw the lightning scar on the neighbor’s tree.

A second tree, to the right of this one, also had a lightning scar on the backside.

It’s been two weeks of continuous rainstorms. Fortunately, not all have had severe thunder and lightning, but the volume of the water has truly been overwhelming for the area. My phone is constantly beeping flooding alerts.

When you live at sea level, the water has no place to go. Flooding can be seen everywhere. It will drain off or run down to the Gulf eventually, but until then traveling on the roads is quite hazardous. Farmers and ranchers have to protect the livestock.





The sun has come out this afternoon for a few hours. It feels wonderful to see and feel the warm beams. The forecast is for a couple more days of rain and then the typical early-about-to-be oppressive summer heat will return.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ll be so happy. Finn and I truly hate hot, hot days when we can’t venture outside as much as we do the thunderstorms. But at least on hot, hot days we can hide in the air conditioning, in front of a fan.

1 05, 2023

Quotable Conversation

By |2023-05-01T06:10:51-05:00May 1st, 2023|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

Everyone in our family from the youngest to the oldest has a quick wit and a long memory. This makes the conversation around our meals and family get-togethers lively and always brings tears of laughter when someone blurts out a family quote.

Rarely does a family mealtime go by without a great burst of laughter when someone says, “Mowing the grass.” I’m not even sure if younger family members remember, or know, the full story, but they still join the laughter.

Some sayings relate to events that happened in our lives. Like “mowing the grass.” Other times the speaker will quote from TV and films, or books.

If you spend much time with any of us, you’ll discover that without these quotes our collective vocabulary would be greatly reduced.  In fact, we’d all be pretty much wordless without using those and/or the uncountable song lyrics, movie and TV lines, and book quotes that we all know.

Recognize any of our quotables below? Can you identify which are movie or book quotes?

  • Like a herd of turtles.
  • If I had a nickel.​
  • We’re not in Kansas anymore.​​​​​​
  • Houston, we have a problem.​​​​​​
  • Show me the money.​​
  • There is no try, only do.
  • Shaken, not stirred.
  • Hasta la vista, Baby.​​
  • We’re rich.
  • Help me, Obi Won Kenobi.
  • To infinity and beyond.
  • Beam me up, Scotty. ​​
  • Bob’s your uncle.
  • You can be my wingman any day.

Do you use quotable dialog in your family conversations?

It certainly livens conversations up, at least in our family.

17 04, 2023

Have you adjusted?

By |2023-04-16T12:32:14-05:00April 17th, 2023|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Our spring Daylight Savings Time switches have been around since 1918. I’ve been doing the spring forward, fall back ritual my entire life.

You’d think I’d be adjusted. Right?


I find myself waking up an hour too early with the spring DST switch and an hour too late with the fall change back. My body clock isn’t fooled. It knows when it’s really 5 a.m.

When I was younger, I didn’t pay much attention to the time changes except for the task of changing all the clocks, especially the kitchen clock hanging high above the back porch door. Changing it was my special task.

I remember my daddy holding the kitchen stool, his hands steading me as I climbed up to reach the clock. I remember how the accumulated greasy dust clung to my fingertips and how we’d always wipe off the circular edge before we rehung it. I remember climbing down from the chair and standing beside him looking up.

“Done for this time,” he’d say and lift the chair back to its place in the corner of the kitchen.

From there, we’d move to adjust the windup Big Ben bedside alarm clocks and clock radios.

Next, we sat at the dining table and changed his Timex watch, the one with the genuine leather band. His eyes weren’t as sharp as mine so he’d undo the treasured timepiece from his wrist and hand it to me. He trusted me to move the hands ahead or back, but he never to do the winding.

Lastly, we’d set Mother’s gold bracelet Longines. Her prized possession. It always felt like such a giant responsibility. The watch ran on a battery so we didn’t have to wind it but twice a year we did have to change the time.

Eventually, glowing red or white digits replaced pointy black analog hour and minute hands. Watching the numbers spin around and applying the exact amount of pressure so I didn’t go too far and have to start over was (is) a challenge.

I can still hear Daddy saying, “Slow down.”

Those memories of helping Daddy are the best part of the DST changes for me. I miss that ritual. Adjusting to all the time switches, not so much.

It’ll be time for the reset fall back change again before I’ve settled into the new daylight time.

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