A Writer’s Life

29 08, 2022

Bye, Bye Summer

By |2022-08-28T12:58:17-05:00August 29th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Another summer is about over. Labor Day is coming.

Fall will officially arrive on September 22, 2022, at 9:03 pm EDT.

Every year at the end of August this one-time schoolteacher becomes a little nostalgic. I’m not saying I’d want to be back teaching in a classroom again. Not with the challenges teachers face today. 

Once the back-to-school chatter begins, I can’t stop a part of me from missing the excitement of setting up my classroom and seeing the eager young faces.

I swallow the lump in my throat from memories when I spot a school bus and send up a prayer for a “really good year” for the bus driver, the kids, and the teacher waiting in the classroom.

Back-to-school this year meant three grandchildren headed off the college. One to Arizona, one to Missouri, and one to San Antonio. Two others continue honing their craft as electricians and auto mechanics. The youngest granddaughter continues her homeschooling toward high graduation.

The most exciting thing about this year’s back-to-school is another granddaughter follows her mom, Chicken Wrangler Sara aka music teacher, and me into her classroom as a first-year teacher.

Another granddaughter will continue her teaching career at a new school. Say a little prayer for both of them and all teachers.

August is more than back to school though, it’s the freshness of new beginnings. A time of changes. A mid-year New Year’s Day.

I’m looking forward to the new season. What about you?

15 08, 2022

And then came Cribbage

By |2022-08-13T08:41:53-05:00August 15th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

All the boiling hot, humid days where we live have forced us to spend more time than usual inside. We’ve read, we’ve taken siestas, but mostly we’ve stayed inside and played games.

We dusted off the Scrabble game and ordered a current Scrabble dictionary. You can read the blog about Scrabble and the Heat here. Our games are challenging and competitive  The outcome often depends upon who draws the Q, Z, or J tile. Our vocabularies have grown.

Wanting a game to challenged our math skills, we rediscovered Cribbage. Our granddaughter taught us years ago but we’d forgotten the details and we didn’t have a game in our game cabinet stash.

We ordered a Cribbage board from Amazon. While we awaited its arrival, we learned about the game and watched how to play it on YouTube videos. The game seemed complicated, but we did agree that we needed a challenge.

The history of Cribbage is fascinating. The game has been around since the 1600s and the way it is played has not changed. Charles Dickens’s description in The Old Curiosity Shop helped with its popularity in Victorian England. The game is played worldwide now.

We also learned Cribbage is a favorite on American submarines. The O’Kane Cribbage board of Rear Admiral Dick O’Kane is carried aboard the oldest active submarine of the United States Pacific Fleet.

Cribbage vocabulary is even more fun than its history.

Hands consist of a deal, the play, and the show. You earn points for pairs, runs, and straights until the play totals thirty-one or a player plays his last card. Points of 15 or 31 are scored with pegs on the snake-like board design called streets. Games are played to 121. All the adding and analyzing is great for our brains.

Cards are cut to decide who deals the six cards. You discard two cards from your hand for your crib.

The unused card pile is cut again and the top card is used to total points for a hand, and if it’s a Jack, the dealer scores two points for his heels or his nibs.

Then you have your muggings and Lindbergh’s, and always a pone or opponent.

Cribbage has a non-profit organization The American Cribbage Congress, dedicated to making the game fun and fair for people of all ages.

And best of all, the fast-playing game keeps us entertained on hot days.

I’m thinking it’ll work as well on chilly winter days too.

18 07, 2022

Guest Book Tradition

By |2022-07-17T07:01:29-05:00July 18th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|0 Comments

When you read the blog title, bet you thought about a guest book at a wedding or funeral or the cute welcome books at bed and breakfast inns or Airbnbs. There are those, but that’s not our guest book tradition.

We welcome guests to our home with our guest book and a cead mile failte plaque, which is the Irish greeting that means “A hundred thousand welcomes.”

Asking our guests to sign our guest book is a tradition we started when we were first married, a long time ago. As we moved around the country and world, we’ve always had a guest book. Guests who come for dinner or stay longer have filled more than one.

When we lived in Colorado, every summer our home overflowed with guests escaping the heat of their hometowns. Now that we are back in hot, humid Texas the guest book pages aren’t filling near as fast.

We have other guest books. The one from our wedding, and all the guest books listing those who paid their condolences at family funerals. We rarely look at those, but I’m so glad we have kept our home guest books.

We have signatures of family and friends from far and near. We even have Earl Campbell’s signature from his days as the Houston Oilers’ star running back. It’s fun to skim through the names and remember the occasion. We smile every time from fond memories with our guests.

If you don’t use a guest book in your home, and you’re interested in starting to use one, there are some great ideas on Pinterest. A lot are for wedding guest books but are easily adapted for home guest books.

This is a cute blog about a young couple and their guest book. They share their reasons for having a guest book and how they chose from all the options.

11 07, 2022

Ginny has arrived!

By |2022-07-10T15:27:53-05:00July 11th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|2 Comments

Nope, not a person. Ginny is our generator.

She may seem like an extravagance. Unless you live in an area with powerlines above the ground in the heart of Gulf coast hurricane land, you don’t fully understand how very, very dependent you are on power.

We have recurring days and weeks without electricity. We’ve weathered multiple hurricanes, some mild and others wild like Harvey, and plus the Great Texas Snow Apocalypse with its lengthy power outage.

Our area has power lines above the ground on old poles. The lines crash from overgrown vegetation and blow transformers with just about every puff of wind and even on a perfectly clear day.

In summer you add blackout/brownouts that mean no power for hours. We’ve had excessive heat index alerts like the one to the left every day since May.

All the above are reasons we bought Ginny.

Yes, we’ve had other power outages other places we lived, but not as often or for as long. Here we lose power far too much.

We saved our money, ready to purchase. Then COVID hit and too many people needed their own generators. Supplies dwindled and generators weren’t available or there was a two-year wait. That’s like birthing an elephant!

But we placed our order and finally, the installation process began after fourteen weeks, much earlier than promised.

Our anticipation grew as first the concrete pad was poured then the gas line dug. Next came upgrading the gas meter. The process took weeks before Ginny was tested and put online.

Come on hurricanes and ice storms and blackouts. We’re ready now. No more scrambling for candles and flashlights in the middle of the night. Or, resetting all the digital clocks when the power comes back on.

Thing is, now we probably won’t lose power as much and that’s okay too.

2 05, 2022

In Search of the Leak

By |2022-05-02T06:29:16-05:00May 2nd, 2022|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

There’s a leak in the water feature in our backyard. We know there is because the water in the pond drops when we turn on the fountain.

We have been trying to find the leak for weeks. It’s a perfect example of things life keeps tossing in my world to keep me from my writing.

We filled obvious cracks with a cement caulk. Then coated the entire bed of the creek that winds from the fountain by the garage to the retention pond at the edge of the back porch with a rubber product to seal it.

That task required removing all the rocks that weren’t cemented to the creek bed. The rubber then had to cure for a week before we could add water again. The poor birds were not happy to lose their bathing hole.

Once the rubber cured, we refilled the pond, but, alas, when we started the pump again, the water sank like bathwater down the drain. Clearly, there was still a hole somewhere.

The creek drops in elevation in sections. We isolate each section to test for the leak. That narrowed the search to one section and upon careful examination we found a hole going through the rubber coating and the cement structure below to dirt.

We plugged the hole, filled the pond, and started the pump again. Our backyard birds were ecstatic.

The plan was to add more black rubber over the white patch once we knew we’d fix the problem. But sadly, the pond level sank again when filled.

Only about a quarter inch this time. But still not good.

After more scrutiny, we discovered tiny cracks in the fountain structure and water seeping out around the bottom edges.

That song from Girl Scout campouts, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket,” ran through my head as we were working. Have a listen if you’ve never heard it. Warning: You’ll be humming it all day.

I remember the last verse we sang at camp differently. We passed a bucket around as we sang and after the last verse, the one holding the bucket stuck it on their head.

We’ll be using our heads, but not like in the camp song. We’ve called the stonemason who built the pond. He’s coming to isolate the fountain leaks and fix them.

25 04, 2022

And Then There Was No Internet

By |2022-04-25T12:11:03-05:00April 25th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|4 Comments

Our internet provider had a major outage recently. No warning. No explanation.

I suspect one of the construction crews accidentally cut a fiber-optic cable. We have lots of roadwork and new home construction going on around us. The city is encroaching on our quiet little community.

No power, we’re used to that but having power without internet—that was weird.

To make things worse, we switched to streaming from the same provider so we had no Netflix or Amazon Prime. No series to binge after dinner. We found ourselves thrust back to pre-internet days.

All was not lost though.

I had never tossed our DVD/VCR player or favorite DVDs and VHS tapes in any of my downsize purge frenzies.

We had options.

We spent a very enjoyable evening watching one of our favorite DVD movies from 2001, Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

Watching their love story made me want to write a romance novel titled “Come What May.”

After the movie, we headed to bed to read. Normally we say, “One more episode. It’s not too late.” and end up staying up too late to read.

Not a bad day overall.

One day without internet was a nice break, but no internet at all? No thank you.

14 03, 2022

Nothing like Irish music to Put Ya in a St. Patrick’s Day Mood

By |2022-03-11T05:55:46-06:00March 14th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Make Me Think Monday, Writer's Life|0 Comments

St. Patrick’s Day brings all things Irish out around my house, even more so than usual. We feast on Irish stew and soda bread and start our day with scones. The air rings with Irish music.

But traditional Irish music isn’t limited to St. Paddy Day. You’ll often see a bit of toe-tapping going on around here. I could listen all day. And often do.

Music is the heart of Ireland. Whether the fiddler on a corner in Dublin or the man on the country lane blowing his Irish whistle or a late-night session at the local pub, you’ll find toe-tapping, hand-clapping music everywhere. Our visits to the pub sessions were the highlight of all our trips to Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

One night, as a session broke up a native Irish speaker leaned over to me and said, “Ah, I tell ya, it was great music, ‘twould make the water stand out in ya eyes.”And indeed, tears did sparkle in my eyes that night. Nothing is more wonderful than the combination of traditional music and dancing.

Every visit to Ireland should include an Irish evening of traditional music, song, and local dancers. We still talk about our long-ago visit to Bunratty Castle’s Irish Evening at the Corn Barn.

Here’s a commercial video describing the event. I promise it will put you in St. Patrick’s Day mood.

7 03, 2022

The Gonk Has Returned

By |2022-02-26T10:30:35-06:00March 7th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Life|2 Comments

Don’t know what a gonk is? Meet Gonk.

The Gonks’ signature features are a small, spherical body and two googly eyes. A gonk is not a gnome or a leprechaun though there are family resemblances.

Gnomes have a pointy hat and face full of hair. Gonks don’t.

Leprechauns sport green hats and orange beards. Gonks don’t have orange beards or stovepipe hats.

 

Gonks are the creation of English inventor Robert Benson. They were quite literally the first toy craze in England post-World War II. Endorsements by Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers aided in their popularity.

Gonks also appeared in the 1964 movie Gonks Go Beat. The film is a take-off on the Romeo and Juliette theme. Two musical communities, one who likes rock and roll and one who likes ballads, become reunited through a couple who love across their communities.

With the publication of this 1960s Simplicity pattern. Gonks became homemade toys. Children loved them and they could be made from almost any material and any size.

The Gonk-guy below was created from the pattern by hubby-dear’s sister, seamstress extraordinaire.

Her Gonk creations were much desired and cherished.

Around our house, we have many of Nita’s Nitawork needlework creations including Mr. and Ms. Santa Claus, a holiday door wreath, and a Texas State Fair First Prize-winning wall-hanging of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Sadly, our University of Texas gonk met his demise years ago.

That’s why I was so delighted to discover this round, cuddly guy with a great message on his shirt when helping Nita’s son clear out his sister’s apartment.

A treasure that brings back fond memories.

7 02, 2022

Why Valentine’s Day?

By |2022-02-02T15:54:51-06:00February 7th, 2022|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Valentine's Day|0 Comments

Soon many people will be exchanging cards, candy, gifts, or flowers with their special “valentine.” Why do we do that?

Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr Saint Valentine a real priest who lived in 270 A.D. and provided Christians with sacraments outlawed by the Roman Empire such as marriage and ended up in prison.

Saint Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and persecuted Christians to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.”

On the evening before his execution, he wrote the first “valentine” addressed to the daughter of his jailer and signed the greeting “Your Valentine.” And thus began our custom of giving cards and reminders to loved ones on February 14th.

The Greeting Card Association estimates as much as $933 million will be spent on cards and gifts this year. One billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.

Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” used “scrap” to make elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester holds a large collection of her valentines.

I have a personal ephemera postcard collection. While not as elaborate as Ms. Howland’s, I love the way these cards speak of romance.

If you don’t want to spend money on cards or have the time to make a card. You can always express your love with these “signs” from Signing Savvy, the online American Sign Language Dictionary.

Moi, I’m not shy about romance or telling the ones I love how much I love them on this special day. My Valentine cards are in the mail.

31 01, 2022

No New Year Resolutions for Me

By |2022-01-30T10:04:23-06:00January 31st, 2022|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

After everything that happened in 2020, I had so wanted 2021 to be our return to normalcy. There were moments, but normal didn’t happen.

We had even more COVID variants to put up with. Plus, we lost Betty White and Alex Trebek. Not a good year at all. I was more than happy to turn my calendar and head into a new year.

January always feels like a second chance, a time for fresh starts. To begin again with resolutions for changes, if not in the world, then in ourselves.

Bloggers offer plenty of ideas for resolutions. I usually prepare a goal-setting blog or two myself. Not this year. No blog and no list of personal goals for me this year.

Why? Because resolutions are notoriously unsuccessful. Life always gets in the way. I’m trying something different this year.

I haven’t liked what I’ve seen in the world in the last two years. I haven’t laughed a lot. Some days I haven’t even smiled.

Instead of making a resolutions list, I intend to laugh more in 2022. While I can’t change the past, I’m counting on humor to get me through the present.

I know there will be new challenges in 2022. According to experts, China’s “gift” to the world is entering the endemic phase. That means COVID is never going away. The good news is, having survived the last two years, we have an arsenal to combat an endemic.

Will laughter solve all the issues we face? Of course not.

But laughter will increase oxygen intake and stimulate our heart, lungs, and muscles. Most importantly, laughter will increase the endorphins that activate and relieve stress responses.

In today’s world, that’s a win-win.

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