7 06, 2021

The trees came down

By |2021-06-05T11:04:53-05:00June 7th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

My writing time disappeared too. But who could resist watching tree climbers fell forty-foot leaning pines and trim dead branches from a 200-year-old oak?

Not me. Or hubby-dear who supervised from his perch on the porch.

The entire process was fascinating and very necessary with another hurricane season upon us. Dead branches and leaning pine trees don’t mix well with strong winds.

Each crew member knew his job and performed it well. The climbers.

Sometimes they crawled so far up or out I had to quit watching and close my eyes.

 

The spotters, who guided the branches and sections to the ground. One for the oak and one for the pines.

I’ve decided a tree cutter will be my hero’s occupation in my next book.

The pines came down in sections. The oak shed in chunks and branches.

 

Our yard looked like a war zone.

The giant logs were hauled away to be ground into pine mulch. The oak branches to the company owner’s burn pile.

Sunlight glows through the oak now. Piles of pine mulch are all that mark the pine trees.

We know we’ll have fewer pine needles dropping and, best of all, these branches and pines won’t fall if we have another major hurricane like Harvey come through.

Win-win…except for the writing time. =)

31 05, 2021

What will you be doing this Memorial Day?

By |2021-05-27T10:41:47-05:00May 31st, 2021|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

Today we’re celebrating Memorial Day.

I find saying “Happy Memorial Day” hard because I believe Memorial Day is a solemn holiday.

I’m not saying going to the beach or having a cookout is wrong. Not at all.

I enjoy a cookout with family and friends and celebrating what signals the start of summer same as anyone else.

I’m just sayin’, Memorial Day has become a long weekend focused on shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events more than its original purpose.

A time set aside to remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives while serving this country.

Sometime during our fun, let’s pause to wave an American flag and salute our fallen heroes. That’s what our family will be doing.

24 05, 2021

Warm Weather, Clotheslines, and Me

By |2021-05-16T06:19:28-05:00May 24th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Warm weather makes me want to dry the wash outside on the clothesline. That was my job growing up. Hang the clothes out and bring them in when they were dry. My sister’s job was to fold.

Back then, we didn’t have a clothes dryer, so everything hung on the line outside on sunny days, inside on the back porch line if it was rainy.

Mother washed every day rain or shine, so we’d always have clean clothes. We didn’t have that many.

Every spring I wash our linens and hang them out to dry. I love bringing the smell of the outdoors inside.

We have a king-size quilted bedspread. Heavy thing. Normally, I’d hauled it to a laundromat.  But we have a large capacity washer that could handle it now. No rain predicted, it’d dry when I hung it on my umbrella clothesline.

What a keystone cop comedy routine that turned into.

I had to enlist hubby-dear to help me lift the wet quilt to hang it. As soon as the last clothespin went on, the whole clothesline tilted from the weight of the wet bedspread. Then toppled over.

I grabbed the pole and pulled it upright while Hubby-dear searched for rope. He tied the rope to the nearby pine tree, wrapped it around the umbrella pole to counterbalance the quilt’s weight.

Worked like a charm. Looked kinda Beverly Hillbillies weird, though.

Lesson learned. Take the heavy stuff to a laundromat if it won’t fit in your dryer.

17 05, 2021

The Bird Mating Saga Rerun

By |2021-05-09T15:49:25-05:00May 17th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

For the last three years, spring has been such a lovely time of year with fresh sprouts popping out of the ground. Birds singing and gathering at the feeders. Our happy time before the Texas heat arrives

But not this year. The same springtime problem we had when we lived in the Rio Grande National Forest has cropped up. The birds see their reflection in glass and fly into the windows and doors thinking they’ve found their mate.

In Colorado, we wrestled the robins, who would spot their images in our windows and crash-dive into the glass. Several killed themselves.

Here in Texas, it’s the cardinals.

And let me tell you, these Texas cardinals are determined birds. They have attack-bombed both hubby-dear and me if we sit on our back porch, obstructing their path.

Having tried all the Google-suggested ways to get rid of the persistent birds when we lived in Colorado, we didn’t bother with any of these suggestions.

Fake Owl – nope, didn’t work

Shiny strips – nope, didn’t work

Pulling the blinds – nope, didn’t work

We went straight for the preventive that did work – cover the windows and doors.

We weren’t going through the constant thud as the cardinal divebombed the glass or see him knock himself crazy or worse, die.

It’s been several weeks now and we’re testing by removing the towels today.

Fingers crossed all the Cardinals have found their life mates and are now focused on building the nest.

In case you missed our 2015 battle with the robins, you can read all about our Colorado robin war here, Wrangling A Persistent Robin

26 04, 2021

Rock Concerts

By |2021-04-24T06:52:50-05:00April 26th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

I recently attended my first ‘rock’ concert recital.

My grandson teaches guitar and drums at School of Rock, which offers lessons, music camps and workshops focused on rock music. Their camps end with a live show performed by the campers. He suggested I should come to their next concert and hear his kids.

All I knew about rock music was it uses amplified instruments and has a strong bass line and driving rhythms. And it’s loud.

Piano recitals, dance, orchestra and band performances are more my forte. I figured why not?

All experiences offer gist for my writer’s mill so Chicken Wrangler Sara, hubby-dear and I went. I’m so glad I did.

I loved watching those kids play their hearts out. The students dressed like and sounded like the famous rock stars I’ve ever seen on television. Clearly, they loved what they were doing. And who knows I might have been listening to the next rock sensation.

So much fun. They even served lunch to benefit the school. Nothing better than music and hot dogs on a sunny day.

Nothing.

Reminded me of another concert I attended many moons ago. Back in the eighties, hubby-dear and I sat on a blanket on a New England hillside and listened to Harry Chapin.

Most people won’t recognize Harry Chapin who was a popular folk/rock singer and songwriter/activist of the seventies and early eighties. His songs are stories set to a blend of rock and folk music. My personal favorites are “Flowers Are Red” and “Cat’s in the Cradle.” You may remember “Taxi” or “30,000 pounds of Bananas.”

I have never forgotten that Harry Chapin concert and still love those songs. This rock concert was totally new music for me, but I won’t forget my grandson’s student rock concert either.

In fact, I can’t wait for the next one.

19 04, 2021

Look Who Came to Visit

By |2021-04-14T15:48:47-05:00April 19th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|4 Comments

Living in a certified habitat for wildlife house means regular interruptions to my writing to check out what’s in the backyard.

Recently Jack and Jill trotted across our backyard and up our fence. No joeys with them, but I suspect they were out prowling for baby food. Of course I had to go see.

Their tails were hairless so not possums with only a p, but opossums. That’s how you tell the difference between the North American marsupial species.

Before you rush to tell me how ugly the critters are, let me say opossums get a bad rap. True, they’re kinda creepy looking, but reality is, opossums are incredibly useful, and greatly misunderstood.

White opossums make great neighbors. They are docile, not likely to threaten pets or carry disease, and, most important, because they help keep pest populations under control. Good reasons to have them around.

Known as Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineers, they eat everything from garbage and dead things to SNAKES and mosquitoes. They can eat up to 5,000 ticks a year. Plus, they aren’t very susceptible to rabies and largely immune to venom from snakes like cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.

They’re fascinating little creatures. Check these opossum facts.

  1. Opossum babies are called joeys. Mom is jill and Poppa is jack. They belong to the same class of animals as kangaroos, wombats, and koalas that raise their young in a pouch. Lifespan is two to four years.
  2. They have sharp claws, opposable thumbs on their hind feet, and a prehensile tail help them scale trunks and hang onto branches. They often nest in tree hollows. Joeys travel on jills’ back or her pouch.
  3. Young opossums make sneezing sounds or a soft choo choo to call their mother, who will respond with clicking noises. Males make those same clicking sounds during mating season. When an opossum is threatened, it may hiss or growl, but Opossums are rarely violent.
  4. “Playing ‘Possum” isn’t pretending. It’s an involuntary reaction that causes the opossum to seize up. Sorta like fainting in humans. In this state, opossums sometimes bare their teeth, foam at the mouth, and produce foul-smelling fluids from anal glands to mimic sickness. An Opossum can remain catatonic for up to four hours.

They demonstrated for me by freezing in “playing possum” mode when I approached.All I wanted was to tell them any animal that eats mosquitoes and snakes is definitely welcome here and please come again.

22 03, 2021

Finding Hope

By |2021-03-21T09:33:09-05:00March 22nd, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

The way 2021 began almost made the horrors of 2020 seem like a piece of cake.

Almost.

Last year, about the this time, we were whammed from nowhere and slapped into lock down without much forewarning. The rest of the year focused on sanitizing and hibernating and avoiding people.

This year started much the same way, with the addition of a blizzard in Texas that sent most of the state into darkness for days. No electricity also meant no water. No water meant plants died.

The situation is enough to make me want to stay in bed with the covers over my head in fear of what’s coming next. There seems to be no hope that things are ever going to get better.

Then I forced myself up and out on this cool, crisp first day of Spring to talk to my plants caught between the cold snap and days without water. Last I checked, most were toast, but I keep hoping.

You know what I found…

The dead twigs of my azaleas are beginning to have sprouts.

And, the Jasmine is blooming!

All is not lost as I thought. There is still hope.

The plants have survived and so will we.

 

8 03, 2021

And Then There Was This Slow Blue Norther

By |2021-03-04T11:36:53-06:00March 8th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

 

A Blue Norther is a fast-moving cold front that causes temperatures to drop dramatically 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit and quickly, like a few minutes. There are usually a dark blue-black sky and strong winds.

Checking the temperature by flashlight

The cold front aka norther that hit Texas recently was not technically a Blue Norther. It was neither fast nor unexpected. But it dropped temperatures to unheard of lows…for days.

The whole wide world knew colder temperatures than we’d seen in years were coming.

We all scurried around covering citrus trees and shrubs. We brought plants inside are covered. We stocked extra batteries and water in case ice caused us to lose power. We were ready.

Unfortunately, those in charge of our Texas power grid weren’t.

Our home was one of the four million households in Texas that lost power, water, and cell service when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) made the deadly decision to cut power off to certain counties.

That meant no power during the longest stretch of freezing temperatures in thirty years: 44 consecutive hours from 6:53 p.m. Sunday to 1:53 p.m. Tuesday. You can find other staggering statistics here.

Our gas fireplace logs burned at full throttle and kept indoor temps around 38 degrees. We put on layers of clothes, wrapped ourselves in heavy blankets, and huddled in the living room.

We were fortunate we had warm clothes from living places where winter lasts six months of the year. Most native Texans don’t own super warm clothes. Why would you when normal is two to three days of cold per year?

Our power was out for fifty-eight hours. We were cold but we didn’t freeze. Sadly, others did.

Naturally, the prolonged cold inside the house caused pipes to freeze.When power came back and we turned on the well, a pipe in our kitchen burst. No water again. Nine days total without water!

But we were blessed. We only had one pipe burst and our neighbor has a plumbing company. Our repairs were done in five days. Too many are still dealing with fallout from multiple pipe breaks and major water damage in their homes.

Eating was a challenge too. Fast food places and restaurants couldn’t open. Texas can’t keep roads passable in a situation like this. A normal blue norther blows in and out quickly, roads are okay. But there’s very little winter weather equipment to handle prolonged icy roads. Roads closed completely.

Again, we were fortunate. Our home came with a gas stove, and we had a supply of matches. We had emergency provisions in our pantry. We could cook. I became the queen of one pan meals. We ate from paper plates and bowls because dipping water from our landscape pool then boiling to sterilize for cleanup was too tedious.

Moral to this tale of woe: Be prepared but don’t trust Mother Nature or the Texas power grid.

And, most important, don’t lose hope. Spring is coming. I’ve seen robins in the yard now that Texas temperatures are moving back to the normal winter sixty-degree ranges.

8 02, 2021

Why I Love Being a Writer

By |2021-02-04T14:07:51-06:00February 8th, 2021|A Writer's Life, writer, Writer's Life|2 Comments

February is the month where we think a lot about love—who we love and what we love.

Today I’m thinking about all the things I love about my job as a writer.

  1. I can daydream and it counts as working. I spend lots of time staring off into space and thinking about stories or how to present an idea in a unique way. That counts as work.
  1. I get to research all kinds of fun and weird stuff. The flip side of that is I’m probably on the FBI watch list for some of the things I’ve researched.
  1. I can buy books and call the purchase a business expense. Lovely perfect perk for a voracious reader like me.
  1. I can take revenge when something or someone irritates me. Cleverly disguised, of course, with names and locations changed to protect the guilty. It’s called plotting.
  1. I get to work in my pajamas.Not so much a perk anymore since so many of us are working from home and don’t have to worry about how we dress.
  1. I’m my own boss. I lean toward being a control freak. Setting my own schedule and getting to tell my characters what to do fits my personality perfectly.
  1. I get to buy pens and paper and cool office stuff. A new pen and a blank notebook always inspire.
  1. I get paid to make things up.When I write fiction, that’s true. With non-fiction, not so much. Editors prefer factual non-fiction.
  1. People accept all my little idiosyncrasies. Writers are viewed as a different breed. Once I tell people I’m a writer, I don’t have to pretend I’m normal.
  1. Fan mail. I love to hear from my readers. I enjoy getting glimpses of how my stories or my words have touched someone. Click on the contact link to email me.

It’s always nice to love what you do. It makes the work not seem like work.

What do you love about what you do?

25 01, 2021

Pandemic Puzzle Panacea

By |2021-01-24T16:11:51-06:00January 25th, 2021|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

My love of puzzles began as a child and hasn’t diminished as I’ve grown older. The joy I find in working puzzles has been a blessing with this pandemic isolation.

There’s always been a puzzle on a table around my house. I graduated from working puzzles on the dining room table or a card table set up in the bedroom I shared with my sister to a real puzzle table made especially for puzzles.

I loved that puzzle table. Plenty of room for all the pieces.

Plus, the proximity to the roaring fire was wonderful during those long, cold Colorado winters.

 

Sadly, there was no place to set it up in the new house when we returned to Texas. I’m back to a card table in a corner of the living room.

Covid-19 has fueled a pandemic puzzle pandemonium as an antidote to the boredom it’s brought. Lots of people are working on them, and many are posting their finished products on Instagram with different hashtags like #puzzleaddict.

Solving a puzzle can offer a diversion and take the mind off everything else that’s going on. Creating order out of a pile of chaos gives the solver a sense of triumph over anxiety.

Psychologists say figuring out where each puzzle piece goes, categorizing, sorting, and searching for pieces all serve as “play therapy,” which can mitigate anxiety and other stressors. Puzzling also offers tactile lessons in patience…most of the time.

I looked for a new holiday puzzle last year. Demand for puzzles made the search nearly impossible. Last March, one game maker reported U.S. puzzle sales up 370%.

I was so excited when I finally found one I liked on Amazon, but I goofed when ordering, I didn’t read the fine print.

The puzzle arrived, and I discovered the pieces were not standard cut, but random, weird sizes cut on angles and curves. My pandemic panacea flipped into a tactile lesson in frustration.

Fitting the pieces together is taking forever. Using sorting boxes for pieces hasn’t even helped. I’m starting to wonder if Santa and the deer will be complete by Easter.

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