Don't Box Me In

“Give me land, lots of land, ‘neath the starry skies above. Don’t box me in.”

OK, maybe the song doesn't go quite like that. Roy is probably going to haunt me now for messing with his song.

Someone told me today that I am not what they expected. No, I suppose I’m not. Is anyone ever what we really expect? It made me wonder what expectations they could have crafted from one business-related conversation on the phone. What box did they build in their mind, into which I would fit so neatly?

I think the only box that I’ll ever fit into very neatly is the kind that’s made of pine and waiting for all of us.

The boxes that suit us at any given time are like so many gift boxes. Maybe that someday pine box will be a gift of a different sort, but for today, those compartments that hold us are the presents under the tree of our life. (Wow. Wasn't that profound? Ha!)

All those characteristics, qualities and quirks are what make us unique. Each one a gift, and most of them suitable for giving.

I fit in a plain box. I’m a plain girl. I like simple, I like peaceful, I like predictable. I haven’t done anything high-adrenaline in my life, unless you count the time I did the Heimlich maneuver on my baby. I know about the simple things in life, like how to make bread or how to pluck a chicken.

I also fit in a quirky, unexpected box.  I’m a high-heels, polished nails, Chateaubriand kind of girl who also embraces the pastrami on rye side of herself. I know more silly jokes and cowboy songs than a woman my age has a right to know, but I also know how to configure a new workstation for my complicated office and the taxonomy of the platypus. (And the name of the guy who invented the system of taxonomy we use.) Why the hell anyone needs to know that, beats me. I’m the strange woman who doesn't mind having a huge spider in the house, on the theory that he’s eating all the little spiders. I don’t mind snakes or lizards. But I hate, despise and detest......squirrels. (“Hate is such a strong word.”) (Yes. That’s why I used it.) I can be serious, I can be silly and I. Can. Be. STUBBORN. I can be as yielding as an overripe avocado and I can stand my ground like a recalcitrant mule. The part that makes me quirky is that you never know when to expect which quirk.

The gift box that would represent love in my life will need to be a jumbo-sized one. From my loving parents, to my awesome Grandmas, uncles and aunties, my sister and my brothers, I grew up surrounded by a close and comfortable family. They gave me the guideposts to build a life that features plentiful love. My darling Sweet Hubs and our two grown sons are the biggest portion of that love today, but I also have some cherished friends and even a couple of damn fine dogs.

The heart-shaped box is also going to hold my love for sunsets, pickles, pretzels, bluegrass music, prosciutto, sweet wine, autumn leaves and fried green tomatoes. I love reading and writing and laughing. I also love to sing, but you won’t love it when I do it. In Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, Augustus McCrae says that the only healthy way to live is to learn to like all the everyday things: a sip of good whiskey of an evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like himself. Gus McCrae was one smart man. When you really think about it, that is wisdom on which to build a life.

Right next to the heart-shaped gift box, you have to have this one:
A sweet blue one, to represent my two sweet boys. Being a mother is, in many ways, the most defining experience of my life. I feel like I taught my sons many things, but I learned ever so much more from them and because of them. Having children was a chance to see the world anew, through their eyes. It was a way to discover all the wonders again. It was a way to try to stamp out the things I wished had been different in me, which of course did not work. As much as my children have changed in the years of their growing, I have changed more. When our oldest son went off to war, I learned about a whole new kind of letting go. I learned about a new kind of faith, too. When our youngest son won the gold medal at the state competition, I learned about a type of pride I had never experienced. My children taught me about patience, humor, balance, patience, joy, patience. Wait. Did I say “patience”? They also taught me about peanut-butter and pickle sandwiches, but I would really rather have not known about that.

There would have to be a gift box like one of these for me, too. I come from a European style of eating and drinking. All things in moderation, savor your food, make your meal an event. Even when I eat alone, I fix a plate, eat slowly, pour myself a glass of wine and enjoy my food. Eating is something we have to do every day. Why war with it? Slow down and learn how to do it right and enjoy it in a healthy way.

I would also need to have a box like this:
Because I’m opinionated and a little mouthy and I spend a lot of time on my soap box. I’m like a trained seal. Drag out a soap box and I’ll jump on it and start barking.

It’s only one of the many flaws I keep working on.

What would the gift boxes to hold the fabulous uniqueness of you look like?

(All images from Google Commons or images)


Scare Tactics

I logged on to my email account and a banner ad, a very official-looking one, announced that I had been unfriended by three people. If I clicked on the ad, I could find out why.

I had a fleeting moment of hurt feelings. And then I remembered that I'm not on FB, so who could be unfriending me? (forehead slap) Obviously, I did not click on the banner, so I don't know what they are really selling. Maybe a book on how to make friends and turn yourself inside out to please other people?

The genius who created this ad has tapped into some deep social structure in our human brains. We all want to be liked, even if it's just by strangers on Facebook. What a clever marketing device. Or else, what a chicken sh!t thing to do just to get clicks.

I suppose it's all about intent.

Getting Naked

No, no! Don't be scared! Don't run away! There won't be any naked pictures of me. It's alright, you can start breathing again.

I am more honored than I can express to have been invited to write a guest post for Kelly Sajonia's fantastic blog, Naked Girl in a Dress. Before you read another thing today, please go to her "About Me" tab, and drop down to how the blog got its name. I've been lurking around her blog for about a year or so.

The inspiration behind the name of Kelly's blog captured me right away, and informed me, too. She reminded me that embracing myself, embracing the moment and not letting my plentiful inhibitions run my life were important keys to living in balance.

Please trip on over there today. Follow Kelly. Tweet her and friend her and find your own inspiration there.


Trick or Treat! Halloween Freebie


Until the end of October, get a free copy of A Gathering of Light for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, tablet, pc, whatever. Go to Smashwords, use coupon code KR88H at checkout. And feel free to share the code with your friends, but it expires on Halloween night!


coupon KR88H



Jumping to Conclusions

Close to my office, on my way home, is a little neighborhood of old, low-rent houses. They're tiny and old and just barely patched together enough to be better than a shed. A parade of tenants pass through the houses. Most of them have mean dogs and a lot of tattoos and old beater cars (which they park in such a way as to roll out of the car and straight into the house with the least effort, even if they're parking on what's left of the flower bed). Beer cans, Wal-Mart bags, chocolate milk jugs and cigarette wrappers start to litter the yard.

And then someone new will move in. A pot of flowers and a cute chair go out on the porch. Pumpkins decorate the house. The yard gets raked, they pick up their trash, the windows get washed and something about the whole neighborhood changes for the little while that the new tenant is there. It feels like a fresh breeze blew in and made the neighborhood sweet.

It's a little ragtag rental that whispers of a person with hope. Ambition. An appreciation for simple joys. And a desire to build the life they want.

It makes me think of my Grandparents. Grandma used to say, "Soap is cheap and water is free." Money and standards are not the same thing. Grandma and Grandpa had their share of very tough financial times. The hardships they endured were enough to make most of us throw up our hands and quit trying. They started over twice, in a way. The first after Holland was liberated from the Nazis and Rotterdam had to put herself back together. The second in moving to America, along with their two grown daughters and a surprise baby daughter. They had to find work, learn the language and build a new life here. Grandma had quite a few new starts of her own, after Grandpa died, and she never had much money.

But she always had standards. She always had hope. She would have been the one making a cheap rental into the best home she could manage.

8 Days Until the Madness Begins

Yes, fellow writers. It's only 8 more days until NaNoWriMo starts again. That's National Novel Writing Month in ordinary English. If you have ever wanted to try writing a novel, I strongly encourage you to participate in NaNo. It's free, it's encouraging and it's a competition with yourself... who just happens to be your toughest adversary.

Last year was the first time I played along at NaNo, and at the end of the month, I had most of my first draft of A Light in the Mountains completed. It only took a basquillion revisions and rethinkings, and now that book is available almost everywhere ebooks are sold.

This year, I'll be working on the third and final book in the series (as yet untitled). Well. Um. I've actually been working on that book since the last one was done, but I've scrapped so many beginnings that the "delete" key has the writing scraped away.

My recent epiphany gave me the start I was looking for. It finally feels like I have a story! Just for fun, here is a tidbit. I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear readers! The first few paragraphs of the next book in the Light Gatherers series:

 “Cooper, stop the buggy.” Ray Harper said.
Cooper reined in the buggy mare and waited, silent.
“What is that?” Ray asked.
Miss Alice, his wife, shrugged.
“What, sir?” Cooper asked
“Over there. What’s that glow? Is it a fire? I hear a noise, too.” Mister Ray said.
Cooper looked, and listened. He did hear a faint sound. And there had been a strange glow, but it was rapidly going away. “I best go see.” Cooper jumped down from the buggy, picked up the lantern and went to investigate.
He picked his way through the undergrowth, trying to follow a sound which was fading. Fifty yards from the buggy he came to a clearing and stopped. He looked, took a few steps, listened, and looked some more.
At last a glowing spot of blue on the green grass at the far end of the clearing caught his eye. He approached cautiously, his heart pounding and his eyes owly round.
A young woman seemed to be resting on her side, facing away. The back of her skirt was darkened with water. Or was it water? Cooper heard a small sound: a mewling whimper like a sick kitten might make. He moved a little faster.
Then a sharp wail made Cooper jump back a pace. It was a newborn baby cry! He trotted to the woman, only to find her limp and incoherent. She seemed to be lying in a cloud of gold dust, with shimmering light swirling around her and clinging close to her. Beyond the cloud of shimmering light was a darkness so profound, it was as if every drop of light in the air was gone.
Cooper watched in awe as the shimmering cloud collected around the squalling baby girl, making her shine. The light shifted away from the mother, wrapped around the baby girl, and with a slow, long sigh, the mother died.
“Sweet Jesus. What was that?” Cooper said under his breath. The baby cried again and snapped him out of his wonder. He wrapped his coat around the wet baby and sprinted for the buggy.
“Mister Ray! Miss Alice! I need me a knife, and a string and a blanket, quick! It’s a baby out there!” Cooper shouted as soon as the buggy was in sight. Cooper pronounced the words, “Mister Ray”, so smoothly together it sounded like a drawling cross between “mystery” and “misery”.
Mister Ray handed over his pocket knife, with Miss Alice saying, “Oh, my! A baby!” over and over while she pulled a hair ribbon from the parcels she was carrying home from town. Cooper snatched up the lap blanket and darted off to the clearing.
When the new baby was safely in Miss Alice’s arms, Cooper went back to bring the young woman’s body, to be buried in the slave quarter graveyard. Cooper wondered what the young mother’s name might have been.
“What do you think about that, Alice? I thought I’d done well that day when I found a hammer laying in the road. That baby is probably worth fifty dollars, if she lives.” Ray was grinning.
“She’s a precious little thing, alright. She seems strong enough. We can give her to Tallulah to raise along with her baby. She’ll have plenty of milk, I’m sure.” Alice replied.
“Miss Alice, give her to my Dooley, won’t you?” Cooper said. “She’s still in bed from losing this last one. She might could make milk yet, and it would help her poor broken heart.”
Mister Ray was annoyed at Cooper for speaking out of turn. He didn’t like his slaves to speak unless spoken to. He was dismissive of the idea, anyway. “Dooley clearly isn’t any good at keeping babies alive, Coop.”
Alice smacked Ray on the chest. “That’s a dreadful thing to say! It’s not her fault that her babies have all been stillborn. You say something like that again, Ray Simpson Harper, and I’ll never speak to you again.” Miss Alice didn’t bark at Mister Ray often, which made it more effective when she did.
“Cooper, that’s a good idea. Dooley might still be able to feed this baby if she starts trying right away. And Tallulah can help some until she can. Just don’t let her go hungry for trying. Alright?” Miss Alice said.
“No, ma’am. We make sure she get enough to eat. And Dooley be thanking you more than you ever been thanked, you can be sure of that.” Cooper felt like his throat was closing up, he was so grateful for that little baby. Dooley had been so sad that she could barely lift her head from the pillow. He was sure the little orphan girl would be just what Dooley needed.


Always....comments are welcome!


October Morning

It rained through the night: a gentle, soaking rain that filled my bedroom with the fresh smell of nitrogen-rich water.and the perfect white noise to sleep by.

The sun is rising now and the breaking clouds are a patchwork of blue-gray, golden yellow and soft pink, with snippets of denim blue sky showing in between. The dusty yard looks green and vibrant and clean again.

As I sit here sipping sweet, creamy coffee and watching the day develop while the mug warms my hands, I feel blessed. Blessed that my goofy puppy is running around the yard like a nut. She has a case of the zooms and it cracks me up. That dog can run! Blessed that the Sweet Hubs fixed our sleep number bed. It was leaking past the check valve, if you must know. I can't tell you how much better it is to sleep on a bed than in a flippin' fox hole. I usually keep my side at 50. Before he fixed it, the bed was at 2 by about midnight. Got to love having a handy hubby. :-)

I'm blessed because I love the cool morning and bright start of a new day, rich with promise. I'm blessed because I got the dishes washed last night. Well, most of them. I also got a huge pile of pine needles stripped and ready for basket making. There's a lot to be said for feeling productive.

I'm blessed because my freezer and my pantry are full. I've put up about two dozen jars of pickles, countless jars of salsa, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I've dried tomatoes and garden herbs. I've pickled jalapeno peppers, dried some, frozen some and eaten an obscene number of them, too. I also roasted two giant grocery bags full of green chilies. You may recall that this is one of my favorite things in life.

The breeze picks up, the clouds skitter away, and the sound of my son's alarm clock reminds me that it's time to quit daydreaming and get in the shower. Have a lovely day, all. It's off to a fine start.

Always...feel free to comment!


If At First You Don't Succeed....

I thought I knew where I wanted the third story in the series to go. I had it mapped out in my mind and I thought that I knew the story I wanted to write.

Still, it wasn't coalescing into anything at all. I never felt like I had anything. Writing it wasn't exciting, and if writing a story isn't exciting then reading it won't be, either. I scrapped the story and started again several times.

It came to me in a flash. I finally knew what the third book in this series needed to be, so I threw out everything I had and started completely over. New characters, new setting, a whole. New. Idea.

When I sat down to begin THIS story, I could feel it. I have a story to tell.

And I'm excited about it.

What I See--Alita

Oh, Alita! What can I say? We've known eachother for so many years! Alita and I became acquainted first because our husbands worked to...