2018 Clearing My Life: Weekend in Texas

    My blog is late this week because we spent the weekend with family in Texas.  We shopped, sampled a little wine, and visited.  When family turns to friends, you know you’ve got a good relationship.  My husband’s cousin and his wife looked us up after more than 30 years and it has been more fun than we could have ever imagined. We even got to visit with their son and grand dog. 

We started at their home in Glen Rose, TX (southwest of Ft. Worth) and we used it as a jumping off point to travel to points in northern Texas.  We spent one day in Grapevine, Christmas shopping and checking out some Texas wine. The second day we traveled to downtown Dallas and the Kennedy Museum at Dealey Plaza. It didn’t hurt that the cousins knew the roads in the Metro Plex and we traveled them in style.

It is amazing to reconnect with people from your past and when you have similar interests, it makes it even more fun. We plan to get together again in the spring.

The drive down was uneventful, but we saw the beginning of winter on the way back.  The first snow of the season visited early this year.  It was beautiful, and the roads were still good in the area we traveled. Thanks, Texas, for a great weekend.

What did you do this weekend?

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2018 Clearing my Life: The Aftermath

    The aftermath of Halloween is all around us. 

My husband and I walk the dog most mornings and the day after the Halloween onslaught we marveled at the things we found in our neighborhood.  I loved the two pumpkins who looked like they partied too hardy the night before – but had a wonderful time.

The first Trick-or-Treater came before dark dressed as the scary clown from Stephen King’s “It.” This was a large teenaged sized clown, but it didn’t have the red balloon the character should have had with them. I didn’t get a picture. The teenager would not have thought it cool.

The Spidey glove I found on the street the next morning proves somewhere there is an incomplete costume. (Or maybe Spiderman left it there to protect the neighborhood. I left it just in case.)  

Sugar induced craziness took over my neighborhood last Wednesday night.  My former neighbors came by and the entire family was dressed as The Incredibles (very fitting for them). My dog loved all the kids at her front door since she lives with old people.

Last year a little girl ran into my house and chased the dog down the hall towards my bedroom – sugar induced craziness.  But no harm was done.   

Every year I gripe about the price of candy.  I worry if I’ll have enough, and then it is over in a flash.  I so enjoy all the smiling faces full of candy and mischief.  Again, this year the joy overflowed on a cool, crisp evening when it was fun to pretend – and eat candy too.

Happy après Halloween for another year. 

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2018 Clearing Your Life: A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cook)

    Change is inevitable. It is a good thing for some, others struggle with it.

    To Live is to Change. To be perfect is to change often. – John Henry Newman.

I’ve often misquoted this saying and attributed it to Confucius. But the meaning is the same.  Change is a good thing because remaining stationary is to miss the things life has to show you.  You never know what is just around the next corner and you are bound to miss it, if you don’t make the journey.

It’s fall, the season of change.  God had a great idea with the four seasons.  Imagine how boring if it was eternally hot or cold.  Just when you are so sick and tired of the heat in the summer, the winter winds begin to blow. But first there is a small interval of the weather in between – fall.  Then when your toes and nose are frozen beyond warmth, summer arrives – but first the scents and blossoms of spring.  I still find it amazing, even at my age, when fall and spring give us respite. Being fried or frozen make us grateful for the seasons of postponement.

I look forward to change.  I’m easily bored and always looking for adventure.  Others hold close the day-to-day work I find intolerable sometimes. I am always on the lookout for the next thing and I find it hard to understand not wanting to find out what comes afterwards.  I always say I blame it on my father who was an adventurer.  He had to know why, when and where and he would find out by experiencing it himself.  That is not a bad thing.  He experienced a lot in his time and passed that love on to more than one generation.

I am in love with fall and the relief it gives us. I walked the dog this morning and kicked the fallen leaves while smelling the hint of winter in the air.  I made plans for simmering soup and writing by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate.  The simple things can also be an adventure.

Enjoy the change. What are your plans for fall and winter?

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2018 Clearing My Life: Blooming Justice

    The first in the Keystone Lake Series, Blooming Justice is soon to be released.  Erin Sampson is a high school senior ready to start college – on a shoe-string.  Hard working and determined, she knows she wants to have more of a career than her mother. She wants to be a lawyer like her aunt.  And she thinks her hard work and determination are all she needs in life.

And then she meets Todd. His life hasn’t been wonderful, though to the outside world he has everything a young man could want. His scarred childhood has created a monster, one that cannot be tolerated.

Erin soon realizes bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They are everywhere, and you can’t let them ruin your life.  Sexually harassed at the senior prom, she plans to forget it and move on.  She wasn’t hurt, only humiliated – but it was just the beginning. In college – and at her aunt’s law firm where she works part time – she will have to find the strength to stand up for herself and others.

Here’s an excerpt from the prom:

And just like that his hand was on her butt.

Really? On a first date? Did he really think he’d get that lucky? The laughter from the other table increased – and then it hit her. The date was a show for his friends. She reached down and moved his hand back up. He backed up looking her up and down, then pulled her tighter, grinning, and sliding his hand down again. This time he grabbed a handful of ass as he dipped her backwards toward the table. The French twist felt heavy behind her, then the spaghetti strap on the gown popped. She felt her face flush, and he stood her back on her feet.

“Oops,” Todd said leering.

“What are you doing?” She yanked up the borrowed dress her face burning with embarrassment.

“Just dancin’.”

And the music changed to a fast tune.

She stood in shock facing her date holding the dress up on one side, her face on fire listening to the laughter. She suddenly knew the plan. Get the geek girl to fall for you so you can make fun of her, or worse.

“Need a pin, honey?” Sally Elkman asked with a smirk as she shoved past holding on to the hand of a boy Erin knew only as Train Wreck. Thrusting Erin out of the way, they pushed past leaving her to face her date. Todd grinned as he grabbed her again and twirled her around, then pulled her toward him.

Blooming Justice is a coming of age story about strength and endurance, friendship and love.  I look forward to introducing you to the first in the Keystone Lake Series, Blooming Justice in 2019.

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2018 Clearing my Life: Preparing for Fall!

    Cold weather is coming!  Today is the day – the day that the cold air is coming in along with more moisture.  Fall is here, and winter is on the way.  With that in mind, I brought in a couple of plants, just in case the meteorologists are correct about a possible freeze.  My geranium decided to try one last time to bloom before the cold air arrives.  I’ll bring it in and see if I can keep it alive this winter.      I don’t make any guarantees.

My family and I attended the Greek Festival in Edmond yesterday (Oompah!) and dined on Gyro sandwiches, some wonderful Greek beer and wine and of course Baklava for dessert.  I bought a lovely scarf of silk and pashmina wool.  And as usual, just for the sake of our health, we brought home an assortment of Greek desserts. I know it is fall when the Greek Fest comes around and I even got to wear my new fall poncho.

I’ve gone to work for the local YMCA substitute teaching some classes that I sometimes attend (not the heavy-duty, extremely athletic ones, but the old lady ones). It keeps me active and helps others when the regular teacher needs some time off.  It won’t interfere with my writing and who knows I might loose some weight. (unless I continue to eat Greek desserts).

Fall is a time when Mother Nature prepares for a long winter’s rest. It seems to energize me and make me want to try new things.  It is soup weather instead of salad weather and maybe with my increased time at the Y, I won’t put on the inevitable winter pounds this year.

What does fall do for you?  Do you rest, or does it energize you?

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2018 Clearing my Life: SWOSU-Sayre Literary Festival

  I was asked to speak at SWOSU-Sayre’s annual Literary Festival https://newsok.com/article/5609767/swosu-sayre-fall-literary-festival-to-be-held-on-oct.-5 this last week.  I found myself immersed with a great group of people who love literature as much as I do.  Terry Ford and her staff put together a great day with vendors, speakers and even a pumpkin decorating contest.  I even received a student anthology of writing put together by the school and handed out at the festival.  

Other speakers were Bob Avey of Broken Arrow, who writes Detective Kenny Elliott series of crime fiction, and Landry Brewer, recipient of the 2018 SWOSU Bernhardt Academic Excellence Award. He has a new book about Maurice Halperin, a University of Oklahoma professor who was accused of being a communist and spy.

There was even a free lunch and lots of participation by high school and college students from Sayre and surrounding communities.  It was a great time as we shared our love of literature.

I look forward to more of their festivals and thank you SWOSU-Sayre for inviting me!  

(Oh, and I helped a friend with her garage sale and clearing her life this week.  I try to keep you updated.)

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2018 Clearing my Life: Clearing Another Novel?

    I’ve been working for some time on a pulp fiction novel based on three short stories I’d written in the past.  If you’ve read my work, you know I don’t follow on particular genre.  I probably should pick a genre and stick with it, but I love suspense and I love fantasy, so I write both (with a few children’s books sprinkled in for good measure).

The latest novel has really been difficult for me because I have too much going on.  I know I need one central theme and one goal for the main character.  She has one.  I used characters from the three short stories as backstory and the novel has evolved giving in depth personalities for my characters. I have a story arc. I have a climax and an ending.  What I don’t have is long enough word count. 

Even a short novel needs to be at least 50,000 words and mine sits about 45,000.  Should I give my characters more background?  Should I add another character who could be sprinkled into the existing story (I have another short story that might fit).  I’m at a loss.  I’ve worked on it so long, I can hardly make myself read it anymore, except for the newer parts.  This book has just not worked out like I imagined.  I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.  J. R. R. Tolkien I’m not and now that I’ve tried to put all these stories together into a cohesive narrative I am even more in awe of people who lace together epic tales with countless characters and subplots. 

Should I throw up my hands and go on to another book?  Should I put it aside for a while and write something else?  Should I clear my life of this novel and forget the whole thing? When do you know you’ve gone too far and need a break?

What do you think?

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2018 Clearing My Life: Rollin’ on the River

    For the last 6 days my husband and I have been the guests of Village Tours on their Autumn River Cruise https://villagetours.net/tours/. Another adventure cleared from my list. We started in Oklahoma City and drove north by way of Hannibal, MO to the Mark Twain boyhood home and museum on the Mississippi River.  I could imagine Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer’s escapades when I climbed the berm to the river.  It was less than two blocks to the river from his bedroom window. I even found the Becky Thatcher house. Being a reader and writer, I roamed the gift store afterwards looking over a multitude of volumes of America’s greatest storyteller.

We continued north to the Presidential Museum and Library of Abraham Lincoln.  We didn’t actually get to see the library, but the museum could have kept me captive all day.  The wax statues themselves were worth the visit.  I have never seen such detail.

At our northern-most destination of Peoria, Illinois we boarded the Spirit of Peoria paddleboat for the next three days https://spiritofpeoria.com/.  The three-story boat is powered by its paddle which is not just for decoration. The boat was comfortable and spacious, but the food was to die for!  The chef would come by daily telling you to be sure to save room for her grandmother’s sweet potato casserole and the deck hand smoked the brisket on board for 7 hours prior to dinner.    There was entertainment daily with musicians and storytellers and you could always sit on a deck chair and watch the river go by.  I was fascinated by the bald eagles, herons and the monarch butterfly migration we saw as we idly watched the world from the point of view of a major river.  If you could secure a rocking chair in the shade, you could spend your retirement there.    We spent three days on the Illinois and then the Mississippi Rivers going through locks along the way and seeing cities from an entirely different view than you would by car. Each night the bus would pick us up and take us to another lodge for the evening and we were stuffed with food along the way.

   Finally, in St Louis we visited the Arch – the Gateway to the West – and we took the elevator to the top to take pictures, then headed home to Oklahoma the next morning.  Our bus driver and tour guide, David and Pam Harms, were fabulous professionals with an eye to detail.  We may have been over fed, but not neglected. 

If you need a vacation and don’t want to drive, I highly recommend Village Tours.  They have all levels of tours for every person and every pocket book.  Check them out!

I’m ready for my next adventure. 

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2018 Clearing my Life: And the Rains Came

    For the last few years, I’ve had some beautiful crepe myrtle bushes in my front flowerbed.  They provided color and took up a lot of room and then I had flowers and groundcover around them.  I made the mistake of planting daylilies years ago and they tried to take over.  This year I even cleared a space for some kale and beets in the flowerbed.  I love to experiment.

But the older I get the less I like to weed, water, and those daylilies were becoming a pest.  Then last year the aphids hit the crepe myrtle bushes.  I started off trying to spray them with organic spray, but the aphids laughed.  Then the flies arrived.  I had created a little eco system and the flies found out about the aphids and dinner was served. The bushes, however were next to the front door and the flies found there way in. 

I pulled out the big guns and sprayed with something a little more toxic, but the aphids had taken over and were not going to quit.  At the end of the summer we cut down the bushes.

This spring the bushes came back and it took them no time to grow waist high and bloom beautifully.  Soon the aphids were back and with them the predator flies. It was time for a change. I hired my grandson to dig out the bushes along with the daylilies and I kept the groundcover. In browsing Pinterest, I found lots of gardens that had river rock and shrubs and I decided to completely change my front flowerbed. It would require less water and work.

I dug for days clearing my life of tiny bulbs left over from the daylilies and some ornamental grass that was left behind.  Then we marked the areas that were to be rock and the areas where I would plant English Boxwood bushes.  This could work! 

And then the rains came.

I am so close to being able to finish this project.  I researched and found out the best time to plant English Boxwood was late fall.  If I had my garden all ready before then, it would be easy to slip the bushes in later.  But you can’t rake smooth, lay weed barrier cloth, and spread river rock when the water is over your shoes.

I am beginning to think the rain we desperately needed will never end.  I just want to finish my garden, but Mother Nature had other ideas. I hope to be able to show you the finished project someday, but right now, this is how the garden looks. 

So much for a garden that is easier to work in.  I may never have this project finished. Wish me luck.

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2018 Clearing my Life: Old Friends are Like a Warm Quilt

   Friday I was honored by the flight simulator instructors from Vance AFB with a quilt handmade by the wife of one instructor. I had the best job in the world at Vance for 15 years. As an Office Administrator for CSI (Contract Simulator Instructors) I started that job in 1995 in the front office with 23 retired military pilots.  They taught the Air Force students to fly, and I kept the office running for them.  We lost that contract 15 years later and by that time we had 85 instructors and one Office Administrator.  I had help and lots of things changed in that 15 years, but what was most important was that I worked with 85 of the best people in the world. 

I’ve had a varied career, starting with working in flower shops, managing municipal pools, and teaching swimming. Later when the kids were older I went back to school and received my paralegal certificate from OU then worked for years in law offices.  I met and worked with some wonderful people and learned more than I could have ever imagined.  And then I went to work for the flight simulator instructors at Vance. 

I felt like Danny DeVito when I first crept onto that military base and asked for directions to the sim building.  “Can I buy a vowel?” Military lingo is a language all of its own. You couldn’t sling a dead cat without hitting a retired Lt Col, and there I stood in my heels and suit from the law office among a sea of flight suits – many of them Viet Nam era.  I quickly learned what the insignia on the shoulders meant and thank God for name tags. 

I left the base when our company lost the contract and my job disappeared into a pool of paperwork, but not until I helped the instructors apply for their own jobs with the Federal Government.  Then I went back into a law office in an oil and gas company. But the people I worked with remained my friends.  I knew their wives, children, and grandchildren.  They were family, not just co-workers.

I still have breakfast with the old codgers every couple of weeks now that we are all retired, and Friday morning they presented me a quilt of honor because they said I could herd cats (them).  They were always grateful for the work I did. 

Thank you, CSI, for your friendship and the quilt I will always cherish.  

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