Don’t Tempt The Universe

I’ve never really told this story before. It’s a sad story because I was sad at the time it happened. In fact, I was more than just sad, I was heartbroken beyond words and desperately lonely. The dreams I’d had for my life had been shattered, ground into dust, and cast to the wind. They weren’t coming back. There was no putting them back together because they no longer existed. I’m not going to get into the details because they don’t really matter. What matters is how I felt and who I no longer was or would ever be. The Universe, the Divine, God, Goddess, whatever you want to call it\them, had delivered a punch to my gut the size and weight of a cannonball. I cried on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

On the outside, I smiled. I carried on. I went to work every day. I tended to my kids and my household. I did all the things a happily ever after kind of person does. Inside, however, was a dark and hollow void of broken promises and a life of deception. “The truth will set you free,” they say. For me, the truth was crushing and destructive. I hated the truth, but I hated living a lie just as much but felt I had no choice in the matter.

I tell you all this, so you’ll better understand the state of mind I was in when I decided to attend an annual Beltane celebration. I’d gone to it many times before, always alone, but that had never really bothered me much before. That year it was different. Being alone meant something more. Being alone hurt in every way possible. I went anyway. I hoped spending time outside with the small group of friends I’d cultivated over the years would pick me up, make me forget the pain, and relax. I was wrong.

It wasn’t so bad at first. There was laughter and music, smiles, hugs and dancing the May Pole. People came with their spouses and partners. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, people were in love and loving. They held hands. They kissed. They embraced. I sat alone.

In this state of loneliness, I stepped away and made the short walk to a stream that ran along the edge of the property. I found a large, flat rock to sit on. As the cold water flowed by, my tears began to flow with it. I don’t know how long I sat there feeling dreadful and sobbing, desperately wishing for what once had been while knowing it would never be. How could things get any worse? What had I done to deserve such misery? I considered going to my car and making the hour-long trip back home. I wasn’t having fun. What was I even doing here? Why had I come at all? Slowly, I pulled myself back together. I splashed cold water from the stream on my face and took deep breaths. I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going to go, if I was going to stay the night or not.

As I reached the main path through the land, I met up with one of the friends I’d made. I smiled. He smiled. And then he stopped and gave me a second look and said, “What’s wrong? Have you been crying?”

Of course, that opened the floodgates all over again.

“C’mon. Let’s go sit somewhere private and have a chat.”

I agreed and followed him into the woods. We sat on the ground. He put his arm around my shoulder as I leaned against him and cried. I couldn’t talk. I could barely think. All I could do was mourn everything I had lost in the past year, the life, the dreams, the future I had so joyously believed I was going to have. I don’t remember if I even told him any details of what was going on and the source of my sorrow, but eventually I was able to get out the words, “Rob, I don’t know how things can get any worse.”

He gave me a squeeze before pulling back a bit, enough to put each of his hands my shoulders. He looked me in the eyes and he said, “No, don’t say that.”

I didn’t understand. I don’t remember if I answered him or not.

Don’t even think that,” he continued. “Don’t tempt the Universe by asking how things can get worse. That’s only asking it to show you. Instead, think and say, things can only get better.”

I nodded, the concept slowly sinking in, the idea that thoughts become things and that I was manifesting my own misery. By asking how it could get worse, the Universe was just going to keep showing me exactly how that could happen. That was probably one of the greatest epiphanies I’ve ever had in my life, that moment, that realization. I didn’t know how they could get better, but something inside me knew they would.

“Things can only get better.” became my mantra. And Rob was right, they did. I don’t think he has any idea how much his words and friendship meant to me that day, or how much it still means to me.

It didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time, months, maybe even years in some areas, before I really began to see why things had happened the way they did. How that drastic change, a change that still causes a twinge of pain all these 20+ years later, led me down paths of growth and joy I’d never had experienced otherwise.

Of course, I wonder how life would be different now had none of that ever happened, but I don’t do it with a broken heart or a flood of tears anymore. I look back and remember where I was that day, sitting in the woods, sobbing beside a very, very wise man – and how far I’ve come from that, how things have only gotten better, with the exception of a few deep dips in the road because, you know, potholes happen, but I am mountains above where I was that late afternoon on Beltane. If that was the Mariana Trench, I’m well on my way up Mt. Everest now.

The lesson here is Don’t Tempt The Universe. Don’t toss out that challenge by asking it how things can get worse. It will pick up on those vibes and show you. Instead, look up and say, “Things can only get better” even if you maybe don’t quite believe it at the time let alone know how it could possibly happen, still say it. Manifest it. Find the little moments that pull you out of that deep, dark trench. Eventually, you’ll find yourself on drier, healthier, happier ground.

Things can, and will, get better.

Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas

We haven’t been to my husband’s home state of Texas since 2018, which if far too long to have been away. People fly off moving motorcycles, pandemics strike, and other bits of life just gets in the way of travel sometimes. Happily, we’ll be heading out to the Great American Southwest in less than a week and we’ll be able to enjoy some of the things Texas is famous for once again.

Texas is known for a lot of things, like The Alamo and Big Bend National Park; the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Space Center, Luckenbach, and Austin City Limits; or maybe you’re more The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, From Dusk To Dawn, and The Town That Dreaded Sundown type like I am. But when you think of food, Texas probably isn’t the first place your mind goes beyond a bowl of chili or some mighty fine Tex-Mex.

Well, my friends, it’s time we fixed that. After a bit of research into the matter, I’ve come up with Ten Texas Foods, that are big on flavor and most of which you’ve probably heard of, if not eaten, without even knowing it was born in the Lone Star State. So, have a seat at the table, tuck your napkin under your chin, and grab a plate (cutlery optional), and let’s see what Texas has to offer.

Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas

Chili Con Carne : Called a ‘stew’ but bearing the ingredients and general description of what is now known as chili con carne, this dish entered the Texas food lexicon as early as 1828 and is believed to have been first created in San Antonio. The first modern-day chili cook-off was held in October of 1952 at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. Until just recently it was pretty much given as gospel that the first chili cook-off was held at Terlingua, Texas in 1967. Having been to Terlingua while this event is going on, believe you me, the event is crazy popular, first chili cook-off location or not – and don’t forget to stay for the Dia de los Muertos celebration while your there, too.

Sausage Kolaches (that are actually Klobasneks): Kolaches arrived in Texas along with the tens of thousands of Czech immigrants (who came mostly from the Moravia district) and entered the state through the Port of Galveston in the 1850s through early 1900s. Over time, the traditional flat, fruit topped pastry better known by most as a danish, transformed into what Texans still call a kolache though in fact, it’s actually a sausage klobasneks that resemble pigs-in-a-blanket. I make these regularly for my husband’s lunch using Pilsbury buttermilk biscuit dough as opposed to the traditional bread-style dough, but I’ve not gotten any complaints.

Chicken Fried Steak : Many sources attribute this dish’s development to German and Austrian immigrants to Texas in the late 19th century or as late as 1911. Lamesa, TX claims to be the birthplace of chicken fried steak and hosts an annual celebration accordingly.

Frito Pie : This dish has two possible origins. The earlier story claims it was created by Daisy Dollin of San Antonio in the 1930s. Sante Fe, NM claims the creation was first made there in the 1960s. Either way, Fritos were invented in Texas by Doolin’s son, Charles, and the dish was made popular at Texas high school stadium concession stands. I have to admit, the first time my husband mentioned this dish to me, I was very confused. As a Yankee, a pie to me is, well, in a pie dish with a crust, filled with fruit, and baked in an oven. This ain’t that but it sure is tasty!

King Ranch Casserole: Origins are unclear, but the dish is named after the King Ranch in Kingsville, TX – reported to be the largest ranch in the world.  The most likely recipe for this Texas staple is a housewife from nearby Robstown, TX who entered the dish in a Campbell’s Recipe Cook-off popular during the 1950s. I have a hand-written recipe given to me by my mother-in-law that I’ve yet to make myself, but it’s darn good and I’m hoping she’ll make it for dinner while we’re visiting in the next couple of weeks.

Fajitas : Originated by Spanish ranch hands working in south and west Texas. In 1969 in Boerne, TX a man wished to enter a food festival and sell tacos. However, the rules stated no two stalls could sell the same food item, so he came up with the term ‘fajita’ to describe his dish made with skirt steak. By the early 1970s the dish was very popular in San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.

Pecan Pie : Declared the official dessert of Texas in 2013, pecan pie is by no means exclusive to Texas, however, the official state tree is the Pecan as well as the state’s official nut. Traditionally, Karo brand corn syrup is the sweetener used for this recipe. The earliest known written recipe dates back to 1886.

Dr. Pepper : This cola was born and raised in Waco, Texas in 1885. Charles Alderton, a pharmacist, invented the carbonated soft drink at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store at the soda fountain. In 1891 the Artesian Mfg. & Bottle Company became the Dr Pepper Company and in 1904 the beverage was introduced to 20 million people at the World’s Fair Expo in St. Louis. As a life-long fan of Dr. Pepper – it’s the only cola I like – I had to see the original Dr. Pepper plant during my first trip to Texas in 2013. I even enjoy it served hot as was suggested during our tour.

Corn Dogs : You can thank those German immigrants of the 1920s for this tasty Texas treat. It first appeared at the 1938 Texas State Fair where the German vendors rolled sausages in cornbread batter and deep fried it. To make it easy to eat, they put it all on a stick and called it a “Corny Dog”.

Ruby Red Grapefruit : Originally discovered in South Texas as a mutation of a white grapefruit imported from Barbados where it had accidentally been cross bred oranges with shaddock or pomelo’s from Asia. Dr. Richard Hensz of Texas A&M would then isolate the sweeter, redder strain which is what we know today as the Ruby Red. The first grapefruit patent ever was granted to the Ruby Red in 1929.

So, there you have it, Ten Classic Foods Born In Texas and some of my favorites to boot! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little culinary trip around the Lone Star State. Main dishes, snacks, desserts, and beverages! The next time you enjoy that sizzling skillet of fajitas or a yummy corn dog, and wash it all down with a icy cold Dr. Pepper – you can thank Texas!

Board Games; Gateway to the Paranormal

Like most kids growing up before the days of cell phones and Netflix and decent home video game consoles – I played a lot of board games with my family and friends. In fact, one neighbor and I probably played board games more than we played outside. It was our jam and I loved spending that hour or two at her house a couple nights a week competing at Boggle or whatever it was she chose that night. It was always fun spending time with her no matter what antics we got up to. I miss those days immensely.

At my house, we had dozens of board games to choose from. Monopoly was always big, as was Don’t Break The Ice and Operation. My brother and I played a ton of Battleship. There were also the more complicated ones that required careful setup and pre-planning, things like Mouse Trap, for instance. For Ice Cube you had to plan the night before because your playing piece was an actual piece of ice! Although Clue probably remains my favorite board game of all time, my favorite build-it-before-you-can play-it game was always Which Witch. Perhaps a theme was beginning to form.

In 1979 a new board game would enter my life compliments of my maternal grandmother, who not only bought me the game but taught me how to play it. It would open a whole new world and start me down a path I was already beginning to have a keen interest in. It’s a game that most would argue, myself included, isn’t a game at all and it’s not something you play in the normal way.

It was my 14th birthday, and I was in Florida staying with my grandparents over the winter break from school. Grandma decided to take me shopping for a birthday present and as we walked into the department store, she told me to go and pick out whatever I wanted. Always an avid reader, I headed over to the book section hoping they would have something good. I don’t remember exactly what I chose, but I do remember locating my grandmother with my hands full of horror books. She scowled and shook her head. “Oh, you don’t want those,” she said disapprovingly. My heart sank. She’d said anything I wanted. This is what I wanted. “Let me show you what you want.”

Disheartened, I sighed and followed her to the toy section then to the board games (internal groan). Grandma selected a game and handed it to me. “This is what you want.” It was William Fuld’s Mystifying Oracle, a Ouija Board. She smiled and winked. “You can get the books, too.”

After dinner that night, Grandma got the board out of its box. “Let me show you how this works,” she told me. We placed it on a footstool in the living room. I sat on the floor while Grandma perched on the edge of the sofa. Grampa, mind you, had no comments on any of this, at least not verbal ones I can remember. He did shake his head and roll his eyes at least once, though. It was clear where he stood on the matter.

And so began my first lesson on the ways of the Ouija. I can’t tell you details, what was asked or even if we had any success in the matter. What I can say is that to the best of my memory, those few days in Florida were the only times I ever used the Ouija with her. I regret this beyond words!

Why weren’t there more sessions? Why didn’t I take my board to her during the summer months when they lived right next door and ask her to use it with me? Why didn’t I ask her more about her motives for getting me a Ouija board in the first place? There are so many questions and so few answers about who Grandma was and what she believed.

Grandma was a kindly, Christian woman who read romance novels, canned her own vegetables, and crotched. She was short and round, loved to laugh, and wasn’t afraid to have a cold beer or two or three now and then. She certainly was not someone interested in vampires and witches and all the spooky things I was – except for the ghosts.

I know she believed in ghosts as she told me a couple of firsthand experiences she’d had. I also know she visited the Spiritualist camp located in Freeville, New York which is less than twenty miles from where I grew up and only thirty miles from where I live now. I remember going there with her at least once during the day and seeing all the guest cabins and the church. The camp, or at least the church, still exists today and is now known as the Temple of Truth Church. My mother also remembers visiting the camp when she was younger. Back then I never put together that Spiritualism is a form of Christianity. It would take a very long time before I came to understand that.

As for that Ouija board, I’m sure you’ve heard the Horror stories out there, but those tales are not like mine at all. It got a lot of use among myself and many, many friends; Sherry, DeeDee, Diana, Candy, and others and I would all use it. I’d go on to use it with my first husband on nearly a weekly basis for many, many years. I even used it alone on numerous occasions. None of us ever became possessed by anything evil (or good, for that matter). The planchette never went crazy or flew across the room stabbing itself into the opposite wall. No demons were raised. No portals to Hell, fiery or otherwise, were ever opened. At least not that I am aware of.

It was a tool and apparently my grandmother taught me well enough during those first few sessions to respect it like any other tool. Use it wisely, use it carefully, and nobody will get hurt. Using the Ouija took me down some pretty strange paths populated with spirit guides, non-human entities, and random folks who just wanted to have a word or two with us. Going into details beyond that would be far too long and complex to get into here nor do I want to.

I still have that Ouija board. It’s tucked in with all my other board games and, sadly, hasn’t been used in close to twenty years. I should get it out again one of these days. Maybe for Grandma’s birthday this month. I’ve never tried to contact her on it. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could reach her on her birthday with the very same board she bought me on mine all those years ago?

As most writers do, I have incorporated a lot of myself, events, and people of my past into my work. As a Horror writer, this has made for some interesting fictionalizations of things that really happened to me or to people I know well. The greatest amount of this practice can be seen in The Barnesville Chronicles. So far, this series contains three distinct stories told through four books.

Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon, originally titled Blood of the Scarecrow and published in 2013 by My Green Publisher, was re-released by Ardent Creations in 2016. In this Murder-mystery with strong Horror overtones, we are confronted immediately by a ghastly death. The body of a local elderly man is found crushed beneath a headstone in the town cemetery. Though the kids of the town tended to fear the deceased due to his eccentric ways, he had no known enemies, certainly nobody wanted him dead, and therefore, law enforcement deems it accidental. However, upon closer examination, a clerk, Angela Jennings, who works for the lead investigator and who grew up in Barnesville, where the man also lived and died, begins to suspect something is amiss.

The character of Angie was vaguely based on the daughter of a friend of mine when I was growing up and with whom I used the Ouija board many, many times. Angie’s name is a combination of my Ouija board-gifting grandmother and my friend’s daughter, name wise as well as some of her interests. Angie also plays a major role in That’s What Shadows Are Made Of, the following title.

Although, to date, none of my characters have dragged out a Ouija board and tried their hand at communicating with the dead through it, rumor has it that something of that sort may be happening in the next Barnesville Chronicle, Death at the Devil’s Elbow which has been in progress for far too long, another murder-mystery infused with a heaping helping of the paranormal, Horror, and a real, allegedly haunted location called, that’s right, The Devil’s Elbow, that I grew up hearing stories about all my life! Ah, the weirdness of my childhood.

My first Horror-related release since The Inheritance back in 2020 is making some headway. Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales is being put through its paces with a proofreader and if everything runs smoothly, I’m hoping to have that out to you all this fall. It’s a collection of seven twisted fairy tales, 200 pages long, that I’ve been writing since 2005. I’m not a big writer of short stories and usually only write them as they come to me, and certainly not all of them are fairy tale-based. But, after all this time, I’ve finally managed to finish the final two last year and am looking forward to sharing them with you all soon. Stay tuned for a cover reveal soon and then a release date around late August or early September.

And finally, I am happy to announce that my next Children’s book, Bill The Worm Counts To Ten is scheduled for release March 21.

Here’s a link to the trailer to whet your appetite.


Speaking of Ouija boards and seances and the like, you might enjoy The Big Seance Podcast featuring Patrick Keller. New episodes are put up roughly twice a month and feature all manner of paranormal discourse, news, and interviews. Give it a listen. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.

Another very fun podcast I’ve recently found is Witches, Magic, Murder, & Mystery. I started listening to it on Spotify but have since found it on YouTube. Kara and Meagan are big fans of True Crime and are a riot to listen to. They never fail to make me laugh while telling me one creepy, weird, demented story after another.

If you’d rather read, I’d like to suggest The Apparitionists by Peter Manseau. It’s non-fiction and discusses the history of Spirit Photography as seen through the lens of probably the most famous (or maybe infamous would be a better term in this case) of them all, William Mumler.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll chat with you again next month about a topic my dad got me interested in – tombstone iconography! Until then – stay safe, stay healthy, & stay spooky!

Vacation, Worms, Fairy Tales & Just A Little KISS

When last we met (back in July – six months ago), I was babbling about My UFO Encounter that happened over thirty years ago! Why, oh, why can’t I hunker down and get out a monthly blog post? Maybe because I’ve never been a good one at ‘on-demand’ writing.

August saw Jim and I finally making that long-awaited trip to Boston, Massachusetts and surrounding locations as part of our 5th Wedding Anniversary vacation. This excursion was supposed to happen in 2019. Alas, one motorcycle wreck, surgeries, and that lovely pandemic we’ve all grown to know and hate, put the brakes on that for a while. Then along came Hurricane Henri who was barreling in on the east coast on the same day we’d planned to start the 6-hour drive. We postponed an additional day but were determined to make this trip happen. We’d waited long enough and now, fully-vaxxed, we hit the road! Through wind and rain and ungodly heat & humidity, we arrived and made the best of it. Jim was able to see the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor and Battleship Cove in Fall River. I was thrilled to visit Danvers & the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse, my 7x great aunt who was one of the 19 executed under charges of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials followed by the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River a couple days later. There were bonus side trips to Concord and Walden Pond, a nice dinner out with my sister, and even a down day where we went to the movies and did as little travel as possible.

September brought the release of my third Children’s book, Bill, The Worm Who Loved Halloween and my mom’s 78th birthday!

As in previous recent years when October rolled around, my heart wasn’t much into Halloween as it always used to be. It’s just not the same without all the family & friends I used to have to set up an entire yard and porch display for my favorite holiday. Although 2020, oddly enough, gave me renewed hope, with more trick-or-treaters than I’d seen here in years – it wasn’t until the last minute that I put up a few decorations this year, donned a costume, and skulked around on the front porch for what may be the final time at this house. We were out of candy in an hour! I was stunned and totally unprepared for so many visitors.

Along with our Boston vacation, the replacing of our garage doors had also been delayed for two years but at long last – the new doors arrived in November and what a huge difference they make in the curb appeal of the house! Thanksgiving was celebrated here at our place with the usual guests – my parents, kids, and Jim and I. Mind you, nearly two weeks prior both my parents tested positive for Covid and were barely out of quarantine when feasting day arrived. My brother had the sense to avoid the gathering. The County Health Department gave them the ALL CLEAR without retesting to make sure they were actually negative. We’ll never know for sure if it was from them or another source but a week later my daughter tested positive and was sicker than a dog for almost a week. Her dad, whom she’d seen the Sunday after Thanksgiving, ended up in the hospital for a week shortly after with Covid. Jim, myself, and my son all remained healthy with negative test results. Both my daughter and her dad have since recovered from the worst of it and are on the mend. And, believe it or not, Children’s book #4, Bill The Worm Gets A Pet, hit the Amazon store in time for Christmas orders.

Mixed in with all this, I’ve been working on a collection of short stories based off those stories we all grew up with, fairy tales. I’d written my first twisted fairy tale in 2005 called Good Spider, Bad Spider – and was really happy with how it turned out. I’d wanted to write one ever since discovering the works of Tanith Lee and her book Red As Blood while I was still in high school. With the successful writing of Good Spider, Bad Spider, I slowly began adding more fairy tale-inspired short stories all while working on novels! You can read one of them for free over on my website – Cinnamon & Cyanide. Shortly before Christmas I got the idea for the last one and have put a pretty good dent in it with high hopes of completing the first draft within the next week or two. I fully expect to release the six-story collection, Not Your Grandma’s Fairy Tales, in 2022 along with, yep, another Bill The Worm book! You can find the entire collection at Bill The Worm’s Brand New Website!

Christmas Eve was special. For the first time in many, many years both kids were here with Jim and I to spend a few hours together gobbling down nachos and watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. I may have teared up a little bit during a private moment because it felt so nice to have them here again like that. Gift giving was minimal this year and everyone seemed just fine with that. I know I sure was. I honestly don’t want stuff. I don’t need stuff – well, other than books, of course, which I got two of for my birthday along with a nice Mexican dinner out! We ended 2021 with a trip to the movie theater to see Nightmare Alley. Can’t say it was anything that either of us expected and it wasn’t a terrible movie at all, but yeah. I was expecting Horror or even a Thriller. I’m not sure what it’s classified as but we had fun getting out of the house for a few hours and coming home to a coffee table full of a variety of cheese, meats, crackers, and pickled veggies. We didn’t make it until midnight.

Tomorrow it’s back to the day job after ten days off. Not looking forward to that at all. When am I going to have time to work on Part 2 of My KISS Kollection video series? Oh, yeah – here’s a link to Part 1. Fun stuff if you’re into KISS.

With that, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year full of accomplishments and dreams come true. Be well.









Too Much Stuff, & Then Some

As the time draws near for another chapter of my life to begin, I’ve been doing a lot of sorting through my things. When you’ve lived in the same place and raised two kids in a house the size of mine since 1995, you accumulate a lot of stuff. A lot! When my then-husband and our two kids moved in, we were coming from a single-wide trailer. The rooms in the new house literally echoed with emptiness. Four big bedrooms, a huge living room, dining room, den, kitchen, and bathroom, plus an additional large backroom and a two-car garage holds way more than is really needed and having so much space kind of discourages you from getting rid of a lot of things you probably should.

I read an article last week written by a woman whose son, daughter-in-law, and new baby grand-daughter just moved into a new bigger house. The author had grand ideas of passing on some family heirlooms to her son and his wife. She dove into her attic space and closets, pulled out hidden valuables, and had high hopes of handing down some treasured memories to the next generation. Turns out, the next generation didn’t want much of any of it and certainly not the things she valued the most.

My current husband and I are planning on downsizing very soon. From this big old 1886 home of nearly 3000 square feet to a modern apartment with half the space. Insert panic mode here. Like the author mentioned above, I too have been digging into all the storage spaces, room by room, closet by closet, box by box. Some of the boxes haven’t been opened in at least ten years, some twice that. I’m finding things I’d forgotten even existed. Doing so has brought an important question to mind time after time – why am I keeping this? Do I really need it? If I’d forgotten it existed in the first place, why should I keep it now? Should I keep it for one of my kids?

So far, neither one seems too interested (if at all interested) in the items I personally value. They barely remember their great grandmothers from whom I got most of the larger pieces that mean so much to me. Nobody cares about my international collection of thimbles or the old dolls I grew up playing with on the farm and why should they? Boxes of toys from their childhood? Most of the time they just shrug and say, “Nah.” Neither has children of their own and I’m sure if/when they do, they’ll want new toys and bedding and the like – not their own old hand-me-downs. Do I really need to keep that large plastic storage bin full of Winnie-the-Pooh crib bedding and room decorations? Probably not. But that’s one of the things I’m struggling to part with. My original Winnie the Pooh I got in 1972 at Disneyland? Of course, I’m keeping that! Silly old bear! But the rest? Really? I mean, I could use that bin for something else a whole lot more important like, say – all that KISS memorabilia I have from the late 70s – early 80s; albums, 45s, dolls, concert shirts and programs, Pez dispensers, a Tyvek jacket, belt buckles, necklaces, photo albums, etc. etc. You get the idea.

My desire to downsize started long before the need to really do so. It began with my books, specifically the collection of over 200 vampire novels I once had. I’d read them all, some of them more than once, and crammed them all in a bookcase. I loved those vampire books! Then, for whatever reasons, I didn’t read so many vampire novels anymore. That does not reflect on my love of all things vampire – just found other topics to read, I guess. The books sat and sat, collecting dust and cobwebs year after year. Until one day I made the decision. All but a select few would go – my first (but far from only) copy of Dracula by Bram Stoker would remain, for example. Although I’d part with nearly all the novels over the course of a few weeks, I kept all my research and non-fiction titles. Now, I very seldom keep the books I read, unless they are particularly amazing or are signed by the author – or both. Instead, I donate them to a library or pass them on to someone else. The book collection continues to grow, sans that fevered pitch it once did. Quality over quantity and I’m very happy with that.

I’ve stopped collecting dolls, teapots, teacups and saucers, teddy bears, too. What I have is enough – more than enough – thank you. Going to antique and thrift stores has lost a lot of its charm for the time being. I still love to go, but I am constantly reminding myself while in those places that my goal is to get rid of things – not bring more into the house. (Unless it’s crow and/or raven related then all bets are off … ahem.)

And for as difficult as it is at times, at the end of the day when I look at the three piles I have created: keep, donate, or throw-away, I feel good about my progress. As the saying goes, the best things in life aren’t things. I don’t need all those broken things, the forgotten things, those things that should have seen the inside of a trash bag years ago. Those items don’t make me who I am and though I have enjoyed finding things and remembering moments I had long ago forgotten – I can’t and I won’t keep everything.

I can only hold on to the items that have meant the very most to me and hope that one day when it’s time for my kids to sort through all that I’ve saved, that they’ll find something meaningful to treasure out of it all. That at least some of items I have loved will continue to be loved, that they will make someone smile or, yes, maybe even cry a little too, as the memories long forgotten bubble back to the surface anew. For even as I downsize my physical holdings, my life becomes fuller and richer with memories of what was, acknowledging what’s important in the here and now, and looking forward to what I hope will be.

The Holidays Can Be Painful

We had much to be thankful for at Thanksgiving – living, for example – painful though it has been the past four months – is still living.

People often tell us how lucky we are. I agree. Then, my brain flips to what have could have been the worst outcome, not that we both could have been killed – but that only ONE of us had died. The very thought of it quickly sets me to crying. How could I go on without him? The devastation would be mind-boggling and I try not to go there, though sometimes I still do and am grateful for my physical pain. The mental pain of losing him would be greater than anything a few broken bones will ever bring me.

Jim is 8 weeks out from his shoulder surgery, his stitches are gone, and his sling is off. He’s still unable to sleep on his right side and isn’t supposed to be reaching that arm up over his head and does take the occasional Ibuprofen for pain. On the bright side, he’s able to play guitar again! Today he heads to his first Physical Therapy appointment.

I’m 2 weeks out from my clavicle surgery, the stitches were removed four days ago, but I’m still in the sling 95% of the time. I can’t sleep on either side yet and am still propped up with pillows when I do so. Good thing I’m okay with sleeping on my back. I was given a couple simple exercises but, for the most part, the elbow stays tucked to my side in an effort to not move things around too much. Pain pills are taken 2-3 times a day. It sucks. It always hurts even with medication. It’s frustrating and sometimes downright infuriating not being able to do for myself.

With a great deal of help from Jim, the tree is up and the house is decorated (at least inside – no outdoor lights this year). We got our first major snow storm Sunday-Monday. A foot of the horrible white stuff fell. Thankfully, the same young man who mows the lawn also does snow removal – not that I’m going anywhere without help.

As I’m still unable to drive, my son took me Christmas shopping yesterday. Didn’t get it all done, but certainly a majority of that is complete. Gift bags and boxes will replace much in the way of the actual wrapping of gifts.

Doing what I can on the writing front. Try to edit a few chapters every day. Progress is slow, but it’s still progress. I’m thankful for that, too.

Yup, the pain tells me I’m alive. I’m no fan, but it’s a constant reminder that we escaped a far greater tragedy and are meant to keep on going – in sickness and in health, for better and for worse.

The Holidays can be very painful. Mortality rates go up during this time of year. I hope you all are able to find the positives in a sea of negatives and that you can find something to be grateful for each and every day, no matter how small. It’s amazing how monumental just cracking an egg into a bowl can be!

Take care of each other and do what you need to do to take care of yourself – especially when that means asking for help. We all need help now and then. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for it.

The Unforgiven & Unforgotten

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all felt wronged or betrayed by someone. We may have even done some pretty hurtful things to others, *intentionally or not, ourselves. We may even have felt our hurtful actions were completely justified at the time.

We also know when we feel honestly and deeply sorry for the pain we may have brought into someone else’s life and how hard it is to approach them and ask them to forgive us. To admit we made a mistake, to admit we did something very wrong and regret it, to admit we are not perfect, to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” is not easy. It takes a certain level of bravery because we are showing a weakness.

To forgive also takes great strength. It’s also the first step towards rebuilding trust in whatever form of relationship you have with that person be it parent-child, between siblings, close friends, or lovers. Trust is probably one of the most fragile elements of a relationship. If you can’t trust a person, you can’t grow to love them. You lose the trust, everything else starts falling to pieces. In some cases, once that trust is gone – there’s no getting it back. We all have our standards of what is a forgivable act against us is and what isn’t. For me, that line is cheating and abuse. In other cases, there’s still hope. It’s all very personal based on what we’ve experienced and felt before.

It gets pretty tricky while you’re stuck in the middle. You’re confused. You’re still hurting. You love them, but you hate what they’ve done. You may even desperately want to forgive them – but – trust. Can you trust them? Can you believe them when they say they’re sorry and won’t do it again? Can you rise above that doubt and fear and give them a second chance? Or, maybe it’s time to move on. Lesson learned.

I’ve had to walk away from a couple of relationship where not only was an honest apology never given, but the situations would not allow me to forgive with equal honesty. Trust was completely shattered beyond repair. However – even if forgiveness will never be in the picture, I’ve taken it upon myself to be GRATEFUL for that experience. What did I learn about myself because of it? What was I looking for in the relationship? What did I gain from it that I can now use for future relationships? There is my gratitude and that is how I put that pain behind me.

Instead of dwelling and asking myself over and over again ‘Why?’, beating my self-worth into the ground and putting the blame on something I did, I took a step back and said, “Wait just a  minute here.” This happened for a reason. I may never know that reason and that’s fine, but what I do know is I’ve Learned Something Important! Instead of the Blame Game it turned into something like, “Thank you for being such an asshole and screwing me over. I’ve learned from you. You taught me what I DON’T want! And, I am genuinely thankful.”

Remember how it felt when someone gave you another chance to prove you were truly sorry? Felt good, didn’t it? When it’s your turn to offer that chance to another, will you be strong enough? That’s what forgiveness is all about. It’s that first glimmer of trust coming back. It’s hope. It’s love. It’s not saying what that other person did was right, not at all. It’s saying, “I love you enough to try again, to rebuild, to be the best WE there is, to give US another chance.” If your forgiveness is as genuine as their apology – the trust and love will return. That will take work from both sides, but it can be done.

I don’t believe in “Forgive and Forget”. Sorry, no. I will NOT forget. If I do, I take the risk of repeating that madness over again. Instead, I take the knowledge into the future. Yes, it made me slow to trust every single relationship after, but the reward for applying lessons learned has been so worth it!

No one likes feeling weak and vulnerable. No one likes feeling like they can’t be trusted. No one likes feeling wronged or betrayed.

**I believe we all have the capacity to know when we’ve made a big mistake and when we’ve hurt another. I also believe we all have the power to face the errors of our ways, admit the wrong-doing and apologize with the deepest honesty. That heartfelt apology is the first step.

The second step comes from the act of true forgiveness. Letting go of what was, learning from it, moving forward instead of keeping yourself and the relationship in prison. The one who forgives is the one who holds the key to the jail cell you are both locked inside of.

*Sometimes we may NOT know we’ve hurt someone. Over any given period of time, people can forget aspects of long or varied conversations or get-togethers. We may say or do something in passing that we considered harmless or unimportant, yet a friend may have found it devastating. If we don’t know and they don’t tell, it’s going to be nearly impossible to apologize or forgive on either side.

**Unless you’re a narcissistic-psychopath, of course, then none of this applies to you at all because every bad thing that’s every happened to you is someone else’s fault, never your own. You’re perfect!

I’m Gonna Ride On, Ride On, Ride On…

As I was driving home tonight, glancing in the rear view mirror every now and then as one does – I had a bit of an epiphany. We don’t drive down the highway looking in the rear view mirror all the time. There’s a reason for that. It’s not in the least bit safe. We can see where we’re going briefly, but doing it all the time won’t work. Our main focus needs to be on the vehicles on either side as well as what’s ahead.

That’s how we should also be living life. Yes, check out what’s back there, in the past, every now and then. Remember what you saw, what you did, what you may have learned going through all that, but don’t make it your main focus. What was, was. It’s all behind you.

Pay attention to what’s going on around you in the moment, the present, just like you would the cars around you in traffic. Work with that, do what you need to do in the now to make it through one block, one mile at a time.

Look ahead. Pay attention to what’s coming up and how you can get there in the most efficient, safest way possible. Adjust your speed and prepare to change your route – detours happen – but that’s all they are. If you are truly intent on getting to your destination, a detour is only a temporary slowing down of the traffic, annoying, but in the grand scheme of the journey, a minor incident. It’s not the end of the journey. Work with it – do what you have to do, but there’s no reason to pull over and stop because of one setback.

Life is full of detours. Sometimes traffic barely moves at all and we feel like we’re going nowhere fast. It’s maddening.  We have to adjust and change our plans. Sometimes it takes a lot longer to get there than we hoped, but as long as we look ahead, focus on the destination not the rear view mirror, we’ll get there. We’ll find our way eventually. No one has been stuck in traffic so long that they’ve died – well, not that I know of anyway. Eventually, things get moving again and we can get on our way.

I’ve been a published author since 2006. I’m still not doing it fulltime. I’m still not even close to making a living at it, but I’m still behind the wheel and on the road. Sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere and I wonder why I ever even started up the car to begin with. There are times I feel like shutting off the engine and chucking the keys into a fast-moving river.

But then, I take a glance in the rear view mirror and realize how far I’ve come in the past dozen years. I look around me at the wonderful friends and mentors I’ve made in the writing business. I’ve grown. I’ve hit a couple of detours and a pot hole or two, but I keep on going. The road still stretches out in front of me and my journey isn’t even close to being over with yet.

No matter what your dream is, just keep your eyes focused on that road ahead. You’ve already made it through some traffic jams and detours. They are done and over with and there’s no sense in dwelling on them anymore. You’ll get through any of the others that are headed your way, too, I guarantee.

Write on! Or in this case, Ride on!

Hot Off The Press Bride

Adventures / Family & Relationships

It’s been a busy, busy week here.

Jim’s mom from Texas arrived Tuesday night. Wednesday we went to Owego, NY (Voted The Coolest Small Town In America in 2009 by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel Magazine) and walked around the shops and along the river walk. Followed by lunch at my parent’s house just outside of the small town of Berkshire, where I grew up. I was sure to take her back home via the back roads where the rolling hills packed with trees and acres upon acres of field corn amazed and delighted her.

Thursday we headed up to Cornell University where I gave her a quick tour of central campus and stopped in to visit some of my co-workers for a few minutes at Olin Library. We made a pass through Wee Stinky Glen, the Cornell Store, and Sage Chapel. Neither one of us was up to climbing the spiral steps up to the top of McGraw Tower. For dinner we took her down to Beeman’s in Sayre, PA – just so she could say she’d been to Pennsylvania, too while she was up here.

Friday morning was pretty quiet and relaxing. I headed down to Waverly that afternoon to get some things I’d ordered for Saturday. Getting home, I packed up an overnight bag, and what few things I needed, gave Jim a kiss, and had to smile when he kind of pouted and said, “I don’t want you to go.” It was so sweet.

Saturday, of course, was the BIG DAY! That’s right, THAT Big Day! After meeting in the virtual world of Second Life in January 2012 and living together since January 2013, Jim and I finally made it official and got married FOR REALS! Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but darn close and I’m not going to let those few things that weren’t perfect bother me. I’ve said from the start that the only thing that really mattered at the end of the day was that we were married, everything else was just icing. The weather cooperated, no family feuds broke out, no one drown in the pond, and the icing on the cake was really quite delicious to boot!


The Newlyweds!


While all these shenanigans were going on (literally) my newest book, NO REST FOR THE WICKED was released on Amazon! I’d approved the final proof the day before, kinda half hoping it would be ready on the wedding day, but in all the mayhem I quickly forgot about it.

Today, now that we’re home again for a bit before seeing my new Mother-in-Law off at the airport tpmorrow, wishing her as easy a trip home as she had coming up here, and heading off on our honeymoon later that afternoon, I finally checked my email after over 24 hours. And there was the announcement.

So, lots of things to be happy about here. Head on over to Amazon, buy a copy of the book, and make this Hot Off The Press Bride even happier than she already is.

No Rest For The Wicked


Lumbering On Morris Mountain

T-minus 3 weeks until wedding day. As I’ve been doing about every other weekend for the past few months, I loaded the car up yesterday afternoon with some items for said wedding day, in this case soft and adult beverages, and headed up to Morris Mountain where the nuptials and merriment will be taking places. It seemed a harmless enough mission, but boy, am I sore this morning.

As I pulled into view of the house, I saw my 73-year-old father over at the pavilion working on something. I decided I’d go say hello and see what he was up to before heading inside with the drinks and to visit with mom.

Though he complains a lot about having so much to do, I don’t think Dad’s really happy unless he has a project going on. This weekend he decided to tackle constructing and hanging some folding wooden shades for the pavilion. Keep in mind that when Dad builds a thing he BUILDS! a thing. It’s not going to fall apart. That thing is going to be there for a very long time. He built the house they live in over the course of about five years while also working full-time. It’s not a little house. It’s three stories (four if you count the full basement) with a huge cathedral ceiling and wrap-around front decks on two levels. So, no small task. He also built the pavilion in which he was working yesterday and the old and new outhouses nearby. I clearly remember him building the old one because I helped draw out and cut the crescent shape on the door. It’s what they used while constructing the house and it’s still there all these many moons later.

As a kid I helped dad out with his projects as often as I could. I really enjoyed learning how to use a T-square, a plumb-bob, a line level, a hammer, skill saw, and any other tools needed for construction. I pounded a whole lot of nails into subflooring when he added on to our house around 1975. I learned about building a cinderblock wall and how to lay a brick sidewalk. One weekend I helped him put up the new stovepipe for the coal stove while standing on the metal roof of the house. I was 16.

Last year, he installed a deck floor on the pavilion to replace the old crushed stone one and started work on the new outhouse. This year, he finished the outhouse which puts the bathroom in my house nearly to shame! He’s also working on building a trellis for the wedding and, now, these folding blinds.

So, I head over to see how it’s going. He’s having a hard time of it. The wood is heavy and awkward and he can’t balance things or line things up like he wants alone so I ask ever so casually, “Need some help?” I am immediately put to work holding up this, moving that, lifting this into place, lining up this other thing, and climbing up and down on the picnic table numerous times so I could reach and balance pieces in place. The project was not cooperating and really is a three man job, not one 73-year-old-man and one fifty-year-old female desk jockey wearing cotton capris and sandals work.

While dad went to look for another piece of rope in the cellar to help with hoisting and holding things into place, I popped upstairs to visit with Mom ever so briefly. But, my respite was brief and  doing as promised, I went back out to help once I saw Dad back at it, new length of rope in hand. Mom decided she’d come out and help, too.

Finally, three hours after I pulled innocently into the driveway, we got the first shade satisfactorily into place and called it a night. No, it was not the afternoon I had envisioned at all.

Despite having a very sore right shoulder from standing on a picnic table balancing two wood panels in place so Dad could get the hinges screwed in and my legs and arms aching a bit more than usual, I actually enjoyed the work.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to help my dad build anything. He can still work circle around me and I think it’s time to pass the torch to the next generation. Therefore, this coming week, my 25-year-old son and a friend of his are going to go help Grampa Morris finish up this particular project.

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