Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When I Started This Writing Gig

What makes a normal kid want to write? I grew up reading fairy tales and telling my own stories. I had no idea that what I found a natural and necessary part of my life was a fundamental part of human experience. From earliest times, humans have told their stories with drawings on cave walls, songs of heroism, tales of struggle and adversity, sonnets of love.

As a child, I had stories roving around in my thoughts from my earliest recollection. My experiences always form some part of my novels, not necessarily in their exact context. Every writer makes use of material from their lives.

One of my lecturers once claimed that new writers too often write about the one thing they know the least about: themselves. However, that is the primary motivation for story-telling, to bring into focus and clarity our individual perceptions of our world.

Many of us keep diaries, journals, personal web logs: what else is an Internet based profile page but a public accounting of our lives and all too often our interactions with others who may not want their personal experience exposed.

Some of these exposés have attained the status of literary efforts, attracting readers and followers beyond their initial purpose, turned into cults, transformed into another communication medium such as film and print.

With the advent of the digital age, there seems to be no barrier to what and when or how a person can expose their innermost thoughts. The cacophony of experience thus laid before us will be of vast importance to historians of the future.

But I suspect most of what we currently call ‘being connected’ will be seen in an entirely different light in future generations, just as we see the very popular entertainment, tableaux, of the Regency and Edwardian periods as archaic and quaint.

Without a doubt, we will still be telling our stories but the form these take will be beyond our present imaginative capabilities.

All the same, we cannot tell our stories without a past upon which to base them and they will have no meaning without the context of our era and our experience of it. We invariably look to the past to inform our present and future. Our natural curiosity compels us to look for meaning and motivation in what we ourselves have seen and felt as well as how that plays out in the scheme of all mankind.

One of my most important experiences was to collect the oral and written histories of women during World War II. We know a good deal about what men experience in war, but reading and hearing about women’s lives at this traumatic time in our not-so-distant past helped me to realize a fundamental fact: we are not so different in our wants and needs from any person who has ever lived upon the earth.

What Joseph Campbell found true about the ancient hero odyssey is true in every story written by modern writers. As Aristotle theorized, every story must have the critical element of truth: not as fact but as interpreted by the listener/reader. Every story is a journey of change: from unknown to known; from apart to bonded; from static to dynamic and all the various ways in which the human joins humanity.

I haven’t quite figured it all out yet, so I keep writing!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Point, A Place in the Heart

by Fran McNabb

If you’re not from my corner of the world, “The Point” probably brings up all sorts of meanings. For me and for the tightly knit group of people who grew up on the small peninsula of the Gulf Coast, the name conjures up memories from the past.

The Point, or Point Cadet as some called it, was home to several ethnic groups—Cajuns, Yugoslavians and Italians—most of whom made their living from the seafood industry. Over the years these different groups shared their traditions and food and seemed to meld together while still keeping their own traditions alive. We grew up enjoying foods from all the cultures, such as baccali, jambalaya and gumbo.

Most families had someone who worked as shrimpers or factory workers or owned neighborhood stores and cafes that catered to those families. My mother and father both were seafood workers. Dad had a shrimp boat and Mom worked on and off throughout her life in the factories. My brother and I even tried our hand at part-time work, but quickly learned that life wasn’t for us.

I love to share memories with people who grew up in that part of the world. The other day something reminded me of the “aroma” of the huge oyster shell piles on the beach. I know most people wouldn’t think of that as a good memory, but I loved it. (Thanks to Tiffany Duval for the picture. The picture comes from a time prior to my life, but the piles remained into the late 20th C.)

I love riding down the beach today thinking about what we did as children there. I smile at the memory of our moms in their big sunhats following us children who rolled truck inner tubes through the streets to get to the beach. What fun!

Most of us lived in the same neighborhood and played with the same friends for our entire school years. It was a comfortable life—not rich in material things—but comfortable because of the familiarity of the people around us, the slow rhythms of life, and the traditions that we expected. I look at our mobile society today and realize so many young people will grow up without that experience.

 The Point was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, but though the landmarks might be gone, nothing can take those memories from our hearts.

 Everywhere in the world has its own place like “The Point.” Where is yours? Is it in upper New York, in the desserts of the southwest, or in a small town in the Midwest? No matter where the region is, I’m sure you have special memories from your past that are distinctively yours. If you do, you can count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

Fran McNabb grew up on “The Point.” Today she and her husband live on a quiet bayou harbor, a short distance from the area. Several of her light romances are set along the beaches and island that she and her family still enjoy. She loves to hear from readers at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net or through her website at www.FranMcNabb.com


Saturday, April 25, 2015

What makes a romantic hero?

I've read hundreds of romances, have written a dozen or so, and have come to some conclusions about what makes a romantic hero. Typically he has bedroom eyes, washboard abs, and a face "too rugged to be considered handsome." He's Prince Charming in an executive suite, Cowboy Jake on a white charger, or The Beast in his princely form. He's everything you always wanted, but probably couldn't live with -- unless you were the impossibly wonderful and perfect heroine who nabs him.

Hmmm... maybe not. Here are some of my qualifications for what makes a real-life romantic hero:

1.  He helps you in the kitchen. I don't mean he tastes the sauce, says "needs more salt" and goes on about his important tasks while you do the work. I mean he gets in there and chops vegetables, makes the salad, sees you're preparing pasta sauce and asks if he can cook the pasta, and then does it, perfectly, without troubling you for every direction. In a pinch, he also bakes.

2.  He willingly tends the baby. He doesn't think diaper changing is "a woman's job." He knows it 's the job of anyone who loves and cares for that child, and he adores that child. He will get up in the night to walk with a crying baby, letting mama get some rest for a change, or he will come back to bed with the baby sleeping on his chest, carefully cradling the child while everyone gets some rest.

3.  He advocates for you when you're ill. Not intimidated by doctors, hospital protocols, or officious nurses, he sees that you get the care you need when you are too sick to speak for yourself, and he will do the same for anyone else among your extended loved ones who may need the advocacy.

4.  He acknowledges your skills when you're better than he is. It may be more appropriate to the romance genre to have a war-of-the-sexes I-can-do-anything-better-than-you-can showdown, but in real life, everyone gets along better when you recognize he is better at repairing faulty light sockets and he knows you do a better job of paying the bills. Traditional gender roles play little part in deciding these tasks. Please note, though: Real Life Hero will kick in and help wherever the help is needed when the world is in chaos.

5.  He knows when to fix and when to just listen. It may have taken him a while, but he has learned that he can't jump in and solve everything. Sometimes all you really need is a chance to vent your frustrations and someone to hear you do it.

That's just a start, really, but it's an important start. As you think about the Romantic Hero in your life, what other qualities would you add?

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has a part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 24. She lives in northern California with her husband of 44 years and the two spoiled cats they serve, and she loves hearing from readers @SusanAylworth, at  www.susanaylworth.com, or susan.aylworth.author@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You CAN Go Home Again

by Sierra Donovan

At one point, I wasn’t sure I’d ever write a series.

I may have been biased by the fact that I grew up in an era when most movie sequels were numbered. They didn’t even attempt a different title. After all, according to the legendary redneck B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, the cardinal rule of a sequel was to make the exact same movie. Every time.

Now, I loved reading series when I was growing up, from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books to Virginia Coffman’s Lucifer Cove novels. Heidi had two sequels that I know of, and I read them repeatedly. But in my own writing, I guess I thought a series could lead to B-movie syndrome. I might start repeating myself.

Then, last year, I wrote a book set in the fictional Southern California mountain town of Tall Pine. A funny thing happened. Secondary characters, who have always been fun for me to write, started tapping me on the shoulder. They hinted – rather insistently – that they wanted stories of their own.

And as I started to imagine the right romantic matches for these characters, I realized there was no way I’d end up repeating myself. Hero B might like the woman Hero A fell for in Book 1, but he definitely needed a different type of woman to fall in love with. As a matter of fact, Hero A and Hero B were such different people, they didn’t even like each other much.

And those two people, over there … what if they were exes?

Before I finished writing Book 1, the town of Tall Pine was already populating itself with characters I knew I wanted to spend more time with. Not just romantic leads, but the folks who ran the local businesses, argued with my hero at town council meetings, or poured coffee at the little café on Evergreen Lane.

By the time I finished revisions on Book 1, at a point when I’m usually ready for a breather, I was scribbling down scenes for the next book. And the one after that.

Planning this series has been a rich experience for me. It’s made me think, more than ever, about the backgrounds and experiences that make us all different. And it’s got me sketching out local landmarks, so I don’t have a character turning a corner the wrong direction and walking right into the pond I put there in Book 1. I’m hoping readers will get “lost” in my little town right along with me.

A series can be a comfort zone for both the writer and the reader. But it can still be a place to grow, just like Laura in the Little House books.

Are you addicted to a series of books? Which stories have transported you to a place you’ve wanted to return to again and again?

Happiness is a Warm Puppy

by Gina Ardito

Meet Zoe. She's a five-month-old cocker spaniel pup, and the recent addition to our household. 

Now, bear in mind, I already have two cats and a fifteen-year-old Labrador retriever so I was not in the market for another pet. But when my daughter began working at a local animal shelter, the photos started bombarding my cell phone. "Look how cute! Don't you want one?" I resisted the beagles, the terriers, the adorable Yorkie mix named Pixel. But when she sent me a photo of a four-month-old pup named Lily Rose, my heart melted. And she knew it. After all, she was the one who bought me my favorite Disney characters on a sweater, a purse, and on DVD: Lady and the Tramp. To have my very own Lady dog? Yes, please!

I should probably mention that this same daughter swindled me into getting the Labrador fifteen years ago by naming her Kismet (after my historical series). So you think I'd be prepared this time. But when I got my first look at that little puppy face, I was hooked. Look at her. How could you not fall in love?

Lily Rose came home and became Zoe.

Yes, it's tough having a "toddler" in the house again. She chews shoes and ChapSticks and anything made of plastic. She has accidents. She climbs up onto the kitchen table and lays there like a centerpiece. She walks across my keyboard and bites my pen when I'm writing. She can be deadly when she has gas.

But whenever I come home, she races to the door and her whole body wriggles when she wags her tail to greet me. At night, she curls up next to me, her head on my thigh, and she sleeps. And oh, how she makes me laugh! She barks at her reflection in my mirrored closet doors. She chases leaves blowing in the wind and pounces on them. She gives me lots of puppy kisses. We go for walks, and she waits for everyone who passes us to stop and tell her she's pretty. If they don't, she'll harass them 'til they do. She brings me her toys, and we play until she's exhausted or the toy's destroyed--whichever comes first.

Her antics often bring a smile when I'm stressed or down. In short, she makes me happy. Charles M. Schultz was right. Happiness is a warm puppy.

I don't know why she was dropped in a shelter, but I'm glad she was. Because now, she's mine. 

All pets are an investment of time, money, and energy. You have to be sure you're ready before you take one on. But the value they bring to your lives can be well worth it. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hold Onto Your Hats...

by Sandra Wilkins
          Have you ever wondered where the phrase “Hold onto your hats” came from?  It can mean someone is about to tell a big, windy story or you’re about to go on a fantastic ride of some sort, but I have a feeling its roots came from the weather in Oklahoma.  The last few days spring has blown in full force.  The winds have literally been “sweeping down the plains”—with and without storms.  I can imagine in the days of old when ladies and gentlemen all wore hats, that times like these would be “Hold onto your hats” days.  The gusts would blow them clean off your head if you weren’t clutching them tightly. 

          I try to sit on my back porch and enjoy the sunshine, but I have to brace myself and put my hair in a ponytail so I won’t be pummeled into oblivion.  My grandma’s transplanted lilac bushes are tossed wildly yet emit their glorious aroma.  The daffodils wave erratically but are still bright and cheery.  I realize that it’s silly to complain about a little wind when the birds are contentedly twittering away, butterflies are bravely making their way forward and my daughters are running across the lawn with their dogs.  All is well in my part of the world.  Hopefully, the winds of life won’t buffet you too long and there will be restful times ahead—because “we’re doin’ fine” in Oklahoma.
 Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to www.sandrawilkins.com to find out more about her and her books. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Surprise, Surprise" a Romantic Short Story by Jayne Ormerod

          I’ve swum with sharks in the Caribbean, jumped out of a plane from 4,000 feet above ground level and shot a basketball from half-court in an attempt to win a million dollars. If I combined the nervousness of all three of these events, it wouldn’t amount to more than one snowflake in the blizzard of anxiety I felt right now. What had I been thinking?
          Standing on a crowded pier at Naval Station Norfolk, I waited to meet the man of my dreams. Literally meet, as our relationship consisted of six months and eleven days of emails. We’d swapped pictures, and the sight of him in his dress blue uniform with all those colorful ribbons had sent my heart ka-thumping like a steel drum solo. But photos could be doctored, emails ghost-written, and marital statuses falsified. For all I knew, one of these wives and papoosed infants were waiting for him, too. What had I been thinking?
          I’d lied to my parents, telling them I was going on a camping trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains with my sorority sisters. I’d also deceived them about my cyber relationship with my naval officer. They had no idea Lieutenant Jake Porter existed, let alone that I had accepted his very romantic cyber-proposal of marriage. What had I been thinking?
          And if that wasn’t enough, I’d bribed a workman to sneak me onto the base. What was a poor girl to do? I’d driven 529.9 miles only to discover that security around the navy base was designed to keep terrorists out and was no match for a naïve fiancé, regardless of how hard I batted my baby greens at the young MP. So not only was I going to hell for lying to my parents, I could also be going to jail for slipping an electrician a hundred bucks to let me ride with him in his truck when he drove through the gates.
          “Guess you didn’t get the memo on pantyhose,” said a woman standing next to me.
          I compared her cute sailor shorts and midriff-baring sailor top, bare legs and matching sneakers against my mint green linen dress, taupe hose and three-inch strappy sandals. She was cool and sexy, I was hot and frumpy. I hadn’t planned on standing for three hours in the heat and humidity that defined southeastern Virginia summer. “This is my first homecoming.”
“I remember my first. Isn’t it exciting?”
          “Yes,” I lied. Terrifying would be a more accurate adjective.
          I licked my lips and felt the effects of too much sun and not enough sunscreen. Jake’s and my first kiss would be like satin scraping sandpaper. How unromantic was that? One more tick on the “Stupid” side of the scorecard keeping track of my romantic folly. “Can you tell me how this works? I mean, how do you find your sailor?”
          “Don’t worry, he’ll find you.”
          A cheer erupted from the crowd at the emergence of a great grey ghost on the horizon. The USS MACDONALD inched closer to the pier after her nine-month deployment to the Persian Gulf. A gigantic red, white and blue lei hung from the bow until it just skimmed the water.  Sailors dressed in Cracker Jack uniforms stood “at ease” around the perimeter of the deck. The sight sparked a surge of patriotic pride I didn’t know I had.
          Tugs pushed the ship into her berth as deckhands scrambled to toss lines and secure her to the pier. The band struck up “God Bless the USA” as the crowd tightened its ranks until deep, nerve-calming breaths were no longer an option for me. Finally, when I thought my heart would explode from my chest from all the excitement, the gangplank was lowered to connect the ship to land and the Captain called liberty.
          Sailors rushed forward to meet their newborn babies for the first time. Men swooped women into their arms and spun them in dizzying circles. Female sailors grabbed children they hadn’t seen in almost a year and held them tight. A melee of kissing, hugging, crying and shouting surrounded me. Joy filled my heart as I searched every smiling face for Lieutenant Jake Porter.
          An hour later, I stood alone on the pier. My romantic dreams felt like the discarded rose petals that littered the ground.
          “Can I help you?” a sailor shouldering a sea bag asked.
          “Is everyone off the ship?”
          “The duty section has to stay onboard. Usually the bachelors volunteer so the married ones can spend time with their families.”
          “How would I find out if someone has duty? I’m, ah, kind of surprising him.”
          The young sailor smiled. “The Duty Officer on the quarterdeck can help you. Just go up those stairs and across the brow.” With a tip of his Dixie cup hat, he turned and walked down the pier.
          “Thank you,” I called after him and flew towards the ship.
          With every step I took up the steep metal staircase and across the gangplank, my emotions flipped between hope and despair. Ensign Singleton approached me when I stepped onto the quarterdeck. “I’m here to see Lieutenant Porter,” I said with more confidence than I felt.
          A puzzled look crossed his face. “Your name?”
          “Kara Stevens. I’m a friend of Jake’s.”
          He nodded. Then silence. Cold stone silence. He seemed to be weighing his words carefully. I prepared myself for the worst.
          “Lieutenant Porter is not aboard, Ma’am,” he said.
          “Oh.” He must have left without me seeing him. But then I didn’t really know what he looked like, did I? The idiocy of my engagement hit me like a jumping roundhouse kick to my solar plexus. What a fool I’d been to believe in a relationship that was as intangible as the cyber world in which it had been created. This had probably been a game to him, a diversion to help pass the time of the long, lonely days at sea.       
          I kicked off my shamefully expensive strapy sandals and tossed them into the oily waters of the Elizabeth River before racing across the gangplank and down to the pier. The scorching asphalt against my stockinged feet gave me something to cry about. I’d just allowed myself my first long, mournful wail when the refrain of “Hey There Delilah” sang from my pocket. Last Sunday, Jake and I had declared that as “our” song and I’d changed my incoming ring tone immediately. I reached for my cell phone with the intention of tossing it to be with my shoes, when the caller ID caught my eye. Mom. I’d better answer, but I couldn’t let her hear me crying. Deep breath. Nose wipe against the shoulder of my mint green dress. Sniffle. Throat clear. “Hi, Mom.”
          “Kara?” asked a deep male voice. “This is Jake.”
          “Oh,” was all I could choke out against the tide of tears that rushed out despite my best efforts to control myself.
          “I pulled a few strings," he said, "and flew off the ship a day early so I could get to Cleveland to surprise you.  Your mom tells me you’re camping.”
          “No, I’m standing beside your ship. I wanted to surprise you.”
* * *
          I spotted Jake first as he rode the escalator down to the baggage claim area. The sight of him, standing tall in his crisp white uniform and shiny gold buttons, took my breath away. Our first kiss, where lips met lips and souls met souls, turned my legs to spaghetti. When he dropped to one knee and, amidst the cheers of hundreds of other travelers, presented me with an antique diamond engagement ring, I nearly went into cardiac arrest. I’d doubted this man’s love for me? What had I been thinking?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Getting To Know Us with Kathye Quick

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers. So, the second Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better. This month I'd like to introduce you to Kathye Quick.

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?

Although fame and fortune are two of my favorite things, I don’t expect either from my writing. I write to get all those people inside my head on paper so they stop bugging me. That, of course, is a double-edged sword because once I finish a book, it only makes room for other people to start talking to me. Sometimes I swear I hear more voices than Sybil.

Seriously, I write because I enjoy telling stories and hope other people may like hearing them.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?

I began writing in high school for the school newspaper. That steered me to trying my hand at short stories which then lead to bigger plots. I published my first book in 1999 and it’s been quite an up and down ride ever since.

Do you have a set writing schedule?

I wish I did. I fit in writing when I can in between a job that pays the bills, public service on a few municipal boards, doing bookkeeping for my husband’s business, and, of late, helping plan my third son’s wedding.

When I do find a second to write, it is usually in the evening. I try, and emphasize try, to do at least 3-5 pages a day. Sometimes I can; sometimes not so much. I’m sure I miss a lot of opportunities because I just didn’t get the book done. I am trying to correct that.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?

No really. Usually, a face, an event, or a passing thought creeps up on me and I have to go with it. For example, Daryl Hall and John Oates caught my attention with their song Melody for a Memory. That song has stuck in my mind for a few decades and I just turned it into the second book in my Bachelors Three series for the Wild Rose Press entitled Solid Gold Bachelor.

A writer really never knows when a muse is going to rap him or her on the side of the head with an idea. A writer only has to be prepared when it happens, and have the journal handy to write it down.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love, love, love gardening. Just tore out a whole side yard last fall and turned it into a woodland retreat. This year I have plans to plant some shade-loving flowers to give the place some color, and to get the Uwharrie Chair of my dreams (it looks like a throne) to put in one of the seating areas. Heaven!

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?

It wasn’t as a child, but as a young adult. I still have the first copy I ever bought of the Mists of Avalon. I love the legend of Camelot, and am pretty sure I was a serving wench in a past life. And seriously, why in the world would anyone take Lancelot over King Arthur?  Just saying.

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?

I do. Especially when I have the dreaded writer’s block. Re-reading a part of one of my favorites helps with that.

I love The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Kadine  (For some reason I can’t think of the author right now), and (moving up on the favorite list very quickly) any of the Game of Thrones books by George R. R. Martin. I have a particular weakness for Jon Snow.

But there’s more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?

I have to say, I have had quite a few adventures. Dated a professional football player, a fighter pilot, and a police officer, served in Municipal Office in my town, and had the governor of New Jersey carry some ruined furniture out of my flooded house when he came by the neighborhood to see the devastation in the town.

But the most exciting thing for me just happened. I FINALLY saw the Northern Lights during my third trip to Iceland. Magnificent. I have to say, God is an amazing decorator.

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?

 I can’t sing. No matter what song I would choose, the judges would say “who let the cat in and who stepped on it?”

Almost done, but first…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door?

Actually, FIREBRAND, my urban fantasy co-written with my writing partner soul mate, Patt Mihailoff,  has been optioned by an Independent Producer (no illusion of it ever getting made though).

In a perfect world, this would be the cast:

Amber Drake – Hayden Panettier
David Mack – Chris Hemsworth
Marcus Drake (Amber’s father) – Robert Downey Jr.
Eric Sincalir/Gorash (troll) – Collin Farrell
Serina (fairy) – Halle Berry
Brian McKenna (Amber’s birth father) – Channing Tatum
Amber’s Fair Birth Mother – Nicole Kidman 

Last question: What book(s) to you have coming out or what are you working on?

I have contracted with the Wild Rose Press for a three book series called Bachelors Three.

The first book, Bachelor.com is a geek to chic story, about the owner of a computer video game company whose life is changed when, after an automobile accident, has his face reconstructed and suddenly becomes a hunk.

In Solid Gold Bachelor, book two, a mega rock star goes back to his hometown to find the only woman he ever loved but whose heart his also broke. Unfortunately for them, murder follows and he is accused of killing a fan who professes he is the father of her child. 

The Bachelor's Agenda, the last book,  follows the political career of a state senator who is considered the heir apparent to federal office. When an upwardly-mobile journalist decides that that senator is hiding something, what she digs up is a little more damning than some political dirt.

Plus, with writing partner Patt Mihailoff, writing as P. K. Eden, there is an urban fantasy in the works sorts like the retelling of a few of Grimm's fairy tales. Ever wonder what Donald Trump might do with the spinning wheel that spins straw into gold?  Patt and I know - LOL

Catch more of Kathye Quick the first Monday of every month here on the Classic and Cozy Blog.

For a complete list of Kathye’s books click on over to her website www.Kathrynquick.com

And be sure and check out her blog if she ever gets one together!!

Like her page on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kathryn-Quick/256416404492072

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Finding Inspiration

Sometimes all I need is to step outside and view my everyday world like an explorer. A simple walk around my neighborhood can start my creative juices flowing. I collect images, sights, and sounds of things I see everyday. Somehow all these things fall into place and my imagination gets back to work.

Other days it's more complicated. Today was one of those more complicated days. I could blame it on the 13 hour shift I worked the night before my trip to San Diego. Getting up at 5:30 and driving an hour to MIA for my flight did not make my muse happy. And I had a blog to post. 

Five hours later my husband and I arrived in San Diego. Our son met us and drove us to the beach. We hiked up a hill for a better view. The temperature was cooler than back in Florida and the terrain definitely more hilly. There were palm trees just like back in South Florida, the sky was blue just like back home, and the people we passed were friendly just like the people we pass on our morning walks. Maybe it wasn't the change of scenery or location that inspired me - it was the similarities. 

Sometimes inspiration is just around the corner.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Last week I received the ultimate reality check when I fell on the sidewalk and broke my wrist. This is a picture of my new BFF Castzilla.  Full arm cast to try to avoid surgery. Until I broke bones, I had not paid much attention to the little things in life, the proverbial "stop to smell the roses" events that happen every day.

Have you ever stopped to think about everything you need 2 hands to do?
  • Buckle a seat belt
  • put on a bra
  • open a jar
  • put toothpaste on a toothbrush
  • do your hair with a curling iron or hot rollers
  • pull up socks, pants, underwear
  • wash certain body parts
I bet we could name a whole lot more.

I'm learning to get by on one wing for a while, but what I really got from this temporary inconvenience was a deeper understanding and respect for those who must deal with the loss of a limb for the rest of their lives; our heroes in uniform, those who lose an arm or leg to an accident, those who must decide on amputation or life. I think I can safely say we all feel empathy, but until now, I didn't really understand the life implications.

What helped to drive this sudden light bulb over the head moment home for me was seeing Noah Galloway on Dancing With the Stars.  I 'm complaing because I need help washing my hair for 6 weeks, and this American hero is coping with the loss of an arm and leg for the rest of his life.  I mean, shut up Kathye. You get your arm back by May. Noah gets his arm and leg back when he gets to Heaven.

So while I don't want any of you to break a limb or lose one to get a light bulb of your own if you don't already have a bright one already lit, I am asking that you stop for a moment when the news reports terrorists attacked our military and there are casulaties, or when there is a terrible accident somewhere and people are harmed like at the Boston Marathon Bombing, or if you hear of someone whose illness is requiring them to make a choice.  Say a little prayer, send some good chi, or  wish them well. I know I will not be able to just think "so sad" any longer. 

And to put the proverbial money where my mouth is, I am fully supporting the Wounded Warriors Project with a monthly donation.  I waste enough money t Sephora every month catering to my vanity.  Now I'll put
that money to better use.

Off my soapbox now.  Thanks for listening and God Bless America's heroes.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Year of Good Habits: Organizing

by Sofie Couch

January was the month of establishing good hydration habits. (Drink that water!)

February was the month of establishing good exercise routines. (BTW, I’m walking 2 miles every day. Baby steps.)

And March has been the month of organization.

 I’m always lookin’ for “the fix” – that one thing that streamlines my life, keeps dishes out of the sink, cleans the toilets, puts my socks in neat little bundles, etc. I was beginning to despair of ever finding such a silver bullet… until this past month.

It came in the form of a book: THE LIFE-CHANGING ART OF TIDYING UP: The Japanese Art of DeCluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.

I KNOW! It sounds too good to be true. How dare they suggest a book is going to be life-changing? How dare they suggest that the root of my organizational woes is all of the precious, er, semi-precio…, er, mostly good, er, okay, there’s a lot of crap in my house.

Great balls of clutter! So let this post serve as both a book review (I give it five stars, duh), and a summary of Marie Kondo’s “how-to” book on organization.

In short, Kondo maintains that we have too much stuff in our homes. Begin with your clothes. Put every stitch on your bed, then touch every article of clothing and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, you pack it up to give great joy to someone else, in the form of donating it, recycling it, or composting it. (I never suggest tossing stuff into the landfill.)

Then you rinse and repeat with books, mementos, etc. And the next thing you know, your whole house looks like Martha Stewart and her crew of elves paid a visit while you were sleeping.

Do I have more organizing to do? Sure. But now I know how to do it! My closet and drawers are worthy of a Pinterest board. My office has been streamlined and tidied to maximize efficiency. The laundry room is getting there. The cabinet under the kitchen sink? ‘Tis a thing of beauty.

Basically, you order by type: art supplies, pots and pans, silverware, books.... Books? What? I gotta get rid of books?

Gimme a break. I’m a recovering collector of semi-precious, er, kinda useful, er, okay, most of it is crap. I'm still hanging onto those books with all the strength in my little brick-layer hands. But there is something oh-so-liberating about filling those boxes and trash bags with stuff that will go elsewhere to serve a very useful purpose.

Happy De-Cluttering!!! (And check out that book. It’s truly magical.)