Bellingwood Boxed Set – FREE for Three Days

bellingwood-box-set-2-200-dpiThe Bellingwood Boxed Set (Books 1-3) is FREE for Kindle until Tuesday, November 15th.

What a great opportunity to introduce your friends to Bellingwood, an amazing community in the middle of the United States where it’s easy to discover the best in people. One woman arrives in town and because she believes in their goodness, friends find it easy to be themselves around her. That’s the goodness that spreads throughout the community, even when the craziest things start to happen.

The first three books are available in one volume, along with a Christmas short story. Murder and mystery, but most important, terrific characters make up these stories.

All Roads Leads Home: Polly Giller returns to small-town Iowa from Boston ready to start a new life. She is renovating an old school building and while getting to know new friends, two sets of bones fall out of the ceiling. Don’t miss this heartwarming first story in a series that makes you want to move to Bellingwood and get to know Polly and her friends. Before you know it, you’ll be part of the community.

Polly’s First Christmas in Bellingwood: This first short story in the series occurs a few months after the end of “All Roads Lead Home.” While preparing for Sycamore House’s first big Christmas party, an old friend shows up needing help when he gets in trouble with the sheriff.

A Big Life in a Small Town: Bellingwood’s first barn-raising is coming up and to celebrate, Sycamore House is planning a hoe-down. The idea of a dance makes Polly nervous, but the gorgeous veterinarian is ready to step in and teach her a few moves, much to the chagrin of Henry Sturtz. A close friend of Lydia Merritt left a cryptic message as she died, asking her family to take care of … what? The ‘what’ brings new excitement to Polly’s life.

Treasure Uncovered: Sycamore House is having difficulty finding a good custodian and when the latest man doesn’t show up for work, Polly checks on him, only to find that he has been killed. The Sheriff is beginning to worry every time her number shows up on his phone. Does it mean another dead body? Thefts happening around the community are connected to Polly and her friends, but who would do this?

Save

Save

Save

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 16, #2

I often get this look from TB when Earl tries to sleep with him. Why, Mom? Why?

I often get this look from TB when Earl tries to sleep with him. Why, Mom? Why?

These short vignettes focus on other characters we meet in Bellingwood. While I write them during the same time I’m writing a book, they won’t spoil any of the story. And much as I hate to say it, they won’t give you any hints, either (bad author).

Vignettes are published in each of the newsletters which arrive on the 25th of every month, but sometimes the characters insist that I tell a quick story about them.

Book 16 will be published on December 25th. The story is flying along. There’s always something going on in town.

Don’t forget – Friday is our second November Creativity Friday. It’s all about the holiday season! What are you coming up with?

And Sunday is a big Bookbub push. The Boxed Set: Books 1-3 will be free. It’s a great time to invite your friends to meet you in Bellingwood.

Oh … and cat pictures. Because we need more of those to make us smile. Right? Right.

You Gotta Have Friends

“Order up!”

But TB loves Grey and when she climbs in beside him, he relaxes and lets her be there.

But TB loves Grey and when she climbs in beside him, he relaxes and lets her be there.

Lucy Parker turned back from the cash register and waved at Joe in the kitchen, acknowledging his call.

She smiled as Dave & Nelly Munson left the diner; Nelly walking slowly enough for Dave to keep up with her. He would never use the walker he should, and insisted on accompanying his wife whenever he could.

They had to be in their early nineties. Lucy had been serving them for years. Every Monday, promptly at eleven thirty, they came into the diner. Every Monday, Nelly ordered a Cobb salad and Dave ordered a plain hamburger with cottage cheese. The two rarely spoke during their meal, but Lucy loved watching them together. Seemingly out of nowhere, Dave would extend his hand across the table so Nelly would hold it. They’d smile at each other for a few moments and then go back to their meal.

Earl is getting so long - the poor boy hardly fits on the table anymore.

Earl is getting so long – the poor boy hardly fits on the table anymore.

One day Lucy saw Nelly kick her husband underneath the table and say his name as if scolding him. They hadn’t been speaking out loud, but when Dave gave his wife a sheepish grin, Lucy knew she’d missed something.

Nelly stood on the curb outside while her husband made his way into the passenger seat. Once he was settled inside the car, she went around to the driver’s side.

They were off to the library next. The new librarian had made it easy for older folks to get their books. Those old steps up to the front door were difficult to navigate and the elevator in the back of the building always seemed to be on the fritz. But the new gal was gracious about bringing books outside. People talked about how well she knew her customers. She was always ready with a new recommendation. Lucy glanced across the street to the pharmacy. She should remember their names. Nate. Yes, that was it. Nate and Joss.

All the time. This is what happens when they're together. Such sweeties.

All the time. This is what happens when they’re together. Such sweeties.

She turned to the kitchen and pulled plates off the counter, stacking them on her forearm. When Lucy saw people face to face, she had no problem with their names, but once they were out of sight, names left her mind. Greg had always remembered names for her. She missed going out with him. And if she missed it, she could only imagine how he felt about being trapped in the house all the time. But her husband never complained. He was the most easy going man she’d ever met and made the choice every day to be happy no matter the circumstances. She loved him so much.

Lucy stopped in front of another table filled with regulars. “Here you are, Mary.” Lucy set the plate down in front of the woman and handed the rest of the dishes to each of the six women. Every month on the second Monday this group of retired teachers came in for lunch after spending the morning shopping together. They’d been so excited when Sweet Beans opened, allowing them to start their day earlier and with coffee. They believed in supporting all of the shops in town and hit as many as they could each month, shopping and having fun with each other.

After lunch, their next stop was the nursing home where they would play cards and games with the residents there all afternoon. They laughed about how someday that would be them and they hoped someone would do the same thing for them. Lucy thought these women were terrific and she hoped they were right, that someone would do the same thing for them and maybe even for her.

“Can I get you anything else?” Lucy asked.

Della Stimson tapped her plate. “A cup of ranch dressing for the fries? It’s my newest obsession.”

Lucy chuckled. “Okay. Anything else?”

“When you come back,” Mindy Recap said, “Bring another coke. I’ll have this finished in just a second. No need for another trip, right?”

Lucy nodded and walked away. She stopped and pulled a chair away from a table. A young woman and her daughter in a wheel chair were coming in the front door. “How’s this?” Lucy asked them.

The woman nodded and smiled. “Perfect. Thank you.”

“I’ll be right back with menus,” Lucy said. “Do you know what you’d like to drink?”

“I’ll have coffee,” the woman said. “Janna?”

“Can I have a pop, Mom?”

The woman nodded indulgently. “No caffeine, though.”

“Seven-up,” the girl said.

Lucy gave them a smile and headed for the counter. “Cup of ranch, Joe,” she said as she poured out the drinks and gathered up menus.

Her first stop was at the table with the girl and her mother. “Here you are. I’ll be back in a few moments.”

Earl had started to jump off the ironing board, but Grey trapped him. Evidently, his head needed a good cleaning.

Earl had started to jump off the ironing board, but Grey trapped him. Evidently, his head needed a good cleaning.

After dropping the ranch dressing and cola with the women, Lucy checked on the table next to them. Three young men had come in for lunch from their work site at the new apartments south of town. She’d already delivered their ticket and saw that three credit cards were resting on top of it. “Are you ready for me to take this?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” one of them said.

Lucy picked it up and silently cringed. She hated being called ma’am. It felt like she aged forty-five years in just a second and all of a sudden had turned into their teacher. She shook her head and ran the cards, then returned the ticket and cards to the table. “Thanks boys,” she said with a grin. If they were going to call her ma’am, they’d be boys. Oh, who was she kidding. They were young enough to have been her sons. Lucy remembered when most of the people that came into the diner were older than her.

A few of those moments in her life had alerted Lucy to the aging process. First it had been some of the pop singers. All of those years that they’d been older than her passed pretty quickly. Greg cringed when the major league pitchers were suddenly younger than he was. Then all of a sudden, the pastor of her church was younger. That one nearly killed her. All of her life, that person had been an older authority figure. Next thing they’d do to her would bring in some twenty-year old girl who would be fabulous in the pulpit and a whiz at managing the church. Hah. That would go over well with people in the church. But when that girl arrived in town, Lucy would do her best to support her. But it would certainly shake things up around here.

“Miss?”

Lucy looked down at the girl in the wheel chair. She’d gotten lost in her thoughts. Rats. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Can I get onion rings instead of french fries with the cheeseburger?”

Lucy nodded. “Of course you can.”

“How about we split fries and onion rings,” the girl’s mother said.

“I haven’t seen you two in here yet,” Lucy said. “First time in town?”

“We moved into Bellingwood this summer,” the woman said.

“Oh,” Lucy put her hand on the girl’s chair. “What grade are you in?”

“Eighth. I got out of school today. Mom and I had to go see a doctor.”

The woman sighed. “Always another doctor’s appointment.”

“Mom,” the girl said. “It’s okay.”

“I know, Janna.” She smiled up at Lucy. “She’s always happy. No matter what she has to go through.”

Lucy nodded. “I understand. My husband is the same. No matter what he has to deal with, he’s okay with it.”

Janna rolled her eyes. “You’re being dramatic, Mom.” She tapped her mother’s hand. “You’re the one who taught me, you know. Never give up, you can do anything you want, Janna. Try it again, Janna.” The girl laughed. “Mom and Dad always tell me that I can do anything. So a few doctor’s appointments are no big deal. Right?”

“Right,” Lucy said. “You said you’re in eighth grade? Do you know Rebecca Heater or Andrew Donovan or Kayla Armstrong?”

The girl nodded wildly. “Yes. They’re in my grade. Do you know them?”

“Pretty well. I know their moms better, though.” Lucy looked up at two more groups coming in the front door. “I should get your order in. I’m glad you’re in town. I hope you come in and see me more often.”

She slapped the order ticket on Joe’s counter. “Order in,” she said. “Extra rings on me, okay?”

Joe grinned at her. “Got it. Playing with your friends today?”

“Every day,” Lucy replied. “Making some new friends, too.”

“You always do.” He snapped the ticket into a clip. “You always do.”

Do You Know How Important You Are?

TB is really mellowing. All three cats do not fit on the desk, but he's comfortable and has chosen to just sleep through the whole thing.

TB is really mellowing. All three cats do not fit on the desk, but he’s comfortable and has chosen to just sleep through the whole thing.

If you were alive and near any kind of media in 2002, you heard about, studied, read, listened to sermons on … Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life.’

I’m not about to get into the pros and cons of his book – so, don’t bother trying to explain whatever side you might be on with it. That’s not what this is about.

But it was interesting to wrap words around why we even bother to be on this earth. And while I believe it is important to understand that we each have a purpose, I think that our secular purpose transforms as we live out our lives. Our spiritual purpose? That’s pretty much set in stone. You know … the cornerstone.

Anyway …

I’ve spent a lifetime knowing that I had a purpose. Why else would I have survived childhood and youth? There had to be a reason.

When I was in third grade, I was diagnosed with Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. In essence, the muscle that regulated my heartbeat would spasm, sending it off into out of control rhythm – sometimes approaching 220 beats per minute or greater. There was no trigger I could watch for in order to avoid it – my heart would spasm no matter what I did. I could be sitting still reading and it would take off, on the playground, practicing the piano, even sleeping. It didn’t matter. Our doctor taught me several techniques to bring it back into rhythm and after a particularly scary event when I ended up at University Hospital in Iowa City, I was on regular doses of digitalis.

The night I went to the hospital, no one and nothing seemed to be able to bring my heart back into normal rhythm. The worst pain I’d ever experienced to that point was when they jammed that needle filled with digitalis into my right thigh. My mind still remembers the intensity (and longevity) of that pain. The doctor told my parents that if I lived through the night, I would have such drastic heart damage I’d not be able to live a normal life.

The two of them sat by my bed all night long, praying.

I left the hospital with no heart damage and we were told that I would outgrow the worst of the condition, though it would continue to haunt me the rest of my life. I stopped taking digitalis after my sixth grade year and though my heart will race with no reason a few times a year, it’s something I can easily bring under control if I settle down and find peace and quiet.

Ten years later I was with my senior class on our trip to St. Louis. We’d chartered a bus and were off for a weekend of crazy fun. As we drove into the city, we laughed and chattered. The class sponsor was at the front of the bus and he called my name, needing to ask me a question.

I leaned forward to respond and all of a sudden, his face went pale and his eyes grew immense. My friend in the seat next to me yelped and grabbed my arm. A three inch bolt with the nut threaded onto it had flown in the window, ripped the headpiece of my seat, ricocheted (and cracked) a window across the aisle before falling to the floor. Had I not leaned forward, the hole would have been in my forehead.

Those two singular incidents brought my life into focus. Now … I didn’t try to do anything about it. God and I had long since worked out a plan. I’d let him direct me and not try to get too busy about bossing him. If he needed me to re-direct, it was his job to let me know. I wasn’t going to try to guess.

So I went about living my life. But every day I knew that my life had purpose. I wasn’t sure if I was fulfilling it – in fact, many times I’m pretty sure I was absolutely not. I still don’t know if I’ve done what I was put on earth to do, but I’m having fun moving forward.

It doesn’t really matter whether I think I’m fulfilling my purpose or not. That isn’t what my life is about. I don’t need to be reassured … because that doesn’t rest in any earthly words or actions.

You might want to tell me that writing the Bellingwood books is God’s purpose for me – and I’m really cool with that. He and I went through a lot to get me to the point where I could do it. Some of it good, some of it not great and some of it was awful. The not great and the awful were my fault. Sometimes I think I know best. As smart and wise as I am, I spend a lot of time being wrong.

But I also believe that long before I wrote that first book, I was fulfilling my purpose. I was given life in September of 1959, but over and over during these last (ahem, cough) years, I am constantly reminded that not only in big ways, but very little itsy bitsy ways, I have a reason for being here. Even if it is something as seemingly inconsequential as opening my door to a tiny kitten or smiling at a check out clerk.

Do you have a clear understanding of how important you are to the world? Because I have to tell you … you are very important to me. And if you need to know the truth of that in a more personal way, send me an email. I might not know you well and I absolutely don’t know all that is going on in your life, but I know how terrific you are, just because you’re here.

What’s your story? How have you known or learned how important you are?

Animals Change Our Lives

Sometimes stories absolutely destroy me and it’s all I can do to pull myself back together and move beyond what just happened. Then it’s all I can do to not send them every cent I have so the group can continue to do more of what they do.

Children (and adults) with autism wrench my heart. Not always because of what they face inside themselves, but often because of how the world disregards their needs in so many ways. And how difficult we make it for parents to bridge the gap.

I’ve never had difficulty learning – when I was young, I was the student the teacher asked to help with those who needed more time. I’ve never had trouble interacting with people – in school, the only negative remark on my report card was that I talked too much. The bullying I faced as a child was mitigated by an extremely loving home and parents who took time to remind me of my uniqueness and importance. I was incredibly lucky and the thing is, I always knew and appreciated that. I didn’t take what I had for granted.

But those children who look at the world differently than I do and have trouble making it all click are such wonderful people who need us to see them differently. They aren’t the easy children in the classroom … or in the home.

My sister, Carol, teaches fifth and sixth grade. She has worked with autistic children and all different types of parents of these children. From mothers who have completely given up and are just thankful to have the child out of the house for eight hours to families who are involved as much as possible in order to help their kids have a good life.

This story hit my feed tonight and wiped me out.

Amazing story. But then … the comments. From hundreds … thousands of others whose lives have been transformed by animals. I got through only a few before I could no longer read due to my tears.

Many of us know love that comes from having an animal in our lives. It seems obvious, doesn’t it?

Tell me how your animal makes your life different because it loves you. My cats allow me to work in the solitude I crave because they give me constant unconditional love.

This story touched me. There are a lot of kids who need … desperately need … a service animal to help them negotiate this crazy world. I need to help them.

Full Moon … Writing Madness

Grey is on top here, but she and Earl are completely wrapped up in each other. Oh, my heart. I love them.

Grey is on top here, but she and Earl are completely wrapped up in each other. Oh, my heart. I love them.

I keep trying to reject the notion that the full moon doesn’t affect us around here, but just about once a month the cats lose their minds and I’m not far behind them.

Apparently, my rejection of the notion matters not.

Last night was insane! And uh, yeah. Last night turned into early morning. Thank goodness I don’t have to be anywhere during the day.

I was still trying to convince the cats that we should sleep at 6:30 this morning. Okay, okay … some of it was my fault. I was pretty wired up and didn’t even make the attempt until three o’clock. I actually managed to get two chapters written yesterday and my mind was spinning. But come on guys. At least bed time begins when it is still dark out. I say nothing about when it ends.

Sigh. We’re going to do better tonight. Even if the moon wanes just a little bit, we sleep more like normal animals. Don’t let anyone tell you that we aren’t all beasts, driven by natural urges.

I feel like I’m writing my heart out right now. There are parts of every story that just rip my heart out of my body and spray it all over the screen. And just to warn you, this is not the only story line that is going to do it to me in this book. As the story presents itself to me (like I have any control over these people), I take quick notes so that I know what will happen. Whether it is the next chapter I’m writing or one further down the journey, I just try to keep up.

The creative part of my brain gets excited at the potential for the story line, but the passionate part of my heart aches at having to write some of these things. (How are you feeling about Book 16 now?)

And just as a caveat – don’t try to warn me off doing anything terribly destructive to my characters. Surely you know me by now.

So … I’ve spent the entire day with my characters and the next part of the story. I suppose it’s time to actually get it written down.

And then maybe some extra sleep tonight. Just an hour or two. Please kitten-cats, help me out here.

Oh … The Drama

It’s really quiet here right now. I feel like I should be doing something productive. The cats are all asleep … that will end as soon as I move, so I’m praying that I don’t have to go to the bathroom anytime soon. They are such good cats, though they’re none too happy with me right now. I’m not letting anybody out on the porch without me and for the last few days, I’ve been busy enough that I don’t want to spend time out there while they play.

As unhappy as they are, they don’t complain. They still love me and snuggle in with me whenever they can.

Speaking of snuggling. We haven’t done nearly enough of that the last few days. Heat and humidity in October. Yep … you heard me complaining. Loudly as a matter of fact. Oh, I sleep so much better in the fall! Ahhhh … return to me low temps at night. Soon.

Grey discovered my tiara (those are Earl's whiskers). Every drama queen needs a tiara. Right?

Grey discovered my tiara (those are Earl’s whiskers). Every drama queen needs a tiara. Right?

Are you a drama queen?

Okay, I tell stories, so you know that at some level I have to be. Right? Now, I absolutely refuse to be a public drama queen. There is nothing more offensive than someone whining and crying and making a scene.

Dramatics are all about gaining attention from a crowd and I hate that behavior. But I have a tendency to be quite dramatic … when I’m all by myself. Are you kidding me? Whose attention am I supposed to be playing for? The cats run away if I get too loud. There’s nobody else around. Even when Max is there, I save it until he’s gone. I don’t want to involve him in my silly behavior.

Mom and I used to have the LOUDEST fights. Twenty minutes of screaming and then we were done. Dad was actually grateful when the parsonages were nowhere near the church. There was that one funeral in the church that had no air conditioning on a hot summer’s day. The parsonage had no air conditioning either. He kept talking louder and louder, hoping the two of us would figure it out and shut up. We just wound down. Oh, there was a rather pointed conversation after that experience. Before I was around for Mom to fight with, she’d get into it with Dad. She tells the story of following him around the house, yelling at him while he just kept closing the windows.

But even still, when I am alone and something upsets me or freaks me out, I tend to get loud and noisy about it. I have never been known to suffer in silence. But then I stop and laugh at myself because I’m still trying to figure out whose attention I’m trying to get with my antics.

Mom read something decades ago about moaning. She read that it was good for you. It didn’t matter if you hurt or not, the vibration was good for your body and the sound was good for your soul. She moaned a lot. Maybe I’ve taken that to heart. I don’t like to hold my emotions in. I cry, I laugh out loud, I scream, I yell, I sigh, I flail my arms about, I throw temper tantrums, I gush, I hug, I do everything with a lot of drama. Maybe we’ll just call it passion. I prefer all of the positive emotions and try to stay within those all of the time, but there are those moments when I just have to explode, whether anyone sees me or not.

Okay … what about you? Do you silently fume or are you a drama queen. Do you need an audience or are you good to go all by yourself?

Lots of Camping for a Non-Camper

July 1963. Carol was just a year old. There's the tent and all of Dad's tarps. He set up quite a campground. (That's Mom hauling hot water for something)

July 1963. Carol was just a year old. There’s the tent and all of Dad’s tarps. He set up quite a campground. (That’s Mom hauling hot water for something)

My father loved camping. And when I say he loved camping, I don’t mean RVs in campgrounds where you could hook up to electricity. No … serious camping. I was still in diapers when Dad designed our family’s tent (okay, I might have been a little older, but we had that thing forever). He found a tent maker and had the thing made and so it began.

I didn’t even know what staying in a hotel was until I was in junior high. We camped. In the tent.

As a reminder … Mom was a Boston debutante. She sacrificed a lot for that marriage.

Anyway, Dad loved camping. And he was GREAT at camping. In the early days of his ministry, the little churches didn’t have youth groups, so he took boy scouts out on adventure canoe / camping trips. When he landed in churches that had established youth programs, they were who he subjected to his love for camping. He was so organized about it. Absolutely amazing. He never forgot anything, he packed everything perfectly and made sure that no one actually suffered while camping.

I have very early memories of Dad in this hat with fish on a stringer

I have very early memories of Dad in this hat with fish on a stringer

He worked like a demon to make sure that everyone else had a great time. Even I had a great time. I learned to love fishing because Dad loved to go fishing. The summer he took a church group to Canada for some great fishing, I went instead of Mom. Every morning at four o’clock, he’d rap on my window and I’d pull on my cold, wet blue jeans (they hadn’t had time to fully dry) and quietly leave the cabin to meet him at the dock and we’d motor out to where he’d already identified there had to be a school of walleye waiting for us. We’d travel for about forty-five minutes in silence. Well … except for Dad talking to God about how beautiful the morning was. I sat in the front of the boat praying to come alive and quickly.

Our last family camping trip happened when I was in my twenties. Jim was still in college. Carol didn’t go – she had to work, and for heaven’s sake, we were camping. But Dad planned for months. He designed everything – down to how he packed the van. Crates were perfectly laid out with sheets of plywood atop them – and a lane down the middle of the van. Everything we needed was under that plywood – foam mattresses were laid out on top. We had several days of travel to the end of the road in Canada … yep, the end of the road. There was no one else at the campsite. The only people we saw were the Indians who came from their homes just a little north of us each morning on their way to work.

Jim doesn't love fishing either, but here he is with Dad on our last family trip to Canada. They had fun.

Jim doesn’t love fishing either, but here he is with Dad on our last family trip to Canada. They had fun.

He loved to camp and made it fun for me. I always thought I loved camping.

Until I had to do those things without him.

My brother and his family met me, Max and Carol in South Dakota for a quick vacation one year. We all thought it would be fun (and less expensive) to camp. We had tents. Uh … yeah. Not Dad’s tent. And it rained. Max and I were nearly washed out of our tent. And I wanted to die because we’d managed to park it right on top of some rocks (okay, there wasn’t anything else). I didn’t sleep, I was cold, wet, miserable and grumpy. We got a hotel the next night.

Someone asked me if I wanted to go fishing once and it hit me that I really didn’t want to ever do that. Dad was the one who made it fun. He knew more about lures and fish and bait than anyone I’ve ever known and he just fed that information out so that I thought I knew what I was doing. I knew nothing. He did.

It’s strange to realize how much of my early life revolved around that tent; how many times I cooked over a fire or made sure I didn’t touch the roof of the tent in a rainstorm. The games we played on the floor of that beast, the times I helped Dad set it up and tear it down. It was so heavy that none of us could lift it. We saw a lot of the United States while spending the nights in campgrounds that were usually pretty primitive.

And then it was all over. I can’t imagine doing anything like that now. I like four solid walls, indoor plumbing, showers and free continental breakfast. I don’t really miss it. Those experiences are part of my childhood and are very sweet memories, but I think I’ll leave them filed away as memories.

What about you? Do you still like to go camping? I know an awful lot of you have wonderful RVs … and those offer quite nice four walls and enough comforts to make it fun to camp. What’s your favorite part of it all?

Friday Night Musings

This showed up in my FB memories today. Holy cute kitty! Grey had only been with me a week and already had my heart!

This showed up in my FB memories today. Holy cute kitty! Grey had only been with me a week and already had my heart!

Is there much better than snuggling in on a cold and rainy weekend? I could use a fireplace, but then I’d need someone to stoke it and take care of it. Extra blankets and kitty cats will have to do.

I was out and about today, running errands, getting things done. When I got back, I sat for a moment in my Jeep … a feeling of content washing over me. The weekend was mine. I have lots of things to do, but none of them will take me away from my happy place.

Oh, it’s a mess right now. You know, I could give you a million reasons for it, but the reasons change on a regular basis, so I’m learning to accept that it’s a mess and I’ll clean it up when I do.

~~~

A conversation with my brother sparked a long series of thoughts about fear. We’d been talking about how much I loved being a hermit because people were weird. He said something about hating having to deal with pettiness of people and it occurred to me that most all of the garbage we see as people interact with each other is based on their fears.

The worst of our own behaviors come out because of fear. When we allow it to take over our lives, we lose ourselves to its control. We use pretty words to justify it, but in the end, we are afraid. We’re afraid of rejection, of losing power or control, of not having enough or losing out to someone else. We’re afraid being unsafe or looking stupid. We’re afraid of people thinking less of us or implying that we’re worthless. We’re afraid of not having enough money, or food to feed our families or forcing our kids to wear second hand clothes. We’re afraid of so many things. And often, we respond to the world based on those fears rather than reality.

When those fears cause us to react in harmful ways (verbal, emotional or physical) to others, we’ve lost control of them. The worst thing is that at that point, we often get even worse to cover for what we’ve done.

One night I was walking alone in a part of Omaha that is known for its music. It’s a funky, wonderful part of town. As dusk set in, a group of high schoolers were on approach. They were loud and raucous – and more than a little intimidating. I crossed the street and stopped into a little shop there, just to escape what might come at me. Now, I’ve worked with kids my entire life, but I was afraid. They intended me no harm – my reaction was my own and it embarrassed me.

My worst behaviors are always there because of my fears. All I can do is try to continue to recognize that and overcome my reactions. Giving in to fear is never the right answer.

~~~

In other news, Nick’s in Des Moines won for the best pork tenderloin in Iowa 2016. I haven’t eaten there … yet.

This is such a fun contest and highlights restaurants all across the state.

Here’s an article on the winner if you want to see what the best tenderloin looks like! The guy sells one thousand of these a week. Are you kidding me? Wow!

And for those of you who want more information on the tenderloin, this article is a lot of fun. I’m telling ya – a trip to Iowa just for the tenderloin should be in your vacation plans someday!

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Tenderloins and First Jobs

TB always starts out on the desk beside me. Then Earl sidles in beside him, hoping not to make any trouble. When Grey climbs in, TB moves over for her and we get this - his leg off the front and her butt hanging off the end. TB is the first to give up on the craziness. Then the other two settle in for a nice comfy nap.

TB always starts out on the desk beside me. Then Earl sidles in beside him, hoping not to make any trouble. When Grey climbs in, TB moves over for her and we get this – his leg off the front and her butt hanging off the end. TB is the first to give up on the craziness. Then the other two settle in for a nice comfy nap.

A post came up in my Facebook feed alerting me to the fact that the Iowa Pork Council would announce the ‘best’ pork tenderloin in Iowa tomorrow. And I realized that I was actually very interested! Haha.

While the judges will never get the opportunity to taste the tenderloin at Joe’s Diner in Bellingwood, there are many, many great restaurants in the state that serve awesome tenderloins.

When I was in high school, I worked at a Tastee Freez on Highway 92. Mort and Julie had a goldmine there. Every kid in town walked in those doors for great food and ice cream. It was a dream job for me. They were great people and I learned so much from them.

Thursday mornings were when we made tenderloins. Julie and I (or whoever was working that day) sliced meat into 1/4 quarter pound chunks and then we started pounding. These babies turned into immense, plate-sized pieces of meat that we then dredged, breaded and froze for the next week’s sales. Mort had to buy larger buns because the regular size hamburger buns looked absolutely ridiculous on those monsters.

You know it’s wonderful food when you look forward to making one for yourself. They were fabulous.

That job was my first real job.

I’d done a little babysitting. Let’s just say that wasn’t going to be my dream job. Jim, Carol and I were pretty close in age – I didn’t grow up with little kids around me. Everybody thought that the minister’s daughter would be a great caregiver for their children. Ummm … not so much. I worked for three different families, each job letting me know that this was more horror than I needed. From the infant with horrible, stinky, runny blue poop (her dad was the local doctor and she’d been sick, so was on some medication) … I had to prop the box of Pampers up beside me to figure out how to change the horrible diaper, to the little girl who pulled her cloth diaper off. I had no directions for that one so I called Mom in a panic to come over and put a new diaper on the child. Her brother literally climbed the walls in their hallway, cackling and screaming the entire time. That was awful. And finally, I got to one more family whose children had run through every single babysitter in town. Yeah. I worked for them several times until Carol was old enough to take over and then I was done.

I soon discovered that teaching beginner piano lessons was a much better way to make a few dollars. Kids came and went in under forty-five minutes and I didn’t have to do any real dirty work. I operated from my father’s request and did my best to make their learning fun. I’m a much better teacher than babysitter. (Yeah, yeah – you can make comments about how teachers have to do both jobs these days. Have you noticed I’m not teaching in a public school?)

My first really fun outside job was working at the Tastee Freez. What was yours?

Of Cats and Books

The babies are all back together. Two of them are thrilled to be on top of each other. One bolted not long after I shot the picture. TB isn't a fan of kitty piles.

The babies are all back together. Two of them are thrilled to be on top of each other. One bolted not long after I shot the picture. TB isn’t a fan of kitty piles.

Did ya miss me yesterday?

Oy. Last night … okay, all day yesterday … when I should have been doing anything else, I was, instead, worrying about my little girl kitty, Grey.

About 12:30 in the afternoon, the sound of a cat fight brought me up out of my concentration. I expected it to be TB and one of the kittens – there can be screaming, some dashing to hide and then it’s over. I turned to yell at TB to stop it and he came flying out from under the covers at the sound. At the same time, Earl came running at me from the front porch.

I added two plus two quickly and ran out to the front porch and realized Grey had to be outside, She’d managed to get out – I’m still working out how. The day progressed – not well. I had little to no ability to concentrate, so I just gave up.

After twelve hours of Diane = basket case, I was a wreck. But, I also knew that I’d been through this before with other cats. They’ve always come home – I’ve never trusted that it will happen. It always does. But my heart tends to take control in times like this.

At 12:30 in the morning, Earl leaped to the ground and ran to a cat tree ledge by the back window. He peered through the slats of my fan and stood up so he could look over it. TB heard whatever Earl did, because he was close by – ears on alert. I ran for the front door, opened it and there was Grey coming in the back screen door. The seige was over and I was so exhausted, I just went to bed after we’d all said hello and smelled the new scents she brought back.

What a day … what a lost day.

We’ve not completely made up for it yet today, but there’s still plenty of time. I got some sleep, you know.

This evening I went digging back through my Kindle library. What a riot. I got my first Kindle in July of 2008. And from then on, it’s fun to see how my need for information transforms with what I’m doing. The funny thing is, some of my first books are on writing, vocabulary and words.

I’m pulling all of my research-oriented, history, writing, words, etc., etc., books to a new Kindle I got. My goodness, they (Kindles) went on sale and I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time. I want two more Kindles someday. A Fire – just for my hundreds of cookbooks and one more Kindle for all of my Christian history and religious books. Someday … someday. Let’s just hope I don’t have to start a set of bookshelves for my Kindles! (Oh Diane, you crack me up.)

So I’m curious … for those of you who are near your computers and can get to your “Manage Your Content” page, tell me when you got your first Kindle and what one of the first books was that you purchased there?

The first two books I purchased were “New Moon” and “Eclipse” of the Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer. After that I went absolutely crazy with books when I discovered the immense library available to me on Amazon. I was like a kid in a candy store. I started buying series books like a wild woman.