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Bellingwood Vignette Book 20, #3

I love Bec Schrieber’s sketches of my kitties! It’s going to be cold here soon and my babies love nothing more than snuggling up close to me. Life is pretty perfect!

We’re getting so close to the release of Book 20 – Love’s Surprises. Things are right on schedule for December 25th. And don’t forget, there will be a Christmas short story released on January 1st, too!

It’s strange to be caught up in the wondrous craziness that is the Christmas season when the book that I’ve been focusing on is set at the end of October / early November. But I can push through – especially when I get to also play with Polly and her friends at Christmastime.

This little vignette is the first anniversary of Rachel and Billy Endicott. They were married on Halloween last year. Billy works with Doug Randall as an electrician and Rachel is taking over more and more responsibilities with Sycamore House Catering with Sylvie working in the bakery at Sweet Beans.

These two kids are so young, but they have so much ahead of them.

Happy Anniversary

Rachel woke up to a cold wet nose nudging her cheek.

“Nudge her again,” she heard Billy whisper.

“What time is it?”

The dog pushed at her again and Rachel opened one eye to peer at him. He was sitting on the floor beside her, his head on her pillow.

“What are you doing, you goofy dog?”

Big Jack put his paw up beside his face and she realized that he had something tied around his neck.

“What is this?”

“Untie it,” Billy whispered.

Rachel pushed the blankets back and pulled herself upright, then looked around the room. Billy had brought in several lit candles and stood in the doorway holding another candle.

He smiled at her. “Happy Anniversary. Untie the note.”

“Happy Anniversary,” she said and reached around Big Jack’s neck until she found the bow, then untied it. “Good boy.” Rachel patted his head and he wagged his tail.

“Come here, boy,” Billy said, and bent down to give the dog a treat. “We’ve been practicing this all month.”


“Yeah. I knew he was smart enough to do what I asked. We just had to figure out how to get him to wake you up. Whenever we were here alone, I had him push at your pillow. I wasn’t sure if he’d actually nose your face. I guess he thinks you smell good, too.”

“What is this?” she asked, holding up the envelope. Billy had sealed the back of the envelope over a long ribbon which he’d then tied around Big Jack’s neck. “That was kind of clever.”

“It’s our first anniversary. Mom said it’s supposed to be paper. I didn’t know what kind of paper thing you’d want, so I wrote you a letter.”

That got Rachel’s attention. “You wrote me a letter?”

“Yeah. It’s nothing. No big deal. It’s on paper, though.” He’d come over to stand beside her and put the candle on the bedstand.

“You wrote me a letter?” she asked again, rather surprised. Of all the things she expected Billy to do on their anniversary, a handwritten letter to her was the last that would have come up. Rachel began to carefully unseal the letter. She didn’t want to mess this up.

Billy reached out and took the letter out of her hand. “It was a dumb idea, wasn’t it. I should have spent more time thinking of a better present. I’m sorry.”

“No, this is amazing.” Rachel snatched the letter back and unfolded it. “I’m just surprised. She patted the bed beside her. When Billy sat down, she leaned into him, then looked up. With a quick move, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”

“You haven’t even read it yet. I made coffee and bought some of your favorite cinnamon rolls from the bakery yesterday. You read and I’ll bring those in for you. It’s okay if we have breakfast in bed, today, isn’t it?”

“Oh Billy.” Rachel couldn’t believe she was about to cry. He never did things like this.

“Do you want some coffee and a roll?” he asked, standing up. He rubbed Big Jack’s head again and pulled another treat out of a pocket in his pants for the dog.

She nodded and leaned toward the candle so she could read the letter.

“Dear Rachel,

Can you believe it’s been a whole year since we got married? I can’t. I can’t believe you ever agreed to marry me. You are the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I always thought that I’d end up as some old man, living alone. You know, like one of those guys who everybody feels sorry for? But I won’t ever be that old guy because you said yes a year ago.

I was so nervous that day. You made it as easy as it could be and didn’t have a lot of weird expectations that I had to live up to. You just let me be who I am. When I saw you that day, instead of getting more nervous, I felt myself calm down. That’s what you do for me. Whenever I worry about something, all I have to do is look at you and I settle down because I know that I’m never alone.

I know I’m probably not the best husband. We don’t like the same movies or read the same books and I know I drive you crazy because I still like to hang out with Doug and play video games, but I am so glad that you put up with all of that and I am glad that you always tell me I can be better and do big things. I don’t know what those will ever be, but I’m glad that you’re on my side.

Just so you know, I will always be on your side, too. I’ve never really said it, but I’m proud of you. I know how much you love your job and it’s way cool to see you so excited about going to work every day, even when the hours are crazy and clients are mean.

Our life is just starting. I never thought that I’d be lucky enough to have such a wonderful person standing beside me.

I love you, Rachel Endicott. This has been the best year of my life and it’s all because of you.

Your husband,

“Is it okay?” he asked, standing in the doorway again, this time carrying a tray with mugs and plates on it.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I love you, too. I can’t believe you wrote all of this down. I want to frame it.”

The look of shock that passed across his face made her laugh. “No,” he said. “You can’t do that. I don’t want anyone else to ever read that letter. You can burn it.” He put the tray on a desk in their room, then held his hand out. “Give it to me and I’ll burn it.”

Rachel clutched the letter to her chest. “You’ll do no such thing. This is the sweetest thing I’ve ever gotten in my life. I’m keeping it forever. When we have kids and they think you’re an old fuddy duddy because you won’t play video games with them, I’ll show them this letter and tell them what a cool guy you used to be.”

“They won’t believe it.” He held out a mug of coffee. “Are we talking about having babies now?”

This time it was Rachel’s turn to look at him in shock. “Right now? No! I’m just getting started with the catering business. I don’t have time for that. Besides, we’re really young. Aren’t we? Are you ready for babies? We’ve never really talked about this.”

“I’m not ready. You’re the one who brought it up.”

She shook her head furiously. “I was just talking about someday in the far future when we had kids. Remember? I said you would be an old fuddy duddy. That means you’d have to be in your forties or something.”

Billy breathed a sigh of relief. “I think it would be awesome to have kids with you, but yeah, we’re still young.” He held out the mug to her again.

“Maybe we should get a cat.” Rachel sat up and took it from him. It was still too hot to drink, so she put it beside the candle.

“I don’t know if Big Jack would like having a cat around,” Billy said. “He’s kinda possessive.”

“He did great with Obiwan and when Doug got a dog, he was great then, too.”

“But those were dogs. Why do you want a cat?”

“Just because. Can we?”

“I don’t know, boy,” Billy said, rubbing Big Jack’s head. “What do you think about having a feline around here?” He looked up. “He’s pretty set in his ways.”

Rachel smiled at him. “I think you’re the one who’s set in his ways.” She picked up the letter again. “Except for this. You really outdid yourself with this present.”

“It was really okay? You didn’t have something else in mind that I should have done for you?”

“Not at all. This is really the sweetest thing. I love it. And you brought me breakfast and you’re sitting here talking to me.” Rachel scooted over in the bed. “I’m so lucky to have you. Come snuggle with me for a few minutes before you have to get in the shower.”

He looked at the coffee and rolls on the desk, then moved over to the bed and lifted the blankets to crawl in with her. “You aren’t going to make me late, are you?”

“Who knows?”


A Teacher’s Impact

Earl and TB snuggle because Earl wants to. TB only complains when he runs out of room.

For the last two days, you all have been commenting with stories of teachers who made an impact on your lives. (Facebook post on the Bellingwood page found here). What an extraordinary thing it has been to read through those stories. I found myself with tears in my eyes as I read stories of kindness, love, and generosity.

While a few of you were impacted negatively by a teacher, the overwhelming majority of you focused on those teachers who had touched your life in beautiful and wondrous ways. Two things leaped out at me.

The first was that the teachers who impacted you the most were those who made you (me, us) feel special, unique, and loved.

The second was that overwhelmingly, the one thing teachers gave to you that you’ve never forgotten was a love of reading. There were many other things teachers taught to you that you’ve carried throughout your lives, but reading and a love of the written word was predominant.

My sister is a fifth grade teacher, a job that she loves, no matter how difficult it gets. She read through the comments and told me that she came away inspired to do even better with the kids that she has in her classroom.

I was one of those kids who moved several times when I was in school and there was always a teacher there who was ready to lift me out of obscurity and allow me to shine. Mrs. Hill, my elementary music teacher, was the one whose caring still resounds within me. I was bullied by the cool kids because I was new, I was the preacher’s kid (horrors) and I was a nice girl who was fairly intelligent. But Mrs. Hill sat me at the piano when she needed to walk around the classroom and made me feel special when she asked me to play things that she wanted the class to hear. Other teachers allowed me to help slow readers when I finished my work early.

Until I read through your comments yesterday, it had never occurred to me that those teachers probably made the other children feel just as special and important, giving them different tasks suited to their own talents. Of course they did. That’s what made them such great teachers.

Teachers today are required to focus on content standards which takes up a huge amount of class time, leaving very little time to do extra things – like reading to the kids or teaching them how to knit or allowing them to explore their own curiosities. We don’t have a perfect system by any means, but our teachers still care for the children as those who cared for us did. They will go to great lengths to ensure that the kids have what they need to learn, whether it’s a pencil or a hug.

I do the silliest things for Carol’s classroom. On March 14th, they get Whoopie Pies to celebrate Pi Day. On May 4th, they get Star Wars bookmarks to celebrate May the Fourth Be With You. She’s reading “Wrinkle in Time” to them this year. I am going to do my best to find a way to celebrate that and I figure that once the movie comes out, there will be fun and inexpensive things to access. When I read about a fun book that has just come out for kids, I ask Carol if she could use it in her classroom – or even if it is something that would be fun to put in the school library. At the beginning of each year, I sew up little treat bags that she and I fill with pencils, fun erasers, a bit of candy, and other silly things for each kid. You all are creative – you have your own great ideas.

I can’t encourage you enough to care for the teachers who work in the schools around you. Honor the memory of that teacher who gave you so much by paying it forward to these teachers who hold our future in their hands. When they go home exhausted after a day of dealing with kids who face emotional, mental and physical challenges, imagine how different they would feel knowing there are people out there who support them. Adopt a teacher – adopt a classroom. It doesn’t have to be much, sometimes it’s a kind word or a note of encouragement – a reminder that they are doing something amazing and you are grateful. We all know teachers – don’t wait for them to ask for help – don’t ask them what they need – get creative. It doesn’t have to be huge, it just needs to be.

Teachers impacted your lives – you can impact a teacher’s life. Tell them thank you for doing a job that very few of us could handle.


Book 19 – Boundless Dreams will be here Monday, September 25th! The email newsletter that arrives in your inbox at six o’clock that morning will have the link and as always, another vignette! I can hardly wait!

Eleven Annoying Lists

Here’s a rant. Just so you know.

I am tired of the number of posts, clickbait links, blog posts, etc., that focus on all the things we are doing wrong. (Caveat: these aren’t real lists, I’m exaggerating.)

– Fifteen things you’re doing wrong in your marriage.
– Five reasons your cat hates you.
– Three things you don’t know about the color pink.
– How you are pooping incorrectly.
– Ten reasons you will never be successful.
– Eight ways you’re hurting your children.
– Thirteen books you haven’t read.
– Nineteen things you’re doing wrong.
– Forty words you’re mis-pronouncing.
– Seven things wrong with NCIS.
– Twenty-two items you’ve been using wrong.

Three cats who don’t fit in the space they’re inhabiting.

We had parents who spent our childhood correcting us. Our teachers corrected us. Even our spouses and children correct us still. We are absolutely wired to pay attention when we are told that we are wrong.

The problem is – in many cases, our response should be ‘so what? I’m doing it my way.’

But we’re terribly afraid that we won’t be like everyone else, so we’d better get on the ball and discover what we don’t know.

These stupid lists make us feel inadequate.

Which, by the way, is the reason that most advertising succeeds in this day and age. Advertising reaches to the very basest of our fears – that we are missing something extraordinary if we don’t purchase the perfect floatie for our pool or the newest fad hair color or fill our homes with junk … on and on.

I’m the worst when it comes to being susceptible to good advertising. I don’t even like Coca-Cola (I know, shame on me), but if I see an ad showing a coke being poured over ice, I salivate. Every single time. Billboards with that image just about do me in.

Anyway … back to those lists of things we’re doing wrong. I get all ragey-furious when I see those in my Facebook feed. I’m so tired of people thinking that the only way to get my attention is to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing.

Now here’s the deal. As long as we continue to click on those links, those lists will continue to be made and propagated in your feeds.

There is so much negative information that comes at us every day. We’ve become inured to it and have learned to live with it, but in truth, we don’t have to live with it. We can choose to set it aside. Hide those lists when they show up. Push the negative away.

I discovered a couple of months ago, as I hid so much garbage from my Facebook feed, that it soon began filling up with things I loved. Pictures of kittens and dogs, stories of kindness and goodness, encouraging words and funny jokes. The other creeps in, but I no longer find myself growling at the screen.

We get to make the choice – either be concerned every day about what we’re doing wrong – or find joy in the life we’re living right now.

I choose joy.

Which makes the title of this blog post ridiculous, but it got your attention. I should be ashamed. LOL.


Thank you to those of you who have written reviews for Book 18 – Just Around the Bend and the Prequel – Finding the Road Home.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to do so, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you share your thoughts on Bellingwood with the world. It’s hard for me to ask, but then … look … here I am asking. These are so important to have as I move forward to let others know about Bellingwood.

Right now, I’m most interested in building the reviews up for the Prequel. If you’ve read it and would tell others how much you enjoy reading the Bellingwood series, I would be grateful. Click on the book titles to get to the Amazon page for the books. Thank you!

Tell Me the Stories

My Kindergarten Sunday School teacher’s name was Eulalie Bryant. After all these years and multiple churches and towns, I still remember this amazing woman. Every Sunday, she gathered her little class around – Mrs. Bryant on a chair and all of us on the floor in front of her while she told stories.

I was enraptured.

After Sunday School, she’d hug us all and send us on our way. It never really sank in at the time what she did for me, though.

Years later in high school, I was reading my Bible and came across the story of Balaam’s donkey in the book of Numbers. I was surprised to find that it was a Bible story. I always just thought it was a story about God. Then it hit me, all of those Bible stories that Mrs. Bryant had told us came from the Bible. But she didn’t just read them to us … she told the stories, bringing them to life with her inflection and expression.

As I look back, I’m sure she had the Bible sitting in her lap, but all I could do was listen and soak in what she told us. For some time after the Balaam’s donkey surprise, I continued to find more stories that I’d made part of my understanding of God, but never realized were found in the Bible. They were just part of the entire picture for me.

Stories from scripture have been the foundation of my life from the very beginning, even when I didn’t realize it. Jesus taught in stories … in parables … so that his listeners could more easily relate to the basic truths he taught.

Mrs. Bryant made the stories of the Bible come alive so that her students could easily understand the truths of the Bible.

In the second story of the Abide With Me Series – Abiding Grace – I plant the story of the Prodigal Son into contemporary society. This young man had to get to the very bottom of his life before he could ever understand the gift that his father offered to him.

I loved writing the story of Ruth in Abiding Love. It was a joy to explore the relationships she had with Naomi and her new husband. Even more so, I am in love with the story of David in Abiding Grace. I wept as I wrote it. The power of grace freely given is a miracle.

The Abide With Me series will end up being a collection of four short stories. When all four are completed, I will assemble it into a paperback as well. For now, they are only available individually on the Kindle.

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 17, #3

It doesn’t matter how annoyed TB gets with Earl lying on him – Earl never gives up. It occurs to me that’s what true love is all about. Never giving up.

These short vignettes focus on characters other than Polly. While I write them during the same time I’m writing a book, they won’t spoil any of the story and rarely will they give you any hints as to what is happening.

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

Book 17 – Marks in a Lifetime will be published on March 25th. It’s almost here!

Don’t forget, you’re invited to the Wine & Trivia event on Friday, March 17th from 6-11 pm (CDT). Prizes galore and just plain fun as I ask and you answer crazy trivia questions about Bellingwood.

Let’s Go Out

“Mom?” Sylvie heard the back door crash open and her oldest son’s yell. She wasn’t going to move.

“Mom!” he yelled again. “Mom. Where are you?”

Sylvie walked into the doorway between the living room and kitchen and planted her hands firmly on her hips. “What?” she snapped.

“Can I go with Mel to Ames? She wants to go to a movie.”

“For that you needed to yell? You couldn’t come find me?”

He dropped his backpack on the kitchen table. “Sorry. I didn’t know where you were.”

“The house isn’t that big. Good heavens, what is it with you two boys. It’s like your legs quit working.”

“Can I go?”

She nodded. “Who else is going?”

He glanced sideways. “Just us.”

Sylvie raised her eyebrows. “Just you two? Really?”

“No big deal.”

“Have you finished your work for Eliseo?” She looked at the clock on the stove. “You’re home early.”

“It’s Friday night. We’ll do the rest of it tomorrow. He said I could go. So can I? I have to text Mel to tell her whether or not it’s okay to pick me up.”

“Sure. Have fun. What time will you be home?”

“I don’t know. Maybe ten thirty? Eleven? Is that okay?”

“If you’re going to be home after ten thirty, I want you to call me. Don’t text me. Call me.”

He nodded furiously while entering the text to Mel. “She’s going to be here in twenty minutes. I need to take a shower. Thanks.” Jason grabbed his backpack and dashed past her to head upstairs.

Sylvie gave herself a quiet smile. Both boys were going to be busy tonight. She took her phone out and quickly sent a text. “You let Jason off early so he could go out with Mel. Andrew’s at Polly’s house. What should we do tonight?”

“Dinner?” Eliseo texted back. “A movie? Horseback riding?”

That made her laugh. For as much as her son and her boyfriend loved horses, she hadn’t ridden those Percherons yet and was in no hurry to start. Boyfriend. It still sounded weird. She was much too old to have a boyfriend.

“Horseback riding sounds fun,” she sent.


“No, you nut. Not really. But maybe someday I’ll let you get me up on one of those horses.”

“How about I take you out to dinner. What time is Jason leaving?”

“Mel will be here in twenty minutes. Then I’m free.”

“I need to run home and take a shower and change clothes. But I’m leaving now.”

“Perfect. See you then.”

Sylvie smiled. That would give her enough time to wash the filth of the day off and find something nice to wear, too. She went upstairs and stopped for a minute outside Jason’s bedroom door. He was actually singing to himself as he got ready. She liked Mel, even though Jason insisted they were just friends. They were pretty good friends if spending an evening with her caused him to sing. One of these evenings when she had time with him, she was going to have to press for more information. He wouldn’t be happy about telling her what was going on in his personal life, but he’d do it anyway. At least after she pushed and embarrassed him. She knew better than anyone that her sons wanted desperately to tell her their stories, but sometimes didn’t know how to start. Jason especially was trying so hard to be independent.

She tapped at his door. “Jason?”

“Just a second, Mom.”

“It’s okay. I just wanted to tell you to have a good time tonight. I’m going to take a shower and get ready myself, so I won’t be downstairs when you leave.”

His door flew open. “Cool. Thanks.”

It nearly killed Sylvie to see him growing up like this. She wasn’t ready for it. His mop of thick dark hair had been out of control for as long as she could remember. When he was just a little boy, she loved stroking his head and feeling that thick hair run through her fingers. He stood in front of her with no shirt on and water from the shower dripping from that head of hair. He’d gotten so strong since he started working with Eliseo. His shoulders and upper arms rippled with muscles and his hands were strong and powerful. Those same hands that had once been so tiny when she reached to hold them as they crossed the street.


Sylvie nodded. “Have fun tonight.” She bolted for her bedroom, shut the door and leaned on it as tears threatened. She couldn’t do this every time something new and wonderful happened for him. She knew he had to grow up and away from her, but no matter how true that was, she wasn’t ready. Andrew was going into high school next year. She wasn’t ready for that, either.

She went into her bathroom, stripped down and turned on the shower. Sylvie didn’t know what to think about the next few years. Jason was taking his ACTs this spring and in another year or so, he’d head off to college. Maybe. Eliseo had talked to her about Jason working at the stables full-time once he and Mark Ogden had them in place. As long as Jason was happy, she didn’t care too much what he did. College hadn’t been that important to Sylvie. She’d gone to nursing school until Jason was born and then her life grew so out of control, she’d never considered a degree. Going to culinary school as an adult had worked out beautifully. She’d found something that she was passionate about and could be successful. If Jason wanted more education when he got older, he could certainly do that.

Checking the water temperature, Sylvie climbed into the shower and let it wash away the day. Her mornings started early and some days she felt as if she didn’t stop moving until she dropped into bed, usually by eight or nine o’clock. With Rachel taking over more and more of Sycamore House’s catering, the pressure on Sylvie was beginning to ease. They needed to hire one more full-time person over there to help Rachel. That way, Sylvie would only have to help with the largest events. Since she’d hired Marta at the bakery, much of the pressure had been taken off there, too. The woman was a treasure. Eager to learn and willing to work hard, Marta made the running the bakery much more fun.

They’d had several new contracts come in and Sylvie was considering another part time employee. But that was the problem with a growing business. It was hard to balance that moment when you desperately needed another employee against the fact that you could barely afford them. They weren’t there yet.

“I’m leaving, Mom,” Jason yelled into her bedroom. “See ya later.”

Sylvie realized she’d spent too much time musing and rinsed the rest of the shampoo out of her hair. She needed to hurry. She did a quick towel-dry of her hair and walked over to stare at the clothes in her closet. It was too cold to wear a skirt and besides, Eliseo rarely took her anywhere that nice pants wouldn’t be appropriate. She took down a pair of blue woolen slacks and a loose powder blue sweater. Her mother’s pearls would be pretty with that. She put the pants on, zipped them up and went back into the bathroom to finish drying her hair. Not too much makeup. She’d never been one of those women who couldn’t leave the house without her face on. Her mother had been.

Eliseo didn’t help. He complimented her whether she was wearing makeup or not. When she’d asked him one evening after spending extra time in front of the mirror, he told her that she was always beautiful. Sylvie went back to what she was comfortable with.

Padme pushed Sylvie’s bedroom door open and jumped up on the bed, landing on the sweater.

“Get off, you mutt,” Sylvie said, pushing the dog back. “I never had hairy clothes until I met you and now every time I look down, I’m brushing bits of you off me all the time.” She shook out the sweater and pulled it over her head. “What are you doing up here anyway? Lonely?”

A yip and once around Sylvie’s bed didn’t give her much of an answer.

Sylvie picked up her phone to make sure that Eliseo hadn’t sent her a text that he was here. No, but there was a text that had come in from Jason.

“Took Padme out before I left. Thanks for everything. I hope you and Eliseo have a nice evening.”

She was so lucky. Her boys were turning into nice, responsible young men. Sylvie bent over and picked up her black flats and headed downstairs. Just as she hit the living room, she saw headlights as Eliseo turned into her driveway. She slipped her feet into her shoes, picked her coat up from the chair where she’d dropped it and headed for the back door.

He stood there with his arm upraised to knock when she waved at him through the window. Eliseo came in, his eyes twinkling. “You look beautiful, Sylvie Donovan.”

She looked him up and down. He was dressed in a black western style shirt and new blue jeans. “You look pretty nice yourself, sir. Where are we going?”

Eliseo walked across the kitchen floor, wrapped one arm around her and pulled her close, then tipped her back and kissed her lips. When he broke the kiss, she sighed.

“I missed you today,” he said.

“I guess so. I missed you too.”

He helped her put her coat on and walked to the back door with her. “Do you want to stay in town or go for a drive?”

“I don’t really care. A drive would be wonderful, though.”

At her back door, he stopped once more and kissed her. “It’s good to see you.”

Congratulations Winners & Thank You!

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you did for me this weekend. It means the world to me that you are part of this community and that you are so positive and encouraging. You are why Bellingwood continues. Okay, let’s be honest, Polly really never shuts up, but without you, I would just let her jabber away without getting everything down.

Winners for all of my giveaways are chosen by using a random number generator. It’s the only way to be fair about this. Though I wish I could give all of you something. You truly have no idea how much you mean to me. I see your names pop up with either a *like* or a comment and I smile. We don’t know a lot about each other, but I keep learning more and more about each of you and those things rush through my mind when I see your names.

Anyway – winners:

Carla Strating – Max’s notecards in an embroidered Bellingwood envelope
Mary Breedlove – choice of one of the mugs
Lisa Davis – Bellingwood charm
Pamela Coldiron-Curtis – $10 Amazon gift card (email)
Wendy Carey – choice of one of the mugs

Thank you again. I read through your comments as they came in and my heart filled up. You are kind and generous with me. Thank you.

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.

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?

FB Tips – Just a Reminder

I originally wrote this in 2015, then updated it last June and linked to the article. It’s always a good idea to remind ourselves of a few things that help us make the FB experience smoother and more fun. For heaven’s sake, we’re here enough. Am I right? No shame … just reality.

Anyway, here a few things that might make you look like you know what you’re doing.

1. Blocking garbage from your feed, Our friends are all quite different in their beliefs and in the ways they see the world. During a normal time of the year, there are times you simply don’t want to see the vile (to your eyes) stuff they post because it makes you think less of them. During this political season? Oh. My. Good. Heavenly. Days. AND, it raises your blood pressure to the point that you want to lash out at them.

A – that’s silly. People have differing belief structures and we shouldn’t have to fight about it.
B – your blood pressure should stay calm and relaxed. We can fix this.

Rebecca BIn the image I’m sharing, I am NOT hiding anything from Rebecca B Books.  Her posts are amazing, but this is readily available to make my point. I also really like Upworthy, so I won’t hide things from them either. But I could if I wanted to.

See that little arrow (highlighted) in the top right corner of the feed? Click on it and a menu of things will come up. You have choices. I hide things from many FB pages so no matter which of my friends re-posts them, I will never see anything. I breathe better every day by doing this.

Use the tools FB gives you to lower your blood pressure and help keep your friends friendly. I’ve cleared out 90% of the awful garbage that shows up regularly. I’m not nearly as disgusted with the people in my friends’ list as I have been in the past. It makes for a much nicer experience.

2. Tag someone and only use the first name.

Carol two namesSometimes I swear my mother is calling me out on Facebook. She’s the only person until now who ever used all of my names. And that only happened when I was in trouble.

Nowadays, we can tag people in Facebook posts and comments. It’s pretty cool. I use it to tell my sister (who never seems to catch on to my fun stuff unless I tag her) when there’s something I want her to see.

But I don’t need to call her out by her full name. She knows what it is and so do I. Facebook lets us use their first name only. It takes an extra step, but it’s worth it to make yourself look a little more professional and to stop sounding like their mother, hollering across the neighborhood when they’re late to dinner.

Carol one nameType the name and hit ‘enter.’ The full name will show up in your post or comment.

Then hit backspace. If they only have two names – like my sister, all it takes it one tap on the backspace key. If they have three names – like I do, it will take two taps to eliminate ‘Muir’ and then ‘Greenwood.’ All you have left is my first name and the tag is still attached to it, telling me that you want me to pay attention to something interesting or important (they aren’t always the same, am I right?). And, you haven’t used all of my names just to get my attention. Ahhh … more happiness.

3. Blocking Game requests. No more complaining and demanding that your friends stop sending them. Sometimes the game sends them out and your friend can only cringe. Your attack makes them feel even worse. Take responsibility for your own FB feed. You can fix a lot of this over time – all by yourself.

GamesWhen you get a game request, don’t click on it – that doesn’t work. Click on ‘Games’ in the list on the left side of your FB feed. When you get to the next page, click on ‘Activity.’ You’ll find all of the requests there. Block everything from those games. You’ll never see another request show up from any of them, even when the game globally sends things out from your friend. It might take a while to get through all of the games your friends are playing, but pretty soon, like me, you’ll only see requests when a new game hits the Internet. One more run at it and you’re free and clear again. And look, you haven’t made a scene and your friends are safe from your ire.

4. Edit your own posts and comments

Edit PostDo you ever write a post and then realize that you missed a word, misspelled a word or really didn’t mean what you’ve written? You can fix it. And again, there’s a little arrow in the top right corner of the post that gives you options.

When you click on ‘Edit Post,’ all of a sudden you can go back to what you’ve entered and make any changes needed. This will make you a much better typist … it certainly has helped me!

And if you posted something in the heat of the moment and realize that it might hurt someone else’s feelings or you might have just embarrassed yourself more than need be? Delete the thing and be done with it. Happiness ensues.

Edit commentOH LOOK! You can ALSO edit your comments any time. Hover over the right side of your comment and a grey pencil will show up. Click on it. Again … you can edit or delete the comment. Make your choice wisely, little one … you can make it better or make it go away.

So, rather than making another comment in hopes of editing your mistakes … just fix it where it happened and nobody will know the difference.

5. Reply within a thread.

This was one of those things that FB really needed to deal with and they did. First on PAGES and finally on regular posts. It’s such an easy thing and your follow-up conversation won’t get lost in a mass of comments.

Nested commentsSay you comment on a post. Instead of typing a new comment when I want to respond to you, I am going to click that little button that says ‘Reply.’ That way, our conversation stays all in one place rather than being scattered through a number of other comments. If you want to enter a conversation initiated by a commenter, you can also hit reply and join that specific conversation.

Carol and I responded to Jamie’s comment, but then notice that Lynne wanted to change the subject. She made a completely different comment. Of course, I responded to that as well, but that’s hidden in this picture.

Take advantage of the fun ways to have conversations on Facebook. It’s much more fun than stubbing your toe.

Bonus Tip.

Jamie McFarlaneTagging a FB page is different than tagging a person. My brother’s FB page is Jamie McFarlane Author. I’d like to be able to tag him by just using his first name, but because it’s a page and not a person, I have to use the whole thing. That’s okay, but because I know him, I still feeling like I’m yelling at him, using all of his names.

Pages and profiles are similar, yet different. It’s kind of fun to learn how to maneuver between them.

So there … a few tips and tricks. I hope they made sense and I hope they help!

Caveat: I know that some of you want to jump right in here and tell me how different it is on your phone or your tablet or whatever. Uh huh. Got it. Some of these might not always work, but don’t be afraid to dig around. FB is always trying to make the experience better for everyone.

Do you have another helpful hint or tip? Tell us in a comment.

Book 15 – Capture the Moments

capture-the-moments-100-dpi-2Have you finished the book yet? Seriously … I’ve already received messages from some of you that have. You are crazy people! And I love you.

The email newsletter went out at six o’clock this morning. If you haven’t found it, check your spam folder and if you’re using Gmail, check a strange little folder they call *promotions*. Things show up in there unexpectedly.

Capture the Moments is available on Amazon NOW! If you click on the book cover or on this LINK, it will get you there.

Book Description:

Bellingwood’s Sesquicentennial celebration is nearly here and the entire town scrambles in preparation. The Bell House’s yard looks fabulous, but that’s the only part of the place that is ready for guests. While Hayden and Heath tear into the walls of the inside of the house, a thief breaks in to rip out old copper pipe. The Chief of Police, Ken Wallers, is certain it is an old nemesis of Polly’s.

It was less than three months ago when Polly, Kayla, and Rebecca found the young man’s body in the Elevator’s parking lot east of Boone. Sheriff Merritt wasn’t alone in hoping that series of deaths was over. Polly finds the next body in an truly unexpected place and discovers that the sheriff’s department suppressed important evidence that connects these murders directly to her.

Life never slows down in Bellingwood. Sal and Mark Ogden’s lives changed over the summer, Stephanie loves her new office and title, and Jason Donovan enjoys the freedom that a driver’s license brings. But the best changes always happen around new people. Family members show up in Eliseo’s life, and Henry’s friend, Roy Dunston from Chicago, brings his charges to town. These characters add so much to the lives they touch, whether they stay for good or for just a short time.

Welcome back to Bellingwood.