Celebration Memories

How do you make celebrations fun, meaningful, and memorable?

My parents divorced when I was ten and my mother became a single parent with no support from my father. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and almost any other celebration was an opportunity for my mom to shine. We didn’t have any money, but she wanted to make every day we had together special. She baked, cooked, sewed, and went without lunches so we, my siblings and I, could have good memories.

Like today it takes creativity and resourcefulness to take almost nothing and make it seem like the best celebration ever. Every year we would go to see the Forth Worth Independence Day fireworks display. It was free. We participated in a lot of free events.

July Fourth in Fort Worth, Texas is almost always hot and dry. I don’t remember a rained-out celebration. We would drive downtown, carrying a bag with some drinks and cookies, a couple of blankets, and walk many blocks with the pavement so hot you felt it through your shoes. There was a park along the Trinity River where we could watch the show. We would spread out the blankets, grab cookies, play with friends we brought with us and other children in the crowd until it got dark. And then a large booming firework would explode, and we would run to our families and lie back on blankets to watch the magic.

There would be oohs and aahs throughout the park with each volley of fireworks. I always felt a giddy happiness watching the dark sky light up with the colors and patterns. This would go on for about thirty minutes and then it was time to go home. The walk back to the car seemed further and more difficult because we were so tired.

During the show, the world didn’t feel so big – there was magic in the air and we could see it. We weren’t the poor kids – since everyone around us always asked for a homemade cookie we could share with others. But what stuck with me was that my mom would smile the entire evening – and that felt like the magic in the sky had crept into my mom giving her some relief from every day pressures.

Today, I still feel lighthearted and in awe of the magic found in fireworks. Celebrations don’t have to be expensive and filled with stress. They are what we make them. Remember to make them fun, meaningful, and memorable by enjoying the time together.

Challenge Completed = Change

When I accepted my son’s challenge to participate in the NaNoWriMo, I had no idea where that experience would lead me. For years I wrote stories for children. I’m a good storyteller and it was an easy way to entertain kids. The challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was outside of anything I had ever attempted.

That first night I began writing my first adult fiction. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. It seemed like the story told itself. By end of the thirty days my first novel was written. A few years later it became Canyon Riddle, my first published work.

Today, I received notification my fourth novel, Mystery on Cherry Ridge, is being released. I am excited about this book and hope the readers enjoy the story.

But if you had told me ten years ago, I would be writing adult fiction I would have laughed in your face. Now I know that writing adult fiction is a lot of fun with fewer limitations than writing children’s stories.

If you have any desire to write, I challenge you to sign up and participate in the Nation Novel Writing Month. You will be busy writing the entire month of November and with the holidays it will seem like too much to attempt. For me, at the end of the day I lock myself in my office with hot tea and chocolate, and then write no matter how busy the day or how late the hour, I write for at least an hour. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage you to find your inspiration, location, and the time that works for you.

Go ahead and accept the challenge. It could change your life in ways that will surprise you.

Island Inspiration

goose-islandAs we travel, we are exploring many new places and learning much about the history of the U.S. But on occasions, we revisit places. This week we have revisited Goose Island State Park. This state park is outside of Rockport, Texas. We have camped here many times; it’s a favorite place. The park has two camping areas – the wooded and very shady mainland and the island. We prefer to camp on the island because of the openness and the smell of the water is what I enjoy so much. Also, on the island the wind blows a lot and keeps the mosquitoes away.

The island is surrounded by oyster beds, which draws birds to the area. Great place to start your birdwatching skills. While the oyster beds make for good fishing, it is not a place for swimming or walking in the surf. The oyster shells will cut your skin without any mercy.

In my first book, Canyon Riddle, I write a little bit about this place of wonder. While the story is fiction, what I write about Goose Island State Park is true. It is a great place to spend some time. Watching the ships pass by, or holding a fishing pole waiting for the next strike, it is a place to relax, soak up some sun, and get in touch with yourself. Or in my case, provide inspiration for story.

 

Where Does the Time Go?

south-padre-islandThe adventure of retiring from full-time employment began 145 days ago. Hard to believe it has been that long and yet the time has flown by. I’m not sure where I’ll be in another 145 days, but today I’m on South Padre Beach.

During this transition period, and I truly feel like it is a transition, I have had to come to appreciate having my time as my own. Well, most of the time. I have a husband that has also retired and we are traveling across the nation in an RV. I had hoped to do some serious writing but can’t find to update my blog. Oh well.

I have published my second book, Coyote Vengeance, since we hit the road and I’m well into editing the next book. There is also an unfinished story that keeps haunting my dreams.

We do have a blog to record our traveling adventures, Rambling Toad. So much of my writing time is spent working on that blog with my husband.

The days seem busy with things we didn’t have time to do before. Things like taking a tour of the King Ranch, or learning how to be part of hot air balloon crew, or walking in the surf. My writing hasn’t been forgotten and does get attention almost every day, just not as much as I had planned. But then again, I’ve decided retirement is a full-time job.

Not a Winner, What Happens Now?

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This is the first year in five years I have not completed the NaNoWriMo challenge. Lots of reasons for it, but the biggest reason is I am traveling and couldn’t coordinate everything to find the time to complete the challenge.

On December 1, the sun came up and things continued on. I’m not crying or feeling sad for failing to complete my goal. I am glad for the experience and what I learned about myself.

The NaNoWriMo group sent me a very encouraging email at the end of the competition. This encouragement is typical of the NaNoWriMo community.

What is next? I will continue working on the story with the reality check that traveling takes a lot of my time and energy.

Book 3 via NaNoWriMo

winnerAfter the announcement that Coyote Vengeance, my second book with Texas Ranger Scott Durham, was available for Kindle, I got a question, “Is there going to be a third?” That sounds like a simple question, and the simple answer is yes. However, the book is in my head.

Over the past few months this third book has been forming in my head. The characters talk to me sometimes when I’m sleeping and at other times, like when I’m cooking – not good if there is fire or a sharp knife being used at the time. The characters are very demanding of my time. They have outlined a story for me but haven’t given me the complete storyline. One of the characters had the audacity to tell me to get to work before I forget all the good stuff they have been whispering.

The getting to work will start next week. This is the story that I will write during the NaNoWriMo.

I have participated in four other NaNoWriMo challenges, and have been a winner each time. Winners write at least 50,000 words in thirty days, the month of November. This crazy time fits my writing style, which is take a semblance of a story idea and run with it. For thirty days, I let the characters talk all they want, typing as quickly as I can to keep up with the story. When there are pauses, I push the characters to do something mundane to see what happens. The story writes itself – not ready for publication – but the story is done.

This free-flow of ideas to form a story is not always the best way to write. You can end up with some very awkward situations, i.e. a fight scene where your hero punches himself, or two or more descriptions of a character. But like I said, the story completed for NaNoWriMo is not ready for publication. All those silly inconsistencies are part of the editing and rewrite that takes a raw story and makes it ready for the public.

To become an author, you first must a have a story. NaNoWriMo is a good vehicle to help encourage you to write the story. So, my challenge to you is sign up for NaNoWriMo, lay in the snacks and caffeinated drinks, and write. Write 50,000 words and you are Winner, even if you never look at the story again.

Got to go buy a large quantity of tea (sorry I don’t drink coffee) and an even larger supply of chocolate. Good luck to all of you who will be joining me for the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Coyote Vengeance

coyote-vengeance-coverIt has been a long time coming but my latest book, Coyote Vengeance, is now available at Amazon. Very excited to have it completed.

This is the second story featuring Texas Ranger Scott Durham. He has recently helped to bring down a gunrunner named Frederick Schmidt. While being transported to federal prison, Schmidt escapes from the U.S. Marshals. The Marshals aren’t sure where he is heading, but are concerned that he will make good on his promise to kill Scott.

In this story we also have the return of park ranger Amanda Chisholm, who was introduced in the first book, Canyon Riddle. Amanda and Scott’s relationship has grown and they are planning a vacation together. But before they can get out of town two things happen to change their plans: First, the U.S. Marshals call on Scott to help recapture Schmidt. Second, Scott’s grandmother shows up at his house.

This is a fun story but with the twists and turns you would expect in a mystery. I enjoyed writing it and hope readers enjoy it also.

 

New Life

road-small-sizeI have recently retired from a job I enjoyed. I now have time to travel and write. It’s a very exciting time in my life. Yes, I’m a little nervous about this big change but not scared.

Over the past years I have been planning for this day. The day I don’t work. It is now here and I am about to start traveling across the USA. No schedule to keep. No deadlines. Just the opportunity to enjoy the adventures of the day.

I have been waking up and expecting my vacation to be over and it’s time to return to work. Then I remember this is my new life without steady work. Pretty exciting.

Successful Attitude Change with One Word

yellow flowers-shutterstock_121361704“I’ve got to go to work.”

“I’ve got to go to school.”

“I’ve got to go to the doctor.”

“I’ve got to….” Just fill in the blank.

Every day we say we got to do something and it is usually something we would rather not do. But by changing one word you can change your entire attitude towards doing whatever it is you got to do. Not magic, not over hype Pollyanna happiness, but serious attitude change.

That change is go from “got” to “get.” Now think how these same got to dos sound when you get to do them.

“I get to go to work.” I’m not unemployed. Might not be my dream job but I have work, which will make it easier to get a better job.

“I get to go to school.” This provides you the opportunity to learn more, meet more people, and have more (get a better job.)

“I get to go to the doctor.” Unlike much of the world, there is a doctor available for me. To make me feel better.

The chores are the same, but the idea is different when you get to do something. Get implies opportunity, something special just for you, and has an element that this might be fun.

When I’m looking a pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed, I remind myself I get to do the laundry because I have more than one outfit and washer and dryer, and the chore isn’t so bad.

Give “get” a try. You’ll be surprised what a difference that one word can make in your attitude.

 

Evidence of Nothing to Say

Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. George EliotTrash

In this day of public exposure to other people’s ideas and thoughts, this quote should be our constant reminder to watch our words. Social media, blogging, television, etc. gives almost everyone a chance to say their piece. Whether it is to sound off about your latest interaction with poor or great service, a wonderful meal, children’s accomplishments, crazy pet stunts, anger about a current event, or swooning over the love of your life – we all can tell or show the world. But is it wise to do this?

Considering most of the comments make no difference in anyone’s life or will be remembered even a year later, do we post because we need to hear ourselves talk?

I am as guilty as anyone for posting thoughts that are trifles. I try not to do this, as I want to be considered relevant. If I were to post my every thought this would cause others to view me and my comments as meaningless. No one wants to be meaningless.

Does this mean I never post a silly photo or express my anger over a situation? No. I just try to think about what I want to post and decide if it has any value to anyone. Just before I click publish, I stop and ask, “Will this make someone smile, or think about a problem they may not have considered before? Or is it just babbling?” As you might expect, there are more posts in the trash than you will find here.