The Things We Remember by Jessica Scott

61Y-FObJaZL._UY200_I asked Jessica to blog here when her most recent book was published.  She agreed–many thanks, Jess–and sent me this blog, this lovely blog.  I did not force her to write nice things about me and am deeply humbled

Lest we lose sight of her latest book, here’s a reminder about Homefront, available APril 7th.51s2OQ0a6ZL._AA160_

And here’s her blog.

I was in Iraq five years ago. It’s amazing how fast that time has flown by. It sometimes feels like I just came home. Other times, it feels like it’s been a lifetime or more.

There are lots of memories from that year. Many deeply embedded that I hope I will never forget. The people. The smells. The dust and the dirt.

One memory that stands out is how Jane wrote to me. Pretty much once a week or more I’d get an email from Jane telling me about her day, her cats or what she and George had gotten into.

Her notes were a small slice of normalcy for me that year. Along with notes from Jane, my home chapter of the Austin RWA sent me care packages that they collected up at every single monthly meeting. Something as simple as bottles of shampoo that could make you feel like a woman for a brief shower. Or CDs of new music to remind you that there was an entire year passing you buy back home.

I don’t have the shampoo. And the CDs have long since been burned onto playlists that I still listen to, especially when I’m writing and need to access those memories.

But I still have Jane’s emails. They’re all in a folder on my computer – the same computer I’ve had since that tour. I haven’t reread them but I’m planning to print them out someday and put them in a folder along with letters I wrote to my husband and letters I received from other people during the war. Because those letters that Jane wrote kept me connected to life back home. They were such a simple thing but they reminded me that not everyone back home was going about their daily lives, ignoring the war.

When I came home from Iraq, Jane sent me and my family a patriotic bear. It was her way of throwing us a parade. It’s gestures like that – simple little things – that make such a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

So Jane, thank you for being there for me. Thank you for writing, for arguing with me when I stepped in it and for being such a dear friend through a particularly rough time in my life.

One of the most amazing people I know

61Y-FObJaZL._UY200_I’m thrilled to death to announce that the marvelous Jessica Scott will be guest blogging HERE tomorrow.  She’s a dear friend, a great writer, and so much more.

Jess has a new book that’s just out so I asked her to blog.  She graciously accepted.  Homefront was out April 7.51s2OQ0a6ZL._AA160_

Seven or eight years ago, Jessica Scott joined the Austin chapter of Romance Writers of America even before she arrived in Austin.  An active-duty officers, as she and her family were moving to Fort Hood, she posted to our loop so we all got to know her before she attended a meeting.  I didn’t know this at the time, but that’s Jess.  She takes charge.  She does what she needs to do.  She goes straight ahead and I admire her greatly for that.

Jess knew she wanted to write novels about her Army family.  She set that goal and worked hard and look where she is now: twice a USA Today bestselling author with eleven published novels; wife of a retired NCO,  mother of two, and manager of a zoo-full of pets and–again–so much more.

Here’s her biography from  Jessica Scott has written for the New York Times At War blog, War on the Rocks, PBS Point of View Women and War and has been featured in Esquire Magazine as an American of the Year in 2012. She has published 11 novels and novellas about soldiers returning from war and has hit the USA Today Bestseller list twice. She has compiled two nonfiction projects about her time in Iraq and the return home.

She has recently completed a master’s Degree in sociology from Duke, Masters Degree in Telecom Management from University of Maryland University College, BA in Cultural Studies from State University of New York.

She’s been featured as one of Esquire Magazine’s Americans of the Year for 2012.


Lies I told my students

imagesActually, I don’t believe either of these count as lie–more like things I didn’t tell my students because it was better that they not know.

Many years ago, when I was really young and taught Spanish at Hays High School in Western Kansas, I took 25 of my students to Mexico in a bus.  We stayed two weeks.  At one of the first restaurants we dined at in Mexico, I was talking to the manager about payments, etc.  I gotimagesto the dining room after most of the students has finished their soup.  I sat down, looked into my bowl and noticed that there were tiny worms in the soup, wiggling in and out of the chunks of chicken. I felt nothing would be gained if I shouted, “You all ate soup with worms in it.”  So I stopped eating and pretended this never happened.  Fortunately, no one got sick.

Before the celebration of el día de los muertos, we made crafts that Mexicans would have images
used for decorations.  A popular craft is to decorate sugar skulls.  I decided to use this with the 4th and 5th year Spanish students.  Because the skulls were sugar, I broke up a chipped skull–they were a little smaller than a fist–and passed the pieces out to the fifteen students to sample.  They tasted like sweet, thin cardboard.  After two days, we finsihed the decoration and painting.  As I was putting the material back, I read the side of the box that contained the skull.  There was a warning on the side:  These skulls are not meant for human consumption.

I never told them this either.  No one died.

The future of an Easter chick isn’t pretty

imagesMany years ago, my husband, George, had a secretary who had a young son.  One Easter, the secretary–I’ll call her Mary to protect her identity from any animal rights group–and her husband bought little Bobby a chick several weeks before Easter.  The family also had a German shepherd, a large but gentle dog, Mary said, who adored that little bird.  She told stories of how the dog allowed the chick to sit on his face, to run across his back.  The dog even carried the chick around on the top of his head.  It was so very cute.images

On Easter Sunday, they headed for church and left the chick and the dog alone, together, as usual.  When they returned home, they couldn’t find the chick anywhere.  They looked all over and even called it because chicks are so good at coming when their names are called.  Finally, they decided, the chick had escaped from the house somehow.

Does anyone want to guess what George thought happened to it?

Death and taxes

I’m in the middle of taxes and fear imprisonment more than death at this moment.

imagesI have spectacular number skills and love math.  My problem is not the math.  It’s the instructions.  Way back when I was getting A’s in algebra and thinking about majoring in math in college, I hit those, “One train leaves the station at noon going forty-miles-an-hour” problems.  I could never understand them.  As soon as I saw one, my brain shut down and every synapse dashed away in search of a simple x + y problem.   My friend who teach math tell me they are easy to do.  You just make a chart and plug in numbers.  I missed that somehow and, back when I was in high school, one did not go in for tutoring.

So I majored in Spanish.

George always did the taxes when we were married.  Before we were married and I was in grad school and living on $40/week, I didn’t pay taxes because I thought, “I make too little to pay taxes.”  This is NOT a good pihilosophy to adopt but I got away with it because the IRS must have decided I made too little as well.images

One story:  twenty-five years ago, George gave me a check to mail to the IRS.  Somehow it got lost in my desk drawer.  When I found it in August, I immediately called the IRS and explained what had happened, begged forgiveness and stated over and over how upset I was for my idiocy.  FInally I said, “Please don’t tell my husband.”  Must have worked because we weren’t fined and George never found out about this until I told her a few years ago.

After George died, I used an accountant because those two years of taxes were wonky.  Now I feel I should be able to do taxes myself.  As soon as I finish this, I’m going back to sorting things into piles and entering numbers and attempting to figure out the instructions.

I’m not a bit happy about it.

What do I miss about the North?

imagesI grew up in Kansas City, MO, home of absolutely terrible weather:  frigid winters, several feet of snow, lots of ice.  On the other hand, we had long, hot summers.  The grass turned brown in the heat by mid-June and the breeze felt as if it came from an enormous hair dryer set to scorch.  I always thought there had to be a place that had either nice summers or moderate winters.  In 1987, we moved to Savannah, GA, and found weather heaven.  Oh, the summer was terrible and humid but I loved living in a place where kids rode their bikes in shorts on Christmas day.

What do I miss about living in the South?  When I was a child walking home from imagesschoolafter a long winter of cold and snow, in March I could see the crocus pushing themselves up through the snow.  I loved those first signs of spring: daffodils and robins and the brilliance of narcissus.  The sight of a gentle cloud of light green hovering about the limbs of trees which signaled they would soon be blossoming–well, the beauty made me smile and tear up.

imagesLiving in the South, I miss spring. I miss the relief of coming to the end of snow and ice and seeing the earth wake up before me, gentle and sweet and fecund.  I miss the soft colors and the bright ones, the tulips at Churchill Down, the red buds and dogwood trees, and the magnolias.  In Savannah, the bursting color of azaleas almost made up for not seeing those lovely northern plants–almost.  And in the Hill Country of Texas, we have wild flowers in the spring, miles and miles of blue bonnets with sprinkles of Indian blanket.  Gorgeous.  But it’s only this–azaleas or wild flowers but not the variety of beauty in spring in the north.

What else do I miss about living up north?  When I was a child, my father, an unwavering imagesfan of athletics at the University of Kansas, drove us to every home football game in Lawrence.  I remember the beauty of autumn leaves back then, the reds shimmered in the sun and the hues of yellow spread from light to golden.  Never have I seen trees so beautiful and I miss them.  In Texas, people will point out what they call a pretty tree, the leaves of which have changed from green to a deep, rusty red, nearly brown.  Oh, yes, I miss the changing of leaves in the autumn.

What don’t I miss about living in the South?  Snow.



Buchanan Dam, TX

imagesI grew up in Kansas City, Missouri–yes, Missouri.  The major part of Kansas City is not in Kansas.  Kansas wasn’t a state when Kansas City was founded in what was the state of  Missouri. The town was named for the Kansas River.

But, enough of that geography lesson.  Back when I grew up, neighborhoods were friendly and people lived in their homes forever. We knew each other and helped each other.   The older I got, the less this was true.  We moved so often and seldom knew our neighbors–until we moved to Buchanan Dam, Texas, into a small subdivision with five houses.

imagesBuchanan–pronounced in Texan, BUCK-a-nan–Dam was a lovely place to live.  There was an eagles’ nest a few miles west.  We had deer who ate my tomatoes which meant I didn’t have to garden–I don’t do that well. We had wild flowers, wonderful views, cool breezes, and great Mexican food down the road, close to Fuzzy’s Corner.  images

But the best part was that we had great neighbors.   Suzanne was a nurse who looked after out health.  One night when George thought he’d had a heart attack–he hadn’t–there was Suzanne, waiting by the ambulance to see what she could do.  Down the hill were two boys who kept us in groceries with the chickens and vegetables they raised for 4-H. May and Al lived behind us and kept an eye on the place.

And then there was Bob, a handy man who watched out for all of us.  This was sometimes a problem.  Once a floor lamp broke so I put it down in the trash.  A few days later, Bob made the long trek up our driveway and knocked.  When I opened the door, he handed me the lamp which he’d repaired.  What a great guy.  The only problem was that the lamp still didn’t work. I didn’t want to put it in the trash again because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  Actually, my main worry was that Bob would fix it again, bring it back and this would become a never ending loop.  My solution was to put it in the back of my car and smuggle it into Burnet where a friend disposed of it for me.images

Do you have stories about your neighbors?  I’d love to hear them.


The sleeping sickness

frustrated-woman-clipartI tried to blog this week and last–although last week’s efforts were doomed by a non-functioning brain. I have pneumonia.

This week’s efforts have been doomed by sleep.  Every time I sit down–to watch television, to write, to eat–I fall  asleep.  I feel okay.  For example, I’m not coughing until parts of my respiratory system feel as if they’ve been attacked by sandpaper and I can breathe, always good.

But every ounce of creativity has fallen asleep as well.  In addition, my fingers can no longer find the correct home keys which means you’d need to be a cryptologist to read what I write..

Hope to be back next week.


Laughter is the best medicine

A friend asked me a while back what I did to ease depression.  I said, “I watch The Big Bangimages Theory.”  She thought I was being flippant.  I wasn’t.  During some of the recent hardest times of my life, I’ve taped and watched three or four a day, sometimes all at once.  Sometimes spread out over twelve hours.  I always feel better after a good laugh after Soft Kittie or Knock, knock, knock, Penny . . . “.  And yes, I know this is almost the same as my first paragraph last week, but I really love this show.

imagesFrom an article from the Mayo Clinic:  “A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do.”

For example:

1.  Laughter can induce physical changes.  In increased the intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates heart and muscles, and increases the level of endorphins released by your brain.  It cools down your stress response, soothes tension and aids muscle relaxation.

2.  Over the long run, laughter may improve your immune system, relieve pain, make it easier for you to cope with tough times and improved you mood.

So today I decided to make some suggestions–as well as watching funny programs and movies–about how to feel better through the free and always available use of medicinal laughter.

1.  Listen to upbeat music.  I can’t listen to Pharrel Williams’ Happy without at least smiling and clapping.  Dancing would really get the blood flowing.

2.  I also watch a recording of the 2013 NCAA basketball championship won by my team, the University of Louisville.champs_0_standard-2-600x400

3.   Okay, this is really weird but it worked.  I bought a Tickle-me-Elmo because hearing him laugh makes me laugh.  Watching the cats trying to figure out where that sound is coming from is also amusing.DSCN0460

4.  I’ve learned not to watch depressing movies or read literature in which everyone dies at the end.  I know these will be depressing.  Instead, when I’m feeling greatly stressed, I read the wonderful books by James Herriot, gently and humorous or something by Kristin Higgins or Georgette Heyer or Katie Graykowski.

5.  Pet a cat, walk a dog, chat with a bird.

These thoughts are unique to me but I’ve learned they help me. I don’t dismiss the importance of counseling and medication, of faith and friendship nor do I think this will heal depression.  However, I truly believe laughter can help greatly.

What would you recommend to a friend whose feeling depressed?  Does laughter help you?

More lines I”ll never forget

I love to laugh.  I have two cats who do funny stuff,  a Tickle-Me Elmo and a deep love and imagesappreciation of The Big Bang Theory.   What I enjoy most about a good line, a well-written sentence, is that when repeated or thought about, the wording can make me laugh even completely out of context.  All someone has to say is, “Penny, . . . knock, knock, knock,” or sing “Soft kitty, warm kitty. . .” and I smile.

Here’s one of my favorites from The Amazing Race.   When we lived in Louisville, George and I used to watch this every Derby Day leading up to the Derby because, it was, about a race.  The cast was Tony Curtis as the Great Leslie, Natalie Wood, Peter Falk, and the marvelous Jack Lemon as Professor Fate.  The characters are racing around the world in an effort to win the race.  The evil Professor Fate attempts to destroy all the other teams.  In one case, he chases The Great Leslie across Europe and believes Leslie has been imprisoned in a castle.  When he finds out that Leslie has escaped with a priest, he has the following conversation with a military leader at the castle:


Professor Fate:  Leslie escaped?

General Kuhster: Yes, with a small friar.

Professor Fate:  Leslie escaped with a chicken?

Why does that make me laugh?  Why, after all these years, do I grin when I think of that?  Here are some guesses:    1)  I love a play on words    2)  It was in character   3)  I don’t know.  LaughterIt just amuses me still.

Do you have any lines you remember with a smile or that produce a guffaw?  I’d love to know. I’d like to laugh along with you.  And, remember laughing is good for you and contains no calories!







..They have tsetse flies down there the size of eagles. Really.

In the evening, I would stand in front of my hut and watch in horror as these giant flies would pick children off the ground and carry them away.

They shot my belly out.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped?

General: With a small friar.

Professor Fate: Leslie escaped with a chicken?