Category Archives: Holidays


George and his donkey

Sometimes Monday evenings are difficult because I put my “major” blog up on Tuesday and have to come up with something. 

In reference to my blog, major doesn’t mean spectacular.  It’s like the prophets in the Bible which are divided into two categories:  major prophets and minor prophets.   How does a book become major?   It’s all based on length.   The longer books are major.    The short are minor.    That’s a lot like my blog posts.   The longer one is on Tuesday; the shorter, on Friday.

The reason I’m madly searching for a topic to writer this major post is that I had one ready to go but needed an okay which I haven’t received.  Maybe next week.

For that reason, I’m going to discuss George, the donkeys and Palm Sunday.  Not a timely topic but it’s all I have and I’d forget it by next spring.

When George was associate minister at First Christian Church in Louisville, KY–which is really in Prospect, KY, but that’s not our discussion for today.  He felt a donkey should lead the procession on Palm Sunday.  It’s not easy to find a donkey without connections to the donkey set but he did and was so excited.  Everyone at church was excited until late Saturday evening, the owner of the little creature called and said, “Your donkey has the flu.”   I cannot describe how disappointed George way.  He said if he ever wrote an autobiography, the title would be, “Your Donkey Has the Flu.”

The next year, he found a healthy creature,  We processed at the Christian Church, then the donkey walked across the highway to the Episcopal Church to lead their procession.

In the church in Burnet, TX, George found a donkey named George.  Palm Sunday mornings were a little confusing.  Shout “George” and who knew who’d turn up?   The donkey George seemed like a placid little animal.  He allowed children to rub his nose and adults to wander around it–at least, until James, who was playing the part of Jesus, tried to sit on top of him.  Then the donkey George reacted.   Not happy with someone on his back, he took off with James hanging on.

If you’ve read my book THE MATCHMAKERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, you know that I used this scene.  In reality, the donkey only moved a few yards before he was captured and James was saved.  I made it a lot worse but that’s what writers do.

After that, Palm Sunday was celebrated with only waving palms.  No more donkeys.

Another white car story

I did it again.  I couldn’t find my white car.

Even worse, I didn’t realize I’d found the wrong vehicle until I got inside the car.

Either the owner hadn’t locked the door or it worked on the same frequency of my remote, but I got to the car in the parking garag, pushed the “unlock” button, opened the door and got inside.  Only then did I notice the seat didn’t feel the same.  And the interior was a different color.  And it wasn’t a Mazda. 

You’d think I might have noticed that it didn’t have a Kansas State Power Cat magnet on the side or the KSU football helmet on the antenna.  I tell myself this happens because my creative mind is filled with new stories and hears the voices of my characters.   I don’t believe it.  I believe I’m really flaky and absent minded.

I’m very glad I got out of the car before the owner came along.  On the second try, I found the right car.

Why?  Why? I shout, Why are there so many white cars in the world? 

What to say and what not to say: A guide for funeral etiquette

Those of you who have kept up in my blog know that my husband George was the joy of my life, the best person I’ve ever known.  He was funny and kind and greatly loved.  He died on March 2 due to complications of surgery on January 31.   All my life, I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know what to say, what to do when someone dies.”   Here are my thoughts from what I’ve experienced.

First, what helps:  just be there in whatever way you can.   You don’t have to say a word other than, “I love you.  I loved George.”    That’s enough.   If you can help in anyway, find out and do it.   With George in the hospital so long, I asked church friends to sit with him so I could rest and they took from 10 AM to 1 PM so I didn’t have to worry he was alone.

George’s family was wonderful.  His sister, Diane Perrine Coon, was here for fifteen days and stayed with George for hours.  She kept me interested in news and politics which we both enjoy.   Her daughter Alison was here for four days, then returned for the funeral.  She’s a marvel at cleaning and sorting and putting stuff away.  That was greatly appreciated.   Diane, Alison and I watched endless reruns of The Big Bang Theory which lifted my spirits.   Wayne Barnet, George’s best friend  from church camp, was here for nearly two weeks.  When George could still communicated, he asked Wayne to come.  He and LaDonna came.  We all traded sitting with George.  Wayne took the early shift and other times while  Diane sat with him in the late afternoon.  I visited a little in the morning, more in the afternoon, and Alison drove me over in the evening.   Then George’s brother Bill–who doesn’t like to travel–brought the gift of his presence for the funeral.   

What to say in a time like this?  Words are not necessary.  See what needs to be done and volunteer to do it.    Actions tell of your love and concern.

If you can’t do go to the funeral or sit with someone in the hospital, send a card.  They mean a great deal.  If you can go to the visitation, make an effort.   During the 6:00-8:00 visitation at the funeral home, the number of friends–from our church in Austin, from the church George served in Burnet, from my writers’ group–who came filled my heart with appreciation.  I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and caring.  At nearly eight o’clock, I looked up to see my long-time friend Sharon Hammond enter the funeral home.  She’d driven all the way from Houston.  I can’t tell you how much that meant.   Ellen Watkins, my writer friend from Houston, came for the funeral and returned to spend the weekend with me,  Tracy Wolff, another writer friend, helped me sort through George’s clothing on Thursday.

And Facebook and email help.   I posted daily on Facebook so people would know what was happening with George and people posted:  former students, friends I hadn’t seen in a long time,  Even an, “I love you” meant a great deal.  Just seeing they’d posted had great meaning.

For me–and I say this only for myself because others might not feel this way–I preferred a card, note on Facebook, or an email to a phone call.  My life had narrowed to two things:  be with George and go home to relax with the kitties.   Talking on the phone exhausted me.   An “I’m praying” call was appreciated but I truly couldn’t handle reporting in length on George’s health at that time.

Don’t forget the family.   Because I’m not an organized person, I’ve often sent a card weeks or months after a death.  Sometimes I even do that on purpose.  People tell me those are appreciated.  The mother of a high school student who died said she knew I hadn’t forgotten her son and that meant a great deal to her.

What doesn’t help:

Don’t try to explain God’s plan.  George and I had a wonderful life together.  After nearly 47 years of marriage, I’d like you to celebrate his life and mourn his death, but don’t attempt to explain why this happened.   I know that as sick as he was, he’s in a better place.  I also know I’d rather have George sitting next to me and  watching basketball.  To me, that’s the best place.

Many years ago, a friend had both parents died within an hour in the same hospital.  A friend of her parents said, “If you had more faith, they wouldn’t have died.”   This statement haunted her for years.   Another friend lost her infant son to leukemia.  Her family told her God was punishing her for conceiving the child out of wedlock.  Don’t try to explain.  Just love and care and support.

I’ve heard people say to parents when their child died, “God wanted another angel for His garden.”   This could only make a parent think God is selfish to have taken their beloved child.   Platitudes, no matter how pretty they sound, are often harmful when people are grieving.

On television, someone in a hospital room tells the wife of the dying man, “You have to take care of yourself or you can’t take care of him.”   Not comforting.  Not helpful.  When the person I love more than anyone in the world is dying, I have to be with him as much as possible.  If I’m home, I’m thinking of him and want to be with him.    Because I’m realistic about my health, I did set up schedules and rested at home–but this is a platitude spoken by people who don’t know what it’s like to watch the light of your life burn lower and lower.  You want to–you have to–be there.

Do not lecture on what you think the grieving should do, in your opinion.  I was asked, “Are you eating and taking your medication?”  That was okay because in the midst of grieving, those can be forgotten.   But if you believe I should go to a movie to relieve stress and I say, “No”, don’t push.   I’m balancing my life and the few hours I had left with  my husband in the best way I can.   I don’t need a lecture about my anger or bad feelings or anything else.  In the first place, I wasn’t angry or harboring negative feelings.  I was in deep denial which protected me.  My only feelings were concern for George.  Don’t read into the grief of others what you’ve read or heard about suffering.  I wanted to shout, “Leave me alone.  I’m an adult.  I know how I have to handle this.” Unfortunately, I felt the need to be polite and didn’t.

Truly, you do know what to say.  You say what you feel not what you think you’re supposed to say.  You speak from your heart and soul.  You say,  “I love you” and act in love.


Craft Tuesday: Hooks, part 2

First, let’s do a little review from January’s blog:  what is a hook in writing?  I bet you know this so I’m going to pause while you think of an answer. . . 

At the beginning of a novel or a chapter, a hook is like a fishing lure, it pulls you in, it makes you want to read more.    It’s the first few words or sentences that pull the reader into the story and makes you buy THAT book, not another.  Has anyone opened a book, read the first line and put back?  Why?   I’d guess it’s because the beginning doesn’t hook you, doesn’t promise you a good story or the kind of story you like.

But you knew this all of this.  Let’s look at two opening hooks that work well. 

SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS It Had to Be You  “Phoebe Somerville outraged everyone by bringing a French poodle and a Hungarian lover to her father’s funeral.”

ANN GEORGE Murder Boogies with Elvis  “I was lying on my stomach under the kitchen sink, eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich and listening to Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ when icy cold hands grasped my ankles.”

These are great for two reasons.  First, they make us wonder:  Why would this woman bring a French poodle and her Hungarian lover to her father’s funeral?   Who grabbed this woman’s ankles?   We want to read on because we want to know WHY? Second, they work well for the genre.  I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips women’s fiction and Ann George’s humorous mysteries.  These opening lines promise that these are exactly the kind of books I love.

Don’t you hate it when authors use their own books as examples?  I do, too, but I’m going to anyway.  And I do have a good reason.   This is the first line of my first Love Inspired, The Path to Love.  “Francie Calhoun learned to pick pockets when she was five, mark cards at eight and how to hotwire a car years before she could get an driver’s license.”  Does this opening make you wonder about this heroine?   Do you wonder more because this sentence is the beginning of an inspirational novel?  Often an opening that doesn’t promise what other books in the genre works well to catch the readers’ attention. 

The second reason is because my original idea for a book usually comes as an opening line.  My first idea for the beginning The Path to Love was, “Francie Calhoun met Jesus and the devil on the same afternoon.”  I love that line-but as I wrote the story, it no longer fit.  I had to cut it, completely.  That hurt.  But even if you have the best opening hook that has ever been published, if it doesn’t work with the novel, get rid of it.

Next month:  hooks between chapters.  An opening hook involves the reader in the story.  Internal links keep the reader going.   How do you do that?


Cat Grass: a love story

I’ve mentioned what wonderful presents George comes up with.  For Christmas, he gave  the cats a Chia cat grass planter.   Please note:  this was not catNIP.  Scooter has what we in the family tactfully call a “catnip problem.” 

Once the grass had grown to three inches, we put it on the end table and took pictures.   First Scooter, then Maggie–because she is never allowed to do anything before her brother has checked it out–investigated the grass and sampled it.  They truly love cat grass. 

However, Scooter is not a neat eater.  In the last picture, here’s what the end table looked like once he’d pulled his share of the cat grass out.

No new year’s resolutions here

I don’t make new year’s resolutions for three reason.   I could probably dredge up more if I really wanted to explain away my lack of resolution about resolutions, but here are the ones I can think of.

1)  I don’t want to.

2)  I don’t remember to.

3)  No one keeps them.

Okay, the first two are self-explanatory so I will delved quickly into the third.  I once belonged to a work-out place for four years.   What long-time members hated was January because the gym was flooded with new members and became so crowded no one could get close to the machines or the weights or find a place in the exercise classes.   However, we knew that after the fifteenth, the number there would be cut in half.  We also knew that by February, for the most part it would be only us long-timers and a sprinkling of the dedicated resolvers. 

My belief is if I’m determined enough to do something, I SHOULD start immediately, not that I do.  If not, if it’s a gimmick like the new year, no resolution will last long.  Any one have a different opinion?  Did you make any resolutions you’d like to share with us?

The ugliest Christmas present ever

Before Christmas, I asked for your suggestion for a special present for George.  I told you what a great guy he is and what wonderful presents he gets me but I always fall short.  You came up with wonderful ideas.

For that reason, I’m so ashamed to tell you what I gave him.  Oh, there was salami, which he loves, and a bunch of soup mixes and chocolate.  And there were also. . . the sheets.

Do you know how hard it is to find an interesting set of sheets for a queen-sized bed?   I’m really tired of stripes and flowers and dots or plain.  A few years ago, I found a set of NASCAR sheets which were fairly macho.  Not that either of us watch NASCAR or cheer for Jeff Gordan but they had a different pattern and were cheap.

Just before Christmas, I found a great set of unique sheets.  They were very cheap, one of my prime reasons to buy because I really hate to spend money.  They were colorful–okay, pink and raspberry usually isn’t considered at masculine color–and had foxes in the colorful squares.  Foxes are macho, right?   Well, I thought they were foxes until I got home and put on my glasses.  Instantly and with a deep feeling of remorse, I discovered the creatures were not foxes,  They were skulls.  What I’d thought were little fox ears was a bow.  I have no clue why these skulls were wearing bows.  Oh, yes, and there were bones crossed under the skulls.  Macabre describes the pattern best but they only cost $12.00.  Hey, worth that, right?  For a set of sheets.

In the picture on the right, you see the true beauty of the gift:  the squares in raspberry and pink make nice and fairly straight lines.  However, you can’t see the skulls that I’d mistaken for foxes.

So, here a picture of the pattern up really close. 

Okay, is this the ugliest Christmas present ever?  Do you have an uglier one to share?  What’s you opinion.  Does George deserve an apology from me?  Do the skulls look at all like foxes to you?  And why are they wearing bows?  Does this make them girl skulls?

Dear friends. . .

I have not been a good blogger.  Last week I was sick and didn’t even realize what day it was.  This week I didn’t get much productive done.  I DID write a few pages on the fourth Butternut Creek book which has the exciting title of The Construction Crew of Butternut Creek, in the hope I’ll just in case I get another contract.    I also worked on promo and cleaned house and . . . well, other stuff that wans’t a lot of fun.  

However, next week I’ll be awake and well and, perhaps, even bright.  Both my teams–University of Louisville and Kansas State–are in MAJOR bowl games so I’ll be watching a lot of football.

Tuesday will be CRAFT TUESDAY.  After that, I’m going to blog on what I DID buy George for Christmas and I’m a little embarrassed about that.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays and all the best in the new year!