Category: Family Life

The News I Never Expected

I’m married to a man who has a genetic history of mostly male siblings. He had two brothers. His dad had only a brother. We have two sons.

This is why I expected to have only grandsons.

BUT…then they had the ultrasound today.

My first grandchild

My first grandbaby is a GIRL!

I’m still stunned.

Shocked.

In a state of wonder and disbelief.

They’re pretty happy with this news too!

After this, I’ll probably go on a retail binge to validate this unexpected news into reality.

And cute girl baby things…I mean, it’s been so many years since I could indulge in these to my heart’s content. I only have one niece, and she’s closing in on the big three-oh.

So, all you grandmothers of girls, what is the best part?

My mom had a special birthday tradition with her only granddaughter. It involved a shopping trip for only the two of them. I believe it often included a sleep-over, as well.

I like this idea.

What are some other grandmother-granddaughter traditions?

I’m looking forward to hearing ALL your fantastic ideas. I’m going to start a special folder on my computer called MY GRANDDAUGHTER. (She might have a name, but that’s not my news to share.)

This wasn’t supposed to me my regular blog post day, so I promise that Thursday’s post will be short, sweet and mostly pictures.

What Sort of Grandma Will I Be?

In April 2019, I’ll be a grandmother. *screams, jumps around room*

*Smooths hair* I’ve given up on the idea that I’m too young to be a grandma. I mean, people still gasp when I tell them the age of my kids, and as long as that continues, I think it’s safe to embrace the joy of being a grandma.

Because I had a grandma who rocked my world. I am a writer because of her encouragement. Apparently my Roman nose comes from her, and so does my strangely long second toe.

When I was six, she moved away and became my first pen pal. Yes, that used to be a thing before there was a World Wide Web that made such an idea obsolete.

I want to be involved in my grandchild’s life.

But what does that mean?

Grandma Next Door

Before we had kids, my husband and I bought our first house. It was down the block from his parents’ house and the place he’d grown up.

I was more than a little nervous about this. I wondered if he parents would be over all the time, interfering, trying to tell us how to do things.

And then I had kids. Mine weren’t the first grandchildren, but I still feared the worst.
It never came to pass.

My inlaws were respectful of our privacy and space. They rarely dropped by unannounced, and we truly didn’t see them any more frequently than we had when we lived across town.

My mom lived up the road a few miles and worked down the street. I didn’t see her at my house all the time either.

So, I tell myself that just because I live close to the grandkids doesn’t mean I will see them every day.

But, these grandparents did show up to Saturday soccer games and weeknight t-ball games. If there were school concerts, they attended. Eventually, there were high school events, and they tried to be supportive of those, too.

That’s what I want for my grandkids. I want them to know I’m proud of their accomplishments and I support their dreams.

Commuting Grandma

Can I be proud and supportive if I live an hour or more away?

I think that’s a definite YES as long as my health allows it. If my heredity plays its role, I should have at least twenty years of healthy days ahead. That sees me through their high school years, for sure.

I could drive an hour on a weeknight to attend a concert or play. It wouldn’t be a hardship to drive that far on Saturday to watch a soccer game (although I’d prefer to watch just about any other sport over soccer).

What if we moved further away? What if the “commute” was three or four hours? Would I still be available to support their activities?


Visiting Grandma’s House

The truth is, I loved visiting Grandma’s house. I loved baking with her (and it wasn’t all about licking the beaters) and playing games with her.

This is the grandmother I want to be. Oh, and the jury is still out on the special grandma name, but I’m leaning toward “Lolly” and my husband could be “Pop.” Then the kids could say, “We’re going to Lollypop’s house!”

In this day when kids are SO involved in activities, will my grandkids want to spend time at my house?

The bigger concern for me: if I live too far away, will I make it impossible for them to do so?

Yes, I think my husband and I should plan our retirement according to our dreams. But we didn’t have children so we would never see them or spend time with them.

I’ve enjoyed having the monthly game nights with my kids. I’d love to see that continue with grandkids, teaching them to play rummy and cribbage. Of course there will be Chutes and Ladders and Sorry. Some games are too classic to pass up.
I won’t see them every day. I doubt we’ll ever live “down the block.”

Friends of ours said they LOVE living three hours away because when they go to see the grandkids, it can be a special trip and devoted to total grandkid time. It makes the visits special.

Is that a truism I can count on?

Even after my grandmother moved two states away, I still considered her a loving and involved grandma. In this day of Facetime and Skype, I’m sure I could check in weekly with my grandchildren.

But will I?

We’d planned to do the same with our adult kids, but their work schedules don’t mesh with ours. And they’re busy with their lives. Will it really be different when kids come?

What are your thoughts? What sort of relationship did you have with your grandparents? What kind of grandma do kids these days want?

Looking Ahead to Retirement

Retirement is for the old. Or the rich. And let’s face it, I’m neither.

But when your investment advisor calls you to discuss your retirement portfolio, you start thinking about it.
If the lady selling pre-paid funeral packages calls you a few months later, it’s probably a second hint. You know, that maybe you SHOULD be thinking about retirement.

There’s plenty of press that says Americans better start planning to work until they’re 70. And why not if you’re healthy? And if you’re going to live until you’re in your 80s, that still gives you plenty of time to enjoy life.

If there is life after work.


I’m not so sure. My mother retired and a few years later she was struck by lymphoma. Five years later, we were weeping at her funeral.

There’s not a single guarantee that any of us will make it beyond today.

So why think about retirement?

Well, if you want to retire, you’ll need to make a plan.

What’s the Right Age?

According to the TIME MAGAZINE article I’m referencing, most Americans are planning to retire too early. Half of them retire between the ages of 61 and 65.

What’s the problem with this?

Well, you can’t claim social security benefits until the age of 66 (67 for those of us born after 1960). And you can forget about Medicare until after you’re 65.

My husband would like to retire sometime between 63 and 66. As an author, I don’t plan to ever retire, but I do hope to stop substitute teaching when my current license expires.

We’ll see if that dream comes true.

What’s After That?

My thought about retirement is: Why?
What are you going to do if you don’t go to work?
In my experience, people retire and their health fades. This is true about nearly half the people I know. They stop getting up in the morning and they don’t make any plans for their days.

This wasn’t the case for my mom. She enrolled in Master Gardeners and learned a new skill in an arena she loves. She worked with her husband making items to sell at bazaars. They traveled.

And then disease struck.

Poor health is one of the things that robs retirement of any of the expected joy of living.

It’s also the reason some people plan to retire on this side of sixty.

A teacher I worked with for ten years retired before her 60th birthday because she had the means. She’s still substituting at the school, but most of the time she’s involved in home improvement projects, riding one of her horses and spending time with family and friends.

She decided when a friend of hers received a horrible medical diagnosis, that she wasn’t going to wait. She wanted to live, not just work all her life for someone else.

I admire her. Her mother is 90. Will my friend’s financial resources support her if she lives that long?

Our Early Plan

This month, we borrowed an RV and traveled over to LaPine, Oregon. It’s the place my husband has scoped out that seems to have inexpensive land.
His plan: Get an RV and travel a week here and there but keep a home base. When we’re done traveling, sell the RV and settle into a 2,000 square foot house (paid for) that’s close enough so the kids and grandkids can (and will) visit, but is also located in an area with enough outdoor activities to keep us active.
My plan: Be debt-free. Yeah, that’s about it.
I’m all for traveling in an RV. I think I would enjoy it as long as it became “my home.” Because I’m a home body. I love my bed more than any other place to sleep in the world.

But my idea if travel in an RV involves being on the road for a month or more at a time. I want to explore every state in the US and drive coast-to-coast through Canada. You’re not going to do that in a week and see anything.

I’ve always envisioned myself being part of my grandkids’ lives, though. When my Gram moved away, I was heartbroken. My best childhood memories involve visits to her house.

Can I be a grandmother if I live hundreds of miles from my grandkids?

What do you think is the prime age for retirement? What do you hope to do when you’re retired?

Two Sisters in the City

A visit to the Big Apple ranks prominently on many a bucket list. This author had never considered it because she’s a country girl at heart.

But when her older brother invited her and her sister to visit the city, the creative must perked up its head.
“Lots of stories in the big city,” it said.

The planning for the trip began more than a year in advance. This was because the calendars of three busy adults can be hard to coordinate.

What had been imagined as a springtime visit morphed into an end-of-summer visit. And boy did the difference in humidity make itself known. As soon as the travelers exited the air-conditioned airport and waited for New Jersey Transit.

We should be melting at the airport NJT station

Two sisters traveling the city with their older brother and his spouse should have the same experiences to share. Or not.

Enjoy the informal interview with these ladies about their six-day visit to New York City.

What were you most looking forward to?

Shari says: “In recent years, I’ve been traveling more, and I’ve decided that the place is about the people more than the scenery. In this case, I was most looking forward to spending time with my brother, who I hadn’t seen in five years and getting to know his husband better, but also hanging out with my sister who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.”

Connie Says: “What I most looked forward to was spending 6 days with my sister and seeing our brother. I was excited to be going to a Broadway show or two and seeing the Statue of Liberty in person!”

Shari Responds: Uh-oh! Since our answers on this question are pretty similar, this might not be the discourse on diversity of opinion that I imagined. Whoops!

What food impressed you most?

 

YUM! I cleared my plate.

Shari says: “I knew my brother was a food snob, so I was expecting the best of the best. So I was a little surprised to enjoy the Napoli salad at Stella 34 (on an upper floor in Macy’s) as much as any of the other fancy meals. The best food? The lobster roll and extra crispy fries at Ed’s Lobster Bar, a literal hole-in-the-wall local joint.”

Connie says: “The food that impressed me the most – most memorable the luscious New York Cheese cake from Jimmy’s (I think she might mean Juniors).The Greek Dinner at Loi’s – it was tasty and beautifully plated! Brunch at the Met was a great experience, but my sister had the best item with her french toast. I did enjoy my eggs Benedict. I also really enjoyed the Spanish Tapas at Tia Pol (?) We ate a lot of new things so it was hard to decide between a few.”

Shari snorts. “I said FOOD. Not dessert. *Rolls her eyes.

What restaurant experience impressed you most?

 

Last day of the trip: Outside the MET

Shari says: “I expected high class dining at these pricey establishments. The meal that offered what meets my definition of that was the brunch we had in the dining room on the fourth floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET). They offered a simple menu of three courses with gourmet dishes, amazing presentation and well-dressed staff waiting to whisk away your dirty dishes, refill your drinks and deliver the next course with a flourish.”

Connie says: “The restaurant experience that I enjoyed the most was the brunch at the Met. The food service was not rushed. There was plenty of space in the restaurant, a nice view, excellent service and the food was good and wonderfully plated.I loved that we ALL ordered different items and tasted each others!”

Shari GAPES. “Wait a minute! We talked about this on the plane, and you said Loi’s was your favorite restaurant experience!”

What surprised you most?

Connie says: “The things that surprised me the most was the smell of New York and how HOT the Subway Stations were!Even tho I expected the city to be big, when you view the skyline and travel to the various parts of the city it can be overwhelming to a small town girl like me!
I expected the crowds, noise and rushing from one place to another.”

Shari says: “I expected stinky everything and everyone to be rude and self-involved. Not at all what happened. We got caught behind a few sanitation trucks and THAT was super-smelly, and there were a few token obnoxious people in many of the places we went (not as many as I expected on the subway and bus), but overall, it was just a city.”

What was your favorite show?

 

Were getting ready to laugh for two hours at the Lyceum Theater

Shari says: “I’d seen WICKED before at the Keller in Portland, OR, but it seemed like a different story here. Still, THE PLAY THAT WENT WRONG was full of antics and endless laughs. It was exactly the sort of thing I needed that night, and it made everything else bearable.”

Connie says: “My favorite show was “Wicked” – I love musicals. The play that we saw was HILARIOUS! We had two great experiences on Broadway! “My Fair Lady” could have been my favorite, but I was voted down…”

Shari shakes her head. “No. Chris was willing to see it. He even told me whatever my experience, it wouldn’t compare to Broadway. You AGREED the play none of us had soon was a good second choice. You even agreed to “Phantom” as the third choice if Sunday turned rainy.”

What was your favorite site?

 

It is SO brilliant in Times Square

Shari says: “I wanted more of Central Park. I wanted to see everything. Even this morning, I saw a spot on the Today show with the anchors meeting Jimmy Fallon by the amphitheater (which we did see) and blowing bubbles by the fountain (which we also saw). I was just so over-stimulated from the MET, that I didn’t get to enjoy the park like I’d hoped.”

Connie says: “ONE really? View from the Top of the Empire State Building at night – just amazing. 360* view of the skyline, bridges, river, all of the lights. Quite memorable! Well worth the price for a once in a lifetime event! Broadway, the set at Wicked – walking on Broadway, lining up to see a show, thrilling!
I also looked forward to seeing Times Square at night – the lights, billboards, signs are amazing. A city of lights! Maybe I was thrilled with the view of the skyline and lights, because I am a small town girl and don’t enjoy being in the big city typically!”

Shari says: HA! There’s the diversity I’m looking forward to. And I managed to pick ONE thing! This post would be a million words long if I didn’t draw the line somewhere.

What do you wish you could have seen/done?

 

Our guide treated us to WICKED the second night of our trip

Shari says: “I really wish our tour of the UN building would have worked out. It’s an important place for the fabric of international and cultural relationships. I plan to make sure to see it when I return with my husband in 2020.”

Connie says: “What I wish that I could have done was see at least one more Broadway Show! There were many great ones playing!!! I would like to see a ballet or go to a concert at the Lincoln Center, I wished that we could have toured the UN and seen the 9/11 Memorial. I understood why we weren’t going to the memorial, as our brother was showing us a good time in his city!”

What three things are a must see in NYC?

Connie says: “3 things!! WHAT???? Must see: at least one Broadway show!!! I believe that everyone should see the skyline from the top of the Empire State Building, plus the history is very interesting. Get views of the skyline from different vantage points – The Brooklyn Bridge, The Staten Island Ferry, The rooftop garden at the MET. I found Grand Central Station awe inspiring, I could have spent more time there definitely. I enjoyed walking across the Brooklyn Bridge after seeing it from the Ferry, walking over the traffic was neat. I would add the Statue of Liberty, but I think that goes with the next question.”

Roof Garden at the met

Shari says: “I think you can get the same overall perspective offered by the Empire State Building if you fly into the city in the day time. But you HAVE to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s an icon. You MUST see a show on Broadway. I would like to say make it a musical because no one knows how to make a musical shine (and I’ve seen MANY of them on MANY large stages) like Broadway. You also need to go through Grand Central Station and Central Park.”

It was Grand Central Station in there

 

What three things are a must DO in NYC?

Connie says: “Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue and another view of the city skyline. Definitely eat New York Cheesecake! Ride the Subway – interesting experience, plus the quickest way to get around!”
Shari says: “You have to take the subway. Everywhere! Really. To really “know” a place, you’ve got to immerse yourself in the culture, and there’s nothing that says New York City like the subway. Hail a cab. Really. It may feel foolish, but if I can do it, so can you. I really didn’t care about Times Square as we were planning the trip, but after going through it a couple times, you MUST walk through it. In the daytime to do some shopping and see the performers. At nighttime to be amazed (possibly made dizzy or even given a migraine) by the lights. Incredible!”

Any additional advice for those wishing to travel to NYC?

Shari says: “I hope you read the series of posts I wrote. There’s lots of tidbits for better travel hidden there. Plan for your plan to go awry. Get the Metro Pass and enjoy the microscopic cultural study on the trains and buses. If you can get a local guide, that’s the way to have an authentic experience, but decide what’s non-negotiable before you go, and create an itinerary with plenty of leeway for travel delays and time snags.”

Connie Says: “Buy a 7-day Subway pass and use it! Rent a bike if you are going to visit Central Park – you will be able to see more. If visiting the UN besides getting your tickets beforehand, arrive there at least an hour before your appointed tour time to get your ID picture taken and group’s bracelets. This happens across the street from the UN Building and doesn’t seem to be very well-known. Travel with someone and get a tour guide or travel with someone that is very familiar with New York. It makes the visit more enjoyable”!

Have you been to New York City? What advice would you offer?

A New York View of the National Debt

New York City offers a unique snapshot of what it means to be American. After all, Ellis Island recalls the historical arrival of many of our ancestors to “the land where dreams come true.”

Snapshots give a glimpse at something. And many people choose to only share the happy and positive peeks at their world. Such a one-sided view could be the root of much of the selective ignorance that abounds in our country.
My guides in New York reminded me that New Yorkers repeat everything three times. Basically because no one is listening to the announcements. Or each other. That simple fact could preach its own sermon.

One of my guides was quick to point out all the examples of mediocrity. In the four years he’s lived there, he’s found that most of New York is a study in mediocrity. There’s no, “If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability.” It’s more like, “Just get it done already.”

Sadly, I think that’s becoming the American way.

The National Debt Clock

I might have walked by the clock without paying attention. From a distance, it’s just a stream of digital numbers that change in a random pattern.

Our guide pulled on my arm and pointed it out. I had to snap a few pictures because…the number kept going up.

This is a full-frame of the first snapshot I took.

Here is a brief history copied from Wikipedia:

The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized running total display which constantly updates to show the current United States gross national debtand each American family’s share of the debt. It is currently installed on the western side of One Bryant Park, west of Sixth Avenue between 42ndand 43rd Streets in Manhattan, New York City. It was the first debt clock installed anywhere.
The idea for the clock came from New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, who wanted to highlight the rising national debt. In 1989, he sponsored the installation of the first clock, which was originally placed on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, one block away from Times Square. In 2004, the original clock was dismantled and replaced by a newer clock near 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. In 2008, as the U.S. national debt exceeded $10 trillion for the first time, it was reported that the value of the debt may have exceeded the number of digits in the clock. The lit dollar-sign in the clock’s leftmost digit position was later changed to the “1” digit to represent the ten-trillionth place. In 2017, the clock was moved again to One Bryant Park, near its original location.

A little bit closer view of the second number: taken maybe two minutes later.

***Inquiring minds want to know HOW MUCH the deficit increased in that short lapse. $4,726,692,000 (nearly 4.75 BILLION in a couple minutes). I wish I was kidding.

Watch it running LIVE here.

Living Outside a Budget

Our government is a poor example of living within its means. Seriously, as much as they tax everyone and everything, there shouldn’t be a problem meeting their expenses.

It’s not like they hand out free healthcare on the corner. Or offer up free college educations to anyone and everyone.

And if you’ve spent any time inside a public school (believe me, I have), you know that the money isn’t being spent there to improve the education of one of our best resources: children.

But, what should we expect? Most people don’t even know what a budget is. Or if they do, they don’t have one. A Gallup poll says only 32 percent of Americans maintain a household budget. That’s only one-third of the millions in our great (if highly indebted) nation.

For more information on this, read the article I reference on debt.com.

There weren’t any statistics on how many of the Americans who had a household budget actually lived by it every month. Based on the free-spending mentality in Washington (DC), I’m thinking it might be another low percentage.

If we want to shake our head at the government’s poor planning, we need to take a closer look at ourselves.

As goes the citizen, so goes its government.

Externals or Internals

The problem isn’t just about budgeting. It’s about priorities.

We’ve become a society fixated on the next new gadget and making everything ultra convenient.

Ten years ago, no one would know what I meant if I said, “Looking for a dog sitter? There’s an app for that.”

Because phones were still NOT all that smart, and not everyone had access to the Internet in their pocket (or purse).

But these days, we don’t even wonder or ponder questions. We just Google it. And Heaven forbid if Google is wrong. It might take a million signatures to verify that inaccuracy.

This mindset makes all the external niceties in life the focus. Where we’re going to eat dinner takes precedence over if we can afford to eat dinner. Or better yet, if we SHOULD go out to eat because it might not be the best for our health.

Internal things like deep relationships are exchanged for fleeting interactions on the latest social media application. Oh, I sent my dad a SnapChat photo on Father’s Day. He knows I love him.

Is that really how we express our internal emotions? Or have we become so shallow that we don’t appreciate the years, and work, and emotion, and sacrifice our parents contributed to our lives.

Really, a phone call only takes a second. And it even uses fewer keystrokes than sending a text message.

Putting Numbers In Perspective

Let’s face it, our mind cannot even comprehend a billion dollars. Most of us believe a million would solve all our financial woes.

Our biggest personal debt is probably a home mortgage. I choke at my nearly $200K one, but my oldest son owes closer to $450K. In that case, a million dollars wouldn’t even pay off that bank once Uncle Sam took his cut.

But what about tens of trillions of dollars? Or HUNDREDS of trillions of dollars? That’s how much money the United States of America owes to its debtors.

And we can’t fathom how much that is or where that money will come from or how it will ever be paid off.

Here’s a little comparison in something we might understand better: Time
113,052,009,072,912 seconds would be 1,308,472,327 days. Which translates into 3,584,855.69 years. Still can’t fathom it?

Using the worldwide average life expectancy of 70.5 years, this 3.5 million is equivalent to the lifetimes of 50,849 people.

Makes me wonder if it will take that many lifetimes before our country can pay off this debt.

And still, the national debt counter continues to rise.

Not Feeling the Back-to-School Craze

People do NOT go back to school in July. Do the marketers know this? In fact, our local school districts don’t have their school offices open in the month of July. Why did the push of Back-to-Schools begin so early?

There’s a marketing genius somewhere who’s going to answer this. I hope they do it in the comments here.

Because the week after Independence Day, I do NOT want to think about going back to school.

For years (about fourteen), I focused on these sales. My kids needed new clothes, new shoes and that school supply list at the local retailers had to be snapped up and checked off.

In those days, I started the shopping at the end of July. I watched the sales and picked up the items on the list when they were on sale.

I guess many parents still do this. And that’s probably why the sales start so early.

But now that I DON’T have any lists, I don’t want to think about going back to school. It means the end of so many things that I love.

If school is back:

  • Days are shorter
  • Falling leaves will replace blooming flowers
  • Clouds will obscure the sunshine
  • Calls to sub will begin
  • Endless weeks of writing are over
  • A more definite schedule ensues
  • Work devours relaxation

Does any of that sound appealing to you? Then you might be feeling the Back-to-School Craze.

Me? Not so much.

Sure, I know I’ll be more productive when I’m forced into only three writing/author-stuff days per week. There have been summers when I’ve been super productive, too.

This summer, I wrote two completely new novellas (about 60,000 words), revised and submitted another story, and released TWO new works and re-released two others. I also wrote a completely fun fantasy short story that will be published this fall.

I could spend several more paragraphs describing the reviewer practices I put into place. But who wants to hear me yammer on about that stuff? We’re here to talk about the end of summer.

Yikes!

Sunshine makes me happy. I’m one of those people who is chronically Vitamin D deficient, so I joyfully plan twenty or more minutes of “sun time” every day the sun is shining.

This summer, that’s been most of May, June and July. August has been amazing, too.

Some people squawked about all the 90+ degree days, but it’s really days over 100 that suck me dry. Our air conditioner did earn its keep, though, and I wouldn’t have wanted to live without it.

I do like back-to-school supply sales, though. Although, I probably already have enough notebooks, gel pens and sticky notes for full-time author stuff for at lease five years. But the smell and feel and look of all those paper products lures me every time.

Kids are getting bored about now. They’re ready to see their friends every day. Parents are counting down the days when the schedule returns to normal.

I even saw one of my teacher friends post on Facebook that she was ready to get back to school (around August 8 which is when I wrote this post).

As for me? I’m not excited to pull out my sub pack. Summer has been too short, and there are things on my list that didn’t get accomplished.

For me, I still have two trips to enjoy before I get back into the classroom. Five days in New York City with my sister visiting our brother (August 29- September 3) is first. Then six days in Florida with my husband during the last week of September will wrap up the vacation season.

I usually don’t get calls to sub until October. I might even be ready for the Back-to-School craze by then.

Are you ready for back-to-school? What’s your favorite school supply? Do you shop the sales?

Still Together after Thirty Years

Mr. Hughson and I have reached another marital landmark. We recently celebrated thirty years of marriage.

“We’ve been together since way back when.” We actually met in 1982 and became friends in 1983. We started dating in 1985 and spoke our marriage vows in 1988.

I still recall the day. It seems more like fifteen years ago. Time warps the older I get.

He is “Still the One”:

  • I want to talk to in bed
  • Who turns my head
  • Makes me smile
  • I dream about
  • That makes me laugh
  • That’s my better half
  • Still having fun…and “he’s” still the one

Did you enjoy the flashback to the 70s? They don’t write songs like they used to do it. Thus, those 80s retro hits are becoming fodder for the ears of teenagers everywhere.

But I digress…

For our anniversary, we stayed at the Hilton in Anaheim (where he attended some Geek Man conference all week) and toured the local attractions. I was all about visiting Harry Potter World, but Disney offers a fair share of entertainment,too.

My big plan was new rings.

If you recall, I got a new ring in the Caribbean two years ago. But the mister has been wearing the same band for…you guessed it…thirty years.

I wanted him to get something new. Preferably something with blue diamonds so it “matched” mine.

What do you think?

Those are Kentucky blue sapphires folks.
My Caribbean Blue diamond ring. Close enough for government work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wanted him to buy me a second wedding band so the solitaire would be hugged by the blue and white diamond sparkle. You’d think getting something from a company called Diamonds International would be a simple thing.

Or not. I’ll let you know how that turns out. If it turns out. There was a lot of email tag and some phone tag.

Ring or no ring. Anniversary trip or home bound. In the end, I’m happy to be stuck with this guy for the rest of my life.

Happy anniversary, Handsome.

What would you plan for a landmark anniversary?

Merry Christmas from your Favorite Author

It’s Monday. But it’s a Monday like no other. Because today is Christmas.

Merry Christmas, my friend.

I pray it will be a day full of joy and family and contentment. If the Christ of Christmas has his way, it will be a day of peace and good will, in your heart if not in all the earth.

And if I have anything to say about it…there will be something sweet to eat and enough laughter to make your sides ache.

Since I didn’t take you on a tour of the Ozarks when I went there, how about a little Missouri for Christmas?

On the day we arrived, there was a parade through town and up to a lighted nativity displayed on the hill. These period actors were going the wrong way on the route about fifteen minutes before the parade started.

Adoration Parade, Branson, MO on December 3, 2107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This parade consisted of a dozen floats (most sponsored by churches) and more marching bands than I’ve ever seen in one place before. Oh, and random shepherds.

This is one of the school bands whose uniforms I liked.

This is the sunrise I gasped over and made my husband get up early to photograph. And the picture doesn’t do it justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our shopping trip to Branson Landing. This is my cousin and his lovely wife. Yes, I’m short. Thanks for noticing.

We took a road trip on our road trip…to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Home of the Christ of the Ozarks. It’s 64 feet tall (the face is 15 feet tall). And, yes, that is a large nativity at the base of the sculpture. It was c-o-l-d up on that hill, even though the sun was shining.

Christ of the Ozarks overlooking Eureka Springs, AR

My favorite part of the trip to Branson was on the last evening. We attended the dinner show at the Dixie Stampede.

The pre-show act: a band of brothers singing bluegrass
This guy was too embarrassed to show his face, but his dressage was incredible.
One of the Palomino “sisters” involved in the Roman ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apparently, there was a land grab in Oklahoma? Anyway, this huge sculpture is near the large Bass Pro Shop in Oklahoma City.

Galloping your horse in a crowd on rough prairie land is dangerous.

The entire reason for the pit stop in Oklahoma City: my beautiful Aunt Betty.

Merry Christmas to my Oklahoma family who faithfully read this blog.

What’s your favorite Christmas memory?

 

What’s in Your Garage?

My husband likes buying new cars. At least, it seems like he does because he’s doing it every few years—four years being the maximum he can endure without car shopping. So our garage sees plenty of inhabitants.

Me? I don’t like the car buying process.

I mean, it’s fun to see the pretty colors and drive the sporty models. The new car aroma is intoxicating in its own way.

But car salesmen…even the good ones…talk too much and listen too little.

Even walking in with “cash” didn’t make the process more speedy.

It’s like they have to play their little “numbers” game. No matter what.

And the truth is, I’m not a huge fan of new gadgetry, and that includes new vehicles. I learn the ins and outs of my rig, and it becomes a member of my extended family.

If I had my way, I’d still be driving my 1998 Durango. I adored that guy (Shari’s Tough Machine) but when gas prices sky-rocketed and my sons started driving their own vehicles rather than riding with us, my husband decided I needed something ….more economical? In truth, I’m rather vague on this point.

Anyway, he likes new and shiny. I’m not a fan of monthly payments. Usually we’re at an impasse.

Or he gets a new job one week and purchases a Mustang the next. Because…why not?

And if I say “I want a…” then he sees it as his mission in life to get that for me.

Five years ago, it was an Audi Q5. At the time, they were behind on the technology of syncing all your devices with your car and using it as a WiFi hot spot. But, man did that baby handle like a sports car. Acceleration…yep. Cornering at speed…oh, yeah.

*Grin stretches off her face*

But it was out of the price range. And I decided at that time, I would get a solid book contract with a $50,000 advance and pay cash for the amazing driving machine.

And boy did that motivate me to produce novels at the rate of four per year.

Not that I sold a single one of them. In fact, only one per year met the advanced rewriting, revising and editing stages so it could be pitched to agents and publishers.

But…there was a carrot dangling. And it was shiny…and hugged the road like a Porsche 911 (exact words the salesman used on my first test drive).

And now it’s in my garage. There’s a monthly payment attached.

And, no, I don’t have a book contract that paid a sizable advance. In fact, none of my book contracts (yes, I have many) includes advance payment. Which is fine. Because now that I know how that works, I’d rather wait until I’m a best-selling author before anyone bets on me that way.

But what’s going to motivate me to keep writing novels at a break-neck pace now that the sporty SUV is hanging out on the other side of my office wall? Maybe the idea of paying the loan of early.

It doesn’t have the same compulsive sound to it.

What’s in your garage? A car? Boxes? A crafting area?

A Different Sort of Family Vacation

For several decades, family vacations were defined in a certain way. But as with all of life, things change.

My most recent vacation to the South was a different sort of family vacation for me. However, that means next to nothing if the “norm” of family vacations remains undefined.

Welcome to the earlier definitions of “family vacation.”

The Childhood Definition

A vacation in my childhood involved a canvas tent, sleeping bags, a cooler and camp stove and public forest camping.

And I didn’t complain because I can count on one hand the number of times my father, mother, sister and I went on a trip together. The most memorable one involved a road trip from Oregon to Oklahoma in 1976 for a family reunion.

I wanted to become an Okie after that trip. But that could have been because I did NOT want to get back in the car for three days of solid driving through hot Kansas without air conditioning, no bathroom breaks, sleeping in the cramped back seat with my sister…and the switch.

Because there would be NO fighting. And Dad wouldn’t have to pull the car over thanks to the switch he cut and could handily whip between my sister and my’s bare legs with Indiana Jones precision.

So, I didn’t really know what a family vacation was all about.

The Definition I Adored

And then I married Mr. Wonderful whose family went to campgrounds with neighborhood friends and relatives every summer with regularity. And they slept in RVs. And girls showered and fixed their hair and applied makeup.

So that was a huge culture shock for the girl who caught her dinner in the creek, went to the bathroom in a bucket and washed her face upstream (if you get my meaning).

But once we had kids, we began our own traditions. And when the kids were old enough, we planned a fantastic Spring Break trip…just the four of us. Sometimes we asked friends to tag along, but when you’re jetting across the country that’s not always possible.

Most memorable to me: Washington DC and Disney Orlando

During our RV years, there were plenty of summer trips too. Of course, these were road trips. And the large-bladdered men in my family jibed me for too many bathroom breaks, but no one ever said I had to hold it for another two hours.

Some places we went in the summer: Yellowstone, Redwoods and Disneyland (we even got to fly to this destination-yay!)

Most memorable road trip during this phase: to Colorado.

This was the trip of the Piggyback Hike and the Boot Removal of Death. I’m pretty sure any man in my family can recall exact (and exaggerated) details of those events.

But, kids grow up. And now our “family” has grown to six and our vacations together are more sporadic and occur in December near Christmas. Generally to tropical climates.

A New Dictionary Entry

This past week, I visited family. That’s the new sort of “family” vacation. Rather than going somewhere with “my boys,” I planned an entire ten days around a special someone: my Aunt Betty.

Aunt Betty is an amazing lady. A real Renaissance Woman (and if there isn’t such a thing, now there is). She pursued a career when women were “expected” to marry young and fill a house with babies.

When a man didn’t deserve her faithfulness, she divorced him. Yes, in the Bible Belt in the 1950s. Unheard of. And highly unpopular.

She’s a true survivor. At the moment, she’s surviving her third diagnosis of breast cancer. And she’s over 80, so she knows she’s living on “blessed time” (see Psalms if you don’t know what I’m referring to here).

I tried to plan a trip in May to the College World Series in Oklahoma City (where Aunt B lives), but the ticket prices…stunned me. When I could take a Caribbean cruise for less money, I had to pass.

But we have a condo in Branson, MO. And they have great shows there and amazing Christmas light displays. So, I planned our vacation around visiting Aunt Betty in OKC and then taking her on a road trip to Branson.

And we all know how I feel about road trips.

What’s your idea of a “family vacation”? Am I all wrong with my three definitions?