Location, location, location

Everyone is from somewhere and I just happen to be from Kansas, so that’s the location I write about. It is home. It’s where most of my family lives. It’s where I grew up. It’s a place that knows all seasons.seasonsoflife

When I first started writing fifteen-years-ago I was told that nobody was interested in stories about Kansas. You know, that’s not exactly true – look at the Wizard of Oz. Many times I heard, why Kansas? Nobody famous is from Kansas. Ha. President Dwight Eisenhower might beg to differ. There have been many notables, for example: Nobel Prize winners, actors (Dennis Hopper, Dee Wallace…), authors (Langston Hughes, William Inge…), artists (like Gordon Parks…), musicians (Melissa Etheridge…), athletes (George Brett…), aviators (Amelia Earhart…), journalists (John Cameron SwayzeWilliam Allen White…) and so many more. I’ve only listed a few of the many amazing people who were born in Kansas.

kids_icecreamEvery location, no matter how mundane seeming has Stories. Secrets. Families. Intrigues. History. People are born, live and die in Kansas and relate very well to stories about their home. The Midwest has its special qualities. The sunrises and sunsets in Kansas are amazingly beautiful across the vast flatness, as well as the Flint Hills.

couple_sunsetThere was a time when writers were told to only feature exotic places in their novels. All those who has lived or visited exotic areas raise your hands! I’m sure there’s quite a few, with remarkable and ancient things. But where can you find a place where you belong? Do you want to read about places you may never see? Okay, yes, I do – sometimes. But the stories that touch me deepest are the ones I can plop myself down on the couch and live there.

I’ll admit it. I love reading about other cultures. They are fascinating. But I never quite “feel” like I’m a part of the action. I’m only an observer. There are times to be an observer and times when you want to be in the middle of things. For me, Kansas is the middle of everything. That’s why I write about it.

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What location resonates for you? What stories have you read that “took you there?”

“The Crossroads” is here!

During the great depression jobs were scarce and the hope for a bright future even more so. For Sylvia Gray her life of poverty, cleaning, cooking and taking care of her three brothers is about as bleak as it can get. With her father out of work and nipping at the jug, her mother has to wait tables at the diner to make ends meet. All the family puts their support to the eldest of the brothers. There’s nothing more for girls living in the back hills of Arkansas in 1935. But Sylvia wants to finish high school and get a job so she can make her own way.

THE CROSSROADS novella available on Amazon.com

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Are you inventive?

Inventive
Being inventive, your life is an exquisite work of art. And your mindset is that of a creative genius. You thrive in creativity, love, giving back, and everything else in between. And you make it all seem so simple… and enjoyable. You’re a fiercely fascinating person and a conversation with you is easily worth a thousand movies.

(That’s what one of those funny questionnaires gave me. It does seem rather accurate, too.) collage_heart

Change

“What I like most about change is that it’s a synonym for ‘hope.’ If you are taking a risk, what you are really saying is, ‘I believe in tomorrow and I will be part of it.'” ~Linda Ellerbee, American journalist

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Where I’m From

Everyone is from somewhere, but depending on how long you live there it may or may not feel like home. Wichita is home to me. I was born here and while I’ve spent some time living in Topeka, Wichita has always been the place I return to. Part of that was due to family, but honestly I love it here. It’s not too big and not too small. It’s smack dab in the middle of the country, which makes it fairly easy to drive anywhere BUT flying out of Wichita isn’t always fun. (That is a story for another time.)

I work for a global company whose main office is in France. Most of my coworkers have never been to the Midwest and associate it with “The Wizard of Oz” and tornadoes. They don’t see the spectacular sun sets, nor the splendor of a giant wall cloud. Kansas has it’s own beauty, complements of the big sky and flat landscape. We grow some pretty amazing trees, bent and weathered, much more interesting than those tall forests of stick straight ones. They have no personality. Our trees are few and far between and have to be tough to live in the plains. But the city of Wichita has lots of lovely trees that residents have planted.

seasonsoflifeWe have all four distinct seasons in Kansas, except for this year when autumn lasted about two weeks instead of two months. Ah well, Mother Nature changes her mind a lot and we have to face it that the earth’s climate patterns are evolving. We have to learn to go with the flow…

And bloom where we’re planted. It’s slower here than say Boston or New York, but faster than in the Southern states. Yes, I’ve visited almost every state in the US, but not quite all yet. I hope to spend some time in the deep south and go up the east coast and see some of the places I like to read about: Tybee Island, Charleston, Atlanta, Savannah, Sullivans Island (to name a few).

Do you ever wonder why we live where we do? As mobile as society is these days I can see the appeal of moving from place to place. But moving around is for the younger generation. They are more flexible and less set in their ways. Change is not so difficult for them. The pace of living in Kansas is fine for me.

My dad was in the army, but while he was in the service I stayed with my grandparents. They gave me a home, a base, a foundation to build from. It’s a good one.

I sometimes wish I had been more adventurous when I was younger. Perhaps done some foreign exchange student stuff or interned in other states. I admire the kids now that grab every opportunity to experience other cultures and places in the world. Travel is one of my favorite things to do, but I always love coming “home.” This is where I’m from.

The mother of my heart

A close friend of mine died yesterday and I’ll miss her. I’ve known her for over forty years and she’s been Mom Finch to me for most all of them. She taught me so much, both little and big. How to make chocolate chip cookies, make sloppy joes, how to crochet. Many firsts in my life were experienced in the family kitchen: homemade ice cream, big – loud family dinners, quiet patience and giving. She sewed my prom dress in the same style as my best friend, her daughter and my forever friend, Maxine. She taught me how to make things stretch like money and food, to reuse what still had life in it, just like my grandmother did. She gave me so much.

She called me her “adopted daughter” and when her memory was starting to go she seemed to recognize me still. Perhaps not my name, but hopefully my smile and the love I felt for her. She lived a long life and right now I can’t remember if she was 93 or 94, but numbers have never been my strong suit. Suffice it to say she was a lovely nurturing woman and I am so glad she has been a part of my life.

She was as proud of my writing accomplishments as those of her own children. Mom Finch was the subject of one of my first articles for Active Aging, because I admired her so much. She was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary heart, and she took this lost girl in. She raised four wonderful women, one son, and me. They are blessed with her creativity and generous spirit. I’ve been blessed to be accepted as part of the family. Mom Finch is the mother of my heart and will always be my hero. I will never forget her.

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Fall has fallen on Kansas

Mother Nature has been a changing her weather patterns all over the globe the past few years. But it is fall in Kansas, you can tell by all of the colorful leaves littering our yard. Personally, I love fall. The colors and cooler weather make me want to walk, read, bake and write. Oh, and make chili. That is one of my favorite autumn dishes. It just doesn’t work for me in hot Kansas summers.

pumpkins_fallThose of you that follow me on Facebook know that I attempted to alter a pumpkin bread recipe and accomplished an Olympic fail. The dogs liked it, though. I’m Diabetic so I try to cut sugars wherever I can, but this time didn’t work at all. I have successfully altered my banana bread recipe, thank goodness, and it rocks with half the sugar. YAY!

Don’t tell Jim, but I cut the sugars back in my chocolate chip recipe and used coconut oil instead of shortening and we really like it. He was hesitant to try one even though they smelled good, but the aroma got the better of him and he has eaten the lions share.

It was fun to share them with our neighbors kid hot out of the oven (he’d just finished mowing the lawn) .

“Did you make these from scratch?” he asked.

“Oh yes.”cchipcookies

“These are delicious.”

Hey, can’t beat that testimonial.

There’s something about baking in the fall when the house smells like baking bread or chocolate chip cookies that just feels like “home.” My grandmother didn’t do a lot of baking the rest of the year because it would heat up the house and the electric bill went up. She saved the cookies and breads for the holidays and that made it even more special. Whenever I smell banana bread baking I think of her. When I got married 39 years ago she gave me the recipe. I cherish it.anna_jim_lana_fall14

My cousin Anna posted a picture the other day wearing a pumpkin stocking cap (complete with stem) on her head. She was with her dad (Jim) and Lana. Anna’s brother photo shopped the hat on all of them. I never would have known if she hadn’t told me. LOVE THIS PIC!

One thing I really miss about fall is preparations for family gatherings. Crazy, huh? When my kids moved to another state I stopped decorating my house and fell into a funk during the holidays. This year is going to be different. I’m pumped about decorating. And while my imagination and reality may be vastly different in what I can and will do to alter my home, I’m enjoying that feeling of anticipation and change. Do you ever get that feeling?

Fall is time to prep for winter when he hunker down to stay warm. It’s time to break out the sweaters and hats and enjoy the leaves swirling down the streets. It’s time to wind down one year and prepare for the next. It’s definitely time to READ.

I love fall. Enjoy!

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The importance of “time off”

skaterWe all know that we need “time off” to recharge our personal batteries. From work, especially. Many of us wear many hats and have many jobs and never really get “time off.” We cook, clean, tend homes, groom yards, take care of our families (including the furry ones) all around the “day-job.” Most writers have a day job and then they write the rest of the time. In between laundry and preparing meals, among other things. Our lives are busy.

Many nights when my body says “enough” my brain just keeps right on going, keeping me from the much needed rest that will charge my batteries for the next day. The notepad on my bed table is filled with thoughts about my new novel, what I’m going to cook tomorrow, what I didn’t get done today, and what is on the list that I must not forget.

Often times we take a vacation and visit family outside of our home town, or we’ll take the weekend and just travel around the state to see what interesting things Kansas has to offer. (There are lots, by the way, but that is for another time.) This past year we’ve done “stay-cations.” I’ve gotten extra sleep on those days, read and wrote to my hearts content, BUT…I still had to do all the daily chores living requires. It’s nice to not wear a watch and only look when it’s time for a movie we want to see. It’s nice to know we have tomorrow to do whatever we didn’t do today and there’s no deadline to meet. But it’s not strictly “time off.”

mature_womanIn my day job I work for a global company and the Europeans understand the importance of Vacation. When they are on “holiday” they are GONE for two or three luxurious weeks, which they tell me is required to adequately unwind and refresh. They travel, ski, go to the beach, but whatever it is – they are taking “time off.” We need to take on that mindset as well if we want to enjoy nice long lives. Too many Americans work on their “holiday” and we are missing out.

Due to medical advances we’re living longer lives, but what about their quality? I’m slowly coming around to the realization that the dust will be there until tomorrow and it won’t hurt anyone if it stays another day. We don’t have to wear our favorite tee shirt or jeans, we can dig out the ones that are in the back of the closet and do laundry later. It’s okay to read one more chapter if you’re at a good part of the book. And if the muse taps me on the shoulder and says “listen to this idea” then I need to stop and write it down.

Making time. Making dreams come true. We “make” them happen, folks. No one else. We are the ones who make the choice. So, when the work day or work week is done, take some time for yourself and recharge. Eat sandwiches instead of a huge meal once in awhile. “Time off” is important. Don’t waste every minute on those lists, breathe, read, walk, write, whatever you need to do…DO IT.

“Go Out And Play”

“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” ~author unknown

pumpkins_fallIt’s my favorite time of year, when leaves change colors, it’s cool enough for sweaters and it makes me think of baking pumpkin pie, making soups and chili. When my grandson was about two we raked all the leaves in the front yard into a big long pile and I jumped into them laughing and throwing them all around. His little face scrunched up like he thought his grandmother had lost her mind. But when I took a handful of leaves and threw them at him he decided to get into the game. First he threw one leaf then tentatively got down on his knees in the crunchy leaves. I was laughing and laid down beside him and a grin spread over his face. Pretty soon the leaves were flying and we were rolling around like happy little pigs in mud.

bridgeAs we age and our “to do list” lengthens with our responsibility we sometimes forget to “go out and play.” Even our children are so “plugged in” that they don’t realize what they’re missing outside. My grandson is twelve now and quite the electronic geek. But he and his friends are involved in sports. But organized team sports, while vital to learning and good health, aren’t as good as exploring the woods behind your house. Or walking along the creek skipping rocks. Fishing in the river. Building a fort out of fallen tree limbs…

I’m not much of a camper, no tents on the ground for me – I prefer a cabin with a shower and a commode. But I love hiking and taking long walks. Talking to the bee that’s lands beside me (I won’t bother you if you won’t bother me), watching ground squirrels, finding animal shapes in the clouds, or interesting rocks. Being outside opens up your world to so many mysteries and surprises. So, drag your fanny and your kids outside and explore. See what flowers are blooming, what birds are in the trees, say hi to your neighbors. “Go out and play!”man_w_kite

(And if you think I’m not writing when I’m out there, you’re wrong. I’m storing up all of these experiences and the senses they stimulate and transferring them to the page when I get home. Care to join me?)

No free lunches

Folks, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.  But I have to admit I love discounts, coupons, and sales.  If I feel as though I’m getting something extra I am that much happier with my acquisition.  I wouldn’t have nearly as many great books in my library if I hadn’t had a coupon or got them at the used bookstore at a great price.  How does that apply to writing, you ask?  It means giving your reader more than they expect.  More twists, surprises, mystery, things that will keep them reading. Giving them a bigger helping of fun!

kids_icecreamI got a call from a friend who said, “It’s all your fault I don’t get anything done.”  She was reading Patchwork Family and was having trouble putting it down.  That’s the kind of news authors want to hear from readers. That’s how I want to feel when I’m reading, as well.

reading_lotsWhat makes the book so hard to put down? Is the character multi-layered?  Is the plot unpredictible?  Does the tension keep increasing? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself and share the answers with the author.  Is there a surprise?  As a reader, I like plausible surprises.  Personally, I don’t like loose ends.  I must be satisfied with the resolution of the conflict, but that doesn’t mean everything is tied up with a big blue bow. It means, things make sense and feel mostly resolved. 

snoopy happy danceGive readers more than they paid for…give them a GREAT read instead of just a good one. That’s my goal as an author. One more thing Readers: Be sure and leave a review when you finish a book, good or bad – they are helpful to other readers and to the author, too.