Friends

We just arrived home from our trek out to Nebraska for the family reunion, then our follow-up trip to Chicago. It has become our habit to swing through Chicago on the way home and visit friends. This  “tradition” started on our honeymoon. There were people Bruce wanted me to meet there so we included it in the trip from South Dakota to South Florida. Since then, about every year we have braved the traffic and ventured to Chicago. The friends there are definitely worth the effort.

Between us, we have a LOT of friends. But, to be honest, not all friends are created equal. You know what I mean. There are the friends that are just acquaintances really. There are facebook friends, some I’m not even sure who they are. There are some facebook friends that I wish I had taken the opportunity to know better way back then. They are hilarious and my kind of people and I feel like I missed my chance. There are childhood friends that you remember fondly, are thrilled to catch up with when given the chance, but who you don’t really know anymore.

There are friends that you rarely see, but when you do the time melts away and you start right where you left off. I have friends like that everywhere, even over-seas. One of them is my number one blog reader! Love you Missy.  There are friends that you call every day. There are friends that are more like family. I have one of those friends in Thailand right now visiting MY baby sister. Now, that’s a good friend. There are family members who are friends. I am blessed with more of those than I can mention . I even made some new family-friends this weekend.:)

There are friends that you would completely lose contact with if it was up to them. Why do we persist with those friends? Or why do they persist with us? I don’t know but I know that I have been the recipient of that kind of friendship. My friend, Laura from Nursing School days in Gillette, Wyoming is such a friend. In the past twenty-five years I have seen her twice. Once for her wedding and once for mine. We traded Christmas letters and that was about all. Except. Except for the times, always when I really needed a boost, when she would send me a little card. They usually said something like, “I just wanted you to know that I was thinking of you and I love you.” WOW! God has certainly used Laura in my life.

We visited friends in Chicago that have been there for Bruce in years past, and now they are there for us. They are the kind of friends who kept up on their side of the friendship. Rita is our dear friend. She comes to see us when she visits the ocean. She calls, she emails. She is one of my kindred spirits which is really neat since she is a friend from Bruce’s days in Chicago. We stay at her house, she stays at ours. She even mails us our belongings if we leave them there. We buy her CD’s for gifts, she buys my books. 🙂

The other friend we visited was Grandma Babs. She is Bruce’s adopted Jewish Grandma. He always gets a birthday card from her. She is 92 now and it was tough. We all felt the loss of Grandpa Hy when we gathered at the table.  She put on her brave face as she does each day and fit us in between trips to a framing shop and WalMart. When asked how she is she told me, “accordingly.” She explained that she now felt she was old enough to use that word. She said her mother used to say that because it fit no matter how she felt. Grandma Babs said, “I am 92 and 92 is 92, after all.” Then she shrugged her shoulders and smiled. The grace and humor with which she continues to live her life are an inspiration to me.

So whether you have been an occaisional friend, a forgotten friend, a family-friend, or an everyday friend, thanks for your friendship. Each and every one of you has played a part in my life. Would I be me without you? I doubt  it.

Turn Left for Adventure

We have been to two reunions and completed a road trip from Nebraska to NC via Chicago in the past week. We have enjoyed wonderful visits with family and friends. I sold or verified the sale of thirty books! Everywhere we went people asked me, “when is the next book coming out?” I wish I knew, but I am sure that it won’t come out until I finish the revisions and that’s where I’m stumped today.  I am tired. My brain is fuzzy. I just don’t want to do anything! So, sitting next to me is what I hope is a cup of motivation, coffee!

While I wait for it to kick in, let me tell you about the discovery of Greeley, Nebraska. Oh, it’s been there a long time but it is new to us. Last summer when we traveled west with the camper trailer we found that the trailer prefered the back road highways to the interstate. When we left Broken Bow headed east we took a north-eastern route across Nebraska to Blair where we crossed the river. It was a part of Nebraska I didn’t remember seeing and it was beautiful. This year we decided to repeat the experience.

When we came to a particular Y in the road the GPS told us to turn right, but it didn’t seem correct so we turned left. The GPS was correct, but as is usually the case it wasn’t the end of the world. After all, this was an opportunity to explore another small area of Nebraska. The first town we came across was Greeley. The sign on the highway pointed right to the cluster of buildings. It declared that they had food, gas, etc.  Since we needed a restroom and thought we could get gas we decided to explore. Another sign notified us that there were two churches in town, Catholic and Methodist.

Very quickly we began to see the history of the town unfolding itself. The first was Fynn’s Bar with a shamrock on the sign. When I spotted another shamrock on a building my mind started combining the puzzle pieces and came up with. . .Ta! Dah!  This was a town settled by Irish-Catholic immigrants. We drove downtown, then over to the Co-op because they had a gas pump. The nice lady hurried out and told us that if we didn’t have a Cenex card she couldn’t sell us gas, but she did have a restroom. She also had homemade chocolate cake on the counter.

I asked about the Irish heritage and she smiled and nodded. “Greeley has the highest percentage of Irish per capita of any place in the United States.” With slightly less than 500 people it isn’t a huge number but the Irish have the upper hand, that’s for sure. She went on to tell us that they have an Irish Festival there every September that draws 25,000 people. They bus them in from Omaha and Lincoln and people come from all over the world. It was an amazing thought.

After leaving the Cenex Co-op we drove around a little more and found a large Catholic Church with a parish house and school. Amazing for such a small town out in the middle of no-where, so to speak. We drove away feeling like we had experienced a special connection with a special place. I hope someday we can plan a trip out there for the festival. I would love to get to know that town a little better.

If you are interested in the Greeley Irish Festival, it is happening September 18, 2010 and you can find more information at www.greeleyirishfestival.com

I don’t know where we will explore next time we travel. My grandma was right. She said she didn’t feel the need to go overseas. “There is so much of America to see why would I need to get on a plane or a boat and go across the ocean.”

Today

Do you remember the feeling you get after a period of extreme busyness? It’s the feeling of restlessness that comes when you no longer have an unending list of tasks and you have a “free day.” That was us today. We arrived “home” in NC just after midnight last night and we woke up to no specific to-do list. Oh, there were a few things like laundry and mowing the lawn, but nothing too difficult. We started the day by visiting with Bruce’s cousin and children from Michigan. They arrived here Tuesday to see her parents and be here for two family reunions, and have been keeping our house company in our absence. It was so fun to get to know more of Bruce’s family, especially since they are some of my biggest Double Cousin Fans. After they left for a family reunion, we kind of hopped through the rest of the morning and afternoon. I nursed my sinus revolt and did laundry. Bruce did some checking on a project he has in mind. I finally succumbed to the Benadryl and napped. Then I went to the grocery store, we fixed the pizza’s we brought from Chicago and ate with our niece, Sarah. I also made a peach crisp for the reunion tomorrow. It was a beautiful day. Then I killed a mouse, after which Bruce put out D-Con. Yes, you read it right. I killed a mouse. For those of you who know my dislike, nay fear, of mice you will understand the amazement of this. I found “evidence” this morning so we pulled out the D-Con to put out. While in the bedroom this evening I heard a squeak. Actually, we both heard it. Bruce opened the closet door and looked inside while I climbed on the bed. When nothing burst out of the closet, I climbed down. I glanced on the floor and there was a tiny mouse, legs wiggling right where I had been standing when I heard the squeak. I felt sick to my stomach. I had loudly and determinedly declared that the mice were going down not three hours earlier, but I had not intended to be the tool of their destruction. So, that’s been our day. I started by visiting with someone who loves my children’s mystery, and I ended it by killing a mouse. What did you do today?

The Older Generation – Up For the Challenge

I love this picture from the reunion. It might be my favorite. To someone who doesn’t know our family it looks like nothing but a picture of a group of 60-70 something adults. But for those of us who know these people, there are some things that might make us look a second time. 

 The fifth from the right is my Dad.  He is surrounded by his wife, sisters, brothers-in-law, cousins, and their spouses. Oh, and his sister-in-law. This picture started as one of those spur of the moment, grab a group of chatting people, make them line up, and take their picture photo-ops.  I think we started with five or six. Then we started noticing more from their generation in the room and called them over. There are several pictures in the series and each has one or two more people. My dad’s brother, Jim had already left to go to the fair so he is missing, but his wife is there.

My favorite part is that they are mixed up. With the exception of two couples they aren’t standing with their spouses. I love photos that give different groupings. I like the unexpected twist. Here we have a group of people who have grown up together, their spouses have been part of the family for ten to 56 years, and they are family. They have differences of opinion, differences of belief, differences of interests, but they are family.

Another thing I like about this picture is the fact that none of these people have been divorced. A couple are on their second marriages, but that is due to the death of a spouse. These folks are in it for the long haul. They had a good example in my grandparents and their parents, all who stayed married until death parted them. In this day where families are so transient, ours stands out. I can truly say I have been surrounded by great examples.

At a store in Broken Bow I saw a plaque. It read. . .  “a good marriage is a union of two great forgivers.” I’m thankful for this generation and their determination to stick it out and make their love grow instead of letting it die. I love you all! I understand why you aren’t quite ready to be called “the older generation” but I’m thankful for the wisdom and strength you bring and I really think you are up for the challenge. Your parents were proud of you and we are so grateful.

Another Reunion is History

We’ve wrapped up another reunion. It was the usual mayhem. 3-6 year old’s discovering each other and forming best buddy relationships. Older children reveling in seeing their cousins from previous years. The teens congregating around table games, and the adults, well we cooked, ate, talked, laughed, and remembered. It was wonderful to see everyone who was able to come and we missed those who couldn’t. There was, however a huge hole in the reunion, a gap. It was the generation gap. We all felt it, the missing link. Our parents were feeling a little buffeted by the realization that they are the “older generation” and all of us were waiting for the main event – when Grandma came which of course, never happened.

But, life goes on and  the other side of the coin was the stepping up of the next generation. Several of the  great-grandchildren are adults with families of their own. Some of them were there and I thoroughly enjoyed and was impressed by their participation. A family can only continue something like this great thing we’ve had going for the past 20 years if each generation coming up has interest in continuing the process. I was so excited to really see that happening.

The goodby’s seemed a little more abrupt but we did see a few cousins, siblings, and parents today. All in all, it was an awesome reunion and I can’t wait for the next one. An added perk is that I found all five books I had left at a local drug store had sold, and I sold ten books to another store in town today! Yipee!

Tomorrow I have to do the tough part, leave Nebraska. Maybe this time I’ll sing the state song as I exit the state.

Beautiful Nebraska, Again

I didn’t sing today. Bruce was sleeping beside me in the car as I drove over the border into Nebraska and since we were up all but two hours of the night driving I didn’t have the heart or the guts to break into my raucous rendition of “Beautiful Nebraska!” But I thought it! 🙂 If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out one of my first blogs, titled “Beautiful Nebraska.”

We’re headed to the reunion and we are getting close. Right now we are in a Starbucks in Lincoln while Bruce is remaining available online for his student’s questions while they take their final. So far no questions. 🙂 He’s not sure if it’s a matter of no questions or technological difficulties. 

The drive through Nebraska looks like it will be beautiful. Everything is very green here and there was even flooding close to the Iowa border. The water came right up to the road on both sides.

Well, even with the mocha frappuccino on board my brain is too fuzzy to be creative. Hang in there, you’ll hear from me again soon. 🙂

Missing Grandma

Today I miss my Grandma. It’s not surprising really. We (the Jones clan) are preparing for the semi-annual reunion in Broken Bow and it’s natural that we would realize the loss since Grandma went to heaven last fall and this will be the first reunion without her. Oh, there will be plenty of evidence of her life. Over 100 living breathing evidences, actually. But it just won’t be the same. Other years, Grandma and I would have started talking months ago about the reunion. She really lived those last few years on the anticipation of the next family event, the next birth of a great-grandchild. I’ve missed that. I’ve thought several times about those calls, wishing I could hear her say, “the reunion will be here again before we know it.”

The reunion officially starts at noon on a Saturday, however, for most of us the start was dropping by to see Grandma – and Grandpa when he was alive- when you got to town. First, it was at their house where you would find them hanging out on the porch, receiving their family. The yard would be full of people of all sizes. After Grandma went to the nursing home, the first stop would be her room. Sometimes it got so full we had to take turns. That’s how it started.

The reunion officially ends after dinner Sunday but a lot of people stay until Monday. The real end is when you say goodby to Grandma. Many times there was another “traffic jam” as people stopped by to say goodby Sunday night and Monday morning.

So when does it start and end this year? I don’t know. Maybe we need to have a new tradition. I guess we will adjust and go on, that’s what life is, one change after another. This is one change though that I’m not really enjoying. 

Maybe it’s a little glimpse of what it will be like when we get to heaven. We’ll want to see all of the “family” but the first stop. . . that will be when we see Jesus. And the best part. . .there won’t be a visit at the end where we have to say good-by. And God will never say, like Grandma used to, “it’s good to see them come, and it’s good to see them go.”

Why the Windmill?

I don’t think I’ve ever explained the windmill at the top of the blog. Well, here goes. That picture is from Nebraska. It was taken south of Broken Bow, NE four years ago when my husband, sister, and I drove from Denver to Nebraska for the reunion. On our way back to Denver we stopped to get some pictures and this was one of them.

I chose the picture for this blog because it fits the name of the blog. The Double Cousins Mysteries right now is only one Mystery and it takes place outside of Broken Bow, NE. If you follow this blog, you know that Nebraska is the place I consider home. I spent eighteen years of my life as a resident of Nebraska and it has been the Jones family home my entire life. I love Nebraska! In fact, if forced to pick a sports team, I will say that I like the Cornhuskers (rah! – half-hearted cheer happening here). That’s saying something for a non-sports fan. 🙂

Soon we will meet again in Broken Bow for another reunion and maybe I’ll get some more pictures. I’m hoping to get some good pictures of the younger generation of cousins. Maybe some to use as an idea for another book cover. I’m also planning to spend some car time revising the present WIP (Work In Progress). That would be the second in the series.

Please start praying for wisdom as to where to send this manuscript, and that it will be received with enthusiasm at the right place. 🙂

Thanks for letting me share a bit of your day. And don’t forget to appreciate your own home, whether it’s close by you, or far away!

New Opportunity

I’ve become a columnist! The past few Mondays I have had a column published in the Newberry Observer. My topic is Southern Culture from an outsiders point of view. I am having a blast writing these columns. I had wondered for several years about the idea of a column but I was “afraid.” I was afraid that I wouldn’t do well. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stick to the discipline of coming up with an idea each week. I was afraid I would fail.

Now I’m not ready to say it’s a huge success, but so far the comments I’ve received have been positive. I have ideas popping into my head on a regular enough basis to keep several weeks ahead, and the column kind of seems to write itself each week.

Who knew?

I’m beginning to realize that my pattern, or M.O. seems to be to get started, then it will happen. That’s what I did with my book, after all. Many people told me I should write for magazines or papers first to get my name out there, then try to publish a book. I didn’t want to do that. I understood the wisdom of their idea. It made sense to me. I knew they were probably right. I even tried to get into the idea and get started but I couldn’t.

All I could think about was that book.

So, I wrote the book. Then I tried to market the book. Then I decided it WOULD be done before Grandma went to heaven if I had anything to do with it so I self-published. And now, guess what? Before, I felt like an imposter, a writer wanna-be. Now I feel like a writer. I think like a writer. I even want to write articles and stories for magazines and papers.

My point is that sometimes the conventional wisdom doesn’t work for us. Sometimes we need to trust our heart. Or rather, trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I’m not saying don’t listen to the wise ones. Just remember that everyone has a different set of skills, a different personality, and what works for one person may not work for someone else.

So, stay tuned for the next new thing in Miriam’s life. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure!