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Beat The Heat – Ten Wintery Picture Books

Posted by on Jul 19, 2018 in Blog, Double Cousins | 0 comments

Beat The Heat – Ten Wintery Picture Books

Tacky and the Winter Games by Helen Lester Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger Tacky the Penguin tops my favorite wintery picture book list because Tacky is my favorite. There are several Tacky books and they would all be great for this list, but I chose this particular one because it has “winter” in the title. I bought my first Tacky book when my oldest nieces and nephews were little and they loved it. I haven’t met a child who doesn’t love Tacky. He isn’t perfect. He’s a little—well—Tacky! But he is NICE to have around!   The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats This book is a classic. In fact, when I asked others what their favorite snowy picture books were this one was invariably mentioned. The thing I especially love about this book is that the author takes common snowy activities, ones all children in snow enjoy, and he makes a story out of it. This pulls the child right into the story and I would be surprised if your children wouldn’t be shivering by the end!   Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton Katy and the Big Snow is written by the same author/illustrator as The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. The artwork on this book is incredible. There are detailed borders to each page that pull children in and give a lot of room for discussion and fun exploration! This book isn’t just a story. It is an experience.   Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik Illustrated by Maurice Sendak This book is actually considered a chapter book. It is “An I CAN READ Book.” But, there are so many pictures that this book is great for a read aloud with little children too! I love the way the mother bear allows the little bear to explore and use his imagination. Read this to your children and they may play by themselves for awhile afterwards.   Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson  Illustrated by Jane Chapman Bear Snores On was suggested by my librarian niece. I had never heard of it before, so I hurried right down to the library and checked it out. (I have to say that the Hendersonville Library has it going on. They had a shelf with “seasonal books.” The winter section was huge and such a great resource.) Anyway, back to the book. The story is simple but repetitive which as we all know makes for an amazing picture book. I absolutely loved the artwork and I kept wondering what was going to happen if. . . well, I don’t want to spoil the story!   Snipp Snapp Snurr and the Yellow Sled by Maj Lindman Snipp Snapp and Snurr are old books. This author also wrote a series called Ricka, Dicka, and Flicka. The names are almost laughable, but I’m telling you, children adore them. I loved them when I was little and a friend mentioned that her children love them too! They are...

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Beat the Heat – Ten Wintery Chapter Books

Posted by on Jul 15, 2018 in Blog, Double Cousins | 0 comments

Beat the Heat – Ten Wintery Chapter Books

I don’t know if you have noticed, but July is whizzing by. My niece, Megan, the librarian was mentioning that their summer reading program is almost over! How can this be? We are entering what is typically the hottest part of the summer and reading programs are wrapping up. So, in case you are looking for a way to fill the gap, entertain yourselves or your children during these remaining weeks of summer, or simply beat the heat I offer a list of chapter books that include winter scenes. You can call it Winter in July if you want, but here we go. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder This is, by far, my favorite winter book. I find myself shivering every time I read it, no matter the weather. The true story of the Ingalls family and their survival during that horrible winter in DeSmet, SD puts me on the edge of my seat every time. My fingers hurt with Laura’s and Pa’s as they twist the straw. My stomach growls with hunger as they eat their last potato. It’s a very real experience.  And, as my sister pointed out, most of the “Little House” books have winter scenes, so you could just keep right on reading the series! Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater This was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid. I read it and reread it. Just this week I was in the store and saw it on a shelf. Yes, I bought it. Of course I did. And, I spent a very enjoyable evening reading it again, thank you very much. Mr. Popper, a painter, dreams of going to the Antarctic to live among the penguins. When he writes to Admiral Drake he is surprised with the gift of a real, live penguin. The situation balloons from there. This is a great story for encouraging children to dream big and follow their dreams. I was surprised to discover this was made into a movie. Bonus: after you read the book, you could have a movie night. (Always read the book first. Always.) The Lion , The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis I am not a big reader of fantasy, but this book captured my interest when I was in my early teens. Once I read the first book and grew to love the characters, I had to read the whole series. This classic is great for children who enjoy fantasy worlds, but believable enough for readers of realism like me. There are many great lessons, and this book also was made into a movie. Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge This is a classic written in 1865. It takes place in the Netherlands and is a wonderful story of dreams, sacrificing for those you love, determination, and good winning out in the end. This book was effective in introducing the Netherlands and their speed skating to Americans. I loved this story,...

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Of Bookish Boxes, Innovation Challenges, and Bragging Rights

Posted by on Jun 15, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Of Bookish Boxes, Innovation Challenges, and Bragging Rights

One of the hardest parts of living so far from my family is missing big events in my siblings, nieces, and nephews lives. Oh, we make it a priority to come to graduations etc. and if we can plan our trip around special events we DO. But sometimes those special events are unexpected or unplanned. And then I miss them. But not this time. I didn’t plan to come in June. First I planned to come in May. Then I changed to July to coordinate with some visiting extended family. But, when Lava in Hawaii happened, the July visitors couldn’t come. So, I decided on June. I’m glad I did. I haven’t been out to my sister’s house in Nemo for awhile now. So, when my niece (the librarian-I’m so proud) called and said she was driving out to Nemo for the afternoon and did I want to go, I said “YES!” (Bonus: one-on-one time with a niece for an hour in the car.) Once out at my sister’s house, the excitement started. First, I learned that Miranda Marie (niece 4) AKA “The Author” had not mailed my Bookish Box, but instead had saved it so I could open it here. My cousin Phyllis who came with me—well, technically I came with her since she picked me up at the airport in Kansas City and we drove on out—also had ordered a Bookish Box. So we opened them together. What is a “Bookish Box”, you ask? Well, here’s what I have learned. It is something the younger set of authors is doing for promotion. When a book is released they offer a Bookish Box and you can purchase it. Along with the book—or in this case books since her new release is a trilogy—come book themed little gifts. For instance, her trilogy is about Dragons—yes, dragons and how they save the world—so the gifts in the box were all dragon related. A bracelet with a dragon charm. A tube of dragon Chap Stick—lavender scented, a dragon candle, a knitted dragon necklace, bookmarks, and my favorite—a dragon cloth bag to carry a book in. I got the box for the price of the three books! Win, win! These boxes help generate buzz and excitement around the books release as many bloggers like to buy the boxes. So, there I sat with my amazing 21 year old author-niece opening my bookish box. It. Was. Amazing! A huge event in her life and I was there! A few minutes later as I sat in a “my niece is an author and I couldn’t be prouder” glow an incredible lightning bolt of excitement hit the house. “THEY WON!” my sister screamed, she and her laptop levitating from the couch. Now, this wasn’t just one scream. It was screamed, shouted, crowed, choked, and gleefully bellowed. (I know they say you are only supposed to use the word “said” when making speaker attributions, but it is a true-fact that in this case my sister did...

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Friends, Flowers, and Grandma Jones

Posted by on Mar 11, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Friends, Flowers, and Grandma Jones

This morning I enjoyed a ladies event at our church. We called it Friends and Flowers and Grandma Jones would have been delighted. One of our ladies—an expert flower arranger—gathered silk flowers along with all the tools we would need and we each made a bouquet. Now, this is not one of my talents or gifts. To be honest, I am not a flower arranger. That is my older sister. My idea of decorating is to slam a rose in a vase and say, “That looks great!” Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed myself and am incredibly pleased with my creation, if I do say so myself. But that isn’t why my Grandma would have been delighted. We had around thirty women and girls there. There were mothers and daughters. Teenagers and the elderly. There were some of us in the middle. When we were done with our arrangements we snacked on muffins and fruit, drank coffee and tea, and were challenged with a great devotional on The Flowers of the Field. It was a perfect morning all around. But, that isn’t why Grandma Jones would have been delighted. Last week, while in South Dakota I had a brilliant idea.  You see, I have African violets. I am not one of those “green thumb-ites” who can grow anything, but I can grow African violets. Here is my trick. When the plant starts looking distressed, (see picture below) I pick one of the better looking leaves, stick it in water, and when it gets roots I plant it. So, I always have an extra plant or two hanging around, just in case the original one dies on me. I am really afraid of killing my African violets. Especially the pink one, because it is a great-great-grandchild of one of Grandma Jones’ plants. She could grow them like no one else I ever met, and she always had some blooming in her kitchen window. Even in the nursing home, she had one she watered and kept by the window. For me, it is a connection to her and just one more legacy she left me. Recently I noticed that the poor neglected plant had propagated several new plants in the one pot. It was too crowded to grow. So, I separated them and ended up with five extra pink Grandma Jones violets. What on earth was I going to do with them? I couldn’t throw them away! I don’t have enough windows for that many plants and my kitchen table was being overrun with plants. Back to my brilliant South Dakota idea. I decided if this morning was about friends and flowers, I was going to take some flowers for my friends. So, I loaded the violets into the car and off they went to the ladies event. I am pleased to say that I didn’t bring a single one home. I was especially delighted to see that several of the teenage girls took a plant. I told them where...

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Be Presidential! Write a Letter!

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 5 comments

Be Presidential! Write a Letter!

The other day I received one of those endangered things called a “letter” in the mail. It was a real, honest-to-goodness letter written on a beautiful note card. Yep. That’s right. Not just bills and ads in the mailbox that day. This is why I continue going to the mailbox every day. I was delighted. I read it with joy. I laughed. I remembered great times my friend and I shared in the past. I thought, I need to write her right back!  Have I?  Sad to say not yet, but it is on my list. Letter writing has unfortunately gone out of style. We have so many easier, faster, and more efficient ways to communicate that we have relegated letters to the “no one has time for that” status.   But, there is a danger in that.   When I visit junior and senior high school classrooms to speak on the topic, Using Your Senses in Writing, I often ask the students a question.   “So, when you get to be the President of the United States what are they going to put in your Presidential Library? After all, if you look at the Presidential Libraries, they are filled with letters, diaries, letters, documents, letters . . . Are they,” I ask, “going to find letters or journals/diaries, or other documents you have written? Or are they going to have to use emails? Or maybe Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat?” Usually I get a laugh, but I know they understand what I’m saying.   This past year I did a lot of reading. Some of the books I read were biographies or historical accounts. Three in particular were 1776 by David McCullough, George Washington on Leadership by Richard Brookhiser, and First Family: Abigail and John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis. All three of these books relied heavily on personal letters and documents for their sources. The biography of Abigail and John Adams was especially dependent on personal correspondence. This couple wrote over 1100 letters to each other during their lifetime. They spent long periods of their marriage apart due to his political career and letters was what they had. In addition, John had the foresight to realize that they were living in a pivotal time for our country, and he believed that their letters could be an important historic legacy. And, one thing I learned by reading that book is John Adams was all about his legacy. So he instructed his wife NOT to throw any of the letters out.   I’m glad she didn’t. You see, I learn history best by hearing people’s stories, and the best way to hear them is when they tell them, first hand. And, since John and Abigail are long gone from this earth, all I have to go on is their letters.   So, maybe it isn’t a bad thing I’ve saved a lot of letters people have written me. And maybe, just maybe my friend Lynn is on to something...

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I’m Back!

Posted by on Jan 2, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 6 comments

    As some of you may have noticed it has been over a year since I posted on my blog. I haven’t even been to my website for months, so I went today. It seemed the thing to do on January 1st. I reread the last posts and noticed something. I haven’t done any of the things I intended to. Like sell books. But, I have no regrets. Let me explain. Towards the end of summer, 2016 I began to realize that I had way over reached my ability to keep it all together. After some discussion Bruce and I decided I needed to back off the writing part and focus on the marketing. It would give me a break, and sell books! We pushed on through the launch of my most recent book, The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Russian Jewels and it was an AWESOME launch. When I jumped off the merry-go-round I discovered I wasn’t just tired. Rather, I was empty. I couldn’t do anything more than the necessary. I couldn’t even think about writing, let alone write a blog. So I started looking at what I needed to do to rejuvenate. There were several things that God reminded me of, but one of them was reading. The truth was that Miriam, an author and lover of books was suffering from a serious book reading deficit. You see, reading doesn’t just pass the time for me. It relaxes me. It gives me new ideas. It builds me up. So, I determined to read at least 50 books in 2017. I would try for a book a week and see what happened. In addition, I would read through the Bible. Now, historically I struggled with that. No matter what read-through-the-Bible program I’ve used, it becomes an assignment. So, I hit on a new approach. I would pick whatever book in the Bible I wanted, and read that. Then I would pick another and read that! Wow! What an incredible difference it made. (I know, I know. It might or might not be a control thing.) How did I do? I’m so glad you asked! I read the entire Bible in ten months. I also read 50 other books for a total of 51 for the year. One of the interesting things that “happened” was that I found some historical Bible novels, commentaries, and other Bible based books and I read those in correlation with that section of the Bible. The Bible came alive for me in a way I had never experienced before. So, instead of waiting for January 1st, I started reading the Bible again in November. And today I spent some time sorting books on the shelves in my room. One shelf is last year’s books. Another is for the books I want to read in 2018. Yes, I am going to aim for 50 books again. I read history books, mysteries, biographies, novels, self-help, children’s (Winnie the Pooh—who doesn’t like Winnie...

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Double Cousins Gazette and Trip Report

Posted by on Dec 8, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins |

  For those of you who have long waited for the much promised newsletter and report on the trip to North Platte click on the Double Cousins Logo above! Also, if you want to have the newsletter automatically sent to you, please sign up here on the blog page or on the home page of the website! Here are a few stats from the trip out west: 4169 miles 2 Elementary School Visits 1 Literacy event at an Elementary School 1 Home School event 1 Library event 2 book signings 1 Open Mic 1 Ladies Luncheon 1 TV interview Several Newspaper articles Sold: 203 books! I’m taking a much needed break from writing now to regain some equilibrium. However, I am working on unit studies to go with the Double Cousins books and I am registered to have a book at the Great Homeschool Convention in Greenville, SC in March! Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! I hope to be blogging on a more regular basis...

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Giving Up The Rights

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins |

A few weeks ago, on the back deck of a vacation cabin in North Carolina I officially gave up the rights to all of my books. Let me explain. My husband and I had the opportunity to stay at a cabin for a couple of days for the purpose of planning a marketing strategy for the rest of this year and next. After all, we have released four books in the past 15 months. (Yes, we did that crazy thing.) Now it is time to sell some books. My daddy taught me that when undertaking a great endeavor we should ask for God’s help and wisdom, so I started my day by reading my Bible and praying. I read my Psalms for the day, but the verse “If any one lack wisdom let him ask of God” (James 1:6) kept popping into my head so after a little searching I found the passage and read it. Then I bowed my head and I informed God that He needed to help me in this marketing thing. That I knew I needed wisdom from Him and I was officially asking for it. I reminded Him that he said if we lack wisdom we are supposed to ask for it. So I was asking. So there. Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of a few facts. God arranged every positive marketing event I’ve already experienced. God gave me the talent I needed to write. God gave me the ideas for the books. God gave me the children who like to read the books. God gave me a publisher. God gave me a husband who is perfectly suited to help me in this endeavor. God already has it all planned. Indeed, these books are HIS plan. Not mine. And suddenly I realized. I might be “the author.” But, I don’t own all of the rights. Those belong to God. I just get the earthly ones. So, I started over. “Lord, I’m sorry. Show me your plan for the books. Help me to remember this is your project. I’m just the tool.” A tool in God’s hands! Wowie Pizzowie! And that’s the true story about the day I gave up the rights to my books. For more information about how that worked for me . . . well, stay tuned! I’ll be posting an installment of my newsletter on here in the next week with all of the...

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The Great Idea

Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

The Great Idea

Tomorrow I will speak at the library in North Platte, Nebraska about Legacy. As I was preparing for this event I was reminded of a conversation my husband and I had the other day. “Sometimes I wish I could ask Grandma Jones a few questions. But I can’t. She’s gone.” “Like what,” I asked. “Well, for one thing, what was her favorite part of living in the sod house?” I may or may not have given him a look that said “Favorite part? Are you crazy?” What I said was that I didn’t remember her mentioning any particular good parts. Well, except she had a wood floor. She was right proud of her wood floor. We went on to discuss the fact that she shared little bits with different ones of us and that’s when I got the Great Idea! Yes, those words need capitalized. The Great Idea is this. What if at our next Jones Family Reunion we submitted questions that we would like to ask Grandpa and Grandma Jones? Then everyone in the room could tell what they remembered hearing from Grandpa and Grandma about those subjects. I know for a fact that our oldest cousin Gordon has more and different memories than the youngest one, Luke. Different ones of us spent time with them at different times in their lives. They probably shared things with some of us that the others have never heard. And then there is my dad’s generation. I’m sure they have even more information to add. Too bad our reunion is another two years away. How about you? Do you have a reunion or event coming up? What about Thanksgiving or Christmas? Write down your questions and bring them up when you are all together. You just might find out a lot more than you ever knew! If you do this, I would love to hear your stories about how it...

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All Must Be Well – A Legacy of Confidence

Posted by on Sep 22, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

All Must Be Well – A Legacy of Confidence

The other day my cousin Elizabeth posted a video of her playing and singing a hymn. It was one I had never heard. I was immediately captivated by her voice. The clear, sweet, simple sound with the distinctive McKnight tonal qualities reminded me of another McKnight lady, my mother. I closed my eyes and listened and it was precious. I listened twice and went about my day. Today I decided to listen to Lizzie sing again. This time I listened to the words. All Must Be Well by Mary Bowley Peters  Through the love of God our Saviour, all will be well. Free and changeless is his favour, all, all is well. Precious is the blood that healed us, perfect is the grace that sealed us, strong the hand stretched forth to shield us, all must be well.  Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well. Ours is such a full salvation, all, all is well. Happy, still in God confiding, fruitful, if in Christ abiding, holy, through the Spirit’s guiding, all must be well.  We expect a bright tomorrow, all will be well. Faith can sing through days of sorrow, ‘All, all is well.’ On our Father’s love relying, Jesus every need supplying, in our living, in our dying, all must be well. “Through the love of God our Saviour, all will be well.” And this, “Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well.” As I listened for the third time memories started popping into my head. The first one was from the night my mother died. Daddy gathered his three children all together on a bed upstairs and he read us the verse from the Bible that says God holds the keys of life and death. He told us that he had “no idea why God took Mommy home, but God is good and it would be all right.” We would be alright. All will be well. Then another memory sifted to the front. I was in my mid teens and we were at a church business meeting where things were being said to and about my Daddy, the Pastor. I began to cry as he stood at the front of the church and calmly answered questions. He looked at me and said, right out loud. “Miriam, it will be all right.” All will be well. Even within the past year with his limited post-stroke speech, when another hurtful disappointment occurred, he was heard to say, “It will be all right.” All will be well. To be honest I have been experiencing a bit of overwhelm. So many stresses—good and bad—have occurred in the past year or so and we all know how that is, don’t we? But as I listened to Elizabeth sing that simple hymn I was reminded that despite losing Mommy all has been well. Even though people have hurt us, all has been well. It was just one more instance of a legacy given by God and delivered by my parents. A...

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When the Watch Stops

Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 in Blog, Double Cousins | 1 comment

When the Watch Stops

My husband bought me a new watch the other day. Well, really it is an old watch. He decided I needed a wind-up one in addition to the quartz watch I was wearing. I used to have a wind-up watch and I loved it. But when quartz watches came in vogue and I made the switch. After all, no winding! I was delighted with my new/old watch and happily put it on my wrist. I held the watch to my ear and listened to the soft ticking. I love hearing a watch tick. So relaxing. Over the next couple of days I smiled every time I checked the time. The watch was so beautiful. Until it stopped. What? Was it broken? Then I realized what the problem was. I hadn’t wound it. I forgot that one little detail. So, I wound it, reset it and it was as good as before. My husband asked how it was working. Was it keeping time? I laughed and told him it was doing fine as long as I wound it. He said if it had any problems it might need cleaned. No telling if it has ever been cleaned. That got me thinking. I’m afraid I’ve become a bit like an unwound watch, maybe even one that needs a good cleaning. You see, over the past couple of years we have embarked on a grand experiment. Is it possible for Miriam to write, edit, get published, and promote two books a year while maintaining her day job and life at home? During that time I have written three children’s mysteries, they have all been released, and my husband put together, designed, edited and published a collection of my columns from Newberry under the title of You Ain’t From Here, Are Ya? So, in the past fifteen months we have released four books. So, yes. I can write a book every six months. I can market each book, kind of. But, after the third one my watch stops. I come unwound. I need a good cleaning and must be rewound. I need a break. Besides, with each new project always looming ahead there wasn’t truly time to focus on the marketing. Hence, we have a lot of books sitting at our house in boxes. We need to do more marketing. So, the plan for now is no more new books will be written at least for a year. During that year I will focus on marketing, home life, and work. Oh, and rewinding my watch. What about you? Are you taking the time needed to rewind? I would love to hear your favorite ways to rewind your internal watch! Please share...

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Morning Musing

Posted by on Sep 1, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

This morning as I was waking up I was thinking about a professor who taught with Bruce at Newberry. Yesterday we learned that Cathy Lovett died. I liked Dr. Lovett. She was honest and said what she thought. You could trust her. When I miscarried our baby she gave us facts. She was a geneticist and to a scientist and a nurse the facts were what we needed. It was a gracious gift. One fact she gave us is that up to 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. As I thought about that this morning I thought, THAT is a LOT of babies in heaven. What does God do with all of those babies? Well, maybe they grow up Miriam! (My author brain kicked in and I began imagining it.) Maybe as they grow up they are recorded in the heavenly perfect form of video so when their parents arrive they can watch it. Then through my mind ran pictures of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, mother and father-in-law, and Mommy each with our child. When I thought of Mommy all of a sudden it wasn’t just my child. She stood there, leading a choir of her grandchildren. All of their faces were lifted to God as they sang a worship hymn. Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty. . . And the truth is. . . heaven will be so much more glorious than we can even imagine. ....

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The Playlist in my Brain

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

The Playlist in my Brain

When I left the house for my morning walk the sun still hadn’t peeked over the trees in our little valley. Oh, the sun had been up for nearly an hour, just not here! The air was cool,the morning fresh, and the birds were singing their hearts out.   Our neighborhood could be designated an aviary. We have so many old trees and the birds start chirping well before daylight,  never seeming to completely stop until the sun is down. It soothes my soul.   As I walked up the road past our house a chorus jumped out of its seat in the music repository of my brain, rushed to the microphone, and announced itself to the rest of my brain!                 The birds upon the treetops sing their song,                 The angels chant their chorus all day long,                 The flowers in the garden blend their hue,                 So why shouldn’t I, why shouldn’t you, praise Him too?                                 Author Unknown   I smiled. This is my life. My brain is 10% functional and 90% song lyrics. Or, that is how it seems.   It is now almost noon and I’ve been jotting down the names or first lines of songs that I find myself humming. So, here is my brain’s play-list for the morning of July 26, 2016   The Birds Upon The Treetops Praise Him, Praise Him all ye little children My God is so big, so strong and so mighty I’m on the Top of the World Moon River (when I saw a black cat) ???? Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down No one ever cared for me like Jesus How much is that doggie in the window His eye is on the sparrow O God, our help in ages past I can only imagine As a deer panteth for the water (when I saw a deer on my walk) I love thy kingdom Lord Channels Only It’s Just Like His Great Love There’s a song in the air (Christmas in July?) O Safe to the rock that is higher than I Jesus Savior, Pilot Me I may have missed some, but that pretty much covers it. “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus” could have been on the list about ten times. It is my current “background music”. I tend to hit on a song and it gets stuck. Other songs pop into my head, but once they are done back it goes to the background piece. This can be annoying for the people around me! So, when I realize the record is stuck, I usually try to change to another song. Both times I caught myself humming that song this morning the alternate that immediately popped into my mind was, “How much is that doggie in the window.”   That I can’t explain! And, I’m not even going to try.   Do you have a song in your heart today? What is it? Share in the comments...

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Cowboys in the Park

Posted by on Jul 23, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Cowboys in the Park

In honor of National Day of the Cowboy, I am digging out an old piece. This was written originally for the Newberry Observer as a column. Then, it made it into both of my non-fiction books. Enjoy! Cowboys in the Park It’s not like I was hurting for something to do last Friday. I had a huge list of tasks that needed accomplished and a class for work on Saturday, so I really needed to stay home and put my nose to the grindstone.   However, once I saw the notice in the paper that the concert in the park downtown was Cowboy Music I knew there was nothing on the list that couldn’t wait—or wouldn’t have to.   When I got to the park I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were cowboy hats in the town square. Cowboy hats on people wearing jeans and cowboy boots. I could feel my heart rate jump. I picked a park bench close to the microphones. I wanted to hear every word.   Oh my. For the next hour I sat and alternately resisted the urge to jump up and twirl across the grass like a child unable to contain her joy, or sit and wail because I missed my family, especially my Grandpa Jones.   They sang a lot of the old cowboy songs and the crowd sang along. I heard comments about memories from the picture show when they were children. My memories were a bit different.   I remembered helping Grandpa saddle Brownie, the horse he kept for the grandkids to ride. I remembered riding with Grandpa to get some cows in and having my glasses knocked off my face when I failed to see a branch. I remembered watching hours of the old westerns on TV on Sunday afternoons at Grandpa and Grandma’s ranch. They all paraded through my head.   When they sang a song by “Grandpa Jones” from the Hee Haw TV show I laughed because my Grandpa Jones loved watching that show. When they sang a song asking where the cowboys have gone I wanted to stand up and shout, “THEY ARE STILL THERE!”   I thought of my cousin Gordon, riding across the Sandhills of Nebraska on his horse as he works his ranch. I wished every one of those people there could see a real cowboy, on a real ranch. I felt like I knew something they didn’t know. I felt blessed.   It was cool—one of those two nice days—and there was a chilly breeze. If I closed my eyes I could imagine myself in Nebraska or South Dakota. By the middle of the concert I was shivering but I certainly wasn’t going to get up and go anywhere.   I was right where I wanted to be, enjoying an evening in Nebraska and South Dakota right here in downtown Newberry, South...

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Found: Five Fun Facts About Historic Research!

Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Found: Five Fun Facts About Historic Research!

Sunday evening I visited a friend. I wanted to return some books he let me use while researching my most recent children’s mystery, The Nearly Twins and the Secret in the Mason Jar. I also wanted to give him a copy of the book. We had a great time talking about local history and I could have come home with several more books about the history of Western North Carolina. Mr. Pooch Pace is not just a respected veteran of the Korean War, but, as I have discovered, a valuable local history source. When I set out to write my first book I certainly didn’t plan to write historical fiction. In fact I chose to write in the present because I didn’t want to deal with historical research. It seemed too hard. I just wanted to tell a story about cousins at their grandparents’ ranch. The only history I really wanted to talk about was mine! But then the second book happened and in the process it became imperative and even—gasp!—interesting to find out more about the town where the mystery would be set. After all, the history would inform the plot of my book. And so it began. Now I start with learning about the history of the town then let that give me the plot. In the process I have learned several things. I thought I would share a few with you!   Sharing stories is a gift that gives both ways. People sometimes thank me for writing stories they like to read. But, the truth is I get as much, or more enjoyment from learning about the town. I had no idea that Saluda, NC, had such a varied and rich history. Now I dream of time-traveling back to Saluda for a summer. In addition, the people you meet along the way, or the friendships that are deepened, are gifts that will keep giving.   Every place has history that can add value to our current life. I learned about the power of music in the treatment of patients with dementia while researching for this most recent book. I am a nurse. My two worlds collided and I’ve actually used music in a room to help calm a patient. In addition, when you learn the history of your area it opens up opportunities for fun family activities like museums, historic sites, even just an awareness of what was on your piece of land before you arrived. What value do you suppose you could gain by learning some of your neighborhood’s history, or researching a new topic?   There is always more history under the surface. History layered on history. – As I’ve researched for my books it’s become difficult sometimes to decide which historic element will be used in my story. Saluda was like that. There was history from before the Revolutionary War, clear back when the first settlers made their way into the mountains. There was Native American history. There was Civil War history, 19th...

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Music – Don’t Waste The Gift

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 1 comment

Sunday I had the privilege of playing the piano for church. At various times in my life I’ve played every time the church doors were open, but since we have been in transit so much the past few years my piano playing has been more of the fill-in kind. I’m thankful for every opportunity because music is therapy for me. It is how I worship best. Often when we have visited churches they happen to be in desperate need of a pianist that day. Their pianist is sick. Their pianist is on vacation. Their pianist moved. Because of the way I was raised—to jump in and help if I’m able—I volunteer. While this has been an incredible blessing for me, it brings up a troubling trend. There is a serious lack of church pianists out there. True, we come from musical people, but our parents were determined that we would have enough musical training to be able to serve in church. No, not everyone has the gift of music. No, God doesn’t want everyone to be a church pianist. But, I have a feeling there is a great untapped level of gifting and talent out there. The incredible power of music has been much on my mind lately. In my latest release the children use music to help an Alzheimer’s patient remember the answer to a critical clue. It isn’t just a made up plot element. It is solidly based in scientific studies! I am so impressed by the power of music in treatment of people with dementia. I would love for you to click on this photo and check out the website of this group who is promoting the use of music in patient’s with dementia. You see, whether we enjoy music in corporate worship at church, in the privacy of our own home, or in a concert hall, music is a gift from God. A gift that just keeps on giving. Don’t waste that...

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