Blog

Old Photos, Mount Vernon, and Niblings

Posted by on Feb 27, 2019 in Blog, Double Cousins |

Old Photos, Mount Vernon, and Niblings

Last week I spent quite a bit of time scanning old photos into my computer. It could have been tedious, but instead it was bittersweet and fun. The pictures were ones I took during the first ten years of Aunt-hood. They were photos of my niblings (the gender neutral term for nieces and nephews—something I learned from a niece just yesterday.)   When my oldest nieces graduated I started a tradition of giving them a scrapbook of their life. It is a lot of work, but definitely worth it. So far I have completed five of the twelve. The most recent to graduate have been waiting two years for theirs. Sigh. So, I decided to get on it.   After all, I can’t fail to follow through on this tradition. That’s the challenge to starting things like this. You have to be fair, now, don’t you? Which brings me to another event from last week, President’s Day. Last summer Bruce and I had the privilege of meeting my Marine nephew in VA and visiting George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. He was state-side for some training and only a few hours from us, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. He was almost 22 and as I contemplated the last time I was at Mount Vernon, I realized I had been 22 at the time. Somehow it made it a bit more special. We had a great time, even though it rained ALL DAY LONG. Andrew said, “We are making more memories.” I told him that my goal for this trip was to make the switch from seeing him as an eight year old. After all, there are no eight year old marines.   When the niblings were each eight, or thereabouts, my sister and I would take them on what we ingeniously called “the eight year old trip.” Thankfully, we recently completed the last one ever. We treasured every one of those five trips, but they were a project and like I said before. . . once we started the tradition, it had to be finished! Apparently I wasn’t the only one reminded of those trips. When I was sharing with my parents via phone about our trip with Andrew, my second niece Megan—sitting in my parent’s dining room—chimed in. “I didn’t realize you were offering twenty-two-year-old trips!”   “I’m not,” I said.  “Unless you get deployed overseas and fly in some place within driving distance. Then, I’ll come see you.”   Guess she took it to heart. She is graduating this Spring with an online degree from Liberty University in VA and will be coming out for the ceremony. Yep. Aunt Miriam and Uncle Bruce will be there. But just to be clear, we aren’t offering twenty-four-year-old trips...

Read More

Blessing in a Really Bad Idea

Posted by on Feb 4, 2019 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Blessing in a Really Bad Idea

About two years ago, my sister-in-law Ginny suggested that we make a quilt together. She is a quilter and a friend had given her quite a bit of material with teapots on it and she thought of me. Now, my reaction was not very appreciative, I admit. I think I might have laughed out loud. Not a joyful laugh, a sarcastic “what are you thinking-don’t you know who you are talking to—let me share a little more about myself” laugh. After all, I am not on good terms with sewing machines, material, needles, thread. . . any of those things. My mom and home economics teacher did their best, but it didn’t take.   But I didn’t say no. After my initial negative response, I tried to be interested. She persisted. I resisted. She persisted.   Two years ago this May Bruce had half of his thyroid removed. Ginny, because she is an awesome sister-in-law and because this is what she does when someone is waiting at the hospital, came to sit with me. But she came prepared. She brought several pieces of The Material to show me.   I have to admit I was a bit more enthused and quickly—I know, it’s too late to say quickly—agreed to do it. We set a date to start.   When I arrived and we went to Ginny’s amazing quilt making room upstairs I was like a fish out of water. I was also lost in a brain fog and was having difficulty even coming to terms with what I was about to take part in. She pointed to some material and said that it would need ironed. I could do that. I actually enjoy ironing.   Here are some of the things I learned while working on the quilt.   Ironing is relaxing and helps me get rid of stress.                I enjoy the creativity of choosing different materials to put together in a square.                I would rather pick the materials and iron than actually cut the material.                Sewing machines still don’t like me.                My sister-in-law is a dear friend. So, it took us a year, but we finished it on August 17th. I was really excited to get it done, because I wanted to take it home to SD and to the reunion in NE to show all of my family. We have a lot of seamstresses in our family and several quilt makers. I could just imagine how impressed they were going to be with my tied quilt, even if it was smaller than a twin bed—a throw quilt. Of course, as it happened I got it done just in the nick of time. August 22nd we got the call that Daddy had suffered another stroke and he would be going to heaven soon. So, we quickly packed the car and left the next morning, the quilt in the back seat.   When we arrived at the hospice house we brought the quilt in. I...

Read More

Earthquakes and Shifting Sands

Posted by on Jan 14, 2019 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Earthquakes and Shifting Sands

Over the past few years I’ve experienced an uncomfortable shift. It started when several of my friend’s dads/husbands graduated to heaven. These were men who had a great impact on my life. They were faithful men who loved their families and their God. In the past two years, just among my Jones cousins, we lost three of our parents. Three people who have ALWAYS been in our lives. Just a couple of weeks ago, a cousin’s husband lost his epic battle with MS and last year another cousin’s 9 year old daughter lost her battle with DIPG. Every day I see it on Facebook and in the news. Parents, siblings, grandparents, children. .  . On and on it goes. I know this is life. After all, I am in that uncomfortable middle age where the parents are leaving us and we are left with the realization that the generation between us and death is shrinking. Of course, for me, like a tectonic plate shifting underground leaving big cracks in the earth, the earthquake of my own father’s death on August 30th changed my life forever.And now, I face a question many others before me have asked. We know we must go on. But how? How do we live in a world without them? How is that even possible? One of the difficult things for me is the realization that the future generations of my family will never know my dad. Much like the dismay I often feel when I realize that my husband never met any of my grandparents except Grandma Jones and Grandma Elizabeth, it makes me so sad. Even my youngest niece and nephew won’t have the memories of Daddy that the older ones have. The majority of their memories are of a grandpa unable to talk, struggling to stand, tucked into bed where they would climb up and hug him goodnight. But the Grandpa who at 75 raced his grandson across the picnic ground. . . they don’t remember that. I remember Grandpa McKnight expressing these same feelings. “Susie,” he said to me one day, a wistful tone in his voice. “I sure wish you could have known your Grandma McKnight’s Grandpa Stover. He was a wonderful man.” Then he brightened and said, “But someday in heaven you will!” Then he pumped his fist in the air and shook with unshed tears. I guess this sadness is normal, or at least hereditary. Something happened with my husband and my grandparents, though, that encourages me. It is no secret that I am a storyteller. A talker. A reminiscer. (Yes, I just made up a word.) Bruce has heard me tell the same stories over so many times, and my family has talked about being Grandpa McKnight’s “favorite oldest South Dakota granddaughter” and other Grandpa-isms that Bruce has internalized it. He will say, “Grandpa McKnight would have liked that.” And he is right. I could share similar stories about the things he has learned about my other grandparents....

Read More

Comfort Food Without Calories!

Posted by on Oct 25, 2018 in Blog, Double Cousins, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

Comfort Food Without Calories!

Yesterday I went to the library. I needed to return books and audio books, some of which were overdue.  I admit it. I am terrible at getting books back to the library on time. But, the way I look at it I’m helping fund the library with the fines. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. One of the books I returned was The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes. It is an older book, first published in 1942 and set in Cranberry Connecticut during World War I. When I saw it on the shelf in the children’s section I had to take it home. You see, it was one of my childhood favorites. Janey Moffat is a middle child (like I was) and she lost a parent (like I did). She was imaginative, very brave even though she was a bit insecure. She was kind and generous. She loved to tell stories, imagine stories, and didn’t miss a thing that was going on in the neighborhood. Another big character in the book is The Oldest Inhabitant—a 99 year old Civil War vet who lives in their town. Janey, quite by accident strikes up a friendship with the man and that was one of the highlights of the book for me. I find it interesting to read my favorite childhood books again in adulthood. There is comfort there and it opens my eyes to the reality that the books I read as a child informed who I am today. I found myself laughing several times as I read and laughing feels so good right now. So, this time at the library I went to another favorite set of books, The Trixie Belden Mysteries. I had hoped to find book two there last time I went, but failing that I ordered it on Amazon and now I was ready for book three. So, my current “read in progress” is Trixie Belden –The Gatehouse Mystery by Julie Campbell. Why am I reading children’s books? It isn’t because I don’t have other deeper books sitting in piles around my house waiting for me to pay them some attention. It isn’t even that I am a children’s author and need to do research (although that is an awesome excuse, isn’t it?) No, plain and simple, these books are what I call comfort food in the book world. Since my Daddy went to heaven I haven’t had the focus needed to read a book. But, then I discovered that I could read these favorites from childhood. Not only are they simple plots, easy to read, but they take me back to my childhood. The one where my Daddy lived. What about you? What is your favorite childhood read? Please share here! Maybe you will even want to read it...

Read More

The Things Daddy Taught Me

Posted by on Sep 16, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Marvin B Jones 1932-2018 I wrote this several years ago for my blog, then it was published in my book All I Have Needed-A Legacy for Life. When I showed it to Daddy he shook his head and said, “I’m not sure I know that guy.” That was Daddy. Humble. On August 30th I stood at his bedside in hospice with my husband, my sister, and niece as he took his last breath and just like that he was with Jesus. We are so thankful his suffering is over and that he is with Jesus. WOW! Daddy is with Jesus! Incredible!!!! But still, how do we live in this world without him? The same way he taught us. . . by the principles in God’s word. I trust this is an encouragement to you. All I can say is I have been blessed “exceeding abundantly above all that I could have asked or thought.” Thank you Jesus for my Daddy. Help me follow his example by keeping my eyes focused on YOU.   Three Things My Dad Taught Me I’ve heard that a girl gets her view of God from her father. For some of us that’s not a good thing. For others, like me it turns out to be a wonderful gift. My daddy has been the most influential person in my life. Without him I wouldn’t be. Without his love I wouldn’t fully understand the love of God. Without the discipline he meted out I wouldn’t know the security of limits or understand the importance of a disciplined life. Almost everything he taught me fits into one of three categories. The first thing he taught me was decision making. To live a successful life we must determine right from wrong, the best from the not-so-good.  By example my dad taught me a simple rule of thumb. Every decision in life should be made based on the absolute principles found in God’s Word, the Bible. That may sound simplistic but it isn’t. Or maybe it is. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” covers a lot of decisions about how to act toward others (more on that later). Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. . . that gives the skinny on what to do if someone hurts you.  “…Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” That one covers all of the bad things we can do to our bodies. What about money decisions? It’s there. There are principles for marriage, for work ethics, for raising children, dealing with employees and employers, friends, enemies—it’s all there. Over and over my dad would point out what was wrong with a situation, why—using the Bible principle—and what would be a better approach. He didn’t focus on a list of do’s and don’ts, just Bible principles. Oh sure, there are definite do’s and don’ts in the Bible but often there are grey areas, things that aren’t so clearly...

Read More

So, Take Your Medicine

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

So, Take Your Medicine

In all of the cleaning out we did this past week, I found an old yellow note pad. The top few pages were a hand-written scene from my first book! Next on the pad was this. Since I have been a nurse now for 33 years it is obvious this was written around 15 years ago. But, I have to say, with all the changes in nursing, this has not changed. I hope you enjoy this humorous piece of nursing life. So, Take Your Medicine In eighteen years of nursing I have given a lot of pills. In fact, if I had a dollar for every pill I’ve given, well, that would be a lot of dollars! I have seen many changes in health care, not the least of which is the medications. For instance, the antacid thing. Was Tagamet before or after Pepcid? Wasn’t Pepcid the first “pretty purple pill” or was that Prilosec?   Anyway, in thinking back over all of those pills I can’t help but remember the pill takers, AKA patients. Since I personally observed all of these pills being swallowed—we are supposed to stand there and watch until the pill actually goes down—I have seen it all, and believe me, there are as many different ways to take pills as there are generations of penicillin.   First, of course, and every busy nurses favorite is the chug them all down at once method. You throw the entire cup of pills into your mouth at once, and swallow them down with a huge swig of your favorite liquid. This was my dad’s preferred method until one became lodged sideways in his esophagus providing him with a painfully memorable trip to the emergency room. Now he has joined the camp of the one by one crowd as well as the cut anything bigger than an aspirin in half fans.   Another area of difference is what goes in the mouth first, the pills of the water. Some can’t stand the taste of pills, or the pills stick to their tongue, so they take a drink first, then tip their head back and dump the pill/pills in. I’ve tried this but always ended up either choking or losing all the liquid the minute I opened my mouth. I guess some coordination is required here. The opposite of course is the pill first, then the water to flush it down. This doesn’t work for people with a dry mouth.   Two other variations are particularly interesting, (and if I’m stressed, entertaining.) The first is that group of people who manually “help” the pill on down. Some use their index finger to push the pill to the back of their mouth before trying to swallow. Last week, I had a patient who appeared to assist the pill right on down to her stomach! Amazing to watch. It reminded me of a stork or some other bird. Isn’t there a story in Aesop’s Fables about a stork and a narrow...

Read More

All Our Ducks in a Dumpster

Posted by on Aug 10, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 6 comments

All Our Ducks in a Dumpster

  A couple of mornings ago as I sat at my computer researching topics about which I need to know more, I remembered an article I wrote almost twenty years ago. It was never published and I thought it might be something I could spiff up and send out to a magazine. I knew it was somewhere in the files of my computer, but where?   Every time I get a new computer, I have Bruce move my files to the new one. It’s kind of like pulling a moving van up to the house and putting everything in:  trash, junk, things you don’t want—and  of course the ones you do.   So, now you know I’m not a very organized computer person. I do have some folders I’ve developed over the years for my books and speaking, but there is this massive file called “WRITING” that is kind of like the junk drawer in the kitchen or the back bedroom. It gets all the homeless, left-over pieces.   I started looking through the file and came upon documents that obviously belonged in another existing folder. So I moved them. Then I found documents that are clearly no longer necessary to keep, so I deleted them. Yes, I did.   As I worked through the file I couldn’t help but think of the process we are undertaking this week. Yesterday morning a dumpster was deposited at our house by our trash company. I am beyond excited for this grand cleaning out. It’s a big step for us. We are cleaning out the back bedroom, the one that gathered all of the things we didn’t know what to do with. Quilting things that belonged to his mother. Old family items. Some of his brothers’ things. Old blankets. A worn out single mattress. You get the picture.   We’ve even found a few treasures like two antique portable typewriters and a lifetime supply of thread in every color imaginable! Some things, like the treasures, we are finding necessary to keep. Others we will put in the pile to donate to the Salvation Army or give to family. And the rest will go in the dumpster. When we finish in that room we will move on to the basement to clean out the excess storage there. When done we’ll have space for the things we have in a storage unit. At least that’s the plan.   For the first time in our marriage we will have all our stuff in one house. I’m certain we won’t every become minimalists, and I know it doesn’t mean we will have all our ducks in a row, but it’s a start, isn’t it? Isn’t...

Read More

My Right Guard

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

My Right Guard

I was blessed this year to be able to visit Daddy for Father’s Day. I don’t take for granted any opportunity to spend time with him, especially since he suffered those two nasty strokes a few years ago. We are travelling the roads more often these days, but being with him on Father’s Day, that was special. That morning I stood beside the bed helping Mom get Daddy ready for his day. Mostly I stood around and watched because Mom is so good at caring for him, but I tried to be proactive and figure out what came next. I’m telling you, caring for someone at home is much different than hospitals. In hospitals we don’t have clothes. We have hospital gowns, and in case you haven’t been around one lately, I’ll let you in on a secret. They are open in the back. Real clothes are much harder to deal with. Anyway, I stood there and watched as Mom grabbed the deodorant. As the aerosol floated through the air, the scent brought a flood of nostalgia to me. (Did you know that smell is the most nostalgic of all of the senses? It’s true.) Anyway, before even seeing the can, the words “Right Guard” flew into my mind. I glanced over to where Mom was placing the can back on the dresser and sure enough, it was Right Guard. I grinned. Then, as frequently happens my mind took the idea and ran with it. I realized that not only has Daddy used Right Guard for as long as I can remember, he has always been my Right Guard, from the moment I was born. Let me share how. First, he was Right on Guard when I was little to make sure I was safe. He would hold my hand when we crossed the street. When my parents traveled by train from California to Nebraska with two preschoolers, they each took one of us to be in charge of. They were on it. Daddy had rules about where we could ride our bikes . . . to keep us safe. He paid attention to what we said when we came home from school and if something sounded wrong, he marched right in there to talk to the teacher. I always felt safe when Daddy was there. When I was little he told me that they had stopped the Korean War when he was in basic training because they heard he was coming. Of course he was kidding, but I believed him. When we were old enough to drive, he was Right on Guard to make sure we knew how to change a tire; change the oil; never, never, never pick up a hitchhiker; and don’t get in a hurry  to turn into traffic. If you wait you will always have an opportunity to go when it is safe. Not only was he Right on Guard, but he was a Right Guard. His rules had reasons. His policies were based...

Read More

Being A Nurse – What I Like Best

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

I was thinking the other day about what I would say if someone asked what I liked best about being a nurse. You would think that after thirty-plus years I would have a favorite thing. So I thought about it awhile and this is what I came up with. It isn’t just that I can help people and make a difference in their lives. Oh, don’t get me wrong. That is a big part of why I like nursing, but it isn’t my favorite. After all, I am a caregiver at heart and I do love helping people. There is something so satisfying about knowing that your care has made a difference to somebody. This knowing is a precious gift to the caregiver! It also isn’t just because it is a great career. I didn’t know when I started nursing just how great it was! I thought I might like it, but I had no idea that it would be something with which I could support myself. Not only could I support myself, but I could do it on such a schedule that I could pretty much do anything else I wanted to do in life. There are so many types of nursing that you really can pick your schedule. True, there are the 12 hour shifts, but when you are young that is an advantage in many ways. I loved not being at work five days a week. And, as a “PRN” nurse where I set my own schedule in exchange for not getting benefits/not getting guaranteed hours, I could be at any church or family function I wanted to be.  It worked for me. I have often told people that nursing was a job I absolutely loved doing and it made the rest of my non-work life possible. My favorite part of being a nurse isn’t even that I value being a part of a team. That is a fantastic thing. Teamwork is vital in nursing. I have worked in places where it was perfect, and in other places where it was more challenging. I can tell you that if the teamwork is present, it is a beautiful thing. It is so very rewarding to be part of a team that can care for people and save lives, all while supporting and working as a well-oiled machine. Those moments are golden. So, after sharing several things that are wonderful, but NOT my favorite, let me share what is. It is something I have come to realize over the past few years more and more. My favorite part of being a nurse is the patients. People aren’t at their best when they come to the hospital. They are sick. They are scared. Their minds are often not clear. They depend on the nurse to make sure they are given the best care they can receive. That is a big responsibility, but also a huge privilege. I love asking the older ones what they did before they retired. (I...

Read More

Beat The Heat – Ten Wintery Picture Books

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

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...

Read More

Beat the Heat – Ten Wintery Chapter Books

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

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,...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More
Page 1 of 1412345...10...Last »