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Independent and United

Posted by on Jul 4, 2015 in Blog, Uncategorized |

Independent and United

This is a column I wrote for the Newberry Observer, in Newberry, SC several years ago. It is included in the book just released, “You Ain’t From Here, Are Ya?”. It was true then. It is true now. God Bless and Save America. Everywhere I look there are reminders that the 4th of July is next week,. When I walked downtown this morning, they were putting out the flags on Main Street. Even the blooming crepe myrtles coordinate with the flags and banners. Words like Independence and United run through my head. While I still believe we live in the best country in the world, I wonder sometimes if those words are really still true in America. We are constantly bombarded with fighting between our elected leaders and reminded of our differences by people who speak about the red states versus the blue states. I don’t feel very united. And, with all of us so dependent on the government to provide many of our daily needs as well as foreign governments to lend us money, I really question our independence. This week I was reminded of what America is all about, how it is supposed to be. I have a friend who moved from South Dakota to Minot, North Dakota. We still keep in touch via Facebook. I have watched in horror as the flooding threatened and then consumed not just her home, but her entire neighborhood, indeed an entire section of her city. As I watched the reports something struck me. These people didn’t holler for the government to come save them. No, they loaded their belongings into cars, vans, trucks, and cattle trailers and emptied out their houses. Those whose homes weren’t threatened showed up to help. People who had space took in families, belongings, or both. Once the evacuees’ belongings were safe, they went back to help someone who wasn’t done yet.  People lent their RV’s to perfect strangers and even stocked them with food. They were United against the force of nature that threatened their community. The thing is, the people in North Dakota are a proudly independent, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sort. They don’t ask for help. They believe in doing it themselves. But, when they come to the end of the rope, they will call out for help. And, if you are one of the lucky ones who isn’t experiencing the trial, you get under the rope ready to catch. That’s independence and united rolled into one situation. Thankfully, in the time I’ve been in Newberry, we haven’t had any major disasters. I get the sense, though, that people here would be the help-each-other-out sort. This town is full of people who get real joy from helping others and I am privileged to know several of them. I believe this is a city-country difference. People in the small towns and rural areas are more in touch with their neighbors, feel more connected. When a disaster strikes, they help because they know these people and they know...

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A New View

Posted by on Jun 9, 2015 in Blog, Double Cousins |

A New View

Today I experienced a long-time tradition with a new-found awareness.  This evening I accompanied some of my nieces and nephews to Storybook Island in Rapid City, SD. I have been coming to this wonderland since the late 70’s when I watched my little sister delight in the discovery of this incredible storybook world. Ever since, I’ve taken every opportunity to experience the park with the children in my life! Today was no different. But, yet—it was. After our visit to the park we gathered around a table along one of the Rapid Creek tributaries and enjoyed a picnic with my brother and his family. We sat just a few hundred yards from Rapid Creek and the former site of Storybook Island; the site that was completely destroyed by the Flood of 72. We are very aware of the flood, especially this year. As you may have noticed in the news the Great Plains have experienced a LOT of rain this year. Rapid Creek is really high and is over its banks in several places throughout Rapid. As it flows into the waterways placed there to hold   the excess and spreads out across the flood plain we are reminded of the reason for the beautiful park system that winds through Rapid City.  It is there to prevent another disaster the size of the one that happened June 9, 1972.   In the third Double Cousins Mystery, the cousins learned about the devastation and loss of that night. As I researched for that book I learned many things I didn’t know.  Though I lived in Rapid City for ten years, I still didn’t “get” how terrible that day was. Every year I would hear the reports; 238 people died, thousands of vehicles destroyed, entire neighborhoods devastated. Yet, I didn’t understand. Not until I read first person accounts. Now, I will never look at the creek the same way again. I will never enjoy Storybook Island without a hint of sadness for the loss of the original park mixed with gratitude for those who rebuilt. I think of those lost in the flood every time I walk on the bike path. And, when I re-read one particular scene in The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Rushmore Treasure, I cry. Every time. Researching the history of my town changed my life. I bet if you went to your library or local museum you would find information that would bring your town’s biggest historic events to life. Then, like me you will gain a more complete appreciation of your...

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A Growing Legacy!

Posted by on May 5, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts | 2 comments

The grass shimmered with dew and the air was still cool when I gathered the rake, hoe, and a small bag of seeds and headed out to celebrate my birthday! Yes, you read right. I celebrate my birthday by planting things. It started about thirty years ago when we just happened to be planting our garden on my birthday. I clearly remember helping Daddy mark the rows with sticks and string, then planting corn and bean seeds every few inches. Something about putting those seeds into the ground, knowing that plants would grow, food would be created, and we would be able to eat it spoke to my soul. That may have been the first time I ever really helped plant a garden, I’m not sure. But it wasn’t my last. I was hooked. Of course, if my birthday was in November—like my older sister—it would be harder to keep this tradition. But, May 2nd clearly lends itself to such an activity. The seeds I planted were ones I received from a dear friend. “Mom” Clark has been an inspiration to me for over twenty years now. (See photo above for a view of their yard.) Every time I visit them I am challenged, blessed, and delighted to see the home she has built there with her husband. Not only is their house a haven, but she has a flower and vegetable garden that serves others. She has flowers that are cut and placed “just so” into jars, then taken to the shut-ins that she ministers to, or friends that need a pick-me-up. A couple of years ago she let me harvest some seeds from her cock’s comb and I have been itching to find a place to plant them. So, happy birthday to me. . . this year I did it! Last week we transplanted some daffodils and peonies which Bruce’s aunt gave us. She had thinned some of hers and sent him home with a car load. We planted the daffodils between the hostas we received a couple of years ago from friends at church when they were thinning theirs. The peonies, it turns out, originally came from “Over Home”—the name of Bruce’s great-grandparents place in Polk County. These are legacy plants. In my kitchen I have an African violet that came from one Grandma Jones had. I also have a mother-in-laws tongue that I got from Mom. It keeps growing little babies, so I have several plants I need to give away. We have a plant Bruce saved from his mother’s funeral and another plant his aunt gave us. If you look at all of the plants in and around this house, all but one came from someone. Even the huge Norway spruce tree beside the house was once the little Christmas tree for Bruce’s family. Heritage. Legacy. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be as small as a seed. Which reminds me. I have some Bradley beans which I soaked overnight....

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A Moment of Legacy

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

A Moment of Legacy

This morning I sit at my kitchen table, my de facto office. I’ve been sitting here a lot these days as I work on my latest book. I’m approaching final revisions and I’m ready to be done.  A couple of days ago I had one of those moments of recognition. One of those moments which, if you know me at all, you know I revel in. It’s not really déjà vu. It’s more like the quote from Breakfast at Tiffany’s when they ask the man in the store to engrave a Cracker Jack ring. “Do they still really have prizes in Cracker Jack boxes? . . . That’s nice to know. . . It gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.” That’s the kind of moment I had. Let me explain. Our home is a family home. My husband’s parents built it before any of their boys were born. My father-in-law hurried home on weekend leave from boot camp in South Carolina to make sure it was enclosed and safe for his wife when he left for Korea. They raised four boys in this home, and after her husband died, Bruce’s mom stayed here for many years. I never met either of them, but I’ve had the privilege of getting to “know them” through their home. For instance, our kitchen table is the very one that they used in their kitchen. I love it because it is a classic. It is yellow, and I like yellow. I like the fact that I can see the worn spot in the top where his Mama set her coffee cup. A few years ago we added an addition off to the side of the existing home. The addition includes our new, bright kitchen which looks out on the deck and across the back yard. It actually sits pretty much where an old red cedar tree sat. An ice storm took the top out of the tree several years ago, so we didn’t mind so much taking it down, but still it was sad. See, Bruce’s Mama loved to read, especially romances. She always wanted to travel, but by the time she could. . . well, she couldn’t, due to health problems. So, she sat at her kitchen table, read books about exotic places near and far, drank coffee, and watched the birds in the cedar tree out of the kitchen window. She especially loved a pair of doves that nested in the cedar tree. She read romances, after all. That kitchen window is now a doorway into our new kitchen. The table sits very close to where the tree once stood. At the old yellow table I write books about places near and far, drink coffee, and watch the birds come to the cedar birdfeeder on our new deck. I especially like watching the chickadees playfully swoop in and out, taking turns at the feeder. I write children’s stories, after all. So, when...

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Music and Memory

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Shortly after my grandma went into the nursing home some of her family purchased a CD player for her. Others bought or rounded up good music CD’s. Grandma loved good music. She liked watching some TV programs like the Hallmark Channel, but cataracts had made it almost impossible for her to enjoy. She loved to read, but once again her vision precluded that. So, we got her music. She loved her music box and listened to it a lot. In fact, the nursing staff said she listened to it almost 24/7. She had many CD’s with old hymns and they were some of her favorites. I asked her what singer she liked and she told me John Denver. She said he had such a nice voice, so easy to listen to. She especially liked Rocky Mountain High. I bought her a set of John Denver CD’s which I now have at my house. Now, every time I hear a John Denver song I think of Grandma. If the music was going her feet were going too. Oh, not fast. She would just wiggle her toes back and forth to the music. Bruce and I had the privilege of going with her to a church service at the nursing once when we were snowed in there in Broken Bow on our way home to SD. I don’t know the denomination, but their music was lovely. Grandma nodded along, and sang a little too. It was the highlight of her day. Today I was reminded of this when I watched a show called Alive Inside-A Story of Music and Memory. It is a documentary I found on Netflix that speaks about the value of music in helping people with dementia keep their minds engaged. It was powerful. I was ready to jump into the car and go to the local nursing home to play the piano. So many older people have so much to offer us, and yet they can’t interact with others to share that information. Or maybe they can, but we don’t take the time to listen. I’ve heard it over and over at work when I encourage my patients to share their stories with their families. “Oh, they don’t want to hear that!” I think many of us would love to hear about it, but it does take effort. And sometimes music. I’m thinking I need to find a nursing home near my house and see if I can’t find another “grandma” or “grandpa” to visit and sing with. How about you? For more information about the music and memory program and how you can help get iPods to seniors, go to http://www.musicandmemory.org. I hope you  enjoy this amazing video demonstrating the power of music to help those suffering from dementia.  ...

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And I Know He Watches Me!

Posted by on Feb 1, 2015 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Three chickadees dined at our bird feeder this morning. The first one darted in, perched on the side and pecked at the suet they seem to prefer over the seed. When two more approached, he skittered away. While one bird took his place, the other perched on the deck rail waiting his turn, like a customer at a restaurant listening for his name to be called. Finally, the second patron left and the patient one took the preferred spot, never mind that he ignored the opposite side which also provides suet. We did buy two kinds of suet. Maybe this is evidence of a preference. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying watching the birds. I find myself looking for reasons to stay and work at my kitchen table so I can enjoy their arrivals and departures. That isn’t too hard with a book deadline fast approaching, but it can be distracting. We have four kinds of birds so far. The chickadees are my favorite. We also have the sparrows and the wrens. Then there is the tufted titmouse pair. They are a lovely bird with a horrible name. At least, that is my opinion. A few more come by to see what all of the excitement is about, but don’t stay to eat. Those include the cardinals and even a red-headed woodpecker! Once the little birds fly away we can’t see them in the underbrush and on the trees. But, the bright ones—the cardinals, blue jays, and the woodpecker—we can see from clear across the property. From my table I can watch them fly from branch to branch in the big trees at the back of the garden. As I watch the birds enjoying their new source of food or flitting from branch to branch I think sometimes about the verses in the Bible regarding birds.  Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 10:31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. I also think about the song I’ve heard all of my life, especially one line: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me. God doesn’t have a problem seeing the birds in the underbrush. He doesn’t depend on their coloring to make them visible on a cloudy winter day. No, He sees them anytime and anywhere. And, it is no different with me. In Psalm 139:7-12 I am told that I cannot hide from God. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.  If I say,...

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Treasured Memories-Books, Boxes, and Hiding Places.

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins |

Yesterday I called Mom to alert her that some packages would be arriving in the mail. Thanks to online shopping, most of my South Dakota Christmas gifts are on the way. “I’ll call when they’ve all arrived and we can go through them so I can tell you who gets what,” I suggested. “Then if you just stick each one in a plastic grocery bag they will be wrapped.”   We both laughed and Mom assured me she would do something better than that.   You see, a few years ago my now-adult nephew asked me a question. “Aunt Miriam, Why do you wrap our presents? They are always books!” He was right. It is a rare gift-giving opportunity that they receive something besides a book from me. I know which gifts I still have from my aunts and uncles, and they are books.   If that means I no longer have to wrap presents, so be it!   I was reminded of another Christmas the other day when a friend posted a picture of her daughter delighting in the discovery of two boxes of mysteries her mother had stashed in the closet. Buried treasure, indeed! The comment that went with the post was “The expression on Anna’s face when I told her I have boxes of Nancy Drew books up in the closet…priceless!”   That’s what took me back thirty-eight years.   Christmas 1976 we were living in California. Christmas was a bit bizarre in the San Joaquin Valley, mostly because the weather was just not, well—Christmassy! But we persevered. My parents gave each of us a new coat because we needed it. Then, of course they gave us something fun.   I don’t remember what “fun” thing I got, but I definitely remember my brother’s gift. It was stashed in the trunk of the car. Somewhere, at a garage sale my parents found a box of Hardy Boys books.   An entire box.   Now, my brother was one of those kids who read everything in sight and if he couldn’t find fiction, he read the encyclopedias. In fact, I think he sometimes read them first because they had a lot of interesting stuff that he didn’t know yet. I thought he had the most information of any human being stashed in his head until I met my husband, also an encyclopedia reader.   Anyway, after all the gifts in the house were opened Clark sat dejectedly holding his coat. Having a good attitude about getting nothing but a winter coat for Christmas is a hard pill for a nine-year-old to swallow! But then, hope! Daddy took him out to the car and opened the trunk.   Best Christmas gift ever! From dejected to ecstatic in one second!   When I was writing my first book the memory of a box of mysteries in the trunk of a car resurfaced. I combined the Christmas story with the tendency of my great-uncle to bring things to Grandpa’s ranch...

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More Than A Casserole And A Bag Of Toilet Paper!

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins |

More Than A Casserole And A Bag Of Toilet Paper!

  “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 “Mom you know what Mrs. Mount told me tonight?” Dorie rested her hand on Carly’s shoulder and leaned forward from the back seat of the van. “What, dear?” Mrs. Rawson turned sideways in her seat. “Did you know she and her husband lost their house in a fire years ago?” Mrs. Rawson looked at her husband. “I don’t think I knew that. Did you, honey?” Mr. Rawson scratched his head. “Yeah, I think I did. It was twenty years ago, or more.” Carly turned sideways in her seat so she could see Dorie. “That’s awful.” Dorie nodded. “Well, she mentioned it tonight when she was signing up for the cookies. She said cookies were the least she could do for Mr. Crosby. Evidently, Mr. Crosby and his wife paid for three months of rent for them in an apartment after the fire. Mrs. Mount said that without them, she didn’t believe they would have ever gotten back on their feet.” Max shook his head. “I knew Mr. Crosby liked to help people, but three months of rent? That’s more than a casserole and a bag of toilet paper, isn’t it?” “It sure is,” said Carly. The van turned onto 8th Avenue, then pulled into the driveway. Carly leaned against the window and stared out into the darkness. Across the street Mr. Crosby’s store looked lonely. No wonder Mr. Crosby doesn’t have the money to fix up his store. We have to help him. We all do. But will we be able to get enough money? Excerpt from The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Rushmore Treasure, pg....

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A Right and A Responsibility!

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

This is a column I wrote for the Newberry Observer back in 2010. It is applicable for today! Enjoy! I am so excited for November 2nd to get here, I can’t hardly wait! It is, after all one of my favorite things in life. On November 2nd I get to go stand in line, get my ballot, go into my private little booth—how exciting is that—and making sure no one sees what I am marking. I get to have my say.   The thing is, I’m not just excited for November 2nd because of the present dissatisfaction with the direction in America and our government. I am excited because this is something that I was raised to deem important. In my family voting was never questioned. It was something you did because you were an American. It is, after all our right and our responsibility.   When we are given such a huge gift, such as freedom we are then responsible to take care of that gift. This was not preached to us but lived out. My grandparents and parents got excited about voting. They paid attention to the news. They discussed politics. Then, they made the best decision they could and they voted.   I remember a conversation between my Grandpa Jones and my Dad. Grandpa was probably in his early 80’s and he was concerned about the direction of the country. He commented that he just wanted to leave a better place for his grandchildren. He wondered if he had done enough to ensure that. He was born in 1905 so he had seen hard times. He had seen good government leaders and bad ones. He had voted a lot. But he still felt the responsibility. Overheard conversations like that one really make an impression.   I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to vote. When Ronald Reagan died I sat on my couch and cried while I watched the news coverage. My niece sat with me and watched me cry. I could tell she didn’t understand what Aunt Miriam was so sad about. “Ronald Reagan was the first President I ever voted for,” I explained. “He was a real American hero.”   Even at her young age she understood. Her parents believe in voting too, you see. Now my nieces and nephews, several in their teens, are anxiously awaiting the day when they can vote.   One thing that is so amazing to me is that it doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, black, white, red, brown, or yellow. If you are an American and 18 you can vote. Even if you are living in Thailand you can get an absentee ballot and vote. Why wouldn’t you?   It doesn’t matter if you live in South Dakota, South Florida, or South Carolina. You can live on the coast or in the forgotten middle of the country. You can live in Manhattan, New York or Manhattan, Kansas. You can be unemployed or the CEO of...

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Benefits of Transitional Seasons – Like Snow on Leaves

Posted by on Nov 3, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Leaves shouted their existence with riotous color as the branches, clothed in pure white demanded recognition of the soon demise of Autumn. I stood in my kitchen, gazing in wonder at the five inches of snow blanketing the deck and the back half of our property.     My heart jumped with delight at the whiteness. Snow makes me happy. But then the leaves,   jostled by the wind waved at me. What about us? We aren’t through yet, you know! We thought Autumn was your favorite season. Traitor!   That night the wind howled. I snuggled deeper under the covers and listened to the sound of trees bending and swaying, the gusts inevitably tearing more leaves from the trees. Still,  the wind comforted me. The sounds of windy nights always bring memories of my  childhood in the Great Plains. Comfort food for the mind.   The next morning, the view out the back window was admittedly less pleasant. No snow. Noticeably fewer leaves. But then I peeked as far left as I could and there they were. Some trees still gloriously covered in bright yellow leaves. On our way to and from church we saw more vibrant trees shouting the triumphant survival of Autumn.   Yes, the snow warns that winter is coming. We must prepare but we can still enjoy some Autumn before Winter arrives for good.   I love the fact that God gives us some warning.   I have a set of four paper “lampshades” that fit on top of a night-light. They are seasonal. So, on the first day of Autumn I fulfill my ritual and I change the lampshade. When winter comes, I change it again. Each season is acknowledged by the changing of the lampshade. It is a rare day indeed that I change it early or late. No, it must be on the FIRST day of the season.   God isn’t that way. Otherwise, one day would be beautiful crisp Autumn with picture perfect leaves, and the next Winter, complete with a blizzard. How would we adjust to that?   Not well, I’m afraid.   And while we are thinking about transitional benefits let us not forget aging. Now, I don’t consider myself old but I’ve had a rather shocking episode of aging this summer. With the failure of my tendon I’ve faced the reality that I’m not as young as I used to be.   If someone had told me in June that I would be JOYFULLY wearing a brace on my left foot, a brace I very well may have to wear for the rest of my life I’m afraid my reaction would not have been pleasant or accepting! But throw in a few months of inability to function and well, the brace seems like a friend.   So, I’ll enjoy the next few days of beautiful sixty degree afternoons and crisp nights. Maybe I’ll take my new brace and go for a walk stomping in the crunchy leaves,...

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Living The Dream!

Posted by on Oct 28, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins | 3 comments

The other day I posted some stats on Facebook about my recent school visits and other events. Here is the blip.   Here are some “stats” from my past two weeks of events.       Book Signings: 1 Awana Club: 1 School Visits: 6 School sessions taught: 22 Grades Included: K-12 Approximate number of children in all sessions: 450 Number of books sold: 148 Who did this: GOD! What a wonderful two weeks. I have so much for which I am thankful! The assignment I received from the students: Write another book.    Twenty-two sessions! The past two weeks I repeated my presentation so many times that I told my husband, “I’m about done with the story of A Boy Named George.” What does that mean? Let me explain.   You see, in most of my presentations I start by telling the students a bit about me and my books, and then I tell them that in order to explain why I became a writer I have to tell them about a boy named George. Then, with pictures and stories I share how eight year old George moved with his family from Kansas to Nebraska in October of 1913. That was 101 years ago this month. I explain that they traveled by covered wagon, they had nine horses and six people, they traveled 340 miles in 16 days, and they had adventures. I even share an adventure or two. Then I ask them how I know about this story.   I get varied responses to that question. My favorite was that I was the “bad teacher” in Kansas who wouldn’t stop the bullies! I’ve also had it suggested that I was George’s sister. Maybe I should dye my hair.   Eventually though, we get someone who says maybe it was someone in my family. Yes, George was my grandpa.   Then I show an adorable picture of my cousin Tony and my sister Vonda sitting on Grandpa’s lap. This is my favorite part of the presentation, the telling of George’s story. But this week, well after about eighteen times through that story I was ready for a new one!   Then I read a comment on the Facebook post I mentioned above. My friend said this:   “So glad you are living your dream!”             I smiled. That was sweet of her to say that. Then, like a bolt of lightning it hit me! It was true. I am living my dream. Here’s why I say that.            Back to George. I explain to the children that my grandpa, George Jones wrote three books about his life. He realized that he knew a lot of things and had experienced many things that very few living people had experienced. He believed he should write them down! He wanted people to know what it was really like.   Then I explain to the children that when three of my grandparents went...

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A Legacy of Happy Flowers

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

Last night I ate flowers. Yep, that’s right. I am staying with friends in Pennsylvania while I visit schools and my friend grows flowers. She has quite the ministry of making up arrangements of cut flowers to take to shut-ins, those suffering a loss, or just someone needing a little encouragement. This is actually a legacy she received from her mother who grew roses and gave them away.   She learned recently that you can eat nasturtiums. Now, I couldn’t have told you what nasturtiums looked like before this visit but overnight they have become one of my favorites. They are happy flowers. They shout happy. The bright yellow and orange petals make me smile every time I see them. So, when they were placed on the table to be used on top of our salad I was intrigued.   They didn’t taste bad. They really didn’t have a lot of taste at all, but my! They did make my salad happy.   Since the conversation at the table had turned to happy flowers I told them the story of my flowers this summer.   The other morning  I glanced out the back door and saw two bright spots in the fading garden. They were lone flowers waving bravely above the clover and weeds. I laughed.   “Look at those two flowers. Out of the three rows of flowers I planted this Spring, only two flowers came up. Disappointing, to say the least.   But, are they nothing but a disappointment? No, those flowers are delightful and possibly even more noticeable because there were only two.   I planted the rows of flowers in memory of a friend who died a couple of years ago. Besides, it reminded me of my Aunt Florence. Aunt Florence was Grandma Jones’ sister and her garden always seemed as much about flowers as food.   Then there was my Aunt Twyla. She always planted petunias in her flower beds. I loved the happy things and every Spring I plant some of my own. This year I put them on the front porch. There are still some of them blooming at the end of the porch.   But the crowning glory of my gardening this summer were the moss roses. The first time I ever saw moss roses was in California. Mom chose them because we lived in a desert and they work really well in severe heat and lots of sun.   “I’m going to plant moss roses on the back deck,” I enthusiastically informed  Bruce. “They will do well there. I love moss roses. They are so very beautiful.”  And on I went!   He was agreeable, but I could tell he didn’t understand my excitement.   So, I did. I planted several pots of moss roses and put them on the porch. Over the next few weeks they gradually gained their footing in the planters until one day they burst into a riotous mass of color. When I looked out onto...

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What is a Double Cousins Anyway?

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Blog, Double Cousins |

This week I visited two schools and spoke to nine classes. I found myself answering the question, “What does it mean to be a double cousin?” Several times. So, this afternoon I thought: Why not write a blog on that topic! Then I remembered something. I think I did that before! So I went back in my Double Cousins blog and found it.  So, this is a somewhat edited repeat from January of 2011. I hope it helps you understand! The Original Double Cousins When I chose the name for my book I had no idea that the term “Double Cousins” would be such a difficult concept for people. It was not difficult for me. In fact, it seemed rather normal. I guess not every family has the history that mine does. Let me explain. In 1929 my Grandma’s sister, Florence Trunnell married Ervin Jones. Shortly thereafter, my Grandma went to visit her sister and new brother-in-law and Ervin’s brother George was there. Evidently they noticed each other. In fact, they were married in 1930, after Grandma turned eighteen. George and Mildred Jones, early 1931 These events inevitably connected these two families—not once—but twice for all time. Ervin and Florence were married more than fifty years and Grandpa and Grandma Jones (George and Mildred) were married 67 years.There were eight children born out of these two marriages and they are double cousins. Through the past 71 years these two families have met over and over. Still, every other summer the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren of Grandpa and Grandma Jones’ siblings meet in Broken Bow, NE for a reunion. What started as the George and Mildred Jones family reunion now encompasses any of my dad’s cousins and families that want to come. This includes the double cousins. The original double cousins. While I was growing up, this GREAT aunt and uncle came and went in our lives depending on where we lived in relation to them. Florence and Ervin were especially influential in our lives during the year-and-a-half between mothers. When Mommy died Grandma and Aunt Florence sewed our clothes. When we got snowed in at Christmas, we hunkered down and then went to Florence and Ervin’s at New Year’s to meet Grandma and Grandpa Jones and celebrate. They showed up on our door step to say hi, trade a few things, or just love on us with their presence. They were like another set of Grandparents. I wish I had realized how special they were to me in time to tell them. . . Florence and Ervin Jones, December 31, 1976 George and Mildred, approximately 1973  Fast forward two generations. In 1986 my sister, Cheryl married Norman Eggers. In 1993 my brother, Clark married Cindy Eggers.   Clark and Cindy (Eggers) Jones and Cheryl (Jones) and Norman Eggers Their twelve children are double cousins. The Jones and Eggers families are connected just like the Trunnell and Jones families. It is an amazing thing to watch. These twelve cousins are great friends....

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The Power of Another Big Person

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

It is no secret that my husband and I love children. They are some of our favorite people. But we don’t have any at our house.   Over the years we each developed friendships where we were able to invest time and love in the lives of children. It just came naturally. Now some of those children are grown up with children of their own.   That investment can reap great dividends.   Recently we attended the funeral of one of Bruce’s long-time friends. I knew they were close, way back when. I knew they valued their friendship. I also knew that their now-adult daughter valued her relationship with “Uncle Bruce.” The story goes that back in grad school if her Mama couldn’t find her, all she had to do was go over to Uncle Bruce’s and she would find them reading a book or making cookies. So I knew all of this.   But when we arrived at the funeral and Bruce greeted mother and daughter, it was obvious that this friendship meant more than I realized. This was a young woman who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Uncle Bruce’s love would help during this trying time. She counted on it.   Last Spring I had the privilege of speaking to a group of ladies at a church in Nebraska. Much to my surprise, many of the girls were from a Jr./Sr. High Sunday School class which I had taught were there. It was one of those full-circle moments. Here I was standing in front of them again. But this time they were all grown up, some with junior/senior high girls of their own! Then, this summer I was able to see another of their group and we keep in contact through Facebook. I love seeing them post messages about what God is doing in their lives.                     It all reminds me of a conversation I had with a professor in college many years ago. He shared with me just how much he and his wife depended on some of the single people who—as he put it—came along side and helped influence their children for God.   That’s what we are. Come-Along-Siders. Influencers. And we aren’t stopping.   There’s an entire new generation out there who need an Uncle Bruce and Aunt Miriam too!...

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Reading The End First

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

A not so well-known fact about this author is that I read the end of books first. Well, at least after the first or second chapter. When I begin to connect with the characters I start worrying that it won’t turn out well for them. So I just have to read the end to make sure they are still all alive.   I am a happily ever after reader.  If an author betrays my trust by killing off a main character, or leaving things unfinished I am unlikely to read more books by that author. I don’t trust them anymore.   So, when my Bible reading took me to Psalm 77 it left me a little unsettled. The passage reminded me of America today. In verses 7-9 the following questions are posed. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?                          Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?                         Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. The Psalmist was in agony over this question, “Has God written us off?”   Since I’ve often wondered this about America, I read on in hopes of finding good news.   Here’s what I found. In verses 10-20 we see what our responses should be. The Psalmist says in verse 10,   This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.   This sets the stage for the rest of the chapter. The Psalmist, in the midst of uncertainty over God’s blessing on his world would remember the goodness and past blessing of the Lord.   Then it ends. Yep, that’s right. Read it for yourself.   The Psalmist never answers the question posed in verses seven to nine. It just ends.   ARGHHHH! Sigh.   My husband likes to tease that he is going to remove the last chapter from my next new book and hide it until I’ve read the rest of the book. I like to tell him that I’m pretty sure he is too smart to do that. If he really did that I would probably have to find the book elsewhere to read the end, or find somebody who knows the end of the story. I might even do a web search for a synopsis of the plot and read the end there. I would find a way!   But, in this case there is a difference.  The author of this Psalm is ultimately God. He inspired the Psalmist. So, in this situation I need to relax, remember who God is, follow the leader, and trust the author. But, then maybe that’s exactly what the Psalmist was saying in the last verse of the chapter.   Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Psalm 77:20   I can follow the Good Shepherd with confidence, no matter the outcome. And THAT, my...

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Chocolate Chip Cookie and Coffee Friendships

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Blog, Home Is Where The Story Starts |

I often laugh and tell people that the way to find out my life story is to give me chocolate chip cookies and coffee. It’s guaranteed to work.   I’m not kidding.   Back in the dark ages—well, the late 1980’s—I spent a year in Sheridan, Wyoming in nursing school. It was a grand adventure for me but the real value of the year wasn’t fully realized for years to come.   The first week I was there was kind of lonely. The older couple I was living with was gone on vacation and school hadn’t started. So, when the Pastor’s wife invited me to ride with their family up into the mountains for the annual church picnic I jumped at the opportunity. “Just come to the house and we’ll go from there,” she said.   When I arrived Donna had just brewed a fresh pot of coffee and was making chocolate chip cookies. While she finished the cookies and packed food for the picnic I drank a cup of coffee and ate a couple of cookies. Fast forward ten minutes. (That’s how long it takes coffee to kick in.)   I started talking and within thirty minutes she knew my life story. Now, I maintain that it wasn’t just the coffee and cookies. Donna is one of those people who invite confidence with a couple of simple questions. She is just sincerely interested.   That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!   Anyway, we have laughed about it over the years as our friendship grew.  During the year in Sheridan I babysat their children and spent many hours at their table visiting and seeking advice. Once I graduated and moved home I returned as frequently as I could. Over the years I attended graduations and weddings, we shared sorrows, joys, successes, and failures. I remember many conversations around their table with me seeking advice from this dear friend and her husband. And most of those times included coffee and sometimes chocolate chip cookies too!   For years Donna prayed diligently for me that God would send me a husband. I learned the precious truth of the value of a praying friend. Finally, God answered.   Since the wedding we had not seen each other. It had been nine years. That is a long time! But often, the mug I would pick from my mug wall was one of the two that Donna had given me. We occasionally spoke by phone, Donna always remembered my birthday and our anniversary, and I kept in contact with their children online.   This summer, when we were out in South Dakota we made the extra little trip over to Sheridan. I showed my husband around this town that I love. We went to church and I was able to introduce him to the people and church that have meant so much to me through the years. I had pictures taken with my friends and their children and their children’s children. Yes,...

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