Category Archives: writing

Why Wildflowers? by Sherrie Hansen

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Perhaps I carried a bouquet of goldenrod for good luck at some point in my life, because I certainly feel lucky to have visited Scotland three times – so far.

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As fans of Outlander know, most books set in Scotland revolve around highlanders, kilts, and keeps. My Wildflowers of Scotland novels (Thistle Down, a novella, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William, and Golden Rod) are modern-day mixtures of romance and suspense with the Scottish countryside as a backdrop.

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They’re also colorful tales, rich in symbolism of wildflowers.

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There are plenty of dark, misty vales, cold, stone castles, and drab, colorless cottages scattered through Scotland. What I love most about the wee wildflowers of Scotland is that they provide the perfect bit of contrast, a much needed dash of color to an otherwise harsh landscape. I hope you can see the Scotland I love in the bouquet of wildflowers I’ve picked for you.

Thistle

THISTLE DOWN – A common, prickly, purple thistle saved the day when an Englishman doing reconnaissance stepped on a particularly thorny specimen and let out a howl, alerting Scottish guards to an imminent invasion by the English. We can all be a bit oblivious at times, especially when we’re up against hard rock on one side and well, hard rock on the other side, too. There’s nothing like the sharp bite of a prickly plant to make you appreciate what you have and see the beauty in your own backyard.

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Such is the premise for my novella, Thistle Down when tenderhearted Pastor Ian MacCraig tries to keep a pair of prickly sisters from marrying the wrong men. Emily Downey has found the perfect groom. If only she loved the man… Chelsea Downey is wild about her boyfriend. Trouble is, he’s two-timing her and everyone sees it but her. Their thorny situation gets even stickier when the church ladies come up with a plan. Can Pastor Ian MacCraig weed out the thistles and get to the heart of the matter in time to save the day?

 

 

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WILD ROSE – Wild roses symbolize perfect happiness, love at first sight, joy and gladness, and happy, forever love. Like other wildflowers, they’re hardy, stubborn and determined to find a foothold whether they be planted atop a stone wall, set amongst ruins, or left to fend for themselves along the side of the motorway. But even the sturdiest of wildflowers can be trampled on when their generous hearts are abused by ones not so honest or caring.

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Such was the case when Rose Wilson learned that Digby, the online friend she met for what she thought was a harmless rendezvous, was a common criminal. Enter Pastor Ian MacCraig, who is trying to capture the thief who is stealing artifacts from his kirk (Saint Conan’s on Loch Awe, Scotland.) The last thing he expects to find on his video is a woman engaging in a passionate romp under the flying buttresses. Rose is mortified and the church ladies are appalled to learn that Pastor Ian, the board of Wilson Enterprises, the constable, and half the town have had a glimpse of Rose half naked. What remains to be seen is how far Ian will go to defend Rose’s honor and if the church ladies will forgive Rose now that they know who she really is… and if Rose can believe she’s worthy of someone as good and kind as Ian MacCraig. Are Wild Rose and Pastor Ian MacCraig a match made in heaven or one hell of a predicament?

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BLUE BELLE – Bluebells are one of my favorite flowers. The first harbingers of spring, they’re known for their humility, kindness and constancy. They’re as down-to-earth as my characters, and like any springtime bloomer, all the sweeter because you have to endure a bit of weather each year before they return.

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Just as bluebells hide in off-the-beaten path forest glens, Isabelle has traveled to the ends of the earth to try to escape her past. Psychologist Michael is also hiding out, as far removed from his relatives and his practice in Wisconsin as he can get. When Damon starts searching for the centuries-old gold he thinks is buried at Tobermory Bay, it won’t matter what walls Michael and Isabelle think they are hiding behind. Rocks will fall. Castles will crumble. No secret will be safe. Set in colorful Tobermory, Scotland, on the Isle of Mull, it becomes very clear in Blue Belle that timing is everything – and that sometimes, you just have to jump.

 

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SHY VIOLET – Eilean Donan Castle, near Dornie, Scotland, is a modest castle – not as big, old, nor fancy as many, Eilean Donan is subtle and understated as castles go. Perhaps that’s why it’s grown to be so iconic. In Scotland, it’s “aboot” the simple, everyday things of life, pleasures born both of need and necessity. That’s why, if you keep your eyes open, you’re sure to see majesty galore in nature’s quiet offerings… a shy violet hiding behind a rock, a blush of heather in the hills, a splash of rhododendrons growing deep in the woods.

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Maybe that’s why shy Violet has been so long overlooked in her search for true love even though her name signifies that her thoughts are occupied with the fanciful notion. Violet has always put great stock in the virtues of modesty and faithfulness – particularly faithful love. But that ship has sailed right along with the pirate boat Violet jumped aboard, thinking she could hide from a string of bad decisions in her past. Violet didn’t even know Nathan existed when she inadvertently met his father and ruined any chance of a future with his son. But part of the violet’s essence is to take a chance on happiness. No one knows what will happen when Violet meets a bagpiper whose music spans the centuries in front of a castle with a troubled history. But is Violet fleeing the present only to collide with the past?

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SWEET WILLIAM – Sweet William is equated with gallantry, childlike awe, and the sensation of getting lost in a whole new world of wonder and enchantment. William McKnight is a true sweetheart, and as gallant a man as you’ll ever see, always ready with a smile. From Lyndsie Morris’s tart, hardscrabble childhood, there has gown a spirited flower with character and determination and a true appreciation of the things that really matter in life.

Sweet William Front Cover

But when Minnesota farm boy, William, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear. Set in the Highlands near Eilean Donan Castle, on the Isle of Skye, and in volatile Minnesota, they face the harshest of conditions. Will their love take hold and bloom or will stormy weather crush the romance that’s blossoming between them?

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GOLDEN ROD – Goldenrod flowers are thought to hold many symbols – from caution to encouragement, luck to good fortune. Superstitious folklore advises people to carry a bouquet of goldenrod flowers when seeking out treasure or venturing forth on new, but risky, ventures.

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All of these themes and more are explored in Golden Rod as the reader gets to know Lachlan—a centuries old castle overlooking Loch Carron, Scotland; Kacie—a twelve-year-old girl whose dying wish is to see it; Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary MacKenzie—500-year-old ghosts who desperately want to escape it; Golden-Haired, Most Fair, Prince Rod of Lachlan—the rightful heir who wants to live there happily ever after; and Katelyn O’Neal—the well-intentioned but clueless legal heir who’s about to pay a high price for selling Lachlan to a lowlife scum. Golden Rod is a two-week romp through a lifetime of legends and risky ventures, of bad luck and old curses turned to golden wishes. Rod MacKenzie is a gentle gardener and sometimes sailor born of adversity, and so much more lovable than Buck, the arrogant showoff who now owns the castle. How similar to the way of Scottish wildflowers – blooming not in showy profusion, but cropping up here and there in solitary clumps to bloom wherever there is a bit of fertile soil.

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If you’re a lover of wildflowers – wherever they blossom – and most particularly, Scotland, you’ll find the quaint surroundings – and the pirates, pipers and tales of days past that are part of Sherrie Hansen’s novels – to be fascinating. I encourage you to clutch a bunch of goldenrod and take a risk – try a new author!

~~~

Sherrie - bluebells

Twenty-seven years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and has lived in Wheaton, IL, Bar Harbor, Maine, Lawton, OK, Augsburg, Germany, and Colorado Springs, CO. After 12 years of writing fiction, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker. Mark and Sherrie divide their time between a cottage in St. Ansgar, and the parsonage where Mark serves as pastor. Their two houses are 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. In her “free time”, Sherrie quilts, makes music on the piano, plays with her camera, renovates old houses, travels to the far off corners of the world, and goes on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. Her new release, Daybreak, is her twelfth novel to be published by Indigo Sea Press. Sherrie’s books have been called “the thinking woman’s romance” and her latest books also contain elements of suspense. While many of Sherrie’s books contain issues of faith and family, some also include “steamy” scenes, and some, a candid combination of both. Most are “second chance at romance” stories with primary characters aged 30 to 50. Many of Sherrie’s books contain at least one special quilt.

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Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

https://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Hansen/e/B007YXQJ4W

http://www.BlueBelleInn.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

 Daybreak in Denmark (3)

Books Titles: New Release:  Daybreak, sequel to Night & Day, Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, Sweet William and Golden Rod, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2)

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

Bouchercon World Mystery Convention

I normally write something about writing in general or about my life in my blog, but this month I hope my publisher will pardon the account of my adventure of the last several days.

Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, this year began Wednesday, September 5th and ended early Sunday afternoon at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is named for Anthony Boucher (rhymes with voucher), famous writer, reviewer and editor, is held each year in a different city and is organized by a group of volunteers. The authors represented are literally from all over the world.

The people who attend are fans, authors, agents, publishers, booksellers, and other people who enjoy reading mystery and crime fiction. This year we numbered almost 2,000. The first Bouchercon was held in Santa Monica, California in 1970 and there have been others in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; St. Louis, MO; Anchorage, AK; Austin, TX; Madison, WI; Washington, D.C.; Denver, CO; Toronto, Canada; to mention just a few.

Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine announces the Barry Awards each year at the Bouchercon opening ceremonies. This year those prizes went to:

Best Novel: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

Best First Novel: The Dry by Jane Harper

Best Paperback Original: The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens

Best Thriller: Unsub by Meg Gardiner

Attendees of the convention register and receive a book bag filled with books from publishers along with a Bouchercon book which contains ads for books and author’s biographies complete with photos, so we can recognize authors we don’t know by face, a schedule of events, maps of the hotel so we can find our way to various panels, Guests of Honors’ biographies and a listing of candidates and their books for the prestigious Anthony Awards which is announced at an awards ceremony on Saturday night.

Each day we all traipse to different panels that might be of interest covering all sorts of subjects. Some are funny, some are about the craft of writing, some are about helpful thoughts or experiences authors have had and are eager to share. After the panels, we rush to the book signing area to get authors to sign books we have purchased in the on-site book store and often to get a photo taken with said author.

In between all this, there are times when we may see an author we admire sitting in an alcove in the lobby area. They are always so friendly and willing to talk and share their experiences. It’s just amazing how giving mystery authors are.

The Guests of Honor this year were:

American Guests of Honor: Sean Chercover and Karin Slaughter

International Guests of Honor: Mark Billingham and Sara Blaedel

Lifetime Achievement (And Not Done Yet) Honoree: Ian Rankin

Toastmaster: Lisa Unger

Florida Guest of Honor: Tim Dorsey

Fan Guest of Honor: Judy Bobalik and Ayo Onatade

Ghost of Honor: John D. MacDonald

This Years’s Charity: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

 

And the nominees for the Anthony Award were:  (Winners in bold print)

Best Novel: 

  Bluebird Bluebird by  Attica Locke

The Force  by Don Winslow

Glass Houses  by Louise Penny

The late Show  by Michael Connelly

 Magpie Murder  by Anthony Horowitz

 

Best first Novel:

The Dry  by Jane Harper

Hollywood Homicide  by Kellye Garrett

The Last Place You Look  by Kristen Lepionka

Ragged; or, The Lovliest Lies of All  by Christopher Irvin

She Rides Shotgun  by Jordan Harper

 

Best Paperback Original: 

Bad Boy Boogie  by Thomas Pluck

Cast the First Stone  by James W. Ziskin

The Day I Died  by Lori Rader-Day

  Uncorking a Lie  by Nadine Nettman

What We Reckon  by Eryk Pruitt

 

Best Critical or Nonfiction Book:

Chester B. Himes: A Biography by Lawrence P. Jackson

From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon by Mattias  Boström

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

  Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction by Jessica Lourey

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards

 

Best Short Story

  “God’s Gonna Cut You Down  by Jen Conley

“My Side of the Matter”  by Hilary Davidson

“A Necessary Ingredient” by Art Taylor

“The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place” by Debra Goldstein

“The Trial of Madame Pelletier”  by Susanna Calkins

“ Whose Wine Is It Anyway” by barb Goffman

 

Best Anthology

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea- Andrew McAleer & Paul D. Marks, Editors

Just to Watch Then Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash-Joe Clifford, Editor

Killing Maimon-Dan & Kate Maimon, editors

 The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir-Gary Phillips, editor

Passport to Murder, Bouchercon Anthology 2017-John McFetridge, editor

 

Best Online Content

  BOLO Books

Do Some Damage: An Inside Look at Crime Fiction

Dru’s Book Musings

Jungle Red Writers

Writer Types Podcast

 

Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series

Dangerous Ends (Pete Fernandez #3)  by Alex Sequra

Give Up the Dead (Jay Porter #3)  by Joe Clifford

Glass Houses (Armand Gamache #13)  by Louise Penny

Two Kinds of Truth (Harry Bosch#20)  by Michael Connelly

  Y is for Yesterday ( Kinsey Millhone #25)  by Sue Grafton

 

All in all, Bouchercon this year was another exhilarating and exhausting few days of events. It was wonderful seeing old friends and making new ones, finding authors I had not read before and connecting with established ones, seeing some getting their well-earned rewards and being disappointed for others. And for you, dear readers, perhaps I’ve given you some names of authors to try for the first time. Next year Dallas, Texas will be the host city. Until then…

 

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under books, Contests, marketing, writing

A Tribute to My Precious Husband of Forty-eight Years … by Maribeth Shanley

I recently read an article about a woman and her wedding that she canceled.

The bride wanted a lavish wedding.  It was a very big deal for her to enter her marriage with the obligatory fairytale celebration.  Once she finalized her plan, she figured the cost.  Although she desperately wanted her elaborate wedding, she realized she could not afford the event.  So she did something she thought was clever.  She sent out invitations with one stipulation.  She asked each attendee to pay $1,500.00 to attend her wedding.

As I read this article, I considered her request absurd and self-indulgent.  I thought, Perhaps if she weren’t so greedy and asked for a donation vs. a wedding gift, she may have been pleased with the outcome.  She would have at least been able to offset her cost a little bit.  I also thought about Bob’s and my wedding.

As I learned forty-eight years ago this Sept. 5th, it isn’t the actual wedding ceremony that matters.  Instead, what does matter are the years of marriage after the ceremony.

Young disco Bob and me       Young Bob

I was twenty-two when I met Bob. I met him the very first night after moving from my parent’s home in New Jersey to Washington, D.C.   I planned to work for the Federal Government for one year, then enter a program where the Government would send me overseas to work.  I wanted to relocate to Brussels, Belgium.  Although at twenty-two, I was unaware of my behind-the-scenes’ reason, I now realize I wanted, no, I needed to move as far away from my parents as I possibly could.  I needed to find out who I was and what I was capable of accomplishing.  I was never a prisoner of my past.  I absolutely refused to become a prisoner of something I had no control over.  I was me, not him.  I always looked forward and dwelled in the sunshine of life.  That was what I chose for myself!  My father lived in a dark, dingy, corrupt world all by himself.  I lived in another world, my own world I created, then, with Bob, we created.  My father tried to destroy me, but I called his bluff and became independent, happy and married to the most incredible man on this planet.  Oh, I never made it to Brussels.  However, with Bob, I did indeed move as far away as I possibly could from my parents and my childhood.

I was the oldest girl of six offspring.  For as long as I could remember, my parents promised me a big wedding.  That never happened.  Instead, and because I embraced my freedom with far too much eagerness, my parents turned their backs on me. I married a man who, at age eighteen, married a young girl with whom a pregnancy had occurred. Doing the right thing, Bob married the young girl.  That marriage ended in divorce not too long after.

I was raised in the Catholic Church, yes, the one that is populated by pedophiles. I was molested from the age of six until I can’t recall when, not by a priest, but, by a man, who intended to become a priest. After spending a short time in a seminary, the man returned home to marry the woman he met before leaving for the seminary. That man was my father. The woman was my mother.

When I announced that I would marry Bob, it was a given that, to stay in good graces with my parents, we would marry in the Catholic Church. However, the sinful Catholic Church was also the most judgmental of all organized religions as it banned marriage between a Catholic and a divorced person. However, in 1970, there was a loop-hole.

If Bob renounced his daughter, in the eyes of the Church, his marriage would be considered annulled, thus canceling out his marriage.  Bob was willing to do that for me. He wanted to marry me. At the time, we had no idea what was to happen only a month later. However, I refused to cave into what I considered a despicable request.  I was not about to start my marriage with cruelty.  I considered it cruel to label Bob’s daughter as a bastard daughter, thus, we announced to my parents that we would not marry in what I considered the obnoxious Catholic Church.  Instead, our ceremony would take place in a Unitarian Church.  That church’s pastor would perform the ceremony.  That was the end of my big wedding.

Bob and Me on Wedding Day

Nonetheless, we invited my parents. They did come to our wedding but intentionally dressed in casual old clothes. They were there for one reason only.  They wanted to see if I would follow through on marrying outside of the Catholic Church. I suspect they hoped that their presence would intimidate me into backing out of the ceremony and walking away from Bob.  They, especially my father, were extreme arrogant individuals who had no business getting married in the first place.  More, they were so inadequate as individuals, they should never, ever have had children, let alone, six children.

Hoping they would come to celebrate our marriage, Bob and I bought corsages for them, and my grandmother, who accompanied my parents.  However, my parents refused to accept the corsages.  Instead, they were hostile toward the pastor who offered the flowers to them.  Also,  they had so brainwashed my younger sister, Colleen, with disparaging words about what I was doing and the mortal sin I was committing, that, in the middle of the ceremony, Colleen had to rush out of the Church. She left because she needed to throw up.

I wanted a white dress for my wedding but knew neither Bob nor I could afford a wedding dress.  I was resigned to accepting a more humble wedding when my older brother stepped in.  He had just received a settlement from a former employer, so he offered to pay for my wedding dress.  Additionally, Danny walked me down the aisle. Later, we had a small reception held at Danny’s apartment.  Two ironies occurred after we married.

The first irony took place on the evening Bob, and I returned from our honeymoon which we spent camping in a farmer’s pasture in West Virginia where we spent several previous weekends caving, i.e., spelunking, in the wild caves of West Virginia.  That evening, Bob’s father called to tell Bob that, due to child abuse, his daughter, Kim, had been removed from her mother’s home.  Not only was she removed, but Bob’s father put pressure on Bob to fly out to California where Kim, her mother and mother’s boyfriend lived, to bring Kim back to the Washington D.C. area and his new marriage.

When Bob and I were to be married, we decided that we did not want children. That decision was more my decision than his.  Years later I learned that my decision resulted from the trauma I endured at the hands of my father.  Without realizing, I suffered from PTSD which haunted me into my forties for what my father did to me.   However, knowing Kim’s situation, I didn’t tell Bob not to go to California, thus, one month after marrying Bob, I became a mother of a seven-year-old, who, and resulting from suffering abuse was a very difficult child to raise.   We would learn later that Kim was deaf in one ear resulting from being struck by the boyfriend using his beer bottle on the side of her deaf ear.

The second irony occurred in April of the following year.  My younger sister, Colleen, who had flunked out of college, decided to marry a young man she met at college.  She would have the wedding denied me.  Several months earlier, my father, a U.S. Naval officer, had been reassigned to the Pentagon just across the Potomac River from  Washington D.C.  My parents were now living in one of the suburbs.

Bob, Kim and I were visiting my parent’s new home that evening during which wedding plans were discussed.  Colleen and my parents asked me to be Colleen’s Maid of Honor. No one considered my feelings; but, that was normal in my family.  However, I was so hurt, that I did express my feelings as I also refused to play a part in her wedding.  Bob, Kim and I attended the wedding.  However, we did not engage with my parents as we, my parents, Bob and I were in the midst of a cold war that lasted for several years.

There’s also a third irony that followed.  I am one of six siblings.  I am the only off-spring for whom a wedding was not paid for by my parents.  They did, in fact, foot the bill for each of their five children, including both boys.  Ironically, all five of my siblings have divorced the spouse the ceremony celebrated and, except for one brother, remarried. On the other hand, I am still married to and very much in love with my first and only husband, Bob.

On September 5th, Bob and I will celebrate our 48th Wedding Anniversary.  That’s not only an event.  Instead,  it’s also a genuinely joyous affair.  Bob and I are not only husband and wife, but we’re best of friends and have been each other’s cheerleaders for all forty-eight years.  Those forty-eight years annulled the manner in which our marriage began.  We know what is important and what is not important.

No wedding, regardless of the lavishness or expense, can compare to the solid bonds that we have formed over all these years.  Forming those bonds, however, comes with a solid dedication to the love we first felt for one another.  That dedication requires lots of work as we worked through the tough times.  We did the work, and now we are about to celebrate the result of that work.  We both hope there are many more years to enjoy with each other as we grow old, wrinkled, and slower physically and mentally.  It’s not only a feat to celebrate 48 years together; it’s a glorious feat.

Young me on Bob's bike

Someone recently commented to me, “Wait until Bob is around constantly, you will get sick of him.” My dogged answer:  Bob and I have not only been married for forty-eight years but, during those forty-eight years, we’ve done everything together.  When Bob goes to car races or car shows, I go too. When Bob began riding a motorcycle, I not only rode on the back but, I purchased a motorcycle so we could fully enjoy our adventures together.  Bob has always accompanied me as we did things I like to do.  That includes everything except shopping.  Ha, ha, I go by myself, but, Bob is with me even then.  He never complains about anything I buy for myself.  As I am for Bob, he’s a true friend and my most loyal supporter.   Several weeks ago, I spotted and purchased a plaque that resonated with me.  It reads, “When I first saw you, I knew an adventure was about to begin.”

❤…  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, BOB …

Life with you has been a magnificent adventure.  You are my one and only hero!

 

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Filed under Maribeth Shanley, writing

Summer: Where did it go? by John E. Stack

After a pretty rough school year, I was looking forward to getting some things done around the house. During the school year, I had to learn a new subject area, Social Studies. As much as history does not change, I really do not remember something I studied 20/45+ years ago (college second time and high school). Anyway, most of my normal free-time during the school year did not exist. I even had very difficult time feeding my reading addiction.
Last summer, I was able to undertake a bedroom/bathroom renovation (still haven’t found the right bathroom light fixture). But, I didn’t get the bedroom furniture refinished or the shower door replaced. Those were on my list for this summer. I also wanted to build a couple of new cabinets for the bathroom.
After taking a few weeks for relaxation/vacation, I planned to get things done. We spent a week up in the mountains of North Carolina, visited Chattanooga, Tennessee and a quick day trip to Helen, Georgia.
While in Chattanooga, we visited this beautiful place called Ruby Falls. After waiting in line or a couple of hours, we took a elevator one hundred and twenty-some feet down into the earth. We walked for about forty-five minutes through a maze of tunnels to discover an underground waterfall. It was highlighted by various colored lights but was absolutely beautiful. It was well worth the time and trouble.
On the day before we were to leave to come home, we visited a small mountain town of Helen, Georgia, where we decided to go tubing. The water level was a little low, but we went anyway. About half way through, we got stuck on a rock. Before we could get dislodged we were hit by a large group of adults. Allie was shot out of her tube in into the river. I went in after her but luckily another set of tubers grabbed her and held on to her until I got there. She was okay, just a little shaken.  Walking back down the river to where my wife anchored our tubes, a rock rolled under my foot and down I went. Now, if I were a much smaller guy, I would probably have been okay. Needless to say, I’m not and my foot jammed into the river bed. Ended up with a broken little toe, a broken big toe and a boot. I’m just glad it was the last day of vacation and not the first.
That pretty much destroyed my work schedule. Since then, along with a few weeks of healing, I have been able to refinish all the bedroom furniture and replace the shower door. I may even get to complete one of the cabinets before school starts back in a couple of days.  May be I’ll post some pics when I get it done.

Oh yeah.  In regards to my habitual reading, I’ve completed at least three eBooks and  6 hardbacks.  Even though my foot is not fully healed, life is good.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and Cody’s Almost Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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Filed under fun, John Stack, life, writing

Oh Really!! Revisited by John E. Stack

Hi again, last month I wrote about some issues within the foster care system.  This month, I still find my self irritated, and I wanted to make a clarification.  I will start with the clarification first.  I made a statement that it costs the state around $1500 per month per child that is in foster care.  That is a true statement.

What might be misleading is people believing that the foster parents get this money.  We do not.  We do get a monthly stipend to help provide for the children that we have.  For newborn babies up to toddlers around 4 (it maybe older), foster parents receive less than $500 per month to buy clothing, diapers, wipes, and formula if they use over what WIC provides. Most months we are in the red.   We do not get paid to get up three or four times a night when the baby wakes up crying, we don’t get paid for colic, or taking time off work for doctor appointments.

I am thankful for social programs like WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and it may have different names in different states.  We normally have children who need special formulas.  WIC usually allows 8 – 10 cans per month.  One of our recent children needed a formula and the cost is $39 per can or around $390 per month.   Our daughter was on a formula that cost $49.95 per can and she went through a can every two days.  Thank you WIC because who can pay over $700 a month for formula.

What does it cost birth parents? (Remember, they are usually the reason their child is in foster care).  They get supervised visitation from 1 to 4 times a week at government expense.  They do not have to help provide for their child, not even diapers.  Some have to get counseling, take classes, get a diploma, get their license, get a job.  They do not have to get drug counseling, or parenting classes.

Why do we do foster parenting when there are so many problems with the system?  We look at this as a ministry.  We believe that this is a job that God wanted us to do and has provided us with the means to do so.  Most of the time it is hard work, but the blessings we receive make it worthwhile.

Sorry for the rant, but sometime you just have to get stuff out of your system. My wife had a mom ask how much we got paid to take care of the kids that were placed in foster care.  When my wife told her what we were paid, she could hardly believe it.  She had been told that we got several thousand a month.  Only in a perfect world…maybe there would be no need for foster parents.  What a concept.

Okay, off my rant.  Who knows what next month might hold in store.  May you be blessed in all you do.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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The Legalization of Marijuana – History Repeats Itself by: Maribeth Shanley

marijuan

I am in favor of legalizing marijuana. I now own stocks in this very complex industry and am looking forward to seeing how they do, especially when this October, Canada completes its goal of legalizing Marijuana recreationally, making it the first G7 nation to do so.  Uruguay was the first to nationally legalize recreational Marijuana.  Marijuana has been legal medically in all of Canada since 2001.

The legalization of marijuana both medicinally and recreationally will one day become a United States national mandate via an amendment to the Constitution. It will follow in the footsteps of alcohol, the sale of which was prohibited under the law via the Eighteenth Amendment and then repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. In the immediate future, however, we are watching marijuana being legalized State by State for either medicinal usage or, both medicinal and recreational use.

Marijuana gets its name from the Cannabis plant. According to historical records, Cannabis is the oldest crop known to humans. It’s been around for at least 5,000 years as physical evidence of its usage had been uncovered by archeologists as far back as the first millennium in India, Africa, China and the Assyrian Empire founded in 2500 BC.  Cannabis has a colorful and interesting history.

Hemp, a form of Cannabis was produced during the 17th century and widely used to produce clothing, rope and, most interesting, the sails of ships. Our first President George Washington was interested in farming hemp. He was also curious about its medicinal qualities and wrote about its usage in his journals in 1765. In fact, the earliest uses of the Cannabis plant was for medicinal purposes.

Medical Marijuana

Recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing Neurosurgeon, and the Chief Medical Correspondent to CNN produced a documentary called “Weed,” which explored the medicinal qualities of Cannabis. Gupta explains that, in the beginning, he opposed the use of Cannabis. In fact, he wrote a TIME magazine article in 2009 titled, “Why I Would Vote No on Pot.” When he completed his “Weed” project, he opened the documentary with the words: “Well, I am here to apologize.”

He continued, “I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”

Today Dr. Gupta is a strong proponent of legalizing marijuana, especially for medicinal applications. In a written appeal to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Gupta points out that, “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally.” In fact, Gupta stresses that marijuana could, in fact, save many people who are addicted to opioids.

Here in the U.S., in 1840, Marijuana was widely accepted as an ingredient in mainstream over-the-counter products. By 1850, the U.S. Pharmacopeia added marijuana to its prescription list as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, pain, an appetite stimulant and relief for nausea and vomiting. In 1862, VANITY AFFAIR advertised Hashish candy in its issue as a pleasant and harmless cure for melancholy and nervousness.

Between the years 1900 and 1930, marijuana became a medicinal ingredient in a variety of medicines. It was used to quell physical pain, muscle spasms and was also taken as a sedative. During that same period, our current imagined nemesis struck.

Mexican immigrants introduced marijuana as a recreation. History claims that, because marijuana became associated with Mexicans, people began to fear the drug.
Mexicans are the closest neighbors on our southern border. We should love and respect and welcome Mexicans as we do our northern neighbors, Canadians. However, as religion uses Satan to enforce a god-centric faith-based practice on its people, our government uses Mexico and its people as a means of enforcing conservative values on U.S. citizens.

Campaigns became popular across the U.S. referring to the recreational use of Cannabis as the “Mexican Menace.” Those campaigns led to the total ban of Cannabis by twenty-six states during 1914-1925. Enter the Great Depression of the 1930’s during which Cannabis was associated with the evil Mexicans as U.S. citizens lost their jobs and feared a continuance of joblessness attributed to jobs going to Mexicans. The more fear that Cannabis and its by-product Marijuana generated, the more the media played up the fears.

Reports began to pop up claiming that scientific research could tie the use of Marijuana to crime. One thing led to another as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics used the fake research and public fear to begin a process of criminalizing Marijuana. The Bureau went as far as claiming that Marijuana caused insanity. As a result of the entire anti-Marijuana campaign success, in 1936, all states passed a variety of laws criminalizing the use of Marijuana.

Even Hollywood got into the act as, in 1936, it released the film Reefer Madness, claiming that Marijuana led to violence, rape, suicide, and psychosis.

The anti-Marijuana campaign kept gaining fuel when, in 1942, the U.S. Pharmacopeia and doctors began to discredit all the medicinal uses as failures declaring Marijuana as useless against any medical condition. This campaign led to the 1944 report published by the New York Academy of Medicine claiming Marijuana was nothing more than a mild intoxicant. The Bureau of Narcotics subsequently released a report that appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry that attacked and discredited all previous positive claims associated with Cannabis and Marijuana in particular. In 1952, the Boggs Act passed. The act created strict regulations which, if broken, would lead to mandatory punishments up to and including incarceration for violating the regulations.

The tide began to once again change in 1962, when, during the Vietnam War, the counter-culture began using Marijuana for what it termed, a harmless high. Marijuana began to gain popularity again via college students, free-spirited Beats or Beatniks, anti-Vietnam war activists, hippies and other youth. Subsequently, both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Johnson commissioned reports that found that Marijuana did not induce violence or lead to the use of other more dangerous (some addictive) drugs.

Nonetheless, between 1965 and 1970, arrests at a State level dramatically increased as authorities cracked down on the use and distribution of Marijuana. The result was the 1970 Controlled Substance Act, as the Federal Government dropped Marijuana into the same Schedule I drug category the hallucinogen, LSD, and the highly addictive drug, heroin.

The Act claimed that Marijuana had absolutely zero medicinal benefits but led instead to a high level of abuse. The Act further created harsh penalties for the use or distribution of Marijuana causing otherwise, knowing doctors and scientists from prescribing or even studying the use of the plant and Marijuana in particular. However, three states ignored the Act as Oregon, Maine and Alaska decriminalized Marijuana. That led to the Shafer Committee recommendation that Marijuana should be decriminalized nationally for personal use. The recommendation was completely ignored by then President Nixon who was absorbed in an evolving criminal investigation of his own.

The following years of the 1970’s began a myriad of efforts to curtail all usage of Marijuana as it remained lumped in with all Schedule I drugs. For example, a parent’s against drugs movement began and picked up steam when TV ads sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse flooded the airwaves. By 1980-1990, Marijuana gained back its reputation as being the gateway to more dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. First Lady, Nancy Reagan also got into the act with her “Just Say No” campaign.

The end of the twentieth century, and, in particular, the Clinton Administration gave us the last heavy-hitting campaign against the use of Marijuana when Clinton poured $25 million into TV ads strategically placed during primetime TV shows warning of the consequences of drug use, in particular Marijuana.

Enter the twenty-first century, and the tides of change began to repeat history once again.

Although Marijuana remains illegal in most states, as of April 2018, Medical Marijuana is legal in 29 states, and it is legal for recreational use in nine states. On April 20th of this year, an unofficial yet national light-up holiday, also known as 420, was declared and celebrated. In 2017, Gallup reported that 64% of all Americans support legalization; and, for the first time, the majority of Republicans support legalization as well.

With recreational legalization in effect in some states and the District of Columbia as well, conundrums are taking place on a daily basis across the country.  For example, In Virginia, a person can be charged, fined and incarcerated, just across the line separating Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Hmm, I wonder what would happen if a person stood with one leg on Virginia soil and the other on D.C. soil while holding and puffing on a joint with his or her hand and mouth pointed toward the D.C. side of his or her person?

With legalization and, more importantly to the future of legalization, public approval of the Cannabis product Marijuana, medical usage, and confirmation of the benefits proven on a daily basis will march forward.  Here are a handful of benefits of medical use of Marijuana.

1. Control of and reduction of epileptic seizures. In fact, Marijuana is purported to be far more effective than conventional anticonvulsants.

2. Helps people suffering from PTSD. Marijuana cannabinoids manage the body’s system that causes fear and anxiety, helping patients forget painful events and form new memories. This one is good news from troops returning from combat duty in Afghanistan for instance!

3. Marijuana protects the brain after it suffers a stroke. Some research shows that it may reduce the size of the area affected by the stroke and lessen the bruising of the brain after a traumatic injury.

4. Marijuana lessens the pain caused by Multiple Sclerosis. A Canadian study found that pot’s active ingredient, THC, reduces pain by binding to nerve receptors.

5. Marijuana reduces pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Published in 2006 in a Rheumatology journal study, scientists compared Marijuana to placebos. The Marijuana produced statistically significant improvements of pain at rest and quality of sleep.

6. Cannabis alleviates the side-effects of Chemotherapy as it reduces pain, suppresses nausea, and stimulates appetite. All of these side-effects stem from the harsh chemicals used to treat cancer.

7. Marijuana may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. A study conducted in 2006 showed that THC blocked the enzyme that produces the amyloid plaques responsible for killing brain cells in Alzheimer patients.

Having been a child of the hippie and anti-Vietnam War generation, once I moved away from my parents’ home, I began smoking Marijuana. I smoked through college and beyond. However, when the Fortune 500 Spice Company, McCormick purchased the company I was working for at the time and brought over its sales force which I was a part of, I abruptly stopped. I fell victim to the times when fear of losing my career was a reality. I was asked to take a drug test.

Fortunately, the request came between Thanksgiving and Christmas of that year. I was able to postpone the test as I abstained for several weeks then paid for a test to make sure I could pass the “official” test. I did. That event, however, put the fear of losing my career in me so, for me, inhaling became history.

After researching for this blog, I wonder if I could have found relief from the pain I confronted when my mother died, and I crashed into the agony of my past. After all, my father who molested me as a child was still alive and in control of the family narrative and all my sibling’s reactions to my getting help to deal with the pain of those memories. Although my father never denied what he did, he denied the severity and blamed me for the breakup of “the family.” To this day, I have a relationship with only one sibling. The remaining five continue to hold me in contempt.

Canada and Marijuana

Personally, I am looking forward to watching the legalization of Marijuana in the huge country of Canada. I hope I make some significant money from the stocks I now own as a result of joining an investment group and investing in several of these stocks. I also look forward to using the gains to buy more stocks associated with the Marijuana industry as well as other medical advancements to supplement my husband’s, and my retirement income. Furthermore, I hope the eventual federal legalization in the U.S. ends the cycle of repeating history for this one plant and all its by-products and benefits which are currently known, and scientists will discover in the future!  Lastly, I look forward to discoveries of medical marijuana to help cure cancer.  I have a dear friend I would give my right arm for to have the words, “I’m cured,” to fall from her lips.  I was the person who introduced her and encouraged her to look into the use of marijuana.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that she was ready and already looking for anything to help her fight the enemy , “Big C.”

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Oh Really!! by John E. Stack

Hey.  Sorry I missed last month and if I’m intruding on anyone today, I apologize.  Having a baby with colic is not a lot of fun.  That, with school winding down and teen attitudes going up, I missed it.  So, here I try again.

When a baby has colic it usually lasts around four months, ours is 5 months.  For those that do not know what colic is, it is gas that causes severe abdominal cramps.  Now, where some enjoy a good bout of gas, little ones are not so appreciative.

Anyway, our local newspaper published a article this week that said, “Parents abusing drugs led to more than half of (our county’s) foster care cases.” The article went further to say that state-wide of the 16,500 children in foster-care in 2017 that 39% were placed due to opioid use by parents or family members.

Of all the babies that we have had in care a large majority were born addicted to multiple illegal drugs, prescription drugs and/or alcohol.  I don’t know if you have ever seen an adult go through withdrawal, but it is tough.  Imagine going through that being only days old.  Many start seizing within hours of being born and continue to detox for three to four months.  It is truly pitiful, with what these little ones are put through.

More often than not, these parents will have several children in foster care, all born with drugs in their systems.  In North Carolina, it is not against the law for a mother to give birth positive to drugs or her baby to be positive to drugs.  If the mother would give the child drugs after they gave birth, she would go to jail.  This does not make sense to me.

The law-makers here need to open their eyes.  If you just look at the monetary costs alone, the state pays over $1500 per month per child in foster-care.  This does not take into account the social programs that also spend their budgets for the same.  Do the math:  $1500 x 12 months (average time in foster-care) x 16,500 children.  That is around $300 million per year just for foster care in North Carolina alone.  The birth parents pay nothing.

Parents that abuse drugs and in-turn have babies born addicted should go to prison, even on the first offense.  Allowing this is wrong and the law-makers know it.  They just refuse to do anything about it.  Should they never sleep well until the children become more important than their other pet projects.

Well, that is my soapbox.  Children are more important than the parents rights to abuse drugs.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

 

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Those Eyes (Black Eyed Children) – Part 2 by LV Gaudet

twins black eyed children

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

The shed door creaks open, the blazing sunlight outside burning my eyes and blinding them as they flutter open.  My head feels like it had been stepped on.  A lot.

“What the hell are you doing in the shed?” a man’s voice growls at me.

My whole body is stiff and I wonder why I am huddled on the dirty floor of a wooden shed.

Trying to move with the least amount of pain in my joints, I flex gingerly, sitting up and rubbing the blurriness out of my eyes.

It takes them time to adjust and focus on the angry face of Mr. Alfred Gordon, my neighbor from up the street.

“I asked you a question.  What the hell are you doing in the shed?”

I half expected the belligerent “buddy” to be added to that.  But that would have been suggestive of an angry stranger, not neighbors who have shared a neighborly sometimes casual indifference, sometimes aloof friendly relationship for years.

“Sorry,” I manage, wondering why my voice sounds so strange to my own ears.

Filled with embarrassed shame and still with no memory of how or why I ended up in the neighbor’s shed, I manage to stagger stiffly to my feet.  Hanging my head in shame, I apologetically walk past him, wishing I were anywhere else in the world at this very moment.  Ducking my head in further shame as I squeeze by, I avoid looking at him.

I don’t want to see the curiosity.  The weird questioning look.  The irritation at the irrational crazy neighbor he found hiding in his shed.

A vague recollection comes to me of having locked the shed door from the inside.

How did he open it?  I must have dreamt that.  Or only thought I locked it.  It doesn’t seem like the kind of shed that would lock from the inside.

I can feel his eyes on me as I do the walk of shame out of his yard.

He calls after me in a less angry tone.

“Why are you barefoot and in your pajamas?”

I shrug.

“I must have been sleepwalking I guess.”

I feel like this must satisfy him at least a little.  Maybe even salvage our neighborly relationship.

Turning up the street, I walk up the sidewalk.  Ahead is the wonderfully bland world of normalcy.  A tidy residential street with well-trimmed yards, mature shade trees, and nice middle class homes with nice middle class cars parked in their driveways and on the street.

The house ahead has one of these nice mature shade trees spreading its branches to shade the ground beneath it.  With the bright morning sun, its shade stretches across the sidewalk.

I slow, stepping out into the street, keeping my feet to the sun-warmed concrete beyond the reach of the tree’s shadow.  I walk around it on the street.

The rude honking of a car horn startles me, intruding and insistent.  I turn and look, the driver looking at me oddly as he has to swerve to go around me.

I know what he is thinking.  Why aren’t you walking on the sidewalk?

I don’t know.  I just could not bring myself to step into the shadow of that tree.

Or he may be wondering why I am walking down the middle of the street in my pajamas and bare feet.

I don’t know that either.

I am past the shadow of the tree and meander back to the sidewalk, leaving the road to the occasional car.

I can feel their eyes on me.  The drivers as they pass, neighbors in their houses and yards looking at me, adults, kids.  I am sure even the Harrel’s dog, who seems to always be outside rain, shine, or snow, is looking at me like I am some strange creature.

It is a strange feeling.

I walk on, stiffly, pretending to ignore the eyes watching me until I reach my house.

Entering the house, I can’t help but note its sullen silence after the bright sun, gentle breeze, full of life morning outdoors.  The lights are all off; the sun through the windows more than adequate to light the house.

For some reason I cannot fathom the soft shadows behind and under furniture have a subtle threatening quality to them they have never had before.

Entering the kitchen, I flip the light switch and nothing happens.  Frowning at the switch I flip it a few more times, although this never helps in a case like this.  Again to no effect.

“Circuit must have popped.”

I try another light.  Poke at the switch for the coffee maker.  And settle on looking at the dark and silent microwave, who’s green glowing time is not lit.  Pressing buttons there does nothing either.

“Circuit must have popped.”  I say it again as though I only just realized it and did not just say those same words.

Going to the basement door and opening it, I look down at the darkness below me with a feeling of dread that is alien to me.

“What is wrong with me?  I have never in my life been afraid of the dark.”

I have to force my hand to reach for the light switch on the wall just inside the stairwell, flipping the switch.

Relief floods through me sickening and heavy in the stomach with the snapping on of electricity and the sudden glaring of the light below filling the darkness and pushing it to nonexistence.

I start down the stairs and the vague sense of dread hangs around me like a moth fluttering vulgarly against a flame, drawn inexplicably to that which will kill it in a most violent death.

Reaching the bottom, I move across the basement, avoiding even the faintest of shadows, to find the fuse panel.

Opening the panel, I study it carefully, working to read the faded printing next to each of the fuse switches.  The one for the kitchen is slightly out of sequence.  The fuse is blown.

Flipping the switch off and on, it stays put.

Heading back to the stairs, I freeze in the middle of the basement at the very moment the world goes black.

Blinking in the blackness; there is not even the light of the sun filtering in the basement windows; I swallow hard.

Somewhere from far away is a sound I can hear only in my head.  Softly.  Gentle.

“Please, let us in.”  The words are so quiet I am not sure I hear them.  I have a sense that they come from another time, another place, outside the door.

“There is no door.  I’m in the middle of the basement.”

I feel eyes on me.  Darkness.

I think I can almost see them, those eyes.  But they are wrong.  They are only liquid darkness which cannot shine with the light as eyes do.

“There is no one here.  I am alone, in the dark.”  I whisper it quietly, as if afraid the shadows themselves might hear.

 

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Restart, Relax, and Rejuvenate by Sherrie Hansen

Someone once told me that one great way to restart your brain is to take a shower. I’ve had it happen more than once. I’m working at the computer with whatever I’m working on open on the screen and I can’t think of a thing to write. No matter how hard I try, nothing comes. Then, I get in the shower, with no way to write anything down, and no sooner does the water start to rain down on me than the voices of my characters start to jabber inside my head and new plotlines magically form.

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (2)

Over the years, I’ve learned that a vacation – especially one to a far off destination – can have the same effect, only in a much more profound way. Here’s what seems to happen when I take a trip, and how to enjoy a traveling adventure that refreshes both brain and body.

 

1. Let go of expectations. Anything can happen on a vacation. I like to plan our trips and enjoy researching places to eat and stay, as well as things to see and do, but I’ve also learned that it’s fairly impossible to predict what will happen on any given day, how long it will take to get from Point A to Point B, and what things we might encounter along the way. Once I let go of my stubborn insistence that things have to be a certain way, it’s amazing what can happen!

Pictures from phone 9Sept2015 115

  1. Forget about staying focused and enjoy the distractions. You may not be able to tell it from looking at my house (creative minds are rarely tidy as the old saying goes), but I’m a highly organized person, at least when it comes to my professional life. I make lists and cross things off when they’re done. I thrive under deadlines. I plan events with an intricate timeline based on what things I can do ahead down to the tasks that have to be done at the last minute. When I go on a trip, it’s a challenge and a pleasure to be able to relax and realize that nothing matters but having fun.

  1. Open your mind to new ideas, possibilities. It’s kind of sad, the way I go to the same restaurants and order the same exact foods and wear the same few shirts and skirts until they’re worn out from washing. I like being in my comfort zone, but when I’m forced out of my established ruts and have to try new things, I experience a wondrous feeling of freedom and discovery!

  1. Bloom and grow. I try NOT to grow any wider when I’m on vacation – it’s difficult when every corner grocery has caramel shortbread (Millionaire Bars), Battenberg Cakes, Meat and Fisherman’s Pies, pâté, amazing cheeses, and oddles of creamy Cadbury milk chocolate delights. But I love widening my perspectives, learning new things and stretching myself. It’s so easy to become stagnant. Letting a Chinook wind blow in and infiltrate my mind is like spring coming to the soul after a long hard winter.

  1. Meet new people. Stir the pot. I think the older we get, the harder it is to meet new people and make new friends. Most of us have lived in the same place for quite some time, and the people already have their established circles. Adult children and grandkids occupy people’s time after a certain age, and the sad truth is, I’m often so worn out after I do what I have to that I’m too tired to want to get out and socialize. When I do go out, I have to think long and hard about what we have to talk about because we’ve already spoken about everything under the sun at least a million times. But when I’m on vacation, every day is an opportunity to participate in new conversations about different topics, to hear what different people from other countries think and feel about things. It’s a great way to not only liven things up, but to gain a new perspective. I love listening and learning from the “chance” people I meet when we’re traveling.

  1. Strip away the mundane and set your sights on the extraordinary.Letting go of old things is almost a requirement for being able to embrace new things. If you’re clutching at what you have, you can’t open your hands and accept something new. If you’re always looking down, you’ll never catch sight of a rainbow. If you don’t walk away from your work or your possessions, your family, or whatever it is that tethers you to the ground, you will likely never fly, accomplish your dreams, or sail off to uncharted waters.

  1. Let your senses be reawakened. Open your eyes. I’ve written several articles urging people to look for the beauty in their own backyard. It’s a wonderful thing to do. But the fact is, after looking at the same garden or flowering tree or porch swing every day for a quarter of a century, it’s easy to get desensitized to even the most lovely scene. Traveling, seeing different sights and fresh images, and taking the time to walk about and relish the beauty in unfamiliar locations not only jumpstarts my creativity, it makes me notice things through fresh eyes.

If you haven’t taken a good long vacation lately, I highly recommend that you find a way to get away. For me, escaping the familiar and journeying to unknown realms is the best way to rejuvenate.

S - Drum Castle Wisteria

(As you read this, Sherrie and her husband, Mark, are in Scotland enjoying a much-anticipated vacation. Watch for Sherrie’s next book, DAYBREAK, a sequel to NIGHT & DAY, coming from Indigo Sea Press in July. All photos are from our home and previous vacations to Scotland, Romania, Kentucky, and England.)

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Those Eyes (Black Eyed Children) – Part 1 by LV Gaudet

twins black eyed children

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

As I stand in the damp shadows of the night looking through the muted sheen of drizzle in the night lights, a darker shadow comes into view.

It moves as if apart from the world around it.  Coming slowly towards me.  It cannot be more than four feet high.

I turn and scurry, ducking to hide behind a large tree spreading its darkly leafed limbs in the front yard of a house behind me on the street.  Peeking out, I look up the rain slick street.

The clash of cool rain against the warm night air thickens into a fog, filling the air with its ghostly aura.

The light of the street lamps still glow sallow and mute despite the rain misting them and the fog folding them into its thickening embrace.

The shadow moves, untouched by the dim light, the rain, and the fog.

I am filled with the urge to duck deeper into the tree, to become one with it, hiding like the little grey squirrel who I know lives in this very tree.

Fear breathes from my mouth and I imagine I can feel the little squirrel trembling in fear inside its tree home, holding its breath and listening.

I look again and the shadow is closer now.  It has split into two somehow.  Identical.  Almost.

The urge to laugh at how stupid I must look sits heavily in my chest.  I have no idea why I am afraid.

Swallowing the sick bile of fear in my throat, I force myself to move, darting for the darkened house behind me.

Yanking at the door is useless.  The door is locked.

Ringing the bell brings no solace with the impotent pushing of that little button on the wall next to the door.  No one is there to let me in.

Looking around quickly, I remember there is a shed behind the house.

The shadow twins are still there, closer now, in the middle of the road where the street lights reveal them to be nothing more than two children, a boy and girl.

A laugh bubbles up my throat, filled with the tension of unease.  I feel foolish.  They are just a couple of kids.  The smile that cracks my face is a little sickly looking.

I move to step towards them.  I should greet them and ask what they are doing out here in the middle of the night, in the rain.  Are they lost?

They are staring at me.  I know this by the way their bodies look in the dark and the rain, the dim light glittering with a fiendish wet sparkle that touches everything but them.  They are facing me, staring at me, although I cannot see their faces, their eyes.

As we face off in the rain glistening in the street lamps’ haloes of light in the dark of night, the warm air loses its clash against the chill air brought by the rain, and the fog thickens.

The other night shadows recede, but somehow the two children seem to be shadow and real at once.  An aura of shadow that is a part of them.  They are untouched, somehow, by the street lights.

Fear oozes through me, slithering dark and oily.

They move towards me in perfect unison, taking a slow step, unhurried.  They have all the time in creation of the planets and the universe.

I don’t know when my feet moved.  I only know that somehow, inexplicably, my feet are moving beneath me.  Running.

It feels like I cannot take my eyes off those children.  I feel bad that I am not offering to help them.  They should not be out here.  Yet, I know I cannot be looking at them because the house passes to my right in a fear-fogged blur.  The driveway moves beneath the slap of my feet. The rain soaked grass of the back yard dampens the bottoms of my pants legs.  I see the shed coming at me, the hand that moves as if it is not a part of me reaching, grasping, and pulling the door open.

The darkness of the shed’s interior with its lawnmower squatting like some strange alien bug, the rakes and shovels, and the spindly spokes of a bicycle rearing suddenly before my eyes, hanging from the roof or the wall, I am not sure which.

My breath is panting raggedly out of my mouth and I am certain I can smell my own stink of fear sweat.

The two kids are outside of the shed as I pull the door closed, jamming a gardening utensil into the handles on the inside to lock the doors closed, even as my displaced thoughts wonder why those handles are even there on the inside of a small shed.

Utter blackness fills the shed with the closing of those doors.

I can feel them out there, staring at me.

The last image of them is burned into my eyes, my mind.  Their faces, so strangely devoid of emotion, of life, of whatever it is that magically makes the living feel animated.

Their eyes, twin orbs of blackness staring out of twin pale moon faces.  Expressionless.  Lifeless.

Soulless.

Their eyes are all black.  The pupil, the iris, the sclera, the part that is supposed to be white.

Their voices come through the rough wood door, close on the other side; hollow, surreal and weirdly dreamlike.  As if they are speaking to me through some strange mutant sound muffling and distorting mist from far away.

“Please, let us in.  We only want to come in.”

“Let us in out of the rain.”

“It is dark out here.  Please let us in.”

Everything that is human and decent in me tells me that I should open that door.

The slithering dark oily fear filling me holds me prisoner.  I cannot move.  I cannot scream.

I somehow manage to look down and wonder at my bare feet.  The bottoms of my now wet pajama pants.  I am dressed for bed?  Did I go to bed?  I don’t remember.

How did I get outside?  I don’t remember.

I can only see those black eyes.  Strange and lifeless, staring at me without expression.

The all black eyes.  Football shaped marbles of black that do not, cannot, glisten in the light the way eyes do.  Light cannot touch them any more than it can touch the strange children or the shadows that became them.

They are the absence of light.  Of life?

I want to scream.

I can only see the eyes.

 

 

Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

 

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Filed under fiction, L.V. Gaudet, writing