A Non-Traditional Holiday

Holidays bring families together. Traditions often add meaning to these gatherings. So what did I think of my non-traditional Thanksgiving?

What’s Traditional?

For the past twenty-seven years of married life, Thanksgiving holidays have fallen into two categories:

  1. Dinner with my husband’s parents
  2. Dinner with my sister and my extended family

Even the occurrence of these dinner options has been regulated. In odd years, we’re with my family. (”Easy to remember because they’re odd,” says my husband.) The other years are spent with my husband’s family.

Thanksgiving with hubby’s relatives means bread stuffing. We generally eat it at either his mother’s house (in the next town – seven miles) or his uncle’s house (about an hour away). His cousins and their families are usually present, as well as his mom’s mother and stepfather.

The only non-odd year when this was different happened when my mother-in-law had open heart surgery right before the holiday. We visited her in the hospital after his dad and brother had dinner at our home.

I hosted Thanksgiving dinner one other time when my uncle was visiting from Idaho. Otherwise, when it’s time for the odd-family gathering, my sister is the hostess with the mostest.

Sure, we all pitch in bringing sides and desserts, but she does the turkey and makes the BEST cornbread dressing.

And the day after, while some people rush around in a retail nightmare, I decorate my house for Christmas.

What’s Different this Year?

If you’ve been following my life, I probably don’t need to mention the list of things that are different in my world this year.

In case you’re just meeting me for the first time:

  1. My oldest son is married
  2. My youngest son is engaged
  3. My sister is remarried and moved a two-hour drive away

But sis wanted to host. And I wanted her to (because it keeps my kitchen clean).

So about a year ago, we made reservations at our time share condo located a mile from her house in Gleneden Beach, Oregon.

And what's not to like when this is the view outside your window?
And what’s not to like when this is the view outside your window?

The plan: my kids and their significant others, her three kids, my stepdad and my husband and I would stay in the condos. I’d cook my sides there and bring them to her house for the big dinner.

We’d have a week-long vacation. The weekend would be dedicated to family time, meaning a marathon of games. It would culminate with my sister’s birthday dinner out on Saturday night.

And the house would have to be decorated once we returned home.

So What really Happened?

This could have been the Pacific in Hawaii - except for the temperatures.
This could have been the Pacific in Hawaii – except for the temperatures.

My husband and I enjoyed a fantastic week at the beach. The weather was clear, crisp and sunny, but without the famous coastal wind chill.

My step-dad used his truck as an excuse. Yes, it was in need of repair. However, we could have easily transported him in our vehicle.

My new daughter-in-law was on call at the hospital on Thanksgiving and had to work on Friday. (In actuality, she ended up in the hospital with pancreatitis, so no bueno all around.) My oldest son planned to come down on Friday for the games, but the hospital changed those plans.

My youngest son and his fiance celebrated the holiday on Wednesday with her parents. They arrived in time for dinner on Thursday and spent Friday playing games (after a brief shopping excursion).

My niece spent the holiday with her father. She planned to come down on Friday, but her grandmother had a stroke, so those plans were nixed.

My two nephews spent Wednesday through Saturday there. Only one night did one of them stay in the two-bedroom condominium reserved for that purpose. The couch at his mom’s house is obscenely comfortable (I know this because I spent my Thanksgiving turkey coma moments on it).

Our cozy gathering on Thanksgiving Day
Our cozy gathering on Thanksgiving Day

What’s the Bottom Line?

Go ahead and make plans but expect them to change.

When your children become adults, they might choose to spend a holiday with someone besides you. And that’s okay. Even if it’s rough the first two dozen times time it happens.

Holiday traditions need to evolve with your family. What worked when everyone lived within an hour of each other, won’t work when people move further away. Adding daughters to my family means respecting that their are other parents who want to spend the holiday with my kids.

Hopping out of the holiday rut and doing something different, like going away for a whole week, allows for these growing pains.

Holiday traditions should be like the Pirate Code: a guideline. Doing something non-traditional made me especially thankful this Thanksgiving.

What do you think? Are your traditions too important to let them slide for a year or two?

Castor Oil: Magical Potion

castor oilSome Old Wives’ Tales originated from fact. That may be the case with Castor Oil, an incredible (although hardly edible) magic potion – available at your local pharmacy.

The irony of my admiration for this natural curative might surprise you. My mother was one of those pregnant women who took Castor oil to induce labor. And it worked. I was born the next day.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Dr. Brooks told me to rub a dab of oil over the areas where she treated my spider veins.

“It moves things along.”

Well, we know it cleared out the intestines if you swallowed it. And my mother had experience with its womb-expelling properties.

In this case, it would encouraged the blood pooling in the treated area to move along. Apparently, it doesn’t taste all that great even to blood cells.

The biggest shock of all came when I checked the World Wide Web to verify this use. I discovered this nasty-tasting oil has a plethora of medical uses. Aside from its gastrointestinal uses, it can be used as an antimicrobial (kills germs), anti-inflammatory and an analgesic.

Topical uses

This is how I used the magic potion: put it on a cotton ball and swabbed it over the treated areas on my ankles and legs.

It tingled slightly on one of my ankles, but did nothing on the other areas. The next morning, all four areas looked less red and the hard bump on my calf was gone.

Other uses:

  • Soothe eyes
  • Relieve dry and itchy scalp
  • Repair split ends
  • Relieve pain and swelling of calluses and corns
  • Relieve sore muscles or arthritis pain
  • Remove warts
  • Stimulate hair and nail growth
  • Insomnia
  • Treat acne

To learn more about actually medical studies, click here.

For the complete list of HOW to use it for the list of items mentioned above, click here.

Castor oil not to be confused with Castrol oil

If you have mole trouble (in your yard, not on your skin), you can drive them away with a mixture of 1/2 cup of Castor oil with two gallons of water. Just pour it into the molehills.

No, it won’t kill the buggers. But they don’t like the stinky stuff any more than you did when your grandmother tried to get you to swallow it. Those moles head for the hills when they get a whiff of the magic oil.

What other things is Castor oil used for? Have you ever swallowed the stuff?

When even begging fails

 

Begging Meme

I begged. Three people felt compelled listened. And I love each one of you with all my heart. Truly.

Maybe begging was the wrong tactic. You know I’m opposed to bullying. How do I get folks to sign up for my newsletter then.

Here are some ideas I’ve seen others use:

  • Contests: The only contests I’ve run on my blog have FAILED to get entries. I either give crummy prizes, or no one sees the contests.
  • Pop-Ups: This feels like bamboozling to me. I don’t appreciate pop-ups when I visit sites, so why would I force my visitors to suffer through them?
  • E-mails: Uh, I don’t have any email addresses on my list. That’s why I’m in this situation.
  • Twitter: There’s a way to see if people ever come to my blog because of Tweets, but I’m guessing since I don’t have much of a following over there, it’s as ineffective as begging on my blog.
  • Facebook: Yeah. My posts show up on Facebook. A few of my friends click through if the topic looks interesting. That’s a place to build relationships, not try to coerce people into something.

Experts Say

Experts say if I have offer my readers something of value to sign up, that will motivate them.

Question: What do I have of value to offer other than my writing?

Experts say that I need to write compelling content. Duh.

Experts say once I write something compelling, I need to make it easy to share.

Question: I have all the share buttons on my posts. How can I make it any easier?

Experts say if I visit other blogs with a similar topic to mine and comment regularly, other readers will see my comment and hop over to check me out.

Question: How many hours do these folks have? (FYI, I did this for the first year that I blogged and it netted me nearly nothing.)

My Thoughts

  • My content isn’t compelling.
  • The topics I address aren’t interesting to my readers.
  • I write about too many different subjects on this blog. I need to find my niche.
  • I’d rather be writing my fiction or Bible studies than thinking up things to write about on this blog.
  • The posts that I feel will have the greatest reach fall flat.
  • When I visited a Facebook party, I had the most hits on my blog. So, people were checking me out based on how I commented there. Since that time, I’ve tried to repeat those results – no success.
  • I’m floundering. I’m in over my head. I need to face the fact that I’m not going to build an email list (thus, publishers are going to reject me for having no platform).

Why does this writing thing have to have more legs than an octapi family reunion?

Your Thoughts

I NEED YOU.

Your thoughts could help me with this dilemma.

If you are reading this post, please help me.

What can I do to interest people in signing up for my newsletter?

What made you sign up? (I know, you’re related to me. Thanks for that.)

Whose story is it anyway?

In a non-parody of a comedic television show, let’s take a moment to investigate the ownership of a published work. Recently, this author has been pondering this oft-debated issue, and I’ve come up with four possibilities.

One of the co-authors in the romance anthology Accidental Valentine posted on the topic July 16, 2015. Her points made me reconsider this whole notion that a story belongs to any one person.

I hope you’ll take the time to read Wendy Sparrow’s post on this topic, as well as the comments (there were only two at the time of this writing). I won’t attempt to paraphrase what she says because I don’t want to twist her original meaning.

And there is the crux of this issue for me. How can I know Shakespeare’s intended meaning a few hundred years after his death? 

If an author is still living, and of sound mind, I suppose we could interview them to find out what they meant. However, if we assume that words can take on a life of their own when formed into a story, is the original intention even the point?

Those questions are to give you a hint how my brain arrived at the four possible owners of a story. (And I’m not talking about copyright issues because we have laws that clearly govern those.) Once a story is penned, published and consumed, does the story belong to the author, the readers, the literary community at large or the characters?

Perhaps you have a fourth alternative. I hope you’ll share it in the comments.

Author

As an author, it’s no surprise that my first thought of ownership centers on the story’s creator. Surely, the one who created it should be able to say, “That’s my story.”

As Wendy Sparrow says in her post, ” authors pour a little bit of themselves into what they write, so taking the author’s opinion away from the work might strip it of some of its value.”

I would say authors pour heart and soul into whatever piece of fiction they’re working on. And creative non-fiction based on personal experiences takes an even bigger chunk. If the author holds back, the writing lacks authenticity.

Like Hemingway said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” (Read more on the debate of the true origination of this quote here.)

However, I can’t take full credit for any of the stories I’ve created. Something in the real world sparked the idea in my brain. It originated from that little seed. To grow it, I just kept expanding on the idea, asking “what if” until I had a solid story line.

Readers

I agree with Sparrow in that I am a reader first. I love to write. I live to write (or is that I write for a living?), but my first love is reading.

Once an author releases a story into the world through publishing, it settles into the hearts and minds of readers. Some stories are in the mind only as long as it takes to read them. Others embed themselves deep in the heart, offering up reminders of characters whose attitudes and experiences shaped my own worldview.

Do I write for readers? Yes. My stories are as much for them as it is for me. If I didn’t want to share it with someone, I wouldn’t.

Does that mean I’ve relinquished ownership to them?

What does that mean? Ownership, according to dictionary.com is “the state or fact of being a person who has or holds” some object. Ownership implies possession. If I possess it, it is mine.

Once I publish the story, I have consented to share its ownership. By making it available for public consumption, I’m sharing my creation. It’s like baking a cake. Everyone who consumes a part of the cake becomes owner of its deliciousness. I can’t take it back. It’s in them.

The same with written words. Once they are consumed, they become part of the consumer. That story is now part of the reader. It might go out as quickly as the cake. Or it might stay around for awhile (like the fat on my waistline from all the cake I’ve consumed over the years).

Sparrow says it well: “Authors want readers to invest in their stories…to become so involved that they care what happens to the characters. In some ways, we want to pass on ownership of our vision to the reader so that they immerse themselves in reading. It’s the only way a book becomes more than just text and becomes a journey.”

Literary Community

Once a book is published, it’s fodder for the public. One major voice in this realm is the literary community. You know who I mean, the professors at universities and English teachers at every level.

We’ve all suffered through a lecture on symbolism in some classic story or another. We were told the blue walls represented the author’s depression. The sword was a euphemism for death or power or kingship. (How can it be all three at once?)

In her post, Sparrow cited some literary figure and his theory on “The Death of an Author” (read more here if you’re interested). He’s one of many who believes if an author didn’t infer or state something in the text, it shouldn’t be later implied to be there.

Can we hear professors of literature everywhere sobbing?

Let’s face it, stories – especially fiction – are subjective. Each of us interpret the text through the stained glass of our own experiences. And the author did the same while they wrote it.

Can a story mean more than one thing? Certainly. It can live a thousand lives in the heart or mind of anyone who reads it and gleans meaning from it.

As an author, I want people to find themselves in my stories. I want them to relate to characters who are like them and find compassion for those who are completely contrary. Some of my writing is purely for entertainment, but even a short romance story I wrote had a deeper message: “breaking free from expectations takes determination.”

Characters

This is where my mind went after I read Sparrow’s post.

I might have birthed the story. In fact, I know I labored hard to perfect it on the page. It’s my baby. Or, I should say, it’s about a bunch of my babies. I’ve given them life by writing their story down and sharing it with others.

“Dream Architect” is whose story? Ashlin’s and Dylan’s. I told their story and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher liked it and bought the first American publishing rights to it. (So maybe the publisher is the owner of the story-for three years anyway.) Readers consumed the story.

But the story is about Ashlin and Dylan. It belongs to them. They lived it (as much as a fictional character can). They experienced the accidental encounter and the turmoil that followed. I wrote their experiences down and readers learned about them through reading, but the story is Ashlin’s and Dylan’s.

What do you think? Does a story have a single owner (possessor)? Do all of these people share in ownership of a story?

This is Me … Begging

Logo GradientI am amazed and thrilled that nearly 300 people in a world of seven billion subscribe to my blog. And yet, I’m going to beg all of you for a small favor.

Before you delete this email, I promise to make my plead short and sweet.

I would love for you to subscribe to my infrequent update mailing list. At the moment, less than seven percent (7%) of the incredible readers of this blog do.

All you have to do is click here and fill in three short blanks and hit the “submit” button. Easy – peasy.

Why I ask

Being able to contact people interested in reading what I write is essential to building a writing career. The number one way marketing gurus everywhere agree to do this is to have a list of email addresses of people who WANT to read your stuff.

Is that you? If so, I promise not to fill your email inbox with junk. In six months, I have sent exactly THREE newsletters.

Think you might be interested? Sign up here.

What You’re Signing up For

newsletterIf you complete this form, you’re telling me it’s OK with you if I send you information about upcoming book releases. I also might send information about personal appearances (but I don’t have any of these on my immediate horizon).

This isn’t a weekly newsletter. It probably won’t even wing its way to you on a monthly basis.

I will give you a hint, though. This fall, I have two exciting new releases on the schedule. Once I have specific details, people signed up for my newsletter will get all the details.

I’m also offering access to a subscriber-only short story. When you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get access to the story.

The newsletters will offer special promotional prices and easy links for purchasing from your favorite retailer.

I appreciate you reading to the end of this post.

I love you if you sign up for the newsletter. Click. Complete. Submit.

You make my world a better place.

End of this begging session. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

It’s not worth as much as you think

My husband watches something called Storage Wars. The premise of the show: junk dealers try to win the contents of storage units after only a quick glance inside. If they spot something worth their while, the bidding soars. Sometimes they get the bad news: “It’s not worth as much as you think.”

My husband felt certain the shop he lovingly constructed made our property worth more money than other similar residences. After all, those four walls housed his precious 65 Mustang through its years of restoration. All his friends are jealous that he has an automotive man cave.

I didn’t argue with him too much when we listed the house a year ago. I was certain the house was over-priced. Did I think he wanted $50,000 more than it was worth? No.

After getting no activity for a couple months, we reduced our price by $20,000. We saw a few more calls and a spattering of interested people came to view it. No offers. No serious inquiries.

When we decided to list with a realtor, I knew she would want us to reduce the price. I figured she would want us to drop it another $20,000. This would stretch us. We hoped to net a certain amount when we sold it. After all, we have to buy another house.

She laid out the stack of comparable houses – those still listed for sale and three which had sold in the past six months. The prices? Nowhere near what we had been asking. One of them sold for more than $100,000 less than our asking price. But it didn’t have a shop.

None of them had a shop. Most of them didn’t have custom built kitchens. Apparently, these features we expected to add value to our home – don’t. They aren’t worthless. They might push someone on the fence about two properties in our direction.

“That one has the shop,” he says.

“The cabinetry and layout in that kitchen are perfect,” she says.

My Perch in the Kitchen
My Perch in the Kitchen

All the realtor said was that we should consider listing our house for almost $60,000 less than what we had been asking. My jaw dropped. My husband turned three shades of pale.

This isn’t the news we wanted to hear.

In fact, we need to reconsider our plans for the next house. If we sell our place at full price, we will be lucky to walk away with $60,000.  Obviously, that custom built floor plan my husband wants is probably not going to happen.

Unless I sell a book that tops charts worldwide and scoop up a windfall of cash. Or a rich relative dies and leaves us something in the six-figure range. All nice dreams, but we have to live in the real world.

We didn’t list the house for the optimal figure our realtor suggested. My husband couldn’t bring himself to accept the finality of it. Instead, the place we’ve called home for the past seventeen years is listed for $10,000 less than the figure I had envisioned – about $35,000 lower than what we had on our flyers for the past nine months.

Just because you’ve constructed a lifetime of memories within the walls and maintained the house with loving care, don’t get your hopes up. That house: it’s not worth as much as you think – at least in terms of dollars and cents.

Horse dreams crushed by my reality

I love horses. In fact, I was called horse-crazy by more than one person (and most often by my mother) when I was growing up. I talked about that in my Year of the Horse post.

You can imagine my delight, then, when a friend of mine who owns five horses offered me the opportunity to work with her older horse. After all, she can’t ride more than one at a time and has been spending her time molding the daughter of said horse into an exemplary mount.

My acquiescence was swift and sure.

After all, I spent years daydreaming about grooming, training and riding horses. The beautiful bay she offered me has the strawberry-blond mane I adore. It’s like dying and going to Heaven with horses.

Or perhaps it is living in that other place, surrounded by horses laughing and jeering at your ineptitude. No, that was only in my nightmare.

Reality? Almost as bad.

First off, I get confused which way the halter goes. I know. Lily is looking at me thinking, “How stupid is this person?” My actions inform her that my stupidity level is high. Hallelujah, I managed to put the thing on correctly in one try on my third outing with the horse.

Don’t celebrate too loudly. I also had to chase her down before she would let me put it on. She stood still while I took her fly mask off, but while I was tucking that in the safety of my back pocket, she decided she was done with our training session for the day.

Thankfully, there is no video footage of me holding onto her mane and telling her to stop and stand. She knows both of these commands, by the way, by voice and hand signal. Remember, she’s the smart one in this pairing.

Next hurdle: she knows nothing of neck reining. I know nothing of any other sort of rein control, so the first thing I had to learn: English reining.

It felt strange at first to have one hand on each side of the reins (a rookie mistake worthy of jibes in the Western world). By my second ride, it was coming more naturally but I still held them too stiffly and Lily let me know it by pulling her head forward.

“Don’t let her do that,” my friend says. “When she pulls, you pull right back. She’ll figure out who’s boss before long.”

I think she already knows she can trample over the greenhorn. That makes her the boss.

Enter lunge lining into the equation. When I can’t ride, I can still build a relationship with her by working with her in the arena.

Awkward. This is how I look holding the line and speaking commands to Lily, who would rather be grazing with the other horses. I don’t even know which direction to face.

Awkward. It feels awkward to hold the training whip in my left hand and the lunge line in my right. Thankfully, that’s only necessary half the time, depending on the direction she is moving.

Awkward. I’m chanting the commands in the sing-song voice my friend showed me. Lily happily complies with “walk on” and “trot.” Cantering is a different story altogether.

Now I have to use the whip. I don’t strike it out at her (thank goodness, I don’t think I could hit a horse with a whip on purpose). I send it snaking toward her back legs, while staring at her hindquarters. Apparently, this is supposed to awaken her natural instinct to flee from a predator.

I’m not very predatory looking. Eventually, though, the whip on the ground must seem sufficiently scary because she canters, for several revolutions of the line. Hallelujah! Don’t do a happy dance just yet.

She refused to canter in the other direction. No matter how snake-like the whip directed toward her hindquarters appeared. She forfeited her treat (which my friend assured me would convince Lily to do anything) and I wrapped up the “training” session early.

I failed at my imagined horse woman-ness. As usual, reality bites. It rains on our high hopes and drowns our dream worlds.

What is your experience with reality destroying dreams? Perhaps you are a true horsewoman (or horseman) and have advice for future training sessions. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.

Crazy Cash Lady

IMG_0304

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash in hand, that’s what sells a car. How about help captioning this photograph?

I’ll mention your name next week when I share the story behind this photograph. Just leave your caption in the comments here on my website or on the Facebook status update.

Your help is greatly appreciated.

Spring has Sprung

Here are a few pictures announcing Spring around my house.

Perennials
Perennials

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring bulbs in bloom
Spring bulbs in bloom

 

Flowering Plum
Flowering Plum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some people love spring. What’s your favorite season? Feel free to comment what makes that season your favorite.