Friday, August 01, 2014

Friday's Odds and Ends

 One of the things I like to do for fun is work jigsaw puzzles. I just finished this one last night, after working on it off and on for a month or so. I do take time out for writing and visiting friends and playing games, so it takes me a while to finish a puzzle. All the while I was working on it, I was craving chocolate. Maybe I need to do a non-food related puzzle next.

Topping the national news this week was this little tidbit:  Speaker John Boehner and House leadership did something that's never been done in American history. They voted to sue the President.

When I read that, I couldn't believe it. Talk about an absurdity. That one tops them all. And what is even worse is that a whole lot of people think that is just okay.

Enough said about that.

Yesterday it rained off and on all day here in East Texas. During one short break, I did manage to get out and pick up branches and limbs that had fallen. I couldn't believe that I was working outside in Texas in July wearing a flannel shirt, and I wasn't even hot. We are all wondering when summer will get here.

Early in the day yesterday, the veterinarian came out to float my horse's teeth, and when I told some of my non-horsey friends, they were puzzled. One asked, "What is he going to do? Take the horse's teeth out and throw them into the pond to see if they float?"

We all had a good chuckle over that, then someone asked why the procedure is referred to as "floating" so I thought I would do a trusty little Google search. Don't you just love it? Have a question? Ask Google. Anyway, the term comes from the rasp or "float" that is used to file down sharp enamel points that form on a horse's back teeth. These points can rub on the horse's cheek when he is chewing and make it uncomfortable to eat.

There are Equine Dental Specialists in some parts of the country, but here in rural East Texas, most large-animal doctors do the dental work.

It's been a while since I've had a stray cat show up on my place. Lots of people dump cats and dogs out here. Don't you just hate that? This kitty showed up on Wednesday.

Most of the time my dog, Poppy, runs off any strays that come on her property. It is hers, by the way. So I don't often have a cat make it to the deck where I can see it. Of course if I see a cat on the deck, I have to take it in - I can't let it be coyote lunch - but I really do need to find a home for this kitty. She is sweet and friendly, but I already have four cats, who are all very unhappy that an interloper is in the sun room where they usually get to play every day.

Now to end with a joke.

A census taker in a rural area went up to a farmhouse and knocked on the door. When a woman answered, he asked her the names and ages of her children.

She said: "Let's see now, there are the twins, Billy and Bobby, they're seventeen. And the twins, Seth and Beth, they're sixteen. And the twins, Benny and Jenny, they're fifteen."

"Wait a minute!" said the census taker. "Did you get twins every time?"

"Heck no," answered the woman. "There were hundreds of times we didn't get nothin'."

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tokens And Talismans

Please help me welcome Elizabeth Hein as today's Wednesday's Guest. She is going to talk about the importance of some of the tokens we may hold dear. In honor of Lara, the central character in Elizabeth's book, How to Climb the Eiffel Tower, I thought we would have some tea as we sit back and read what she has to share.

I am honored to be a guest here on Maryann’s blog and share a little insight into where story elements come from. 

The tokens we keep can take on significance far beyond their form. For instance, I wear a silver scarab ring as a memento of my journey through cancer treatment. In 2002, I visited the “Quest For Immortality - Treasures of Ancient Egypt” exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston. The timing of our trip was fortuitous. I had recently finished the radiation phase of my cancer treatment and was on the mend.

The special exhibit had a room that traced Thutmose III’s journey through the netherworld to the after life. The parallels between the Ancient Egyptian story and my experience with cancer treatment were remarkable. I stood in that room studying the hieroglyphs and reading about the Egyptian god Ra in the form of the rising sun, Khepri, until my family pulled me out of there. Khepri, the god that escorted the dead person across the river of death into the afterlife, is usually depicted as a scarab beetle. I love a good symbol so the image of the lowly dung beetle laying its eggs in a ball of dung and rolling it from place to place as a metaphor of rebirth and the rising sun resonated with me.

In the little gift shop at the end of the exhibit, I bought the silver scarab ring to mark my visit. For several years, I wore it every day as a talisman. I still wear it often, especially if I am feeling anxious or worried about the future. It reminds me of how I went through a terrible experience and came out the other side.
When I was writing How To Climb The Eiffel Tower, I decided to use my scarab ring as a model and imbue pieces of jewelry with significance. In a pivotal scene, Lara Blaine, the main character, finds the cross her grandmother wore and begins to wear it as a reminder of her grandmother’s love.

Jane Babcock-Roberts, the other main character, has a charm bracelet that she uses to remember all the places she has visited in her world travels. Whenever she visited a special place, she added a charm to her bracelet. Instead of scrap books or trinkets, she kept her memories around her wrist. I won’t give too much away, but that charm bracelet becomes significant to Lara and Jane’s relationship

Now it's your turn. Do you keep things? Have they become more significant to you over time? I’d love to hear about them.

Don't forget to enter the RAFFLECOPTER Give-Away  to win a lovely charm of the Eiffel Tower.

About Elizabeth:
Elizabeth Hein grew up in Massachusetts within an extended family of storytellers. Her childhood was filled with excellent food and people loudly talking over each other. After studying psychology at the College of the Holy Cross, she and her husband embarked on the adventure of parenting their two beautiful daughters. They now live in Durham, North Carolina.

In 2002, Elizabeth was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. During her extensive treatment, she met dozens of other cancer patients and developed close relationships with several of them. These friendships were the inspiration for How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. She learned that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience, yet it does not necessarily change a life for the worse.

Elizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of an edge. Her novels explore the role of friendship in the lives of adult women and themes of identity. Her first novel, Overlook, spotlighted a housewife dealing with a cheating husband and the pressures of keeping up appearances. Elizabeth has published several short stories and is currently writing a novella and beginning to write a historical family saga about how love and identity effect four generations of women. Elizabeth enjoys interacting with her readers and can be found on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and her blog

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

Today I thought we'd just have some fun here on the blog. I did not watch the news at all over the weekend, although I did buy a newspaper on Sunday, but I only read the comics. Usually I read the editorials as well, but never got past the funny papers yesterday. Several of the strips had me nodding and chuckling, so I thought I would share them.

First we have this from Shoe by Gary Brookins and Susie MacNelley:

Senator Batson D. Belfry is holding a press conference, telling Shoe and Cosmo, "I was on an important trade mission to Pango Tango in the Pacific. And of course, I needed assistance from my staff,  so naturally my executive assistant, Miss Starlight, had to accompany me. And those, um, incidences at the resort pool and Tiki bar were misreported by the press. So a clarification of the subsequent arrest by the Pango Tango police is in order."

Cosmo sighs and says, "Here he goes again burning the scandal at both ends."

Next up is this from Non Sequitur by Wiley:

A future President of the United States is sitting in an easy chair in a cave being interviewed by a reporter, and the reporter says, "Okay... so it turned out there wasn't an advanced army of alien roaches hiding inside the moon preparing to invade earth right?"

The president says, "So?

"So? You blew up the moon for nothing, resulting in disastrous consequences on a planetary scale."

The president sips a martini. "I fundamentally disagree with that."

The reporter stops writing in his notebook, "Wait... you disagree about the actual results of your actions?"

The president nods, "Facts are debatable"

"Blowing up the moon puts us back to living in caves and on the verge of extinction."

The president waves one hand. "Like dwelling on the past is going to change that? So let's stay focused on what we should do now."

"Like trying to blame all of it on the current administration for not putting the moon back together? Right?"

"Oh, like that's so much to ask?"

Finally one from Dustin by Steve Kelly and Jeff Parker:

Dustin's parents are at a restaurant for dinner, and the waiter steps up to the table. He says, "We have a sumptuous dessert special this evening. It's seven sheets of flourless chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, in between glazed and rich chocolate ganache dusted with cocoa powder and topped with dark chocolate shavings.

"The chef calls it 'Death by Chocolate.'"

Dustin's father says, "Actually were trying to watch our diets. Could you just bring enough to put us in critical condition?"

Did any of these make you laugh? I didn't laugh at the one from Non Sequitur. That one was too much like reality to be funny. And I do wish that waiter would come to my house and offer me that dessert.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book Review - "How to Climb The Eiffel Tower" by Elizabeth Hein

How to Climb The Eiffel Tower 
Elizabeth Hein
Print Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Light Messages Publishing (October 1, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

The author hooked me with the opening sentence: "Ellery Cancer Center protruded from the hospital's facade like a glass tumor."

This is how Lara Blaine, the central character, begins her journey through cancer treatment. That is challenge enough for any woman, but added to that is the emotional trauma she still carries from an abusive past. She has tried to hide from that past by maintaining a rigid routine of work and exercise, but this cancer thing throws that routine out the window. As the treatments make her sicker and sicker, she discovers that she cannot fight everything alone. For the first time in her life, she needs people and reluctantly allows one or two to come into her private life.

One of those friends is Jane, another cancer patient, and a wonderful character. It is Jane who helps Lara step away from the past and embrace herself as a strong, capable woman. I enjoyed getting to know  Jane  and Vanessa  and Sebastian  and all the other characters who touched Lara's life. They were all so well done, they came across as real people.

The book is listed as contemporary women's fiction, and it is an easy read, despite the heavy subject matter. There is just enough humor to lighten some moments, and Vanessa is one of those bright, happy friends anyone would want around to come over and brighten a day. All in all this is a wonderful story, very well-written, and it would be good for a book club discussion.

How to Climb The Eiffel Tower is scheduled for release in October, but is available for pre-order. Elizabeth is also doing a give-away via Rafflecoptor. The contest will run all week, so enter often and tell your friends. She is going to give one lucky entrant a charm of the Eiffel Tower. Click on the link below to enter the contest.

The Rafflecopter Giveaway

Elizabeth Hein is a mother, author, and cancer survivor. She grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in North Carolina. She writes women's fiction with a bit of a sharp edge. She is fascinated by how friendship and human connection can help a person through the most difficult moments in their lives. When not writing, she is trying to raise two young women and a husband. She will be this week's Wednesday's Guest, so do try to come back

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday's Odds And Ends

Another week just whizzed by. It's amazing how that happens, and every Friday I look back to see what I accomplished in the week. Some weeks are better than others, but I am sure that is true for most of us.

On Monday I tied up some admin things for the drama camp - doing reports and thank you notes - and I even managed to get some writing done on the new book I started the first of June. Friends from Omaha, NE came for a short visit on Tuesday and left yesterday morning, and it was so nice to see them. It had been about 13 years since we had seen each other. What fun we had catching up on everything, and again I was reminded of how friendships that root so deeply never wither.

Image courtesy of Deviant Art
 I didn't watch the news most of the week, so I have no idea what is going on in the world, which might be for the best. But I did catch a bit of a story last night before I turned the TV off. The story was about how people no longer join groups and organizations because they do their social interacting online. Part of the story was about a community-service organization closing after almost 50 years of organizing events for a Texas city, and a spokesman for the organization said they had to close because they no longer had enough people joining to have the personnel to put on the events.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, volunteering is also down:

The volunteer rate declined by 1.1 percentage points to 25.4 percent for the year ending in September 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. About 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013. The volunteer rate in 2013 was the lowest it has been since the supplement was first administered in 2002.

It's kind of sad to see that we are getting more and more isolated because of advances in technology. I remember when more homes got television sets and less people sat out on front porches in the evening and less children played stick-ball in the streets. My grandfather said that television would be the ruination of our society.

I wouldn't go that far, but I do think we need to find a balance between our use of devices and our enjoyment of people and places in real time, not virtual time.

Now to end with a joke, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

      A man answered the phone. "Yes, Mother," he sighed. "Listen, I've had a long day. Jane has been in one of her awkward moods . . . Yes, I know I should be firmer with her, but it's not easy. You know what she's like . . . Yes, I remember you warned me . . . Yes, I remember you told me she was a vile creature who would make my life a misery . . . Yes, I remember you begged me not to marry her. You were right, OK? You want to speak to her? I"ll put her on."
      He put down the phone and called to his wife in the next room: "Jane, your mother wants to talk to you."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How's Your Love Life?

Once more Slim Randles joins us as Wednesday's Guest with an update on how it is going with Marvin and his advice to the lovelorn. Grab your favorite beverage of choice and enjoy...

Things were going kinda slow down at the Fly Tying Love Center and it bothered Marvin Pincus a lot.

He found it hard to believe that, out of all the people in the valley, none of them needed love advice and the proper type of fishing fly to illustrate it. He had the sign made and put in the yard, and he’d obviously had great results with the Jones kid and good ol’ Dewey. Since Marvin’s advice to Dewey to shower before asking a girl for a date, Dewey Decker, the Fertilizer King, had met Emily Stickles, the love of his life.

Now the fishing-fly earrings part of the business was going great. Women all over town were wearing dingle-dangle earrings with Marvin’s point-clipped fishing flies hanging therefrom. He learned that short ladies tended to go for the smaller dries, like Griffith’s Gnats and Royal Coachmen, and the taller ladies leaned toward salmon streamers. For the “simple black dress” that women seem to need, Marvin discovered a pure black stonefly nymph tied on a number 6 to be just the right touch. Some of the ladies slipped Marvin’s wife, Marjorie, a couple of bucks to help buy more feathers and hooks.

But on the love advice front, there was a dearth of heartbroken customers.

“What would you think,” Marvin said, “if I ran an ad in the Valley Weekly Miracle?”

“For what?” Marjorie said at breakfast.

“You know … love advice.”

“Well, you have the sign out front. I think everyone in the valley already knows about it.”

“But they’re not coming in.”

Marjorie smiled. “Honey, some people find it hard to talk to others about their personal problems. That’s probably it.”

Marvin got a piece of paper and began writing. Then he’d scratch it out and start again. This went on through both bacon and toast.

“How’s it coming, Honey?”

“About got it right, I think, Marge.”

“May I see it?”

He handed it to her.

The best love advice in the valley, tied up with the appropriate fishing fly. Call the Fly Tying Love Center for an appointment. Results guaranteed.

“What do you think?”

Marjorie just smiled and nodded. What she thought, however, was that retirement isn’t for sissies.

Brought to you by The Home Country Hour podcast. Check it out at
Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, Home Country, and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I made the mistake of watching national news the other day and was reminded why I am much better off not paying attention to all that.

Did you hear about Cynthia Robinson, the Florida woman who sued R.J. Reynolds because her husband died from smoking-related illness? The jury gave her $23.6 billion in punitive damages. That's billions, folks, and an additional $16.8 million in compensatory damages. Robinson  had been part of a previous class-action suit against R.J. Reynolds that was settled in 2006, but that $145 billion verdict had been overturned on appeal. In a television interview, Robinson said, "We have finally gotten justice."

Justice? I'll let you decide for yourselves, but I think it is beyond absurd. More at the Huffington Post

On a much nicer note, my two weeks of drama camp ended with our performances over the weekend. We had sell-out audiences for both shows, and what great energy that creates for the players. They did an amazing job, and I am always so thrilled to work with the kids and the camp leaders.

Here are just a few more pictures from the show and the camp.

This wonderful poster was designed by one of our board members, Jim Willis.

These lovely pictures of the lions were taken by Bob Williams Photography and used with permission.
The drama camp, along with all the other activities that go on at the Winnsboro Center For the Arts, is put on by volunteers. We do pay professional music and theatre people, but the rest is done by the wonderful people in this place I call home. I am so thankful for all the people who stepped up to make this a huge success.