I took a deep breath when my husband said, “I'm retiring, and we're going to sell our home.” I'm not a good one for change, as most of you lovely readers know. I hang on to the bitter end sometimes. Most of the time, it has served me well.
But the reality of our aging bodies, and the toll working on the huge house and many acres of garden and land has come to greet me at last. My fantasy world will not give up on this dream of living here, so I'll be able to take some of it with me forever. Not to worry. But the real world has tapped me on the shoulder and told me, “It's time.”
We can embrace change in any number of ways. I like to say Change (or circumstance) doesn't make a person, it reveals a person. I'm wanting to kick that particular “ism” all around the bedroom, get it to get dirty with the dust bunnies hiding under my bed. But all that does is mask the knowledge that I have to make lists, and I have to pack from now to oblivion, it seems.
But I've done it! It doesn't matter how many times I think about my husband's decision, it won't help me get into action. I can ruminate about it all after we're done. Right now, we're in purge, staging and beautifying mode. I'm learning to revel in that, and what a surprise, it's not so bad! I have new lawn, new planting boxes. Part of the strategy is protecting and packing away a lot of me in this house, and revealing a lot more about the house, the structure, the land and the gardens. So, in a way, all my lovelies are safely stored, all my personal things I prize are gone and hidden away. All they are going to see are a few selective things that might elicit a smile or warm feeling about the home and the lovely grounds on which it sits.
Part of my consternation was, “Where are we going to go?” I'm looking at lots of places. Franklin, Tennessee, is top of my list, mainly because I could create a nice lifestyle there with a quarter of the funds. But my heart has grown to feel at home there now that I've visited it, and visited Tennessee several times. I have lots of writer friends and other dear friends in the area, and nearby.
But staying in California is also an option, or moving East nearer to our other son. There's the beach in Florida calling me, perhaps North Carolina or Virginia. My husband likes Oregon so he can be close to his brother. I'd like to do all of it, but it all depends on what we get for the property.
Just like so many things in our lives, it is up to someone else. As much as we plan and strategize, the truth is that a new buyer we accept will determine where and how we live in the future. I've always been lucky with decisions we've made. I can write anywhere. But finding a place I will love living in is most important. Being close to my children and grandchildren is also important. I've cast those nets out into the universe, and something will happen that will allow me to do most of what I want.
So, it's interesting how I'm coping with the change. I'm getting up, checking my lists, putting on my work clothes, planting flowers in the garden like I'll be here for years to enjoy them come up year after year. Planting vegetables perhaps that will be edible after we move. It doesn't matter, does it? None of us know how long we'll be anywhere in life. As my son said recently in the most beautiful letter I've received from any of my children, “Mom, in your case, if life gave you lemons, you'd make lemon meringue pie!” That's what I'm going to think about.
I haven't been writing for a month. And, for the first time, I'm not sure what I feel like writing next. But I know a good book is in me, waiting to be born. Another love story, that will help heal the little wounds that sometimes come up.
Until then, I'm enjoying the treasures of looking at things I possess I haven't looked at in a long time. I found some baby teeth. Someone's awful wisdom teeth! Found a piece of pottery my daughter made in kindergarten. Found a Parchessi board I had written on when I was about five. We all do that, don't we? Save things for our future selves to enjoy, right? And that has made the packing and path toward this major relocation all the more sparkly. Not the shininess of my tears!
Now's your turn. Where is your favorite place to live if you could live anywhere, and why? I'd love to hear it!
I'm still halfway back in San Diego, except I'm drunk with the beautiful sight of our green hills in Northern California Wine Country. The grasses are still short, and the green is way longer than it usually is. In a month it will all be brown. I kind of enjoy that too.
Birds are out in earnest, making nests and soon I'll have little families popping up all over my porch overhangs. My garden is being weeded and worked on starting tomorrow. I'm going to be frugal this year, because other changes are in the wind. More about that at a future date.
I head off to Milwaukee to the Barbara Vey Reader Weekend, seeing lots of old friends and meeting new ones. Last year I tried the sausage over a bed of fried macaroni and cheese. I'm passing on that this time. (LOL).
But my new tat is the highlight of my spring, lovingly applied by Mike, the former SEAL who charmed me with stories about his days twice as a SEAL with a ten year hiatus between them. He became a biker and then returned to the SEALs ten years later.
He makes a pilgrimage to the Wall once a year, to visit some fallen brothers. Then he stops off in the midwest to visit a few friends he cultivated during his biker days. Some of them are in prison. But he makes that pilgrimage anyhow. A SEAL is a man who doesn't leave anyone behind, alive or passed over. He honors that commitment with solemnity.
I have little in common with such a man, except to say that I admire his service, which is still ongoing. I have a pretty much cream puff life, compared to his. I'm living the life men died to protect. It never gets old to say that, or to wipe my eye when I think of it.
As I said last month, life isn't perfect, but it's life and it's my life. I get to write the stories of my heart and visit with fans and people from all walks of life. We have far more in common than we have things that separate us.
If we just look for it. Wait for it. Embrace it.
Oh yes. Did you preorder SEALed At The Altar? You know you want to! Enjoy your Sunday, and your week. Safe travels to those who I'm going to see in Wisconsin later on!
I'm still here in San Diego, after the book signing yesterday at the Hard Rock Hotel. What a place. I didn't know what a Saturday beach party on top of deck 4 of the hotel, looked like. I do now! The crowd of 200 wore less fabric than I have currently in my hotel room closet. Drunk bodies everywhere. Had a lovely breakfast with readers yesterday, and again today with two special people over at Buster's. And OMG discovered people collect Hard Rock pins. My nemesis. Now I have to start doing this, in addition to my Disney pin collection. I'm so bad, I should be locked up.
Tonight I'm having dinner with family friends, and then tomorrow over to see Mike and get my new tat. Yes indeed!! I get a new one, to balance out the other shoulder. And catch up (I'm 8 books behind) on my frog prints on my forearm (one for every book).
Gave away some new patches, some I can't show here. Met some great bloggers and promoters and made some fun plans you guys will love coming up – including an event in Wine Country for next year (fingers crossed).
So, I came with no expectations, and walk away with pure love in my heart for all of you. I love the music here as I'm writing this. Did you know that it helps if you do music on repeat? Helps you concentrate when you hear the same thing over and over again? I love the purses I lust after but won't buy this time – maybe next. I loved the walk through the gas lamp district. The cheer groups at the Convention Center (brings back memories of Volleyball tournaments). The huge boats I'll never own, with names like Norma Jean and PayChex, from all over the world, including St. Thomas.
I recalled the day my son talked me into skydiving, and sat near the table we all sat at that one Sunday after his graduation. I showed the park where several of my couples have had sex. Had a nice long conversation with my dear best friend. I won't make it so long next time.
Oh, I need to ask, have you preordered SEALed At The Altar yet? You won't regret it. Working on finishing the chapters and adding some jewels this weekend. Getting some information from Mike tomorrow (2 X SEAL buddy).
Life is not what we make it, but what we want it to be. I love living in this imperfect world where all I have to do to get happy is to imagine it. If I jump into one of my stories, I'm there.
What could be better? What about you?
I've loved writing SEALs ever since my first novel in 2012. At the time, my son was serving as a SEAL, and I had been very moved about his service, how he had changed from a boy to a man, and how he was committed to such a program at such a young age. Most of us don't find out life's passion until we are well into our 30's. He did a little interview with me for a mastermind group of high-powered real estate professionals, and said, “I feel so fortunate to have found something I love so early in life.” That was when he was a new “tadpole”, and single. Now, with a wife and family, of course I've seen his priorities change.
This is what inspires me about writing. We take the everyday, and we make stories about it. None of what happens in my books really happens in real life. You readers don't look for detailed accounts of perhaps things that shouldn't be written about SEALs. I write fiction, and romantic fiction at that. Everything is seen through my rose-colored glasses. My stories are about finding love, sometimes losing it too, but mostly the Happily Ever After. My SEALs are the vehicle I use to tell those stories.
So it would come to me, as I see the journey of some of these men I've met, as they age and go on to other careers, so too do my characters. And the Bone Frog Brotherhood was born. My new release tomorrow, SEAL My Love, explores my older characters as they also find true love.
Gretchen is Kate Morgan's older sister. Many of you will remember her from SEAL Of My Heart, when Kate and Tyler fall in love on an airplane from San Francisco to Portland. This was based in part on a true story. I met a young marine coming home for Christmas from Vietnam, and we made one of those connections in the stars. At the time, I was not free to accept his beautiful letters and the flowers he sent afterward. And it wasn't until years later that I got to see him again, and I apologized for having to break it off when he went back to Vietnam. I was delighted to hear that he had survived. “Yours was the face I was coming back to. It didn't matter.”
So this became part of my story. What if I had gone a different path, followed his invitation and spent a life with him? Just before I released this book, I tried to look him up, and sadly discovered that he had passed away the previous summer. Gretchen says a prayer to her father, that marine in my story, in much the same way as I have prayed to him for the safety of my then-serving son as a SEAL. He would have been proud to know I had a son who went into military service. He was the first in my immediate family to do so without being drafted during either WWII or Vietnam.
So Gretchen has had three girls, and decides to take an adventure with Kate and Tyler and a bunch of their SEAL buddies and families. And that's where she meets Trace, an older SEAL, just attached to Team 3 from an east coast team, after a messy divorce. His wife ran off with another SEAL from another east coast team. Unfortunately, I have also heard that this happens in real life. So, it goes into my story.
These two mature, slightly damaged people find a way to fall in love again like it was the first time. And I believe I do show that this love is the forever love they never had before. I hope you'll enjoy their satisfying story.
My new release in April will be the continuation of my Bone Frog Brotherhood Book 1, the novella that started with a new years wedding and one-night stand that becomes something else. More to come on that later. But here's the cover reveal below.
Thank you for following me on these Sundays with Sharon. I love to hear your comments. I thank you for your readership. We all celebrate together the miraculous healing powers of true love.
As an author, we are constantly bombarded by choices, and most of them are choices to either spend money here, or there. There are so many conventions these days, and events, we do have to be careful or we'd be spending all our earnings and then some, just traveling from event to event. I wish I could attend all of them, but then I'd not be a writer, I'd be a professional attendee. My readers would be just as unhappy as I would.
But there comes a point in an author's career when we feel the need to give back. I try to do my best for readers and their causes and events they are involved in. (Here's a hint, if you're attending something and there is a chance to submit a gift basket or tote, I'm your huckleberry! Tell me and I'd gladly participate…end of hint). I do support Wounded Warriors and the UDT/SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida. I also support the Navy SEAL Foundation, the Kris Kyle Foundation, and several other new ones I'm learning how to connect with.
But an important part of being an author is to meet readers. Not many signings pencil out, when it comes to making back the money spent on travel and shipping books, but that's not the point here. Readers pay a lot of money to attend these events, on the chance of getting to meet an author they've loved or followed. Not just to get a book signed, but to get to take a picture, talk with them, and just feel connected.
Perhaps non-romance authors don't understand this. We are perhaps unique to this phenomenon in the romance genre. I can guess many horror or mystery writers might not want to meet their fans! LOL. (Just speculating, having fun with you here…) Some authors can be pretty scary, but so can some readers! In romance, there is very little of that.
I have a policy if a reader shows up to one of my events wearing one of my tee shirts, or something they've made using one of my books, they get a free little token from me, usually a free book. I love seeing my pink camo tee shirts show up to these. They also get to identify other readers of my books, especially the SEAL Brotherhood Series.
Last weekend, I attended the Love And Fifty signing, and this was my third year. It isn't important about the numbers. It was Sacramento, I got to see old friends, sit with Jody, my quilting and Navy Mom buddy, and catch up with other authors. On the way home I got to visit with my Stepmom, who is really my only living Mom, in Davis. High off the love of my reader friends, I had a nice three-hour chat with her.
So, when I'm asked by others if signings work for me, I have to say, Yes, they do! Nothing like watching Fifty Shades in a theater of other romance authors and their fans! We could cat call, and make giggles we would normally refrain from doing. I had a wonderful time. Not to be missed. But it's for the readers, and there doesn't have to be a line around the block to meet them, but a chance to reach out and say thank you for buying my books. It's the least I could do.
That's why I'm careful where I go, and I like to adjust or move around to different venues each year in different parts of the country. I try to limit them to a handful, but I always do twice as many as I should.
When I did an event at Valley Forge back in 2016, I was struck with what a perfect spot this venue was for a military author/reader event. And so, with the help of Renee Fisher, a super-organized and awesome author, as well as friend, we created Salute With Love. It's an event that's coming up this August, and I wrote about my experiences here at Valley Forge in my blog back then. Please read about it here.
If you find yourself drawn to the stories of military authors, and you are a lover of early American History, you'll love this venue and all that Renee and I have planned for you. I promise you won't be disappointed. We have a few spots left for authors, and of course we welcome readers with open arms. We can hold a ton.
It was very special that we were allowed to hold this event at this very revered venue. We can not only celebrate the birth of this country, appreciate all the sacrifices our fighting men and women and their families went through then as well as now, but can also celebrate our love of military authors. If you are of like mind, we need to have you there. You can join the FB page here. And then sign up here! Consider this an order!
As the words so beautifully spoken by a Navy SEAL Masterchief, the best way we can honor those who came before is by living our life the best we can because we can:
“It takes a little courage, and a little self control. And some grim determination, if you want to reach the goal. It takes a great deal of striving, and a firm and stern set chin. No matter what the battle, if you really want to win. There's no easy path to glory. There is no road to fame. Life, however we may view it, is no simple parlor game. But its prizes call for fighting, for endurance and for grit. For a rugged disposition that will not quit.”
Ever had one of those days where no matter what, the day just went sideways? I did. Here's what happened.
We were to receive a cashier's check from someone who owed us a considerable sum of money. It wasn't enough to change my life, but it would have been annoying to lose it. It was supposedly sent overnight mail, except we never received it. I suspect the Post Office placed it in someone else's box, who is perhaps away on a long vacation (or just doesn't go to his box often). It happens.
In this case, the person who sent the check is rather prickly and unpleasant. I received a nasty email from him basically saying I was to pound salt. I discovered I could take a copy of the check to the bank it was written on, and ask for a replacement. So far so good.
When I got there, I filled out the proper paperwork, after being told twice this was impossible to do, and was told I had to obtain a surety bond, which cost me about $100. Still worth it. The paperwork had to be notarized, but their notary was out to lunch. And it had to be paid for by a money order. I trotted next door to Safeway and got my money order, and then went to the nearest notary about 5 miles down the road. I had already burned up about an hour. No problem so far.
My husband had to accompany me, since both our signatures were required. We headed off to the notary, when we got stopped by a huge accident (involving a melted car). An hour and a half later, we were on our way back to the bank with our notarized paperwork. Their notary was back by then. Discovered the notary did the paperwork wrong, but after several calls to the corporate offices, the paperwork was accepted. Okay, now we are into this process about 3 hours.
Eventually the new cashier's check was issued to us. I had started this episode at 10 AM yesterday. I was finally finished at 4:30. I got to my bank just before they closed and was able to do the deposit. End of story.
I could be angry about this, except for the fact that my other choice was to wait weeks for a replacement to come from the sender. Or, wait until April when the uncashed cashier's check would be considered dead.
A lot could happen between now and April. In this case, the $100 was well worth it.
Something like this ever happen to you?
Christmas and Hanukkah mean so many things to me, as I'm sure they do for you. It is the season of family, new beginnings, and a festival of lights signaling the brightness of hope. This year, the lights in Windsor Town Green were made even more special by the outpouring of thanks for our First Responders.
Many of the grammar school classes chose to honor these heroes, who helped protect many of us and our homes from the devastating fires in Sonoma County. Our heart goes out for the loss of life and property we experienced as a community, and for what's going on in Southern California now.
We know what they're feeling, because we lived through the same. There are families spending the holidays in an apartment, or rented home, instead of the family home they celebrated in for years. For some, it will be truly a new beginning. For others, it chronicles the end of an era, and how some things will never be the same again. Displaced and evacuated peoples are finding all sorts of new ways to celebrate this end of 2017 as we mourn the past and adjust to the future. It's what we do.
I make a pilgrimage to look at favorite house lights and the trees in the Town Green every year, but this year affected me more. My grandkids enjoyed looking at each and every one of the trees — I think there were over 100 — all decorated by classrooms, families, businesses and civic groups from all areas of our county. I would say that the overarching theme was that of gratitude, how we are family, all of us, and how we'll all survive.
We ran into a group of carolers strolling down the streets, a gathering of Santas and elves celebrating at a local pub, and a vendor on the square selling bright flashing wands and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. We finished off our meal with ice cream at Powell's, and of course couldn't resist bringing home some peppermint bark, Giants Pez and salt water taffy.
I like it when the windows in local restaurants fog up, when the laughter behind glass as office parties and family get-togethers take place. I found myself missing the family members who will not be with us this year, and it gave me an improved opening scene for a novella I'm trying to finish.
We've had a mild, crisp winter so far, with a cold snap. I harvested a dozen pomegranate fruits, about two dozen new mandarins and some Meyer lemons. I came home to a cracklling fire and turned in early, wearing socks and a flannel nightgown. I considered penning a note to Santa myself.
And I dreamt of what glorious things were in store for me next year — for all of us. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. May the joys of the season be many for you and your family.
(PS – Blogger is not letting me respond to your lovely responses, but know I've been reading them all one by one. Thank you all!) — Sharon
|Love is All You Need|
|Honoring Home Town Heroes serving the military|
Every year I start planning my writing year in the fourth quarter. When I used to coach Realtors, my line would be, “The most important quarter of next year is the last quarter of this year.” That way, when you start out January 1, you hit the ground running.
It's the same for writing. In fact, all my nearly 30 years selling real estate and coaching agents for the top-rated professional coaching organization I was part of, has only underscored these business principles. We think of writing as an emotional journey. People think we writers write when we feel like it, and when “the muse strikes us,” and for some, that definitely is the way of it. But for the successful authors, which I strive to remain part of, it takes prior planning and discipline.
I used to think that writing was different than selling Real Estate. Well, after some 7 years, I can tell you it isn't. Everything is sales. Relationships are based on sales. Raising children is a huge sales job (and sometimes a battle between who is doing the better sell job on whom). Falling in love is sales. Having clients or fans is sales. Associating with other authors or other business people, is sales. Maintaining your positive energy and mindset is a tricky and important sell job we do on ourselves.
So, once again, I've stripped off the cloak of confusion, hiding and secrets, and jump head-on into the Business of Writing. After all, we are not hobbyists with our writing. We are professional authors. And to call us such, we have to have a business plan, a direction and a template to repeat or build on our successes and strive to eliminate what didn't work well.
What Went Right
What Needs Improvement
Then I gave my numbers from the previous year, and used a percentage at the sidebar, stating if it was up (an improvement) or down (a decrease), or stayed the same. I listed my 5 most important goals for last year and how I did on all 5 of them. After all, a year cannot be evaluated based on one thing alone. There are always things that are better or worse than before. It's never totally a success or a failure, right?
Then I decided what were my new goals for this upcoming year, and the numbers that supported that success. I broke it down to the number of work days, weeks, time off, conventions and events I wanted to attend, vacations, and came up with a total number of days I wanted to work. I backed the numbers into those days, figuring how many it took of each category to achieve what my goal was. For instance, if I made 42 cold calls a day, for 5 days a week, it automatically guaranteed an income of $X, based on my ratios. I knew how many appts. I needed to make, how many listings I would take, buyers I would have, and how many of those would turn into successful transactions, even figuring what my average transaction income was.
I've done the same for my writing year. I know there will be fluctuations in the marketplace, just like there is in Real Estate, and those are out of my control. But I can figure on a general figure, and I usually aim low. I know that certain books will generate what average income, whether it be by genre or length of book. I estimate how much I need to spend to promote and achieve those numbers, but I weigh them not on the promotion costs, but my activity costs. (I'm not buying the business, I'm generating a writing income. I've seen writers, as well as Realtors spend money to achieve ranking rather than actually creating it, which is the long-term sustainability goal). A book takes X number of days to write, and X number of days to edit, get the cover done, have formatted and upload. I have to take into account all these time factors to realistically estimate how much time it will take to achieve my goal. I may have to adjust by: being more consistent with my writing day, or, spending less on costs, or learning to write or edit faster, or change the environment around me as far as helpers and people who I pay to help me produce my product. Perhaps I need to trim staff. Perhaps I need to add. Perhaps trim the number of conventions, perhaps increase certain ones. You see how it goes.
And then the fun part happens, I mark it all out on a yearly calendar. I have eBooks, Audio Books, and Print Books. I have swag and other things I buy to promote. I put a budget to all these things, and then track it. And I keep a tight leash on my writing day vs. my promotional part of the day. For me, I like to keep the writing together, and the promotional days together so I don't have to keep switching hats all the time in the same day.
The last phase is How We Do It Here. I love Michael Gerber's books like e-Myth. I love the SEALs code of Prepare, prepare, prepare, train, train, train, action. Then aim. I like to aim after I've executed. I like to prepare after I've trained. I like to prepare for my training, and so forth, working backwards. Saying it more simply:
I dream about what I want to achieve
I plan for success
I train and focus on the plan
I execute** (notice I don't adjust during execution-“Balls To The Wall”)
I track and evaluate constantly
I adjust my plan
We often see the routes an airplane takes as a straight crescent from Point A to Point B. But in fact, it is a series of hundreds, perhaps thousands of adjustments along the way. If you were to see the path the plane took, it would look like wiggly lines a mouse might make traveling from one place to another, as he makes adjustments and perhaps gets distracted. We are the same as writers!
Why should we plan as writers? Well, my mentor used to say, “You get what you think about most the time.” He'd add to someone in the audience, a male he could joke with, “That means you'd turn into a blonde 30 year old bombshell.” But in seriousness, we have a plan so we have the vision to achieve it, and the backup to that vision, the way we're going to make it happen. This way, we get to launch into our next year with confidence. Those first few weeks of our year are like the Honeymoon Event, when everything is possible and nothing hasn't turned out wrong — YET! But the plan keeps us on track, so we can adjust, perhaps see where we made a miscalculation and make that correction before we have to work out the whole year in a mode that isn't going to work. Our plan is adjustable, because it's a working plan.
And any good working plan needs the courage to follow it, to track and look at it critically to make those adjustments. Otherwise, the plan is an exercise in futility. I knew a lot of Realtors who made a plan, but never concentrated on the execution or the little tweaks that could have paid them huge dividends. Writers are the same.
We learned to walk as toddlers by bumping into things and falling on our rears. No plan is perfect. No execution is perfect. But if we focus on it, focus on the training and preparation, the execution will come easier. Or rather, we can execute without second-guessing ourselves in the process. If we prepare and train, we don't hesitate. If we have a plan for the year, each day becomes more relevant instead of slipping away. Every story becomes part of the fabric of our writing year. Every character sketch or re-write brings us more jewels, more clarity and better books.
And it makes the whole process more fun.
I hope your 2018 is the very best year of your writing or reading life. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a New Year that will sparkle with all the magic success brings us all. After all, you deserve it!
***Late Note: Blogger is not allowing me to respond to all your wonderful comments. Just know that I'm reading each and every one of them, and taking them to heart. Feel free to pass along this column if you wish. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!***
|Making soap for mom and dad.|
Most of us have fond memories of the holidays when we were children. I can still remember making Swedish Tea Ring with my grandmother Christensen, in her kitchen in Fresno. My little hands worked the dough, and sliced little holes as the wreath was made, revealing the red and green candied cherries, the nuts and cinnamon tucked inside. It wasn't Christmas unless I could do that.
My grandparents sang Christmas carols in Danish, as well. My grandmother Fox told the story of how, as a new bride, they were snowed in one Christmas, and she couldn't get to the store. Instead of having a big feast, they had frozen sausages, pineapple rings, which she made with sprinkled red and green sugar, with red candy dots making the berries at the bottom of the wreath. To this day, we fry these little pineapple wreaths as we tell the story to the younger generation.
|Our 37# bird this year. Cooked in a bag.|
My little brother sang “Binkle Bells” at night when he was about three or four, when the whole house was quiet on Christmas Eve. I will never forget the sound of his sweet little voice echoing throughout our house.
We'd invite Stanford students from different countries to share our Thanksgiving tables. I remember Lali from Turkey, Bobo from France (his real name was Hubert), and our favorite vagabond traveler who had been all over the world, Currie. I could listen to his stories about his travels throughout the jungles and beaches of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand years before there was a war there. My mother taught him how to bake bread and cook because he'd hired on to an Alaskan exploration crew as a cook, and didn't know the first thing about it. Our friend, Harold, another student, taught my brother and I how to collect pennies.
I loved listening to Grandpa Fox's sermons, and, although I was embarrassed having to walk down the church aisle behind Grandma Fox (because she wore 7 purses), it was a special time for the Fox grandchildren, because the church body loved us as much as they loved Grandpa. He was and still is the largest person in life, who had a big God and the heart big enough to envelop us all.
|Butternut Squash from the garden|
When my brother and I sometimes stayed with them in Napa, sometimes women and children would be sheltered there, hidden away from an abusive husband. We would be awakened, and asked to sleep in the living room, so the mother and her children could have a warm bed to safely sleep in at night. We also learned that homeless people learned they could get a free meal at my Grandmother's rear kitchen door, and we knew there had been marking left on the fencepost, although we could never tell where those marks were.
When our kids were younger, we took a cruise at Christmas to the Caribbean, and were entertained by a local children's choir with their island-flavor Christmas carols one special Christmas Day. We watched monkeys come up to us on the beach and large parrots with colorful foliage robbed us of our fruit at a picnic.
I remember my oldest, D.J., arguing with children at a Macy's in San Francisco, talking to the “Talking Christmas Tree” and defending his honor, when these children called him stupid and made fun of the tree. “I'm your friend, Mr. Christmas Tree,” he told him. I was never more proud.
I was lucky. And so now I complete the cycle, spreading the stories. It's so difficult now, because we can't all sit at the same table. The little ones are so precious. My next-to-the-youngest last night told me this, “Grandma, I wish it was Christmas.”
I agree. With all four of my children safe and in the US out of harm's way, their spouses and children by their sides, we were all together this year. I think that makes it about the most perfect Thanksgiving and early Christmas it could ever be.
What about you? What's been special about your holiday so far? I'd love to hear about your traditions…
Thought you also wouldn't mind a couple of other shots of my San Francisco model, Justin Thomas (who is about as nice to meet as he looks). Just 2 more days. Ok ladies, start your engines!
You can order Bachelor SEAL here. Enjoy!
Who could resist this face? We visited with some people who were trying to care for this little orphan puppy, once loved, but the product of a divorce. My heart broke when I saw such a sweet dog having to live in an environment that isn't healthy for Dobermans. They need a lot of affection, and a lot of connection to their humans. They are working dogs, so they need a place to run. The pup practically wouldn't let me leave, and his behavior told me he was starved for affection. I knew we could give that affection and the right environment for him to heal.
When we left, I mentioned that if they needed a home for this darling, sweet tan Doberman, that we could provide a loving home. They of course had to check with the original owners, and the next day, they delivered this pup to our front door. He's scared, very skinny, but has one of the sweetest temperaments I've ever seen in a dog. It's a pure joy to see him running in our seven acre fenced yard, trying to keep up with the older dogs. He's already faster than Rosa (who is a bit chunky and everyone mistakes her for a Chocolate Lab).
We named him Tucker, since he's a Tan. Now we have a Blue, (Blue), a Red (Rosa), and a Tan (Tucker). Blue and Rosa are adjusting surprisingly well. Both of them are rather spoiled, so there have been some growling and boundary setting issues, but so far it's been better than we expected. And he didn't cry all night long. He can't make it up stairs yet (probably never experienced them), nor does he know what a dog toy or a dog treat is.
He slept on a new bed I bought him with a fleece cover, and when I showed it to him, he lay right down on it like he understood. We have beds all over our house for the other dogs, but I wanted a fresh one without a scent to be his. My two older ones are delighted they can have the entire upstairs to themselves – their sanctuary. He doesn't pee in the house either, which is the one phase of puppyhood I wasn't looking forward to.
We think he'll be big, as we estimate he's about 5 months old. He goes to the vet this week for shots and a checkup. We'll get a little meat on him, if we can, so we don't see those ribs, which are painful to watch.
But what a joy, and a pure love. Next issue will be having him neutered, but one event at a time. We'll let him get adjusted first. Then we'll deal with his manhood issue. LOL. Rosa and Blue are both fixed. We want him to heal when he feels more confident in his surroundings.
We felt we saved this sweet dog's life. Welcome to the family, Tucker.
Our President has visited the Arizona Memorial today and I was reminded of my trip to Pearl Harbor in February of 2016, while at a writer's conference. Each time I visit this sacred site, my love for the military and all those who sacrificed for me and my freedoms increases. Words cannot express how it changes a person to see the oil still leaking from the bow of the great ship, now residing in the shallow waters of the Bay, with some of its crew forever enshrined.
I wrote about that visit on my blog from December 2016 here.
During that visit, I was able to see several Japanese visitors pay their respects to the fallen. The flowers I wore that day floated out to sea with the flowers and water contributed by those visitors in a shared time and place that was over 75 years in the making. For this memorial is their memorial too. It is a memorial for the whole world. It's a reminder of what was, what was done, and what remains to this day. It's the ongoing saga of war and peace that has haunted mankind for centuries. It is the best and worst of times all in one.
We study history through the lens of our own experience and to each one of us, that history is slightly different with many thoughts and feelings in common. But not all. History is personal. And it needs many voices to tell the story in all its detail. For one person alone could never do it. Even one nation couldn't tell the story of why so many men and women die while serving those they protect honorably, and why and how those of us who remember and live on are grateful.
I write about fictional heroes, who don't always die. I am saving fictional characters, one at a time. It's all I can do, by adding names and stories from my head, putting them on paper for readers to love and enjoy. It's another fantasy view of the history of the world inside my brain. Writers have the joy and the burden of not only telling stories of what really happened, but what could be. In that way, these men and women live forever. My stories will outlive me some day.
On this rainy day in Northern California, I'm remembering those wind-swept afternoons I walked along the beach in Honolulu and traveled on a little boat to visit a part of my history. And I'm grateful to be here to reflect and share. Throwing my words like leis on the water going out to sea.
|My parent's old home was left standing. Melted shutters.|
Many of you familiar with my history and my work know that in 2008 our house burned down. I had, up until that time, maintained a busy and successful Real Estate career. It was a challenge, in a falling market, working with two other family members and a team of assistants, but it was a well-oiled machine that left us in the top 10 of just about every category in Northern California. I was proud of it.
When our fire occurred, it gave me the opportunity to do something else. Insurance gave us some living arrangements (a small one bedroom apartment), which I mainly stayed in by myself. Our property and house were an all-consuming job for my husband. Plus we had about 50 chickens, our Dobermans and “visits” by people who thought it was a good idea to help themselves to some of our things. He was doing battle with the insurance company, contractors and cleanup crew. All my clothes were either burned or affected by smoke.
Here are some scenes from the recent Wildfires in Santa Rosa. Not my house this time, but way more devastating.
I had a couple of choices. I could go replace everything, pretend nothing had happened and just resume my former business, or I could take a little time to sort out what exactly I wanted to do. We had to decide whether or not to rebuild the house, where we would live, what things we would throw away and what things we'd save for later sorting. My head was spinning.
Because I was alone with the apartment, next door to our office, I solved my lack of sleeping problem (too much to think about) with some late-night movies, and some reading. I did more reading than I'd previously done in years. I discovered Outlander and it got me hooked into good old fashioned storytelling. I even began an email dialog with Diana Gabaldon at one point.
Although very stressful, the fire actually became the catalyst for my writing career. I think opportunity comes from stresses that seem at the time to be overwhelming. Just like diamonds created by millions of years of pressure and heat from earth masses, the creative side of me, one that hadn't been tested or expressed, began oozing out and I spent more time in my fantasyworld than I did on reality. I did it first out of self preservation. And then I began to do it because I felt it was my calling.
I wish I could say the process was clear, direct and in a straight line to success. Just like everything worthwhile in life, there are ups and downs. But, looking back, if I had to do it all over again: sacrifice some of my very precious things for a chance adventure into a new realm, or to wake up my fantasy world, I'd do it all over again. I really would.
Like the Phoenix, I emerged from the fire a completely different human being. I think about this these days as I drive past burned out homes and consider all the decisions and issues affecting people's lives who have survived our horrible wildfire.
Remember my premise: circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. This path wasn't one I'd planned on following. But it's one I chose once I had the options. I guess that's why they say we have to understand the difference between what we can control and what we cannot. And be good with it, focusing on what we can control.
In a way, my house burning down was a blessing. I hope some of this will be the experience of some others this year. Terrible tragedy in most ways. But not all ways. There are some people who are going to be given choices they'd never really had before. And that's where the rising, the magic comes.
Watched the documentary on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip. I'd never been a Dead Head, though I lived amongst people who knew them well, and have meet several of the Dead band members. I had to be introduced because I wouldn't have recognized them. I sold a house to one of their Sound Engineers and he had to go see the property at 2-3AM to make sure the countryside was sufficiently quiet enough so, when he came home from work, he could sleep.
We don't think about all the sacrifices people have to endure to make creative endeavors. How some endeavors overtake us, some make us whole and happy, and others haunt our very lives. I do understand the burden of having to be the leader of a band and a movement not of Mr. Garcia's own creation. He just wanted to make music and help people have fun. Period.
I've said it many, many times: Circumstances don't make a person. They reveal a person. How we react to the forces in our time on this earth is our choice, our focus. Some people try to change it, direct it. I see it like raising a child. You can't tell them everything they will need to know to grow up straight, resilient, happy and strong. But you gently guide them and introduce them to different directions, and some of these may take hold. There is no right nor wrong of it. It's what we do.
It's the same for creative endeavors like writing a story. We fall in love with characters, bring them to the edge and just before they fall off the cliff, we save them. It could be something that randomly comes from their past, or something deep inside them and brings a strength they didn't know they had inside until they are tested. Compelling stories in romance tell how a person becomes a better version of him or herself, due to the love relationship that changes their lives.
If I do it right, I take the reader on a journey. The reader knows things the character doesn't yet know about. Of course, things have to be a surprise too, we want the character to do or say things outside his or her usual sphere, and we can have fun with that as they experiment with something new. We do this as writers all the time with our own worlds — I mean, the worlds inside and outside my head.
I had trouble sleeping last night, so I spent it with my characters, former SEAL Morgan Hansen and his ex-wife, supermodel and women's empowerment guru, Halley (who still goes by the last name Hansen). In this story I've gotten to explore the chemical attraction between the two of them, now tempered with the passage of alone time, while her career has spiked and his as a former Navy SEAL has ended. Except, once a SEAL, always a SEAL, there is danger and a forced collaboration that results in an almost pre-determined series of events neither one is able to control.
You can preorder the book here: Bachelor SEAL
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/d/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-Book-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon FR: https://www.amazon.fr/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Amazon DE: https://www.amazon.de/Bachelor-SEAL-Sleeper-SEALs-English-ebook/dp/B072BWYC76/?tag=sharohamil-20
Barnes & Noble: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-seal
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bachelor-sealAnd I love the idea of control as a theme, or rather, how we have little of it. We don't control mother nature (our recent wildfires), or how God has made each one of us unique (the birth of my 6th grandchild, Lily Aria), or when we have set the forces of the universe on a particular path that will have a collision course with other forces in motion and out of our control.
Having fun. Eating doughnuts, drinking coffee, and I'm going to take a couple of hours off this afternoon for some grandbaby time.
Life is good. Another story is nearing it's HEA. Once it's out there, I will have no control. I think I like it better that way.
|She's in the fantasy of the story. He eats cake.|
I always told myself that I loved writing my stories so thoroughly that I would never experience burn-out, or need a break. I told myself that was what other authors did who perhaps had overwhelming things come up in their lives: family concerns, economic downturns or just life in general, and this somehow wouldn't apply to me. Because none of these things would happen to me. I always thought of myself as bullet-proof. Unstoppable. I'm a great one for giving this kind of advice too. Just ask me.
And then June-July of this year happened. I can't say what it was. I knew something was up (still in denial mode) when I knew I shouldn't read my reviews and couldn't stop from doing so, when friends who had phenomenal success suddenly made me feel like a loser, or when I made up stories about the significance of book sales, how fast people got back to me, and on and on and on it went. You know the drill. Your mind goes on a dribble like chasing oversized zucchinis down a hill. These lumpy thoughts felt like my brain was filled with busy little ants trying to make a kingdom of my gray matter.
|Seeking vehicular meaning. Not.|
Every one of my calendars was still on July, until last week. My desk looked like a hamster was nesting there. I hated to check social media, stayed off Facebook and especially Messenger, but a few got through. When people started thinking perhaps I was dead, I had to laugh. Even then I didn't respond sometimes. I know. It was selfish, self-absorbed, poor manners. But I needed a break.
This December 15th it will be ten years since I started writing. It will be eight years since I published my first little novella, and five years since I published my biggest seller, Accidental SEAL, my first book to take off and begin to make some serious money. I've taken roughly sixty online writing classes, attended about a hundred RWA Chapter meetings, attended probably close to that number of book signings and online FB events. I have a huge following and newsletter list, and lots of adoring fans who fill me with delight. So, what's the problem?
|The emergency brainectomy of life.|
At first I thought I'm boycotting social media because, after all, this last election cycle had to be one of the nastiest one in our history. I was so disappointed to read how my very good writer friends had positions I thought were crazy, or how they thought my positions were. I stopped talking politics except at home, but I should have stayed out of it there too. There was nothing redeeming on social media and I felt like a mouse in that enormous flywheel, running, running, running to catch up. I still missed things, deadlines snuck up on me, and others I had to just walk away from.
But social media wasn't the reason for my situation. Amazon wasn't the big bad monster interfering with discoverability and book sales. I wondered if my Red-White-and-Blue-Rah-Rah-Love-The-Military themes in my books were getting shoved down in the algorhithms. Was there too much competition? Or, did I not work hard enough? Did I believe in myself enough? Where was God, my family and my friends and how come they couldn't fix me? Help me?
|I expected to look 20 when I peeled this off.|
Facials and massages didn't work. The soapmaking classes, collage classes, walks in the park, gardening, starting a new business, traveling to Mexico, didn't work. I dyed my hair red, and that made me laugh, but it didn't put the fire in my soul. I listened to music, burned a ton of candles, stayed out in the sun as much as I could stand, and even tried to go vegan for awhile. I tried to read and couldn't get through any of the first chapters. I got more sleep than I've had in years. I cancelled seven events, dealt with a blood clot to my leg and a minor stroke my husband had. Everything is fine. No life-threatening things on the horizon then or now.
So, what was it?
It was my logical mind trying to do a BDSM session with my creative mind. It took special glee in whipping and tying my creative self up with “that doesn't works” and “you are so stupid” comments, humiliating that part of me where all the magic lives. And the longer it went, the more my logical mind tried to be in control. I was trying to figure it all out.
I love the story about the two dogs. One dog is the vicious, fearful one, and the other dog is the excited, loving and creative dog that loves affection, connection and that sense of coming home. That famous Native American story goes that we have to decide what dog we feed.
The only way through it is to give myself over to the Creative Brain. There is no real control, is there? We don't know why music fills our soul, or why flowers make us happy, or why sun brings us some sort of divine energy from the Heavens. Our creative side has no limits, no borders, no barriers and no regrets.
And it's a choice. That's what I've chosen.
Will I go back to being a social butterfly? No. I'm going to be careful. I'm going to pace myself. I'm going to be careful who I hang around, who fills my day. But I'm going to make most of it filled with my characters from the books. I've been missing them.
And unlike real life, I can have as many lovers in my fantasy life as I choose. I guess what I found, after all this wandering is not my brain, but my heart. Writing stories is the most enjoyable activity in my life. That's the dog I'm feeding.
What do you think? I'd really love to hear it…(kiss, kiss).
If you hadn't met me, you'd think I was seriously mixed up. Well, maybe I am. Here I like flowers and gardening, romance and all that goes with it. Expensive lingerie and kids and family and kisses. Going barefoot at the beach, and Happily Ever After.
But I also love my men to be men. Having a man's man around makes it easier to be a woman, I mean a real woman. That is different things to different people. But I find a man who respects women, who honors our country and protects me and my freedoms, is worthy of my undying love and loyalty. It is something bred into my DNA. I can't speak for all women, but this is what it is for me.
So when I read about this real hero, believe it or not, it makes me want to sit down and write romance. I can't explain it, but it brings out all the romance in my body and soul. I'm sure there is some biological chemical reaction to this, which is way beyond me, and not important for me to understand fully. It is what it is.
I'd like to share this interview with the folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company. I am a coffee club member, and I get these shipments regularly, and I have since stopped buying anything from those big box places. This company is owned and operated by Veterans, who help other veterans. And it's darned good coffee too. I love their attitude, their very non-PC approach to freedom, living a life full-out, and being men among men and the women who are lucky enough to love them. It's a family and kith not everyone can understand.
So hope you'll read this newsletter, and perhaps subscribe yourself. And with your first cup of Joe, you let me know which blend is your favorite. I haven't tried Berzerker Blend, but I'll be ordering it today.
My favorite so far is Black Beard's Delight, with the flag logo of Edward Teach, the most notorious pirate of the Caribbean. I got the patch, the hat and the thermos to go along with it.
Enjoy and I hope I've expanded your world today.
Here's an excerpt from their blog and the link to read more:
Oh yes, you think I'm joking? I did it this morning. Last night I needed something very light to wear because it was still near 100 degrees at bed time. So, I wore one of my black long lacy nighties worthy of any erotic Halloween. As I do these days, I get up and water my garden in whatever I've been wearing to bed. So, today I vamped in my black nightgown. I deadheaded like any good witch, picked replacement roses that had wilted last night beside my bed in the heat, checked my cucumbers and melons, pulled some bolted lettuce, clipped my coriopsis and daisies, and added extra sprinkler timers to the flower bed and part of the lawn that doesn't catch water yet.
We have no neighbors so I can do this. My gown was muddy and wet, but refreshingly stuck to my body in cold ribbons in the hot breeze. Yes, I started about 6:30 AM and didn't finish until nearly 10.
The story I'm finishing is a novella, and I'm in love with this couple. Yes, I know, I do say this every time, but I am in love with Trace and Gretchen, both second time arounders. Trace has just transferred to Kyle's Team 3 from an east coast team, like Cooper did in the early books. Gretchen is Kate's sister (of Kate and Tyler in SEAL Of My Heart that was just on a Book Bub special), Book 7 of the SEAL Brotherhood Series. She was married to a professional basketball player until he outed his womanizing on one of the tabloid TV shows and the marriage was over. So, Gretchen has some baggage, but nothing Trace can't work out.
Many of you will remember that Tyler's sister, Linda Gray, is a romance novelist, in her thirties, and Tyler modeled for the cover of her book. Linda has never married, but she's one outrageous character. Like me, she wears red all the time and lives a life in her books she never gets to have in real life. So she and Gretchen are becoming acquainted and best friends. While they both go after Trace, from two different corners.
This is an unedited chapter I hope you'll enjoy. This novella will be part of Tropical Tryst, an anthology of works from 25 of your favorite authors, releasing August l, and available for preorder now.
Enjoy the story. I plan on doing a full length book with this couple next year.
The scene takes place as Gretchen is getting situated in the room she's sharing with Linda, in an old plantation-style Hawaiian home built in the 1800's. It is up in the hills, with views of several of the Hawaiian islands and the beach and ocean several miles away. Linda thinks she going to use this as the location for her next novel, about a Hawaiian girl of royal lineage who falls in love with a Navy SEAL.
So, here's a chapter (unedited) from SEAL My Love:
Thank you, readers, for my great launch week for Jake2. I truly appreciate your feedback and support! Loved writing this book!
Sometimes you get into a story, and it becomes deeper than you'd planned, or you get caught up in a secondary character who makes his/her appearance on stage and completely takes over the storyline for a time.
With Band of Bachelors: Jake, I had one of those occurrences. I loved writing about this dysfunctional family and all their problems. Jake, based on a real SEAL I knew briefly, had fathered four children with three different women, not because he was a bad person, but because he couldn't say no, and wasn't careful. It didn't matter to him if sex brought him more children because he loved his children.
I know there are “norms” and I get hit with occasional comments from the Reader Police, informing me about how I've bended or broken the rules. In the words of one of my delightful writer friends, “You don't have to worry about breaking the rules, just understand the rules you are breaking.” She breaks them all the time, and so do I. I think that gives variety and spice to the romance genre, and we also get to try out things that perhaps we wouldn't have been able to if we all subscribed to the same lock-step rules.
So my guy is one of those who doesn't pay attention to the seed he spawns. Okay. That still doesn't disqualify him as a hero, because he makes good on his intentions – just learns the lesson later than most. And that happens in real life, right?
So, at the end of Band of Bachelors: Jake, I already knew there had to be a Book 2. I also am aiming more toward things that could be made into TV or movie pilots, and, from talking to screenwriters and others who produce TV pilots, they usually want the same character in each episode, not different couples, like I have in the beginning of my SEAL Brotherhood Series. So, I've been testing how I could do this, and have done it now three times: with Jameson in Nashville SEALs, Fredo in Fredo's Dream, and now with Jake2.
As a writer, I try to look for new projects for me, experiments that tickle my fancy (maybe some other things too, but I won't mention them!) and keep the creative part, well, creative! In Paradise, I wrote that book in first person. In SEAL Of Time, I created a paranormal Navy SEAL, son of Poseidon, who is an immortal healer.
As a reader, you like that, right? I know as a reader of some of my favorite authors, I sure do. I love seeing new things my favorite authors can accomplish. It's like opening a new chapter on a familiar book, and discovering something you hadn't read before. Thanks for taking the journey with me!
Happy Birthday America! Today we remember those who went before us. I wrote a whole post on my visit to Valley Forge last year, and how moving it was for me. I loved it so much, we're planning on a military salute at the same location next August, and would love you to join us.
There are some times recently when I've forgotten how hard it was for those early freedom fighters, and the men who commanded them. Most of these men did not fare well during the Battle for Independence. But they fought for the cause of freedom. Not many of them knew this was going to be the case, but they fought and died so we could have what we have today.
It is an awesome choice we have these days: honor our tradition of fierce independence, or ignore it, scrap it all and let someone else figure it out. It is frustrating to know what is the right way to do it. How about we just agree to let them get it done and stay out of the way. We show up, we vote, and then let's have faith that our system will survive, even if, at the time, we may or may not like what's going on?
I looked at those photographs, the film that chronicled the fact that so many men died just from lack of food, or shoes. It was a cold winter that year at Valley Forge, and perhaps it would have been easier to give up. But they didn't.
We'd do well to remember that.
Here's my blog about Valley Forge from last year here.
And if you'd like to join us, here's all the information on the Salute With Love military author signing – for readers and authors alive. Help us spread the word.
And celebrate your independence, your freedom, by living the best life you can live, standing for the highest principles we can, and including everyone in our tent, but excluding those who would do us harm. And I hope you join with me in honoring those who fought so that we could have a more perfect union. I celebrate us all.
Happy Independence Day!
There are lots of things that satisfy me about gardening. Here are some of my favorites.
Preparing the Soil:
Yesterday afternoon we were weeding the garden. I've planted carrots, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage and lettuce in long rows, along with onions and potatoes. Every year for nearly twenty years I'd get a 10-yard dump truck load of mushroom manure from the Mushroom Farm in Petaluma. In case you don't know how much that is, it's a pile that would nearly touch the second story of a house! I'd work this into the dark clay soil one wheelbarrow at a time (and yes, my arms got sore). I usually got a sunburn on that day, and for a week afterwards, the whole yard smelled like a manure pile.
To me, it smelled like Heaven! Really! So, last night, as I was pulling these weeds, they came out so clean, the soil was so balanced and lovely, with just the right amount of moistness and nutrients, it was pure pleasure. My remaining little plants are standing straight and tall this morning. A great garden takes years in the making, because it has to start with wonderful soil.
I've hired gardeners to help with some of the heavy labor, and help set up irrigation systems, something I've not taken the time to learn. Some day. All of them remark how they'd like to put in this system and that, to help with the watering. And they'd look at me strange when I'd tell them, “But I like the two hours a day it takes to water.”
I really do. I look over the leaves as the wand spreads the wet goodness and washes away the dirt and grit, I watch as it sinks into the soil. I snip the heads off flowers while I water (I wear an apron with clippers, a small shovel, mosquito repellant, some assorted seeds for in-filling, a couple plastic plant identifiers and a permanent marker, along with some string). I replant seeds that didn't come up, or replace a plant that won't grow properly with a new seed, or bury the seeds I'm dead-heading back into the soil to create volunteers. It's the tending it takes to notice, adjust and gently coax and guide my garden into a thing of beauty.
And it very much is like writing a book.
Small shoots of cabbage and lettuces are plucked for salads. Othertimes I just thin the plants so that the ones remaining have room to grow. When your fingers work the soil so carefully and closely, you see things you would miss otherwise. Last night I discovered one of my baby praying mantis bugs. I put a larvae of them on each of two rose bushes in my garden out back. Each is supposed to harvest about 500 little mantis, who are voracious eaters of aphids and other non-beneficial bugs. Since he was crawling over the little pile of weeds, I carefully cupped my hands around his little 1/2″ body and placed him back in the roses where he could find the best food. Unless I'd been on my knees doing this job, I'd have missed getting introduced to him!
Every year my garden takes on a new personality, like the books I write. Working on my hands and knees, or watching from above carefully, helps me get to know the garden that wants to reveal itself to me. Yes, I don't grow the garden. The garden grows all by itself. I just place the order of things, set the stage for the play they create all their own. It is a very magical experience for me. It's like discovering characters that fall in love, or experience hurt or happiness in my books.
Taking the Bounty:
Harvesting comes along with the changing of the seasons. Like in the Bible, the time to sow and time to harvest. When I remove something, I can replant, or put something else in its place. Or, I can let the ground rest. Like one of my favorite signs over my desk states, “My garden isn't dead. It's sleeping.” Letting a garden rest is a good thing.
Eating the first fruits of my labor is always a joy. I've now had my first sunflower. My first handful of sugar peas, flat French beans and we've juiced lots of baby Chinese cabbage and bok choi plants as we've thinned the mounds. I've had a half dozen cherry tomatoes already and am on my second cycle of lettuce. We had enough small patty pan squash for dinner last night too.
And that reminds me, time to get the refrigerator cleaned out, because I'm about to become inundated with good, healthy food!
As you see, I could go on and on. There is one mindset for a flower garden. Another for a food garden. And I like to mix them together as well. I think lettuce grows well at the base of a trellis of sweet pea blossoms. Calendulas help with the moths that bring aphids and also discourage gophers. The garden changes every day, and each day it emotes different emotions as I tend, watch and enjoy seeing it transform before my eyes.
It is truly a living work of art. Hopelessly addicted. In love forever.