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Thoughts and Musings

Life-long Love of Stories

The computer replaced the blackboard as my grownup creative tool for client projects; in retirement, I've used it to write a novel.





My earliest playtime memories are of drawing pictures with colored chalk on a small blackboard when I was four years old. Alone in the playroom, I'd draw a cat, dog, or horse and make up a story about it. I kept the stories in my head, since I hadn't yet learned to read or write.


One of my favorites was about a horse I named Champ. He was white with large spots that looked like coffee and cream stirred up, and his mane and tail were black with some white in them. He lived at the riding stable we went to, and in my story, I rode him all by myself on trails through the fields and woods. We galloped!


In reality, my older sister took lessons on a similar-looking horse, and my riding was limited to sitting in front of my father astride a safe old mare who only walked. I liked that, but what I imaged was much more fun!


Learning to read opened up delightful new worlds for me, and I'm always sad when I finish a book and the story is over. I love books so much that I always wanted to write them; by the second grade, I was folding sheets of paper and writing stories in "books."


My first job was writing a school news column and features for a local weekly newspaper. I loved having a by-line as well as earning good money. I attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and won an award for a business feature. However, I changed to advertising because it combined writing, art, business and psychology, and allowed for a more positive outlook. During college, I worked at the local radio station, and I still remember feeling thrilled when my boss introduced me as "a writer."


Upon graduation, I needed to earn a living. Ad agencies weren't hiring newbie copywriters during that recession, so I sold newspaper advertising, which paid well. My early career zig-zagged between low-dollar creative opportunities and sales gigs I took when I needed money.


I combined all of my skills when I started a marketing communications company to serve technical and business-to-business clients. For 20 years, I loved crafting their stories explaining how they could help their customers. I developed the concepts, did the writing, art direction and project management, working with photographers, graphic designers, and website developers. I often felt like the kid with her chalkboard as I created brochures, ads, or articles. But I had no energy to write fiction after-hours.


I retired early to write novels. As I wrote each scene, I felt pure joy! My first novel, Family of Choice: Raising Each Other, will be published by the end of 2023, and I'm eager to get started on the next book in the series.

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Seeing God from my Hammock

A favorite spot to relax and see God in many of his glories.



Our priest often asks us, "Where did you see God this week?" So, I've developed the habit of opening my eyes to his omnipresent presence.


Lounging in my hammock recently, I saw God everywhere: In the bright blue sky and the cloud beyond the branches; in the massive maple tree; and in the natural rhythms of the changing seasons he created, to which the colorful leaves served as a reminder.


I love this tree. Besides giving me a shady spot to rest, it provides nests and a playground for multiple litters of baby squirrels, a smorgasbord for a nuthatch that patrols its trunks for insects, and habitat for pairs of Downey and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.


I shot this photo just before the hammock came down for winter storage. God will continuously show his face to me in the coming days through the beauty and darkness of winter.


Where did you see God today?

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Free Cat Toy in Every Box!

Brother Boy and Sister Kitty dare me to take their toy.



Despite having a full box of toys, my two young Tonkinese cats prefer to make their own. Recently pulled from the recycle bin, this cardboard pull-tab from a Fancy Feast® Collection case is now their favorite. They bat it across the floor, toss it in the air, pounce on it, and carry it everywhere. And if one grabs it and runs, the chase is on!


If you're wondering why this blog post is on my author's website, one of the early readers of my soon-to-be-published novel, Family of Choice: Raising Each Other, liked one character's calico and requested in her notes, "More cat, please!" So, I'm planning to include felines based on these two in the series' second book. Since I'm not sure of their fictional names yet and to preserve their privacy, I'll refer to them here as Brother Boy (top in photo) and Sister Kitty.


I'm just beginning to develop the outline, so they can serve as my mews!

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Making Something Out of Nothing

Planning the design for my first garden. To see the results, click on the featured in This Old House link in the text. 



The ultimate creative challenge—and thrill—is to start with a completely clean slate: To create an entirely new concept; to visualize something truly new and different. I enjoyed doing that in creating my first garden from a virtually empty backyard. But even then—as with writing a novel—certain fundamentals are useful guides.

Fundamental elements

There’s usually something that has to be used. Like it or not, budget precluded replacing the ugly garage and the yard measured just 40 feet at its widest point by 30 feet deep. The 1939 house was a Tudor revival, English cottage style, and its brick façade had strong orange tones accented with purple. I liked it, but it did impose design constraints.

Likewise, I had to do a lot of prep work before starting Chapter 1 of my novel: What was it about? Who were the characters, and what was at stake for them? How could their stories be told? Then, I needed to create an outline.

Form and function

How will the creation be used? How much flexibility do we need to provide? Is there an order to revealing information? How much detail should be included?

I wanted my tiny garden to provide several things:
• An overall feeling of privacy and tranquility
• Dining options in sun or shade
• A fountain
• A hammock
• A swing
• Adirondack chairs with a table
• Wind chimes
• Formal paths and service paths
• The ability to wander
• Lots of roses, herbs and perennials

Design solutions included replacing the ratty old hedge with a pretty cedar fence to increase usable space, building a large arbor to hide the garage and put the relaxing area away from the side abutting the neighbors, and using two entry arches and paths to provide directional choices that led to the different “rooms” of the garden. Roses were predominately apricot and orange blends; catmint, lavender, and salvia related to the purple tones in the brick—and all combined beautifully in an informal cottage garden.

The unexpected

Being new to roses at the time, I didn’t know that colors would change during the life of blooms. A group in the center of the garden turned out to be much more pink than expected, so I added others in various shades of pink to make the color look intentional—and was surprised to see how well they worked with the orange roses! That garden was featured in This Old House magazine in 2013, and lives on today in its online archives.

For my novel, I structured it as a non-traditional family saga. Even then, I realized the outline I'd developed couldn't be covered in one volume. So, I chose a major event as the natural close to a major phase in the characters' lives--and wrote a cliff-hanger ending to set up the next book in what will be a series!

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