It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing

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#fridayreads Book Excerpt – Evelyn Evolving

Posted by mcm0704 on April 28, 2017 |

It is only fitting that, on this day in particular, I continue sharing excerpts from the book I’m writing about my mother. This is her birthday. She died three years ago at age 95, and I still miss her. I am not sure when I will never miss her, or even if that is possible.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite pictures of her. It was taken a couple of years before she died.

We loved to go to the lake in Lake City, Michigan with our sketchpads in hand and spend several hours drawing and talking, or drawing and not talking. Either way was okay.

She also loved flowers, pansies in particular, so these are for her.

And now here is the excerpt, picking up from what I shared last Friday. It’s long, but it finishes a chapter, so I wanted to include it all. Enjoy…

For the rest of the dinner hour, Evelyn’s legs trembled from standing in one position for so long, and hunger rumbled in her stomach. And still nobody looked at her, except for Sister Honora who seemed fixed on watching, as if wanting to catch Evelyn in some other transgression. She didn’t know if Sister Honora would make her wear the dirty panties during evening prayer. She fervently hoped not. But she tried to steel herself for the possibility. She didn’t want to cry. Not for hunger or for humiliation. She wanted to be strong like her sister. Viola never cried when the sisters hit her or insulted her or made her do horrible things. Viola would just set her jaw and look them in the eye and hold the tears back.

Somehow, Evelyn needed to find the strength to do that, too. Otherwise the other kids would learn how weak she really was and take advantage.

Evelyn stood for another painful hour as evening prayer followed dinner, and her only plea to a God she wasn’t even sure was listening was that the session would end before her legs gave out and she fell. Once when Maria had toppled over in a heap during a punishment, she had received ten hard smacks with Sister’s cane on the back of her legs. The same fate would have Evelyn hobbling for days.

Finally, when Evelyn thought she could stand there no longer, it was over. Sister Honora closed the book of evening prayers and walked down the aisle to Evelyn. “Take that filthy rag off your head and get washed.”

“Yes, sister.” Evelyn turned quickly and headed to the washroom. She took off her clothes and stepped into the large washtub that was used for bathing. The water was cold, but she didn’t care. She took the bar of lye soap and scrubbed her hair, and then went under the water, holding her breath for a long time. She wished she could stay under forever. Never have to face Sister again. Or be hungry. Or be teased by the other children.

Sputtering, Evelyn burst out of the water, gasping for breath. Two older girls were in the washroom. “Hurry up,” one of them shouted. “Get your stinky self out of here.”
Evelyn quickly got out of the tub and dried herself with a rough towel. Then she pulled on the clean clothes she had grabbed from the sleep room and dressed. She took the wet underwear to one of the sinks and washed them, soaping and rinsing and soaping and rinsing again to get the odor out.

After lights were out for a little while and all was quiet in the sleeping area, Evelyn heard a rustle of sheets and then felt a tap on her shoulder. She looked up at her sister. “Here,” Viola said, holding out a hunk of bread wrapped in a napkin.

Evelyn grabbed the bread and took a large bite, sending a cascade of crumbs down the front of her nightgown.

“It’s making a mess.”

“Oh, brother,” Viola said, lowering herself to Evelyn’s bunk. A dim shaft of moonlight from the window fell across the front of Evelyn’s nightgown, and Viola saw the crumbs. She brushed them into her hand and then licked them off. “Be careful. If Sister finds crumbs, we’ll both get punished.”

“Sorry.”

Viola sat on the edge of the bed. “Finish now. Then I’ll clean up the rest.”

“Why are you being so nice?”

“Because that’s what sisters do.”

“But you weren’t nice in the dining hall.”

Viola looked off into the darkness. “I couldn’t.”

Evelyn didn’t understand why, but that was just one more thing she didn’t understand about this place or how differently her sister acted when they were alone. This sister. The one who would sneak her food at night, was the sister who always made Evelyn feel better for a little while. She poked Viola to get her attention.
“Are we ever going to get out of here.”

“I don’t know.”

“When I’m a mother, I’m not going to do this.”

Viola frowned. “What.”

“Give my babies away.”

“That’s years and years away. You don’t know what you will do.”

“Yes I do.” Determination pushed her upright. “I’m going to have a house. Like Miz Beatrice. And three children. And a father. And a mother. And kittens who don’t run away.”

“Oh brother.”

Evelyn giggled. “You always say that.”

Viola sighed. “And you always say the silliest things.”

“It’s not silly. It’s perfect.”

Viola sighed again, then put an arm around Evelyn. “You’re right.”

“What do you wish for?” Evelyn asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t think about it much.”

Viola paused for so long, Evelyn wondered if she was going to say any more, then Viola pulled her into a tighter hug. “We have to think about now, Evelyn. How we are going to survive now.”

“Will you still take care of me?”

“When I can. But you have to learn how to take care of yourself.”

A cold shiver of alarm ran down Evelyn’s back. “I don’t want to.”

“You have to. I’m going to take care of myself, and that will mean that sometimes….”

The sentence trailed off, as if Viola wasn’t sure how to finish it, and then it hit. The reason Viola ignored her at dinner.

“I’ll be good. I promise.” But even as she said those words, Evelyn knew it wouldn’t matter. Being good had not made her mother love her enough to keep her. It had not kept Miz Beatrice from getting The Cancer. And it was not going to make her sister chose her over what would help Viola most. But Evelyn didn’t know what else to do but try.

That’s all for me, folks. I hope you have a great weekend. As usual, I welcome any feedback on this excerpt.

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Flying Fish?

Posted by mcm0704 on April 26, 2017 |

Please help me welcome Gwen Mayo, half of the writing team of Gwen Mayo and Sarah Glenn who penned Murder on the Mullet Express, which I reviewed last Sunday. I thought the little details about the trains and the steam engines rang very true in the book, and here’s why:

As a certified locomotive engineer, and one of the last classes of engineers to qualify on steam engines, discovering the Mullet Express was a quirky bit of history that I had to learn more about. After all, a mullet is a hairstyle, right? Why name a train for that?

They didn’t.

In Florida, the mullet is also a fish, or a bird. Yes, a bird. In 1919, six Tampa Bay boys caught fishing out of season found a young lawyer by the name of Pat Whitaker. The boys couldn’t afford to pay him but they took him out to dinner to discuss the problem. While Whitaker was watching, the cook prepare mullet for smoking he noticed that the mullet had a gizzard. His would-be clients explained that the mullet was a bottom feeder and the gizzard helped it digest the sand it picked up while eating.

Whitaker decided to take the case, and showed up in court with a stack of library books. He argued that the mullet was a bird because it had a gizzard, and showed the judge that no other fish had one. The history junkie in me would love to be sitting in that courtroom to hear how he explained away the fins and gills.

Smoked mullet was a staple of the Florida diet for two centuries.

Six days a week, The Mullet Express left Homosassa with a couple of passenger cars, the mail, and barrels of smoked mullet from Citrus County. The train wound its way to Ocala, stopping in every hamlet along the way. Once it reached Ocala, the train was turned for the trip home. Its cargo was offloaded and shipped inland.

To be honest, the entire cargo wasn’t mullet. It turns out that barrels of mullet make a great hiding place for moonshine. Around the time those boys were arrested for fishing out of season the country decided to outlaw booze. Shipping moonshine became a highly lucrative business.

General Collection

I suppose, the Mullet Express isn’t a bad name for a train. It could have been named the Lisa Express. In the infinite wisdom of political circles the State Legislature tried to change the name of Mullet to Lisa.

I am not making this up.

Mullet was popular in Florida, but wasn’t catching on in other parts of the country. The Florida Board of Conservation thought there were too many kinds of mullet, and wanted to distinguish the prized black mullet from the “trash fish” of the same name. Test cans of “Lisa” were shipped to hospitals and schools around the state with recipe books on how to prepare Lisa.
Thankfully it never caught on. I don’t care for “Murder on the Lisa Express” as a title. Besides, I enjoy smoked mullet. The thought of ordering a bowl of “smoked Lisa” at the local seafood house gives me the creeps.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

L-R Gwen and Sarah

Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending her loves of history and mystery fiction. She currently lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn.

Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, SinC Guppies, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, the Historical Novel Society, and the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

You can visit Gwen on her Website * Read her Blog * Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Linked In and Goodreads  * And see all her book on her Amazon Author Page.

Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

You can visit Sarah on her Website * Read her Blog * Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Linked In and Goodreads and her Amazon Author Page.

A cozy mystery with terrific, older sleuths who are great fun to follow around.

BUY LINK

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Book Review – Murder on the Mullet Express

Posted by mcm0704 on April 23, 2017 |

Murder on the Mullet Express
Gwen Mayo and Sarah Glenn
ISBN -13: 978-0-9964209-7-6 (Print),
978-0-9964209-8-3 (Kindle)
Publisher: Mystery and Horror, LLC Paperback
January 2017

BOOK BLURB: It’s 1926. The West Coast Development Company is staging its biggest land deal in Homosassa, Florida, selling pieces of a planned city to speculators who dream of a tropical paradise. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn takes leave to travel to Florida with her ancient uncle, who claims that he wants a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they take the local train, The Mullet Express, into Homosassa.

By the time they arrive, though, a passenger has been poisoned. A second murder victim boards the train later, iced down with the fish. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the sheriff’s prime suspect. Cornelia and Teddy Lawless, a twenty-year-old flapper in a sixty-year-old body, must chase mobsters and corner suspects to dig her uncle out of the hole he’s dug for himself.

REVIEW: This was a fun, quick read with likable characters. Well, except for the bad guys, but some of their antics were pretty funny. I enjoy a book with a lot of humor, and this one kept me smiling. Just one of the many clever lines in the book that made me chuckle came when Cornelia was trying to get Teddy out of bed the morning after Teddy partied hearty. Teddy reminds Cornelia of her, Teddy’s, health issues and Cornelia says, “You might be a less delicate flower if you weren’t potted every night.”

I liked the way the relationship between Cornelia and Teddy was handled in such a understated, matter-of-fact way. Too often the relationship between two women especially in that time period would have been over-explained. But the authors simply dropped in the hints that the women were more than good friends.

The professor and Cornelia and Teddy make a interesting trio of amateur sleuths. Percival Pettijohn taught mechanical engineering at the University of Kentucky when it was the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College. His fascination with trains and steam engines is a nice side-note to his character and provides the knowledge and expertise when he concocts a booby trap to catch the bumbling burglars.

Cornelia and Teddy were both Army nurses, which is how Teddy acquired her lung problems that ended her nursing career. When this story takes place, Cornelia is waiting to muster out in a few months.

The details of history and geography were well done and lightly sprinkled through the narrative of the story. It is always an extra bonus to learn something when reading a story, and as a history buff, I liked getting a look at Florida in 1926 and how speculators tried to get rich off the land.

BUY LINK

 ABOUT THE AUTHORS     Gwen Mayo lives and writes in Safety Harbor, Florida, but grew up in a large Irish family in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is the author of the Nessa Donnelly Mysteries and co-author of the Old Crows stories with Sarah Glenn. Her stories have appeared in A Whodunit Halloween, Decades of Dirt, Halloween Frights (Volume I), and several flash fiction collections.

Gwen has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Kentucky. Her most interesting job, though, was as a brakeman and railroad engineer from 1983 – 1987. She was one of the last engineers to be certified on steam locomotives.

You can visit Gwen on her Website * Read her Blog * Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Linked In and Goodreads  * And see all her book on her Amazon Author Page.

Sarah E. Glenn has a B.S. in Journalism, which is a great degree for the dilettante she is. Later on, she did a stint as a graduate student in classical languages. She didn’t get the degree, but she’s great with crosswords. Her most interesting job was working the reports desk for the police department in Lexington, Kentucky, where she learned that criminals really are dumb.

Her great-great aunt served as a nurse in WWI, and was injured by poison gas during the fighting. A hundred years later, this would inspire Sarah to write stories Aunt Dess would probably not approve of.

You can visit Sarah on her Website * Read her Blog * Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and Linked In and Goodreads and her Amazon Author Page.

Do come back on Wednesday when Gwen will be my guest, sharing a bit about trains and planes and… No, she will give us some of the skinny on Mullets, which are the most unusual of creatures.

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#Fridayreads Book Excerpt – Evelyn Evolving

Posted by mcm0704 on April 21, 2017 |

So, this morning when I came into my office to work on a blog, the ending for a short story I’d been working on popped into my head. I opened the story, thinking to just add some notes, but the narrative, and dialogue, was flowing, so I went with the flow. Almost two hours later, here I am doing the blog post.

Still, I love when those creative surges happen. Have not had many of those in the past year and a half. 

Sharing cookies this morning. These are chocolate, gingerbread. Yum!

Continuing the story of Evelyn Evolving from where I left off a couple of weeks ago, we have left Regina’s point of view and are now back with Evelyn. This is two years after she and her sister were left at the orphanage.

Sister Honora made Evelyn tremble. She always made Evelyn tremble. Sometimes, when looking into the stern face pinched tight by the wimple, Evelyn was afraid her bladder would let go and she would be punished twice. Once for not scrubbing the floor fast enough and again for soiling herself. That’s what the sisters said about pee and poop. “Soiling oneself.” As if she had rolled in the dirt outside. If she was not locked in such terror of the nun before her, Evelyn would find that thought amusing.

Two years had passed here at St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum, and Evelyn still didn’t understand why they had to stay. Couldn’t Miz Regina or Miz Beatrice not come and take them away from this horrible place? Everything was all so confusing, and Evelyn kept hoping that someday someone would love them enough to come back and get them. Sometimes in her dreams, she lived with both women. Miz Beatrice not sick anymore and Miz Regina happy to have her girls back. Viola said it was silly to wish. Pointless to dream. Nothing was going to change.

“Child. Are you listening?”

The harsh words tugged at Evelyn. She nodded, unable to push words past the lump in her throat.

“Why have you not finished this floor?” The nun gestured down the hall with her walking stick. “You are as slow as molasses in winter. What good are you?”

“I don’t know, Sister.” A soft whisper.

That was met with a sharp crack along Evelyn’s backside. “Don’t talk out of turn.”

“But, I—”

Another smack. “I said no talking.”

“But, you—”

This time when the walking stick landed, Evelyn’s bladder did let go.

“Now look what you have done. You dirty, nasty little child. Take those panties off. Right now.”

Evelyn did as she was told, holding the wet garment gingerly between thumb and forefinger. Sister Honora took the panties on the end of her walking stick, then draped them over the child’s head. “You will wear these to supper.”

“No! Please, Sister. No!”

“Enough. Go!”

Standing in the middle of the dining hall, the rotten stench of old urine swirling around her while the other children pointed and laughed, was the most humiliating experience of Evelyn’s young life. She swallowed hard and held back the bile that rose in her throat. She couldn’t vomit. She wouldn’t vomit. If she didn’t want more humiliation she didn’t dare vomit.

She looked past the rows of tables and the laughing children, focusing on the picture of the Virgin Mary at the back of the large room. Mary, Mother of God, was supposed to be their mother, too. Their friend, but she didn’t feel like a friend or a mother to Evelyn. She was just this lady in blue in a picture.

As the serving carts were brought out and the children lined up with their metal bowls to get their supper, the aroma of meat and gravy momentarily blocked the acrid smell of dried urine. Evelyn’s mouth watered. She glanced at the carts. Dinner that evening was roast with potatoes and carrots and onions. A favorite of Evelyn’s that she would not be allowed to eat. Children who broke the rules had no dinner, but not everyone was forced to stand in such embarrassment. This was reserved for the worst transgressions.

Viola walked past with her bowl to take a seat at a nearby table. She stared straight ahead, not even glancing at Evelyn. Maria, a girl of eight who had been friendly to Evelyn, gave her a quick look, then averted her eyes, taking a seat next to Viola.

That disregard, as if Evelyn was a stranger they had never seen before, cut deeper than the sneers from the others. Why couldn’t Viola even look at her?

As always, comments about the story are welcome. Hope you have a wonderful weekend, and do come back on Sunday when I will have a review of a neat cozy mystery, Murder on the Mullet Express.

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Advice to the Lovelorn

Posted by mcm0704 on April 19, 2017 |

Slim Randles is here as today’s Wednesday’s Guest with a story about Dewey and his failed love life. The guys are all down at the Mule Barn Truck Stop for the daily ration of coffee and gossip. Grab a donut and join them. You don’t have to gossip, you can just listen. Enjoy….

We knew. We looked at Dewey and we knew tragedy had struck. Naturally we assumed his carefully planned courtship of Emily Stickles had died as a dream still to be fulfilled, but that wasn’t it. He still hadn’t met her, turns out. When he came to the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter, he sorta collapsed into a chair, moaned, and flipped his mug to the upright position.

“Who’s going to ask him?” Doc finally said.

“Oh hey, guys,” Dewey said. “My own fault, I guess. I mean, you know I wanted to get all rigged out with new clothes for my introduction to Emily, right? So both Mrs. Doc and Anita volunteered to go shopping with me and help me with color coordination. They said it was important.”

“Oh crud,” Doc said in a whisper.

“I mean it was nice of them and all …”Dewey stirred sugar into his coffee. “But then we got to the necktie. Mrs. Doc insisted I get the aqua-colored one, and Anita spoke up for the one marked pastel pool. Before you know it, they were arguing, so I kinda sneaked out.”

“So did you buy a tie there?” Steve asked.

Dewey nodded.

“What color?”

“Oh yeah… got a blue one.”

Made sense.

“It really is your fault, Dewey,” Doc told our local fertilizer king. “You should’ve studied your Chinese better.”

We all looked at Doc.

Doc nodded. “Chinese. Yes, indeed. If you’d boned up on your Chinese a bit, Doo, you’d know that the Chinese symbol for trouble is two women under the same roof.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Brought to you by The Fly Fishermann’s Bucket List by Slim Randles. Coming this spring from LPDpress.com

Home Country is now a radio program in 17 states. Have a listen at www.homecountrydemo.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of the columns he has shared with us here over the years.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted by mcm0704 on April 17, 2017 |

Spring mornings in East Texas are just made for taking walks, planting flowers, and then snapping pictures of said flowers. All too soon it will be blistering hot, so I am taking full advantage of the lovely weather.

These are some petunias that are a a mix of shades of pink.

Here’s a close up of the flowers that shows the colors a bit better. I guess if I want really good pictures I should use my good 35mm camera instead of a phone camera.

I’ve been listening to the audio version of House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid. a reporter for the New York Times, based at times in Beirut and Baghdad, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2004 and 2010. I was drawn to the book for a couple of reasons. First, since I have been working on two different memoirs in recent years, I have been reading a number of them to get a sense of how a memoir is handled with different approaches.

Secondly, with all the unrest in the Middle East for so long, and the current heightened antagonism toward people from the Middle East, especially Muslims, I wanted to learn more about the people from that part of the world. And I remember when Shadid was arrested with three other journalists in Libya in 2011. He was later released, but then died from an apparent asthma attack.

Here is the book description from Amazon:

In the summer of 2006, racing through Lebanon to report on the Israeli invasion, Anthony Shadid found himself in his family’s ancestral hometown of Marjayoun. There, he discovered his great-grandfather’s once magnificent estate in near ruins, devastated by war. One year later, Shadid returned to Marjayoun, not to chronicle the violence, but to rebuild in its wake.

So begins the story of a battle-scarred home and a journalist’s wounded spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this bittersweet and resonant memoir, Shadid creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the house’s renewal alongside the history of his family’s flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America around the turn of the twentieth century. In the process, he memorializes a lost world and provides profound insights into a shifting Middle East.

I have long believed that we can cross that great divide between “us” and “them” by getting to know the people of a culture or a country. And even here in the United States we can cross that racial barrier by cultivating relationships with the “them.”

If you want to understand the people from the Middle East, reading House of Stone is a good beginning. One of the things that surprised me early on in the story is how many Christians there are in Lebanon and how deep into past history Christianity goes. Shadid relates anecdotes of rituals that the people performed to honor places where Jesus stopped in his travels through the Middle East, and many people there are still devout Christians.

It was also interesting to learn about the conflicts that arise in families because of property and possessions. It is easy to see how those conflicts spill out from families and encompass governments and countries, fighting over ownership of land. Because that is so deeply ingrained in the culture of the people, they cannot easily let go of the way it has been for centuries. We cannot expect them to suddenly start behaving with our Western reasoning.

Now, here’s a little humor to get the week off to a good start:

One day a man calls his minister, “Pastor, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it.”

The Pastor asks, “What’s wrong?”

The man replies, “My wife is going to poison me.”

The pastor is very surprised by this.”How can that be?”

“I’m telling you, I’m certain she’s going to poison me. What should I do?”

The Pastor then offers, “Tell you what. Let me talk to her, I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll let you know.”

A couple of days later the Pastor calls the man and says, “I spoke to your wife on the phone for three hours. You want my advice?”

“Yes.”

“Take the poison.”

That’s it for me folks. Have a great start to your week.

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Happy Easter – Happy Spring

Posted by mcm0704 on April 16, 2017 |

I want to wish everyone who celebrates Easter a happy and blessed Holiday. No matter what religion one espouses, spring is always a time of great renewal of our earth as flowers blossom, trees burst forth with new leaves, and there seems to be an air of great anticipation and eagerness about us. So I hope all my friends who read this feel that sense of renewal and excitement in their lives.

Wild Irises that pop up all over my pasture. I love them.

 

Now, for a bit of holiday fun, here is an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and A Paycheck. One of these days I’ll actually finish the book and it could even get published. In the meantime, it gives me material to share here. Enjoy…

Holidays are definitely more fun when children are young and Santa and the Easter Bunny are given more deference than Mom. We grown-ups can delight in a child’s excitement about one of those benevolent creatures, and maybe even for a little while forget that mature people aren’t supposed to believe any more.

With as many kids as we had, we were able to keep that magic of childhood belief for a long time, right about until the twins turned seven. That was the year I realized we had probably just experienced our “swan song” when it came to the delights of the Easter Bunny.

I got my first hint of this impending change one day when the twins had been playing out in the garage, and they came bursting in the back door, falling all over each other with excitement and questions.

“Guess what we just found!”

“What?”

“A bag full of Easter baskets.”

“Oh … ”

“And they looked just like our baskets from last year.”

“They did?”
“Yeah. And you said you gave our baskets back to the Easter Bunny last year.”

“Maybe he forgot them. He’s very busy you know.”

“Do you think he’ll remember to come and get them in time to fill them with candy this year?”

“Oh, I’m sure he will.”

“How does the Easter Bunny know they’re out there in that black bag?”

“He has his ways. He’s a very smart rabbit.”

That seemed to satisfy them, at least temporarily, but I knew it wouldn’t last for long. In time, the Easter Bunny and Santa and the Tooth Fairy would all be outed, but in my eternal optimism, I kept hoping for one more year.

By evening on Easter Sunday, however, my hopes were dashed as I overheard the twins in their room comparing the remains of their baskets.

“Hey, look! I’ve got four marshmallow eggs and 25 jelly beans left.”

“I’ve got two squishy chicks and lots of trash.”

“That was a lot of candy. The Easter Bunny must have stayed up all night making it.”

“Aw, he didn’t make it. I saw it all last week at Target.”

I hope you have a great day with family, and don’t eat too many chocolate bunnies.

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Want a Steak?

Posted by mcm0704 on April 14, 2017 |

I’ve been a bit under the weather again, so Slim Randles is here today with a funny story from the guys at the Mule Barn Truck Stop. There’s no telling what they will get up to – a country saying by the way – and this one is sure to bring a smile.

Help yourself to some coffee and enjoy…

When it comes right down to it, only Dewey could do it. Our local disaster zone, Dewey Decker, is one of the kindest-hearted guys you ever met, but … things happen when Dewey’s around.

No one can forget how Dewey managed to get his dad’s pickup stuck in the only mudhole in the county during a three-year drought, and tongues are still wagging about him turning over the grease truck on the interstate on-ramp. He’s finally settled into being what he calls an “entre-manure” handling truckloads of cow manure from the feedlot and dairy into town and turning it into quite a successful business, which now includes fishing worms, compost, fertilizer tea, and other branch services.

So, recently, when we headed into the Mule Barn truck stop for our morning coffee, we were surprised to see our resident cowboy, Steve, moaning and holding his head in his hands.

“What’s wrong?”

“Dewey,” he moaned.

Sometimes there’s a complete novel in the pronunciation of a single name.

It turns out Bob Milford out at the Diamond W put out the word locally that he could use some help with the spring gather and branding. Steve and Dud both went to help, but so did Dewey. Bob didn’t know what to do with Dewey, but finally put him on a gentle horse. After all, it’s been two years since Dewey helped Bob with the branding and managed to vaccinate Dud for blackleg.

“We were doing all right and working along this ridge,” said Steve, “when here comes ol’ Dewey just a-foggin’ it and he tell us we have to help him because he has a cow up a tree.”

Oh yeah. This is gonna be good.

“Seems Dewey chased this old black baldy cow right off this big rock outcropping and she landed in the forks of a tree below. He was almost hysterical. So we looked at this wreck and Bob told Dud to go back to the truck and get the chainsaw.

“And you should’ve heard Dewey begging us not to cut up the cow because it was all his fault.”

Steve grinned and shook his head. “We just let him go on like that until we cut the tree down.”
————-
Brought to you by “The Cowboy’s Bucket List” available at LPD Press.com.

 

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Characters Give Advice

Posted by mcm0704 on April 12, 2017 |

Help me welcome Kristy Woodson Harvey as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She is chatting with some of the characters from her upcoming release, Slightly South of Simple, which I reviewed here on Sunday. This is a terrific story of the complexities of relationships and how four women sort theirs out. 

While we read some advice from ladies, based on what they learned through the ups and downs of the story, let’s have a latte from Kevin. If you grab the book, you will get to know who Kevin is. 🙂

Good morning, Maryannwrites readers! Thank you so much for having me here today. I am thrilled that my new novel, Slightly South of Simple, the first in the Peachtree Bluff series, will be out on April 25. It’s so hard to believe that it could already be time to release a new book, but time flies when you’re having fun!

This new series is about three grown sisters, the mother that bonds them all, and the year in their small, coastal town of Peachtree Bluff, Georgia that will change their lives forever. Each woman is facing her own obstacle. Ansley, the mother, is struggling to find her balance now that her children and grandchildren are home again—and making the space both mentally and practically to explore the idea of reconnecting with a long-lost love.

Caroline is facing her husband’s particularly public affair and how she wants to move forward. Sloane’s husband Adam is deployed again, and she is raising her two boys on her own for a time. And Emerson, the youngest sister, is trying to come to terms with what she really wants out of her life and how far she is willing to go to chase her dream of being a successful actor.

Maryann had the terrific idea of giving a piece of advice from each of these characters that they would give to someone else in their situation. It was so fun for me to think of these characters’ situations in this way, and I hope you enjoy their advice—and maybe even take a bit of it to heart!

Ansley (on balance): People talk a lot about balance in life, and it has taken me practically a lifetime to find mine. Of course, the children always come first, but we can’t feel guilty about taking the time to do what we love as well. For me, that’s design, running my shop and making people’s lives better. I have to take that time for myself even when I have all my girls home.

Caroline (on recovering from a separation): When it comes to matters of the heart, the best thing you can do is shut the outside world’s opinions out. Time may not heal all wounds, but, sometimes, it can make something that feels impossible to recover from a little easier to live with.

Sloane (on having a husband who is deployed): Being apart from the person you love most can feel impossible, but it’s important to focus on the little things that help keep you close. For Adam and me, that’s real, hand-written letters.

Emerson (on chasing your dreams): When chasing their dreams, people usually tend to focus on what they are going to gain. That is great, of course, but, in reality, you also have focus on what you have to give up to get what you want. Reaching the top comes with its fair share of sacrifices. Knowing that from the beginning helps make it so much easier.

Thanks again for having me, Maryann!

BUY LINKS –  Slightly South of Simple will be available April 25 from your independent bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Target and everywhere books are sold. It’s available for preorder now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born-and-bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons—especially fall in Chapel Hill, where she attended college, and summer in Beaufort, where she and her family spend every free moment. The author of Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love, Kristy is also the founder of the popular interior design blog Design Chic. You can follow Kristy on her website – Facebook Twitter and Pinterest She can also be found on Instragram as  @kristywharvey

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Book Review – Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Posted by mcm0704 on April 9, 2017 |

Slightly South of Simple

Kristy Woodson Harvey
File Size: 4819 KB
Print Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books (April 25, 2017)
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Language: English
ASIN: B01HMXRUQE

BOOK BLURB –  From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

REVIEW – This is a wonderful story of mothers and daughters and the things that hold them together, and sometimes threaten to push them apart. Like my family, they deal with the challenges of life with a good deal of humor, and that is one reason I enjoyed the story so much.

All of the characters make tough choices as they sort through the ramifications of those challenges, and the push-pull between choosing for oneself, or the greater good of the relationship, keeps the tension in the story high.

As a mother, I could relate to Ansley’s desire to fix things for her girls that warred with her understanding that she could not do that. They are adults who need to be the ones doing the fixing. “That feeling in the pit of yhour stomach never goes away, that dread when you are worried about one of your children. Right now, it was almost consuming. Betweeb Sloan’s husband being deployed and Caroline’s life erupting and Emerson’s all-juice starvation plan, there were a lot of Tums and Tylenol PM consumed.”

This passage about love and marriage also resonated with me. “That was the moment I realized that what you read about in books, that isn’t the good part. Not at all. The butterflies make you feel giddy and alive, and that’s sweet. But it’s what happens after that really matters. It’s the time you realize that your love has grown exponentially since that first day, when you discover that being someone’s wife, being in it for the long haul, having someone there beside you day in and day out, is so much better than any roses on Valentine’s Day or any first-date jitters you could ever have.”

There were so many other places I highlighted throughout the book – bits of wisdom and bits of humor that I wanted to read again. And hang on for the wonderful April Fool’s joke. It was so good, it had me believing.

This is a perfect summer beach read, and I just may reread it again in July when I go to the lake.

BUY LINKS –  Slightly South of Simple will be available April 25 from your independent bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Target and everywhere books are sold. It’s available for preorder now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Kristy Woodson Harvey is a born-and-bred North Carolina girl who loves all four seasons—especially fall in Chapel Hill, where she attended college, and summer in Beaufort, where she and her family spend every free moment. The author of Dear Carolina and Lies and Other Acts of Love, Kristy is also the founder of the popular interior design blog Design Chic. You can follow Kristy on her website – Facebook Twitter and Pinterest She can also be found on Instragram as  @kristywharvey

Plan to come back on Wednesday when Kristy will be my guest. You can meet the characters from the book and get a bit of their wisdom and advice.

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