Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sunshine, Salty Air, Seafood and.... A Contract?

I've just returned from MY beach, the gorgeous Emerald Isle, N.C. Never mind the other thousands of visitors along side me last week. I still think God created that beach just for me! It was wonderful. We enjoyed picturesque days filled with sunshine, salty air and lots of seafood. I was able to play with my family and squeeze in some much needed reading and writing time too. Our fifth wheel had to be at least 500 pounds heavier since I carried part of my library with me, and of course we visited the book store as soon as we got down there which only added more.

Ben turned the big eight on this trip. We celebrated by going to the go-cart track, and he drove his own cart for the very first time! His daddy looked so proud and I had the most difficult time convincing Caroline that she was too little to "drive." Right now Caroline's only ambition in life is to do everything that Ben does.... but better! I think this may just be Caroline's only summer in ballet, she would rather be driving go-carts.

I was able to sneak away sporadically to get some writing time in. I wrote several poems and worked on a biography too. I read Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, and although I haven't finished it yet, it is by far one of the most exquisite pieces I've ever read. She is a master with descriptive language!

We drove in yesterday evening, and I climbed out of the truck to gather my mail. I quickly scanned through the massive pile of catalogs, junk, and bills and found one of my SASE which I just knew was a rejection. I tossed the mail aside and returned about an hour later to read my "rejection." Much to my surprise, it contained a contract! I sold my first children's short story to The Friend magazine. I couldn't be more thrilled! Usually when I get my SASE back in the mail, they contain rejections, and this was the first time one EVER contained good news. I'm still floating 24 hours later. It never ceases to amaze me, that someone would actually pay me for the "stuff" in my head! As Edith Wharton said,

" I was to appear in print! As long as I live, I shall never forget my sensations."

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Eight Things You Never Knew About Me

Today I was invited to play a game with some fellow writers. I have been "tagged" to write eight characteristics about myself... hmm. I've never been one to talk a lot about myself - other people maybe, but not myself! Anyhow, I'll give it my best shot.

1) I love to paint, not like Monet... I mean I enjoy painting big white walls, or ugly walls. I love the satisfaction it brings; taking something icky and turning it into something pretty. I love going to yard sales or antique shops and finding old furniture. I can strip it down and either re-stain it, or paint it and viola! It becomes a work of art in my living room. My husband thinks I'm weird but I love the smell of it too.

2) I enjoy talking to strangers in hospital waiting rooms. I love to scan the room, and look for the person who looks the most upset and who needs a friend. I've met some of the most precious people this way. Folks are always anxious to talk, but very few are willing to listen.

3) My bathroom is my favorite room in the house. Maybe this is because its the only place that I can truly be alone. I have a large garden tub, and it is my retreat every night after I finish the dishes.

4) I'm a 4th generation Roanoker. Ok, so I live in Boones Mill, maybe I should say the Roanoke Valley! My great grandfather was an attorney in Roanoke in the early 1900s. He also owned 80 acres here in Franklin Co. on the Blackwater River. My husband is also a 4th generation Roanoker. We were high school sweethearts, and dated 7 years before marrying in 1996. Both of our families settled in Virginia in the mid 1600s, and we've been here ever since. Maybe that's why we're both so stubborn, in runs deep in our genes.

5) I unknowingly participated in my first writing contest was when I was 12 years old. I wrote a poem for one of my favorite teachers at Cave Spring, and without my knowledge she submitted it to a contest. One day at school the winners were announced and I won 3rd place. Of course I was shocked since I didn't know I entered! Little did she know how she affected me that day. A good teacher can change lives, and a bad one can mark a kid forever.

6) I thoroughly enjoy being with people, but I go crazy if I don't have alone time. My husband always worries about me if I'm going to go somewhere by myself. A year ago, I begged him to take the children on a weekend camping trip so that I could unwind. He was worried that he did something wrong. Nothing could have been further from the truth! I talked him into going for 3 days while I had a blast painting my son's bedroom, watching Lifetime movies until all hours of the night, and treating myself to a pedicure over at Zees Salon!

7) I absolutely love Jesus Christ. He is more than religion, He is my life. You don't discover who you really are and what you're made of until you've hit rock bottom. I've hit some major boulders in my life in the past 10 years that made me question everything, and I mean everything. It is an unexplainable privilege to talk with the Creator of the universe, and if more people could grasp that, and let go of pious, ritual, and legalistic religion, the world would be a better place.

8) I absolutely love music and I listen to it everywhere. I enjoy all genres except for hip hop, I just can' t get into it. I love a song that moves me to tears. I think one of the greatest songs ever written is, I Hope You Dance, by Lee Ann Womack, and another is I Can Only Imagine, by Mercy Me.

Ok, there is eight. That wasn't as hard as I thought it would be -- That's sort of scary! I must be getting old. Now I've got to paint. I just got back from the new Home Depot store on Rt. 220. Its wonderful! I'm going to try a new metallic paint by Ralph Lauren. If I'm really in a brave mood, I may even try adding some stripes!

Good thing my hubby is out mowing the grass.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Ballet, Bacon and Birthday Supplies

Memorial Day has come and gone and summer is in full swing... and so are my children. From dawn til dusk they go at it. Siblings share such a strange love, don't they? One minute they are playing so well together and the next minute both of them are crying in frustration. I've asked other moms if their children are competitive with one another, and they look at me as if I'm an alien.

My children compete over EVERYTHING. They race to see who gets to the door knob first, and whoever wins gets to open the door. As they sit in the back seat of the car, they race to see who can sing the song faster. Louder and louder they both sing, as they try to out do the other. I feel like I'm losing what little mind I have left!

Caroline started ballet this week. She looked adorable in her pink leotard, tights and slippers. Ben followed me into the studio when I picked her up yesterday, and to his utter dismay, she was given a marsh mellow upon completion of her lesson. He stewed about it for the next hour. Never mind that we just spent $27 on his birthday party supplies while she was dancing. Heaven forbid, Caroline got a marsh mellow!

I've put off going to the grocery store all week because I don't want to hear them argue over who gets to push the cart, what cereal we buy, and who can put the most pieces of gum in their mouth at one time! At 6:00 tonight, I was digging through my cabinets trying to find anything to fix for supper. I finally found a box of pancake mix hidden behind a box of Uncle Ben's rice and through on some bacon to go with it. Breakfast for dinner... and wouldn't you know they fought over how many pancakes they could eat!

Needless to say my writing time has dwindled down to stolen moments of bliss in between playing referee. Ugh! I'm even blogging about it - Only 75 more days until school starts!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Culpeper's Rebel Welcome

If you close your eyes, you can still hear the canon fire and feel the ground shake underneath. Many abandoned homes still lie along the wayside, with only the overgrown foliage to hide the tears.

Unlike any other field trip I've been on, this one was truly special. The scarred battlefields of Culpeper will forever be ingrained in my memory. Pictured above is a reenactment confederate soldier, guarding the mass confederate grave in Fairview Cemetery.

I crossed Kelly's Ford comfortably in my air-conditioned vehicle and looked below at the water. I heard the struggling horses splash as they carried the union cavalrymen across. I heard the fierce southern cavaliers yell, "CHARGE!" as they gave them a rebel welcome. It was truly surreal.

Later that day, we visited Brandy Station and the Graffiti House. The walls are covered with the soldiers names and hand drawn pictures of their loved ones. The men used pieces of coal to create the images. Those images will forever haunt me. One upstairs corner room bears the inscription, today the Yankees caught hell. It sent chills of southern pride up my spine. I can only try to imagine what my family lived through during those hellish years of the war. The homes were ransacked, the fences torn down and livestock stolen.

Major Pelham was struck by a piece of shrapnel in the base of his skull. He later died that night at the Shackelford home. The house no longer stands, but I did get to stand on the site and take a picture of the historical marker. I can't wait to get my hands on the last two boxes of letters, documents and pictures from my sister's house. They belonged to my grandmother and hopefully they will reveal even more clues to my family's past. I've never been more thankful to be a Virginian and thankful to God for allowing me the opportunity to visit these places.

As for my book, my brain is going crazy with ideas! I can't write them down fast enough. This trip was exactly what I needed to piece together the puzzle. Traveling to Culpeper this past weekend was the best Memorial Day I've ever had.

...and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us... Acts 17:26,27

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My First Horse ... Magnum

Heather, a girl in my writers group, had a sad day today. She and her family had to say good-bye to their beloved dog, Buddy. She wrote a memoir about Buddy and what he meant to her and her family -- It made me cry! She challenged the rest of us to write about a special pet that made its mark on our lives. For me, it was my first horse Magnum.

I started begging for a horse when I was around 8 years old. I remember over-hearing my grandparents tell my mother that I was going through a phase, and that all little girls love horses. Whatever! If this love is 'just a phase' then I've been stuck in it for the past 27 years!

It started when I rode my second cousin's horse, Trigger, in La Grange TN. Trigger was the first horse I'd ever been around...and that's all it took; I was hooked. Purina Dog Chow used to have a contest every year. If you wrote about why you thought your dog was the best in America, then the winner was awarded $25,000 and a trip to New York City to ride in the Macys Thanksgiving Parade. I must have entered that contest every year for as long as it ran. I suppose I wrote about my intentions because I never won! How could they award the winner of a dog contest to a horse lover?

However, my dream came true on October 14th 1984. It was love at first sight; and I was a teenager in love with Tom Selleck so it made perfect sense to name my gelding Magnum. He was my best friend for 19 years. My parents sold my home place in 2003, and unfortunately Magnum stayed with the property. The new buyer just recently sold it again, but this time Magnum went with her to Branson Missouri. I was relieved that I would never have to mourn his death. He will live forever in my memory as a young healthy gelding. The following is my tribute to him:

You could read my thoughts -- that is what I will miss the most about you. I remember sneaking out to the barn in the middle of the night, and you would meet me at the fence.

Instinctively, you knew I needed to talk. You nickered softly as I climbed over the crooked wooden fence, and wrapped my arms around your giant neck. Long strands of your chestnut mane tickled my cheek. You didn't back away, turn your head or ask for anything. You stood strong for me, unwavering; always giving me unconditional love.

I used to cradle your head against me and kiss the corner of your eye. You rested your soft pink nose in the palm of my hand. While still wearing my pajamas, I would crawl on your back and we would wander out into the fields for a midnight graze. You munched on dew covered grass while I stared at the stars and listened to you chew.

Those are some of my most cherished memories of you. I will forever carry them close to my heart, and some day in heaven, we will ride the fields together again!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lovin' the Weekend

We were supposed to travel up to Charlottesville this weekend for a family birthday celebration, but issues arose that prevented us getting together. I think it is just as well...I've been buried in writing manuscripts, running the children to soccer, swimming and school; and my latest task is putting together SWADA's program for the spring horse show. I had no idea that it would take me so long to complete, but it has been a learning experience and I'm always up for that.

My poem, THE VIRGINIAN, will be published next month in our local publication, Senior News. I'm excited about it, and thrilled that someone else gets to read it other than my family. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that they are willing to read my work, but I know they are biased! Not only that, but they are sick of it!

Next weekend we travel to Culpeper where I hope to conduct research on another writing project I've taken on. It will be fun exploring some genealogy and history along the way. My kids just hope that where ever we end up there will be a pool, and my husband just hopes we can find a great place to eat.

Well, enough work for today.... time for some R & R and family time. I love the weekend!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Anticipating Hazy Lazy Days of Summer

Someone once told me that this would be the most exhausting time in my life. I've come to find truth in that statement! I think the month of May is busier than the month of December. The children's school year is almost finished, and with this closure comes all of the programs, parties and sports banquets. Add on top of the chaos Mothers Day, graduations, birthdays and a wedding or two, and you've got a recipe for complete exhaustion.

I've had to get creative in finding time to write, and I'm sure that will only get more complicated once the children are out for the summer. For Mothers Day we bought a 3 foot pool at Walmart for summer fun. It takes up my entire back patio but will be a wonderful babysitter! We've enrolled the children in swim lessons, dance lessons, baseball camp, and science camp too. Our hazy lazy days of summer will not be so lazy, but at the very least they will be entertaining!