Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Was a Blast! (And We Survived)

Our 2012 may be remembered as the year of the Great Turkey Fire. While at our son Andy's house for Thanksgiving, the oven caught fire from the drippings that ignited after Zack opened the door and let in enough oxygen to encourage the blaze. The heroic rescue efforts of my husband, Bob, saved everyone's life but the turkey's, and quick-witted Michael snapped this breaking action photo.
One of the gratitude items listed around the dinner table after the drama was, "I'm thankful for baking soda." 
As we ate, I heard one of my grandchildren ask, "What do you think the turkey's name was?" After some names like "Sam" and "George" were batted around, the question arose, "What if it was a girl? I'll bet her name was Susan."
If that is the case, then thank you, Susan the turkey, for providing us with sustenance. And thank you, Bob, for putting out the fire. And thanks to Andy and Heidi for putting us up (or putting up with us) and thanks to everyone who lets me overhear their most interesting comments or leaves behind intriguing items that spark ideas for me to write about.
Bring on the new year, I'm ready for it, because I've been practicing writing "2013" for weeks.
What's your best plan for 2013?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Everywhere!

Regardless of your religious background, the Christmas season is full of joy and giving and love. It's also full of food. Food is good. And it's good to find funny pieces of food, like this macaroni that's shaped like a cane. (It's supposed to be shaped like an elbow, but this particular piece was so moved by the holiday spirit that it made a concerted effort to become festive.)
We like you, little candy cane noodle. You make us smile.
Merry Christmas, everyone.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Love and Courage and Strength, a True Story

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~ Lao Tzu
Bob's father, who's lived a unique life, turned 89 in October. His best present was that he was finally getting around on a newly healed ankle, broken last spring when he tripped over a board on the footbridge in his backyard. An annoying infection sent him back to the hospital to have the plates and screws removed from his bones.
In spite of patient care from Grandma B, heroic assistance from his daughter Lucy, devoted attention from his son John and various grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Grandpa got to a point where he hadn't eaten for 4 days and was unable to swallow even liquids. Hydrated through IV lines, he lost 30 pounds. It looked like the beginning of the end when he stated in no uncertain terms that he didn't want any heroic measures taken to prolong his life.
The trouble is, he forgot that his family is made of heroes.
Determined to see Grandpa one last time, my six sons and husband converged on his hospital room all on the same day. Their combined love blasted Grandpa, building on the love already delivered by other family members. Grandpa told stories and laughed until he cried. He ate four bites of food. After hugs and goodbyes, my boys went out to eat, having way too good of a time at the restaurant. (See photo above.)
The next morning, my two oldest sons went for a final visit before making their long drive home. They found Grandpa sitting up and drinking through a straw. Instead of being on the brink of death, he was on the brink of returning home.
I have to believe that the deep love poured out to Grandpa from all his family gave him strength to continue living with us on earth for awhile.
Don't ever underestimate the power of love!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A good day for smiling

Here's my sassy sister Rebecca with a cool fashion tip for you: when you wear glamorous scarf like she does (she pulls it off so well, don't you think?) then PIN the scarf to your shirt so it doesn't flop around like an octopus tentacle when you're trying to get some work done. Look how classy! (Rebecca is a classy lady.)
It's fun to smile when your sister Loraine (in the green) makes you laugh. Of course she would do it on a day when I (in red) was without my waterproof mascara on! (Now that's funny!)
But the best reason of all to smile today is because it's my son Zack's birthday. I don't care how big he gets, he'll always be my boy. 
What is it that makes you smile today? If you haven't smiled yet, go out and do a smiley thing, then come back and tell us what you did. Happy people want to know, and sad people need to know!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Oh, for a pillow in a crowded house!

          Do you have extended family gatherings? If your family consists of fewer than four people, you may not get this, but if your extended family won't all fit on a mini bus, then you'll relate to this picture. (I've got 46 cousins - we won't count their children here - plus my mom, seven siblings, their spouses, 38 nieces and nephews - I'm a great aunt, too... again, no counting them now, but they're out there, the little dears! - my own six sons, two darling daughters-in-law and seven outstanding grandchildren.) I don't claim the largest clan ever. I know lots of people who rent huge buildings for their extended family get-togethers, but my family's big enough to make me happy.
          When we visited my oldest son, Andy, we had enough extra people to break out a card table for the kids to eat on. After a particularly long day, we settled down to watch a movie. As one of the kid-table crowd, my youngest son, Michael, was relegated to the floor. Without enough pillows to go around, he found another solution.
(He's sleeping on an orange balloon.) Hey, there are water beds, so why not air pillows? When his big brother, Zack, pulled out a knife to pop the balloon from under Michael's head, I was close enough to put a stop to it. Zack said he wouldn't really have done it. (Do you believe that?)
Cowboys sleep on saddles, my mom used to nap on piles of clean laundry, so now I have to wonder... what's the strangest thing you've ever slept on? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vegas Lights

When I was in Las Vegas last weekend to visit family, I went to a show to catch some free necklaces. I shouldn't have been surprised that the casino gave me a smoke headache, which wasn't really worth the price of a few shiny plastic beads, but my grandchildren loved the jewelry. I showed them pictures of the ship and balloon that ran along ceiling tracks for dancers to throw necklaces down, and ended up leaving all the necklaces at the grandchildren's house, because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, don't you know? 
Michael saw a military guy who was pretty impressive as an animated statue. Michael dropped a dollar into the guy's rucksack so I could take a picture, and the soldier gave him a sucker.
(That's a bonus pix of Bob in the background below.)
Did you ever think a person could fit inside a chandelier? We found a giant chandelier at a casino. It was three stories tall with a bar inside it!
(We skipped the bar, but I sure liked the shiny crystals!)
Not all places in Las Vegas are made for tall people.
The best place not to bump your head is outside.
I've wanted to go to Europe for a long time, so it was fun to find a scaled-down Eiffel Tower to tide me over until I can actually cross the ocean.
All kinds of story ideas flow through the streets of Vegas, but they won't stay there. They'll show up in books I write.
The best part about Vegas was the Bahlmann family who lives there. Here are half of them.
What's your best vacation place?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy 87th Birthday Momma Ru

Loraine, Shirley, Mom, and Carolyn. We're not in alphabetical order. Mom is the only one sitting up straight. What was in our drinks again?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Candy Corn Confessions

Millions of pieces of candy corn are made every year, and loved by many. I even watched a newscaster who  documented the candy corn making process, listing all its yummy ingredients and the delightful colors, confessing that she couldn't get enough candy corn. Even though one of the ingredients is marshmallow cream (a weakness of mine) I really can't abide candy corn. For our Thanksgiving get-together, we were given 5 pieces of candy corn to use as counters to recount five things we were thankful for. I had to put the candy corn markers somewhere after I said what I was thankful for, so they went in my mouth...nearly. This is after two things I was thankful for:
When I got done with all five things, I looked even better:
That was about all the gratitude I could muster with a face full of candy corn, so after that I was grateful to spit them in the trash.
Don't cry, kids, there were more in the bag.
What delectable treat turns your stomach? That might make a nice character trait for your next protagonist.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful for friends and books

My friend Heather Moore (a.k.a. H. B. Moore) was my house guest a week ago. I was delighted to have her stay, even though it was a crazy night because I had tickets to the Snow College play. It got out so late that Heather didn't come over until 10:30 p.m. A true writer, she got up at 4:30 a.m. to, what else? Write! She took time over breakfast to talk shop with me, discussing writing methods and writing conferences. I was surprised to learn that Heather is somewhat of a "panster" or someone who writes without a clear ending in mind. It was a delightful conversation. As the generous friend she is, she gave me a copy of her book "Athena," one of the Newport Ladies Book Club series. Isn't it pretty?
What are you reading next? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where'd they go?

My guys did an early morning father/son outing, complete with camouflage. Monkey (in the blue stripes) is camouflaged for school. The others... I don't know, Bob, Brian, and Zack were in here somewhere when I snapped the picture. Maybe this will be like one of those "Look and Find" pictures. Where are the guys?
Jeff went the extra mile and even camouflaged his hair.
Yeah. He can hide down low and the coyotes will trot over to smell the flowers and never know he's there.
We're off to see the oldest Bahlmann boy and family this weekend.
Thanks for being my funny family!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Forgetful Memory Foam

I took the challenge when my employer, Ephraim City, (for my Story Time job) began a fitness program for its employees. The person who walks the farthest in a month receives a cash prize, so with Christmas sitting on the horizon, I've been walking and walking and walking. (Stepping in place counts.) To my reckoning, I've walked over 500 miles in three weeks. (There's mileage compensation for about a hundred activities such as bike riding, swimming, housework, and raking leaves, too. Unfortunately, no mileage is allowed for eating. I can't figure that out.)
In my enthusiasm, I have been stepping in place while cooking, putting on makeup, waiting in checkout lines and any other time I find myself vertical. (My husband calls my energetic stepping "the pee-pee dance." I'm not sharing any of my prize money with him.) My writing place is at my piano, which is tall enough for me use my laptop on, but unfortunately, it's in a room with a hard wooden floor. To compensate for leg and foot fatigue, I've been stepping on a memory foam mat (I still get leg fatigue, just not as soon) yet it appears that I've stepped all the memory out of it. (See pad above left.) The un-stomped pad on the right still has the lofty softness that endears it to my feet, but the other one is like stepping on a plan old flat towel.
I wonder if the company is aware that their memory foam forgets after 500 miles?  

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Magic Family

How did I get so lucky? Here I am on Saturday, November 3, 2012, with my first sister and my last sister. (No "oldest" here, we're all young! Just look at our smiles!) The coolest thing is, there's more magic than what you see here...fitted in and around us are three more magic sisters. But wait, there's more! We also have two brothers who are so magic, they never fought during their growing-up years. Really. When I realized I couldn't remember them fighting, I asked them if they duked it out when I wasn't around. They looked at each other, then turned to me and at the same time answered, "No." Maybe their behavior stems from two boys trying to survive in a family of six girls Oh, no, too much estrogen! But for whatever reason, they always got along remarkably well, in spite of four years and two sisters between them.
Coming up on Thanksgiving, (my new favorite holiday, as of last year), I declare that I am extremely thankful for my magical family. Even though we are all very different personalities, the magic is that our love for one another is as solid as ice, flows through our family as easily as water, and permeates our hearts as thoroughly as mist fills a room.
(Incidentally, I'm also thankful for popcorn and clean sheets and modern dentistry!) 
What are you thankful for?   

Monday, November 5, 2012

An ADVENT Christmas book!

Now that it's November, I feel safe in letting you know of a COOL NEW Christmas book that contains (AHEM) a story from Yours Truly! Each story is this collection is titled after a Christmas song. The one I contributed is a true story titled "Silent Night."
These heartfelt, warming tales are donated by a team of authors from across the country, coming together for a good cause. 
Twenty-five stories mean you can read one every day through Christmas itself, making this anthology a new advent tradition for your family holidays.
I've had advent calendars before, but never an advent BOOK!
Best of all, all the proceeds from the sale of this anthology are donated to the National Down Syndrome Society. 
Happy Holidays! Have yourself a warm and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Spooky Story AND mysterious Yard Turkey...

(This photo does not show the old church of my story. The one pictured here is actually bigger and brighter. If you read on, you'll discover why I didn't post a picture of the actual church.)
          I intended to write this post yesterday, but because that didn't happen, you get to read about turkey surprise as well as an incident that not only spooked me, but three big, strong Bahlmann men. (Or Bahlmenn, as the case may be.)
          It was sunny July in South Dakota on our family vacation. We drove along a wooded road one bright afternoon, our truck rolling over asphalt dappled with warm sunshine until a small sign came into view. It read, "Church in the woods."
          Someone asked, "What does a church in the woods look like?"
          I wondered the same thing. Since I was driving, we turned off the asphalt onto a single vehicle wide dirt road to see for ourselves. After a few bumpy yards of travel, the dirt road forked. With no sign of the correct path to take, I veered left. Around a curve, up a hill, between the trees, we drove for nearly a mile before we saw a state campground sign. Deciding there wouldn't be a church located on state land, I executed an interesting 5-point turn and we headed back. This time, I veered right. Down through a muddy trickle of water crossing the road, turning to follow a left bend, trees branches growing thicker overhead, we found the turn-off to the church about a quarter mile past the fork.
         Steering left, I pulled into a small clearing beneath a shaded canopy of dark green leaves. Everyone in the car fell silent as we crept past a square building. It was made of rough horizontal boards weathered to the color of graveyard dirt. A single short board that had to have been nailed to the wall over a hundred years ago read "nunnery." It seemed as if a cold breeze blew through our open windows, because I shivered. There was no movement, no sign of life in the clearing. In the deadly quiet of that place, a small warning crept down my back.
          Pressing my foot on the brake, I let the truck slow to a stop, idling between the grim nunnery and a second square, dark building. Sliding my gaze over the dark strips of weathered wood gave me the creeps. Three fourths of the way up the wall was a continuous row of screened windows. Discolored, it seemed impossible for the old screen to hold back the weight of the row of dented pans and lids leaning against it, pressed up so close it was as if they were desperate to break free of the dark room behind them. There was no sign on this building. What was in there? Were the pans a clue? They didn't look to be in very good shape for cooking, but how could anyone really tell through the dirty screen? Maybe they weren't for cooking food. What else could they cook? My fingers felt cold where they gripped the steering wheel. Adding to the unreality of the situations was a long carport along one side of the clearing that had three cars parked beneath its uneven roof.
          "Where's the church?" my son asked in a subdued voice.
          "Maybe it's that building with the screens," I answered doubtfully.
          "It's over there," my husband said, pointing to a building set further back in the trees. From our vantage point, it was located in the center of the two buildings lurking beside us. It was as if we perched in the center of a gigantic forehead within a forest of hair, looking past two square eyeballs to a nose that supported a small dark rectangle of a chapel. A slight rise on one end of the roof wasn't a steeple. It looked like a steeple that didn't make it.
           A sense of oppression glided into the truck windows, wrapping us all in silence. If we spoke, what might look our way? I suddenly didn't want to draw any attention to us. I glanced at the cars again. Where were the people who'd driven them here? The cars were dusty, but not rusted. They appeared to be driveable. Did the people they belonged to know we were here? Why weren't they showing themselves? Wasn't it human nature to come out and ask what we wanted? Were they standing inside the dark interiors of the buildings staring out at us?
          I glanced around the small, shaded clearing. There was still no movement. It was as if a dark, unseen force had closed itself around those three buildings and anything near them. Like us.
          My son's voice startled me. "This is creepy."
          "I don't like it here," the other son said. "Can we go?"
          I hesitated. So far, I'd made an impression by saying, "Take a picture!" so often that it had become our vacation catch phrase. This was certainly a place like nothing we'd ever seen before. But something held me back from taking a picture of any of the dark, brooding buildings. Since I have an impetuous nature, this was an oddity in itself.
          As I glanced again at the dark nunnery, the thought drifted into my brain, "If you take a picture, it will follow you home."
          Chilled to the bone, I didn't bother asking what "It" was, but backed the truck around and managed to escape with a simple three-point turn. I didn't even look in my rear view mirror as I rolled out onto the sunny dirt road and headed back to the highway. 
          That was four months ago. Even though the thought crossed my mind that it might have been nice to have a picture of that place to put on my blog for you to see, I dismissed it without regret. That's because if I put that picture here for you to see, then it might follow you home, too.
- - - - - - - - - -
         You've heard of yard gnomes? This morning I heard a strange sound in my backyard. When I went out to investigate, I found a turkey strutting around on my frost-nipped grass. As soon as I walked outside, it darted along the fence line, trying to stuff itself through the little square wire holes. Turkeys aren't square, so it didn't work. (Its high, warbling gobble didn't help it fit, either.) Tonight it's roosting in our tree house. I found it highly ironic that a turkey would show up in our yard on the first day of November to serve as our Yard Turkey. Gobble, gobble!

Monday, October 29, 2012

I found some Mermaids!

I've been to my local pool lots of times, but for the first time ever, I found mermaids there! They were swimming around in the shallow end. See?
 Maybe I got too close, because they gracefully got up on their tails...
...and dove into the blue waves, disappearing into my imagination.
Maybe I'll be a mermaid for Halloween.
What will you be?

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Surprise in my Yard

As a mindful mother, I sent my son Scott a 30th birthday card. (Actually, when I was presented with the opportunity for a sudden visit to Salt Lake City, I was his house guest and left it on his pillow.) On his actual birthday, I did the electronic messaging thingy.
 When I got home that afternoon, there was an unfamiliar car in front of my house. I wondered who could be there. When I saw a flyer taped to my door, I figured the car belonged to a person canvassing the neighborhood with flyers. I went inside without a second thought.
I dropped my purse and put my keys away and wandered into the kitchen. When I glanced out the window in my back door, I had to look twice. There was a familiar looking person out there. To my shock, it was my birthday son! He'd come to visit as a surprise on his birthday.
(The picture above is birthday boy Scott, me, and Michael.)
I was so glad!
(Zack, Brian, and Michael scraping off "cottage cheese" ceiling)
I was also glad we had new carpet in our living room and a newly textured and painted ceiling, thanks to my hard-working boys!
(Brian sweeping on ceiling texture)
(Zack aplying texture to ceiling)
As an interesting side note, we found this when we pulled out the old carpet. The paint around the edges was to accommodate a piece of carpet covering the center. Since our house was built in 1895, I can only imagine the process of rolling up the carpet every so often and taking it outside to beat the dirt out of it!
Since our carpet was pulled up, our furniture had to wait outside for the new stuff. Michael opted to eat his lunch on part of our sectional furniture which was, of course, outside.
New carpet... picture taken at night with only a lamp on. Mysterious!
-All I can say is, it simply feels good when nice things happen. Sometimes we humans seem to hold bad times in our memories, the struggles we have, days when things don't go right. But I'd rather live like the 99-year-old man I once interviewed for a newspaper article who said, "I've never had any real troubles in my life. My first wife died, but that's to be expected. I have a good life. When we're done talking, I'm going out to work in my shed."-
Live happy!

Monday, October 15, 2012


Yes, it's a "headlace," NOT "headless," or even "head lice!" This is the way creative minds work... see something that looks like a possibility and try it! This green and gold decoration (a necklace in a previous life) turned into a headlace today when I saw that it matched what I was wearing. It had happy adventures going around town on my head, winking and shining at passersby.
This is the way my husband, Bob, works, too. Instead of thinking, "I need a hammer," he tells himself, "I need something to drive this nail." (Maybe that's why he can fix anything with a bubblegum and a piece of string!)
So when you're writing, let your imagination put things together in ways that may not have been done before. Perhaps a necklace could be a wristlace, an anklelace, or even a waistlace! (That's "belt" for more traditional thinkers.) Letting yourself see common things in new ways frees up your mind and your creativity, which is valuable, because after all, no one can write like you!
So tell us, what have you used in a way that it was not originally intended? How did it turn out?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Playing in the mud!

The picture lies. I did not put that mud on my face, even though Brian suspected I was playing in the mud and made myself a mudding plaster mustache! Not so! It fell there of its own accord. I was in the store buying mud for our ceiling recently denuded of the sparkly, cottage-cheese type stuff, when I was treated to the mud-selling store man's tale of his childhood friend's ceiling with so much cottage cheese finish that it made hanging icicles! (Worst of all, they never melted... dun dun dun!)
Thanks to my buff boys Zack, Brian, and Michael, we got the cottage cheese off last night and mudded the ceiling into attractive swirls today, along with bonus attractive mustaches and permanent hair decor. (But the boys didn't get any! How do they do it?) We're almost ready to paint it into a happily-ever-after ceiling. I can only imagine that the next owners will get themselves some cottage cheese ceiling spray and go to town, creating actual stalactites!
Which brings me to my writing point... I had a book all ready to send out after a couple of more proofreads, but the proofreaders had (*gasp*) differing opinions!
So now I, the author, must figure it out.
What have you been stewing over lately? Have you come to any conclusions yet? 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Be That Kid Again!

          I am forever amazed by children. If you ask a child young enough to still believe in themselves and old enough to speak, they will tell you that, sure, they can sing! What song do you want to hear? Yes, they love to draw! See what a good job they did? Of course they can dance, just watch! Now you come and dance, too!
          What happens to some people's joie de vivre (exuberant enjoyment of life) as they age? I'm not saying you should dance in the aisles of department stores to catchy elevator tunes as I do, I'm saying that you could hold onto the feeling that, yes, you CAN do it, and you can do it well!
          But what if you truly can't do it well?
          I've posted a photo of my little sister. (You may recognize her, as she has been here before.) She is writing by herself which is amazing, not only because doctors at her birth said she would never walk or talk, but because she participates in my weekly adult writing class. At first, Mom had to sit by her and help her write every word. Now she does the writing herself. (SHE PRACTICED and SHE DIDN'T GIVE UP and she NEVER calls herself names or thinks she can't do it.) And the things she writes make the rest of my writing class laugh, think deep thoughts, or say, "Carolyn! I didn't know you could write that!"
          Even if it's not writing, find the invincible four-year-old you once were, (still there inside!) and do whatever would give your life exuberant enjoyment! What is it that you really want to do?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Serious Hat Hair

     My sister wanted to see Bob's "buffalo" headdress before deciding if she wanted to borrow it, so I modeled it for her. Take a look at those horns! Do you think I could scare off the sticky Indian summer flies with that? The answer is: no, I can't. They still think they own the house, so I turn on the fan while I sit and write. Yes, a fan. It blows the flies away, is more convenient than a fly swatter, and works better than a buffalo headdress.
     Writers are always thinking of different ways to do things. What do you use that is out of the ordinary scope of its purpose? Do you plug your ears with marshmallows? Use a pierced earring post as a toothpick? Mop your floor with a bath towel? Come on, if I can play Fred Flintstone on bowling day, you can share your secret! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A nice surprise

Hey, it's human nature to use the bathroom. It's simply routine, everyday life, unless... someone leaves a toilet paper flower on the handrail. A small, unexpected, pleasant surprise.
Surprises are good to use in writing a story. Authors like them, readers love them!
Now, what are you going to do to surprise someone? It can be as small as a toilet paper rose or as big as a loaf of zucchini bread. (I'll send you my address for the z-bread!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mom's Magic Mending

Then my magic mother took the dress and used her considerable sewing skills to patch it so beautifully it looks like it was meant to be this way!
So, if we keep trying, we can always find some kind of solution.
What potentially sad event turned into something good for you? 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Huey and Me!

Silly me... I clicked on a twisty arrow at the top of Blogger, thinking I could turn the photo straight... but nooo, it was an "undo" button!
This is me SMILING WITH DELIGHT at about 10:30 p.m. a week ago, Monday, August 27. (Turn your head to the left, you can see me better.) Musician Huey Lewis was on the stage behind me (under the red lights) just a second before this photo snapped. You'll just have to believe me.
It's so fun how music can peel the years away. I love to listen to music as I write. Listening to music that you liked as a younger version of yourself makes you feel young all over again!
"My Sisters and Me" sang at the Sanpete County Fair!
From L-R: Rebecca, Loraine, Shirley. 
What kind of music inspires you? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Faith Hope and Gravity made #2!

Yesterday, "Faith, Hope and Gravity" Hit #2 in the UK!
Merrill and me signing books!