Click Here!

Be sure to visit Shellie's site at to find photos, information about events, giveaways, and books in the works!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Traditions Die Hard

This year my traditionally traditional approach to the holidays is succumbing to a mid-life shift in style.  I'm paring down.  Back when it was time to decorate for fall, I had a nearly panicked feeling about cluttering up my house, ruining the simple lines and clean, flat surfaces; I didn't want to feel surrounded by stuff.  I quite liked what I ended up with, but I have to admit, it was a far cry from my usual and it pained me a bit to put pieces I have always had out in the past back into their storage bins for that season.  Funny how it didn't occur to me then that I might face the same dilemma come Christmas.

Sure as shooting, though, when Thanksgiving came and went and we hauled up the holly from the basement, I found myself setting aside trinket after bauble after do-dad and settling on the simple again.  I'm very pleased with how it all looks, but in the back of my mind, that bit of guilt nibbled away at me:  Someone made this for me.  I've had this out at Christmas for fourteen years.  I remember the day we got that.  You know the routine.

More than special foods, more than miscellany, more than what was so important yesterday, I want to celebrate the moments I've been given to live my faith, to love my Lord, to sing, to choose, to lighten someone else's load, to cry when it is right to, and to focus on the joy of the season with family and friend - to celebrate.  

Merry Christmas.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Interview is Up and the Giveaway is Open!

Thanks, Readinista, for the fun interview and for hosting a giveaway of Love Under a Dark Sky!  Be sure to check out her awesome blog for tons of reviews and lots of other great stuff!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September Relishes

So much is made of the approach of fall.  Rightly so, I think.  It's a refreshing time, a time when new routines are formed and we draw more toward home.  It's a time for the return of familiar flavors and scents and sights, even sounds.  We all have special moments we look forward to in autumn:  spotting that first brilliant orange leaf on a tree in your own front yard; biting into the perfect apple from a local orchard; that wonderful dusky purple that edges the sunset; lighting candles of an evening; pulling on a sweater and snuggling in.

September is difficult, though, because as much as we want it to be fall, it just isn't yet.  All the back-to-school promotions and decorations in classrooms would lead you to believe it should be, but the temperature is still quite warm and there's nothing yet of the tell-tale crispness in the air.  So, before you let September get by you for wishing it was something it's not, I suggest you make a list of things to relish about it and make a point of celebrating each one.  Before long, you'll realize the dream of autumn's arrival; just don't miss the transitional time between.  It holds its own sorts of delights.

My September relishes include:  the first home football game that requires me to wear a jacket and allows me to comfortably drink a hot chocolate from concessions; buying a new nail polish or lipstick in something brown or burgundy or russet; and baking zucchini bread.

What do you relish about September?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life In The Fast Aisle

Today I did the marketing. That sounds so much more sophisticated, almost European, than buying groceries. In the interest of full disclosure, this isn't my first time do this. After all I was a single dad for ten years and did all the marketing. Now that I'm retired I wanted to do something to ease Shellie's work load. So the house is very neat and the yard almost enviable. And now, after a long hiatus, I'm back in the food store, Wal-Mart none the less. With list in hand I set out this morning to do battle with the hungry hoards. I traveled up and down the rows all the way from the pet department, health and hygiene, paper goods, canned goods, dairy, produce, and finally frozen food. I was pleased to find that there are less sideways, aisle-blocking carts at that time of the morning and few screaming children. For once I couldn't complain about the slow bewildered looking elderly because I was clearly numbered among them. The only drawback was the long line that awaited at the check-out. Apparently we all finished our shopping at exactly the same moment. But after numerous announcements of "code 7 to the front" several lines opened and the crowd thinned considerably. In my attempt to further my "slowness" philosophy, I chose to remain in the same line. Then on to the car with bags safely tucked into the trunk. I felt very successful, even accomplished. I was able to procure almost everything on my list. How those ice cream bars found their way into my cart is still a mystery.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Market Basket Preview

Bruce is making his debut as our family's meal planner / marketer tomorrow.  I'm going to insist he write about it tomorrow!  Be watching.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thank You!

Thank you to the 991 people who entered my Goodreads Giveaway for a chance at one copy of Love Under a Dark Sky!  The winner has been chosen and will receive her copy soon.

Keep reading!

Monday, August 1, 2011

He Worries

He worries about me.  Isn't it sweet?  I'm 43 years old; we have been married for 13 years; I have driven all over the country as part of my first job out of college; since I started teaching, I've driven to innumerable conferences and workshops and training sessions.  I haven't had a wreck since that weird run of three Valentines Days in a row when I was 18, 19, and 20 - that's ancient history - and only one parking ticket in the interim!  Yet, he worries about me.

This weekend I will be attending a committee meeting in Columbia, MO.  It's a mere three hours from home.  All good roads, daytime driving, and I'm renting a car since ours has gotten, well, old and well-used.  Of course, anything can happen, but that's true anytime with everyone.  Today is Monday and he has mentioned my trip, let's see, around. . . five times today.

He worries about me.  Isn't it sweet?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Question

I just want to know why George of the Jungle with Brendan Fraser is not listed in the top 100 romantic movies of all times?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Review of Flash Burnout by L. K. Madigan

Flash BurnoutFlash Burnout by L.K. Madigan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L. K. Madigan has created a character in Blake who is a tribute to adolescence.  He is genuine.  With all the intense emotions, the strong desires, the confusion, self-doubt, need to be an individual and yet to be accepted by the crowd, Blake is a wise-cracking encyclopedia of pop-culture (he had me at Doctor Who) with a lotta heart.

Without missing a beat, Madigan constructs a story in which the reader can immediately settle in and feel like a part of the family.  The author plays hostess as beautifully as Blake's chaplain mother.  Whether it's a simple description of a homework assignment, an important father-son talk about birth-control, a lesson on the effects of meth, or an exploration of the fragile boundaries of friendships and romances, Madigan treats each character, each scene with special attention.  And, let's face it, everything deserves that kind of tender consideration in its own season.

Filled with common teenage vernacular and speech-patterns, Blake's voice is authentic and he is likable.  The "'rents", the "olds", the brother, peers, friends, teachers, and acquaintances are all extraordinarily real.  So, while Flash Burnout may not be the happiest of books, it is certainly satisfying.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hello Ozark Romance Authors Conference!

So, you scanned the QR code and ended up here.  Isn't it just like Alice through the looking glass?  You've just gotta love technology!  Now that you're here, though, you're wondering about how to win a prize today.  Here's the scoop:  I will be giving away four prizes immediately after adjournment.  You must enter by the end of the second break-out session this afternoon.  Complete directions follow.  (And, so you know, all's fair in the battle for prizes.  You used your Smart phone to get here, use it to "research" the answers if you need to.)

Have fun and good luck!

NOTE:  This contest is for conference attendees only.  Apologies to my regular blog readers.  However, if you click on the link at the top, you can enter to win a copy of Love Under a Dark Sky through my Goodreads giveaway!  See?  Nobody goes away empty-handed.

For each prize you hope to win, fill out an index card with your first and last name on one side and the answer to the appropriate trivia question on the other.  Drop your entry in the appropriate bag at Shellie’s table.  The first correct entry drawn will win the prize. 

All entries must be submitted by the end of the second Break-out Session this afternoon.

Check the table immediately after adjournment to see if you’re a winner.  Prizes not collected by 6:15 p.m. will be forfeited.

Prize 1
An autographed copy of
No Penalty for Love 
by Shellie Foltz

To win Prize 1, you must list the names and cities of five NHL franchises.

Prize 2
An ARC of Love under a Dark Sky 
by Shellie Foltz

To win Prize 2, you must write the name of the vehicle in which Dr. Who travels through time and space.

Prizes 3 and 4
Writers Bl**k Care Package
with goodies to nourish and inspire

To win Prize 3 or 4, you must give the name of the person who said:  “Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wherever You Go. . . There You Are

We're on vacation.  An extended one.  The first and perhaps only really long vacation we'll take, because, well, we just don't do that.  This one was planned especially as a celebration of Bruce's retirement.  I had a lot of fun searching out houses and apartments we could rent and take Natalie along both in Minnesota and in the St. Louis area.  And, boy, did I find us a couple of dandies.  Both with views of the water - Lake Superior and the Mighty Mississippi. 

Because we're not staying in hotels, we have had all the comforts of home including full kitchens.  We've eaten out plenty of times, but there are only so many meals you can sit down to in restaurants before they start becoming, well, less-than-special.  So, we've shopped for groceries and cooked which has made mealtime in those cases seem pretty normal, except for the view. 

We've roamed quite a lot, too, exploring some little towns we'd not been to before.  In Minnesota, we experienced Lutsen, Grand Marais, White Bear Lake, and Rochester.  In Missouri, we've discovered Clarksville, Louisianna, Elsberry and Hannibal (as well as some old favorites like St. Charles and St. Louis).  We've walked rocky stretches of beach, two different breakwaters on Superior, a paved path through the north woods, a more rustic trail through another part of them, little town sidewalks and gravel alleys, grassy paths, and the river's ever-changing shoreline.  In all, very reminiscent of what we do at home.

Today, rather than roam, we read.  I finished one novel and started another.  I've had times where I just wanted to sit down and write, too. 

We laugh together about how some people would think our version of vacation is terribly boring.  We laugh at ourselves at how similar to our "real lives" our vacation seems to be.  And then we congratulate ourselves upon the reaffirmation that we are happy people who are happy in their lives together, because it seems that no matter where we go, there we are.  And, we're okay with that.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Avalon Authors: An Interview with Shellie Foltz

Avalon Authors: An Interview with Shellie Foltz

Hi, friends! We're on vacation and the day just started off very bright with the publication of an interview Sandra Carey Cody wrote and published. Please visit the site and read the interview. While you're there, scroll back through some of the older posts and meet other Avalon authors and hear what they have to say about writing, ready, and life!

A big thank you to Sandy! I love it!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Movie Love Quotes

Movie actors are lucky. They are never at a loss for a great romantic line because they have the advantage of a team of writers. Still some of the quotes are very memorable. Two very different scenes come to my mind.
The first might be somewhat unexpected. It's from Jack Nicholson, who's rather creepy even when he's not trying to be. The movie is "As Good As It Gets." His character is trying to compliment the female lead and after fumbling around through a long story, he comes up with, "You make me want to be a better man." It's hard to imagine any lady not finding that romantic.
The other quote is a classic. Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey charms his sweetheart Mary with
" What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey, that's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary." Of course Mary, or any loved one, says "I'll take it."
Two great lines for those of us who have trouble finding the right thing to say at the right time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lilacs and Lake Superior

We're packin' and laundryin' and all sorts of things in eager anticipation of our Minnesota trip.  I can't wait to smell the lilacs; see the lake whether steely gray or brilliant blue; breathe and breathe and breathe that cool and clean air.

In the meantime, my copies of Love Under a Dark Sky have arrived and fellow author and shelf-sister this cycle with Avalon, Sandra Carey Cody, has graciously published an excerpt form my novel on her website.  Appropriately, the scene takes place on the shore of Lake Superior.  It seems Minnesota is my muse.

Sandra Carey Cody is an author whose newest Avalon novel, Left at Oz, is available now.  Check out her site and while you're there, don't forget to look at the Guest Excerpt.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Never Lose the Wonder!

Today Bruce and I took a trip to Eureka Springs just to try out a restaurant a colleague had recommended because it had a nice-sized vegetarian menu.  Local Flavor.  Talk about yum!  We got a little later start on our drive down than we usually do and arrived pretty hungry, so we made Local Flavor our first stop.  With a meal like that, we were set up for a wonderful day.

In case you hadn't noticed by reading this blog, I really love spending time with Bruce.  And, we really enjoy walking together.  Eureka Springs is the perfect place for this.  It's also the perfect place to remind us that our individual tendencies (his to look down as he walks and mine to look up) make us a great match and provide a sometimes necessary safety measure.  If you've been to Eureka Springs, you know the sidewalks are a bit. . . uneven.  I was spared a few tumbles by Bruce's watchful eye.  He got to see a single red berry on an evergreen shrub, a pair of sparrows, and a coal black flying bug of some sort (I still need to look him up online) that was absolutely gorgeous (all black and shaped like a dragonfly only thinner) thanks to me.  We didn't buy a thing except lunch, but had a marvelous day wandering around.

We didn't have dessert, but I did get a sweet surprise when we got home - I discovered the review of my new novel, Love Under a Dark Sky, had been published on Romance Reviews Today.  I've placed the link above for your convenience.

Summer's here and the livin' is easy.  Sweet days; slow, meandering ways; eat and be merry; and read books!  Oh, and never lose the wonder!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gold Stars and Gold Crowns

I just received word that Romance Reviews Today will be publishing a review of Love Under a Dark Sky in early June.  I am so excited!  I feel like someone gave me a gold star!  I will provide the link for everyone when it's actually available to read; in the meantime, I am dreaming wildly.

I'll tell you a secret.  It has been my wildest, craziest, "in your dreams" sort of dream that Hallmark would discover my sweet little romances and see how perfect they are for their Hall of Fame movies!  Maybe I'll just wish upon that gold star now.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Dream a Little Dream

It's so important to dream dreams together.  When Bruce and I were first married, we had some trouble visioning together (as I'm sure is true with any newly married couple).  I, being the proactive type, tried to force it.  I'd get pencil and paper and suggest we make lists together.  Lists such as:  the top five places in the world you want to see, the top ten places in the United States you'd like to go, states you've already been in, states you've never been in, an event you would like to catch someday.

As I was newly employed as a teacher and fairly buried in student loan debt and as Bruce and Luke had been a single-income family for years, we had very little money to play around with.  Still, my philosophy is that if you don't plan now then you shouldn't expect to accomplish something later on.  Even if it's ten dollars a month stuck away in the sock drawer in an envelope labeled "Paris", it's something toward that dream and you're ten dollars closer every month to seeing it realized.

In our case, "Paris" was Minnesota.  It was do-able.  If we saved back so much each month, we could actually realize a summer vacation the next year.   It was a sacrifice (and still is sometimes even though student loans are all paid off), but putting money back from every paycheck keeps it always in front of us (as do the photos on the screen savers).  We talk about Minnesota all year long.  It's inspiring.  We wonder what Lake Superior looks like in the dead of winter.  We keep our eyes on the webcams in Duluth.  We talk about how good a peanut butter sandwich tastes when eaten at a rest stop in Iowa on the way toward the Minnesota state line or on the way back home.  We mentally stroll the streets, visit the sights, relive and renew the dream together.  The word Minnesota has not only become a common term in our house, it has become a family member.  It's our good friend, our counselor, our financial consultant.  We weigh our desire to take that trip together against any other opportunities that come up and, so far, Minnesota always wins.

If we had taken the same money we've invested in these trips the last five years, we probably would have been able to schedule one dandy tour of Europe by now.  But, I wouldn't trade June in Minnesota  for that.  There are too many memories, too many plans, too many pleasures, and too many dreams still to be dreamed together there.

What are you dreaming up with the one you love?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome to Joe's - Again!

God sure likes to pull a cherry out of the bag now and then!  Talk about your unexpected delights!  I had word today that Stained Glass Theatre wants to open their 2011-2012 theatre season with a reprise of my first play, Welcome to Joe's. 

It's been something like seven years since it was first produced and I can still feel the thrill of it.  I was so humbled by all the wonderful words people had to say about it and for years after I would hear things randomly from strangers at the next table in a restaurant or through someone who knew someone or from someone who had been loaned a copy of the dvd afterward.  I was awestruck then that God could do such a thing and humbled that he'd chosen to allow me to be a part of it.  Again, I have to say I'm completely humbled at the opportunity to do it again!

Just when you think something's over or you're worried that you'll never taste what you deem success again, God steps in and says, "Hey, chin up!  I'm not finished with you yet." 

For those of you who did not see Joe's in its first run, it's a romance (of course) with an evangelical message.  The original cast was phenomenal and all of the direction and staging were stellar.  I'm sure that the director this time, Tom Young who directed my second play, Related Spaces, a few years ago, will be terrific. 

Thanks, SGT, for giving me this great pleasure again!  I'm quite happy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life As I Know It - The Sequel

Today was the prologue for the next chapter in my life. I'm retiring from the classroom and today Shellie and I drove to the retirement office in Jefferson City to sign the official paperwork. Yes, I could have just sent them in, but we decided to make a day of it. After a very satisfactory and encouraging meeting with a young lady named Susan, papers all signed, we headed downtown for lunch. Shellie treated me to a delicious Thai meal at Chim's and then we decided to walk the area. We found shops, bookstores, and toured by the river, capitol, and governor's mansion. We saw bus load after bus load of children in the area. But as we weren't responsible for any of them, we could just smile and watch them having such a good time. It was a windy, cool, and thoroughly enjoyable day. On the road home, we stopped at a small town eatery for coffee and pie (peach cobbler, actually, with vanilla ice cream).
The apostle Paul writes that some have the gift of singleness. I guess I'm not one of them. I can't imagine entering into this next phase of my life without Shellie by my side. How often I see or hear something and just can't wait to share it with my wife. The joy shared isn't divided, it's multiplied. Just as we strolled the streets of the state capitol, so I plan to embark on the second half of my life, hand-in-hand with my partner, my love, and my friend.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I planned it beautifully:  a simple brunch for my family and mid-morning worship.  I hadn't thought much beyond that which is most uncharacteristic of me.  I'm a planner from way back.  It was that lack of planning that lead to one of the most restful days in years of memories.

Because it's been so rainy (if you hadn't seen a weather map to know it) and because we had groceries enough for the week and because the house was clean (ah, something I forgot to pay tribute to Bruce for - when I got home from my conference a week ago the house was spic-n-span) and because we had books to read, but mostly just because we must have needed the break, we truly rested.  Bruce napped on the couch and Natalie napped next to him while I read.  Then, getting sleepy watching them, I decided I should nap, too.  I went up to the bed to stretch out and Natalie followed to sleep by me.  When we all three finally woke, it was mid-afternoon and we spent the rest of the day and evening just lazing around listening to music and reading and chatting and being us.  We even went to bed early and slept through the night.

Don't you love the comforts of home?  The ease of a day with no demands?  A day of rest every week might be a good thing.  Now, why didn't someone think of that before?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Yesterday was my 43rd birthday.  I had bunches and bunches of happy wishes from family and friends and former students.  I received some very sweet, unusual, thoughtful gifts.  It was a good day.  A very good day.

But, last night was wonderful.  We started the evening with dinner at Farmers Gastropub, a local restaurant featuring locally available foods and, a rarity in Springfield, I'm afraid, one that offers actual vegetarian meals (by that I mean they are vegetarian on their own - not just something with the chicken left off of it).  I had the Vegetarian Cassoulet with crusty, crunchy baguette and a salad with homemade honey dijon dressing.  As a special treat, Askinosie's Chocolate Gatte for dessert.  It was luxury on a plate.  Decadent.  Divine.

The Jane Monheit concert was fabulous.  Ask Bruce and he can tell you without batting an eye that my favorite music is jazz and my favorite combination is a trio of piano, bass and drums.  He also knows I'm a sucker for words - lyrics, poems, monologues - whatever.  Words, words, words.  Ms. Monheit's vocals were sultry, spunky and sumptuous.  She performed many of the standards with her own personal style and plenty of scat.  There was nothing I didn't love about the concert.  The sweet swelling music and the sweeter still sentiments brought tears to my eyes there in the darkened theatre and I felt very much alive and so grateful for life and love and the thrill of romance.

I'm a fairly well disciplined person.  I watch my diet, I exercise, I am faithful to my Creator and faithful to my spouse, loyal to my family and friends.  I am careful to be temperate in all things.  But, once in a while, indulgence in the sensuousness of rich food, sweet song, and soft kisses stolen in a lingering note sung on stage is. . . perfection.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tired, but Inspired

My time at Missouri Association of School Librarians Spring Conference was inspiring on several levels.  Professionally, I got to hear about the latest great things going on in school libraries across our state and, more importantly, had time to brainstorm with my colleague who shares charge of our school's LMC with me.  I got that little extra jolt of excitement one needs to carry through the end of the school year and the inspiration to begin planning for the next.

Personally, I have to say that being present for the awarding of the Show-Me, Mark Twain, Truman and Gateway awards to the authors of the winning titles was a mixed bag for me.  I admit it.  I was jealous.  I've had success of a kind with my books (how many people who want to write novels actually do write them, let alone see them published by a commercial publisher?) and am very proud of them.  But, I have to wonder what it would be like to have children and young adults reading my books because they were written, as Jay Asher put it in his acceptance speech, with them in mind?  Teenagers figure into my stories as secondary, albeit well-drawn secondary, characters.  I'm so used to having teenagers in my life, I can't imagine writing a story without a few hanging around the pages making life more colorful for my heroines and heroes.  But maybe, just maybe, I should consider (seriously consider) writing for them rather than around them?  I am proud of the work I do every day with young adults.  I love them!  I love their energy, their zeal, their curiosity, even their innocent brand of cynicism.  Could I people the pages of a novel with them?  Could I write them genuinely with the affection I feel for them without imposing my own adult frame of reference on them or judging theirs?  Am I willing to venture out of my version of reality and validate theirs?  Can I treat a single teen aged character as an individual rather than a type?

Let's just say, the challenge has been issued and I'm considering whether or not I am called to meet it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Bursts of Excitement

Last night I saw a news clip about the Aurora Borealis.  I'm hoping so hard that we'll see it this summer, going farther north into Minnesota as we are.  That and a moose - at a distance, mind you.

Those northern lights?  They are kind of like the random bursts of excitement I feel when I realize Love Under a Dark Sky will be out there for people to read in just over a month.  I forget about it because I'm working at Glendale, writing grant applications, trying to build collaborative relationships with colleagues, all the while keeping up housework, menu planning, grocery shopping, yoga practice, and on and on and on.  Then, once in a while, my mind and heart just light up with the realization of the great blessings I've been given and that this, realizing the dream of being a published author, is one.  And I'm renewed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There's a lot to be said for the familiar.  When you find your niche, the place in life that fits you like a glove, why would you want to go looking for something else?

I don't believe in telepathy or psychic energy, but I do believe in familiarity.  It's a beautiful evening at the end of a beautiful, if long, work day.  There are a week's worth of menus (including cookbook names and page numbers) on the freezer door and the ingredients to prepare them in the refrigerator. On the way home, I thought, "I sure don't want to cook."  I thought dinner at our little neighborhood Italian restaurant sounded nicer.  When I walked through the door, Bruce said, "How would you like to dine on the patio at Bambinos?  It's so pretty outside."  So, we did.

Familiarity.  I'm with Dorothy on this one - I don't need to search any further than my own back yard to find what really matters and what really makes me happy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Silly (Not Dirty) Dancing

I'm not a dancer.  I'd love to be.  I admire the grace and beauty of couples floating in an embrace over the dance floor.  I took ballet when I was a little girl.  I took tap for a while, too.  When I was in elementary school and my uncle was in junior high, disco was in fashion.  I remember Marty trying to teach me some of those moves from Solid Gold in the living room while the record albums played through on the stereo.  It was fun.  As I got older, it was enough to be able to pony and I was glad of that.  Still, inside me is the girl who wants to be gliding effortlessly around the room, skirts swirling, head laid to the side, every move fluid and feminine; I want to feel the music as my own heartbeat.

We dance in my house.  All THREE of us.  It used to be that Bruce and I would dance to a favorite 1940's tune (usually in the threshold of the room - I don't know why, and usually on a very squeaky floorboard so that the giggles set in before the song was through).  These days, we have to watch out for four little furry feet dancing around just inches away from us.  Sometimes one of us even scoops Natalie up into arms to be right in our embrace.  And, as always, there's that squeaky floorboard.  Our dancing is romantic in its own silly way - cheek to cheek to cheek.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Holding Hands

I love holding hands.  I have to admit, sometimes I feel a bit silly when I realize someone has noticed we're holding hands.  They smile when they see they've been caught in the act of staring and they always have that "Awww - isn't that sweet" look on their faces.  But, then I realize I should be (and am) very proud that I have a husband who is willing to hold hands in public.  Of all the things our hands are busy with during the day - sorting papers, shelving books, hooking a leash, folding clothes, steering the car, swiping debit cards, tapping keyboards and keypads, and preparing meals, the simple gesture of offering one's hand in friendship, comfort, affection, and love is second only in significance to hands folded in prayer.

So, today, tickle your fingers together, clink those wedding rings, give in to the luxury of the touch of your true love's hand on your own.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thank You, Charles M. Schulz

When I met Bruce, the first thing I noticed about him (besides the fact that his last name was the same as someone I knew from college - but, that's another story) was that his shirt, a hunter green button-up, had a small, embroidered Joe Cool on the pocket.  I didn't know he was an elementary teacher.  I just knew that any man who could proudly wear clothes with the Peanuts characters on them had to be someone with an appreciation of the whimsical.  Knowing him as I do now, that was an under-assumption of colossal proportion!  Bruce not only appreciates whimsy, he creates it - every day.  The joy of life surrounds him.  He is amusing, light-hearted, quirky, clever (remind me to tell you the "As for me and my mouse" story sometime), and downright funny.

Me?  I was always a very serious girl.  I grew up with the tendency to smile easily and to get tickled at things I found really and truly funny; but a return to tears, worry, and sadness was just as quick.  My imagination tended toward the serious rather than the silly.  Because of this I could cry at the drop of a hat, fail to see any humor in a situation that had a hint of sadness in it, and get angry at people who didn't treat things I cared about with the same gravity I thought they deserved (okay, I still do that sometimes).

Knowing this, you might wonder how we ever got together.  In answer, I refer you to Charles M. Schulz, creator of The Peanuts.  (Are you seeing a trend here?)  Come on, now.  Two people, ages twenty-nine and thirty-nine respectively, who have had their shares of life's sorrows and come out on the other side a bit lonely, perhaps, but wiser for the trouble, who have managed to retain the joy of watching Charlie Brown try to kick that football year after year after year and who still laugh at lines like, "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest" and scenes depicting a beagle boxing with lawn chairs belong together?  It was meant to be!

I laughed at something today that I might not have laughed at years ago.  I can thank my husband for encouraging that lighthearted spirit in me to grow.  His humor has tempered my seriousness over the years.  Yes, I still cry when I watch Snoopy, Come Home ("No dogs allowed. . .").  I'm not ashamed to say it.  But, Bruce has lightened my load in life by leading me to laugh more easily and more often.

So, in tribute to the guffaw, I challenge you:  find someplace private and do something utterly silly!  Make a face.  Sing a goofy song you remember from childhood.  Put on a ridiculous outfit and parade up and down the room.  Reenact a miserable scene from your workday with the part of you being played by Robin Williams or one of the Stooges or Carol Burnett.  Let your snicker become a chuckle become a giggle become a chortle become a laugh!

And, if that doesn't work. . . start small.  Check out Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh" routine from Singin' in the Rain.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Let it Pass Unnoticed

Spring is here.  In case you hadn't noticed, the birds have returned.  They twitter and chirrup and flutter about in my back yard, hop-hop-hopping from one corner to another, fluttering up unexpectedly.  Over the top of the fence they go and down again like a clean sheet blown from the clothesline to land on the neighbor's lawn.  Or, hadn't you noticed?

The forsythia, dogwood, tulip tree, privet, tulips, crocus, daffodils, and redbuds are brilliant along house fronts and curbs, ringing around the bases of trees and adorning walkways.  I am anxious to take off my shoes and feel the grass underfoot again, soft and tender and cool; I want to walk across it in a slow zigzag and then loop around the tree, feeling the bark rough and wonderful under my hand.

I want to breathe it in, drink it up, give myself over to its luxury.  I envy my little dog - she is so close to it all.  The ant hill I may trample is not beneath her notice; she can chase a squirrel and not look a bit silly; she can stick her nose down into the grass to discover its scent and register the fragrance of the dirt.  She can taste the rainwater that's collected in a low spot on the walkway without fear.

But, I must find my own ways to mark the season.  To admire it, embrace it, celebrate it.  I have no intention of letting a bit of it pass unnoticed.  Spring is a poem sprung to life, God's coloring book, a grace note in the orchestration of seasons.  It is feathers and fancy and freedom and finery.  It is lace and luxury and lingering and love.  Oh, let it be spring!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Love Potion #?

In the comic opera L'Elisir d'amore ( The Elixir Of Love) much of the humor is derived from the supposed existence of a powerful love potion. Of course the mixture is phony and only as effective as the faith of the believer. Yet this is a popular theme in stories, second only to perhaps the fountain of youth, and many even today persist in relying on a so-called "love potion."
The slow food crowd would probably lean toward some variety of tea as their beverage of choice. There's something to be said for drinks such as hot cocoa during certain seasons of the year. Those of the health persuasion might select a vitamin water. Of course there are always advocates of something in the alcohol line.
But for Shellie and I, our magic potion would have to be coffee. Woven into the fabric of our day are steaming mugs of java. In fact our day usually begins when I wake Shellie with her first cup. Then we sit together with more coffee over breakfast and still another cup if time permits. As she goes out the door for work, Shellie has her to-go mug.
We've had many deep discussions and solved myriad problems around the table set with cups of coffee. Because good coffee is always hot, it makes it necessary to sip, pause, and perhaps think before speaking. I believe this has often kept us from haste that might later be regrettable. For us, coffee slows us down, makes us concentrate on the time at hand, and ultimately draws us together. Our long standing "place" continues to be the Mudhouse. There, even in the buzz of commotion, we can find time for each other. In such a crowded, hurried world, only a true magic potion could do that.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Smile and the World Smiles With You

I was just thinking how rarely I see people smile out in public.  I'm a natural-born smiler.  I can't help myself.  I just generally feel happy.  People looking on probably think I'm an idiot or something, walking down the sidewalk grinning.  I smile at songs, memories, pretty things, secret plans, sudden realizations.  There are millions upon millions of reasons to smile.

I've noticed that most often the smiles I have returned to me are given by young people.  Teenagers.  The ones you would think least likely to smile back.  It's true, though.  And, that's fine.  If it brightens a moment for someone in the midst of their angst or even if it's an involuntary response, a reflex, I think smiles beget smiles and the more smiles you smile the greater your potential for happiness.  And when you're happier, you're more likely to inspire happiness in others.

So, it's Sunday night.  I have some anxieties over family illness and some work-related things and some personal things, too.  But, even now, writing this post, I feel the beginnings of a grin lifting the corners of my mouth.  It's infectious, I tell you!  Can't you feel it?  You know you want to. . . SMILE!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Walls of Jericho

Last night on our journey through AFI's top 100 romantic movies, we (re)watched It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.  What a delight!

Now, if you're wondering what the title of this post has to do with anything, then I recommend you get a copy of the film (check your local library - that's where we got it) and plan an evening to curl up with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show!  Then, once you've done that, you can write and tell me how right I was and thank me for suggesting a no-cost-to-you evening of wholesome, romantic, thoroughly enjoyable Hollywood magic.

You're welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Expression Marks

It occurs to me how wonderful and how awful expression marks can be.  In a face they show all of the person's past at once - the moment he or she smiles or frowns the joys and agonies of life are all there on display.  In a frame they betray the artist's hand - how light and delicate, how firm and insistent, how tentative, how bold.

I look at myself too often to critique.  No amount of retinol or alpha hydroxy can undo the childhood taunts, the teenage tears, the torment of young adulthood, the terrors, the trials, the tests and the truths of life.  And why should I wish it to be so?  In the expression marks on other faces, I find grace and beauty, strength of will if not of body any longer.  Plump, firm skin gone thin now on foreheads and shins; freckles now looming, fearful question marks on backs of hands or arms; eyes more deeply set, faded, shaded, soft.  The point of my pen can never write such a wonderful work so perfectly punctuated.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Season of Poetry

Lately I've been wanting more of everything and that troubles me.  I want my plate to be more full at mealtime.  I want the food to be more flavorful.  I want to be intrigued by something, stirred by something, moved to act.  To see something pretty and rare, hear something I've never heard before, savor a rich, complex flavor.  But that wouldn't be enough.  I want to gorge myself on life.  Yet, I'm barely sampling it.  Why is that?

In this season, this early spring, the signs are all around.  Transformation.  Newness.  Life.  But, my mind still wears its thick winter fleece and my senses are dulled by lack of input.  Too many contented nights by the fire.  Too many pleasant little reads.  Too much of the comfortable.

I hate to invite trouble, but sometimes I wonder if I confuse complacency with contentment.  And, if I do, I want to know it right now; because the last thing I want to be is complacent.  I want to be alive, in the moment, alert.  The imagination must be fed.

I need to shake off winter's hibernation and get out of the cave that is my brain.  Listen again to Leaves of Grass with its jazzy accompaniment; read it.  I think I understand more of Whitman now than I ever did before.  Let it be the season of poetry!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roll Call!

Okay, folks, I keep seeing in my blog stats that there are people reading not only in the US, but also in Israel, Hungary, Russia, Germany, Indonesia, China, Japan, the UK, Canada, France, Iran and Australia!  Comment with your locale - I want to know who you are and what brought you here!  Let's talk!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To Drive to the Country, Perchance to Eat Pie

Bruce and I are known for doing things like this, so if you know us you won't be a bit surprised to learn that we drove to Golden City today to eat at a place called Cooky's because we heard they have great pie.  The tales were true.  And, the pie alone would have made the drive well worth it (not to mention the calories it cost me).  But, there was so much more to our drive through the countryside.

Our son recently told his dad, "It's a good thing you two found each other."  Hidden meaning:  you're both weird and no one else would put up with either of you.  He's probably right.  Today, I had a blast enumerating the animals I saw that I don't see on a daily basis:

  1. cows
  2. goats
  3. sheep
  4. mule
  5. chickens
  6. horses
  7. buffalo
We saw land as flat as that through Iowa and, though we've lived in Missouri all our lives, we didn't know we had areas so flat through the southwest part of the state.  We looked through flea markets in three little towns along the way and stopped at Coffee Guru for cup of joe.  

It was wonderful to get away, just that hour or so out of town, to take in the wonderful, pastoral view; to pick up those interesting and old things in the shops, inspect them and consider them; to savor the rich and complex flavors of coffees and German chocolate pie; to hold hands and exchange smiles; to recall song lyrics and movie lines as we drove; to laugh at and appreciate the whimsical nature of someone in Greenfield, Missouri who had painted a door on the house to look like the TARDIS; to add this day to the stockpile of memories of other lovely days spent together, of little towns we've driven to, little sites we've seen, little experiences we've shared that remind us of who we are as individuals, who we are together, and why we're still in love.

(NOTE:  I did try to get a picture of the TARDIS, but there was no shoulder on the highway through there and, though Bruce did try for me, I couldn't get a clear shot without actually crossing a very deep ditch and walking up the hill and onto their property)

Monday, March 21, 2011

You Know He Loves You When

he doesn't flinch at kissing you after watching you eat roasted garlic at Ermilio's;

he laughs and shuts off the car when you decide you'd better pay a visit to the Ladies' at the gas station after all;

he not only notices and appreciate how you walk (dress, talk, present yourself), but tells you so;

he listens to you read about something called Phantom petunias from Better Homes and Gardens and actually looks at the picture you're pointing to;

he doesn't act defensive or huffy when it turns out you're right about something;

he puts off having a Krispy Kreme doughnut until a day when you think you have more calories to spare and can enjoy one, too;

he says he likes life with you and you know he means it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break, Spring Fever, Spring to Life!

Resolved: today I will be present to all around me and bring back to my writing what I receive to give it away again to my readers.

What I've noticed so far today (and it's early):
1.  The joyous sound of wind chimes
2.  The green buds on my hedge and the neighbor's tree
3.  The dog's nails are sharp and need trimming
4.  The happy clink of her tags on the edge of her breakfast bowl
5.  The complete perfection of being hugged by the man who loves me
6.  A squirrel completely in silhouette high in a tree two yards over
7.  A bird chirping in the front yard (chip chip chip chip chipchipchipchipchipchipchip, he says)
8.  Dust (in which I shall just draw a heart shape so that I won't make this into a chore that will take away from my moment)
9.  How satisfying it is to sigh (with contentment)

How much more there must be to discover in the remaining hours!  

Avalon Authors: A PATCHWORK PLOT

The following post by Sandy Cody, beautifully written and wonderfully said, really spoke to my heart as a writer. Today I resolve to be present where I am so that I can take what I find back to the page and share it with the world through my work.

Avalon Authors: A PATCHWORK PLOT: "One of the things I enjoy almost as much as writing is quilting. There is more similarity between the two than one might think. I love wo..."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who Wants to Be in Love in a Movie When Love in an Opera is So Much Faster?

Puccini's La Boheme:  Act I - love between Rodolfo and Mimi (really Lucia, we don't know why she's called Mimi) happens, as Mr. Bean would say, in the flashiest of flashes.  Why would you want to be in love in a movie when it can happen so much faster in an opera?  Maybe it's because operas rarely (do they ever?) have happy endings.  Movies can end tragically, but the romantic comedies we're so fond of are engineered to make us feel euphoric, at least momentarily.

I heard a funny thing on the radio the other day.  Women respond more, romantically speaking, to action movies than to what we call romances.  Apparently the adrenalin works its magic through a good gun battle or car chase.  As I see it this "fact" works well for both men and women.  And, I'm not a bit surprised, really, when I think about how much I enjoy ice hockey and how the game inspired my first romance novel.  Considering further, my second romance novel was actually propelled by gorging myself on Doctor Who battling evil aliens and not on Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan sharing anonymous emails at all.

Maybe we should consider a new hybrid?  A fusion, if you will - adventuopera.  Or, romaction?  Hmmm.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Want To Be In Love In A Movie

Shellie is a movie buff. Me, not-so-much. She would stand in line at the midnight premier of every blockbuster just to be among the first to see it. She's all about the event. I'm more content to wait until the original fervor has subsided, like when it comes out on DVD or late night cable. But we do both enjoy the classics.
So this year we began a project. I downloaded the list of the top 100 romances from the American Film Institute's website. At first we were going to try all 100 within the calendar year, but soon decided that was too much television for our schedules. Many of the movies near the top of the list we are already familiar with and even own. So we started down the list a bit. I've been getting these from the public library. Some have to be placed on hold and then there's a wait. But it is a pleasant surprise and a good at-home date night when they come in.
We've discovered that some of the "classics" are not necessarily that great. Many are star driven and don't require much plot. Throw in a Grant, Bogart, Hepburn, Stewart, Bergman, etc. and you've probably got a hit, and some of them are quite fun in their own way. We have discovered some gems along the way. We truly enjoyed such new-to-us films as "The Ghost And Mrs. Muir" and "Now, Voyager." Neither of us liked "The Bridges Of Madison County."
What makes romances so popular? They're often predictable, implausible, and down-right silly, but still we watch. For me it's the ending. Many, though not all, have happy endings and I'm all about happy endings. I don't see the point in investing two hours of your life just to be depressed, confused, or even irritated. Life is often that way and movies should be escapist fun.
Plus, don't we all want to be in love in the movies? Even we guys want to see ourselves as heroes who eventually come through when most needed. But this doesn't take anything away from the heroine who is also strong and courageous in her own right. It's the two of them against incredible odds that plays out across the screen.
Actually a good marriage can be much that way. There's much in the world that would distract, complicate, and otherwise attack our families. That's when we cling to each other to battle the enemies and evils of the world. Guys, are you someone's hero?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

How a Baked Potato Can Feed Your Soul

I could write pages upon pages about how awful my day was and how angry I felt.  I could tell you about my struggle to pray through it even as my stomach was burning and my hands were shaking.

But, I'd rather tell you how the people who love me best were angry on my behalf and it made me feel championed even though there was nothing any of them could do.

And, I'd rather tell you that when the thought of going home and cooking dinner was too much and all I wanted was a baked potato, though I hadn't said a word about it, when I went to pick up Bruce after work, he gave me a hug and said, "I thought I'd buy you dinner tonight.  You deserve it.  How about a potato at McAlister's?"

That fed my soul.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So What Does A Man Know About Romance?

You may be surprised to see me here. I have guest commented before, but Shellie has asked me to contribute on a semi-regular basis. She is currently reviewing the galleys for her second book (Love Under A Dark Sky), working on her third book, writing book reviews for the librarians' website, all while continuing with her career change. Yet this blog is dear to her heart and she doesn't wish to see it sit dormant for long stretches. So it's husband to the rescue. Well, maybe. I am, after all, only a man. And what does a man know about romance?
Every blog begins with a certain amount of audacity in that we feel we have something worthwhile to say. I'll be honest up front, that may or may not be true in this case. But I do love my wife and feel we have a strong, healthy, love-filled marriage. Also, I've worked surrounded by women in my thirty-one years in an elementary school. I've listened and hopefully learned from all their viewpoints of husbands, boyfriends, and men in general. So rather than an authority, advice, or even tips, my postings are much more likely to be random musings from the vantage point of a happily married middle-aged man. But for today, this is a poem by Amy Lowell I believe she sums up the way I, and many other men, feel about romance.

The Bungler

You glow in my heart
Like the flames of uncounted candles.
But when I go to warm my hands,
My clumsiness overturns the light
And then I stumble
Against the tables and chairs.

(Sound familiar, guys?)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Yesterday we traveled to St. Louis to watch the Blues play hockey.  It was one of those times when things were looking great.  We got away half an hour earlier than we'd planned and thought that would give us plenty of time to wander around the Central West End before having lunch at one of our favorite places and then on to the game.

A bit of history about our trips to St. Louis.  It seems that at least seven out of ten times we set off for St. Louis it rains.  Not such a big deal if we're going for the Art Museum or a hockey game, but trips to the Muny, Busch Stadium, the botanical gardens, the Loop. . . rain matters.  Yesterday, it was misty.  Too misty for intermittent wipers, but not misty enough for full-on swish-swish.  And then, it misted a bit more.  Soon we were driving in a rain.  As I say, not so unusual for us.  Bruce, my eternal optimist of a husband always says, "We'll drive out of it."  We rarely do.

We arrived at the Central West End and it was raining but good.  And cold.  We were a little too early for lunch, but Bruce found a parking spot just across the street from the restaurant and right next to Subterranean Books.  So, I hopped out and dashed in while he fed the meter.  We wandered around a bit and decided to go ahead and walk up the street to Coffee Cartel for a warming cup of coffee before we ate.  It was still raining.  And quite cold.

As we passed our parking meter, Bruce stopped to see how much time was left on it.  I ducked under an awning and heard him say:  "Out of order?"  No problem.  The space behind us was open.  I shivered under the awning while he backed up, fed a new meter and we hurried on toward the now much needed coffee.

On the way, Bruce's cell phone rang.  Some unhappy news from home, but nothing that was urgent so as to call us back right then; although, the conversation was difficult on a cell phone on a street suddenly alive with large trucks heading up and down through rain puddles.

We decided to check the hours on our restaurant's door just to be sure we would have the time we needed.  I heard Bruce again, this time rather incredulous:  "Closed on Mondays?"  Of course.

The coffee was wonderful, though.  And, there was another restaurant just up the way that would be fine. In fact, we recalled having eaten there once before.  The more we thought about it, the more we became convinced that the reason we had eaten there once before was that we had come up on a Monday and found the other one closed.  Note to self!

Duff's aside, Dressel's was great.  The vegetarian menu was dinky (salads, pretty much), but one of the staff offered to light the fireplace beside me.  Call me grateful!  My hair, previously nice and smooth from a great morning with the flat iron (remember, I started by telling you how things were looking great for our day?) was now curlier than I've seen it in decades, as wet as if I'd just shampooed, and cold.  

We got to Scottrade and found our seats.  On the top row.  That's the top row - no more rows above us.  And my seat was next to a bit of wall that jutted out.  Oh, and the Blues lost.  To the Blackhawks.  It was just sad.

We drove toward home, the sun now peeking through and no evidence at all that it had rained earlier in the day.  We listened to Chris Botti and, even though the day wasn't anything like we'd planned and we knew once we got back home there would be some not-so-great family / health things to deal with, we found ourselves talking about how blessed we are.  How sad we find it that other couples can't or don't or won't make time (yes, make time) to date each other.  How we are so glad that we're friends, that we enjoy each others' company, that our marriage is romantic every single day because it's important to us to cultivate that.  How good it was to be together just. . . driving.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It Blizzarded

With hype hypier than the hype for this Sunday's Super Bowl, our local newscasters ushered in the Blizzard of 2011.  It snowed.  A lot.  And I'm sure it was pretty bad right out in it.  But, from the comfort of my living room it was just pretty.  There's something charming about being "stuck" with no choices about where to go or, for us over several days, whether or not to go online, because the car is behind a fort-sized mound of white and the Internet is down.  The power stayed on, so we weren't relegated to temporary pallets on the floor for sleeping by the fire and eating peanut butter.  We got to make chili and brew coffee and read by lamplight instead of candlelight.  We rediscovered some of our favorite c.d.s since we couldn't stream North Shore Radio or MPR.

Had I not been under the weather (sorry, it had to be done), I might have written.  But, fever and general ickiness made my focus too . . . unfocused for anything important like plot development.  I looked at magazines and snuggled with my dog under a favorite old blanket fresh from the dryer.  Today when the sun came out I shook myself out of the mental cobwebs and attacked the real ones attached to my windows upstairs.  The beautiful sun on the brilliant snow showed up a multitude of sins in regard to my housekeeping and the days of being confined to the house along with Puxatony Phil's prediction of an early spring gave me the strength and stamina I needed to embrace the Shark Vac like Snow White did the broom and sweep / suck away the dust of a thousand days (okay, not a thousand, but it may as well have been for how dirty everything seemed).

Yes, indeedy.  It blizzarded.