Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three Words...

What is your best advice to the world in three words or less? I'll include mine in the comments.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Secrets of Honor- Carol Kilgore


I was honored when a terrific Texas author, Carol Kilgore, asked me a few months back if I'd host her on a blog hop about her new book, Secrets of Honor. Carol is a very talented writer, and the setting of her book, Corpus Christi is close to my heart. I hope that you will enjoy Carol's writing as much as I do!

Thank you, Shelly, for hosting me. You tell such great stories here that I’m a little nervous about telling one of my own. You’ve set a high bar, but I promise to do my best.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved the world inside her head. She was a very good little girl who usually minded her mama and daddy. She liked school and made good grades. But she liked daydreaming more than anything else.

On days when the weather was nice, she walked home from school with one of her friends. One friend lived in the little girl’s neighborhood about a block away. The streets were all straight, and each block was filled with white frame houses. The view never changed. The little girl was supposed to always walk with this friend because The Mothers knew each other.

But the little girl sometimes walked with another friend, who lived outside the neighborhood in an old, two-story blue house with a big yard. Between the school and this friend’s house was The Woods, which was forbidden by the little girl’s mother. And beside The Woods was The Creek, which was not only forbidden but warned against with the shaking of head and finger.

But the little girl loved The Woods and The Creek. The path beside the creek had been walked by many feet for many years, so much so that the earth had been worn down into a smooth, rounded indentation that made the little girl’s feet feel safe.

She always wondered who had walked the path before her. Where had they lived? Did they fish in the creek? Did their children play in the woods? Did fairies and witches live in the woods? A princess waiting for her prince? Bambi?

The little girl knew if her mama found out she walked the path between The Creek and The Woods, she would get in trouble. But it was worth taking the risk. The answers to all her questions turned into stories and played out in her head as she walked with her friend. She never told those stories to her mama.

The little girl was me.

As an adult, I can totally understand why my mother wanted me to take the safer route home. I now realize the risks that may have lurked on the secluded path, but I’m still glad I took that way home every once in a while. And the adult me is forever grateful not to have faced or even known about those grown-up dangers at that point in my life.

Perhaps the forbidden path of yesterday explains why I write Crime Fiction with a Kiss today.


SECRETS OF HONOR

By the end of a long evening working as a special set of eyes for the presidential security detail, all Kat Marengo wants is to kick off her shoes and stash two not-really-stolen rings in a secure spot. Plus, maybe sleep with Dave Krizak. No, make that definitely sleep with Dave Krizak. The next morning, she wishes her new top priorities were so simple.

As an operative for a covert agency buried in the depths of the Department of Homeland Security, Kat is asked to participate in a matter of life or death—locate a kidnapped girl believed to be held in Corpus Christi, Texas. Since the person doing the asking is the wife of the president and the girl is the daughter of her dearest friend, it’s hard to say no.

Kat and Dave quickly learn the real stakes are higher than they or the first lady believed and will require more than any of them bargained for.

The kicker? They have twenty-four hours to find the girl—or the matter of life or death will become more than a possibility.






AUTHOR BIO
Although Carol has deep Texas roots, she’s lived up and down the eastern seaboard and in other locations across the U.S. as a Coast Guard wife. She sees mystery and subterfuge everywhere. And she’s a sucker for a good love story—especially one with humor and mystery. Crime Fiction with a Kiss gives her the latitude to mix and match throughout the broad mystery and romance genres. Having flexibility makes her heart happy. You can connect with Carol here:
Under the Tiki Hut blog:  http://www.underthetikihut.blogspot.com
Website with Monthly Contest: http://www.carolkilgore.net







Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Out to Pasture

I am retired from a profession where I never made much money, but for over 30 years, felt like I was being a productive member of society by educating children, promoting love of obscure grammar rules, and hiding Shakespearean insults in the district website I maintained. 

But now that I live life on a more relaxed plane, volunteering in places that make me smile, going to the gym whenever I want, and spending more than 22 minutes on lunch, I sometimes wonder if I am slacking, not pulling my weight in the cosmic load.

Recent incidents confirm to me that I still have a place in the stuff of life, albeit to a different, smaller, and simpler tune.

Incident #1: Fresh out of the nail salon with a new set of my favorite French tipped acrylics, I hurried through the grocery store before the bulk of the Friday crowd hit. I spotted a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, her 20 year old son in tow. In the year or so since I’d seen him, nonverbal, severely autistic and struggling with violent outbursts, he’d grown even more, dwarfing his petite mom. I felt a new wave of admiration for my friend and her husband for their sacrifices in keeping him at home.

She smiled and hugged me. “Shelly, it’s good to see you. We’re so wrapped up in all that we have,” she glanced at her son, “that we don’t get out much anymore.” She continued sharing that it was more and more difficult for her to calm him when he became agitated because he was now so much stronger than her. Her son, uninterested in our conversation, circled slowly behind me, making me a little nervous. He emerged within my field of vision and knelt beside my arm, staring intently at my hand. My friend stopped talking and we both became wary.

Her son rose slowly and grasped my hand, never taking his eyes from it. He turned awkwardly and put my hand on his shoulders. Not sure what to do, I held it there, waiting for him to make the next move.

He moved his shoulders up and down and back and forth, wiggling. He looked back at me, smiled, and shimmied his shoulders again, making sounds of encouragement. A look of understanding flashed onto his mom’s face. “It’s your nails! He wants you to scratch his back with your nails!” He clapped his hands as I obliged, gently dragging my nails back and forth over his back. He closed his eyes and lapsed into a peaceful stillness for the next five minutes while we continued our conversation. Later that day, she texted me for the number to my nail salon. “We’ve never seen him so calm. A regular backscratcher doesn’t do it, either. It has to be nails. I’ve never had long nails, but this is working so well for him I’m headed down to get a set.”

Incident #2: At the close of a college football game, I wandered down out of the bleachers while my husband caught up with a hunting buddy in the stands. The school mascot, a six foot tall blue javelina (think something like a wild hog) with large tusks ambled near, greeting children and adults alike who wanted a quick picture with him. A man with two little curly headed girls, perhaps four and five years old, pulled them close to the mascot. “Look! I can take your picture with him,” he said excitedly to the girls as he pulled his phone from his pocket. The older girl, eyes wide, smiled in silent awe as the mascot reached his hand/ hoof out to her.

The younger girl, though, dug her heels in, pulled back on the man’s hand and whimpered, “No, Daddy, no!” Terror drained her face even as her sister crowded close.

The man said nothing but pried the little fingers off his hand and turned his back to her to take pictures. The younger girl, now without any island of safety and with her sister firmly in the clutches of the mascot, screamed chillingly. The man paid no attention as he continued to snap pictures. Quickly, the tiny girl bolted straight for me, ran behind and grabbed my leg in a death grip. Her curls bobbed at my waist as she buried her head in my thigh and sobbed, “No! No!”

I dropped my purse to the ground and knelt as best I could with her clamped onto me and put my arms around her. I told her the mascot was actually a silly fellow inside of a costume and that he would never hurt her and that she was safe. The whole time, the man never looked back, never took his eyes off taking his pictures. By the time they finished, a weak smile broke through my charge’s teary face, and she laughed as I told her funny stories of times I had been afraid and then found out I didn’t need to be.

As her father made his way over to us, pumping his fist in triumph at all the pictures he’d taken of the mascot and the older girl, I whispered to the little sister. “Remember, Honey, you are a brave girl. You are going to help so many people in your life because you are full of courage and you are going to help them not feel afraid.” She nodded her head, sighed and let out one last sob as her father reached for her hand.

“You were such a little chicken, weren’t you?” he laughed as she put her head down.

“Actually, she is very brave, and I think you should be quite proud of her and her sister, " I told him quietly. I patted her on the head. “You remember, you are brave, Honey. You don't have to be afraid because it's right there inside of you for whenever you need it. You are going to do such wonderful things. All your life, you remember that.” She nodded her head as other family members joined them. They walked towards the parking lot and I could hear the father laughing and recounting, “She just took off and ran behind this lady and wouldn’t let go of her…”

The little girl, tightly clutching her father’s hand, looked back one last time and shyly waved goodbye.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the mascot. He held his arms open wide and pulled me in for a tight hug.

I may be out to pasture, but there's still plenty to do in that pasture.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Hospital Tale

(I ask your pardon if I've been slack in visiting your blog. I spent most of last week in the hospital, hosted by my ruptured appendix. All is on the mend now, and I'm working as fast as all my little meds will allow me to get caught up. There's no place like home.)

The small taps on the door stirred me from the quasi slumber of the surgically repaired.

Even as my eyes worked to focus in the early morning hours, the door pushed open carefully.

"Good morning, hon, my name is Wanda and I'm with the hospital volunteers," an elderly woman with a lacquered beehive introduced herself as she moved towards my bedside. She consulted her clipboard and flipped a few pages, tapping an area at the bottom of a sheet.

"And you are George, " she proclaimed with a sweet smile.

I was drug addled, hooked to more lines and tubes than I knew what to do with and unsure of the day and year, but I was pretty sure I wasn't George.

"Um, no, I'm Shelly. But it's nice to meet you."

She frowned and underlined several things furiously on her clipboard. She pulled cat eye glasses up from the chain on her neck, fixed them on her nose, and carefully studied what was written there, tapping again in finality.

Slowly, with the enunciation of an elementary teacher, she said with a determined smile, "You...are...George...Morris."

I'd seen myself accidentally in the mirror the night before. I had hobbit hair, an odd swipe of Betadine on my neck, no earrings, no mascara, no lipstick, but...but...George?

"No ma'am, I am Shelly. Shelly."

She leaned in a closer. "You are in room 439?"

I exhaled and smiled. "Well, this is actually room 438."

She shook her head in small swipes side to side and made soft, disapproving tsks with her mouth.

"Hon, you'll need to call the office here and straighten things out. They have you under the wrong name and in the wrong room!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Edgy

My stomach spun like a top at my first glance. I inhaled deeply, all the way to my toes, and forced my eyes open again. There. There it was, in all its immutable, ageless, and very deep glory, the Grand Canyon.

My husband, equally enthralled but not a bit bothered by the height, was already moving quickly from rock to rock, taking a frenzy of pictures.

I remembered back to two days ago when we'd stopped in the Davis Mountains in West Texas for the first leg of our vacation. The sense of accomplishment I felt at having scaled two peaks was still throbbing in me; not for the physical feat of it, but for quashing my raging and robust dislike of being anywhere high. I took courage in that as we set off on the trail at the South Rim of the canyon.

The crisp, rich air made even breathing feel luxuriously decadent. Although we moved quickly on a trail without a guardrail, with only a couple of feet of dirt and sometimes trees separating us from the steepest drop off I've ever seen, I kept my mind off the height by focusing on the dazzling views as well as the melange of people we passed on the trail. English was sparsely scattered in the languages we heard. French, Japanese, German, Portuguese, and others were delectable listening treats.

We stopped at picturesque points on the trail, both for photos and appreciation.

"Be careful," I called to my husband, forcing my voice to stay nonchalant as he ventured out much too close to the edge of one of these rocky outlooks for my comfort.

"It's OK, Hon, I'm fine," he called back. "This is beyond words- just amazing!"

I took photos of him and of the undulating cliffs and of the tiny Colorado River visible from the safety of my vantage point just beyond the trail. Something small to my left bobbed in my peripheral vision as it moved past me to an area where there was an immediate drop off just past the trail. I turned to look and saw a small boy, no more than three, with a new scooter he was trying to push with one foot and steer with both hands while wobbling dangerously close to the drop off.

My breath caught in my throat as I moved quickly off the trail in his durection and worked to stay calm. No other adults seemed to be near and I didn't want to leave him to try and find who he belonged to.

"Hi there! That's a really neat scooter you have there, " I told him brightly as I crouched to get closer without startling him. He stopped for a moment in his jagged journey off the path.

"Mine. It's mine. I big boy!" He puffed himself taller.

I held out my hand to him, as there was no more than six inches now between him and the edge.

"Can you help me get up? I would love to see that scooter, " I encouraged, as I stretched my hand closer and wiggled my toes to get a better angle if I needed to lunge for him.

"I strong. I got big muscles," he said as he stretched out his chubby hand to me. I quit breathing as I clasped his small hand in mind. "Come back here on the trail and let's take a look at the scooter of yours," I said, my voice suddenly high pitched and having to suppress an urge to sob in relief.

Just then, a woman with two girls under ten following her came around the bend in the trail ahead of us.

"Jeremiah! Jeremiah! What have I told you?" She covered the yards between us quickly and grabbed his hand from mine. "Stranger danger! You NEVER go with a stranger, " she angrily enunciated as she glared at me.

Although I was still emotionally wrought by how close we'd come to tragedy, I straightened up and said, "Ma'am, he was past the trail there, trying to steer his scooter and he was just inches from the edge when I got him to give me his hand." And proving stronger than my will power, tears started to stream down my face. "He almost...he was this close..."

She looked at me carefully, her eyes squinting. She looked down at him, grabbed the scooter with one hand and in one motion pulled his arm to match her long strides away from me.

She took one last look at me and snorted. "Humph!" They moved quickly back down the trail the way she had come.

Um. You're welcome.



  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Knock Knock....Who's There?

Hey...psst...over here. I'm putting my toes back into the luxurious waters of blogland once again. Is it cold? Has anything interesting washed ashore while I've been gone?

And I did a terrible job of keeping up with all the blogs I love. It would make me happy if you could leave me a link or two for your favorite posts from the last two months. That way I can read and enjoy your part of the world once again.

And I'm going to try restructuring my blog a bit. Although I am a storyteller through and through, I know stories can get a little old for the reader. My life is as sedate and boring as a half used tube of toothpaste, so I'm not good at giving a recounting of my day, either.

But I will try to mix in short question pieces, like this one, with a few stories now and then, since stories are what make my soul tick.

I have some new projects in the works, and my time reading blogs is going to be a bit more limited, but I do plan to read yours at least a couple of times a week.

OK. Now for your question. What is the best meal you've eaten in the last two months? Don't be spare in your descriptions. I'm on a diet and this will be the only way I can enjoy really tasty food.

Teenaged Daughter taught me what chunkin' up the deuces is. (I think/ hope it means see you later.) I don't know why the picture is backwards, but I was driving here while she was posing.




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of Richard Nixon, Hurricanes, and Old Time Fans

I dropped my bag and purse on the kitchen counter and dragged myself into the family room. The morning’s bootcamp had delivered the rigorous workout it promised, but left me looking a mess. Coated in a thin layer of dirt, shirt heavy with sweat, and blood still seeping from a few scrapes on palms and a knee, I didn’t want to mar the furniture with myself, but still wanted to gather myself before falling into the shower.

I spread my towel on the carpet, dropped to the floor, rolled onto my back, and pushed the button on the remote control switching on the oscillating high velocity fan that, coupled with the energetic ceiling fan and central air conditioning, delivered cooling comfort on this 95 degree day. I closed my eyes and let the waves of refreshing wash over me.

The only sound was the whir of the fan as it swept back and forth. My mind drifted. Fans, hurricanes, Richard Nixon…they all fit together in one particular July and August of my youth. That summer we had been driven out of our home by extensive damage and flooding from a hurricane. My grandparents welcomed us to their home, which stood on higher ground.

Back in the days of only three television channels, the Watergate hearings consumed all of day time TV. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in politics, Richard Nixon became as reluctantly familiar to me as Mike and Carol Brady. The floodwaters still lapped up to the front porch, so our activities were confined indoors.  

The only oasis of refuge from the steamy South Texas heat was the air conditioned front room, and that was tempered by my frugal grandfather’s desire to keep the electric bill down. Even through the warmth, I systematically devoured the books from my grandma’s large library, and when only a few of those remained, I set into my grandfather’s Southwest Cattle Breeder and Dallas Cowboy Today magazines.

While the days were filled with Nixon, reading, and trying to stay cool, the nights became a treat to me.

My sister and I shared a large back bedroom there. The house had been built many decades before with the heat in mind, and so the large banks of windows that could be cranked open stretched forth wide into the night air. Screens kept the mosquitoes out but lured in the intoxicating late evening aromas of the gardenias my grandma cultivated under them. And if I turned my head just right, I could see vast reaches of stars through the treetops.

In our own modern house tightly sealed for central air conditioning, I never heard any of the night sounds, but here they were a symphony beginning at sundown each evening. The cattle lowed nearby as they settled in for the evening and then the coyotes picked up the call with their drawling howls. The frogs croaked their contentment while the crickets chirred in harmony.

The two old fashioned oscillating fans we turned on each night before jumping into bed whirred with gentlest tranquility. My grandma told me she’d bought them new, back in the late 1930’s, even before they had electricity in the house, because she so looked forward to feeling the soft breeze from them. And now, laying there in the dark, lulled by the finest of outdoor concerts, the sweet anticipation of the coming drafts of cool air from those fans was enough to make my sister fall asleep almost immediately.

I, though, loved to stay awake longer, just to enjoy the swaths of exquisite, unflappable breeze from them. And sometimes, sometimes, when those fans were on just the right course, set at just the correct angles, the air streams converged at exactly the same time on me. Magic, pure and unrivaled.

I don’t remember much about political scandals and weather disasters. But ask me about two little oscillating fans and I can tell you much.