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Archive for the 'Real Life' Category

Keeping Real about Goals and Accountability, Plus Open Contests!
Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Not a sexy title for a blog, is it? But I do like the picture because, hey, I have a thing for Post-It Notes. 🙂

Can you believe this is already the last week of January? I had so many goals. Some of them I did achieve. Today, I’m retooling plans so I can finish the month with a flourish and start February with a steely purposeful mindset! Next month, I want to wrap up a book; I have several editing projects to complete; and I being the #100DayProject art challenge! So, plenty to do and little time for lazy days—that’s for sure! My sis and I are planning writing sprints to slam some words onto paper, something I love doing but haven’t in quite a while. I’ll also try to do some weekly, if not daily, progress posts on Facebook to keep myself accountable.

Anyone else with me? Want to state some goals you’d like to achieve? Maybe we can figure out a way to keep us moving forward, even if it’s just household tasks, like “I have a closet to Marie Kondo or a garden to prepare for Spring planting.” Does that sound like something you’d like to do?

Open Contests

There’s still time to enter!

  1. Cover Reveal! (Contest) — Win a FREE book!
  2. Thinking about Montana… (Contest & Open Contests) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  3. Puzzlers, “un-puzzle” this! (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
  4. Anna M. Taylor: My New New Year’s Resolution (Contest) — Win an Amazon gift card!
Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Hmmm. I didn’t realize that image was so fuzzy! But I liked the idea of it. It’s Saturday!

Yes, the weather is crappy here—overcast and in the low 40s (which is freezing for this Southerner). Still, it was nice to wake up without having an alarm buzzing in my ear. The kids don’t have online school, so we don’t have to enforce a schedule. I can do what I want—well, other than pick away at a set of edits I’m determined to finish by tomorrow. Yeah, I work every day. I don’t have a true “weekend” because I don’t have a day job other than my writing. I’m lucky that way, I know, but it also means that I never really have downtime. I have a blog I must refresh EVERY DAY, commitments/deadlines. Although, at least for the last few months, I have been lightening my work schedule for Saturdays and Sundays, just so I can feel like I have actual weekends.

So, today’s work is done. (It’s already close to noon!) Maybe I’ll see what’s on cable to watch. Think I can talk anyone into watching something with me? The fam really doesn’t like my taste in movies. What? You don’t want to watch Die Hard again? I can settle for something less violent. I can. How about a comedy? What? The King of Staten Island doesn’t count? Maybe I’ll hole up and binge-watch The Boys. Who’s with me?

Can y’all suggest something everyone might love?

Insomnia and Blasted Muses! (Contest)
Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…Roberta!

I’ve been to many psychics over the years, and on several occasions, I’ve been told I have three muses—one a very old man, and the other two frisky females. I’m not sure which one woke me up at 3:15 from a great, dead sleep with the solution to my book story problem—the “who done it” and the ending.

Once up, I didn’t fight them (although I think it was just the grumpy old man). I quickly jotted down the notes in my head then sat at my desk and painted one very ugly postcard, and this one, which I love…

Over the years, I’ve decided insomnia’s not a horrible thing if I don’t fight it. Forcing myself to remain in bed and counting sheep or listening to fake rain falling on tin roofs only annoys me more. So, I take advantage of the quiet and do whatever I want. Sometimes, I actually catch myself yawning and head back to bed.  Sometimes, like this morning, I have kids to wake up for online class, so I’ll be up all day. Hopefully, I’ll be plenty tired tonight and the muses won’t be able to pry me from bed again.

So, how about you? Do you battle insomnia? Have you figured out what works for you in coping with the problem? Comment for a chance to win a free book—winner’s choice from my backlist!


Life in the Devlin House (Contest)
Sunday, January 10th, 2021

UPDATE: The winner is…Jeanine Lesperance!

Just a quick note about what this day means to me, and then I’ll move on. One year ago today, my mom passed away. She was at home, being cared for by my dd and myself because she wanted to be home until the end and knew she wasn’t going to beat her pancreatic cancer. I’d just walked away to get a washcloth to clean her face and returned. I began gently cleaning her face, talking to her, telling her that my sister was nearly there, hold on, when I realized she wasn’t breathing. One minute later, my sister arrived, too late to tell her goodbye. It was such a sad, sad day, but the only thing I can be thankful for is that she didn’t live to see what was to come just two months later. She left in peace.

So, here we are…how many months in? We cope. We also find joy. Little things matter more. My 16-year-old granddaughter has become our hairstylist. She watched YouTube videos so she could cut our hair. Here she is giving her 7-year-old sister a trim last night.

And isn’t she lovely? All that lovely strawberry-blond hair. She’s going to be a redhead like her mama.

We mostly stick close to home. Get our groceries delivered curbside, pick up our takeout masked. The one place we frequent, because it’s a big open, well-ventilated warehouse is our local flea market. We make that an event. See the treasures we found yesterday?

My mother had a collection of that old-fashioned, mid-century white Corning Ware with the blue flowers. We’ve been slowly adding pieces (it’s very collectible!). We paid $6 for two pieces, now we’ll have to hunt down lids on eBay (something else we enjoy—the hunt!). My dd got rid of all our plastic storage dishes and mixing bowls, and we’re replacing them with midcentury Pyrex (also, very collectible!). That brown set with the mushrooms we got for $40. If you think that’s insane, see how much it goes for on eBay! See the bent glass serving tray? It’s midcentury as well by George Briard ($10).

I added some odd bits to our haul—the yellow tin ($1) that I intend to cut up for tin jewelry, the small wood inlay picture frame ($1.50) that I’ll fill with a painting, the ceramic disk with raised lettering depicting the Cherokee alphabet ($6), which I will use to set my brush pot on for use on my art table, and I think I’ll press it against a gel plate covered in paint for background marks. See the yellow swan? It arrived in the mail today, so I added it to the display. I used a picture of it for the last jigsaw puzzle I posted.

So, we craft and “hunt” and have family movie nights. We’re fortunate, and we know it, because we aren’t hurting for money or searching for food banks. This situation isn’t normal, but the kids are happy, learning to cook and cut hair, and we have a little farm of animals they care for. We’re busy and not feeling especially stressed out about the restrictions. My police officer SIL got the vaccine this week, which is a huge relief. Hopefully, sometime this year, the rest of us will get it, too. We have lots to look forward to—warmer weather, swimming this summer, working on flower beds. We spend evenings talking about the trips we want to make to familiar haunts once it’s safe—Beale Street in Memphis, New Orleans.

We’re enjoying simple pleasures. Grateful we’ve, so far, dodged the virus while missing my parents and grandmother, who left us just before all this hit. We are finding things to be happy about and grateful for during this long-ass pandemic.

I’d love to hear how y’all are coping and whether the vaccine is headed your way soon. What plans do you have for when we get back to something approaching “normal” again. Comment for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card.

Starting the New Year right…for me, at least!
Friday, January 1st, 2021

Today’s all about setting up my calendar. I have a spreadsheet prepared with all the work I hope to complete. I know I’ll be deleting things as I run into snags, but I always like to plan “big”. Here’s a little snippet from my annual plan.

I know, it looks very confusing. January is cram-jammed: a Montana Bounty Hunter to wrap up, another to start. I have to read Cowboy anthology stories and write my own. I hope to begin my next SEALs in Paradise story, or at the very least, have an idea what it’s going to be about! And I hope to write a little Love in Lockdown Valentines Day story. We’ll see. My weekly plan has more down-to-earth goals and considerations, like helping kids with online school, etc.

But I do love the start of a new year. Love, love, love seeing all those colors lined up, one project after another. Tomorrow, I start the real work—the writing!

I hope you all enjoy your holiday. The entire family here managed to stay up until midnight. The kids toasted with sparkling apple cider. The adults drank champagne. Today, everyone slept in late. 🙂

My dd and I were up early, starting breakfast, then we began our chores. Mid-day, I was ready to do one last run through my schedule and update my planner. I’m ready for tomorrow! What are you doing this first day of 2021?

New Year’s Eve Puzzle-Contest!
Thursday, December 31st, 2020

UPDATE: The winner is…Damaris Schuler!

I won’t be raising a glass tonight. I’m not much of a drinker. However, I will be burning sage and a handwritten note wishing only good things for the New Year. 2020 has been such a powerful mix of horror and happiness that I’m ambivalent about its ending. Let me explain.

The year started with the death of my mother in January. That was bad enough and required a lot of adjustment. My dd and her family moved into our family home, and we’ve been unpacking and decorating, and making this place into OUR home.

The pandemic has, of course, dominated the year. Like many, many people, our family hunkered down, starting in March, unsure of what the future held. When the initial lockdown ended, we enrolled all four kids in online instruction. We’ve masked, done no traveling, and ordered our groceries for curbside pickups. We’ve watched the news for every bit of new guidance regarding safety and shared what we learned. We’ve done our part and kept our loved ones safe. We’re crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to do the same in the new year.

All those things could have hung like a dark cloud over us. Instead, we’ve managed to find ways to make this time very special as a family. We make everything an event. We’ve learned to FaceTime with those we love. For example, a couple of nights ago, we “met” with my son and he participated while we went through destashing bags of old jewelry that I’ve collected from flea markets and eBay. We spent three hours online, laughing and trying things on.

My dd has thrown herself into new hobbies—like sign-making with her Cricut and creating book graphics for me for use on Instagram and Facebook. I threw myself into painting. We’re looking forward to re-opening my Etsy store in January with all-new offerings of art and jewelry. She’s experimented with new recipes for the fabulous meals she’s cooks.

We have movie nights, family game nights. In the summer, we spent many, many hours in the pool. We’ve all grown closer. Even the teenagers aren’t dark and gloomy about the prospect of another year of restrictions because we’ve put in the work to make this work.

So, we’re now a glass-half-full family. I hope that you’ve found your silver linings, too!

New Year’s Eve Puzzle Contest

For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, tell me how, or if, you’ll be celebrating tonight! Enjoy the puzzle!

‘Tis the Season to…Plan! (Contest–2 Winners!)
Saturday, December 26th, 2020

UPDATE: The winners are Sheryl Stark and Theresa Piper!

Does this picture stress you out? The Christmas tree branches beside the notes that will fill up a New Year’s resolutions list…?

My professional background, before I became a writer, was as a project/program manager. So, lists, plans, goals are kind of in my DNA. I know, I’m one of those people. A “To Do lister”, a planner. Not that having a plan guarantees I’ll follow it. Still, I love this time of year. The decorations are coming down. My “mind map” for the coming year’s work and personal goals is starting to take shape. For years, I ran online workshops, teaching other writers how to construct a mind map and a project plan to get them where they wanted to be. I kind of miss teaching, but a couple of years ago, I decided to pull back from online teaching. I wanted more “me” time.

However, I still do the planning—even if my plans go awry. Having a vision of what I want to achieve keeps me moving forward. Yes, my plans are less aggressive now. They allow for lots of downtime. This year will have even more, since we’re in the midst of the pandemic and this household has moved toward supporting the kids’ education from home. There won’t be any travel plans that include overnighters anywhere. If we can’t go somewhere that’s within a couple hours’ drive, and where we can keep isolated from other people, we’re not doing it. Yes, safety is part of this year’s plan. It wasn’t anywhere in last year’s goals but we adjusted rapidly. To me, that’s how plans roll. There has to be room for adjusting to unexpected events.

So, if the thought of planning your New Year’s goals doesn’t make you break out in hives, when do you begin? Have you been jotting down notes already? Do you have home improvement plans? Online classes you want to take? Places you want to visit (which I hope include safety measures!)? Work goals you want to strive to achieve?

Share a few of the things you have on your list or in your mind for a chance to win your choice of one of my downloadable stories! I will choose two winners!