Friday, May 25, 2018

Secrets to a Long Marriage

Thought for the day: Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. [Simone Signoret]

[credit: morguefile]
Yep, hundreds and hundreds of tiny gossamer threads made of delicate pieces of spun gold.

Kinda like razor-sharp cobwebs.

Just kidding.

Then again, it'd be super cool if married couples could shoot webs at each other to reinforce their marital bonds every once in a while, wouldn't it?

They were drifting apart until Spider-man aimed his wrist at his bride and reeled her back in...

Okay, so maybe not.

Yesterday was our 49th anniversary. Forty-nine. Holy crap. It doesn't seem possible. So what's our  big secret? Beats me. Luck, maybe?

And hard work. Life isn't always a tra-la-la walk in the park, and neither is marriage. Sometimes the park feels more like... Jurassic Park... but ya just have to keep on walking. And more than anything, you've gotta keep laughing.

A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. [Paul Sweeney]

I'm definitely tenacious. No matter what, I always support my man.

And he supports me. If an establishment no longer meets my needs, we simply go elsewhere.

You don't need to be on the same wavelength to succeed in marriage. You just need to be able to ride each other's waves. [Toni Sciarra Poynter]

Hopefully, in the same direction.

And far far away from the sharks.

I always try to keep Smarticus happy in the kitchen.

And in the boudoir.

(That reminds me... thanks to the designer gurus on HGTV, we now know that we have an ensuite off of our bedroom.. and all these years, we just thought we had a bathroom!)

I reckon our marriage must be darned near perfect, then, because we're definitely a pair of stubborn smart asses.

Our marriage was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day. [Gene Perret]

So as we look forward to celebrating our fiftieth, we'll continue holding hands and looking for the sunny side of life. Then we'll jump into the future feet-first, ever hoping for the best.

And ya know... I wouldn't have it any other way.

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Boughing to the Wonder of Trees

Thought for the day: Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf. [Albert Schweitzer]

[Thanks to for permission to use this pic]
Albert Schweitzer was one of my childhood heroes, so it's good to know I have something in common with him.

I love trees. I love them for their beauty, their diversity, their tenacity, and their strength. For the fruit and nuts they provide, the blessed shelter of their shade on a hot day, and for the gift they give us of cleaner air and water.

(ahem) In the spirit of full disclosure, it is, however, possible that I may have said an unkind word or two in the past when raking up a bazillion leaves or stepping on one of those... blessed... weapons, AKA gumballs, littering our front yard. But that's beside the point. I still love trees.They're some of the longest-living and most marvelous wonders in the world.

Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky. [Kahlil Gebran]

Although a gentle breeze rustling through their leaves sometimes sounds suspiciously like laughter, I seriously doubt if trees have a sense of humor. Then again, maybe they do. It'd be perfectly oak-ay if they bark with laughter at us silly people for raking up their leaves, even though it isn't a very poplar job and is sometimes over-elming.

Dogwood trees would make awesome pets, dontcha think? They have a nice bark, but they wooden ever bite.

And maybe redwood trees tell tall tales.

What did the beaver say to the tree? It's been nice gnawing ya.

Oak-ay, I'll stop before I make an ash of myself and yew guys get even sycamore of me and my puns. (Even though you're kinda aspen for it... after all, it's a risk you take whenever you visit my blog.) But let's talk about some amazing trees, shall we? Cedar are lots of things to say about trees that don't include bad puns. (Sorry. Last one.) (What a releaf, huh? Oops... sorry! Oak-kay, I'm done now...)

[image courtesy of seniorark]

Even if they don't have a sense of humor, trees do communicate. When asked how many miles it was to the nearest town, look how the helpful tree in this picture responded.

Okay, so that's a lie. But trees really do communicate. For example, when a willow tree is attacked by webworms, it emits a chemical that warns other willows, which triggers them to produce more tannin so their leaves are harder for those worms to digest, thus protecting them from infestation.

[image courtesy of wikipedia]

Giant sequoias earned that name. Some of them are more than thirty stories tall and greater than 82 feet in diameter.

In 2006, scientists discovered a coast redwood that was 379 feet tall, which they estimated to be 700 to 800 years old. They named it Hyperion, but to this day, they've never revealed its exact location. Why? They're afraid it'd cause such an influx of tourists, it could upset the ecosystem.

So essentially, what may be the tallest tree in the world... is in hiding.

As soon as a redwood is cut down or burned, it sends up a crowd of eager, hopeful shoots, which, if allowed to grow, would in a few decades attain a height of a hundred feet, and the strongest of them would finally become giants as great as the original tree. [John Muir]

[image courtesy of Leonard Chapel]
And redwoods aren't the only ones. From this fallen tree, supine on the forest floor, grow four new trees... living examples of hope and resiliency.

A few minutes ago, every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. [John Muir]

[image courtesy of wikipedia]
Some bristlewood pines, as shown in the photo above, are believed to be the oldest trees in the world, and at nearly 5000 years old, the one named Methuselah has been deemed the oldest. But in 1964, a grad student, in pursuit of his research project, got permission from the Forestry Department to cut down one of these trees in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada. It turned out that the tree was over 4950 years old, and at the time, Methuselah was only 4803. So sadly, the student not only found the oldest tree in the world; he killed it. The tree was later named Prometheus, and a cross section of its trunk is on display at the park's visitor center... as well at some other research centers around the country.

[credit: Beatriz Verdugo, UA News]
This seven-foot cross section of Prometheus hangs on the wall of the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree Ring Research.

Most people know that tree rings reveal the age of a tree, but they also provide information about environmental changes, which is what the student researcher was studying.

You've probably heard that most moss grows on the shadier side of trees, which means in the northern hemisphere, it's more abundant on the northern side of trees, and in the southern hemisphere, on the south. This knowledge can come in handy when someone gets lost in the woods. Also, the tree rings can reveal directional info, as well. I'm not suggesting you fell a tree, but if you look at a stump, the thickest rings will appear on the sunny side of the stump. (i.e. on the southern side in the northern hemisphere, and the northern side in the southern hemisphere.) Then again, you could be like me. Discerning which direction is north doesn't necessarily mean I'd know which way to go.

[image courtesy of seniorark]

That's why I prefer to rely on helpful trees like this one.

(Actually, I rely on Smarticus. That man has an uncanny sense of direction.)

[source: wikipwedia]

Our back yard used to be graced with a gorgeous live oak tree. Our whole family loved that tree.  Unfortunately, it was struck by a mighty bolt of lightning about thirty years ago, and the tree lost.

It was a massive tree, and a fantastic tree for climbing, but it wasn't as huge as this tree. This live oak tree is the famous Angel Oak, located near Charleston, South Carolina.

[source: wikimedia commons]

These gnarly moss-covered trees look positively primordial, don't they? They're antarctic beech trees, mostly native to Chile and Argentina.

[source: wikipedia]

The ta primh temple in Angkor, Cambodia was built in the late 12th to early 13th centuries, and it was later abandoned in the 15th century. As more centuries passed, the jungle crept closer and closer and merged more and more with the buildings. This century, efforts have been made to conserve and restore the temple, but as much as possible, workers are retaining the eerie marriage between buildings and trees.

[source: wikimedia commons]

These windswept trees of New Zealand withstand incredibly strong and inhospitable winds. But they don't give up. Their growth patterns adapt to the conditions.

[source: wikimedia commons]

This amazing tree, dubbed the Tree of Life, lives in Olympic National Park, Washington. It seems to defy the laws of gravity and the all expectations for what a tree needs to survive. But survive it does.

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

As does this one... still clinging to life, against all odds.

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

And this one... growing out the third floor window of an abandoned building.

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

Beauty and strength rising from a rock.

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

How is this even possible?

Must be something akin to sheer determination and a stubborn refusal to give up. If it had a motto, it would be, Where there is life, there is  hope.

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

How about that? Evidently, some trees are music lovers, too. (I sure hope nobody thinks about Chopin that tree down...)

[credit: Leonard Chapel]

Wow! This palm tree is quite the non-conformist. And another example of doggedly rising above adversity. There's evidence of trauma there, but that tree is still standing tall.

Okay, I'm pining to share more pictures with you, but this post is getting too long, so I'd better leaf.

If you share my love of trees, you might enjoy the book Remarkable Trees of the World, by Thomas Parkenham. It's chock full of fascinating information and breathtaking photographs. Best present my big brother ever gave me!

                                   Hey! Whattaya know? Trees DO have a sense of humor!

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
                                                        Pssst! May the forest be with you. 

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. [William Blake]

Just a side branch reminder: Every comment you make on my blog this month earns you a chance to win a signed copy of my newest book. Mention it on your blog, and earn another two chances.

{P.S. ALF says the book is... outta this world!)

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Mother's Love

Thought for the day:  I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford. Then I want to move in with them.  [Phyllis Diller]

Giving birth is easy. It's like pulling a watermelon out of your nose.
This coming Sunday is Mother's Day, so what better time to write about mothers, right?

A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never cared for pie.  [Tenneva Jordan]

Having a child changes a woman forever, and I'm not just talking about the decorative stretch marks, bulging hemorrhoids, or the tendency to tinkle a little every time she laughs too hard. No, it goes much deeper than the physical changes. After expelling miniature human beings from their bodies, women who could once sleep through a sonic boom suddenly wake up on full alert every time their babies roll over or make the tiniest sound, and women who used to be walking fashion plates suddenly have no problem wearing wrinkled clothing stained with spit-up. And holy moley, their capacity to love expands even more than their waistlines did. (Good thing, too... if it didn't, no woman would ever have more than one child!)

And, oh, how we turn to jelly at the sight of those tiny baby clothes and... those feet! Nothing is quite as sweet  and kissable as those tiny little baby feet.

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child— and an instinct to make any child who needs love, her own. [Robert Brault]

Then, practically overnight, babies become teenagers, and before we know it, the little boy who was afraid of the dark now wants to stay out half the night with his friends. The princess who didn't take her first step until she was almost a year old now wants to borrow the car. No matter their age, they will always be the children of their mother's heart, but more and more, they also become children of the world.

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant — and let the air out of the tires.  [Dorothy Parker]

The truth is, no matter how big our babies' feet get to be, they still belong to our babies. Doesn't matter if those feet belong to a teacher, a doctor, or are ensconced in a pair of combat boots. Babies, one and all. Even when they have babies of their own.

Grown don't mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What's that supposed to mean? In my heart, it don't mean a thing. [Toni Morrison- Beloved]

Of all the things I've ever read about mothers, I think Erma Bombeck said it the absolute best in her essay, When God Created Mothers, in which God is attempting to meet some very daunting specifications to create the perfect mom. After struggling to get her right, an angel points out that the model has a leak. God replies that it's a tear, and when the angel wants to know what it's for, God says:

"It's for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride."

"You are a genius, " said the angel.

Somberly, God said, "I didn't put it there.”


Now here's another of Erma's wonderful insights about motherhood:

Just as our mothers always look at us as their children, as we grow older, a certain part of us wants to hang onto them, too. We don't want things to change. We want them to always be there, our home plate in the game of life, our constant refuge. We don't want them to grow old; we don't want them to get sick, and God knows, we don't want them to die. But even after they do, they live on forever in our hearts.

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.  [Honore de Balzac]

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; a mother's secret love outlives them all. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

To all of you mothers, I wish you a wonderful Mother's Day. To all of you whose mothers are still with you, cherish them, not just on Mother's Day, but every day of the year. To those of you experiencing that heart-wrenching role reversal—  taking care of your mothers, essentially mothering your mothers, as they once took care of you, with them depending on you as you once depended on them— bless you. I know how hard it is. For those of you who have already lost your mothers, I know you'll be thinking of them. And as long as our mothers live in our hearts, they're never entirely gone.

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world, a mother's love is not. [James Joyce]

                             Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

During the month of May, every comment you leave here will earn you a shot at winning a FREE autographed copy of Explosive Beginnings.  Pssst! Wanta up your chances? All ya have to do is mention my book on your blog, and it'll earn you another two chances. 

(If you're on Goodreads, I'd sure appreciate it if you tagged my book as one you'd like to read.)

[Images from morguefile.]

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Springing into Action... Very Slowly

Thought for the day: We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great love. [Mother Teresa]

Wow, it's hard to believe April's kaput already, isn't it? I thoroughly enjoyed my month-long break from blogging, but I must confess, I didn't exactly accomplish any great things while I was awayIt's a good thing the small things matter, too, huh? In addition to the pain-in-the-butt spring cleaning stuff, I did lots of reading, enjoyed a fantabulous visit from a long-time friend, and finished off the month with a visit to our pals in Tennessee.

On second thought, maybe the month was pretty doggone great. Alas, I didn't do any writing, which I've always done during my April breaks in the past, but I did some  very productive research, so I suppose that counts for something. Hopefully, I'm ready to spring into writing action now.

As for doing all that nitty gritty housecleaning? The cruel irony of housework: people only notice it when you don't do it. [Danielle Raine] Ain't that the truth?

 Here's a pic of my friend Caryl and me taken during her visit. Ever since we met in second grade, we were the best of friends for many many years... and then somehow, many more years slipped away while we kept in touch sporadically via email, Facebook, and telephone. This was the first time we saw each other face-to-face in more than forty years, and it was as though we'd never been apart. Smarticus was a real peach, too. He let us sit in the back seat (so we could yak more easily,) while he sat up front... driving Miss Daisies. Caryl and I vowed not to let that many years slip past us again. (Not that there's a snowball's chance in Hades that we could...) Friends are people who know the song in your heart and  can sing it back to you when you forget the words. [author unknown]

Explosive Beginnings officially launched two days ago, and it's off to a pretty good start, so I have no complaints there. I'd better get my arse in gear with Clinging to Hope, though, because some of the people who won early copies through Goodreads are already bugging me about when Book Two is gonna be released. No rest for the weary. Time to ignore the pretty weather and give my muse a swift kick in the keister.

As you can probably tell, this is the monthly IWSG post, and as always, many thanks go to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

In light of how I spent my April (cough!cough!) writing time, this month's question is rather appropriate:

It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not? 

Um... NOT! Unfortunately. Not this year, anyway. During the long dreary drab days of winter, it's much easier to snuggle down in the house with a pen and notebook than it is when the colors and scents (achoo!) of spring are calling to me from right outside the window. All I can say is it's a good thing I don't live at the beach. I'd never write anything. Ever.

How about you? Are you more productive this time of year, or does the beauty of the season hijack your attention? (And to those of you who still haven't escaped winter's clutches, I apologize. Take heart. Winter can't possibly last forever.)

                                      Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.