Shivery Memorial Weekend

Posted May 26, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Memorial Day

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Loons on Plummer Lake

Loons on Plummer Lake

Memorial Day weekend and here in Wisconsin—at least in this corner—we’re wishing the weather were a bit warmer so we could get outdoors and enjoy what’s supposed to be the unofficial opening weekend of summer.

We aren’t even close around here. Some of us still have our furnaces on especially at night since the temps drop low enough to think the calendar is stuck on March not the end of May.

So, since dear hubby and I are home and caring for our disabled son, I’ve had time to remember other Memorial Days and times we were able to be celebrating the holiday somewhere else and with people and loved ones not around here today.

Take for example Memorial Day 1993. My first trip to Alaska and on this particular day we visited the Portage Glacier, saw a pod of whales in Turnagain Arm when we traveled the highway from Anchorage to the Glacier. We also saw several mountain goats up close and personal as they picked their way around the steep sides of the mountains not 15-20 feet from the highway’s edge.

Wouldn’t see that in too many places.

Reflections on Plummer Lake

Reflections on Plummer Lake

Or Yosemite Valley riding a bike on a beautiful trail again getting up close and personal to some of the most beautiful acreage ever. I spent more time getting off and on that bike to take photos and since the bike was quite decrepit and didn’t have very good brakes—well, let’s just say the day was memorable for great scenery and a bike ride I never want to repeat.

Yosemite? Absolutely—and we have returned—but no bike ride for me.

Plummer Lake at sunset

Plummer Lake at sunset

Or we’ve had a few Memorial Day weekends up north at my sisters’ cabins. Those were fun weekends mixed with the work of opening cabins, doing clean up and landscaping to prepare for many more summer weekends. The one that I remember most vividly was maybe 2002 or 2003. My husband and I had a trailer hitch on my escape so we were elected to haul a trailer filled with furniture for the cabin my one sister had purchased. Beds, mattresses, kitchen appliances, living room furniture, kitchen set, lawn furniture, you name it. I was so proud of my Escape for handling that hauling job well, not to mention dealing with that holiday traffic.

Memorial Day means many things to different people. But the reason for the holiday is to remember those who gave their lives in service to their country. Before that became officially a holiday, about this time of the year families would trek to cemeteries to clear away winter debris from family plots and graves and leave flowers or some token of remembrance. That custom predated the Civil War—our bloodiest one with the highest body count. As a result the current concept got rolled into the family custom.

Last years' flowers on Memorial Day

Last years’ flowers on Memorial Day

Two great reasons to celebrate the day not only with preparing for summer but also for remembering those we’ve lost in war or just because…

I’ll be doing that also over this weekend.

I hope your weekend is a great one. That you have time to celebrate the promise of summer along with remembering those you miss in your lives.

See you next week, probably a day late as I’ll be at the Wisconsin Romance Writers Conference. Wish me luck. Three of my books are up for awards. Whether they win or not, the weekend will be great to learn more of my craft in the workshops and visit with writers for two days.

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Dreams Do Come True

Posted May 19, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Goals

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

From Alaska son

From Alaska son

Last Sunday was Mothers’ Day. Since I am a mother, I made a decision to treat myself to a day when I did nothing. Well, I did things with my hubby. We took the day to visit, take a drive, eat out. Just do whatever we felt like doing—together.

I visited with my sons, two at the cemetery near my mom and dad, one by phone as he’s in Alaska, and one in our home as he lives with us. I sat in my living room, thought about the next book that’s cooking in my brain, watched the lake, and started reading a new book. I enjoyed the home made key lime pie my hubby made for me. I admired the lovely flowers I received from the men in my life who love me.

From youngest son

From youngest son

It was a marvelous day.

A vacation day if you will.

Something I don’t take as often as I should.

But since my last post, I’ve accomplished something I never thought would happen. Three of my books finaled in three different categories of the same readers judged contest, The Write Touch Readers Award. The winners will be announced on June 1st—just a few weeks from now. The books were as follows:

An Island No More—romantic suspense. (This book took second place in the Bean Pot Readers Choice and has finaled in the 2013 Award of Excellence contest.)

Better Than Dessert—mainstream.

Seasons of Wine and Love—single title.

From hubby

From hubby

I got the call one evening when I was exhausted. I’d been caring for our disabled son who lives with us and been up for 40 hours straight. I’d just showered and gotten into my jammies and was on a path for bed when the phone rang. I ignored it instead crawling into bed.

But my hubby walked into the bedroom and insisted I take the phone. Of course, I figured the call couldn’t be a good one. (I tend to get negative when overtired to the tenth power.)

I picked up the phone and said hello. Hesitation colored my voice I’m sure. That didn’t last long.

Of course, I was beyond excited at the news. (I’d hoped to final with one book but when she continued with number 2 and 3, well, I was flabbergasted.) However, I was also half asleep. I’m sure I didn’t make any sense during our conversation and I’ll have to apologize when or if I see the woman at the awards luncheon—yes, I’ll be there for that.

Those lilacs brought spring into the room

Those lilacs brought spring into the room

After the call I fell asleep and slept for maybe nine hours. When I woke the next morning to coffee, I sat in my chair and looked at my husband. Then I said to him, “I had the strangest dream last night.”

“You did?” He set the paper down and turned to me. “What was it about?”

“You woke me up and insisted I take a call. The caller told me three of my books finaled in a contest.”

Dear hubby chuckled. “Honey, that wasn’t a dream. That happened.”

“Don’t tease me.”

“I’m not. I listened in on the other phone. You really did.”

Well, let me tell you hearing my dream really wasn’t a dream made my day. My week and ever since. Writers always dream of getting calls such as that one—ones that bring news of success because finaling is special. It is another measure of success. However, I’m so glad this is one dream that wasn’t a dream, but real.

I wonder–have any of you “slept through” a moment of success?

Yellow roses were the first flowers hubby sent me--delivered to my classroom.

Yellow roses were the first flowers hubby sent me–delivered to my classroom.

P.S.  Today is hubby and my 34th anniversary. Our romance started with another phone call. His to me. Sort of asking me if I dated. I answered “not really.” He asked why. I answered “No time and more importantly no one’s asked.”

I’m so glad he asked.

When A Pitcher Lives With Hoarders

Posted May 5, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Character traits

Tags: , , , , , , ,

So close to the lake no leafy trees yet.

So close to the lake no leafy trees yet.

I’m not quite willing to say winter has truly decided to leave us and spring has arrived. But maybe it’s happening. I hope. At least I’m more optimistic than I’ve been though we did have some cold days and nights early last week.

It could have been worse. Areas of Wisconsin got over a foot of heavy snow, so much schools closed down for at least a day. When I heard that I was thankful for the dreary skies and sleety rain.

However, what has happened in the past few days allowed my hope to spring forth. Thus you have the photos of the few plants that have filled out and/or bloomed in the past day and a half. Aren’t they lovely? I had to take photos of them and post.

But to keep this in perspective our trees are being stubborn as you can see from these other photos. Sure the evergreens are green but they don’t count. We still have BARE LIMBS visible. We’ll need more than a few days of warmer temps and sunshine to have these trees leaf out.

But they're trying...

But they’re trying…

A few miles further inland the trees are now in leaf. In fact the magnolias are blooming. Ours has barely budded. I checked on my walk around.

What I also noticed which I guess is a sign of spring is the dandelions are out in full bloom and spreading fast. So are the weeds which are abundant. Why is it those nuisancey, nasty bits of vegetation manage to survive the worst of weather? (Okay, I’ll admit it…the only dandelions I ever loved were the ones my sons picked and gave to me before they learned how much work it was to get rid of them in the lawn.)

Yes, even in the plant world the forces of the “Evil Empire” rule far too often. 😦

Upon opening my garage door this morning...

Upon opening my garage door this morning…

While I’m on a rant of sorts, this past week made me face the fact I’ve been trying to avoid. Both my husband and our disabled son are hoarders. I finally bit the bullet and cleaned out the refrigerator. It took all day—mostly because my husband hoards leftovers in there and then he forgets about them. So a found many disgusting life forms gelatinous or furry and of varying putrid colors. I’d have to take breaks just from being on a sensory overload of horrid derivation. I lectured. He smiled and ignored all I said, I’m sure.

But that task did prepare me for dealing with my son’s living area.

As a vent dependent quadriplegic, my son is able only to move his head. Which means his caregivers and family must do everything for him. So if he hoards, that means we all contribute to it. So I guess I must count myself among them.

However, I’ve been on a rant about that. And it’s not easy to be on a rant against someone in his condition. Here’s the backstory. His living area needed new flooring. That meant I spent the whole week cleaning up, packing up, and finding places to put his “stuff.” (Think in my roomy living space because I’m not a hoarder).

For example, I uncovered 5 keyboards—none of them in use. Pieces of electronic equipment he doesn’t even know what he used to use them for—once upon a time. 1000s of CDs, DVDs, video tapes, cords, power cords, things I can’t put a name to because I don’t know what they are or what they might belong to. Neither does Steven.

In my garden. Just buds yesterday.

In my garden. Just buds yesterday.

Can I get rid of them? At least the duplicates and/or triplicates?

“No,” he answered.

Think broken stuff, unused clothing and old tennis shoes. Old magazines, file folders, cards. Just piled up.

So I asked again, “Can I get rid of this stuff?” and got the same answer. (Sorry, it’s going…and that will be another long and sullen day together.)

I know this is a control issue since he has no control over his body or his life. But still. From the dust on most of what I’ve moved around and carried upstairs, and eventually now to the dumpsters, he’s never looked at this stuff. In years. I mean major dust bunnies. Most of them as frightening as those alien life forms I found in the fridge.

Coral Bells made it through winter...

Coral Bells made it through winter…

I also know he’s inherited it from his father. So you understand this is a constant battle I fight.

Also you know what I’ll be doing next week. It will likely take me that long. I’d much prefer writing the beginning chapter/s of my next book where my main characters won’t have this flaw, though maybe a secondary one might. I’ve certainly got a lot of material to work with now.

Hope you have a great week.

I''m thinking spring and planting next...

I”m thinking spring and planting next…

Pink Moon and Whiny Oreo

Posted April 28, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Pets

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sometimes my cage is where I want to be...

Sometimes my cage is where I want to be…

Odd title today, isn’t it?

But in many ways it comprises the high and low of this last part of April.

I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned our little dog Oreo a time or two. She’s quite precious to us and serves a very important role for us. She brings humor to our sometimes difficult lives with actions that regularly produce chuckles and smiles—and not just from us who always delight in her—like our neighbors and others such as strangers who see her with us.

My book Better Than Dessert has a puppy on the cover. Oreo served as its inspiration. The book’s main character also has a puppy. This puppy has a purpose in the story—actually several—as that little black and white bundle of fur helps Katy start moving beyond her grief. That puppy also helps to bring two families together as one.

This flower helped calm me.

This flower helped calm me.

You’ve already guessed it. Of course, the puppy’s name is Oreo. And of course, Oreo was the inspiration for this puppy. She helped me write it because she never left my side during the whole time I wrote and rewrote and then revised this novel.

But Oreo is NOT perfect. We were reminded of that during our recent and lengthy thunderstorms and high winds. Lightning, thunder and loud unusual noises have always made her nervous. When they don’t stop, she becomes more and more frantic. Nothing consoles her. You look into her eyes and see immeasurable agony and total fear. Her heart races, her breathing becomes difficult. A few times we feared her little self couldn’t survive such fear. And this happened night after night for about a week.

Of course, after the second night we got her to the vet. We got some medication after being sure she was healthy enough for it (fortunately she is). We also learned about a ThunderShirt. I was skeptical but several people I respect used it and praised it. Our vet said to try it especially with the medication and explained why.

Our pink moon last week

Our pink moon last week

Armed with Oreo’s meds, a ThunderShirt, and a behavior modification program, we waited for the next storm. One might say we even prayed for it to happen soon. Mother Nature cooperated. And Oreo got through the storm with less whining and somewhat less fear. We’ve had a few storms since and each one sees her more relaxed.

We don’t expect Oreo to ever like storms, who does? However, we no longer fear for her life. I figure July 4th will be another major test for our puppy and for our new weapons to help her deal with her fears.

So where does the Pink Moon come in to this?

Well, last week on a clear and storm free night, the full moon rose over the lake. It was gorgeous! On the weather portion of our local news that night I learned the full moon in April is called the pink moon or the fish moon.

Well, that gorgeous moon didn’t look fishy to me at all as I watched it rise. But it surely did have a pinkish hue. You can decide. Because I did take a photo or two.

A labor of love...

A labor of love…

Finally, this last week, my final novella in my Soul String Saga is now available in all digital formats. This is my promotional card I put together. Doesn’t it make you want to start reading the series?

See you in May… 😉

Weeping Weather and Time Outs

Posted April 21, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: spring

Tags: , , , , , ,

My favorite palm tree

My favorite palm tree

I went AWOL last week. Some of my regulars here even noticed.

Let’s just say I needed a day off. Actually, I rarely take one of those. But I desperately needed a break.

But I finally heeded my own advice and took one. Good thing I did that as this past week was not very pleasant in the weather department here in Wisconsin. Frankly, disgusting would be a complimentary descriptive for the weather. If I’d been cranky and exhausted, the week would have really been tough to handle because the weather was enough to make a saint cranky as my mother used to say.

Let’s see Sunday and Monday were seasonably pleasant. I think it was Monday the temperature actually hit 60 degrees. Then Tuesday arrived. The temps dropped, the skies turned leaden, and it rained. And rained. And. Then. Rained. More. For. Days.

Closeup of Hana waterfall

Closeup of Hana waterfall

Then came the rising waters and flooding in many areas. People began to bail out basements or sandbag their homes as they watched streets disappear into riverbeds.

Friday it snowed. Then sleeted. Then snowed again. The winds were ferocious, and the weather forecasters were talking about wind chills again, not pollen counts.

Saturday the sun came out from behind the clouds. The winds died down. Temps scooched up a tiny bit. However, that much needed orb is showing its shy side again today. But rain isn’t predicted and slightly warmer temps are :-).

Welcome to Spring in Wisconsin.

I think the weather this past week was weeping for the victims of the Boston bombings. And their families. Most of us felt exactly like the weather, mourning yet another senseless act of violence. Some of us shed tears just like the clouds.

CRW Romantic Suspense FinalistMidst the sadness and chaos of the week, I did manage to get Book 5 of my Soul String Saga finished, and it’s now being prepared for publication.

More good news to life the sadness was learning my book, An Island No More has finaled in two readers’ choice contests. Those two notification phone calls definitely lifted my spirits.

This past week could have been a disaster for me—if I’d allowed it. I was very tired. I had many tasks that needed accomplishing. My husband and I were constantly solving one problem or issue only to be faced with two or three more popping up and demanding attention. Now…

Looking toward Diamond Head

Looking toward Diamond Head

Life can be like that. Then add to it weather which promotes moodiness, along with an onslaught of news and currents events which are depressing, well, let’s say, that’s a sure-fire provocation to increase stress and potentially give a person a reason to say “the heck with it all.”

I guess at heart I’m someone who prefers to be realistic but see life as a glass half full in difficult time, rather than describing it more pessimistically as “half empty.” In that sense I’m not only an author who determines the fates and issues my characters face within my books, but I can choose to do the same with my life.

Board sailing like butterflies on the ocean

Board sailing like butterflies on the ocean

So I do. It’s easier that way for me.

And it allows me to determine if I need a time-out. If I do, I figure out how to take one. Like last Sunday. It rejuvenates my psyche and my soul.

Do you need a time out this week? If so, you have my permission to take one.

See you next week…

Banyan tree Lahaina

Banyan tree Lahaina

Anniversary Trip Inspiration

Posted April 7, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Travel Sights

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

On our eleventh anniversary, my husband and I celebrated the event by taking a three week trip to Hawaii.

Now you might ask…why we chose that particular year and not 5, 10 or 20? You wouldn’t be the first. We got asked that a lot from people we met on the trip who were celebrating those anniversaries. When we told them why, they smiled and understood.

Well, take heart. I’ll tell you now. This marriage was a second one for both of us. I was divorced after 10 years of misery, well except for the wonderful 3 sons. My husband was a widower. He’d been married 10 years when his wife died. So we decided since we both knew we could manage 10 years, we should celebrate 11.

It was a great trip. We spent time on all the major islands–Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Molokai. However, we spent a week in Maui. We left Wisconsin in a May snowstorm but spent the next 21 days in paradise. When we returned to Wisconsin, late spring had finally arrived.

Coastline

Coastline

That trip and that anniversary was very special for us. We’re still racking up numbers with the years but none of our anniversaries have been celebrated like our 11th.

Life and all its challenges have intervened.

So as I was writing the original draft of my Soul String Saga, that trip was much on my mind. As I’ve been going through edits with recently published Soul String: Passport and the last one in the series which I’m editing now. Both have several chapters set in Hawaii. Critical chapters.

Loved this view

Loved this view

So I pulled out my photo books to help me remember vividly ambiance and photographic flavor of Hawaii. They were very helpful. At time they inspired new bits and pieces of details. I think these photograph inspired details have enhanced my original book.

I thought I’d share some of them I took in Maui. After looking them over, maybe you’ll want to read the books. Or take a trip to Hawaii? 🙂

Have a great week…

Great waterfalls

Great waterfalls

Happy Easter

Posted March 30, 2013 by caseyclifford
Categories: Holidays

Tags: , , , , ,

Something about this appeals to me...

Something about this appeals to me…

Just wishing all of you who stop by a Happy Easter.

We will be enjoying our day at my niece and her husband’s home. Her mother and husband will be there which means we should have some great treats.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with 2 great-nephews and 2 beautiful great-nieces–all as cute as can be. And of course, their parents.

My sister and her daughter will be there with her boyfriend.

And of course my hubby and youngest son will be there.

I’m bringing my contribution to the dinner.

Isn't this pretty? I have one like it packed away...

Isn’t this pretty? I have one like it packed away…

So since I expect to be looking for the black jelly beans which no one ever likes to eat but me, and I’m hoping my sister makes some deviled eggs–much better than just a peeled Easter egg–and maybe some really fancy springlike dessert or a few cookies, I’m not blogging today, but I will be back again next week

Hopefully, I’ll be reporting that Soul String 5, is at the editor. Hopefully, I’ll have a title by then. 🙂

Happy Easter…

easter eggs cropped clip art image