Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas and the Epiphany

IMG_8458 Our Christmas was wonderful, I hope yours was as well. We celebrated by going to mass and eating lots of yummy foods during the four days my husband was home.  It was just my little family, as our relatives live at least 9 hours away.  Even though we miss all our relatives, we kind of like our cozy little Christmases. It gives us plenty of time to enjoy each other, relax,  and really concentrate on the reason for the holiday.

And the exciting part is it is not over! My Christmas decorations are still up and will be for at least another week, until we celebrate the Epiphany.  It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized not all faiths celebrate the Epiphany, so I thought I could share some traditions that surround this feast day with you.

First of all, the Epiphany is when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi to the Christ Child.  Most have heard of the 12 days of Christmas, or at least you’ve heard the song. Well, the Epiphany falls on the 12th day of Christmas, Jan. 6th.  For us Catholics, Epiphany is celebrated on the Sunday between the 2nd and the 6th. So we are still celebrating Christmas at my house as we patiently await the arrival of the Magi.

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

-Matthew 2: 9-12

Some fun ways to celebrate the Epiphany is by waiting to place the Magi in the nativity scene until this day. At the end of the day the family can formally put the nativity away for the next year. Of course at our house any excuse to cook and eat  is celebrated. Traditionally a lamb roast is served . A Texas Epiphany celebration includes a smoked brisket. I’m not sure how traditional that is, but for my family it works wonderfully. Many serve a 3 Kings cake, which we have never done, but I’m thinking this year we will try it.  So stay tuned, I’ll try to share our 3 King cake with you next week:)

After the arrival of the Magi, we can take down our Christmas decorations and put them away for another year. But the story of Christ’s birth will stay with us throughout the year.

Do you have any traditions in your family that you celebrate after Christmas to continue to reflect on the birth of Jesus?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Story – We All Have One


Last year as WB and I were driving around finishing up our Christmas shopping this song by Capital Lights came on the radio. It was a song that stopped our conversation and had us listening to hear what the ending would be.  It was a song that made you sigh and one that has a writer’s heart envisioning the story in novel form.

We all have a Christmas story to share. Doesn’t matter if you sing it, write it, or act it out, as long as you share it.  You can even share it here if you want. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Raising Eyebrows To Raise Awareness

*This post contains  adult subject matter.


This weekend I stepped outside of my comfort zone, really more like a leap.  I posted the above picture as a  profile picture of myself on Facebook. My husband will be the first to say nothing is wrong with that picture, but it’s not something I would normally share.  It wasn’t profane, or ugly, or weird. Some would say it was beautiful, some would say it was immodest, and others would say it was a bit inappropriate for a Christian mother of 3.  But whatever people would say, it definitely got some eyebrows raising.  And THAT was my point. Actually, it was my hook. Because I wanted your attention:

  • 1 out of 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • Approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
  • And every day an average of 3 women will be killed in an act of domestic violence.

A few months ago 2 women in my town lost their lives due to domestic violence. I didn’t know them well, but I knew who they were. One was a friend and assistant of photographer Amber Wallace, who took the above photo. One was a woman that lived in my neighborhood. She walked down my street daily, her kids used to go to school with mine, we ran in the same circles.  I looked at their smiling faces and had no idea of the inner turmoil they must have been suffering. 

I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes. To feel the pain, embarrassment, and shame they must have suffered at their partners hands. To feel afraid and vulnerable.  But it is difficult.

My home is my haven, and my husband is my protector. I have never been afraid to be in my house.  Never feared for my safety or that of my children from the man I love. He cherishes us as gifts given to him by God, just as every woman deserves. Just as these women deserved.

I wish I could turn back the clocks of time and offer understanding and a place of safety for these women. I mourn for the children they have left behind.  I mourn for all the women that we, as a society, can so easily turn a blind eye upon, because it is none of our business.

So sharing my picture with the world makes me a little uncomfortable.  What if we all took one step out of our comfort zone and extended a hand to a woman who needs our support? Can we demand an end to domestic violence?  What do you say to Raising  Eyebrows so we can Raise Awareness?

For more information on domestic violence and what you can do to help check out these links:

USDA Domestic Violence Awareness Handbook

Domestic Violence Resource Center

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red In The Flower Bed by Andrea Nepa- Book Review


red in the flower bed cover

Red in the Flower Bed is a sweet children’s book about a seed that finally finds its home in a garden far away.  The colorful illustrations and rhyming verses make this book not only fun to read, but capture the audiences of both young and old.

The simplicity of the story opens up the door to discussions on how the seed felt being so far from home, but so loved by its new garden family. Which can then lead to the topic of Interracial adoption, which is what the author Andrea Nepa wrote the story about.

Andrea Nepa is the mother of an adopted Vietnamese daughter named Leah. In 2001, Adoptions from the Heart assisted with the international adoption. Andrea dedicated her book to her daughter: "For my dear Leah, whose journey in her young life has already taken her to far away and unexpected places." In 2006, Leah was diagnosed with cancer. She is currently in remission. Andrea lives with Leah and her husband, David, in Haddonfield, New Jersey. She is a registered dietitian for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Theirs is a beautiful story, one that is shared by many families across the country. I believe the story of  Red in the Flower Bed is a beautiful way to introduce children to adoption, as well as a meaningful story for those families who find themselves like the garden in the story.

It would also make a great Christmas gift! You can look here to see about purchasing it.

Thank you to Andrea Nepa and Tribute Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Little Star by Anthony DeStefano Review

I was recently contacted by Anthony DeStefano about reviewing his children’s book titled Little Star.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity because sometimes I feel Christmas books with a Christian theme are in short supply. I was anxious to read it and see if my children would like it.

When it arrived my 10 year old daughter Em carried it off immediately and read it. She came back a few minutes later with a smile on her face and said she loved it. So later that day I sat down with all three of my girls and we read about Little Star.  The littlest star in the sky, unnoticed by all, until Baby Jesus is born. Then boy, does he shine.  It is a beautiful story of faith and sacrifice. Not to mention the illustrations are wonderful!

A little back story on Anthony DeStefano, that as a writer I found inspiring. He wrote this book when he was 15 years old and a student in Frank McCourt’s class.  Thirty years later it was published. How’s that for perseverance?

The following picture is from his blog:


If you have children, or children to give gifts to, I highly recommend this sweet Christmas story!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Changes In The Wind

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We travelled many miles of roads, saw all of our Texas family, and ate way too much. But that is what the holidays are for.IMG_6101

I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been reflecting on my blog. I feel change in the wind.  You’ll remember a while back I divided my blog up into three different blogs. One to cover writing, one to cover my homeschooling and one to cover life at Cotton-Top Hills. Well, I’ve come to realize that I can’t keep up with all three.  I’ve done a lot of praying about the direction of my blog and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am ready for my own domain. In doing this, all my blogs will be in one place.  The details are still in the working, but I realize that my blog needs to represent my entire life. Not just parts of it.  So soon you will get the whole kit and caboodle.  I know many of you that read here are writers and I plan to continue discussing my writing  journey, but my writing is influenced by my faith, family, and passions.  And I want to share all of that.

So stay tuned for my new blog, coming soon. And in the meantime I will continue to post here. Hope I don’t scare any of you away!

Happy December 1st.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Howling At The Moon


For months I  found myself howling at the moon. Okay, maybe I wasn’t actually howling, but I found myself staring at it for nights on end.  A little clock seemed to be ticking in my head, warning me that the minutes were flying by and there I sat too tired to do anything.  Least of all sleep.

Being tired came from my 3 year old who still has not learned to sleep through the night. Not sleeping came after my surgery, where my body cycled on about 3 hours of sleep to an hour of wakefulness, then back to sleep.  Then came the worries, the expectation of changes that are coming, but not quite here yet.  My husband and I took turns jumping out of bed in the middle of the night, rarely both in it at the same time.

Then came the dreaded time change. “What nonsense”, is the common phrase you hear uttered about this event  in our house. But guess what, it has been glorious.  Suddenly my 3  year old is going to bed by 7:30, not 9:00 or 10:00. And I find myself with a little me time before I go to bed. Time to relax and unwind and talk with the hubby.

I find myself sleeping  for at least a little while before my youngest wakes me asking for her sippy or some snuggles. But I’m feeling more rested and calm. Somehow this seems to set the tone for my family. My oldest are going to bed earlier and my husband seems to be enjoying the fact that he is not the first one to bed.

And the best part is I wake up early and still see the moon, but I’m no longer howling. I’m wide awake and ready to take on the day. I make my coffee and actually have the energy to do some work, not just sit bleary-eyed waiting for the caffeine to kick in. 

I watch the moon disappear as I smile in greeting at the first wisps of light that streak across the sky. It’s a new day, and I’m ready!

How do you combat restless nights or mornings that come to early?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cotton-Top Hills – Part 2

On Tuesday I introduced you to some of the resident characters around here. But our place seems to be a tourist trap of sorts, because depending on the time of year, we always have lots of visitors. Some stay for the season and some are just passing through.


This is Leggs. He appears in the early months of fall along with many of his friends. Leggs is very shy and although he looks a little scary, he means no harm. In fact, he’s rather delicate in disposition. He’s looking for his lady love, so he never has time to stop and chat.

Prarie Dog 1 Oh, here is Mitzy. She appeared one day as I was working in the office. She popped up out of a gopher hole and frantically looked around. Obviously, she had taken a wrong turn in the underground tunnel system. I believe Prairie Dogs to be directionally impaired, but shhh don’t tell her that!

Of course we have our own live-in border patrol and they do their job very well. This is Blue Jean, Blue for short. She is 15 years old and still tough as nails.


Blue is super smart and likes to work. She patrols the property well and keeps us humans safe. A couple of years ago she had a run in with Momma from the diamondback gang. Momma was doing some early morning prowling close to the house. Close to where Blue knew my 6 year old daughter would soon be stepping out in the early morning darkness to feed her. Blue took a bite to the face, but sent Momma into hiding. *WB later found Momma out by the barn and made sure she wouldn’t cause any more problems.

This is Thunder. Thunder rolls with the punches. He quietly puts up with all of Blue’s bossiness and is content to sit outside of the limelight. He’s gotten along with Blue for 14 years and he’s jut a good ole boy. thunder

When the coyotes start howling in the canyon, he answers them with a call to stay away. He uses that same call on the toads he encounters. No danger too big or small for this guy.

And really I could go on and on. But those are our main characters. Oh wait, I forgot one of my very favorites. This little guy is the sweetest, don’t let his horns fool you.

horny toad 1

This is T. He loves to pose for pictures and is a very loving guy who is perfectly happy to be held. He keeps the ant population to a minimum around here, which is nice.

Do you have a favorite character of the animal variety?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I’m beginning to understand how Beatrix Potter felt

Beatrix Potter spent a great deal of her life isolated and in the country, so it is not too much of a surprise that the object of her stories were animals. Some days I feel a kinship with Beatrix, and not just because she eventually lived at Hill Top Farm and I at Cotton-Top Hills. It’s because the longer I live here, on the verge of civilization, I realize that wildlife can take on its on personality.

Now Beatrix could draw, not me, but I can take pictures. Beatrix could write stories, and I’d like to think I can churn out a few of those myself. I’m not as isolated as Beatrix because I usually have my posse with me, my three children. And occasionally my sweet husband shows up, when work isn’t demanding his attention 24/7. But there are some similarities, because we tend to name our critters around here too.

Let me introduce you to my cast of characters:

george 2

This is George the roadrunner. He is very curious in nature, which made naming him easy. When I was pregnant with Little One he would visit almost daily and rap on my front door with his beak. He is a very gregarious fellow and always on the move. He is the head of the welcome wagon around these parts.

hawk Red is a lofty guy. He spends many afternoon soaring above, but sometimes he’ll find a perch on one of the dead trees by the dried river bed. He always knows what is going on and is known as the town gossip.

cow2 This is Bunny, she isn’t really a resident of Cotton-Top Hills, but she shows up with her friends every once in awhile. She likes to throw her weight around and make sure she is seen.

moose deerMoose, he’s a dear fellow. He’s quiet, stately, and considered our patriarch.

But every town has it’s outlaws. Here is one of ours, he’s wanted around these parts.

baby rattler That’s Fang, and she’s the youngest member of the Diamondback gang.

But luckily for us we have a Sheriff here, and he is always on the lookout for Fang and her gang.


That’s just an introduction to my cast of characters. There are many more citizens of Cotton-Top Hills I’d like for you to meet. I’ll have to arrange some sort of meet and greet for you all to get to know them. Check back on Thursday and I’ll see what I can do.

Until then, you might want to check out the series by Susan Albert titled The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter. I met Susan through my mother-in-law and have attended many writing conferences and workshops with her. She’s a wonderful writer and I think you would enjoy her books.

Do you have any favorite characters that hang around your place?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Keep Your Eye On The Target

Around here we believe in teaching them at a young age to focus. IMG_8246

First we give them all the proper lessons and tools they need to ensure that acquiring their target is done in the safest and most efficient way. And it’s never too early to learn about these tools, even when you're not quite ready to go after the target.


It is much easier to keep your eye on your target if you know what it is. We need to be specific with what we are aiming at, so we don’t miss. When we first learn to focus, our targets are clearly defined and often don’t move out of our sights.


Later our targets may not be as clearly defined and might move in and out of our range requiring our focus to be even more steadfast.


If it isn’t, we may find ourselves distracted. It is easy to forget the task at hand when we see something else that grabs our attention.


Something that has nothing to do with with our target, but may be just as interesting. It can be difficult to focus for many hours on just one thing.

And sometimes we realize that no matter how hard we try to attain our target, we just can’t seem to do it through traditional methods. We need help zeroing in and getting it within our sights.


Even if we look a little foolish doing it, we know that we will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Even if there is some snickering going on behind your back.

Because if we stay focused, don’t give up, and keep our eye on the target we will nail it. But it might just take several tries, so don’t give up!

How do you keep your eye on the target?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Fantastic Read- Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride

I’ve been slow to post recently, but I hope to get back on track. I am once again home and in the whirlwind of getting my house back in order and ready for the holidays! I can’t believe it is already the end of October, where did my summer go?  No matter, because fall is my favorite time of year and I will enjoy the cooler temps and autumn colors.

I have to brag now on a fantastic book I read by debut author Jody Hedlund, The Preacher’s Bride.  Most of you know her, but those who don’t let me tell you something,she is one amazing lady.  She inspires me as she is also a homeschooling mom and yet makes sure she has the time to write.  And write well.

First a confession. I haven’t read too many books in which the plot and characters are centered around a Christian theme, especially historical. In fact, even though I tend to write from a Christian angle, I have been worried that a book considered Christian fiction might not hold my attention.  I thought the romance would not be steamy enough, the plots too boring.  I have no idea where I came up with these theories because Jody’s book is NONE of these. I knew she was a fantastic writer, I just thought maybe it wouldn’t be my type of book. Wrong again!

I’ve picked up a lot of books over the years from new authors and many times the first few books they write are good, but lacking. The talent is there, but it’s not quite honed.  So imagine my surprise when from the very first sentence of Jody’s book she had me hooked.  I read without any of the “writer” thoughts going through my head of , “Well, the wording could be better” or “The plot is going a little slow” or “Hmm, that character is a little weak”.  I just kept reading Preacher’s Bride and my “writers” brain was in awe. 

The characters come alive, the plot keeps you turning the page and well, lets just say that the romance between the two main characters is anything but boring.  It’s a beautiful story of faith and love, one that left me up way past my bedtime to finish. 

The back cover sums it up wonderfully:

No matter the sacrifice, Elizabeth Whitbread would serve a wounded family.
No matter the danger, John Costin was determined to speak God's word.
Neither expected to fall in love.

It’s a book you won’t want to miss reading and it leaves me waiting for her next one.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Special Night at the Movies watching Secretariat


Thanks to BlogHer and Disney, my two oldest daughters and parents were able to go to a special screening of Secretariat.  It was a special night for my kids as my parent’s were raised in Kentucky and grew up with the Kentucky Derby . I was only a few months old when Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, then went on to win the Triple Crown. But his name was one I grew up with, and now my children know his amazing story.

The following is a review written by my 10 year old, Em.

Secretariat was a great movie! You’ll laugh, you’ll want to cry at some parts, but it still is a great movie. A lot of people clapped in the movie theater because it was just that good. I am so glad that Disney gave us those tickets for three reasons: number 1 it was an outstanding movie, number 2 we got great seats, and number 3 we didn’t have to wait in the huge line. We got to go ahead of everyone and be ushered to our seats.

Secretariat was a race horse in the 70’s. It was cool because they showed real footage of the race in some parts of the movie. It was extra special because I went with my Grandparents and they’re from Kentucky and some parts of the movie were in Kentucky. Go see Secretariat!

So if you get a chance this weekend go see Secretariat in action!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I’ve Got It!!

It just came in the mail. Actually, it came in my parent’s mail as I am in Houston for my 1 month check-up after surgery. It was waiting for me on my bedside table when I arrived. I’m so excited!


I’m so glad the weather is perfect and the grandparents are nearby because I’m off to the hammock to read my blogging friend’s just released first book, The Preacher’s Bride, by Jody Hedlund.

I’ll catch up with you all just as soon as I can tear myself away!

Have you read any good books lately?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Day The World Cried


Sept. 11, 2001
Today is a horrific day. Hard to believe when you wake up to such brilliant blue skies and such peace only to discover others were in the midst of terror. We are visiting my parents in Houston and as I turn on the TV, just as my Dad is walking out the door the sight of the WTC towers on fire fills the screen. My Dad and I watched horrified as the second plane was caught on video and sharply careened into the tower.

"That is a passenger plane!" my Dad shouts as he watches the video.

We would find out later it was, both planes, full of innocent people. The anguish just about brings me to my knees. I can't help but think the world as I've known it is gone and tomorrow will bring us into a new era...

Sept.17th, 2001
I can't understand this tragedy. I can't wrap my brain around it to sort it all out. But who can? Such a senseless act, causing so much death and despair. And yet almost a week later I realize how many life lessons will come out of this shroud of death. That even in death there is life. Those gone from this world will be deeply missed and yet we will continue to learn from them. They will not be forgotten. And faith comforts us by telling us they are at eternal peace. After their terrible suffering they no longer feel the pain. That will be the burden we must carry.

These two entries came from my journal from 2001.  I remember that day vividly.  I was over ten hours away from my husband while visiting my parents.  Holding my 1 1/2 year old daughter I turned on the morning news.  The house was eerily quiet as my Mom and Dad had already left for work. Suddenly the room was filled with sirens and the sight of a building on fire as the screen came to life.  I stared blankly, not understanding what I was seeing. The first plane had already hit one Twin Tower.  The plane that crashed into it, I immediately assumed had suffered some terrible malfunction that allowed in to careen so off course. I picked up the phone to call my Dad and tell him what had happened. Then another plane crashes into the other tower.  My Dad is asking me questions that I don’t have the answers to and I suddenly feel as if ice water is running through my veins. He tells me he’s close to home and he’s coming back.

The rest of the morning passes in a blur as the words passenger planes, hijackers, and terrorists are repeated over and over.  My Dad and I scramble to get in touch with family. My sister’s building downtown is being evacuated along with all the others.  My mother is at the hospital safe, but wishing she were home.   My husband’s parents are in Prague and we worry about them being so far away. My Aunt and Uncle live right by the Pentagon, but are fine.

The skies go silent over my parent’s house and the only sounds from the air are the F-16’s that are patrolling the skies over the next few days. I hug my child a little closer as we watch them streak across the sky.  I never imagined that some day I’d be walking through my parent’s neighborhood while fighters flew over, making sure we were safe.

Nor did I ever imagine life would ever be the same, and in a lot of respects it isn’t. But life does go on. Almost a month to the day I find out I’m pregnant with my second daughter.  The planes eventually took to the airways again as the fighters disappeared from the clouds above.  And I’m left with the feeling that I’m responsible for telling my daughters the story of 9/11, just like my parents’ told of Vietnam, and my grandparents’ WWII. 

Just like the quote on my 7th grade teacher’s wall, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

Where were you on 9/11?

*I shared my story along with many others a year after 9/11 on a webpage dedicated to sharing memories about this event. You can find it at

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The State Of Censored Books or Authors

While I was in Houston I came across an article in the Houston paper about an upcoming book fair/author signings at a school being cancelled.  It was an annual event that was to include kids in the 6th through the 12th grades.  The reason for the cancellation is that they supposedly withdrew an invitation from an author who wrote teen books dealing with drug abuse, sex, and drinking.  When the other authors found out she had been “banned” they withdrew from the fair as well, causing the school district to cancel.

Writer are a tight lot and I wasn’t at all surprised that the other authors should their support and withdrew from the event.  I understand that.  But I think it is sad that all those children are now not going to have that all important exposure to literature.  They won’t get to browse through the aisles of books, meet the authors, and fall deeply in love with reading or even maybe writing.

The banned author stated that she wrote about things teens face today. That nothing she wrote wasn’t something that many of those students weren’t faced with each and everyday. The school coordinators stood firm, believing it was subject matter that would not be appropriate for all the ages included. 

I find myself understanding each argument.  But I wish they could have come to some sort of agreement. Maybe divided the seminar into two ages groups. That is a wide range of ages to try to find subject matter that will interest and be appropriate for all involved.  But instead it is cancelled and I feel that is such a shame.

What do you think about censoring or banning authors or their subject matter?  Would you support another author that was banned?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On My Table Today

I’m in Houston at my parent’s house trying to heal from my surgery and trying to take my mind off things.  If I stay busy it is easier to ignore the twinges of pain, the incessant pounding in my ear as it tries to heal.  I seek refuge in one of my favorite rooms in my parent’s house.

IMG_0330[1] This room used to be the back porch, but a remodel several years ago turned it into a sunroom.  The big windows let in lots of light and offer views of my mom’s flower beds.  The room is furnished in antiques. Like this light that used to hang in my Grandmother’s house. IMG_0327[1] The room also holds all my mother’s sewing tools and inspirations. 

IMG_0331[1] In this room I can imagine the beautiful fabrics and threads weaving into anything my mind can conjure.

I’m better at imaging then creating, but I try.  Under my mom’s guidance I’m able to sew dresses, drapes, and whatever project catches my eye at the fabric store.  By myself, I tend to be a disaster. I know just enough to get myself into trouble, but not out of it.

Today I busy myself with the beautiful advent count-down wall hanging I saw at the store yesterday.

IMG_0332[1] All these figures will complete the nativity.


Today I am cutting each one out with a felt backing. 


And as I work with my hands, I am comforted. I’m wrapped in the warm glow of my Grandmother Nano’s light. And here I find a few moments peace.

Do you have a favorite room to be creative in?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recovering, With Some Grace From God


If I were to write a story about my time at MD Anderson as  I prepared for my ear surgery it would have been full of  descriptions of the people I encountered.  People young and old, their homes near and far, all converging on a place known for its breakthrough cancer treatments and world renowned doctors.  

My journey to this place occurred 3 years ago when my ear specialist left his practice to treat patients at MD Anderson.  With my ongoing problems, I’ve had doctors up and down the east coast, all over Texas and this doctor is hands down the best.  So I moved along with him, even though I did not have cancer, I had my own set of problems, so I was welcomed. 

God has humbled me in the presence of a type of suffering I might not otherwise have experienced.  Because every few months when I go for a check-up, I see pain etched in the faces of the patients that surround me in the waiting room.  I watch the nervous anticipation in the clasped hands of their loved ones.  I smile as I see patients visiting with one another and making new friends in such an unseemly place.

There is also hope.  Hope for a cure, hope for just a few more months, hope that miracles do in fact happen here.

At first  I felt like an intruder in this special place.  I knew those around me thought I too had cancer.  I was an imposter.  But slowly I recognized that I had a purpose here as well.  When I came with my newborn child, I brought smiles to these faces.  As she grew she interacted with everyone and I’d like to think took their minds off their situation, even if just for a moment.  One smile from my 1 year old had the man in front of me suddenly quit his nervous shuffling and pacing.  He was reminded of his now teenage children, back home in Ohio.  I listened as he told me he had a tumor and been given just weeks to live.  As a last hope he came here to Houston to see a specialist.  He wasn’t asking for a cure, just a few more months to have with his family. I told him he’d be in our prayers and he thanked me.

He thanked me when it was I who should have been thanking him.  He helped open my eyes to the really important things in this world, things that are so easy to take for granted.

I’m thankful for my time at MD Anderson, for the sea of faces that have become imprinted in my mind and heart and especially my prayers. 

*I am recovering from my surgery. Next week I will be back at MD Anderson for a follow-up and to remove the bandages inside my ear.  I’m praying the eardrum is healing nicely and the surgery did its job:)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vacation Days…

I can’t believe I’ve once again been away from blogging for 2 weeks!  I have been visiting with family and having a blast.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have working internet access for most of last week.  So I fell behind once again.

I’m preparing to have my eardrum restructured and the surgery is scheduled for Monday.  So my blogging may still be inconsistent for a little while longer.  Sometimes the obstacles in our path  can’t be dodged or ignored, so we must bulldoze right on through.  I feel like that bulldozer right now.  I’m just moving full steam ahead. Soon I hope things will slow and I will be able to look back and pick up some of the loose ends I cruised right by in all my haste.

I hope you all are enjoying the last days of summer.  I must admit I am ready for fall to come.  I will welcome the cooler weather with open arms!

Do you have plans for your last days of summer?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Art on the Go – BusPainting

I posted this last week on my Home and Garden blog, but wanted to repost here.  I love Kathleen’s work and it is just another example of artistry inspired by our surroundings.  I believe she paints peoples stories, just as writers write them.  The medium is different, but the passion the same.  I hope you check out her work:)

I was so excited when my mother-in-law Pat introduced me over the internet to artist Kathleen McElwaine from Leander Texas.  Kathleen does beautiful watercolors and on the bus! 

She commutes on the bus into Austin twice a day and began a series of watercolors entitled BusPaintings.  She says, “Early on when I began taking the bus, I did do some character studies of people riding the # 983 Express. But then I became hesitant, thinking that perhaps I might be imposing on a near stranger's personal space -- one's mobile sanctum. As a representational artist I constantly look for character … What are the distinguishing characteristics of people … plants and animals… skies or, landscapes?"

She now has an Etsy store and besides selling her beautiful artwork, she will create a watercolor profile picture for you to use on Facebook.  She did my profile and I love it. Better yet my husband loves it.  He thinks she captured my friendliness in the painting.  That was sweet of him to say, I’ll have to bake him some brownies.  Anyway, I want to share my picture with you.

wp_kara_facebook_rlface047I love it!  The picture I sent her was one of me with no make-up, wearing the John Deere sweatshirt my father-in-law gave me.  I think she captured my spirit wonderfully.

Please stop by her Etsy store or her website to look at her work.  I’m already thinking of some Christmas gifts and maybe a few profile surprises for a couple of friends.

Thanks Kathleen!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting Sucked In


So on Thursday I showed you this picture and asked you what you think happened.  I loved your responses.



T. Anne thinks the black hole originated here.  Definite possibility.





W Wendy Paine Miller’s theory of a golf cart full of javelin throwing fighters crashing through the house brings stories of time travel  to mind.


Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist story is priceless: “So, the wall of the house was being remodeled and it was covered in a temporary plastic sheet. Then some neighborhood kids got the idea to use it as sling shot, right? They loaded up everything they could find into the plastic and pulled it back deep into the depths of the house. Except, turns out the temporary wall was not made of plastic and made instead from a magical rubbery substance that was in the process of drying. BY the the time the kids pulled it back to launch all their stuff in the sling shot, it had frozen into place!

You all did great.  When I first saw this house I imagined some sort of horizontal tornado that tore through the building. It is in Houston after all. Maybe a tornado spawned from a hurricane that spun onto land, bounced itself sideways and took off.

But the real story is in 2005 the Art League of Houston used these two houses to teach classes in.  They were going to demolish them to build a new center, but first handed them over to two artists to make them into a piece of art.  Pretty cool, huh?  You can read more about this project here.

Sometimes we just need to get sucked into a new place, whether it is through pictures, artwork, or reading, and when we do our creative juices get flowing.  Your ideas may never form a novel, but they do allow you to open up to new possibilities. 

Thanks everyone who participated!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Happened Here?


Sometimes a place or event can inspire a story. 

Tell me, what happened here? 

On Thursday I’ll tell you what I think and where WB took the picture.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are You Watching Me?

I don't hate going to the gym because I don't like exercise, I don't like to go because there are people watching me! There is something very vulnerable about walking up to a new machine and trying to figure it out while sweaty men wander around flexing their muscles. The women don't bother me, I feel a sort of kinship with them. Most of them. Not the ones that look like they have been sculpted from marble and never birthed any children. Those I try to avoid.

My husband looks at me kind of strange when I tell him why I hate the gym.

Nobody is watching you, he assures me.

Really? But I watch everyone. Like that guy over there that every few minutes whips his towel in the air with one hand to quickly wrap it around his palm so he can wipe the sweat from his face. He must have grown up lassoing cows on his family's ranch. His parents sold the land to a developer to retire to Tahiti leaving their son to find a boring job sitting in an office. He no longer gets his exercise on the range so he must come to the gym during lunchtime to stay in shape. The towel roping is his only reminder of what used to be.

Husband shakes his head. Where do you come up with this stuff? No one is watching you.

Really, because everyone here has a story. Like that 80 year old man over there on the weight machine. See how he is working the circuit. He does a machine for a few reps, then stops and rests. Then does a few more. He spends about 10 minutes on each machine then slowly moves to the next and sits for 5 more minutes before beginning the new one.

And why is that? My husband looks at me skeptically.

Because he is a widow and lives by himself. His wife had a long battle with cancer and he spent nearly every penny of their retirement savings paying for her medical treatment. In desperation he made some risky investments and when the stock market crashed he was left with very little.

So he comes to the gym to drown his sorrows?

No, no. Because this is the hottest time of day. He can't afford to run the AC during the day, so he comes here. It is air conditioned and he can stay cool. Oh, and his shower is broken too. Don't ask, that's another sad story. So when he is done in here he goes to the showers in the locker room. Then he heads home in the late afternoon when his house will begin to cool off. But not before stopping by the grocery for a free cup of coffee that seniors get and to check out the samples for a little snack.

It's a wonder you even have time to worry if people are watching you? I promise people are not watching you!

Your wrong. See that guy in the very back corner on the treadmill?


He's a writer.

How do you know?

Because he has positioned himself in a place where he can see everyone in this gym. He's not walking very fast and looks more bookey then bulky.

I don't think bookey, in that sense, is a word?

Whatever. He is a writer and right now he is trying to figure out our story. It's probably along the lines of Beauty and the Beast...

People watching, it's what we writers do. Where is your favorite place to people watch?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Passionate Pen

This weekend our priest gave a rousing homily.  He felt the need for the first time in 30 years to preach politics at the pulpit.  The passion could be heard in the deep timbre of his voice and the empathetic gesturing of his robed arms. He ended with a heartfelt cry of “God Bless America”.  Maybe not everyone agreed with his homily, but no one sitting in the pews listening doubted the passion he had for his topic.

It got me to thinking about how I write.  I want to write with a passionate pen. My hopes is that people will read my writing and feel.  Feel happy, motivated, sad, inspired, or maybe angry. I just want them to read my words and feel the passion for which they were written. 

Have you ever read a book that was just words on paper?  It might have had a plot and some decent characters, but when you put the book down you never thought of it again.  I don’t want to write a book that is forgotten on the shelf. I’d like to write a story that moves the reader to laughter or tears.  One that will stay with them long after they’ve finished.

What kind of pen would you like to write with? 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer Break



The summer is flying by and I find myself enjoying all the small moments that surround me. In the evenings I gaze at the storm clouds building on the horizon as the setting sun paints the clouds with vibrant colors.


I’ve been cheering on  not only my husband, but my oldest daughter, as they compete in Triathlons.

DSC03738I’ve been dreaming of baby booties, since my little sister is expecting her first baby around Christmas.

I’ve been writing and reading in the car, in the doctor’s offices, and during bath time.

But I’ve been absent from my blog and from visiting yours.  I’m hoping to catch up after the 4th of July holidays.  Sorry for my absence, but life is trying to fly by.  And I’ve been trying to catch and hang on to every little moment before it gets away.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Heart Matters


Matters of the heart were on my list of priorities this week.  Little One had her six month check-up with the cardiologist this week.  She sat quietly through an EKG, an echocardiogram, and being hooked up to her heart monitor that she’d wear for 24 hours.  It looks like we’ll be good for another 6 months as long as the monitor tests come back without anything new. God has blessed as with such watchful doctors, I know we are in good hands.  Little One commented, “My heart doesn’t hurt Mom, does yours?”

The question made me think of things that does make my heart hurt. The list is longer than I’d like it to be, but  we don’t live in a perfect world, so there will always be something that pains us.  Something that gets our tempers riled or saddens us.

James Scott Bell wrote in his book Plot & Structure that one way to write a “story packed with emotion and dramatic possibilities” is to find issues that you care about, that press our “hot buttons”. 

This led me to look over my current plot outline and see if there was anything that caused my blood to boil.  There wasn’t anything too dramatic so I started playing with ideas.  Sure enough I came up with a new element that I could put into my story to help bring out the drama.

So how about you, do you like to write about things that press your buttons or do you stay clear of issues that might seem too controversial?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet Rewards and an Award

DSC03680 I’m all about rewarding oneself for accomplishments and good behavior.  We try to work on a reward system around the house for tasks completed.  Whether it be schoolwork or housework, it always seems a little more fun if we know when we are finished we have something to look forward too.

Now, don’t get me wrong I strongly believe in being intrinsically motivated to finish a task as well.  Giving yourself a high five for finishing that last chapter or revising it yet again.  But I have to admit it isn’t bad to know that when you finish that chapter you’re going to indulge, in say, some chocolate dipped strawberries.

Right now I am plodding my way through several craft writing  books and doing some exercises they suggest along the way.  It can be tedious, especially when I am trying to keep my kids busy, stay on top of  housework and entertain guests.  I’ve found that if I put in several hours of domestic duties during the day I can reward myself with writing/reading time in the evening.  So sometimes my reward IS writing.

What are some ways you like to reward yourself for tasks completed, especially writing ones?

Getting an award is just as fun as getting rewards. So I was thrilled when blogging buddy Jill Kemerer gave me this award!


Thank you very much Jill.  I love reading Jill’s blog, so I’m happy to think we are soulmates:) 

Instead of passing this on to just a few of you I’d like to give it to all of my blogging friends.  I think since we are all on this writing journey together we share many common goals and interests, like soulmates. 

So please accept this award and go eat some chocolate covered strawberries as a reward for being such a great writer!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Writing Craft Book Suggestions

Happy Monday!

I have a question for you today. What is your favorite book about the craft of writing?

I’ve been reading the The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell. Several of my writing blogging buddies had recommended it, so I ordered it. I’m loving it. It’s simple and straightforward, yet packed with information.

So what writing book would you recommend to other writers?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just a little story about mice and a crazy nursing woman....

I planned on writing some very informative post about the writing process today, but I got distracted by three little words my husband uttered to me last night.

"Mouse in garage."

I shook my head, "What?"

"Oh, I saw a mouse in the garage this morning. Guess, I need to find the traps."

My heart began to beat a little faster and I felt the beginnings of a cold sweat. It's ridiculous really. As a science teacher I led dissections, held cockroaches, snakes and all sorts of critters. So why this thing with mice?

All I can say is that it started three years ago, when I was beyond exhausted with a newborn who wouldn't sleep or eat and two kiddos I was carting back and forth to school each day. And as I sat bleary-eyed on the couch trying to nurse, I witnessed first one rodent, then another, scurry under the couch. Fleeing to the upstairs, one ran out at me from my daughter's room while another rounded the corner of my bedroom. I made a hysterical phone call to my Dad at 6:30 in the morning. Oh never mind that he lived ten hours away, I needed my Dad. In the midst of my tears and hysteria I heard him say "Pest man". He also said get everyone in the car and get out of the house.

Now, don't get the wrong idea. My Dad did not believe for one moment that we were in any danger, not from the mice anyway. I believe he heard in my voice the beginnings of complete meltdown. I could barely talk, my heart was racing, and my entire body felt like it had been submerged in an ice bath. I remember telling him this on the phone and that if I saw one more mouse I wasn't sure what I might do. He knew the only way I was going to get my head on straight again was if I left the house. So I did.

We drove to Sonic. Isn't that where everybody goes when their house has become infested with mice? We parked, ordered breakfast, I nursed and waited until my husband would be out of his morning meeting so I could relate the whole ugly ordeal to him. I have a confession here. I seriously wanted WB to get in his car the moment he heard the news and come home. Tell the guys at work, "Hey, sorry. I know I have half a dozen meetings today and the refinery might shut down if I don't finish this project I'm working on causing gas prices to go to 6 dollars a gallon, but my wife is having a rodent crisis at home."

When I talked to WB he thought I should call the pest man,the one who advertised in the back of our church bulletin. It became clear he thought I was much more stable then I felt. He believed I could just walk back into that mouse house and wait for the pest guy. He had no idea, unlike my Dad, that his wife was loosing it. I think I told him fine I'd call, but I wasn't going back to the house until he came. WB responded with "Okay, that's fine. Just go do some shopping." I had a newborn and it was 8 in the morning, we went to the park.

I left a message with the pest man. Poor man, I think my message went something like this. "Hi, This is Kara. I got your name from the back of the church bulletin. I have a newborn and two little girls and this morning an army of mice invaded my house. (voice cracking) They are running under my couches, up and down the stairs, and in my children's bedrooms. We just moved to this house out in the country and I can't have mice running around with a little baby in the house." ( I'd been having these vivid images of mice chewing on my babies arms and toes while she innocently lay sleeping in her crib, I told you I was loosing it.) "Would you be able to come out today? I'm in town here's my cell number."

That sweet man called me back within the hour. He had the calmest, most fatherly voice. He told me that he would be there that afternoon. He assured me that I should not have mice in the house, especially with little ones running around. I felt relieved and just a little less crazy.

I met him at the house that afternoon. He had white hair and a white short beard with kind dark eyes. I liked him instantly. We had a long discussion about all the critters that live around my house. He told me why he used live traps vs. poison or snap traps. He told me that I probably only have a couple of mice, but that they run around a lot and I more than likely was seeing the same ones. He checked out my house and determined the only way in was through the back garage door. He told me they were looking for food and water and therefore, wouldn't stay upstairs for long. I think he was at my house for over an hour. Maybe he sensed my uneasiness. I'd like to think I wasn't the first hysterical woman he came across. He set up some live traps, told me to call if I needed anything and he'd see me next month.

I'd like to pause by saying that he or his partner come to my house once a month to spray the outside and to check on things. It's been three years now and every time I see their little white van pull into my driveway I always rest easier that night. Really, I'm thinking there needs to be a special award for Pest Men everywhere!

Here's the good news, it's three years later and I haven't been locked up in a little padded room somewhere. My baby finally started to gain weight and eat, we're getting better with the sleeping, and I am no longer an exhausted, worn out momma. Well, most days I'm not. I'd like to say the mice never returned to the house, but I can't. You can read here for a post on their return. Remember how I said "live" trap, well I bet you wondered what happened to the mice once they were caught. You might be surprised by my reaction to the captured little rodents that caused me such misery. You can read about that here and here.

So that's my story. All brought on by three little words. I'm off to find the live traps and trying not to think about the fact that I'm sure one of those critters is at this very moment watching me from inside my house.

Would you like to share a mouse story with me or just an "I'm just an exhausted momma, I'm not really crazy, story"? I'd love to hear:)

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Little Sunshine...

Have I told you about one of my favorite new authors? I think I have, but if you haven't checked out Emily Ann Benedict's new book "Only Angels Are Bulletproof" you need to . I picked up her book after reading a review on Warren Baldwin's blog.

And so imagine my sweet surprise when I was reading her blog the other day and realized she had given me an award. Little ole me! Actually, I read her blog saw my name, but the link wasn't working and figured she probably knew some other Kara. But later she wrote to me on facebook and told me she had an award for me! The Kara was me after all, yippee. I was so happy because the award was the "Sunshine Award". It made me happy to know that even though it was raining cats and dogs in my part of the woods I was giving a little sunshine to someone else.
This week is supposed to be rainy so I'd like to pass on the sunshine to some of my blogging friends who always brighten my day. I'm only going to name a few of my writing buddies, but you all know I love each and every one of you, right?
Head over to their blogs for a little bit of sunshine this week:)

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Questions…

Okay, I’m feeling a little frustrated and a little embarrassed too.  I’ve been studying away, rethinking my WIP, and thinking my voice may fit more into the Christian market.  But wait, what is the Christian market?

I’ve read Christian Inspirational books.  I know the books that are out there, but I’m not sure I know exactly what is expected.  This is where I need your help.  What are the guidelines?  Do they vary from one  publishing house to another?  I’ve tried searching these houses website for writers guidelines and all I can find is that they don’t take unsolicited writing.

I know there must be rules like no profanity and dealing with characters who are romantically involved etc., but I can’t find them.  Can you point me in the right direction?

And I have one more question.  Have you ever felt limited by certain guidelines, no matter what you write, or do you feel that is just part of the challenge of writing a marketable book?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

When to change direction?

DSC00851 Okay, all my writing friends I have a question.  When do you give up on a WIP or do you never?  I have one that has been ongoing for a few years now.  I think I have 3 or 4 versions about halfway through.  It was started when I was taking writing classes, critiquing, and had two kids that were getting more independent so I had time etc. 

The different versions stems from my lack of direction and trying to write a story that fit all these expectations, sometimes not even my own.  I’d like to think I’m older and wiser now.  That I’m ready to morph into a new being, or at least a different kind of writer.

I’m just so torn. Should I just walk away completely or try to salvage what I have even if it means another revision?  What would you do?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Being A Mom



Here’s the lady that inspired me to become the mother I am today.  Yep, that’s my momma.  Just by looking at this picture you already know some things about her.  One she is beautiful, and she is just as beautiful on the inside.  Two, she dedicated her life to helping others.  Third, knowing the first two you know she must be a very caring person.  And she is.

She taught me life lessons with quiet affirmations, gentle nudges, and a calm demeanor.  She made childhood fun with her love of learning. Whether we were taking trips to visit Gettysburg or learning to macramé or pickling cucumbers from the garden, she always kept us entertained.

She taught my sister and I that blood is indeed thicker than water. That our sisterly spats were passing, but that sisterly love would carry us through our lives.  She wished us to hold on to each other, and to lift each other up.  And we have.

She taught us about God through her quiet faith, gentle reminders, and never-ending patience. 

I knew when I became a mom I had much to live up to.  I also knew she would only be a phone call away whenever I needed her.  And she is.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  I love you!


Mom, Emma, Sophie and I taken five years ago.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guest Post (Part 3): 2010 BP MS 150 Ride from Houston to Austin

Greetings again, EKAAH followers! Once again, this is WB, finishing my story of my participation in the BP MS 150 ride from Houston to Austin. The first two parts of my story can be found here and here. When I left off on my last post, I had just finished the 84 miles from Rhodes Stadium in Katy to the fairgrounds in La Grange, TX. It was bout 2:00 in the afternoon, and I had been riding since about 7:00 that morning. I was beat. However, before I could rest, I had to find the Team Total tent, and I had to find my family! I had my cell phone with me, and I knew that my supportive family was in the area. They had driven from Houston to spend the afternoon and evening with me.

The town of La Grange has a population of about 4,600. For one night in the spring, the small town hosts over 13,000 cyclists, their families, and volunteers. In order to do this, a tent city is constructed at the Fayette County Fairgrounds.


In case you are curious, this is what 13,000 bikes look like. If you figure that each bike costs $500 (probably a low estimate), then this parking area has $6.5 million worth of bikes in it!

Large cycling teams have one or more tents, and individual tents are pitched in open spaces. I made my way to the Team Total tent, where I met Reza. Although we had lost track of each other in the last part of the ride, we finished at about the same time. I parked my bike and found my assigned cot in the tent. Soon, I was joined by Kara and the kids. I then headed off to the showers.

Kara and the girls spent some time with my camera.

After I got back from the shower, I had learned that Reza had caught up with Cheryl (from the Mattress Firm team). It turns out that they had room for a couple more people in their tent, and they had actual mattresses to sleep on! Also, the Mattress Firm tent was close to the start line for the next morning’s ride. This proximity was important since I had a time constraint for Sunday’s ride. Kara and the kids helped me transport my bike and my gear to the Mattress Firm tent. I soon discovered that the Mattress Firm team had secured the best restroom facilities in the entire fairgrounds. Most of the other teams had port-a-potties, but Mattress Firm had rented an air-conditioned bathroom trailer! It was truly a luxury.

After the move, we all piled in to the minivan for a short trek to Smithville where we met my brother and his family, and our parents for dinner. Smithville is famous for being the setting for the movie Hope Floats (for you Sandra Bullock fans). It was great getting away from the hectic crowds in La Grange to spend some relaxing time with my extended family. Plus, the cousins seemed to have a good time with each other.

P1010222Here I’m looking pretty worn down with my daughters and their cousins in Smithville.

After dinner, Kara dropped me off in La Grange, and then took the kids to a clean, comfortable, quiet Hilton hotel room in Austin. As I settled in for the night, I tried my best to get some much needed sleep. Unfortunately, despite the wonderfully comfortable mattresses, I could not sleep. The tent houses about 30 people, and it started raining heavily around midnight. Between the sounds of the rain, and people getting up to go to the restroom and other disturbances, I did not sleep well at all. I had been advised to set my alarm at around 4:30 so that I could set my bike near the start line. I woke Reza so that he could do the same.

It was important that I got an early start on Sunday, since I had a plane to catch in Austin at 5:15 pm. Of course, that meant that I had to get to the airport at 4:15, and I had to shower and change prior to that. I was faced with some critical choices on Sunday. We could either choose the Pfizer Lunch Express route, or the Bechtel Challenge route. The Lunch Express route was supposed to be quicker along the main roads, but more boring. Also, the Lunch Express route was more open and exposed to headwinds.

The Bechtel Challenge route presented another choice: take the “park route” or bypass the park to the main roads. I had been advised that the park route was extremely hilly, but beautifully scenic. However, if it was wet, the park route would pose some serious hazards to cyclists. Several people relayed accounts of horrific wrecks on the wet, hilly roads in the park in years past. As I placed my bike in the pre-dawn drizzle close to the start line Sunday, I still did not know which route I would choose.

After securing our place near the start, Reza and I set out to search for coffee. We found some at a neighboring tent, and then we returned to pack up our belongings and stretch for the ride. All the time, I was pondering if I should play it safe and get to Austin in plenty of time to catch the plane, or challenge myself with the more adventurous route. As dawn neared, I soon realized the wisdom of placing my bike early.


It’s tough to tell from this picture, but at the 7:00 am start time the line of cyclists stretched back for probably a quarter of a mile or more. I was told that those in the back would not be able to start until two or three hours after the first riders set off.

Similar to the Saturday start, the rain had fortunately stopped by the time dawn broke. The weather forecast had showed that the line of rain storms would continue to move east, and that we should be dry for the rest of the day. That also meant that there would be a headwind as we travelled west. I chose to take the Bechtel challenge route, and I would assess the road conditions and decide on the park route when I got to that point.

Since I was under a time constraint, I knew I couldn’t stop and take pictures as often as I had on Saturday. However, as we rode along in the early morning, I soon heard the sounds of a bagpipe in the distance. Once again, bagpipe man had stationed himself along the route to entertain the riders. There was a large group clustered around him, so I only got a quick snapshot.


I would have liked to have had my picture with him, but I had to press on. When I came to the entrance of Buescher State Park the roads had started to dry out. I made the quick decision to take the park route.

The park route was truly an amazing cycling adventure. It was a roller coaster ride through a dense pine forest. Since the roads were still wet in places, I rode conservatively through the park. I achieved my top speed of the day at 37.9 mph on the park route down one of the hills, but I easily could have topped 40 mph or more. The route took us through Buescher State Park and the adjacent Bastrop State Park. At the end of the park route, we emerged from the pine forest in Bastrop, TX.

There was a lunch stop in Bastrop, but I elected to skip it and press on to Austin. At the next rest stop, I called Kara and let her know that I was getting close. The hills on the last few miles into Austin were brutal, but I had to keep pace. Soon, I could recognize the familiar urban setting of downtown Austin.


The welcome sight of the state capitol loomed ahead as I rounded the last turn towards the finish line.


Thousands of people had turned out to welcome us to Austin. I was exhausted, sore, chaffed, sunburned, and wind burned, but none of that seemed to bother me much as I rode through the crowds to the finish. I had made it!

I crossed the finish line at about 1:15 pm, which left me plenty of time to get cleaned up in time for my plane. I was certainly glad to see Kara at the finish!


I even managed to get a much needed nap in after a shower but before I had to be at the airport. The ride Sunday was nearly 75 miles, but it was definitely tougher than Saturday’s ride.


I was glad that I took the park route. I know that I would definitely have regretted not taking the challenge. We are already making plans for next year's ride!


Thanks for letting me share my story!