A Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving

I thank my parents for raising me as a horse loving Texas Hill Country girl.   Nine Thanksgiving ago my sisters and I lost my mother. We lost our father nineteen years ago. They loved family and every holiday, plus some we were making the rounds to visit loved ones. We were shown through example that family matters.

A few years ago my sisters and I started a new tradition for Thanksgiving. We rented a cabin by the Frio River in Leakey, Texas. (our parents married in Leakey) A cousin from my family and a cousin from my brother-in-law’s joined in and we stay for four days.

The rest of my mother’s family, including her mother, join us. We bounce between 30 to 50 people on Thursday.  In a world that moves fast and people spend more time looking down at a screen than into the face of real people, personal connections with extended family gives  us roots and a healthier life. As humans, the need for relationships with others and nature is built into our DNA. To me Thanksgiving is not  about the food…it’s the people and getting away from the rush of daily life.

Old Giant Oak tree in Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas.

These old trees make me think of how time moves and the world changes, but God is constant. We come and go but the world keeps turning. I love to take time and enjoy the peace these trees give me.

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Roads through the Texas Hill Country
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Taking time to walk off some of our Thanksgiving feast in the Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas

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Enjoying the Frio River even in the rain. Two aunts and uncle and one of my sisters. Leakey Texas
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It helps if you have someone that plays the guitar and maracas.

Play some games! How to have fun at a Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving.

My Grandmother and seven (of ten)of her great-grandchildren from her oldest child, my mother, Cindy French Guinther. She has a total of thirty great-grandchildren.

Longhorn on a  Texas Hill Country Ranch Country
Longhorn on a Texas Hill Country Ranch Country

Since we are on a Texas Hill Country ranch we have to include a Longhorn.

Even thought we had rain we had fun. You have to set your mind to it sometimes but it can always be found. Play in the Rain!

Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!
Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!

Play in the Rain! Life is too short to wait around for the right time. Give thanks for the rain and the sun, the wind and the opportunity to experience it all.

What do you do to connect with people or nature?

 

 

Moon over New York City.

U for Untied States of America all represented in New York……Home of the brave…

U for United States of America
U for United States of America

The United State of America…Home of the Brave…Sometimes they’re just words. Do you ever stop and think what they mean?

For many it was and is leaving everything you know for a hope of something better. In New York City the storyteller in me became enthralled, I felt the shadow of fear, hope and determination left by millions of immigrants. I could imagine them seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time after a long grueling voyage.

Imagine, arriving in the harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time
Imagine, arriving in the harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time
Lady Liberty from the boat. photo  taken by Jolene Navarro
Lady Liberty from the boat. photo taken by Jolene Navarro
I think sometimes we forget New York is surrounded by water and is a port city. Old ships in the docks of New York.
I think sometimes we forget New York is surrounded by water and is a port city. Old ships in the docks of New York.
New York, surrounded by water
New York, surrounded by water. Photo by Jolene Navarro

On 9/11 the fear as they tried to flee on boats that were taking people away from the horrific destruction. The day we all turned to New York, helpless. Just like everything else on this small piece of Earth the 9/11 Memorial is overwhelming.

911 Memorial as the set sets. Photo by Jolene Navarro
911 Memorial as the set sets. Photo by Jolene Navarro

I walk the streets of New York, filled with people from around the world that now make America their home – the history, spirit and feel of America was in every stone, brick, window and steel frame that makes up the city. I have to say man’s ability to create a habitat beyond our imagination is awe inspiring and maybe a bit scary.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures.

The old reflected in the new.

Taken from our hotel window, Andaz. The old and new next to each other. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Taken from our hotel window, Andaz. The old and new next to each other. Photo by Jolene Navarro
View from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
View from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Sensory overload in New York City.
Sensory overload in New York City. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Central Park - Loved this part of New York.
Central Park – Loved this part of New York.
Approaching Central Park
Approaching Central Park
New York from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
New York from Central Park. Photo by Jolene Navarro
On the edge of Time Square. Have to say my least favorite part of New York City.
On the edge of Time Square. Have to say my least favorite part of New York City.
Hanging out in the M & M Store, waiting for the rain to slow down. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Hanging out in the M & M Store, waiting for the rain to slow down. Photo by Jolene Navarro
Time Square New York- the rain had started
Time Square New York- the rain had started
The storm is rolling into the city.
The storm is rolling into the city.
The Financial District.
The Financial District.
View from the Financial District.
View from the Financial District. Photo by Jolene Navarro

Then there is the art…everywhere.

New York Art
New York Art photo by Jolene Navarro

One thing that was suggested to us was to go to the website of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and map out what you want to see and go to those rooms first. This is a must or you might miss the art you really want to see – there is no way to see this museum in one day. They art they house is incredible so go with a plan and when you see the originals up close…well words can not do the emotions justice.  I could do a whole blog on the art of New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ancient civilization among the newbies.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ancient civilization among the newbies. By Jolene Navarro
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Degas

To see the textures and colors up close is simply amazing. Even if you can’t make it to the museum, you should follow them on facebook. They share a piece of art each day.

http://www.metmuseum.org/visit

This summer I get to go back to New York for the Romance Writers of America conference. I’m excited to go back to the city. Is there a place you would love to visit again? Have you been to New York? What is your MUST do when you are in the city.

You’re Too Old to Wear That! Fashion Rules for Women?

You have to watch the video at the end of this post. I want to be these women when I grow up! They make me smile. Life is to be lived fully at all phases!

There has been a couple of blogs lately that have laid down rules about what women of a certain age should not wear. This infuriates me. I will not post them because that will just give them more traffic, which is what they want.

What right does one person have to tell another what is right for them? They write, once you’re thirty you can no longer wear hooped earrings or graphic tees. What??? Once you’re forty you can’t wear sleeveless tanks or wedged flip flops. (Some people believe no one should own wedged flip flops, but I say who cares) They go on to say the women of certain age should not wear colored eye shadow and have to keep it neutral. Really???

Age should not dictate  what a women wears.

Actually I think if you like it you should wear it. Once, many years ago a group of fit women that 80% had fake boobs (not that I’m judging heheh) were talking about how some women should never wear sleeveless shirts in public. Since I was the go-to-fat girl in the group. They all turned to me as I was leaving and asked. “Jolene, you don’t wear sleeveless shirts do you?” They wanted me to confirm that they were right. I realized I always wore jackets or long sleeved shirts. So I agreed with them, but felt a little uneasy in my gut. Was I allowing other peoples opinions of me to keep me from doing things I enjoyed because I didn’t want people to laugh or mock the “fat” girl?

I want to thank them for forcing me to take a hard look at why I did or didn’t do somethings. From that day on I decided to wear and do what I want based on my pleasure gained from it. The same goes for someone that others think is too thin. Or too old or too tall or too short. I do agree you can be too young, but that is another post. We all have a story and if we knew that story we might not be so fast to judge and laugh at people. So go forth and enjoy life – dress in any color you like, any type of shoe and if you love red lipstick layer it on and tell anyone that says otherwise to kiss your beautiful red lips!

Every women has a bathing suite body – all you have to do is put a bathing suite on and head to the beach or lake or pool. Only rule? Enjoy your life, it’s yours to live.

Have you ever been told not to wear something that you love?

Watch the The Fabulous Fashionistas. Their average age is 85.

The Tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns has Christian roots.

Why do we carve designs into pumpkins? Did you know it has Christian roots?

The tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns came to the USA from the way of our Irish immigrants. Did you know that the original Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into beets, turnips & potatoes?

Like most traditions it starts with a myth, a story created to warn children to behave or you’ll end up like poor “Stingy Jack”.

“Stingy Jack” was an Irish man that loved playing tricks on people and thought he could outsmart the devil. It all started when he invited Mr. Satan to sit next to him and have a drink. Being the stingy guy he was, he talked the devil into paying for the drinks.

He challenged Satan to turn himself into a coin that Jack would use to pay for the drinks, Coin in hand Jack left the bar tab unpaid and put the coin in his pocket, next to a silver cross. This of course trapped the Devil from changing back.
Jack laughed at his joke. He thought he was so smart for tricking the Devil. Making a deal, he finally allowed the Devil free of the coin, with a vow that the Devil could not claim his soul.

A year later, just to prove how smart he was, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree for a piece of fruit on one of the highest branches. The Devil’s pride once again had him falling for Jack’s ploy. While Satan reached for the fruit, Jack carved a cross into the trunk, trapping the Devil once again.

This time he made the Devil promise not to bother him for ten years. Before the decade was up though, Jake died.
Now the story tells of Jake’s true fate. God, not pleased with how Jack had chosen to spend his life, would not allow him into heaven. If he wanted to play with the Devil than the Devil could have him.

Of course the Devil had vowed not to claim Jack’s soul, so he was left with no where to go. Sent out into the darkness with nothing but a lump of burning coal that he carried in a carved out turnip. Jack wondered the earth looking for someone to play a trick on.

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Classic, Sugar Skull and Astronaut Jack O’Lanterns by Tate Navarro, Jolene Navarro and Jackson Ward

The Irish refer to him as “Jack of the Lantern” of course being Irish, it became Jack O’Lantern. Throughout Ireland and Scotland families started making their own versions of Jack-O-Lanterns by carving spooky designs into turnips and beets.

They placed them on window edges and next to doors in order to keep bad spirits away.

When the immigrants arrived to the shores of the new country they shared their stories and traditions. Soon they discovered that the native fruit, pumpkin, made a perfect canvas for the artistic carvings.

Any good story told has a moral, a lesson to learn, so next time you see a Jack-O-Lantern remember that pride will get you in trouble and never try to outsmart the devil. It will always lead to misfortune.

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Cousins & Pumpkins on the doorstep. Katrina Navarro and Jackson Ward photo by Jolene Navarro

Do you have a family story that is told as a warning?

The Heart of Small Towns: Book Signing at Bergmann Lumber

Join me Saturday August 2  11:00 at Bergmann Lumber for the book signing of my second book, Lone Star Hero.

Walking down Main Street in my hometown of Boerne, Texas is one of my favorite things to do on a beautiful Hill Country day. I love life in a small town. People know people. They know your grandmother, your cousins and your children. People have long memories and will talk about people and days gone by at a drop of a hat.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations.  Taken by Jolene Navarro
Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations. Taken by Jolene Navarro

You have a history. You’re part of a story. You belong.

I also love writing about it. I have created a fictional town called Clear Water, Texas.  With less than 400 people in this town it would be consider small by anyone’s standards.  Generations of ranchers, workers and business owners share a common history, good, bad and sometimes ugly. Preschooler to twelfth graders are on the same school campus. Community is strong. Not a great deal has changed there over the years. And yes it has a great deal in common with the town of Leakey Texas where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents have strong roots.

In my second story with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Line, Vickie Lawson comes home after her dreams are shattered. She is looking to rebuild a solid future in her old town for her kids. Her childhood sweetheart, Jake Torres, challenges her resolve to stay clear of all men.

Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014

It it easy to fuse fiction and fact.  In my fictional stories of Clear Water Texas there is a hardware store on Main Street, called Bergmann Lumber.  Just like my made up business, the real one in Boerne is a family owned businesses that has survived the big box stores. When other mom and pop shops have closed and moved on, the Bergmanns has found a way to redefine themselves and keep the charm of small town alive on our Main Street in Boerne.
In honor of Texas small towns and family I encourage you to take the time to shop small, it can make a big difference in our communities.

I’m proud to announce my second book signing at Bergamnn Lumber, the real one.

I will be signing copies of Lone Star Hero on Main Street in Boerne at Bergmann Lumber August 2 from 11:00 am until 2:00pm.

Family owned lumber and home décor for three generations. Bergmann Lumber on Boerne Main Street.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber

The two story limestone building is a historical site and owned by the same family for three generations. Randy Bergmann and his daughters have managed to reinvent their store front and focus on customer service.

 

New York or New Orleans?

New York or New Orleans?

I’m a little over half way through my A to Z blogging challenge and yes I’m a little behind. I have missed N & O. For N I was going to say how much joy we experienced on our trip to New York. The energy and vibe of one of the biggest cities in a very land locked piece of property. We got to dance in the rain in Times Square see works of art I’ve only read about and eat at a family diner off Wall Street. Of course one of my highlights was meeting the Love Inspired staff at the Harlequin Offices in the old Woolworth Building and having lunch with my editor. I have to say the people were super friendly and even when we got a bit confused in the subway there was always someone willing to help.

Wefoundthis gem of a family diner off Wall Street. Home cooked food with very good prices. The hamburger was 4.95.
We found this gem of a family diner off Wall Street. Home cooked food with very good prices. The hamburger was 4.95.
Lower Manhattan - I amazes me so many people can live in such a small space. It looks as if it could just fall of the little piece of land.
Lower Manhattan – It amazes me that so many people can live in such a small space. It looks as if it could just fall of the little piece of land.
In the city you can hardly see the sky. From the river it looks like another world
In the city you can hardly see the sky. From the river it looks like another world
The human spirit is amazing...you can see it and feel it in large doses all over New York, but no matter how many building we build we still are drawn to nature. Central Park is an oasis in the mist of a man made jungle.
Central Park

The human spirit is amazing…you can see it and feel it in large doses all over New York, but no matter how many building we build we still are drawn to nature. Central Park is an oasis in the mist of a man made jungle.

In the summer we were in New Orleans. A big city with a completely different feel. Relaxed, happy, laid back and ready for a good time. I’m not a party person so I wasn’t sure about New Orleans.  We fell in love.

New Orleans French Quarters
Waiting to enter the unknown in New Orleans.
Pirate Ally
On the way to Pirate Ally in the French Quarter’s of New Orleans.
There is so much art and creativity in New Orleans
There is so much art and creativity in New Orleans
ANy one who has ever been to New Orleans will tell you to stop Cafe Du Monde, any time of day or night.
Anyone who has ever been to New Orleans will tell you to stop by the Cafe Du Monde, any time of day or night.
So many shops had a cat in the window. This one was watching over a weaving shop
So many shops had a cat in the window. This one was watching over a weaving shop
You can't go to NOLA without at least one visit to the cemetery. This was taken at Lafayette Cemetery No 1
You can’t go to NOLA without at least one visit to the cemetery. This was taken at Lafayette Cemetery No 1
Taking the Paddle Boat down the Mississippi while listening to live music was a wonderful experience. Warning save your money and skip the dinner.
Taking the Paddle Boat down the Mississippi while listening to live music was a wonderful experience. Warning: save your money and skip the dinner.

We stayed in the French Quarter and walked everywhere, even late at night we felt safe.

Have you been to both of these cities? If so which one do you prefer? Have you been to one but not the other? Maybe you have not been to either. If you had to choose one which would it be: New York or New Orleans?

 

 

 

B is for Bergmann Lumber in Beautiful Boerne Texas

From weddings to Homecoming pep rallies, Art & Craft fairs  to live German music it is the heart of our Main Street - Taken by Jolene Navarro
From weddings to Homecoming pep rallies, Art & Craft fairs to live German music it is the heart of our Main Street – Taken by Jolene Navarro

Living is Boerne is a little slice of apple pie with a bit of cheesecake on the side. Over the years it has more than doubled in size, but still has that hometown, main street American feeling.

One of the best things about this Hill Country town is places Like Bergmann Lumber that will help out a friend by keeping her book on their shelves. So if you need a copy of Lone Star Holiday you can stop by and pick one up while your buying those tools and nails.

I want to Congratulate Bergmann Lumber Company on being awarded today the Texas Treasure Business Award!!! Family owned and operated since 1957.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations.  Taken by Jolene Navarro
Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations. Taken by Jolene Navarro
Early evening over Boerne Texas Main Street. during Dickens On Main Taken by Jolene Navarro
Early evening over Boerne Texas Main Street. during Dickens On Main Taken by Jolene Navarro

Do you have a favorite event or place in Boerne. Maybe you have your own favorite small town?