Planting Words of a Lost Friend.

Over time, a memory can take on a new meaning. Sometimes you don’t get to cherish and enjoy a marking of time, because you don’t know it will be the last time you go there, do that, or talk to them.

Going into 2016, I have classmates that lost their fathers, the world has lost some of our most creative entertainers, and I lost my friend, Marilyn Tucker. Below is a picture of a table that I have posted many times. It’s at a house on Canyon Lake in the Texas Hill Country. I often joke about it being my favorite office, my favorite place to write. It looks out over the water and in the early morning I would sit there and watch the sun rise from behind the hills.

Canyon Lake Office
My office at the lake


It was more than the beautiful view, it was the people that were there with me. The fellow writers that understood the creative process. The moments of silence that are needed when creating a fictional world that is real in your head. Marilyn Tucker gave this gift to me, not just the place, but a tribe. When I sat there in November I didn’t know it would be the last time. The last weekend with our tribal leader.

Story-tellers telling stories. Sasha Summers, Marilyn Tucker and Jodi Thomas
Story-tellers telling stories. Sasha Summers, Marilyn Tucker and Jodi Thomas

This has been a year of many blessings, joys, and wonderful accomplishments. But as tragedy often does, I was blindsided. In my fifty years, (it might only be forty eight, but I lose track), I have had unexpected losses, but the depth of this one caught me by surprise. She was not my mother, my sister, or my child. She was my friend, my tribal leader.
Almost three years ago, Marilyn Tucker invited me to be part of her tribe. A tribe that truly loves, supports, and understands each other, even our flaws and scars. We were very protective of this small group.
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Let me back up a moment and tell you about my experience in being a writer.
Every writer needs a tribe, and not just any tribe, but one that is drama free. Not free from the ups and downs of life. Not an everything-is-good-all-the-time type of crap, but free of the self-created drama, of not knowing the difference between pride and truth. Drama brought on by jealousy, envy and bitterness. It can swallow you whole before you’re even aware it has snuck up behind you.
There are times it seems as if everyone is doing better than you, finishing their stories, selling their stories, multi-book contracts, making more sells, going to bigger events, making more money, better marketing, winning awards and getting better reviews. We create illusions for a living and sometimes the best illusion is our own life.
Every writer needs a drama free zone were we can laugh at petty insecurities and self-doubt. The business of writing is exciting, thrilling and soul sucking.
You have people in your head that have stories to tell. You create a world from bits and pieces of who you are. If you’re truly honest and authentic you get to create characters that no one else can create. Your secret thoughts, desires, wishes and dreams are given life. Your view of the world and the people in it shape your story. You take the real and create a fantasy.
Eventually you will get brave enough to send it out for others to read, to strangers that have no care for your heart.
You want people to love your baby, to tell you and everyone they know that you have the most beautiful, creative, poignant story. You can’t wait to hear how the characters made them laugh…made them cry. You want them to see your baby as special and unique. You want the world to accept your baby and lift her up, to celebrate her.
Your story is the best part of your secrets, your heart. Sometimes it’s the part you hide and keep buried, and when you bring it to light, you want people to understand.
Some will, but others won’t. They might even call your baby names: unpolished, not worth reading, unbelievable, unmarketable, predictable or worse, boring. Yes, there will be people for whatever reason that don’t understand and they will let the public know.
If you let them, they will make you doubt yourself – Like we need any help in that area, right?
You tell yourself it will be better when you….get published, have more followers, get more books out, make the bestseller list, win awards or get that multi-book deal.
But the pressure gets worse, then you move into feeling like a fraud…what happens when they find out the truth? You aren’t really smart or creative – it was a fluke. The voices turn the self-doubt to a new level. I’ll never write another story anyone wants.
This, my friend, is where the tribe comes in, where they chase away the bad voices and get to the truth. My tribe leader, Marilyn Tucker, created a safe haven where we could create, brainstorm and vent. A group that spent time laughing at our own insecurities and looked honestly at our goals.
A group that reminds you of the joy of writing, the excitement of creating a new world. The emotion you create on the page becomes real and you remember why you write. What do you do when you lose your leader?
Talking story with Storm Navarro, Joni Hahn, Sasha Summers, Jodi Thomas, and Marilyn Tucker
You go adrift for a second. You come across a problem that you would have called her for and stumble when you remember she’s not available anymore.
What do you do? You move forward in her honor. You reach out to her other friends and together you build a new tribe. You take every encouraging word she said to you and plant it in your heart until it has roots and you harvest those words when you need them. You tell stories and you laugh. Marilyn lived to make others laugh. When she was reading her work out loud, she would count the times people laughed, that was how she knew if she succeeded in her goal. We remember her stories and laugh in her honor.
And we remember most of all, we are story tellers – we tell stories. We have the power to look at life, to take the joys and the sorrow and create a world that we can share with others. Our stories are not for those that don’t understand. They are for the ones that want to understand, that want to be reminded that even in our darkest moments, there is love. In the midst of a storm, we can find peace. For a moment, we can connect to others through words. Marilyn Tucker, you will be missed every day. Thank you for making me a better writer and more importantly, a better person.

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow
My office at the lake

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?

 

 

Port A on Texas shoreline. From the Sand Castle balcony

O – Oh what a story. Overcoming dyslexia

When my oldest daughter was born I would tell her alphabet stories. I was inspired by Graeme Base’s illustrated book  Animalia.

Animalia by Graeme Base
Animalia by Graeme Base

As she started school the teachers worried that she wasn’t learning as fast as she should. They suggested that I read to her.  I explained I did read to her, every night, during the day, we even made up stories based on alliteration from the time she was born.

If she was having a hard time learning sounds and letters they wanted to blamed it on her environment (aka mom and dad’s fault).

To say the least, frustration would knot my stomach. From Kinder on the second grade I heard the same thing – “You need to read to her more. She needs to see you reading.” Really? I read all the time..some in my family might even say too much. My husband read. He loved reading to the kids. I knew something else was wrong.  Finally we took her to a sociologist and neurologist husband/wife team. They changed her life in school. At that point she was too young to be diagnosed with dyslexia, but as it turned out she was severely dyslexia. We did discover that if we tied movement into the learning processes she did better. Having her move her finger in the air as she blended sounds, shooting a basketball as she went over her spelling list made it happen for her.

Unfortunately movement is frowned upon in school especially elementary. Especially when a teach doesn’t “believe” that dyslexia is a real thing and says she is just being lazy. That was a rough year.

I don’t know if it made it easier or harder that learning came without effort to her younger sister and brothers. One of my favorite memories is her reading to our youngest on his bedroom floor. She could read his picture books out loud without fear of being judged.

School years of struggling and working hard were ahead of her. Once she got in middle school and high school she did start enjoying school more. I think it was because of the sports and all the walking between classes. Secondary gave her more freedom and socializing opportunities. She wasn’t “pulled” out of class. She still had to work twice as hard as my other kids  but she loved school and was always a favorite with her teachers. I think because they saw how hard she worked. She has prevailed and is getting closer to finishing college.

my crazy navarro kids - truthfuly they might get that from the Guinther side.
My crazy Navarro kids – truthfully they might get that from the Guinther side.

We tell all of our kids to keep moving forward, failure is just a sign that you are trying and working, don’t let it stop you. Every path is different and as long as you are working toward those goals you are progressing.Can you guess which one she if of our four in this picture?

There are many ways dyslexia manifest it self and some people just don’t understand how letters, made of of lines and shapes came move on people. If images shift on you can you imagine trying to figure out the difference between b, d, p, q? It has nothing to do with intelligence it is about decoding abstract symbols.

In college I discovered I had what is called dysgraphia. I could always read really well and fast, but I could not spell to save my life. One reason I waiting until I was forty before believing I could sell a story I wrote. Author’s like Jodi Thomas encouraged me.

I’m sharing one of our O stories:  On the Ocean:

Ocean view at Port Aransas on the Texas shoreline. From the Sandcastle Condominiums
Ocean view at Port Aransas on the Texas shoreline. From the Sandcastle Condominiums

One overcast day an ocelot obviously hiding in the oat grass observed an Old English Sheepdog playing opossum next to the ocean. Offshore an odd sight was taking place. An octopus was overtaking an orca over the waves. The dog’s ordinary owner from Oklahoma  was obsessing over the original and outstanding opera singer who originated from Oregon. He ordered two dozen orchids and gave her a standing ovation. She fell head-over-hills in love.

What other O words can you think of?

Cascarones - Egg shells filled with confetti

E – Easter Eggs Real or Plastic?

A to Z blogging Challenge E
A to Z blogging Challenge E

Spring time brings renewal and rebirth – which makes it a perfect time to celebrate The Gift of Eternal Life through Jesus Christ. He has risen and beaten death for us, even though we don’t deserve the gift is ours.

He has Risen!
He has Risen!

One of my favorite tradition for Easter is the Easter Egg Hunt.

Easter Egg Hunt in the Texas Hill Country
Easter Egg Hunt in the Texas Hill Country

Every year we decorate and stuff eggs. Some years it seems we run out of time and it is easier to stuff the plastics ones – or if your really uhm out of time – you can buy the already stuffed one.

Other years we dye more eggs than we know what to do with.DSC_1236

Great Grandma Olene Guinther and Katrina Decorating eggs in 1993
Great Grandma Olene Guinther and Katrina Decorating eggs in 1993

So which do you prefer… Plastic or Real?

Real or Plastic
Real or Plastic

The real ones are so personal and fun to decorate. You can actually eat them if you don’t leave them out too long or lose the in the yard.  You find them as you mow…eek!

The plastic ones are practical and if you lose it …well it’s plastic. And now they come in funky shapes – I’m not sure if I like these. Kids love them…but I  shy away from mass market products. I love the creative side of decorating your own egg.  I do tend to be more on the artisan side even thought we don’t always have the time for it..

jurassic-dinosaur-easter-eggs-filled-with-jelly-beans-
jurassic-dinosaur-easter-eggs-filled-with-jelly-beans-
Cascarones
Cascarones

There one other type of egg we have here in South Texas – Cascarones!  These are fun and messy!

Attack with a confetti filled egg..
Attack with a confetti filled egg..
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
Cascarones - Egg shells filled with confetti
Cascarones – Egg shells filled with confetti

To learn how to make you own Cascarones – read this blog…make your own cascarons

So which do you use – are do yo not even mess with eggs?

Embracing Failure leads to joy and success!

Below is a link to a blog I wrote for the Craftie Ladies of Romance. What are the three things you need for a successful year? What about embracing failure, creating community and resilience? Hit the link below and read more about it.

All the things I need for a great 2015.

I want to thank my family for such a great year.

Enjoying Life.
Enjoying Life. My Hero Fred.
Bon fire and family
A year ago for my birthday family gathering around the bon fire
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A dream coming true. Lower Manhattan – It amazes me how so many people can live in such a small space. It looks as if it could just fall of the little piece of land.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
June is the West Texas A&M writer's Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
June is the West Texas A&M writer’s Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
My parent had three girls who gave them ten  grand-kids - ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down
My parent had three girls who gave them ten grand-kids – ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down

 

Talking about How We Liove Our Heros at the Rita's & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Talking about How We Love Our Heroes at the Rita’s & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays - maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays – maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Here's to many more smiles in 2015
Here’s to many more smiles in 2015

Wow – Looking back on the year and finding my highlights I was amazed at the wonderful people that have been brought into my life. Some long term and had no choice, family is family, others have come in and guided me and came with so much love I have a hard time believing it.  Thank you.

Christmas Past, Christmas Future: What makes it feel like Chirstmas for you?

I love decorating for Christmas – pulling out the pieces of history from my family and adding new for  future generations.

The first item that gets unwrapped (reading the headlines from the years past is fun too) is my mother’s hand made nativity scene. Once these guys are up I know it’s Christmas! They are about 12 inches tall and when I inherited them they had a few chips and dents – I hesitate to “fix” them. What do you think? Should I repair the chipped chin and broken wing?

Ceramic Wise-men glazed by Cindy Guinther in 1975
Ceramic Wise men glazed by Cindy Guinther in 1975
Ceramic Nativity scene made and glazed by Cindy Guinther 1975
Ceramic Nativity scene made and glazed by Cindy Guinther 1975

Hand painted stockings are added to the mantel and then the Christmas tree is next! A tree full of angels and memories.

Christmas Tree of Angels and Memories
Christmas Tree of Angels and Memories

Over the years four kids have added their school made ornaments and the gifts my husband and I have received from students get added, but between all the mix-matched ornaments are my angels. My mother started giving me one each Christmas. The last one she gave me has my name hand written across a banner the little clay angel is holding. Each one takes me back to years that can’t be relived but they can be remembered.

My husband and sisters have contributed to the collection, and of course I have the ones I couldn’t resist buying. Now I have a tree full of angels and memories and I love it. Sometimes I change out the garland with red or plaid ribbons, cranberries, cinnamon sticks with dried oranges, raffia and silk poinsettias or stringed stars. I like adding something new each year to the pieces from my Christmases past.

Tree trimmings with raffia, poinsettia and family memories
Tree trimmings with raffia, poinsettia and family memories

The last thing I do every year is add my great-grand mother’s white plastic reindeer. When I was five and she was in her last eighties, she let me pick one ornament off her tree. Being the five year old I was, I passed over the old style decorations and went for the shiny plastic white reindeer. I went through a phase that I didn’t like the little plastic trimming. Now it is the last piece I place on the tree – right were I can see it and remember a women I barely knew but loved me dearly.
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Do you have a favorite tradition or decoration?

Garner State Park with the Frio River

Busting sterotypes of Texas with the Hill Country

Generations of my family have been born and raised in the Texas Hill Country and now I write about fictional characters that live in the same beautiful county.

Some people have an image of Texas as a giant state of flat lands with tumble weeds and golden grass. There are parts of Texas that would resemble that stereotype there are more places that bust it.

Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown..
Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown.
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country
Texas Hill Country

In my books the sun is often raising or setting over the hills of Texas. I love the area of Frio Canyon, where the head waters of the Frio River can be found. Garner State park is nestled in this area between Kerrville Texas and Uvalde, north of San Antonio and south of Austin. It’s my favorite piece of earth.

This Thanksgiving some extended family along with my husband and kids with be renting a cabin in in the woods by the river to celebrate our blessings. We won’t be the only ones.

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan
Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

You can’t talk Texas Hill Country without at least one picture of cowboys. Not everyone owns a hat or rides a horse, but the ones that do are fun to watch.

Texas Hill Country Rodeo Cowboys
You can’t talk about the Texas Hill Country and ignore the rodeo cowboy.
Garner State Park with the Frio River
Garner State Park with the Frio River

Do you have a favorite place on earth and do you have the pleasure of living there or just dream about living there?