Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

On our drive home from Reno a few weeks ago, Captain Cavedweller and I made a side trip so we could see the Painted Hills in Central Oregon.

We’d driven past them before, but we hadn’t taken time to stop and really take some photos. I thought I’d share some of them with you today.

The Painted Hills are one one of three units that comprise the John Day Fossil Beds. I did a post a few years ago about the John Day Fossil Beds here.

Maintained by the National Park Service, there are three units that make up the John Day Fossil Beds: Clarno, Painted Hills and Sheep Rock.

In the Sheep Rock Unit you’ll not only find great places to hike on trails and take in unbelievable views, you’ll also discover the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center and The James Cant Ranch.

Many people don’t know that most of Oregon was once like a tropical rain forest. The Paleontology Center takes visitors through 40 million years of history through a collection of fossil specimens and large murals that are incredibly informative and interesting.

The Sheep Rock Unit isn’t too far from the Painted Hills unit.

1 PH a

The Painted Hills are a few miles off the highway, but easy to get to.

1 PH b


1 rock crib

I love old rock cribs!

1 PH g

Aren’t the colors amazing?


1 PH f

This one almost makes me think of ancient fingers or toes spread out. (I know I’m weird!)

1 PH e

I wonder what the pioneers who traveled through this area thought of the colored hills.

1 PH d

I bet they found them just as fascinating as we do today.


1 PH c

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Painted Hills, make the trip and the time. It’s worth it!


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When Captain Cavedweller and I were in Reno for the RT Convention a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos.

I thought I’d share some of them with you today, just for fun.


We stayed at the Peppermill Resort. It was a lovely property with very nice rooms and plenty of places to eat and hang out.

One day, we ventured to Virginia City. If it hadn’t been freezing outside and pouring down buckets of rain, I would have taken oodles of photos.

On the way there, we saw a few of these signs.


We’re used to seeing signs with cattle and deer, but horses was new. And so awesome. We actually saw two groups of wild horses on our drive to Virginia City. Drat the rain. If it had been a clear day, I would have snapped a bunch of photos. (Part of reluctance to get out of the vehicle was the fact it was so cold and we hadn’t brought coats… it was May and supposed to be warm!).

We arrived in Virginia City where it went from pouring rain to a complete deluge. Seriously, I haven’t seen it rain that hard in a while. We wandered through a few stores, spent a small fortune on two glass bottles of pop, then grabbed some lunch.

In need of somewhere warm and dry to hang out for a while, we went to an old school house turned into a marvelous museum. The Historic Fourth Ward School is offers a glimpse into not only the school’s past, but also that of the area, especially the mines.

One room had several photos of miners. I was quite disturbed to see so many children working in the mines.


But the photo of the brash lad with a cigar left me utterly unsettled and so longing to know his story.

On our way back from Virginia City, the temperature dropped, it started to snow, mudslides dumped rocks all over the road (one of which we hit) and blew out a tire. If it wasn’t for a super helpful state trooper, one of us might have died of frostbite before the other one got the tire fixed. Did I mentioned we were on an incline?

We did make it back to the hotel in time for the event I had that evening. Whew!

Another day, we decided to take a drive (after CC purchased a new tire and got the spare back in place) to Lake Tahoe. Neither of us had seen it before.

I think the best way to sum it up is this:


A lake 1

We drove from Reno to Carson City then headed north around the lake.

A lake 3

The blues were so intense and gorgeous.

A lake 2

And it was a beautiful day for a drive.

A lake 4

It really was quite spectacular to see.

A trees 1

We drove to Incline Village and wandered around the visitor’s center a bit. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs before we made the drive back to Reno.


I think we took more photos of the two of us together that week than we have in the past year (or three).

One big, exciting evening was the night of the RT Book Awards.

Garden of Her Heart received the RT Review Source Award. While I was super excited about my book being chosen for the award, I was a lot less excited about getting up on stage and giving a speech. Even if the speech was brief, it felt like it lasted half of eternity.  (That’s actress Meg Tilly in the background. She was one of the emcees.)

awards 1

So here I am giving my little speech. Introverts really aren’t genetically programmed to enjoy this type of thing.

award 2

And here is my beautiful award that I’m so incredibly honored to have received.

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Girl  reading a book

I spent many, many hours during my childhood shadowing my dad’s every move on our farm or trying to squirm out of learning the “domestic skills” my mother deemed necessary for my future existence.

But I also spent hours on fantastic adventures I took through books. I’ve always, always loved to read. That love, coupled with my fertile imagination, has allowed me to traveled around the world and across time. I’ve soaked up the sun on Pacific islands, trudged through dark forests, smelled the spices of exotic lands, and ridden fire-breathing dragons all through wonderfully written stories.

And while I still love to take adventures through the books I read, I also love to write stories that take readers on a journey.  My active imagination is rarely quiet, always thinking of something new and exciting.

z imagination 5

Recently, I’ve been thinking about imaginations and how important they are.

z imagination 4

I think as we grow older, we tend to imagine and dream less because we have so much reality to handle every day. That’s why I think it’s so important to keep on dreaming, keep on imagining, keep on laughing!

z imagination 2

The world truly is a canvas for our imaginations. We can paint any color, shape, pattern or design we like. All we have to do is pick up the brush (imagination) and get started.

z imagination 3

Imaginations can take us anywhere we want to go. Anywhere.

With virtual reality becoming a tangible thing, I hope we never lose the ability to stare up at the stars and get lost in our imaginations.


May you always find at least a few stolen moments to let your imagination run wild.


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This is the time of year when I like to sort through cupboards, closets and drawers, purging things I no longer use, need, or want.

Every year, I find myself hanging on to stuff I don’t really like for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was a gift (but isn’t my taste or style). Maybe it’s something “too nice” to get rid of. It could even be something I bought on sale and never used. (Yes, that does happen).

Have you ever walked into a room in your house and looked at something and experienced an instantaneous thought of “I don’t like that” followed by “but, (fill in the blank with a name of a relative who gives hideous gifts) gave it to me so I have to keep it.”

You don’t. You really, really don’t. If the item makes you frown instead of smile, time to put it in a box and donate it or add it to things you’re saving for your next yard sale.

When I find myself staring at an item and realizing it’s just taking up useless space, I ask myself three questions:

  1. Does it bring me joy?
  2. Does it have a sentimental value?
  3. Is it useful?

If it doesn’t meet at least one of those criteria, out it goes. Last year, I took fourteen boxes of stuff to our local Goodwill center. And although I haven’t really done much sorting yet this year, I already have half a dozen boxes of assorted stuff ready to donate.

My point of all this rambling today is that when we give ourselves permission to let go of things that don’t bring us joy, we make more room in our lives (hearts, minds, and souls) for the things that do.

One of the hardest areas for me to purge is my closet. (Anyone else have that trouble. Let’s see a show of hands!)

Here’s a super helpful chart I’ve used before (and will again) to keep my closet from overflowing.


Happy sorting and purging. May it bring you joy to clear out some of the clutter (I know I’ll be working on that this week!)

Oh, and when you ask yourself those three questions, they do not apply to immediate family members! 😉


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This week is National FFA Week. (And for those who don’t know – that’s Future Farmers of America).

ffa_logo_99x126The celebration means a little more to us this year. You see, my niece, Jessie, was very active in FFA all through high school and she is continuing to be active in her collegiate FFA chapter.

Thinking about FFA Week – about the future of our young farmers – drew my thoughts around to the farmers of yesterday.

One of the most hard-working farmers I’ve ever met also happens to be my dad.


He came from a long line of farmers. In his high school yearbook under the line that asked what he planned to be, he simply listed a farmer.

And it’s what he did.

dad on combine

He and my mother married young, moved away from their families, and worked on a variety of farms and ranches until they saved enough money to buy their own farm.

They lived on that land for fifty-one years.

Daddy worked hard and expected all of us to give our best as well. He was most often up long before the first rays of sunshine would streak the morning sky and could be found out laboring until there was no longer any daylight to work by.

In the summers, if I wanted to spend time with my dad, I went with him to irrigate. I accompanied him many times in his semi-truck when he’d deliver a load of hay (the sleeper in the cab was a perfect place for my baby dolls to ride.) There was a time when all the guys at the parts counter at the John Deere dealer probably knew me by name because I would ride along with dad to go on a parts run. He always bought an icy cold glass bottle of Coca Cola from the vending machine and we’d share it while we waited for his parts order to be filled.

My mother thinks Daddy was one of the few farmers who had a four-year-old in pigtails asleep on a pink blanket at his feet  while he swathed hay. I think he was probably one of many who spent time with their kids anyway they could, even if it meant having them underfoot while they swathed, baled, or combined. As I got older, I went from just tagging along to having chores to do, and then taking on more responsibility and work.

My dad didn’t just want to be a farmer, he needed to be a farmer. He loved farming, loved the land and loved his family – and to him they were all intermingled and entwined. Farming was as essential to him as air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. It was never a job to him. It was a way of life. His life – and all he ever wanted to do or be.



What I learned growing up on a farm, besides how to precisely set irrigation tubes of all sizes, move sprinkler hand lines, and buck hay bales, was responsibility, loyalty, and perseverance. If things aren’t going just like you want, you don’t quit and walk away. My dad taught me that you figure out how to make it work. I learned all about multi-tasking, time management, and organizational skills by watching and working with my dad.

Lessons learned while I was working on the farm are ones you can’t find in a classroom, you can’t glean them from a Google search, and you can’t duplicate them without the experience that goes along with the lessons. Daddy taught me by example. By watching him, day after day, pour his all into what he loved, I learned so many life lessons that have served me well over the years.When people call me tenacious, I smile, because I learned it from my dad.


For those of you who may not have seen a Ram commercial that aired a few years ago during the Super Bowl, I encourage you to watch it. It is a tribute to farmers – past, present and future.



When you do watch it, notice the farmer’s hands that are worn and with broken, split nails. Those hands look exactly how I remember my dad’s hands always looking. Always. His hands were rough and callused, weathered and worn. Most often there was grease staining his skin, soil embedded under his nails (the ones that weren’t broken or missing), and at least one knuckle would be scraped raw. As rough as those hands were, they were such a comfort to grab onto when I was a child and needed a little reassurance. A farmer’s hands seem to have the magical qualities of being able to pull a calf, repair a piece of equipment, and gently wipe away the tears of a little girl all within a morning’s work.


Being a farmer in today’s world is no easy thing. People have forgotten how hard a farmer toils, how much he brings to the table both figuratively and literally.  Farmers and ranchers, to me, are the ties that bind us to something infinitely precious that so often goes unacknowledged and unappreciated.

The next time you pour a glass of milk from the carton in your fridge, eat a piece of meat, crack open an egg, butter a slice of bread, or enjoy a juicy piece of fruit, stop for a minute and say thank you to the farmer who made it possible.

And if you have the opportunity to encourage our farmers of tomorrow, please let them know you appreciate them and support their dreams.


So God Made A Farmer – by Paul Harvey

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.” So God made a farmer.

It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.

“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.’” So God made a farmer.

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The Book Fairy


This sweet little book fairy resides in one of my flower gardens.

Despite the snow, she hasn’t given up her love of reading. On cold winter days, when she’s dusted with snow, I look out my window and imagine what adventuresome story has her so enthralled she doesn’t even notice the chilly weather.

What book do you think she’s reading?

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An Unexpected Blessing


Back at the end of September, something wonderful happened…

Our niece Jessie came to live with us.

She started attending college about 45 minutes from where we live but the housing she had lined up didn’t pan out. She called us about a week after school started and asked if she could stay with us.

Although I was super excited about having her come, I felt completely and utterly unprepared to have a teen move in. Captain Cavedweller and I went from never having a child in our house to having one who’d just turned 18 and only had her driver’s license two weeks!

One of the first things we did after Jessie moved in, was sit down together and go over expectations – what she could expect from us and what we expected from her.

What I never anticipated, what came as such a welcome surprise, is what an unexpected blessing this beautiful, smart, completely awesome girl has been to us.

She is such a sweetheart, so thoughtful (she calls to let us know when she’s heading home, if her plans changed, if she’s running late), and so fun. I find myself  awaiting her return each evening, eager to hear all about her adventures of the day.

I also find myself making lunches, worrying if she’s eating healthy when she skips dinner with us,  and if she has enough gas money. The night she had to drive home late in a bad fog, I sat watching the clock from the moment she called to say she was on her way until I thought she should be home. Ten minutes past the time she should have arrived, I started getting really anxious. When she was twenty minutes late, I started putting on my shoes so Captain Cavedweller and I could go find her. Before we could leave,  she walked in the door, relieved to be home after taking a wrong turn in the fog and having to backtrack.

When the day comes that Jessie is ready to make other housing arrangements, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a blubbering mess.


In such a short time, this girl who has always held a huge place in our hearts, now has a big place in our home. A place we both are so happy and blessed to share with her.


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