Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Tree Hunting: Part 1

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the pasture.

Due to needing my Christmas photo background early, we went tree hunting this month-November. With indoor trees, this is a big no-no, but since we will keep this tree outside of the RV, it will be perfectly fine and not pose a fire risk as it dries out.

My honey drove us up along Oak Creek Road in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Ready with our tree tag and saw in hand and mud boots on feet, we settled in to search for the perfect tree.

Before we hit the area where we could cut a tree, I noticed two big red blobs out in a meadow. Judging by the size, deer. Skinless and headless, left to rot. Ugh. Poachers. While I don’t personally hunt for meat, I understand some people enjoy the outdoor activity. In our state, hunters draw tags and their hunting helps control the numbers of herds roaming the forests. But to leave two carcasses and not use the meat was totally irresponsible. Grrrr.

On the way up the mostly deserted road, we saw a trail of smoke. From an untended campfire. Hoping that hunters or hikers were just out of view, we continued on our way, though I was fuming, because despite drenching rain, the fire was still smoldering. And we are just out of a horrific forest fire disaster of a summer. Even with the rain, fire is still a problem!

After 8.5 miles of rutted dirt roads and several “That one’s pretty good,” we finally found our tree. Though I tried to get Kevin to cut me a HUGE tree (heh-heh, wouldn’t that be funny, trying to drive down the road with a tree hanging off both ends of the truck?), we had to settle for a much shorter one. Cue the Christmas Vacation music.

We secured the sweet-smelling tree and headed back down the road. The fire was still going! Mr. Firefighter to the rescue. He literally got his hands dirty (the shovel was buried beneath the tree) to make sure it was dead. Good job, honey!

And much further down the road, we drove around a bend and startled a huge gathering of carrion birds! At least three bald eagles, numerous turkey buzzards, and magpies. All of them were enjoying the feast of deer meat. Whew. Nothing goes to waste in the wild, right? They were quite happy to take care of the deer carcasses. I imagine at night other predators would be drawn in-coyotes or wild cats.

A forest full of adventures. Here she is, our beautiful tree!


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Book Report: THE BOY WHO GREW DRAGONS by Andy Shepherd #BeeAReader

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The Boy Who Grew Dragons

Written by Andy Shepherd

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Yellow Jacket, An Imprint of Little Bee Books; 2020

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Thank you, Yellow Jacket Books, for this review Advanced Reader’s Copy of The Boy Who Grew Dragons. I’m happy to announce that I totally enjoyed reading this middle grade novel.

Honestly, I can’t say enough about this fun read. Dragons with explosive poop, an unsuspecting boy and his friends, an interesting gardening experience, trouble with neighbors, and adventures galore provided a very entertaining read of The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

Why I Love This Book:

~ Dragons! Tiny dragons who bond with humans, drop explosive poop, and get into trouble. Books with imagination always catch my attention.

~ A mysterious tree in the garden grows funny (weird) fruit. Dragon fruit tree? Is there not a real life fruit called dragon fruit? Does that fruit also grow dragons? I digress.

~ Tomas is a believable, interesting main character. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the not-so-nice neighbor.

~ The cover and internal illustrations are fantastic and perfectly compliment the story. Yes, this middle grade novel is illustrated with funny, clever, and enticing artwork.

~ Great writing and engaging story

 

I think young readers will devour The Boy Who Grew Dragons.

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Yellow Jacket Blurb:

This hilarious middle-grade novel with illustrations throughout sees Tomas discover that he can grow dragons in his own garden!

When Tomas discovers a strange old tree at the bottom of his grandfather’s garden, he doesn’t think much of it. But he takes the funny fruit from the tree back into the house and gets the shock of his life when a tiny dragon hatches! The tree is a dragon fruit tree, and Tomas now has his very own dragon, Flicker!

While Tomas finds out that life with Flicker is fun, he also finds that it is very…unpredictable. Yes, dragons are wonderful, but they also set fire to your toothbrush and leave your underwear hanging from the TV antenna. Tomas has to learn how to look after Flicker—and quickly! And then something extraordinary happens: More dragon fruits appear on the tree! Now it’s official, Tomas is growing dragons.

 

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Book Report: Oh, The Places You’ve Been by Ben Everard & INTERVIEW

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Oh, The Places You’ve Been

Written by Ben Everard with Mary Everard

Illustrated by Andrea Alemanno

Mascot Books; BOOK BIRTHDAY on February 4, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday to Oh, The Places You’ve Been! (February 4, 2020)

Thank you, Mascot Books, for this review copy of Oh, The Places You’ve Been.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who will stoop to pick up a forgotten coin, no matter the value. Pennies seem to be the most popular coins to leave behind, most likely due to the low value. BUT only 99 more, and I will have a dollar.

The appearance of these dropped or discarded pennies does make one wonder. How did it get here? Why does it look like this? Where has it traveled?

Oh, The Places You’ve Been is told from the viewpoint of a lost penny. With great imagination, the penny tells a young girl about many of the places it has traveled, rested, stayed, and escaped. This story is told in rhyme.

BE SURE to READ all the way to the bottom for an INTERVIEW with Ben Everard.

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What I Liked About This Book:

~ the imagination! I love considering where my coins have been.

~ the periods at the end of the sentences are tiny pennies! Very cute.

~ the story of the coin. I mean, if only we could have all of the same experiences, life would be grand.

~ the illustrations are mostly at the eye level of the penny

~ this story is told from the viewpoint of a penny. Now that is unique and fun!

~ lovely colors and a variety of illustrations

~ the ending page asks the reader to consider “Where has your penny been?” I love thinking about this. Great job!

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Amazon Blurb:

Where has your penny been? Oh, the Places You’ve Been is a delightful picture book following the life of a small penny. From city sidewalks to snowy mountaintops, fields full of fireflies and all the way to the Moon, a young girl learns this little coin has traveled far and wide to end up in her pocket. But how can something so small have traveled so far? This playful rhyming tribute to Dr. Seuss explores how even small, long-forgotten things have amazing stories to tell.

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Welcome, Ben Everard! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, went to college at the University of Miami, then attended law school at The George Washington University Law School.  I met my wife, Mary, in college and we were married right after I graduated law school.  I began my career as an attorney at Quinn Emanuel in Los Angeles.  After three years as a corporate litigator, I left the active practice of law to pursue a path producing films.  I’ve been very fortunate to work on a few wonderful films, including LIGHTS OUT and THE LAUNDROMAT.  Currently we are filming an upcoming movie called YES DAY with Jennifer Garner, which will be a Netflix original film.  We are very excited by it!  I have three beautiful children and live in Manhattan Beach, CA.
That’s exciting, Ben!
What was your inspiration for Oh, The Place You’ve Been?
Oh, The Places You’ve Been is inspired by a number of things.  I have to give credit to my Grandmother, who taught me at a young age that finding a penny off the ground should be interpreted as someone you’ve lost in your life saying hello to you.  Obviously it’s not a literal interpretation, but a metaphor that I think highly of. Because of that lesson, I’ve always picked pennies off the ground when I see them.  I remember finding a penny that was from the 1940s one time, and it made me pause and think of all the places that penny must have been in its existence.  Once I had children, I started reading children’s books regularly.  I love the classics – Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go is the first book I read to each of my children.  And while I am a big fan of quality children’s books, I certainly came across a large number that I didn’t think had a great message and felt like noise more than anything else.  Instead of complaining about that, I set out to see if I could do one myself.  Whether or not I’ve succeeded others will decide, but it certainly was a more lengthy and complicated process than one might think.  I also did it in part as a lesson to my children – if you set your mind on a goal or objective, work hard at it until you accomplish it.  I was rejected by MANY publishers, but the book exists.  Failure is a part of the journey.
That’s neat that your grandmother inspired this book. I totally agree with you about picking up pennies.
What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?
Hard work, editing, more editing, soliciting feedback, then rejection, rejection, rejection, and finally publication.  It took well over a year.
Rejection. It’s a part of the process. You just have to keep going forward. And you did!
What special plans do you have to celebrate the birthday of Oh, The Places You’ve Been? (February 4, 2020)
I’d be thrilled to hear that a child or two enjoys the books.
That would be great news!
Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
YES DAY, our upcoming movie, comes from a children’s book by Amy Krause Rosenthal.  I hope it helps bring more picture books to the big screen.
I’m very excited to hear this! Fantastic news!
Thank you, Ben, for visiting with us. Congratulations and best wishes with Oh The Places You’ve Been and YES DAY.
You can find Ben at Instagram.com.
You can find Oh The Places You’ve Been at:


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Motorcycle Monday: First Ride of the Year

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For us, motorcycle adventures take place in two seasons: spring and fall.

Occasionally, like yesterday, the blue skies call us despite snow-laden hills and fields and cool temps. Technically, it is still winter. So we started early this year! Most years we can squeak in a ride in February as long as we are well covered with warm layers and roads are clear.

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We are kind of like Baby Bear in The Three Bears. We need the weather to be not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The best time for us to ride is spring – not too cold, not too hot. And fall – not too cold, not too hot. Winter? Snow, ice, frigid temps. Summer? Sun and sweltering heat.

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It could be perfectly fine outside for wearing shorts and tank tops. But we prefer to cover up when riding to protect our skin from bugs, sun burn, heat, road rash (if we crashed). Plus the helmet, oh the insulator of heat it is, keeps us nice and sweaty. Unless we are moving down the road and creating our own breeze, it is hot beneath the blazing sun. Stop lights are my least favorite!

In winter, it goes without saying. If four tires play slip and slide over mogul-like roads, imagine two tires. That’s a motorcycle recipe for disaster!

Yesterday we grabbed the perfect opportunity to take a short test run. Glorious blue skies, blinding white hills, brisk air. And quite a few others who succumbed to motorcycle fever! Just enough right to whet our motorcycle thirst for adventure.

Our trip was a short loop out Ahtanum Road, going right on Slavin, and then right on Cottonwood Canyon, which lead us back towards home. Lots of folk out cleaning up and enjoying sun and blue skies.

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Welcome spring!

How do you welcome spring? What are your favorite things to do in spring?


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Throwback Thursday: The Suitcase

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I know we had this exact set of luggage.

Fingerhut, the mail order catalog, lured us into purchasing the complete set. Travel was at the top of my list, and we needed luggage. My family enjoyed many happy vacations and travel adventures using these beauties.

But this set was not my first foray into luggage acquisition. Years earlier, for graduation, I had requested luggage. You can tell something about a person by the choices she makes. Travel and adventure is high on my list, as evidenced by repeated attempts to procure baggage (of the traveling sort). Though I’ve got suitcases full of the other baggage, for free.

The original set of luggage, oh my. Ugly as dog poo. Make that baby poo, because it was the same awful orange-yellow-mustardy color. Naugahyde and built to last. Only it didn’t last as long as our many years of trips and is now lost in dump land. Or perhaps it is making the rounds through different thrift stores, living in the garages of other bright-eyed wanderlust humans.

What gifts or purchases have you made in the past that reflect who you are?

 


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40 Years of Labor Days

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A 40 year friendship! You can see Crystal Lake but not Mt. Rainier, which is glowing in the background. Selfies are not my strong suit…

We first met 40 years ago today, Labor Day, at the Wapato Harvest Festival parade.

Newly arrived from Arizona, I didn’t know many people. He had lived in Wapato for nearly all his life. We came face to face in front of the pastor’s house on the “Ave” where church members and assorted tag-a-longs gathered to watch the parade before heading to the city park for rides, games, and food.

Tall, thin, curly-haired; my impression was of a ‘cool’ guy who couldn’t be bothered to chat with a short, sun-kissed non-native. By his report, he was cool but thought I was the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen.

We made slow progress at first. His mom suggested he take me to the homecoming dance. “Nope.” So I went with my cousin from Seattle who was immediately the hottie everybody wanted.

Come spring, our relationship was growing in earnest and we became a couple. At least for a few months. Then I took a year off during our junior year. But like bees to honey, we were back together for senior year.

Off I went to Western Washington University, with the claim that, “If we can survive 4 years apart for college, we can survive anything.” My guy burned the road up between Wapato and Bellingham (4 1/2 hour drive one way), coming to see me every other weekend. Sometimes I traveled back home but then he had to share me with everyone. Back before cell phones and computers (I KNOW! Gasp!) we had a code phone call ring. To avoid the charges of our dorm phone, he would call, let it ring twice, then hang up. That was our good-night check-in. We did talk on the phone, but not much. We spent much of our time writing letters back and forth. Boxes of notes, cards, and creative tomes of love…if I had spent that much time studying…

In June of 1985, we became Mr. and Mrs. This was just a new beginning to our life of adventure, starting right off by driving to So Cal and Disneyland (giving our parents a heart-attack). Our honeymoon was the first of many on-the-road journeys Mr. and Mrs. enjoyed and plan to enjoy.

Two babies, five grandchildren, furry pets, revolving jobs, and numerous trips, houses, and escapades, we are still best friends and more in love each day. Sure there have been struggles and explosive moments, but we’ve stayed committed to each other. It’s wonderful to have a best friend and partner standing beside you on the journey, one who knows all your faults and fears and how you look in the morning (or after childbirth or surgery or the stomach flu) and who still loves you and takes you on dates and hiking in the mountains and on motorcycle rides and finishes your sentences or phrases cloned from favorite movies.

40 years of labor (of a different sort) and here we are today. Best friends, lovers, partners in crime. God knew what He was doing when He hooked us up. And we’ve kept Him busy taking care of us ever since.

To my best friend.

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Talk to Me Tuesday: Is RV Living Genetic?

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The Wheetley sisters had a weekend get-together a few weeks ago, hosted by my cousin and me. Ranging from 73 to 90, the four siblings are getting to the age where each trip just might be the last.

But persist, we did. Now I’m not going to mention age-related issues, but let’s just toss out a few things to consider if you are planning a cabin-in-the-woods adventure for the mature crowd.

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Steps. There will be steps. Unfortunately our cabin had NO handrails for the stairs climbing to the deck and front door. Gorgeous building, plenty of room, majestic pine trees, amusing chipmunks (squirrels? we could never decide) living in the roof of the cabin next door. But NO handrails.

The rule of thumb became: No one goes UP or DOWN the stairs unless Melissa or Angie is offering arm support (and perhaps humming the bridal march). I won’t mention names, but one of us did not follow the rules. And fell down the stairs. So there is that to consider.

Stubborn independence. We Wheetley’s are an independent lot. I think this character trait strengthens with age. Maybe even quadruples. Just be forewarned.

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Food. The two of us planned excellent meals, if I don’t say so myself. But we planned way TOO much. I went to the cabin with an ice chest full of food. I came home with an ice chest full of food. Not the same food, but most of the leftovers. I think smaller meals and lots of tasty snacks (zucchini bread, blueberries, fudge, fresh fruit, and cheese seemed to be the favorites). Keep that in mind. And always ALWAYS check the lid on new fresh pepper grinders before adding pepper to a pan of quiche that’s ready to go in the oven. Ah-hem.

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Hot tub. We enjoyed the in-deck hot tub surrounded by towering trees and blue skies. And neighbors going to and fro on the nearby road, but who’s worried about an audience? The STEPS rule came into play at the hot tub, with the added element of danger due to the slippery water. I’m convinced we could have videotaped us trying to maneuver all of us into and out of the water and won big money on American’s Funniest Home Videos. But the only one who fell in was Melissa, I mean, a younger person who was in charge of keeping everybody else safe.

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Games. Puzzles. Crafts. Oh, my! Surprisingly, these were not the hit. Socializing, grazing, and sipping before meal drinks were the favored activities. Three of us enjoyed working two puzzles. I colored in an adult coloring book (and later turned that paper into stamped cards, thank you very much). So I wouldn’t worry too much about planning extra activities. Family stories and funny incidents made up most of our adventure. And toting along a few chick flicks is a good idea. We enjoyed movies after dinner.

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Giggling. This will happen. At any time of day or night. And certain somebody’s might sneak into the sisters’ bed to warm up and giggle some more. Can we say adorable?

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We did make 2 short outings. One day we hit the thrift store and fudge shop, bringing back probably 2 million calories in a variety of fudgy flavors. A different day we took a drive to see the lake. No getting out, just a scenic tour.

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Where does the RV genetic link come in? My husband and I have been living in an RV two years this month. This is temporary (I hope) as we figure out the building a small home process, but still, we are living in an RV. During our many trips down memory lane, I realized that three of the four sisters spent at least two years living in RVs! Let me say that in no way have I ever wanted to live long-term in an RV, yet here I am. Genetically predisposed? Or environmentally influenced?

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Either way, I love my Wheetleys, whether it’s their fault I’m in the RV or not. Wink, wink. And we had a great time and made new memories.

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SURVEY TIME: Are there any other Wheetleys who live (or lived) in an RV? How about the Hill side of the family?

 


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Don’t Need to Go Camping

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Funny how life choices change your thinking.

While on a motorcycle ride over Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I saw numerous (read: hundreds) of campers heading to the mountains and other recreational locations around the northwest. Roads were more crowded than usual, grocery stores were packed with shoppers filling up ice chests and RV refrigerators, and every campground we passed had RVs and tents slotted side by side.

I’m not sure how much fun all of those cozy camp sites were, but I was not interested in the slightest.

BECAUSE. We are camping. All. The. Time.

We live in our RV. Not permanently (please, God, not permanently), but while we research, plan, and build our small home.

Our family used to love camping at the beach. We’d use the old Prowler, load it with supplies, and drive five hours to our favorite beach locations in Ocean Shores. Those were the good old days. Dog, kids, junk food, sand, toys, rain, shells, campfires, …

Now?

No. Since we are camping 365 days a year, give or take an overnight visit with family or friends, hooking up the RV in which we stay all the time and heading to a different place to stay in the same RV does not sound appealing.

Plus. We LIVE in the RV. Full-time. There are many extra things in our RV that do not relate to travel and camping. And as we are not retired, we can’t hit the road for months at a time.

For now, we shall enjoy motorcycle trips and staying at hotels (which include HUGE showers and sometimes even bathtubs). After we move into our future home, we’ll strip the RV clean and load it up with camping supplies.

Then we will need to go camping.

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One Year in RV: Survival!

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August 20 was our one year anniversary of moving into the RV. And guess what? We made it!

I haven’t taken him (my honey) out, though I’ve sent him out when I need to clean (or write, cook, organize, read . . .).

He still loves me even if the heat factor in an RV – during summer – is higher than my happy tolerance level.

He survived record-breaking snowfall and freezing winter temps regardless of how close I came to helping him build his own snow igloo far far from the RV.

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I managed not to throw out the superfluous (not for him) heating items – throw, bed blanket, heat lamps, floor heater – and we were both able to speak in civil tones. Most of the time.

Long-time RV living is not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the adventurous!

Let’s pretend you just arrived for a fancy cooked-mostly-by-BBQ meal. We’ll fill you in on some observations and interesting events that came about from our inaugural RV year.

– It is possible! One can live without piles of stuff – and survive!

– Storage? Premium. If we don’t use it, it has to go. To storage, to someone, to the thrift store…

– Less is more. Truly. The less we have inside the RV, the more space we have to move about.

– Cooking is a bit tricky. Too hot in the summer for the stove. Very humid in the winter.

– Humidity is an issue. One chore I never dreamed of having? Wiping down windows on a daily basis.

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– Electrical circuits can and will be blown. Until you figure out which items can be used at the same time.

– The electric skillet will most likely blow the fuse if anything else is plugged in and going. Anything.

– Do not use the skillet and the AC at the same time.

– Splurge on the skirting. We only experienced one tiny freeze in a waterline. That’s saying something when we were below zero several times and hovered in the frozen zone for months.

– Cats. Litter. Fur. Toys. Cat tree. A bit crowded. Now that they are free to roam, we are all much happier. The catio is disassembled.

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– Mice. Peek before letting cats back inside. Trust me on this.

– Company. Things will be different when guests arrive. Say, for instance, seating. Or standing. Finding room to maneuver. But that’s what makes entertaining exciting.

– Breezes in the bedroom. This is awesome. Open both windows and the wind just blows across our bed. As does dust, smoke from fires, and stinky skunk fragrance, but still!

– My office. A drawer. Half the dinette bench plus the table. That’s it. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I yearn for a bigger creative area.

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– All of outdoors. Right here.

– We have everything we need. Running water, electricity, internet, laundry facilities, bathroom, bed, fridge, grands in and out.

– Our home moves. We can hitch it up anytime we want and hit the road.

I’d say our inaugural year was pretty successful. So you’ve seen me wear the same clothes over and over again. I am dressed, right?

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Happy RV anniversary to us! Come on by, we’ll cozy up and share a seat. Maybe even throw in a meal or tour of the facilities. Feeling up to the challenge? Either the visit or the RV living? Love to hear about it.

 

 


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The Stack (Paper): Throwback Thursday

Originally blogged on 12-9-2015, this post gives you a glimpse into the life of a writer. Sheer amounts of paper, paper clips, organization, unfinished housework, and crazy messy office.

Meet the completed project.

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And . . .

I miss my huge office! Writing in an RV is challenging, inventive, exciting, and sometimes inspiring. Oh, desk in the storage unit, I’d love to be able to snap my fingers and pop you back and forth to the RV – as needed.

The completed manuscript with sources, sketches, and documents ; Rather, I should say 1/2 of the completed project

(Read below from 12-9-2015)

This is what I’ve been up to. Instead of blogging.

There is not much time left in my days (weeks, months) after planning, writing, editing, printing, sourcing, compiling, emailing, packaging, and mailing this baby.

Oh, yes. This is my baby. The first half of a 12-month activity book for preschoolers and missions has been delivered (emailed and mailed) to my faithful preschool resource team at Woman’s Missionary Union.

The completed manuscript package and its twin – the emergency copy that can be mailed if the PO loses the original

Now they get to do their huge part.

And I will continue on with the above steps for the second half of the book.

The writing life is grand.   

A glimpse of the chaos that is my office, including desk, side table, and floor