Before my son graduated from Texas A&M University and entered the Air Force, I took our freedom for granted. Since then articles on the plight of veterans hold a new meaning. My son was deployed twice but he is one of the lucky ones. He escaped any lasting trauma. Other veterans haven’t been as fortunate, because you know what? Freedom isn’t free.
For most of us, the Fourth of July means food, family, fireworks and fun. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. For those veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and some estimates say this is as many as one half million vets, this holiday is difficult. For them, fireworks sound like artillery and throw them back on the battlefield amid the death and destruction of war.
Some veterans have placed signs in their yards saying, “Combat veteran lives here. Please be courteous with fireworks.” They hope this will increase awareness and encourage discussions about PTSD. If you plan to shoot off fireworks tonight, please give any veterans living nearby a heads up. This allows them to prepare to deal with their possible reactions and keeps them from being caught unaware.
We owe these men and woman because of the cost they’ve paid for our freedom. We owe them whatever help we can offer. That brings up the question, what helps veterans deal with PTSD or the other issues plaguing them after serving our country? In doing research? I’ve discovered two agencies who work tirelessly to change veterans’ lives for the better.
While researching my current book, the third in my Wishing Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, I visited Patriot Paws in Rockwall, Texas. This agency provides service dogs to veterans with physical disabilities or PTSD. Service dogs can perform tasks a disabled vet is unable to or provide emotional support. Either way, they help veterans regain control of their lives. Unfortunately, agencies such as Patriot Paws are too few and the wait lists too long. Veterans often wait YEARS to receive their service dog. For more information on go to http://www.patriotpaws.org.
Another wonderful agency helping veterans is Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship south of downtown Dallas. I discovered this wonderful organization when doing research for Roping the Rancher. My hero turned his horse ranch into a similar organization when he left the military. Like numerous veterans, he struggled to find a purpose with meaning after returning to civilian life. Equest’s program,
Hooves For Heroes, does amazing work helping veterans struggling with the lack of purpose issue, as well as, depression and PTSD. For more information go to http://www.equest.org.
No matter what your plans today, I wish everyone a safe and fun Fourth of July. But please take time to remember those veterans whose lives have been impacted serving our country. Some of them and their families have paid a very high price because Freedom isn’t free.
Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Roping the Rancher.
It’s Wednesday, which is always a nice day to mark the half-way point through the work week. It also happens to be Ash Wednesday.
The big event today that most people are celebrating, though, is Valentine’s Day.
A day full of romance and roses, candy hearts and sweethearts.
And of all the quotes about Valentine’s Day, my favorite is this:
“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day.
When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind
is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.”
Today also happens to be my home state’s birthday.
On February 14, 1859, Oregon was officially admitted to the union as a state.
Oregon’s story started with Spanish and French exploration in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the early 1800s, Oregon was mapped by the Lewis and Clark expedition in their search for the Northwest Passage, opening a route for further exploration.
Merchants, traders and trappers were among the first people to forge a path across the Continental Divide on their way to Oregon territory. Missionaries are credited, through, with blazing the Oregon Trail. The first missionary group made their way west in the early 1830s.
Between 1840 and 1860, thousands of pioneers made the grueling overland trek of more than 2,000 miles. The U.S. began joint settlement of the area with the United Kingdom. In 1846, the border between U.S. and British territory was formally established at the 49th parallel. The part of the territory that was given to Britain would ultimately become part of Canada.
More than 50,000 people called Oregon home by 1857. Only white men were allowed to vote and they petitioned for statehood. The U.S. Senate began to consider Oregon statehood in May 1858 amid a split of the Democratic Party over slavery and ongoing controversy over admitting Kansas to the union. Oregon’s bid added complications to the ongoing debate. Southerners, such as Senator Jefferson Davis, opposed the admission of any more northern states, concerned about keeping a political balance. Others looked at specific issues such as the valid question of whether Oregon had a large enough population to qualify for statehood.
The final vote on the Oregon admission bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was delayed until February 1859, after languishing in the committee on territories for over six months. When votes were tallied on Feb. 12, they showed a narrow 114 to 103 victory for statehood. Two days later the president signed the bill and Oregon officially became the 33rd state in the union.
Here are some State of Oregon facts:
Date of Statehood: February 14, 1859
Population: 4,093,000 (2016 census)
Size: 98,379 square miles
Nickname: Beaver State
Motto: She Flies With Her Own Wings
Tree: Douglas Fir
Flower: Oregon Grape
Bird: Western Meadowlark
Some other fun details about the state include the fact there is no state sales tax. Oregon is the 10th largest state in the union (land wise) and is bordered by Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and the Pacific Ocean.
The state of Oregon offers great diversity in the landscapes. From the rugged coast and lush green forests on the west side of the state to the high desert and rolling hills of wheat on the east, Oregon offers an example of nearly every geographic terrain on the planet within its borders.
*Oregon is home to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States.
*You’ll also find Hells Canyon in the northeast corner of the state, the deepest river-carved gorge in North America. At 7,913 feet, it’s deeper than the Grand Canyon.
*The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is one of the richest fossil sites in the world.
*The largest concentration of wintering bald eagles can be found in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
*The highest elevation point is Mt. Hood at 11,239 feet.
*There are more than 6,000 lakes and 112,000 miles of rivers and streams.
*Nearly half of Oregon’s total land area is forested – close to 30 million acres.
History and Heritage
Although Oregon’s history may seem relatively new compared to other parts of the country, it has 14 National Historic Districts and four National Historic Trails, including the Oregon Trail (with ruts still visible in some areas).
*The first scenic highway in the U.S. (and also a historical landmark) is the Historic Columbia River Highway.
*Nine historic lighthouses and one light ship dot the Oregon Coast.
Last month I wrote about how doing less could make for a better holiday. I truly believe that, but this year I pushed the cutting back on the holiday production to the limits.
It was one of those years when my dear hubby and I couldn’t get our act together. It started with our tree, but continued all the way through New Year’s Day. Normally, we decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving, but this year everyone had other activities. Hubby and I kept saying we’d get it done, but three days before Christmas, there we were, still without a tree. While we did put one up and had lights, we never did put on the ornaments. But you know what? To paraphrase Dr. Seuss and my husband, “Christmas was just fine.”
I’ve spent years working to overcome my perfectionist nature. In the past I became upset when little things went wrong or didn’t get done because I felt everything had to be perfect. I missed opportunities to be present in the moment because I believed I had to be perfect.
This year I realized I do write what I know. My characters, especially my heroines, often struggle with trying to please everyone. They wrestle with the idea that their self-worth is tied to their accomplishments and others’ approval. They’re trying to be perfect. Those characters learn the journey can be as important as the destination.
Over the years while I’ve learned that lesson, I do backslide. (I felt guilty about cutting so many holiday corners, but not too guilty.) So, I’ve decided this year I’m making changes regarding New Year’s resolutions. My BFF Lori quotes a blog written by Jen Hatmaker on January 5, 2015 entitled “The Thing About Being More Awesome.” (If you want to read the blog go to http://www.Jenhatmaker.com.) She claims many resolutions set us up for failure and revolve around trying to be “more awesome.” We think we need to be the best author, mother, friend, spouse, and the list goes on. She insists, “The finish line to this particular rat race is THE GRAVE.” Lori and I joke about making a sign with the resolution Try To Be Less Awesome. Translation—quit trying to be perfect. So that’s what I’m going to do in 2018.
The best I can do is good enough, and I’m going to celebrate it. I’m giving myself permission to say yes to what gives me joy, no to what doesn’t, and to feel less guilty about both. Life is too short to live it any other way.
When my perfectionist starts nagging me, I plan to tell myself to quit trying to be more awesome. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about what helps you when you find yourself trying to do too much, and be entered for a chance to win the ornament and a Leather and Lace scented candle from my favorite shop Rustic Ranch!
Here’s hoping you all had a wonderful Christmas, filled with beauty, gifts and all things good.
Of course, during the Christmas season, there’s the rush to get everything done — all the food shopping done, gifts bought and wrapped, cookies made, pies made, cakes made and decorated, rush…rush…rush…
But once we’ve settled down a bit, gifts having been bought, everything wrapped, food prepared, and the magical day having come when those special people open their presents, it’s time to sit back, and look at this season with kind eyes, because at the heart of the season is real beauty. When I did so, I began to think about how different it was in the American Indian’s way of life. The ideas of gift giving were so different from today’s, that I thought I might take a moment to share my reflections with you.
In the days of old, before the white man came to this country and influenced the American Indian into other traditions, giving gifts to others was a point of survival. No chief could become chief who did not give to the needy and the less well to do. Often the chief of the tribe was the poorest person in their society because he gave away almost all that he had to the needy. However, contrary to the more modern point of view, this was not a Socialist system, nor a pure socialism, because the giving was never regulated and never mandatory, and one knew exactly who was receiving the gift. In those old days, only the strong, the wise and the kindhearted could be counted on to give, and it was considered one of the most aspired-to attributes.
Actually, it requires a bit of mind change to grasp the American Indian idea of giving. If a man attained a higher state or did some great deed, he was not given something by the tribe, but rather, he gave gifts to others. If a woman attained some desired state (a young girl attaining puberty for instance — or an older woman being praised for her handicraft) she and her relatives worked night and day to give gifts to others. An example of this might be this: Say it is your birthday, but instead of you getting gifts on your birthday, you and your relatives would work for months and months in order to have a feast, where one would give to the community in celebration of something one attained (the birthday). This was considered the highest honor one might place upon a family member.
This tradition is still carried on in Native America today. When a family wishes to distinguish one of its own, members of the family will work for many months (sometimes years) to produce goods, not for oneself, but to give away to others — in honor of the family member. In this manner, we have an example of giving something that cannot be measured in terms of finance. The gift of caring, the gift of giving of oneself and one’s time for another.
These presents in Native America weren’t wrapped. Sometimes the offerings were simply in the form of food or clothing or blankets. Sometimes, in the case of a marriage or some other big event, items such as a tepee were donated to the cause (remember in the movie, Dances With Wolves and the tepee the star of the movie was given?) When one couldn’t give because one didn’t have the wherewithal to do so, that person might give away all that he had. In this way such articles were kept afloat in the society. Sometimes one bestowed the very best possession that he most treasured, especially so if there were a sickness in the family and one wanted to ensure their beloved family member recovery. Sometimes the donation was in the form of gifting a service to one’s people. Certain societies had stringent rules about bundles or other sacred items and most people didn’t wish to take the responsibility of seeing to the care of these items (such as becoming a bundle holder.) In this case the bequest would be in the form of the entire family taking on the responsibility, in order to preserve the spiritual traditions of the people.
This picture was taken at a give-away celebration that my friend, Patricia gave many years ago. Another aspect to the American Indian’s way of thinking, was that it was considered a great honor if one gave in such a way that the other person didn’t feel they had to return the favor. This happened to George Catlin in the 1830’s when a young warrior bestowed him with the diary that Catlin had lost. The giving was done in such a way that Catlin was unable to give-back, since he was embarking upon a ship.
There is yet another example of giving by the American Indian comes to us from the Iroquois. The Iroquois (which was composed of originally 5 tribes and eventually 6) had a system of government that was truly Of the people, For the people, and By the people. Men served and were never permitted to draw any kind of pay for serving — it was simply considered their duty and their way of helping the tribe. Such service is still in operation today.
I’d like to disagree with corporate America for a moment if I might. I think the most potent gifts are those that one cannot measure by physical means. When my kids were growing up, they used to give me coupons for Christmas — I still have them to this day — little chores they would do for me upon presentation of the coupon. I guess the point is that one can always give something of themselves to another.
And here’s the most beautiful gift of all — something that those who crave material wealth over all else will never understand nor will they ever receive this gift (though some might pretend an affection) — the gift of love — true love. No gold, no silver, can ever replace these gifts, since they have their roots in one’s heart and one’s nature.
And so, I would like to make this wish during this upcoming New Year’s season: That the reasons for war — and the profit received from war — will perish from this earth.
And with this thought in mind, I leave you with a YouTube video of a song performed by Keith Whitley (who I believe is one of the best country singers to every grace the stage).
And speaking of gifts, I’ll be giving away a free copy of the e-book THE LAST WARRIOR to some lucky blogger. (Our Give-away guidelines apply of course.) So come on in and tell me your ideas about giving. What are your thoughts now that the big day is two days behind us…
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was one I looked forward to with great anticipation each year during my childhood.
It wasn’t just the break from school that made the week fun (although I so enjoyed the freedom of not being at school or being plagued with mountains of homework).
If there was more than an inch of snow on the ground (which was typically the case on our Eastern Oregon farm), it meant unlimited outdoor entertainment. We went sledding off the hill right outside our back door, skating on the pond, snowmobiling across the sagebrush on the other side of the canal, and we even built snow forts a time or two.
Because my parents had a big house with ample room for parking, we almost always hosted Christmas for our extended family. My mom’s family and dad’s family took turns coming.
One year in particular I remember well because Mom’s family had all come for Christmas. We barely had a dusting of snow on the ground, so we spent most of the day inside with nothing to do but play with new toys, eat yummy food, and wish it would snow.
But then, in that magical week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, it snowed, and snowed. And then snowed some more. In an impromptu effort to wring every bit of fun we could from the holiday season, Daddy invited his family to come over for New Year’s Day.
Snowy fun, circa 1970-something. That’s my John Deere snowsuit in the back left side of the photo with the hood securely tied almost up to the nose.
Mom made a huge pot of chili and enough cinnamon rolls to feed a small army. My aunts provided salads and sides along with oodles of desserts. Family began arriving late morning and we spent the rest of the day sledding, skating, and having a wonderful time. The cold and darkness didn’t even put an end to our fun. After warming up with chili and hot chocolate, some of my hardier cousins trouped back outside to sled in the dark.
I’ll never forget that special New Year’s Day or how much fun we had.
Do you have any special New Year’s Day memories from your childhood
(or maybe from a holiday with your children?)
One lucky commenter will receive their choice of a digital copy of any one of my books.
Wishing you all a safe, peaceful, joyous New Year’s Day and a fabulous 2018!
Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! It’s that day of the year when kids can hardly contain their excitement, knowing that it’s only mere hours before Santa will make his way to their house (if they’ve been good) to eat cookies, drink milk and leave toys beneath the tree. I can remember my parents ushering my sister and me off to bed as soon as we saw Santa on the radar during the weather report on the 10 p.m. news. The Santa tale includes him making his way down the fireplace chimney, which brings me to how I began to question this whole Santa thing when I was a kid.
One, how could Santa come down a chimney in the middle of winter without burning himself? And what if you didn’t have a chimney that would accommodate a man of that size? This last question came up because we had a wood-burning stove when I was a kid. There was no way that Santa was fitting down a stove pipe, escaping the fire in the stove and magically squeezing himself out the stove’s door along with his unburned bag of toys. When challenged by my questions, my mom said he came in through the back door. Again, I wasn’t buying it. I knew for a fact that Mom locked that door and checked it multiple times in classic OCD fashion before she went to bed. There was no way she was leaving it unlocked.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that kids figure out the Santa fib even earlier these days. Between their friends and the Internet, it’d be hard to not figure out. But even when we’re older and no longer believe in the existence of an actual Santa Claus, we still love the story and what it symbolizes — the magic of the season as seen through the eyes of a child on Christmas morning.
When and how did you figure out that Santa wasn’t real? Were you disappointed?
From the Milburn family to yours, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I hope your 2018 is happy, healthy, fun and prosperous.
At age eight, I received a most meaningful gift. It was a big beautiful doll with blond hair and eyes that opened and closed. I had worked hard for that doll. To get on Santa’s “good” list, I cleaned my room and did my chores. Not wanting to leave anything to chance, I even did everyone else’s chores. When I opened the box Christmas morning and saw two big blue eyes staring back at me, I was elated. I felt as if I could make every dream come true if I wanted it bad enough and was willing to work for it.
At twelve, I received a most meaningful gift. It was an angora sweater. A year earlier, I had received toys for Christmas. “Graduating” to clothes was a big deal. I remember feeling so grown-up. That gift told me that others saw me that way, too.
At seventeen, I received a most meaningful gift. It was a heart-shaped necklace from my boyfriend. I believed at that moment that love would last forever. The chain snapped less than a week later, and we broke up soon after. That gift taught me that some things are meant to last for only a short time, and that we must enjoy them while we can.
In my twenties, I received a most meaningful gift. Our oldest son was born just before Christmas. It was a gift that both elated and humbled me. This baby—this beautiful gift from God—was solely dependent on me and I wanted so much to be the perfect mother. But as I walked the floor that Christmas day trying to comfort a colicky baby, I realized the futility of that goal. I soon learned that no child ever said that his or her mother was perfect, only that she was the best.
In my thirties, I received a most meaningful gift. The Christmas I most remember during that time was a bleak one. My husband’s company was on strike and we were down to our last fifty cents. As I filled our three children’s stockings with nuts and oranges, I dreaded the following morning when they would see how little Santa had left. Much to my surprise and delight, I never heard one of them complain. If anything, they seemed to be more appreciative of the few gifts they did receive. That was the year I learned that sometimes less is more.
I received the most meaningful gift during our saddest year. Our oldest son died a few months before Christmas and I couldn’t even bring myself to put up a tree. I cried most of that day and I don’t remember what presents I received, but I do remember one important gift. For it was that year that I learned that we’re stronger than we think we are, and though we lose so very much with the death of a love one, we can’t possibly count all the blessings that remain.
I don’t know what gifts are in store for me this Christmas, but I do know this: the gifts that touch our hearts are the ones that stay with us the longest.
Merry Christmas and may the gifts of love, peace and joy be yours.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I always get nostalgic when I take the Christmas decorations out. So many memories attached to various pieces. And while they all evoke fond thoughts of Christmas past, there are a few that are extra special to me.
The first is the little bubble light tree I’ve pictured below. I believe I’ve posted about this before, but one of my earliest Christmas memories is of raptly watching the dancing movement of these lights as this tree sat on the console table of my grandparents’ home.
The second one is our tree topper. This ornament that is a combination of angel, nativity and star has topped our tree for over 30 years. I can still hear my children vying for the chance to be the one to set it in its place of honor and the lively debates over who did it ‘last year’.
And the last ones I want to share with you are these. They are two of the few surviving ornaments from the very first set hubby and I bought our first Christmas after we got married. Our tree was rather bare that year, and several of the decorations were handmade, but I was so very proud of how it looked.
There are many more memories that the decorations bring to mind, but I’ll leave it there.
I want to wish each of you a very joyous and blessed Christmas – here is my Christmas card to you.
Christmas has always been such a beautiful, blessed, wonderful season to me.
A tradition that my mom taught me, one I still carry on, is to bake goodies, infused with love, and share with family and friends.
One year, I spent hours and hours making elaborately frosted sugar cookies. In particular, I recall a little rocking horse that I’d painstakingly decorated with tiny little reins and a saddle accented with mini holly and berries made of icing.
Then my dad and brothers came in for supper and made short work of my creations!
I still make sugar cookies (a recipe I spent years experimenting with until I got it just right), although I don’t spend hours decorating them like I used to.
I also love to make cinnamon rolls and share them with our neighbors when the rolls are warm from the oven and icing is melting into sweet pools all around them.
I have an overflowing recipe box with all the traditional sweets I typically make during the holidays.
But while I was researching details for my latest release, I found so many more recipes I’d love to try.
The heroine in the story is a Swedish baker. My goodness! I think I gained five pounds (or ten) just writing about all the delightful pastries and goodies she created in her bakery.
Born to an outlaw father and a shrewish mother, Fred Decker feels obligated to atone for the past without much hope for his future. If he possessed a lick of sense, he’d pack up and leave the town where he was born and raised, but something… someone… unknowingly holds him there. Captivated by Hardman’s beautiful baker, Fred fights the undeniable attraction. He buries himself in his work, refusing to let his heart dream.
Elsa Lindstrom adores the life she’s carved out for herself in a small Eastern Oregon town. She and her twin brother, Ethan, run their own bakery where she delights in creating delicious treats. Then Ethan comes home unexpectedly married, the drunks in town mistakenly identify her as a missing harlot, and a mishap in the bakery leaves her at the mercy of the most gossiped-about man in Hardman.
Mix in the arrival of three fairy-like aunts, blend with a criminal bent on dastardly schemes, and sprinkle in a hidden cache of gold for a sweet Victorian romance brimming with laughter and heartwarming holiday cheer.
“Well…” Fred gave her an odd look as he stood in the doorway with autumn sunshine spilling all around him. “There are two other things I’d like.”
“Two?” Elsa asked, wiping her hands on her apron and facing him. “What might those two things be?” She anticipated him asking for a batch of rolls or perhaps a chocolate cake.
“My first request is simple. Please call me Fred. I’d like to think, after all this, we’re friends and all my friends call me Fred.”
Elsa nodded in agreement. “We are friends, Mr. Deck… er, I mean Fred. If you want me to call you Fred then you best refer to me as Elsa.”
The pleased grin on his face broadened. “Very well, Elsa.”
Her knees wobbled at the sound of his deep voice saying her name, but she resisted the urge to grip the counter for support. “You said there were two things you wanted, in addition to cookies. What is the second?”
“It’s a tiny little thing really,” Fred said, tightly gripping his hat in both hands.
“A tiny little thing? Then I shall take great honor in bestowing whatever it is.” Her gaze roved over the kitchen, trying to imagine what in the world Fred could want. She kept a jar full of assorted candy. Sometimes, she used the sweets to decorate cakes and cookies. Perhaps he wanted one. “A piece of candy?” she asked.
Fred shook his head. “No, Elsa. It’s sweeter than candy and far, far better.”
Intrigued, she took a step closer to him. “What is it?”
He waggled his index finger back and forth, indicating she should step closer. When she stood so her skirts brushed against the toes of his boots, he tapped his cheek with the same finger. “A little sugar right here would be even better than ten batches of cookies.”
~ Giveaway ~
Make sure you enter this drawing for a chance to win a mystery box of Christmas goodies!
Wishing you all a bright, beautiful, holiday season!
What’s one thing do you always look forward to baking or eating each Christmas?