Memories of a Dog

By Tammy Trail

My Dad thought it important for kids to grow up with a dog. After we left city life and lived in a rural community, we got a dog. We named him Duke. He was a little terrier, and he followed us kids wherever we went.

One memory that is special to me is that of myself, my youngest brother, Tom, and a brave little dog. The town post office was just a few blocks from our home. We used to walk there almost everyday.

While inside the post office, “Dukie”, would patiently wait outside on the stone porch. The Post Mistress liked to strike up a conversation, and my little brother was always good for a laugh. If someone approached the post office while we visited and retrieved our mail, our little dog went into protective mode. No one wanted to test his little stand-off at the entrance. After we left, Duke would back down and follow us home.

I don’t remember how long we had Duke. He got sick one day and my Dad took him to the vet. He finally came home, and his little tail never quit wagging. My brother Derrick made a fuss over Duke providing him with a comfortable bed on the back porch, a whole can of dog food, and fresh water. A few minutes later my brother began to wail as Duke died in his arms. I don’t remember what illness or accident may have taken our Duke from us, but to console us our Dad told us that Duke had held on until he got home. He wanted to see his kids one last time before he died. Who knows if it was true. Forty years later, I’d like to think so.

Later as teens, Sandy would be 16730897_10212091702318755_532903841_nthe dog who followed us around. She was a German Shepard/Golden Labrador mix, and human smart. She learned new tricks faster than any dog we ever had. Her job was to retrieve the newspaper from the drive way in the mornings. She would get a pillow off the bed and bring it to you, which made lying on the floor to watch T.V. much more comfortable.

Years later as we all grew up and moved away from home, Sandy stayed with Mom and Dad. While making wedding plans, my Mom asked me what I wanted as a gift. I told her I wanted Sandy. They brought her to me and she lived with me, my husband and my daughter until she was thirteen years old. She could hardly hear, her eyes were misted over with blindness, and her hips made her move slow. She died in her sleep in a quiet house. Tim found her when he came home from work for lunch. I cried buckets. We buried her in our back yard under a huge tree.dog-1194083__340

Sandy had the habit of laying her head on the bed to stare at me until I woke up. Then she would get excited and dance in circles. It was time to go outside.

After she passed one morning I woke up to feel the edge of the bed to see if it was warm I was certain she had been there.

Our pets can be annoying with the constant need for us to take care of them. The shedding hair and occasional accidents will drive one crazy. But there has never been a substitute for a more loving, constant companion than a dog.soldier-870399__340\\

Writing prompt: A busy day at the shelter……..

A New Year’s Resolution Failure

By Tammy Trail

To be honest, I was not planning on New Year’s resolutions this year. Failure is my best friend. I know … defeating and humiliating.

All my writing goals were eaten by the beast of procrastination. Reading the Bible in a year fell into the Land of Nod. Getting my bedroom redecorated became a testament to the lack of time and money.

Before you start feeling sorry for me, I am proud of a few of my accomplishments. After my yearly physical in August, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My doctor had warned multiple times that I needed to get my weight gain under control. Obviously I didn’t heed her warnings, but now I am serious about it. I told my doctor that my intention was to no longer need diabetic medicine. hands-1892965__340I am now eating better, taking my meds, and checking my sugar levels often. My husband took me shopping recently because my pants were getting too big. That made me very happy, and it was a great incentive to keep going. My success is determined by me.

 This summer I looked at my bedroom and realized it was a storage room with a bed. Paint would do wonders for it, but hubby and I cannot agree on a color. I went to the local home improvement store to buy tiny samples of paint. Now one wall is starting to look like a patchwork quilt. The lack of money interrupted my plans for a total makeover.

paint-933395__340Instead, I cleaned it from top to bottom. I took everything out of our walk-in closet, washed down the walls, and vacuumed the carpet. I also filled several boxes with clothing to take to our local mission. Then I cleaned the carpet in the bedroom, rearranged the furniture and bought a new quilt for the bed. It was not the plan I had in mind, but it turned out to be a very satisfying project.

I have also made new writing goals, but I find it so hard to focus after working all day. So, this year the word count is smaller. I am going to finish that book I started.

As for reading the Bible in a year. I bought a new devotional for 2017, and my goal is to stick with it to the end.

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No, I didn’t make resolutions for the New Year. But looking back over last year, I did get a lot done. Maybe this year I will get my bedroom walls painted. I found another shade of blue that I think my hubby will like.

Writing Prompt: Arlene’s new year started off with a definite bang. At three in the morning, the closet rod gave way. Her closet resembled something from that television show about hoarders. She collapsed in a heap on the floor and stared at the mess. What now?

 

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Where in the World Should I Celebrate Christmas?

By Tammy Trail

I had no idea where in the world I would land for this month’s post Christmas Around the World. I had googled “the coldest place in the world” and learned that Oymyaken, Russia earns that title, but my esteemed blog partner Jennifer had already written about Russia. My mother is visiting from New Mexico. I asked her to pick a place. I should have known her answer. Her father’s family migrated from Ireland to Canada, and later came to settle in Toledo, Ohio.

So, an Irish Christmas it is!

hollyvintageimagegraphicsfairy006bTraditionally, the season begins on December 8. This is when folks begin getting into the spirit of the season by decorating their homes. Evergreen trees are becoming more popular in recent years, but the use of holly and ivy remains the custom for most homes. The more berries on your holly, the better luck in the New Year. Large candles shine in the main window of a family home. This is to guide Mary and Joseph to a safe and friendly place before the Christ child is born.

Some communities host a singalong in middle of the town square. They sing all the traditional hymns and carols to usher in the Christmas season. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Ireland is a predominately Christian country, and attending midnight Mass begins the festivities that follow on Christmas morning.

dinner-table-1433494_1280Christmas dinner is much the same as our own. After dinner, they eat Christmas pudding or mince pies. You may even receive a “select box” which is filled with a selection of chocolate bars for dessert.

In the city of Dublin at Sandycove, hundreds of brave souls plunge into the cold winter sea for charity. I think we in the United States refer to this as the Polar Plunge. Not my cup of tea at all. I like dry land and warm clothes.

The day after Christmas in Ireland is St. Stephens Day, or Boxing day in Canada and the United Kingdom. It is often celebrated with a good meal, too.

Mary and JesusJanuary 6th is the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which some Irish towns call Nollaig na mBean. On a Woman’s Christmas, women of the town are given the day off from their household chores and meal preparation. They celebrate by spending the day with their female friends, visiting and drinking tea. I like this idea. I could use a day to spend with my friends with no demands on my time.

So, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from Ireland.

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A Little Bit of Heaven in West Virginia

By Tammy Trail

I can’t think of a single family gathering that did not involve food. My earliest memory of eating apple pie was during a trip to West Virginia to visit my Dad’s family. He was very close to his grandparents, and we were invited to eat dinner with them one evening.

After dinner, my great-grandmother laid a freshly baked apple pie in the middle of the table. Even at the tender age of five, I could tell this was no ordinary pie. This pie did not come from a cardboard carton with a cellophane top, and there was no shiny tin “pie plate” that could later be used as a play tambourine. Nor was it once frozen to be thawed and baked later. This pie lay in an aged pie plate, one that must have seen years of sweet confections. Its crust was golden and flaky, made by loving hands. The aroma of apple and cinnamon was too mouthwatering to ignore. It was a smell that reminded one of heavenly perfection.

apple-pie-1229076__180As a child, I was a very picky eater. I was given the name “Inspector Jones”, because if it didn’t smell right or looked funny, there was no way I was going to eat it. But, this pie begged to be eaten. I think my Dad would have been disappointed if I had turned down Great-Grandma’s pie.

Once the piece was laid in front of me, I notice the layers of apples stacked between sticky syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon. I took the first bite, and fell in love. It was all that my eyes had promised it would be and more. To tell the truth, I haven’t tasted another apple pie like it since that day.

Once I tried making a pie from scratch. We had a neighbor who became disabled after serving in the Army during the Vietnam war. He was mowing his yard one day and just decided to go ahead and mow our lawn, too. I was so grateful that I baked him an apple pie. I didn’t do the lattice pie crust on the top like my great-grandma had, but instead I did a crumble top with brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and a bit of flour. Turned out great. I made one for our wee family too.

He absolutely loved it! And I was so happy that he was pleased.

photo-256887_1280Recipes are like old pictures handed down from one generation to the next. I wish that I could ask my great-grandmother how she made her pie crust, but it most likely would not have turned out the same.

There is something to be said for women who love to cook. The most important ingredient is LOVE. Love of cooking, of sharing your art, and a love of seeing others enjoying it too. Here’s a pie recipe you’ll want to try from Pillsbury https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/perfect-apple-pie/1fc2b60f-0a4f-441e-ad93-8bbd00fe5334

Writing Prompt:

What are some of your favorite dishes handed down from an older generation?

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Who Said Kansas is Flat?

By Tammy Trail

With this month’s topic being Natural Wonders, I had a very hard time choosing just one. I love my home state of Kansas, so it wasn’t hard to choose where. As you drive across it, the flat land attests to why we have so many tornadoes. However, you may be surprised to learn, not all of the state is flat, and Kansas claims eight natural wonders. Here are some of them.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

Arikaree Breaks

You probably have heard of the Badlands, but did you know it’s a term for a certain kind of land formation? The Arikaree Breaks (pronounced: A-rick-kar-ee) are the Badlands located in Northwest Kansas. They were created by deposits of sand and other minerals carried by the wind and then eroded by water. In the case of the Arikaree Breaks, they form thirty-six miles of canyons and ravines that are two-to-three-miles wide. Its terrain lies between the plains of northwestern Kansas and eastern Colorado.  You can find this natural wonder near the town of St. Francis in Cheyenne County.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

American Kestrel

A second wonder is the silent prairie, covered by many yucca or soapweed plants, and possessing very few trees. Two species of sage that flourish in the Breaks don’t grow anywhere else in the state. It also boasts as many as sixteen different kinds of rare plants. Wildlife such as ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, and black-tailed prairie dogs make their home there. Bird watching is a great pastime with Horned Larks, Vesper Sparrows, Western Meadowlarks, Mourning Doves, and the American Kestrel.

Interested in a tourist map loaded with historical stops? The city of St. Francis has produced one that’s full of history. A third wonder is marked as a metal surveyors’ seal you can stand on and brag about being in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska all at the same time.

A fourth wonder is Devil’s Gap.  It’s a rock formation used as a marker by the Cheyenne Indians as they traveled between their encampment at Cherry Creek and Julesburg, Colorado. These Cheyenne were the survivors of the famous Sand Creek Massacre. On the 29th of November in 1864, survivors of the Sand Creek Massacre fled to Cherry Creek in the Arikaree Breaks to hide and wait to be joined by other Plains tribes. There they regrouped to organize retaliation on Fort Rankin for the Massacre against innocent people. There is also a memorial for those tribal people who lost their lives at Sandy Creek.

Horse Thief Cave, a fifth wonder, sounds just like its name suggests. As a large hideaway, it hid thieves and their stolen horses for days. Unfortunately, floods destroyed it in 1936. When the county cut roads through the prairie. it caused the roof of the cave to collapse. The entrance still stands, however, and creates a natural bridge.

Who Said Kansas is Flat? by Tammy Trail

Horse Thief Cave


Writing Prompt:  Are there any natural wonders in your state?

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Land of Spaghetti, Lasagna, and Frank Sinatra?

Map of Italy

Map of Italy

By Tammy J. Trail

If you hadn’t guessed it already, our Writing Prompts Crew is taking you on a trip around the world this month. My husband and I have a dream trip we would like to take to Scotland and Ireland one day. I would also like to visit Italy.

The coliseum in Rome

The coliseum in Rome

You may think this a bit funny, but my first exposure to anything Italian was on Sunday afternoons in front of a television. My Grandmother loved to watch those movies made during what is called Hollywood on the Tiber. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rome was a major location for international films. These films were made in English for a global release. The movies I remember most are Three Coins in a Fountain made in 1954. This film also spun a song by the same name sung by Frank Sinatra.  You might also recognize, Roman Holiday, Ben Hur, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and Cleopatra. These movies and a few more were all filmed in Rome, and have become beloved classics.

Italian pizza with wine

Italian pizza with wine

Italy is also known for its wonderful food and beautifully tended vineyards. Naples, Italy, is the birthplace of pizza. Who doesn’t like pizza? I love it, but unfortunately it doesn’t like me. Spaghetti and lasagna are my favorites, too. And yes, I would like a little wine with my cheese. Italians consume twenty-six gallons per year, and a half-pound of bread per day.

Italy is only about the size of the state of Arizona. It has the tallest mountains in Europe, and the sandiest beaches. Swarms of tourists visit Italy and can experience whatever they fancy. If perhaps a tourist wants to experience some culture, Italy is home to a plethora of fine museums.

Cathedral in Florence, Italy

Cathedral in Florence, Italy

Statue outside the Vatican

Statue outside the Vatican

Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance. Milan is known for fashion, and Genoa for being the oldest city of trade with many ship yards and steelworks. Of course, Rome is the most well-known city, encompassing Vatican City as well as an abundance of architecture and history. In Rome, a former Jewish ghetto is now some of the most expensive prime real estate in the city.

Another fun fact is  that William Shakespeare must have loved Italy, too. He wrote many famous plays like Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, and my favorite, Much Ado About Nothing. They all took place in Italy.

We can also thank the Italians for inventing thermometers, typewriters, eyeglasses and pianos.

One of the most tragic events in recent news was the earthquake that devastated a mountain region of Italy. On August 24, 2016, the town of Amatrice, Accumoli, and Marche, Italy, were struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 241 people.  Tremors were felt in Rome, nearly 100 miles southwest, in Bologna to the north, and in Naples to the south. Survivors dug through rubble with their hands to find those trapped. Please pray for the injured and for those who have lost loved ones.

I hope you enjoyed my small tour through Italy. I am looking forward to someday experiencing all of its history, art, architecture, and beauty. Can’t wait!

Writing Prompt:

What old films have you enjoyed in the past that take you back to an enjoyable memory?

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Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

By Tammy Trail

This month’s topic is Everything you ever wanted to know about writing conferences. While I don’t have a vast amount of knowledge, I can share my experiences about the conferences I have attended.

I didn’t really catch the writing bug until 2009, but as a child, I devoured books. My favorite pass time was to curl up on a couch with a good book. I would get so lost in a story that many times someone had to take the book out of my hands to get my attention. I loved the written work so much that I wondered …  could I do it myself?

I began at square one by looking online for a writer’s conference close to home, and I found one in Pittsburg, Kansas. In 2010, I attended that conference, not really knowing anyone nor having  ever been to that particular town.  Along the way, I met another aspiring writer from Topeka who planned to attend the same conference, and we ended up being roommates and close friends. It was her first writing conference, too.

I also brought the beginnings of a story with me, critiqued by a published author. I made every mistake a newbie writer could make within those few pages. To say the least, it was eye-opening … oh, I had so much to learn!

Stepping out of my comfort zone by Tammy Trail

Flash forward to 2013 when my husband received a nice inheritance, making it possible for me to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. I carpooled with a few ladies from my local ACFW chapter, and I shared a room there with two writers from Canada. In the past, my introverted self would NOT share a room with two women I had never met, but I really wanted the experience of stepping out of the box without having inner meltdowns about the unknown.

ACFW Conference 2013

With ACFW Kansas City West members at the 2013 conference in Indianapolis

I would like to say that I was offered a contract for my book and that a well- known agent in the writing industry pitched his/her acquisition accomplishments to represent me. But that didn’t happen. Instead, it turned out to be an education in learning what I had to do to reach my goals.

Shod with my comfortable shoes–I can never function well if my feet hurt–I had several proposals ready for my appointments with editors– or anyone else who might ask. I sat at a table with my mother’s favorite author and asked her if I could take a picture with her to send to my mom, and she was very accommodating. There was also an empty seat next to me where a woman sat after the rest of us had begun our meal. After she was settled, she politely asked me about my writing, and I eagerly shared. Turned out she was an editor from Revell! She asked me for my proposal, which I enthusiastically offered to her because I had extra copies with me. You just never know with whom you might strike up a conversation!

ACFW Conference 2013 2

A view of Indianapolis from the hotel window. ACFW Conference 2013

I wish I could tell you that she begged me to let her publish my book. That didn’t happen, but I did learn that she basically liked my story and felt I was on the right track; however, it still needed a lot of work.

I’m hopeful that one day I will get a contract for my stories. It does require hard work and dedication, but I’m willing to learn to do whatever it takes to succeed. One of these days I will attend another ACFW conference and be the veteran instead of the newbie.

 

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