Guest Blog / My Mysterious Humorous Heaven

Guest Author Daisy Pettles

I turned 60 this year and promptly retired. I’ve always loved to write, and for the last 20 years focused on writing for a practical niche area–-education and Internet marketing—where I could do what I loved and still pay the bills.

Prior to retiring and taking up writing , author Daisy Pettles was a therapist and Internet entrepreneur.

Retirement put me back in that great and rare place where I suddenly had endless days without responsibilities. Everything was possible again—a luxurious feeling that I’d not had for a few decades.  Better still, I had the amazing trio of treasures—time, money, and experience—required to launch into riskier passion projects, like fiction writing.

I’ve devoured books my entire life, but fiction writing was a new adventure and a huge challenge. I love mysteries, romance, and humor so I decided to try my hand at humorous mysteries that harked back to my rural origins in southern Indiana.

Because I love to laugh, and am a bit quirky myself, I knew humor would under gird my first fiction project. I’d write what I wanted to read and see if I could pick up a readership from there.

That’s how my small-town Indiana setting, Pawpaw County, came into being for my award-winning “Shady Hoosier Detective Agency” series. I grew up in a tiny river town full of nosy neighbors, quirky characters, and kind-hearted souls.

Like many Baby Boomers born in rural America in the 60’s I found myself growing nostalgic for an America that never did exist, but that many still hope for. I wanted to write something light-hearted that celebrated small town living.

I deliberately set out to replicate the “feel good” mood of vintage Hillbilly TV sit-coms, those set in rural America. My childhood was awash in the silliness of great comic series like The Andy Griffith Show, Petticoat Junction, Gomer Pyle, and Green Acres.

When it came to creating leading ladies I decided to abandon the safe cozy mystery formula of the thirty-something, college-educated woman escaping to a simpler life in the country.

I created instead aging and somewhat cranky heroines who would love to retire but lack the resources to do so. They are very street smart, but lack the varnish and subdued manners that often accompany college and urban living. I love them to death.

My leading lady detectives, Ruby Jane Waskom and Veenie Goens, are working class, high-school educated, both with a prior chain of everyday jobs as factory and farm workers. They share a house, overdue bills, and laughter. They co-exist on social security, taking jobs as detectives in-training hoping to scrape up a little “Twinkie money” on the side.

They are much older than the genre usually allows: 68 and 71, to be exact. (Every literary agent I talked to loved the series and the writing but were horrified by the age of the women.) My leading ladies are unusual—and therefore very risky—for the cozy mystery niche today.

While the books are labeled cozy mysteries, their strongest element is humor. They are true crime comedies. One critic called Daisy Pettles the “hillbilly Janet Evanovich.” Another, in “Shelf Discovery” tagged them “a wildly entertaining (detective) team—like an elderly Stephanie Plum and Lula.” My senior crime fighting duo, Ruby Jane and Veenie, are very much a silly Lucy-Ethel gal pal team.

Much of what is good in the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency character-driven series is the way the two senior sleuths slide along together through life, and their cases. Their get-it-done “gal pal” energy enlivens the series.

My one goal as a writer is to entertain. I love it when people laugh, and feel even better when I might be cause of that laughter.

I have found enough of an audience with the Shady Hoosiers that Book 3, “Chickenlandia,” is coming out as I write this. Book 4,”Catfish Cooties,” is now steeping in the stew pot of my imagination.

Writing humorous fiction with mysterious twists is truly my retirement heaven.

AUTHOR BIO: Daisy Pettles’ debut humorous cozy series, the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency, set in fictional Pawpaw County, Indiana, won the 2019 Gold Medal as Best Humor Book from the Indie Reader, The Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and the American Fiction Awards. Prior to retiring and taking up writing she was a therapist and an Internet entrepreneur. The Chickenlandia Mystery is Book 3 in Daisy Pettles’ Shady Hoosier Detective Agency cozy humor series, which the Indie Reader describes as “Murder She Wrote meets the Golden Girls … where the fun is infectious.”

Visit her anytime at https://www.daisypettles.com

CONTACT: Daisy@daisypettles.com

TWITTER: @DaisyPettles

FB: https://www.facebook.com/daisypettles

Chickenlandia Mystery: Shady Hoosier Detective Agency (Book 3)

Release Date: 9/15/2019

PLOT: Pawpaw County, Indiana, is all atwitter about Ma and Peepaw Horton’s annual Chickenlandia Festival. The mood turns dark though when the Horton’s prize-winning rooster, Dewey, and his best laying hen, Ginger, vanish, leaving behind only a ragged trail of tail feathers. Also missing: Gertie Wineagar, local sourpuss, and BBQ chicken cook-off queen. Senior sleuths, Ruby Jane (RJ) Waskom and Veenie Goens, suspect Hiram Krupsky, Pawpaw County’s self-proclaimed Chicken Wing King, of master-minding the crime spree in an attempt to sabotage the Horton’s free-range chicken ranch. The sleuths get an unexpected “in” when Hiram commences to court a reluctant RJ. Follow the Hoosier senior snoops as they attempt to sort the good eggs from the bad in this hilarious, small-town crime comedy.

Shady Hoosier Detective Agency – AMAZON BUY LINKS

Ghost Busting Mystery (Book 1)

Baby Daddy Mystery (Book 2)

Chickenlandia Mystery (Book 3) – Due out 9/15/19 check link before posting

August Blog: The Dog Days of Summer

Here in South Carolina, the kids are already back in school. Personally, I think going back to school before Labor Day is an abomination and simply un-American. That may be why I simply can’t get myself motivated to sit down and finish the book I’m writing, even though I’m within spitting distance of the finale.

I get up every day with the intention of writing at least two hundred words — my bare minimum goal as per John Grisham’s advice — but I just don’t feel like it. Yesterday I received my weekly Inspiration for the Week from Cathleen O’Connor (cathleenoconnor.com). If you don’t subscribe to her emails, I highly recommend you do. This week’s message  was entitled “You Deserve a Break Today”. I felt as if she wrote it just for me. Thank you, Cathleen.

She began with a quote from writer Anne Lamott:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”

I love that. Of course, I’ve been pretty much unplugged since I got back from my vacation at the end of July. You think I’d be re-booted by now.

I do have at least one legitimate reason for not writing the last two weeks. Each Monday when I sat down to type, my computer ground down to the slowest speed imaginable. On my own I was able to go to the settings  and determine that my 465 GB’s of storage were completely filled up. I knew that was impossible.  I managed to clear out the inordinate amount of temporary files that somehow downloaded themselves to my computer, not once, but twice.

When these phantom files were back again last week, I decided I needed professional help, so I  called my trusty IT guy, Peter Manse, out in Colorado. Guess what? He was in California for a brief vacation. Nevertheless, he managed to get me back up Wednesday. Somehow, starting something on a Wednesday just never feels right to me. Still, I managed to get one chapter completed last week.

And then there’s the new puppy. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know I’ve adopted a new dog — Trixie.  She’s a sweetheart, but she’s only about six months old, so she needs lots of attention and exercise.  I still miss Lucky, my dog of 12 years, whom I lost in February, but I confess it’s so nice to have a little buddy once again. I mean, really. Is there anything more endearing than seeing that little tail wag when you walk in the room? Second only to a baby smiling at you. Really.

So, today, I’ve decided to take Cathleen’s advice and embrace Anne LaMott’s message and heed Cathleen’s own words:

“Just take some deep breaths. Ask yourself what you need to feel rested and restored . . . and then give that to yourself. “

Maybe next week — after Labor Day — I’ll start writing again in earnest. In the meantime, it’s a rainy day here in Mauldin this morning, so it won’t be at all difficult to go over to the couch, curl up with Trixie and finish that cozy mystery I’m reading — One Taste Too Many by Debra Goldstein.

Ah, yes. I think I’ll just release all guilt and totally indulge in what’s left of the remaining dog days of summer! Happy Labor Day, Y’all.

Do Writers Ever Retire?

GUEST BLOG by author Brenda Whiteside

When the company I’d been working for decided to close their doors, I made the leap to early retirement. Until then, I was a weekend writing warrior. I completed my first novel, Post-War Dreams, writing on the weekends and in fifteen-minute increments before I left for the day job. It took me a couple of years to get the book to publication. The first book I published and second book I wrote, Sleeping with the Lights On, was written within the same time constraints.

Guest Blogger: Brenda Whiteside

After I “retired,” my time became my own, and writing became my full-time endeavor. That was several years ago, and since then when people ask if I’m retired, I don’t know how to answer. If I say no, I’m an author, the verbal reactions run the gamut from oh wow to a flat oh. If I say I’m retired but I write, well, it sounds the way I’m sure they hear it…a nice hobby.

The thing is, if I’m retired, why am I so busy? Writing full-time as a published author ends up taking up way more time than working a day job and writing when I found a few minutes. Getting published and taking writing to the next level added all the business tasks to my plate…social media, promotion, goal planning, networking, and on and on.

I will say, reaching the age of retirement has enriched my creativity. My heroines benefit from my life experience, which is why I enjoy writing heroines over forty. All that baggage makes for more conflict and plot paths.

This month, I’m celebrating ten years since I signed my first writing contract for Sleeping with the Lights On. AND it is now available on audio in addition to eBook and print. Sandra Holiday is fifty and still searching for the perfect hero and career in her life. She does it with humor and sassiness. But there’s suspense brewing to keep her on her toes.

RT Book Reviews says ” Cheers to Whiteside for writing a heroine who exists outside of conventional romance novels in terms of age and marital status…novel is written with a pleasantly light sense of humor…

What’s Sleeping with the Lights On About?

A secret admirer, a redheaded stalker, and an eccentric millionaire have thrown Sandra Holiday on a dangerous path.

After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans, but also left her single and broke.

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

Can this handsome, country crooner save the day, or will Sandra forever be Sleeping With The Lights On?

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-Lights-Brenda-Whiteside-ebook/dp/B003N3V4LK

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-2

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-brenda-whiteside/1021751737?ean=2940043324740

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Brenda_Whiteside_Sleeping_with_the_Lights_On?id=RNwdCwAAQBAJ

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sleeping-with-the-lights-on/id1388815805?mt=11

AUDIO

Amazon Audible: https://www.amazon.com/Sleeping-with-the-Lights-On/dp/B07R7RRDDD/

Apple iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/audiobook/sleeping-with-the-lights-on-unabridged/id1462229387

Brenda Whiteside is the author of suspenseful, action-adventure romance. Mostly. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have decided they are gypsies at heart. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo while splitting their time between Northern Arizona and the RV life.

Visit Brenda at https://www.brendawhiteside.com

Or on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaWhitesideAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brendawhitesid2

She blogs and has guests: https://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003V15WF8

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3972045.Brenda_Whiteside

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/brenda-whiteside

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brendawhitesideauthor/

That’s What It’s All About

Happy Memorial Day! Hope you are enjoying a great kick-off to the summer season. In spite of the fact that I am hosting the family cook-out today, I wanted to take a moment to share with you a reflection that makes me smile and hope it does the same for you.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the Apple Watch commercial set to the tune of a childhood favorite of mine — the Hokey Pokey. From the first time I saw it, I was hooked and no matter how many times I see it again, I’m always filled with glee.

Remember Robert Fulgham’s book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? The older I get the more profound I find the simple things we learned as children. The other day at our mailbox kiosk, someone posted a sign that read: “Take the outgoing mail. Whoever delivered mail yesterday didn’t take it.” Seriously? What happened to “please” and “thank you”? Clearly, the writer who penned that note missed school that day.

But back to the Hokey Pokey commercial.  When I see those people dancing, jumping, playing to the tune, I’m exhilarated. And what could be more profound than the simple words “You put your whole self in…That’s what it’s all about.”

This summer, I hope you do nothing half-heartedly and that you put your whole self into everything you do. What chance do you have to be truly happy if you don’t? I mean, why bother doing anything, if your whole self isn’t in it? I’m especially talking to my fellow retirees out there. We have less in front of us than we have behind us. Why waste a single minute?

Just in case you need a little more inspiration, click below.

Happy Summer!

AMUSING NEWS: On Methamphetamines and Nutella

Sneak peek at the cover of book 3 of the Holly and Ivy Mystery Series due out this November

It’s been a very busy summer and I have shamefully neglected my blogging responsibilities. The worst part is that I have so much to blog about, but have kept putting off writing because I was busy finishing Full Bloom, book 3 of my Holly and Ivy mystery series. ( Very pleased to report that I completed my first full draft and hope to have the book ready for publication this Fall.)

Anyway, a news article this morning motivated me to write. So here’s the headline that greeted me from the Metro section of The Greenville News:

“CAYCE MAN CALLS POLICE ABOUT HIS MISSING METH”.

That sure made me pause. You know, I just had to read on. Here are a few of the article’s highlights:

“A 24-year old Cayce man told police his drugs had been stolen and he wanted to press charges…When Cayce public safety officers responded to the home, they found the man in the backyard. He was ‘upset’ and said someone had stolen his two grams of methamphetamine and he wanted the thief prosecuted…”

Okay, here’s where it gets really good:

“Two officers helped him search inside the house…a female in the home gave an officer a small bag of what she said contained meth…she had hidden it because she didn’t want the man to ‘drink it’.”

The conclusion:

“The man said those drugs did not belong to him. Officers were unable to determine who owned the meth and seized it…Police are still investigating.”

Yes, I assure you, this was a news story, not fiction. Now I’m going to just leave you to ponder this bit of amusing news because, really, what can I say, except that you can’t make this stuff up.

And just because pondering this news item too long can take you from amusement to a despair, I’ve got some really sweet news for you, a follow-up to my Nutella blog a few months ago. On August 6th, USA Today reported that The Ferrerro company, maker of the famed Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread, is looking for “60 ‘sensory judges’ who will be paid for tasting its products.”

Can you believe it! Imagine getting paid to taste Nutella. Again, this was a news story — not fiction. Sixty volunteers will be selected for a three-month training course “designed to sharpen the recruits’ senses of taste and smell.” (Sigh!)

There is a catch, however. The jobs are part-time and you have to be willing to relocate to Ferrero’s headquarters in Alba, Italy’s northwest Piedmont region. Mama mia! Does that really sound like a catch? I can think of  far less satisfying part-time jobs and way worse places to retire.

And so I leave you with that bit of amusing and far more enticing news to dwell on. Maybe listening to  Dean Martin croon Volare can actually fly you up to the sky–no meth amphetamines necessary.

Coffee, Clocks and Celestial Occurences

 

Skywatchers, are you ready for next week’s celestial trifecta: a supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse?

One of my most favorite things about retirement is not having to rush to get out the door and catch a train in the morning. After more than thirty years of commuting from northern New Jersey into Manhattan, I now luxuriate in lingering over the newspaper, working a crossword puzzle and drinking cup after cup of coffee in the morning. Only when I’m good and ready do I finally commute from my kitchen island to my dining area table and turn on the computer. Ah, life is good!

Of course, a leisurely breakfast is simply a delightful corollary to waking up when your body signals you’re rested, and not because an alarm has blasted you awake. I think I may have set my alarm clock once since I moved to South Carolina. This morning, however, I read an article about a triple lunar event next week that may just get me to do it again.

On January 31st we will witness a supermoon, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse. I don’t know about you, but I find something very moving about solar and lunar events. Every time I recall this past summer’s solar eclipse, I just stop and smile. Here in the Piedmont we were very fortunate to have had perfectly clear skies to witness that awesome moment.

My friend JoAnne Manse, my sister Mary Ellen and I shared the experience with hundreds of other skygazers at the Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville. I’ll never forget the hush that fell across the crowd as the sun and moon crossed in totality, followed immediately by spontaneous applause. The moment was magical.

This morning’s paper mentioned that even without the supermoon, the combined blue moon and lunar eclipse that will occur next week hasn’t happened in the USA since March of 1866. The West Coast will have the advantage this time around, however. Central and Eastern USA will only see a partial eclipse because the moon will set before totality. Channel WDBJ7 reports, “On America’s East Coast the eclipse will start coming into view at 5:51 a.m. and will give viewers in cities like New York only a small window to see the reddish moon.”

I definitely plan to set my alarm so I don’t miss whatever view we will have of this extraordinary celestial event. After all, I only need to do it, once in a blue moon.

Thanksgiving

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” J.R.R. Tolkien

The day after Halloween I was a bit dismayed to see a complete and immediate shift in focus to the Christmas holiday season. They were even playing Christmas Carols at my dentist’s office…in October!

Thanksgiving seems to have been skipped right over. I can only suppose that’s due to its continued resistance to commercial viability. No Thanksgiving gifts to be bought. Only modest pumpkins and wreaths decorate our front entryways. And, no matter how retailers try, they just can’t seem to get more than a few of us to send Thanksgiving cards. The only ones who can be sure of an uptick in sales are turkey farmers.

November Tomato Harvest

I agree totally with J.R.R. Tolkien whose quote I stumbled upon in this morning’s newspaper. Now, that’s the spirit of Thanksgiving, isn’t it? It’s all about food and good cheer, even if we don’t sing Thanksgiving carols. I love Thanksgiving and I  want to celebrate it in my heart every day this week. Christmas will be here soon enough.

And I have so much to be thankful for. Just like the first celebrants in 1621, this year I give thanks for a bountiful Fall harvest, especially for my tomato plants. I still have plants that self-seeded mid-summer producing tomatoes–in November! Now, for that I am truly grateful.

A Monarch Butterfly Visit to my Zinnia Patch

Also, every year I grow Zinnias in my flower beds, and for the second year in a row, I have been treated to rather lengthy visits from pairs of Monarch butterflies who seem to delight in the nectar of their colorful blooms. Last year there were two butterflies. This year there were six. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but I like to think that I’m now an official stop on the Monarch Butterfly migration trail and as the years go by, I’ll be visited by more and more butterflies as they journey southward.

Finally, I’m profoundly grateful to have reached my full retirement age this year in good health. So wonderful to be able to just live, enjoy life and do all the thing there was never enough time for when I worked every day. Hallelujah!

I hope you have time this week to truly enjoy and savor it. I wish every one of you a day of good food and good cheer, surrounded by the people you love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Retreat…No Surrender

Dictionary.com lists six definitions for the word retreat. Quite possibly the first one that comes to your mind, as it does to mine, is this one: “the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy.” This definition has a negative connotation, associated with surrender and defeat. But the retreat I want to talk about today is “the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.”

Laurelwood, the exercise and yoga facility at Skyterra (www.skyterrawellness.com)

Last week I spent seven days on a retreat…not the religious kind, though it definitely had its moments of spirituality. This retreat, focusing on health and well-being, took place at the Skyterra Wellness Retreat located near Brevard, North Carolina.

Why, you might ask if you’ve been following my blog, would someone, who is healthy, retired and spending most of her time walking the dog, gardening and reading, need to go on a retreat? I acknowledge that I am very lucky to enjoy good health, but I have noticed lately that I’m not as strong as I used to be and my balance is not what it should be either.

Many people go to Skyterra to lose weight. The program does provide nutritious meals and daily strength-building and yoga classes. But Skyterra’s focus is not weight loss. It’s healthy eating. Not exercising to burn calories, but exercising to build strength and improve mobility. This program is about health and wellness for individuals of any age, but particularly ideal for retirees who want to stay fit, active and able to enjoy our retirement.

I must admit the first day I was terrified that I would hurt myself. Everyone else seemed to be able to stretch and perform the exercises I could not. When it came to modified push-ups on an elevated box, I completed one, but got stuck in the down position on the second one requiring help to get back up. Bending, I could reach just a bit below my knees while everyone else was touching their toes or grasping their ankles. The day we did a class on balance, I had to stand near a wall when standing on one foot in order not to tip over, while others were fully stretched out, leaning forward like soaring eagles standing on one leg.

I wanted to take the whirlpool bathtub home with me.

After Day 1 I was certain I would not be able to get out bed on Day 2, but guess what? I had no aches or pains the next morning. I think the Epsom salt soak in my whirlpool bathtub had a lot to do with that. But I also think the yoga classes in the afternoon helped restore the muscles that got tested in the morning. Skyterra’s unique blend of activities gets you to move outside of your comfort zone, then helps you get back to center.

Yes, Day 1 was a humbling experience, but at no time did I feel embarrassed by my limitations. The people in my group were just lovely and encouraging, and the young instructors at Skyterra are truly amazing. They pay close attention to everyone and work with you on the areas where you are weakest, assuring that you don’t get hurt. Their support and encouragement is truly heartening.

On Day 2, I no longer worried about hurting myself. I did my best. It didn’t matter that everyone was better. By Day 6 I could feel that I was stronger and I could actually stand on one foot longer without tipping over. On Day 7, when we were re-assessed, I’d lost 2 inches off my waist, 1.4 % of body fat and gained 1.1% muscle mass. Not bad for a 65 year old, right? I admit it. I’m quite proud of myself.

Additionally, I feel confident that I can continue to improve because the strength-building and mobility routines we were taught, I can do at home. All participants received an email with links to videos of the many exercises we performed daily.

Skyterra is an amazing program for the body,but it is  much more than just a physical improvement program. The Skyterra approach nurtures body, mind and spirit. The lectures on stress management, improving sleep, goal-setting, menu planning and self-compassion all help nourish you mentally and physically.

Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Skyterra is the ideal setting for a retreat. Walking the property, hikes to the surrounding waterfalls, sitting on the dock by the lake all provide opportunities for contemplation and self-reflection…something we rarely do at home with those bills to pay, that closet to clean out, and…well…you know.

Nina and I on a hike to the waterfalls.

One more thing…all of the people at Skyterra, from the Owners to the Instructors to the Chefs, are just so darn nice, you can’t help but feel welcome and at ease. So if you’ve been considering a vacation, or you’ve actually wanted to go on a retreat, I recommend Skyterra. I went with my friend, Nina, who flew into Asheville, NC from New York, but I assure you Skyterra is a place you could travel to by yourself and feel perfectly comfortable.

Yes, aging brings with it some physical limitations, but with a little bit of effort  we can reduce the negative impact of those limitations. If you can, go on a retreat for your body, mind and spirit. Remember…you’re only old once. Don’t surrender.

First Anniversary

One year ago today, July 23, 2015, I moved into my new home in South Carolina. For the first few months I enjoyed the newness of my surroundings, but I did not feel quite at home. Honestly, I felt as if I were on vacation for the longest time (I think the swimming pool in my complex was most responsible for that.) I’m not sure exactly when, but one day, sitting at my kitchen island, I realized I was home and it felt great.

Flower Bed 2015

Flower Bed 2015

Overall it’s been a terrific year. I’m lucky to be near my mother, sister and brother-in-law who’ve wanted me to move here for years. We get to do a lot together that simply was not possible when I was just visiting.

Since I arrived, I’ve also met many wonderful people…my friendly neighbors here in Mauldin, my fellow mystery writers at Sisters in Crime, my writing colleagues at Creative Writers of Greenville, my pinochle pals at the Mauldin Senior Center, and my sister gardeners at the Simpsonville Garden Club. Most recently, I’ve found another group of kindred spirits, The Newcomers Club of Greater Greenville. Isn’t that just the greatest idea…a club for people new to the area?

Same Flower Bed, J2016

Same Flower Bed, 2016

Taking advantage of all the cultural activities Greenville has to offer, my sister and I have attended plays and musicals at almost all of Greenville’s theaters including The Peace Center, The Warehouse Theater, Center Stage and the Little Theater of Greenville. The performances have been top notch and tickets here are sooooo affordable. We even saw wonderful free performances of Julius Caesar and As You Like It put on by the Upstate Shakespeare Festival in Falls Park on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. Mauldin had a Friday night series of free concerts and dancing that culminated in a special celebration on Saturday, July 2nd ending with a fabulous fireworks display. Two days later we attended the Red, White and Blue Festival in downtown Greenville with another magnificent fireworks display. (We love fireworks.)

As I’ve written about in previous blogs, I’ve been gallivanting with both the Mauldin Senior Center and Lifewise, a Senior Program through St. Francis Hospital. We’ve travelled to Columbia, the state capital, historic Union, nearby Spartanburg, and Athens, GA. We visited historic homes and churches, plantations, and college campuses. We even visited a local farm in Simpsonville where we made bricks out of clay soil and harvested broom weed, making our own brooms.

Best of all this year, I have been blessed to have dear friends and family make the trip to visit me…Jane and Rip Noble, Carl and Phyllis Yaglowski, Patricia Rock and Trish Sutherlan, Joanne and Mike Frehse, Judy Olsen, Joanne Kempton, Nina Augello, Jay Johnson, and Joanne Manse. Every visit was special and I enjoyed showing everybody the sights of Greater Greenville.

Last night I re-read all of my previous blogs working my way backwards. It was a sweet trip down memory lane. One of the best parts of being here and being retired is that I have more time to devote to writing, though I admit I’m not as diligent about it as I’d like to be. Still I have managed to complete the final draft of my cozy mystery, Second Bloom. I’m pleased to report that one of the literary agents I contacted so far asked to see my first three chapters. That’s pretty exciting. The really good news is I’ve started working on a second book which includes the same lead characters as Second Bloom, Holly and Ivy Donnelly, two middle-aged sisters who love to garden and just happen to get involved in solving murder mysteries.

Bet you didn't know okra had such a beautiful flower.

Bet you didn’t know okra had such a beautiful flower.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that a love of gardening is something I have in common with my main characters. I have to say the growing season in the South is another one my favorite things (that and the sprinkler system at my condo complex). I had a big job amending the clay soil, but after adding a considerable amount of topsoil, I planted vegetables in April and started harvesting zucchini and cucumbers in June followed by okra, tomatoes and eggplant in early July. Yes, life here is good.

I am pleased that through the wonders of technology and telecommunications I have been able to remain in touch with my dear friends up North. Once a month I Skype into an apartment on East 83rd Street in New York City with my book club of 30 years. Through Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and this blog I’ve heard from so many people I’ve actually been out of touch with even when I lived in New Jersey. All in all it’s been a fabulous year and I’m looking forward to many more. Thank you so much for reading my ramblings and thanks especially to those of you who take the time to comment. I love hearing from you. So please keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

A selfie with my lettuce crop in April.

A selfie with my lettuce crop in April.

Life is Good

Last week I got an email from a colleague asking if I still taught my writing class for marketers. As you may know, I was a marketing consultant in the construction industry for nearly 30 years, so I sometimes still get these inquiries. I must admit, they are a bit of an ego boost.

A few days after that email, I got an email from a friend who wanted to know if I had some time to talk to her about a re-branding project she’s working on for an engineering firm. Jokingly she asked if I had a few minutes to chat…that is, if I wasn’t too busy “gallivanting” in my retirement. [Great word, gallivant. It means to “go around from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment.”]

It just so happens that I read that e-mail while on a bus in between a tour of the Walnut Grove Plantation in Spartanburg, SC and a visit to Kornerstone Farms, a sustainable, multi-generational farm in Woodruff, SC, where the family’s eight children took us around introducing us to their chickens, milking goats, pigs, dogs and beehives.

In the evening I wrote back to my friend. “Well, as it turns out I was on a day trip today to the Walnut Grove plantation. Does tomorrow around 10:00 am work for you? Lunch with the garden club president at 11:30. Honest…I’m not making this stuff up.”

As soon as I acknowledged that I had, indeed, been “gallivanting” and wrote what I was up to, I realized it sounded… well…a bit make believe. And get this…after I sent the e-mail I went back to reading The Secret of Red Gate Farm, a first edition Nancy Drew mystery that my friend, Nina, sent me for my birthday. Am I having too much fun? Can you have too much fun?

A few weeks ago, when I was walking the dog, I met up with a man whom I see walking my condo complex regularly. We greeted one another and I asked, “How are you today?” His reply: “Living the dream every day.” I’m fairly certain he meant that ironically, but I have to say, that’s how I feel most days. Don’t get me wrong. Even a cock-eyed optimist like me gets the blues some days. But overall I have been blessed with little patience for self-pity and a remarkable ability to snap out of the doldrums, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve stopped watching the news. I used to be a news junkie, but no more. The media is saturated with murders, robberies, terrorist attacks and car crashes and I just can’t bear to watch a daily summary of all the bad things that happen. I do still read the newspaper, and while the paper reports on the same awful occurrences, I can scan the headlines and move on to the human interest stories I prefer. Somehow I always manage to find some newsworthy gem that really tickles me and restores my faith in humanity.

Last week I was drawn to a brief item with this caption: “Father, Son in Custody After Kidnapping Plot”. A 51-year old father and his 22-year old son lured a woman and her four teenage daughters to a house in Centerville, Utah where they tied them up in the basement. Their plans were thwarted when “they were overpowered by the women they abducted.” The men are now in custody and facing felony charges following the botched kidnapping plot. Now if that story doesn’t brighten your day just a bit, I don’t know what will.

The Pollyanna principle is a subconscious bias towards the positive.

The Pollyanna principle is a subconscious bias towards the positive.

Yesterday I shared on Facebook a little known 9/11 story about how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland helped 53 planeloads of travelers who were re-routed and stranded there for two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The townspeople rallied to house, feed and take care of everyone during those horrendous two days when the world stood still. In return, the travelers created a trust fund to provide scholarships for the students of Gander to repay them for their generosity of spirit in a time of need.

Now you can call me a Pollyanna and focus on the “bad” news if you choose to, but I’m going to keep on gallivanting, living the dream, looking for examples of our shared humanity and stories that demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit…proof that life is good. Are you with me?