Check Marks and Smiley Faces

Not long ago, I learned that when my grandson completes his homework, he gives himself a check mark and a smiley face. It was one of those simple moments that left me sitting in stunned silence.

Check marks

Sometimes it feels like we’re expected to do all the things all the time. It’s exhausting. How much better would we feel if, instead of beating ourselves up about all the things we didn’t get done, we gave ourselves check marks and smiley faces for the things we did accomplish?

Check Marks and Smiley Faces




















I find it somewhat amusing that, in order to write a simple post including a list containing check marks and smiley faces I had to:

* Create the list in a Word document

* Save the document as a .pdf

* Open the .pdf with Photoshop Elements

* Save the file as a .jpeg

* Insert the .jpeg into my post

But you know what? For all of that extra work I’m going to give myself another check mark and smiley face.

Check Marks and Smiley Faces

What can you give yourself a check mark and smiley face for today?

Reality TV

When reality TV first became a thing I rolled my eyes and swore I’d never watch. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember when so-called “reality” TV didn’t exist.) I was wrong. True, I didn’t watch reality TV for several years. I have zero interest in shows like The Real World, Big Brother, The Real Housewives of Whatever, etc., etc., etc. However, over the years, reality TV evolved to become more than its beginnings.

Pop Art Woman Watching a Horror Movie at Home. Terrified Girl Wa

Image courtesy of

Over time I discovered that I am a big fan of reality TV shows that fall into two main categories. This first category is: shows that feature a creative process combined with competition. By a “creative process” I mean pretty much any creative process. I was a huge fan of Face Off on the SyFy network. Face Off featured special effects makeup artists in a variety of challenges with one contestant being eliminated each week. I found it fascinating to watch each artist take the challenge from concept to completion. As far as I’m concerned, special effects makeup is like real-life magic. I was greatly saddened when the series ended. Another former favorite was Ink Master. Ink Master features tattoo artists in a competition that tests their tattooing and other artistic skills. If you’ve known me for a while you know that I have tattoos and that I love them. As much as I loved Ink Master, I stopped watching when the show became more about the drama than the tattoos. (Insert eye roll here)

My current favorites are all cooking shows, primarily baking. As a matter of fact, I have Guy’s Grocery Games playing in the background while I type, LOL. My DVR is set to record the Halloween Baking Championship, the Kid’s Baking Championship, Worst Cooks in America, the Holiday Baking Championship, the Spring Baking Championship, Top Chef,  and The Great Food Truck Race. When new episodes aren’t available it’s not uncommon for me to watch reruns of any of the listed shows. Fortunately, this year’s Halloween Baking Championship has new episodes weekly and Netflix is releasing new episodes of the Great British Baking Show every week. Woot!

The second category is veterinarian shows. There are so many awesome shows in this category: The Vet Life, Heartland Docs DVM, Dr. Oakley Yukon Vet, Dr. Jeff Rocky Mountain Vet, and the Incredible Dr. Pol. Even more exciting is that our local veterinarians, Drs. Vernard Hodges and Terrence Ferguson, now have a show on Nat Geo Wild! Critter Fixers: Country Vets just started filming it’s second season. I’m so proud of these guys! What is extra amusing to me is that Dez, one of my cats, enjoys watching TV and he has developed a marked preference for vet shows, especially The Incredible Dr. Pol. He’ll come from where ever he is and watch in fascination.


Dez watching Dr. Oakley

Are you a reality TV fan? What are your favorite shows?


Binge Reading

Like most writers, I’m an avid reader. Among avid readers, I seem to be a bit of a rarity in that I rarely DNF (Do Not Finish) a book; it takes a LOT for me to put a book down without finishing it. I have also become a binge reader; I’ll discover a new-to-me series and read the whole thing back-to-back-to-back. This isn’t too bad if it’s a short series, but it becomes a little more problematic the longer the series. What exactly is problematic about binge reading a long series? Invariably some trait of the stories that probably wouldn’t have bothered me had I read the series over the course of several months (or years) begins to irritate me unbearably. I’m not saying that the trait that irritates me is a flaw because it’s not. So, what do I mean? I’ll give you a couple of examples.


Some many books, so little time

Some many books, so little time


In one series there was an ex-wife and a new wife. Now, as a writer, if you have an ex in your series of course he/she is going to make at least one appearance. What better way to introduce a little conflict? In this particular series the ex was a master manipulator and excelled at playing people against each other. What became annoying was that all of the pack members (it was a paranormal romance series) knew the chick was a manipulator but continued to fall for her machinations . Every. Single. Time. Then it reached the point that the husband was even siding with his ex over his current wife. Are you kidding me? That’s the point, well, one of the points, where I was yelling at the books. What? Doesn’t everyone yell at books? No? Just me? *shrugs* I was happy that, at the end of the newest book, the heroine stated that she’s not going to be nice to the ex anymore. I cheered. I’m interested in seeing how this plays out as the series continues.

The series I’m currently reading includes a couple of characters that are driving me crazy. I get it. They are the quirky comic relief, which is fine. They are also self-appointed matchmakers. Once again, not a problem; after all, that’s what the series is about – finding husbands for all of the cowboys in a little one-horse town. What gets annoying is that the ladies insist on butting in to everyone’s lives – even when told specifically and unequivocally to Back Off. Just once, I’d like to see them recognize that there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Or, better yet, to get a long-overdue tongue lashing. Alas, I suspect that’s never going to happen. *sigh*

Are you a binge reader? If so, do you have the same problem with certain things becoming annoying? Please tell me it isn’t just me, LOL.


Where Were You On 9/11?

It seems that every generation experiences some event that changes everything – an event of such magnitude that everyone immediately knows the answer to the question “Where were you when…” For my parents’ generation there were two: “Where were you when you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor?” and “Where were you when you heard about the assassination of President Kennedy?” I suspect that this year’s pandemic and the associated changes will be that life-changing event for current generations. For my generation it is, without a doubt, “Where were you on 9/11?”

Image from

Image from

My husband and I were at work; our youngest son was at school while our oldest son was sick and had stayed home. The work day hadn’t even gotten started good before a coworker came into my office and asked if I’d heard that a plane had hit one of the twin towers. Not having any details, I just assumed he was talking about a small plane and small planes hitting skyscrapers is not unheard of so I kind of brushed off his fretting. (This particular coworker was known as the Town Crier for a reason; he was always going to be the first to hear, and blow out of proportion, any and everything.) It wasn’t until the second plane hit the second tower and I found out they were passenger planes that the reality of the situation hit me.  All I wanted to do was pick up my youngest son from school, go home, and gather my family around me where I could make sure they were safe. However, as a civilian employee on a military base, going home was not an option. All military installations had gone on full lock-down – no one entered and no one left. Needless to say, very little work got done that day. A couple of people in the building managed to scrounge up televisions and set them up; I made several trips by during the day to watch the horror unfold. Later in the afternoon the lock-down was eased enough to allow people to start going home even though our departure times had to be staggered to prevent the massive traffic jams that would result otherwise. My husband was in one of the first waves so he was able to pick up our youngest son in a timely fashion. I was in one of the last waves so I didn’t get to leave work until around 5:30 or 6pm. I was a wreck.

My mother called me during my drive home and asked how I was doing. I had managed to hold it together during the day but I told her that I was glad I could finally cry. I’ll always remember her answer – it baffled me then and it baffles me now. She said “Why would you want to cry?” I’m not sure I even answered because I couldn’t come up with the words. The world had just changed forever. Thousands of people were dead, many others injured. Why wouldn‘t I want to cry?

When I got home, I hugged my family and cried some more. Then, I sat down to watch the footage of the events of the day since I hadn’t been able to keep up with all of it at work. It was (and still is) heart-breaking. I remember watching footage of the first responders going up the stairs while everyone else was going down, not knowing that they were heading into, but doing it any way, willing to lay down their lives for others. But, one of the thing that hit me the hardest was watching footage of the shattered towers and wondering what was falling from them – only to realize that it was people. It still makes me cry. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like – to be trapped on one of the upper floors with little to no hope of escape or rescue and have to make the choice of burning to death or jumping. How horrible.

I’ll spend the anniversary as I always do – watching the documentaries and remembering.

S0, where were you on 9/11?


The Mousy Mom Who Roared

The best word to describe me as a child would be “mousy”. I was painfully shy and quiet, always careful not to cause trouble or do anything to call attention to myself. Basically, I was a Goody Two-Shoes. There was also lot of conflict in my life and I quickly learned to apologize for things that were in no way, shape, or form my fault. This was my norm and continued to be until I reached my mid-twenties. At that point, my world fell apart (or, more accurately, was destroyed) and my husband and I had a decision to make: were we going to divorce or try to save our marriage?

We decided to save our marriage which basically meant starting over and rebuilding it from the ground up. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and the whole experience is one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Somewhere during the rebuilding process my inner tough chick came out and she has never gone away. That doesn’t mean the old me is completely gone. I still worry far too much about what others think of me and, to my great annoyance, I still apologize for things that are not my fault. However, the new and improved me is far more willing to stand up for herself than the old me.

Izzy Then and Now

I’m still a quiet person and always will be – that’s just my personality. It always surprises people when I stand up for myself or argue with them about something. I don’t know why. Being quiet doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion or that I’m not strong-willed. True, I’m not willing to throw my opinion on everything out on social media for everyone to see nor is that ever going to change. However, if I feel strongly about something I’m willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone – and have frequently done so. Coworkers, bosses, and even a couple of teachers have faced my ire. (The teachers were an oddity – those faceoffs occurred during my mousy days.) Several years ago when I asked my youngest son when he was going to bring his new girlfriend around to meet his dad and me his response was “Mom, you’re scary”. I’ve got to admit – that hurt my feelings a bit. In my opinion, I’m one of the least scary people you’ll ever meet. However, I can see where someone who has faced my ire on more than one occasion as my youngest son has might be prone to disagree with that assessment. (My youngest son and I butt heads a lot because we’re so much alike. However, it took me until he was 19 years old to understand that that is why he was always able to push my buttons so well.)

Several days ago my husband had a phone conversation with our youngest son. At the time I didn’t know who he was talking to but I could hear him laughing. When he finished the call he tried to update me on their discussion but had to keep stopping to double over in laughter. Our youngest son has a problem with authority nor does he suffer fools gladly – and his definition of a fool is rather broad. It seemed that during their conversation our son was describing an on-going situation at work and his method of dealing with it. (His methods generally entail a lot of arguing.) During the course of the discussion our son said something to the effect of “I do have Mom’s blood running in my veins”. My husband thought this was hysterical.

I found myself thinking about their conversation for some time. I realized that I’d much rather my sons think of me and remember me as the occasionally abrasive, argumentative person I am now than the mousy person I used to be – even if it means they think I’m “scary”.

Cover Reveal for Dances with Werewolves

Dances with Werewolves, the second full-length novel in my Kudzu Korners sweet paranormal romance series, releases on May 27, 2020. This book has been a long time coming and I couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait for you to meet Sydney and Kain as well as renew acquaintances with other Kudzu Korners residents. I love the cover that Livia Reasoner of Fire Star Press designed; it was Livia’s idea to make the scene a night setting and I think it’s perfect.

Dances with Werewolves INorse


Sydney Hall has spent her life looking for love in all the wrong places. Her world falls apart when the man she thought was Mr. Right turns out to be Mr. Couldn’t-Be-More-Wrong. She needs to make some major lifestyle changes—if she can figure out where to start.

Kain is a werewolf afraid of the vulnerability that comes with life with a pack.  Nevertheless, werewolves are made to protect and his instincts kick into high gear when he meets a bruised and battered Sydney Hall. He is determined to help her see herself as the strong woman he believes she can be.

Friendship grows as two damaged people find hope in each other. Can Sydney and Kain maintain their promise to remain friends without benefits? Or, is love inevitable as two wounded souls learn to heal together?


Once the door shut behind Maggie, Kain moved to the spot she occupied previously on the sofa. He patted the cushion next to him, indicating Sydney should join him. “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Questions about what?”

“About your dad. Maggie said he was in law enforcement. Do you remember which branch? State Trooper? Police? Private detective?”

“Wait. I thought you were coming over to check on me and the cats. How did we get on the topic of my father?”

Kain immediately backed down, glad Maggie wasn’t around to see. He was known for digging in when on the trail of something hot, be it a danger to his paranormal charges or an eighties music remix he had yet to hear. Such an abrupt about-face would have Maggie feeling his forehead to check for fever and threatening to call the doctor. He would be the last to admit it but he thought the change was a positive one. Hanging around Sydney was helping him remember the world didn’t revolve around him and that other people have feelings too.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s okay, you just took me by surprise. I don’t mind.” She hung her head. “I don’t get to talk about my daddy often.” She drew in a deep breath and then blew it out. “He’s been gone for years and I still miss him every day. I was only ten when he disappeared. I just remember him telling me it was his job to protect people. I asked my mom for some details after he died, but before she completely lost it. All she said was it was what he was born to do.” Sydney’s brow furrowed and she chewed on the corner of her lip. “No, wait. That’s not right. She said protecting people is what he was made to do, not born. Even then I thought it was a strange choice of words. I still do.” She leveled her gaze on Kain and cocked her head. “Why?”

“I’m in the job of protecting people too. I’d like to think if I disappeared, someone would care enough to look for me. It’s been a long time, and I can’t make any promises, but I’m going to look for him. I think you deserve some answers. Is there anything else about him I should know?”

“What else is there? He was my daddy. He said I was the apple of his eye.” Sydney blinked rapidly, her eyes glistening. “I was his little girl and he loved me. No one has loved me like that since.”

Pre-order your copy HERE!

Outhouse Deliveries

We’re all familiar with the terms “morning person” and “night person”. I’m definitely a night person and my husband is a morning person. (He denies it but that doesn’t change the fact that he is, LOL.) Night is when I’m most likely to come up with a resolution to a story plot that has been bugging me or an entirely new story idea. Odds are good that if I can’t sleep it’s because my brain is running full steam ahead on a story. My husband is the opposite, early morning, usually during that time in-between awake and asleep is when his brain comes up with new projects or solves problems with existing ones. Not long ago he greeted me with the statement “I had the best idea this morning.” His eyes were big enough to be worthy of any cartoon character. Since I had just woken up, I wasn’t sure I was up to the level of excitement such a pronouncement should entail.

Before I tell you his idea, I need to explain a little about where we live. About 2.5 years ago we moved to our rustic dream home in the country; we call our house The Cabin. We both grew up in the country (most would say I grew up in the boonies) and after almost 30 years of living in town we were more than ready to return to our rural roots. Some rural residents set up boxes for use by delivery drivers; most of those residents live in areas far more rural than ours. However, since we have moved when deliveries arrive, there is no telling where they will be placed. On the deck? On the walkway? Under the carport? Left in the rain? Anything is possible.

Now that you have the background, what was my hubby’s fantastic idea? He wanted to build a box for deliveries, but not just any box. He wanted to build the box to look like an outhouse.

Yes, this kind of outhouse.

Yes, this kind of outhouse.

He was kind of crushed that I was not enthused at the idea of having an outhouse in our yard. Honestly, I’m not convinced that we need a delivery box at all – we’re not that rural. In some ways it might be nice so we don’t have to worry about things getting wet when packages are left in the rain but I’m not sure how we’d even let drivers know that there is a certain place to leave packages and I’m definitely not having an outhouse by the road.

What do you think of the outhouse idea? Do you have a special box or location for package deliveries?

A Farewell to Movie Theaters

It’s official. I am done with movie theaters.

In a world where almost every movie is available via streaming within a few months of its release (if not weeks) you would think theaters would be changing their business model in order to survive in the new landscape, but no. Instead, they seem to be doubling down on their existing model and in my opinion its not working. My dissatisfaction began a few years ago when theaters decided to do away with the ticket window, forcing everyone to stand in line at the concession stand in order to buy tickets. True, most theaters have an electronic kiosk where tickets can be purchased – if you can find it hidden in the darkest corner behind a potted plant. After all, if you buy your ticket from the kiosk you won’t be buying any over-priced movie theater snacks. However, I’m not going to buying any of those snacks any way. My biggest problem with being forced to wait in the concession line is that patience is not one of my virtues. I’m amazed by the number of people who act like they’ve never seen movie theater snacks before. Seriously people, they’ve been the same as long as I can remember.

Image courtesty of

Image courtesty of

However, the final straw was the implementation of assigned seating. Are you fricking kidding me? Adults and teens have been successfully choosing their own movie theater seats forever. The first time I ran into this was when we were out of state for New Year’s. We made the mistake of deciding to go to the theater to see The Rise of Skywalker. Once we finally got to the counter to purchase our ticket they asked us to pick seats. Excuse me? We made our selection and went into the theater where of course, others were in our seats. This turned into a confrontation with a jerk. I wasn’t willing to deal with all of this completely unnecessary crap so we left – and got our money back. The manager indicated that this wasn’t the first such situation. Why assigned seating? I don’t understand at all. Theaters are rarely full, so what gives? I told my husband that I was done with theaters but that I would give it one more try when we got home but that if they implement the assigned seating bit, that was it.

Once we got home we went to the local theater where, of course, they have implemented assigned seating. Give me a break! And, prices had increased – our cost for two matinee tickets was over $20. Nope. That’s it. I’m done. I can stream several movies for that price. I’m not sure what the answer is but increased prices and assigned seating isn’t it. I absolutely refuse to set foot in a movie theater for anything less than something of the magnitude of Avengers: End Game – and even something of that nature is highly doubtful.

What about you? Do you still go to the theater or just stream movies from the comfort of your home?

Commercial Logic

I find television commercials annoying – and not just because they’re ten times louder than the show I’m watching although that doesn’t help. I get annoyed by the subtle and not-so-subtle messages they cram down our throats. Yes, I know it is the job of a marketing department to make their product or service the first one that comes to our mind. However, I’m a bit contrary so odds are that the more you try to cram your message down my throat, the less receptive I will be.

Years ago Toyota bombarded the airwaves to convince us that the Camry was the car that everyone must have. All it did was convince me that I wouldn’t own a Camry if you gave it to me. Do I hate Toyota? No. Toyota makes good vehicles and we own two: a Highlander and a Tacoma, both well into their teens. Even though Toyota no longer beats us over the head with the message to buy a Camry, I still wouldn’t have one. I have a long memory.

A wine company had commercials a few months ago that I never did figure out. Were they trying to convince me that drinking their wine would make me ultra-skinny and in demand at ultra-posh parties or was it only available to ultra-skinny people at ultra-posh parties? Hmmm. Their newer commercials have toned down the posh party vibe but apparently it’s still only skinny people that drink it. You’d think in an age of growing body positivity that their marketing department might be aware that their ads should be a bit more inclusive but, apparently not.

Toothpaste commercials are the bane of my existence. If I see one more commercial featuring someone with blindingly white teeth bemoaning how yellow their teeth are, I may throw things. But, as a society, we’ve bought into this. Everybody and their brother – including me – has done some sort of tooth whitening process. I paid for a professional whitening which, while it did lighten my teeth it did NOT whiten them. Oh, and it also made my teeth ridiculously sensitive. Fun times. I guess these commercials bother me the most because I don’t have white teeth and no amount of bleaching, etc. is going to change that. Genetics are stronger than toothpaste and bleach. The only way I will ever have unnaturally white teeth is if I invest in implants or veneers, both of which involve levels of pain and money that do not interest me. So, even though my smile may not require you to don sunglasses in order to gaze upon it, it is genuine. And I resent the implication of some commercials that, just because my teeth aren’t white, I should be deleting photos of myself smiling. And any so-called friend who hands me a tissue and suggests that I take the tissue test… Let’s just say that won’t go well.

french bulldog

Okay, maybe things haven’t quite gotten this bad. Yet.

In order to convince us to buy their razors, companies show us women with no leg hair pretending to shave their legs. Pffffft. Any razor can do that. Want to impress me? Show me a real woman with hairy legs using your product. The only company I know of that has done this is Billie - and because of it, I will try Billie razors once my supply of non-Billie razors runs out. In a similar vein, if you want to show me how well your wrinkle cream works, demonstrate it on a woman fifty or older, not a twenty-something with nary a wrinkle in sight.

But, now that the holiday season is upon us, the worst of the worst commercials are too. This is the time of year we are bombarded with commercials telling us we need to spend more than we make in a year to make our loved ones happy. I especially feel for men. They are the ones being hit with all of the commercials telling them how expensive jewelry is the only way to their significant other’s heart. Don’t fall for it guys! I’m sure it’s true in some cases but probably not most. And the car commercials. Don’t get me started on the car commercials. If my husband were to present me with a new car on Christmas morning, he would not get the reaction the men in the commercials do. Not only would I be furious but, giving me a “gift” that would put our family in debt for several years would probably require marriage counseling.

Oh! There’s one more. “In need of stocking stuffers? Try Listerine Ready Tabs.” Now, I love Christmas and the stockings are one of my favorite parts. I can honestly say that I have never been so desperate for stocking stuffers that I would even consider mouthwash. No one is going to take it kindly if they find mouthwash in their stocking. (“Gee, honey. You could have just told me I have bad breath. You didn’t have to put Listerine in my stocking.”) I don’t know who on the marketing team thought this was a good idea or how they were able to convince everyone else. I wonder if Peloton and Listerine use the same marketing firm?

Thanks for listening while I ranted. Now, it’s your turn. Which commercials push your buttons and why?


Learning to Cook (Or, Apologies to My Children)

I watch a lot of cooking/baking shows and many of the contestants (professional chefs and home bakers alike) talk about how they grew up cooking/baking with their mother and grandmother. I did not. Nevertheless, when I married and had children of my own, I was the one primarily responsible for meals. It wasn’t a process I enjoyed. I had a terrible time planning meals and it didn’t help when my oldest son turned out to be an extremely picky eater. What do you fix (Southern for “prepare”) for the kid who won’t eat anything? It wasn’t only the meal planning that was stressful, the actual preparation was as well. I had a hard time getting all of the components ready at the same time which tended to make me meltdown. (Perfectionism at it’s finest.) After a while, my husband got tired of me stressing out and he took over meal preparation. I’m not sure that he enjoyed the actual process any more than I did but he is much calmer than I am (about pretty much everything). Our boys grew up eating a lot of Shake and Bake chicken and Hamburger Helper. Our meals weren’t the healthiest but both boys survived and are now in their thirties.

A few years ago I subscribed to the Blue Apron meal kit plan for a while and even wrote a post about it HERE. While I enjoyed experimenting I don’t think any of the meals we tried became repeats. Fast forward a couple of years and I decided to subscribe to the Hello Fresh meal kit plan. Aside from a few delivery problems, this went much better. I think some of it was the actual meal offerings themselves. The Hello Fresh meals still gave me the ability to try things I wouldn’t normally fix but weren’t so far outside of my comfort zone (or rather my husband’s comfort zone) that we wouldn’t try them again. As a matter of fact, several of the Hello Fresh meals have become repeats. Hello Fresh taught me just how much I enjoy roasted vegetables and how easy they are to prepare. Who knew? I also learned that olive oil, salt, and pepper are good on pretty much everything. I think another reason that the Hello Fresh process went better was that I was at a different place in my life; I was no longer doing elder care and had gotten through the worst of the grief over losing my parents.. The extra free time made it easier for me to spend the time I needed on meal preparation – after all, I’m still a slow cook.

Now that I’m retired and my husband is still working, it’s only fair that I have taken over once again as the primary cook. And, it’s going much better. I actually enjoy the meal prep and all of the slicing and dicing. I’m still not always the best at getting everything done at the same time but I try not to let it stress me out, after all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still not great at meal planning but it is getting a little easier. Not only that but we are eating better, we now buy a lot of fresh produce and rarely have a pre-packaged meal. (And, I feel kind of guilty when we do.) I also like the fact that Kroger now sells individual Home Chef meal kits. This allows me to keep experimenting without the cost of a weekly subscription.

Blue Apron

Yes, I now own an apron and I still suck at selfies.

In short, I am 56 years old and I am just now learning to cook. Fortunately, as I’ve said before, age is just a number and it’s never too late to learn something new. (My husband, 57, is now taking guitar lessons and I couldn’t be prouder.) So to my sons, I’m sorry I didn’t have these skills when you were still at home. However, you were loved fiercely, had a roof over your head and clothes to wear so I guess it all worked out.

Did you learn to cook as a child?