Friday, April 20, 2018

12 Truths About Life

I came across this TED talk by writer Anne Lamott while I was doing some research on reading and literacy for my work as an instructional coach. The author I was reading had mentioned it in conjunction with making sure we give students enough time and room to DO instead of just passively sit and absorb. However, in listening to Lamott, I discovered a treasure trove of fantastic information that applies to each of us.

Her comments about writers--why and how we do what we do--really touched a nerve. In addition to the gems I can hold for my own writing, there's a wealth of wisdom we could apply to helping students find their voice and the freedom to develop it.

So, I'll quit pontificating and simply give you the link to watch and listen on your own. 

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Healing Touch is Now Available for Pre-order and I Need You!

Welcome back to Mountain Meadow, Virginia. On August 28, Healing Touch, the first book in my new small town contemporary series A Place to Call Home will release. For those of you who read my Mountain Meadow Homecomings series, you'll find some familiar faces along with the new ones.

Healing Touch tells the story of Luke Allred and Rachel Hastings. Luke is a widowed veterinarian who's coming home to establish a new life for his two children and him. His son is angry at the world. His daughter won't talk, and Luke worries he just might be the worst daddy in the world.

Rachel Hastings has a way with animals. In fact, she's the go to person when local wildlife is injured or abandoned, and her healing touch carries over to everyone...except herself. When she agrees to help watch the two new kids in town, she's also put herself back in the orbit of her high school secret crush.

Rachel brings her own baggage, with a failed marriage behind her and a determination to not let another man run or ruin her life. However, neither Luke nor she can ignore the explosive attraction between them. As they pull together, though, the secret Luke's children are hiding could tear everyone's world apart.

I am offering up a handful of free copies in exchange for a fair and honest review. If you're willing to do that, please email me at and let me know what format you need.

I am so excited about this new series. We met Luke's younger brother, Jake Allred, in Special Delivery, but the Mountain Meadow Homecomings series really focused more on the Richardson family--Evan, Tabitha, and Erin. A Place to Call Home will bring the entire Allred clan back to Mountain Meadow. Healing Touch is available right now for pre-order on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The next books in the series, The Secret Ingredient, comes out in December, and the story of the Allred twins is still a work in progress.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

After the Kiss (Notorious Gentlemen, #1)After the Kiss by Suzanne Enoch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a new author to me. I really enjoyed this book and am getting ready to start the next one in the series. The characters were well-rounded and realistic, including the secondary characters (parents and brothers).
As a horse person, I appreciate the fact that this author either did some great homework, or she knows horses too. It's really annoying to read a book that talks about horses that are either 18 hands (not that common) or HUGE animals of 15 hands (two inches shy of being a pony). The training techniques for the horse and the rider were spot on, again refreshing.
Without giving away any spoilers, Enoch was dealing with a tricky issue for that time, a hero who was a bastard. Again, unlike some other books I've read, she doesn't magically make this disappear or resolve it in a completely implausible way.
I stumbled on this book because members of my RWA chapter sometimes bring in books they're clearing off their "already read" shelves. What a happy circumstance picking up After the Kiss turned out to be!

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Making Memories

It is the natural order of things for us to be born, to grow, to foster a new generation and then to die, but the process is never smooth or easy. There are always bumps along the road either for us personally, or for those we love. As parents, we want to smooth the way for our children, to save them from some of the rough spots that we encountered. As children, we dread that time that must inevitably come in which we must say goodbye to our parents.

I said goodbye to my mother this week. Perhaps that’s not solely true, for I think we had been saying our farewells for some time now. When I visited, she would always have something that she wished to give me either because I was the only daughter and she felt it was something that should be passed on to a daughter—like the beautiful wooden jewelry box my father gave her that played Lara’s theme from Dr. Zhivago, or the college notebooks from an uncle who liked to write short stories apparently more than he wanted to take notes on botany while he was at university—or it might have been something I gave her that she wanted to give back to me. Those things do hold memories, and they make me smile when I look at them, but the greater gift was in being able to sit down and share those memories with Mom while we looked at them and talked about them.

Memories are what we make every day with the people we care about, so let me tell you about some of mine.

I remember my mother taking my baby crib and converting it into a canopy bed. Why does this matter? It shows an essential part of her character. She could take almost anything and find a way to repurpose it to use a catchphrase of today. This was nothing new or admirably resource saving. It was simply the way that she was raised. Nothing was wasted. That crib saw new life for me as a toddler bed, and it also holds the memory of her climbing into it with me when I was small and had a nightmare, or getting me out of it during the thunderstorm I was afraid of to hold my hand while we stood at the window and she helped me overcome that fear.

 Speaking of fear—probably not the right word—was the knowledge that she took her role as a parent seriously. When we had done something wrong, there was never any comment of “wait til your father gets home.” Punishment was meted out quickly and fairly. With four kids to raise, she managed to wear one leather belt completely out and had to get a new one. We had either learned enough she didn’t need to wear out a second, or she decided we’d all gotten too big to spank.

She wanted us to learn to make our own decisions, and then live with them—right or wrong. “Pick out what you want to wear today.” I can remember standing at my closet and agonizing over that choice when I couldn’t have been more than four or five. Mom swears I always picked my fanciest dress. From teenage and adult years spent in jeans and barn boots, I find that hard to believe.

Mom wanted to make sure we had the skills to live on our own…or she might have been just a master of delegation. We knew enough about cooking to feed ourselves, enough about sewing to hem and sew buttons on. She might have tried to teach me more, but that sewing thing didn’t take. We learned how to read maps, set up household bill paying accounts and filing systems. She taught me the basics of gardening and so many things I could never possibly write them all down.

One of the things she taught me was that building a strong marriage takes work. Love alone is not enough, though it is the foundation. It takes commitment, acceptance, and a willingness to truly forgive. I think that probably applies to any lasting relationships in our lives.

If I had to summarize my mother in just a few words, I would say “boundless energy.” She ran our house in such a way that I have no doubt she could have been a corporate CEO in this day and age. But that wasn’t the role she was raised to expect in her generation. Instead, she turned that drive, focus, and energy on her family—providing an anchor and stability for our dad as well as us. She also channeled that energy into volunteer work. I can remember “helping” with Heart Fund campaigns and political ones as well. Many times, I went with her to help deliver for Meals on Wheels. She was always active in something.

She used to wear us out on vacations with going places and doing things. In fact, it was when she looked at me and said, “I can’t do that anymore” that I realized we had entered another phase where the time we shared when I visited would be more about reflecting on what we had done than creating new memories. Yet, even this was another layer of making memories. If living in the South for the past quarter century plus has taught me nothing else, it’s that taking time to just sit a spell and talk has immeasurable value. You can learn a lot when you close your mouth and listen.

We talked about death too. It is a part of life that none of us can avoid. Mom was 90, and she would be the first to tell you that was about twenty-five years more than she expected to have because her parents passed away in their sixties. Every time she would say she didn’t expect to still be alive, I would remind her of one of her cousins who was well over a hundred before she passed away. At first, it was a joke, then maybe a wish, and finally I think it was a fear.

Age takes its toll on all of us, and Mom was tired. People have described her as a fighter, a scrapper, a firecracker, and she was all of those things, but ultimately, she was simply ready to say goodbye to all of us still travelling our own journey so that she could go on to the next phase of hers.

Of all my many precious memories of my mother, being able to be with her as she said goodbye to this earthly life will be one of them. She wanted to die at home, so we granted that wish to her. We surrounded her with family and love, held her hands, and let her know that we loved her, and that it was okay to give up that fight and say goodbye because her job was done here. She had raised us to become adults who had found our own paths to walk, had learned to live with our own mistakes, and to forgive ourselves and others for those blunders that inevitably occur.

We opened the door to her patio during those last few minutes, so she could hear the birds singing, but more importantly so that her spirit could depart and have a pathway to Heaven. I have no doubt that my dad, my brother John, Mom’s parents and her sister were all there to take her hand and welcome her in.
I will miss her presence, her guidance, and that boundless energy drawing me out of my shell and daring me to do more than I thought I could, but I am so glad I had these years with her to build the memories I can carry on with me now. I would encourage all of you to look at your own parents, children, grandparents, and grandchildren and take advantage of that time. Make those memories so you can look back with a smile, sit a spell, and say, “I remember when…”

I love you, Mom. Thanks.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

From Writing to Gardening: The "Blessings" of Abundance

In my spare time, when I’m not working or writing (which lately seems to be work), my family and I are growing a garden. Like many projects around our place, the garden has gotten much, much larger than I ever envisioned. In fact, I believe we could probably feed our entire neighborhood. If you’ve ever grown a garden, then you know that vegetables have a bad habit of ripening all at once. (Next year I plan to plant one seed per day to avoid this thoughtlessness on the part of my plants.) The net effect is that I’ve eaten and frozen broccoli to the point I don’t think I can look at another stalk anytime soon. Kale is my new best friend because it keeps doing its thing for weeks and weeks without bolting. Bonus: it’s good for you too. The problem now is cucumbers.
Over the past two days, Harvey and I have canned 24 quarts of dill pickles. We’ve had sliced cucumbers for lunch and dinner. And… We haven’t even made a dent in what’s coming in the door. Don’t get me wrong. I like pickles. However, our household can only consume so many pickles in a year. Now we face the inevitable question: what can we do with all these cucumbers? You see, our two rows (80 foot long rows!) of cucumbers have just gotten cranked. So I decided to find out if there were any non-food related things for which cucumbers could be used. Turns out, there’s quite a lot. Here’s some of the things I plan on trying: 1. Ant control – I checked three different web sites that recommend spreading cucumber peelings, the bitterer the better, around the places where you believe ants might be entering your home. I’m going to assume for cucumber usage purposes that the little pests are entering via the entire circumference of my house. With generously peeled peelings, I believe I can use about 352 cucumbers for this project. 2. Reduce swelling – we all know the cucumber slices on the eyes trick from all those spa scenes in chick flicks. I like this idea, but there are two problems: my son and husband aren’t keen on a spa day, and this isn’t going to use nearly enough cucumber. However, curing eye swelling is just one trick. Apparently cucumbers are good at dealing with another “swelling”: cellulite. Again, my expert web sites recommend rubbing slices of cucumber on cellulite to help tighten skin. If rubbing works…why not a bath? That should use bushels of cucumbers, and I might be able to fit back into my skinny swimsuit. 3. Cucumber will clean stainless steel sinks and faucets. What do you know, I have a stainless steel kitchen sink…and dishwasher…and cookware. Yep, mass cucumber usage here. 4. Squeak eliminator – toss out the WD40 and rub a cucumber slice on that noisy hinge. I wonder if it works on knee joints? 5. Shoe polish – I don’t see much mileage in this one. I think I’m down to about two pairs of shoes that actually need polishing. 6. Sunburn relief – if you don’t have aloe, use cucumber. Now, I might be able to use this since I’m fair-complexioned, but hubby and the kid have that olive insta-tan skin…damn them.
There are several more uses along with plenty of reasons to consume cucumber. It boosts your energy, cures a hangover, gets rid of bad breath, and lowers blood pressure. I think it might be able to bring about world peace too, but I haven’t seen that use…yet. There is one thing that gardening does add, whether it's cucumbers or the other vegetables we have coming on: it's a wonderful stress reliever and a great way to take a break from spending so much time in front of the computer either writing or promoting my books. Check out my website at I've got a series out that I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Where is the Moral Compass of Today’s Young People?

I will say right up front that I teach in an alternative high school, so I am dealing with students who may not have the most stellar of pasts or come from the best of homes. Today, however, I listened in on a conversation taking place while students were getting work done in my class. The entire discussion centered around the best ways in which to steal items from Walmart without getting caught, and an open discussion of people they knew who had stolen everything from cell phones to TVs. Am I dangerously na├»ve? Just how the devil does one walk out of a store with a freaking television set? More importantly than that—never, anywhere in this conversation, was any thought or comment given to the fact that stealing is wrong. To take someone’s goods or belongings without permission or payment is fundamentally, unequivocally wrong. One of the students involved in this discussion regularly attends church. Are the Ten Commandments not taught there anymore? I may be a bit rusty, but I do believe one of them is “Thou shalt not steal.” I’m a parent, not always as attentive as I should have been over the years, but I have to ask… Your kid suddenly shows up with a brand new cell phone…don’t you ASK where they got it? If they walk in the door with a new television, don’t you ASK how they bought it? What the hell? What is our country coming to when people think that they should have anything they want just because they want it, without paying any price for it?
More frightening even than that, what is the destiny of a nation in which many, many people no longer seem to have any functioning moral compass whatsoever? This is the same group of students who asked me if I would “help” them during their state writing tests. I told them no in no uncertain terms. One of the students said, “She could get in trouble and lose her job.” To which, I replied, “You’re right, I could, but more importantly than that, I wouldn’t do it because it’s wrong, and at the end of the day, I want to be able to lay my head down to sleep at night with a clear conscience.” How alarming that that concept seemed something entirely new to them.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Here's your chance to win a copy of my newest book!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lost & Found Love by Laura Browning

Lost & Found Love

by Laura Browning

Giveaway ends March 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway