Living in the Moment: Casper, WY #MondayBlogs #Wyoming

If you’re new to my blog and want to know how this road trip began, click here for the first post.

We arrived in Evansville, WY, just outside Casper, in the evening, early enough to take a walk around and become oriented to our new “home” for the next few days. To our surprise and delight, we found a “rail trail” that would take us all the way into Casper. Following are some photos of the trail, overpass and tunnel.

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Downtown Casper was pretty interesting. Well, this was just plain weird:

The Dick Cheney Federal Building. Seriously.

Although my husband doesn’t like to have his photo shared on social media, it was his idea to pose:

The convention that made this trip possible. And my husband doing his best cowboy impression.

The Chamber of Commerce was one place we stopped to pick up maps and to gawk at this “water feature”:

Since the trail is about 2.9 miles one way, the next day we elected to walk into town, assuming we could find a bus back to Evansville. (Spoiler alert: we assumed wrong and wound up walking all the way back. Over 20,000 steps went on my Fitbit that day.)

We spent some time at the convention and then went searching for Hell’s Half Acre, a 320-acre geologic wonder of ravines and rock formations. We had seen pictures. We were prepared to be awed. It was only a 40-mile drive from Casper. We had snacks and water with us. And long underwear.

Hell’s Half Acre wasn’t hard to find. As we approached, to our left stood tall chain-linked and barbed wire fencing. Yup, the geologic wonder was not just closed but sealed off.

I should have taken out my iPhone and started snapping the fences that obstructed our view, but I was too upset. And my husband … more so. We had researched Hell’s Half Acre. We already knew the original diner and motel were no longer there. We already knew there would be no amenities. An aerial view on Google maps suggested that we should be able to view the rock formations and ravines. All we had wanted to do was park and film.

My husband found an opening in the fencing and decided to investigate, see if it would be worth dragging his gear through. I sat on a splintery post and wondered if we would be both charged with trepassing, or just Greg. I mean, there were no “No Trespassing Signs” to be seen. And we had come all the way from Florida so we could put the “duh” into Flori-duh if needed.

Greg came back, still angry but now resigned (to my relief) to the fact that the county meant to keep people out. There was nothing to be done but find the nearest supermarket, buy some wine, and drown our disappointment.

Since he failed to achieve the Holy Grail of a time lapse of the Milky Way over Hell’s Half Acre, the next day Greg decided that we would drive up to a scenic outlook on Casper Mountain Road. There he would film a time lapse of Casper as the sun set and city lights came on. Following are my humble iPhone photos and video.

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Next week: the eclipse! Let’s hope I can show you more than just my humble iPhone renditions. (I keep telling my husband, the photos don’t have to be perfect … ).


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One of my favorite novels: Town Father by Kevin Brennan.

I’ve been dipping into my indie catalog lately, featuring an excerpt from the books I’ve published since 2013. This week it’s Town Father‘s turn. This might well be the only historical fiction I ever write, unless you consider a novel set in the early 1970s to be historical fiction. Maybe so. But I had never […]

via Revisiting Town Father — WHAT THE HELL

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Update: On Hold Yet Again #HurricaneIrma #TGIF

We are fine. Irma was still a bitch but in lowercase letters. We prepared for the worst and it didn’t happen, at least not to us. We have power and some minor debris to clean up, but that’s it. So, now, please turn your attention back to those are still suffering from Harvey and Irma, from the wildfires in the West, from the earthquake in Mexico, from the monsoons and floods across the globe. There is still plenty of suffering going on.


I had hoped to be more active on my blog since our return from our road trip. Unfortunately, Irma (no friend of mine) has other ideas. As many of you already know, Hurricane Irma has torn up islands in the Caribbean, leaving devastation in its wake. Its path is set on Florida but still we’re not exactly sure where in South Florida it will make landfall. Just that it will sometime late Saturday. The latest report (as of 10 AM, 9/7/2017) is Irma is expected to go straight up the center of Florida and then veer out west.
At this point, we can only hope that those who should evacuate heed those orders and take shelter. Irma is a B-I-T-C-H. This one hurricane is likely to be more devastating than the combined impact of the hurricanes that criss-crossed Florida in 2004 and 2005.

My heart is heavy with worry for my fellow Floridians. I live in north Florida, near the border with Georgia. At worst, we’ll have tropical storm conditions and power outages.

That’s why I’m posting this now and why I’m turning off scheduled posts for the time being. Why post when I might not have the power (literally and figuratively) to respond to comments?

In meantime, please enjoy what a few of my friends are up to.

There’s a delightful post on Jill Weatherholt’s blog featuring John Howell’s fur children:

Katie Sullivan is able to sleep now that she’s started the third book in her Changelings series: For a review of the first book of her series, Into the Mist, go here:

Finally, friend and fellow blogger/writer Phillip McCollum has been setting writing goals and keeping them, to the delight of his readers:

Okay, this should keep y’all busy for awhile. Cheers and stay safe wherever you are.


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On the Road: Joan Osborne and “Work on Me”

My husband has become so smitten with Joan Osborne (2 CDs on our trip) that I’m (almost) jealous:

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Living in the Moment: Carhenge and Clouds #MondayBlogs #Carhenge #clouds

Context: Two years ago my husband and I (well, mostly my husband) started planning a trip to see the Total Solar Eclipse. Not the Partial Solar Eclipse which would be and was visible in Tallahassee. No, the Total as in TOTAL. And the Solar Eclipse, not the car.

Originally we were going to go to Madras, Oregon, and because my husband would need to bring a lot of gear, we would have to drive. Ah, those were innocent days when we talked about driving all the way to Oregon, maybe staying at a B-and-B close by, taking time to visit friends in the state, maybe try to squeeze in a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area . . ..

Yeah, well, my husband and I always have big ideas when we don’t have to act on them.

About a year ago, my husband learned that the Astronomical League would hold its annual national convention in Casper, Wyoming, over a few days before the eclipse. Casper was in the path of totality. Why drive all the way to Madras when we could save time (and money) by going to Casper? This was probably one of the smartest decisions we (ever) made. My husband is a member of the Astronomical League and so he was able to obtain hotel accommodations at a discount. The main hotel was already booked solid, but we were able to get one of the last rooms in Evansville, just outside Casper.

I left my husband in charge of the remaining accommodations for our trip, along with the itinerary.

The first two days of driving were not much fun as it seemed to take forever to get out of the southeast. Two-lane interstates where semi-trucks played leapfrog with each other and automobile drivers with frayed nerves jockeyed to get around them. Our first stop was Olive Branch, Mississippi; the second was North Kansas City, Missouri. By the end of the second day, I was convinced that I was too old for this kind of traveling and that I would need a stockpile of anti-anxiety drugs if I was ever to do it again.

In an upside-down kind of good fortune, we woke to a thunderstorm on our third day. We still had to get through Kansas and a bit of Nebraska before we’d reach Wyoming. We watched the weather and studied our paper maps. In times like this, our map apps are essentially useless. We found a highway we could turn on to from the interstate. Highway 36 aka the Pony Express Highway. We would be driving right into the storm, but it was moving fast and with any luck, we wouldn’t be wet for long.

The good fortune was in us having a need to get off the interstate. Interstates are presumably designed for speed but often they are at best boring, at worst ugly as sin with miles of billboards blocking what little scenery there might be. And those are the well-maintained interstates.

By contrast highways have a slower speed limit and fewer amenities such as rest stops but you get to see the country, you drive through small towns that you wouldn’t otherwise know existed. In Kansas we saw rolling green hills, miles of cornfields, dairy farms, cows lazing in the grass: it looked just like north New York, where I spent my childhood. I had no idea that Kansas could be so lovely. And the sky . . . so much sky. The storm had left behind some amazing clouds in its wake. Another thing you can do on a highway that you can’t do on an interstate: pull over and take pictures.

Outside Fairview, Kansas:

A “roll cloud” … look it up.

During our drive, my husband reminisced about other cross-country trips he had taken and how unnerving it could be to see the Earth’s curvature. So when I turned around, away from the roll cloud and saw another cloud just barely visible at the horizon, I got a little queasy.

Cloud BELOW the horizon

Another advantage of driving highways is you can have side-trip adventures. Carhenge just happened to be on our way.

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Next stop North Platte, Nebraska and then on to Wyoming! And Happy Labor Day to all of you (including me) who are grateful to have the day off!

P.S. I’m back to writing an original once a week with occasional interludes. We’ll see how long this lasts.

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Kevin Brennan is giving away a FREE ebook in exchange for an honest review. Go to his blog for details. Check out his current reviews on Amazon to see what you’d be missing if you don’t take him up in this great deal. I’ve read each one of his books and loved each one too. And wrote reviews for each one … otherwise I’d be in line for a freebie 😉

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Meet Guest Author, Luanne Castle…

Here’s a little backstory on how Luanne came around to creating her wonderful chapbook, Kin Types.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

As a child, I loved reading about times past. Biographies of famous women like Lucrezia Borgia and Annie Oakley let me experience life in the periods in which they lived. Historical fiction lent a sense of adventure to realistic depictions of old England or the American colonial period. Time travel became my favorite fantasy.

But I never associated those times with my ancestors. The people who came before me were my three living grandparents, and the oldest person I knew, my grandfather’s aunt. I thought they had always been old.

As I became a teen, my grandfather began to tell me stories about our ancestors, and while they were interesting and I remembered them, I still didn’t put these relatives in my mind’s image of the Gilded Age and before. But then, when I was in college, my grandfather decided to show me his large collection of antique family portraits…

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A Confession and a Book Review: Kin Types by Luanne Castle #bookreview #poetry

First, the confession: I’ve been away in body as well as in mind. For two years my husband had been planning this road trip. For one year, it’s been almost an obsession with him and then with me. And, into the mix, as if it weren’t enough to be planning and obsessing over a road trip, I started a course of study that might lead me to a “second career.” (See my previous post here.) Sometimes I think I purposely set up roadblocks to writing. Anyone else I know would have been blogging about this trip, before and during. But not me. No, I was discreet. Only those who had a need to know knew of our plans. Now I’m back to my hot, humid home and our three cats who have (yet again) proven that they are loyal to whose-ever hand that feeds them, be it my hand or the pet sitter’s.

I’ll write about our trip later. For now I’ll just say that we drove to Casper, Wyoming, to view the Total Solar Eclipse. We saw it. It was a sight that will last me the rest of my life. Now, on to my review of Luanne Castle’s chapbook: Kin Types.


Click on this cover to go to Finishing Line Press.

I took Kin Types on the road with me. It’s a very slim volume of poems which I received in the mail only a few days before our trip. I slipped it into one of my bags, sensing that the thirty pages of poetry and prose belied a depth and density that I’ve come to anticipate with Luanne’s writing. And yet I still wasn’t prepared for the wealth of stories I found among those pages.

Our first night out, in Olive Branch, Mississippi, I pulled Kin Types from my bag, thinking I would read a poem or two while my husband showered, before we turned off the lights. Instead, I read all the poems, totally captivated by the stories of Luanne’s ancestors. In her acknowledgement, she wrote:

for those who came before me

whose stories I was privileged

to try to inhabit, if only for a moment

Thanks to Luanne and another friend of mine (I’m talking about you, Jane), I’ve developed an interest in my own ancestry: who was it that came before me, what happened to them, how (if at all) their existence has informed my own, besides the obvious connection of DNA. So, with a slight chill, I read the first sentence of “The Nurturing of Nature and its Accumulations”:

Anything that happened to my grandmother before she got pregnant imprinted the genes she shared with my father and then with me.

When we study our ancestry, we are trying to learn about ourselves. It’s an ego trip. It’s “all about me.” There is that element in Luanne’s poems, that she unearths these stories in order to learn more about herself, about how “those who came before” her made her who she is today. With Kin Types, though, the self interest is but one element. Luanne writes these poetic portraits with such sympathy, with such deep understanding (appreciation, perhaps even love) for the circumstances each ancestor faced and suffered through, that they almost literally walked off the page and into my heart. The most poignant of these is “And So It Goes,” a prose piece that reads like a novel, the courtship and separation (through death) of Pieter and Neeltje, their beginning and their end. Americans like to romanticize our ancestors’ struggles as they set new roots in what was a “new” world, trying to escape poverty or boredom, oppression or suppression. But their lives, especially the women’s lives, were not the stuff of romantic adventure:

Neeltje did things without fanfare or explanation, and that’s how she died. [. . .] he realized that even though she’d been at his side since their teens, he had the sense he didn’t know her. [. . .] He’d made her a mother many times over, but she had been only a girl.

Death is everywhere in these poems, as it was everywhere in the lives Luanne writes about:

Nine children born to Neeltje. Two funerals. (“And So It Goes”)

Gerrit is buried / twice, once in Santiago and / later near his brother in Kalamazoo. (“More Burials”)

His dark blond curls were so / like her brother Lucas when a baby / and not yet the young man she kissed / in his black coffin. (“New Life, New Music”)

She listens to her husband outside the church / door, reads the casualty lists, hovers around / those waiting. Now her big brother’s letter / like his touch on their dying mother’s cheek, / is enough. (“Once and Now”)

One, / two, and then a third was lost / and a fourth born. (“The Fat Little House”)

Death is everywhere but so is life. The death of babies, of brothers to war, of women dying without “fanfare or explanation” occurs among the birth of babies, the growth of families, the setting of roots. It is history; not just that of Luanne’s ancestry but of everyone’s ancestry.

What Kin Types did for me, both as a writer and a reader, is help me realize that my own family history, presumably boring and uneventful compared to those who can claim lineage to kings and generals, was anything but boring and uneventful for the people who lived those lives. Their lives might only be expressed in a few handwritten lines across decades of census taking, a marriage certificate here, a death certificate there. Only a few photographs may exist. But each atom of information is a spark to a story.

Like DNA, the histories found in Kin Types are the building blocks of a poet. Luanne’s poetry gives her ancestors’ stories a living, breathing quality that make them unforgettable. I’m grateful to Luanne for sharing her histories and for inspiring me to continue my own exploration.


If you don’t already know Luanne, please visit this post where she graciously answered my questions about writing poetry: An Interview with Luanne Castle.

You can get your own copy of Kin Types at the Finishing Line Press website: Kin Types.

Please visit Luanne at her blogs: Writer Site and The Family Kalamazoo.


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Living in the Moment: Sort of #MondayBlogs #TEFL #TESL

I feel that I owe you all an explanation. I’ve been … hmmm … relatively absent over the last few weeks. Some of you may have noticed. Some not. No matter.

A few weeks ago, I turned 60. And my husband retired from his state job. And I started looking into a second career. Yeah, pretty much all on the same day.

I am happy that my husband is retired for many, many reasons. The least of which is we have a big trip planned for later this summer and it’s a lot easier for him to work on the logistics from home. Another good reason is his health. His back got so bad for him last winter that he couldn’t stand up straight. He was hinged at his hip, his back flat like an ironing board. The guy is 6 feet tall. I’m 5 feet 4 inches. We are not supposed to literally see eye-to-eye. He has been proactive about seeing doctors (including physical therapists, chiropractors, and now an orthopedic surgeon) as well as developing an exercise routine that has greatly improved his posture and reduced his chronic pain. Reduced but not eliminated. More doctor appointments are in the future but at least he has the freedom to focus on his health and not be sedentary for 7 to 8 hours a day.

My favorite reason for his retirement is he is spoiling me. Most nights I come home from work to find dinner ready. I don’t have to go grocery shopping any more. I don’t even have to vacuum up the cat litter. I still do my own laundry but that is personal choice.

I would probably be more spoiled if I hadn’t decided to enroll in an online program for TESL/TEFL certification.

TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

The acronyms are used interchangeably but usually TEFL refers to teaching in other countries like China and TESL refers to teaching immigrants. I don’t have plans to teach in another country, but I’m interested in moving out West where there may be some immigrants wanting to learn English.

Why, oh, why, am I pursuing a course of study when I already have two graduate degrees?

Shortly before I turned 60 (an age, by the way, I had been looking forward to), I realized that I really, really, really didn’t want to continue with my current job past 62. But if I retire then, I’ll still have three years before I’m qualified for Medicare. I’ve estimated that my health insurance premiums would take at least 3/4 of my pension. I need another source of income, at least for those years and possibly beyond.

So my dream is to work part-time as an ESL tutor.

Actually, this isn’t a new interest of mine. I had looked into certification many years ago at my local university. The one class I took was underwhelming in content and inconvenient for my work schedule. I also worked at my local library as a literacy volunteer for a while. But it wasn’t until I started working on my current course of study that I realized that maybe, just maybe, this was what I should have been doing all along. I just hadn’t had the imagination to pursue it when I was younger.

Well, there’s no time like the present. Actually, all we really have is the present.

And I have a limited amount of time in which to complete my certification. It’s self-paced, but there’s an “expiration date.” The course work is very interesting. I’m learning a lot about my own language (us native speakers take so much for granted), and I like the challenge of coming up with my own lesson plans. I have to use my imagination.

Now some of you (well, maybe one person) might wonder why I’m not thinking about self-publishing as a way to earn some extra $$$.


Okay, in all seriousness, I still have a novel in the works, but it’s on the back burner until I finish my studies. I do want to self-publish, but I’ve set my expectations for market success pretty low. I can’t be in it for the money.

So I’ll continue to be fairly absent from social media and blogging for the next couple of months. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think of each of you often.

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took at the bay side of St. George Island recently. My husband was working on a time-lapse of the clouds, while I sat and sweated.

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At Long Last: Book 2 in The Changelings Series by Katie Sullivan!

My good friend, Katie Sullivan, is publishing her second book in The Changelings Series: The Rise of Kings! I read her first book, Into the Mist, and loved it. I was a beta reader for The Rise of Kings and loved it. Read on for how to get your own copy!

Well, 2 years after it was promised, Book 2 in the Changelings saga is finally here. It doesn’t matter that it was essentially written four years ago – which, coupled with my desire to expand the story – caused me so. many. freaking. continuity errors I nearly lost my mind – it’s here now. It’s here…

via On the Eve of Battle – The Rise of Kings — The D/A Dialogues

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