A book deal! “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”

For two years, I stared at a particular phrase on the cork bulletin board in my office that my husband conceived as a book title about our 16 year old black cat, Midnight thinking, “I need to write a book about this…”

Midnight loved to prance throughout the house, her tail held high, the end sometimes waving or curling like a soft feather.

Last fall, on a gorgeous crisp morning, I awoke and penned Midnight’s tale to paper. But it wasn’t quite finished, and I couldn’t quite finish it without the creative words of fellow animal lover and friend, Pat Wahler.

I said to her, “You see, there’s this cat, and she has disabilities….”

Thus began a beautiful friendship where “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” blossomed on paper, and in both of our hearts.

Over coffee, tea, and chocolate at a favorite hangout in Cottleville, we edited, wrote, and re-edited. Months later, we sent off queries. A well-respected local publisher responded, touched by Midnight’s story, and offered words of encouragement, positive feedback, even suggestions for revisions.

Of course, this called for more coffee, tea and chocolate as we edited away.

When Pat and I felt we were ready, we resubmitted and sent off the revised story to the publisher.

About a month ago, we signed a contract with Amphorae Publishing for “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” – a picture book about overcoming disabilities, building confidence, and realizing it’s okay to be you, just the way you are.

We’re so excited to embark on this journey and can’t wait to bring Midnight’s story of courage to children near and far!

Here’s a pic of our pretty girl….(In real life, she is not disabled)

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Just Listen for the Beauty

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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Sheree’s Happy Phone Pics – Or Things That Make Me Smile

With all the negative stuff happening in the world right now, I’ve decided to post phone pics. Sometimes the picture quality wasn’t great, but everything I snapped pics of made me happy. It’s interesting to see just how many photos are merely simply pleasures in life, or of friends and family.

Well here you go! I hope my happy crappy phone pics make you smile, too!

Let me know which photos you like the best by leaving a comment below!

Peace and Love,

Sheree

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These two – I love them so!

 

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A secondhand store and its treasures

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Standing in front of Galliot Cay Sand Bar, Exuma Cays – a bucket list adventure

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The St. Louis Art Museum’s interesting masterpieces

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A Caribbean Island

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A visit to Tenth Life Cat Rescue and snuggling a kitten

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The corn field behind our house

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The cancer survivor tiles at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis

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The view directly in front of me

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The smell of a freshly groomed fur baby at Sebastian’s Pet Salon

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A 100 year old barn in winter

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My favorite comic strip by Hilary Price. Even better when it’s focused on English.

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Cousins

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The hubster being silly.

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An amazing book – Folly Beach Dances – photos by me and hubster; poetry by 6 women friends

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Corn Mazes involving Missouri teams

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Cappuccino at a favorite coffeehouse

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Sleepy cats

 

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Booksignings with friends

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Surprises from my honey

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Stolen moments

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Long time friends listening to a jazz concert

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A swinging bridge in Missouri

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Students that turn into friends

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These three

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Acceptance into a juried art show

 

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The aroma of a good peanut butter and cutout cookie, right out of the oven.

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Fun Hats

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Preparing a savory pork loin

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The smooth sounds of Cris Botti at the St. Louis Symphony

The Storms in our Life

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

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I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

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Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

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Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

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Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

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“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

Awards, Booksignings, and Libraries

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile, but my life has been all about taking care of Miss Adeline and her kitten babies. And I promise to post pics real soon, as three have already been adopted out to wonderful families. Here’s a pic of all six with momma.

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But for now, I’d like to give you updates on my writing.

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Hubby attended a lovely author event and booksigning at the Schlafy Branch of the St. Louis Public Library while I was away at the Missouri Writer’s Conference Guild on April 30, in Kansas City. I received two writing awards that weekend — Third Place for Best Magazine Article published in AAA Southern Traveler, “How Sweet It Is”, and Second Place for Best Poem published in Well Versed Literary Works 2015 for my poem, “Steadfast”, about my mom.

When I returned home from the conference, I was pleased to find that Kenneth Hardcastle emailed a pic of FOLLY BEACH DANCES being integrated into the library.

This past Sunday, I attended the Well Versed Literary Works 2016 booksigning event in Columbia, Missouri, and received Second Place for Nonfiction for my essay titled “The Stranger” about an incident where a stranger lurked in my parent’s basement when I was a young child. It came with a cash award, which made me smile.

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Finally, we’re doing a FOLLY BEACH DANCES booksigning event at the Roasted Bean, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday June 18, at 441 Main Street, Troy, Missouri. Roasted Bean only serves Blue Print roasters coffee (from U City loop) — the best espresso around. So stop by, learn about our sea-inspired coffee table book of photography and poetry, and sip a great cup of java!

If you can’t make it to the signing you can order books on Amazon, or purchase in South Carolina or Missouri. Just check the book’s website for availability.

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Troy Buchanan Writer’s Week – 7 days of inspiration

On March 16, hubby and I had the great pleasure of presenting two talks to students at Troy Buchanan High School Writer’s Week.

Writer’s Week is an annual event where authors come from all around to talk about their books, their journey, and the craft of writing – a full week of back-to-back sessions for the students.

As my husband, Russell and I stepped into the library, we noticed a photo of our book propped on an easel. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a ceiling tile painting, and realistic depiction of our book cover, Folly Beach Dances. So excited, I asked April Elliott, the Art teacher who painted the tile, to pose for a photo next to her creative masterpiece.

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Book covers from visiting authors hung as ceiling tiles in the space overhead, such as The Hate List by bestselling author Jennifer Brown.

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The session commenced as a few students read their works to fellow students before our presentation. One young writer from our church, Tyler Tippett, shared a poignant and touching essay about a family member.

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DSC_0874 Russell copyrAfterwards, Russell and I proceeded to tell the story of Folly Beach Dances in words and pictures. We hoped the students took away with them the purpose and mission of our ‘healing’ coffee table book.

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Georganna Krumlinde, Library Media Specialist, (yellow t-shirt) graciously provided us with lunch and a surprise basket of gifts from the school once our session ended.

In the process, I discovered Annie England Noblin, NYT bestselling author of Sit! Stay! Speak! was a presenter at Troy Buchanan. Later in the week, writer friend Pat Wahler and I, attended her session. During Annie’s break, we chatted about writing, our fur babies, and life in Missouri.

 

The Flower of my Heart – Sweet Adeline & Her Kittens

March 14

While eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal, I gazed up to notice a striped-cat with no tail licking her fur while perched on the deck rail.

Quickly, I filled a ceramic bowl with catfood, and scurried outside. Her loud purrs and figure 8 cuddles between my legs in appreciation for the food was enough to tug on my heartstrings.

She frequented our deck every day for four days straight, rubbing up against the screen door in the kitchen, and making eye contact with our Bernese Mountain Dog. She peered through the French Doors like she lived here. Our Bernese wagged his tail in delight as the kitty settled in on the deck.

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March 17

As I stepped through the doorway of the garage to the back yard with our mini Aussie, kitty emerged from under the deck to greet our pooch with a meow, inches from touching noses.

I promised myself that if kitty babe was still hanging around on St. Patrick’s Day, I would take her to the vet to see if she was microchipped.

I quickly corralled our canine in the house, while I searched for a cat carrier. I tempted her with some treats strewn inside the carrier, which worked.  She meowed slightly during the ride to the vet, but overall appeared very sweet.

“No microchip. FIV and feline leukemia – negative. Internal parasites – negative. Slight case of fleas,” Dr. Schneider remarked.

“Is she pregnant?”

“I believe so. Let me see how far along. I’ll be right back.”

“Yep, she’s due in about 4-6 weeks. We can give her a rabies shot, but no other vaccinations.”

I called the hubster, and gave him the news.

“She’s pregnant.”

“Bring her home. We can’t leave her out to fend for herself.”

“What’s her name?” said Dr. Schneider.

I thought for a moment of my sweet Mother and a song Dad used to sing to Mom.

“Adeline. For the song Sweet Adeline, and my Mom’s confirmation name.”

I tucked Adeline in the cat carrier for the ride home, all the while, thoughts dancing through my head. Am I crazy for bringing home a pregnant cat? Will the other animals get along with her? When will she deliver? Will the babies be okay?

I set up a nice layout in the master bathroom for Adeline’s pregnancy – kitty litter box, container with food, fresh water, and a small box with a towel for her to snuggle.

She spent much of her time sleeping, watching the birds and squirrels through the two picture windows, relaxing, and enjoying tummy rubs from me.

Miss Adeline tugged on my heartstrings. A Godsend, I felt like she was my child. Though hubby and I tried for awhile, to have children, God must’ve had a greater purpose for us.

March 23

Adeline discovered the ceramic frog on the side of the green vase. She growled at it, and crouched low to investigate, but then backed off.

Although I tried to assure her the frog wasn’t real, she seemed wary and kept her distance.

March 24

Adeline is very particular about covering up her ‘business’ and hates it when she gets even a small amount of litter outside the box. She ‘gathers’ the litter on the foam protective mat, and moves it closer to the box.

March 25

“Do you want your food?”

Adeline meows non-stop and pops her head in the Purina Focus Kitten Food even before I scoop out the kibble for her bowl.  She eats with a vengeance and determination, making a low grunting noise.

March 31

Adeline loves to ‘make biscuits’ on my toes, and delights in purring. A favorite hiding spot is under my legs, when I’m seated on the shower chair.

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When resting on her side, I liken her belly to a platypus or football.

“She’s bonding with you,” remarks the hubster.

I can’t wait to see her kittens.  I admit, I might be a little worried about her and the babies.

April 1-8

I’ve been allowing Adeline to explore the bedroom since she’s confined to the master bathroom. As I open the bathroom door, sometimes she is eager to discover the bedroom, and sometimes she’s content just to sit on the bathroom floor and stare at me.

 April 9 – 10

Adeline’s favorite observation spot is the cool comfort of the marble sink which conforms to the contour of her pregnant body.

She’s also been spending alot of time in her specially designed kittening box by the hubster, lined with a soft Sherpa blanket. She loves to ‘make biscuits’ by kneading the soft fleece.

 Monday April 11

Adeline passed a brownish menstral-like substance this morning. She seems tired today. Not her usual self, typically perched in the picture windows.

After checking on her before we left for dinner around 5:15 p.m., she was resting in the kittening box.

When we arrived home from dinner, I immediately took the dogs outside to do their business. Russell motioned to me from the master bath picture window with his index finger, “One”.

I corralled the dogs inside, rushed to the bathroom, and experienced the miracle of birth!

6:45 p.m.

Adeline delivered a light striped kitten encased in a clear sac. Momma cleared the sac away from the baby’s eyes, and began licking the kitten to warm it up.  Kittens loose heat quickly when newly born and wet, so it’s important to dry them off as soon as possible. Baby #1 had no tail.

Just as soon as she was finished with kitten #1, she started contractions again, and out popped kitten #2 –  a medium-hued striped kitten with no tail.

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Within 15 minutes, kitten #3 was born. A black cat with a tail. Then #4 – also black with a tail.

There was quite a break in delivery between kitten #4 and kitten #5 – it seemed almost 40 minutes or more.  I noticed her panting, tongue hanging out to side, eyes large, and within a few minutes a black and striped kitten was delivered, with a tail.

About a 30 minute break in delivery, and #6 was born – a small black kitten with a tail.

We told Adeline, “Good job Momma!”

Both of us mesmerized, we sat with her for what seemed liked a couple hours.

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April 12 – 13

The past couple days have been rewarding, but they’ve also made me realize I’m worried about Miss Adeline – much like a Mother cares for her child. And of course, all the kittens are my grandbabies.

I often find myself checking on her, ensuring all the kittens are suckling, and Adeline is eating and rehydrating.

Adeline allows me to caress her paw when she’s nursing, and purrs loudly. When I’m observing the seven of them, she often scoops the babies closer to her warm frame.

The kittens are little wonders of their own – eyes closed, groping for each other and searching for Momma with tiny paws. Their nubile bodies vocalize their frustration when they’re not happy. Momma kindly obliges and calms all their fears.

Snuggled together in geometric formations, their bodies lay 3 in a row with 3 across, 4 in a row with 2 across, and sometimes 5 in a row with the first born, light-striped kitten shoving her head above all the others as if to say, “I’m the oldest.”

I suppose I’ll be concerned until all the kittens are weaned and litter trained. The next step is feeding them kitten food. And then I’ll be concerned until they’re all adopted. (Well, except for maybe one that I have my eyes on).

But for now, I’ll try and enjoy the miracle that appeared on our deck March 14, the flower of my heart – Sweet Adeline.

And remember my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6

“Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything.”

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