Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is here! Happy Book Birthday!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is finally here! Her book birthday is today!

Five years ago if you had told me I’d be publishing a children’s picture book with an author friend, Pat Wahler, I would have said you were crazy.

But at that time, a little seed was planted by my husband who made the comment that Midnight, our black cat, looked like a one-eyed cat with a feather in her hat, the way her tail plumed above her like a periscope when she pranced about the house.

“That’s a really great book title,” I said with confidence. “I’m going to scribble that down and pin it to my bulletin board in my office.”

He said, “Why thank you for thinking that.” Of course, I chuckled.

Every day as I walked past that bulletin board, I stared at the piece of white paper written with the book title written in blue colored pencil.”

Two years passed.

Suddenly, one morning I awoke from a dream I had about Midnight. I quickly grabbed my notepad, thoughts pouring out easily, and wrote an entire story in fifteen minutes. The ending and certain parts of the storyline needed tweaking, so I called my author friend Pat Wahler to collaborate on the story to make it perfect.

After querying agents and publishers, we received a response from a small indie publisher in St. Louis (Amphorae), who seemed interested. They mentioned how they loved the message of courage, confidence, and overcoming disabilities. Would we be willing to making a few changes, and resend the manuscript back to them for review? We agreed. That was three years ago.

Believe me when I say it wasn’t easy. There were at least six edits (maybe more) on this children’s book of approximately 450 words. All the while, we were hoping for a certain illustrator to come into the picture — Janelle Dimmett. We loved her style and use of color.

After Janelle was hired to illustrate, it was then up to her to interpret our story. Janelle also went through many illustration updates to coincide with the book’s message.

Fast  forward to today.

I am so proud of this book and the message of “it’s okay to be who I am, just the way I am.”

With the help of Midnight’s best friend, a three-legged white rat named Starlight, and a bunch of bird buddies, she gains the confidence and courage to realize she was already okay, just the way she was.

So welcome Midnight to the world.  Happy book birthday!

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Midnight, 18 years old, (pictured above) was extremely impressed she was the inspiration for this story!

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat is available on Amazon, and can be requested at your bookstores and libraries.

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Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat – How a Cat (or Dog) Can Soothe Your Soul & Inspire You to Write a Book

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The soft nudge of a cat’s nose against your cheek, the sloppy wet kisses of a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd on your eyelid – no wonder we love animals so much.

I have a friend that sometimes comes over and watches tv, and often tells me, “It’s so comforting to have your pets around.

Our big goofball (part Bernese Mountain Dog, part Aussie) loves to flirt, belly side up and wag his tail.

Our little girl kitten hops up on my lap, and snuggles on her grey security blankie.

I could go on and on about my pets, but there’s one girl in particular, who my husband rescued on a snowy, wintry night nearly 13 years ago, covered in motor oil, hiding under his car, who holds a special place in my heart. With the intentions of merely fostering, Midnight spent 10 days in the master bathroom de-fleaing, de-worming, and getting to know us. By then, we were in love with her sweet disposition.

Midnight, our black cat, just turned 18 years-old this week. That’s something to celebrate.

Something else to celebrate – she was the inspiration for the children’s book Pat Wahler and I co-wrote together, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT.

For two years, I stared at a book title scribbled on a piece of paper, pinned on my office bulletin board. A book title that my smart, cute, clever husband came up with – THE ONE-EYED CAT WITH A FEATHER IN HER HAT.

They say sometimes if you write down your goals and read them every day, eventually they come to fruition.

The story, inspired by a dream I had, came true after I penned a poem, and phoned my friend Pat to brainstorm about creating a picture book.

A book deal and several years later, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT, is available on Amazon pre-order, with a printing publication date of September 2018.

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The ‘real life’ Midnight, who loves her butter and whip cream, inspires me to be a better person every day. Yes, a ten pound, 18-year old cat, inspires me to be a better person.

She loves her canine stepsister and brother so much, she cleans them every day. And when I rescued a pregnant stray two years ago, Midnight adjusted her comfortable life to include more cats. (We kept two of the kittens.)

Real life Midnight is resilient, positive and confident. She ‘talks’ to me when she wants something, has the loudest purr, snuggles on your lap, gives cat scratch kisses, and holds her own with the other pets.

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat (the book version) who is bullied by other cats, learns to be ‘the best she already is’ with the help of her best friend, Starlight.

I hope the real life Midnight sticks around to see the book version in print.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Peace out and love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

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Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

ShereeLong Weekends pg 97 Spring Summer 2018 crop

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South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 91

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 92

Feeding Yourself – Increasing Positive Energy; Decreasing Things that Suck Energy

Yesterday, I met a writer friend for coffee, tea and conversation at our favorite coffeehouse – Van Buskirk Chocolate Bar, Cottleville, Missouri. The conversation was easy, as it always is with this friend.

Serendipitously, another friend, who I hadn’t seen since in a couple of months, just happened to be hanging out, working on his laptop. I noticed him as I stepped inside the door.

We greeted each other with a hug and a smile. I asked how he was doing, and he spoke briefly about his new endeavor.

At one point, we invited him to pull up a chair and chat with us. I knew this man designed beautiful websites and inspirational videos. I asked for some marketing advice about our forthcoming picture book, Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat, due out in September (Amphorae).

It was effortless listening to him speak, and before we knew it, three hours had flown by. We agreed to think about his ideas and get back to him.

I bid my writer friend goodbye with a hug, knowing we would see each other soon – connected by a project and similar interests.

I also hugged my male friend and bid goodbye. But the goodbye morphed into another conversation. A conversation about being fed – spiritually, emotionally, visually and creatively – and the energy that accompanies those specific points.

He often suggested to friends or clients to reflect on their own lives by making a list to identify which people, places and even actions, feed energy levels, or suck energy levels.

I began to think about his advice in terms of motivation, focus and goals in my own life.

I quickly realized that my fur babies, nature, song, dance, art, sunshine and exercise are a positive force in my life. At different times, my husband can be positive, neutral and even negative. (Sorry dear) Certain friends are always positive. Some friends fall in all three categories at one time or another.

So, what’s a person to do?

Spend more time with those people that give you positive vibes. Hang out where people are uplifting. Spent more time in nature, if that’s your thing. Needlepoint, paint, draw – whatever lifts your energy level.

The opposite is true for things that suck energy. Decrease those aspects.

For me lately, social media sucks energy. Often times, it’s so depressing. So, I’ve vowed to limit my social media time to a minimum per day.

As a writer, it’s hard to get away from social media, altogether. It’s an important aspect of networking, connecting with readers, and even selling yourself.

Since nature uplifts me, I spent more time with the pooches yesterday walking our property. Normally, I rush right through it, hoping they will do their business, get some exercise, so I get can back to writing.

Yesterday was more of a ‘meander’. Sure, it took longer, but we observed nature’s splendor and noticed the small things along our journey.

Things like –

The way the sun reflected on the slightly budding, yet naked trees and caramel-hued earth in my favorite part of the clearing.

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The carvings in the smooth telephone pole, and shiny metal inspection tags left by the lineman over the years.

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Twisted, tangled, fairy tale branches, leaning into another tree trunk for support.

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A hollow depression in a log carved by some creature exhibiting ragged edges, wedged horizontally against a knobby trunk.

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The way my blue-eyed Pretty Dog pondered life intently studying the landscape.

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The wet, pungent leaves underfoot, and how Red Dog stepped gingerly to avoid the sticky Missouri clay on his paws.

Their noses to the ground, Red Dog and Pretty Dog explored new growth in the clearing, and coyote scat laden with seeds.

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Yes, this was exactly what I need today.

I needed to be fed.

I’m curious to see how you increase positive energy and decrease things that take energy from your lives. Please feel free to comment.

Peace out,

xoxoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Need, When We Need it. Learning to Trust God

This morning, I awoke early, riddled with anxiety from a concern weighing heavy on my heart from last evening. I tried praying my favorite Bible verse, “Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything,” over and over in my mind, but the more I prayed, the more restless I became. After thirty minutes of tossing and turning in bed, I glanced at the alarm clock which read 7:01. I sat up in bed, stretched my legs, slipped on my tan wool slippers, and greeted Red Dog who was by my side, with a pat on a head.

As I pulled the cord to open the vertical blinds in our bedroom, I gazed up at the moon, still high in the cornflower sky, with hints of waking from a cold Midwestern night. The sky delighted in a canvas of cornflower blue, and silhouettes of barren trees painted the serene landscape.

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As I purveyed the entrance to our clearing, a single deer appeared. I moved quickly through the house to locate my Nikon camera in the dining room. As I moved back through each room, I glanced out windows as I passed, and spotted two more deer, for a total of three. Two does and one fawn meandered gracefully west to east along the back yard of our property. At the boundary of our neighbor facing directly east, I snapped several photos. The creatures were bending, sniffing the ground, and looking up on alert. They traveled at a leisurely pace, repeating their routine. Parts of the ground were frozen and snow-laden, while oaky-hued ground laid the foundation.

As I pushed back the sheer curtains in the dining room’s bay windows, the dogs quietly whined when they noticed the deer, and Momma cat kept a tune with a low growl, her sleek body all the while brushing the windowsill.

I watched as the deer entered our neighbor’s yard directly across the cul de sac, and disappeared in the wooded area behind their home.

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I had hoped they would come full circle, and perambulate our yard a second time, enabling me to capture a few more snapshots. So much for wishful thinking.

I prepared my breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon, pumpkin bread, and English Breakfast tea. Rather than follow my routine and turn on the Today Show, I opted to sit and ponder my ‘wake up call’ by appreciating the wonders of nature outside my kitchen door.

The exquisiteness of the deer, the moon, the snow, and the trees, was just enough inspiration to take my mind off my troubles and anxieties. It forced me to slow down, and funnel my energy in a positive manner.

And although I received thirty minutes less sleep than yesterday, what I received in return was even more valuable and rewarding. My concerns are still near, but I soon realized I needed to replace my worry with trust.

God gives us what we need, when we need it. We just need to figure out how to use it.

God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

Now go have a blessed day!

Peace out and Love,

Sheree

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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Showing me the Love – in a Bowl of Purina Catfood

DSC_0863 cat heart kibble copyrI knew cats were smart and creative but…

Awaking this morning, I lumbered into the kitchen wearing my new blue waffle-weave robe, and chocolate Labrador embroidered slippers. Three fur babies followed close behind. Almost immediately, I noticed the cat’s food bowl was low.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed something interesting in the bowl – where Mitty Kitty had nibbled, there was the shape of a heart.

“Midnight’s showing me the love!” I remarked to my husband.

“What?”

“Midnight. She left me a message in her food bowl. It’s a heart!” I said cheerfully.

So amazed by her display of affection, I snatched the camera and captured her artistic expression.

Did I think Mitty was showing me the love? Well, maybe.
But I already knew by her low purrs and comforting presence on my lap, she loved me.

Did she want to become an artist?
Not sure. She’s attempted other creative efforts such as playing with robe sashes, chatting with birds through the screen door, leaping in one bound to the top of the refrigerator, but nothing this exciting.

One thing I know for sure – she loves her crunchy Purina Focus Chicken and Rice, and Sensitive Stomach for Adults kibble.

The heart-shaped nibble-art — well, an added bonus for Momma.

Often our spirits are lifted just by looking at a heart design – bringing joy, or even a smile. That’s what it did for me.

It made me think about sharing the love, and how we see open hearts every day.

Open-hearted people share their experiences and tribulations with us, hopes, dreams, and fears. These people are lovely to be around. They’re positive, giving, and strong – no matter what is happening in their lives.

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint…and that voice will be silenced.”

— Vincent Van Gogh

So now go and share the love with someone, and have a great day!

Peace and Open Hearts,

Sheree

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The Sights, Sounds, and Smells of the Morning….

As I walk the paved path at a nearby park with my blue-eyed girl and cinammon-colored boy fur babies, I am reminded of the familiarity of my surroundings.

Hens and drakes skim across the lake, a killdeer sings her song of distress least anyone disturb her nest, and the cicadas low hum remind me of a small fan motor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI bump into Jan and Ralph, a cute couple, out for their morning stroll. They always surprise my curious canines with crunchy Milkbone treats. Today is no different.

Nearing the end of our walk, the dogs hop in the car. I quench their thirst by pouring water from an empty milk carton into their pink soft-sided bowl. Girl dog sloppily sips water from the mouth of the jug before it trickles into the bowl.

We make our usual morning coffee run to Starbucks, where I know the all the barristas names.

Lincoln greets me at the counter, and says, “The usual?”

“Tall cap, non-fat, ristretto, extra hot, with one pump of mocha, light whip and salt.”

“Dry?”

“Yes please.”

“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” Sarah says with her cheery smile, who is busy making my beverage.

“Yeah, I know.”

I love hearing the sound of the espresso machine as it screeches, before the dark caramel-hued liquid drops into the shiny shotglasses.

I head back to the car to find Boy dog sitting in the driver’s seat, or Girl dog posed in the passenger seat.

As I drive away, I roll the windows all the way down, so my animal children can feel the cool air caress their soft fur like an ocean breeze hugs warm naked skin.

As I turn down the gravel road to my home, cardinals chirp, squirrels carrying nuts scurry, and bunnies scamper. The oak, walnut, and maple trees are dressed in celery greens and corn-maize yellows ready for their fall fashion show.

Opening the door from the garage to the kitchen, I tell Boy dog to “push it,” and he gently nudges it open with his nose.

Girl kitty is waiting for our arrival home, talking in her best ‘quack’ voice that we’ve been gone way too long!

As I pen this note on the deck, the dog children rest nearby – one sleeping, the other pensive and curious about the sounds and sights on our property.

The Cleomes, bathed in shades of lavender, are favorites of the hummingbirds. I study their lacy blooms that fan out in a helicopter-like pattern.

All is right with the world.

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The Loveable Dogs of Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Last week, I enjoyed a getaway with friend, Nancy, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Hubby stayed home with the fur babies. I knew I would miss them all terribly, but this was my chance to unwind.

After checking in the hotel, and dropping luggage in our room, we decided to peruse the quaint shops of the downtown area. As we strolled about town, we discovered stores closed for shorter work weeks, and a number of stores boarded up. Much to my dismay, even the natural springs had shut down, a source of industry and profit for Excelsior Springs in years past.

Of course, the two of us found other things to do, like savoring scrumptious cuisine at trendy Gram and Dun restaurant in Kansas City, slipping into the pool and enjoying a massage at The Elms Hotel, grabbing a cappuccino, and snapping photographs.

Time flew, and before we knew it, Friday morning checkout was inevitable. I browsed Facebook for the first time in two days, while packing. I stumbled upon a story that piqued my interest – a pit bull adoption. The canine spent 5 years at a shelter before his forever family came to rescue him.

The story warmed my heart, as well as rekindled my memories of the dogs I met over the last couple days in Excelsior Springs like the sweet Jack Russell Terrier named Chance that greeted us at Bliss, a vintage store on Broadway. The frisky canine’s favorite spot was a mahogany-hued leather chair positioned near the storefront window. The terrier’s back legs balanced on the seat of the chair, while his front paws steadied on the chair’s arm – all the while barking at the passing cars and enjoying life.

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We also met a scruffy black and white Shih Tzu resting on the leopard-skin pillow placed strategically in the window of Cline Country Club Barber Shop. This view allowed the pooch to watch his attractive banjo player friend strum familiar tunes for a street side audience.

At the Artisan Gallery, on Thompson, an ebony and white Rat Terrier named Molly doled out an endless supply of kisses to patrons browsing the photography, paintings and pottery throughout the store.

On a side street, in the shady alcove of a local business, stood a caramel-colored puppy with snow-white face, secured loosely to a wooden ladder. Close by, a rugged man, set the foundation for an elaborate Italian-style fountain on the ground adjacent to the sidewalk. As Nancy and I leaned down to greet the rambunctious pit bull puppy, the owner told a story that brought me to tears.

“This morning, I felt someone was telling me to visit the animal shelter. As I looked at the kennels filled with dogs, I noticed a sign on one cage – “PTS: 9 a.m. – put to sleep. I couldn’t leave the puppy there. That’s why he’s at work with me today.”

“You’re a good man,” I said.

But the most compelling story was told by a man we met at the Dari B custard shop Thursday evening. We pulled into the one of the limited parking spaces at the custard stand, and hopped out of the car. Sitting curbside, a ginger-haired mustached gentleman wearing a t-shirt with the words the 9th Hour and scripture quotations by the apostle Luke, held a soft serve cone.

Close by, studying the tasty delight, were two Newfoundland’s. To his left, sat the older canine, with droopy eye sockets, languid lower jaw, and arthritic ridden joints that curved outward on the dog’s knee sockets. The other gentle giant sauntered over to me from the custard stand and nudged his big round head into my upper thighs, urging me to give him some lovin’. He stood about waist high. His sleek body, sparkling eyes and silky fur cued me he was still a young dog.

A conversation ensued with the gentleman, and we listened intently about the rescue of the young dog, named Jax.

A couple of years ago, with the intention of taking Magilla Gorilla, the older Newfoundland, for a walk, the man loaded his companion into his car for a ride to the park. As he steered his vehicle into a parking space, he watched a disturbing scene unfold in the distance. A Newfoundland puppy looked down the barrel of a shotgun, while the owner pointed the gun at the dog’s head. The gentleman jumped out of his car, with Magilla still inside, and cautiously approached the man with the gun.

“What are you doing?”

“This puppy’s worthless. He doesn’t do what I say. He tears things up. He’s a terrible dog.”

“Well if you don’t mind, can I have him?”

“You want him, you got him. Good luck.”

The ginger-haired man scooped up the puppy, placed him in the car with Magilla, and immediately drove home before the man changed his mind. He felt the hand of God leading him to the park, at that moment in time, to save the innocent and unsuspecting puppy.

Jax became a therapy dog, learning quickly from his older brother, Magilla Gorilla.

Magilla, while in his prime, pulled floats in parades, and plastered smiles on the residents of nursing homes. While a woman named Ida couldn’t remember her children’s names because of Alzheimer’s, she always remembered “the big black dog” and asked about him frequently.

As I reminisced about all the fur babies I’ve met while in Excelsior Springs, I especially loved their uniqueness.
Chance, the Jack Russell Terrier – outgoing and talkative,
The Rat Terrier – sweet and friendly,
The Shih Tzu – quiet and observing
The Pit Bull puppy – naive and playful,
And
Magilla and Jax – so stoic and gentle.

I quickly realized we could all learn a lesson from the dogs of Excelsior Springs, who don’t’ judge, are honest with their feelings, and don’t care what people think.

Loving unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”

~Josh Billings

Peace out and love,

Sheree K.

Booksignings, Southern Authors, Beaches, and New Friends

The first week in March, hubby and I set out on a two-city booksigning event for FOLLY BEACH DANCES.

First stop was the Tides Folly Beach Hotel. I’d stayed there last September when my long time friend and author, Tina Solomon, visited Folly Beach to market our ‘healing’ coffee table book FOLLY BEACH DANCES. Recognizing familiar hotel faces, I was happy to be back.

The view from our hotel balcony was the ocean. (Sigh)

In our spare time, Russell and I made it a point to enjoy leisurely strolls on the beach. The first morning, we met a twenty-something Lizzie on the pier. As the three of us walked, we conversed. She spoke fondly of her boyfriend in the military. Browsing through the pier’s gift shop, we noticed FOLLY BEACH DANCES on display. Picking up a copy, Lizzie flipped through the pages of the book, and ended up buying a copy.

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

Lizzie and me, at FB pier

That afternoon we headed to The Preservation Society of Charleston for a booksigning. At first, sales were slow, but by late afternoon we’d hit our stride. What the customers didn’t buy, Evan, the event coordinator, ended up purchasing for the store. A successful event!

The next day, we drove to the end of the island to visit the Folly Beach County Park. As I stepped foot on the sand, I felt transported to a Caribbean oasis. The white sand and muted landscape hues, drew me closer to the water’s edge. And the crisp air beckoned windsurfers to ride the ocean’s waves.

Walking the shoreline, I followed the island’s natural curves. With unbridled anticipation, I was anxious to uncover visual treasures with my camera’s lens. A weathered tree with branches that mimicked windblown hair, awaited me around the next bend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bid our goodbye to Folly Beach the next morning, but not before stopping at Bert’s Market – an eclectic hipster produce store. Speaking with Julia, the store’s owner, I was happy when she said she’d carry FOLLY BEACH DANCES!

Next stop – Columbia, South Carolina. After checking into Homewood Suites, we met fellow writer C. Hope Clark and husband, Gary, for dinner at Mr. Friendly’s. The time passed quickly as we spoke of writing, publishing, conferences, the beach, and the lake. I thought the waiter was going to kill us for lingering at her table for more than 2 ½ hours!

Hope and Matt

Hope and Matt

The following day we headed to Irmo Branch Library for a 15-author event. Matt Matthews, author of Mercy Creek, and the First Carolina Novel Prize sat to our right. Hope sat to our left. With her Low Country mysteries, there was a constant stream of visitors to her table. I felt comfortable wedged between these wonderful writers. At the end of the event, I took inventory of our book sales, and realized we did okay.

I told hubby, I’d be back, and took some time to find Southern writer, Tom Poland’s table. Co-author of Reflections of South Carolina. I’d seen his book everywhere – even in Missouri. Along with Robert Clarke, Tom created a wonderful journey of photography and essays, weaving personality and character into the book’s colorful pages.DSC_1220 Tom Poland crop copyr

Tom and I chatted for awhile, and I learned of his humble beginnings in writing. Back in the 70’s, he had a wild idea to take to the road with Robert. With no plan in mind, they’d write and photograph whatever they found interesting. And they never looked back. We shook hands, exchanged business cards, and agreed to meet again whenever in the South.

The car loaded with suitcases, we set course for our next destination – Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three hours later, we pulled into the parking space of our beach rental, the Graham Sporting Goods house.

Friend and fellow author, Jacqueline DeGroot, stopped by for a visit the following night to talk, watch the sun set below the horizon, and drop off her recent book releases – The Cemetery Kids series. I snapped a photograph of Jack for an upcoming story.

The next three days were bliss. Lazy days spent walking the beach – in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset. Oh, the sunsets. The sunsets were divine.DSC_1452 birds under pier sunset copyrWhen not on the beach, we’d hop in the car and putter along Shoreline Drive, gazing at the gorgeous homes, with the intercoastal waterway in the distance. We’d stop at our favorite coffee shop, or just shoot photos of flowers, birds, or landscapes.

Oh how I love Sunset Beach.

We made some new furry friends along the way. Sassy and Libby, whose owners live in Little River, came down for a beach visit. We met Emmy, a sweet golden, who lives a short five minute walk from the beach.

Emmy

Emmy

Libby

Libby

Needless to say, we’ll be back in Sunset in May with our fur babies. They’ll get to meet Sassy and Libby, and maybe even Emmy. I know they’ll see their friend Mosa, a boxer, who vacations the same week every year.

Oh yeah, the first day of our trip, FOLLY BEACH DANCES was nominated for the Eric Hoffer Award, including a finalist for the da Vinci Eye Award, for excellence in book cover design.

So, all in all, I’d have to say, we had a great trip.

DSC_1211 Sheree Irmo crop copyr

Wednesday Awakenings…

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It was a Wednesday. I’d only been gone a couple hours running errands, when I returned home to find my sweet tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip, passed away on the wool rug in our dining room. He lay in the spot where I usually placed my feet under the table, when working from the dining room chair.

Devastated, my sobbing began from the time I found him, and went on for days. There was no rhyme or reason to my crying. It happened anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances.

When a full week had cycled, I cried on the one week anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, February 4 was different, though. In the quiet of the morning, I was startled by a loud male voice.

Not sure if I was in the transition period between dreams and consciousness, I heard, “Sheree!”

I sat up immediately, eyes wide open.

The voice sounded like my Dad’s …and God’s? Although I have no clue what God’s voice sounds like, I thought it must be Him. The strong sublime voice was telling me to ‘Wake up!’

Wake up now?
Wake up to my surroundings?
Wake up to life?
What was he saying?DSC_1066 sunsrise copyri

As I arose from our king size bed, I slipped on my socks and robe and stumbled to the kitchen. Two pooches and one cat followed.

As I pushed the sheer curtains open in the dining room bay window, the most magnificent yellow-orange sunrise radiated across the sky. I smiled. A peacefulness filled my heart.

Sauntering in the kitchen to prepare my breakfast of oatmeal and raspberries, I eyed the resident gray squirrel outside. Inching his way down the wooden deck rail, he separated sunflower seeds from their hulls, munching on the meaty treat inside.

DSC_1076 squirrel eating sunflowrs copyrightSeated at the kitchen table with my oatmeal, rye toast and English Breakfast tea, I noticed a pair of cardinals hopping across the deck outside our French doors.

I felt like God was telling me to ‘wake up’ and embrace the beauty around me.

The visuals of nature helped me forge through the rest of the week. I cried a little, but remembered the beauty I’d discovered on that Wednesday morning.

February 11, in the wee hours of the morning, I had a dream.

In the dream, I awoke from slumber. The back rear door to our vacation home was open, and welcoming sunlight poured in. The hardwood floors of the hallway were cool to my feet. In the living room, my husband relaxed on a plush beige sofa.

I didn’t notice our Australian Shepherd at first, but when she emerged from behind another sofa, a cat was riding her piggyback.

As I approached my smiling canine, I studied the cat’s fur and color. His body, mainly white, sported light grey spots. The reddish-brown color of his head and face were separated by a white part traveling from his crown to his nose.

Awaking from the dream, I thought the cat reminded me of a parrot. I smiled.

After breakfast, I scuffled down the hallway to the bathroom. Squeezing the toothpaste tube, a tiny bubble formed, and floated upward. The small masterpiece remained airborne for at least five minutes. I watched the bubble travel about the bathroom in amazement. First up, then down, then sideways, toward the window, over the tub, and back towards me like an astronaut weightless in a space capsule. I stepped into the bedroom to grab my camera to capture a shot of the bubble, but when I returned it was gone.

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copryLater in the afternoon, my young friend Rileigh and I ordered lunch at a local coffee house. When the server delivered my salad, the dressing rather than on the side, was on the salad. I explained my original request. The server politely offered to make a second one. Upon his return, he handed me two tokens for any coffee beverage and apologized for the inconvenience.

After lunch, we visited the Sophie Sachs Butterfly House, and observed more than 20 varieties of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbutterflies in a humid glass-enclosed structure. The smell, the flowers, and temperature of the habitat brought back memories of my visits to the Caribbean.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blue Morphos floated past us, just like the toothpaste bubble. Rileigh and I sat on the custom wood benches and observed. Our heart rate slowed as a calmness filled our bodies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe concluded the afternoon with a trip to a local bakery called “The Cup” to stuff our faces with sweet delights.

Although the events of a particular Wednesday left a somber and melancholy feeling in my heart, I believe God’s loving arms helped me realize Wednesdays are to be celebrated – whether through death, or a new life, or a change.

I believe that my sweet fur baby, Mr. Trip, running free on Rainbow Bridge, would want me to savor all the good and positive moments that Wednesdays bring.DSC_2121

I’ve decided that Wednesdays are ‘get out of jail free’ days – a break from the crazy world of stress.

I look forward to more unexplained sweet ‘awakenings’ in my life, and know that God always plays a part.

Care to join me?