A Salty Dog, South Walton, & a Romantic NYE

DSC_0577 Captain Pam Smiile N Wave

On a spring visit to the Destin/Santa Rosa Beach area of Florida, Russell and I, craving a hearty sea adventure, headed west to nearby Destin Harbor for a relaxing gulf catamaran cruise with Captain Pam Kane and Smile N Wave Sailing Adventures.

Some might say Captain Pam is a salty dog. As a girl, she even missed days of school to help crew on a friend’s sailboat to feed her passion.

Her 31-foot custom built catamaran equipped with 43-foot mast, and Bimini top, offers tours for swimming, snorkeling, visiting the grass flats, searching for sand dollars, and romantic sunset cruises. Even though it was a cloudy day for us, we still enjoyed our time on the water, hiking out on the aqua-colored net, feeling the cool sprays of ocean on our legs, and getting to know more about Captain Pam.

Pam started sailing about thirteen years ago and calls the ocean “God’s bathtub.” “If you can’t be happy on the water, you probably can’t be happy anywhere.”

“On moonlight cruises, it’s so peaceful. The dolphins are usually active, and meteor showers are common. What’s neat is that there are more than 30-50 dolphins all local to the area.”

The more Pam and I talked, the more I felt like I’d known her for a long time. She just had one of those easygoing personalities, ocean spirits, and sweet souls.

Her greatest joy is witnessing excitement on people’s faces, especially first timers  – first time sailing, and first time in the gulf.

“People love relaxing, and the quiet solitude of being on the water,” Pam says.

So if you’re in the Destin area, go support a local business. You might just have the time of your life.

(The story on Captain Pam didn’t make it into my published AAA Southern Traveler story, but check out the story below to see what did.)

AAA South Walton Style pg34 Nov Dec 2017

AAA South Walton Style pg35 Nov Dec 2017


A World’s Fair Home – Karen Kalish Clayton mansion showcases her art collection – pub’d Missouri Life

Good afternoon everyone,

I had the opportunity to step inside a real piece of history – a World’s Fair Home patterned after the Missouri Building from the World’s Fair in 1904, when a query I submitted to Missouri Life that came to fruition.

Entrepreneur, Karen Kalish owns the magnificent home in the historic Old Town Clayton district, and has filled it to the brim with her personal charm and eclectic style, all the while showcasing her extensive collection of art work.

Here’s my feature article and photographs that appeared in the August 2015 issue of Missouri Life. I especially fell in love with her pets while doing the story.

Maybe, she’ll invite me back just to hangout?

Peace out and love,


ML0815 A World's Fair Home - Karen Kalish_Page_1

ML0815 A World's Fair Home - Karen Kalish_Page_2

Music, Poetry and True Glory

20150605_192734powell orchestra pitLast Friday evening, I attended a concert at Powell Symphony Hall with my friend Nancy. Like a child opening a gift, we were ecstatic to see Chris Botti and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra perform together. If you’ve never heard of Chris Botti, he’s only the best jazz trumpeter to walk the face of the earth. I’ve not missed a concert of his since he opened for the silken songbird, Diana Krall over 12 years ago at the Fox Theatre.

With no musicality in my family, I love to listen to music of all genres – jazz, classical, Christian and rock.

Entering the venue, seeing everyone dressed in their best, eyeing the winding staircases and the magnificent chandeliers, made me smile.

20150605_191709 powell chandelier 1As we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed, the audience became silent. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the sweet melodies permeating from the orchestra, the smooth sounds of Chris’ trumpet, and the weeping strings of the guest violinist. It was nothing less than magical.

Over the course of the evening, Chris brought out guest singers, highlighted his band, and introduced new up-and-comers. As the concert drew to a close, the lights dimmed deeper, and the spotlight was on Chris and his pianist. The room’s ambiance felt like an intimate jazz club.

On Sunday, I headed to another cultural event at the Unity Center in Columbia, Missouri, Friends Abby and Marcia accompanied me to the book launch of Well-Versed 2015. Marcia and I were receiving awards for our works from the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Our poems and prose were accepted for inclusion into the anthology.DSC_0145DSC_0135

Winners and contributors read aloud poems and stories about Moms, mystery, nature, pets, and even family conflicts. I listened intently.

DSC_0136Some stories had me rolling with laughter, others made me think; still others stirred up such raw emotion I found myself sobbing.

Each event had one thing in common. The performers – whether musicians or writers – glorified God.

When a human being is doing what he or she was created to do, then God is honored and glorified.

When God is honored, “Other people take notice. The world wakes up a little bit, sees things in a clearer/holier light, and seeks the source of that light,” says Coffee with God author, Sarah Arthur.

Performers glorify God by “using their talents to their utmost,” Arthur says.

Sometimes I don’t feel fully alive. I’m either wandering aimlessly throughout the day, depressed or unmotivated. (Like yesterday)

When I take the time to glorify God (right now with my writing), that’s when I feel alive.

And that when I think He is happiest.

Peace, love, and all that Jazz,


I Lost A Good Friend Today – Thoughts on the loss of a pet

Tripoli smaller fileJanuary 14 was like any other morning.

As a freelance writer working from home, I had a ritual from the moment I arose. Stretch my legs. Put on socks. Go to the bathroom. Let the dogs out. Feed the cats. Make breakfast. Turn on the computer.

This bitterly cold day was different. It would be the last time I would hold my sweet three-legged tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip.

I was meeting a friend for coffee at 11:30 a.m. at the local Starbucks. Shortly before I left, I let the dogs out to do their business. Mr. Trip tried to sneak out, but I knew the wind would chill him to the bone.

Around 11:15 a.m. I gently rubbed thyroid cream into Mr. Trip’s ear, and gave him a kiss on the nose, and a pat on the head, then headed out to the car.

The engine light came on when I tried to start the car.

I came back in the house, called my friend Peggy and informed her of my problem. She said she’d just come out to the house and pick me up. When Peggy showed up, our dogs and black cat greeted her. I looked around for Mr. Trip, and just figured he was hiding under the bed, as he sometimes does with visitors.

In the meantime, I phoned the auto place. They came out and recharged my battery, and suggested driving the car around town for least 15 minutes. Peggy and I were off to run errands.

I arrived home around 2:30 p.m. I felt an uneasy feeling come over me as I entered the house.

Our Bernese/Aussie mix jumped down from the bench in front of the bay window and greeted me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Trip lying on his side on the wool rug in the dining room. I thought this was odd, as he never lays on the side with his back leg up. He’s usually sunning himself on the bench, or laying tummy up.

I quickly dropped the bags from Target on the counter, let our other Aussie out of her kennel, and ran straight to Mr. Trip.

Bending over him, I called his name several times. He didn’t answer. I stroked his soft black and white fur and called his name – again and again. His bright lemon yellow eyes stared straight ahead.

Somehow I knew he was gone, but his body was still warm to the touch. I cried uncontrollably, still stroking his fur, noticing his beautiful white whiskers. I phoned my husband and hysterically muttered words into the phone. He told me to calm down and speak slowly so he could understand. I then called my neighbor, and asked her to come over and sit with me until my husband came home. Then my best friend called and tried to console me.

I sobbed from the depths of my soul. Tears flowed like I’d lost a child. I kept mulling details over in my head, trying to figure out what happened in the two hours that I was gone.

I lost a good friend on January 14.

We’d raised Mr. Trip since he was a kitten. A beautiful Tuxedo, he was missing his right rear leg. Suckers for a cute face, we adopted the three-legged kitty from VCA All Creatures animal hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Despite his handicap, he became adept at maneuvering throughout the house, and used his back leg like a tricycle.

Mr. Trip was my shadow. He’d sit on my computer desk, and follow the mouse pointer across the screen. One night I caught him watching television. I placed a chair in front of the TV so he could be closer. I observed as he ‘tap, tap, tapped’ his front paw on the screen in an attempt to swats all the insects in a popular movie.

He enjoyed dipping his toes in my bath water, loved ripping out my hair with his teeth, basking in the sunlight on his favorite bench in the dining room, sitting on my lap on the sofa recliner, watching the birds from his bench in the kitchen, talking constantly in his baby voice.
I nicknamed him “Puppy” and “Tripolipski” and “punk kitty cat” and “Tripopipoleee”.

DSC_2121Mr. Trip was famous – my essay about him titled, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” was published twice – once in Whispering Angels Nurturing Paws Anthology and again in The Animal Anthology Project. This wonderful feline even won Third Place in the Humane Society Pet Pals contest with his canine sister Maggie (passed on). His picture was featured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

For years, he slept on my head in bed in the exact same spot Rory, my first kitty slept. And although they’d never met, somehow I felt he sensed Rory’s presence.

He was my little love, and my spark of happiness. No matter how bad I was feeling, one look from his sweet face would cheer me up.

I remember the day my Mom passed away. Mr. Trip was there to console me. Hopping up in the recliner, he placed his paw in my hand and gazed into my eyes as if to say, “It’s okay Mom, I’m here for you.”

DSC_1404 My sweet TripoliAhhh. His gazes would melt your heart. It was as it he was looking through to your soul.

A couple of years ago, he wasn’t able to jump as high as he used to, so I positioned a stool in the kitchen that he could hop up, then on to the next counter stool, and finally to the counter to get his food.

When I’d exercise on the floor, he had to get in on the action. And if I’d roll to one side to do leg lifts, you could be sure he’d be right in front of me; even when I changed sides.

He gave me joy every day.

He made me smile.

He calmed me down.

He had the softest tongue, and the sweetest disposition.

I loved him so much. I hope to see him again one day, with all the other fur babies that have passed on.

My heart aches without him.


Recently, I read two stories about loving a pet unconditionally that touched my heart.

The first, was a story on Buzzfeed about Lauren Fern Watt who took her dying dog Gizelle on an Epic Adventure. To cope with losing her best friend, she took her 160 lb. English Mastiff on an adventure that changed both of them.

Lauren’s dog Gizelle, taught her that love is the most wonderful gift she could receive, and the best thing Lauren had to give.

The second story called, “The Dog Years” tells of David Dudley’s canine, Foggy, who was there for every life event, as well as all the fun vacations and good times. And finally, when Foggy, turned 18, David knew his life was over as they rode in the car to the vet for the last time — despite his best efforts to give him everything he needed.

The piece of advice I took away from Dudley’s feature story published in AARP was that “Everything you do for a dog (or cat) to help them age well, you should do with them.”

“So eat the best food you can afford.

Go for a walk, even if it’s raining.

Take a lot of naps.

Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch.

And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”

Proud to Be in Proud to Be: Volume 3

Last week I received my contributor’s copy of PROUD TO BE: Writing by American Warriors, Volume 3. 20141202_110742 cover volume 3

I am so proud to be included in this volume, edited by Susan Swartwout of Southeast Missouri State University Press in collaboration with the Missouri Humanities Council and Warrior Arts Alliance.

Proud to Be is a way for veterans, and families of veterans to share their personal experiences through essays, warrior interviews, fiction, and even photographs.

Apparently, this year there were a record number of submissions for the Warrior Arts Anthology.

The anthology is dedicated to the writing veterans, military-service personnel and family members.

My First Place win for Photography graces pages 66 and is titled “jimmie (pier). My photo was judged by Bradley Phillips, professor of photography, Southeast Missouri State University. A second photo and an interview with Jimmie was accepted for inclusion into the anthology, as well. I was extremely blessed to win this award, for the second year in a row.

jimmie (pier)

jimmie (pier)

But more than that, all the contributions in this book touch on raw accounts of life, war, warriors, emotions, and more. And deserve to be read, and noticed.

So if you get the chance, pick up a copy of Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, volume 3 for a veteran, a family member, or a friend for Christmas. It’s a great gift.



Beautiful by Nature – Turks and Caicos

This spring I had the good fortune to travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands for a feature story for AAA Midwest and AAA Southern Traveler Magazine.

During my assignment, I met so many lovely people, including Lindsey Mensen, manager of Blue Horizon Resort and Mudjin Harbor Grill on Middle Caicos; Hunter Viator, an expat from Florida that’s living the dream as a certified instructor at Kite Provo on Long Bay Beach, the oh-so-hip employees of Da Conch Shack in the Blue Hills region, and the employees of Beaches in Providenciales.

Each area I visited was vibrant and alive. By far my favorite was Mudjin Harbor. It’s untouched exquisiteness blew my mind.

Anyway, here’s the 3-page feature article titled “BEAUTIFUL BY NATURE”.  The lead in photo of fetching Pumpkin Bluff Pond beach was captured by my husband, Russell Nielsen.

AAA - Turks and Caicos Nov 2014001



AAA - Turks and Caicos Nov 2014002 copy
















AAA - Turks and Caicos Nov 2014003 copy

Goodreads Giveaway Winner, a Booksigning, and a Barrista

Good morning, everyone! A few things to share.

Well, I just completed my first Goodreads giveway. I was happy and elated to discover that 437 people requested my book, and more than 186 of those lovely readers have added Folly Beach Dances to their list.

I received the winner information via email today, and I’m happy to say I’m sending a complimentary copy out to Carolina M (sent you a direct message) in the next week.

I’ve opened up the Goodreads Q&A panel for the first 3 weeks of August, at one question per week, so feel free to pick my brain.

Connect me with at Goodreads, on twitter at @ShereeKNielsen and @follybeachdance.  Click on Folly Beach Dances to visit and follow our facebook page.  And our official website is Beach Dances to order books.

Our photography exhibit and Folly Beach Dances booksigning at Van Buskirks Chocolate Bar went well last evening.

A constant stream of people, including friends, and new faces Vb's booksigning - Sheree and Russellcame by to chat with Russell and me.  They enjoyed espresso, chocolate, libations, and purchased books supporting our mission to donate 10 percent to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Some  shared their love of Folly Beach with us. Others admitted the book would make a great addition to their guest room.  And a friend from high school, Steve, said he was going to kick back and enjoy Folly Beach Dances on his deck with a good cup of coffee. Another friend was the winner of another giveaway – a lovely matted print with prose from the book.

Our booksigning was a little bittersweet, as well. We said farewell to our favorite Van Buskirk’s female barrista, Alexis, who is moving on to big and better things.  She was the sweet smiling face you’d see when entering the cafe. She crafted some of the best espresso drinks west of the Mississippi. With her super personality, natural good looks, and street smarts, I’m sure she’ll do well.  Hope she comes back to visit once and awhile.

Alexis & me

Alexis & me

Another event is scheduled in the next week, August 9 – a booksigning at Main Street Books, St. Charles, Missouri on August  from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

See you there!