Resolved to The Year of the Squirrel


Artwork by Gary Medley (FIL)


It’s that time of year again where I think big thoughts, make new plans and the year ahead is filled with possibilities. I blame the eleven days of Christmas break for all that.  Being off work somehow makes me dream unrealistic dreams and think I can accomplish far more than is actually humanly possible.

I’ll realize that by January 4.

But until then, here’s my plan for 2017: The Year of the Squirrel.

More on that later.

Last year ended on a down note, with my mom passing away Nov. 10, and my book sales are all but nonexistent. Seriously, I’m making around $150 a month on seven books. It all seems like way too much work for very little reward. I made half the total income last year that I did the year before (which was the all-time high at a whopping $7K).

I’ve been trying to psych myself back up and get back into the groove. I ran some ads (spent $100) to try to respark interest and revenue, but all it really accomplished was brief stint at Amazon #1 FREE and then four new reviews. I even wrote a couple thousand words, but it’s just not happening. The motivation is gone.

I’m not saying I’m quitting writing completely. I am saying I’m going to let it slide and pick it up as I feel like it. I’m sure at least a dozen people in the world will be sad about that, but it is what it is. Ultimately, I’m the only one putting pressure on myself to make it happen. I’ve given it a good go. I’ve pushed hard for the past five and a half years but gained very little financial traction. I’ve proven I’m not a one-book-wonder and now…I’m moving on.

The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to do that. A clean break.

It’s harder than you’d think to wind down, however. Trust me. I’ve tried quitting before. Ideas don’t stop coming and characters don’t stop talking. Once Pandora’s box is opened, it won’t be closed again. I’m going to keep collecting those ideas and conversations and one day–in the future–I’ll give them the attention they deserve. I also have a few events to attend. Fun events like VisionCon in February and Ozarks Indie Book Fest next October.

Until then, I’m going to participate in the Year of the Squirrel. No, the Year of the Squirrel is not one of the Chinese Zodiac signs (I checked). Nor is it an actual thing. It’s my thing. The Year of the Squirrel will be my chance to follow all the little interests and passions that speak to me this year along with the things I must/need to do. Believe me, there are plenty of need-to-do things. Cleaning out Mom’s house is one of the biggest ones right now.

The things I’m passionate about at the moment include: crocheting, FitBit walking, reading and watching the Gilmore Girls. I think that’s a pretty good start.

There is however, actually a Squirrel Appreciation Day if you’re so inclined to participate. For real, it’s Saturday, January 21 this year. Plan accordingly.

One big goal this year is to get back into shape. Last November, I was in a good place and ten pounds from my goal weight. Right now I’m two pounds above my highest weight ever. I have some work to do.

The biggest fun thing on the horizon for 2017 as far as personal entertainment that I’m looking forward to is the Supernatural Convention in Chicago in July. Bryon and Grace gave me that AMAZING gift for Christmas. I still can’t believe it! Front row, baby! And I get to ride the Amtrack there. Bryon and Grace are going to meet me there after the con is over, and then we’ll have a family vacation in the Windy City.

It’s going to be a looooong time until July.

The good news is I have plenty of time to catch up on my review of the eleven seasons of Supernatural before I go. I’ll have a Masters in Supernatural by that time.

As is my way, I’ve started my Year of the Squirrel List so I can store a few of theses nuggets away for later. It will definintely be a work in progress this year.

Year of the Squirrel List

  1. Crochet all the things
  2. Read all the books
  3. Walk 10k+ steps every day
  4. Finish all seasons of The Gilmore Girls (I’m on S3)
  5. Rewatch all 11 seasons of Supernatural
  6. Reacquaint myself with our garden, wait…which way is it?
  7. Read my magazines the day they arrive
  8. Reorganize my recipe boxes
  9. Clean out and reorganize the bath/medicine cabinets
  10. Donate more clothes out of my closet
  11. Empty Mom’s house of contents and sell them
  12. Read, file or delete all the SAVED articles on Facebook I’ve collected
  13. Surf way too much Pinerest
  14. Can and preserve the garden bounty
  15. Make good food
  16. Eat good food

That’s a good beginning, I think.

I’m sure there will be much more to add during the year because…SQUIRREL!

What does your 2017 look like from here? Do you make resolutions?





The year I forgot to blog


The year is winding down. It’s been a busy one in the Big Cedars, but you’d never know that from this blog. I blame Facebook.

Every year, for the past seven years, I’ve blogged about my entertaining family and life in the Big Cedars, then turned it into a blog book. I knew I was behind, but gosh! A year? I’ve microblogged on Facebook, and I could turn those posts into a book, which is exactly what I am going to do. The prospect of updating the past year’s worth of posts is just too daunting. You can also follow me on Facebook if you’d like. I only friend people I actually know in real life, but most of my posts are public if you want to just follow here:

What I will do for my blog is start now and promise to do better in the coming year.

As the master once said…



Rest In Peace, Eileen Ruth Fellows

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After a long battle with COPD, Bryon’s mother passed away a few days after Christmas. It was and was not a surprise. Since we’d just visited her in Tennessee for Thanksgiving, she’d actually been doing a bit better, although still mostly homebound and tethered to a perpetual oxygen machine.

COPD is a horrible illness, but Bryon’s mother was tough and a real fighter from way back.

She’d had to be.

We made the long journey back to Tennessee a couple of days after her passing to be with family, have her cremated and hold a small memorial service. Then it was home for one night (New Year’s Eve) and off to Nebraska for another small service and to bury her remains.

While it was a sad time, seeing all of Bryon’s family on both sides was good. Eileen would have enjoyed that, and I’m sure she was there in spirit. Her name was invoked in many happy remembrances throughout the trip.

Here’s how it all went down.

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Bryon’s sister, Precious arranged for a truly beautiful little service.

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We worked in a bit of sightseeing along the Ocoee River.

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We had a pizza dinner with most of the family one evening.

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We went over to visit with Precious and her family the last night.

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Somehow we ended up with lots of pics of Jackson (the dog) and none of Precious and the kids. Doh!

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The next day we were on the road again and but spent one night at home, carrying out our New Year’s Eve tradition of crab legs.

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Then it was on the road again. To Nebraska.

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We did have a few pit stops along the way. And way, way more than Bryon wanted. I had to explain to him he was travelling cross country with two women. Things were never going to get better on that front.

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We arrived at long last, exhausted but happy to be fulfilling Eileen’s final wishes.

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We spent some quality time with Bryon’s sister and her family.

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The next day we had a lovely graveside service with Eileen’s remaining sister and extended family.

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Gary, Bryon’s dad, officiated.

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Bryon’s Aunt Jan and Uncle Kelly opened their home after the service for food and a reception.

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On the way back, we got to meet the newest addition to the family, baby Saleen, for the first time.

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Seven days and 2,600 miles later, we were home at last and making chicken noodle soup.

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Rest in Peace in your home, Eileen.

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Christmas Day Carnage


Another Christmas has come and gone. We were sad to miss visiting with my dad this year, but he had a hip replacement and was recuperating. Luckily, all went very well for him, and he’ll be back running strong in no time.

Meanwhile, someone else was excited to have the largest package under the tree.

20141225_000752319_iOS (800x600)Others were more chillaxed.

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Some may have been too chillaxed. Yeah, that’s my novel that put her to sleep.

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As usual Grace got waaaaay too much stuff. That’s the hazard of having an only child, I think. Trust me, this was only the tip of the iceburg.

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She also got One Direction concert tickets for the summer for her and two friends. That’s the gift that will keep on giving all year.

Bryon made a FANTASTIC dinner for us. His Christmas dinners have become something of a legendary tradition.

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We also had a few hors d’oeuvres like this…

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And one thing about our family, we all love shrimp. Without consulting, everyone brought a platter of cocktail shrimp to share. That didn’t even include the shrimp in the main dish!

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Another ‘given’ is Grace’s love for sparkling grape juice. I bought two of these bottles. The family brought the rest.

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Bryon finally got to open his giant gifts.

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An archery target and a new hunting blind. Grace shopped online and for them both, all by herself. I just paid with the credit card and picked them up.

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I had a few awesome surprises of my own under the tree.

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The next morning, Santa had left a few more surprises for Grace (paint and miscellaneous decor to redo her playroom upstairs)…but no elves to do the work.

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A new papasan chair


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New bookcases with storage

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The paint had to wait for another day because there were games to play!

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Let’s do it all again next year! #scaryselfie






Live Nativity 2014

IMG_8173 (1024x768)Once a year, anyone can be an angel…or a shepherd…or a wiseman.

This year at our church’s live nativity display, Bryon and I were Joseph and Mary and despite our procrastination in signing up we scored the coveted manger scene. The best things about the manger scene?

#1 the barn is a windbreak

#2 the animals are entertaining

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#3 the ding dang baby sheep this year stole the entire show.

Grace was an angel. Again.

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This live nativity is a huge production and was the brainchild of Jan Robertson. It takes many, many volunteers to man each of the scenes. The church members also feed all of the volunteers over the three nights the nativity is held. The event is open to the public for two hours for three nights in December.

I think this is the fifth year we’ve participated.

You missed out this year. Like us on Facebook and join us next year at Marshfield United Methodist Church.


Miss Merry Christmas 3rd Grade Rides in the Niangua Christmas Parade

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Last year was Niangua’s first-ever Miss Merry Christmas pageant. Grace won for her third grade class with her brownie-making demonstration. She even got a nice appreciation package from Betty Crocker after I posted her picture to their Facebook page. You can read about it here.

She was over the moon and coveted that tiara like a princess. She was supposed to get to wear her crown and ride in the Niangua Christmas parade but it got cancelled due to ice and snow.

This year she got her wish.

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The motorcycle group Bikers Against Child Abuse, B.A.C.A,. sponsored a Breakfast with Santa prior to the parade.

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IMG_8112 (1024x768)I’ve gotta say I was digging the biker Santa.

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In a cool turn of fate, Bryon got to drive her car. He’d driven our high school homecoming queen one year. I can’t find a picture of that day, but as fun as that was for him, this was much better.

They were both excited to get to drive/ride in a cool new car from Marshfield Chevrolet. When he arrived, they gave him a brand new, red Chevy pickup. Erm, cool but he drives a brand new red, GMC pickup. Nothing too special about that. Still, he drove it back to Niangua and planned to make the best of things.

When he got back to the parking lot to line up though, one driver had three high school girls to drive and a two-door Ford Mustang from Don Vance Ford to escort them in. Bryon and the other drive made the switch and he ended up in this cool ride instead.


The real irony and the completion of the circle of awesome is his first (and favorite) car was a 1972 Mustang Mach I. It looked VERY much like this one. All this car needed was some black racing stripes.

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Some things are just worth the wait.

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Niangua has a population of 405 people.

Want to see the entire parade? Here it is…all ten minutes of it.


Over the river and down the highway to Granny Leen’s we went


Bryon’s mother, Eileen, has been very ill with COPD for some time now. Since she lives eleven hours away in Tennessee, we don’t get to visit her very often. We took off a few days over Thanksgiving to make the trek.

IMG_8029 (1024x768)We travelled on Thanksgiving Day and tried to eat at Cracker Barrel in Paducah, KY. Apparently that was EVERYONE’s idea. Deciding we didn’t want to extend our trip by the two-hour wait for Cracker Barrel, we hopped across the street to Ryan’s and had a Thanksgiving lunch with all the trimmings.

After that long ride, we were all ready to crash at the hotel.

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IMG_8035 (1024x768)We visited, shopped for Granny and ate pie.

The last night we took everyone bowling.






Cashing in arcade tickets.

It was good to see Grace’s cousins.

IMG_8059I missed winning the first game by ONE POINT.

Even with a bad back, Bryon won the second game.



Random Acts of Grace

10171046_10154909246715691_6971842787937266676_nI taught the kid to make chocolate chip cookies. She can totally do the whole bit by herself now.

My work here is done.

10364131_10154908053880691_5650071877003833791_nThis is a super cool and intricate piece of artwork Grace did in her elementary art class. She has that amazing attention to detail like her Grandpa Medley.Here’s one small sample of Gary Medley’s artwork below.

You can see many, many more on Flickr here.

4504125042_7310fb32e5_mGrace also finished the longest book she’s ever read. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere came in at 321 pages! She really loved this book about a little girl and her family trying to survive in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She even wrote her first book review and I posted it for her! She enjoyed the book so much she asked to download the Kindle version of it too so she could read it again.

IMG_7991 (768x1024)Success!


She’s also quite a good shot.

Bryon said, “Gracie used her 20 gauge with slugs and put a solid hit on this milk jug! I dub her ‘slugger’!”

November River Trip to Dry Run Creek

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Bryon has been wanting to take Grace to a kids’ only branch off the Norfork River in Arkansas called Dry Run Creek for a long time. The little creek is stocked with ginormous trout. Despite our complete lack of wet, cold weather gear, we loaded up and hit the water with the Shomakers for a day kayaking and then fishing fun.


We stayed at Gene’s Trout Fishing Resort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the television writer/producer Dick Wolf (think Law & Order  and Miami Vice) was in the cabin beside us. We even exchanged pleasantries on our way over to the Shomaker’s cabin with breakfast in hand. Gah, if I had known…I would have talked his EAR off. Probably best it went down as it did.


We spent the first day on the river. My one goal: don’t get wet.

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Luckily it was a warm day for November and inched up toward the 50s. With the sun out, it was downright lovely. We made it all day with no water related incidences. It was after the kayaking was done and the fishing started that some people (Bryon and Grace) took a bit of a swim.


River rocks are slippery, folks.


Being a helpful dad and trying to pluck your child from the creek is much like trying to save a falling roller skater. You are both going down.


They did. They survived. They caught fish.



The next day we awoke to Mr. Shomaker on our patio bearing Starbucks.


Most excellent.

The men made breakfast and aftward they and the kids all headed down to Dry Run Creek. Kris and I hung back in the cabin, packing, cleaning, talking and surfing the internet.

It was a fun late-season trip.

Next time though, I’m going to pay more attention to the neighbors.

The Big 10

Grace turned ten this year.

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For her actual birthday, we went to The Cave for dinner. Her choice.

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It’s exactly what it sounds like. A restaurant. In a cave.

It’s a pretty cool place. Pun intended.

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Per usual we had a sleepover a few days later. The arrival was a little scary.

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One of the girls farted as soon as she got into the truck and the windows. Went. Down.

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There was ice cream cake…

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and a clown.

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Bryon got a ton of mileage out of our Haunted Trail Halloween masks. I’m pretty sure he trotted out every one of them before the night was over.

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They all screamed like little girls.

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We made parachute bracelets. It took a few tries but we finally had success.

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For a sleepover…there was very little actual sleep.