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…



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.



Redneck Jungle Gym

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Grace has been wanting a treehouse for a while now. When she discovered the Animal Planet show TREEHOUSE MASTERS, it was all over for Bryon.

He was going to have to build a treehouse or some fabulous equivalent.

We have lots of hickory and cedar trees on our thirty acres but none of those are treehouse friendly. What you need is a nice oak tree. Unfortunately there aren’t any spectacular oaks near enough to the house for a treehouse. Until Grace spotted this tree… see above.

It’s at the entrance of our driveway near our old garden and dog kennel. Close enough to see her from the house even.


Treated wood is expensive so there was no way we could build anything as crazy as the TREEHOUSE MASTER but a man with a truckload of wood can make a pretty amazing retreat.

Bryon had sketched out a design, purchased the lumber and other materials, and we spent two days working on it. He finished it up over a couple of more days. Behold… the Redneck Jungle Gym:



She’s already spent a ton of time out there. I would have LOVED to have something like this when we were kids. We did climb lots of trees but this… super cool.

Today at Orschens we added one more ammentity.

hammock chair


Yeah. A hammock chair.

What a life.

Christmas 2013

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We did Christmas a our house again this year. It’s so nice to stay home and have a house full of visitors on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas morning we wake up and play games in our jammies after Grace opens even MORE presents.

Artwork from Grandpa Medley

We stopped buying one another presents (or were supposed to) years ago. Grace is the only one who gets gifts, and it’s an embarrassing number of gifts at that. We buy her clothes, shoes etc. as needed through the year but her birthday and Christmas are her big cash-in days. So, yeah. All of those gifts under the tree are hers. Santa brought more for her the next morning.

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Grandpa Medley & Lynsey playing Headbanz

Our friends Lynsey and Brayden came over and played games with us too.

Bryon made spaghetti carbonara again. Honestly, I think he’s stuck making that for eternity because it is amazing, and we really only get it once a year. 


I think this will be the last year Grace believes in Santa. She’s nine now, and I’m pretty sure she’s just playing along because we told her kids who don’t believe don’t get gifts from Santa.

She’s no dummy. Next year, though…maybe we can all sleep in.



Dear Santa, — My nine-year-old’s Christmas list

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Grace got hold of a Young Explorers toy catalog and went to town circling things she wanted. Things she HADN’T wanted until she saw the catalog. She’s a sucker for the marketing and descriptive blurbs as you can see from her list.

This may be the last year she believes in Santa and it is the first year she’s written an actual letter (without help) and made a list. I’d better get it mailed off soon. The lady who gave her the catalog pointed out that some of things were rather expensive. Grace wasn’t concerned.

“It doesn’t matter,” Grace said. “Santa makes them.”

Um, yeah.

See the letter above and THE LIST below…

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Birthday, Birds and Basketball

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Here it comes, the October super post. Oops. Guess it’s November. See how that happens. Anyway, grab an iced tea and sit back.


Grace celebrated her NINTH birthday in October. We have had some giganitic birthdays and some small birthdays. Last year we had the first ever haunted trail for her birthday/Halloween party with more than thirty kids plus parents. This year we took it down a notch and had a sleepover. Fear not kidlets, next year the Haunted Trail is back on the agenda and it’s going to be SCARY! Some of the kids complained because it was not scary.

Trust me. We can DO scary. Just. You. Wait.

Sorry, Marah, you may have to go through in daylight.

Not to say there weren’t a few scary moments during the birthday party. Like the lead photo above. Or this…

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Somebody LOVES him some sleepovers. Bryon always wants to sneak outside Grace’s bedroom window, stick this face against the glass and scare the crap out of them but I won’t let him. Maybe when they are teenagers. Or have already watched Salem’s Lot which is the very reason I can’t sleep with the blinds open.

As a former teacher, I know that free time is your enemy with a room or a houseful of kids, so I planned some activities.

I bought shirts for them all and they decorated them with Sharpies. This is a cool activity Grace learned at summer camp and we’ve used it several times since.

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They had some very creative results!

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I also bought little pumpkins and they each carved one.

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It was messy but they had fun. Grace’s molded in two days.

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Gotta love a vampire pumpkin.

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Of course they stayed up ridiculously late. They also slept upstairs in the playroom for the first time. Did I mention the playroom is DIRECTLY over our bedroom? Yeah, we heard every thump, bump and giggle. Which were many.

Nine is a pretty good age.

Grace got this chair and a few other things. IMG_4486 (768x1024)


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My hens are old and lazy. I’ve been getting one egg a day until recently. Now I get NO eggs a day. In August we tried incubating some eggs and ONE hatched out. You can read that post and see the chick’s birth here.

Then I bought it some friends. That post is here.

A few weeks ago, Bryon and Grace gathered up the new chicks for me and tossed them in with the old to get acquainted. They still aren’t exactly friends, but we haven’t lost any of them. I left them cooped up together for the first three days. The first night after it got dark, I went to count and make sure they were all back in the coop together.

Yep, twelve chickens. Just like I had hoped.

I shut the coop door and said goodnight.

About an hour later, Bryon hollered from the bathroom that I had a chicken squawking outside the window.

Erm, not I didn’t. I cooped them all up.

I went outside to investigate. Nothing. No squawking. No chicken.

I went back to the coop and counted again. Yep, twelve chickens, just like I… wait a minute. Where’s the little Buff Orphington? The one chick we HATCHED? Not there.

I have thirteen chickens.

We all three looked with flashlights for the little buff but no luck. I hoped it had roosted in a tree somewhere and would make it through the night, because there was nothing else to do. I wasn’t going to leave the coop door open for it and leave all of the rest of them in danger.

The next morning, the buff was trying to get into the old coop and was very happy to join it’s friends.

They’ve all made it back into the coop every night since.

I guess we both learned a lesson that night.


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Grace has become quite the little basketball player. A couple of the Niangua dads have been coaching them now for two years and their little team has really improved.

They even have REAL uniforms now which makes them much more intimidating than they really are.

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We told Grace we’d pay her a buck a basket. This last session of six week ball we paid out a total of five bucks. I know it will get more and more expensive but it seems to be a good motivator. I was never very good at sports. I’m glad she is and is interested. The good thing about playing sports in a small-town school is if you are on the team you WILL get to play. Every game.

We have a break until January (a short basketball camp in a couple of weeks) then it’s back at it.


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For Halloween this year we went on a Haunted Float with our friends Lynsey & Brayden. It was the first year for the canoe rental place to host the float so it had a bit to be desired. The Type A part of me had an entire list of suggested improvements for them but I resisted. Not. My. Baby.

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I had to repeat that to myself a few times.

On actual Halloween we all three dressed up and hit the good churches and neighborhoods. I made an unfortunate shoe choice so I waited in the car most of the night until it was time to go eat Chinese food.

Still, I looked good. We all did.

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IMG_4415 (1024x1024)Grace and I participated in the Niangua Red Run. I walked. Still I totally beat Grace and the chick with the stroller so WIN! Bryon had to work or he would have been there too. The run was a fundraiser for playground equipment. One boy in Grace’s class one the whole thing! He’s smokin’ fast!

We are NOT smokin’ fast. Or at least I am not smokin’ fast.

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This may be why.

On The Banks Of The White River

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Bryon’s been to the White River at Bull Shoals several times. This was Grace and my second time. The last time we were there she was twoish.

This was our last leisurely vacation weekend before back-to-school and the first in our new/old camper. Grace brought along a girlfriend.

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I assumed the position in front of the hillbilly breeze and finished a really, really good book while Bryon looked longingly at the water and waited patiently to fish.

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He tossed the girls around in the lake that had a sandy beach like Florida…

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rode bikes and cooked us up some good eats.

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Of course it poured rain the first night so we ate in town and played games in the camper.

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We ate Italian food at a restaurant owned by a Chicago Bear who look a lot like this guys…

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Then they got to visit the Statue of Liberty… Arkansas style.

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The James Gaston Vistor’s Center had a great panoramic view of the lake and river outside and…

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posers inside.

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Bryon is still down there fishing with his buddies, and I’m taking Grace and another of her girlfriends to Silver Dollar City tomorrow for our last bash before the third grade starts this Thursday.

Life is good in The Big Cedars.

Sometimes It Really Is Your First Rodeo

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After ten years of living fifteen minutes from Marshfield, we finally went to the Forth of July rodeo this year.

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Most years we end up at the lake to watch the Dam Fireworks at Pomme de Terre, but this year we decided to stay home. They have a great fireworks display each year during the rodeo intermission and we’ve caught it more than once just driving by at the right time. It was so much better from the stands.

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We had great seats and really enjoyed the show. We’ve been to a few other rodeos out west through the years but this one was just as fun.

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Earlier in the day we attended the historic Marshfield Fourth of July Parade. We’ve watched it two years and been in it once now. The bad part of being IN the parade is that you don’t get to SEE the parade.

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All I saw was the bottom of a cooler full of quickly melting ice pops.

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By the end of the parade we were just handing out Koolaid pops.

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The church vacation bible school float was a rock ‘n roll theme, in case you missed that.

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Rock on.