Home Sweet Home…or was it?


Nancy Jardine

This post is by Nancy Jardine.

You’ll find a multitude of sayings about ‘home’ on the internet. These few are particularly useful for my topic today.  Home is where the heart is.  Pliny the Elder; He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; A man’s home is his castle. Proverb

We all know of the huge variety of domiciles that we could call home, nowadays, but an assortment of architectural house styles wasn’t always the norm. As a hobby historian, I’m quite fascinated by the earliest types of habitation and the effort it took to create them. (Admittedly, I’m more familiar with the most primitive dwellings in my homeland area of Scotland than those in other parts of the globe.)

Skara Brae

Skara Brae 1989

I’ve crawled into a reconstruction of a Hunter Gatherer’s hide but that’s not quite the same as walking your way around someone’s home that’s connected to others, making them into a tiny communal hamlet. Probably the earliest type of collective living I’ve wandered around were the homes of Stone Age Neolithic people on the island of Orkney at Skara BraeWhat remains of these stone dwellings from c. 5000 years ago is totally remarkable, though only because they lay under sand dunes for millennia before the wind and waves uncovered them in the mid 19th century.

skara Brae 2

Skara Brae 1989

At Skara Brae we can envisage a day in the life of the people. The delineated areas of the homes (minus original roofs) are easily visible as in a ‘bird’s eye view’. Their cupboards are built into the wall, the fireplace is central and their sleeping cots are blocked off with large slabs. There is even a built-in channel that is essentially primitive drainage, as in for toilet use: functional but effective buildings.

Were the Skara Brae houses fortified in any way? It doesn’t seem the case but there are some new theories going around (resulting from recent excavation) that the nearby timber/standing stone circles in the Orkney Isles may have had a community aspect to their construction.

Ring of Brodgar wiki

Ring of Brodgar

It’s now believed by some current archaeologists that the earliest of these stone henges at the Ness of Brodgar pre-date that of Stonehenge in England and that the culture of building such henges may have travelled southwards, rather than northwards. Regardless of the direction of architectural influence, the massive wooden and stone circles were most likely built for religious observance and for people to congregate for positive reasons without the need for defence from outside entities, as in human raiders. Some archaeologists now think there was a religious community living alongside the henge monument at the Ring of Brodgar, though the type of dwelling is unknown, as is any need for defence. (A recent BBC programme covered the issues-albeit a little dramatically and some critics might say fancifully. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08819tl )

On mainland Scotland, Bronze Age and Iron Age tribes seemed to have mainly lived in Hut Circles, some with stone foundations (probably where wood was less available) and the bulk in wooden ‘Celtic’ Roundhouses. There’s sufficient evidence around Scotland for some variety in shape – some were oval though most were circular.  Some individual roundhouse dwellings have been found but it was more common for them to have been erected in a small cluster situated near strip- field farms.


Crannog- Nancy Jardine

Crannog dwellings, similar to roundhouse construction, though built on wooden platforms are a fine example of Bronze and Iron Age living. By the time crannogs were erected out over the water of inland lochs they were probably fortifying themselves mainly from marauding wild animals rather then marauding tribesmen. However, along with the Bronze Age and Iron Age technology—effective weaponry in particular—there came a greater need for tribespeople to defend themselves.


Mousa shetlands wiki

Broch of Mousa, Shetland Isles – Wikimedia commons

I’m currently very interested in a type of dwelling that’s almost exclusively found in Scotland – the Broch. But was it Home Sweet Home or not? Broch building is very difficult to define. Until recently not enough time or effort was given to investigating this unique style of building. Broch remains are found in southern Scotland but the bulk are to be found in northern Scotland, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland.


So how does a Broch differ from a Celtic roundhouse, or from a crannog? A Broch is a massive drystone built hollow-walled tower. Some of these towers were thought to have been as high as 50 feet with walls of around 4 feet thick- like the Broch of Mousa in Shetland. Staircases wind their way up the hollow wall structure to give access to upper levels and some of the evidence shows there could have been multiple platforms, circular balconies or partial floors, inside a broch.

Dun Carloway steps wiki

Dun Carloway -Wikimedia Commons

Many brochs are thought to be from the Neolithic period but intriguingly others situated towards the south of Scotland have been dated to 1st century AD, during the Roman occupation.  Brochs have no windows and only one low entrance way so the interior would have been extremely dark. How damp they were inside, I don’t even want to imagine! What the roofs were constructed of is a matter of interpretation: possibly thatched like roundhouses. A corbelled stone roof is thought to be less likely, though that would have been a remarkable feat of engineering and the technique not unknown because Neolithic people used it in structures like the Maes Howe chambered cairn on Orkney.

Earliest archaeological thinking was that Brochs were built as a defensive structure but that’s hard to believe since there were no windows to give access for repelling invaders. Some experts then thought they were built more as a status symbol by the local chief to show his superiority in the region. However, some recent archaeologists aren’t ruling out the idea that people maybe ‘holed up’ in them like in a self-sufficient ‘siege’ when invaders threatened the area, and that they normally lived outwith the broch in some other form of dwelling house. I’m not sure I’d want to be inside one for months on end.

The theories are all fascinating conjecture! I’ve been following a Facebook page named the Caithness Broch Project which has an aim of properly identifying the multitude of Brochs that litter Caithness. They also intend to build a replica Broch to satisfy the curiosity of tourists like me. I’m eagerly waiting for that to be built so that I can pop up and visit it though that’s likely to mean a 400 mile round trip for me. https://www.facebook.com/CaithnessBrochProject/

That’s enough on brochs from me- What is your favourite ‘Home Sweet Home’?


Nancy Jardine writes historical and contemporary novels. Find her at the following:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter @nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere Her novels are also available via Smashwords, B&N, KOBO, AppleItunes and other ebook stores.

multiple new TE




Posted in ancient monuments, neolithic, Scotland, unique | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Elusive peace…

Mike Staton

This post was written by Mike Staton.

In late 1864 and January 1865, two American Presidents on the continent – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis — used back-channel contacts to try to negotiate an armistice and peace agreement that would end the Civil War.

Early efforts had failed, but Lincoln, haunted by all the killings, kept hoping to restore the Union short of a total annihilation of the Southern states in rebellion. But he faced radicals in his own party – Republicans – who wanted to punish the South and inflict hardships on Southerners via military occupation and reconstruction.


In some newspapers of the era, this is how Lincoln was portrayed compared to the Confederate peace delegation. Who do you think held all the cards?

As the two presidents tried to set up a peace meeting, they were having trouble getting past two preconditions, one by Lincoln and one by Davis. Lincoln required the states in rebellion to lay down their arms and agree to rejoin the Union. Davis insisted the Northern government recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation.

With two such conditions, it hardly seemed possible a peace meeting could ever take place. Yet it did – on February 3, 1865, aboard Lincoln’s personal steamship, the River Queen, moored at Hampton Roads, Virginia. I thought it would be intriguing to have Captain Bill Stamford, assigned to the Confederate War Department in Richmond, on the River Queen for that conference. After all, one of Bill’s bosses, Assistant Secretary of War John Campbell, was one of the Southern commissioners.

I’m now writing the outline for the chapters covering the peace conference. It has turned out to be more difficult and complicated than I expected. The Machiavellian maneuverings plotted by Northern and Southern politicians are too byzantine. The discussions at that peace meeting aboard Lincoln’s ship may prove too tedious for the reader more interested in adventure and sex.

Appromattox Plantation Manorhouse

This is the Appomattox manor house, Grant’s headquarters during the Petersburg siege in 1864 and 1865. Grant wined and dined the Confederate peace commissioners before sending them on to meet with Lincoln aboard his boat. 

I’ve had to rewrite the outline for those chapters dealing with the Hampton Roads conference as I’ve learned more about those negotiations. My earlier versions were based on overviews I found on the Civil War Trust and Encyclopedia Virginia websites. I’ve since come across the writings of Campbell and another of the Confederate delegates, Vice President Alexander Stephens. They shifted me away from doing a scene on the River Queen.

I know the Confederate peace commissioners in late January wheeled through Confederate and Yankee lines to General Grant’s headquarters at City Point. At first I thought the details were ironed out and they moved smoothly through the lines. Upon further reading, it turned out not to be the case. Grant was still up north visiting his wife and kids, so he couldn’t tell Union General Edward Ord to send the Confederates through the Federal lines to his headquarters. Instead, Lincoln got involved and eventually telegraphed Ord to send the Confederate peace commissioners through the lines to Grant’s headquarters. It was an unexpected delay revealing that Lincoln was still debating whether or not to meet with them.

Julia, Jesse and Grant

This is an entrance to a cabin at City Point, Virginia, where General Grant, his wife Julia and boy Jesse lived at various times during the Petersburg siege. I put Julia in one of my scenes, since I found her a fascinating woman.

Historical details are sketchy on the mode of transportation used to get to City Point, so I decided to put the CSA delegation in buggies. The eventual passage through the lines and the trip to City Point will be my first scene. It has some drama. Confederate and Union troops cheered when the delegates passed through. One historical account said they were shouting, “Peace! Peace! Peace!” I want to use the buggy ride as a way to use dialogue between Bill, his buddy Charlie and Campbell to discuss their hopes and fears for the peace conference and the future.

When I get Bill and Charlie to Grant’s headquarters, I intend to continue exploring the hopes and fears and the overall difficulty of negotiating a war-ending peace treaty. Grant put on a full-on charm offensive, wining and dining the Confederate delegates, then telegraphing Lincoln that they were open to restoration of the Union. So Lincoln agreed to meet with them. Grant liked having his wife Julia with him, and I’ve seen photos of them and their son Jesse at City Point. Julia Grant is an intriguing woman, one caught between her husband, commander of all U.S. armies, and her father, a fanatical supporter of the Confederacy. She’s very much like Bill, who has an Ohioan mother and a Tar Heel father. I’m convinced Julia and Bill need to have a heart-to-heart chat about a divided nation, divided families and the issue that split the nation apart – slavery. The Missouri woman had a worrisome time releasing her household help, all slaves. That’s right… the future first lady early in the war didn’t want to give up her slaves.

John Archibald Campbell

This bald gentleman is John Campbell, one the peace delegates and Assistant Secretary of War for the Confederacy. He’s one of Bill’s bosses, and I put him in a scene so he, Bill and Bill’s buddy Charlie can discuss if a negotiated peace is possible.

There’s another scene I want to do. It’ll take place back in Richmond inside the apartment of Bill and his wife Franny. Bill will reveal the results of the peace meeting to her, and then he’ll tell her that he expects to be ordered into the trenches. He knows Grant will soon launch his spring offensive that will likely lead to the fall of Richmond and Petersburg. Franny will be furious. She worked hard to get Bill the War Department job. He has already suffered a shell-fragment wound that required surgery and recuperation back in North Carolina. With the war all but over, she fears her new husband will die – and for nothing.

Franny won’t be right about Bill dying. But ten thousand Confederate and Union troops will die in those last weeks of the war. Those cheers when the peace commissioners went through Confederate and Yankee lines went for nothing.

# # #

I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Singing for Spring

Gayle and Mary_river walkThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Many signs of spring greeted me while visiting my parents in Montana last weekend, including lilacs blooming in neighborhoods and the weeping birch in my parents’ front yard displaying fresh, green palmate leaves. Outside of town yellow balsam root and purple lupine flaunted their wild regalia, emerald meadows carpeted hillsides under still snowy mountain peaks, and bank-filled rivers rushed across fields and forests from snowmelt.

The season’s majesty laced with bird life. Turkeys scratched in sheep-filled pastures. Sandhill crane parents with their young sought bugs for breakfast in farmers’ fields. Robins hunted worms on lawns and harrier hawks soared in the sky, seeking mice and rabbits for lunch. Songbirds of all sorts fed at feeders and sang from hedgerows while ring-necked pheasants searched for grain and other tasty tidbits along roadsides. The music of the nature, from flowing fountains to bird song, echoed across Wyoming and Montana, choruses of the landscape cascading with new-season abundance.

owletts_100 dpiI walked my friends’ ranch outside of Kaycee, staying one night along my journey north. A mother owl’s hoot took me to a tree where I’d observed her last month as she sat on a nest. This time, three owlets stared at me, peering with curiosity and alertness with large amber eyes. The fledglings, which were likely just tiny nestlings unable to hop out of the tree’s crevice in April, now perched on the cottonwood’s branches. Downiness still covered parts of their bodies, but wing bars were also apparent, indicating flying lessons on the nearby horizon. Mother’s vigilant hoots reverberated from a nearby tree as she eyed me suspiciously and cautioned her youngsters.

crane parents and chicks.jpgThe following day in Montana, bird calls continued as I observed crane parents with two chicks in a field about 20 miles from my parents’ home. The adults’ warning call kept the two youngsters close to them; all four trotted across the field to find safer sanctuary from peering human eyes on the highway.

Songs of spring persisted through the weekend as I listened to and observed wrens, red finches, and robins in my parents’ yards as well as the nearby town park. Swallows also made appearances, much like actors returning from hiatus, staking out territory for the best bird house, while sparrows also tried to reserve seasonal housing. The warbling wrens and finches courted partners, serenading from sprigs of caragana hedges and nearby power lines.

finches_100 dpi.jpgI listened, watched, walked, and photographed, enjoying the splendor of the season. I reminisced with my mother about my growing up years and our little farm in Iowa as well as the years I had also lived in Montana. We talked of nature’s impact upon our spirits and our lives, of family heritage and history, of the joys of the past and present and of what likely lies ahead in the future. Dad and I continued planning our summer trip to Alaska, and mom and I shared walks through town and drives to the countryside. The splendor of nature entwined with relaxation and reflection, generating monumental moments of joy.

Just as nature sang its song of spring, so, too, did my heart.

Wren singing


Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Gayle has contributed stories to six different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.


Mary book cover     Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   cody-cabin-cover2   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book

Posted in birds, Cranes, Nature, sandhill cranes, Spring, unique | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Seize the Moment by Cher’ley


This blog by Cher’ley Grogg

A young soldier and his commanding officer got on a train together. The only available seats were across from an attractive young women who was traveling with her grandmother. As they engaged in pleasant conversation, the soldier and the young woman kept eyeing one another; the attraction was obviously mutual. Suddenly the train went into a tunnel and the car became pitch black.

Immediately two sounds were heard: the “smack” of a kiss, and the “whack” of a slap across the face. The grandmother thought “I can’t believe he kissed my granddaughter, but I’m glad she gave him the slap he deserved.”

The commanding officer thought, “I don’t blame the boy for kissing girl, but it’s a shame that she missed his face and hit me instead.”

The young girl thought, “I’m glad he kissed me, but I wish my grandmother hadn’t slapped him for doing it.”

And as the train broke into the sunlight, the soldier could not wipe the smile off his face. He had just seized the opportunity to kiss a pretty girl and slap his commanding officer and had gotten away with both!

Now, that young soldier knew how seize the opportunity! In the same way, we must take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to fulfill our purpose in life.

Unfortunately, many times we get so caught up in the details of every day to day living that we just don’t have the time to seize the moment!

My work days have filled my time. I drive 11 hours a day, get a bite to eat, and drop into bed. When I’m not driving, eating, and sleeping—I’m cleaning the truck, doing the laundry, and shopping for supplies. I am determined to find some time to write. Optimistically, I bought my clogging shoes, and my watercolor supplies on the road with me this time. I haven’t had the time to do much of anything. That being said, this weekend I get to see my Grandson, his wife, and my two youngest great grandchildren.

Image result for Carpe Diem

Seize the moment. Sometimes we have to grab a moment here or therImage result for Carpe Dieme. I know each person reading this is probably doing the same thing. No matter your interest, life gets in the way.


Do the characters in a book seize the moment? I think they do. I am working on the sequel to “Stamp Out Murder”, “Cancel Out Murder” and the main character is seizing the moment. After all the calamity, and uproar over the murder, he tries to concentrate on a pre-planned fishing trip. I’m hoping to finish this book by the end of the year. In the meantime, James is busy learning to make friends and secure his love interest, and his interest in antiques, and stamps. He’s a major collector, and a crime solver.

Seize the moment. What catches your moments in between the adventure called life?

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Four Moons and Fair Ladies Four Moons and Fair Maidens

Memories from Maple Street U.S.A: Pawprints on My Heartlink coming soon
And please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE
Posted in activities, adventure, anticipation, Moments, unique | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Seeing 3 Dimentional

IMG_1663by Neva Bodin

Dictionary.com defines stereoscope (ster·e·o·scope ster-ee- uh-skohp,) as a noun and “an optical instrument through which two pictures of the same object, taken from slightly different points of view, are viewed, one by each eye, producing the effect of a single picture of the object, with the appearance of depth or relief.”

I hadn’t thought of my old Viewmasters as stereoscopes, but that’s what they are too. Anyone lost yet?

Without realizing it, each of our eyes sees a slightly different angle of everything, allowing our brains to form the 3 dimensional images of everyday life.


One of the image cards for my stereoscope. They look identical with the naked eye, but viewed through the stereoscope have amazing depth.

As early as 1823, a teacher of mathematics in Edinburgh, Scotland conceived the idea of creating a 3 D image to view on paper. The first stereoscopes were made of rather large boxes. Finally by 1851 a smaller hand held one was invented, and the one I have from my family was designed in 1861 by Oliver Wendell Holmes, when he was twenty years old. (Holmes went on to become quite a celebrated US Supreme Court Justice until he was 90.)


This is my stereoscope.

They are fascinating to look through and see how the image is set up. And of course, interesting to me also, because the images are of late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The Viewmaster uses a round disc with pictures that rotates as you flip a switch on the side. Little stories accompany the discs. I have Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Christmas Story, Alice in Wonderland and more.


One of my viewmasters–like looking into a different world, or maybe Alice’s looking glass!

I also used the viewmaster to play nurse when I was young. In the doctor’s offices in those days, the nurse looked at your blood through a microscope and had a little counter gadget in her hand that she clicked every time she saw a white or red blood cell. Very untechy to today’s lab techs, but it worked. In my case, this act was usually followed by a shot in the butt.

When young, I pretended my viewmaster was a microscope and clicked the little lever as I looked into it and counted the cells of my pretend blood. That was when I wasn’t playing a teacher, waitress, housewife or preacher. (Amazing I had no trouble choosing my career of nursing.)

As I thought of the ingenuity of people who invented these devices I thought of how we need to remember we see everyone and everything at a little different angle by each eye. And instead of allowing our brain to combine these angles into one impression, perhaps we should evaluate our image of others a bit. Even the characters in our lives and stories. Perhaps while our brain combines the physical image into one 3-D visual impression, we should train our brains to work on the emotional or subjective image of the person or situation we see. Consider them from different angles.


The apparent father coming around the corner has a sizable stick in his hand. I hear the “whack” coming.

I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to see the simile, but there’s where my brain went.

And maybe we already do. For we create 3-D images of people in our stories—no one being totally good or bad usually, unless we plan it that way. We want people to identify with our characters, so they must have depth, even if they are shallow sometimes.

Have I lost anyone again? Anyway, just some random thoughts as I gazed at pictures through my stereoscope tonight, and then dug out my Viewmastsers (I have two). Nostalgia and amazement at the human mind that is always inventing, be it good or bad.

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Post (c) Doris McCraw


Disasters! You may be thinking I’m out of my mind, especially with all the media covering the events of the last few years. Well, that’s exactly why I am writing about disasters.

You see, the local library district released their book “Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region”, based on the history symposium that took place in June of 2012, just before the Waldo Canyon fire devastated a portion of the northwest section of Colorado Springs. This was followed by the Black Forest Fire of 2013, and the flooding in Manitou Springs.


The book’s publication was delayed to include the above incidents. My chapter discussed an 35 million year disaster, which was the volcano that created the Cripple Creek/Victor gold. That event created so much good or bad, depending on what you want to focus on.

Let’s take a look at that phrase, “what you focus on”. I am not saying that disasters are not devastating, but they usually are not all-consuming. When both Waldo, and Black Forest occurred, many people asked if I was okay. Yes, I was. Both were a good 10-25 miles away from where I lived. The possibility of it coming to where I lived was remote at best. 

When I and my neighbors lost our basements due to flooding, was the rest of the area impacted. No, just select areas. You see that is the thing about media and disasters, they tell the story of the worst part of the event, as they should, but we as listeners should remember, it’s what they focus on.


Writers, when telling their stories, it’s the events they want to tell about, it’s the disasters, challenges, that they focus on. Is it wrong? No. But remember, it’s what we chose to focus on that keeps us in that space. So, chose your focus wisely and remember, there is a large world out there in which disasters are a part, but not the whole picture. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
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Posted in colorado, Colorado Facts, Colorado History, disasters, unique, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Celebrating Moms, Celebrating Women

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

During my presentation and book reading last Saturday at the Natrona County Library, they sat next to young children or held babies in their arms. On the drive a few short hours later to a different community’s bookstore, one sat in the back seat of my vehicle next to her little one buckled into a car seat. Of whom do I speak? Moms.

Mother’s Day, which began during the early 1900s, arrives on Sunday. I’ll be with my mom that day as I travel this weekend to my parents’ home in Denton, Montana. With every year that passes, I treasure each Mother’s Day I’m able to share with my mom. Although she views it as “just another day” in her nonchalant “don’t make a big deal of things” attitude, I view it as a day of blessing. I love my mother, I admire my mother, I respect her and I cherish her. She is not only the woman who raised Gayle and Mom_Little Snowy Rangeme (and did so with great love, encouragement, and selflessness), she is also my dear friend. I confide in her, I cry on her shoulder, and I celebrate positive things with her; she is always there for me. We may not agree on some things, including politics, but we respect one another and listen to each other. And, we dearly love and respect one another.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I not only give a shout-out to women who have the difficult yet loving job of raising children, but I also raise a glass in toast of all women, especially those I know — for we all “birth” and/or care for something in our own way. I have friends who have raised children as single moms, most no fault of their own (husbands committing adultery and widowed at a young age). I know women whose boyfriends/ fiancés decided to leave when the ladies became pregnant (I work part-time at a pregnancy center, and this happens frequently).  Many of my friends are “mom” to furry “kids” as well as to human children, and other women, like me, didn’t have babies from their womb but do have children of their heart (both furry ones and adopted human children). And, even those who never married and have no kids, but they run businesses, work at jobs, and volunteer for non-profits. Women do many things, and a lot of them balance several things, whether they are mothers to human or furry children or not.

Gayle with Stacy and CindyWomen are smart, they are talented, they have strong work ethics, and they are compassionate. Yet, it’s challenging to be a woman. From our sex-driven culture (movies, TV, magazines, prostitution, sex trafficking) to the lower wages women earn in the workplace, difficulties still prevail in our society and between the genders even after years of greater equality and justice. It’s no longer an Ozzie and Harriet world, some of which isn’t so bad (including increased numbers of women in management roles, as business owners, and serving as scientists, college presidents, and state governors); yet, there is still a road to travel to have men and women be seen, and treated, as equals.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningSo, this Mother’s Day, I celebrate my own mother and other women in my life who make an impact, not just upon me but upon other people. I celebrate my deceased grandmothers, especially Grandma Mardy who encouraged me to attend college and expressed her pride about my writing. I honor my many female friends, those who are moms to human children and to furry kids; those who are writers and other creatives and those who use their talents and skills in other productive ways; those who are facing health challenges and preserving through those situations; those who have lost their spouses and children; those who volunteer to help others in need; those who run their own businesses and those who work two or more jobs to make ends meet – all of my female friends and family make life more beautiful because of who they are and what they do. I love and admire every one of you, including my Writing Wranglers and Warrior friends!

Happy Mother’s Day to women everywhere!


Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Her most recent release is a children’s picture book titled A Kind Dog Named Mary, about her springer/cocker mix that is trained as a therapy dog. Gayle has contributed stories to many different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations as a volunteer and with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.


Mary Book Cover   cody-cabin-cover2   bobcat-front-cover  bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover    Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover  Spirit of America book

Posted in Cats, Dogs, Grandmother, Mother, Mother's Day, motherhood, pets, unique, volunteer, Women, women writers | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

On the Road Again


The car was fully loaded, leaving just enough room for Jay and me.  The back seat held a small cooler for drinks, 2 camera bags, 2 duffle bags, and a bag of snacks.  In the trunk was a large cooler with food for the next few days, linens, hiking boots, a tote loaded with plate’s cups and silverware, and our coats.


Jay and I were heading north on a 5 day excursion.  The trip began with torrential downpours and lots of traffic.  Our first stop made it all worth it when we got a chance to hang out with family and have pizza for dinner. 

The next morning we were up with the sun and back on the road.  Our destination, Michigan was still over 7 hours away.  We encountered more rain, more traffic and road construction.  Still we managed to arrive in Holland Michigan in time to cruise the downtown area, find an array of tulips and find our cabin before sunset.


Jay and I were heading north on a 5 day excursion.  The trip began with torrential downpours and lots of traffic.  Our first stop made it all worth it when we got a chance to hang out with family and have pizza for dinner. 

The next morning we were up with the sun and back on the road.  Our destination, Michigan was still over 7 hours away.  We encountered more rain, more traffic and road construction.  Still we managed to arrive in Holland Michigan in time to cruise the downtown area, find an array of tulips and find our cabin before we were encompassed by darkness.


We were up were up with the sun and on the hunt for critters to photograph.  Thanks to some informative birdwatchers we had a new destination. Just 2 hours away there were Heron, Cranes and several other critters building nests and settling in for a while.   As usual local people had the best information and we found some very co operative cranes and their friends.


We returned to our cabin in time to watch the sunset over lake Michigan accompanied by hundreds of people who had the same plan.  The following day was filled with black squirrels, geese, ducks, a muskrat, and a stop to tour a working windmill.  It was imported from Holland decades ago and they still grind flower there every week. 


Our last day was mostly driving toward home.  We did stop for a while to see the cranes, and Herons one more time to help break up the trip. 


By the time we returned home we had traveled 1822 miles.  I had clicked off 17 rolls of film and captured 28 different types of critters.  Now I am ready to do it again.    

Thanks for stopping by. I hope your days are filled with one happy adventure after another.

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“My instinct tells me, it’s coming, a perfect eclipse” — Darrah J. Perez


 Chapter One: The Provided Answers

A while back, my local library was giving away free books. A lot of these books were my type of books. I completely found it bizarre. I gathered up as many of them as I could and brought them home. I never knew the depth of understanding of why this happened. Until, the synchronicities began speaking to me….

Selected for a Native American entrepreneurship program, I was offered a full scholarship. The program lasted throughout the 2017 summer going through the second week of September. This program was geared toward making business around the August 21, 2017 totality solar eclipse.

I knew this! But, I also knew, how afraid I was to hear the word totality. My mind raced. My thoughts trying to find a safe way out, and a complete, peace of mind. Facing my fear was the main reason for me enrolling into college and looking for a future. I knew I would not and could not be trapped by fear.

On my first day of class……the first day of May 2017, I was overt excited with joy. The opportunity to learn more about business, marketing, and co-ops really held my interest. Selected from more than 100 applicants, I was one of the first ten to take the course. “This is a trial run,” the instructor mentioned, “the future of this program depends on how well and successful this group does.” The awe of a complete honor filled the hearts of every selected applicant. I wondered if they knew we were selected out of one hundred submitted applications? When I first found out, I wanted to cry tears of gratitude.

On the same day of my first day of class, I watched a movie that I had the liberty of watching twice. Once with my mother and brother and once with my husband. The name of the movie is called, ‘Split’ written by M. Night Shyamalan. With 23 different identities, the main character Kevin Wendell Crumb kidnaps and imprisons three teenage girls said, “to be used as sacred food to the beast.” Two of the identities inside of him believed in the beast, while the others believed in the light. Two things came from this movie. One being, the broken are more evolved, they are more awakened. The second being, the brain is amazing, we believe what our mind tells us.

This movie hit so close to home for me. When finished, I went out into the dark, looking up to the moon I prayed. My mother’s house is very close to the town cemetery. As I was in deep conversation with the Creator, in the corners of my eyes and even right in front of me, I saw images that I have a hard time explaining. I thought, the darkness is playing tricks with my mind. I saw them more than once, shadows moving not more than a few feet in front of me. It blurred my vision. They moved rarely fast. After seeing it the second time, I got afraid. I knew it wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me, but something beyond real.

They were spirits.

The next day at school, the instructor introduced cognitive and personality development in individuals. From the 1920s, Swiss, psychologist, Jean Piaget introduced birth to age 2. From when a child is born until they reach two years of age, this stage is the biggest in the learning process. This is where the subconscious is stored and where personality is formed. Value judgments begin forming after birth. Value judgements tell us how to act and how we see ourselves. Between birth and 2, we learn 80% of the knowledge we repeat in a lifetime. After 2 years, the synapsis break off causing the learned behaviors and knowledge to repeat. Basic values can be changed, but must be untaught. I learned the past is still within us today.

Fear comes from something our subconscious has stored. A traumatic experience. I am afraid of the dark. This has been known to me for all my life. I never knew why?

I began to wonder. Is this why I am afraid of the coming total solar eclipse?

My book; The Perfect Eclipse: A story based on a Yellowstone Prediction soon to hit stores near you.






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Once again… the hard task of outlining a novel

Mike Staton

This column written by Mike Staton.

My Civil War novel – Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep – remains in the hands of my publisher, with an October release still on schedule. In the meantime, I’ve been brainstorming the plot for my Civil War tale’s second book.

In recent days, I’ve freed my plot scheming from the jail bars of my brain and let the threads settle down on paper. Well, not paper… on my computer screen. I just finished outlining chapter 26. It’s gone surprisingly well considering how lost I felt when I began chapter 1.

I had the big picture, I just didn’t know how to get there. Of course, book 2 had to pick up where Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep left off. Franny Neale, Private Bill Stamford’s true love, has made a risky wartime journey to win his heart. She has also used her family’s connections with the Confederacy’s political and military elite to secure a job for Bill at the War Department in Richmond. So that was the starting point of Bill’s book 2 journey.

Rose Greenhow in Europe

Early on I decided I needed to have Bill and Confederate spy Rose Greenhow to meet up again. He’d have to go to Britain for that to happen.

Like the first novel, this one must be built around action and romance – and a strong adherence to real-McCoy American history. I went with an idea percolating in my head for several weeks. Bill and Franny needs to get married, so that’s how the novel starts – a wedding in Bill’s hometown, Kenansville. As I started writing the scene, I decided to shock readers with something unexpected. I’m happy how the chapter’s outline turned out.

As I progressed chapter by chapter, I brainstormed other action ideas:

* A fierce skirmish of Union cavalry with Confederate Home Guards protecting a train bound for Virginia. My gut feeling tells me to have Bill gather up a wounded militiaman’s rifle and join the fight.

* A near-riot of desperate Richmond housewives enraged over high prices and speculators making money at the expense of the women’s young ones. A real bread riot occurred in Richmond in April 1863. The one I’m contemplating is fiction, since I won’t get Bill and Franny to Richmond until October 1863. But the scene will reflect the genuine angry emotions of the wives of rebel soldiers on the front lines.

* Holiday scenes where Bill and Franny help out these desperate women, holding a Christmastime party for Richmond’s children.

Evacuation fire

I think I’ll end book 2 with the Confederates retreating from Richmond. By the way, Yanks didn’t do this. The retreating Rebs set those fires.

* An emergency mission to Britain by Bill, carrying out the secret orders of President Jeff Davis. This is an effort to inject Bill in the affairs of Rose Greenhow, an actual Confederate spy. In the first book, Bill meets Rose in Wilmington, North Carolina. Their visit ends with Bill seeing a halo flare around Rose, a sign she’ll soon die. In real life, Rose voyaged to Europe with her daughter to try to gain political and monetary support for the Confederacy. On the voyage back to Wilmington, she drowned.

* A chase by Union ships trying to bring to heel a fast, sleek blockade runner transporting Bill to Europe.

* An alleyway attack on Bill as he sets off to meet with Rose and forward President Davis’s secret message. Bill gets mugged and then knifed, requiring nursing care by Rose and one of Bill’s ex-girlfriends, Becky Powell.

Ruins of Richmond

This is what Richmond looked like after the Yanks put out the fires after entering the city.

In my outline, I’ve managed to get Bill to London where he runs into Becky and her new boyfriend, a British aristocrat. I’ve yet to plot out the alley ambush. That’s next.

I’ll need to get Bill back to Richmond for the last weeks of the war. Bill and Franny will have to navigate the chaos surrounding Richmond’s fall as the Confederacy disintegrates. I’m brainstorming but have not come up with any specifics for Bill and Franny.

I’m mulling a title too. No epiphany, though. I want to use the shadows metaphor in the second book. So far none of the possible titles stir me. I named the outline Home Front Shadows. I don’t like it; it’s not catchy. Another possibility: The Shadows Within. I won’t complain if someone offers a suggestion.

# # #

I’m an author with three fantasy novels to my credit – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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