Forever is Never Too Long

Thanks to Rhonda Partain for inspiring this. I believe that if you truly love someone, forever is never too long.

Most marriages aren’t fraught with the turmoil that ours was. When my late husband Bill and I were married in the fall of 2005, I was in my forties, and he was nineteen years my senior. Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. A year later, he suffered another stroke, just as we were thinking maybe he’d get back on his feet again. That never happened.

For six years, I cared for him at home. With the use of only one arm and leg, he could do little for himself. Nevertheless, I loved him, and it never crossed my mind to leave him and find another. I would have cared for him for another twenty years, but in the fall of 2012, he started to decline, and it became difficult for me to lift him. I had to move him to a nursing home where he died a month later. You can read more about this in My Ideal Partner.

Some young people nowadays look on marriage as if they were buying a car. They move in together so they can test-drive the relationship. I don’t have a problem with this, but years after they’ve decided they’re right for each other, they toss the marriage aside like an old car that is no longer of use to them. Not only is this heartbreaking for the parties involved, but it’s also not fair to any children they may have had during that time. These children didn’t choose to be born and deserve a stable family environment.

If a spouse is abusive or unfaithful, that’s one thing, but simply falling out of love with your significant other should never happen. If you’re considering marriage, be sure. Be very sure you two are compatible and that you really want to spend the rest of your lives together. A marriage isn’t a car. You can’t trade it in for another model when you get tired of it. If you truly love the one you want to marry, forever will never be too long.


I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.



Giving Care with Love

I’m Abbie Johnson Taylor, and I wrote this post.


Last week, I heard, on NPR, one of many reports about the sentencing hearing for the U.S. Army sergeant who went AWOL in the Middle East and was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years before being released. During that day’s proceedings, Shannon, the wife of one of the soldiers injured while searching for the missing sergeant, said that her husband’s severe injuries impacted their interactions, and she felt more like a caregiver than a wife.


My heart goes out to Shannon and others in her situation. For six years, I cared for my late husband Bill, who suffered two strokes and became partially paralyzed. However, I showed him my love all the time, and he showed me his in return. After dressing him in the morning and transferring him to his wheelchair, I put my arms around his waist and held him for a moment, then kissed his cheek and positioned my cheek in front of his mouth so he could do the same, which he did. At mealtime after I put food in front of him or gave him his pills, I put my arm around his shoulder and kissed the top of his head. He often put his good arm around my waist, and we both held each other momentarily. Of course Shannon’s husband may not be able to return her affections, but he can surely feel hers, and at a time when he can do nothing else, it’s important for him to feel loved.


In My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I explain other ways Bill and I showed love for each other during the years I cared for him at home. Through this book, I hope to reach out to Shannon and others who are caring for loved ones at home. If you’re in such a situation, you’re not alone. No doubt your community has a support group, and the Internet is full of blogs and other resources for caregivers. I hope Shannon and others can find a way to put love back in their relationships.




I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.





Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.



Fathers-the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Cher’ley


This Blog by Cher’ley Grogg



I’ll start with the Ugly first. Some Father’s are Ugly, you can search for those photos yourself because I’m sure yours is not Ugly, but there are some ugly thingsImage result for Ugly lounge chair contest

Dads’ want to keep like this chair. Ties and T-shirts from the good ole days are probably still hanging in his closet. He may even still have the first cell phone he ever owned or a corn cob pipe. This leads me to a great article I read about Father’s Day gifts.


The 5 Worst Kinds of Father’s Day Gifts, and What to Buy Instead By Brad Tuttle

ugly ties in a pileI wrote a poem one time about a man knew how much he was loved by the number of ties in his closet. It was a funny poem, but I can’t find it. I guess it went down with Edit Red, that’s where I had it posted.

The Bad is in the middle anyway you look at it.

I think this Song portrays it perfectly:


My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
Son, I’m proud of you
Can you sit for a while?
He shook his head, and he said with a smile
What I’d really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later
Can I have them please?

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, I’d like to see you if you don’t mind
He said, I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time
You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

And that leaves the Good

Image result for Good dadsI loved my Dad very much, he was a good dad. My husband was a Good Dad, my son is a good Dad and my grandsons are good dads. I know about good men.


Good Baby Daddy Quotes Quotesgram

In writing,  what is your man character like? What are the qualities you give the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? In life, I hope the good men are in your life, but it’s not that way for everyone, so be considerate. My Dad was a good dad, but he was gone a lot for work, and he wasn’t always good to my Mom, so he wasn’t a great man.

Happy Father’s Day

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. Her newest book is an Advanced Coloring Book and she has 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

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

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

What If I’m Not Who I Think I Am?


This post is by Joe Stephens




Anyone who has read the Jason Bourne books or seen the movies knows that Jason Bourne isn’t his real name. He was originally David Webb, but he was re-programmed into a killing machine with a new name. Things start to get wacky when his real self starts leaking through. And by wacky, I mean lots of people try to kill him, but he kills them first.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m more like Jason Bourne than I would like to admit. I don’t mean I secretly have a different name than I was born with and that I’m a government agent. I just mean that sometimes I worry that I am, like Bourne, walking around doing my normal everyday life things thinking that I’m one person but everybody else sees me completely differently. What if I have a false understanding of how the world sees me?

I may be wandering into an esoteric (and by esoteric I mean boring and unintelligible) animals, dogs, domesticated, pets, adorable, cute, muzzle, sleep, soil, stones, outdoorsarea, but this issue comes to my mind occasionally, and I tend to overthink things, so I thought I’d put the earworm in your mind and let it drive you crazy for a while. What if you think the world sees you the way you do, but in reality, their view of you is completely different? How would it feel to discover that?

Here’s what I’m talking about. I’m a teacher. I like to think that my kids all love me as girl, woman, brunette, hair, fashion, room, mirrormuch as I love them. But the reality is that some of them love me, some of them like me, some of them are indifferent to me, and still others have a barely concealed antipathy for me. I am aware of this fact intellectually. After all, no teacher is liked by every student. But from time to time I am confronted by it when that antipathy comes to the surface. When it does, I worry that I have a completely false idea of how I’m seen by my students and colleagues. That the people who are kind to me are being nice not because I deserve it but because they are too benevolent to tell me the truth—that I am, in reality, incompetent and weird. I keep wondering at what point, someone’s going to tire of the charade and come clean.

man, guy, face, smile, frown, happy, sad, mad, hair, eyes, mouth, nose, ears, peopleIt feels like there’s a book in this concept. Probably there have been many. The story of someone who spent his entire life believing something about himself, only to get to the end and learn that it’s all been a lie. That he wasn’t the positive force that he’d always believed himself to be, but instead was a pitiable fool to whom everyone had just been being kind. Doesn’t really sound like a fun book, especially if it turns out to be the blurb on the back of my autobiography. I hope it won’t be, but I can’t help fearing that it will. That’s just how my brain seems to work.

So, I guess the question is, if you have a completely skewed understanding of how you are seen in the world, would you rather know or would you rather live in blissful ignorance?

sunrise cover option 7Joe’s newest book,Dawn of Grace, just debuted on June 9. It’s available on Amazon.

ITS Cover ArtCheck out his third book, In The Shadow on Amazon

kindle cover

Take a look at his debut book, Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at his second book, Kisses and Lies on Amazon


Ties that Bind

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Despite the crummy weather in Wyoming last weekend, I was able to drive to my friends’ ranch near Kaycee and share time with my parents, my husband, Mary-dog, and our good friends Kevin and Judy Lund (I got out of town prior to the latest spring snow storm!). The solace of the JKL Ranch near the Powder River and the warmth of companionship took the chill off the damp weather. In between systems of rain and snow, the greening grass, singing birds, and sightings of wildlife provided us with touches of spring. All of that combined to add sunshine to our days and festiveness to our evenings. Amazing how nature and nurture work together to bring joy to one’s heart!

big tree at ranch
Sunrise at the JKL Ranch in Wyoming

As I alluded to in previous blog posts, our relationships with others help define who we are and impact what we do. Whether those people are family members, friends, work colleagues, other writers, publishers or readers of our stories, each person adds something to our lives. We hope that “something” is positive, but sometimes it’s not. We can struggle with certain relationships, even the relationship we have with ourselves. Are we nurturing ourselves? Are others nurturing toward us? Or do we bemoan who we are and let others belittle who we are? I urge each of us to surround ourselves with encouragers … and to encourage ourselves when needed.

I am blessed to be loved by many people, including my dear, aging parents. I worry over them at times, especially on lengthy drives such as they took last weekend – nearly 400 miles one-way. My father is nearly 80 years old (his birthday is in July) and my mother 77. Mom has never driven so Dad is the lone person behind the wheel. Thankfully, he still manages well; they will be traveling to Oregon for a Mansfield family reunion – likely, the last as each one of his brothers is also in their 70s (one is flying from Mississippi, the other two live in Oregon). They were to have had this reunion last year, but unfortunately, one of the wives fell and broke her ankle, so the reunion was postponed a year. My hope is that they all enjoy each other’s company as much as the Mansfields/Irwins did last weekend.

Gayle M. Irwin and her husband Greg and her parents Earl and Marcia Mansfield

Our friends the Lunds are so warm and welcoming! This is my fourth trip to their ranch this year, and though little writing was accomplished on this particular trek, the main of idea was fellowship, which was greatly accomplished. So was a lot of wildlife watching. Again, in spite of the nasty weather, we had one day where we drove around the ranch (thanks to our friends’ all-terrain Kubota) and took two different afternoon adventures, one to what’s known as Red Wall Country – an area of vast ranches and rich history (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid frequently hid out in this region). We also traveled to the northwest part of the lower Bighorn Mountains, to another ranching/former town site area known as mayoworth signMayoworth; a sign for a former stagestop presented itself in addition to the many species of wildlife: mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn, turkeys, sandhill cranes, hawks, pheasants, Canada geese, and plentiful songbirds. Bluebirds were returning and meadowlarks, Wyoming’s state bird, chorused from fence posts. We watched and listened to several tom turkeys as they courted harems of hens, and we saw several herds of deer in many different pastures. The sound of my new camera clicking made my parents laugh and tell my husband a “Gayle and the deer picture story” from my childhood – before digital cameras allowed a person to delete the numerous bad pictures, Gayle took at least nine photos of deer, and mostly captured butts… wasting both film and money. Even as a teen, wildlife and photography fascinated me. Sharing memories, and making more as in last weekend at the ranch, is one of the great joys of relationships.

pair of cranes
A pair of sandhill cranes saunter through prairie grass near Kaycee, Wyoming

As this week unfolds, I’ll be making more memories and binding and building more relationship ties. On Thursday evening, May 5, I’ll share an event with another Casper author as we conduct a program at ART 321, one of the newest galleries, called “Your Life is a Story.” We’re both authors of children’s books; we’ll help participants make their own books and also read from ours, and hopefully sell a few. It’s all part of the monthly Casper Art Walk. Casey Rislov and I are the first authors to have an event at ART 321. We are hoping for strong interest and good success.

Then on Saturday, May 7, I’ll join our own Darrah J. Perez for two events in Lander. In honor of Be Kind to Animals Week, we’ll share our words at the Fremont County Library in Lander for four hours then for two additional hours at Mr. D’s Coffee and Books. This is my first time at either place, and I’m grateful to Darrah for setting it all up. We’ll be collecting pet supplies to donate to area pet rescue organizations as well. Collaborating, helping, and giving back, both through our books and through our partnership endeavors – so exciting!

The quiet of last weekend, the beauty of nature and the loving nurture around me, and now forthcoming the busyness of the days ahead and the joy of the interactions I’ll have, may seem polar opposites – but they all fill me with joy and excitement.

meadowlark singing
A western meadowlark trills from a fence post in Wyoming.

There’s an old hymn that goes, “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love…” Whether Christian or not, the ties that are bond by love and respect are the best types of relationships to experience, the most meaningful, the most lasting. As writers and as human beings, we are blessed by and through our relationships with others. I am blessed by my parents, and I try to be a blessing to them. I am blessed to have a kind, loving, and supportive husband. I am blessed by my relationships with my pets and with and by my human friends. I am blessed interacting with nature, and I am blessed by my readers and others who support my writing endeavors. I hope, too, that I can be and am a blessing to others, people, pets, and nature.

My prayer for all of you is that you, too, are blessed by ties that bind in love and respect.

Greg Gayle Mom Dad_cabin
Gayle and her family at the Irwins’ mountain cabin.


Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smallerGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults; she also freelances for several Rocky Mountain area newspapers and magazines and is a contributor to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the upcoming “The Spirit of America.” A strong supporter of pet rescue and conservation organizations, Gayle enjoys traveling and volunteering with such groups. She regularly speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various civic and faith-based events where she enjoys sharing about the human-pet bond and the lessons people learn from animals and nature. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at


SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover  Spirit of America book

Building and Nurturing Relationships

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I drew in a deep breath, collecting my courage as a person gathers wildflowers in a meadow. I really don’t know why I was so nervous – I had known this person since my days as the editor of the small town newspaper more than 20 years ago. However, during our last conversation a year ago she’d said in a disappointed tone, “We still have some of your books – they haven’t sold.” Now, here I was: preparing to ask for a booksigning opportunity.

I dialed the phone. When she answered and I told her who I was, there was a slight pause. So I began with a casual conversation about how spring really isn’t spring yet. She was cordial, and then I launched into my reason for calling: “I remember last year you told me that you still had books that hadn’t sold. I plan to be in the area mid-June so how about I do a booksigning and try to get those sold for you? There’s a new Chicken Soup book coming out in June and it features a story I wrote about the national parks, in particular, Yellowstone. With you being so close to the Park and this being the 100th anniversary of the Park Service, that book will likely attract people, and we can sell Chicken Soup books as well as my dog books that you still have.”

She didn’t hesitate. “Sounds like a great idea. When shall we do it?”

A win-win for both of us – I hope. At least she didn’t shut the literal, or real, door.

Spirit of America book
Upcoming Chicken Soup book to feature “National Parks: America’s Best Idea” by Gayle M. Irwin

Relationships – have you ever stopped to think how many you engage in or that you’re a part of? Perhaps you’re a spouse, a sister, a daughter/son, grandparent. You’re a friend, a colleague, a pet owner, a teacher. You’re a neighbor, community leader/member, part of a writers group, artistic group, church. Maybe you’re a volunteer, part of a publishing house, part of a blogging community, including this one. As writers, we interact with readers, publishers, book and other store owners, other writers…. We truly are in relationship with many people, from all different walks of life, from all parts of our community and beyond. And, because of social media, we are in “communion” with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others, all around the world.

For two years I freelanced/ghost-wrote articles for a web-based pet supply company located in India. I never saw the man face-to-face; the closest I ever came was when we became “friends” on Facebook. Similarly, I’ve never met the publishers of Chicken Soup for the Soul, but I interact with them via email and sometimes telephone, and as this new book The Spirit of America comes out in June, in which I have a short story titled National Parks: America’s Best Idea, I’ll be ordering books, discussing publicity, and having other interactions with them.

Coneflowers_MomsGardenWe build relationships with others, and like garden flowers, we need to nurture them. One of “girls” I knew well growing up in Iowa, someone I considered for years as my best friend, recently wrote to me, sending me a belated birthday card and a long letter. I’d hear from her off and on through the years; for the past 15 or so, only at Christmas due to various circumstances in her life. Last Christmas I didn’t hear from her. I had planned to call as I know she’s busy raising three kids on her own and email or Facebook isn’t really an option for her, but I didn’t call – I let life get in the way. When I read her letter, I had to sit down and then I had to cry. She was diagnosed with colon cancer last fall, and though under treatment, prognosis is uncertain. She just turned 55. We knew each other in grade school, hung out together in middle school, and because neither she, nor I, nor three other girls in our group was asked to prom, the five of us went together (that was okay in small-town Iowa in the 1970s). Here was a relationship I valued for many years and lately I barely wrote her once a year and now she’s facing an uncertain future.

One week later my husband and I attended the funeral of a man we admired who died in his home from an aneurysm; he was 63, just two years older than my husband. That man loved his wife with complete devotion; Greg and I are remembering their love as we look to celebrate Greg’s birthday on Wednesday and plan to take more time for each other in the months ahead, including a trip to St. Louis to watch a Cardinals game — as we did several years ago.

Gayle and Greg_Cardinals

Relationships – we have many, and though we can’t be “close” to everybody in our lives, we certainly can take the time to nurture the ones most important to us and make as many people feel valued as possible. My Iowa friend had a birthday last Sunday. I not only sent her a card and a letter, but I sent her a gift and I told her how I admired her for her courage, not only in facing cancer, but in raising three kids alone when her husband left the family for another woman. I told her I admired her for her perseverance, for her faithfulness to her kids, her job, and her extended family. And today I plan to call her.

I am also committing to myself to put people (and pets) first – nurturing those relationships that are important to me. I used to be pretty good at that, calling people often, writing actual letters, sending cards… but I let too many other “things in life” hamper and dampen the care, compassion, and love I used to bestow. Too many friends from yesterday are no longer part of my life; some of that is my own fault. Even in my writing career I’ve met people and planned to stay in touch – my follow-through hasn’t been the greatest. I’m committed to changing that.

When my West Yellowstone gig wraps up in June, I intend to follow-up and thank the store owner and stay involved and in touch. I hope to reach additional readers and venue hosts through other events already on my books and ones I hope to secure in the fall. Relationships are important, as writers and as human beings. “No person is an island,” the saying goes; the older I get, the more I realize that fact.

Gayle with Stacy and Cindy


Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational dog stories for children and adults. She freelance writes from her Wyoming home for many regional newspapers and magazines.She is also a contributor to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the upcoming summer release The Spirit of America. She also speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations. Learn more about her writing and speaking endeavors at

Gayle & Mary outside


SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Walking_FrontCover_small   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover



Goodbye My Friend by Joe


This Post by Joe Stephens

I’m new to this group, so, unless you read my biographical information first, you may not know that, in addition to writing, I’m a teacher. Specifically, I teach senior English. As hard as it is to wrap my head around, I lose another batch of students in just over two weeks. Every year in August, I swear I won’t get attached to this new batch like I do every year, but down deep I know it’s a filthy lie. I know they’ll break my heart on that last day—and I’m okay with it.

It used to be sad ladyreally hard because I thought for the first few years that these kids who cried and hugged me on the last day of school would stay in touch and would all come back to visit me regularly. And to be fair, a few did, but most didn’t. There are literally hundreds of students with whom I was quite close while they were here that I’ve literally never seen since. At first, I was bitter, but time has helped me change my perspective. I have realized that, while there are those who become permanent fixtures, for the vast majority of my students, our relationship is for a season, a specific period of time. It isn’t meant to be permanent.

That it’s somewhat transient in nature might make it seem like it’s superficial, but nothing could be less true. For ten months, I become a friend, a confidant, a mentor, a cheerleader. For some, I even become a surrogate dad. They cry on my shoulder when they break up with the ONE.  They proudly share their art work, their acceptance letters, and their good grades. They hang around in my room every minute they can get away with it. And I love every minute, despite the fact that, one day after their senior year ends, this will all end too. It’s a great feeling being needed and getting to make a positive difference in the lives of dozens of kids for that relatively brief period of time.

AnneAnd it’s not that they no longer love me. I have kids that graduated twelve, even fifteen years ago, who run up and hug me every time they see me. But the time during which we were friends who talked regularly and were an ongoing part of each other’s lives was predetermined to be finite. It had a terminus from day one.

I know I may sound like I’m trying to convince myself of this, but it really is okay that it ends. They need to move on, make new friends, grow into adults. Meanwhile, I need to make room in my heart for a new group of kids that I’ll adopt and fall in love with for ten months starting next August.

But first, a day of hugs, tears, and goodbyes.

***Who have you the most trouble saying ‘Goodbye’ to? ***

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey and Kisses and Lies, both of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from
Amazon, from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg, and from the author’s trunk.

kindle cover

Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at Kisses and Lies on Amazon

Join Joe on Facebook 

Relationships Make the World Go ‘Round

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

I have heard that “love makes the world go ‘round.” But, I beg to defer. While not sounding as musical or fanciful, I believe relationships make the world go around.

“We spend at least twelve years in school preparing for a career, how much time do we spend preparing for a relationship?” asks

But, as writers, I think we are a group of people who recognize the importance of relationships. Without them, where would our story be? Unless we are writing an essay or fact sheet on an inorganic substance perhaps, we need all the nuances of a relationship to move the story along. And even then, we won’t read it unless we can see a possible relationship to us, i.e. relate to something in the story.

Google defines relationship as, “the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.” And we all know disconnection in a relationship is what makes a story go ‘round!

There are mother and kid relationships.

A newspaper article about the merits of saving the wolves, or fracking to suck more oil out of the ground, (frequent topics in our part of the world), usually includes opposing quotes or opinions about these subjects in order to show conflicting relationships between the wolves and ranchers, or ranchers and animal rights people, the economy and the environment, etc.

Relationship may occur between people, people and animals, mathematical figures, or inanimate objects even. In the movie Cast Away, there is a relationship between a volleyball and a character stranded on a deserted island, proving, in order to survive emotionally, a relationship is needed. You can watch the trailer at

There are tons of articles and books about how to improve relationships, or have a good relationship. So why are there so many divorces? Wars? Domestic violence situations? Suicides? Weddings? Anniversary celebrations? Why is Valentine’s Day so popular? And religious holidays, which emphasize a relationship with a spiritual deity? The soap operas are all about relationships.

There are relationships between animals and people such as my granddaughter and Pipsqueak.

We were created for relationship I believe.

Most of what makes us tick is all about relationship. And we read stories because we want to see how other people’s relationships are handled. We learn by reading these examples.

And therein, I believe, lies the burden of the story teller, or at least my burden as a story teller. How do I make my story interesting, or riveting, and yet convey an insight or truth a reader might discover for the first time through my writing? And with this newfound insight or truth, how can the reader improve his or her relationship with someone? Perhaps even themselves.

Conflict is glue between a reader and a story. But in order to have conflict, there must first be a relationship. Or we utter, “Whatever!”

Ergo: Relationships make the world go ‘round.

Gifts – Not Just Pretty Packages

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


Gift – the word conjures up images of brightly wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December – or small, white boxes adorned with a colorful bow and containing a beautiful gemstone.

christmas tree with packagesBut, gifts don’t always come in pretty packages or contain expensive jewelry. In fact, if you’re Fred Flintstone, a gift is a bowling ball or vacuum cleaner! Seriously, though, gifts are people, even things, that brighten our lives. Gifts are treasures, large or small, that sparkle in our hearts, within our eyes, and on our faces.

Friendship is a gift. Whether down the street or across the country, those people in our lives whom we call friends bring us joy, encourage us, and uplift us.

Parents and GayleLove is a gift. Spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren … all are a source of love, and they, too, bring us joy, give us encouragement, and uplift our spirits.

Health is a gift, noticed especially when we lack it.

Music is a gift. Some people have it, others don’t … but we all can enjoy it because the plethora of genres speak to various hearts and souls.

Writing is a gift … nearly ditto as with music.

One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:7: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s a gentle reminder of Who bestows my gifts of friendship, love, health, writing, and music (what I enjoy listening to, not my actual singing or playing – God didn’t grant me THAT gift!). God has blessed me with numerous friends, a loving family, good health (despite the Ding Dong and Oreo binges!), work, including my writing career, and loyal, delightful pets.

Cody_dog parkThis month I celebrate several gifts. On June 10th, my cocker spaniel Cody turns 16 years of age. Greg and I adopted Cody when he was nearly 10 years old – he came to our local Humane Society as a cast-off stud dog. Older canines are adopted less often even if they are small purebreds. One look into those mournful Spaniel eyes and I knew, though he may not live but a few years, we were meant to give him a home. It’s been six years, and they’ve been great years! Cody is one of my life’s best gifts!

My parents are another. They celebrate 54 years of marriage on June 17th. I’m an only child and I love and respect my parents immensely. Because of them, I appreciate nature, and I’m a writer.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningJune 6 – 8 is the Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference. This will be my seventh year attending writers’ conferences. Although I began writing at a young age, thanks to college and conferences, as well as experience, practice, and rejection, I am published in newspapers, magazines, and books. Writing is both a wonderful gift and a great challenge, but I LOVE doing it!

Because of writing, my friendship circle has expanded – that, too, is a great gift!

Good, perfect, simple gifts – from a colorful sunrise to the paw on my lap, from a loving hug to the writing paycheck … though they may not come in beautifully-wrapped packages, each one is a blessing I genuinely appreciate!

As the Shaker song, Simple Gifts, says:

‘Tis the gift to be simple
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight …

View this lovely song sung by the men’s ensemble Cantus on YouTube:


Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as the Casper Journal, Douglas Budget, and River Press newspapers. Learn more at

SageBigAdventureFront-small      SageLearnsShareFront-small       Walking_FrontCover_small       Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

Full Circle

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

One of my father’s favorite songs is “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and Johnny Cash was one of his most admired singer/songwriters. View the YouTube video here:

Circles – we see them everywhere. Wedding rings are circular, and symbolize the never-ending love between husband and wife. Sadly, those vows are often broken, some statistics showing more than 50 percent these days, leaving people to ponder “what went wrong?” Sometimes we drive in circles, wondering “where are we going?!” Cookies, Frisbees, plates, the sun, and a full moon are all circular. Will those be “unbroken?” Well, plates break, cookies crumble, and Frisbees get lost. Moons are not always full. The sun – well, so far, it’s still round, though invisible during rain and snowstorms!

We often speak about things coming “full circle.” I believe that happens, especially in relationships. I have a friendship that splintered more than 10 years ago, but was reclaimed like a valuable gem about four years ago … and I’m grateful. My husband lost his father last month, just a few weeks after each rounded another year on the calendar and became another year older. Their relationship has always been tightly-knit. Greg misses his dad a lot, yet his faith remains strong that the “circle will be unbroken,” that he will see his dad again when it’s his turn to be called Heavenward.

Gayle reading to children at The Knowledge Nook, toys & books in Casper
Gayle reading to children at The Knowledge Nook, toys & books in Casper

My writing career seems to be coming “full circle” as well. For the past few years I’ve served as Administrative Assistant for Wyoming Writers, Inc., the Wyoming writers’ organization in which I’ve been involved since the publication of my first book back in 2007. I’m stepping down from that position effective June 30th (fiscal year) so I can concentrate more on writing and expanding my freelance career. Since I’ve made that decision, I’ve learned that a story I submitted in January to Chicken Soup for the Soul may be published in an upcoming dog book, I’ve secured two more magazine writing opportunities, and I may be sending my pet column to another newspaper … and writing for some of the special editions the company creates. Like the round sun thawing the frozen Wyoming landscape, these writing opportunities have enriched the soil of my heart. Since 2007, when I left a good-paying government job to pursue authorship, my writing horizon has expanded. I’ve attended conferences, met other writers, attempted and failed, felt joy and sorrow, pursued opportunities and nearly given up. All wove (and are still weaving) together, coming full circle. Will the circle be unbroken? Well, I am still endeavoring – the circle of my writing life is still intact … and I desire it to remain so for many years.

A circle is unending – the words I write and that are published online, in magazines, in books, and through newspapers can last forever … and impact lives now and into the future. Therefore, I choose words that encourage and inspire, with hopes that circle will never be broken … just as I hope my relationships with people I care about – friends, family, fellow writers – will also be unbroken. And, when those relationships are slightly askew, my hope is they will be mended with words of love, kindness, forgiveness, and encouragement. May my circles of influence, in career and relationships, be unbroken … and yours as well, my friends!


Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage Learns to Share, Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine, as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Learn more at

        SageLearnsShareFront-small       SageBigAdventureFront-small

        Walking_FrontCover_small         Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final