Keep On Trying

As most of my readers know by now, I love to metal detect.  It’s a hobby that combines the past and the present, the beauty of the outdoors and the romance of history.  It’s really about treasure hunting, about the thrill of the possibility of finding something valuable or intriguing or simply old that was lost or buried by another person.  I once found a coin from the 1780s; imagine finding something that was made 200 years ago!

About six months ago, I registered with a website that connects people who have lost something metallic with people who might be able to find these items with their metal detectors.  I was notified of a lost wedding ring in Cabin John, Maryland, and I got in touch with the owners and arranged to go to their home to hunt for it.  I arrived on their doorstep bright and early Saturday morning.

The husband had lost his wedding ring, a family heirloom, while cutting down brush in their back yard.  The area in which he had lost it wasn’t really that big, but much of it was covered in trees and brush and bordered by a chain link fence.  This is a problem because the metal fence sets off the detector from about four inches out and obscures any signal from the ring.

As I chatted with the wife, she told me that Cabin John, a quaint, upscale area bordering the Potomac River, got its name from Captain John Smith (‘Cap’n John’ became ‘Cabin John’), who had once sailed up that river, and that when the land was divided into lots and marketed in the early twentieth century, a selling point was that there might be buried treasure in your own back yard!  So far, this family had found a fox jaw and an old shovel while digging around, but no buried treasure.

You don’t know how badly I wanted to find that ring.  I started a new job three weeks ago and had to close out solo on Friday.  Under pressure to carry out certain procedures correctly, I completely forgot about other ones and ended up inconveniencing the Saturday shift no end.  I got a hot text on my way down to the metal detecting gig that shattered my newfound confidence in my job performance.  Putting an artistic soul into a real job is like hammering a square peg into a round hole anyway, but the artist must pay her bills just like everyone else.

This was eating away at me as I searched the ground for the ring with no success.  I felt like a complete failure and told the husband as much as we talked.

“No,” he said.  “You’re only a failure if you don’t try.”

This simple and obvious truth seemed to carry more weight because it came from a stranger who didn’t know me at all, and his kind words actually made me feel better.  I redoubled my efforts but still came up short.  No ring.  I left the couple with some suggestions and an offer to come back again if no one else could find the ring.  They thanked me profusely and presented me with a bottle of “Electric Reindeer” Moscato (how did they know I liked wine?)  It made me feel a little better.

On my way home, I called my BFF and told her my woes.  She reinforced the idea that everyone makes mistakes and advised me to text a ‘mea culpa’ to the office manager, learn something from the experience, and then move on.  I did.  Lesson learned.

As I sit down tonight with a glass of Electric Reindeer (actually, I’m going to a Christmas party tonight and doing shots of Silver Patron, but I thought this ending sounded better), I will reflect on a day that actually turned out to be pretty good.   Knowing that I would beat myself up for messing up at the office, God sent me just what I needed:  a lovely couple who let me know how much they appreciated the effort I made to help them and a BFF who knew just what to say.

Life is still good.  You just have to keep on trying.

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The NEXT BIG THING Blog Hop

Today, I’m going to tell you about the NEXT BIG THING in my writing career — a novel.  It was actually the FIRST thing I started writing, but I never finished it.  I’m now in the process of completing this novel, and the working title is “Passing Fancy.”  I would bill it as a mystery/romance, with a little Cherokee history woven in.  It’s a story about a man haunted by his past and a woman escaping her grief whose paths cross as they seek refuge in their old home town.  I got the idea when I spent time with my relatives in the Cherokee country of northwest Georgia, where my story is set.  I suppose George Clooney and Meg Ryan would be my choices for the lead characters.  This book will be published by my indie publisher, Annie Acorn Publishing LLC.  I wrote the first six chapters very quickly, in about a month, but the rest has been in bits and pieces and it’s not done yet.  I was inspired in part by the classic mystery/romances of Mary Roberts Rinehart written in the 1940s, especially “The Wall” and “The Yellow Room.” I think the Cherokee history woven throughout, the layers of buried secrets that the characters must sift through, and the romantic tension and danger involved, will pique the reader’s interest in this novel.

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Crafting My Way to Christmas

Besides writing, one of my favorite ways of expressing myself is through crafting.  I love to create ornaments, vignettes and characters from bits of paper, ribbon, felt, buttons, and miniatures.  Just as it does for my writing, the approach of the holiday season inspires me to pull out my tons of craft boxes and let my creative juices flow.

I’ve loved miniatures — dollhouse and otherwise — ever since I can remember.  My sister and I collected them and used them to create small worlds where our imaginations could soar.  Even though we had a real dollhouse at some point, we thought it was much more fun to set up our houses in big open boxes, preferably from some nice department store like Garfinckel’s or Lord & Taylor — they were more sturdy than the others and afforded us more freedom in our interior decorating.

We spent hours designing and furnishing all the rooms and acting out adventures in our houses, with or without dolls.  We bought swatches of fabric and lace at the local 5&10 and used them to fashion curtains, tablecloths and upholstery, and we loved to scavenge anything that we could use to create something clever and useful.  Colorful matchboxes became drawers and tables, our mother’s jewelry boxes or cosmetics packaging were turned into sofas, bathtubs and chairs, and carpet samples were used as rugs.

It was a great treat when our parents took us to the Washington Doll’s House & Toy Museum in Chevy Chase, where we oohed and aahed at the displays and were allowed to purchase a few prize miniatures.  We also loved going to Georgetown for the day, searching each gift shop and boutique for something unique to add to our collection.

When my son was little, we used to combine his Duplo sets with dollhouse miniatures and all kinds of other toys to build shopping malls complete with food courts!  Six years later, when my daughter was young, she and her best friend continued the tradition by playing what they actually called “Little Worlds” — the same thing my sister and I used to do.  The most fun aspect of this make-believe play was combining treasures from many sources to create something unique.  The girls would set up their worlds on the floor and window sills in the dining room and make believe for days at a time.

Now, I’ve found an outlet for my love of miniatures — crafting themed vignettes in jewelry boxes using a combination of the wealth of supplies I’ve collected over the years.  I call them ‘Bev’s Boxes,’ and in many ways they remind me of the short stories I write — a moment in time that I imagine and create using supplies and treasures I’ve accumulated throughout my lifetime.  Seeing the parallel between these two passions gives me confidence that I’m on the right track in my creative life.

Enjoy these photos of some of my boxes, and let them inspire you to find your own way of expressing yourself.  There’s nothing better!

Fondly,

Bev

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For the Love of Short Stories


While Shepherds Watched (Beverly Crawford’s Christmas) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for NOOK and at Amazon UK!

Yesterday, I took on the daunting task of cleaning out my garage for the neighborhood’s semi-annual bulk trash pickup.  In the process, I was delighted to rediscover some literary treasures I thought I had sacrificed to previous purges:  a collection of short stories from Seventeen magazine, and three old December issues of Good Housekeeping magazine.  Now, these may not seem like treasures to you, but they are to me, and they represent so much more than just enjoyable short stories.

When I was young (in the ‘60s and ‘70s), I loved books, but I loved short stories more.  When I read a book, I became so immersed in it that at times I found it overwhelming, but a short story, though sometimes more intense, was somehow more manageable.  It was kind of like walking around the neighborhood at twilight and looking in the lighted windows of the houses that I passed, windows that offered glimpses into other people’s lives and sparked my imagination.  Reading a short story was like trying out those lives to see how they felt, like walking around in those characters’ shoes for a brief time and opening your mind to something new and exciting.

So it was with my little paperback treasury of “Seventeen’s Stories.”  I bought it at the book fair in junior high school, and it became one of my favorites.  Its stories found their way into my heart and stayed with me through the years.  Several made such an impression on me that I still remember their details.  In fact, today I sat down at the dining table and reread my two favorites, surprised at how much of them I remembered word-for-word but more surprised at their lasting power to affect me so deeply.  This is the gift a great writer gives the world through her work.

The first story is called “The Summer of Truth” by Lucile Vaughan Payne.  It’s about a high school girl named Libby who struggles unsuccessfully to become popular until a health crisis sends her to recuperate at her aunt and uncle’s mountain farm for the summer.  There, she meets a poor country boy named Sammy who teaches her to ride horses and becomes her closest friend.  In his company, she relaxes, shedding her artificiality and becoming her true self.  Vowing never to be fake again, she returns to school in the fall and ironically finds that by being herself, she is suddenly popular.  But the story of her summer of horseback riding and romance with Sammy has became wildly distorted, and when Libby runs into Sammy in town, she’s too embarrassed to acknowledge him in the company of her friends.  She dismisses him using the same words of indifference formerly spoken to her, and, on top of that, she loses the gold ring Sammy had given her –his most prized possession.

The last paragraph reads, “It’s funny though.  I found the ring, and I’ve got it in a box at home in a safe place, so I always know where it is.  But I still have this terrible feeling, sometimes, that I’ve lost something.”  This ending is so powerful for me that I still get a chill reading it.  Imagine the lesson I learned from this as a young teenager!

The other story, “April” by Lois Duncan, concerns two sisters who are as different as night and day.  Martha Dunning, the smart-but-mousy younger sister, is jealous of April, the dumb-but-beautiful older one, feeling like the ugly duckling and resenting the fact that April seems to effortlessly get whatever she wants.  She doesn’t understand why her parents treat them differently until April is about to deliver her first child and Martha Dunning’s hurt and anger builds until she finally snaps.  Her mother comes to see her at college and explains that each child has been treated with the same love but according to what is best for them as individuals.  Martha Dunning finally understands that there was never anything to be jealous about.

The last paragraph of this story still brings tears to my eyes.  “‘Well,’ Mother said, ‘that was Jeff on the phone.  He says that if it’s all right with you, April wants to name her baby Martha Dunning.  She says she’s always thought it was the most beautiful name she ever heard.'”

The December issues of Good Housekeeping were something I joyfully looked forward to every year as well.  Even more exciting for me than the decorations, recipes, articles and fashions were the holiday stories they contained.  I still remember the thrill of reading Pearl Buck’s Christmas stories.  Often, they had adult themes that were beyond the scope of my youth, but that was how I learned about things – through the lives of characters that leapt from the page, from their journeys and experiences, from the circumstances and situations they transcended.  These uplifting tales from the heart were my most important inspiration as a writer.

Even as a young teenager, my favorite Pearl Buck Christmas story was about an older woman, a widow with grown children and grandchildren, who chooses to spend a Christmas alone at the remote cabin where she and her husband spent their first Christmas as man and wife.  Here, she feels close to him again and reflects on all the joys and sorrows they shared in their life together.  For this story to make such an impression on a young person who had never experienced any of these things shows the power and beauty of a writer’s WORDS, and Ms. Buck’s words were rich and true.

I can’t capture how wonderful these stories were for me because the magic lay in the words themselves  – how they were put together to create a pleasing flow of images that transported me to another world, how they captured a fictional but completely convincing slice of life, how they wove a theme throughout that resonated at the end, and how they conveyed a powerful lesson that stayed with me and helped me grow.  It was the beauty of how things were said that took my breath away.

Now, when I sit down to write a short story, I can only hope that my words will do the same for another reader, taking them on a trip they will remember and cherish.  I can’t match the masters yet, but won’t you take a peek through my windows?

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Southern Summer Road Trips: Part 2 – Mississippi


While Shepherds Watched (Beverly Crawford’s Christmas) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and on AmazonUK!

In my last blog, you joined me for a trip down memory lane – a summer road trip to visit my maternal grandparents in Georgia.  This week, hop in the ’61 Oldsmobile and ride shotgun as we take another road trip down South – this time to visit my paternal grandparents in Mississippi.

I guess many people outside the South think of it as one homogeneous region, but there’s actually a great deal of variety there.  My mother’s family lived in northwest Georgia, closer to Chattanooga than Atlanta, and the culture and accents there reflected the Tennessee mountain influence.  On the other hand, my father’s Mississippi hometown had much more of a feel of the Deep South to it, and the accents and climate there were more similar to those of Alabama or Louisiana or even Memphis, the city on the Mississippi River at the opposite end of Tennessee.

The ribbon of two-lane and four-lane highways connecting these two places lay straight across Alabama, paralleling parts of both the “Trail of Tears,” travelled by the Cherokee Nation as it was driven westward, and DeSoto’s path of exploration as he sought “El Dorado.”  My grandmother’s forebears had originally taken a similar route from Georgia to Mississippi in a covered wagon, and I still have a table that was carried in that wagon, on that journey to their own El Dorado.

After miles of getting stuck in a hot car behind slow moving lumber trucks hauling endless trees out of the Alabama forests, it was always a relief to get to Mississippi and my grandparents’ house.  It was a huge, sprawling white house with black wrought iron accents, built for the growing family a century ago, with a spacious open porch supported by large columns.  The porch floor was painted gray and the ceiling a pale green, and from it hung the most wonderful and sturdy wicker porch swing ever.  How we kids loved to swing on it!

There was a big side yard with magnolias and pecan trees, and my chief delight as a child was running around the yard with a basket, gathering the pecans that had fallen on the ground.  Out back were a garage, barn and a real grindstone, as well as the vegetable and flower gardens proudly tended by my grandparents.  When my father was a boy, the family had cows and other livestock that he and his brothers had to drive to pasture every morning.  The house even had a screened sleeping porch, where the family would seek relief from the oppressive heat and humidity of summer nights — no air conditioning back in the day!

The inside of the house was elegant and cavernous and a little intimidating to me as a child, with many rooms, high ceilings and dark hardwood floors that echoed every footfall.  It was filled with lovely antique furniture and rugs, portraits of known and unknown relatives, and cases of my scholarly grandfather’s books.  There was a formal dining room with a long table and sideboards and fine china, silver and crystal, and a smaller morning room where we ate most of our meals.  The kitchen table had all kinds of nicks and knife marks in its wooden surface; when I asked why, I was told that it was because that’s where they used to butcher the hogs!

Upstairs, there was an old-fashioned bathroom done in black and white tile and linoleum, with a sloped ceiling, a window seat, and little windows you could swing open to let in a breeze.  The towels had hand-sewn monograms on them, some done by my grandmother herself, and there was a little chair to sit in.  I loved to linger there in the bathtub, daydreaming as I listened to the birds chirping in the trees and the trains as they whistled and lumbered through town.

My aunt, who lived with my grandparents, was a gracious hostess, and we always had delicious food to eat.  I learned to love greens of all kinds and to drink their “pot likker” from a cup.  We also had delicious gumbo and a lot of rice, an homage to my grandfather’s Louisiana roots and to that part of the South where rice was traditionally grown as a crop.

My grandfather was kind, gentle and courtly and always dressed in a suit and white shirt.  He was a well-read and well-loved professor who taught mathmatics at MSU for years and also served as its first librarian.  We loved to go with him to “the college,” where we bought wonderful cheese and the best ice cream in the world, made right there on the campus.

My grandmother was a genius at everything from sewing to fishing, and everyone in town admired her.  She loved her garden and ran a house that was the gathering place for two large extended families as well as her own children, grandchildren and friends throughout the years.  She was born, lived, died and was buried on the same street — how many people can make that claim!

A lot of folks came to call while we were there, and everyone loved to sit on the porch and visit.  I adored hearing my grandparents stories, looking at old photographs and learning about our family history.  These stories were different from the ones I heard in Georgia, for these older grandparents had fathers who actually served in the Civil War, and this made history come alive for me.

One time my grandmother was telling us a story about how the soldiers came and raided the house when her mother was a girl in Missouri.  As she finished the tale, she took a dramatic pause, then said, “And the Yankees sat on the VERY CHAIRS you’re sitting on right now!”  I jumped out of that chair so fast I practically knocked it over!

Even more fascinating was the story of her father, a young soldier who was shot and critically wounded at the Battle of Murfreesboro.  The bullet entered under his jawbone and exited near his nose, shooting out the roof of his mouth but missing the vital parts.  He was left for dead on the battlefield but managed to tug on the skirt of a nurse who was walking through the field.  She rolled him over on his stomach to prevent him from choking to death on his own blood and thus saved him.  He made a full recovery and lived a long life with no ill effects.

Some of my favorite stories concerned my father’s boyhood exploits with his siblings and his many cousins who lived nearby.  Cousin Virginia told us about the time the boys recruited her as a test pilot for the makeshift “airplane” they had built.  They were just about to launch her off the barn roof when her grandmother got wind of it and saved Virginia’s life by grounding the airplane (and probably the boys!)

Another favorite was hearing about the time my uncle got his head caught in a desk at school while trying to eat an apple without the teacher catching him.  Virginia said that my dad was usually the quiet kid who sat around reading a book while my uncle was getting into all kinds of trouble.

Me?  I’m a little of both.  Can’t you tell?

Fondly,

Bev

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Southern Summer Road Trips: Part 1 – Georgia


The Christmas Child (Beverly Crawford’s Christmas) by Beverly J. Crawford

This story is featured because it takes place in Georgia, just like this week’s blog post!

Also available for Nook and on AmazonUK!

Although they had settled in the Nation’s Capital, my parents were from the South, so every summer they would take my younger sister and me on a road trip “back home” to visit our grandparents in Georgia and Mississippi.

I loved these Southern road trips, and my memories of them are still full of magic.  Often, they’re only snapshots of long ago times and places filtered through the prism of a child’s memory, but they conjure up a past that’s somehow more mystical because it’s so elusive.

Anticipation mixed with commotion and excitement as we packed up our Oldsmobile of the day, with no air conditioning the first few years, mind you!  My dad always said it was like getting a circus on the road – the “old” road, that is.  We took 11W/11E, which is now mostly Interstate 81.   Interstate highways were just getting started back in the day, so childhood road trips on two-lanes and four-lanes took us through many a small Southern town.

My mother was the oldest of 11 kids in one of those small towns in northwest Georgia.  She was a beautiful, brilliant girl with a great sense of humor, but her youth was impacted by the Depression and the responsibilities that came with being the oldest girl in a large family.  She turned down opportunities to go away to college in order to help raise her younger brothers and sisters, and she taught school before coming to Washington, DC, to work for the government.

My grandparents’ house was not the one she grew up in, but it’s the only one I ever knew – small, white and cozy, with crape myrtles in the yard, a gravel driveway and a small screened porch.  It had a steep, narrow staircase without handrails most of the way to the upper level, which was a challenge for us to climb when we were little.  Up there in the bedrooms under the slanted roof were treasures like books and trophies, scrapbooks and coin collections.  It had a furnace that made big scary noises through big scary grates in the floor and sounded like a monster growling when it kicked on.

My grandfather died when I was 8, but I remember sitting with him in his favorite chair.  He was strong and handsome, warm and loving.  He held a variety of jobs in his time — managing a pool hall, supervising a chain gang while they built a road bridging two counties across a huge mountain, and travelling around Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, working on roads from Chattanooga to Birmingham.

My grandmother always had a freshly made pitcher of sweet tea in the kitchen, and no iced tea ever tasted so good.  She smelled like Jergens Lotion and had a set of false teeth that I found fascinating.  One time my parents admonished me to brush my teeth because I would only get one set.  “Unh, unh,” I replied confidently.  “Granny’s got a whole new set that she keeps in a glass at night.”

One of my Georgia uncles owned a drive-thru liquor store and kept a real gun behind the counter, which made him a cross between an outlaw and a celebrity in my book, but before that, he owned a café.  Some of my earliest memories are of that café and its old fashioned bowling machine.  I absolutely loved to slide the metal puck down that shiny wooden surface and smack down the mechanical pins with a “thunk.”

My mother told me that I used to go from table to table in the café, stealing the pats of butter and eating them.  You have to be a Boomer or older to remember butter pats!  I also liked to drink the cream from those little tiny glass bottles with the cardboard tops that they used to put on the tables for coffee.  This was consistent with my life of crime at home, where I went around the table at my parents’ dinner parties pilfering lima beans off the guests’ plates.  Lima beans, for Pete’s sake!  I had eclectic tastes, but I digress.

Visiting our relatives in Georgia meant fun and freedom, playing with lively young aunts, uncles and cousins.  They talked differently than we did, with a funny accent and the word “y’all” at the end of every sentence.  We especially loved hanging out with my aunt who was a schoolteacher and coach, the undisputed Pied Piper to all her nieces and nephews.  She was a tomboy and an athlete who would play ball with us in the yard no matter how hot it was, buy us orange and grape Nehis, and drive us all over Creation.

You see, Southerners like to take drives, to visit everybody and see everything.  The scariest drive was up Fort Mountain, where the winding road my grandfather had helped build twisted and turned, climbing to dizzying heights and revealing magnificent vistas.  We would drive around to visit aunts and great aunts who sewed quilts and pickled things in mason jars and knew all about the family history.  There were always huge family gatherings with hand-cranked peach ice cream, homemade potato salad, fried okra, and lots of teasing and love.

Most of all, I loved listening to the grownups talk, about people, places and things in the distant and not so distant past, about whatever happened to so-and-so and the marriages, births, adventures and misfortunes that made great stories about real people and real lives.

I guess that’s why I love reading and writing those types of stories to this day.  No matter how much of an East Coast suburban kid I was, my roots were undeniably in the South.

Next week:  Mississippi

Bev

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UPDATE to “The Path That Amy Walked”

After further research, I found that Amy’s maiden name WAS Collins and that she was the daughter of Stoel Collins, Sr., a blacksmith, and his second wife, Elizabeth Wilkes, who died in 1842 at the age of 26.  Stoel Collins, Jr. and Louisa Wilcox were her brother and sister-in-law, but it looks like the entire family migrated from Concord (Springville) in Erie County, NY, to Taylors Falls in Chisago County, MN.  Stoel, Sr. was married and widowed several times.  According to an early history of Erie County, Amy had a sister who drowned in Springville as a child.

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My Very First BFF


My Mom Is Ruining My Life (Logan Bond Novels) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and Amazon UK!

My very first BFF was a boy.  That says a lot about me right off the bat.

I was a real tomboy.  Though I didn’t have any brothers, I was born in 1955 and grew up immersed in TV Westerns like “Wagon Train” and “Black Saddle.”  My ambition in life at age 4 was to be a cowboy.  Not a cow-GIRL, mind you, but a cow-BOY.  I guess my parents actually bought me a cowboy suit, because I have pictures of me wearing one.

In the summer of 1959, we had just migrated from the city to our brand new dream house in suburban Maryland.  Bethesda was a sleepy hamlet on a winding two-lane called Old Georgetown Road, and North Bethesda was a suburb newly carved out of farmland and forest.  This was before there was even a Capital Beltway to draw a line between those who lived ‘inside the Beltway’ and ‘outside the Beltway.’

When friends and relatives questioned my parents’ decision to abandon their smart Northwest D.C. apartment and move to ‘the middle of nowhere,’ their response was that they wanted their kids to grow up with a yard to play in.  My mother always said that the irony was that we kids preferred to play in the street.

Our new neighborhood was filled with people like my mom and dad, men and women from all over the country who had flocked to Washington to work for the government during and after World War II.  Many of them had decided to stay in the area and put down roots, participating in the postwar ‘Baby Boom.’

The vast majority of mothers in our development stayed home to keep house and raise the kids, while the fathers took the family cars to work.  We kids had a lot of freedom to explore and to make the rounds from house to house to play with our friends.  Somebody’s mom would always be there to keep an eye on us.

Enter my very first BFF.  His name was Phillip, a friendly, precocious towhead like ‘Dennis the Menace’ who owned every awesome toy ever made for boys and was willing to share them with me — my dream guy!  Phillip lived four doors up the street with his parents and older sister, and his dad was a nuclear physicist.  They were from Seattle and drove a Peugeot, which seemed quite exotic to me at the time.  At 4 or 5, I hadn’t even heard of Seattle OR Peugeots.

I remember a lot about playing at Phillip’s house.  He had every big Tonka truck ever made, including the fire engine with the real hose that squirted real water.  We would go in the recreation room where his mom was ironing and race the trucks from one end of the room to the other.  She would start our races by saying, “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to GO!”  I can still see her at the ironing board – the picture of suburban domesticity.

Phillip and I liked to take the braided throw rug from his bedroom out into the living room, where we would toss it up in the air and watch it land in a heap on the floor.  This became a mountain upon which we would drive his large collection of Matchbox cars, zooming over the crests and through the tunnels formed by the folds of the rug.  No two mountains were ever alike.

For Phillip’s birthday, we gave him a set of multicolored plastic figures from the Old West.  He and I would play with these for hours, acting out the imaginary adventures of cowboys, outlaws and wagon trains on the living room furniture.

When Phillip came over to my house, the main novelty for him was my baby sister.  My mother loved it when he lisped, “I LIKE your baby.”  My sister would drool and smile.  I liked her, too, but for me the novelty had worn off.  It was more exciting to go play at Phillip’s house.

A crisis came one day before Christmas.  Phillip told me flat out that there was no such thing as Santa Claus; your parents were the ones who filled your stocking and left you gifts.  He backed it up by saying that his dad was a scientist, so he knew whether something was real or not.

Of course, this shook me to my very core.  My parents had always given me the distinct impression that Santa lived and breathed, but could my BFF be wrong about such a grave matter?  I ran home and confronted my mom immediately, seeking the 411 on the man in the red suit.  I asked her if Santa was real.

Her answer was somewhat evasive.  “Santa Claus is someone who loves you and wants to make you happy,” she said.  Hmm.  As I hesitated, she quickly followed up with, “And he won’t come if you don’t believe in him.”  Slam dunk!

I quickly blurted out, “I believe, I believe, I believe.”  From then on, I had my doubts, but I hedged my bets and remained mute on the subject with Phillip.

Then one day, I found out that Phillip was moving back to Washington state, and I would never see him again.  I remember that his mom gave me one of his old shirts, maybe because it still had some wear in it or maybe because I had loved it so much — or had loved him so much.

I lost my first best friend, but he had made such an impression on me that I always remembered him.  I found a card the other day that Phillip had sent me for my sixth birthday with his name scrawled in crayon.  There was also a Christmas card with a grinning blond Phillip posing with his sister in front of their house in Seattle.

I would make other friends in that neighborhood and throughout my life, but I guess your very first BFF is the one that you’ll never forget.

 

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Summer Daze


My Mom Is Ruining My Life (Logan Bond Novels) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and on Amazon UK!

It’s summer, and the kids are out of school.

Kids.  They’re a blessing, a trial, a drama, a mystery and a constant joy.   Mine are older now, but that doesn’t diminish any of these aspects.  In fact, it makes motherhood more interesting.  As the kids grow and change, your focus grows and changes with them.  The Good Lord knew what he was doing when he wired mothers.

My 20-year-old son is quiet and studious, but he’s also a lot like Jeremy, the teenage boy in the comic strip “Zits.”  In fact, most mornings when I read The Washington Post, I’m LOL at Jeremy’s antics.  Many times, I tear out a relevant “Zits” strip to show my son when he rises (usually around 2 p.m., since he didn’t find a job this summer).  He humors me with a perfunctory laugh, grabs some food and then goes back to whatever he’s doing up there in his man cave.  Since he put in the mini-fridge, he’s reduced the number of trips he has to make to the kitchen.  Economy of motion is what he’s all about.

My 14-year-old daughter is just the opposite.  If she’s not busy and surrounded by friends, she’s bored, and then she wants me to take her shopping.  Financially, it’s “six of one, a half dozen of the other”:  either spend money buying her clothes or spend money feeding the hordes of middle school kids hanging around the house.   I used to be pleased when her friends offered to help bring in the groceries after I returned from a trip to Costco.  Then I realized they had an ulterior motive as they proceeded to devour my bounty like a cloud of locusts.

With my daughter and her girlfriends, it’s all about doing their hair and nails, tanning, watching YouTube and talking.  With her friends who are boys (as opposed to “boyfriends”), all bets are off.  They tend to be – how shall I put this? – more rambunctious than the girls.  Any physical damage to the house or its contents, anything strange and/or out of place, can be attributed to them with near certainty.

My son and daughter sometimes join in these antics as guest participants, but the real culprits are the ones who use my house as their laboratory of mischief.  We simply call them, “The Boys.”  It’s hard to head off the mayhem because I never know where or how it will strike next, and it usually takes place when I’m not at home.

“Why is the dog dressed in a Santa suit in July?” I ask.

Daughter:  “The Boys, but I TOLD THEM NOT TO!”

“Why is there a hole in the basement drywall that wasn’t there this morning?”  I ask.

Daughter:  “The Boys, but I TOLD THEM NOT TO!”

“Why is my ball of yellow yarn fully unwound and booby-trapping an entire room?”

Daughter:  “The Boys, but I TOLD THEM NOT TO!”

You get the picture.  My all-time favorite was when I found a sticky patch of charred grass, 6 inches in diameter, in my previously pristine backyard.  Since I was fairly certain that no small alien spacecraft had landed there recently, I asked my daughter if she knew anything about the attractive blackened circle out back.

“Oh, yeah, Mom.  The Boys were roasting marshmallows with a lighter to make s’mores.  I TOLD THEM NOT TO, but they did it anyway!  But at least they didn’t do it in the house, right?  LOL!”

Ah, the crazy daze of summer.

Bev

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A Moment With Bonnie Lou


My Mom Is Ruining My Life (Logan Bond Novels) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and on Amazon UK!


Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

Also available for Nook and on Amazon UK!

I had the distinct pleasure this week of sitting down for a chat with Bonnie Lou Ladner, heroine of Annie Acorn’s latest mystery novel, Murder With My Darling.  Bonnie Lou saved the day — the opening day of hunting season, that is — by helping Sheriff Dave Crockett, her very own Chunk of Hunk, solve Missing County, Tennessee’s latest homicide.  A look inside Bonnie Lou’s mind left this author with a new respect for her considerable talents and her unique outlook on life — and in dire need of a double martini.

First, Bonnie Lou, let me say how much I enjoyed your new mystery, Murder With My Darling.  Now that you’ve proven to be such a valuable asset to the Missing County Sheriff’s Department, are you planning to help them with any future cases?

Frankly, Bev…Can I call you Bev, since it’s just us two gals?  Anyway, Bev, now that I’ve plumbed the depths of the criminal mentality, I find myself fascinated by what makes them tick.

Of course, solving a murder is a whole lot of work.  Why I barely had time to grab a bite of sustenance throughout the whole experience.  If it hadn’t been for that chocolate layer cake that I bought as part of my investigation, well, I shudder to think what might have happened.

Still, if Dave and his department needed my help again, I could hardly turn him down now, could I?  After all, Rule #6 in A Southern Gal’s Guide to Keeping Your Man is – Be agreeable.

From what I can tell, you have your man, Dave Crockett, well trained and firmly in hand.  Do I hear wedding bells in your future?  After all, by your own admission, you are pushing 30.

True, I’ve been working on Dave since we were both babes in our cradles, but at 29 I consider myself to be a spring chicken.  If I’ve told Dave’s mother once, I’ve told her a million times, I’ll let everyone know when it’s time for us to get married.  Until then, I work hard at keeping my man happy, as everyone who is anyone in Missing County, Tennessee, will vouch for me.

I couldn’t help but notice that your book is chock full of tips from A Southern Gal’s Guide to Keeping Your Man.  Would you consider funding a reprint of it as a public service to those of us still trying to land our own Chunk of Hunks?

What a wonderful idea!  I should’ve thought of that.  Mama and I have been a bit worried about the younger generation in our family not having fresh copies of their own, since the book has been out of print now for over forty years.  Perhaps, I could do it as part of a promo for my beauty parlor, Nice ‘n’ Pretty.  You won’t mind, will you, if I tell your readers that we specialize in bouffant hairdos, and we’ll give you a free color consultation with your first perm?  Oops! I’m afraid I’ve already done it.

What do you consider to be a Southern gal’s greatest asset?

Now that’s a tough one.  Some would say it’s her smile.  Maureen, my BFF, would say it’s her figure.  I think I would go cerebral and tell you that it’s knowing how to keep her man.

Take me, for example, the minute I realized that Missing County’s Greatest Sheriff needed help, why I just jumped right in, never thinking about the breeze messing up my hair, those throw away containers chipping my nail polish, or even my next meal.

How many pageant titles do you have?  Which is the most meaningful to you?

Someone asked me that the other day, and I lost count somewhere around fifteen.  As to which one is most meaningful to me, that’s another one of those hard questions, Bev.  I mean it’s sort of like asking someone to say which one of their children is their favorite.

Winning the Babes-in-the-Arms contest was pretty special, because that’s the one that launched my career.  Mama had made me the cutest little lace cap, because I was only 6 weeks old and my blonde curls hadn’t come in yet.

Then, of course, Prom Queen meant a lot, because for that one I was chosen by my peers.  Also, it’s the only one that Dave and I got to share, since he was Prom King.

Being Grand Lady of the Possum Creek Bears is considered to be quite an honor around Missing County, and I’ve won fourteen years in a row now, so you could almost call that one mine.

What happened that kept you out of the “Miss America” competition?

No comment.

I noticed in the book that you have a rather healthy appetite.  How do you manage to keep your girlish figure?

Are you sure you were reading Murder With My Darling?  Why I hardly ate a thing during those two days.

You seem to enjoy the limelight.  Do you ever hanker for life in the big city or are you happy as a clam in Missing County?

I’m pretty rooted right where I am, although I would like to travel a bit – you know, take in Branson, Missouri, and Dollywood.  I think I even allude to them in Murder With My Darling.

As for being happy as a clam, that phrase has always rather troubled me, Bev.  After all, when you’re a clam, most likely you’re going to end up boiled in someone’s chowder.  Think how red that would turn someone’s complexion.  I mean, really!  It’s the little things that go into making your life special.

So, are we done now?  Maureen’s minding the shop, and if I don’t get back soon, she will have sat down in my mink upholstered desk chair, borrowed my fluffy pink mules, and eaten all of my chocolate!

Yes, Bonnie Lou, we’re done.  I think we’ve plumbed the depths of your mind enough for one day.  Thanks again for sharing.  Readers, don’t miss your golden opportunity to ride shotgun with Bonnie Lou as she saves the day for her Chunk of Hunk in Murder With My Darling.


Towards the Sun (Beverly J Crawford Romances) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and on Amazon UK!


The Best Homemade Christmas (Beverly Crawford’s Christmas) by Beverly J. Crawford

Also available for Nook and on Amazon UK!

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