A couple of weeks ago, I had a scare…  (Thankfully it wasn’t the kind of scare I had in my younger days… you know, one that involved the calendar.)  This scare involved something like the blue screen of death. I was working at home and was in the middle of searching for a graphic for my job when I clicked on a site and my entire computer locked up and turned blue.  I was petrified that I’d suddenly gotten one of those viruses that force you to restart, and when you do, it eats your hard drive, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I do back up my computer regularly.  About three times a year, I burn the entire hard drive to roughly twenty DVDs.  And at least once a week, usually more often, I put only the latest versions of the important stuff (documents, recipes, and most importantly, my manuscripts!) to cloud storage.  But the thing that takes up so much space… the thing that’s too large to put on (free) cloud storage, is my massive collection of photos.

A few years ago, my son Jeremy asked how he could get access to “every photo that was ever taken of him.”  Challenge accepted!  He soon forgot all about his request, but I did not.  I made it my mission to scan in every photo every taken of him.  I started by making year folders for every year since I was pregnant with him…

Then within each year’s folder, I made a folder for each month…

But I didn’t limit my scans to only include photos, I also added school work, report cards, etc…

(By the way, I’m not insane with the desire to be über-organized… It took me nearly a year to complete Jeremy’s project!)  When I was done with Jeremy’s photos, I copied his folders to my daughter, Stefani’s file, and deleted any photos that she was not in, then I added her photos.  (Because I had a lot of hers scanned in where she was in the photo with her brother, hers only took me about five months.)  That seemed like the best way to organize my children’s memories, and even though some months have empty folders, it’s kind of neat how sometimes they get filled this many years later.  For example, my daughter’s former stepmom recently put an old picture of both my kids on her Facebook wall.  I’d never seen the photo before, and it was so cool to add that to my “collection.”  (Of course I copied it twice, once for each kid.)  And recently, I was at my birth mom’s house and we found an envelope of pictures my Grandma took of my kids when they were little that she’d never shown me.  It feels almost like finding buried treasure when this happens.

Of course, after I started my children’s projects, I wanted to scan in my grandparents’ photos.  However, unlike my kids, I had no desire to attempt to organize each of them by month and year…  (Grandma was never one to write dates on the back, so that would have been impossible.)

So for each of them, I made folders such as Grandma Alone, Grandma & Her Siblings, Grandma & Her Children, Grandma & Her Grandchildren, Grandma & Her Great-Grandchildren, Grandma & Friends/Other Family, Grandma & Granddaddy’s Wartime Correspondence (yes, I scanned in their letters to each other. Okay, actually, I photographed them on a black blanket because that was faster than scanning them.), and Grandma’s Cool Stuff…

“Cool Stuff” includes just about anything that isn’t a photo, and it’s also stuff that my birth mom, uncle, cousins, or my own children might want copies of.  For example, I photographed Granddaddy’s track letterman’s letters and his trophies and ribbons.  For Grandma, I added her high school diploma and a short story that I recently found which she apparently wrote shortly after she was married in the 1940s.  (How cool that she, too, fancied herself a writer… a well-kept secret that neither of her children or I ever knew!)

So these days, unless I get the rare treat of one of my kids allowing me to do a photo shoot of them, I mainly add to the “collection” when I find a new photo (generally a selfie they post on their Facebook, which, with me being a professional photographer, makes me cringe!)..  And that’s the main reason I panicked when I clicked on that bad website and thought I got a fatal hard drive virus.

Thankfully, after I rebooted, I ran a virus and malware scan, and haven’t had any problems since.

Time to talk:  Do you keep your photos well organized?  Do you scan your old photos that were not digital?  Do you regularly back up the photos on your phone and camera?  When was the last time you had a computer virus?

What Makes Me Smile…

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share a photo that always brings a smile to my face.  As a professional photographer, I always get a kick out of those Facebook posts where adult siblings have recreated their childhood photos into a calendar for their parents (such as in the following links):

I always wish (out loud) that my kids would be inspired to do the same for me, but alas, they just aren’t that thoughtful.  *SIGH*

Anyway, one of my favorite photos of my son when he was little was one Easter morning when the Easter Bunny brought him a straw that was in the shape of eye glasses.  About ten years later, the Easter Bunny found a similar straw, and I was able to get the same photo again.  Now I can love it twice as much.  I hope the Easter Bunny is able to find this straw again by the time Jeremy nears the end of his twenties.  (Now, if only I can get my kids together to pose for eleven more photos, I can finally have that damn calendar!)

Time to talk:  Have you ever recreated a childhood photo?  Have you ever made your kids recreate a childhood photo?  Would you, too, love a calendar of recreated photos from your children’s youth?

Where Cats Hide

Have you ever seen the pet food commercial where the big dogs all think they are small dogs?

My daughter actually has a tiny dog that she carries around in a purse.  Her dog, Snowflake, is a cutie-patootie and is super smart as well.

However, that commercial reminds me of my cat, Dakota a/k/a Stewie.  Though Stewie is the youngest of my brood, he is far from being the smallest.  In fact, he weighs more than all but one of my five cat-kiddos.

Even so, Stewie considers himself to be a petite man, and he likes to think he can hide anywhere.  One of his favorite places to hide is in grocery bags.

Or if we have visitors who carry large handbags, he will sneak into them as well.

He doesn’t care that the bags don’t belong to his people.  He makes himself right at home.

Let’s talk:  Do you prefer a large purse or a small handbag?  Have you ever lost your pet in another person’s belongings?  What would you do if you found someone else’s pet in your purse after you left their house?

My New Friend

The town where I live, the town where I was born, is Lakeland, and it’s named for its many lakes.  In fact, our city’s symbol is the swan.  When I was a kid, I loved to go to one of our many lakes and feed the ducks.  I loved the ducks… the swans, not so much!   Swans are huge and aggressive, they hiss like dogs, and they bite!  And believe it or not, they do have teeth.

By the time I was a teenager, feeding the ducks was a thing of the past because it was lame.  Only the very young and the very old could appreciate feeding a bunch of birds.

Well, as it happens, a few months ago, I had a surplus of old bread, so I decided to take it to the lake and feed the ducks… and I loved it!  It was so relaxing, and it definitely made me forget my life’s troubles for the hour or so that I was there.  Since then, I’ve been collecting all the bird food I can, and I try to go feed them every week.  (So, I guess I’m now among the very old and lame.)

Anyway, the last time I fed the ducks, a handsome, grey goose wandered up to me to beg for some food.  The funny thing was, after I fed him, he stuck around and “posed” until I took his picture.

After that, he obviously wanted to check the camera and see how his portrait turned out.

Time to talk:  Have you ever gone to a lake for no other reason but to feed birds?  Have you ever had a wild animal latch onto you and try to be your new best friend?

January 18, 1977

Alright!  For the past several months, I’ve been hearing all you people to the north of me complain about your snow.  Well, I just want you to know that just because I’m here in Florida where it’s been a steady 90+ degrees these past few weeks doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to your plight.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the story of the first time I ever saw (and fell in love with) snow.

I was a sheltered kid.  My grandparents raised me.  My grandma didn’t drive, and my grandfather suffered from a deep depression after he retired so he slept most of the time.  As such, I didn’t get to go anywhere very often.  Furthermore, I never even left the state of Florida until I was thirteen years old!

However, shortly after I turned seven, I vividly remember being woken up in what seemed like the middle of the night.  My granddaddy shook me awake and told me to put on my pajama bottoms, my slippers, and my robe so I could go outside and see a surprise.  While I did indeed love surprises, I also loved my sleep, and I didn’t want to get out of bed!  I whined a bit while Grandma found my clothes, then we went outside in the dark to find Granddaddy standing by the car with his camera.

Surprise!  It had snowed here in Central Florida!  It was so exciting, I was literally speechless.  I remember thinking – This is a lot colder than I ever imagined it would be.  I wanted to play in it right then, but that’s when they burst my bubble and told me that it was still nighttime and I’d have to go back to bed.  They only woke me in case it melted before I woke up.

I was crushed.  I wanted so badly to build a snowman and make snow angels and throw snowballs.  (I had no idea that we didn’t have nearly enough snow for all that fun.)  When I got back to bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I was certain that if I fell asleep, all that beautiful, white goodness would be gone when I woke.

Surprise!  When I woke up, it was still there!  We took more pictures by the car, and Grandma didn’t even wear shoes!  (She loved the cold just like I do now…  However at the time, I was freezing and I have no idea why she didn’t make me put on a coat!)  Even my dog, Duchess, got to join in the fun.  I figured I could stay home and play in it, but my grandparents made me go to school.  (Nope, we don’t get snow days here in Florida, even on the rare occasions we do get snow.)

However, when I got to school, my disappointment soon faded when I learned that we were immediately taking an unplanned fieldtrip to the nearest overpass.  We took the kindergarteners’ blue and red vinyl nap mats, and we parked at the bottom.  Then we all climbed up the side of the overpass, and we slid down the snowy cement on the mats.  (For those of you wondering why, we don’t have hills here in Florida, either.)  We “sledded” down the side of that overpass for hours!

It was lunchtime before we had to go back to school, and by then, the snow started to melt.  By the time school let out, when I got outside, there was no evidence at all that it had been a day unlike any other here in the Sunshine State.  I was sad that we didn’t have any more snow, but it had been a great day.

So imagine my surprise when I got home and Granddaddy had indeed built me a snowman with the snow he could scrape off the car.  He only had enough for the body, and he had to pick an orange off one of our trees for the head.  He used the lid to my favorite clown cup for the hat, and his own real pipe (that he didn’t smoke, but was a gift from someone in the Japanese government when he was there for the reconstruction).  Sure, it was small, but sure enough, I had my own personal Frosty the Snowman there to greet me when I got home!  And after I saw him, Grandma recycled his body and mixed him with sugar to make me a homemade snow cone served in a cup with no actual cone.  (As a kid, I thought it was so delicious… As an adult, I think it was SO gross that she fed me snow that had been scraped off a dirty car!  Ewww!)

But all in all, I think waking me up in the middle of the night so I didn’t miss the snow was one of the coolest things my grandparents ever did for me.  And that was indeed one of the best and most memorable days of my childhood.

(As an addendum, I’ve seen snow here in Central Florida three other times that I can think of since then, however, each of those times, it melted as soon as it touched the ground.  I’ve never again seen it stick like that around here.  So perhaps now you can appreciate why when I moved to New York for a few years, I absolutely loved the snow and still do.)

Let’s talk:  Have you ever sledded down the side of an overpass on a nap mat?  Did your parents ever wake you up in the middle of the night to see something?  Do you remember the first time you saw snow?  Would you ever ingest anything that was scraped off a car and could not first be washed?

The Recurring Chair

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I will share with you the true story of The Recurring Chair.  As you know, besides being a writer, I’m also a professional photographer (which means I am always on the lookout for interesting props).  About two years ago, my sister Michelle and I were driving along an out-of-the-way road, when we saw what appeared to be the most perfect red chair in someone’s garbage.

One of our favorite spots to take a posh chair is out to the woods near our house for some “elegant grunge” style portraits such as this:

Now, please keep in mind that we were both extremely embarrassed to garbage pick in broad daylight, but a find like the red chair was too good to wait for dark.  We just knew that if we came back later, that chair would be gone.

Anyway, the red chair seemed perfect… until we got it home.  Once we got it home, we noticed it had a certain funk to it, and one of the legs was wobbly.  We considered repairing it, but in the end, we decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

In our neighborhood, if you garbage doesn’t fit in your can, you have to call the sanitation department and make arrangements for them to do a non-scheduled pick-up.  Furthermore, these are only free twice a year.  So it’s not uncommon for us to save our big garbage until we’ve amassed enough big stuff to make the call worthwhile.  When you schedule a pick-up, they have three days to actually come get the garbage from in front of your house.

About a month later, we had a few other pieces of furniture and some large boxes to toss, so we scheduled a pick-up, and the red chair made its way to the curb.  After we took everything down to the road, we left to run an errand.  When we returned, we noticed that the red chair was gone!

We chuckled that someone else had garbage picked it as we had, and by the next morning when the rest of the garbage was picked up, we forgot all about it.

Fast forward a year.  Last year, we had a friend who had stored a bunch of his stuff in our garage for nearly eleven months, and we had another friend who had kept a few of her things in our garage for almost two months.  Additionally, my son Jeremy did a month-long (quite messy!) project in the garage where he made soundproof panels for his recording studio.  Furthermore, we had amassed some more large, bulky furniture that we wanted to throw away.

The point is, our garage had reached capacity, and it was so gross, we hated even setting foot in it!  It was time to reclaim our garage.

So over the three-day weekend for Memorial Day 2014, Michelle and I literally spent morning, noon, and night clearing crap out of our garage.  We pre-arranged a pick-up for after the weekend, and Friday evening, we started hauling stuff down to the curb.  Besides things that were just plain garbage such as a ton of cardboard boxes, we tossed several items of furniture, games, electronics, gardening tools, photography props, over-sized picture frames, and other stuff we no-longer needed.  Among the items we discarded was a large, heavy, outdated entertainment center.

We were amused at the inordinate number of people who were just ballsy enough to stop their cars and actually garbage pick our stuff right in front of us as we worked.  One man who took our terra cotta flower pots actually walked into the garage where we were working and asked if we had any more!  It seemed as soon as we took something to the curb, someone stopped to pick it up.

That Saturday night, while we had only just made a large dent in the work to be done, our rabbit died and we had to leave to go bury him.  When we got home, the only two items left by our curb were the entertainment center… and the red chair we had thrown away the year before!  We both laughed hysterically, and were happy for the levity to our sad situation with our pet.

By Sunday morning, the red chair was gone again, but by Monday afternoon, it was returned!

Monday afternoon was also when we were finally done cleaning the garage, and it is still just as clean today without any items that belong to anyone else who doesn’t live here.

The garbage truck came Tuesday morning, and by then, the only things left for them to take other than broken down cardboard boxes were the entertainment center… and the recurring red chair!

Time to talk:  How clean is your garage?  Have you ever garbage picked anything?  If so, what?  Would you ever have the nerve to garbage pick something, then several months later put it back?


Last week, I blogged the cover reveal for my good friend Craig Boyack’s new book, Will O’ the Wisp.  I shared with you how I designed the cover and how much I loved the story.   Today, I am pleased to announce that as of this past weekend, Will O’ the Wisp is finally available for sale on Amazon.

By the way, if you don’t know what a will o’ the wisp is, I’ll be happy to explain in Craig’s own words:

“It is a natural phenomenon involving a light that floats above swampy or boggy areas. It’s also seen with friction associated with tectonic plate movement. Science doesn’t exactly know, because it is extremely rare. There are many legends associated with it, and I took the legends from there.”

I also wanted to show you the difference between the original photo and what ended up being Craig’s cover.  Here is the original:

The Original

And here again is the finished product:

Will O’ the Wisp by C.S. Boyack

And since it is now published, I’d like to share the blurb with you as well:

There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.  Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.  Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.  Patty is going to have to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.  Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense and is set in the mid-1970s.

Now if you think this looks or sounds even remotely intriguing, please know that it definitely is!  And I’d never steer you wrong.  So please hop on over to Amazon and pick yourself up a copy right now.  (By the way, if you’re anywhere other than in North America right now, you’ll want to pick up THIS copy.  Craig used a portion of song lyrics, and the license he purchased only covered North America.  He made a different international version for the rest of the world.)

Time to talk:  Did you already know what a will o’ the wisp was?  Have you ever known someone who claimed to be the victim of a family curse?  Do you like when books are set in a past time of your life so you can vividly recall certain news items, technology, or fads?