Archive for the 'Travels' Category

Strange Characters in St. Louis

My second day in St. Louis, the day of the Christy Awards, I took a little walk looking for a place to eat lunch, and happened on some strange characters. My husband warned me about panhandlers, and my neighbor warned me about purse snatcher/pickpockets… but no one warned me of the strange beings I would find in the city park.

Like this man, for instance, a true Air Head:

airhead small

Or this one… definitely a bird brain.

birdbrain small

And then there’s this individual, and I have no idea what his problem is, but it seems to be grave…

sad sack small

I’m guessing they’re all from children’s books, since the park had lots of things for children, including a long rectangular wading pool full of fun fountains to get doused in on a hot and muggy day.

Does anyone recognize any of these figures and where they are from?

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The Christy Award Hall of Fame

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

Okay, so the entire reason for my going to St. Louis was, as I mentioned, for me to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Award Hall of Fame, along with Historical novelist Lynn Austin. And so far, I’ve said nary a word about it.

Well, the dinner/awards ceremony was held in a ballroom … or at least, I think it was a ballroom — we weren’t exactly sure for what purpose the room had been built but it had a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows, as well as tall, squared- off columns. And yet… it was very long and narrow, almost as if it had once been part of a larger room, and was walled off to increase the number of spaces the hotel could offer for events.  In any case, it was an elegant if echo-y room, with a very lofty ceiling.

This might be the room -- the windows and columns look right...

This might be the room — the windows and columns look right…

The reason I can’t recall the exact location is that I didn’t know it beforehand, and when my husband and I arrived, we were late. We were supposed to have been early, because I was to be participating in the presentation of the awards to this year’s winners and needed to receive my instructions…

We would’ve been on time, I think, except for the GPS.  I knew where the hotel was, but my hubby had brought our GPS, so we were planning on relying on that. But when we left the garage, the GPS became terminally confused. It was determined that we should “turn right on 7th street” even though we were past 7th street. As it repeated its command to turn right, the screen declared that the Garmin was in fact, “off.” Even as it was on.

Okay. So we tried to make our way through the maze of one way streets, and I thought I had a clear idea of which way to go, except then the street I wanted to turn down had suddenly been blocked off and … by the time we arrived, I’d keyed myself up in that Introvert state of Overwhelm. As I said, I was supposed to have arrived a half hour early to meet the banquet organizer “by the podium” for my instructions. But when I got there, late, there were tons of people already there, and I had no idea where I was going. I spotted a familiar face and asked if he knew where the podium was… and only gradually did I realize I’d asked the former president of BHP, now retired, Gary Johnson. He was very gracious — and helpful — nonetheless.

Eventually I made it to the correct room — all my angst had been utterly without justification (as is so often the case!) — but that is why I don’t know what room we were in!

Anyway, it was a fun evening — despite the fact I had to give an acceptance speech. I had one written out when I left Tucson, but every time I went through it for practice in St. Louis, I kept changing it – via hand-written insertions since I had no computer. For some reason I thought it would be bad if I just read it, so I was trying to memorize it… and there was one particular spot at the beginning where I kept going off script because it felt like there was more to say, even if I couldn’t think what.

Anyway, instead of freaking out about it all, I gave it over to the Lord to handle (Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you) and asked Him to give me the words He wanted to me to speak and not let there be any huge bungles in my delivery.

So I got to sit with my editor, Karen Schurrer, my agent, Steve Laube, the Editorial Director of Fiction, Dave Horton, and BHP’s Executive Vice President and Director, Jim Parrish, all of whom are really awesome people to work with. Lynn Austin with her hubby, Rachel McCrae, a book buyer with Lifeway, and the director of the awards, Donna Kehoe rounded out the rest of the folks at our table, though Donna spent almost the entire dinner hour away from her seat, working out various details.

Steve Laube, (yes, my agent) was the Master of Ceremonies and did an excellent job, as usual. He always seems to do an excellent job no matter what he does…

After the presentation of the 2013  Christy Award nominees, agent Chip McGregor gave an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague Lee Hough, and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement award in the field of agenting.

Then it was time for dinner, where I talked far too much and ended up hardly eating much of my food at all… but I can always eat and I can’t always talk to the people who were with me. At least not face to face.

After dinner, the Induction into the Christy Hall of Fame began.  I went first, made it to the podium without tripping, notes in hand, and started in with my spiel. Then I looked up from the notes and was suddenly ad libbing in that area at the beginning where it kept seeming like I should say something more. The next thing you know I heard myself LITERALLY babbling, making no sense whatsoever! Here’s a pic my hubby took of me, so rattled, the camera couldn’t focus:

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

LOL!

Fortunately I had the sense to cut it off immediately, but not without observing out loud to everyone listening that “I’m babbling. I’ll stop now” and went on to my prepared remarks. Which I think went well, in spite of everything. I should have known before I tried it. Yes, it’s true, I’ve ad-libbed in the past and had no problem. But now that I’m older, the words are no longer coming as swiftly as in my youth. And the words that do come initially are often the WRONG words. Which is what happened on the podium.

If I ever have to do something like this again, I have learned that I MUST stick to the script. Anyway, no one threw anything, and I didn’t collapse from the horror of it so… I guess it’s okay…  Here’s a picture of me right after, receiving my award (courtesy of Becky Miller — Thanks, Becky!)

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

I’ll share a bit more tomorrow…

Arriving in St. Louis

The Arch in St. Louis My hotel is just behind that capital building

The Arch in St. Louis
My hotel is just behind that capital building on the right.

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to St. Louis last weekend for this year’s International Christian Retailers Show, where I was to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Awards Hall of Fame. They have decided to limit the number of awards an author can win to four, which is how many my books have won.  Lynn Austin, a writer of historical novels who has won eight Christy’s, was also inducted.

When I was first invited, I was hesitant to go. We’d have to board Quigley if both Stu and I went, which we’ve never done before with any of our dogs,.  And I didn’t much take to the notion of going alone…  I don’t care for fancy, dress up parties, and I really don’t care for being in any kind of limelight. Plus I feared I would fret about it for weeks and by that take away time otherwise devoted to Sky.

I was almost ready to decline, but my agent Steve Laube talked me down off that ledge. It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was point out what an opportunity it was to publicly thank Bethany House for all they’ve done for me and my books, and that turned it all around. Plus I got to publicly thank him for opening the door in the first place, and my editor Karen Schurrer who has had a significant hand in all my books.

I am so glad I went. I had a great time, even if I did have to fly alone. (Primarily because long ago after a sudden glitch in our air travel plans I decided I would never again fly on the same day as the event I was attending.)  So I left Sunday morning very early (the Christy dinner was Monday evening) while my husband stayed behind to bring Quigley to the Pet Resort Sunday afternoon. That way we could minimize the time Q spent there (we feared the worst). Stu left for St. Louis early Monday morning.

Not that flying alone was bad: I finally had the time to finish the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien I’ve been “reading” for far too long.  I’ll write more on that in another post, but it was extremely edifying. In many ways, he was a kindred spirit as far as writing goes (and in many other ways he wasn’t)

Anyway, my hotel was practically at the foot of the Arch, and the dinner put on by Baker Publishing for all its authors, editors, publishing contacts and friends (Bethany House was acquired by Baker a number of years ago) was at the hotel next door. I’d also been invited to that, so at about five-thirty that evening, I left my room to walk over. On the way down some people in the elevator asked me if I was going outside. I said I was and they expressed head shakes of sympathy for my misfortune.

I thought they were talking about the problem of the muggy heat and agreed with them that it was unpleasant. I told them I was from Arizona, as if that explained everything (we have that “dry” heat, you know, so the mugginess is always a shock). They seemed to agree, and got off on the second floor where the garage is. I went on down to the first floor, walked out toward the street and for the first time realized there was a thunder-and-lightning, pouring rainstorm outside that would rival many of the best monsoons of southern AZ.

So that’s what the elevator people were talking about! I started laughing. Yeah, the humidity was about as bad as it could get!

Well, when the rain didn’t let up, I went back up to get my umbrella and emergency poncho, which the Lord had fortuitously supplied me a couple of weeks ago. Then when there was a break in the ferocity of the downpour, I walked over, shielded by umbrella and a poncho that felt more like a garbage bag, though I arrived none the worse for wear. My shoes and the bottom of my skirt were a bit damp, but nothing anyone would notice, and both would dry soon.

The dinner was held on the top of the building, where glass panels formed part of the roof and we enjoyed a spectacular show throughout the evening. I love rain storms, especially when there’s lightning and thunder. Always makes me think of the power of God.

In fact, everything about this trip just drew my attention to God over and over again. All the weeks leading up to it, whenever I’d start fretting, I got to practice turning it all over to Him, utterly and completely. For example, there was the problem of where to find an umbrella in the midst of June, when there is rarely a cloud in the sky, let alone rain. In fact we’d hardly had any measurable rain since February. Nor did I have a lot of time to go driving around from place to place. So I took it to the Lord. You handle it, Father.

Not long after that, I had to go to CVS to get my eye-drop prescription refilled and while I waited I wandered about the store. Well, I’d barely begun when I “happened” upon the umbrella and the poncho both. Right there together, and costing a lot less than everything I’d looked at online at Target and Wal-Mart. The woman who checked me out looked at the umbrella and poncho and commented that I must be going to a rainy place. Well, certainly a place with more potential for rain than we have here right now.

Anyway, the last thing I expected was to have to walk to the Baker Dinner in a thunderstorm. But I did, and it worked out fine. (In the picture above, the hotel I had to walk to was just to the left of the Arch, out of sight behind the immediate buildings. There is a small park between the two hotels, from which to view the arch situated on a hill some ways beyond the downtown area, though it looks much closer than that.)

Trip to Moab

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that my hubby’s aunt had died and they were having a memorial service for her in Moab which we were considering attending.

Since it was “only” a nine-hour drive (without stops) we decided it was doable and left early Friday morning, heading out of Tucson fairly early. The memorial service was Saturday, and we drove home Sunday. With stops, the trip was twelve hours. Which wasn’t bad, but left both of us pretty tired Monday. I did nothing but lie around and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I began to put things away, try to get caught up on the things that didn’t get done and fuss about my rose bush.

I’d asked the neighbor to water, which she’s done many times before but somehow a soap can lid fell down behind the gate she needed to open and got it jammed so she couldn’t get in. Talk about weird… The result was that neither of the roses got watered for two days, during which our humidity was something like 13% or lower and the dew point was practically zero. One of them was droopy but recovered. The other lost almost all its leaves. It was very, very sad.

But after watering, fertilizing and laying down some mulch, it looks like it will survive… new leaves are now sprouting, so I’m happy about that.

In any case, that along with all the other things, which seem like nothing but end up taking up the minutes, took most of my time last week. Plus, Monday was Memorial Day and my hubby was home… so not only did I lack the time, quiet space and mental energy to write a blog post, I did no work on Sky either. I’m hoping to get back to it tomorrow, however.

For now, I thought I’d share some shots I took from our trip.

Quigley likes to rest his head on my shoulder or Stu's hand looking out the front window while we travel

Quigley likes to rest his head on my shoulder or Stu’s hand looking out the front window while we travel

monument valley trashed small

Traveling through Monument Valley I was shocked to see the rash of the white trailers and various structures which had sprung up at the bases of the rock formations. From a distance it looked like a scattering of trash. If only they’d painted their trailers and structures a color more like the surroundings… Ah well, I guess there’s no place left that’s immune to development these days. Maybe the Sahara Desert. Or the Gobi…

Redrock cliffs in the waning sunlight as we neared Moab

Redrock cliffs in the waning sunlight as we neared Moab

Driveway and cliff view from the house of hubby's relations where we stayed.

Driveway and cliff view from the house of hubby’s relations where we stayed.

Fabulous log fence and field of yellow flowers nearby.

Fabulous log fence and field of yellow flowers nearby.

Amazing cottonwood tree on the grounds of our hosts

Amazing cottonwood tree on the grounds of our hosts

my poor sad, dried up rose as it looked when we first returned...

my poor sad, dried up rose as it looked when we first returned…

White Mountain Memorial

Last weekend, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we gathered together with my son and his family, and my sister up in the White Mountains.

When my son was growing up and we were home schooling, we used to take an annual trip up to the White Mountains to a place called Big Lake where we camped for about three days, enjoying the changing of the aspen. My mother always went with us and my sister drove in from New Mexico to join us.

We have all sorts of good memories associated with these trips, and my mother especially enjoyed them, so we decided to have a trip in memorium for her.

Originally we were going to do it last fall, but after the Wallow Fire  blazed through there last summer, we decided to wait a year.

We had never camped in an official campground, but in our “own” special spot off the road to Big Lake. There was a pipe spring there, an old cabin, and a glorious stand of aspen — in addition to expansive views of the open range, which my husband glassed morning and evening for antelope and elk. (Click to enlarge all photos)

It was a place far enough away from the roads we could let our dogs roam free, and they loved it, too. We camped, roasted marshmallows, took hikes, sketched, painted, and took lots of photos. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, we even heard the elk bugle as they came out in the fields below us to challenge one another.

Though I had prayed the Lord would spare it, we had no way of knowing if the place was even still standing, for the fires had raged right through that area…

Given my son and his wife had Lily, only a little over a year old and would be coming from California, we opted for staying in a condo in Pinetop and driving out to spend the day at our spot rather than camping as in the past. I think it was the right decision.  We had a wonderful time.

Here are a few more pictures:

View from our cabin in Pinetop. I love the way the aspen leaves flutter to the ground in the wind which you can almost see in this picture.

Lily walking like a pro. She and Quigley became friends and cohorts in making trouble. She opened the drawers and doors and he took full advantage!

En route to our “spot”: the fire had raged through much of the forest, leaving skeletons of burned out trees

Thankfully we found our spot mostly untouched, complete with the cabin my mother, sister and I had sketched many times

The trees nearby were also still standing unharmed, and the aspen were midway through their autumn display

Lily was fascinated by the gold aspen leaves quivering in the wind

We saw this guy at the end of the day as we were driving out. Great finish to a wonderful day.

Traveling Again

I’ve been away from my office and desk and well, Arizona altogether for the last week. It’s been something of a milestone in that for the first time I also managed to put up some blog posts, even though I was away from my computer. (I’m from the Jurassic age and do not have a cell phone, let alone an ipad.)

Anyway, much thanks to my son and daughter-in-law for allowing me to post from their computer.

I haven’t yet uploaded the many pics I took while away, but will do so tomorrow and then figure out which I want to post. There are sooo many good ones to choose from.

Lily is walking now. Only three steps at a time, but all on her own. If she has someone to hold her hands she’ll walk all the way across the living room, dining room, into the kitchen and back again. Two little teeth showing. Big blue eyes. Bright, happy smile. Wrinkly nose… Cuter than ever.

DS and DDIL (that’s Flylady lingo for “Dear Son” and “Dear Daughter-in-Law”) were in the midst of moving from their previous location to a new larger place two lots up the street. Hubby and I (and Quigley) stayed in the older, smaller house and we all spent a lot of time walking back and forth (partly because the washer and dryer were still in the smaller house and they have lots of diapers to wash… plus that’s where the computer was! ) Hubby left on Monday, and I stayed an additional three days, then flew back this afternoon.

So, as I said. I’m tired. This pic from last winter expresses it perfectly:

A Quick Trip to Las Vegas

 

Colorado River Bridge almost completed

Last Saturday we piled into the Jeep with Quigley and headed up to Las Vegas, a seven hour drive that turned into eight hours, arriving barely in time for the wedding reception of my husband’s niece. That went from 4 to about 8 or so. We had a good time, got to talk to another of his nieces we hadn’t seen in years and who we had not expected to be there. Afterward we walked Quigley around a mostly deserted city park where we discovered a sign on an empty dog run informing us that it is illegal in Clark County, Nevada, to own or harbor a non-spayed or -neutered dog. On pain of a big fine and possible imprisonment.

Whoa! For years Stu and I have decried the trend toward mandatory spay and neuter laws that is rising in this country. One more erosion of our freedoms that, like so many things, punishes the law-abiding for what the law breaking commit. Quigley is our seventh male dog. None of them were neutered. Of them, only Bear sired any pups and that was deliberate. He was papered, and sprang from champion bloodlines as does Quigley. We have never let our dogs run about, scaring the neighbors, getting into the trash, getting into fights with other dogs, running amok in the cactus… or making puppies with whatever random bitch in heat they might encounter.  Yet there are those who do not think we should have the right to make the decision ourselves about whether our pet is to be neutered… because other people don’t control their animals. 

And the creepy part? In Las Vegas it’s okay for prostitutes to hawk their services in newspaper like directories freely available on the street, and even for prostitutes to walk about pretty blatantly… but you better not have a dog that’s not been spayed or neutered…

Anyway, I’ll step back from that soapbox and go on. We left the park hurriedly, and returned to our hotel room, eager to leave the state as quickly as we could… which was fairly early the next morning…  (Had to get back in time for LOST, you know.  😉 )

One of the fun parts of the trip was seeing the new bridge that’s being built to bypass Hoover Dam.  I’d seen pictures of it in progress, the two arms reaching out from their respective cliff walls with a space still in the middle. (If you’re interested you can see photos here, including one from space of the canyon before contruction began) Last weekend, we saw that the two sides had been joined and the bridge now spans the gap. It’s still not open, and is obviously still under construction, but it will certainly make getting to Las Vegas faster if you don’t have to creep across the dam in bumper to bumper traffic on the winding, two-lane road that is constantly being crossed by the mass of pedestrians that bustle along either side. Nor be stopped at the security checkpoints on either side of the dam while federal officers peer into your vehicle. (Are they afraid someone will try to blow up the dam? We didn’t know)

Another fun part of the trip, besides stopping at Subway, was Quigley. See how relaxed he was in his bed at the back of the Jeep?

Quigley relaxed in the car

Sometimes he’d get up and come forward to rest his head on my shoulder. Then when he got tired of that he would back up into his bed and lie down again. Reminded me of a crab returning to its shell…


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