Christmas Week 2018

Merry Christmas to all! And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I will wish you Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, because the whole world needs that right now.

I’ve been enjoying the slower pace of this week, as there is no school and few extracurricular activities. My husband is off from work, so we’re all piled lazily in the house. Christmas was quiet—none of us got out of out pajamas all day!

Looking forward to a party tonight, our extended family Christmas Friday, and another holiday party with writing friends on Saturday.

I hope all of you are having a peaceful holiday and getting in some relaxation.

Monkees and Horses: Recharging the Batteries

Sometimes writers have to step away from the keyboard and go out into the world. After all, we write about life, and how can we do that authentically if we don’t live a little? So this weekend I packed in a Monkees concert and a day at the Devon Horse Show.

The Monkees Concert

This Monkees concert marked the 50th Anniversary of the Monkees TV premiere and their rocket to stardom. It also marked 30 years since I first saw them in concert in 1986. This year the Monkees have a new album, Good Times, out and a new set list, so I knew the show would be special.

Keswick Theater marqueeThe Monkees logoMonkees on the Keswick marquee




Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are the two Monkees touring this time—Mike Nesmith chose to sit out this tour, and Davy Jones passed away in 2012. Micky and Peter sounded great and enjoyed themselves as they belted out a good mix of hits and should-have-been-hits.

Micky Dolenz of the MonkeesMicky & Peter of the MonkeesPeter Tork of the Monkees




They did a song from the new album and they also used technology to have Davy Jones sing lead vocals while they played and sang backup live in Shades of Gray and Daydream Believer. Photos of Davy on the large screen made both these songs poignant tributes to Davy.

Micky and Peter of the MonkeesTribute to Davy Jones of the MonkeesPeter and Micky of the Monkees





Micky and Peter brought energy and joy to the performance, and I think that is one thing that keeps bringing the fans back—that sense of fun. They clearly enjoy each other’s company and have a good time rocking in front of the crowd. I guess if you’re going to hang together for 50 years, there needs to be some chemistry there to start with!

Peter Tork of the MonkeesMicky Dolenz of the MonkeesPeter Tork of the MonkeesMicky Dolenz of the MonkeesPeter Tork of the Monkees





I had a wonderful time at the show! Long live the Monkees!

Micky and Peter of the MonkeesMicky and Peter of the MonkeesMicky and Peter take a bow





Devon Horse Show

The next day my mother, daughter, and I went to Devon Horse Show. Since my great-grandmother gave us our first tickets when I was in elementary school, my mother and I have gone almost every year. My daughter has joined us for the past 4 years, and it has become a wonderful inter-generational tradition.

My great-grandmother had box seats in the posh blue grandstand, but now we camp out in the East 2 grandstand bleachers. We got to see carriage competition complete with regular horses, a miniature horse, and white horse-mule crosses…

Tandem team, four wheel carriageMInature horse pulling 2-wheeled cart4 white horse-mule crosses pulling a Police paddy wagon





A Shetland pony steeplechase…

Child jockeys waiting to start the Shetland pony steeplechaseRiders up for the Shetland steeplechase





And pony show jumping…

Appaloosa clears the fencesPalomino paint in full stridePalomino paint jumping





We even strolled through the stable area, and saw some magnificent draft horses—who were part of the team that won the overall carriage best of show!

White draft horses4-in-hand white draft horses and carriage that won best in show






We had a great time at the Devon Horse Show, as we usually do. Whether the horses cleared all hurdles…

Brown pony clearing the fence

Or didn’t quite make it…

Palomino paint knocking the top pole down

They were all beautiful.

Close up of a horse headWhite pony, winner of the jumping






I had a lot of fun on my days “off” and will return to work recharged and ready to write.

How do you recharge?

Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

Top 10 Goose’s Quill Posts of 2013

It’s always interesting to see which posts struck chords with people over the year. Surprisingly, the most popular posts were evenly split between writing and life. Enjoy!

10. The Monkees Came To My Town

9. A Mile in My Daughter’s Ears

8. Connecting the Dots: Meeting My Grandfather

7. The Internal Saboteur

6. The End of an Era: When Writing Mentors Move On

5. A Writer’s Thick Skin: Do We Need One?

4. Old Fashioned: Writing With Pen and Paper

3. My Biggest Takeaway: 2013 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

 The top 2 posts are no surprise. The tragedy of my friend Kate Leong’s unexpectedly losing her 5 1/2 son, and the miracle response that followed his death still breaks my heart–while moving me to tears of joy at the strength and kindness of the human spirit.

2. The Gavin Effect: A Tsunami of Kindness

1. The World Lost a Superhero: Farewell, Gavin

 Happy 2014, everyone!

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Thankful for Friendship

In freshman year of high school, a new friend of mine invited me to sit with her friends during lunch. At the table was a tall girl, who had dumped her little box of raisins onto the table, and was taking each raisin one by one, pretended they were running across the table, then dropping them off the edge saying “AHHHH!” until they hit the floor.

This was how I met Donna Longcoy.

For almost 30 years, we have been friends. We made it through high school together, and college. We went on vacations together that featured pushing an antique car up a hill and knocking on random doors in a strange town in search of a funnel to siphon gas from said car to the out-of-gas truck towing it. We’ve been friends through fun times, hard times, guy trouble, job difficulties (we worked together for a while), weddings and funerals. Even though Donna and her husband live most of the way across the country, I am the official godmother to their 3 greyhounds, should anything happen to them.

Through most of this long journey, Donna and I shared the Monkees. With our other friend Donna Hanson, we followed “the guys” anywhere they appeared from New York to Virginia. Every tour brought new adventures, new memories, and new friends. The Monkees have been in our lives since 1986.

I dabble with drawing, and I had drawn a picture of the 4 Monkees. Over the years, one by one, I gathered the signatures of Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz on that picture. At last, the only signature I needed was Mike Nesmith.

This was a problem.

Michael Nesmith never toured with the Monkees after the group broke up in the late 1960s. He did a few select dates, but was for the most part missing. And he didn’t care much for solo tours, either, so he was hard to find. Until the past 2 years, Mike hadn’t toured since 1992. And even on these solo tours this year and last, he would not sign autographs for waiting fans—only to those lucky enough to get backstage passes.

Last year, neither Donna nor I got a pass. This year, a miracle occurred, and Donna, in the 11th hour, scored a backstage pass to Mike’s solo show in Arizona! Now, Mike had very strict rules about what he would sign. He’d sign almost unlimited items from his solo career, but only ONE Monkees item. ONE.

And Donna called me and said, “Send me your picture. I’ll get him to sign it.”

How incredible is that? She gave up her one Monkees item for me. She didn’t have to. I wouldn’t have asked her to. But she knew how long I had been trying for this, and she offered.

That is one great friend. But then, I don’t need proof of how awesome a friend Donna is—there’s a reason we’ve been friends for 29 years, after all!

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I am more thankful for my friend Donna than I can say. It is my fervent hope that our friendship will continue until our deaths—and on into Heaven, where we can rock out to the Monkees with our other friends whenever we want.

How about you? Any special friends you are thankful for and want to give a shout out to?

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I’m a Monkees fan (and using this to test how video works on this blog!).

Pony Penning

Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague did more for the island of Chincoteague than any planned publicity campaign could have. Written in 1947, the book painted such an enthralling picture of life on Chincoteague and neighboring Assateague that millions of people since then have travelled to the islands to experience it for themselves. That Chincoteague’s economy is almost wholly tourism-based is a direct result of this one little children’s book and the dreams it inspired in generations of readers. And the thing that most tourists come to see is the Pony Swim.

Assateague Island is a National Park. Its main attractions are the beach and the wild ponies. Come Pony Penning time (the last Wednesday in July), the ponies rule all. The wild ponies of Assateague roam semi-free (there are fences to keep them off the roads and public beaches) and once a year they are rounded up and swum across the channel to Chincoteague Island. There, a select number of foals are sold, with the proceeds benefiting the Chincoteague Fire Department, which owns the ponies.

So, once a year, thousands of people (they expected 40,000 this year) flock to tiny Chincoteague to see the ponies swim from Assateague to Chincoteague. Since I am living on Chincoteague this year, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the fun!

Six a.m. saw the sun, me, and my mother rise. Slathered with sunscreen and bug spray (Chincoteague mosquitoes have carried off small children and pets), we arrived at Pony Swim Lane, where the ponies make landfall. To get close to the landing site, we slogged through a marsh composed of sucking black mud and biting grasses. A fellow adventurer, apparently not warned against wearing flip flops, lost her shoe entirely. Another, although clad in sneakers, ended up fishing his shoe out of the muck. We gained the other side of the marsh with all shoes accounted for.

Then we waited. The sun got hot (but thankfully not too bad), and the only bugs that bothered us were the grasshoppers – particularly the one that leaped from a stalk onto my chest. He was like something from Alien – a huge black creepy thing that sprang at me and grew larger and larger in my view like a monster in a 3D movie. I returned him post-haste to the grass.

We arrived at 7 a.m. The ponies swam at noon. The crowd grew and grew, and we all shared stories of where we came from – Kansas, Pennsylvania, Norway. People lent helping hands to those who needed it, sharing water, towels and food with those who had arrived unprepared – or those unlucky enough to have taken a tumble in the mud. The comraderie reminded me of the many hours I had spent hanging around stage doors at Monkees concerts – a shared passion that for the moment surmounted any differences we might have.

Noon arrived, the warning flare went up, the crowd cheered, and the ponies were in the water! The crowd surged forward, pressing to see the horses swimming and the famed “saltwater cowboys” wrangling them across the channel, in between two lines of spectator boats. In a little over four minutes, the first pony made landfall. 50-plus mares, foals and stallions sorted themselves out and fell to eating, resting after the swim. The 85th Annual Pony Swim was over.

I am grateful to have experienced this wonderful event and to have seen the wild ponies up close. The reality lived up to the dreams conjured in Misty of Chincoteague (although I did not buy my own pony at the auction the next day). As a writer, I could not help but marvel at the power of story. As long as children keep reading that book, they will want to come see the ponies, and Chincoteague will reap the benefits. The Misty legacy lives on.

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