I’m Relocating!!


But just online… 🙂

I’ve been handing out business cards with a new website URL on them for several months, so it’s high time I got it set up, don’t you think?? So, here it is…


The new website is a .com, which looks a little more legit than a .wordpress.com site (in my humble opinion), and now that I’m getting my freelance business off the ground, I thought it was time. I considered leaving all the old content here and starting fresh there, but then I thought I may as well carry all my building blocks with me. Some of my older posts here are pretty rough (who knew visuals made such a difference!?) and I’ll continue to improve my content and style as I go along, but a little history never hurt anybody.

If you are signed up to receive notices via email when I post a new entry (You’re awesome! Thank you!!), it looks like those connections did not transfer over to the new site. Please visit me at my new site, take a look around, sign up to get updates, and feel free to let me know what you think of the place. I still have a few tweaks to make… curtains to hang and ottomans to pick out… but it’s mostly done.

Onward and upward, friends!!


Haunted Blog Hop – Part III


Continued from Minivan Momma (http://www.minivan-momma.com/2013/10/haunted-bloghop-part-ii.html)…

Gillian got to the desk just as the final strokes were typed onto the yellowing parchment…

"Up the stairs and to the right..."

“Up the stairs, and to the right… the tutu hides a gruesome sight.”

She found it hard to believe a tutu could hide anything gruesome. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of dancing in a ballet, but her father wouldn’t hear of it. He made it very clear that his daughters would have no part in any activity that encouraged them to dance. When they visited museums she would gaze at paintings of dancers as though she were lovestruck. Even now that she was an adult, nothing could make her feel quite as giddy as her annual trip to see The Nutcracker in December.

By now, it was clear that there was no turning back. While this cottage was certainly creepy enough to hide a bent and broken old witch covered with warts, she was hopeful that she would find something a little less predictable…Gillian decided she couldn’t feel comfortable staying in the cottage without knowing what the tutu mentioned by the ghost-writer was hiding. She found a candle on a table near the fireplace, and used matches she found in a drawer to light it. The candle created enough light to help her breathe a little easier, and she set off down the hall to the staircase.

Every step on the staircase seemed to have a voice of its own crying out warnings – squeaks and creaks, groans and moans – until she reached the landing. “Up the stairs and to the right…” she whispered under her breath, hoping no one whispered back. She crept slowly down the hall, looking right and left only long enough to notice the doors to each room were securely shut. She decided it was probably for the best, since she wasn’t sure she wanted to see what was on the other side of them just yet.

Then she saw it; at the end of the hall was a large painting in a gilt frame featuring the beautiful ballerinas she idolized as a girl. She was struck by a sudden memory of a gift she received from her grandmother when she was very young… a locket on a chain, engraved with the image of a dancing girl in a tutu. Her father never let her wear the locket, and over the years she’d forgotten all about it.

But there, shining in the soft glow of her candle on a table beneath the painting, was her locket. There was nothing gruesome about it. In fact, it was lovely. As she picked up the pendant, she noticed the envelope on the table next to it… It was inscribed with her name. Gillian L. Rutledge. But the address was that of the cottage.

She reached out to touch the envelope with a shaking hand and took a deep breath.

The next chapter will be revealed tomorrow on Lucky Mama…  follow along, if you dare!


The creative muse I’ve never met.


I’ve had a story rolling around in my head for over a year now. It started as a few really vivid images from a dream I had that stuck with me for several days. After talking through them with my husband, it was clear they needed to be turned into something other than an interesting dream. At least a short story, and maybe a novel or screenplay.

So, I sketched out an idea for a story, and even did a little research on the time-period and location I have in mind. That was last year, and I haven’t really done anything with it since then. Until today. Today, John Mayer became my muse.

He’s muse-worthy, don’t you think??

I’m sure that when a musician releases a new cd they hope that it inspires some listeners. They would be happy if it provides a bit of a soundtrack to someone’s day, or even a special event, or a break up, or some other emotional moment. I am confident they hope it means something to some people. When I started working on this story idea, I was listening to The Civil Wars‘ cd, Barton Hollow, a lot, and the sound of that music seemed to fit perfectly with the mood of my words.

Lately, I’ve had Mayer’s new release, Paradise Valley, on repeat on my Spotify feed. I’ve really been loving his lyrics and kind of rediscovered him after not listening to much after Continuum was released in 2007.

Okay, this is where it gets odd…

Sometimes, I talk to myself. In fact, I have conversations with people that are not only not in the room, but are also no one I have ever met or will ever meet. I chalk it up to my highly creative mind. I swear I don’t do drugs. When I was in my early 20s, I imagined entire conversations with Prince Andrew. (Before he met Fergie, of course.) And today, I chatted with John Mayer in my kitchen.

For today’s break with reality, we were both traveling through Europe and met at a hostel somewhere in Bavaria. I was cool when I met him, not letting on that I knew he was a famous musician who dates gorgeous young things. We chatted about meditation and why we’re on the road in Europe. He told me he was taking some time to himself after a break up and I told him about a book I’m trying to write. He made me promise not to write about meeting him… because that would kind of blow the whole anonymous traveling thing. Makes sense, I was fine with that. So, as I described the synopsis to John (who was listening with rapt attention, of course), I had a breakthrough about my main antagonist.

Now, I’m not saying that it was John who brought this creative brilliance on… I mean, it probably could have just as easily been Dave Matthews, Viggo Mortensen or Johnny Depp. Okay, maybe not Johnny Depp… he seems to shy to be much of a conversationalist. But John just happened to be the guy on the patio with me in Bavaria… in my kitchen.


The bottom line is that I was chatting with John Mayer(‘s pretend self) and I had a creative breakthrough. That makes him my muse, right? I can list him in my “Thanks” notes in the book jacket, at least.

Works for me. Thanks John. 🙂

You can change the world.


You may or may not know that my mother died four years ago from a brain tumor. If you’re interested, you can read some of that journey here. This year, my father-in-law lost his battle with lung cancer. But whether or not you knew about those things… you probably know someone who has had cancer. You likely have lost a loved one or friend to cancer. You may, as I have, felt frustrated that there was nothing – not a single, damned thing – that you could do to make it better for that person, or for their family, or for yourself. Helplessness is a terrible, dark feeling.

I’m not talking about taking casseroles and watching the kids while they’re in chemo, or cleaning their house for them or helping them run errands. Those things are amazing and valued and necessary, and you are right and good to do them. I’m talking about the helplessness of not being able to stop the cancer. To kill it, to make it go away and stop the pain it causes. To help your friend or loved-one stay here with you, and their children, and their spouses… to live a full and glorious life. I couldn’t do that. And it pissed me off. It still does.

But this is your chance to tell helplessness to fuck off. (Sorry, I use that word a lot when talking about cancer.) You can spend a small amount of your time now, and small amounts in the future, to be a part of a HUGE effort by the American Cancer Society to change the world.


Watch this video, and follow this link to find out where you can get enrolled. It’s such a small thing to do, and will make such a tremendous impact on the lives of your kids, and their kids, and grandkids. Stop feeling helpless and DO something. I did, and I hope you will too.


I’m doing it for this beautiful, brilliant girl. Who will you change the world for?



One stone at a time.


I love the look and feel of old cobblestone roads. The old bricks, worn down over time by the carriage wheels and feet and cars and horses. The connection I have with teachers and professional influences in my life make me think of those roads. It seems I’m about to write yet another metaphor-laden blog post. Maybe I need to create an essay collection called Life in Metaphors…

A year ago this month I went to a conference for bloggers, the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged. I had already started writing a little for a couple of outlets, and had met a few local bloggers through that bit of work, but I met more at the conference and at other local events afterward. Attending the book-release parties was particularly inspiring for a wanna-be writer! Everyone has different experiences when thrust into a crowd of women… (hello!? drama can ensue!) but for me, the connection to this group of women has been overwhelmingly positive.

As I made the decision to start working as a freelance writer a few months ago, I was hopeful that my network of women who were already writing and managing clients’ social media platforms would be a good resource for information and advice, but it has become more than that. One of my friends, Jamie, has a successful freelance business, and was willing to sit down with me for lunch and offer her suggestions and encouragement soon after I made the leap. Then, last month, she asked if I was willing to do some writing for her when she had too much to do herself. Work with someone already doing what I want to do? Earn while I learn? Um, yes, please. 🙂

Then, this morning while I sat at the local coffee shop dutifully filling my calendar and figuring out what I needed to be doing with my days the rest of this week, I happened to run into another friend I have had the pleasure of knowing this last year. Jasmine is a fearless blogger, a social media maven, a roller derby queen, and a fantastic supporter of her friends and fellow writers. She’s put me in touch with great networking opportunities and people over the last year since we roomed together at AWBU, and has just been personally encouraging of my efforts to become A Writer. She asked what I’m doing now, and suggested that she might have some work that she could pass on to me as part of a new supervisory role she has taken on for a client of hers. I gave her a card and told her I’d love to hear more.

On our path through this life, we meet lots and lots of people. At least, I have. (Makes me wish I were better with names…) Some are broken or weak and are unable to support us as we go, and we have to put them aside. Or, better yet, be the bricks in THEIR road. Others are the bricks and stones that we need to lay in front of us on our road, the ones that we will be able to rely on as we move toward our goals and dreams. For me, this group of writers I have connected with over the past year or so have been exactly what I needed as I made the leap into working for myself. I didn’t know, when I went to AWBU a year ago, that I would be freelancing today. I may or may not have gone simply because Country Outfitter was offering a pair of free boots to all attendees. (<— keeping it real) But I was open to the experience of learning from those women and cultivating those relationships, and it has served me so well.

No matter where your path is headed, seek out those who are doing what you want to do… if you are an actor, hang out with actors (and casting directors! ;)), if you’re a designer, hang out with designers… pick their brain, follow their pages on Facebook and their blogs. Interact, attend workshops and seminars. Hand out your business card and collect theirs. If you don’t have a business card – create one RIGHT NOW!!! Shame on you… You never know, when you’re meeting new people, who will become important in your life. But as you travel your road, those cobblestone people will be there for you.

Pulling weeds.


I’m not sure what it is about pulling on gardening gloves and getting out in the dirt that invites philosophical introspection for me… but it does. Sometimes, it’s just a great quiet time to not have to think about anything except getting rid of weeds and cut worms. Other times, there is a great metaphor in the work that settles down over my shoulders and wraps me in a gnat infested, dappled-shade-colored hug. Today was one of the latter.

The last few years have been a struggle for me. I may have been depressed, but I never pursued any professional opinion on the matter so I can’t say that’s technically true. I was working, I had a kid that was having difficulty in school, a kid starting college and joining the Army, another kid who was having difficulty accepting adulthood and was still living with us, and a grand-kid who was living with her mom in our house. It was busy… I didn’t have time to be depressed, or even just really sad and frustrated, if that’s all it was.

But this summer started off with me leaving my job, and since that unexpected move, things have changed. We were fortunate enough to have a good financial cushion in the bank, although it was intended for things like a deck and maybe new floors – not food and gasoline. But at least it was there – I didn’t have to go get a job at the local gentlemen’s club. Gentlemen everywhere are relieved. 🙂  I spent the summer hanging out with my son, helping my sister move to Oregon, helping my daughter move into her own place, and cleaning out closets. There are more closets waiting, but the work has begun on getting the weeds out of my life.

This feels sooooo good!

This feels sooooo good!

Metaphorical weeds are just like regular old weeds. They suck up all the nutrients and sunshine and water, and leave the herbs and flowers we wanted to see struggling to mature. We spend years cultivating an education, make the proper choice in a spouse, provide music lessons for the kids, and have a stack of great cookbooks on the counter. But our “weeds” grow up and choke out the beauty that can grow from the seeds we have planted. When we fill our lives with clutter – physical and psychological – the creative moments, and the moments of sincere enjoyment of the life we are living, are buried. I have begun to pull weeds in my life, and I believe it’s going to help me focus on the things that truly make me happiest; being creative and enjoying my family.

This summer, as I organized closets, and decorated the newly-vacant guest room, and cleaned the guest bathroom, I realized the things that had been cluttering my head and my daily schedule were going away. As those weeds were pulled,  the creative part of me began to peek out again. Or, I guess it’s more accurate to say that it began to bloom. It had remained there the whole time – it just wasn’t thriving.

See what you find when you clear the weeds?

See what you find when you clear the weeds?

Aside from the psychological weeds, I had also let a lot of physical weeds grow up around me over the last few years. I spent time and money stockpiling materials that I was sure I would use eventually… things that would be great once I had time to come up with an idea. And of course, those ideas would need to be followed by time to actually act on the idea. The end result is that I have a Large Amount of stuff that I am now finally ready to thin. I think I have a handle on the time and inclination I have and can fairly judge what piles to keep, and what I can let go. My husband will be thrilled. 🙂

So, today, as I pulled weeds and contemplated the creative projects I had waiting for me in my workspace, I felt good knowing that things were headed in the right direction. Eventually, I’ll stop lying in bed worrying about money. Eventually, my hair will stop thinning from stress (why can’t I lose weight when I’m stressed instead of hair!!??). And eventually, I’ll look back on the last few years and feel confident that they were incubation years; that the things I was learning and the people I was meeting were nurturing me, even as I was unable to act on their help. There will be more weeds, of course, but I’m hoping that they’re only in the garden.

Being a Grown Up


“When adult life becomes so overwhelmingly frustrating, I almost feel like I want to be able to remove the skin I’m in and step out of it, taking on a new reality just as I change duvet covers when the seasons change. I don’t itch, not in a physical sense… it’s like a psychological itch; a discomfort that almost, but not quite, allows me to understand why some women simply walk out the door and leave their home and family behind when the challenges of life are piled on top of them.”

I wrote this paragraph a couple of weeks ago. For the life of me, I can’t remember the precise details of what was stressing me so much that I needed to capture these feelings. Obviously, it was intense. And, just as obviously, it worked itself out and I’m still happily married and devoted to my children and husband. I think sometimes the collision of Things I Can’t Control and Things That Don’t Go As Planned just creates the perfect emotional storm, you know?

Do you ever experience these feelings of wanting to just lock the door behind you and walk away? What makes you stay? I think I may need to investigate a little deeper and pull a book idea out of this…

Baby birds and healthy meals


A couple of weeks ago now, I moved my oldest daughter into her first apartment. She packed up the boxes, I helped her unpack a few. We went shopping for some of the necessities of single-living that she wasn’t able to pay for right away – dish detergent, broom, etc… We discussed the best way to buy groceries on a (very) limited budget: meal plans. And then I came home to my house. That evening, as I prepared a yummy dinner that featured pork chops and organic veggies from my CSA bag, I was struck by an unexpected bout of guilt. Guilt that I was making a healthy, not-so-frugal meal that my daughter and grand-daughter were unable to partake of. They only live 20 minutes away. But their meals will be based around cheap staples, 101 ways to use ground beef, and probably not a ton of fresh (certainly not organic) veggies.

That feeling hasn’t hit again, thankfully, and I’ve even seen a post on Facebook that featured a decent meal she created all by herself. I’ve begun to feel a little more comfortable with the idea that they’ll be able to make it. And by “make it”, you know I mean “keep their clothing clean and ingest a vegetable at least once a week.” 🙂 Sometimes, it really is necessary for the baby bird to be shoved out of the nest.

I have wondered if my mother worried about these kinds of things when I moved out. I was single and living on my own for approximately two months before meeting my first husband, who promptly moved in with me. I had my oldest the next January. I figured out how to apply for WIC, how to deal with the county health department when I didn’t have health insurance, and how to appeal my denial for health insurance when I could finally afford it but it was outside of my employer’s “open enrollment” period. (I won.) I don’t remember asking my mom for advice for these things, but I also don’t remember her being much of a worrier. I think she just assumed all would be well. Of course, I was 25 when I moved out, and didn’t have a baby yet… but still. Surely she worried just a LITTLE.

Perhaps I should go dig out her journals and read a little about her feelings on the subject. Or perhaps it’s best to just keep looking forward and expect success. Seems like it worked for me.





Do you remember that show from the 1960s called Gomer Pyle? It was about the mis-adventures of a young man in the Army, and his favorite exclamation for anything that was surprising, or shocking, or just out of the ordinary and unexpected was “Shazaam!” But he pronounced it sha-zayum because he was from North Carolina, where people are even more hick than they are here in Northwest Arkansas. That might be an sweeping generalization.

Today is the day that my baby daughter goes off to basic training for her career (at least for the next six  years or so) in the U.S. Army. She hasn’t decided if she’ll go regular or reserve or National Guard, and won’t have to make that choice until she’s about to graduate from college. And I have been assured by several people in uniform that she WILL get to graduate from college before she is sent off anywhere with a loaded weapon. I won’t say I was hard to convince, but I will share that her recruiter told her that the meeting with me “Wasn’t as bad as [he’d} expected.” Yeah, I’m that mom.

But I’m that mom because she’s this baby…

ImageYes, it’s true, I make adorable babies. She inherited that giant dome from me… bless it.

But those adorable babies grow up to have their own babies while still in high school… or they join the Army. I’m still waiting to see what level of Dante’s hell the Boychild will put me through as a teen. Lord help me.

Today we are driving the sweet baby daughter to Little Rock for her intake requirements at the MEPS center. Now, I joined the Army Reserves when I was younger too… but I was 24. I was already way past cute. My mother isn’t here to argue, so I’ll just state that as fact. One day I will have to go back and read her journals around that time and find out what she thought about all that… I made the decision and signed up without discussing it with her first. Yeah, I was that kid.

Side note: Given all that I and my siblings put mom through here on earth (not to mention 11 months of cancer treatment) I’m sure she’s somewhere unbelievably posh in the afterlife. 🙂

At least the Army is putting the baby girl up in a nice hotel (The Peabody!), before they ship her off to North Carolina for six months of 4 a.m. roll calls and 10 minute meals and snot fests at the gas chambers and communal showers. Good times.

So, here are the images I’ll be keeping in my head today. I know they won’t be there for long, and I’ll have to accept that the baby girl has grown up. But today – TODAY, this is what I see.


Baby Girl in Crocheted Dress

The Bug at 1-year-old. Her dress was worn by her sister, me and my mother in our 1-year-old pictures as well.

Baby Girl on the Fayetteville Square

At the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market in 1996 or 1997. When her hair finally started growing, it was a sight to behold!