Wildflowers and Weeds

mjp-jpg23When I first saw this house eighteen years ago, one of the things I loved about it was the huge yard — nearly 5 acres. I liked yard work, and all of our years in the Navy, when we had a yard, it was tiny.

Too bad I didn’t look ahead to today, when I still love yard work but absolutely hate mowing. Need a tree cut down? A stump dug up? Brush burned? I’m your girl. Need the grass mowed? Go get a goat.

So after years of slacking off on the mowing, I decided this summer to start letting most of the yard return to nature. The area used to be a pasture — it’s always had more clover than grass — so it might as well go back to that. I have a couple of small areas close to the house I want to keep clear, but the rest of it, the wilder the better.

The black-eyed Susan in our side yard.

The black-eyed Susan in our side yard.

Indian paintbrush out front

Indian paintbrush out front

Paintbrush close-up

Paintbrush close-up

More black-eyed Susans

More black-eyed Susans

Something white, which goes well with all the yellow.

Something white, which goes well with all the yellow.

One of our dead pines. Did you know wildlife people say don't cut down your dead trees if they're not a danger so critters can live in them? See how well I'm obeying?

One of our dead pines. Did you know wildlife people say don’t cut down your dead trees if they’re not a danger so critters can live in them? See how well I’m obeying?

 

Final Pass

mjp-jpg23Sounds like something a football player does, or a frustrated boy with a wishy-washy girl, doesn’t it?

Final pass is the author’s very last look at a manuscript before it goes to print. It’s the last chance to catch any mistakes, continuity errors, typos, etc., but I suppose “final pass” sounds better and less ominous than “last chance.”

I sent in the final pass of A Man to Hold on To yesterday, so I won’t see it again until the ARCs — advance reading copies — come out. This is the second book in the Tallgrass series, and I’m happy to say I loved it as much this time as I did when I wrote it. It’s Therese’s story, and Dalton and Jessy are the secondary characters, along with the Princess of I-Hate-You and Jacob, Therese’s stepkids. The hero is new to the series, a medic from Fort Polk named Keegan Logan, and he brings two secondaries I love with him — his sorta-daughter Mariah and his mom Ercella.

Anyhoo, the book is officially done on my end. Now all I have to do is wait for it to come out. 25 February 2014. Mark your calendars, and color me happy! :)

 

 

Karma

mjp-jpg23When I was a kid, Mom taught us the Golden Rule — do unto others as you would have them do unto you — and a similar lesson that what goes around comes around. In other words, eventually, good or bad, you’ll get what you deserve.

Last week Bob and I were watching a documentary about an archeological site that required mountain-climbing skills. Well into the onsite work, the lead climber fell and cracked his sacrum. That’s the bone that hooks in between the spine and the coccyx (more commonly known as the tailbone).

I’ve had a number of broken bones, and I know they really, really hurt, but I’ve never broken that one and wondered aloud whether it was as big a deal as they made it seem or if it was such a big deal because he was a guy and had never gone through childbirth.  ;-)

Apparently, I say in an arid, middle-of-a-drought, Dust Bowl dry and wry tone, Karma was listening.

A couple days ago, Princess Graceful — that’s me — stumbled and landed hard on her butt. Nothing was broken, but my pride — and my tailbone — were bruised. For a day the only comfortable position for me was lying on my left side, knees bent in the fetal position, head pointing due north, sunlight falling on my elbow, and head tilted at a 27-degree angle. Oh, yeah, and only one breath every 3.8 minutes.

I’m gonna be more careful what I wonder about in the future, because apparently it’s true what they say about Karma. She really is a bitch.

 

A Hero to Come Home To

I’ve got an excerpt for the book up now. Just look above, find Marilyn’s Books, hover the cursor there, and you’ll get a dropdown menu of excerpts. The new one’s at the bottom.

Only twenty-one more days until release day! I can hardly wait!!

Hero’s First Review

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I’ve got my first review for A Hero to Come Home To (coming 25 June), and it’s the kind of review that makes an author jump up and down with joy!  First, it’s a great one!  Second, it’s a great one from Publisher’s Weekly!   Third, it’s a Starred Review  from Publisher’s Weekly!   They just don’t hand those Stars out too freely, so I’m absolutely thrilled to get this one!  Read on and share my happiness!

“Pappano shines in this poignant tale of love, loss, and learning to love again. Teacher Carly Lowry wants nothing more than to find peace after her husband, Army Staff Sergeant Jeff Lowry, is killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Two years later, what’s sustaining her is the Fort Murphy Widows Club, aka Tuesday Night Margarita Club, based at Fort Murphy, Oklahoma. On one club outing, Carly meets a man who captures her attention: Sergeant Dane Clark, who lost a leg in combat and who can’t quite believe anyone will want him again. Can the two overlook their losses and build a new life together? Pappano creates achingly real characters whose struggles will bring readers to tears. Well-placed secondary plots seamlessly set the stage for additional books in the series.”

And it got a STAR!!!!!

 

Throwaways

mjp-jpg23Sometimes throwaways are the absolute best. The only dogs we’ve owned during the 30+ years of our marriage have been thrown-away puppers, one acquired from a rescue group, the rest finding us in one way or another.

The notion extends to other things, too. You see people on Antiques Roadshow who haul something out of the trash Dumpster or give $2 for it at a garage sale, only to find out it’s worth $20,000 or more. Not that it’s ever happened to me. The trash I find is, sadly, trash.

But I do have some throwaway flowers that I love. When we bought this place 18 years ago, there were irises planted alongside the driveway. The old man who tended them warned me that they needed to be divided that fall or they’d quit blooming.

Never having grown irises, I dutifully went out one warm September day, dug them all up, divided them, and replanted them. And replanted. And replanted. I ran out of energy, time, and room in the flowerbed long before I ran out of bulbs, so I carried them off to the edge of the woods in the side yard, dumped them, and headed inside to recover from the new and unusual strains on my body.

Fast forward a few years. I look out in the side yard and see bright pops of color just inside the tree line. The bulbs I’d dumped had taken root, grown, and were producing beautiful blooms. (I’m guessing it’s thanks to critters that while I dumped them all in one spot, they grow over an area about twelve feet wide.) I don’t do anything to them, yet they dazzle the trees with their overachieving blossoms every year.

My kind of flower. :-)

 

A Hero to Come Home To

Cover and blurb for the first book in the Tallgrass series!! I’m so excited about this series; with its military background and Oklahoma setting, it’s really close to my heart. You can do me a huge favor and order it here.

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First he fought for his country. Now he’ll fight for her.

Two years after losing her husband in Afghanistan, Carly Lowry has rebuilt her life in Tallgrass, Oklahoma. She has a job she loves teaching third grade and the best friends in the world: fellow military wives who understand what it means to love a man in uniform. She’s comfortable and content…until she meets a ruggedly handsome stranger who rekindles desires Carly isn’t quite sure she’s ready to feel.
Staff Sergeant Dane Clark wanted to have a loving family, a twenty-year Army stint, and then a low-key civilian career. But the paratrooper’s plans were derailed by a mission gone wrong. Struggling to adjust to his new life, he finds comfort in the wide open spaces of Tallgrass–and in the unexpected attention of sweet, lovely Carly. She is the one person who makes him believe life is worth living. But when Carly discovers he’s been hiding the real reason he’s come to Tallgrass, will Dane be able to convince her he is the hero she needs?

Happy Birthday, Mom

Last Saturday was the three-year anniversary of my mother’s death. I debated writing something then, but decided I’d rather celebrate her birthdate and her life than commemorate her death.

Wanda Chloe Davidson Strain would have been eighty today. She was one of twelve children, born to a preacher and his incredibly hard-working wife. (Grandpa worked hard, too — he held various jobs during the week since not all of his churches could afford a full-time pastor — but Grandma kept house in the days before modern conveniences and raised all those kids. Heck, she was raising her youngest at the same time her oldest was raising her own babies.)

Mom in high school

Mom in high school

Mom was an incredibly hard worker, too. Like Grandpa, she held a lot of jobs, and like Grandma, she took care of my sisters and me, but her passion — beyond God and her family — was working in the yard. She loved flowers and plants and had a huge vegetable garden when I was a kid that I don’t remember fondly. (Hoe, hoe, hoe . . .) Even into her sixties and early seventies, she could run circles around her kids and grandkids.

Mom 1

She and Daddy had wanted a son but had only daughters. One of her biggest regrets was that my dad didn’t live to meet his grandchildren. He would have loved the girls, she told me, but he would have loved the two boys. (Good thing I was a tomboy, since I was his last chance for a son. He taught me to shoot, let me work on cars and took me hunting with him.) Years later, she also told me she was glad she had girls, since the last thing she wanted was a daughter-in-law. Sons-in-law were much easier, she insisted. I’m not sure what she based the comparison on, though, since she never had a daughter-in-law. :-)

She was a regular at church; if the doors were open, she was there. She loved studying the Book of Revelations. She was so flattered when the Bible study group asked her to teach them about it.

She was incredibly hardheaded. My sisters tell me that she had an incredible temper when we were little. I don’t remember that, though I do remember enough of our stunts to know that any anger she showed us was well-deserved. We were . . . Heathens isn’t quite the right word; we spent a ton of time in church, too. Hooligans? Wild children?

Mom with her grandkids

Mom with her grandkids

She could also surprise the heck out me. One day a year or two before her death, we were coming back from a doctor’s appointment and she said, “Can I ask you something?”

You know that question never leads to anything good. But I said, “Sure, what do you want to know?” There’s not much I won’t tell people who ask.

She sat in silence for a moment or two, then asked, “What is the ‘c word’?”

This from a woman who chastised me when I was in my fifties for saying “butt.” (“Bottom” sounds so much better, she’d say.)

Clenching the steering wheel tightly as I steered at 65 miles per hour down the highway, I casually (sorta, kinda) asked, “Where did you hear that?”

Turned out, she’d been watching Dr. Phil. Ah, the things that pique your interest on TV.

I told her, and she nodded. Said she’d been wondering about it for a while. Now she didn’t have to wonder anymore.

(My sisters both said, “Better you than me.” Cowards.)

The last photo I took of Mom

The last photo I took of Mom, with her great-grandson Gavin

When she went into the hospital in August 2009 for back surgery, I wasn’t overly worried. She’d had it before. Her neurosurgeon was one of the best. The prognosis was good. Unfortunately she acquired an infection while she was in the hospital, which led to more surgeries. The antibiotics for the initial infection caused another infection, and after nearly four months in and out of the hospital and thanks to malpractice, mismanagement and neglect, she died.

All my life, everyone, including Mom, pronounced her middle name as “clo” — rhymes with “slow” — instead of Chlo-ee. The infections made her do some pretty strange stuff in the hospital, and one time I chastised her by using both names (any time I heard “Marilyn Jean,” I knew I was in trouble!). “Wanda Clo!” I said. And she gave me a narrow-eyed look and very snippily said, “My name is Chlo-ee.” The only time I ever heard her say it that way.

Those last few weeks were terrible. The doctors kept saying, “She won’t last more than thirty-six hours.” We stayed with her twenty-four hours a day, getting a room in the hospital and sleeping in shifts. My son came home on emergency leave from Louisiana; the kids rearranged their schedules; my aunts and uncles came as often as they could.

Then a few days later, the doctors said, “It won’t be more than a day or two.” Then, “Forty-eight hours.” After two weeks of that, the palliative-care specialist came in that Tuesday morning, the eighth, and asked, “Do you want to take her home? I think that’s what she’s waiting for.”

She was ready to die. She’d never had any doubt she would be in heaven with my dad, her mom and dad, my nephew Kevin. She’d planned her funeral years ago and made peace with the fact that someday it would be her turn. She just wanted two things: not to be alone and to die at home.

Less than twelve hours after we took her home, she died in her sleep, in her own house, and she wasn’t alone. Three days later, the day before her birthday, we buried her.

Did I mention she was hardheaded?

Happy birthday, Mom. Have a great one. And give a hug to Daddy and Kevin for me.