Family and the Open Road: Down Home America

Home.

Jerry and I recently journeyed 3,200 miles over ten days, through 12 states and numerous cities from San Francisco to Pittsburgh, following the path of family. We crossed deserts and mountain ranges, skirted farmlands and big cities, and stopped at every roadside curiosity that caught our fancy.

…on our way home.

Funny word, home. For the past 20 years, home to us has been a cozy place in Virginia where we live and love, and where coffee is served in ceramic mugs—not those annoying, plastic lidded paper cups that emit all substance and steam as a single, scalding jet stream through a tiny, razor-sharp puncture hole…but I digress. Sorry, it’s been a long trip.

However, as we drove eastward, the idea of home took on an entirely new meeting.

We sure felt right at home for three nights in Sacramento, staying with Troy and Jodi and their beautiful girls. Jodi put out the Call to Family, and people I haven’t seen in years swooped in like excited chickadees to say hello.

I’m truly honored to have married in to this Anderson/Perkins/Fitzsimmons tribe, (part of the Mary Oswalt’s Daughters clan). The Oswalts know many secrets about life, inherently or otherwise. They put family first, they love fiercely, and they speak the universal love language: good food. If I wrote about all the wondrous foods I consumed in Sacramento I’d quickly max on word count and make us all hungry again, but I will say that Liz’s carrot cake and Melissa’s banana pudding are worth the price of a plane ticket, should you be so inclined.

…which led to an invite to see the garden—a tamed jungle of nearly all the richness our earth has to offer to anyone like Cousin Liz who can coax it out. Liz is also an artist, although I’m not sure she knows that yet. I cried when she gave me a piece of Sacramento Home that I’ll treasure always: A Liz-made quilt that belonged to Aunt Lois, one of The Sisters.

I could stay here for a while and just love these people, I thought.

Strawberry Reservoir

The Strawberry Reservoir in Utah–looks like home.

All too quickly we hit the road, headed East on Highway 80 through Nevada and Utah, a beautiful route lined with forests and mountain lakes. Such beauty! For days we flew past, (and stopped occasionally to gawk at) glorious evidence of God’s infinite imagination.

We could live here, we said to each other.

NOTE: In another blog post I’ll tell you about the salt and the bugs, Steamboat Springs, doughnuts, and Touchdown Jesus, but this post is about home, so let’s get back on the road.

We paused again in Loveland, Colorado, an amazingly beautiful town just east of the Rocky Mountains, to see my sister Sue and her husband Dan. We stayed long enough to enjoy some brontosaurus steaks and home-made potato salad,(a recipe I aim to acquire soon). Sue and Dan are storytellers, and, after the boys toured Dan’s amazing automotive wonderland, we sat in their back yard well into the night listening appreciatively to their NASCAR-sales tales in the soft glow of garden luminaries, wishing we had more time.

But the next day we were back on the road, driving toward Denver. There we stopped to see Jerry’s dad and Cathy, who, because of a tragedy, are now parents to 9-year-old Precious in what should be their retirement years. There’s a light in Grandpa’s eyes that makes me think that sweet little girl is not a burden at all.

Still meandering eastward, we lingered for a while in Indianola, Nebraska, where Uncle John and Aunt Peggy filled our bellies with home-cooked stew, complete with vegetables freshly harvested from the plot of goodness outside the kitchen door. We lamented together over the butterflies in the peach trees (who knew they could destroy a peach crop?) and the varmints in the garden, and, after pulling up a few new potatoes and admiring the pair of ‘68 Fords John is loving on in his shop, we again had to wrench ourselves away from home to continue the journey.

Life is so simple here. We could get to like this.

We drove through miles and miles of waving cornfields in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, loving the abundance of it all. And the peacefulness. Nearing the end of our journey we traversed Ohio and holed up for the night in Pittsburgh, where we met our oldest son for dinner at a nice, home-style restaurant. Sorry, I experienced no inclination to settle down in Pittsburgh; however, I so enjoyed being with my son that I treasured every minute, even the part where he and Dad just sprawled out on the hotel bed afterward, watching the Nats play ball while I finished some editing work.

I could be happy doing this for a long time.

One blog post isn’t nearly enough for me to record my pining. How much I wanted the time to…get to know Jodi like a sister, particularly in a busy season I recognize oh, so well, and assure her that, despite not getting more than a glimpse of her man over the heads of those two bouncy girls, she and Troy will get time to themselves again…to read Paddington stories to Blake and hang out with Margaret—who I suspect shares my sense of humor…to learn about Sue’s childhood, especially the years before I was  born…to play that perfect practical joke on Doug…just because, well, he’s Doug…to have a real talk with John about more than just the weather…to be there with Uncle John when he turns the key on one of those cars…to—well, again with the word count issue…

In essence, Jerry and I gathered snippets of family across America, and came back to Virginia with a new definition of home. Our home is a bountiful and beautiful nation filled with natural wonders, some harnessed by man and others too magnificent to tame, and we want to see it all. Our home is a 3,000-mile stretch of people gathered around tables in kitchens and backyards across the country, bound by a love that endures across time and distance. Our home is family.

And we love you all. Thank you for your generosity and your love. We miss you already.

—–

People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. — Luke 13:29

Let Fly the Caged Sparrow! I’m Officially Booked…

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” –Winston S. Churchill

Sparrow in prison book cover

Or, you can click on the book!

Praise the Lord, and Hallelujah!

Caged Sparrow is now a published book!

It is now among the more than 1,748,230 titles vying for your attention on Amazon’s virtual bookshelves.

That’s right, Caged Sparrow is now available through this link here (back up nine words), through a soon-to-be created link on the side of my page, and, of course, via the Amazon website. We’re still crawling through the induction procedures, so, although the Kindle version (note link) is up and running, it may be a day or so before the hard copy is visible there. You can buy a hard copy right now, though, at https://www.createspace.com/5461684.

I’ve been pondering how to make this announcement, and this day, memorable. I hear crickets, for the most part. Hubby and I went out to celebrate with money we haven’t yet made, and we came home to a special book-launch gift from the cat that required immediate attention, but other than that, it’s been pretty much an ordinary day.

Then I remembered this neat blog idea I saw on other blogs and have always wanted to take a stab at, so…welcome to Rose’s…

TOTALLY  MADE  UP  AUTHOR  INTERVIEW!

Yep. Since Oprah’s book club isn’t clamoring for a guest spot, and I didn’t think of hosting an author chat room until, like twenty seconds ago, I shall open the virtual floor to …well, ME! Let’s see what’s in our in-box, shall we?

Q: How wonderful! I’ve been waiting for this book to be available for more than a year. I’m going to purchase 500 copies right now to deliver to ALL my friends!

A: Um…that’s a great idea, but is there a question here?

Q: Oh, sorry, yes. Let’s see…What was your inspiration for Caged Sparrow?

A: Glad you asked. It’s actually a true story about a man named Joe Tuttolomondo, who, while working as a Buffalo police officer in the ‘70s was arrested, tried, and put in jail for a crime he did not commit. I liked the story before I met the man, but once I met the man, there was no going back.

Q: What’s it like to launch a book?

A: It’s a little like kicking your 19-year-old out on the curb. Sure you’ll miss him, but you need the space for something else.

Follow-up Q: Oooh, what will you do with the space?  Are you taking in boarders? I could use a room…

A: What? No, it’s not actual space…it’s cerebral. My brain can only hold so much, and now I’m free to explore some of the more curious characters and story lines that have been wedged into corners and pressed against the walls by this giant box of “Can’t now, I’m working on Caged Sparrow.”

Q: Is this going to make you rich?

A: Not hardly. Unless you count the kind of rich that can only be measured in giggles because I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR! No, this book exists for one reason, and that’s to tell Joe’s story. I’m hoping to make enough to cover that dinner tab and cat-proof the carpet on the stairs, but anything above that is gravy.

Q: What’s next for Caged Sparrow?

A: We now enter into the marketing and good-bye trunk space phase of writing—writing letters to people who might want to endorse, sell, or maybe even read the book. Also, I understand I’m required by writers-group law to keep 100 copies on my person at all times…You know, so I can sign them.

Q: Why would you sign them when technically Joe Tutt is the author?

A: Excellent question, and one I bring up constantly. Well, the answer I get most often is “Because I want one that you’ve signed.” Can’t argue with logic like that, so I’ll make sure to keep pens in the trunk as well.

Q: How much is it selling for?

A: For you, Preposition Abuser, $489.75. For everyone else, $9.95.

Q: Can I get a discount, seeing as how I’m your hubby and all…?

A: Sigh. Don’t you see, I only have so many friends and family members. If I make an exception for you, where does it stop? Sweetheart? Come back…okay, how about if I loan you a tenner?

Q: Is Caged Sparrow available as an e-book?

A: Well, I think I covered that in the intro, but absolutely! For the next 6 months, it’s strictly a Kindle option (sorry Nookers), but after that, who knows?

Q: Can I help pass the word?

A: I LOVE YOU! That one question is worth sitting through this entire excruciating interview. Yes, that would be the most magnificent gift you could possibly bestow upon me, and could quite possibly catapult my sales numbers well beyond the anticipated 28. Thank you, thank you in advance. …But order from my page if you can, please, because I’ll be staring at the sales counter-clicker-thingy until I see that magic “28” appear (sometime in August, I imagine), and clapping with joy every time someone new gives Caged Sparrow a try. If you like it, I would ask two favors. First, tell your friends – put it on your FB page, send out my blog link, slip referrals in with your water payment…for the next week or so, we’re going to see a Sparrow-palooza!

And then I promise to settle back down so I don’t make a nuisance of myself. I kinda like you and all.

Second, and only if you like what you read, consider writing a review on the Amazon site. Tell Goodreads, however that works. And if you’re really feeling reckless, post a reference on your own website. Who knows? These simple steps could even push sales over 30!

Q: And if we hate it?

A: If you don’t have something nice to say…

Q: Didn’t I see you in the package store on base buying a whole case of Blue Moon? What’s up with that?

A: Hey, writing is a stressful—Oh, my, look at the time! Well I can see we’re out of questions, so I’ll close with a hearty thank you to all who made this book possible, eSPECIALly Joe Tutt and his willingness to trust me with such an inspiring story. I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks.

Happy Reading!

——-

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7