by Gail Johnson
As a young mom, I planned awesome vacations and field trips for my kids. I wanted them to learn not just from books but by visiting places and experiencing life. However, after several outings, I gave up. It wasn’t about bickering and fighting in the car. My kids never fought. They still don’t. Maybe it’s the four-year age difference.
Neither was it the usual crazy things that can go wrong on field trips or vacations. No. The reason I quit was my kids, like hobbits, preferred (prefer) to stay in the shire. Because if they left, they had to wear shoes or had to stop playing in the sandbox.
Another reason was riding wore them out. To this day, they will sleep while traveling and most of the next day.
Once, I planned a trip to a state park famous for wildlife. While wandering around the park, I pointed to an animal crossing the grass in front of us. My son’s reaction? “I can see that at home. Can we go, now?”
It took some time, but I finally understood while I wanted my children to experience the world my way, they were experiencing the world in their own way at home. That year, I embraced the simple life and decided to transform our backyard into a never-ending field trip.
My first project was to create a beach. I had a sandbox (prior the endless grass-planting days) and the sun. All I needed to do was to buy a pool. Soon we were enjoying the laid-back beach life. Best decision ever! It’s still my favorite getaway.
Next, I constructed a zoo by planting grass and tasty plant life. After my yard make-over, rabbits, squirrels, deer, gopher turtles, snakes, and birds of the south, including wild turkeys, moved in to destroy taste my delectable yard. (I hope you’re catching the dry humor here.)
Later, I opened a get-away for family and friends. For Christmas, we bought four-wheelers for the kids and created mazes and trails to ride. Our house was filled with the laughter of all ages throughout the holiday season and for years to come.
Now, in their twenties, the kids love traveling with us. We may have gotten off to a late start, but we’re making up for lost time.
Looking back, I can see what I would’ve missed if I hadn’t listened to my kids because God used the backyard as an instrument to reveal His purpose for our lives.
The pool became a place for sharing problems, hopes, prayers, and dreams. The four-wheeler trails became the paths my children walked as they prayed for guidance, and the animals taught us His faithfulness to supply our every need. It is for these blessings that I celebrate this simple life!
Now it’s your turn. How do you pass your summer? Do you go on vacations, or do you prefer to stay at home?
Mary was happy with her morning progress. She had weeded the garden and gathered tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. It was time to call it a day. Reaching for her basket, she froze at the sight of a snake making its way around…
Today we’d like to welcome Firefly Southern fiction author, Claire Fullerton, to the Inspired Prompt blog. Claire has just released her new book, Mourning Dove, a Southern family saga, and we want to know more…
Glad you could join us, Claire! Do you have any interesting writing rituals?
Claire: I have a salt lamp that I keep on its low setting, which maintains a soft, golden glow.
What are your books about?
Claire: Mourning Dove is a Southern family saga. It is the story of Finley Crossan, as told in the voice of his younger sister, Millie. The siblings lead an idyllic childhood in the lake area of Wayzata, Minnesota, until their Southern mother, the alluring and dynamic, Posey, leaves their alcoholic father and moves the siblings to her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. As outsiders in this genteel and manicured Southern culture, the siblings mature to find their way to belonging in a society so nuanced, it makes eccentricities look normal. Mourning Dove is a story about siblings who come from the same background, but come to disparate ends.
What is your favorite part of the book?
Claire: That Mourning Dove is written in the first person voice of Millie Crossan as she ruminates over why her golden, charismatic brother, Finley, whom she thought hung the moon, came to the end that he did.
Is there a message in your book you hope readers will grasp?
Claire: What happens in one’s family during one’s formative years comes back to haunt, sooner or later, especially when one is raised in a discreet society where everyone seeks to make things look good, at the expense of the glaring truth.
Where can readers find you online?
Claire: My website
Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your book!
The heart has a home when it has an ally. If Millie Crossan doesn’t know anything else, she knows this one truth simply because her brother Finley grew up beside her. Charismatic Finley, eighteen months her senior, becomes Millie’s guide when their mother Posey leaves their father and moves her children from Minnesota to Memphis shortly after Millie’s tenth birthday.
Memphis is a world foreign to Millie and Finley. This is the 1970s Memphis, the genteel world of their mother’s upbringing and vastly different from anything they’ve ever known. Here they are the outsiders. Here, they only have each other. And here, as the years fold over themselves, they mature in a manicured Southern culture where they learn firsthand that much of what glitters isn’t gold. Nuance, tradition, and Southern eccentrics flavor Millie and Finley’s world as they find their way to belonging.
But what hidden variables take their shared history to leave both brother and sister at such disparate ends?
Claire Fullerton grew up in Memphis, TN and now lives in Malibu, CA. She is the author of contemporary fiction, Dancing to an Irish Reel, set in Connemara, Ireland, where she once lived. Dancing to an Irish Reel is a finalist in the 2016 Kindle Book Review Awards, and a 2016 Readers’ Favorite. Claire is also the author of A Portal in Time, a paranormal mystery that unfolds in two time periods, set on California’s hauntingly beautiful Monterey Peninsula, in a village called Carmel-by-the-Sea. Both of Claire’s novels are published by Vinspire Publishing.
Her third novel, Mourning Dove, is a Southern family saga, to be published in June, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. She is one of four contributors to the book, The South in All Seasons, with her novella, Through an Autumn Window, to be published in October, 2018 by Firefly Southern Fiction. Claire is represented by Julie Gwinn, of The Seymour Literary Agency, and can be found on WordPress, Twitter Goodreads Instagram as well as her website.
The holidays have always been a favorite time of year around my house. Not because of presents, but the time spent in the kitchen sharing memories as we bake. At the end of October, the cookbooks fly off the shelves as everyone searches for new recipes to try during the coming weeks. Pies, cakes, candy, and rolls. No matter how many new ones we add, there is always room for the familiar and beloved recipes of yesteryear from Mom’s and Grandma’s kitchen.
One of my favorites is Pecan Pie. Not too sweet. Just ooey gooey goodness. Did I tell you it’s great with a piping-hot cup of coffee? Yummy.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla
½ stick of butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon of flour
2-9 inch regular shells
In a large bowl mix sugar, syrup, beaten eggs, vanilla, and butter. Add flour and pecans. Pour into piecrusts. Bake for 1 hour or until firm on top. Let cool before slicing. 🙂 Enjoy
By Darcy Fornier
For this month’s theme “It Happened in the Last Twenty Years,” any story from my life could fit. But I want to tell you about a person who left her impression on my life for always.
When I was young, my family attended a little white church atop a grassy hill with large maples framing the front. A postcard-worthy church. My mom attended there as a girl, and a sweet older lady by the name of Ada Mae took Mom under her wing.
I think if I had to describe Ada Mae in one word, it would be sweet. She had a beautiful smile and the warmest hugs. She’d set you straight if she needed to, but you never doubted she genuinely loved you.
I can vaguely remember being very small and visiting her house. Her husband Vernon loved to collect knick-knacks: seashells, little onyx carvings, glass baubles–things irresistible to little fingers. The coffee table overflowed with them, and no one was the least bit concerned I might break something. I mean, they told me to be careful, but not in such a way it inhibited my fun.
In 2005, when I was ten, Grandma Ada Mae needed surgery, and Grandpa Vernon was bedridden at that point with severe diabetes. So our family stayed at their house with him since Mom is a nurse and could care for him. My sisters and I loved it. The house was cluttered with years of things that had come in while no one ever cleared anything out. Some rooms were off-limits, but Grandma let us dress up in her old-fashioned dresses, rearrange her artificial flowers, and play house in her front room with all its old furniture.
Grandpa Vernon didn’t talk a whole lot whenever we visited, but he had been a pastor, and he loved to talk about the Lord. I loved to hear him and wish I could remember more of it. Sometimes in the evenings we’d get out hymnbooks and sing. I loved to hear Grandma Ada Mae pray. I couldn’t possibly imitate her—and it would sound strange if I tried—but her voice’s pitch rose and fell and the words flowed almost as if she were singing. She was talking to the Lord with her whole heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world.
I was thirteen and we were living out of state when Grandpa Vernon died. Grandma Ada Mae had severe rheumatoid arthritis, but she stayed in her home.
In 2010, between the sale of one house and the purchase of another, we lived with her for a month. That was fun. I loved to hear her stories of growing up during the Depression in the northeast Georgia mountains. She had a great sense of humor and loved a good wise-crack or practical joke.
Sometimes we helped clean her house, but she preferred to leave most of the clutter alone. She always had the television on, from years of living alone: the news three times a day, Christian channels in between, and game shows in the evenings. Late at night before bed, she’d read Grandpa Vernon’s super-giant-print Bible.
I got to know her even better that month we shared her house. We had such a good time. I haven’t enough room to tell you about all the little things that are so special to look back on.
In the spring of 2011, Grandma Ada Mae threw some fertilizer on Grandpa Vernon’s azaleas. She lost her balance and fell on the driveway, breaking her hip. Thank the Lord she always carried a cordless phone with her, just in case. Due to complications, her surgery was delayed a few days. In the meantime, the hospital gave her blood thinner to prevent blood clots from reaching her brain, heart, or lungs. Instead of a clot, she had a cerebral hemorrhage.
A person is never the same after a brain bleed. Grandma’s hip healed, but after a month of physical therapy, she still couldn’t return home. So, a year after we’d moved out of her house, she moved in with us.
But she wasn’t the same person. She didn’t always know us, so she didn’t trust us. We wanted so badly for her to get well. I was glad to help with her exercise, her baths, her eating, everything. But she grew weaker and more confused. Her lucid moments were precious, but they made the continuous confusion even harder to handle emotionally. Our life revolved around her, and it was stressful. Sometimes her biological daughter and grandson would stay with her for a few hours so our whole family could have a break.
Finally, on October 31, she passed away. (She would have laughed over that date, too.) That was the hardest loss I’ve experienced in my twenty-two years. I love my biological grandparents, but with Ada Mae, I never doubted her acceptance. She loved me, and prayed for me, and was proud of me no matter what.
I still miss her. So much.
Blood doesn’t necessarily make a family. Family takes unconditional love. Best of all is the family bound together by Jesus’ love. And that was Grandma Ada Mae for me.
Writing prompt: Think of someone who has been family to you, even though you weren’t related. Describe them, or capture a favorite memory of them, in one sentence.
Darcy Fornier (pronounced forn-yay) believes the best stories provide clean, compelling entertainment while also provoking the reader to think about life in a new way. She’s been spinning stories ever since she learned how to play “pretend,” and she has seriously pursued writing since 2013.
When she isn’t writing, editing, or dreaming up a story, you might find her washing dishes, “dissolved” in a book, playing the piano, hiking in the woods, singing at the top of her lungs, or talking up a storm with her sisters. At six years old, she gave her heart to Jesus, and she lives to know Him more. She makes her home with her parents and two younger sisters, wherever that happens to be.
Readers can find me at my blog:
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