Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Zinnia Alert

One of my zinnias is about to bloom! I am SO excited. All you veteran gardeners out there are probably rolling your eyes, but, hey, it's all new to me. The plants are tall now, but I remember poking seeds into the little peat pots in one of those indoor greenhouse things and waiting (and waiting) for them to sprout up through the soil. My green onions are doing that now, and my Swiss chard is ready to be thinned. It takes me half an hour, anyway, just to water the flowers and herbs and vegetables growing on my deck--but I'm not complaining. It's a sort of meditation for me--I talk to the plants just as I talk to my dogs and cats and horses.

The 4th is coming up. Just a gentle reminder--fireworks can be very frightening for pets. It's a good idea to keep them in and give them a lot of reassurance. (How would YOU feel if things suddenly started exploding all around you and you had no idea what was happening????)

Mary Ann continues her comeback. She could so easily have died of this illness, but God was watching over her and she got help just when she needed it most. She is an inspiration to all the rest of us, in so many ways.

I am loving this beautiful summer weather. So are all my plants, and my horses, too. I think it would take a hurricane to make them go back in the barn. :) They like spending their nights under the stars, and don't even seem to mind the rain.

May you be blessed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 6

I'm not going to bore you with Linda's-not-smoking reports for a while--suffice it to say, I'm feelin' good and doing really well. It's so nice to breathe freely. YES! If I blow it, I'll let you know on this blog. As long as you don't see it here, you'll know I'm still smoke-free.

Mary Ann says she feels better than ever before, and considering what she went through, that's pretty amazing. If you know my cousin, you know she always says what she means--and I can verify it. She's like a different person, full of gratitude to a good and merciful God and getting stronger every day. She's already talking about coming back to work, but that isn't going to happen until her doctor says so. (Mary Ann may be the Trail Boss, but I OWN this outfit. :)) When I look into her eyes, I see the younger Mary Ann, the spirited one I've known for all but six months of my life and ALL of hers.

As for me, I'm living my dream. I'm WRITING, my very favorite thing to do. I'm raising flowers and vegetables--today, my green onions began to pop up through the soil, incredibly tiny, reaching for the sun. I have my pets around me, and every once in a while, I slap a dab of paint on something or whip up an ATC. Lately, I've been trading with my 12 year old niece, Karmen. She makes a great card.

It's all good.

And I am so grateful.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 3- Breathing Continues

Air. It's a delicious sensation, breathing. :) I'm getting better at it every day.

It is so good to have the Trail Boss back on the ranch. Mary Ann is recovering nicely, more like her old self and in some ways, even better. Her attitude is totally positive. Like me, she's grateful for every breath--this round, quitting smoking is something to celebrate, withdrawals and all, not suffer through.

My deck-garden is taking off--I've even got Swiss chard planted out there. Onions, too, though those haven't broken through to the surface yet. The green pepper plant is forming tiny buds, the tomatoes are thriving, and the herbs, well, I'm already able to use those. My mint plant is a special favorite--I make tea from the leaves, adding some lemon balm.

Sadie is under 32 pounds, and doing great. (Although she'd tell you, without your even asking, that I'm starving her.) :) Beagles, it seems, are compulsive overeaters. They don't have to be hungry--they will eat until they burst.

In closing, a few words in remembrance of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.

Jackson was a big part of my daughter's childhood. Wendy loved "Thriller"--and so did I. Whatever the allegations, his talent was truly remarkable. I imagine Wendy feels the same way I did when John Lennon was killed--bereft.

Farah Fawcett had a lot of us (who were young in the 70s) layering our hair and trying to toss it back over our shoulders the way she did. She fought a wicked disease with courage and shared her strength, even in weakness, with as many other people as she could in that recent documentary. It would be a pity to remember her for her beauty alone. This lady, my friends, had guts.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Breathing is Nice--I Like It

Which is why I stopped smoking--again--roughly 36 hours ago. Mark Twain and I have more in common than writing books and loving it; Twain once said something along the lines of, "Quitting tobacco is easy. I've done it hundreds of times."

This being late June, I don't expect a snowstorm (make that, BLIZZARD) to come along and sandbag me. :) Of course it wasn't the blizzard anyway--it was the stuff in my own head. Basically, I needed to be on antidepressants and stop trying to be such an independent cuss. I was bone tired and I still missed (and do today) my dad, and one of my favorite cousins had just lost a foot--something none of us saw coming. I just got overwhelmed. I'm happy to say I've dealt with a lot of that 'stuff'--through journaling, prayer, counseling and medications--and continue to do those things today.

Since answers and solutions often come to me through books, I prayed for a book that would help me wrap my mind around giving up cigarettes for good. That prayer was answered with "How to Stop Smoking and Stay Stopped", by Gillian Riley. The material is excellent--very different from the usual litany of reasons why smoking is bad, Bad, BAD. (Duh. It's bad? I didn't know that! Silly me!") If you're wanting to quit, or know someone who wants to, get this book. You can either buy a copy at your favorite book store or download it from iTunes, as I did. (Hint: if you're trying to get someone to quit by nagging and disapproving, STOP. You're making bad matters worse. This is an addiction. Knowing that smoking is BAD isn't enough--if it was, so many intelligent people wouldn't be smoking in the face of mounting evidence that it's killing them, now would they?) Smoking, or not smoking, definitely IS a choice--but being strong enough to make that choice is something else.

The Mary Ann Report: She is home and feeling so much better, she amazes herself. We keep reminding her that it's too easy think she's stronger than she really is, and she needs to rest. Now that she's not smoking anymore, and she's getting adequate oxygen, she is thinking much more clearly and sleeping soundly and deeply. ALL of us are thankful for your prayers and your good thoughts--they truly DO make a difference.

May God bless you, rebless you, and then bless you all over again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Mary Ann gets out of the hospital today, and she'll be home either late tonight or tomorrow morning! Thank you SO MUCH for all your prayers and good thoughts--they made a difference to all of us.

Throughout this very challenging time, the blessings have gone right on flowing. When there was a hard challenge to meet, someone was always there to help. And, of course, I had to reach deeper inside myself to draw on my personal resources; feeding the horses, for instance, has been theraputic. Equine energy is a wonderful thing.

The weather is absolutely beautiful today. My flowers and vegetables are going crazy! We roasted a chicken last night, and it was great fun to use herbs I'd raised myself--oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage.

Today is my last day as a smoker. I've got a box of nicotine patches and a good attitude ready for the challenge. Instead of dreading the process, I'm actually looking forward to it--one of the things I've learned recently is that life is fluid, and while we can't change certain situations, we CAN decide how we will see them.

My to-do list is long today, so I'd better be moving on.

More tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Monday

We've had a lot of rain in Spokane lately, but today the sun is out, although there are clouds, too. Seems like an allegory for life.

Mary Ann is getting better and better, I am happy to report. She is still in the hospital, but well down the road to recovery.

There's a lot going on around here, as you might imagine, with 6 horses, 4 dogs, and 5 cats to look after, but I've had lots of help from my temporary wranglers--Jeremy, Wendy, Chris and Bo. Jeremy, my future son-in-law and a hair stylist by profession, has never been around horses. That doesn't stop him from helping, though--when the big storm came, he was right out there in the pasture with me, ready to round 'em up. He's driving Sadie to her exercise session today, so I can stay home and work on "Tate".

I love this book, and I think you will love it, too. Those McKettricks! Just when I think I have them figured out, they surprise me. That's what I love most about writing, I believe--the constant discoveries. Ditto art and gardening. It's such a kick when I try something new and it works. :) (When it doesn't, my cowgirl side comes out and I just press on through.)

I'm addicted to my Nintendo DS, a small handheld video game. I play endless rounds of Scrabble when I need to refocus my busy mind, and I'm not only learning new words, I'm learning to look for options. Seems to me, the habit of looking for options has a larger value--sometimes we're looking so hard at one solution, we don't see the other possibilities.

We're hanging in, here at the Triple L.

Sometimes, that's all a cowgirl can do.

Fortunately, it's enough.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good News

Mary Ann, aka the Trail Boss, is feeling much, much better. Around the Triple L, we're kicking our heels together. She'll be under the weather for a while, but she's on the mend and in very good spirits, and that's what matters.

Looks like we'll get some rain today, and some thunder this afternoon. When I went out to feed the horses this morning, I tried to get them to go into their stalls, but they were having none of that. For them, it's business as usual. Even the old Buckaroo, slow-moving as he is, likes it better outside. Not surprising, really, since horses are pretty much all-weather critters. And, hey, they got baths without my having to hose them down. :)

It's all good.

I'm driving Miss Sadie today, and I'll be writing once I get back. Wendy and Jeremy are still here--Wendy is working on her movie (she's a screenwriter if I didn't already brag) and Jeremy has been helping out with all kinds of tasks. He's going to make one great son-in-law and a very good dad when the time comes. There is marriage talk, so I still have hopes of being a grandmother someday. :)

Wendy has recovered nicely from her kidney infection. She's her old self. We've been visiting up a storm and bowling in the living room using the Wii.

This weekend is Father's Day. I'll be sad, missing mine, but I will also celebrate. After all, I had Skip Lael for a dad for 58 years. As the old bull-rider himself would surely say, that's a damn good run.

I'll be back on Monday morning.

May God bless and rebless you, and then bless you again for good measure.

All you fathers out there: thanks. You know the old saying. Any fool can make a baby, but it takes a MAN to raise one.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One Foot in Front of the Other

That's the way it is, here on the Triple L. Mary Ann is still very sick, but we're hoping and, of course, praying, for the best. In the meantime, I'm feeding my horses twice a day and looking out for Mary Ann's pets and Jenni's, in their separate houses. It would be wrong to suggest that I'm doing all the work, though--thank heaven, I have friends and family to help.

Wendy and Jeremy have really stepped up to the plate, and Chris is here to clean the house so I can write.

We had one heck of a thunder-and-lightning storm last night, but today the weather is absolutely beautiful. My container garden sure did love that heavy rain--the squash and cucumbers are already blossoming. Farmer Linda has been joined by Wrangler Linda. :)

I can do this. At the same time, I am VERY grateful for all the pardners who've shown themselves so willing to help out.

Please continue to pray for Mary Ann. Call her the Trail Boss, if you want. God will know who you're talking about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Return of the Barn Goddess

Thanks to the Canadian Wrangler, I haven't had to feed the horses for a while--I could concentrate on writing and travel, etc. That's changed, since the Trail Boss, Mary Ann, took sick during a visit up north, and she's confined to a hospital bed. Of course Larry and Jenni headed up to look after her ASAP, so I'm a barn goddess again.

Naturally, I wish the circumstances were different, but hard work and horse energy are always good things, earthy and healing.

Wendy and Jeremy were supposed to head for home yesterday--Wendy, as you know, suffered a wicked kidney infection, from which she is, thank heaven, mostly recovered--but they generously stayed on to make sure I'd be okay. Nephew Bo is around to help with the pets in the two other homes on the property.

We're all awaiting word on Mary Ann, and praying like crazy. She's emotionally and physically exhausted, and we're sure hoping rest will be the cure. I can't help worrying, because Mary Ann is not just the housekeeper and the trail boss on the Triple L, she's my first cousin. We've literally known each other all our lives, and we're as close as sisters. That hard-headed woman works too hard and cares too much, and there's no persuading her to take it easy.

I'd appreciate it if you'd send up a few words, too.

I'll be taking Sadie out to the trainer's for her exercise today, and writing in between. When you're a cowgirl, you just push up your sleeves and do what needs doing. There's no other option, after all--especially when there's a herd of critters looking to you for tending.

Thanks for listening. It means a lot, knowing you're out there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Northport High School

I spoke at my high school's graduation ceremony this past Saturday, and it sure brought back a lot of memories. Some things have changed--the elementary school and the high school have been combined, and have a much nicer paint-job--but a lot was the same.

The class of 2009 numbers 16 grads; we had 13 in my class.

The festivities were held in the gymnasium, and I do believe I stood at the very same podium that was there back in 67, when I gave my painfully earnest valedictorian's address. :)

For all its small size, Northport High School has produced a remarkable number of successful, solid citizens--teachers, geologists, entrepenuers, and a couple of writers, too. (Suspense writer Donna Anders is a Northport girl, too.) At least one grad attended Yale. The town is tiny, with limited resources, but it still has one big plus: it's like a family. People pull together, and everybody cares how the kids turn out. The classes are small, so students get the individual attention they need. There was a lot of emphasis placed on school spirit in my day--go Mustangs!--and I'm happy to say that is still true.

I am proud to be from Northport, although, as a teenager, I couldn't wait to get away and explore the big world. I did that, and it was wonderful. Being from a small town has its advantages. The kids tend to be confident because they grow up knowing everyone, and therefore nobody is really a stranger.

Things are different, and the same.

And no matter where I live, that winding road between Colville (pronounced CALL-ville) and Northport, following the course of the Columbia River, will always be the road home...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wii and Me

OK, last night, I bowled in my living room! It's a big room, but it isn't THAT big. :) I even won a game, getting three strikes in a row--best of all, it's good exercise. No boring treadmill, or pedaling nowhere on a stationery bike. I'm eager to start the Wii-fit yoga and tennis.

It's official. I'm a Nintendo addict. Even after the family wrapped up our evening bowling session, I played Scrabble on my handheld game until I finally HAD to shut off the light and go to sleep.

Wendy continues to recover, though she's still pretty fragile. While Jeremy, his parents, Sheri and Pat, who are visiting from Port Orchard, and I bowled, she cheered us on from a snuggly bed on the couch. The dogs were fascinated--they couldn't figure out WHAT in the heck those crazy people were doing. A much better use for a TV set, in any case. Instead of staring at the screen, each in our own little world, we were interacting--laughing, cheering, groaning at the gutter- balls. Doing victory dances when we got a strike or a spare. (I'm a little sore this morning, which is good.)

Tomorrow, I'm off to Northport to speak at the graduation ceremony. Wendy will go along if she feels well enough, but we're all trying to get her to rest as much as possible.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Amazing Birthday

My 60th was wonderful--I received FOUR beautiful bouquets, a photo montage (thanks, Nancy and staff)--all sorts of wonderful things. Best of all, it was a quiet day, spent at home. My one wish for this birthday, you see, was for my daughter Wendy to come for a visit, and that wish came true. All the rest is frosting on the cake. (It was chocolate.)

Today is the second anniversary of my dad's death, but I am dwelling on all the happy memories, because I know that's the way he'd want it. Dad lived his life to the fullest, enjoyed his flowers and his friends, and the happy home he and my stepmother, Edith, made together. He wasn't much for, as he'd put it, 'crying in your beer'. :)

Wendy is still pretty worn down, but on the mend, thank heaven. It's good to have her here, where mama can look after her. She works too hard and too often puts herself at the bottom of the list. No telling where she got that. :) The antibiotics are kicking in and she's getting a lot of badly-needed rest.

The weather today is breathtakingly beautiful. Plants and critters are flourishing.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Being 60

I can't tell you much about what it's like, since I've only been this age since 5:03 am. :) So far, so good, though.

The only thing I wanted for my birthday was a visit from my beloved daughter, Wendy, and she's right here. So why was there no blog yesterday, when I had great plans to write one especially for my nephew, Jerome, who turned 10 on June 9? Because Wendy woke up violently ill yesterday morning, and she, Jeremy, Jen and I spent most of the day at Rockwood Clinic's Urgent Care facility. Turned out she has a wicked kidney infection, and she's on power-meds now. Feeling better already. I'm keeping a close eye on her, mom-style.

My editor and dear friend Joan sent me a wonderful poem, composed especially for my birthday. She's an amazing woman.

A staggeringly beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived from Nancy Berland and her wonderful staff, all dear friends. I am so spoiled!

Plans? Probably a cake.

It's all good. Color me grateful.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays

Do not necessarily get me down. :) This one is mellow, cozy, a stay-inside with the story people kind of day. Despite an early morning bout of flu or something, I'm fine--just a little flimsy, is all.

My daughter Wendy is on her way for a long-anticipated visit. Wednesday is my 60th birthday, and I'm so happy she'll be here to share it. She's been so busy with her scriptwriting career and, of course, I've been writing books and traveling to promote them, and it is harder and harder to coordinate our schedules.

My plants are loving this rain. My tomatoes and zuchinni especially are flourishing. I may have the whole deck covered with tomato trees next year! I've ordered a special pot for growing strawberries, recommended by my Aunt Billie, who received one for her 90th birthday and proclaimed it excellent. There is nothing this woman does not know about two of my favorite things--horses and gardens. (Let's not even talk about her pies and biscuits. I firmly believe they are served in heaven.) If this Farmer Linda phenom keeps up, my deck is going to resemble a Kansas cornfield. :) I got crazy on the Simplyplanters.com website--they have some REALLY neat stuff.

I'm watching "The View" as I write this, and they're talking about Twitter. I'll soon be "tweeting" on a regular basis, and hope you'll check it out. I've also got an audio podcast in the works. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 05, 2009


How time flies when you're having fun. :)

I've been in recovery mode since arriving home on Wednesday afternoon--I love to travel, but it usually depletes my energy big-time. Always, always I swear I will write as soon as my plane touches down and I've greeted the Happy Dogs, but despite my good intentions, it rarely happens. I find I need time with the critters, my art supplies and flowers, to make the necessary shift from one mode to the other.

I putter a lot. I take naps. I open mail and return telephone calls. I go to Wal-Mart. :)

I am older and wiser now. I don't beat myself up over what didn't get done--at least, not as much.

This year, I'll be the commencement speaker at the Northport High School graduation ceremonies. I'm so excited! The last time I spoke at graduation, it was 1967 and I was the valedictorian. (OK, OK, so there were only thirteen kids in the class--I had some tough competition from Penny Towne and Miles Kaste. :)) I hope some of my classmates will be around--it would be so good to see them again.

More on Monday. Make it a good weekend.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

There's No Place Like...

HOME. But New York is pretty good, too.

Arrived in Spokane yesterday afternoon to find glorious weather, all the pets thriving, and my plants flourishing. Just the way I like it!

I think the thing I love most about travel is the sense of discovery--always coming across new things, meeting new people, having new experiences. I'll be a while processing all the input from the New York trip--from the deep sense of loss I felt at the site of the World Trade Center to the highs of good career news and signing book after book in the Harlequin booth, well, it's a pretty wide emotional spectrum.

I've been to New York many times, but it wasn't until this trip that I could bring myself to visit Ground Zero. For all the grief and sorrow, I'm glad I did. It was healing to stand there, recognize the terrible loss of so many people, and say my own silent, small good-bye. The pain lingers there, but so does the amazing courage of the many firemen, police officers, and ordinary citizens who rushed to help in any way they could, many losing their own lives in the process. I will never forget that as the understandably panicked crowds ran away from the scene, the rescue workers dropped everything and ran toward it.

New Yorkers have an undeserved reputation for being abrupt or even rude. I always find them helpful, friendly and quick to make a witty remark. They're just in a hurry, that's all, and the energy of the city is pretty speedy. :)

I'm thrilled to be back home. But I'm also looking forward to going back to NYC.

I love the restaurants, the shopping, and the flower stands. I had peonies in my room the whole time I was there, purchased across the street, and a lovely bouquet of white roses and lilies sent by my agent, Irene Goodman. Alas, Kate's Paperie has been replaced as a favorite by Lee's Art Supply--an unbelievable place. (I hear Brad and Angelina like to bring the kids there when they're in town. No sign of them when I was there. :)) McKenzie-Childs is still Number 1 with me--I'm crazy about all those checks and stripes and flowers, and I love using their checked tissue paper in collages. I cadged extra from Timothy, my favorite clerk--we'll see if he remembers.

I had a wonderful time with my travelin' buddy, Sister Sal (she would want me to say here that she's not a nun)--she turned out to be an intrepid explorer. To think I had to talk her into coming along! Now, she loves the Big Apple as much as I do, and navigates the subway like a pro. We took a ride through Central Park one sunny day, and it was so lovely--a standard New York thing to do.

Still, I'm glad to be home. Ready to push up my sleeves and dive back into "Tate". It's going to be a fabulous book, if I do say so myself. :) Since it usually takes me at least a day to get back into writing gear, I probably won't do much today, but you never know with me.

I'm pretty wild and crazy.

Speaking of wild and crazy, I just learned that I get to attend the Kenny Chesney concert at Frontier Days and sit in the VIP section. In the words of Gomer Pyle, oft quoted in my family, "Well, GOLLLLLEEEE!"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Hitting the Trail for Home

I have had a fine time in the Big Apple, and so has Sally, but in a couple of hours I will be heading for the airport to go back to Spokane, and I'm definitely ready. I'm missing my critters, my own bed, and my own bathtub. I'm hankering to get back to "Tate", since it's had a week to brew in my subconscious mind and is ready to bust out in a big way.

I'm eager to see how my flowers and vegetables are doing, too. There should be quite a difference from when I left.

And I'll be glad to get back on a regular blogging schedule, as well.

Within a week or so, I'll be Tweeting on Twitter. Those of you who want to follow my mini-blogs will want to sign up. I saw a BUNCH of Swat Team guys in front of a Red Lobster yesterday--no clue why they were there--and that's the sort of thing I would Tweet. Stay tuned.

Yesterday, I found a new favorite store--Lee's Art Supplies on 57th Street. WOW. I bought lots of stuff, and they're shipping it for me, which is good, because I had to buy a second suitcase as it is. :) Sally, being the smart one, lugged her loot to the post office several days ago. Anyway, it is my understanding that Brad and Angelinia like to bring the kids to Lee's--no sign of the Pitt brood yesterday, though, darn it. :)

Well, I'd best go. I still have some getting ready to do. I should be back in this space tomorrow at the regular time.

Think good thoughts.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Another Busy Day

First thing this morning, I met up with my agent and long-time friend, Irene Goodman, for breakfast and a visit and a bit of career planning. :) Later, I had lunch with Leslee Borger, another colleague and good friend, and Alana and Bridget joined us. If you're getting the idea that all I've done on this trip is EAT, you're not far wrong. Fortunately, I walk a lot, too.

After lunch, I rode the subway with my intrepid sister, Sally. We went all the way to the end of the line and boarded the Staten Island Ferry for a good look at the Statue of Liberty. I had not seen the Lady in years--she is as beautiful as ever. Upon our return, we stopped off at TGI Friday's for an early supper, then went to Ground Zero, the scene of the attacks on September 11, 2001. The area is under construction--there will be new towers and several memorials when the project is finished. It was very moving to stand in that place and remember.

From the World Trade Center site, we took a taxi to Rockefeller Center. (It was rush hour, and we didn't want to do the sardine thing by boarding the subway.) We visited a few shops and then returned to the hotel---after I treated myself to my triple-annual banana split (I have one every three years.) Was it ever good.

Good thing I did so much walking today!