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When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Place I Love

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Place I Love

When it’s time to say goodbye to a place I love, my philosophy is….have a party!

Last week the difficult decision was made to close the school in Camp Crook where I taught from 1980-1985. The closure, the result of declining enrollment and increased costs, makes me and many people in the tiny community it served very sad.

That school was and is the prototype for the one where Jane teaches in the West River Mysteries. Ever since See Jane Run! was released in 2022, I’ve day dreamed about having a reunion for its former students. Not just those I taught, but for the decades of students who attended school there. A few weeks ago, when news came that a Harding County All School Reunion (Camp Crook was and is part of the Harding County School District) was in the works for July of 2024, the timing felt right to turn the day dream into a reality.

I floated the idea to former Camp Crook students and friends via Facebook. They were enthusiastic. Those planning the larger reunion gave their blessing. Within a few hours a caterer and a venue were secured. My husband is up for the trip, and the reunion is now a go.

Plenty of details have to be hammered out before publicizing the event, but I’m working on it. Former students, keep your eyes peeled for updates to come! And when you see the invitation, please, please, please pass it along to others who might want to attend.

After all, is there a better way to celebrate the goodness and the memories of a place that means so much to so many than by throwing a party?

The only thing I can think of that comes close is to write a bunch more West River Mysteries to share the magic and goodness of the place we love. You can bet that during the reunion I’ll be listening to the stories people share. Who knows which ones will find a place in Jane’s future adventures!

The Gracie Allen and George Burns 2.0 Made Some Friends

The Gracie Allen and George Burns 2.0 Made Some Friends

The Gracie Allen and George Burns 2.0 made some friends this summer after becoming a duo. I’ve been giving Gracie’s fellow Vintage Cruisers names and writing them down in hopes of setting up some play dates once I figure out how to contact their parents owners. In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about our kids’ new friends and then pick your brains about a little project I’ve started.

First up are Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. We met them driving from our house to church. We see Lucy, a dead ringer for Gracie, almost every Sunday. Desi not so much.

We met Katherine Hepburn last April while camping near Madison, Wisconsin. Her color accents were red rather than teal, but that’s not the reason for her name. We chose Katherine Hepburn because she was all alone at her campsite with nary a truck to be found. We were there during the week, so we assume Spencer Tracy shows up on the weekends.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire made their presence known as we and our grandkids drove to a Mexican restaurant in the next town over. There they were, tucked demurely behind a fence. Ginger was the same color as Gracie, but smaller in build. We assume that’s what keeps her and Fred light on their feet.

Our final Vintage Cruiser sighting occurred during a drive through the South Dakota Badlands. Immediately after passing it on the highway, we christened the red beauty and her truck as Wilma and Fred Flintstone. Surrounded as we were by rocky and rugged scenery, the names were a slam dunk.

Now, onto the brain picking half of this post. My husband and I (actually just me, but he’s a good sport and laughs with me rather than at me) want to create a list of vintage couple names to consult and use when Gracie and George make new friends on future trips. You are encouraged to submit names in the comment box below. The couples can be real (like Gracie and George) or fictional (like Wilma and Fred). They can be political (think Franklin and Eleanor), musical (as in Cher and Sonny), or from the movies (perhaps Lady and the Tramp).

The only hard and fast requirement, in keeping with the vintage element, is that the names are of couples who were famous during the 1940s up through the 1970s.

I’d love to see what you come up with! Ready…set…go!

No Sweat for This Fantastic Friday

No Sweat for This Fantastic Friday

This Fantastic Friday look back recalls a favorite Family Camp memory and showcases the Jolly Green Giant on a mountaintop.This Fantastic Friday post looks back at a favorite camp memory…four generations of family enjoying a magical evening on a houseboat. Though that was our one and only houseboat adventure, my camp job is still photographing the week’s events while other people sweat and toil on logging, construction, and cooking crews. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Camp Photographer, No Sweat!

Though we’re not at Family Camp any longer, I wanted to share a photo taken during Friday night’s jumping-off-the-top-deck-of-the-cruis-boat-highest-cannon-ball-splash-contest. I took hundreds of action shots, hoping to get a few good ones, and ended up with this one of the Jolly Green Giant crouching on a mountain top.

One of the pillars of Family Camp is a couple hours of hard work for everyone, every morning. Some people do sweaty and generally disgusting work like digging trenches, insulating walls, hanging sheet rock, mudding seams, logging, or hauling rocks from the river. Others do fun but complicated work like fixing three meals a day for 30 – 40 people.

A couple years ago I was asked to be camp historian and photographer. “So,” I asked by way of clarification while stilling the little flutter of joy that comes with being excused from sweaty, disgusting work and kitchen duties, “you want me to take pictures and write commentary about people doing sweaty and disgusting work and the cooks in the kitchen?”

“Yes,” the boss man said. “That’s what we want you to do.”

I waited for him to say, “Fooled ya’. Grab a pick ax, sucker,” but instead he said, “Have fun,” and walked away. I jumped on that order like a tick on a dog’s back and have been wielding my camera and computer ever since. But guilt has plagued me all along, when cool, clean and sweat free, I record the hard work and play of others.

But this year the guilt evaporated when I started running a slide show of each day’s pictures after supper. People smiled and laughed and remembered as the pictures floated by. And I finally understood the boss man’s wisdom in rustling up a camp historian. The construction and preservation of memories, while not sweaty and disgusting, is as necessary as cabins and meals. The record of our time together is shelter and food for our souls.

Thanks, Tom, for knowing what our hearts need and allowing me to provide it. I’ll do it again next year, no sweat.




Absurd Airport Announcements for a Fantastic Friday

Absurd Airport Announcements for a Fantastic Friday

Airplane adventures from years past in this week's Fantastic Friday post.Today’s Fantastic Friday post was easy to choose after my recent overseas airport adventure. The adventure featured in this look back occurred in July of 2011. Not overseas, but right here in the United States. The Man of Steel and I are off to Idaho tomorrow, and we’re hoping the warnings to parents regarding the whereabouts of their children continue to be heeded and only baggage is to be seen on the carousels this trip.

Keep Your Children Off the Baggage Carousel

After an entertaining and/or character building (depending on your perspective), virtually un-re-create-able travel adventure, we are finally home.


Perhaps the deer that darted onto the busy highway between Sand Point and Coeur d’Alene in front of our driver’s car was an omen. But since the car missed the deer or the deer missed the car (depending on your perspective), we blithely continued onto the Spokane airport and arrived there with time to check in and eat lunch. We even snagged a free pizza since whoever ordered before us never picked up theirs.

Buoyed with the anticipation of snarfing down free pizza once we landed in Denver and ran to catch our connecting flight, we blithely walked to the gate and waited to board our Southwest Airline flight to Denver. Maybe strange overhead announcements were an omen of what lay ahead, but we and the other passengers only laughed harder as the warnings progressed:

ANNOUNCEMENT #1: It is against safety regulations to allow children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. Please do not allow children to sit on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #2: It is against federal safety regulations for children to sit on the edge of a baggage carousel. When it starts moving, they could be injured. Parents, be sure your children are not sitting on the edge of Baggage Carousel #2.

ANNOUNCEMENT #3: This is the third warning about allowing children to sit on the edge of the baggage carousel. It will start moving in 2 minutes, and they could tip onto the carousel or lose fingers when it starts moving. Please remove your children from the edge of the baggage carousel immediately.

ANNOUNCEMENT #4: Parents, this is your third warning. (Apparently, the announcement maker had lost count.) Get your children off the edge of the baggage carousel immediately. The luggage will be arriving soon. Remove your children immediately.

We were still chuckling about the announcement 2 hours later on our approach to Denver, but the laughter dried up when the pilot mumbled, “The Denver airport is closed due to a severe thunderstorm, and we’re being rerouted to Amarillo, Texas.”

Amarillo, Texas?

No one was laughing fifty-five minutes later when we landed in Amarillo. No one laughed when the pilot continued his mumbling. “The storm has moved out of Denver, so we’ll get gas and go back. All your connecting flights have been delayed, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to make them.”


Except that half of the 200+ passengers were in line to use the 2 tiny airport potties, and  the good news went right over our heads. The other half were staring out the windows at the oddest looking aircraft we’d ever seen.

“Looks like a dolphin,” said the young woman next to me. “And it has NASA printed on it.”

“Or it could be Shamu,” I suggested. “Who knew there was a Sea World on the Amarillo, Texas airport? Or we’ve been rerouted to a hush, hush NASA site for flight training.”

Pretty soon, we were on our way and arrived in Denver just in time to board our connecting flight to Omaha, snarfing free pizza as we ran.


That flight was uneventful, as was our late night drive home and our arrival at 3:30 AM. We were asleep in our beds by 4:00 AM. Our luggage, which did not make the connecting flight is supposed to arrive tomorrow. And I cleared up the NASA Shamu mystery with a little online research. It revealed that our NASA Shamu is really a NASA Super Guppy. Which leaves only two loose ends to wrap up right here, right now.

To the person who ordered and forgot to pick up the Hawaiian pizza at the Dave’s House of Pizza Kiosk: It was delicious. Thank you so much for sharing your supper with us.

To anyone who was in the vicinity of Spokane Airport’s baggage claim area between 2 and 4 on Tuesday afternoon: If you know what happened to the kids on Baggage Carousel #2, please leave a comment. We could use some closure and a final hallelujah!


Checking Items Off My Bucket List

Checking Items Off My Bucket List

Workshop Speakers                                                  Bottom row: Gail Kittleson, Jolene Philo, Anne Fleck Middle row: Jean Vaux, Cherie Dargon             Standing: Mary Potter Kenyon, Sue Schuerman, Tamara Clymer, Mary Jedlicka Humston, Chris Pesek


I’ve never made a bucket list, though my list excuses for not doing so is quite extensive.

Too busy.
Too busy with family.
Too busy enjoying friends.
Too busy reading books.
Too busy writing.
Too busy planning the Wonderfully Made Family Camp (WMFC).
Too busy living to plan how to reach the end of life without regrets.

But despite the busyness, I recently checked 2 items off the bucket list I never made.

The first check mark happened at WMFC. All the members of the planning board, myself included, wore green tee-shirts so we were easy to find when questions arose. That, in itself was pretty cool, even though I usually had to refer the questioners who approached me to someone who could actually answer the question. But, in addition to the green shirts, the members of the planning committee were issued…

…drum roll please…WALKIE TALKIES…

…second drum roll please…with HEAD PIECES and MICROPHONES.

So I was able to fulfill my childhood dream of commanding thousands of people–or in this case more than 100. But who’s counting?–using honest-to-goodness spy gear. Or at least a walkie talkie and head piece generously donated by Scheel’s. (They donated 12 sets, valued at over $500. Cool, huh?)

Grand as that event was, it pales compared to what happened over the weekend.

For the first time ever, my daughter and I co-presented a workshop at the Cedar Falls Christian Writers’ Workshop. The topic was What a Manuscript Editor Can Do for You, and the workshop sprang from our mutual editing of each other’s manuscripts last summer. We discovered that each of us made the other’s writing better, and that we enjoyed doing it. Probably because Anne has a talent for spotting writing weaknesses and suggesting ways to shore them up. And I have a talent for weak writing that needs shoring up.

It is a match made in heaven.

The match is turning out to be much more than me being able to fulfill a lifelong dream of speaking or acting with one of my kids–another item from the bucket list I never made that has now been checked off. The match may turn out to be the start of a new professional partnership between Anne and me to offer book coaching services, such as manuscript editing and book proposal assistance, in person and online. (More on that this fall at

We’re in the dreaming stage at present, but who knows what the future holds?

For now I am grateful that in the busyness of life, God touched my days with not only the childish joy of using a walkie talkie, but also a mother’s joy in partnering with my adult daughter who has become a talented, determined woman.




Fantastic Friday at a Writer’s Conference

Fantastic Friday at a Writer’s Conference

This Fantastic Friday, I’m at the Cedar Falls Christian Writing Conference once again. This time my fellow author and editor, who also happens to be my daughter, will be co-presenting a workshop about What a Manuscript Editor Can Do for You. With that in mind, what could be more fitting than this June 16, 2015 post for another Fantastic Friday?

Top Ten Things About Going to a Writers’ Conference

The bags are packed and I’m ready to head out for the Cedar Falls Christian Writers’ Conference tomorrow. Here are 10 top ten reasons to attend a writing conference, in Cedar Falls, Iowa or anywhere else one is held.

10. They’re a great opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of other writers and to see if your inner insecure writer’s envy-o-meter readings are going down or up.

9.  Writers’ conferences are a wonderful place to make new friends.

8.  And they’re a place to reconnect with old friends, too.

7.  A good writers’ conference will provide information and concepts to challenge your comfort zone, stretch your thinking, and conceive new ideas.

6.  Each conference should offer confirmation that God created you to be a writer…or not.

5.  They offer time to reflect upon where you are now as a writer and where you want to be in the future.

4.  They also offer time to step back and see God’s hand at work in and through your writing.

3.  Somehow, unexpected doors for your writing will open in unexpected ways and under the most unexpected circumstances.

2.  Someone else does all the cooking and cleans the bathrooms.

1.  At a writers’ conference you are with like-minded people who think your obessions with reading, composition notebooks, ballpoint pens, and mechanical pencils are absolutely normal.

Have you ever been to a writers’ conference? What’s on your top ten list?