Sheep Therapy

Okay, so here’s my solution:

Let me back up to let you know what the problem is.

We suddenly have a ton of cute and cuddly animals I don’t want to eat. My husband has been diagnosed with a weird form of arthritis that only seems to respond well to a strict vegan diet. Our sheep are meat sheep.

But the sheep are more than their supposed foodie purpose. They are distinct personalities who in many cases adore human friendship.

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So here’s my idea: sheep therapy or basically sheep chill time. I’m not a therapist and don’t want to be one (I already have the high maintenance little girl to contend with).

But I’m wondering if people would enjoy coming by the farm just to hang out with the friendly sheep, goat and horse.

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I’m envisioning a very quiet version of a petting zoo … maybe?

There are some concerns though. I do want to get back to writing some day. Lately I’ve had to begin training myself to be a horse trainer. I’ve had to help a few ewes give birth and our daughter has ratcheted up her boundary breaking (a common after effect of adoption) so I’m not sure how many days I could even devote to this new plan.

 

Any ideas??? I’d love some input from you all. Do any of you have daydreams about opening shops or selling tea online? Let me know in the comments and be sure to leave any advice you might have!

Look! My books are in the library!

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The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

 

A Random Blended Family Dog Tale

I’d dreamed of  having my own Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ever since art history classes when their adorable little faces peeked out from behind skirts of royals in masterpieces. Huckle had me bewitched at once. He was spoiled and not impressed with boys and men. He wanted to be man of the house.

In the tumult of a divorce which soon followed Huckle matured into a sex-crazed teenager. My second husband was not impressed. He had him immediately fixed but his Napoleonic temperament remained (which endeared him to me even more). There’s something impressive about an eleven pound dog who makes people heel. Our boys were afraid of him because he growled at them over throw blankets on the couch.

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The Cavalier Escapes!

One Sunday as we were getting ready for church, our son (who back then in the blended family was my husband’s son) let the dog out by mistake — and stood there gaping. My daughter and son had a special attachment to Huckle because it was their dog from before. They started berating my husband’s son and then pushed  past him along with my husband to chase the tiny king down the three acre field that led to a frothing spring river.

For most of this time I was blissfully unaware in the shower.  By the time I entered the kitchen I could see through the glass doors far in the distance the family slowly returning up the go-cart path. Yes, we had a go-cart. It was embarrassing to my city slicker kids for about ten minutes until they had their go on it.

Turns out Huckle had jumped into the river. My husband had too. The girls waded in but my husband yelled to get back ashore. By the time they made it to the house they were all muddy and sweaty except or Huckle who had been carried in triumph by his servants.

I wondered if it was a Cavalier trait to kick and stomp with his back legs when he wanted something. My husband and Huckle found common ground that day. Timothy kicked and stomped in his mud-stained yellow shirt as we called one of the few family meetings we’ve ever attempted to have.

100_2464Family Meeting and a Solution to the Cavalier Problem

My kids rolled their eyes at the family sitcom notion of civilized meetings. Timothy’s kids were frightened by the looks my kids were sending them when they thought I wasn’t looking. Timothy stormed on. “Huckle is part of this family and there’s no excuse for letting down Huckle. He doesn’t know any better, but you kids do know better.”

My daughter grumbled. “It was your kid who let the dog loose.”

My son signaled for her to shut up.

Timothy took an impatient breath but  let the comment go.  “So, because Huckle is an important part of the family we will have to adjust our budget to buy Huckle a shock collar.” He waited for the looks of horror around the table to subside. “It’s either that or Huckle’s gonna die.”

Another gasp.

“It wasn’t that long ago that Huckle ran unto the highway and you all followed …” he reminded us.

I was one of those crazed lunatics, by the way.

Huckle escaped death on many occasions even with the collar. He got Lyme and a lung infection but charmed even the most hardcore anti-purebred vet who ran out on several occasions to bribe Huckle to eat by offering McDonalds.

As the vet never failed to remind me, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are susceptible to heart problems. He died a few years back but had lived a full and pampered life until the very last day. I was home alone and was glad about it. He was my special sweetheart.

What’s your favorite dog breed? This is a no judgment zone as far as dogs go. We have rescues and purebred critters. A true blended situation. Have you noticed certain endearing things about a favorite breed? Has your dog ever caused conflict (or resolved conflict)? Let me know in the comments!

 

8 Things I Learned From a Five Day Media Fast

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Due to screen time I failed to brush the dogs which led to these embarrassing “puppy cuts.”

To be honest, I can’t even remember what made me decide to take five days away from screen time.

Maybe it was the binge watching of horse rescue videos I did over the holidays or the brain fog I was experiencing that left me with nothing but opinionated political commentary on my mind (none of it worth sharing).

I’d also spent hours on ANCESTRY.COM researching my family — I come from royalty which is pretty interesting — but what a time suck. The info I need to start my next book I found maybe one hour into doing my tree so I couldn’t even use research as an excuse for hours discovering people’s parents. I also fooled myself into believing that I hardly spent any time on INSTAGRAM posting pictures and scrolling.

Anyway, I announced to my husband that I’d be fasting and picked 5 as the number of days for no real reason.  I had one last binge on horse rescues, closed the laptop and went to bed pretty confident that the fast would be easy since I used the computer and phone less than the rest of the family.

Turns out I was being a bit arrogant on this one. Here’s what I found out (probably it won’t be much of a surprise but I thought I’d document it anyway):

  1. I was blaming ticks and Lyme Disease for some symptoms that may have been more related to screen time. I don’t know if this happens to you but just looking at a screen for a little while leaves me feeling depressed. A vague sense of despair  unrelated to just watching horse rescue stories always follows screen time. It doesn’t matter what I watch or read on-screen. I think maybe it’s due to chasing the initial high of imagining that all knowledge and happiness will be discovered somewhere on the internet.
  2. I was frequently annoyed (or actually angered) by people who interrupted me when I was watching the horse videos (or news, or reading blogs or even scanning Craigslist junk sales).  I mean, please — stop talking! I’m looking at cinder blocks here! When I couldn’t watch videos or surf or look up answers to dumb questions I actually had a lot more patience with our new daughter who always wants to play checkers or, you know, bond with another human.
  3. Those quick checks of email — turns out they weren’t that quick. And even when they were, they caused me to lose 10 minutes of focus — what was I going to do again? When I realized that I couldn’t check my email before supper, I actually made better supper — or just cleaned some of the kitchen clutter which made me surprisingly happy.
  4. With no electronics I felt much less harried. I had noticed a trend in my farm work. Instead of enjoying a few quiet moments with my sheep and chickens I found that I was fretting about how much work I wasn’t getting done — mainly because my internet habit was actually taking up too much time but also because I was reading so many articles about marketing and how to better use my time and resources.  In short I was enjoying everything in my life less — and thinking (even though I know it’s false) that everyone was doing everything better than me.
  5. In five days I read 5 books without even trying. For the past year I’ve been blaming Lyme for my lack of reading too, but I was kidding myself. It was screen time.
  6. I need to get outside more! I realized that when I used to have goats I would take them out for walks and spend about an hour in the field writing books, but with the sheep (since they respect fencing) I neverreally needed to walk them. The goats kept me away from the screen since at the time I didn’t have a smart phone.
  7. SCREEN TIME ROBBED ME OF CREATIVITY! After only one day without the screen in my face I had more ideas for not only writing but also for  life in general — yeah, I do want to rescue a horse and open my farm for therapeutic visits with the animals.  Without the screen time I  had more energy to go for walks where ideas tend to flow for me. I kept the phone at home because I realized that even nature had become just something to manipulate for Instagram. For Christmas my son got me a great dip pen set (that’s how I wrote MY FIRST BOOK) and instead of rushing to the computer to tap my ideas out I returned to writing the way I had enjoyed in the past and — you guessed it — I was far more productive.
  8. On a spiritual note, the fast invigorated my interest in the divine nature of things and the pursuit of  God’s voice which had been crowded by hunting down significance online. I woke up early, read the Bible and a ton of DWIGHT L. MOODY and felt good to go.

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So you may be wondering what I plan to do with this little bit of self-knowledge. I’m wondering too. I raced back to the computer to see what I had missed in five days and was disappointed that the world hadn’t changed much and that I hadn’t received any life changing reviews or emails. I missed some blogs and vlogs for sure, but I really have to see if I can have some restraint going forward.

How about you? Do you ever get sucked into the vortex? Have you ever considered a media fast? If not, how do you keep your head above water? I’d love to know in the comments!

 

Related reading:

THE SOCIAL MEDIA FAST

SELF REFLECTION AND GROWTH

WHAT A MEDIA FAST IS LIKE

 

Massive Christmas Sale on ALL eBooks!

All books either FREE or $.99  from now until Christmas!

About The Tenafly Road Series:

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her books down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

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“I love this series of books. You never know what’s going to happen next. It’s sad at times, but then it turns around and you see the love of family.” ***** Amazon Review

 

“You always think the next phase is going to provide answers and while it does often do that, it then brings a whole new set of catastrophes to worry about. I love that this series has a subtle humor to it, similar to that of a private joke you have with yourself. I’ve cared for each character almost equally, kind of the the way I would love those in my family. They each provide a different perspective that I can find myself relating to in some way, even if I completely disagree. Definitely my favorite in the series so far.” ***** Amazon Review

 

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The Dew Series

READ THE SERIES TODAY!

The Gilded Age saga of the tumultuous Crenshaw and Weldon families continues!

Unwed and pregnant, Thankful Crenshaw comes home and makes a tragic and life-changing decision. She misses the close relationship she once had with her newly religious brother, Buck, who spends his days in the Arizona desert converting drunks and Indians. One drunk, William Weldon, is Buck’s special case and Thankful’s true love.

Little does Thankful know that Buck’s religious fervor is fading. A violent encounter in the sandy wilderness brings her brother and William back to Englewood, New Jersey to mourn their lost innocence and lack of personal integrity in the third book of The Tenafly Road Series.

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

What Is Love?

smiling father and child

Worldly Love …

I’m not going to lie. I hate rejection and am far too fond of the world’s approval. When a person doesn’t like something about me I’m often too thin-skinned. I’m in awe of people who let things  roll off their backs.

Lately I’ve been realizing that my definition of love — what I really believe it to be deep down — is something related to people telling me I’m great in exchange for me telling them they’re great. So basically take-take relationships have been my thing.

Selfless Love …

I do occasionally have  true moments of unselfishness but I have to admit they are moments when I am kind to animals or people who won’t tax me too much. Animals, in particular, aren’t able to write negative reviews of the home-cooked meals I make for them but then they don’t mind eating trash and roadkill either so …

The other night I decided to look at the  book reviews that had just been posted on Amazon. A few weren’t as wonderful as I always want them to be. Here I will also admit that people who leave one star reviews on free books are very taxing to me (hey, I’m human).

I whined to my husband. He always brings me to the heart of the matter. “You want to put yourself out there, so you have to be able to take the heat. Do you think Trump spends time worrying about reviews?”

Yeah. Let’s not talk politics, but my husband of course was right. People write negative reviews on everything from pavement sealer to the Bible. Why should I expect to be liked all the time? Some of you remember that I don’t leave negative reviews online but that hasn’t stopped me from trashing movies, books, politicians and so on to friends and neighbors. I’ve also fallen out of love with people.

Anyway, since I’m reflecting on life’s purpose these days I’m reconsidering my definition of love as that happy feeling when everyone likes me and I like them. It turns out, that in general, I’m not even marginally good at selfless love.

 

I basically love the following reader who left this review of THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD:
“This is a love story from the first. So much love between two people. The story is wonderful. I want to read the whole series.”
Yet I find it harder to love this reader:
“I have never read anything so dreary, sad, depressing, and frustrating in all my life!! It took me forever, I had to force myself to finish it.”

Yet these two opposing views made me consider love even more. I get the desire for uncomplicated feel-good stories about love, but I’m incapable of writing them. I’ve never found love easy. Surface romance is fun but it ends so quickly. It ends because romance is always about drawing attention to oneself until that point when you can no longer keep up the facade of being a truly marvelous soul.

Romantic Love vs. Biblical Love …

On that day or soon after both partners have to decide if it’s better to run or stay. Staying means you have to enter into the Biblical meaning of love which can be not only difficult but also horrible in many ways. Yes, you begin to discover that your partner is so damned selfish and too hard on the kids. He’s quite possibly insane (or so you think when he disagrees with you). When this person isn’t spending all of his time reflecting you back to yourself in a positive way and begins to question your sanity, well then, it’s no rom-com.

Possibly because I have such trouble sacrificing my desires in acts of love (and also find that my passions are fleeting and that my eyes wander), I’ve always been interested in the after stories of the happily-ever-after stories. You know, when things get real.

Tortured Love …

But getting real means you have to be strong enough to deal with people who won’t like what you have to say. On second thought I have compassion for the reviewer  who just couldn’t like my story about a love that endures great hardship. I couldn’t  endure a similar relationship in real life and I really, really loved the guy (or thought I did).

Now that I’m older I see the promise in sacrificial love. I’ve done it once or twice and wonder in those moments why I don’t do it more often. Laying down every expectation comes with a weird peace that goes against my controlling tendencies. It usually brings about better outcomes (in the long run). For me I can only do it with God’s help in the form of daily digging into Scripture. My worldly self sees no reason to give myself to anything that doesn’t reflect back on me glowingly.

The Creator’s Love …

The gift that God has given me in writing  novels is an insight as to how God loves us despite our miserable behavior and hardened hearts. I tell the truth about my characters because I’m  compelled to do so in search of  greater truth. This may sound pretentious but why do we tell ourselves stories anyway? I told the Tenafly Road story because one day I was asked to let surrender my romantic ideas about love and let a different kind of love flow in — a love that believes that the lowliest sinner is offered a place in the kingdom.

Redeeming Love …

I write about these lowly people because I know where I come from (and it’s pretty low). I write because I know that deep love is hard and miserable sometimes. I’d always had a hard time imagining a God who really loved people until He showed me a creator’s love for the created. God in His wisdom and with His sense of humor got my attention when I first set out to write against Christianity years ago. No matter how I tried to get around it, I kept bumping into my own desire to redeem John Weldon and the rest.

And so after a few days reflection I’m ready to admit that I still have a lot to do when it comes to loving people who leave negative reviews or critique my cooking. Deep love brings with it risks, but I want to take God at His word that loving deeply is worth it.

Finally I got this review and it kind of sums up my feelings about life which  makes sense since I wrote the book. 🙂

“Not sure what I think of this book on its whole. A list of dysfunctional characters all so full with faults. But so well written I had to keep reading. Characters so frustrating one wants to slap them but so human one keeps hoping for the best for them.”

I want to know what you all think LOVE means in the comments. Have any of you survived a tortured love story? Do you like reading them?

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Advent: A Time for Reflection

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.”
John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers

Do you think of this time of year as a time of reflection or a time for shopping? I confess that for most of my life I’d never even thought about the weeks before Christmas as something separate from the actual holiday (which I rarely reflected upon either).

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The dogs are reflecting upon how much they love blankets.

So what is there to reflect upon? For Christians advent is not about waiting to put the porcelain baby in the tiny manger on Christmas, but about waiting for the second advent when Christ returns. Non-Christians may find this a foolish notion, but I wonder if there is a person alive who doesn’t feel that humanity needs to be saved.

Social media and “the news” —  no matter the flavor — ask us to take sides in the battle to save children, animals, foreigners, neighbors and the planet because we all know in our bones that we need saving and that there is something of value to save.

This year I find myself at loose ends (the perfect time to reflect).

I wonder about blogging. I’ve made some great friends.

Yet …

I feel constrained sometimes.

Years ago at college I took a journalism course called Minorities in the Media. The professor loved my political writing, and I loved the praise. At the time, I was marching behind banners supporting terrorism in my spare time. I embraced a victim-hood that wasn’t even my own because I had an Irish last name. For a brief time the badge of victim-hood got me good grades and a seat at the university activist table. It also meant that I cared little for the people who might die for disagreeing over the issues I marched for in complete safety. In short, I was young, naive and ignorant of the complexities of human nature and history — so much so that compassion disappeared.

I remember one young man who dared question the narrative. He was Jewish and had living relatives who had survived the Holocaust. He refused victim status. The professor often stood back as the mob shouted him down. I remained quiet more out of cowardice than anything else, but that one boy’s stand against group-think made an impression on me.

In the books I’ve written I have never considered shying from controversial topics, yet more and more when I blog I find myself second-guessing writing about things I really believe in. The idea of offending someone and having to spend a day defending an off-the-cuff remark just seems so boring and useless. Politics and religion are fascinating subjects but the idea of writing about them in the present environment is so fraught with anger and hysteria I find it difficult to wade in.

With a few exceptions the internet is becoming a cultural desert for me. People are told to write how-to-blog/how-to-write posts to get more followers. People are told to stay away from religion and politics. Or to write about religion and politics to create extreme controversy and buzz.

I am guilty of it all. I’m guilty of chasing followers. I’m guilty of insincerity and of paying too much attention to the repetitive promptings of how-to-write/how-to-do-life blogs which at this point all blur into one another.

So why blog?

To build a platform? (when do we feel the satisfaction we are hunting for?)

To meet only like-minded people? (doesn’t this get so very boring?)

To trash opponents? ( I admit I  too often find reading this stuff entertaining — but such a waste of time)

To offer advice? (not always — but often — the advice is copy and paste)

To bring something of value to the world? (isn’t this what we all hope to do?)

I suppose we all value different things, but for advent I’m reflecting on Saint Paul’s admonition:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

But, my friends, I’m at an impasse.

Where does opinionated fit in? Where do political rants find their proper place? How is boredom cured? How is fear of man dispelled? Have I been so tainted by the world that I can’t come up with things that are interesting and “good”?

This may all be Lyme-induced brain fog. Who knows …

Or maybe we just have to occasionally question why we do what we do.

One thing I do know is that I’m hungry for beauty, depth and inspiration. There are many blogs I really enjoy (but I want more!). Three that come to mind are:

Sharon Bonin-Pratt’s Ink Flare

retrospectivelily.com

A.M. Pine – Hearth Ridge Reflections

 

I would love to know what blogs you follow for your fix of positivity. Please leave your recommendations in the comments!

 

 

 

 

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Weary of running series

Captivating saga of betrayal, revenge and redemption in Gilded Age America!

Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s integrity is tested when West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black cadets. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away taking a stand for Cadet Milford Streeter?

Escaping west to Fort Grant, Arizona, Buck confronts his demons while witnessing the downward spiral of his sister Thankful’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant.

Weary of Running, the second book in The Tenafly Road Series, highlights the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.

Fall in love with the members of the Crenshaw and Weldon families and buy The Tenafly Road Series today!

Books in the historical family saga:

The House on Tenafly Road

Weary of Running

The Dew That Goes Early Away

Forget Me Not

The One My Heart Loves

The Grand Union

 

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”