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.


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.


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!


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.”


8 Things I Learned From a Five Day Media Fast

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.


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:





What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?

We all live busy lives. I was a little too busy to write anything lately so instead you get a visual sneak peek into my last few days!

On Sunday I broke out my old Civil War Reenacting gear for a book fair. The dress was a real hit — it’s what gave me the courage to participate in two panel discussions on history and fiction! It also landed me  gigs at possibly three different venues in the area in 2019! The main thing though was that it was really fun!


On Monday it was back to living my real life of flannels, boots and mud with my favorite lamb escaping yet again  from our electric fencing. I seriously have no idea how she does it. I tried letting the other sheep out so she’d join the herd, but they all decided (now that we have a new neighbor) to escape onto the neighbor’s front lawn. I spent the next hour chasing Natasha (with Prince Andrei in tow) around the perimeter of the electric fence. I couldn’t stay mad at her because she knew what she was doing and it was funny. She’d let me get right up behind her before bouncing off in the playful ways lambs do.

Finally I caught her:

A Note: Little Natasha is safe and sound and, aside from her wounded pride, she was perfectly fine once I got her back with the other sheep. 🙂

So … readers and writers, what do you do in your spare time? Do you like dressing up? Let me know in the comments!

NewYork & The Civil War

A Dead Civil War Soldier

Waldo Potter was a cousin of mine who perished on the battlefield the day before Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. It was only the beginning of April and in Upstate New York where his family awaited news of his whereabouts the earth was still barren of color and cold. Taylor, the little Cortland town he hailed from, had already lost at least one other young man to the war who was also a cousin of mine.

I wonder if snow topped the soft mountains or if spring plowing had begun. Had the cows had calves yet? For on Waldo’s enlistment papers it says he was a farmer and 19 years old. The papers tell me he was fair-skinned and blue-eyed. His hair was dark and he stood at 5 feet 9 inches.

waldo potter muster

New York provided 400,000–460,000 men during the war, nearly 21% of all the men in the state and more than half of those under the age of 30. The average age of the New York soldiers was 25 years, 7 months, although many younger men and boys may have lied about their age in order to enlist. Wikipedia

By the time Waldo’s parents received word that their son would not be coming home the war had ended and Lincoln had been killed. The short note from the artillery lieutenant explained that Waldo had been wounded on the battlefield near Farmville, Virginia in one of the final engagements against Lee’s army. He had died a day later and been buried in a marked grave on the Brooks Plantation — a place that would have meant nothing to Waldo’s grieving family. The lieutenant wrote that he’d been a good soldier and friend.


I’d wondered why he had not been buried in Taylor with his family.  When the war was truly over crews of men were sent out to gather the dead to be brought to national cemeteries where many of their identities would be lost.

“About 100 men comprised the “burial corps.” With ten army wagons, forty mules, and 12 saddle horses, these men began their search and recovery mission. One observer noted “a hundred men were deployed in a line a yard apart, each examining half a yard of ground on both sides as they proceeded. Thus was swept a space five hundred yards in breadth . . .In this manner the whole battlefield was to be searched. When a grave was found, the entire line halted until the teams came up and the body was removed. Many graves were marked with stakes, but some were to be discovered only by the disturbed appearance of the ground.” (See below: The Awful Work Begins)

Those in coffins were mostly bones when pulled from the earth. Those in mass shallow graves were in varied stages of decay. Some bodies were missed in thickets. Most bodies never went home.

Capt. Smith, 2nd N.Y. Artillery, Ft. Ward by Waud, Alfred R. (Alfred Rudolph), 1828-1891, artist

And all of it gone — the Brooks Plantation, the men, the families with their broken hearts, the memories of young men fighting to end a way of life that none of them had ever encountered. The North that Waldo had left was bleak and beautiful and only for the individuals ready to break their bodies in hard work. I wonder what young Waldo thought as he lay dying on plantation land once worked by slaves. Would he have felt he’d died for the glorious cause of freeing them? Would he have thought nothing at all of slavery as we do today even as we wear clothing made by slave laborers?

No, I will not allow for people to say that all white men are somehow guilty for a thing that they actually ended, if only on one continent. I wonder what cause I would be willing to die for and come up blank.

“Over each the blanket spread, ample brownish woolen blanket,
Gray and heavy blanket, folding, covering all.
Curious I halt and silent stand,
Then with light fingers I from the face of the nearest the
first just lift the blanket;
Who are you elderly man so gaunt and grim, with well-gray’d hair,
and flesh all sunken about the eyes?
Who are you my dear comrade?

Then to the second I step—and who are you my child and darling?
Who are you sweet boy with cheeks yet blooming?
Then to the third—a face nor child nor old, very calm, as of beautiful yellow-white ivory;
Young man I think I know you—I think this face is the face of the Christ himself,
Dead and divine and brother of all, and here again he lies.”  Walt Whitman







Images: Library of Congress

The Tenafly Road Series


“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.” ― Peter F. Drucker

“Broadly speaking, as good as it feels to have a plan, it’s even more freeing to realize that nearly no misstep can destroy you. This gives you the courage to improvise and experiment.” Tim Ferriss

Did you know about purple chickens? I didn’t until recently. I visualized having one. The very next day an ad for lavender Orpington roosters appeared on Craigslist.

“Wait. Why do we need a rooster again?” my husband asked, remembering when I was stabbed through the ankle by an evil rooster. “I had to carry you to the barn to milk the goats the next morning, remember?”

“Well. It’s purple.” A very logical reply from me I thought. Similar to my reply when asked why we needed call ducks — “they’re cute.”

I promptly named our lavender rooster Rhett Butler. So far he’s affectionate. He climbs on my shoulder and rubs his purple head against my cheek. Too adorable, really.

Lately I’ve been a little lost because I finished writing an emotional roller-coaster of a SIX BOOK SERIES. I decided to give myself time off. I started feeling a vague sense of unease about time off. My mind looked for things to be fearful about. It was officially time to get a purple rooster.

The lady getting rid of the rooster gave me the wrong address. The address didn’t actually exist but we found a house with chickens in the front yard. The lady said to just go around back when we got there. A couple sat in an open field a ways off as we walked through a magical secret garden with tamed turkeys and chickens squawking and fluttering about. The look on the couple’s faces as we called out to them immediately told us we were at the wrong place.

After their initial shock they graciously gave us a tour of their shady gardens overflowing with woodland ferns and pockets of sun-drenched bee balm along tamped down dirt paths. Their pet La Mancha goats begged to have their chins rubbed. This secret garden made getting lost so worth it.


Eventually we found the real chicken seller at her fixer-upper farm. She waved from the roadside with her husband beside her. They were an older couple but just starting their farm dream and had big plans. Their enthusiasm for life was infectious. Their enthusiasm for their many hens and roosters was adorable. In one night of seeking a purple chicken my faith in humanity was heightened. Rhett Butler will always remind me of the surprises that come with allowing for little adventures.

Solid plans and a long waits can be good things, but I’ve found that waiting until you’re ready to live your dream isn’t as much fun as just doing it.



5 Types of People You’ll Meet at Civil War Re-enactments

Whores, Thieves and Militants of the Civil War

I may have mentioned before that I love men in uniform (I think because my father was in the army and then became a police officer but who cares? Men just look great in tailored outfits). So when my best friend’s husband suggested I come with him to the 140th Re-enactment of Antietam for research for my novel, I jumped at the idea.

Someone lent me hoops, a corset and a fantastic day dress and I was hooked. All of the reading in the world could never replace the smell of campfire in my hair and the way it felt to flirt with soldiers while wearing truly feminine clothes. I learned a lot about Enfield rifles( too heavy for me to ever try to use) and about human nature.

Civil War Re-enactment Types:

  • SNOBS  I think this is what I expected to find more of: people who talked about blouse button accuracy and looked scandalized by a soda can peaking from beneath a canvas tent. I personally drew the line between kids and adults. Kids were being dragged to these events and forced to wear weird clothing and hang out with weird adults who lectured them about civics and states’ rights. The occasional soda did no harm. On the other hand I wanted to time travel and fully immerse myself in the period. Plastic milk containers and talks about television spoiled the mood sometimes. Most people were exceptionally kind and understanding.


civil war reenactment-33
Pardon us while we slip this milk carton under the table.


  • ECCENTRICS The leader of our hospital unit was a toothless old lady who refused to be called by her real name–ever. Her modern bank account even sported her Civil War persona’s name. She really thought she was a surgeon. She really thought we were nurses. The men were afraid of her but loved lying in the shade and having their foreheads dabbed with cold water by the nurses. “Doc” also fantasized about her nurses dressing as whores in the evening. She wanted to be our pimp. She said she didn’t want a partner because she knew how to sexually satisfy herself. Thankfully my kids were too young to understand much of what she said.


  • MILITANTS  “Doc” was also a militant —  as was the head nurse. Towels had to be hung in an orderly way. Children had to use proper slang. “Doc” once lectured my son about his period incorrect hair and his period incorrect use of the term “mom.” Not all militants were bad. All of the men I met — without exception — had a healthy respect for period correctness and some were quite militant about it but they seemed to always have more fun around their campfires at night than we nurses who were forced to sing Grandfather’s Clock and be in bed by nine. (Many overly militant people — even in missionary work — have this weird desire to control other people’s bedtimes).


civil war reenactment-05
Kids living the dream.


  • THIEVES One thief arranged for our unit to “star” at a National Park living history event and pocketed the money for herself. No one realized it was a paid event. This same person lost her real job. My husband at the time found her a job at his very modern company as receptionist. It was discovered that she was stealing cases of soda and modern chips to bring to re-enactments and then to her home (along with food we all brought to the events). She was fired from the job and kicked from the re-enacting world.


  • FLIRTS Okay, so this was my true role. I found that as soon as I put on those dresses I couldn’t stop flirting. Many of the militant men couldn’t help flirt back. Once a man I knew from a Union unit stopped me on the lane and gushingly said I was “positively glowing.” My kids have never let me live that down. A surprisingly fair amount of affairs took place in tents at Gettysburg and Antietam — or so I’ve heard. I may have flirted but I never cheated. Once “Doc” warned me not to break a lost puppy of a soldier’s heart. I told her he needed to man up if he wanted to re-enact (I’ve always been more the Scarlett than the Melanie). “Doc” wanted to keep us ladies for herself and said as much.



Admittedly my time at re-enacting doing “research” didn’t do much for my failing marriage but it was a lot of fun.

How about you? Any unusual hobbies or methods of research that led to meeting interesting people? Let me know in the comments!

Further reading:





43 Literary Gardens

Gardens Change People!

Gardens make us feel like gods. They change deserts to paradise. They open hearts seeking more to life than just survival.

One day I was listless and unhappily married, the next found me hauling dirt ten blocks on the top of my children’s stroller.

The view from the ground floor Brooklyn apartment I lived in was pretty bleak. Concrete and brick abounded. Shouting and laughter from the bar across the way annoyed me when on sunny afternoons my children tried to nap.

Middlemay Farm garden

I bought a pack of 6 purple petunias, crept through the damp basement (the only way to get to my new secret garden space) and set the potted garden on my sill. But I’m obsessive. I saved pennies (we were broke), I stole irises from my mother and scanned gardening catalogues for days in January for cheap but pretty bushes that didn’t mind Brooklyn’s cramped spaces.

The first summer after my catalogue purchases I dragged in used furniture and argued with the landlord about cutting down a weedy sumac tree (non-poisonous). He was Greek and missed his gardens so let me have the final say with a warning to keep things under control.

The next summer the honeysuckle and the creeping ivy burst forth to cover an eyesore wall. A butterfly bush bloomed in the makeshift bed by the ugly chain link fence and I was hooked. The stroller took a beating but my kids loved walking the mile each day to get Italian ices (my husband had landed a good paying IT job by then) after I purchased yet more dirt and flowers.


Gardening Brings New Friends

010From nowhere squirrels, butterflies and robins arrived — their songs softening the bar noise. And then it happened. Neighbors I didn’t even know I had (since I was totally consumed with beautifying my life) started hailing me from their apartment windows. They loved the birds. They asked about the unusual plants. They smiled.

Literary Gardens

When I imagined my character John Weldon arriving at the McCullough home I knew he would fall in love with the girl in the garden, but first he fell for the garden with its possibilities. For a man escaping the wilderness of war Sarah McCullough’s charming garden offers Weldon hope that life is about more than just surviving.

 “Weldon, make yourself comfortable in the yard. I’ll be back lickety split.”

Weldon nodded and stepped back from the horse as it pulled away. His hands sweated. He had stayed away the Sunday but could not stand to be alone another day. A rabbit ran through the garden of ripe tomatoes and green pumpkins. A small tortoiseshell cat lay sunning itself on the side porch, where brooms and yard tools were hidden by trailing morning glories in blue and purple.

Weldon considered bolting. He didn’t belong here, but after a quick glance toward the house he crouched down to run his fingers over the hilly pumpkin skins and the soft round tomatoes. Weldon pulled a furry leaf from the low-lying lamb’s ears and slipped it into his pocket. Sunny black-eyed Susans burst out where they’d be most pleasing. The wild lilies stood at attention like well-disciplined followers of an inspired leader. Weldon marveled at the planning. His visit was unplanned, unannounced—that had been a blunder. The McCullough family might not like such surprises, and it was still so early in the day. [THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD]

Do you have a favorite garden in books? How about in your real life? Let me know in the comments!






Our new baby call ducks!



Fiction: Stealing Salvation

Buck cupped Thankful’s wet cheeks in his hands. “Poor you, you’re as messed up as the rest of us Crenshaws, but I love you for it. Don’t cry, it’s all right. I’m so glad now that I’m here for you.”

“Oh, Buck, it means so much to me that you don’t hate me. I’ve been such a fool and I’ve had no one to talk to! Pierce steals little things, silly things, and at first I was angry, but he pointed out what I had done to Father …”

“No, Father was glad you took the money. How else would you get by? And he hoped William might watch after you—that was a mistake.”

“Oh, I miss Father. I know he wasn’t so nice to you, but I love him,” Thankful cried. “And even Mama too!”

“I never gave Father a reason to like me,” Buck said.

“Buck, I used to think I was better than a whore, but I guess I’m not,” Thankful said, folding her handkerchief in her lap.

“I used to think I was better than a murderer until I almost became one,” Buck said.

Thankful and Buck burst out into hysterical laughter. William cursed them both. “Will the two of you shut up?!”

Ignoring him, Buck got serious.

“But if none of this bad stuff happened I wouldn’t have found God, so I’m glad for it. It makes no sense and it sounds crazy, but I’m very happy.”

Thankful smiled. “You are crazy, but it’s wonderful—you’re different now—I can see it already.”

“Oh, that’s just my gashes and pus filled sores,” Buck joked.

Thankful kissed his good cheek.

Mr. Kenyon walked in and took off his hat. “Miss Crenshaw, I heard that you had a rough time with the lieutenant. I’m sorry.”

Thankful took a deep breath and stood. “Mr. Kenyon, it seems that you’ve stolen my brother and sent another in his place. It’s an answer to prayers. Buck was always so unhappy and there he is foolishly beaming now! Thank you.”

“No, I won’t take the credit. The truth is, I was ministering to William, but your brother was a pest—thank God—or I wouldn’t have noticed. He kept whispering questions, like a fly buzzing in my ear. Meanwhile my pride was set on getting to William. But God has his own plans—that’s still a lesson I’m learning. So despite me, Buck found what he needed to find.”

William fumed in his bed with arms tightly folded as the three discussed alienating and annoying religious things. He wondered at how unchristian they were being by leaving him out.

“Thankful, maybe I’ll take air while the doctor’s not around to stop me. We can sit under the porch for a while.” Buck stood, putting his arm over Thankful’s shoulders. “Who knows how much trouble I’m in. I’ll enjoy my freedom while I can.”

Thankful led him out, marveling at Buck’s light mood.

Kenyon took a seat beside William and poured him another glass of water, which William refused. Kenyon waited.

“That Buck is such a fake. I can’t believe you stand for it,” William said.

“I don’t get that impression. Seems like Buck was saving all his words for now though.” Kenyon laughed. “I don’t think people have much listened to him over the years, but he’s quite an intelligent young man.”

“Yes, I know. I’ve heard all my life how smart they are—the Crenshaws. Now Buck’s charmed you and you’ll play the fool, I bet!”

“Well, I’ve played the fool many times. I’m not afraid of that. I’m happy for him. Buck’s told me an awful lot about himself—and you too.”


“People can’t be trusted, can they, William?”


“So your father disappointed you, then?”

“No! It’s more than that, but it’s none of your damned business. I knew you were a liar,” William mumbled, searching for another cigarette.


“You admitted to Buck and me just now that you were only trying to get me as some sort of trophy—one more caught in your net, right? Well, I told you from the start I didn’t want to be caught.”

“And I didn’t believe you,” Kenyon admitted. “But it’s not as if you don’t understand what missionaries do, William. You were the dishonest one from the start—trying to have it both ways. Drinking on the sly—but even in that, you’re no good at deception and I suppose I liked that about you. But don’t think for a second you were any more special or had any more potential than anyone else. You weren’t my very special case. I do my best for God—not you—although I hope I can be of service to you. In the end it was Buck who wanted and needed God. Maybe your time hasn’t come yet, or maybe you’ll never want it.”

“Then I’ll be eternally damned, right?”

Kenyon said nothing.


***Featured Image: Edward Okun  The War and Us


“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 book 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.”

“To suppose that people do not feel things because they do not scream and yell and fill the air with their cries, is simple nonsense …” J.C. Ryle

How true this sentence. The squeaky wheel gets the attention. Still waters run deep.

Heroes are often times so flamboyant. Victims, when photographed well, move others to tears.

But what about the quiet man? Quiet men intrigue me. The quiet purposes of men suffering in silence so often lead to misunderstanding and lack of empathy. Their decisions, their foolishness, their tendency to snap like stray dogs at the person willing to wait at the gate of their hidden depths … these things bring questions not only about them but about me.

How often do I create fictional motives for others?

How often do I have the patience to wait for answers from the deep before plunging into situations and only making them worse?

Some readers of fiction have little patience for quiet men who don’t explain themselves early. It’s understandable. We live in a busy time. Will it profit us to sit with people who take too long to disclose the reasons behind their seemingly irrational behavior?

I like quiet men but I’m better as a writer waiting for CHARACTERS to tell me why they seem so aloof or unlovable than when I have real men keeping their silence.


Featured Painting:

Vsevolod Mikhailovich Garshin by Ilia Efimovich Repin