Monthly Archives: December 2016

Fox Through the Forest – Chapter 4


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Now that Malcolm had decided his immediate course of action, he had some planning to do.  So Malcolm took a deep breath to steady himself and decided to ask his new friend for some advice.  “Do you know where I could sleep tonight?” he asked Ozzie.

“Sure,” Ozzie exclaimed.  “Use my napping tree.  It’s just about time for me to go out and about anyway.  I’m meeting up with some of my other friends.  It’s berry night tonight so we’re going to stock up.  I don’t suppose you would like to join us?”

Oh my goodness, thought Malcolm.  Berry night sounded very interesting, but he knew that if he went out with Ozzie and his friends he might become even more delayed in getting to Nana Owl’s.  So he made the decision that he thought would get him to where he really wanted to go and so he told Ozzie, “Thank you, I really appreciate your offer, but I need to get a good night’s sleep tonight so I can head out first thing tomorrow morning.”

“No worries,” Ozzie told him.  “Another time.  But we’ll have plenty of berries to spare.  Do you want me to leave you some?”

“That would be great,” said Malcolm.

“Of course,” said Ozzie like it really was nothing at all.  “Well, I’ll see you later,” and as Malcolm waved goodbye, Ozzie ran off into the twilight.

Wow, thought Malcolm as he headed towards his new bed for the night, Ozzie sure is nice.  At that moment Malcolm felt so glad he had gotten to know Ozzie for who he was instead of assuming the worst of him just because he was a skunk.

As he burrowed down into the log, Malcolm couldn’t believe the wonderful day he had.  He thought back over it and he felt like he was one lucky fox.  “Thank you, Carl,” Malcolm whispered into the night.  “And thank you, Jersey, and thank you Ozzie, too.”  Malcolm closed his eyes, but for some reason he kept thinking about Ozzie and berry night.  He wondered if they were having tons of fun.

Malcolm tried flopping over to get comfortable, but it didn’t help.  No matter what position he lay in or how he curled himself up, visions of Ozzie and berry night danced before his eyes.  Oh, this is ridiculous, Malcolm told himself.  I said no to berry night to get a good night’s sleep and now here I am not sleeping. 

With a sense of defeat and annoyance, Malcolm finally opened his eyes.  Ozzie’s napping tree which had but a few moments ago seemed so comfortable and cozy to Malcolm, now seemed cramped and rough.  He didn’t think he could stay in there one moment longer.  He popped out into the darkness and looked around.

Darkness loomed in every part of the forest, but for nighttime it was surprisingly noisy.  Malcolm could hear bugs rustling and tiny critters scurrying around.  Every so often the leaves would ruffle in the wind.  Then he heard a sound he wasn’t expecting, or at least he thought he did.

Malcolm jumped up on Ozzie’s napping tree and strained his ears.  He heard it again. Yes, it was exactly what he thought it was — laughter.  Malcolm decided not to wait another minute and he tore off in the direction the laughter was coming from.

To be continued….

Fox Through the Forest – Chapter 3


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

As Malcolm made his way through the forest, he had such a big smile on his face.  He was feeling good again.  Actually, he was feeling better than good and just because he felt like it he started singing a little song to himself.

Goin’ through the forest

See what I can find

So far found a squirrel

She was mighty kind

Nana Owl here I come

Help me find my way

Lookin’ for my mountain

What’s she gonna say?

As Malcolm continued on his way, he felt almost as if the rocks and the leaves and the trees were singing along with him and before he knew it Malcolm was singing at the top of his lungs, jumping around and dancing to his made-up song.

When he finished, Malcolm took a very deep bow, so low his head almost touched the ground.  All of sudden, he heard applause coming from not too far away.  Malcolm snapped his head up and saw someone watching him from inside a log.

“Oh well done, well done!”  The animal cried.  “That was quite the show.”

Malcolm, who had no idea anyone was watching him, didn’t know what to say.  So, he simply said, “Thank you,” and then added as an afterthought, “Who are you?”  Malcolm hoped it wasn’t a rude question to ask.

“My name’s Osbourne,” said the animal as he emerged from the log.  “But you can call me Ozzie.”

As Ozzie came towards him, it took all of Malcolm’s self-control to stand there and smile.  Malcolm couldn’t believe it, but Ozzie was a skunk!  He had never been so close to one before, and Malcolm half expected to be able to smell Ozzie before they were actually face to face with each other.  But to Malcolm’s surprise, Ozzie didn’t smell at all.  In fact, he smiled in such a warm and friendly way that Malcolm couldn’t help but smile back and say, “My name’s Malcolm.  It’s nice to meet you, Ozzie.”

“So what brings you to this part of the forest?” Ozzie asked Malcolm, swishing his tail back and forth.  For a moment, Malcolm felt nervous as he watched Ozzie’s tail, but then he realized that just because Ozzie was a skunk, didn’t mean that he was going to spray Malcolm.  Realizing just how silly his fears were, Malcolm answered, “I’m going to see Nana Owl.  I’m hoping she can help me find a place I’m looking for.”

“It sounds as if you are on quite the adventure,” Ozzie said.  Malcolm hadn’t thought about it like that before.  He had just wanted to find the mountain he had been dreaming of, but suddenly he became very pleased with the idea that he was an adventurer, so he told Ozzie, “Yes, I am.”

“Well you’re almost there,” Ozzie exclaimed.  “Just a few more hours to go.  Once you reach the forest’s edge, head north towards the tallest Elder tree.  That’s where I hear Nana Owl’s living these days.  You’ll know you’re going the right way when you see Sage Mountain in the distance.”

Malcolm couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  Nana Owl lived by a mountain!  That had to be a good sign and suddenly Malcolm couldn’t wait another moment.  But then he remembered being so hungry earlier in the day and he realized that not only would he have to figure out where to sleep that night, but he would eventually need more food.

Disappointment flooded through Malcolm as he realized he would have to delay getting to Nana Owl’s by one more day.  He realized, though,  that he didn’t have a choice in the matter.  First had to take care of himself because otherwise he might not get there at all.  I can wait one more day, Malcolm thought.  One more day didn’t seem like too long to wait.

To be continued….


Memoir Monday, December 19th, 2016


Two years ago today, I broke my ankle while hiking the ancient Inca trail in the Andes mountains.


We were at an altitude of 13,000 feet and I saw a festive blue tanager down in a river bank.


Naturally, I jumped down to get a better look and in a classic reprimand of “look before you leap,” which I did not do, my left foot landed on a stone.

First there was a feeling of surprise as I fell over.  Then I saw stars.  Finally, everything went black.  But before I knew it, I came to my senses, hopped up from the ground, and looked around to see if anyone saw me.  Thankfully, no one had, and I pretended like nothing happened.

That worked fine for about the next mile.  Then the adrenaline started to dissipate and the throbbing pain hit me with every step I took.  I don’t know why I couldn’t admit to anyone what had happened.  Perhaps because it was an incredibly stupid injury or perhaps it was because I’m one of those people who never liked to ask for help (note I wrote liked in the past tense; I have since given up those silly ways).

After another mile, the pain became almost unbearable and when we stopped for a break I pretended the altitude had finally gotten to me.


I asked our tour guide for two aspirin.  He told me I didn’t seem to be affected and only gave me one.  It did not help.

When we finally got within sight of the village house we were staying at, I almost collapsed from the straight shot up we had for the final ascent.  Several hundred feet up a steep hill.  It was at that point the tour guide asked me, “Are you okay?  You’re limping.”

I had to admit I was NOT okay.  After I made it to the village house, I had no energy or strength or stamina to move again.  The family took care of me, soaking my ankle in an herbal bath and then wrapping it with an ace bandage.

But the next morning I still could not bear weight on my ankle.  I had to be taken down the mountain by emergency vehicle, which in Huchuy Cusco was a horse named Cheero.  Cheero had an extraordinary knack for walking as close to the precipitous edge of the trail as possible.  To this day, I don’t know which was worse – the physical pain from my ankle or the mental torture of thinking at any moment Cheero and I were going to plummet to our deaths off the side of the mountain.


Hours later, we made it down and we immediately got in a car to head to the next leg of our tour, Machu Picchu.  At this point because of the drastic change in altitude, I felt minimal pressure on my ankle and it was almost like nothing had even happened.

So of course I hiked Machu Picchu the next day.  I didn’t know my ankle was broken at the time and I would be heading back to the states in just two days.  I didn’t want to miss a chance to visit one of the greatest architectural wonders of the world.


I didn’t actually find out my ankle was broken until about a month later when I thought, hmm, shouldn’t the pain have gone away by now?




I went to my primary care physician who ordered an x-ray.  I found out it was an avulsion fracture.  In this type of break, the ligaments snap so tightly when the ankle is twisted that they take off a chunk of the bone.  Thankfully, the doctor said I didn’t need surgery, nor would she put me in a cast because I had already started to heal.  I just had to keep a brace on for three months and limit my physical activities.

Talk about a kick in the pants!  How was I supposed to do yoga?  Or dance fitness?  And what about ice skating and hula hooping?   These were all the things I did regularly to stay in shape and take care of myself and now I had to stop them.

At first, I contemplated just doing them anyway and suffer through the pain.  I had dealt with the pain already for a month.  But then I realized if I wanted to keep up with these activities for the rest of my life (which I hope to be long and vital), then I really did have to give myself the time to heal.

I learned a lot during that time, particularly the role cardio plays in my sleep quality.  Without it, I had difficulty falling asleep and I would wake up multiple times throughout the night, even more so than because of my narcolepsy.

So as we countdown to Christmas, let us remember that one of the greatest gifts we will ever receive is our physical health.  A lot of times we take this gift for granted but it should be one we are most thankful for, especially because we never know when it may be returned to sender.

Fox Through the Forest — Chapter 2


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

For the first several hours of his journey, Malcolm felt good about his choice.  He kept thinking about the mountain and the waterfall and all those beautiful flowers.  But then his stomach started to growl and his pace began to slow.  He wasn’t thinking about the mountain at all now – what he really wanted was some food.  In his eagerness to start his journey, he completely forgot to eat breakfast and he certainly didn’t have any food with him now.

Malcolm looked around the forest.  This area was entirely new to him and he wasn’t sure what to do.  Then he noticed a big oak tree up ahead.  It looked warm and inviting so he decided to stop there and get his bearings.

As Malcolm sat beneath it, he leaned back against the trunk.  He wiggled back and forth, it felt so good on his tired body.  He suddenly didn’t feel so worried, so he closed his eyes just for a moment to rest.

RAWR!  Malcolm’s stomach had other ideas, though, and it let him know just what exactly that was.

“Oh my goodness,” said a chipper, squeaky voice from above.  “Was that you?”

Malcolm opened his eyes and looked up into the branches of the tree.  There high above, was a silver gray squirrel watching him.

“Yes,” Malcolm admitted.  “I’m on my way to see Nana Owl, but I left so quickly I didn’t bring anything to eat with me.”  He felt kind of embarrassed about his poor lack of planning, but as his stomach growled again he knew he needed help.  Now was not the time for pride.

“You poor dear,” said the squirrel.  “I only have these acorns.  They’re not much, but you’re welcome to have them.”

Malcolm saw that the squirrel was pointing to an opening in the trunk of the oak tree and it was filled with a stash of acorns.  Acorns were not Malcolm’s favorite, but in that moment he felt enormously relieved and so he told the squirrel, “Oh, yes, please.  Thank you so much.”

The squirrel tossed a bunch of the acorns down to Malcolm.  As he began nibbling on them, she scampered down the tree trunk.  When he seemed to be finished she asked him, “Is there anything else I can do to help you?”

“Tell me your name,” Malcolm replied.  The squirrel smiled at him.  “It’s Jersey,” she said.

“Thank you, Jersey,” Malcolm told her.  “Your kindness means so much.  I hope someday we can meet again,” and with his belly full and his eyes bright, Malcolm again headed off to the west.  He didn’t know what adventure lay in store for him next, but he now felt better prepared.

To be continued….

Memoir Monday, December 12th, 2016


Most of my formative adult years took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Thus, it should surprise no one that some of my favorite holiday specials are the Thanksgiving- and Christmas-themed episodes from Friends.  At the top of the list is The One Where Ross Gets High, featuring Rachel’s traditional English trifle and Monica and Ross outing each other to their parents for all their past misdeeds.

A close second would be The One with the Holiday Armadillo, which if you don’t know who the holiday armadillo is, he’s Santa’s part-Jewish holiday friend.  Ross dressed as an armadillo is the focus of the episode, but at the very beginning of it Phoebe brings out her Christmas skull to remind us that, “at Christmas people still die.”

I still laugh a lot when I see this clip from Friends, but now I’m older I can’t help but spend some time reflecting this Christmas on what the Christmas skull means to me.  I don’t mean to be morbid, but Phoebe is right.  At Christmas, people still die.

These thoughts might be forefront in my mind because one of the dogs we’re caring for was recently found to have a mass on his spleen.  He’s ten-years old and aside from a major surgery which may or may not prolong his life at all, there’s nothing else to be done for him.  After agonizing over the decision, his doggy parents decided they would let him spend his days in the comfort of his home, surrounded by the rest of his pack, and meandering around the 20 acres on their property.  It’s a nice way to go if you ask me, much better than being cut open and having an internal organ removed on the small chance of surviving an extra few months.


Or I could be thinking this way because of my cousin, Becky.  In December, 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 43.  She passed away just four short months later.


Then there’s my friend who confided in me that it may be the last Christmas for one of their friends who has a degenerative illness.  My friend wondered what to possibly get for this person and their spouse, knowing this will likely be some of the last time they have to spend together.

It’s a sobering thought to consider Christmas gifts as last ones ever.  Does it make the iPad or gift card seem less relevant?  Does it invoke a need to simply be with someone and let them know how much they mean to you?  All thoughts to consider as we wait in line at checkout counters hoping to get the best sale of the season.


Then there’s the narcissistic, egotistical, and human side of me.  What if it was my last Christmas?  How would I want to spend it?  What would I wish for?  I spent some time reflecting on these last two questions and quite surprisingly I found a lot of comfort in the answers I came up with.

The first thing I would do is have a huge holiday party with all my friends and family.  There would be a lot of dancing, peppermint-flavored sweet treats, and a baby polar bear for people to cuddle with similar to the sloth Dax Shepard got for Kristen Bell for her birthday one year.

More than anything, though, I would want to spend as much time as possible with my husband.  We would hit as many National Parks as we could, preferably bringing along some key family members and petting as many dogs as we could along the way.

I would also finish my first novel, which I’m delighted to report is thisclose to being done.  After that, there would be only two other things on my wish list – for the children’s stories I’ve written to be published and to see a bear in the wild.  The first would be easy enough, with my talented roster of friends, and the possibility of self-publishing.  Plus, my husband is well aware of this wish of mine and I have no doubt he would spend whatever time  necessary to get them published in my absence (just one of the MANY reasons I am so devoted to him).  The second, well, if I got to cuddle with a baby polar bear at my death party, I’d be happy to let go of my desire to see one in the wild.

Here’s the best part about my wishes, though, and the reason I find so much comfort in my answers:  this last year, I’ve spent most of my time working towards them on my own, without the threat of imminent death.  Heath and I were blessed with a wonderful wedding reception from my NC friends.


We spent time with both my parents in Harrisburg, PA, and his parents in Smyrna, TN, and we have plans to do again soon.


My niece and I went on a spring-break-roadtrip extravaganza in the American Southwest stopping off at the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon


and my husband and I now travel all around for the sole purpose of petting and loving other people’s dogs (and cats and homes, too).



I write almost every day and agents are currently reviewing my picture storybooks.  There still hasn’t been a bear sighting, but I am constantly on the lookout.

So, as we countdown to Christmas, I’d encourage you to spend some time quietly reflecting on what you would do differently if you knew this would be your last Christmas.  Then go out and do it!  If not for you, then do it for Moon, my cousin Becky, and my friend’s friend, and everyone else out there who will only get one more Christmas.

Fox Through The Forest


Chapter 1

Once upon a time in a forest far, far away, a young fox stirred in his den.  It was quite early in the morning – not yet dawn – and a few stars still twinkled in the sky.  But the time didn’t matter to the fox, whose name was Malcolm.  He had been having the most wonderful dream.  In fact, it was so good that upon waking he jumped to his feet, shook out his tail and then bounded out of his den bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

At that moment a cardinal landed on a pine branch nearby and began chirping away.  Malcolm usually loved to listen to this song, but not today.  He was so excited about his dream he interrupted the cardinal mid-tweet.

“Carl,” Malcolm called, for that was the cardinal’s name.  “You’re not going to be believe the dream I had!”

Carl stopped singing and peered down at Malcolm.  “Good morning to you, too,” he responded.  “Tell me my young foxy friend, what did you dream about?”

Malcom, who had been jumping up and down in his excitement, sat down on his hind legs so he could better see Carl.  “I saw a mountain so tall it reached the sky,” he said.  “And there was a waterfall with a swimming hole and so many flowers.  They were everywhere.  I wish a place like that were real.” 

Malcolm sighed because it seemed a place as beautiful and wondrous as that couldn’t possibly be true.

Carl ruffled his feathers.  “Maybe it is real.  Just because you don’t know about it, doesn’t mean it’s not.”

Malcolm thought about that for a moment, and as he did a little crease appeared between his eyes.  “Well how would I find it?  If I don’t know where it is or if it’s even real, where would I even look?” 

“I don’t know,’ Carl admitted.  “But do you know who might be able to help you?  Go see Nana Owl at the edge of the forest.  She knows everything.”

 “But that’s so far away,” Malcolm exclaimed.  The edge of the forest was miles and miles away from where Malcolm lived and he had never been so far from home before.  “What if I don’t make it?”

“So what if you don’t?” Carl spread his wings wide and shrugged his shoulders in response.

Malcolm again thought about it for a moment.  He decided he really only had two options.  He could stay in his part of the forest where he knew would be safe and secure.  If he did that, he was pretty sure he would never get to see the place he had dreamed of.  Or, he could try to find Nana Owl in hopes that she could help him find his way.  Malcolm realized that this choice certainly wasn’t a guarantee he would get there, but at least the mountain and the waterfall were a possibility with this second choice.

”Ok,” he told Carl.  “I’m going!”

“Wait, just like that?”  Carl flapped his wings in surprise.  “Don’t you want to think about it some more?”

“Nope,” said Malcolm who was suddenly feeling very brave.  “If I don’t go now, I may never go.”  And with a big smile and a swish of his tail, Malcolm trotted off to the west, which is where Nana Owl lived.

“Good luck,” Carl called after him and he began tweeting again as in farewell.  Malcolm did not look back.