- Posts for Monday Musings category
On Pen Names & Summer | Our Prairie Nest
On Pen Names & Summer

What a weird combination, right? But, first of all, I’m back to writing regular posts.

Summer kicked my butt. Not that it was an unforeseen thing. Really, it’s in the parenting job description. Have school-aged children? Is it summer? Welcome to No Rest for the Wicked. Fortunately, I was pretty smart about how I planned things. Or unplanned, rather. There were times I simply gave in. To what? Random get-togethers with friends, trying to remember how to hula hoop, drawing hopscotch courts, and rediscovering Golden Girls.

Did I write? Definitely. From May to August, I put out two novels, a bajillion short stories, and kept up with administrative work. Because, summer or not, writing is my job and I can’t drop everything just because the lightning bugs flash their butts at me in their oh-so-sassy way.

If you keep up with my Instagram feed, you know what I write. If you don’t, you can just take a peek down at the bottom of the page here to see. It’s not that it’s a secret, per se. In fact, it’s probably the worst-kept secret ever. But I do like to keep it separate from this blog and my personal life for various reasons. That’s the second reason I have pen names.

The first reason is, as many aspiring authors might understand, fear. Not fear about myself or anything like that. It was fear that I would fail and my name would be attached to that failure. With a pen name, you can experiment. If it bombs, you can drop the project and start fresh with what you’ve learned. It’s a lovely thing.

I really wanted to write what I’m writing now, so I took a chance, but the pen name gave me a degree of “separation” between the first few books and personal attachment. Once I found out I wasn’t going to fail, I felt comfortable putting more of my heart and soul into the name I was building. The stories became more personal, as well.

And, at that point, maintaining a pen name became about equal parts branding and compartmentalization. Branding is a smart idea no matter what name you’re using. But also being able to have a boundary between yourself and your day job is healthy, even if it’s your dream job.

Writing is a part of who I am. No doubt about that. I do it every day and I love it with all my heart, especially the genres I write. However, it’s nice to be able to set those boundaries, to decide what belongs where. I’d like to keep my real name is attached to genealogy and Paganism, and maybe someday I will write a book under it again. But maybe not.

Anyway, there’s an indirect tip from one writer: if you’re going to venture into writing, start off with a pen name. It allows you to try something without taking it too personally if things don’t work out.

And, as far the kids wanting attention all summer long? Do take that personally, because someday that precious 5-year-old is going to be 16-years-old and screaming, “I hate you! You’re ruining my life!” while slamming her bedroom door.

Nobska Point Lighthouse | Our Prairie Nest
Vacation Memories

Until last week, it’d been anywhere from 4 to 10 years since I last saw family. That was because I ended up in Korea and then England, and then in Nebraska, none of which are anywhere near my family. The closest family when we returned to the U.S. was my sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and nieces, so we did enjoy some brief visits after we got back to the states. But there were so many other family members and friends I hadn’t seen for a long time prior to that.

Fortunately, my sister provided the perfect opportunity for a visit by renewing her vows with my brother-in-law, so off we went to Massachusetts! 

We drove, which was exhausting, to say the least. And we camped, which doesn’t exactly offer restful sleep, but my husband and kids had never gone camping. My daughter was too keyed up to sleep, so we got to listen to her sleeping bag rustling all night long. Yay. But at least my husband made the most delicious campfire dinner and breakfast!

Once we arrived in Berlin, New York, the fun really started. First, we stayed with my grandfather’s first cousin. The one and only time I saw her, I was maybe six or so, and I certainly don’t remember meeting her. So seeing her now that I’m in my 40s and she’s in her 90s was really a treat. It was such a privilege to meet her and her husband, to sit and talk, and get to know them. They are lovely people and were such gracious hosts. 

My kids loved meeting them, too, and exploring the land their home is situated on. We got to see plenty of fun wildlife on the mountain where they live, and the sugar house where they make their own syrup! 

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Meanwhile, driving through New York allowed us to see the Great Annual Traffic Barrel Migration. We also encountered this phenomenon in Indiana. Those little guys sure do get around!

Getting on the Mass Pike made me happy and I started pointing out various towns to my husband, telling him all about them as I drove. I was in for a strangely rude awakening when I realized toll booths were gone! I spent so much time building up the transition from the Mass Pike to 495, that I felt a little cheated out of the massive line of toll booths that used to be there.

Once we crossed the Bourne Bridge, though, it didn’t bother me so much anymore. Because I got to see my paternal aunt and uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. Once again, it was a wonderful visit, my concerns for my aunt’s health notwithstanding. My uncle was very generous with fun Cape Cod souvenirs for the kids.

I’m so glad I got to see them. Even though it’s clear my aunt has dementia-related memory loss, as my grandmother/her mother did, I’m still happy we made the visit. My aunt and uncle were always a fixture in our lives, often visiting for Christmas or summer break with my three cousins. I have fond memories and am grateful we remain in touch, even if it’s via Facebook these days. It would have been even nicer to see my cousins, but this is the year we’re all ending up in Massachusetts at various times of the summer. 

The next morning, I brought my husband to see Nobska Point Lighthouse at Wood’s Hole. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t a proper Cape Cod visit without seeing a lighthouse. He’d never been to New England before, so I was more than happy to oblige him.

We enjoyed a walk along the beach in Falmouth and picked up a few shells, something my daughter couldn’t wait to do. Of course, I took plenty of photos and pointed out various sights to my husband. This also brought up our ongoing debate about where we want to spend the rest of our lives (he says Cancun, which I complain is too hot; I say Martha’s Vineyard, which he complains is too cold… and expensive).

Our action-packed week wasn’t anywhere near done, because then it was off to my sister and brother-in-law’s house to prepare for their vow renewal. I had the honor of officiating, while my daughter served as flower girl. My mother, aunt, and Nana were all there, as well, making it yet another reunion. There were other folks there I was happy to see, of course, like my best friend from high school and my sister’s best friend since they were in elementary school together. We had a great time, my daughter enjoyed wearing a fancy dress, and it was wonderful to see my sister and brother-in-law get the party they deserved. Their love story is pretty darn epic. <3

The next day, all of us managed to get up bright and and early, and visit the stables where my sister, brother-in-law, and niece all ride. They own a lovely horse, so we met him and then my daughter got a pony ride. After that, I saddled up and it was great. I get on horses whenever I can, something I’ve done since childhood. Even my husband was convinced to get on and try a walk!

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Back in my sister’s neighborhood, we visited their private beach. My husband, daughter, and niece spent their time catching fiddler and hermit crabs. Being the old ladies we are, my sister and I had more fun watching a loon swimming, diving, and catching something to eat.

We were out of there the very next day, since we gave ourselves 2 1/2 days of driving each way. Oh yes, just not long enough to really spend time with people, but we had our moments. I asked my husband what he thought about Massachusetts and he summed up his impression of it in one word: traffic.

Where we live in Nebraska, there’s very little traffic. For example, a “highway” bisects our neighborhood from the town where the kids’ school district is. We could come to the intersection and sit there, waiting for 5 cars to pass, while my husband complains about “traffic.” Time and again, I told him, “Oh honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Well, he’s seen it now! And the worst of it was the Bourne Bridge. We didn’t even go anywhere near Boston. But from Wood’s Hole to Lee, Massachusetts, it was definitely wall to wall traffic. That’s just the nature of things where I grew up.

The first night traveling back home, we camped just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania. It would have been a less eventful night overall, than our first one camping, if not for the tornado that hit our town back home! 

It started with an email showing I’d been tagged on Facebook. Since I don’t have Facebook on my phone (and refuse to use it, thank you very much!), I didn’t really get any context. The friend who tagged me also texted to ask if I was okay. Of course I was okay – I was in Pennsylvania! So I responded and asked about her concerns. She explained that there was a tornado hitting our little town. I told my husband and we waited a long, nail-biting hour to hear from our pet/house sitter after communicating with her about it. Thank goodness she was able to tell us everything was okay after the storm hit!

Well, that freaked us out so much that we decided to head straight home the next day, instead of stopping in Iowa for another night of camping. So there we were, weary, beyond exhausted, and pushing onward to Nebraska from Erie, Pennsylvania. We did about 15 hours of driving in a single day. It was worth it to get home, though, and it came with a priceless realization.

As much as I love Massachusetts, the state where I was born and raised, and where all my little quirks (like saying “wicked”) comes from, I’m absolutely in love with Nebraska’s wide open spaces, endless skies, amber waves of grain, and rolling prairies. Will I go back to visit Massachusetts any time soon? The answer is that it depends on my time, money, and energy.

But I’m not pining for it the way I once did. Massachusetts is in my heart, but I’m in Nebraska to stay.

Making a House a Home | Our Prairie Nest
Making a House a Home

We’ve been working on home improvements every since we bought our home in 2013. This wasn’t a place we bought as a dream home. No, no, no. This was a place we bought with the idea of making it a place we would want to live. Location and size were the biggest factors in our purchasing decision. That and the fact that we could buy the house for cash and close in 2 weeks, since we had just returned from living overseas and didn’t want to put family out by staying with them a long time.

The idea of home is rather nebulous, really. We have a lot of sayings about it, though, right? “Home is where the heart is” and “There’s no place like home.” Some people even feel that home has nothing to do with physical location, but where certain people live.

For me, home is very much a physical place entwined with a sense of comfort, security, nostalgia, and other things too nebulous to name. I’m a person who likes to set down roots in a place that I can call my own. That’s also one of the reasons I like quiet neighborhoods, country settings, and ownership instead of renting. I’m also one of those people who can be happy pretty much anywhere. Just tell me where I need to be and I’ll set about making my own cozy little nook there.

Of course, what we’re doing is physical – tearing out walls and old wiring, ceilings and insulation, carpets and floors, windows and doors – and replacing tangible aspects. In essence, we’re rebuilding our house from the ground up. And what we’re doing is infusing it with the things that take it beyond just being a physical space.

Every decision made is something deeper than just “What color should the walls be?” The physical location we’ve chosen to live in means something to my husband. The palette we’ve chosen means something to me.  For us, these tangible aspects connect with memories and emotions, and blend together seamlessly to make us feel like we’re home.

Okay, maybe my color palette shows that the home that will always be in my heart is back where I grew up. But I think we can have more than one home, don’t you?

Be Picky

When I moved overseas, I mused that I probably better make friends with everyone I possibly could, since the opportunities to meet people on a small military base were probably few and far between. I’ll never forget what the Airman performing all our in-processing paperwork said to me. She said, “Be picky.” It didn’t matter that opportunities to meet people were limited. It was still perfectly fine to have my own personal standards and, yes, even to decide I didn’t want to be friends with someone; that I didn’t have to force a friendship merely because we happened to be in the same place at the same time.

Over the years, I’ve had various blogs. They’ve talked about the things that are most important to me: my passions, my family, and my spirituality. I’ve also come to realize I’m not fond of forging relationships online. They can be nice, but I want to live in the moment, here and now. So I’ve decided to be picky with my social media, how I interact online, and how I go through life. Whatever the reason is, right now I want to:

  • Share my time with my family
  • Spend time with my friends
  • Do what I love

Oh, I suppose that’s most of us, right? I’m not claiming I want to do anything exciting or ground-breaking. I just want to step away from the constant world of social media, of treating life like a reality show meant to be watched, instead of lived.

So if I’m not aware you’re pregnant, engaged, graduating, moving, or anything else, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I want to hear it directly from you over a cup of coffee or in an email, so I can express my sentiments back to you in a manner that is more private than a Facebook “Love” or “Congratulations” on your post. Maybe it’s nostalgic of me or – yes – picky, but I think all of us have the right be picky with regard to how we interact with our family and friends, and live our lives.