How to Escape a Flooded Vehicle

Tragically, several people died in the flood created by the recent Tropical Storm Imelda.

Especially scary were the stories of people who drove into flooded streets, and, in moments, the water rose to swamp the vehicles and trap them inside.

All of these vehicles had their windows closed, and water pressure can keep a window from opening in cases like this.

Remember, power windows may not work if the engine dies or is inundated with water.

I think all of us who watched the news coverage here in Houston learned an important lesson when we saw a man run to a contractor's truck, grab a hammer, jump on top of a vehicle, and smash the windshield to pull a man out.

I shuddered and knew if that had been me in a flooded car, if I'd been foolish enough to drive into a flooded street, I would have had no way to escape the vehicle if it had been swept away. Nothing in my car would smash a window. Nothing in it could cut a seat belt away.

Get a Plan and an Escape Tool

The Escape Tool

I immediately went to Amazon to look for gadgets that can smash a car window and cut a seat belt. I found several devices similar to the one shown above, and I ordered 2.

The Escape Tool shown is called a Tunery Car Handle, Portable Safety Hammer with Window Breaker, Sustain up to 350 LB Weight.

I want this an escape tool, not to assist me in and out of a vehicle, although this is supposed to do that too. If this item is sold out, check out the other tools that are similar.

Find something to be part of your Escape Plan. When you get it, place it within easy reach, like in the console between seats if your vehicle has that. You want it near enough to grab if you need it.

Accidents happen and floods aren't the only reason you might need to escape a damaged vehicle.

Your Escape Plan

Know exactly what you will do if your vehicle is swept away by flood water. Education is the most powerful tool you can possess.

The best plan is to turn around and don't drive into a flooded street.

Like we're told all the time: Turn around; don't drown.

If you frequently have children with you, make them part of your plan, and make sure they know what to do if you have to activate the plan. Because of backseat passengers, you may want to buy more than 1 Escape Tool.

Older children can take action if they know what to do and when to do it and have a way to escape the back seat. Knowledge is power so include children in the process so they're not terrified but know what to do.

You probably have a home fire escape plan and practice with fire drills. Make this escape procedure the same kind of safety education with drills to practice, saying out loud what must be done.

Above all, make sure your children learn to swim well. It's one of the most important things you'll ever do. I'm a big believer in enrolling children in swimming lessons when they're babies. That's what we did, and all of our kids are good swimmers. Three of our four children took lifesaving classes and worked as lifeguards when they were teens.

If you ignored the best plan and have driven into a flooded street and your vehicle stalls, do these things as quickly as possible.

1. Forget all the stuff you carry in your car. Your goal is to save your life.

Vehicles can be replaced. Stuff can be replaced. People can't. If you have a pocket, drop your cell into it. If you're alone, get yourself out of the vehicle without delay. Hopefully, you'll be able to get out and wade to higher ground.

Take action. Be proactive. Make a Plan. Do it.
2. Immediately unbuckle your seat belt so you can get free.

Seat belts tend to jam when the car cabin is flooded. You'll need to be able to move fast.

If water has already risen and your seat belt won't unbuckle, get the Escape Tool from your console which is where you should have it stored. Use it to saw through the seat belt.

3. Try to open the door and leave the vehicle.

4. If the door won't open, immediately open your window.

If you've lost power, your window may not operate. Use the Escape Tool (remember, it should be close enough to where you're seated so you can quickly grab it). Look away and smash the window. Be fast. Rake all the glass away from the frame. If the water is rising really fast, don't worry about a few cuts. Get out, and you'll be alive to treat the cuts.

Yes, it's scary to think about all that water rushing in, but you'll only escape if you have a way to get out. Keep calm and do what you've rehearsed in your plan.

5. If you frequently have children in the car, you absolutely MUST have a plan in advance.

Being trapped with children in a car in rising water is horrific to think about. But you MUST think about it.

You MUST have a plan to save their lives and yours.

Depending on their ages, you might want to include some kind of child carrier/backpack and absolutely have a way to tether children to you.

Flood water moves fast. Even a few inches of rushing water knock a child down. Get young children into the front seat with you as quickly as possible. Older children should know the same steps you know in order to escape, and they should have access to an Escape Tool in the back seat where they sit.

Secure or tether children to you in whatever way you have planned and get out of the vehicle with them. When you rehearse, time how long everything takes. Every person in your family should go through the drill, reciting the steps out loud.

6. The goal is always to get everyone out of a flooded vehicle and to higher ground as quickly and as safely as possible.

Takeaway Truth

I'm giving one of these Escape Tool to each of our loved ones for Christmas this year.

Serenity Prayer Just for Authors

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote The Serenity Prayer which, in the 1970's was printed on plaques, books, cups, clothes, and anything else wholesalers could think of.

A few years ago I took the thought of Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer and created my own serenity prayer Just for Writers.

I usually print it on cards and send to writing friends at either Christmas or New Year's.

I'm breaking that tradition now because just about everyone I know has had a tough emotional time since January.

So many people I know have family members with serious illnesses. Many have lost a mother, a husband, a brother, a sister, and friends.

Reality of Being a Writer

We're facing change and loss and many of us find it hard to write in the face of all this emotional pain. It's difficult to create fictional worlds and breathe life into fictional characters when all we can think of is the breath leaving the body of someone we love.

Writers draw from the emotional well within. Sometimes, it's just too painful to tap into that well.

We begin to wonder if we'll ever finish the manuscript we're writing. Will we ever get another book contract from an editor?

Will our agent hang in there with us if we're not sending something soon? Will readers forget who we are if we don't publish frequently?

It's bad enough to deal with heartbreak and sadness, and it's made worse when we worry about our cash flow and career.

That's why I'm sharing this with my writing friends today.

Perhaps this bit of wisdom will help you put things in perspective and keep going despite the bumps in your writing road.

A Serenity Prayer for Writers by Joan Reeves

God grant me...

The Serenity to accept rejection of my writing over which I've sweated blood and wept tears.

The Courage to persist and keep writing and revise manuscripts that might do better with editing, better marketing copy, and new covers.

The Wisdom to know the difference between those manuscripts that have a chance of selling well and those that need to be mourned and forgotten.

And also the Wisdom to know when to step back from my writing and take a mental and emotional break to deal with real life. Amen

Takeaway Truth

Always remember that those you love—and the time you spend with them—are of greater importance than any number of words you'll ever write.

Writing Advice: What To Omit

The fabulous Elmore Leonard once said: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

That's probably the most succinct piece of advice—and the most profound—that a writer will ever hear.

That philosophy is why Elmore Leonard's short stories and novels MOVE.

If a novel is characterized by rising action, then an Elmore Leonard story moves like a runaway train cresting a hill and racing down.

Does your story do that?

Pull out your work in progress and read 10 pages. Are there parts you skipped over? If you don't have an objective eye, ask an honest reader to read 10 pages. Then ask them if there were sentences or paragraphs they skimmed over instead of reading word for word. If they say yes, then the reason why they skimmed is because those parts were boring.

The Dreaded B Word

What do you do when confronted with an honest reader and the dreaded B word? Immediately figure out if those paragraphs are needed. If they are, condense them as much as possible and make the new copy akin to that speeding train.

Takeaway Truth

Learning what to leave out is as important as knowing what to put in.

How Much Pain Can You Take?

Do you really have to write every day in order to be successful?

Aren't there times when it's okay not to write? Like when the world around you is falling apart?

Sure, there are times when you just can't make yourself write, nor should you.

You have to know how much stress you can take. That's physical, emotional, and mental stress.

I've tried to power through and write in the face of Grief.

In a short space of time a few years ago, we lost several loved ones, one right after the other. Events like that aren't conducive to creating fiction that's anything more than an outlet for your personal suffering. I didn't write anything worthwhile for a long time.

Bad news about tragic medical prognoses affects me the same way. I have to process it, come to grips with it, and figure out a way to live with it. Then I can move on and do something productive.

That doesn't mean I've given up on a goal or a work in progress. What it means is that I'm human. So are you.

So what makes you tick? What can you take and bounce back? What crushes you? How do you deal with that?

Takeaway Truth

Sometimes you just have to forget the goals, the plans, the dreams, and the schemes and deal with what's breaking your heart. Don't hide from it. Don't push it down. Own it. Accept that it will take time to reconcile yourself to it. Eventually, when you're ready, you'll move on down the road.

BookBrush Video Tutorials

Graphic Artist at Work. Image by rawpixel from Pixabay
I've had a lot of people tell me that they just can't make good book marketing designs.

They don't understand how to use certain elements of graphic design to get that "pro" look.

BookBrush, my fave graphics website, realizes that. To help authors, or anyone who wants to create stunning graphics, they have created a series of video tutorials hosted by Vimeo.

You can watch these at your own pace. Watch over and over if you want to until you grasp all the concepts. (By the way, I've written a lot of posts about BookBrush because I think they have a great product, not because they're paying me to write these posts.)

Using Book Brush Instant Mockups To Sell More Books.

Intro to Instant Mockups

Tutorial Part 1, Adding Text to Instant Mockups

Tutorial Part 2, Adding Book Templates & Stamps to Instant Mockups

Tutorial Part 3, Adding Video Effects to Instant Mockups

Summary plus Tips, Extra Tips Plus Summary on Taking Your Instant Mockup Images to the Next Level

Bonus Content, Search Terms for the Video Creator

Takeaway Truth

Watch the videos and learn how to be a great DIY graphic artist. BookBrush makes it easy.

Review: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People starring Simon Pegg—and some surprising actors in the cast—was recently added to Amazon Prime's New Releases.

After flipping channels last weekend and bored with most of the listings, we decided to watch this movie.

We like Simon Pegg's "every man" persona. You know the guy who attempts to take charge of his life and always manages to screw it up.

He's played this character in several movies such as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).

In fact, both of those movies were before this 2008 film.

After this flick, he hit the land of steady paycheck with the role of Mr. Scott on the 2009 Star Trek reboot.

He's appeared in the other Star Trek features, and, unless they decide to kill him off for some reason, he'll continue ringing that galactic cash register until the franchise goes belly up.

(Honestly, the second Star Trek in this particular franchise was, well, awful. Absurd story. Hey, don't throw stones. Everyone's entitled to her own opinion.)

About the Movie

Released in the U.S. in October 2008, the movie is about Sidney Young, a down-on-his-luck journalist. Thanks to a stunt to get through the velvet rope at a red carpet event, he attracts the attention of the editor of a New York-based glossy magazine.

Unbelievably, he lands a journalism job others would kill for. He arrives in the Big Apple and careens from one hilarious blunder to another before somehow breaking in. the next.

The Cast

Directed by Robert B. Weide with a screenplay by Peter Straughan from Toby Young's autobiographical account of his years at Vanity Fair, the stellar cast shines in this movie that will probably draw guffaws from most who view it.
  • Simon Pegg as Sidney Young
  • Kirsten Dunst as Alison Olsen
  • Jeff Bridges as editor Clayton Harding
  • Danny Huston as Lawrence Maddox
  • Megan Fox as sex starlet Sophie Maes
  • Gillian Anderson as soulless agent Eleanor Johnson
  • Thandie Newton as herself.
My Thoughts

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is an unapologetic view of "Follywood" and the superficial characters who inhabit the movie industry.

There are some scenes and lines of dialogue that are hysterically funny. In fact, the very idea of the movie Megan Fox's character starred in and wins an Oscar far is ludicrous.

You'll do an eye roll and snort a laugh. That whole bit will make you want to say, "Only in Hollywood."

There's also some surprising emotional depth to Pegg's character that reveals home truths too many of the movers and shakers in the movie—and in the real world—have forgotten.

Takeaway Truth

This film is definitely worth watching. If you're not a Prime subscriber, you can still watch this acerbically witty film. Click here to rent or buy. Enjoy!

Myth of the Writing Muse

fantasy #2961723_1920, by Karen Smits, Pixabay
I usually snicker when I hear a writer say she's waiting for her muse before starting/finishing/publishing her book—or whatever stage at which the work in progress is languishing.

A lot of people want to write a book, or want to finish the one they're writing. So they tell me and others who will listen. But, they're waiting for inspiration to strike. Waiting for the Muse.

The Fantasy of the Muse

I hate to break it to you, but there is no Muse. Nope, that pretty picture on the left is not the Muse. It's just a fantasy illustration.

Writers who wait for inspiration, for the Muse to move them, have an idealistic view of writing. In the trench writers know you write even when you're not inspired.

Why? Because those "real" writers have probably signed a contract that requires them to finish and turn in a manuscript by a certain date. Wow. I bet you're thinking, "That sounds like work."

Yep. It is. It's hard mental, emotional, and physical work to pull words out of thin air day in and day out, but we've learned there is no magical Muse who shows up at 7:00 in the morning and dictates the story to us.

If you're under contract, you don't wait for the Muse to pay you a visit. You write whether you're inspired or not. Whether you're depressed or happy, healthy or ill. Got a deadline and got the flu? You write. You don't know what this scene or even this chapter is about? You still write.

Buck Stops With You

Do you get the idea? Writers who expect to make a living writing and publishing and selling books, write.

Writing demands the same kind of dedication as careers in teaching or accounting or any other job. If you're a teacher and you're tired and sleepy, you don't sleep in. You go to school and teach.

If you're an accountant and you're tired of the same old grind, day in and day out, you don't skip work and go to the ball game or a spa. You go to the office at your appointed time.

So, if you aspire to being a successful author, adopt the work ethic of your peers out in the job force. You may be one of those who punches in and out at the same time every day. Put your butt in the computer chair when you get home, at the designated time you set, and crank out the words.

Takeaway Truth

You have to be disciplined, and you must learn to create on a consistent schedule.That's the first step on the road to writing success.

Writing Advice: Opening Scenes

To be more precise, this bit of advice is about opening scenes that don't work and why they don't work.

Is it good to open a novel with a dramatic scene that is a dream the main character is having?

Opening a novel with a dream sequence—or with a fantasy scene of some sort, i.e. something that is completely in the character's head—is usually not a good idea.

But, you may ask, what if the character is dreaming about his or her own specific horror, fraught with emotion and action. Won't that draw the reader in?

Uh, no. Usually not.

Dream as Novel Opener Doesn't Work

Upon opening a book, the reader does NOT know the character therefore he has no emotional attachment to the character you're asking him to like and follow through a few hundred pages to the end.

Does the nightmarish suffering of a stranger move you to spend hours of your time getting to know her? Let's be honest. Probably not.

Sure, you might feel sympathy toward him, but would you like him and want to follow him for a few hours and stick around to see how they cope with their nightmare situation?

That's pretty much why a dream sequence as the opening of a novel doesn't move the reader. In fact, it can be a rather ho-hum experience for the reader who may skip ahead to find out where the actual story starts.

That's right, the story. A dream at the beginning is not the story. It's just mood setting.

Always Remember

As a writer, you must realize what you are striving for immediately is reader identification or reader bonding to character. You want the reader to say: "Yes! I understand that woman. I like her. I'll follow her for the next 8 hours to see how she deals with what life is throwing at her."

The reader must "bond" with the character and care about the character. This is done by seeing how the character acts and reacts, by understanding what the character wants and how he goes about getting it, and what stands in his way.

The reader needs to get acquainted and know the character before he or she has any kind of emotional reaction or interest in that character's nightmares, dreams, or fantasies.

You can't get acquainted with a character who's asleep and dreaming, and action can't begin until the character is awake and doing something.

Takeaway Truth

Save that nightmare that explains your character's deepest fears for later in the book—after the reader "knows" the character and is willing to follow him on his goal quest.

Review: Time Trap

During Tropical Storm Imelda when there wasn't much to do except listen to the rain fall, Darling Hubby and I watched a few movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Time Trap was a new release on Netflix, but it's also available to rent on Amazon Prime.

The Story

Released November 2, 2018, Time Trap is about an archaeology professor who disappears after leaving to explore a caves in a remote area of Texas.

Several of his grad students begin to search for him and become trapped inside a mysterious cave.

Filming Locations

Actually, I wasn't surprised to learn the movie was filmed in the Austin, Texas, area as well as in some of the caves in the Sonora area of Texas.

Additional filming was done in Bronson Canyon, Griffith Park, in Los Angeles, and also in Trona, California.

Trona is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County that's at the western edge of Searles Lake, a dry lake bed in Searles Valley, southwest of Death Valley.

(The town was named for the mineral which is mined in the lakebed. Trona is a common source of soda ash, which is used in manufacturing glass, chemicals, paper, detergents, and textiles. It is used to remove sulfur from both flue gases and lignite coals.)

You might be interested to know that dozens of movies and TV episodes have been filmed in and around Trona going back to the 1960's—movies like Planet of the Apes in 2001, Holes in 2003, Land of the Lost in 2009, and Westworld episodes.

Cast and Crew

Directed and Produced by Ben Foster and Mark Dennis, this action SF film has a cast that's set to appeal to young adults.

Andrew Wilson as the Professor shows some emotional depth even though he's not on screen that much.
  • Andrew Wilson as Hopper
  • Cassidy Gifford as Cara
  • Brianne Howey as Jackie
  • Reiley McClendon as Taylor
  • Olivia Draguicevich as Veeves
  • Max Wright as Furby.
My Thoughts

You may know from the title what this movie is about, but there are some surprises as the narrative unfolds.

I think the movie will keep you interested and entertained. The ending, even though it's a bit too tidy a wrap-up, does have an interesting twist that you probably won't see coming.

Takeaway Truth

Time Trap is entertaining and worth watching so give it a view.

Saturday Share: Beef and Cornbread Dinner

If you're looking for something easy and delicious to make for a quick dinner, you'll love this one dish dinner.

With bread, meat, corn, and tomatoes, this dish takes about 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake. This will serve 6.

Note: The recipe calls for an 8-ounce package of cornbread or corn muffin mix—preferably a mix that does NOT make a sweet cornbread.

If you know how to make cornbread, just make about 2 cups of cornbread batter from scratch. That's what I do anytime a recipe calls for cornbread batter.

Beef and Cornbread Dinner

* 1 pound of ground beef

* 1 tsp. dried and crushed oregano leaves

* 3/4 cup Pace® Picante Sauce or Rotel canned tomatoes

* 1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce

* 1 16-ounce can of whole kernel corn, drained ( I use Green Giant Mexicorn

* 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

* 1 8-ounce package of cornbread or corn muffin mix (a variety without sugar)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Brown ground beef and oregano in a skillet. When browned, pour off the fat.

3. Add picante or tomatoes, the tomato sauce, and the drained corn. Heat through.

4. Stir in shredded cheese.

5. Pour into a 2-quart square baking dish. You can also bake it in a cast iron skillet which looks attractive for serving too. Just remember to put it on a heat-proof trivet.

6. Prepare the cornbread batter. If using a mix, follow the package directions.

7. Spread the batter over the meat mixture in the baking dish.

8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cornbread topping is golden brown.

9. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

10. Optional. If you really love cheese, sprinkle some on top of each serving.

Takeaway Truth

I hope you enjoy this easy bake dinner. May it give you a little more time to relax this weekend.

Saturday Share

Join me every Saturday when I share a recipe, a household or organizational tip, or a short cut to make life easier for you! Have a great weekend!

Emily Contest Closes Oct. 2

The 2020 Emily Contest will be closing Oct. 2.

Have you entered this prestigious romance writing contest?

Celebrating 30 years of being a preeminent Romance writing contest, the Emily is sponsored by the West Houston Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

  • Sponsor: West Houston RWA
  • Fee: $25 WHRWA members / $35 all others
  • Opens: September 1, 2019
  • Closes: October 2, 2019, 11:59 pm CT
  • Eligibility: unpublished in the category entered
  • Entry: First 5600 words, no synopsis
  • Categories: Contemporary-Long, Contemporary-Short, Historical, FF/Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, YA
  • Judges: First Round Judges: Published in Romance, PAN authors or PRO authors who give positive, helpful feedback
  • Final Judges: Two publishing professionals: agent and editor for each finalist
  • Top Prize: Solid Sterling Silver Emily Pin and Certificate for winner, $100 Grand Prize.
For more information, see the Emily Contest Page.

Takeaway Truth

Many authors started their writing career with being a finalist and/or winner of the Emily. Maybe this year it could be you! Get your entry in before it's too late.

Imelda Threat: 6 Things To Do Now

Our neighborhood lake during Harvey
Well, Imelda has turned out to be a real bitch. It's been 3 days of rain, and it's still hanging around.

In fact, Imelda is flooding areas that didn't flood in Harvey. The lake that's the centerpiece of our community rose higher than I'd ever seen it. (Photo at left.) But, it's got a huge drain that takes overflow so we never had a problem.

I discovered during Harvey that we have one of the highest elevations in Houston: 57 feet. Don't laugh! That 57 feet has kept us flood-free during every flood event.

The problem is that Imelda slowed after moving slightly north of Houston and then reversed direction.

Instead of continuing north, the storm moved east, keeping southeast Texas under an umbrella of rain that just won't go away.

This is what happened in 1989 (I think that was the year) when a tropical storm parked itself off the coast and gave us 30 days of rain. Then Tropical Storm Allison in 2000 did pretty much the same thing.

I had hoped after Harvey that I'd never see this again, but the weather will do what it will do, and there's nothing you can do about it.

In case you're in the affected area, and you have not flooded, here are...

6 Things To Do During A Rain Event

1. Take a walk around your house. Wait for the rain to slow to a drizzle and make sure the lightning has abated. See where you might want to improve the drainage of your lot. Sometimes people install decking or landscaping that keeps rain from draining properly. Make sure this isn't the case with your property.

2. Be sure to check your chimney. Check inside the house. See if the brick is damp and/or if there's water dripping down inside the chimney.

During Hurricane Harvey, rain started dripping down the inside of our chimney. Long story short: the cap on top of the chimney had been damaged by the man who power-washed the mildew from the chimney brick the month before the hurricane.

So check around your fireplace where it's visible inside the room or rooms as well as checking the attic too. If you see any moisture, make a note to call a qualified chimney inspection company to check it before another storm rolls in.

3. Check the windows in every room. See if any rain water is leaking inside. When we bought our house in 2013, we replaced all the windows with insulated storm windows. We got a good deal since it was in the fall, but they were still expensive AND worth every penny.

4. Check your exterior doors. See if they're insulated well or if they're letting rain water in.

Make a plan for dealing with events like this.
5. Remember to check your garage. Most people overlook the garage and any storage closets in it, but pooled rain water could be seeping through the weep holes there. Make sure everything is dry.

6. Always keep your communication devices charged up. You need your cell phone, laptop, etc. to keep abreast of a changing situation so if you can't plug it in to charge it, stay off it to conserve its charge. If you have power, keep them plugged in.

When this rain event is over, put Backup Power Bank on your shopping list. The embedded link takes you to just one of them on Amazon so you can read about it and know what it is. You can find others on Amazon that might fit your needs or budget.

A power bank is a device that's sold under a lot of different names. It can quickly charge your cell phone, tablet, or laptop. You can get it for Apple devices or Android.

Takeaway Truth

Now is the time to take stock of your home's situation and make a plan for dealing with another event like Imelda.

Chiropractic Update

I wish I could say I'm 100% better. However, I'm still having problems stabilizing the C2 and C3 vertebra.

I have not been able to go more than 7 days without getting those 2 pesky vertebra out of alignment. That means I haven't been able to start PT yet.

I fully accept that part of the problem is me. I need to spend more time off the computer than on, and that's a big problem.

In other words, it's a matter of behavior modification. I'm having to retrain myself, my attitudes, and the way that I work—which lately is very little. *Big Sigh*

Takeaway Truth

I'm frustrated and trying very hard to be patient. Forming new habits is not easy, but I'm determined to do exactly that.

Batten Down the Hatches

A tropical depression landed on Galveston Island and immediately became Tropical Storm Imelda.

It's been 2 years since Hurricane Harvey, and everyone gets nervous when it starts raining like this.

Takeaway Truth

The weather talking heads say the storm is moving fast and will rush through the area. I hope they're right.

Link Love: Romance Gems Giveaway

Romance Gems, my group blog, is having a great Giveaway in September so I'm sending some Link Love their way.

It's all about getting back to you as an individual, not just a parent taking care of the kids on summer vacation.

So the prizes in the September Back to School? Back to YOU! Giveaway are sure to delight you and maybe pamper you a bit. In fact, it's winner's choice. Choose the Amazon Gift Cards or choose the Gift Prizes.

Enter the September Rafflecopter and you may be the lucky winner of an Echo Dot With Alexa or a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.

Be sure and watch the Back to School? Back to YOU! video promoting the September Giveaway. It features all of the Romance Gems authors and showcases some with their respective author "tagline," a brief sentence that describes the kind of books you can expect from them.

I hope you like the video since it's one of mine. If you do, please click LIKE and subscribe to my YouTube Channel. If you have a moment, leave a comment and tell me where you found the link for the video.

The Amazing Author Sponsors

Bonnie Edwards * Caroline Clemmons * Cheryl Bolen * Connie Vines * Constance Bretes * Elsa Kurt * Hannah Rowan * Jan Scarbrough * Joan Reeves * Judy Hudson * Kara O'Neal * Karen Kelley * Karen Whiddon * Kari Lemor * Kathleen Lawless * Kathryn Hills * Laura Hunsaker * Liz Flaherty * Lucinda Race * Nancy Fraser * Nora LeDuc * Peggy Jaeger * Satin Russell.

Giveaway Details

Starts at 12:01am CDT, September 4, Wednesday.

Ends at 12:01am CDT, September 27, Thursday.

To enter, scroll to the bottom to find the Rafflecopter form.

Great Prizes Up for Grabs

Grand Prize: Winner's Choice—Echo Dot with Alexa or $25.00 Amazon Gift Card.

Alexa can read most of the ebooks on a Kindle, read an Audible audio book for you, keep track of your calendar, organize your life, do research for you, play games, play music, make phone calls for you, and even order a pizza!

Actually there's even more that Alexa can do for you. There are hundreds of free Alexa apps available to you.

2nd Prize: Winner's Choice—Reader's Journal or $15.00 Amazon Gift Card.

If you select the Woman's Writing Journal, you'll receive the one shown to the right if available or another attractive stylish journal.

3rd Prize: Winner's Choice—Lavender Bath Bomb or $5.00 Amazon Gift Card.

Have you had bath bombs before? They're like a bubble bath kicked up a few notches.

They fizz and smell absolutely wonderful. If you select Bath Bomb as your prize, we'll send one similar to the Lavender F Bomb, "a lavender bath fizzer with a message inside," shown on the left.

Good luck everyone! Enter often and tell your friends.

Wisdom for Today: Change

Life is change. How many times have you heard that?

I was at a party Friday night, and a friend and I were talking about some things happening in our community that are unsettling and puzzling.

I think one of the problems is that change is coming with the election of new officials. This change means following certain codes and restrictions that haven't been enforced before.

Weeks later there is so much turmoil in the community that it's unbelievable.

Is it the change itself that's upsetting everyone? Is it that the change means, rules that some don't like must be followed even though they have been there all along but unenforced? Is it that some of the residents feel they should be exempt from rules everyone else follows?

Whatever the reason, the end result is dismaying.

Stephen Covey said. Every human has four endowments—self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change.

Takeaway Truth

One can only hope that others will always respond peacefully, courteously, and decide to accept change that is lawful and inevitable.

Saturday Share: Storing Cut Onions

How about a tip on how to store onions in the refrigerator where they're always ready to use in recipes?

Onions are hard to store in a refrigerator because they tend to stink up the entire fridge. Whatever else you have stored in the fridge will reek of onion too.

I came up with this solution several years ago when I receive glass crocks of cheese spread. The crock was glass with a rubber seal and one of those old-fashion wire clasps.

If you're like me, you hate to throw out something that looks so useful. When it was empty, I washed it and stored it in the top of the cabinet with other canning jars that had once been full of jellies and pickles. I'm frugal. I just hate to toss something so useful in the recycle bin without first trying to find a regular use for it.

Chopped Onion Was the Clue
This is the kind of jar I use & must have the rubber seal

I was making a recipe that called for 1/4 cup of chopped onion. That meant I had more than half an onion left. So I diced it all up. Then I thought of the jar with the rubber seal and the wire closure.

I retrieved it from the cabinet, filled it with the rest of the chopped onion, made sure the seal was well placed, and closed it. I put it in the produce drawer of the fridge. An hour later, I checked the fridge for onion odor. Nothing!

Wow. I'd finally found something to store cut onion that didn't smell up the fridge. Now if I need a tablespoons of diced onion, it's easy to measure out.

I look for these jars, or crocks, at thrift stores like Goodwill. I've picked up another 3 over the years that I've kept. Any others I find, I give as gifts.

At Christmas, I fill them with a homemade spice mix, attach I a pretty bow and a card that explains to wash and reuse them as onion storage jars.

I'm always on the lookout for these jars, and I find at least 1 or 2 each year. Everyone who has received this as a gift passes on the tip to others.

Takeaway Truth

I've never found a better storage container for cut onion. Try it once, and you'll be convinced too.

Saturday Share

Join me every Saturday when I share a recipe, a household or organizational tip, or a short cut to make life easier for you!

Enjoy your weekend.

Review: The Sapphires

Last night I watched The Sapphires, a new release on Netflix. You can also find it on Amazon Video.

The Sapphires is a 2012 Australian musical comedy-drama movie based on a 2004 stage play of the same name.

Loosely based on a true story, the story is about 4 indigenous Australian women, Gail (portrayed by Deborah Mailman), Julie (portrayed by Jessica Mauboy), Kay (portrayed by Shari Sebbens) and Cynthia (portrayed by Miranda Tapsell).

These 4 girls with the awesome singing voices are discovered by a talent scout (Chris O'Dowd). When told they could perform as an act in Vietnam and earn $30.00 a week, they go for it.

They form The Sapphires, go to Vietnam in 1968 to sing for the troops fighting there.

Production began in 2010 on the movie with the casting of the 4 women who would portray The Sapphires.

Filmed in Australia and Vietnam during August and September 2011, The Sapphires premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. In August 2012, it was theatrically released in Australia and then had a limited release in the United States in March 2013.

My Thoughts

If you're looking for a feel-good movie with some good music, The Sapphires is it. The 4 girls portray sisters who love each other and fight with each other just as siblings often do.

What's interesting is the back story of the rift between 3 of the girls, who really are sisters, and the 4th girl who is actually not a sister.

In Louisiana where I was born, it was public policy in the bad old days to try to erase the Cajun patois from language, forcing all children to speak only English.

According to the movie's back story, in Australia, back in their bad old days, they forcibly removed light-skinned indigenous children from their homes and "gave" them to white families to adopt.

During the course of the movie, we get that history lesson and its emotional fallout on children and families who went through that. We also get a story with heart and optimism about 4 women determined to have more in their lives than the general public thought they should have.

Takeaway Truth

My husband and I both enjoyed this movie because of the story, the acting, the emotion, and the music. I think you'll enjoy it too!

Elizabeth and Robert: Their Love

On this day in 1846, romantic poet Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.

Theirs was a love story that lives on in her Sonnets from the Portuguese.

You may know nothing, absolutely nothing, about poetry, but I bet you know her poem, familiarly known as, How Do I Love Thee.

Maybe some historians say their love wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, but I like to think it was true love with some life problems and emotional baggage like we all have.

History of Sonnets from the Portuguese

Barrett Browning didn't want to publish her volume of poetry because she thought they were too personal. Her husband Robert Browning insisted they were the "best sequence of English-language sonnets since Shakespeare's time" and encouraged her to publish them. To try to remain anonymous, she agreed but published them as if they were translations of foreign sonnets. Originally, she planned to call the collection "Sonnets translated from the Bosnian."

Her husband suggested she change the source to Portuguese. One reason for that was because he called her my little Portuguese.

Since this work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago, I am publishing it below.

Sonnet XLII from Sonnets from the Portuguese aka How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
True Love is always worth everything.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise;
I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith;
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Takeaway Truth

An anthem to a beloved that still thrills us.

Day of Tragedy; Day of Service

On a sunny September morning in 2001, I was vacuuming the gameroom when my husband called from his office in Houston and told me to turn on the television.

I did. I could not believe what I was seeing. Black smoke billowed from what looked like the north tower of the World Trade Center.

I told my husband something must have happened to the plane's inflight computer and somehow the  autopilot was locked on.

Of course, that was just my brain trying to make sense of what I was seeing because I could not believe someone had deliberately flown into the building.

As I watched, a United Airlines plane (Flight 175) flew into the South Tower.

Horrified, I stared at the television. For a few minutes I think my brain disconnected. No longer was I trying to find rational explanations of the horror I was seeing. My chest hurt. I realized I was holding my breath. I exhaled and gulped some much needed air. A thought flashed through my mind.

The world has changed.

Where Were You?

Nearly every time 9/11 is mentioned in conversation, someone says where they were and asks where you were on 9/11. It was a seminal event in the lives of most Americans.

If you weren't born or were too young to remember those early anniversaries, here are some facts for you to know.

The attacks took the lives of 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others.

The death toll included 265 on the four planes, (No one on the planes survived.), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. There were 11 unborn babies who lost their lives.

Of the people trapped in the collapse of the World Trace Centers, only 20 were found alive.

There there are all the service members who were killed or wounded in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Turn Tragedy Into Service

Rather than let the 9/11 anniversary fuel your anger, let it inspire you to be of service to others on this day.

nine-eleven-3134131_1280, by Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay
There are many ways you can honor those who died or were injured. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Fly your American flag at half-mast in honor of those lost their lives.

2. Give blood in honor of the more than 6,000 who were injured on that day. There are many blood drives on this day. Find one near you.

3. Join a local event to observe the six moments of silence for each key event of the attacks.

  • The first moment: 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower.
  • The second moment : 9:03 a.m., when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower.
  • The third moment: 9:37 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
  • The fourth moment: 9:59 a.m., when the World Trade Center South Tower collapsed.
  • The fifth moment: 10:02 a.m., when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field outside the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
  • The sixth moment: 10:29 a.m., when the orld Trade Center North Tower collapsed.
WTC Memorial, Image by Ronile from Pixabay
4. Talk about with others, especially share it with young people who know it only as part of history.

5. Post a picture on your website to honor those who lost their lives or were injured.

6. Volunteer through one of the non-profit organizations dedicated to preserving September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

7. Donate to a charity that supports the families of 9/11 victims, museums, and other beneficial programs.

8. Thank a soldier, sailor, marine, Air Force, Coast Guard and first responder for their service.

For more service suggestions and history of why September 11 was chosen for this attack, read the 2016 article 15 Ways to Remember. The historical significance of September 11 is at the end of the list.

Takeaway Truth

We remember, despite the pain, that fateful day. Philosopher George Santayana famously said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Remember history's lessons. We never want to repeat that day.