May

30

Hello!

Below is the first short except from QPQ that sets the stage for the events about to transpire in this mystery. The delay in posting this first excerpt was not in feverishly revising the material; it is still very much a work in progress. While I am excited to share this work with my friends, when the time came to actually post it for all to see, I found that it took some time to work up the courage to do so as it is my first work of fiction. I am looking for (constructive) feedback that will ultimately improve the end product and would appreciate hearing your ideas. To that end, please comment or, if you prefer, send me an email with your thoughts. Please be honest but gentle; I am baring my soul in this work.

You will note I have taken some literary license in the interest of creating a story in describing the location and characters.To that end, I am opening up a contest for the name of the city in which the book takes place. I want it to be located in Wisconsin, to be a Native American word meaning “great spirit of the lake” or something similar, but it need not be an actual place. If you submit a name and I use it, you will receive a free copy of the finished book once it is published. That being said, please read the first section of Quid Pro Quo:

“SECTION I–FEBRUARY 14, 2012

CHAPTER 1

The day started like any other in the small Midwestern city of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Situated on the shore of Lake Michigan, the city was home to numerous industries that relied on the waterway to transport their goods to places beyond: factories manufacturing products for distribution around the world, farming operations that shipped their grains for processing elsewhere, even a manufacturer of large luxurious yachts that were in demand among the wealthiest of the 1%. Each of these industries thrived in the serene environment, though occasional growing pains were felt among long time residents of the community.

Established back in 1848, just about the time Wisconsin became a state, the city had sprouted up on either side of the river that flowed from Lake Michigan into the depths of the fertile farmland along the lakeshore. Initially the area was occupied by the Oneida and Winnebago Indian tribes. In fact, the name of the city is derived from an Indian word meaning “Great Spirit of the Lake.” Later, immigrants from Germany, what was then known as Bohemia and Poland began to settle in the area to develop farms and raise their families. Many of these families still occupied the area a number of generations later.

Once the city was established, some residents abandoned the practice of family farming and went to work for the industries that were developing in the lakefront community. Somewhat reminiscent of an Eastern seaboard town with its large marina and shipyard, Manitowoc made good use of its lake access. Factories building fishing and recreational boats, cookware and heavy machinery sprung up along the river, easily able to ship their products for worldwide distribution. Farmers shipped their goods as well. The shipyards had become well-known for their exceptional products, being a sought-after contractor to build submarines for the Department of Defense during World War II. And the yacht builder became known worldwide for the fine quality of their products, including the internal furnishings and supreme wood finishes. Even now, Manitowoc was a city that was doing well. Merchants provided a good product for a fair price, neighbors helped neighbors, a man’s word was his bond and life was good.

Because the river divided the town nearly in two, separations had sprung up on the north and south sides of the meandering body of water. Immigrants from Poland favored the south side of the city and they established a large Catholic church there with masses in Polish in addition to the standard Latin. The population living there tended toward blue collar occupations and simpler homes. German immigrants tended to prefer the higher land on the north side of the city and settled there, favoring larger homes and slightly more skilled occupations. The attorneys, business owners and physicians tended to live on the north side of the river, even in the present day, when the cultural differences had all but disappeared.

Family life was also pleasant in this Midwestern haven. A largely blue collar and farming community as a whole, children were valued and cherished; the main focus of weekend activities and events was on the family. Most people living in this small community were born and died there, never having ventured too far from home. If they went away to college, the more adventurous young people returned promptly upon graduation to make their homes and raise their families in Manitowoc as their parents had.

It was into this idyllic scene that evil intruded on a rare chilly but sunny day in February, though some would assert that the real evil had arrived some twenty five years before on the day that charismatic Adam Magnus had married a local girl and moved into their fair town. Or, perhaps some six years earlier when he had run for and been elected the office of the State Representative of the residents of the area, or even some four years earlier when he had run for an additional full time position as County Executive. Yes, many felt that what happened in February was just a setting to rights of events that had gotten out of hand.”

Apr

13

Hello Everyone,

When last I wrote I promised an excerpt from my novel to be posted soon. Then I began what I have decided will be my final IT class. It took an incredible amount of time and left me no time to relax, much less time to edit and post excerpts of Quid Pro Quo. I am writing now to report two accomplishments:

  1. I have completed my class, Website Architecture, with a grade of 98+%! and
  2. I have also set up my author site under the domain name www.dianemberry.com

Please check out my new site and watch this location for the first excerpt of my novel. It will most likely be posted in June as I am completing my ground classes in General Psychology at UNM-Taos and just about to begin a new term with my Kaplan classes. Major editing will happen this summer, hopefully with your help. I appreciate any constructive feedback you would like to share with me.

Onward!

Jan

8

Well, you have again been neglected for an extended period of time, Blue Waters Blog, while I tried to find my direction. After living in New Mexico for nearly two years, I now feel as if I have some idea where I am headed and can share a few thoughts about my journey. Here is what I know:

A)      I love to teach. I am teaching online Human Services courses at Kaplan University and thoroughly enjoying that experience. I am also teaching two sections of psychology at UNM Taos  each semester and find that I appreciate the experience of getting to know my students there in person. This combination works for me.

B)       I love to learn. In August I began taking advantage of Kaplan’s Gift of Knowledge and completed my first class in pursuit of a Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Website Design. To date I have just about finished my second class and will then have three classes remaining that I plan to complete in 2014. Also, while in high school I completed every Art course offered, when I started college I decided I needed to be practical and completed only one. Through the Gift of Knowledge from UNM Taos, this semester I will again re-discover my love of making art by taking a Realistic Painting class from instructor Giovanna, Papponetti. I am truly looking forward to getting back to art.

C)      I am creative. I had come to New Mexico with dreams of spending my days writing fiction. However, I had begun doubting my creativity, as after our move I became very focused on the mechanics of making a life here and had no time, nor desire to write. I must be feeling more settled, however, as in November 2013, I accepted the challenge proposed by the National Novel Writers Group and completed 53,000 words of a new novel in less than 30 days. Now I must begin the editing process; not my favorite part, nor a particular strength of mine.

In fact, that is where you come in. I am hoping to post excerpts of my novel on this blog from time to time, interspersed with other observational or unrelated posts, and will ask for your feedback (please be honest but gentle). For those interested, look for the first post in the next few weeks. For purposes of clarity, I will label the novel excerpt posts Quid Pro Quo, the tentative title of the novel, with a number to follow, indicating the number of that post. That way anyone missing a post can scroll back to read previous posts.

On that note, I will bid you “adieu” for now but watch this space for coming attractions, and for Quid Pro Quo 1 to be posted very soon.  I thank you in advance for your feedback!

May

30

Sorry I have been too busy to post the past two weeks but we have been terrifically busy packing and moving. We arrived in Taos at our house on Saturday, May 26th and have been spending  the past four days finding places for all of the things we brought along. We have already taken a number of items to “Pieces”, a local consignment shop that has sold several pieces for us in the past.

Today we discovered where the landfill was and were able to drop off all of our garbage and most of our recycling, cleaning out the house a great deal. We plan to make another trip later in the week.

We have been to the grocery store every day this week. Also did some shopping today and bought a tin mirror for our great room area. It’s a perfect fit!

Yesterday, we spent the morning planting all of the perennials (black eyed susans, purple coneflowers, bee balm, russian sage, rhubarb from the plant my dad gave me and bleeding heart from my mom.) I have been watering them twice a day and plan to continue this until they are established. Also purchased a few more russian sage plants out here that have been planted as well.

No pictures tonite as much of the equipment has not been unpacked, but wanted to send an update as it has been so long. Both the people and puppies that have travelled with us are settling in and doing well. Ryan headed back to Drake on Monday and will start his job next Tuesday. Terry leaves Saturday, June 2nd, to come back to Manitowoc and take care of wrapping up a few details. Kate and Meghan leave on Tuesday for their road trip to Las Vegas and LA. It will be very quiet here when all of my company is gone. Saving unpacking my books and settling into my office for that time. That, and taking care of my newly planted baby perennials. More soon…

May

15

The kids’ first weekend back in Manitowoc was indeed a busy one as it would be our last weekend in Manitowoc before our move. Thus, there were a number of items on our agenda. Our first stop was at the office building to pick up a few remaining pieces of furniture and to have Ryan and Terry take down the Blue Waters Family Counseling sign. Seeing it come down marks the end of an era.

Taking down the sign

After we complete these tasks, it is off to Shopko for some toiletries for the kids and a Mother’s Day card for my mother. We make another trip to Good Will, pack a few more boxes at the house, then come back to the house for more packing. The kids decide to attend their last Masquer’s performance, The Sound of Music.

It is done

The next morning, Terry and I are up early packing as the kids sleep in. I spend several hours packing with a box perched on “my” chair in the dining room, before we need a break and run another load of stuff to Good Will. When we return, I notice a large bouquet of beautiful flowers on the dining room table in a vase, just inches from where I had been packing. Assuming the kids put them there while we were gone, I went upstairs to thank them. When I asked Ryan when they had put them on the table, he responded, “Last night when we came home!” Apparently I am not the most observant mom in the world!

Mother's Day Flowers and Cards

This will be our last (at least for the present time) Mother’s Day in Manitowoc. We plan to meet my mother, sister and her family for lunch at the Club Bilmar in the afternoon to celebrate the day. In addition to her card and gift, I give my mom a small Russian Sage plant. These bloom large and all summer and fall in Taos. They are prolific and just the sight of one makes me feel like I am there. I wanted to give her one to plant in her garden; a little piece of New Mexico to help her feel close to us. However, I am told in Wisconsin they do not bloom until fall, so all I can find are tiny seedlings. Still, much like our life in New Mexico, it will grow and take shape in time.

We return home and pack more, then decide to head to Luigis Italian Restaurant for a last meal there. Luigi’s has marked many celebrations in our family. It was where we held our 10 year anniversary celebration, first Communion luncheons for the kids, family graduations dinners before the actual graduation party and, last June, Kate and Nate’s rather hastily arranged bridal shower. It is only fitting that we find time to celebrate one more meal there.

Mother's Day Lunch

In the evening, we wind down and settle in, a bit uncomfortable in a home in which several key pieces of furniture have been removed and walls of boxes grace nearly every room. But happy we will all get to be here together for the last week once Kate arrives from California on Wednesday.

May

12

The next step in our big move is picking up the kids from Drake University in Des Moines, IA and bringing just about everything from their dorm rooms home with us. We leave Manitowoc before the sun rises at 4:27 am on Friday, May 11th. I’m excited to see them and have them home with us, but, gosh, it’s tired out! We arrive at Drake at 11:15 am, in time to empty Meghan’s room before her scheduled checkout time of 11:45.

The Sigma Chi House

However, due to the fact that we are bringing furniture we are donating to the Sigma Chi Fraternity, of which Ryan is a member, our car is packed. Traveling with us are a recliner from our living room that will not be traveling to Taos with us, along with 11 stackable chairs from our group room,  two large soccer posters and the ski boots and equipment of Ashley, one of the students who accompanied us to Taos on Spring Break. Thus, we have nowhere to go with Meghan’s possessions. Our initial plan is remove them from her room and stack them by the curb. Meghan will then check out and I will stay with her things, while Terry runs over to pick up Ryan to drop off the furniture at the Fraternity House.

Unloading Furniture at Sigma Chi

However, finding ourselves arriving a half hour before Meghan’s checkout time, we decide to have Ryan meets us at the Sigma Chi house, unload the furniture and send Terry off to help Meg, while Ryan and I see about getting everything inside, then walking over to her dorm. What a trip!

Meg's stuff waiting to be loaded...

We all help to  load Meghan’s things in the car, and break down her lofted bed, then head over to  pick up all of Ryan’s worldly goods, except for the few things he will be leaving at the House, where he will come back to stay this summer. He accepted a job studying and analyzing watershed issues with the DNR for the summer. Not a bad deal. He will come to Manitowoc, make the big move with us, then fly back to Des Moines on Memorial Day to start work the following day.

Herein lies the problem. Ryan has been up all night finishing a take home final and has not packed. Nor has he rid his room/apartment of the trash or recycling  or vacuumed the floor as required. His checkout time is 12:15. We take a few loads down, then decide that as it is already 12:30 and neither of the kids have eaten (we ate breakfast a 4 am!), Meghan and I would walk over to Subway to get sandwiches and we would have lunch before completing our task. Three of us sit outside at a picnic table but Ryan eats while he works.

A well-packed vehicle!

After lunch, work begins in earnest. I haul out several bags of garbage and a half dozen bags and boxes of recycling from the pile in the corner, Meghan cleans the bathroom (sweet girl) and Ryan and Terry haul a load of stuff over to the fraternity house. We finally finish up and Ryan vacuums his carpet and checks out while Terry, Meghan and I run to gas up and drop off a large load of her clothes for Goodwill. As we return, I get an urgent email from Kaplan asking if I would be able to teach a new class starting Wednesday, Legal and Ethical Issues in Human Services. This will be just what I need to start getting settled in in Taos: interesting work.

We are finally packed and ready to head northeast at 2:47pm. It is a long drive back but we fill it with chatter and catching up with the kids about their semester and plans for the summer and the move. We arrive home after dark at nearly 10 pm to three puppies who are very happy to see us. They have been a bit skittish since we started packing boxes a month ago; I think they’re afraid we are going to move without them! Little do they know we wouldn’t dream of it!

May

10

The former Blue Waters Family Counseling, 2215 Washington Street, Manitowoc, WI

And so it begins…

Blue Waters Family Counseling held its final Peaceful Alternatives to Family Violence Group on April 24th and its final individual session on April 30th. Since that time we have been busy packing up the records and receipts that we must keep locked away in the basement of our cabin in the northwoods for the next few years.

Today, we took yet another step:
Much of the furniture has been moved out of the building by this evening. It has been dispersed to deserved and deserving individuals who were in need of it. There are still a few pieces left, but most is gone. Not everything went as planned, but we must remember:

“We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”

There has been much “adjusting” going on in our lives of late.  And I am sure there is more to come…

Keep reading in the upcoming weeks and months as I will be sharing our progress (or lack thereof) and our adventures on our big move with all of you. Hopefully it will be entertaining for you; I know it will be good to have a place to vent!

Nov

5

Serenity in modern society is elusive and difficult to find. Whenever possible, Terry and I look to spend special times in wild places to achieve a bit of peace. Please enjoy this post I wrote for the Woodalls RV and Camping Blog as it is the closest I have been to that serenity in quite a while. It has been a busy fall. Enjoy!

http://blog.woodalls.com/2011/10/a-hike-on-a-sea-of-gold/

And remember to pray for serenity. For a slightly new and updated variation of the Serenity Prayer, here is one I’ve heard recently:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, and
The wisdom to know…IT IS ME!

Because in truth, the only person we can change is ourselves!

Wishing you Peace…

Nov

4

Holding a grudge

is like letting someone live rent-free

in your head!

 

The best reason to forgive is for yourself. When you hold onto old hurts, nurse them and nurture them and refuse to let them go, the only person you are hurting is YOU! You feel weighted down with the negative feelings, sluggish and held back with the baggage you are dragging with you ever step of the way.

Let go and feel the renewed energy you have. Focus on something positive in your life. Choose to let go of that hurt; to forgive trespasses. Feel how much lighter it makes you feel!

Refuse to house any unwanted tenants in your head. Life is too short and precious to choose to be stuck in negativity. Embrace the positive! Enjoy!

Aug

26

This is Taos Mountain from our back porch. How can I not be there?