Friday Free-For-All! #Music #Self-Care

Happy Friday. Is it me, or has this been a long week?

Even though this was the first week of spring, the temperatures here were cold, and it didn’t feel much like spring. However, today is warm, so maybe we’re done with the cold weather. My mom always used to say there would be an Easter spell. Guess we’ll see. I remember in 2007, when I lived in Coleman, it snowed on April 7th. Everything had already started budding out.

Coleman, Texas April 7, 2007

I spent the first part of this week taking care of my granddaughters while my daughter and son-in-law were out of town. I came home Tuesday evening exhausted. Don’t get me wrong. I love being with the kiddos. But they sure do take a lot of energy.

Remembering my tarot reading for the week, I embraced The Hermit card and took Wednesday as a self-care day. And it paid off. I’ve been productive and had energy since then. It’s so hard to take that kind of downtime. It makes me feel like a selfish person. Yet, sometimes it’s necessary.

Have you ever heard of a site called Storyworth? Around Christmas, my daughters purchased a year of access to Storyworth for me. They choose questions they want me to write about and share photos about. An example is a question they posed this week: “Which musician or band have you liked seeing live the most?”

That one was hard for me to answer, as live music is such an integral part of my life. But I recalled one concert in Shreveport, La, in 1982 that still to this day was hands-down the best concert ever. Charlie Daniels was doing his Window tour at that time. I still have the t-shirt. 🙂

As part of the tour, there was a jumbotron that ran raw footage from the VietNam war while Charlie performed the songs. It was so touching, plus an overall phenomenal production. I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, there is a list as long as my leg of musicians and bands that I have come to know and love, but that concert stands out above all the rest as far as the best show I ever saw.

Anyway, back to Storyworth – at the end of the year, all the questions, my answers, and photos I’ve scanned in will be compiled into a hardback book. It is a great way to preserve family memories, share secrets, and perhaps a bit of wisdom along the way. It’s a pretty awesome opportunity.

I am between reading books right now and concentrating on my current WIP. If I stay focused, I hope to have the first draft finished within the next 7 days. That’s my goal. So, I’m thrilled with the progress and the inspiration!

But I have some intriguing books lined up and waiting for me to indulge in. Sometimes I have a hard time choosing what to read next, but I have two NetGalley books that I am required to read and review, so those will be next. One is a Nora Roberts book. I haven’t read one of her books in years.

From the Story Empire group, Author John Howell was on a podcast Wednesday evening with the Fresh Ink Group, and it was a super entertaining interview! If you’d like to hear the replay, here is the LINK.

Also, if you missed my last Story Empire post, I wrote about ways to incorporate Tarot cards into fiction writing. Here’s the link to that post:

There will be no Friday Free-For-All next week as I will be working the first music festival of the season!

Outlaws and Legends takes place in Abilene, Texas, and is a festival I have been working for the past 8 years. While it’s exhausting, it’s also exhilarating, and I intend to keep doing it as long as my body holds out. The rewards? I work the VIP and Artist gate, so get to greet all the artists when they come into the festival grounds. It’s always wonderful to see old friends and get hugs. This picture was an epic moment for me when I got to meet Kris Kristofferson and issue him an armband.

Jan Sikes and Kris Kristofferson, March, 2019, Abilene, Texas

This year, Willie Nelson is headlining Saturday night. I know there will be a huge turnout. The festival started out small, but every year it grows by leaps and bounds. It’s a highlight of my year.

Maybe I’ll come back with more photos. Who knows? I’ll be there for whatever occurs. 🙂

I hope everyone has had a positive week. I ask that you keep my sister in your thoughts and prayers as she underwent surgery yesterday to remove a kidney.

Take good care, remember to smile, and take a deep breath now and then.

Friday Free-For-All! #Disney #Alkalinewater

Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but this has seemed like a long week. I am still super far behind on everything I missed from being away, but dealing with the fact that I won’t catch up, so just moving forward.

Thought I’d share a few photos from our Disney adventure to start this post. The girls loved Disney lots more than they did Universal last year.

They got to do so much, including a full princess makeover in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Boutique. I’ll start with that.

They got to meet four of the Disney princesses, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Tiana, and Aurora.

We had lunch in Cinderella’s castle on the first day and Belle’s castle on the second day. Then the third day, we spent at Animal Kingdom, where they got to pet a Rhino, go on a safari, see amazing birds, and have an Elephant encounter. I did not know that Animal Kingdom is classified as a zoo.

Pandora was absolutely amazing and I loved, loved, loved the tree of life!

And, of course, there were tons of rides. I’ll end the Disney recount with this. Go ahead and laugh. I do every time I look at it. Is that a look of sheer terror on my face? I think so. My daughter looks like she’s about to cry, and the little one looks horrified. Sydney is the only one enjoying herself. 🙂

It was a trip that made memories. One day I will be too old to go and enjoy these things with them, but for now, at 71, I can still hang in there with the best of them. Our step counters went crazy, with over 20,000 per day. 🙂 Not bad for an old lady.

Now on to a favorite subject – water.

Image by rony michaud from Pixabay

Are you familiar with Alkaline water? My oldest daughter had bariatric surgery several years ago, and she was told at that time she needed to drink only Alkaline water in her recovery. Being the curious one that I am, I had to look into it. Our bodies tend to be highly acidic, depending on our diets. And illnesses like cancers thrive in an acidic environment. So, drinking alkaline water helps lower acidity, creating overall better health. But purchasing alkaline water is a bit expensive. So, I found this life hack for making your own.

For healthy adults, a popular recipe is ⅛ tablespoon (or 1/3 teaspoon) of baking soda in 8 fluid ounces of purified water. Stir or shake the mixture thoroughly so that the baking soda becomes completely dissolved and you got your alkaline water ready for drinking. Or, for every gallon of water you wish to alkalize, mix it with ½ tablespoon of baking soda.

Cheap and effective!

I have had a fun month of reading some really good books and will be posting my reviews next week. On the writing front…well (she says, with head hanging sheepishly), there has been very little progress. I’m still very much in catch-up mode but hope to get some new word count this weekend.

That’s it from me for now. There will be no Friday post next week and no Monday post on March 6th, as I will be traveling (again). Friday, I will be at the Bandera, Texas Public Library to present a program, then will be going from there to Lubbock to spend a few days with my sister as she undergoes another surgery.

Take good care, and I hope you have a fabulous weekend! I’ll leave you with this thought from Steve Jobs:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Friday Free-For-All! #ProteinBalls #Ladybug #Querying

I say this on Mondays and then again on Fridays. Time sure does fly by! Happy Friday and the start of another weekend.

I began a weight loss adventure around the first of October and used a plan called Optavia. I wasn’t extremely overweight but needed to lose those stubborn ten pounds I gained when I broke my ribs in 2019. So, going in, I knew (or hoped) it would be a short journey. By Thanksgiving, I had lost thirteen pounds. Doing a happy dance all around the Thanksgiving table! Then came the hard part. Going back to eating regular food and keeping the weight off. By the way, Sally Cronin features posts on her blog frequently that deal with nutrition, and I’ve found them to be golden. One of the hardest things we’ll do while in these heavy-skinned bodies is to learn what each of ours needs and provide it. It’s almost like an entity cohabitating within another entity. 🙂

But I digress. One of the main factors of any weight loss plan is protein. For several years, I’ve been purchasing protein bars from a Dallas company, Fittastik. They are absolutely perfect, except that they are expensive. My solution? Try to make my own. Thus I began my experiment.

Here’s my first attempt.

While they looked and tasted good, sadly, I didn’t have enough of some key ingredients to get the protein numbers I wanted. After searching through the internet and making a trip to the store, this is my second attempt, where I actually wrote everything down and knew the two key numbers, calories, and protein.

I’m still not 100% happy with the protein content, so I will up the protein powder in the next batch I make and switch out dried cherries for dried dates. If any of you have a recipe you’d be willing to share, I’d be most grateful!

On a completely different subject, I had an unusual visit from a little ladybug. Two things about this that struck me as odd. First of all, we are in the dead of winter, and second, I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building. I first saw her on a lampshade. I carefully removed her and placed her on a plant. That evening, she was up on my ceiling fan. Me being me, I had to get out my animal signs books and look her up. Here’s what it said:

If a ladybug lands on you, make a wish. It will be granted. (She didn’t) Structure a time each day where you can pray or meditate in silence and solitude. (That I already do) Something you thought was lost will be making its way back into your life. (Okay) Mother Mary is with you to guide you and console you, no matter what your religious or spiritual orientation. (I love that!) You’re shielded and protected from irritations, pestering thoughts, or annoying behaviors from others. (Yay!)

After seeing her on the ceiling fan, I haven’t had a sighting since. What are your thoughts? Do you pay attention when something out of the ordinary shows up?

This past Sunday, I got to enjoy an afternoon of music. It had been way too long, and I needed a fix, so I traveled to Mineral Wells, Texas, to listen to my good friend, Randy C. Moore and Jody Lee. It was SO much fun. Randy has a new song hitting the airwaves today, “Before Elvis.” It’s a true story song about his uncle who went to school in Memphis with Elvis. Take a listen and get ready to tap your toes. 🙂 Here’s a photo of me, Randy, and Jody.

L-R Randy C. Moore, Me, Jody Lee

On the writing front, I’ve pretty much hit a brick wall this week, but as things will do if you let them work themselves out, I now have a clearer idea of where I need to make some changes in my WIP and hope that gets me moving forward again.

I also did something this week I’ve never done before since I started down (or up) this writing path in 2013. I started querying agents for my completed manuscript, “A Beggar’s Bargain.” I don’t know what the result will be, but I felt compelled to try. Maybe that’s what the Angel card was all about on Monday. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

On the reading front, I’m currently doing a beta-read for another author and loving what I’m reading! Next up for me is from a new author for me, “Survival” by Lisa Harris. I’ll let you know.

Whatever your plans are for the weekend, I hope you remember two things: 1. You are a powerful creator! 2. We are all in this together!

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday Free For All!

Happy Friday, y’all!! this will most likely be my last Friday post for a while. The grandkids get out of school next Thursday, and my days will be filled with taking care of them.

I saw this on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing.

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty fed up with others trying to force their opinions on me. We are all individuals, and each has the right to see and feel however we do about any given subject. That’s not to say we can’t change our minds, but if you are like me, I want it to be my choice, not because someone forced me.

Just a little something to keep in mind.

The holiday season is here. I still have a few gifts to buy and to create, but I’m getting there. It may sound sad, but since I live alone and no one comes to my apartment, I no longer decorate for the holidays. However, I certainly do enjoy seeing them everywhere I go. This is the tree I get to enjoy daily at my youngest daughter’s house.

The same daughter had to undergo a tenuous surgery this week, and she is down for the count. I spent all day Monday with her at the hospital. The surgery lasted for a little over three hours. She is home and recovering, but it’s going to be a long road. She needs Mama’s help a lot right now, although she is much like me and fiercely independent. I don’t wait for her to ask. I do what I see that needs doing and anything to make things easier for her.

Folks, stay aware and alert this holiday season, as scammers are everywhere trying to take your money! I ordered some items through an ad I saw, and when they arrived, they were defective. I contacted the company (thank goodness there was a phone number listed) and asked how I could return them for a refund. They refused to accept a return. Instead, they offered me 70% of my money back, and I keep the items. What?? Yep. I had no choice. It was either accept the 70% or lose it all. My sister got taken with a scam, too. So, just be vigilant and keep an eye on your money. It’s a crazy world out there.

On a good note, I got to experience laying on a Red Light therapy table today. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t until recently, but I’m interested. Here’s what it looks like.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, Red light therapy (RLT) is a treatment that uses low-wavelength red light to reportedly improve your skin’s appearance, such as reducing wrinkles, scars, redness, and acne. It’s also touted to treat other medical conditions. NASA originally began experimenting with red light therapy on plant growth in space and then to help heal wounds in astronauts. Red light therapy is thought to work by acting on the “power plant” in your body’s cells called mitochondria. With more energy, other cells can do their work more efficiently, such as repairing skin, boosting new cell growth, and enhancing skin rejuvenation. More specifically, certain cells absorb light wavelengths and are stimulated to work.

So, we’ll see. It is said to also reduce inflammation in the body and even improve eyesight in some cases.

I’m always open to trying new holistic ways of staying healthy and feeling good. I’ll let you know how it goes.

On a different note, Goodreads tells me I am two books away from reaching my reading goal of 95 books for 2022. One thing I do know for sure—it is going to be extremely difficult to pick a top ten list for this year. I have read SO many great books that still linger with me long after I close them. But I will give it a good try. So that will be coming up in the next few weeks.

If you missed my Christmas Story at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord Blog, I’d love for you to visit and read it. I wrote it in 2016 and revived it to share at Sally’s place. HANDS

If you aren’t following Sally’s blog, I highly recommend you do so while you are visiting. She is a generous supporter of all authors.

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of my newest book, Saddled Hearts, OR if you’re looking for a gift, here’s the link to take a look:

That’s it from me for today. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

This won’t be my last opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas, but I’m going to wish it anyway. It’s been an interesting year with lots of adventures. And it isn’t over yet!

Friday Free For All! #Dreams

Happy Friday! We’ve made another week. Today is the last stop on the Saddled Hearts blog tour, so I hope you will visit me at Erika Kind’s place.

Yesterday, myself and a couple of my Story Empire colleagues were talking about sleep patterns, then we got sidetracked talking about dreams.

What are dreams? Dr. Derup, a behavioral sleep medicine expert, says this, “Dreams are mental imagery or activity that occur when you sleep.” That’s pretty simple. But to me, they are so much more.

Freud thought dreams were repressed content, ideas, or themes. Jung’s idea of what dreams are is deeper and more objective since the archetypes that caused dreams were collective, universal, anatomical, or biological, and therefore objective and empirical. Jung thought dreams are something that you carry from your ancestors.

Hmm. Could be, I suppose.

To the Native American people, dreams were an essential conduit for communication with the supernatural world. I buy more into that theory than any other. The dreamcatcher originated with the Ojibwe tribe, and they believed it would trap bad dreams and let good dreams come through.

I’ve always been fascinated by the dream world and have dreamed ever since I can remember. They say everyone does, but not everyone remembers their dreams. And there are different types of dreams. Most often, our dreams are made up of the subconscious mind processing things from our day.

Then there are lucid dreams, where you are asleep but aware that you are dreaming. In Dan Antion‘s new books, The Dreamer’s Alliance Series, one of his characters has lucid dreams and even learns how to manipulate them for the outcome he wants.

I can’t say I’ve ever had that exact experience where I manipulated a dream, but I have definitely experienced being aware that I was dreaming. I have had dreams where I am flying low and close to the ground, but really fast, and when I have those dreams, I wake up feeling a tad bit dizzy.

But probably the most bizarre dream I’ve ever had was one where I dreamed I laid down on a bed and went to sleep. When I awoke, I was so disoriented and unsure if I was awake in my dream, or awake in my real world. I’ll never forget that. It was a very strange feeling.

I’ve had a dream interpretation book since the seventies, so it’s something I’ve always been fascinated with. You can tell by the photo the book is well-worn.

I’ve dreamt about loved ones who have passed on. Then, on the other hand, I’ve had visits from loved ones who have passed on, and there is a distinct difference between the two. When you have a visit, you know you’ve been with that person. Often, there will be a lingering fragrance or touch after you awake. When I experience visits, I often awake with tears on my cheeks.

Dream interpretation is as broad as the dreams themselves.

For example, here are some of the basic dream interpretations in my book:

To dream of wild animals is generally a good omen pertaining to business.

Dogs in dreams are a good omen and often represent friends.

To dream of being naked indicates a stroke of money luck.

By the same token, to dream of feces, symbolizes wealth.

Obstacle dreams are very common, where you are having to squeeze through tiny openings or climb narrow ladders, and those dreams indicate frustration about not reaching a goal in real life.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Do you have a recurring dream? One that you still think about regularly? My late husband had a recurring dream where he was living in the 1800s, wearing a coat and top hat, and he played upright bass. In real life, he never tried to play the bass. He often thought that dream might have been a glimpse at a past life. Who knows?

Let’s talk about dreams. Do you have one you’d like for me to look up in my trusty book?

Next week is Thanksgiving week in the U.S., and I will be taking a blogging break to spend time with family. I’ll try to visit your blogs as I can, but I won’t post anything more until after the holidays. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you and yours a wonderful time!

Friday Free-For-All! #Mushrooms #Memory

Happy Friday! It’s been a crazy busy week, and the Saddled Hearts tour is still going on. I am overwhelmed and happy with the reviews that are rolling in for this new book. In fact, as a good friend likes to say, “I’m dancing on sunshine!” (Parris, if you see this, you know I’m talking about you.)

To start off today, I want to talk about mushrooms. No, not the magical kind, but the kind you put in omelets and such. I have a question for you. Do you peel your mushrooms before you use them?

I never did until a few years back when my best friend, Kay, and I went to Arkansas with another friend, Cactus Mike, to dig for crystals. You see Mike is a connoisseur of fine dining and he did some of the cooking while we are there. He was the first person I ever saw peel mushrooms. When I questioned him, he said, “Do you know where mushrooms grow?”

Well, yes I do. Oh yeah. A great reason to peel and wash them before using. Now, I never use a mushroom without first peeling it, then follow with a good rinsing.

What about you? Have you ever thought about it? Do you peel your mushrooms before using them?

Oh, and before you ask why Mike goes by Cactus Mike, he is the owner of Cactus Town, Texas and when Rick and I first met him many years ago, he was one of the largest distributors of cacti in the southwest. If you’re ever near San Angelo, Texas, drop by and visit Cactus Town. It’s pretty amazing.

And just for fun. I had to go back a few years to find a picture of the three of us. We were heading off to the Big Bend on that trip.

Now, I’m going to shift gears just a little. Yesterday, I was driving down the street and as per usual, had my radio on. This song came on. I had an emotional meltdown as I listened to it, and I’ll tell you why.

It would have been sometime early in 1971. Rick had a strong premonition that things were about to break bad. He’d taken me back to my sister’s house and dumped me. If you’ve read “Flowers and Stone,” you may remember this scene with Luke and Darlina.

I was broken, shattered, and unable to breathe. A girlfriend took pity on me and invited me to her apartment for drinks and to try and cheer me up. It backfired. The more I drank, the stronger the urge grew to go to where Rick was playing that night. Then we ingested something a little stronger than booze, and the feelings intensified to the point I told her if she didn’t take me to the nightclub, I would walk. So, she drove me over and dropped me off at the front door. Of course, the minute Rick saw me, he knew I was messed up and out of control. Long story short. He took me back to Brownwood with him that night, fed me hamburgers, and talked until I was no longer messed up. The next night he was playing back in Abilene, and we went alone in his car as opposed to riding in the band car. I will never forget it if I live to be over a hundred. We were driving down Sayles Boulevard, getting closer to my sister’s house where I knew he’d leave me again, and this song came on the radio. I lost it. All I wanted was to be together again, but all I could be was gone. It affected me much the same way yesterday. So, just thought I’d share that little soiree down memory lane.

Anyhoo. I hope everyone has a great weekend lined up. I plan to get some serious work done on my much-neglected WIP. And I’ll have some book reviews posted on Saturday. I don’t like to blog on the weekends, but with the tour going in, there isn’t much other time.

To everyone who has tagged along on the blog tour, purchased Saddled Hearts, or read and reviewed it, I say

Friday Free-For-All! Music Festival and Keyboard

I have to start this Friday’s post off with a short recap of the amazing music festival I attended last weekend. With over 36 hours and 112 bands and solo acts, not counting the nightly campfires, it was a lot! There wasn’t much sleeping involved. And, I even got to dance. 🙂

I took some early author copies of Saddled Hearts and sold them all. I wish I would have had at least ten more! Then this lovely lady had purchased Flowers and Stone from Amazon, and brought it to the festival for me to autograph. She then ended up buying the other three books. Thank goodness I had packed a couple of each.

Jan and Linda Harlan

All in all, I sold $280 of books. That’s not bad! Plus there was a gorgeous full moon! I thought of Dan Antion as I tried to capture it between the two flags. I am sure he would have done a better job.

Photo by Jan Sikes 10-8-22
Jan Sikes and Deryl Dodd

And last, but certainly not least, I got to put Saddled Hearts in Deryl Dodd‘s hands. You see, he is in the book as himself along with his song, “One Ride In Vegas.” It almost took an act of Congress for the publisher to allow me to include him, but he so graciously signed all the waivers they insisted on. So, it made me very happy to hand him an autographed copy.

I left the festival, tired, but with my heart full to overflowing. It was the best of the year for sure, and a wonderful way to close out the season!

Meanwhile back in the real world, what’s up with my keyboard? Over and over I wear the letters off the keys. I guess I hit them too hard or something. Does that happen to you too?

Photo by Jan Sikes

So, I found some stick-on tabs on Amazon that says they are tough and durable and will stay on the keys. For less than $6, I ordered them and stuck them on. They aren’t uniform or even, but at least all the keys are visible once again.

Photo by Jan Sikes

I have no idea how well they will stay on, but it prevents me from having to purchase yet another keyboard when the one I have is barely over a year old.

Have you ever tried these? I’ll have to let you know how long they last. 🙂

That’s it from me for this Friday. I hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Friday Free-For-All – Clutter/DeClutter

Welcome to another Friday post!

I walked into my office the other day and stopped dead in my tracks. It was a MESS!!!

Photos by Jan Sikes

That’s ridiculous! It was time to do something about it. I stay so busy and go in such a fast run all the time, cleaning and organizing get pushed to the bottom of my list, as is obvious by these photos.

According to Psychology Today, clutter causes stress in part because of its excessive visual stimuli. It also signals to our brains that our work is never done and creates guilt, anxiety, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Wow! Can I ever relate to the part about my work never being done. It is overwhelming to constantly feel as if you are on a hamster wheel, running but never getting anywhere. And yes, then there’s the guilt about never making enough progress.

So, what exactly constitutes clutter? According to The Very Well Mind, The word clutter refers to items that are strewn about in a disorganized fashion. Well, that fits my situation. Things were strewn about and totally disorganized. They go on to say, In general, clutter is a collection of items that people accumulate in their homes and don’t necessarily use, but hold on to anyway. They also state, someone with perfectionist tendencies is likely to be more stressed out by clutter.

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. If I ever did, I gave up on it long ago, as nothing is ever perfect. But I do have a touch of OCD. Okay. Maybe more than a touch. I obsess over things until they are finished. That’s a good quality for an author to have, right?

Back to the clutter. I decided it was high time I shut everything down and cleaned up. Heck, I had receipts from four months ago that needed to be processed, and that’s just one tiny part of it.

So, I put on music, which is my favorite thing to do when I clean, and got busy. A couple of hours later things looked totally different.

Ahhhh, much better.

Now I could go to work and be productive!

What about you? Does clutter bother you or are you one of those people who keep everything organized and never let it get cluttered? Let’s talk. Maybe you have some wisdom to share.

Friday Free-For-All #3

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the first Friday in September!

Created in Canva

Have you thought about Christmas yet? No? Me either. But I was recently at Costco and was shocked to see Christmas displays already up. It’s not even Halloween yet!

Photo by Jan Sikes 8-18-22

My first response was in my head, but it was a loud, “NO!” Have we let all of our holidays become so commercialized that they are all about money?

We’ve been living the American dream for at least a couple of generations now, and I see the results in the youngsters coming up (my grandchildren in particular). They start making their Christmas lists in July. And it’s not like they don’t have plenty of stuff. Every nook and cranny of their playroom is filled. Something will have to go to make room for new things that will temporarily distract them.

Then there’s the pressure of picking the gift that will wow them. How do you even do that when they aren’t wowed by much? Over-stimulation abounds through media, school, TV, and videos. So, it takes a lot just to get their attention.

I’m always trying to think of something different for each of the five that they might enjoy. One year, I gave them gifts like a trip to the zoo, just one child at a time with me. That was fun, and they looked forward to their special day. But it was also a gift that had to wait for springtime before we could go, so maybe that part was sort of a letdown.

I have no solution to the dilemma. I’d love to hear your suggestions about how you approach gift-giving, especially with young children.

I’ve voted for several years to stop adult gift-giving, but I have one daughter who refuses to go along with that, which forces the rest of us to suck it up and search for something that might be special. I’m sure every family is different. As the children get older, I’d like for us to take the money we’d spend on ‘stuff’ and do a trip together instead. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get them to go along with that idea.

I suppose I should be thankful that some traditions are ingrained in my children. After all, that is also something that appears to be disappearing.

Remember when families sat down every night for dinner together? That seems to be something that is dying out. At one daughter’s house, the children eat their dinner by themselves. Both Mama and Daddy are still working when the children have their dinner. However, my daughter told me they are trying to have family dinners on the weekends, so that’s at least an attempt.

Again, I’d like your thoughts. Are traditions only created to be changed? Or should they be strictly adhered to? Are we losing an entire way of life in the next generations? Or do they have a better idea?

So many questions. So little time. 🙂

Let’s chat!

On a VERY different side note, how many of you reach for one of the reference books from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi when you are writing? Well, there’s a new one coming!!

There is no purchase link yet, but I definitely will be adding this book to my reference section!

The Conflict Thesaurus, Volume 2:
A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Releases September 6th, 2022)

Friday Free-For-All! #2

Hi, everyone. I hope you’ve had a good week and looking forward to the weekend. It’s time for another Free-For-All!

Created in Canva

I’ve been thinking about things that have influenced me throughout life, and the list is long. Of course, my parents influenced me, as did school. But the one single biggest influence that goes as far back as I can remember is Music!

Growing up in a holy-roller, free-holiness church, music was a big part of every worship service. The piano, guitars, tambourines, accordions, and even a trumpet would stir my soul ten times more than whatever message the preacher brought. Because I could FEEL it.

The strict religion forbade listening to “worldly” music, but I was allowed to attend gospel music concerts. The Stamps Quartet, Blackwood Brothers, and The Happy Goodman Family are some of the most memorable. And, oh my, they could sing. Their harmonies blended like finely tuned instruments. Again, it stirred something deep and primal in me.

Then, as a teenager, I got a transistor radio one year for Christmas. It came with earbuds. Mine looked exactly like this.

Courtesy Canva Photos

The entire world opened up to me! I could get KOMA out of Oklahoma City and Wolfman Jack on XERF out of Del Rio, Texas. And I fell in love!

I fell in love with Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Odis Redding, and all the greats who were creating fabulous music in the sixties. I would imagine myself standing on the hood of a car, singing “Venus” or Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby.” Then the kids at school would accept me, and I’d finally be a part of something. Yes, I know. It was the crazy imagination and dreaming of a lonely teenager. But some part of me saw music as my window to the world.

I begged Mom and Dad for a piano. We were poor, and I know it was selfish of me, as it would be near to impossible for them, but they managed to find one somewhere and brought it home. I loved to pound away on it. They couldn’t afford lessons, so I’d pick out songs by ear. Then, several summers in a row, The Stamps School of Music came to Hobbs and offered free classes. So, my sister and I were allowed to go. I learned to read the notes but never got it down to the point I could look at a piece of music and know instantly what the notes were. I’d have to count the lines and spaces. 🙂

So, time went on, and I turned eighteen. I could legally leave home. I was chomping at the bit to get out and experience the world, to try all of the things that had been forbidden by the church and my parents. And experiencing live music was at the top of that list.

I was too young to get into the nightclubs, but one club in Abilene (where I had moved) had lost their liquor license for serving alcohol to minors, and they had live music on the weekends. That became my second home. And it was where I met Rick Sikes.

I often question myself as to whether or not I would have been as attracted to him if he hadn’t been a regional singing star. Who knows, and it doesn’t matter. He was, and I was. I loved traveling up and down the roads of Texas with him and his band. I finally found a place where I fit, where I was a part of something that I loved.

Rick Sikes And The Rhythm Rebels 1965

As life will often do, it threw me a curve ball, and instead of catching it, I let it knock me down. Rick’s music career and our love affair came to an abrupt end when he was arrested and convicted on two counts of bank robbery.

Now what? I’d still go out and listen to bands every chance I got, but it was never the same. And yet, I never lost my love for music. I fell in love with Jethro Tull and would sit with headphones on and listen to his Aqualung album over and over. I’d do the same with Janis Joplin’s Pearl album.

Fast forward twenty-five years, and I am now married to Rick Sikes. After a long hiatus, he’s started back writing and singing. Only this time, I am along for the full ride as his music partner. I learned to play guitar and loved sitting with him and co-writing songs or playing a new one for him that I’d written. His first public appearance was at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas for Roxy Gordon’s wake in 2000. From that point, he never stopped until he got too sick to hold a guitar.

Rick and Jan Sikes Kerrville, Tx. 2003
Kerrville, Tx 2003

After Rick passed away and I moved to the Dallas area, I searched for a way to stay plugged into the music world I loved so much. I started volunteering at music festivals in 2010. At first, I was the outsider again. These people had a long history together. But I kept suiting up and showing up and working hard, and now the folks who still do this with me are like an extended family.

Then, when I had the opportunity to go to work for Buddy Magazine, I loved interviewing music artists and helping promote their new records. COVID took the magazine down, but a man has taken it over and trying to revive it.

In the meantime, I attend every live music event I possibly can. Music feeds and satisfies some primal need in me. It has indeed been my biggest influencer in life, and I have a feeling it will be until I am no longer on this earth. This sign hangs on my office door.

A gift from Marlena Smith Burris

Sorry for the long blog post. I normally avoid that, but this one seemed to require it. I’d love to hear from you. What has been the biggest singular influence in your life?

For the final birthday month giveaway, my short story, Brazos Wind is FREE for the next four days! I’d be honored if you’d download it!