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  • Christine Shuck

Stay Cool, Baby, It's HOT Out There!


We are definitely in the dog days of summer here in Missouri. For some reason, I'm not sure why, this has actually been the easiest summer for me so far. I'm not a fan of extremes - extreme cold, extreme heat - so the middle of winters and summers usually find me crabby and wishing it was something other than it is outside.


That said, I've been spending a solid 90 minutes or more, every day of the week, in the garden. I go out first thing in the morning on the weekends, and at 8:30 at the latest on weekdays. I beat most of the heat, which has been getting up to the high 90s by the afternoon, and get a ton of work done. More on that in a minute, but other than that, our window units in the kitchen on the main floor, and our bedroom window units upstairs, have done a relatively good job at keeping us cool.


Car Talks - Still Going Strong

My eldest used to mention often that she loved our "car talks" - those moments when, whether we were off to summer camp, or errands, or whatever, we would talk. Whether it was current events, life lessons, feelings and emotions, whatever - just the two of us talking and sharing, learning and laughing.


I keep those memories close. A reminder that, no matter what she has to say now, we had our special moments together. And I have done my best to continue the tradition with Alex, my now 15 year old, and with our long-time foster, newly adopted daughter Angela.


Angela is full of questions.


What do clouds feel like?

What do those lights mean?

What does that sign say?

Most recently, our talks have centered on two very different subjects - behavior and traffic. We are still working on finding the best balance of medication for her ADHD and dealing with behaviors that land her in hot water with her camp counselors and at home. These behaviors can change - with patience, behavior modification (including natural and logical consequences), and lots (and lots) of reminders.


"What do we do when we are on the bus, Angela?" Answer: Sit on our butts.

"What do we NOT do when we are on the bus and still on the way to its destination?" Answer: Don't get up!

"Who do we listen to when we are at camp?" Answer: The camp counselors!


Each morning I remind her, "How you behave today, dictates your freedoms tomorrow. So please listen to your camp counselors. Every afternoon I ask, "Did she listen today?"


Angela is the first child I've ever raised who has managed to get herself sent home multiple times for misbehaving while at summer camp. But the tide is turning. Slowly but surely, we are seeing progress. Less problems, more wins.


And as I drive her each weekday morning to summer camp in nearby Unity Village, Missouri, she has become aware of the many ways that cars use their lights to communicate, and what different road signs and lights mean.


The years between five and ten years are really the magic years. Kids notice the world around them, and their curiosity knows no bounds. I love this age, and I love this little girl.


Kate Bush - A Love Story

Watching Stranger Things and seeing the episode where Kate Bush's song Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) was absolutely amazing a month or more ago. I was so excited to hear the song played, and over the moon at knowing a whole new generation has fallen in love with it.


There's a story behind it, one I may or may not have shared. It began in 1986 and I was just shy of 16 years old.


I was in love with this boy, you see, and just being around him, well, I was shy and nervous and terrified to tell him how I felt.


We hadn't hung out much outside of school, but he had recently started up a Chill game (similar to Dungeons & Dragons) and it was a Friday and we decided to see if we could get the group together for a round or two of it. I went over to his house (heart flutter) and he put a vinyl record on and left the room to go get a couple of sodas. The song had this amazing beat and I loved it instantly.


"Who is this?" I asked when he returned.


"Kate Bush. Do you like it?"


"I really do."


He offered to make me a tape (another heart flutter) and we sat and listened to a good part of the album before heading out to go to one of the other Chill members house. The next Monday at school, he handed me a tape of the Hounds of Love album. I listened to it obsessively for years. Replacing the well-worn tape with a clearance bin official copy, and later a CD. It remained one of my favorite albums of all time, followed closely by her album The Sensual World.


Nearly four decades later, thanks to the Stranger Things episode, Kate Bush and her music has been propelled to higher heights than she originally experienced and I for one couldn't be happier to see it. As an Indie artist, she owns her music, just as I, an Indie author, own all of my own books. That means she doesn't have a dozen middlemen to go through to get her royalties. Recently, just a few weeks ago, she made $200k in royalties on ONE week's worth of ONE music streaming service. Frankly, she deserves every single penny and more.


It's the dream of nearly every Indie out there, isn't it?! But more than that, for me at least, it because of the love story behind that music. It took nearly two decades after my visit to that cute boy's house for him to ask me out on a date. But you know what? I wasn't a shy, awkward girl any longer. I knew what I wanted and I was determined to get it. And that date, which took a six hour plane ride and some wild adventures in the deeply frozen Midwest, eventually led to his return a few weeks later. And marriage. And a baby. And fostering. And our family, perfectly imperfect, blended and busy.


Thank you for that, Kate.

Garden Dreams Take Center Stage

I'm really proud of myself. I'm going to say that right now. I'm also ridiculously proud of my teen who has toiled by my side (willingly or not) for the past few weeks/month plus on various garden projects.


In years past, I've said to myself over and over, "If I can just spend twenty minutes gardening each day, imagine what I'll get done!" And I would start with the best of intentions, I really would. But it is a BIG yard and pretty soon my enthusiasm would flag, and feelings of overwhelm would set in, and then the heat, and I'd just avoid stepping out of my house more and more.


This has been, hands down, the most productive summer ever when it comes to yard work. I can also tell you that my Pollyanna hopes of "just twenty minutes a day" were, well, not even close to reality.


So what is reality? A solid 90 minutes a day, with the teen by my side. Two sets of hands, weeding, digging, hauling, stacking. Maybe after we break the back of the weeds it will be different, maybe next year will be easier. Maybe.


Realistically? Taking care of this enormous yard is a full-time job. And as I sweat and pluck, dig and toil, my brain is busy figuring out how to cut further future work out of the equation, even if it means more work right now.


Despite the brutal heat of summer, we are still managing to get so much done. The key is completing it first thing in the morning, between 8:30 and 10:00, every day. On the weekdays, I rope the teen into joining me. The weekends I ensnare my husband and leave the teen to watch the littles for a couple of hours while we get more of the heavier back-breaking work in. This weekend will most assuredly be moving a massive number of bricks to stack on the base layer of the retaining wall that the teen and I have been constructing most of this week. We have managed around 3/4 of the length needed, and this weekend I plan on building up the retaining wall, which defines the propertly line between Cottage West and our yard, and maybe even finishing it! I can't tell you how exciting this is. I've wanted to do this project for at least four years!


It started with clearing the sloping hillside of plants, many of which I had planted to help control erosion. The hillside quickly became a jungle of weeds and poison ivy mixed in with my perennial daylilies and iris and was simply impossible to keep up. With a retaining wall in place, we can backfill it with dirt and have a more level surface in the backyard of our short-term rental to work with. One that we can hopefully install a firepit, BBQ, and seating area in and seed the rest with grass, eradicating the weeds and poison ivy for good. Then we will rebuild the back landing off of the rear porch, and the stairs, and it will be an additional area for guests to enjoy.


Central A/C? Soon!

We found a local handyman/contractor who quoted me a number I could not refuse. It went something like this:

Me: Someday I will be able to afford central air in our house.

Mark: Why not now?

Me: It's too expensive.

Mark: What if I told you it wasn't?

Me: I really doubt I could afford it. We need a 5-ton and a split in the attic, it's just so much money.

Mark: I'll install a one year old 5-ton condensor and a split in your attic for $2,100.

Me: Are you shitting me?

Mark: Nope.

Me: When can you start?


I was telling a new friend about it and she said, "That's $10k of work and equipment!"


"I know!"


So I'm counting the days until he can do this. Should I mention he's on speed dial for a host of other things I need done? Soooo many projects are suddenly presenting themselves and waiting to be done!


We manage okay with the window units, but man oh man, am I looking forward to getting central air. That, and the split in the attic will take us yet another step closer to our future master suite. Now at least when we need to work up there, we won't be boiling or freezing (depending on the season).



Current Projects Status & Report

I've been a wishy washy mess, I know I have.


I'm working on Broken Code!

No, I'm busy in the garden!

I'm thinking of Zarmina's World!

No, I think its time to demo Cottage East

I really need to pick a book to write!

Well, you see there's this retaining wall here.


This is how I am in the summer months. I'm a mess of contradictions. Factor into this that my best work is done before noon and I'm juggling baby in the early morning, girl child to summer camp by 8 a.m., digging in (literally) to my garden until mid-morning, and responsible for cleaning The Cottages as soon as 11 a.m. hits and I'm a complete writing disaster. Nothing is getting done.


A couple of days ago, I sifted through my different projects and my eyes fell on I Bought a House for $25 (and so can you) and I found myself creating a very different, rather focused outline for it. I had even created a cover for it...

I really like that cover. I don't know if it is a winner, but it could be with a little work. I even have a second book lined up (along with around 29k words written in it)...

Writing these is alluring for three reasons:

  • Potential income - Of all of my books the #1 bestselling book I have is Get Organized, Stay Organized - whether it is priced right at $6.99 (Kindle version), or the cover is a winner - whatever it is, people keep buying it and with regularity. Non-fiction sells, and keeps selling. And I could really use another steady income producer to help fund all of my rental house and home improvement plans!

  • Easy to complete - I've already at least partially written both books. I Bought a House... stands at nearly 16k words and will have ten chapters. I plan to keep it concise and to the point. And I've written at least half of Short-Term Rental Success so far. I've found that non-fiction is far easier for me to write than fiction is. Especially now, when I'm so preoccupied with other projects.

  • Relatively short completion time - With a decent outline, I think I could bang out the first book by the first week of August and the second book by the end of the month. Which means that, with edits, I'm looking at the end of September for both being available for sale either individually or as a box set. And this also means that I could get out three, possibly four books in total for the year. (Winter's Child, I Bought A House, Short-Term Rental Success, and a 4th book, perhaps Broken Code?

Yeah, so, I think I'm going to go get some writing done now...cheers everyone. Tell me what you are going to be up to this weekend in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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