Friday, August 8, 2014

Milton Hershey: More Than A Candy Maker

My mother-in-law invited me to accompany her to her high school reunion in Hershey, Pennsylvania this September. Yes, the birthplace of Hershey's chocolate. How could I say no to that?

I like mine with almonds :D

She sat down with me and started talking about her childhood, and what it was like growing up in Hershey at that time. I had no idea that Milton Hershey, the chocolate empire's founder, was such a wonderful human being.

When Milton Hershey was a boy, he had to help out on the family farm, as many children did then. His father moved the family around a lot, and, as a result, Milton did not attend school after the fourth grade.

In 1887, he moved back to Lancaster and started the Lancaster Caramel Company. He used a caramel recipe he had picked up during his travels. It was an instant success, and he sold that company and used the proceeds to start making chocolate. He moved about 30 miles north to a place near Derry Church, where fresh milk was plentiful.

He built his plant in the center of dairy farmland, and, with his support, transportation and an infrastructure of houses, businesses, and churches sprouted up in the area. The plant was incredibly successful, and everyone in Hershey profited from his success.

He married in 1898, but they could not have children, so they decided to help others. They started the Hershey Industrial School to help orphaned boys in the area. My mother-in-law said that it was easy to pick out a "Hershey boy" because they were always dressed in the best clothes, and it was a big deal to date a boy from the Hershey school. She said that Milton Hershey believed in supporting local businesses and always ordered clothes for the boys from the local department stores every year.

The school still exists today. It's now called the Milton Hershey School and serves male and female students from various backgrounds.

The school wasn't the only philanthropic work that Hershey was involved in. He started the M.S. Hershey Foundation that provides educational and cultural opportunities to Hershey residents. He also provided chocolate bars to soldiers during World War II.

My mother-in-law said that he was incredibly well loved in Hershey and the surrounding areas for his generosity and personal involvement in the community.

An interesting side note: The Hershey's were booked on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but they had to cancel at the last minute because Milton had some business that required his attention. The check he wrote to the White Star Line is in the archives of The Hershey Story Museum.

And here I thought I was just going to see a chocolate factory. Can't wait to share my trip with all of you! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cover Reveal: Tyler's Story by Mireille Chester

I am thrilled to have Mireille Chester back on my blog with a cover reveal for her book, Tyler's Story: Tales from Quelondain. I love Mireille's writing style and the world of Quelondain. Check out her other books here on her Amazon author page.


It’s been five years since his twin brother Trent was killed and Tyler has been on his own ever since. When he stumbles across Heidi, a human from the other world who’s just crossed over, he vows to get her home against his better judgment. What he doesn’t realize is that to keep his promise, he’ll have to risk his life and the one thing he’s managed to keep to himself since the war… his heart. Still, a promise is a promise and Tyler doesn’t break his. After facing human rogues, packs of Majs, and Zerpanays, he’ll have to decide… can he bear to let go of the one thing that’s managed to bring him back to life?


“Hello, camp!”
John and Tyler stood, Tyler’s arm pushing Heidi behind them.  He felt her hand on the small of his back.
Five men walked towards them.
“Good day,” stated Tyler.
The blond man in the lead nodded.  “Indeed it is.”
“Is there something we can help you with?”  John frowned as the man nodded again.
“We heard a woman.  Where is she?”
Tyler stiffened.  “Why do you want to know?”
“We’re rogue hunters.  Our job is to find the humans and bring them to our captain.”
Heidi’s hand tightened around a handful of his tunic.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about her.  She’s with us.”
“But she’s human?”
There was no point in lying, really.  All they had to do was look.  “She is.”
“Then she comes with us.”
Tyler growled.  “No.  She doesn’t.”
“She won’t be harmed.”
“Like hell she won’t.”  Tyler’s hand moved to the hilt of his dagger.  “She just crossed over.  She had nothing to do with Braw or his idiotic plan.”
“But if she gets caught up with a pack of rogues…”
“She’s with us.”
The blond man opened his mouth and Tyler growled.
“You’re not listening to me.  She’s with me.  I found her; she’s mine.”
Heidi caught a glimpse of the blond man from between her protectors’ shoulders.  She was shocked at how pale he looked.  His eyes never left Tyler’s.  Even the few of his comrades she could see looked uneasy.
“You’re not taking her.”  Though Tyler’s voice didn’t sound any louder than it had previously, the tone of it made it very obvious that he meant every word he had just uttered.
“You’d fight a pack of your own kind to keep a human girl?”  One of the men at the back shook his head incredulously.  
“I don’t care what she is.  She hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Tyler’s hand was still over his dagger.  John’s pose was almost identical to his.
The blond man’s hand moved his blade as well.  “Orders are orders.”
“Try not to kill any of them.”  Tyler’s voice was only loud enough for John and Heidi to hear.  “We don’t need the whole pack after us after this.”  John nodded.
Tyler’s free hand moved back so that it touched Heidi’s arm.  “Heidi, I’m going to boost you up a tree.  Get up high.  If anyone tries to reach you, cut them.”  He felt her shaking behind him.
John glanced at Heidi then gestured to her with his head before returning his gaze toward the small pack in front of them.  Tyler turned, trusting John to warn him if any of the men came forward while he wasn’t looking.  His eyes met Heidi’s and he smiled reassuringly.  Her grey green eyes were saucers in her head, her skin a strange pale shade of green as she shook with fear.  He cupped her face in his hands.
“Heidi.”  He bent and kissed her forehead softly.  “Just get up in the tree.  I won’t let them take you.”
She took a long shuddering breath and gazed into his deep brown eyes.  The hard look in them softened slightly and Tyler ran his thumb over her cheek.  Could she trust this man?  She’d only known him a day.  Of course, he’d never shown any indication that he might be a danger to her.
“Heidi, trust me.”
She inhaled once more and nodded.  Her heart jumped into her chest at the growl that exploded from John’s throat.  Tyler grabbed her by the waist, threw her toward the lowest branch on the tree and ducked under her so she was standing on his shoulders.  She lost her balance as he moved sideways.  His left hand caught her ankle to steady her.  She looked down and caught a glimpse of one of the other men stabbing his dagger toward Tyler’s chest.  He managed to deflect the blow with his own dagger but hissed as the other’s blade slid across his side.  Without letting go of her leg, he kicked forward and she heard the dark haired man’s breath leave his body in a huff.  Tyler turned and placed his hands under her feet, pushing her into the branches.
The tone of his voice left no room for argument.  Heidi scrambled as high as she could and glanced down.  She fought the urge to scream as the dark haired man lunged at Tyler.  Her self-appointed guardian knocked the man’s dagger to the side.  Tyler’s elbow connected with the man’s nose, quickly followed by his knee as Tyler brought his opponent’s face down to meet it.  The Maj dropped to the ground and Tyler turned his attention to the blond man who had been leading the pack.  Heidi looked around for John and found him backing away from two well-built men who had obviously seen more meals in the past little while than he had.  She caught her breath as he pulled his dagger and threw it with such speed she wasn’t sure he had until one of the men advancing screamed in pain.  He fell to his knee, his hands grabbing at the hilt of the dagger that had impaled itself in his foot and pinned him to the ground.  John pulled a knife from the side up his boot and aimed it at the second man’s chest.  The latter paused, looked up at the tree, and shook his head in disgust as he held up his hands in surrender.  
Heidi let out the breath she’d been holding.  Obviously, one lone human girl wasn’t worth dying over.  She turned her attention back to Tyler.
“Tyler! Behind you!”
The last man in the pack had been sneaking around while Tyler had been focused on blocking punches and kicks from the blond man.  Tyler turned so he could keep an eye on both of them.
“Come on, now.  She can’t be worth this,” mumbled the blond man.
“If that’s your take on it, you’re more than welcome to walk away.”  Both of them had a black eye.  Tyler’s cheek was starting to turn blue and the blonde’s lip was bleeding.  Tyler glanced to the second man, a shorter, stockier red head who was staring at him with confusion.  “What are you looking at, then?”
The red head shook his head.  “I’m sure I know you.”
Tyler frowned.  “No, I don’t think so.”
“By the moons, Jim, could we cut the small talk?”
Jim put his dagger back in its scabbard at his side.  “Luke.”
Tyler blinked.  “That’s my father’s name.”
Jim smiled.  “You look just like him.  You’re one of the twins, yeah?”
Tyler nodded but refused to drop his guard.  “Tyler.”
Jim turned to his pack mate.  “You’re on your own, Chris.  I owe his father my life.”
Everyone’s attention turned to the man John was keeping in the sights of his knife.  He shrugged, obviously flustered.  Chris’ eyes widened at the sight of John’s second opponent sitting a still as possible, his foot still skewered to the ground.  His groans of pain were loud in the sudden quiet of the campsite.  All eyes were on Chris.  He ran a hand through his hair and swore under his breath.
“Why don’t we just put the blades away and get that dagger out of your man’s foot?”  Tyler relaxed, though Heidi was sure his guard was still up.
“You won’t try anything?”  Chris looked at Tyler.
“The last I checked, you had us outnumbered.”
Chris raised an eyebrow at him and looked around.  Tyler grinned, though the smile didn’t seem to reach his eyes.  The first man he’d managed to knock out moaned and clutched his head.
“Did we get her?”
Chris growled.  “No, we didn’t get her.”  He put his dagger away.  “Get up, Brad.”
Brad sat up and squinted open one eye to look around.  His gaze fell on the man with the dagger in his foot.  “Bloody hell, did more of them show up?”
“No.”  Jim smiled.  “Brad, do you recall Luke of Howel?”
Brad frowned.  “Was that the one with the pretty mate named Mel?  She nursed you back to health, yeah?”
Jim nodded and Brad turned his attention back to Tyler.  “I should have recognized you.  You look the mirror image of your father at your age.  You move like him, too.”  He grunted.  “It explains a lot, then.”
“What did I miss?”  Chris was obviously getting impatient.
“If you’d seen his father fight, you’d have thought twice about trying to take the girl.”  Brad stuck dagger in his belt.  “I’m out, Chris.  I was there the day Luke risked his life to save Jim’s and if it hadn’t been for Mel, he wouldn’t be standing here now.”
Tyler looked up and gestured to Heidi to come down.  Jim and Brad went to tend to their friend.  His scream of pain as they pulled the dagger from his foot startled her and she slipped from the last branch on the tree.  Tyler steadied her as she landed.
“You’re bleeding!”
Tyler glanced down at Heidi’s hand, which was red with blood.  He lifted the hem of his tunic to reveal the cut along his side.
“It’s fine.  It’s barely bleeding.”  He smiled reassuringly at her.  John looked over to them from where he was apologizing to the man he’d stabbed in the foot.  Tyler went to his packs and found the herbs he knew would dull the pain and quicken the healing for the man’s foot.  He walked over and handed them to Jim.
“This should help.”
Jim nodded and went to work bandaging the foot.  “You’ve even got the same character as your father,” he said without looking up.
“How’s that?”
“The day he saved my life, my pack had come upon three cats in the Blue Woods.  I managed to end up under a lion.  Luke had been in the area and heard the fighting.  He got the lion off of me, but kept the others from killing it afterwards.  Its pack had run off and when it shifted back, we all noticed the man had a cut along his side.  You dad tossed him a sack of herbs and told him to leave.  That’s when your mother came out of the woods and they proceeded to take care of me.”
Tyler smiled.  “Your pack just let the man leave?”
Brad grinned.  “We were all too shocked by your father’s gesture to do much of anything.”
Tyler excused himself as he looked around for Heidi and found her leaning back against the tree she’d been in, her arms wrapped around herself.
“Are you alright?”
Heidi shook her head and let him pull her in a hug.  He rested his chin on her head and rubbed her back.
“It’s all fine, now.  They won’t try to take you.  You didn’t get hurt, did you?”
She shook her head again.
“This is just a lot to take in?”
She nodded.  Tyler took her hand and led her back to the fire.  He wrinkled his nose at the sight of the burnt eggs.
“I guess we’ll be eating bread after all,” he mumbled and she couldn’t help but smile.
Tyler wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and sat beside her.  He looked up as John joined them.
“It looks like your bloodlines are paying off.  They’ve decided to leave Heidi with us.”
Tyler grunted.  “She would have stayed with us regardless.”  He grinned at his friend.  “Great throw, by the way.”
John shrugged and took a piece of bread.
“Tyler, can we have a word?”  Chris motioned for him to come see him.
Tyler stopped at the feel of Heidi’s hand on his leg.  He smiled down at her.  “No worries.”
Chris waited until they were standing side by side, looking back toward the fire and Heidi.
“I’m leaving her in your charge.”
Tyler nodded.
“If she goes rogue, it won’t matter who your parents are and how well liked they might be; I’ll hold you responsible and make sure you’re held accountable.”
Tyler looked the elder Maj in the eyes.  Whatever Chris saw, he frowned.
“Alright, Chris, he’s all set.”  Jim and Brad shook Tyler’s hand.  “If you remember, try to tell your father we say hello.”
Tyler nodded.  He stood and watched until the small pack had made its way out of sight before letting himself relax and heading back to the fire.  He caught the piece of cheese John lobbed in his direction.
“We need to get out of this area.”  He frowned and looked at Heidi.  “We also need to find you some clothes.  There’s no denying what you are when you’re dressed like that.”
John nodded.  “I know a couple of sisters that live not too far from here.  Mina is about the same size as you.”  He glanced at Tyler.  “They’re cats, mind you.”
Tyler raised an eyebrow.  “They live here?”
John nodded.  “They were travelling after the war and decided they liked it down here.”
“And why did you think you should bring up the fact that they were Namael?”
John shrugged.  “I’m not sure what your take is on them.  It’s never come up.”
“Do you want to know why my father let that lion go all those years ago?”
His friend nodded.
“It’s because he was raised by tigers.”  He grinned as John’s eyes widened into hazel saucers.  “My aunt and uncle are tigers.  I have no issues whatsoever with cats in general.  Now, would these sisters live anywhere near Growlen?”
John nodded.  “About five days out.”
Tyler smiled.  “Well, then, I think the plan is to find these sisters and head to Growlen so we can top up our supplies.  While we’re there, we’ll try to find someone who might be able to point us in the direction of a cross stone.”  He dug into his pack and found a clean dark green tunic.
Heidi took it as he handed it to her.
“Put it on and tuck it in.  It might help you blend in a bit until we can get you some clothes that fit.”  He watched as she pulled it over her head.  “The closer we get to Growlen, the more packs we have a chance of running into.  Try to stay calm and act as though you belong here.”  He smiled.
John kicked dirt over the fire to put it out before they headed off in search of the Namael sisters.

Get a copy of Tyler's Story on:

About Mireille Chester:
Wife, mother, author. That pretty much sums it up. :) I am a fantasy author who loves to spend time in made up worlds filled with magic. I am a firm believer that no hero is perfect and that all villains are burdened with a tiny shred of humanity. While I write my Adult and YA novels under the name Mireille Chester, I am now writing a middle grade series under the name M.G. Chester.

Connect with her on 

Friday, June 20, 2014

New Release! Always, Montana by Deb Martin-Webster

Always happy to share a new release! Today's book is Always, Montana by Deb Martin-Webster. It's the follow up to her book Love, Montana. Check out her books here at Shorehouse Books. Here's a little information about the books, and the first chapter of Always, Montana.

Love, Montana is a story of romance, commitment and eternal love. Set against the backdrop of the majestic scenery of Montana, this novel tells the story of western fiction novelist, Montana Joe and the love of his life, Rose. From their first tempestuous meeting, you will be drawn into this smart and funny story and will find yourself rooting for these two lovers as they realize that they are each other’s destiny.

Always, Montana is the sequel to the popular western romance Love, Montana. In this installment, author Deb Martin-Webster reacquaints the reader with the characters who weaved the story of Rose and Joe, an epic love that could not be diminished even by death. She also introduces us to new characters who come into Rose's world and turn it upside down. Twists and turns abound in this tale about the famous Joe Montana and his high-spirited family.

Chapter 1

"Excuse me Ma'am, I don't mean to interrupt your bitch session; however, you do realize your hair is on fire?"

Joe’s been dead for two years, and he still makes me laugh.  He was so relaxed in front of an audience.  Unlike me, who would panic at the thought of giving a five-minute PowerPoint presentation, Joe loved entertaining his fans for not only was he a renowned author and accomplished writer but a prolific storyteller as well.  The video was from a charity event he attended in Princeton, New Jersey.  Some affluent donors weren’t very happy about the lack of seating.  Joe was famous for drawing large crowds. He noticed a well-dressed, older woman sitting by the exit door complaining about the seating arrangement.  Joe, being the gentleman that he was, excused himself and headed toward the back of the room.  She was so engrossed in her own bitching that she failed to notice that he was standing directly behind her.  Inadvertently, she leaned into the table’s candle centerpiece and set the front of her hair on fire.  Without blinking an eye, Joe gallantly grabbed a glass of water from a nearby table and doused the flames.  Needless to say she was humiliated, but ever so thankful for his quick action.  

Joe flashed his infamous shit-eating grin and said, “You’re welcome, Darlin’. Now, how about you come up front and sit with me. And by the way, that’ll cost you another thousand dollar donation for my heroic firefighting service.”

The audience gave him a roaring round of applause.  He informed the guests that his tip jar was in the back and that it was pathetically empty – nothing her thousand dollar donation couldn’t fix.  Joe knew how to work a crowd and please his fans.  He was good at what he did, and he knew it.

I turned my computer off and continued to tidy his office.  Funny, I still called it his office.  Has it really been two years since his death – seems like yesterday.  I thought if I left the room the way it was, it would in some way comfort me.  Regrettably, it did just the opposite. It irritated me beyond belief.  I’m a neat-freak, and he was an incurable pack rat.  Receipts from gas stations, fast food restaurants, numerous coffee shops and illegible crib notes on discarded manuscripts littered his desk.

There was still the matter of scattering his ashes.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but I knew it was time to honor my husband’s last wish which was to scatter his remains at the place where he proposed.  In my mind, I knew I needed to let go and move on, but in my heart his untimely death still hurt like hell.  I’ve heard people use the term heartbroken or heartache.  I’d never experienced either – until Joe died.  It was an endless, helpless, hopeless pain.   I needed to let go.  I needed to move on.  No matter how painful the task, Joe’s ashes had to be spread. 

When the time was right, Raymond said he would accompany me to the spot Joe designated. He was very patient and understanding when it came to my grieving.  

“Joe was a procrastinator in life so why would he change in death—always needing to be in control,” Raymond would joke. “He still annoys me from the grave—arrogant son of a mangy coyote!”

I knew it was Raymond’s way of expressing his grief and how he too missed Joe.  To be honest, in some strange way, it made me feel better.   I missed being referee to their incessant bickering.  They had a lot in common.  Their inimitable friendship was cherished more than they were willing to admit.

Charlotte was now in her terrible-twos and quite skilled at navigating herself around the house. She was becoming quite a beautiful little girl.  I know all parents think that their children are beautiful and talented, but Charlotte was truly a beautiful child. I called her our little golden girl because of her glowing olive complexion and curly, sandy brown locks.   She had my focus and temper and Lash’s (Joe as his fans knew him) curiosity and smile. 

She toddled into the office and climbed onto his rawhide leather chair.  I remembered him gloating when he finished assembling it.  He wasn’t patient when it came to following directions or handling tools.  He called it his one-and-only successful IKEA achievement.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that if I’d given Charlotte an Allen wrench she could have put it together. 

Lord, I miss him. I miss those final edit nights when I’d come in with coffee and sit in his lap.  It saddened me to think I’d never see him sitting at that desk again.  I picked up Charlotte and gave her a big hug.

I turned away to keep her from seeing my tears.  She placed her small hands on my cheeks.

“Happy . . . h-a-p-p-y Mama,” she whispered.

Her attempt to console me brought a smile to my face.  I kissed her tiny palms. 

“This one’s from me and this one’s from Daddy.”

Charlotte instinctively knew when I needed her happy reminder.  She was wise beyond her years.  Raymond called her “Nadie”. Blackfoot and loosely translated, it meant the wisdom of an old soul. 

Keough cracked the office door and peeked inside. 

“You gals okay?  Both of ya’ need to get some rest.  It’s long past your bedtimes.” 

Charlotte climbed off my lap and ran over to Keough and latched onto his leg.  He picked her up and swung her onto his shoulders. 

“It’s time for this little cowgirl to hit the hay. Come on let’s get you into your bunk.  Lou and I will tell you a story about the time I tried to lasso and ride an ornery wild mustang. Would you like that?” 

She bounced up and down on his shoulders squealing, “Pap-Pap, horsey!”

“Don’t worry, Rose.  It’s a very short story.  It took me three seconds to lose that man-versus-beast battle.” 

I chuckled at Keough’s honesty and said goodnight.

“Okay, Baby Girl –a quick story then bedtime.  That goes for you too Mama.”  He paused for a moment and whispered, “And don’t think I haven't notice you sneaking into this office in the middle of the night.  It ain’t healthy for you to deprive yourself of sleep.  And it ain’t good for this baby to see you so dang sad all the time.  Now, don’t make me tie you up and drag your ass to bed.”  

“I promise I’ll go to bed.  Just a few more minutes, okay?  Thank you Keough.”

 “You’re welcome, Darlin’ and goodnight.”    

I was leaving the office when I noticed something on the side of the door jam.  Funny, I’d never noticed it before.  There were two perfectly shaped hearts carved into the trim with the initials MJ loves R.  I rubbed my finger over them.  When did he do this?   What other little treasures has he left behind for me to discover.  I went back to his desk, picked up some paper and a pencil and rubbed it over the carving and then tucked it into my shirt pocket. We miss you too, Joe.

About the Author
 Originally from Pennsylvania, Deb and her husband Pete moved to Western North Carolina and live on a small farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

She enjoys the simplicity of their country lifestyle and takes pleasure in the daily antics of their horse Colonel, half dozen rowdy barn cats and a large but friendly black snake they’ve affectionately named, Licorice. 

After retiring from a successful career in Art Administration, Deb has taken on a new career as a novelist and humor writer.  In October of 2012, her novel Love, Montana was selected and published by HumorOutcasts Press.  The sequel, Always, Montana is published by Shorehouse books.  Her other books include, A Hot Dog Stand in the Himalayas  a daily diary for their granddaughter Sammie that  develops into a collection of heartwarming fictionalized short stories and The Adventures of Annie Banana Bread and Larry Cranberry a  tale that teaches the acceptance of children with disabilities and diverse health conditions.  

Deb is one of the original writers forming the successful online humor magazine,

Get in touch with Deb on 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kitten Rescue - Need Help!

This last year, we have noticed an dramatic increase in cats in our neighborhood. I have three older cats in my backyard who have been spayed. Since I have food out there for them, more cats have started hanging out in our yard - some of them have collars. I don't know who they belong to, but the owners have not had them fixed. I've caught several of them and have taken them to the low cost spay and neuter clinic here in town, but I can't afford to get them all fixed. As a result, three of the cats got pregnant and decided our yard was the best place to have their kittens.

The first litter was born on April 19th to a cat who was mostly feral. Soon after, she got a terrible abscess wound on her stomach, so we were able to catch her and bring her and the kittens inside. We treated her, and she has completely healed. She had four kittens.

The second two cats are co-parenting, which is really interesting to see them taking turns nursing and cleaning all of the kittens. They had their litters on May 7th and May 13th, and they keep them all together. It's so cute. One had a litter of four and the other had five. So there are 13 kittens altogether.

My plan was to take care of them and get them used to people, so that, at eight to ten weeks, I could take them to a cat rescue, where they would be spayed/neutered, and put up for adoption. However, I started calling around to the different no-kill shelters, and everyone is having the same problem. There are way too many cats/kittens who need help, and the rescues/shelters are overflowing. The animal control places who euthanize animals will take them, but there is no way I can do that. It's not an option.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to adopt these little kitties out myself, but I don't want to add to the growing feral cat problem. I don't want give these kittens to people not knowing whether or not they are going to have them fixed. I would like to work with the low cost spay and neuter clinic to get all the kittens and their mothers fixed before I send them out to new homes. However, I can't afford to pay for all of them. It costs $35 for males and $56 for females. I don't want to be part of the kitty problem here, so if there is any way you can help, I would appreciate it. I am doing a Go Fund Me campaign to try to take care of the kittens myself. If there is money left over, it will go towards food (kitten food is expensive) and vet bills (one kitten had an eye infection, and it cost $81.00). I would also love to be able to pay for them to get their first shots. Any money that isn't used directly for the kittens will get donated to one of the local no-kill shelters. Thank you for taking the time to read about our bitty kitties!

You can find out more about the kittens and follow them on their journey on Facebook. And follow us on Twitter @KittyPosse1.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Ugly Truth About Funeral Costs

Sorry I haven't been around lately. I know people say that if you want to write, you will. You'll find a way. But sometimes, life has to take priority, and your time isn't yours to use. That's what's been going on with my life for awhile now. I don't mind taking care of loved ones, so it isn't a burden, but it is time consuming.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know my terminally ill father has been living with me for almost 10 years. He has a neurological disease that is slowly killing his brain. We finally got him into a care home in October, but we have been dealing with other personal and financial issues for him during the adjustment period. Having him in care, I thought I would be able to take a breath and return to writing. Then my grandmother, who had been stable in a wonderful board and care home for some time, took a turn for the worse. I have dealing with her financial issues and trying to find a good nursing home for her.

With the little bit of money she had left, I wanted to prepay her funeral expenses. She doesn't believe in cremation, so I wanted to honor her wishes. She and her second husband bought a plot together at a cemetery shortly before he passed away, and she wanted to be buried with him.

Since she didn't have a lot of money, I opted just to have her buried without any services and planned to do something privately with the family. I knew funeral expenses were insane, but I was in for a shock. I knew she already purchased the plot, so I didn't think it would cost a ton at the cemetery. I was wrong. To open and close the grave, lower the casket, and pay for some kind of holder for the casket, it cost almost $3700.00. I told him I could rent a backhoe and do it myself for much less. He wasn't amused. I told him he was lucky he wasn't talking to my grandmother.

That didn't leave me much money for the rest. But I didn't think it would be a lot, since it would just be a casket and transportation to the cemetery. I was worried about the cost of transportation though, since she will have to be transported over 200 miles to the cemetery.

I decided to try to use the same company who owned the cemetery, hoping I might be able to get a deal. Nope. No deals. I spoke to a woman on the phone who agreed to meet me at the funeral home to discuss details. When she told me how much it would cost, I felt the same way I do when I'm at the movie theater, and they charge me $7.00 for 50 cents worth of popcorn. It's a slow rage that makes me crazy. I want the popcorn, but it isn't like I can shop around. I'm in the movie theater. If I want popcorn, I have to pay the crazy inflated price.

That woman (with a straight face) told me that it would cost $4362.06 to transport and bury my grandmother. I just stared at her, blinking the same way I do at popcorn lady at the movie theater. I keep waiting for them to laugh and say, "I'm just joking! It doesn't really cost that much. I'm just messing with you."

They wanted $2995 for an immediate burial. That means, no embalming or other services to make the person look nice for viewing. It's just putting the person in the casket. Then she added on the additional mileage for travel, the casket, and don't forget the tax, which added up to the final total of $4362.06. No funeral. No flowers. No limos. No graveside service. Nothing but picking her up, putting her in a casket, and taking her to the cemetery. I did ask her if she thought those prices were a little high, and she didn't even bat an eye when she said "No."

Unlike the movie theater, I wasn't stuck with this funeral home, so I decided to shop around. I was able to find a very reasonably priced funeral home that was able to give me exactly what I needed for my grandmother for half that price.

Before doing this, I didn't believe in cremation either. But this made me a believer. Even cremation costs start at around $2000.00. I'm not going to make my family pay $10,000 just to put me in the ground. That's crazier than the price of movie popcorn and nearly as tasty.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Emu Oil? Rook Piercing Follow Up

So check this out...many of you read my nightmare piercing story about the rook I had done over a year ago. I hadn't done a follow up, but the stupidity continued.

My sister-in-law finally got fed up and took hers out. My sister battled with her helixes, and finally switched to a smaller gauge, which helped. They finally healed. My best friend's helixes also continued to give her trouble until she switched her jewelry as well.

Me? My rook would not heal. No matter what I did, it continued to look red and irritated. If I didn't clean it every day with saline, it would get infected again. If I didn't like it so much, I would have taken it out, but I'm stubborn that way.

After fighting with this piercing for over a year and a half, I decided to try moving to a smaller gauge, like my sister did. I went to a body jewelry place with the intention of buying the jewelry there and taking it to my regular piercing guy to have him change it.

While I was at the body jewelry place, the sales lady suggested I talk to their piercer. After the trouble with my rook, I don't trust anyone but my usual guy. However, I figured it couldn't hurt since she wasn't going to do any piercings on me. When I met her, I was happy to see she looked like my piercer guy, like she'd been hit in the face with a shotgun blast of pellets. She had more piercings than I could count, and that was only the area I could see. That's a very good sign.

She took one look at my rook and said "It's crooked." What? Not that I was surprised, mind you. It just pissed me off. Sure enough, my rook piercing is not straight, so the hoop is constantly rubbing on the edges, which is why it is always irritated and won't heal.

I asked her what she would recommend, even though I knew the answer would be to take it out, let it heal, and get it pierced again. Still, I needed to hear her say it. She surprised me by saying that I had one other option before starting over...Emu oil. What? Emu oil? As in, the bird? Yep, that emu. Apparently, I'm behind the times. It's the latest and greatest first aid thing. It has natural antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties.

I tried not to laugh. I figured they stored it next to the snake oil (wink, wink). Still, she had a point, it was cheaper and less of a pain than taking it out and starting over, so I bought it. She said to use it twice a day for at least three weeks, but that I would be able to see a difference in a few days if it was going to work.

I have to say, I'm shocked. It's actually working. I don't know if the piercing will totally heal and stop getting irritated if I quit using it, but I'll see when the bottle runs out. The redness, discharge, and irritation are gone. Emu oil? Who knew?

Here is the website for the emu oil she sold me. I paid about $16.00 for the 1 ounce bottle at the store, but it's much cheaper online (of course), running $7.95 for the one ounce bottle. When I looked it up, they were also offering free shipping. On the website, they claim that it can be used for dry skin, sun burns, inflammation, scars, burns, and muscles and joints. I don't know about all that, but I can definitely say it has helped with my piercing. I've also started to see some emu oil products in drug stores, and the pharmacy sections of other stores, but I don't know how effective those products are.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Trailer Trash With A Girl's Name by Stacey Roberts

I just started reading Trailer Trash, with A Girl's Name by Stacey Roberts. I love the way his mother gives everyone titles. This book is cracking me up. Stacey found a way to take his troubled childhood and turn it into something positive by using humor. The following is an interview he did with Donna Cavanagh on that they have given me permission to share. Links to buy the book and connect with Stacey are at the bottom of this post.

1.Tell us about Stacey Roberts: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in New Jersey, in a little town called Garwood. We lived there for nearly ten years before we moved into the famous Winnebago and traveled the country. We went from New Jersey to San Diego, California, to Lake Tahoe, California (where my stepfather Ted the Drug Dealer began his life of crime) to Hollywood, Florida (where he perfected it).

2. How would you describe your family life growing up?
My mother, my grandmother, and my aunt all lived pretty close to us in New Jersey, so we got to see family all the time. My parents got divorced when I was five, and after that we moved into the basement of our house like we were hiding out from the agents of a totalitarian regime. My mother needed the living space to start a business. For the next ten years, I lived in spaces that weren’t much bigger than my bed. I also remember being very poor; there was never money for anything, but it didn’t stop my mom – we took vacations and things like that, just always on the cheap. We went to Washington, DC once and slept in the car at the Washington Monument. The DC police enjoyed that.

3. A lot of people have “dysfunctional” childhoods and grow up bitter. You went the funny route. How has humor helped you? (not trying to be insulting here but trying to show that it was not all fun and games for you.)
Humor was a surprising side-effect. I had been telling these stories for years to my friends, expecting sympathy, a hug, or maybe some edible food (since my mother can’t cook). I was looking to share my pain. But all my friends just kept laughing. That was my first sign that my dysfunctional childhood was not as tragic as I thought (or hoped). Once people whose opinion I trusted told me that my childhood was hilarious, I started looking for the funny instead of the sad. Perspective is everything.

4. Your book  is funny and poignant.  How did it make you feel writing it?  What about your family?  Did you consult them writing it?
Dysfunctional or not, you only get one childhood. One of the symptoms of growing old is that you forget what it was like to be a kid, with all the wonder and helplessness that comes with it. Writing this book made me remember incidents and even people I had forgotten. The next door neighbor who kind of took my father’s place after the divorce – the guy who could fix my bike or teach me to throw a baseball, the kids my age who I ran around the neighborhood with, etc. Stephen King once wrote that you never have friends as good as the ones you had when you were a kid. I was glad that writing this book made me remember them.
Some of my cousins read these stories in blog form. They were the best sounding board, because they told me that I had nailed the characters of my mother, my brother, Ted the Drug Dealer. They never knew about some of the stories, particularly the ones after we moved into the motor home and left the east coast. The feedback from my cousins could be distilled down to, “Well. That explains a lot.”

My mother hasn’t read them. She doesn’t have Internet. My brother read a couple and took issue with them – he never thought he was the favorite son. It is important for him (and the readers) to know that this book is not a memoir – I took events from my childhood and added a few things for humor’s sake, and exaggerated some of the characters. But the people who know my mother recognize her easily in the book.
Finally, one of the things I gained from writing Trailer Trash is a whole new appreciation for my mother. I may have disagreed with her methods, but she did the best she could after her divorce with two small kids.

5. Besides the humor, what is the one thing you want a reader to take away from this book?
Family matters.

6. Tell us about your writing? You have another career as well, so what made you decide to be a writer as well?
I always wanted to be a writer. I was carrying around a notebook at 11, making up stories.  I went to college to get a history degree – I have a masters in European History, but I started an IT company while in grad school. The career I have now is the side job that’s lasted 20 years. If I could write books and teach full time and still be able to maintain the lifestyle my daughters have become accustomed to, I would do that.

7. What are your future writing plans?  Where would you like to go from here? Would you stay in humor or do you want to try other genres as well.
I have a series of four Trailer Trash stories called The Fall of Ted the Drug Dealer – the story of the cop who pursued him and put an end to his life of crime. After that, Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name Book 2. I am also working on a novel called Rain Songs about the Kennedy assassination that is due out this November. Mark Gosson, creator of the Xombee Guy webcomic and I are working on a zombie novel unlike any in the genre that we hope to have out in 2014.

When the author was born, his mother did the unthinkable. She gave him a girl’s name—Stacey. But Stacey’s name was just the first hurdle he’d face in his uphill climb from birth to manhood. He also had to deal with an entitled older brother, the hodgepodge of different men his mother was involved with, and the nomadic lifestyle he was forced to endure for five years. And to top it all off, his mother couldn’t cook a decent meal to save her life. Trailer Trash, With a Girl’s Name is Stacey Roberts’ lighthearted, often hilarious account of growing up in an unstable household during the 1980s. Full of humor, history, and hope, it follows Stacey from the hospital room where he was born to the Winnebago that carried him across the country, filling in the gaps with a wit and humor that anyone with a dysfunctional family can appreciate. So go ahead and start reading. Once you hop aboard the Winnebago with Stacey and his quirky family, you’ll find that you’re in for the ride or your life, where what you learn along the way is not only entertaining, but also enormously enriching.

Get a copy of Stacey's book on Amazon

 Connect with Stacey on