Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Dirt-y Weekend!

What a truly magnificent weekend! I had forgotten how much I love to play in the… dirt! All those fond memories came flooding back this past weekend, as we undertook the project of making a garden.

Gardening has been in my blood for many years. One of my favorite childhood memories is of running through the paths of the garden at my great great Aunt Grace's house. What a spectacular garden she had! She grew every imaginable vegetable and fruit. Of course, Aunt Grace lived on a farm, off a gravel road in rural southern Illinois, and the prairie soil there was rich and fertile.

I undertook my first real garden in Massachusetts. Oh, I had grown things before, a tomato here or there, perhaps a flower, but this was my first real garden. Rows of perfectly placed vegetables, tenderly cared for and watered. I even had a perennial garden patch of asparagus, strawberries, and chives. Everything grew prolific.

Here in Texas, it's a little bit different. I tried a garden when I first moved here. I tilled the soil, added some Miracle Grow, planted, and… well, suffice it to say everything died. I couldn't keep up with it. Every day it seemed the invasive grass inched closer and closer to my precious plants, and then the weeds began taking over. The soil was like clay, not the dark rich fertile soil of up north. Plus, it was hot. Smack dab in the middle of summer, I gave it up and let the grass take it over. Nevertheless, I learned some valuable lessons for any future attempt at gardening in Texas.

First off, this newly created garden is not sitting on the ground. We built an 8' x 12' box out of timbers that sits 12" high (just let the grass try to grow up into that)! Next, we lined the bottom of our garden with wet newspapers, to keep weeds from growing, and over that we placed black plastic.

We then had five yards of garden soil delivered, of which probably two or three yards went into the garden. Still unconvinced it was of the same quality soil as our previous garden (and Aunt Grace's garden), we then added some Miracle Grow continuous-release fertilizer to the soil.

Finally, as we dug the hole for each plant, we filled it with Miracle Grow bagged garden soil.

I'll keep you posted as to how the plants are doing. Right now, it's so fun to go out each morning to check the "crops." We're growing tomatoes, eggplant, sweet onion, jalapeño, and an artichoke! I also have a row of Zinnia's for cut flowers! I'm so excited to be back working playing in the dirt!

I'd love to hear your gardening stories and challenges, and especially any tips or tricks for a successful garden in Texas! If you love gardening too, please add a comment to this post.

P.S. As promised, here are pictures from this Easter at Woodforest Presbyterian Church, where each year we participate in the "flowering of the cross."

Friday, March 21, 2008


Thank Goodness It’s GOOD Friday! It’s always wonderful when Friday rolls around in a week, but this Friday is Good Friday, making it especially fantastic. But have you ever wondered why we commemorate a holiday that represents the darkest day in history? After all, this is the day of Jesus Christ’s horrific suffering; the day he was beaten and nailed to a cross.

The good news is we know the end to that story, because in three days he rose and defeated death. He washed away our sins and paved our way for eternal life.

To borrow some words from my pastor from the confession and assurance part of our worship service …

He lived for us;
He died for us;
He rose in power and glory for us;
Friends believe the good news of the gospel; in Jesus Christ we are forgiven!

We will be “flowering the cross” on Easter morning at Woodforest Presbyterian Church in Houston. This is a tradition dating back to the 6th century and symbolizes the new life in our risen Lord. A bare and wooden cross has been in our churchyard throughout the season of Lent. Adorned with flowers on Easter morning, its transformation is breathtaking. It visually represents the new life we are celebrating. I will try to post pictures afterwards as it truly proves to be beautiful each year. Some years we accompany this with a butterfly release, only I’m not sure if that is part of the program this year or not.

If you are looking for a place to celebrate the resurrection of Christ this Easter Sunday, I invite you to attend services at Woodforest Presbyterian Church at 10:00am.

And, as my kids are so fond of saying, "Hoppy Easter!"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Split and the Lessons Learned

I'll never forget the day that Split arrived and I was able to hold our newly published book in my hands. Up until then, I knew we had all written and contributed stories and poems for an anthology of dichotomies. We had worked on it for months. We had read and critiqued each other's work, watching the stories become more cohesive with each re-write. We had shared back-story and helped one another capture it in an appropriate format. We had labored over each of our stories. Yet it was when I held Split in my hand, that it all felt real.

For those of you new to this blog, Split is a book of 27 short stories and poems, each reflecting a whole or one-half of a dichotomy, or two mutually exclusive or contradictory ideas. The contributing authors belong to my writer's group, Humble Fiction Café (HFC), a diverse mix of extremely talented writers at various stages in their writing careers.

I don't remember the month, but in 2007 we decided to challenge ourselves to write a book and selected the theme of dichotomies. There is war/peace, hot/cold, guilt/innocence, create/destroy, and many more dichotomies reflected in our stories. Some of us worked hard to contribute just one story to the book, while other (more prolific) writers provided more. We all hope you read the book and let us know your favorite(s).

There were many lessons learned throughout the process, which is exactly why we undertook this project (HFC does not receive any profit from the sale of this book). I learned, for one, that as many times as you re-write and edit a story, there is more that can be done. Until you put it away and declare it "finished," it isn't done!

I discovered that there is a lot of work that goes into editing and cover design. Our group was fortunate enough to have the talent of Kelli Meyer and Victor DiGiovanni respectively for these tasks, and for that, we are all truly grateful.

But wait, there is more. A book introduction had to be written, a back cover synopsis, bio's for each author, and even descriptions to follow each story embodying the dichotomy. Then the book had to be organized. Whose story would appear first, second, last? And what organization would make the most sense. After all, some of the stories written were by-products of another author's story, borrowing characters or locations or some other common thread. Everyone within HFC contributed magnificently to these tasks.

Finally, while we are the Humble Fiction Café, I know I for one experienced pride in the completed product. For days, Split was all I could think about or talk about, and the smile would not wipe off my face. It's not about how many copies are sold or whether or not a book makes a best-seller list (although wouldn't that be grand?). It's all about the enormity of the project, the completeness, the giving forth of all your efforts that provides the satisfaction.

Participating in the creation of Split was hugely rewarding. What an outstanding group of individuals to have pulled this off and with a remarkably good book to boot. Kudos to the HFC!

Friday, March 14, 2008


by Sheryl Tuttle

It's blog tag – and I'm it! Fellow Humble Fiction Café (HFC) writer, Dorlana Van, tagged me, and now I have to write a blog post about ten ways you know a story was written by me. This has been challenging, to say the least, since I am a writer still in my infancy, but here goes my best attempt.

1) If there is humor (and that is a big IF), it is very subdued. There is no slapstick in my writing.

2) The characters all tend to be… well, people. I haven't yet taken on the world of zombies, vampires, robots, etc (Did you notice the word "yet"?).

3) There tends to be romantic relationships in my writing, although in many instances they are ended relationships with one of the characters having difficulty in letting go.

4) My protagonists are often (but not always) writers.

5) My protagonists usually have good and bad qualities and may not be characters that you come to like easily.

6) Like fellow writer, Gary Denton, I too like the ellipsis …

7) My characters tend to have lots of thoughts that are italicized in the writing.

8) You might say I use "mysterious endings" in my stories. These are endings that leave the reader thinking.

9) Some of my writing (again, not all) contains a bit of sarcasm.

10) Finally, and not something you would "see" or "recognize" in the final product, but my stories in their final form almost never look like their original draft. I tend to re-write, and re-write, and re-write… you get the picture, I'm sure.

Now I have to tag six more bloggers, so – watch out! You may be "it" next!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Humble ISD – Important Information

The Humble ISD has decided not to fund high school gymnastics next year in spite of the fact that Humble High and Kingwood High have consistently earned countless titles and national rankings. It has been one of the most continually successful sports in the history of Humble ISD, and it has produced excellent student athletes, many of which have GPA's over 4.0 and have earned Academic Scholarships. There are two things we can do.

First, is to sign a petition at asking the board to reconsider their decision. Please don't sign it "anonymous" as I've been told those signatures won't count.

Second, you can attend the Humble ISD board meeting tonight at 7:00pm to support our gymnasts, coaches and parents.

Thank you!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's Here! The long awaited anthology by the Humble Fiction Café is now available!

Click here to order your copy.

Read the 27 stories and poems in Split and enjoy the work of twelve contributing authors. Each story contains one-half or each half of a dichotomy. Some of the stories contain threads from other stories, perhaps a common character or location. How many can you recognize?

If this seems like an advertisement, well, it is, of sorts. I am a contributing author to Split and am so excited that it is published and now available. I really want you to read the book, but my motivation is not for the money. No. Neither the Humble Fiction Cafe (HFC) nor the Split contributing authors receive any compensation from the sale of this book.

The reason I want you to read this book is for your feedback. Feedback can be one of the most valuable lessons to a writer. So, please let me know your opinion of the book. What do you like about the book? What are your dislikes? Do you have a favorite story? A favorite character? Where did you hear about Split? Did you read all of the stories? Did you read them in order? Would you recommend this book?

Comments are very welcome – I value your feedback!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Book Review

Book Review: A Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

I like all the Jodi Picoult books I've read so far, although this one didn't quite capture me as much as most of hers do. Jodi has a terrific ability in developing character and she's not afraid to address difficult topics, such as this in Perfect Match.

Perfect Match is about a working mother who is faced with numerous emotions after learning her 5 year old son was sexually assaulted. Nina Frost is a DA, and she knows the legal system doesn't work in favor of the victim in sexual abuse cases. Her son is clearly traumatized, and Nina will do anything she can to prevent him from re-living the horror by testifying on the witness stand.

Very good plot twists and turns, and great character development. I give this book 4 stars!