Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In Praise of Nasty Women

Have you seen those "Nasty Woman" shirts that became popular during the election? While the original remark was intended as a negative comment against a woman who dared to enter the world of "good old boys" and fight for what she believed in, many women have taken up the phrase as a badge of honor.

Why is it that strong women who display some of the same characteristics that are admired in male leadership are considered "nasty" when they are seen in a woman? Throughout time, women have been expected to take a subordinate role to men. They were considered too emotional or too weak minded to understand the complexities of the male world. Of course, women today consider this view of a woman's role outdated and insulting. 

In the not too distant past, single women were expected to find a husband to provide for them as quickly as possible.  In return, the woman's role was to manage the household and raise the children. I can still remember being told as a young wife who dared to express a political opinion,  that "women should stick to their sewing circles!"  I was also told that the only reason a woman needed to go to college was to find a husband. God help us if we suddenly became single mothers!  If our husbands had not left us financially solvent, too bad!  We were expected to quickly find another man or manage on our own - quietly, without making our plight ruffle the feathers of the existing norms.

At first, I tried to fit the role that was expected of me.  But that shoe didn't fit. Eventually, I rebelled against a role I found stifling and demeaning...I became a "nasty woman."

In our defense, I don't think any of us really enjoy being nasty.  We felt forced into the role in order to make our voices heard. So it is not without a certain sense of pride that we wear the badge of "nasty women." We have worked hard to get to this point.  We are not going to give it up without a fight.

In The Steel Canyon Legacy, Tessa Kingsley is faced with the same dilemma. Can she find a balance between the life that is expected of her and the life she expects of herself?

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne and the Legacy Trilogy.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Blog

Dear Reader,

Thank you for following "School Marms and Cowboys".  I have recently started a new blog at that will focus on promoting other independent authors.  I will feature a monthly interview with an author as well as other postings related to the art and craft of writing.

I will continue to post personal reflections on life and living at this site for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing. I will also keep both site updated regarding any new releases I have so you will be the first to know. Thanks again for your support.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

The year was 1969.  I was a sophomore at a small teachers college in Kansas.  But even there, the metallic stains of Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida could be heard echoing through the halls. It was the summer of love. In August, more than a half a million people descended on a field near Woodstock, New York for four days of rain, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. I wasn't there, of course, but I felt the vibe nonetheless.

Nixon was inaugurated as president and the "Vietnamization" of Southeast Asia began. The youth of American were fed up with the "establishment". There were protests on college campuses. Sit-ins, walk-outs, and love-ins heralded the theme of "Make Love, Not War!" We were ready and willing to rebel to change the status quo. It was all terribly exciting and we all thought we were doing something daring by going against the views of our elders.  The more they tried to suppress us, the louder we became.

But then, we grew up.  We became complacent.  We joined the very establishment we had once protested against. We went to work, got married, started families and disappeared into the ranks of the middle class. The once proud and loud "boomer generation" grew silent.

We're older now...grandparents who have set aside the foolishness of our youth. But was it really foolish? It was our generation that pushed for Civil Rights and began the movement for Gay Rights. We championed women in the workforce and pushed for equal pay. We shook things up.

Maybe it's time to shake things up again. Somewhere beneath the expanded waistbands and the grey hairs beats the heart of a "boomer" who thought they could make a difference.

There is still time.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne and the Legacy Trilogy.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Enter the Antihero

The social turmoil that the entire world as a community has been facing recently has disposed us to be skeptical of almost everything. As skeptics, we are accustomed to deliberation, evaluation of evidence, and the insistence upon extraordinary evidence in support of extraordinary claims. These traits are not important to the political process, which instead rewards appeals to emotion and the successful manipulation of human passion. It is no wonder that we skeptics are uncomfortable in the political world. It represents everything we reject in our search for understanding.

Enter the antihero. He may not really have any good or useful characteristics, but his character is a perfect example of the struggle that we go through in our daily lives when choosing between good and evil. One example of the antihero in literature is Gollum in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The good side of him warns those who want the ring, but the dark side of him is infected by greed and makes him do evil things to obtain the ring. This eventually leads to his death.

If used skillfully, an antihero is much more interesting that the more traditional hero. He is represented as an amalgamation of both good and evil.  These darker heroes can be jerks, pathetic, hard, jaded, or mean. They can be used to represent many things at the same time, such as, social flaws, human frailties and political culture. Instead of having two different people represent two opposing extremes, an antihero combines both into one person and thus presents a more accurate and complete picture of human nature.

The character of Thomas Silverton has emerged in the first two books of my Legacy series with all the potential to become a bona fide antihero. He is selfish, ambitious, manipulative, prejudiced and morally corrupt.  But there is something about him that makes us think there is some redeeming quality there somewhere down deep inside him that will save him. We just haven’t seen it yet.  It’s what gives us hope. Perhaps it will show up in the final book of the trilogy.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the award-winning author of Windborne, The Stone House Legacy and The Steel Canyon Legacy. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle at

Follow her on Facebook at and Twitter at  

Monday, October 24, 2016

HOLIDAYS: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It's that time of year again. I can already feel the stress mounting as the year winds to a close and the holiday season approaches. 

The GOOD news is that even in this contentious election year, there is a sense of relief that it will soon be over. People will once again be able to have polite conversations without fear of stepping on someone's political toes. I am confident that we will return to a sense of good will toward others. We will smile and wish each other holiday greetings. We will feel triumphant when we find the perfect gift for someone we love. We will delight in the wonder of the season as we see it through a child's eyes.

The BAD news is that the world is still filled with too much sadness and suffering.  There are still children who will not receive a present.  There are families who will not have shelter or food.  There will be missing places at the holiday table for loved ones who have passed on. Charity donations increase during the holidays, but it is only a temporary fix -- a band aid to a much larger problem.

The UGLY news is that, for some, the stress of the season will prove to great to bear. The tingle and lilt of holiday music is a constant reminder of their shortcomings. Suicide and divorce rates tend to increase during the holidays.  Some will escape into binge drinking or drugs in the hopes that when they sober up, the world will have returned to some semblance of normal. Mental health facilities cannot hope to cope with the vast amount of those needing help.  Some may never come forward until it is too late.

My wish for you is that everything that is GOOD about the season is magnified ten-fold, and that there is enough good will in your heart to carry you through in the months after the decorations are gone and the presents are put away. Be mindful of the BAD and the UGLY and continue to look for ways to reduce the stress of the season for those who struggle. Reach out with the hand of fellowship to those less fortunate-- not just during the holidays, but everyday.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne, The Stone House Legacy and The Steel Canyon Legacy. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle at

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Story-Telling and Writing is a Family Affair

Grandmother and Granddaughter Share Spotlight at Inlandia Indie Book Fair
Inlandia Indie Author Fair-October 2016
Inlandia Indie Author Fair-October 2016
CLAREMONT, Calif. - Oct. 2, 2016 - PRLog -- No one expected the youngest novelist at the Inlandia Indie Book Fair to be 12-year old McKayla Gateley. McKayla and her grandmother, award-winning author Wanda DeHaven Pyle, debuted their new novels at the event in Jurupa Valley on Saturday, October 1.

McKayla spent the past year working on her book, CHAOS, a medieval fantasy filled with Gods and demons, each intent on taking over the land. An avid reader of fantasy and adventure stories, she became fascinated by ancient Greek and Roman mythology during a study of ancient history in school. She plans to release her book on Amazon in December in time for the holiday season. She is already at work on the next book in her series.

When asked who influenced her most in her quest to become a published author, she cited her family and especially her grandmother. However, she has aggressively sought out the advice of teachers and other young adult authors whose work she admires.

"McKayla is a very promising young author," stated her grandmother, Wanda DeHaven Pyle. "I helped her with some editing and formatting, but the story is her own." With a grandmother's pride, she added, "I'm quite sure she will someday win the Pulizer!"

Watch for the release of McKayla's book on Amazon in the near future. Pyle's books are available on Amazon and Kindle at

Wanda DeHaven Pyle

Friday, September 16, 2016

I Am Woman!

A new social movement took center stage in the 1970s. It followed the lead of the civil rights movement, as well as the mounting protests against the Vietnam War. In this volatile era, the women of the nation were determined that their voices be heard above the din of discontent.

The women's movement of the '70s was in part a reaction against the type of happy homemaker that was often portrayed in television sitcoms of previous decades. Like it or not, girls growing up in the '50s would have been exposed to role models such as the housewives in Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best, women whose career goals were getting the kids off to school and serving dinner on time. A working woman as role model didn't come along until the late 1960s and early 1970s when shows such as  Julia--where Diahann Carroll starred in the first nonstereotypical network TV role for an African-American woman as Julia Baker, a single mom who worked full time as a nurse--and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which Moore portrayed Mary Richards, a career-oriented single woman who is a news producer for a TV station in Minneapolis.

For many women, this change in viewpoints created a conundrum regarding long-held beliefs about a woman's role in both the home and workplace. They were caught between their desire to nurture and create a safe haven for their families and the desire to move beyond the confines of a life centered only on home and family. As they stepped forward into this new role, many were hindered by their own naivete regarding the politics and difficulties of surviving in a world that had previously been restricted to "men only." This is the feeling I have tried to capture in The Steel Canyon Legacy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


I am excited to announce that Windborne has been named an Award Winning Finalist in the Bookvana Awards for "Fiction: Historical".  Check out the official Press Release here.

Get your copy of Windborne today at

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer on the Farm -1960's

Summers on the farm were a far cry from summers in Los Angeles.  There were no lazy days at the beach or sun tanning by the pool. Summers were the busiest times on the farm.  They were hot, dirty and long. The days started at sunrise and sometimes didn't end until after sunset. 

Wheat harvest brought especially long days.  We were always slaves to the weather. When the wheat was ready, it was a race against time to get it harvested before the rains knocked it all flat and made it impossible to get into the fields. Once the combine dumped its load into the truck, it had to be hauled to town and stored in the huge bins at the elevator in town until you were ready to sell it. I started driving truckloads of wheat to the grain elevator when I was 14. The old farmers would lean against the pop cooler drinking grape Nehi and gossip while their loads were weighed and stored. When it was all finished, we had to rush back to the fields to be ready for the next load.

Haying season was the worst! Some of us girls would rake hay in our bikinis just to get a suntan.  You could always tell because the back of our legs were still winter white while the rest of us was cherry red.  Bucking bales was the worst.  Since there were no boys in our family, the job of catching and stacking bales on the wagon usually fell to me.  I would stand on the wagon as it moved slowly through the rows and catch the bales my dad threw up to me. Then I would stack them like bricks as high as I could before the load started to tip.

Back at the barn, I was relegated to the loft where there was no sign of a breeze and the air hung heavy with dust and dried leaves. Dad would unload the bales onto the loader and I would catch them as they came off and stack them in the loft. The alfalfa hay stuck to my sweaty skin and itched like crazy. The prairie hay sliced into my arms like thousands of tiny blades, so I had to wear long sleeves to protect myself.

If I was lucky enough to have a date on weekends, he usually showed up late having just come in from the fields himself. We would go into town and get a coke at the Giant Hamburger, cruise Main a couple of times, and head for home since we both had to get up early the next day.

I wish I could say that I missed those days, but to be honest, I much prefer lazy days at the beach and sun tanning by the pool.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Beta copies are out to readers. Final proof is in the works. Watch for the release in September, 2016!

Something was terribly wrong in the 1970’s. In some ways the decade was a continuation of the 1960’s.  In other ways, however, it was a repudiation of all that gone before. The American character had changed. For Tessa Kingsley and her family it was a decade of tears and triumph.

Finding herself alone and responsible for her two sons and an aging mother, Tessa must navigate her way through a world filled with fragmentation and skepticism. Tessa’s journey takes her through the glittering nightlife of Miami, Chicago, and Las Vegas.  But, ultimately, she is unable to escape the demons from the past that follow her. She soon finds herself drawn into a world of drugs, gambling and mob vengeance before she finally finds the strength to break free. In the process she also discovers her own sensuality and individuality.  It’s a legacy she will pass on to her children in the years to come.

The Steel Canyon Legacy is a gritty and poignant reminder of a lost decade. It is filled with passion and intrigue, and the divergent story lines will keep the reader guessing until the very end.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Confessions of a Teenage Wallflower

Like most teenagers, I struggled to find my identity. I was somewhat tall and gangly with a slight overbite and a too-narrow forehead to be considered really pretty. My hair was an unruly mass of dark waves that stopped growing just below my shoulders and ended in split ends. I knew I wasn't a real beauty, but I considered myself passably attractive. My grandmother made sure that I started each school year with a new outfit and a new pair of black shoes. Christmas brought underwear and another new outfit, and then I usually got another new dress and a pair of white shoes for my birthday in April. It wasn't high fashion, but I thought I dressed pretty well.

I rode the bus to school until I was old enough to drive the old Studebaker pick-up into town on my own. I played in the band and participated in whatever extracurricular activities were open to girls in my small country school. I even held class offices. (I should probably note here that there were only 15 students in my class, so we sort of passed this duty around each year.)

But I still felt like an outsider.

At a time when most of my friends were beginning to pair off at school dances, and go to parties, I was usually not invited. Some of my friends felt bad about leaving me out so they would invite me to a party and hand me a broom to dance with on the slow tunes. At one "sweet sixteen" birthday party, the host tried to mix things up by having all the girls place their shoes in the center of the room and the boys had to pick a shoe to find their partner for the next dance. This was supposed to ensure that every girl got chosen.  When all the shoes were retrieved and I was still waiting to be collected by my partner, it became clearly evident that I was going to sit this one out.  The host's father finally took pity on me and asked me to dance. I tried to pretend it didn't matter, but inside I was crying.

Like most teenagers, I longed to fit in with everyone else.

I have carried some of these feelings with me into adulthood.  Although, my life is good and I have achieved a modicum of success, I still struggle with feelings of inferiority. The fear of being the last one chosen is always there in the background. But what I've learned is that there are more of us out there than I originally thought.

As a teenager, I felt alone and abandoned. As an adult, I believe that no matter how successful we are, we all harbor some of those same feelings.  It's what drives us to achieve and succeed. It's also what dooms us to failure if we succumb to it.

This is the underlying conflict that all my characters must struggle with.  Whether they succeed for fail, determines the outcome of the story. It is also the unifying characteristic that I hope my readers will identify and connect with. If literature is the mirror we hold up to life, it should reflect not only our hopes and dreams, but also those secret feelings we hold closest to our hearts.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Windborne, by Wanda DeHaven Pyle

The windswept Flint Hills of Kansas promised bountiful wildlife and fertile valleys, but for Virginia, Helen and Leah it was an empty promise. Dreams here often withered and died from starvation or the harshness and unpredictability of the climate. Eventually, each woman must face the decision to set aside her own hopes and dreams in the struggle to maintain home and family against impossible odds.

Skillfully creating compassionate characters with a range of emotions, Windborne is a novel unique in style and scope.  Set against a historical backdrop of major economic and cultural changes of the past century, it is an elegantly timeless tale about the nature of love, love and awakening.

“Heartfelt and at times quietly moving, this memoir-like work of fiction uses the tapestry of one family in the Flint Hills of Kansas and their struggles, triumphs and tragedies over decades to paint a portrait of a country as it grows and changes with the world around it. Wanda DeHaven Pyle uses a fast-flowing narrative more than dialog to cover much ground within only a few chapters or pages, yet there exists an intimacy, as though we the reader are being offered a view from heaven of this particular family and the decisions which shaped their future and those of successive generations.” – Bobby Underwood, author of the Matt Ransom series of novels

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cover Design: Curb Appeal for Readers

First impressions make a difference when it comes to selling anything in today's marketplace. In most areas, supply still outweighs demand. Whether you are selling a home or the next Great American Novel, you must create interest at the first glance.
While the focus in home sales is often on what can be improved on the interior, many sellers neglect the outside of the property. However, most buyers form an opinion on whether they like a home before they step in the front door.  The same is true for book sales. The work you do in the kitchen or the updating the fixtures in the bathroom of your home is a lot like editing and fine-tuning the interior of your book. It may be great, but by that time it may be too late.  If you want to maximize your property's value, you need to focus on curb appeal. If you want to maximize your book's appeal to readers, you need to focus on the cover design.

Improving the exterior of your book may not be as exciting as trying to figure out what to do with the plot or how to motivate a character, but in many ways it is more important. At first glance, you want your book to have a wow factor.  At a minimum, it shouldn't turn off a large majority of readers. Your book cover is your three-second introduction to the reading public.  When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet, your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise about what readers will find on the pages inside.

One of the most important things to consider in good cover design, is your title. Place yourself in the reader's shoes when making your final decision for your book's title. The title should be legible at a glance, so you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Make sure your title conveys your message clearly and simply. Be straightforward.  Sometimes creativity can interfere with clarity.

Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title.  A single image usually has a stronger image than multiple images. The image should not overwhelm the title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures.

Just as many home buyers will associate the condition of the exterior and landscape with the condition of the interior, the same is true for readers.  In fact, curb appeal is so important that if a potential buyer thinks that the exterior is unattractive, they won't even look at the inside.

You may have spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript.  Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves.  After all, it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

Watch for the cover release for my new book, The Steel Canyon Legacy, in June.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guerrilla Marketing for Authors

Like most writers, I hate marketing my work.  Even with publisher-backed works, it still falls to the author to do much of the marketing. There is a high degree of snobbery in the publishing world today. After all, it took Rowling years before she was able to realize her phenominal success. But it is even more difficult for indie authors. The assumption is that because a work is self-published, it is somehow not worthy. Sadly, it is up to authors like us to change that mentality through the quality of our work.

I am convinced that the key to getting recognized as an independent author lies in our ability to create a personal brand for ourselves, and the best way to do that is through some of the creative and innovative, low cost strategies used in guerrilla marketing. This technique involves high energy and imagination and focuses on grasping the attention of the public at a more personal and memorable level. Guerrilla marketing is designed to cut through the clutter of traditional advertising so that there is no mystery about what is being advertised. The message is clear and concise.  "This book is unique and different from all the others in this genre because ________."

This type of marketing works on the subconscious mind where most purchasing decisions are made. But keeping the book in the mind of the the consumer means repetition is needed. The challenge with any guerrilla marketing campaign is not only finding the correct time and place to launch the operation, but also investing the time to sustain the operation. You must promote regularly. Prospective buyers need to see or hear your message multiple times before it will drive them to purchase your book. You must create a buzz around it so that it will be shared among friends and acquaintances. This increases engagement with readers and improves the likelihood that they will share the memorable experience with others. The key is to reach the most people in your target audience as frequently and inexpensively as possible.

As a final word of caution, beware of expensive programs that promise to make you an Amazon Bestseller.  These programs take a fraction of the money you pay them and use it to buy copies of your book. While this may make you a temporary best seller, it usually doesn't affect your long term sales in any significant way. 

But take heart. Indie authors and Publish on Demand (POD) is changing the face of publishing in the world. Just 15 years ago, there were legions of travel agencies and agents ready to help busy people with their travel plans. Online travel planning and ticket purchases essentially sent those agencies into extinction.  Literary agencies and agents are already feeling the economic heat of self-publishing, and are next on the list. Groups that ignore self-published works will eventually find themselves in the history books along with Western Union Telegrams.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Heroes and Villains

As a writer, I am also a student of human nature.  I expose human frailties through my characters.  It’s what identifies some as villains and some as heroes. Villains often feed off hatred or utilize hate to manipulate others. They are often hate mongers who utilize the lowest aspects of human nature to provoke feelings of hatred in others and seek nothing more than to spread hate throughout communities, nations or entire worlds.

How they use hatred varies. They may tap into hidden prejudices in other people’s hearts and use it as an advantage, or they may directly feed the hatred from their own hearts to amplify their powers.  Adolf Hitler used hate to his advantage.  His method was simple and straight forward.  He said, “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.” He used bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny to promote violence.

Hate raises its ugly head when we feel under attack or threatened.  It seems as though we, as human beings require a scapegoat.  It’s as if we need someone or some group to look down on, to blame for the ills in our society and our own inadequacies. In fiction, this weakness is exploited to manipulate the reader’s sympathies in favor of the hero.  He refuses to stand idly by and, by his silence, let this hateful message be perpetrated.

The conflict arises out of the need for the hero or heroine to combat this hatred.  It is tempting to pit the hero against the villain in a classic battle of good vs. evil.  However, as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” This makes for a more difficult plotline.  The winner is not always clear and sometimes the hero must lose the battle to enhance the outrage against the villain, and in this way, incite the masses to action against him.

In this year of political upheaval, it is important for us to guard against the volcanic eruption of political propaganda that feeds on human passions and emotions. We must remember that all propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.  Hitler recognized this weakness when he said, “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.”

Therefore, I urge you, if you are going to make an important decision regarding religion or politics, listen to many points of view and not just those of the hate mongers. Be a hero.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Flawed Characters

Character flaws. We all have them, and most of us struggle to overcome and control them. However, they are also a badge of our humanity. It gives us humility to admit our imperfections.  We take comfort in the fact that others also struggle. We sympathize and empathize with their struggles because it allows us to accept our own imperfections. It gives us courage to continue to strive for perfection knowing that others are also working against the same odds.

In literature, character flaws give a character credibility and likability. Since humans are inherently imperfect, we can't identify with characters who have no flaws. But character flaws by themselves are not enough.  Characters must have some redeeming quality that makes us hope, against all odds, that that even the worst villain will recognize the error of his ways and repent. When he doesn't, we can accept whatever fate befalls him.

As in real life, some characters suffer from a tragic flaw. This flaw is so overpowering that no matter how hard they struggle, they are unable to overcome it.  It becomes inevitable that this flaw is stronger than the individual and eventually they succumb to it. We feel sad when this happens, but we also feel vindicated.  The character's failure to persevere sends the message that we must continue to struggle against these flaws or perish.

While some character flaws are off-putting, others may actually provide comfort and draw people in. This is the power behind support groups.  Knowing that one is not alone in his or her suffering and that others have had similar experiences can provide one with the strength and courage to continue the struggle. Even fictional characters can provide insight and understanding during one's time of need.  As characters struggle to overcome their fictional difficulties, it can provide direction to those who struggle in real life.

If literature is indeed the mirror we hold up to life, then our characters should also reflect the complexity of human nature, including all the burrs and bristles.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Junk Drawers and Memory Boxes

It's January. Time to clean out the junk drawer. You know what I mean.  It's that drawer in every house no matter how big or small where we throw all the things we accumulate during the year that we don't know what to do with or are too busy to put in its rightful place. Some of us have several junk drawers scattered throughout the house.  We manage to get that close to actually putting something where it belongs and then get distracted and into the junk drawer it goes.

Today I tackled the junk drawer in the den.  I took a deep breath and opened the drawer to really look at all the stuff I had thrown in there over the past year.  To help with organization, I sat down to sort through the mess with a trash can and a box to put those things in that I just couldn't bear to part with - a memory box.

I tackled the easy things first:  an airline ticket stub, a half eaten candy bar, a Christmas card with a misspelled name, a broken paper clip, scraps of messages long since delivered or forgotten.  These things went right to the trash can without a second thought.

Next came the greeting cards with simple "I love you" messages scrawled in childish hand from my grandchildren.  There was a silly love note from my husband that made me smile. A candid shot of family members at the beach, and another snapshot of a trip to Alaska caused me to stop and smile in remembrance of a happy time or a shared smile.  These things had no real value except for the pleasant memory they evoked. They went into the memory box.

I saved the hard part for last.  There was a small box filled with trinkets that reminded me of my mother, worthless artifacts of a life no more except that my mother had treasured them.  As I touched each one, I felt as if I were touching her.  There were newspaper clippings and other remembrances of friends and relatives who had passed. These would have to go in a special place.

I spent about an hour cleaning out a drawer that should have taken much less time, but each item there caused me to reflect on the past year. There had been happy times and bittersweet times mixed with a few sad times.  But we had survived and thrived as a family. I looked down at the empty drawer.  This time next year, the drawer would be full again and I would clean it out, throwing away the trash and keeping the memories.  

Time to get started.