Big Life Changes

I have been writing. I have been living. And I will be sharing all the great things going on in my writing world again, but for now, I’ve left my website alone so I could focus on the important things in life. Living it.

I still have three novels in the works, two close to ready for my editor. The other in a rewrite stage. I’ve also started that children’s series I’ve talked about for years. And I’m trying to get my other name back out into the real world.

I miss connecting with my writing world. It amazes me at times just how much I need this…this writing…this connection…this creativity to survive.

But in the past six months, I’ve learned and focused on one thing. I no longer want to only survive. I want to live. So I will.

And soon, I will share more writing from Stella’s world.

I hope you all are well and enjoying the new growth of a beautiful spring.





Happy New Year



As we end the year which will go down in history as the one which started the apocalypse, as some would say, I would like to begin to look ahead. A world without Mrs. Brady. A world without David Bowie. A world where each time I watch Severus Snape, a tear sneaks from the corner of my eye.  A world where a princess and the dancer who created my love of musicals are together in a beyond I cannot fathom just yet.

This year I took more control of my life. Of my feelings. And of my own actions. I pushed a move to Arizona to better my life and that of my daughter who had been bullied, violently at times. It worked. I am happy to say, though we have parenting challenges, she is doing quite well. She is coping. People here are kind. There seems to be little drama she gets involved in. And oddly enough no one pushes her down the stairs.

The other thing I did this year was quite selfish. I decided I wanted to live. I want to be alive. I want to wake each day in love. I want to watch the sun rise knowing I am loved. I want to live each day to the fullest. Face each challenge with grace. I want to feel pride again. Pride for my home, my family, my life. I didn’t seek a new adventure. It found me. Life looked me in the eye and said, if you want to be a part of this, jump in and hold on tight because this will hurt at times, but it will also be incredible. You’ll need to decide which one is worth the fight. Give up or live the life of someone alive. I cried at times this year, not knowing how I would move forward with the challenges I accepted into my life. I’m sure I will cry even more as these challenges face me each day going forward. But there will be a point where I am in a good place again and the journey will have been worth it. The journey is the goal, right? The journey needs to be good in order for the end to be rewarding. If the journey isn’t fulfilling, then I didn’t cross the paths I needed to cross. I didn’t climb the mountains I needed to climb. Speaking of climbing, I hiked Camelback Mountain recently and can’t wait to get back up there again. Hiking to the top to see the world around me is something I want to relish every day. Each day I’d like to wake knowing I am but a small part of this world but I can overcome the negativity which faces me.

I didn’t write as much as I thought I would this year. The next year will change that. As I face my new normal, writing will become the outlet I’ve always needed it to be. I have three books in the works right now. My goal this year will be to get one to market and the second ready for Spring of 2018 if not earlier. Then the third, which I wrote just last month during NaNoWriMo, ready for the following year. It sure would be nice if I have them all ready earlier. The next challenge I’ve created for myself in my writing world is the middle school series I’ve allowed to float around in my head for years.

Add to that a home renovation and the need for an office in which to write again, and I think I have a pretty full year ahead.

Someone asked me recently if I am happy. I said yes. And I meant it this time. I am truly happy. I struggle with a lot of things. This coming year will bring new challenges as our family changes once again. But I am making my way, creating my path, and making my own happiness. Because I matter. To me. And to the people who love me.

If you do anything new or different in 2017, I’d ask that you make your own happiness. Force big change on yourself. Push yourself. Challenge those around you to love you in the ways you need to be loved. I made my happiness. Go make yours. Make it a great year.




The One I Never Wanted to Write

Sometimes life just ends. And it affects us all. Godspeed, Cindy.

Eastwood Eagle Watchers

This one is hard.

This one is a post that I hoped that I would never have to write. But it must be done because it is such an important part of the story.

Today The Treetop Palace has lost its queen.

I have often said that “life in the wild is wild” and that was never more true than it was today. My emotions are churning and I have no idea if my fingers can even put into words the thoughts that are swirling around in my head.

The overlying purpose of this blog is to share the stories of Jim and Cindy’s adventures in a way that is both factual and entertaining. But just as important is our goal to educate our readers on the realities of life in the wild. Jim and Cindy have met challenge after challenge and they have overcome each one. But some challenges are just too…

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Academia, Love Me Back

Academia needs work. This is our broken society.


My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced…

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Still in renovations…

Home renovations continue here a mile south of the sun. We haven’t found any dangers this week, thank goodness. The potential fire hazard in the canned lights was enough for me to deal with. We finished the demo on the rock wall, so the drywall and bump-out are all removed now. We had to reframe part of the wall where the arch was indented. He also took out three doors. Removing pre-hung doors isn’t as easy as I might have thought. But it was easy for me sitting in my chair writing and watching someone remove the trim from all three doors on both sides, then remove the frame and door. These are solid core eight-foot doors. They are not light. Today he framed one of the doorways and added an outlet near count height on what will be a new wall in our butler’s pantry. Because of that wall, we get to add more cabinets and a special space for my special Jimmy Buffett Margarita Machine. Thank goodness for that special space.

Tonight we designed our fireplace and built-ins around it. Since we are no longer stuck with what the builder put in twelve years ago, we can create something very cool.

I also starting the wallpaper removal process in our formal dining room…otherwise known as the room that stores all of the boxes we don’t know what to do with at the moment. Wallpaper.

We’ll love the home without it. It peeled rather easy from the bathroom walls. The other problem is my foot is broken. I’m on week five now, so I’m close to normal, whatever that might be for me. So I’ve managed to peel it from the surfaces in the bathroom that are all under six feet. Everything above six feet still needs to the removed, including the ceiling. But one day I will drag a ladder upstairs and drag my foot up a ladder and get it all off. The easy removal is a blessing and a curse. The glue seems to be sticking to the wall, so I need to get all of that off before we can prime it for nice paint. Good-bye, roses and butterflies. The dining room, though, is another story. If we look at the flowers plastered to the wall, they stick tighter. They know we are out to get them. And they are fighting it every inch of the way. But with the help of a wallpaper scoring tool and a spray, I was able to peel some of those hideous flowers off today. It might take me weeks, but I will get those flowers out of my house.

We have been designing our kitchen and floors lately. We are *this close* to ordering materials. If only I can decide on which ones…





Lights, Camera, Fire Hazard

My husband and I had a few conversations this weekend about our home renovation. As I’ve said before, this home is great, but it’s been in need of love for several years. We keep running across things in need of repair while we’re trying to tackle the list of things to completely gut and change.  The previous bitter owners took light fixtures, ceiling fans, and built-ins leaving us with a blank slate to work with. I’ve said thank you to the bitter gods several times now as they left us in a position where we have to choose new items for these spaces instead of accepting what is installed.

I imagine there was once a ceiling fan here. And instead of leaving a mess of hanging live wires, they were forced to put something in there. So we got this.


We’ve noticed a few switches that don’t seem to do anything. They turn nothing on. They turn nothing off. We have two empty spaces over our patio roofs with live hanging wires where ceiling fans probably used to exist and two light fixtures in those spaces that don’t work.

Since my husband was planning on looking at these lights, he decided it was also time to look at the two hallway can lights that appeared to be connected but only one worked.

We had conversations that, from my end, sounded like this.

“Three way….switch to light, light to switch or light to light to one switch and then to the other….light to switch to light to switch…switch to light, switch to light but then it wouldn’t be a three-way, each switch would operate one light and that doesn’t make sense….”

Okay, really not much of it made sense to me. But since I helped my husband wire our previous home’s basement, I remembered him explaining how three-way switches work. First, their name is deceiving because there are only two switches. It’s the kind of wiring where there is a switch on one end of a hallway or room and the other switch on the other end also turns the lights on or off so you don’t have to run through a dark room where you know suddenly you will find an axe murderer who only lives in the darkness of your hallway and only in that moment you turn off the light before running through the darkness with your breath held.

Bottom line here? We have two canned lights in a hallway that should be three-way switched, one light worked, one light did not, making the switches appear to not work properly. All of this assuming the two switches were actually three-way switches. The first thing my husband did, of course, was replace all the light bulbs. Bitter owners might have been bitter because they had old fashioned (whatever they are called…incandescent maybe?) light bulbs in every fixture. Our first month’s electric bill was about $1,000. I’m curious to see how much that changes once every light bulb is changed over to LED. I might be bitter too if it’s $1,000 every month.

With the light bulbs changed, the fixture still didn’t work. Out come the ladder and my husband trying to play with live wires. We go through another conversation with all the wires hanging out about the switches and the wires that don’t exist which should exist if it were wired switch to switch or light to light to switch….yes, this again. In the end, my husband has the whole fixture rewired, wrapped again with the wire nut in place, and he says to me, “I don’t know how this house hasn’t caught fire in the past twelve years.”

You know those emojis with the mouth open and the eyes wide? That was me in that moment. Evidently the electricians or bitter owner, whichever, twisted the wires in such a way the hot wire slid down from the wrap when the wire nut was twisted on until it finally sparked leaving black marks in the ceiling before tripping and leaving the fixture disconnected. Fire hazard. It takes a couple more hours for my husband to fix the lights over the patios,  but they all work. And they are all safe.

My husband tells me all the other lights are fine unless they stop working. And if they stop working, he’ll know how to fix them. This house was meant for him.

In other renovation news, we got all the stone off the castle wall in one evening.


Then it took my husband another hour or more to tear down the wire mesh holding up the rock and mortar.

Next up we tear down the drywall and make it a flat wall.



And after an xray earlier this week, I learned my foot is indeed broken. But that didn’t stop me. I think removing the stone with my husband’s tool, whatever the hell that thing is, was easier on my broken foot than standing below him while gravity dropped stones near my broken foot and on top of my good foot…and head.


Happy Renovating!

Now I’m going to take a break to write.


Home Renovation Excitement

Fourteen smoke detectors. It might actually be fifteen, but I don’t feel like walking around and counting, so I’m going with fourteen.

There are fourteen smoke detectors in our new home. Of the fourteen, three of them were missing batteries and the hard wires were cut. I know there were teenagers living here sometime before we bought the house. I have no questions about whether or not they were smoking in their bedrooms and hiding it from their parents. The only question I ponder is what were they smoking? Of the eleven remaining, three units were actually missing and only the plate remained in the ceiling. Of those left, we doubt they worked, wondered if the batteries were twelve years old, and know they were not CO2 detectors as well. So they all needed to be replaced. At almost $50 a shot, let’s just say it’s been an expensive week of home renovation projects where not much actually gets renovated.

We knew this was going to be a great renovation. This is a ‘the bones are great’ kind of house. But it has lacked loved and been abused for a long time. The previous owners might have been a tad pissed off when their million-dollar home was only valued at 60% of their original price. Then, even more pissed off when their remaining loan was not renegotiated again…for the third time…or something like that. So when they finally gave up and decided to tuck their tails and move on, they ripped out every light fixture, which they had to replace with a cover or a light. Our bedroom is currently housing an outdoor birdcage-like fixture. They ripped out built in bookcases. They stopped loving and caring for he home. The previous owners put us in a position we love. We are technically forced to change everything about this house instead of looking at something and saying it exists, it works, let’s not change it yet. We have to change everything. Including at least fourteen C02/Smoke detectors. And aren’t we glad we did because we learned some of the wires were cut in a few of them? Talk about safety – or not safety.

When we moved in, we had already had a demo team come out to remove all the floors except in four bathrooms. So when we are in some of the bathrooms, we at least have tile below our feet. There is one bathroom, however, where we did have the tile removed. Except the one tile under the pedestal sink and the one or two tiles sitting under the toilet. Going in that bathroom feels a lot like using a port-a-potty inside a barn.

Before the kids and I moved into the house, my husband removed the dishwasher, which he said had mold growing on the inside that looked to be about twelve years old. I never saw it. It quickly found a new home inside a contractor’s dumpster. And we’ve been hand washing dishes since day one here. It’s great for the kids to rough it a bit. I grew up hand washing dishes, and I think I believed it was my payment for the food I was given. My kids hate it. Maybe when we install our new appliances, we’ll tell them the dishwasher doesn’t work.

The first week we were in the house, I noticed a utility room often smelled like vomit. Lovely, yes? I have three children, two dogs, and two cats. We are all very familiar with the smell of vomit. The kitchen has two garbage disposals. Evidently one was draining right into a utility sink each time we used it. After replacing the disposal which my husband said looked disgusting and probably hadn’t worked properly for years, he had to snake all the plumbing and replaces some U traps…or something like that but in plumber’s lingo. The following week the bottom of the sink cabinet was flooded again. Again. And then again. Something was leaking. We learned the filtration system that lives under the sink isn’t working. And the something else or another that also lives under there is also not working. But what was leaking was the faucet. So for about $80 he bought a new faucet and replaced the old one with a temporary new faucet. Maybe we can use this new one in the utility room once the kitchen is overhauled.

We might have a working kitchen again.

One that is always covered in dust. But working.

The dust is another issue. I’d love to say the house is dusty because it’s located in the desert of Arizona. I’d also love to say the house is dusty because we renovating it.

But the reality is the house is dusty because when our contractors removed the floors, they also removed the gypcrete (gypsum concrete) from the subfloor leaving countless particles of concrete dust settling everywhere….probably also in our lungs.

Each time we want to use the kitchen we have to wipe down every surface. We’ve been using a shop vac to help, but it’s still here. And it won’t fully go away until we finish the floor…oh and repour new gypcrete.

The pool has been another issue altogether, but luckily for us, we found a fantastic pool chick who is here every week if not more often to clean it, diagnose it, and repair it. We weren’t surprised when she told us we needed a new motor for the pump because the last time it was replaced, the previous own replaced it with a motor too small for the job. We still have some minor issues to fix on the pool, but she had it up and running and chemically balanced before the kids and I arrived. That made moving day easier for us because the kids spent about fifteen hours swimming while we unloaded the truck and tried to figure out how to live day by day in a home lacking. I call it camping. I know camping is much worse. But I also know camping can be even more fun. This falls in between the two kinds of camping. We have a roof over our heads. We have four A/C units, that all work….except for that one day and the minor repair to follow. We have working smoke detectors. Our outlets mostly work. We have lights….even if they look like bird cages. We have beds off the ground and we have seating and electronics. We are more fortunate than many.

And we have a very large project ahead of us.

Each day we jump in doing something.

Today we may end up taking the stone off this wall: