In 1976, my brother lived in San Antonio, about a five-hour drive from here. He taught school, and when winter break arrived, he called me on a Sunday afternoon to ask if I would pick him up at Dallas Love Field Airport.

Since his plane was about to leave San Antonio, he arrived in Dallas before I did. When I picked him up, he stowed his things (including my Christmas gift) in the trunk of my car.

As we often did, we hit the mall the next day to visit the bookstore and record shop. After all, if you have books and music, what else do you need? Every time I selected an album, he offered a reason for me not to buy it.

George Harrison’s Greatest Hits? “You already have most of the songs on the album already.” Electric Light Orchestra’s A New World Record. “There’s really only one good song.” After several selections, I think I finally settled on an album by Heart.

Christmas arrived a few days later. It wasn’t hard to guess he’d given me albums (oh, the days of vinyl), but which ones? Yep, Geroge Harrison’s Greatest Hits, A New World Record, and Fleetwood Mac (their 1975 album).

I already had the single of “Rhiannon” but listening to that album made me a lifelong fan. With songs like “Say You Love Me,” “Monday Morning,” and my personal favorite, “Over My Head,” how could I not be?

While much of the world idolized Stevie Nicks, especially with the 1977 release of Rumours, and the single, “Dreams,” my favorite was Christine McVie. I once desired to be a rock star and Christine epitomized everything I wanted. She could sing, write music, and play the keyboards. (I took piano lessons but can’t carry a tune. Not even in a bucket.)

I dressed a lot like Christine. Not so much because I idolized her, but because it was the fashion in the late ’70s. Once my brother said, “You look like someone in Fleetwood Mac.” I considered that a compliment.

Fleetwood Mac in 1977. Left to right, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham. (Public Domain.)

Christine McVie passed away last week at the age of 79 after a short illness. We’re losing a lot of the “good ones” from those days. I admit to tearing up when I heard the news.

The world will miss you, Christine McVie. Rest in peace, Songbird.

The Retired Life AKA The Writing Life

Hey, Readers. Last Friday I promised an “I’m Retired” post. It’s a good thing I looked back because I almost postponed this until next week.

I also shared a photo of my new “office” which is really a writing nook. Years ago, I envisioned a separate room with a fancy desk. It would have large windows overlooking a green lawn with woods beyond where wildlife would often visit.

Instead, I have a small writing table that suits me just fine. There are windows where I can look out. My husband’s hobby (one of them) is feeding birds (I swear we may go broke buying feeders and bird seed). We have a variety, including titmice, chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, indigo buntings, sparrows, and more. We even saw a painted bunting a few times.

Unfortunately, we have to deal with raccoons and squirrels. Don’t get me started on the pesky squirrels (pretty sure hubs has a squirrel feeder as well), but raccoons are opportunists. Using a live trap, he’s trapped and relocated four of them to a nearby wildlife preserve. John stopped doing that when a mama and her four babies were at one of our feeders. He couldn’t stand the thought of accidentally separating a family. So yes, I’m able to see wildlife from my windows.

But back to my retirement. The first couple of weeks has gone fast. I still feel like I’m on vacation. Last week was extremely busy. We ordered a new sofa, had it delivered, and the old one hauled away. For the first time in months, I went to the grocery store with John. He likes to shop (and cook) so most of the time, I’ll leave that up to him.

I shared a photo of my writing nook last week, so today I want to share a few things that are on the desk and wall.

The image on the left is, of course, my desk. It’s comfy and cozy, so that’s what matters. Last winter, when I decided to retire, I treated myself to a brand new Dell all-in-one desktop. Everything’s wireless and there’s only one cord for the electrical plug. We’ve come a long way from all those separate cords for printers, keyboards, speakers, and the mouse. And let’s not forget the phone line for dial-up internet. (Thank goodness those days are behind us.)

The second image was a gift from a coworker. She knows how much I love to read and of course my cats. She couldn’t have found anything that looked more like my Tucker.

The third image was a parting gift from my coworkers at the hospital. Several of them signed the mat and expressed their well wishes. The place I worked was once a World War II Army training base. At one time, German prisoners of war were kept there. The foreground is a photo of the Camp Fannin Veteran’s Memorial. That’s pretty special in itself because my father-in-law was discharged through Camp Fannin.

After the war, the U. S. Government deeded 600 acres and the old hospital building to the State of Texas. The hospital served as a tuberculosis sanitarium for years. In 1977, it became part of the University of Texas system.

A couple of other items on the desk are a small piece of pottery just to the right of the monitor. It was a gift from one of the doctors I used to work with. It sat by my work computer for years, so it’s only appropriate that it sits by my home computer now. The other is a coaster from another coworker (close-up image on the right). It’s raku pottery and came from Chama, New Mexico.

This brings me back to writing. My Legends of Maderia series is set in northern New Mexico. Although my plans to write and publish the second novel this year didn’t transpire, I plan to start writing it next month. The photo on my computer screen will be used in the book cover for Blood Red Dawn. The picture wasn’t taken in New Mexico but at Fort Griffin, Texas. However, it was just what I needed for the ruins of my fictional Fort McKittrick.

That’s it for now. More about writing including my short-story collection and Blood Red Dawn next week.

Retiring is Hard Work & More Random Thoughts

Four weeks from today, I’ll be retired. For several months, I’ve teased my co-workers that I’m going to sit on my front porch that first morning, take a photo of the sunrise, and text them with the message, “This is what I’m doing today.

With my luck, it will probably be pouring down rain, but that’s okay because we desperately need it. We’re in a severe drought right now, somewhat reminiscent of the summer of 2011.

Not quite as bad, but still cause for concern.

Anyway, back to retirement. I began planning this around mid-December. One of my co-workers, who had planned for years, is retiring the same day. When I returned from a week’s vacation in early January, we had something like thirty-three weeks until the big day, and now it’s down to four.

I’ve come to one conclusion. Retiring, or planning for retirement, is hard work. I’ve already turned over most of my job duties to others, so the work days seem long. One thing I can say about my job is that it never got boring. There was always plenty to do and new challenges every day. (When I interviewed, I said I wanted a challenging job. I got my wish.)

Still, there are days when I come home mentally exhausted. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to finish the last of my collection of short stories. Yes, I’m behind, and yes, I still plan to publish them this year. It’s looking like an October release date. I have a title and a cover, but more on that later.

I continue plugging along on my stories and plodding along on my remaining work days. I’m looking forward to not having to wake up to an alarm clock, although I’ll need to train my four-legged alarm clock not to wake me at 5:00.

I want to get back on a more regular blog schedule (something besides book reviews). I already have some plans in the works, but I’m not rushing anything. At first, I want to enjoy scenes like this:

Both views are from my front porch. Obviously not taken this year because everything was green.

One of the short stories in my collection had the working title The House on Baker Street. The name, but not the story, was inspired by this song written and recorded by the late Gerry Rafferty. I’ll leave you with a video.

Veteran’s Day

Veterans Day first came about on November 11, 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a message to Americans expressing what he felt the day meant.

Originally known as Armistice Day, it coincided with the first anniversary of the ending of World War I. It has since become a time in which we honor all United States Military Veterans. The holiday coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day which are celebrated in other countries to mark the anniversary of the end of the “Great War.”

If you know a veteran, or someone currently serving in our armed forces, take a moment to thank them for their service.

Remembering Twenty Years Ago #neverforget

Sometimes it feels like it happened yesterday. Other times it seems like a lifetime ago. Nonetheless, it’s hard to believe two decades have passed.

I’ll never forget the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It was a clear, beautiful day with plenty of sunshine and a hint that fall was just around the corner. Life was busy in the Hall household. My youngest niece, who was more or less living with us at the time, was getting married that weekend. She had plans to go shopping for last-minute wedding details.

Both my husband and I went to work as did my brother. At the time, I was employed by a small branch of a medical equipment company that also had visiting nurses. That particular Tuesday, I was alone much of the morning—the nurses were out with patients, it was the office manager’s morning off, and the lab tech didn’t come in because she was sick.

Shortly before nine (Central time), the owner made his usual stop before going to the main office. Brian was always cheerful and upbeat, but this day he had a strange look on his face.

“I just heard on the radio a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers.”

My immediate thought was an accident involving a small plane. But Brian’s next words shocked me to the core.

“Another plane hit the other tower a few minutes earlier.”

Attribution: UA Flight 175 Hit WTC South Towner 9-11. Flickr user TheMachineStops (Robert J. Fisch)derivative work: upstateNYer, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I knew then it was terrorists. Immediately, I turned on a radio just as a report came of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. Fear gripped me. America was under attack. Where would these people strike next? Dallas, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles? Would I ever see my family again?

I immediately called my husband who had already heard the news. I phone my niece. Needless to say, she was scared. Since my brother taught at our local high school, I couldn’t disturb him during class time.

After my boss left, I took a small TV/VCR combo and put it in my office. I saw both towers fall. Knew when all planes were grounded. Watched the reports of Air Force One crisscrossing the country en route back to Washington. Heard news of the fourth plane crashing in Pennsylvania.

Not one single customer came into the office that day. Everyone stayed home likely glued to their television sets.

That night, my husband, brother, and I stood outside looking at the night skies. We are on a direct path for airline flights from Dallas-Fort Worth International. It was so strange not to see a single plane in the sky. “This has never happened in our lifetime,” my brother said.

Life went on. My niece’s wedding went as planned. America survived the attacks. There was a renewed sense of patriotism during those days.

Six years ago, I was able to visit the Pentagon Memorial. It was a very moving experience. My brother said the same thing when he visited ground zero in New York City.

September 11, 2001, is forever in the back of my mind. I’m reminded when I look at the clock and it just happens to be 9:11 in the morning or at night. When I think of our emergency response number. If I happen to check my word count to find I’ve written exactly 911 words.

Memories of that day are painful, especially for those who lost friends and family in the attacks. But the 2,977 innocent people who died deserve to be remembered.