Photos of Brady

Sunday, February 29, 2004


Isn’t life wonderful? Today is a bonus! Every four years we get the gift of an extra day. As life goes, that is pretty amazing. This morning I will do the same things as I do most every day. Write, drink coffee, and watch the sunrise. The rest of the day however is a treat. Mom, Rocky and I are going to Springfield today. We are going to celebrate their retirement with a nice lunch and do fun things.

I will have three hours of driving time to write. Since I sit in the back seat and can’t follow the flow of conversation, I usually read. I had an inspiration in the night, however concerning the Lake House project. Yesterday I got the entire first chapter complete and typed into manuscript format. It may not sound like much, but it took ten hours to complete. As I was thinking about how to advance the storyline, I had a wonderful idea. Today I will have three hours to write the sequence the way I see it.

Friday evening I was thinking about the past two years of my life. I had become reactive instead of proactive, had no goals, no focus. I used to write every day. Something. A letter, a few phrases, a thought. I enjoyed life but was not channeling my energies in any direction. I did not even recognize myself. Normally I am excited about life, working on projects, and looking forward. Two years ago I was also unhappy about the effects a change in medication had made in my body. Determined to fight both problems, I joined a gym and began to work out. I saw immediate results, and was finally feeling like I was going to reclaim who I was. My attitude also took a dramatic turn for the better.

A year ago I had to have foot surgery. It was a routine operation, but the recovery time was six months. As you can imagine, the hard fought results from working out went down the tubes. I had six months to think about my life while my foot healed. It has been said that a journey is shorter the second time. Last May I started back to the gym. The first night I could only walk as slow as the treadmill could go. There was constant pain. I wanted to give up. I am so glad that I didn’t. Somewhere deep inside you have to find the determination to move forward. Thinking about the many stories of handicapped people and injured athletes, I felt like a loser. All it took was to make the decision to be a winner again. It was a decision that changed the course of my life.

In June Matt came back into my life. I so enjoyed talking with him, because we are so much alike in our approach to life. We talked about goals and dreams, and life in general. I started writing again. In July John started his blog. He encouraged me to do the same, and in August I began Down a Country Road. It began as a lark, but soon became a form of therapy, I guess. As I wrote daily about my life since coming here to Smalltown 32 years ago, I dealt with feelings and situations I thought were long since buried and forgotten. It has been a therapeutic process.

Today I am full of energy and moving in a forward direction. I have goals, and a list of dreams. I am involved with positive loving people. I am writing a book, and have the encouragement of good people I love and respect. As I said earlier, this is a bonus day. I challenge you to think about the possibilities, and start toward something. I thank you for your encouragement, because it has been a positive influence that helped moved me in a direction I might never have gone.

Have a wonderful day, because we won’t have another bonus day of life for another four years. Make this one count!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, February 28, 2004


Anticipation and excitement drove me out of bed early this morning. Saturday looms ahead, there is a beautiful sunrise coming, and I can’t wait to get started with my day. It’s funny how we change over the years. In my youth I valued sleeping late. As I get older, I value not missing the sunrise, and getting an early start. It is energizing to me to be up and busy before the sun rises.

I had my weekend planned, but in talking with my mom last night, I have to rearrange my activities due to a problem with their day today. We had planned to go to Springfield today and celebrate their retirement from their business, have a nice lunch and do some shopping. I had my sights pinned on Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks. Abacatabacus. Now I am doing Sunday today and Saturday tomorrow. There is a reason, and I am sure it will come to light.

For everyone that reads my brother John’s blog, just a little heads up- his birthday is Tuesday March 2. Imagine his surprise to get flooded with email birthday wishes. He is out running this morning in preparation for the marathon he will be running next weekend in California, so maybe he won’t read this today.

After being away all week, my orphan cats Tiny and Scaredy came home yesterday. Now I know where the term ‘catting around’ comes from. Evidently they have discovered the fun of wandering the big woods, and making whoopee with the female cats found there. Anyway I am just glad they are safe. We have so many wild animals here that I was sure they had been killed.

Thank you so much, everyone who has posted comments and sent emails of encouragement about my book. You can bet that I will indeed feel you looking over my shoulder as I write. It really helps to know people are waiting for the finished product!

The sun is safely up, ten minutes earlier than last weekend, and I’m off to kitchen for cereal and coffee. Have a wonderful weekend! I hope that something wonderful and unexpected comes your way today.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, February 27, 2004


This is the last day of my work week, and it promises to be a wonderful day. The sunset last night was spectacular! The sky was a cloudless azure blue, and the sun was a huge red ball which turned the sky around it just before it set the most beautiful shade of magenta. I was thinking it would have been perfect had it been setting over the ocean, as the tree line hides the last part of any sunset or sunrise from my view.

Friday is traditionally everyone’s favorite day of the week because it signals the beginning of the weekend. Two mornings of not having to set the alarm clock. The funny thing is that I will wake up earlier than I do on a workday. I can plan my day before the sun comes up and have fun crossing things off the list all day. I love that.

My week has been a good one. I have had amazing things happen this week. The best things in life can’t be seen or measured by the eyes of the world, but as I said in an earlier post, my soul has grown and my heart is full. I have heard from so many of you that share the same ideals in life, and cherish the comments and experiences that you share. It was also neat to hear from a couple of people I haven’t heard from in many years.

I spent time this week searching the internet for information on manuscripts and having a book published. I have the outlines for two books completed and am ready to begin rewriting some of the chapters I have in progress. I have to keep pinching myself that I am actually ready to begin these projects!

I have kept a list of things that I want to accomplish before I die, and have dubbed it my ‘fantasy list’. I started it in the 70’s, but nothing much has been crossed off of it. This year, I have been able to cross off so many things that I am going to have to revamp it and add new things to it. That in itself is unbelievable!

Those of you who feel that your dreams will never come true should take heart from my story. It has taken thirty years of living and dreaming to bring me to this point in life, and I have to admit there were times when I wanted to give up the race. The important thing is to keep working toward your dreams. Get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. Greet the world with a smile. Keep your mind and heart open to possibilities and never give up on yourself or your heart’s desires.

You just never know…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, February 26, 2004


Sometimes, right in the middle of an ordinary day something wonderful happens. Yesterday was one of those days. Once I leave the house my day moves along on auto pilot. Routine is a comfortable thing that allows my mind to think about other things, dream about other things, and block out the worries of the world.

I was going to apply for my passport yesterday, and had made a special effort to have all of the necessary paperwork and photos in my briefcase before leaving the house. When the morning rush was over, I collected the papers and went upstairs to the office that handles the applications. When the lady asked me for the photos, I handed her the envelope. Imagine my surprise when she pulled out the photos of my vacation with Matt in Hawaii. While I was standing there trying to figure our how on earth I had grabbed the wrong envelope, the lady was leafing through the pictures. I apologized for the mistake and told her I would bring the correct photos next Wednesday. When she raised her head to look at me she had tears in her eyes.

It took me a minute to decide what was the matter, but since she was smiling, I reached out and touched her hand and asked if she was all right. She thanked me for bringing the trip pictures because she had been there with her husband right before he passed away. The pictures had reminded her of the wonderful time they had, and she spent several minutes talking to me about their trip. We shared memories of things we had seen and done, and when I left her office I had a wonderful feeling that went with me throughout the day.

Matt often tells me Abacatabicus. It is a word that means simply that if something doesn’t work out there is a reason and something better coming your way instead. In this instance, instead of accomplishing my passport application, the lady was blessed beyond measure because I had brought the wrong pictures. It had given me a chance to listen to the memories of her trip, her memories of her husband, and when I left we both felt wonderful.

Blessings are around every corner. I am looking forward to what will come my way today…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, February 25, 2004


There are times that my job is routine, and the days flow from one to the other without a great deal of change. Yesterday however, I had a day that made me feel like I am making a difference. It also was a life lesson.

Most days we administer driving tests to teenagers who take the right to drive for granted. Occasionally we have adults with an expired license or someone wanting to upgrade to a commercial license. Yesterday we had a tiny woman from Vietnam who wanted to apply for a learner’s permit. She had married an American who accompanied her to the examination station. This was a big day for both of them.

I asked her if she would like to take the test in Vietnamese, but she shook her head and said as clearly as she was able, “No. English, please.” Handing her the test, she took a seat and her husband went to sit in the waiting area. We were busy with giving road tests, and I was in and out of the office over the course of the next hour and a half. When I was able to sit and look over what was going on in the office, I saw that she was just finishing up her test. The clerk told me that she had asked several questions about words she didn’t understand the meaning of. Although the language was a problem, she was determined to take the test in English. After grading her test she missed too many to pass. I asked her if she would like to retake the test, and she nodded yes, but said, “You help.” She gave me a brilliant smile.

I took her into an adjoining office we share with another department so that we would have some privacy. It was a very long process. I could tell that she was a smart woman who had studied the book, but the meaning of the words had caused her to fail the first test. Once she understood the meaning of the questions, she knew the answer immediately. Her paper was filled with pictures I had drawn to help her gain understanding of the words. After another hour, she had completed the test with a perfect score. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree. Tears formed in her eyes and she clutched her hands over hear heart. It was a victory for all of us, and she had taken the first step in obtaining her drivers license. I felt like I had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a moment.

After giving her the vision test, I had to go out on another road test. When I returned to the office she had left. The clerk told me she had left a message for me. As best she could, she had simply said “Thank you.” They told me how thankful she was for all the help we had given her. Gratitude isn’t something I usually experience in the course of my work day. Her being in our office made our whole day better. We offer the same help to all applicants, but rarely does any one thank us.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. Although I always try to thank those who enrich my life and help me through various situations, it was a lesson to me. Many times we may feel gratitude, but don’t voice it. When other people offer us gratitude we often don’t acknowledge it. Experiencing and accepting gratitude completes the circle and is a necessary part of the equation.

A very dear lady in my life when I was a child used to say, “You have to let other people’s soul grow too.” How true.

I want to express my gratitude for all of you in the blogging community who have welcomed me into your homes and offices over the past seven months. It has been a wonderful experience, I have made so many new friends, and your comments and encouragement have helped me realize a life long dream. You are always welcome…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, February 24, 2004


My Monday promised to be a wonderful day. I had had a wonderful, productive and restful weekend, and was looking forward to the comfort of a routine work day. Murphy’s Law was set into play. Upon reaching the court house where I work each Monday, my co-workers and I unloaded all of the equipment required to administer driving and vision tests. After lugging it up to the second floor to the office where driving tests have been given for at least thirty years that I know of, someone was already in our office.

I felt like the three bears. Setting down the equipment I walked over to the next office and inquired who was using our office. It seems that the state auditor’s office is auditing the court house records, and they have been given our office to work in for the next three months. Not good news. This means that we will never know where we will be working on any given Monday, and moved from office to office depending on the needs of the other court house employees.

My co-workers and I relocated in the big court room for the day. It could have been an upsetting beginning to the wonderful day that I had envisioned for my Monday, but I chose not to take exception to it. We settled into bigger, more comfortable chairs, were more isolated which provided a library like atmosphere, and we weren’t very busy. I was able to finish a book on time management that I had been reading, and had time to organize some thoughts concerning another project I am involved with. Next week who knows where we will be, but it won’t affect my day for more than 8 hours.

On the drive home I was thinking about the attitude of the man who had to tell me our office space had been given to someone else. He was clearly expecting me to be upset and demand the auditors be moved to another space. He didn’t want to meet my eyes, and kept apologizing. Immediately I felt sorry for him. He had been dreading this meeting for the first hour of his Monday, and expected a confrontation. Instead I accepted the unwelcome news, asked where we would be working and thanked him for his help in providing us a good office for the day. He was so relieved that his whole facial expression relaxed and he let out a big breath. He told me later in the day that he had based what he believed my reaction would be on the merits of the previous supervisor.

Really it was not a big deal, just that it started me thinking about our actions and reactions and the way they affect other people. Since I wear a uniform to work every day I am highly visible to others everywhere I go. Even without our knowing it people are watching us and how we deal with the events of our day. In my experience, people respond to kindness and respect. It diffuses bad and explosive situations like nothing else can, and makes a statement about who we are. It may be a simple thing, but life is not as much about what comes our way but the way we respond and react to those events. I would rather be in charge of my reactions than let situations and other people take that control from me. It didn’t change the fact that our office had been taken over for three months, but the way I dealt with the news affected not only my attitude but that of my co-workers, the court house employees, and in particular the man who had been expecting the confrontation.

Murphy’s Law had come into play, but I gave him no quarter. Although it wasn’t my regular Monday it was still a good day. Why? Because I left the house believing and expecting that it would be. I am also expecting my Tuesday to be wonderful as well. I hope that whatever comes your way today that the first thing that gets noticed is your big smile. Have a great day, and to all the revelers in New Orleans, happy Mardi Gras. Wish we were there! Let the good times roll!!!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, February 23, 2004


I have decided, after much thought, to suspend the Lake House project for now. It is a project that I hope to publish some day, and the writing for a manuscript is much different than the blog format. Since I was writing each day for the posts, the story had to move along faster than it should have. It is regrettable, as so many of you emailed me and gave such supportive feedback.
I will give you updates from time to time so that you won’t be left just hanging about Kathryn and Marcus….it is going to be a wonderful story.
Mondays always represented a negative thing for me. Sunday afternoon I would begin thinking about having to go to work on Monday, and my stomach would start to churn. It isn’t because a fairy godmother waved her wand and suddenly I greet Monday with a happy tune, but more an adjustment in my thinking.

I have several projects right now that I am very excited about and proud to be a part of. I have set goals, and have outlined steps to meet them. After years of the status quo, this is my break out year. I have always been a positive person, but for a long time just haven’t been channeling my energies and focus toward anything in particular.

Today is Monday, and normally I would be hating to go to work because it means the end of the weekend, which I adore. Because I had such a productive weekend, and have my thoughts and priorities more clearly defined, I am up and happy to be going off to work. Not that I wouldn’t rather be home, mind you! Right now it is the place I want and need to be in order to make my dreams a reality. Life goes on, however, and the bills still require payment. Like so many of you, I will be leaving the house shortly and beginning my work day.

I am so thankful that I have a mentor who believes in my ability and is supportive of my goals and dreams. I try to encourage those around me to reach for a star, because everyone has something they have always wanted to do locked away inside. What are you waiting for? Seize the day! The day ahead is a blank canvas…what becomes of it is only limited by your dreams. Happy Monday!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, February 22, 2004


Here comes the sun. The sky is pink at the edge of the horizon through the big woods, and in a few minutes the sun will officially mark the beginning of another day. The cardinals have been singing in the trees for quite a while, joyfully greeting the morning. Occasionally the neighbor’s dog intrudes upon the peace of the scene by barking at things seen or heard.

After not sleeping well the night before, she slept. I finally sat down last night about nine o’clock to read a book on being more in control of my time and being more productive. I remember reading the first paragraph, although I will have to begin again today because I don’t remember what it said. I woke up when the book hit the floor. I gave up and went to bed, and slept all night. It is wonderful to be able to fall asleep knowing I don’t have to set the alarm.

I have an internal clock that wakes me up at five a.m. My eyes come open, and it is simply fruitless to try and fall back asleep. I gave up fighting this years ago. Your body has natural rhythms, and I am better off to pay attention to them. I am a morning person, and some of my best work, thoughts and ideas occur during the time I am just waking up. I love the peace and quiet of the new day dawning before the world intrudes upon it.

Although I have another day planned that involves lists and tasks, the first thing on my agenda is to watch the sunrise. No music, no television. Just the wonder of nature accompanied by the birds and my heart singing joyfully at the beauty of it….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, February 21, 2004


I have been awake since three a.m., and after two hours of trying to get back to sleep finally gave up and got out of bed. This usually only happens when I have a weekend or holiday off work. I suppose that I am so excited about the time off and the ability to do just what I want to do it keeps me from sleeping.

My job as a driver examiner in a rural area requires a lot of travel time. Many days we have to drive an hour or longer to get to the examination station, and then back home again in the evening. This allows a lot of sight seeing. Over the years I have come to watch for certain things in certain areas of my travels, and nature being what nature is, these things appear just like clock work.

Yesterday evening we were coming home through the country on one of the longest drives of my week. We go by several picturesque springs and mills, but this time of year I look for the bald eagles. In the winter they migrate to that area, and quite often I can spot one or two during the drive. We had already traveled through the area that I usually see them in and hadn’t seen one, so I had turned my attention to looking for deer or wild turkeys.

I wasn’t driving, so was scanning the fields and sky for wildlife when I saw two huge black birds sitting in a field. I had opened my mouth to tell my co-worker that I saw turkeys when I spotted the white heads. Eagles! Because I usually see eagles sitting at the highest points of dead trees, or soaring high in the sky, I almost missed them. I am not sure why they were sitting there in the middle of a barren field, but they were as majestic up close as if they had been flying high in the sky. Had I still been looking for eagles up in the sky or higher points of trees, I wouldn’t have seen them. My concept of where the eagles should be almost kept me from accepting that they could actually be so close.

I am constantly amazed by nature. Living in the country allows me to see more of these wonders and oddities simply because I expect to see them. Such is the stuff of life. If you aren’t expecting good things, they probably won’t happen. Today I have a full day planned. Among the various errands and chores I will be looking for those special magical things that make the day special. I have a good cup of coffee, and the first order of business is watching the sunrise.

Have a wonderful day, whatever you plan to do. Later I am going to take a long walk…..down my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, February 20, 2004

LAKE HOUSE, Chapter 4 

Kathryn was halfway through the great room when she heard the kitchen door open from the deck. Kathryn froze. Footsteps entered the kitchen, followed by a muffled thud. The footsteps retreated. Slowly Kathryn started toward the kitchen, making her way along the wall to the entryway. She gathered her nerve and rushed into the kitchen hoping for the element of surprise. At the same moment, the heavy glass door swung open, hitting her squarely on the forehead. Momentarily Katherine saw stars before slipping soundlessly to the floor….
Marcus carried two more boxes of groceries up the stairway to the deck, turned his back to the kitchen and shoved against the door with his full weight. The door hit against something solid before bouncing back against his shoulder. Puzzled, he turned around just in time to see a woman falling slowly to the floor. Surprise registered first, then concern.
Marcus quickly set down the boxes he was carrying and rushed across the kitchen to where the woman lay. He held a finger against her wrist and found a strong pulse beating there. A large lump was forming on her forehead. A cursory examination revealed no further injury that he could see. Marcus lightly slapped the woman’s cheeks with his fingers, but saw no response. Sliding his arms under her knees and shoulders Marcus lifted her effortlessly and carried her into the great room and laid her down on the sofa.
Gingerly Marcus smoothed back her thick fringe of bangs. Her hair was light brown, highlighted with several shades of gold. She appeared to be in her mid to late twenties and was dressed simply in a T shirt and faded blue jeans that fit her slim form very well. She was wearing expensive running shoes but no jewelry. Letting his eyes travel back to her face, Marcus could see her eyes fluttering open. Her skin was smooth and kissed by the sun, giving it a healthy golden glow. Her mouth was full and inviting, and unadorned by cosmetics. Long lashes framed her eyes, and as they opened she raised a shaky hand to her forehead. Marcus regarded her warily while he waited for her to acknowledge him. A soft moan escaped her lips, and he knew the second she became aware of him. Her breathing hitched and became shallow, and the once steady pulse in her neck jumped. Slowly pushing herself upright, she looked slowly in Marcus’ direction. Her green eyes were wide, and now focused on his face. She was a beautiful woman in a natural earthy way. Just this minute she also looked very frightened.
“How’s your head?” Marcus ventured. “I’m afraid we bumped into each other rather forcefully. Are you Lenore’s friend?”
Her small, almost imperceptible nod told him she had determined he wouldn’t harm her.
Relief warred with confusion, but Kathryn gained control. “Yes. Kathryn Morgan. And you are…?”
“Marcus Blake. And I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow,” he said.
“I was just anxious…to get here…and…and…”. Kathryn’s head was beginning to pound, and she was suddenly afraid she was going to lose the contents of her already empty stomach. Her palm flew to her mouth, and she willed herself to breath deeply.
Seeing the color drain from her face, Marcus stood suddenly and scooped Kathryn into his arms. In a few quick strides they were in the bathroom. Marcus supported Kathryn’s weight while she lost the battle with her stomach. Once her heaving had stopped, Marcus set her on a wicker settee and bathed her face with a cool washrag. Limply Kathryn sagged against the wall.
“Thank you,” Kathryn managed.
“Do you think you’re up to the ride into the doctor? We really should have you seen to.” Marcus was kneeling next to the settee, holding her hand in his. “Kate?”
Opening her eyes, she smiled. “No one has called me Kate since my father died. No. No doctor, Marcus. Just a bump on the head. I’ll be fine. What time is it? I didn’t want to miss the sunset on my first night here.”
Marcus glanced at his watch. “We have about half an hour yet. I’ll get you settled, and then I’m calling Dr. Creighton. He should be able to give me a few pointers on how to take care of you.” Once again Marcus scooped Kathryn into his arms and carried her back into the great room. An overstuffed sofa faced the glass wall that overlooked the lake. Setting Kathryn carefully onto it, he went into the kitchen and returned with a cell phone.
“Hi, Ben. Marcus Blake. I have a young woman, mid twenties, that has suffered a nasty blow to her forehead. She was unconscious for several minutes, and just vomited. She is pale, dazed, and her pupils are small. She is complaining of a headache, and doesn’t feel up to the trip to Windsor Springs to see you.” Marcus was standing at the windows looking out onto the lake. He was listening intently, and after a minute began nodding his head. “Okay. Thanks, Ben. If there is any change I’ll bring her in.” Marcus clipped his cell phone to his belt and turned to Kathryn.
“All right, Kate. You probably have a concussion. You are to stay awake as long as you can and then some, try to drink some water and broth. You are to stay quiet and are not under any circumstances to be left alone. If any of your symptoms get worse, we’re on our way to see Dr. Creighton.” Before Kathryn could respond, Marcus was in the kitchen unpacking boxes. He made several trips to bring in boxes of groceries from outside before he returned with a glass of water. Handing it to Kathryn, he sat down on the sofa next to her. The sun was just setting. Kathryn was smiling, her gaze focused on the beautiful sunset over the lake. The water reflected the orange and gold of the fading sun before it slipped behind the tree line.
Marcus said nothing for a minute, then turned to Kathryn. “Sunrise and sunsets are beautiful here, Kate. They’re my favorite portions of the day. Now. I am going in to warm up some broth. Will you be okay?”
Kathryn wasn’t sure, but nodded her head in the affirmative. Marcus vanished into the kitchen, leaving Kathryn to wonder just when she had lost control of her day…….

All rights reserved
Copyright R. Strain


Thursday, February 19, 2004

LAKE HOUSE, Chapter 3 

Kathryn walked into Lenore’s office the next morning at nine a.m. sharp. Lenore was seated at her desk, a cup of coffee in her hand.
“Kathryn! You sure are getting an early start. Really, the fish aren’t going anywhere, I promise. Coffee?”
“No thanks, Lenore. I only have thirty days, and my clock is ticking. I want to enjoy every minute,” Kathryn sat down in a chair across from Lenore’s stylish desk. Lenore’s office was feminine and elegantly appointed in soothing tones of cream and sage. There were muted watercolors on the wall and pots of lush ferns and ivy were artfully placed to create a tranquil atmosphere. Kathryn had always envied Lenore’s sense of effortless style. Today she was splendid in pale peach silk. Her hair fell in a soft shoulder length bob, which swayed with every movement. Kathryn’s faded blue jeans and T shirt seemed woefully out of place, but considering her destination she decided it didn’t matter. Lenore gracefully rose from her chair and walked to the credenza where she picked up a packet and handed it to Kathryn.
“You’ll find directions to Silver Lake and the lake house inside. Also the garage door opener, house keys, and a list of phone numbers I thought you might need. There is also a list of local attractions should you want to go sight seeing.” Lenore smiled sweetly.
“Nice try, Lenore. The peace, quiet and any sun I can soak up will be all the excitement I need. As requested, I have packed my cell phone. And my laptop,” Kathryn said.
Lenore brightened considerably. “Wonderful! Does that mean you will be writing?”
“No, Lenore. It means I’m taking my laptop should I want to email my well meaning mother or my nagging agent,” Kathryn countered. “I only promised to think about writing. Period.”
“All right, Kathryn.” Lenore attempted a pouting expression, but a genuine smile broke through instead. Waving her arms, she gave up. “Shoo! Twenty nine days and counting. You’d best getting going.”
Standing, Kathryn went over and embraced her friend warmly. “Thirty days. Starting now.”
“OK, Kathryn. Thirty days. I’ll be in touch. Have a wonderful time lake watching. Come back refreshed. I’m planning to work you unmercifully when you get home.”
“That I don’t doubt. You’re a slave driver. Thanks again, Lenore.” Kathryn picked up her coat and the packet and walked out into the January sunshine.
Once outside, Kathryn got into her car and read the directions to Silver Lake, smiling at her friend’s efficiency. The drive would take several hours. Kathryn pulled away from the curb and negotiated the rush hour traffic to the interstate. Selecting a Carole King CD, she was soon singing with enthusiasm. The city soon gave way to farmland and rural countryside. After two hours the scenery became more picturesque, and Kathryn turned off the CD player in order to fully enjoy it.
After living in St. Louis for the past six years, Kathryn had forgotten what real trees looked like. The gently rolling hills were covered with a mixture of pine and cedar trees, which gave contrast to the bare deciduous trees and the blue of the January sky. If luck held and the sky remained clear she might even be blessed with seeing a sunset her first night at Silver Lake. Concrete, high rise buildings, and the rush of city life made it difficult to appreciate the joys of nature. Kathryn felt the tension easing with every passing mile.
An hour later, Kathryn took the turn off to Silver Lake. According to Lenore’s directions she would turn left after passing the town of Windsor Springs. After making the turn, the scenery changed dramatically. There were dense woods on each side of the road. Kathryn could see that the lake would live up to its isolated billing. The road was gravel, and slower going due to its curving nature. After a few miles the road straightened out and began an arc to the right. Kathryn gasped as the lake came into view. She could see how the lake had been named. The afternoon sun was shining across the reflective surface of the lake, which was still. Not a wave or a ripple. It resembled a mirror, Kathryn thought. Suddenly anxious to see the lake house, she pressed on. The road followed the bank of the lake, then took a sharp curve to the left, around a secluded bay. Lenore indicated the lane to the house was the first road to the right. Turning into the lane, she followed the drive. Kathryn’s jaw dropped. Whatever she had envisioned as a lake house wasn’t this.
Rising from a large clearing was a three level creation in wood and glass. Shaking her head, Kathryn smiled. She should have known that Lenore wouldn’t waste her money on just any old lake house. Taking the garage door opener out of the packet, she pushed the button. When the door began to raise, she drove in the direction of the two car garage, parked her car inside, and shut the door. She opened the door to the house, and began to unload her bags from the car. It took several trips to get the bags into the house, but with that accomplished, Kathryn took off her coat and went in search of the bedroom…

All rights reserved
Copyright R. Strain


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

LAKE HOUSE, Chapter 2 

After leaving the restaurant Kathryn stopped by the book store and spent an hour perusing the shelves and browsing through the bestsellers before selecting a stack of books to purchase for the trip. If she wasn’t writing, Kathryn loved to read. It interested her to read what other authors spent their time writing. Although she wasn’t interested in writing outside the realm of the romance genre, she appreciated any well written story.

While the clerk was wrapping her purchases, Kathryn’s cell phone rang. Locating it and digging it out of her handbag, she punched the button. “Hello?”
“Kathryn? I was just about to hang up,” Lenore said. “Where on earth are you?”
“Hi Lenore. I stopped by to pick up a few books to read at the lake. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to let you know that I just got off the phone with the property management company that takes care of the lake house for us. They are going to ready the house and stock it for you. Should be ready in a couple of days. Come by the office before you leave. I’ll have everything ready.”
“That’s great! I’ll try to leave day after tomorrow.” Katherine took the bag handed to her by the clerk and mouthed a thank you to her as she left.
“Just promise me you’ll give thought to a sequel Kathryn. And pack your cell phone! We had a phone line installed for a computer but there are no phones there. What were we thinking?” Lenore laughed at the thought of not having a telephone in her house.
“Probably that you didn’t want or need phone calls while you were on vacation, perhaps?,” Kathryn ventured.
“Don’t be sassy Kathryn. I’ll see you in a day or two.” Lenore ended the call just as Kathryn reached her car. Putting her books in the trunk, she made the short drive home.

Kathryn spent the evening making lists and organizing her thoughts. By bedtime there was a sizeable list of things to accomplish before she could leave town for a month. Her last waking thought was of sitting at a quiet lake house watching the sunset over the water.

The next morning Kathryn packed suitcases and boxes with everything she thought she would need while she was gone. She paid the bills in advance, stopped her mail, went to the bank, and called her mother to let her know how long she would be gone. Celeste Morgan had been concerned about her only child for a long time, and was thrilled to hear about her vacation plans.

“Kathryn I couldn’t be happier. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be going to the Bahamas, or maybe Jamaica?”
Kathryn could picture her mother sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the evening newspaper. Celeste could always be found with both at this time of the day, and the thought warmed her.
“No mom, I want to rest, not be bothered with tourists. This is the perfect thing for me. Lenore and Roger are wonderful to loan me the lake house. I really am anxious to be on my way.”
“Well I just thought that being waited on would be more of a treat than cooking your own meals,” Celeste offered.
Kathryn smiled. Her mother adored traveling in general, and good restaurants in particular.
“I don’t mind, mom. I’m looking forward to it, actually. I wasn’t going to leave until day after tomorrow, but I am all packed, so I’m leaving in the morning.”
“All right dear. I just thought that if you vacationed somewhere more populated you just might meet some very nice man. It really is a shame that the queen of romance doesn’t have a sweetheart,” Celeste said.
“Really, mom. I’m only twenty eight years old. Hardly cause for concern yet,” Kathryn laughed. “I’ll have my cell phone, and of course you can email me there. I’m taking the laptop. Just call Lenore if you need anything.”
“I’ll be fine Kathryn. Have a wonderful time. I’ll be in touch.” Celeste hung up the phone, leaving Kathryn to do the same.
Tomorrow, she thought. Tomorrow she would be on her way to Silver Lake….

All rights reserved
Copyright R. Strain


Tuesday, February 17, 2004


Kathryn was exhausted. Her latest manuscript had been placed into her agent’s capable hands just that afternoon, and over a celebratory lunch at Girard’s Lenore Tanner had told Kathryn she had negotiated a seven figure sum for it.
“The best news is that the publisher wants a sequel, Kathryn.” Lenore was very pleased with herself, smiling brilliantly over the memory of the conversation.
“Lenore I don’t have a sequel in me. Right now I couldn’t write the copy for the dust jacket. I’m tired.” Kathryn looked across the table at her friend. Lenore Tanner was the best. She had been Kathryn’s agent and friend for six years, and had skillfully made Kathryn Morgan a household name as the so called queen of romance. Writing is all that Kathryn had ever really wanted to do, and she felt deep gratitude at Lenore’s early belief in her talent as an author. Leaving the business end of things to Lenore gave Kathryn the freedom to write unencumbered.
“Kathryn if you need a vacation, take a week. Maybe two. Go lay in the sun, drink Mai Tai’s, relax, and wriggle your toes in the sand. Just come back and give me a sequel.”
Kathryn regarded Lenore over the rim of her wine glass. She was a stunning thirty five year old woman. Her petite face was alive with enthusiasm. She had brilliant blue eyes, flawless porcelain skin and a sleek fall of ebony hair. Today it was caught up in an elegant twist and secured with a beautiful tortoise shell comb. Lenore’s cosmetics were always applied with an expert hand to showcase her exotic features to perfection. Her designer business suit was chic, she was wearing Italian leather shoes and carrying a matching handbag of the same soft expensive leather. Gold earrings swung at her earlobes, and she was tapping a perfectly shaped red fingernail on the table while she waited for Kathryn’s answer, causing her two carat marquise wedding ring to sparkle in the soft restaurant lighting.
“Lenore I don’t want to take a vacation to some tropical tourist destination. I need time. I want time. I’m tired. Just give me a month to go somewhere quiet and recharge. Someplace remote. Peaceful. Uninhabited. There just isn’t another story in me right now.” Kathryn set her wine glass down and sat back wearily. It took an act of will not to heave an unladylike sigh.
“You’re serious.” Genuinely surprised, Lenore pushed back her plate and folded her arms on the table. Looking into Kathryn’s face she could see the fatigue etched around her eyes and mouth. In her excitement over the negotiations she hadn’t noticed until now.
“Okay, Kathryn. You need time, you’ve got a month. You want a quiet remote location, no people, and rest. Roger and I bought a lake house last year. We’ve never used it. Pack your bags. I’ll make all the arrangements and call you tonight.”
Relief flooded Kathryn, and she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. She had expected Lenore to put up more of a fight, and was frankly grateful for small favors.
“ Lake house, huh? You? You’re kidding, right?” Kathryn was shocked.
Laughing, Lenore said, “We bought it thinking we would use it weekends and holidays, but Roger and I are city dwellers. We’ll get to it someday. It will be perfect for you though. Miles from everything. Nothing but a lake, the sun and an occasional fisherman. This time of year though, I can’t even promise that. No one goes to the lake in January, Kathryn.”
“Perfect! Thanks Lenore. Really.” Kathryn reached out and squeezed her friend’s hand. Kathryn suddenly felt better than she had in weeks….

All rights reserved
Copyright 2004 by R. Strain


Monday, February 16, 2004


Funny that I could have slept late this morning, or anyway past five a.m., but my eyes just came right open at four thirty. Have Cds playing, coffee is making, cats are finally asleep again at my elbow on each side of the computer. I have a to do list again today, but that is hours away. While the world is quiet my mind is rambling….

It is always darkest just before the dawn. The big woods are still, and the birds haven’t even begun to stir. The trees stand as black silhouettes against the horizon as the sky lightens toward dawn. Soon the cardinals will begin chirping , which will wake the squirrels. Not long after you can see them making their way from tree to tree toward the neighborhood bird feeders for breakfast.

As I sit in my computer room I will be able to watch the sunrise. Usually I watch it in silence. There is something so personal about watching the sunrise in silence….another new beginning. God giving His blessing to another new day. I whisper a prayer for my children, family and friends wherever they are, that God will keep them safe, healthy and in His care and protection. As the sun rises fully above the horizon in the big woods the colors light up the sky in delicate pinks, oranges and silver.

As soon as the sun is safely up I will go down to the garage and let Tiny and Scaredy out. They have grown into fine looking tomcats. They come and go, but are always here close when I am home. The days I work they know when my car comes home, and usually appear within a few minutes. They are always together, and as I come and go they can be seen at the edge of the big woods, up on the roof of the house, or sitting on the porch rail. Evidently they like to listen to the CD player, because when I am home it is on.

Today I need to make a grocery run. No breakfast for me unless I do. I like to go to Wal-Mart before everyone is out of bed and leave before things get busy. It is a twenty five mile drive, so I need to get started. Enjoy your holiday, courtesy of President’s Day.

Just a note: There is the most beautiful red sunrise coming! Off to enjoy.
Tomorrow- the first installment of my new romance.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, February 15, 2004


There is little that can inspire me more than a beautiful sunrise or sunset. With sunrise day is just beginning, and as the sun peeks up above the horizon joy floods my heart. Another new beginning. No matter what has passed before this moment, I have another opportunity to change the course of things. The possibilities are endless. Just that thought is exciting. Each day is a new beginning and a clean slate. With sunset, I can see the end to the day I have been given. As the sun slips beyond the horizon, I have a feeling of satisfaction and completion. Whatever I failed to accomplish today is okay, because the sun will rise again, opening up another day, another opportunity. Seeing the sunset is also a romantic thing for me. Watching it alone, my mind always focuses on that special someone. I wonder how the day went for him, what his thoughts are as he is watching the sunset where he is, and hoping that he is also thinking of me. Watching it with him, priceless.

I have always been a list maker. I have pencils and pads of sticky notes and paper in every shape and description within reach at all times. Yesterday many of you suggested I get a personal tape recorder. It might work, but I enjoy the simple tasks of making lists, writing down ideas and phrases or thoughts as they flit through my mind. Writing things down satisfies a basic need I have to learn through writing. If I write it I can remember it. The other thing about making lists is that I can cross off things as I accomplish them. I am an achiever. I like winning. One of the best things I know is crossing off completed tasks on my lists, and adding new ones to them.

Yesterday my list was full of tasks- all necessary to accomplish goals I have set for myself. I had wanted to spend the afternoon and evening writing. My day was sidetracked by a visit to the little boy down the road. Davey is 3 years old, my adopted nephew, and a sweetheart. He has asthma, and has been very sick all week with it. I hadn’t been down for a while so that he could rest, and had promised him I would visit. When I arrived he presented me with a little red bag for Valentine’s day. In all of the planning for my day I had failed to get him a Valentine’s gift. His mother said I could take him to town, so Davey and I went shopping. He is such a wonderful little boy. I told him to pick out anything he wanted, and he picked up a little bag of cowboys and Indians. I picked out a Tonka fire engine that had working lights and a speaking dispatcher. It was an afternoon well spent. I then went to mom’s for a nice dinner before returning to my house. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen is daunting. After several starts, I gave up and watched a home improvement show. When my eyes drifted closed, I gave up and went to bed.

Today I am going to Springfield with my mom. A little girl time, a nice lunch, then hopefully home so that I can begin writing. I have three hours of car time ahead of me today, so I am of course taking pencil, paper and sticky notes….

I hope the sunrise was beautiful wherever you saw it, and that the promise of the new day inspires you to do something wonderful.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, February 14, 2004


The weather forecast today promises sunshine and warmer temperatures. I have a three day weekend stretching out before me, and a to do list that is as long as my arm. I had decided to begin posting my book today, but you know how women are. Yesterday afternoon I changed my mind. My mind is a funny thing. The more I focus on one thing, the more scattered my thoughts become. Sometimes it is better for me to step back and let my mind have free reign.

As I was thinking yesterday afternoon about the book, another business project that I am involved in, and the three day weekend that lay ahead, another idea took root. This is not unusual for me, as my family will tell you. I can think ideas up all day long. I love the creative process that accompanies a new project, and the excitement of seeing them come to fruition. I used to think that everyone’s mind worked in this same manner, but over the years I have come to think of myself as an oddity. At any rate, I have developed a new storyline in my mind, and am formulating the best way to get it out of there and into print.

In the routine of simple tasks I can relax and let my mind work at its own pace. In the midst of all this highly important stuff the rest of me will be cleaning the house, doing laundry, cleaning the garage and exercising. I keep paper and pencil all over the house so that as ideas and phrasing flitter through I can write it down before it is lost.

On days when I can sleep in, my mind won’t allow me to do it. After two hours of tossing and turning, and my mind whirling around at the speed of light , I gave up. I have a full mug of hot coffee, and breakfast waiting. After I watch the sunrise through the big woods, I have work to do.

For those of you who have a special someone, a very happy Valentine’s day to you. I will see my special someone at sunrise and sunset, as I do every day….

Until tomorrow,
Beckt Strain


Friday, February 13, 2004


Authors note: Tomorrow I am going to begin sharing the book Down A Country Road that I am ithe process of writing. Please have patience! Your feedback has been invaluable as my story has unfolded. I will be writing this as a work of fiction loosely based on the story of my life. The names will be different, and I hope that you will enjoy the new way the story unfolds. Let me know what you think!

Life took on new meaning again. Jonathan began to find happiness with Aimee, and Jennifer and her husband were settled in Connecticut. Mom had found new romance with her high school sweetheart and they have since married. My life is a quiet peaceful one. After so many years of struggle I am happy to live simply. I do keep a list of fantasies that I want to accomplish before I die, and every now and again I get it out and look at it. There is only one that has any deeper meaning to me though, but after so many years finding Matt again seemed impossible. My friend in Kansas City would see him every few years at some wedding or event, and she would tell me about how he was doing. She never told him about me however, as she knew that I had suffered enough hurt and determined to let sleeping dogs lie. There was so much I wanted to say to him, but I did nothing. Some day the time would be right.

Last June I went to work just like every work day. I had just come from lunch when a lady from the office next to ours stepped out to hand me a message. Troop headquarters had called, and the message was cryptic. Panic seized my heart, as any message or visit from Troop headquarters was bad news. It simply said that ‘the bald man that taught me to drive was coming to visit.’ The only bald man I knew was my dad, but I didn’t think he would come all the way to my neck of the woods without calling first. Whoever it was, I sincerely hoped that it wouldn’t be today, as I had been rained on all morning, and resembled a drowned rat. My uniform was damp, and hadn’t remembered to put my makeup bag in my briefcase that morning. It was a cool June day, gray skies, and business had been slow. I had just reopened the office following lunch when I heard foot steps coming down the stairs.

I was sitting with my back to the door, and when the foot steps turned into the examination room, I turned to greet the applicant. There stood Matt. Shock and joy flooded my heart, and unsure I would be able to stand, rose to my feet. Indeed he had lost some of his hair, but I would have known him anywhere. I walked forward and hugged him. He looked wonderful. I turned to introduce him to the clerk and other driver examiner, who knew about him from hearing about my life. I remember introducing him as ‘the love of my life’. Since I am the supervisor on my crew, Matt and I walked across the hallway where we could visit.

I had dreamed of him coming so many times, but so many years had passed I thought that he had forgotten me. Sitting there in the basement hallway of the county courthouse, we sat looking at each other, tears filling our eyes. We had always been comfortable with touch, and sat holding hands as we caught up. He spent the entire afternoon there, and when it was time to close the office for the day he asked me to dinner. I am so used to declining dates that I began to find reasons I shouldn’t go. Laughing, he held my hand in his and told me it was okay. When it dawned on me I was about to turn him down I accepted and agreed to meet him for dinner. On the way home, I called Mom to tell her I wouldn’t be down that evening. Wednesday is the day I normally do payroll for their business, but payday would be late this week. When she asked why, I told her I had a date. She began laughing, and I told her it was true, and who with. Knowing how I felt about Matt, and how long I had been hoping to get reacquainted with him again some day she was thrilled. I had just enough time to get home, bathe and change, and get to the restaurant where Matt would be waiting. We had a wonderful time. We exchanged email addresses, and promised to keep in touch.

In September our family gathered for Jonathan and Aimee’s wedding. It was so beautiful, and they are very happy. My life is good. My children are settled and happy, my family enjoys good health and happiness. Matt and I have been writing each other since June, and as all of you know who have been following my story, he took me to Hawaii for the trip of a lifetime two weeks ago. After years of turmoil, uncertainty and pain, I have found resolution and closure to the past. Instead of looking back, I am enjoying the blessing of each day and look forward to the future with joy. I have been given a precious, priceless and unexpected gift…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, February 12, 2004


The following year I had a terrible attack later diagnosed as a gall bladder problem. I was referred to a specialist in Springfield who recommended surgery right away. I had a bad feeling about the whole situation, but Mom and my step dad drove me up for the outpatient surgery. I was held until the next day, and then kept one more additional day. Something wasn’t right, I knew it. I was finally released to go home, and stayed with Mom. My condition worsened to the point I could no longer stand the pain in my abdomen, and when my abdomen began to swell we called 911. I was taken to the local hospital , but after laying most of the night in ER they relayed me back to Springfield. The trauma doctor on duty had me put in an isolation unit and a battery of tests began.

At 4:00pm that afternoon, Dr. Buckner came into my room where my Mom and Warren waited with me. The news was not good. The cat scan had revealed a jellied mass on the right side of my abdomen where the wall of the abdomen had started to deteriorate. Flesh eating bacteria. Even with the morphine drip I knew I was in trouble. Warren had lost his left leg to flesh eating bacteria many years before, and we almost lost him then. I asked Dr. Buckner what my chances were, and he gave me assurance that I would come through the surgery, but gave me no hope following that. At best I had many months of surgery and recuperation to survive. He wanted to operate immediately and had assembled a team of specialists to assist with my case. I asked for an hour so that we could call my children, our family, and our pastor to begin a prayer chain. I knew what I was up against. I had time to pray. Although I had a peace and assurance, there was also an overwhelming sadness that I might not be able to tell my children, family and friends what was in my heart. I was taken to surgery an hour later.

I was laying on the operating table when the phone rang in the surgery suite. A terrible car accident had injured three teenagers with serious head injuries. I was pulled off the table and taken back to surgery waiting. Mom joined me there, and for three hours we prayed for the injured teenagers, and waited. I knew that if this had happened God had a plan. While I waited, Mom told me who she had been able to talk to and the messages of love and encouragement they wanted relayed to me. My mind went to Matt. I hadn’t had any contact with him for many years. I didn’t want to die and not be able to tell him what was in my heart. What had always been in my heart for him. A short time later they came for me. Mom hugged me goodbye, and told me she would be waiting for me…..

When I opened my eyes there was blinding white light. I couldn’t tell where I was, or if I was alive or in Heaven. Then I heard footsteps coming toward me. And Mom’s voice. “Becky you are going to live! It is going to be a long recuperation, but you are going to live! Dr. Buckner said that it was a bad bile leak…” The rest of it was lost to me. I was so sleepy. When I woke again I was in ICU isolation. Jonathan came and slept in the waiting room to be with me. Jennifer and her husband were flown in by Red Cross, and my older brother came from Shawnee. The phone rang with calls from other family members and friends. Ten days later I was released to go home. The date was July 4.

It took me the better part of a year to gain back my strength and resume normal activity. The doctors told me I was a miracle, and I agreed with them. God had spared my life for a reason, and I was very thankful. I had a lot of time to reflect on my life, and decided that it was time to simplify and reprioritize my life. I wanted to live out my days being a good mother, daughter, sister and friend. The reasons soon became clear.

The following summer Warren was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. My Mom took a leave of absence from work, and we cared for him at home. He died three months later, quietly and with dignity. The same year Jonathan’s girlfriend had been diagnosed with joint cancer, and had lost her right leg from the knee down. It was to be the beginning of a long battle. She was fitted with an artificial leg, and moved with little difficulty. They were engaged a few months later, and were so happy. Then she developed lung cancer. It was the beginning of a four year battle she would not win. She was buried in the summer. Jonathan was devastated. He had lived with illness and death for so many years, and I was at a loss as to how to help him. It was a terrible year for him, and he fell into drinking and drugs.

When things looked the worst, Jonathan came to me. We had a very long talk, and I told him he was facing serious trouble with law enforcement if he didn’t turn his life around. About that same time he started seeing a very nice girl. It was godsend. Slowly he began to pull out of the mess he was in and get his life straightened out….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Jennifer graduated high school the next month. I was unprepared for the emotions I felt when she walked through the door of the auditorium in her cap and gown. When ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ began to play, tears streamed down my face unbidden. She had earned three scholarships to the college she had chosen to attend, and in three months she would be six hours away from Smalltown. Hank didn’t come to the service until the students began walking up to the platform to accept their diplomas. I saw him out in the hallway, and at least he arrived in time to hear Jennifer’s name called and see her walk across the platform to accept her diploma.

The summer flew by. Jennifer got a job waiting tables at the Bonanza steak house in a nearby town. All too soon it was time to take her to college. Although she had been anxious to get out of Smalltown, it was hard for her as well. She had never been apart from family for any extended period of time, and leaving her on campus was very hard. I’ll never forget the sight of her standing on the hill outside the auditorium as I left. I cried most of the way home. When I arrived at the house and went inside, the silence was deafening. I slept on her bed that night.

My life went on. Mom and I spent a lot of time with my Grandma at the nursing home. I did a lot of church work and was settling into my new job. College was very expensive even with the scholarships, and in the spring of her first year Jennifer pledged to Sigma Kappa sorority. It proved to be the death knell of my bank account, but it was a wonderful experience for her. All of the unhappiness she had experienced in high school was replaced with self confidence and acceptance, and she loved the sense of family and belonging.

Jonathan was not having the same success however. My visits to see him at Hank’s house were frustrating. They were more buddies than father and son, and kept things from me so I didn’t insist Jonathan move back to my house. Hank gave him an enormous amount of freedom. I finally called the high school to ask about Jonathan’s progress and was told by the counselor that he was struggling. He had a learning disability following the high fever he had as a child, and needed special help in school. Smalltown just wasn’t equipped with the kind of help special needs students required to succeed. I attempted to intervene, but met with resistance from Hank and Jonathan both. When school started the following fall I called to take Jonathan to get his school supplies. I called the counselor a short time later to check on his progress, and was told that he had not enrolled. This met with a firestorm of struggle with Hank and Jonathan both, but in the end he dropped out of school and took a job. I was devastated. No amount of talking changed things. Jonathan liked working, and the following year began working in Arkansas with the Electric Company trimming trees. He grew up fast. The money was good, and he was home three days a week. He began seeing a nice girl here in Smalltown, so when he was home I didn’t see him much.

Jennifer was married the January before she graduated college. After months of frantic long distance planning and preparation, the family traveled to the college for the wedding. Jennifer was a beautiful bride. As she walked up the aisle of the church on Hank’s arm so many emotions whirled through my mind. I saw her as a baby with casts on her legs, as a toddler with a sand bucket in her hands, reciting lines in a school play, singing in the choir at church, and finally as the beautiful young woman she had become. Her new husband left a week later for Navy training in Florida. When Jennifer graduated college the following May she joined him there…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, February 10, 2004


It was good to be home. Jennifer and I got settled into Grandma’s trailer and registered her in the high school. As soon as I could manage, we went over and saw Jonathan. I swear he had grown six inches since I had seen him last. I asked him if he wanted to come live with Jennifer and me, but he opted to stay with his dad. It is very hard being a parent. I could have insisted, as I had custody of him, but I knew he wouldn’t be happy. Jennifer and I returned to our little house and settled into a routine.

Things were rough for a while as I was only working part time with the Highway Patrol. I had some savings from the job in Springfield, and by being very careful and frugal we would be able to make it. I didn’t want to work evenings as the whole purpose of coming back to Smalltown was to spend more time with my kids. Jennifer was having a hard time fitting back in with the kids at school since returning from Springfield. They seemed to resent the fact that she had been away, and was a way of punishment I suppose. Hard to know with teenagers what their motivations are. It was a difficult time for her. She needed my support and my time.

We attended the Baptist church we went to prior to moving. Jennifer joined the choir which she enjoyed very much. I chose not to be in the choir again so that she would have that accomplishment for herself. I accepted a position teaching Sunday school for teenage girls. It would give me a chance to help other girls not make the poor choices I had made in my teens. It was good for all of us, and gave me a way to give back. The following fall I was asked to lead a group of girls in a missionary group. Each month we would study missionary work in a different place in our country and around the world. This proved to be a wonderful outlet for my creative nature. We experienced life in those exotic places through the language, dress, food, and any information our Smalltown library had to offer. I made posters and craft projects, and slowly our group became a missionary project of its own. Girls began to bring friends to class that didn’t go to church, and soon we had a large diverse group.

I taught the lessons in Baptist Young women, and enjoyed very much the interaction with the women. Most of them had been in church all of their lives, and my being divorced was sometimes a sticky issue, but we found common ground. I didn’t date, throwing all of my energies into my family, the kids, and the church work. Through the young women’s group I found several women who needed help with housework. I grabbed the opportunity, and on the two days I didn’t work for the Highway Patrol, I began cleaning houses. It was hard work, but honest work. It allowed me to buy groceries and a few extras for Jennifer and Jonathan. Since I had been working as a manager previously, it was also humbling. I learned a lot about myself working in a housekeeper position to others. It was a good experience.

One day Jennifer called to talk to her brother and Dad. When she got no answer she called Hank’s mother who lived next to them. She thought we knew that Hank and Jonathan had left, and told Jennifer they had been gone several hours. We went over to the house right away, and it was empty. Hank knew better than to take Jonathan without my permission, and my heart sank in cold dread. I didn’t know where they had gone or if they would be back. For Jennifer it was a double blow, as her brother was gone, but her dad hadn’t even said goodbye to her. Numbly we went home. I sat by the phone waiting for word. Jennifer and I moved through the next two days by sheer strength of will. On Saturday morning, the phone finally rang. It was Jonathan. They were in Colorado, and were on their way to Oregon. He was so excited, telling me all about their grand adventure. I knew better than to let him know how upset I was and asked to speak with Hank. He refused. I knew that I could have called the Highway Patrol and had all of the help I needed to get Jonathan home, but at what cost? Jennifer and I hoped and prayed for something to happen that would bring them home again.

Hank had left with a woman and her small baby. Her husband was serving in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, and she had met Hank and they began dating. The whole situation was so bizarre. Jennifer and I grew closer during this time, which helped bridge the gap of her anger at my bringing her back to Smalltown. In the next two weeks Hank allowed Jonathan to make two short phone calls. In the meantime, the war in Iraq came to an end and the woman’s husband returned home to find her gone. He drove immediately to Oregon to bring her and the baby home. Hank and Jonathan stayed for several more weeks before Hank could see that he had made a mistake. The call finally came that they were on route back to Smalltown. It was a very big relief to Jennifer and me.
This period of time had taught me a lot about love and betrayal. My initial reaction was to make Hank pay for his actions, but I had been so fortunate in my own life, had been forgiven so much myself, that I decided to just be grateful they were coming home. I had a very stern talk with Hank, who promised never to take Jonathan without my permission again, but I have never trusted Hank completely since then.

Life returned to normal. Jennifer worked very hard in school, and was on track for a college scholarship. After three years of working part time and cleaning houses, a position opened up for another Driver Examiner. I applied for it and got the job. It was the miracle I had been praying for. Now I would be able to get Jennifer into college and have the security I had been seeking…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, February 09, 2004

LIFE 102 

Author's note: Because I shortened the story so much to accommodate my trip to Hawaii with Matt, I am returning to the story line in answer to email I have received about loose ends. Hopefully this will help answer the questions I have received. Becky

Following the birth of Matt’s twin children I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. He was just beginning a wonderful journey, and I knew that I had to let him go. I said goodbye to him that last night knowing I wouldn’t see him again. Honestly I don’t remember if I told him that or not, but I am sure that he knew on some level because of my tears.

I left for Smalltown a couple of days after that. I felt an emptiness and despair unlike anything I had ever experienced. I knew that Matt would be a wonderful father, and that his energies would be focused toward that end. My own children were now 13 and 10, and needed my full attention to navigate the treacherous teenage years. I determined to do everything in my power to ensure their future.

A short time later, I was offered a job as manager of a convenience store in a town twenty miles from Smalltown. The salary was a good one, but the one requirement of employment was that I live within the town limits. After talking with Jennifer and Jonathan, I began looking for a rental house. We moved the following week and I got the kids enrolled in their new schools. They spent two weekends a month in Smalltown with Hank, which was hard for me. His influence contradicted the way I was raising them, and caused problems for a few days after they returned home from these visits. Eventually things settled into a routine, and I began to hope that things would finally work out.

My best friend Diane, who still lived in Kansas kept me up on what our friends were doing. I searched her letters for any mention of Matt. Her phone calls were more revealing. Our friend had married Matt’s brother, so I was able to glean small bits of information about him from these conversations. Matt was successful in business, which gave me a great deal of pride. He was always so focused on the plan for his success, and worked toward that end. Every now and again my dad would see Matt, so I was able to piece together enough to know that he was doing well. I missed him so much.

A year and a half later, I moved to Springfield to take a job managing a 7-11 store. Although the salary and benefits were much better than I was making at the time, the cost of living was also greater. Jennifer loved the big city, and adapted very quickly. Jonathan however missed country life. He would sit on the front step of our duplex and watch the horizon where the trees could be seen above the buildings. One day he asked me if I thought there were any squirrels living in the city. My heart sank. I knew he wasn’t as happy as Jennifer, but had hoped that he would settle in. Hank had told him repeatedly that he was a country boy, and would not be happy in the city. In Missouri a child can choose which parent they want to live with when they turn 12. Shortly before his 12th birthday I was called to his school for a conference with the principal. She told me that Jonathan was having a hard time fitting in with the other kids because he was too honest and didn’t understand the interaction between the other kids. She said that he had a naiveté that kept him from being a part of the group. While I was having trouble following her logic, she said that in talking with Jonathan he had mentioned that he wanted to go back to Smalltown to live with his dad. She felt that I should give weight to his wishes.

I was working 60 hours a week, trying to keep the kids needs met, and felt like I was failing at everything. Although I had earned my accreditation as a store manager in just three months, my success was overshadowed by Jonathan’s unhappiness. One evening after I got home he was sitting on the front porch, and I went out to talk with him. We had a long talk, and although he assured me that he loved Jennifer and me, he wanted to return to Smalltown to live with his dad. I agreed to let him go. The following weekend, Hank drove up to take Jonathan to Smalltown. I felt like someone had cut out my heart.

One day I was sitting in my office at the store and the phone rang. It was Matt. I was stunned. He had talked to my dad, who had told him I was now working in Springfield and where. He had called to congratulate me on my success, and we talked for quite a while. It was so good to hear his voice, and to catch up with his life. The years had not dimmed the love I felt for him, and it was so hard to always be saying goodbye to him. He called sporadically just to check in, which was such a blessing.

Jennifer was now 15, and attending the high school that Brad Pitt had attended. She was happy and her grades were good, but I knew that if she had any chance for college scholarships I would have to make some hard decisions. I also missed Jonathan and needed to be closer to make sure that he was getting the care he needed. It was a phone call from Mom that helped turned the tide. She had called to tell me that my great Aunt Mary had died. She had also had to put my Grandmother in the nursing home. We had a long conversation, and I told her I was tired. So very tired. Physically, mentally and in spirit. I needed a change, and the support of family. She had just been promoted to Driver Examiner with the Highway Patrol, and her old position of part time clerk was open. She encouraged me to apply for it. The next day I left for Smalltown to apply for the clerk position, and out of 76 applicants I was able to secure the job. I gave my notice to my supervisor at 7-11, and began to make plans to move.

Two weeks later, Jennifer and I left Springfield for Smalltown. As we turned
down our country road, my heart eased….

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, February 08, 2004


Sunrise this morning was a beautiful orange and red masterpiece peeking through the trees of the big woods behind my house. It is so different from the blush of pink and silver Matt and I saw with the sunrises over Diamond Head. I always feel closest to Matt when watching a sunrise or sunset, and know without a doubt that he thinks of me also as he watches the path of the sun wherever he is. Watching the miracle of each sunrise and sunset with someone you love is a wonderful way to mark the days.

I miss the fog and rain that hovered high above the mountains outside our lanai, and the rainbows that formed between us and the mountains as the sun illuminated the mist each afternoon. The rainbows are so much more vivid in color and intensity in Hawaii than here in Smalltown. Here I never saw one that rose out of the ground on one side and disappeared into the ground on the other. They appear so close that if you were to reach out your hand it seems you could touch them. Since the rainbow is God’s symbol of His promise to man never to destroy the Earth again by flood, they have become a symbol to me of His love and blessing. Matt and I saw rainbows every day while in Hawaii, many times double ones. I am so very fortunate to have experienced them with Matt. He is the only person I know who appreciates and loves the beauty of nature as I do.

We walked everywhere we went while we were in Oahu. We left our footprints in the sand of Waikiki beach and Hanauma Bay, on the city streets, residential streets, park sidewalks and walking trails, and on the steep trail that leads up to the summit of Diamond Head. Standing there with Matt, we could see the expanse of the ocean as it meets the horizon, the gentle sweep of beautiful beaches, and the city that rises from the beach up the valley and into the mountains. There is a sense of rightness and belonging there, and I left a part of my heart there.

I have been so blessed. The part of my heart that I left in Oahu has been filled with other things…..wonderful memories, words shared and words unspoken, a feeling of rightness and belonging. It wasn’t until Matt and I shared our first real embrace and kiss there that so many emotions came flooding back….the magic of being with that one special person is overwhelming. Those of you who have experienced it know…..

My reflections of Hawaii are surpassed only by the passage of time I shared with the love of my youth and the man he has become. We have changed perhaps in appearance, but his incredible blue eyes still twinkle, and he still has the power to make my heart skip a beat when he smiles at me. Until I draw my last breath on this Earth I will remember the smell of his skin, the taste of his kiss, the feel of his embrace, and the rightness of being with him. I thought that when I came back to Smalltown it would mark the end of something, but after being with Matt again, I realize it is only the beginning. We will have other sunrises and sunsets, and the days ahead lay unwritten…..

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, February 07, 2004


Wednesday afternoon Matt and I arrived back on the mainland with a hard dose of reality. It had been a hot sunny day when we left Oahu. It was 22 degrees at the airport with a winter storm on the way. Wednesday evening I stayed with my brother in KC. We woke to snow falling on Thursday morning, with more to come. If I was going to make it back to Smalltown at all, I would have to leave right away.

Normally it is a four hour trip from KC to Smalltown, but it took me an hour to gain the first highway change. Creeping along at 30-35 miles per hour while sliding sideways was tedious. The windshield was freezing over, the wipers were covered with ice, and I was wishing I was back in Hawaii. I kept pressing onward, mile by mile. Two hours later, I ran out of the hard snow and stopped for gas. After knocking the snow and ice off the windshield wipers, I grabbed a sandwich to eat on the way and started off again.

The snow had stopped, and a light rain was falling. With the roads bladed the driving went much faster, and by the time I reached Springfield 1-½ hours later, I had hopes that I would actually make it to Smalltown. My Mom and brother George called every little bit to make sure I was still on the road and doing okay. At Springfield I ran into dense fog. Visibility was very slim. I was only 1-½ hours from Smalltown, but fighting fatigue and jet lag. They say the only way to eat a bear is one bite at a time, so mile by mile I closed the distance to Smalltown.

Two long hours later I saw the exit to Smalltown. The fog had grown thicker but I had made it. The four hour trip had taken almost seven hours to complete. As I made the final turn down my country road I was exhausted. After tugging and pulling my bags out of the car and up to the porch, the bright Oahu baggage tags made me smile. Hard to believe that only two days earlier Matt and I had been taking our morning walk along the beach.

I posted the first chapter of the book I hope to write yesterday. I am not so sure about the names or the format yet, only that I will write the book. Your feedback has been a large part of this decision, and if I read it right, I will be better served by scrapping the chapter in yesterdays post and beginning again. It is good to know that I have your support and well wishes. Thank you for all of the emails and comments while I was in Oahu. Matt and I had a wonderful time.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, February 06, 2004


The struggle was mercifully short. Instinctively, Claire wrapped her abdomen with her arms as if to keep the child within from the consequences of the violent attack. In the end there was only time for a short scream before the fall down the fifteen steps to the landing.

Sirens rent the quiet of the balmy California night. Claire lay as still as death, a single tear glistening on her cheek…..

The ambulance came to a screeching halt in front of the apartment building, paramedics jumping to the pavement and running toward the door. Claire lay unconscious, unaware of the peril she was in.
There were voices all around her. Claire tried to understand what was happening, but pain gripped her. More intensely than before. There were bright lights, and frantic movements. A machine was beeping….

“Code Blue!” …. “Crash cart!”….

* * * *

Claire picked up her books and left the sanctuary. Choir practice had let out early, so there was plenty of time before Youth group started. Rounding the corner, a movement caught her eye. Stopping, she let her eyes adjust to the dimness of the courtyard. In the center, an Explorer Scout was erecting a tent.
As if sensing he was no longer alone, he stood and looked in her direction. Claire stood quietly. He had beautiful dark brown hair with just a hint of natural curl. He was tall, maybe another head above her five foot seven, and he was very lean. Slowly he smiled widely, revealing straight white teeth. His most arresting feature however, was the most incredibly blue eyes. The palest baby blue, twinkling now as Claire regarded him with thoroughness.
“Hi,” he said, walking toward her. He stopped in front of Claire, holding our his hand in greeting. “My name is Mark. Do you know anything about putting up a tent?” He was smiling expectantly.
Lifting her hand to his, she said, “My name is Claire. And yes, I do. Know something about tents, I mean. My dad is a Scout leader, actually.” Mark’s hand enclosed hers warmly, and he tugged her toward the tent.
“Nice to meet you, Claire. I could use a hand. Lucky for me you came along when you did.” Putting down her books, Claire allowed Mark to lead her toward the tent, and for the next fifteen minutes they worked companionably. Mark was a wonderful conversationalist, and in no time Claire was laughing at the commentary he was offering about the process of putting up a tent. His skin was very tan, hinting at time spent outdoors. His fingers were long and tapered, and moved with skilled confidence as he tapped the last stake into the dirt and tied the rope to it. Tugging on it firmly, he stood and brushed his hands together, standing back to view their handiwork. Nodding, Mark bent to gather his tools.
“I’m glad you came along when you did, Claire. Thank you for your help. Do you have a last name?” Standing, he smiled at her expectantly. Her eyes were the most extraordinary green, he noticed, and were regarding him just this minute with what could be construed as wariness. She had freckles across her nose, and her cheeks were blushed with a rosy glow. Her hair was blonde, and brushed into a short style that complimented her slim frame. As if coming to a decision, Claire smiled broadly.
“Bryan. Claire Bryan. And you? Surely you have a last name as well?” A slow smile lit his blue eyes with merriment as he crossed to her. Taking her free hand in his, Mark said simply, “Yes. I do.” Claire stood looking up into Mark’s blue eyes for several seconds before it dawned on her that he seemed to be waiting for something.
“And what is it? Your last name, that is?” she finally managed.
“Preston. Very nice to meet you, Claire Bryan. Do you have a ride home?”
“I’m supposed to call my dad after Youth group is over. He will come after me.”
“I’m afraid that we have missed Youth group this evening. It let out a few minutes ago. Why don’t you call your dad and ask him if I might drive you home?” Mark was smiling down at her warmly, giving Claire the courage she needed to go make the requisite phone call to her father. Reluctantly, she pulled her hand out of Mark’s and went to make the call while he finished gathering his tools. A few minutes later, Claire reappeared.
“All set?” Mark asked.
Nodding, Claire picked up her books. “He said yes.”
“You sound surprised. Were you expecting him to say no?” Mark asked.
“Yes, I was. But when I told him you were a Scout, he agreed.”
Taking her small hand in his, Mark closed his fingers around it and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Then I am very thankful tonight that I am a Boy Scout and that I volunteered to set up this tent. Come on, Claire. Let’s get you home. My honor is at stake.” A devastating smile lit up his face, causing Claire‘s heart to skip several beats...

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, February 03, 2004


It is odd that there are so many uses for this simple word. It can mean hello, goodbye, I love you, have a good day.... I suppose that the list could go on and on. I have chosen to believe that as I leave Oahu my heart will be saying Aloha, until we meet again, and Mahalo, thank you. I will have a lifetime to relive the days here, and to remember how wonderful and amazing it has been.

Last night we went to the Polynesian Culture Center, and I am afraid that even I have no words that could properly capture how beautiful the dinner show was. Each of the seven Polynesian island groups were represented, and the dances were performed in full ceremonial dress. The dancers show such grace and fluidity of movement that it brings tears to your eyes. The music tells a story that sweeps you up and makes you a part of it, and the dancers carry you along through the steps and turns. The evening ends with the Samoan fire dancer, who is world famous. It was easy to see why, and from the time he ran onto the stage and caught the fire stick from a warrior on a rock ledge high above the stage, the entire audience was in the palm of his hand. Both thrilling and electrifying, he ate fire, danced on it, and twirled the fire sticks with honed skill. The last fire dancers joined him on stage for the finale, and with the lights completely off, they twirled the sticks, tossed and caught them, and finally put them out. The room erupted with thunderous applause, and with a flourish the Samoan warrior jumped onto a platform on center stage to acknowlege the crowd and the ovation.

This morning Matt and I woke very early, and decided to spend our last day here watching the sunrise, as we have done daily, and then hike up Diamond Head. This morning it just seemed right to say our farewell to the island in that way. It was a beautiful morning for a hike, and the birds kept us company as we walked the trail. It is very physically taxing, and not for the faint of heart, but so worth the doing. As Matt and I stood atop the summit we could see both the open sea and the beauty of Waikiki. Simply breathtaking.

I have tried all day not to feel sadness at leaving here, as to do so would take away from the wonderful gift Matt has given me. I only know that I will not be the same person I was when I arrived here. Matt and I have been together every second, and have experienced something very special. We connect on a level I have come to realize as very rare. Magic. No matter where our life paths lead us from Oahu, we will remain a necessary part of each other's lives.

Mahalo, Matt, and Aloha- not goodbye, but until we meet again.....
Until that time,


Monday, February 02, 2004


Yesterday it was too windy to parasail, so Matt and I had a very laid back Sunday. After taking our usual morning walk along the beach, we had a nice brunch. Since we didn't have to do anything until the dinner cruise, we were able to sit and reflect about the things we had done since arriving here last Monday. I can't believe that time has passed so quickly.

We boarded the cruise boat for the dinner/sunset cruise around five o'clock. The sun sets here around 6:30, so we enjoyed the ride out into the ocean. Many of the locals spend their weekends at the beach and on the ocean, and there were many sailboats in full sail. We met a very nice young couple from Salt Lake City the day we went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, and they are staying at our hotel. It was nice to see that they were on the same dinner cruise as we were, and sat with them for dinner. We had a very nice dinner, and just as the sun was setting, we stopped to watch as the sun slipped into the horizon. Every day since we arrived, Matt and I have watched every sunrise, and every sunset. He explained to me that if you watch very closely as the sun drops into the horizon, you can see a green flash shoot up and fall back. Although we have been faithfully watching for it every evening, we had yet to see it. I suppose it was fitting that last night I finally saw it. It is very quick, and at first I was sure I had imagined it. It was thrilling! This place is magical.

Today we are going to the Polynesian Culture Center. It is a full day and evening, but I will finally see the native entertainers and enjoy the luau. Aloha!

Becky Strain