Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Hardheaded Woman and Tick Bites

Mother always said I was hardheaded. She was right. When I passed out at 1:00 a.m. on June 26th, crashed on our ceramic tile bathroom floor, and scared Ron half to death, Elvis Presley's 1958 song "Hardheaded Woman" was playing in my head when I regained consciousness.

"I'm calling 911," Ron said. I told him I was fine, that I didn't need to go to the hospital. He argued. I won.

When Nature called again at 5:30 a.m., he led me to the bathroom, caught me when I fainted the second time. I woke up lying on the tile floor, a soft pillow under my head, and Ron leaning over me as he dialed 911. Actually, the cold floor felt good to my hot body, and I decided then that the next time I get really, really hot, I'll just stretch out on the tile floor!

So what caused this? We're not sure. I started feeling lousy rotten on June 22nd after a Lake Writers meeting, felt progressively worse over the weekend, and saw the doctor on Monday. Because I'd had two tick bites on June 10th and my symptoms were those associated with tick-borne illnesses, the doctor prescribed Doxycycline. And because I had felt so terrible, I hadn't been eating or drinking nearly enough. In the ER, the doctor said I was dehydrated and my blood pressure was much too low. The doctor in ICU, where I spent the night, agreed.

The Moneta EMTs who responded to Ron's 911 call were competent and nice. On the drive to Bedford and Bedford Memorial Hospital I gleaned lots of details and info for future books. And the doctors and nurses in the hospital were professional, caring, and, well, fun--more book material! I received great care both in ER and ICU.

As rampant as ticks are this year, my gut tells me I had one of the tick-borne illnesses. I check myself for ticks every day, even though I try to stay out of grass and weeds. I believe I picked up these two ticks either from Yellow Dog, or from walking across the grass to visit my grandson Jonathan's grave.

So why am I telling you this? Because I want you to be aware of ticks, to spray yourself when you'll be outside, to check yourself. Use a magnifying glass if you need to. We keep flea and tick medicine on Yellow Dog all year long, but ticks can still latch onto him when he goes outside to relieve himself. And then they can fall off in the house and attach themselves to you! Please be careful.

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Friday, July 06, 2012


"Let's renovate your kitchen," son Ronny said to his sister and her husband, "put in a new floor, ceiling, cabinets, maybe push that wall back a couple of feet so you'll have more room." They looked at him in amazement, wondered if he had half sense. A minute later they nodded.

Christine and Daniel searched for new cabinets, flooring, countertops, lighting. Ronny, a contractor, planned, figured they could do it in a week, but only if Chris brought her five youngest children to our house for the week. (No, I hadn't paid him to say that!) Ron and I were ecstatic. Our 17-year-old grandson Jacob, 15-year-old granddaughter Micah, and 13-year-old granddaughter Rebecca would stay and work. Joe, a friend from VMI, volunteered to help.

Micah and Rebecca cooked (gluten-free, dairy-free) for Daniel, Ronny, Jacob, Joe, and themselves. Plus, they fed the goats, sheep, alpacas, chickens, ducks, two dogs and two pigs. Because all the cabinets and appliances were yanked from the kitchen, the girls set up a table on the covered front porch. With two crock pots, two small portable ovens, and a griddle, they prepared and cooked three from-scratch meals a day for the workers and themselves. So what did they do about dirty dishes? They carried them upstairs, washed them in the bath tub!

 Micah and Rebecca preparing to cook. Ronny is 
drinking a much-needed cup of coffee on the swing.

All the old cabinets were ripped out, linoleum floor pulled up, ceiling torn down, drywall removed. Ronny added more plumbing so an extra sink could be installed. 

The wall between the kitchen and den was removed and set back two feet. See pictures above and below.

 Daniel, Jacob, Ronny, Joe.

Meanwhile, at our Smith Mountain Lake home, we visited nearby Moneta/Smith Mountain Lake Library, checked out three full bags of books.  Because the entire family was on a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, meals were different but delicious. Chris and Sarah, who was 12 on July 1, did the cooking and meal planning. I did whatever they asked me to do, grated LOTS of vegetables (so did Susannah, age 10) and turned on the oven. (Cheers here, please.) Ron washed dishes. (More cheers, please.)

Johanna (6) reads to Josiah (4).

 Susannah, Sarah, Johanna enjoying the lake.

We swam and played in Smith Mountain Lake, kayaked, fished. Ron helped the young non-swimmers with their swimming skills.

 Josiah, Susannah, Yellow Dog, Sarah watching the fish.

 Ron, Anna, Susannah, Yellow Dog and Sarah netting fish.

Meanwhile, two hours away, work on the kitchen continued.The crew worked 18-hour days the entire week. And they still like each other!

 Jacob, Daniel, Ronny, Joe hang ceiling.

 After looking into having custom cabinets made, Chris and Daniel decided to buy all their cabinets at Ikea. The quality is great, and so was the price. Plus, they could get exactly what they wanted. They chose butcher-block counter tops, which look fantastic with the white cabinets and hardwood floor.

 Jacob and Joe put the cabinets together.

Hardwood floors were chosen to replace the old, badly worn  lineoleum. Below, Daniel, Joe and Jacob rack the wood.

 Daniel and Ronny finishing the floor.

Once they finished the floor, they slapped mud on the drywall seams, sanded, added another layer of mud, sanded, and painted the walls a cheerful yellow.

Christine and Ron in the finished kitchen.

In the picture above is the wall that was pushed back two feet. The living room to the right will eventually be the dining room. A sliding glass door on the left leads to a large deck and a gorgeous view of the mountains.

Micah, Ron, Daniel and Anna, Rebecca and Susannah.

An over-sized two-car garage is on the other side of the wall behind Ron. Eventually, the garage will be converted into a living room, and the wall opened above the cabinets will allow folks in the kitchen to interact with those in the new room. A large island in the kitchen will replace the table. 

Not bad for a week's work!

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