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My April Fool

In her latest blog, my friend, Beverly Stiffler Smith, shares why she knows her adorable dog, Jellybean, was an extraordinary gift from above. Enjoy!

Bev Stiffler Smith - Children's Author

Jellybean - my april foolJellybean – my little nugget of sweetness – came to her forever home on a Saturday morning in July.  Throughout the process of filling out paperwork, completing the sale, and preparing for my puppy’s homecoming I had never asked about her actual birth date.  When I brought her home, I only knew she was fourteen weeks old, as I had yet to do the math to determine her birthday.  Sorting through her paperwork and preparing for her first vet visit later that day, I discovered her birthdate was April 1st.  To most this date is only significant because it is April Fool’s Day.  This day is significant to me, however, because it is also the date of my husband’s passing in 2003.  Dan was such a funny, spirited guy.  I had hoped to one day find the humor in his passing on this date.  Can you imagine the…

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(Article published in Rubs and Scrapes – Maryland Bowhunters Society publication)

I am not a hunter.

So why in the world would I want to go on a ten-day hunt in South Africa? How could I possibly enjoy such a trip?

Well, let me count the ways.

The first time I went to South Africa with my husband was in the summer of 2012. I was filled with anxiety and had no idea what to expect. It was Africa after all, and all I knew of that continent was what I’d seen in movies. I wasn’t sure this was for me.

Fortunately, my husband, Lee, and I were able to meet with Andries and Steffi van Wyjk of van Wijk Safaris prior to our trip there. All (well almost all) of my worries and concerns were put to rest as they answered my many questions about the accommodations and what to expect when we arrived. I was definitely reassured about our upcoming visit to this mysterious continent half a world away.


When we arrived, though exhausted from our travels, I was wide-eyed with wonder on the ride from the airport to the lodge. I was at once taken with this strange and beautiful land which was so different from anywhere else I’d ever been. I remember my excitement at seeing the first baboons running along the side of the road and the herds of impala and other animals whose names I did not yet know. I saw so much that first day but had no clue that it wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg of what was yet to come.


Then we arrived at the lodge. Wow! In spite of all the reassurance we had received, I must admit to still anticipating something rather primitive. Wrong! The suite in which we’ve stayed on each of our three ten-day trips to van Wijk Safaris is in no way primitive, and the hospitality and kindness of everyone there is beyond compare. I guess my only complaint is the great food. I am bound to gain weight on every visit. Each night the evening meals were fit for a king—and queen—and left me more than satisfied. It is almost impossible not to overeat when the food is that delicious. And I can’t even think about the desserts without drooling a little!

I think for me—other than the food—the highlight of our first trip was the day we enjoyed the Elephant Experience. After about an hour of learning about and interacting with the elephants, we actually got to take an elephant ride—and not just in a little circle—but across the African terrain. This was another WOW! I’m not sure how long we were astride our huge mounts, but I know it will live in my memory forever.


I saw so many animals in the wild for the first time that year, but that was nothing compared to what I saw on our second trip to South Africa in 2014. On this visit Andries and Steffi took us for a three-day trip to Kruger National Park. For three days, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. My advice to anyone who has the opportunity to visit Kruger is don’t forget your camera! You will probably never have a better opportunity to see so many wild and beautiful animals in their natural habitat.


I couldn’t begin to name all the animals I saw, but I most love the amazing pictures and the memories of elephants, zebras, giraffes, and yes, even lions running down the road. I can attest to the fact that when you suddenly see ten or eleven female lions run right by the vehicle you’re in, your heart will nearly beat out of your chest.


Photo by Lee Bostic

On our third trip to South Africa, I had the chance to get fairly close to lots hippopotamuses at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. There was a myriad of other animals and birds to see and photograph as well, but I especially enjoyed watching those hungry, hungry hippos.


Of course, on each of our three trips, Lee was there to hunt, so I often spent the day at the lodge while he was out with Andries. On those days, I found there was nothing more relaxing than sitting by the pool under the African afternoon sun with my Kindle. It is wonderful how the chill on a South African winter morning disappears in the warmth of the sun by ten or eleven o’clock—and just as quickly returns when the sunsets.


But by then it was always time to go inside, relax, and prepare for another wonderful evening listening to tales of the hunt and enjoying great food and wine with wonderful friends.


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The consensus on social media seems to be that 2016 was a terrible year–the worst!  People go on and on about how horrible it was, and many friends are quick to agree in the comments.

But was it really? Was it really all bad? I don’t think so.

Actually, I think it was pretty darned great! And no, I am not living some charmed life totally different from everyone else’s. I will not apologize for disagreeing with the majority of people about this either.

Did anything bad happen in my life during 2016? Of course! But was it all bad? Hell no!

Okay, so what was so bad about it? Well, there were the political campaigns and the ever-present, never-ending news coverage. Yeah, you’ll get no argument from me on that topic… that was bad.

There were terrorists wreaking havoc all over the world. There’s certainly no denying the horror of that. And yes, there were fires, floods, tornadoes, and all the tragedy they left behind. Some people lost property. Some lost all they owned. Worst of all, many lost people they loved.

So, wasn’t it a terrible year? I must be crazy to talk about such events then say it was a good year, right? Okay, maybe I am–but isn’t it all about focus. I think it is, or it should be. It is for me.

If I choose to focus only on the devastation covered on the evening news, I would have to agree with all those sad lamentations on social media. But I am choosing to look away from the TV–away from the anger and hatred reported daily.

I choose to look closer to home. I look at my husband, my three sons, and my beautiful grandchildren who are all in good health with nothing more than the occasional stomach bug or ear infection. My great-great-nephew, Alexander, who has SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1), celebrated his second birthday in 2016 beating the odds and soon to start a medication that could help him.

I also look at the fun my husband and I had traveling to three different countries and the wonderful, friendly people we met all along the way. I look at the goodness in all the people I know.

I look back on all the times I had family surrounding me and the big, warm, wonderful hugs that said more about love than words ever could.

I am blessed, not by what has happened around me, but by awareness of all that is good in my life.

So, did you really have a bad year, or did you have some really bad–maybe horrible–days scattered throughout the year? Can you look back and remember some of the better days? The better moments?

More importantly, will you see them in 2017?

I wish you vision to see all that is good in your life, all that is good around you.



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A Quote to Write By

Sun above clouds

“Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”
-Meg Rosoff

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The first poem is a poetic form called an etheree. The first line is one syllable, and each of the following lines is one more, ending with the ten syllable tenth line.


He lost so much
Sacrificed for us
Gave of his own free will
And changed his life forever
Not losing limbs, but peace of mind
Spending restless nights haunted by dreams
Waking to the nightmare of homelessness

The second poem is an octain refrain. I’ll explain the form then share my example.
Structure – 

eight lines as two tercets and a couplet, eight syllables per line with the first line repeated (as much as possible) as the last. Line five has an internal rhyme requirement (c/c) Meter is either iambic or trochaic tetrameter.

Rhyme scheme/Structure




When troops come marching home again,
war torn, exhausted from the flight,
still trying to forget the fight,

Our arms reach out to take them in,
and after cheers and many tears
we’ll all give thanks and say amen,

Then beg relief from battles’ blight
When troops come marching home again.

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Part of the fun of poetry is putting pen to paper, staring at the blank page, and not knowing what may appear. Oh, did I say fun? Perhaps the most frustrating part of writing poetry is putting pen to paper, staring at the blank page, and not knowing what may appear!


What is the joy of writing poetry? Putting pen to paper and seeing it fill with all those tiny symbols that come together to finally having meaning–seeing something actually appear!

There’s a very good chance that what you see will be a bit of a mess that must be cleaned up, refreshed, refined, and maybe, just maybe, turned into something you love…okay, love may be a little strong. Maybe you’ll just think it’s acceptable… it’s tolerable… it’ll do. Well, maybe I can make it better. And so it goes.

Many of us find the most difficult part of writing a poem is deciding on a topic. What shall I write about? (Except for those times when something inside drives the pen..) That’s where some real fun can begin. The Challenge – and there are many different kinds of challenges to get the word juices flowing.

Given one such challenge (five years ago) I was really stumped. The challenge was to write a quit doing what you’re doing poem. What?? Well I wasn’t doing anything but looking at that ugly, white, blank page! But then I thought about it, and this was the result.

Worry?  Why?
How does it help?
   And who?
Does it stop wars,
   Cure disease?
Does it prevent the drought
   Or stop the seas?
Does it keep a child
   From foolishly erring?
Does it stop the moron
   From drinking and driving,
      Destroying too many lives?
If worry could heal,
If worry could change the tides,
     Still the winds,
        Stop the ground from moving.
If worry could protect the child
     From harm and suffering,
        Keep fools from causing pain,


     Worry?   Why?

Is this great poetry? Oh, hell no! But it served a purpose for the poet. It brought a moment of clarity. She was satisfied… at least for the moment.

Want to give it a try? Can you write a quit doing what you’re doing poem?

I’d love to hear about it if you do. Happy writing!


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What is Poetry?


Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic, and rhythm, qualities of language—such as phonesthetics, sound symbolism, and meter—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. (wikipedia)

Does that explain it for you? Well it’s certainly true, but to me this definition is simply too clinical. Does it share the true essence of what it means to each of us–to each of us who puts pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard to convey something from deep within. To the writer of poems (well, at least this writer of poems) it encompasses so much more.

Sometimes we use strict forms. Sometimes we rhyme. Sometimes we just bleed onto the page.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share more about poetry with examples I hope you’ll enjoy.

The poem below was born from a simple challenge: Write a poem about the autumn scene above.

Wrapped in red mist

and gently kissed

by leaves blushing lips

this enchanting encounter

so brief…

yet long remembered…

chased by bitter cold,

flies into memory’s vault

to be held fast

until heat’s passion

tinged with early chill

sings seasons’

sanguine refrain.

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