I fancy myself a writer.


Places to Write | Eli’s Coffee Shop; Tremont, Illinois

a corn country rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night.

It’s been a while since I posted in my Places to Write series. I guess I just haven’t had much time for writing in new and interesting places since I got a “real job.” I finally have a new place to add.

I’ve been helping my sister put together a website for her small business. She has also started a new beauty blog as part of her website. Samantha had no previous website or blogging experience, so there has been a bit of a learning curve for her. We’ve been talking about the project for months without getting much work done, so we finally got the idea to get together at a coffee shop once a week (kids not invited!!) to work.

a corn country rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night.

A corn country rendition of van Gogh’s Starry Night.


Instagram stories: Life on the prairie

I like Instagram, but I’ve found that I don’t particularly enjoy following people I actually know. I’m friends with most of them on Facebook, and many of them automatically share their Instagram photos to Facebook (including myself). It gets old, after a while, seeing all the same photos twice. I have considered unfollowing all the people I know on Instagram and following only complete strangers.

Central Illinois prairie.

My latest Instagram posts are photos from a long bike ride out on the Central Illinois prairie. The corn is just now cropping up, but before I know it, I’ll be riding my bike through green canyons of corn.


Funk Prairie Home and Gem Museum, Part II

As promised, here is part two of my photos from the Funk Prairie Home and Gem Museum in Funks Grove, Illinois. Yesterday, I shared several images from the house portion of the tour. Today, you get to see photos of part of one of the largest gem collections compiled by a single individual in the whole entire world.


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According to our tour guide, scholars from all over the world – including the Smithsonian! – have visited this collection and have told him that even they don’t have specimens of some of the things that you will see in this museum. And, unlike some of those other museums, this one has an array of rare items that they will allow you to touch, including a baby mammoth tooth! (more…)

Funk Prairie Home and Gem Museum, Part I

This weekend, I visited the Funk Prairie Home and Gem Museum in Funks Grove, Illinois. It was a very interesting tour full of historical and scientific stories. What writer doesn’t love a tour that includes storytelling? I took almost 200 pictures while I was there. I wish I could share all of them with you, but that would make for a very long blog post. So today, I will share selected photos from the house tour portion of the tour, and tomorrow I will share pictures from the gem collection. Enjoy!

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Admission to the Funk Prairie Home and Gem Museum is free. However, you do need to call in advance to schedule a tour. It is well worth the advance effort! (more…)

I’m suffering a little spring nostalgia

I’m feeling a little sad today. The redbud trees are slowly beginning to exchange their flowers for leaves. It may have been cool this week, but summer will soon overpower my favorite season, and we’ll be wilting in the sultry steam of a central Illinois summer.

This time of year always reminds me of my Grandma Webster who passed away just over nine years ago now. I was pregnant with my younger son when Grandma left us, so I will always be able to recall just how long she has been gone.

When I was a kid, I used to sneak down the hill by Grandma’s house with a pair of scissors and cut a few twigs of blooming rosebuds to surprise her with. Every time, she showed her appreciation for the gesture as if it was the first time. She had a way of making every single one of her grandchildren – so many of us now, I’ve lost count – believe ourselves to be her favorite. To this day, I am still fairly confident that I was Grandma’s favorite. But then again, so is everyone else!

redbud tree

The redbud trees are in bloom all over central Illinois right now, but they won’t last long.

Another treasured spring memory is a composite of all of the times I went mushroom hunting with my grandma in the woods by her house. Morels are plentiful in the woods of my homeland this time of year. When I was a kid, it seemed as though everyone I knew made a mass exodus into the local woodlands to search for this delectable treat. For a few short weeks, we’d have fried mushrooms for breakfast, and then again as a side dish at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at finding them myself. (more…)

What inspired you in 2014?

The "Becky Thatcher House" in Hannib...

On my 2015 to-do list: The “Becky Thatcher House” in Hannibal, Missouri. This building is across the street from Mark Twain’s boyhood home. It was the home of the girl Mark Twain used as the model for Becky Thatcher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I’m late. I know. But I’ve been sick with the flu this past week (despite having had a flu shot earlier this flu season) and have accomplished almost nothing over my holiday break. Anyway, here’s my list of things that inspired me in 2014:

  • Malala: Who hasn’t been inspired by Malala? (I mean, other than the Taliban.) The world needs more young women like Malala to stand up for girls and show the world that men like those in the Taliban only want to keep women down because deep down THEY FEAR WOMEN!!
  • Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence: Survivors sharing their stories and helping victims who are in the process of making the transition from victim to survivor.
  • My therapist: 2014 was a rough year for me. It seemed like I would never find a job that would pay enough for me to support my family (my ex hasn’t paid his child support in almost two years now.) I needed steady income and benefits, which was never going to happen while I was freelancing and teaching part-time. I have kids needing braces, etc., and blah, blah, blah, one complaint after another. I was feeling really down on myself and was too stressed out about money and living to be able to focus on writing, so I decided to see a therapist for a while. I ended up connecting with an art therapist who studied at my alma mater (Mount Mary University,) and while we didn’t do any “art” together in my sessions, she totally “got” what I was going through with my lack of inspiration in my own art of writing. She pushed me to write through it, and it was a huge help.
  • The Bloggess and James Garfield’s Christmas Miracles: Check out the blog post for details.
  • Laos organic farming (among other things I’ve watched on PBS recently):


By the way, I’m a huge Blues Traveler fan

I’ve been waiting to see them live since the 1990’s (when I was 3, right?) And I went to this show a couple of weeks ago. That’s it. That is the entire blog post. Well, that and the fact that I never knew the lead singer of Gin Blossoms was that hot. Even after all these years.

Blues Traveler and Gin Blossoms at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe Illinois


Who ever heard of a takin?


Mishmi-Takin, 100 Jahre Tiergarten, Nürnberg, ...

Mishmi-Takin (Photo by Peter Bischoff/Getty Images)

When you’ve been to as many zoos as I have been to, it’s rare to find an animal you’ve never heard of. It’s rarer still to find one so odd that you just can’t stop staring at the thing, even as your kid is tugging at your hand begging you to move on to the next exhibit. But this happened to me a few weeks ago at the Peoria Zoo in Peoria, Illinois. In fact, it was such a surreal experience, I can’t stop thinking of it today. (more…)

Stop apologizing for existing

Castle at Illinois State UniversityI recently started a new job at a large state university, and I have been a little disturbed by something I have witnessed since the students returned to campus last week. No, I’m not talking about how filthy the restroom outside my office is now (seriously, you’re supposedly adults: clean up after yourselves!) What I am talking about is how often I hear the young women in my vicinity apologizing for existing.

It happens to all of us, but especially to those of us who live or work in heavily populated areas where there are a lot of people coming and going. You step around a corner or go to open a door and almost run into someone who is coming toward you, heading in the opposite direction from which you are going. Neither of you has done anything wrong. You simply happen to be trying to exist in the same time and space, and each of you has a need to move in the opposite direction from the other. Not a big deal, right?

But the thing that bothers me about this common, everyday (sometimes every hour, when classes are letting out all at once) occurrence is that the males I am almost running into on a regular basis will usually say, “Excuse me,” while the females will invariably say, “I’m sorry.” (more…)

The sights of East Peoria & Peoria Heights

It feels like I haven’t blogged in ages. The last time I wrote to you, I was visiting my sister down in Peoria. We had a great visit and spent some time seeing the sights around East Peoria and Peoria Heights. First we took the scenic route down Peoria Heights’ Grand View Drive, which winds along a very high bank of the Illinois River with a sweeping view of the river on one side and gracious mansions on the other. One of our favorite homes on Grand View Drive is a modern castle complete with turrets on beautifully landscaped grounds.

Castle house on Grand View Drive in Peoria Heights, Illinois

We all argued over who would get the turret bedroom if we were to buy this castle house in Peoria Heights.

After we drove all of Grand View Drive, we headed across the river to East Peoria. My brother-in-law drove us on a precarious bridge that ran over the interstate and up onto another high bank above the river. Once we reached the top of the hill, we drove our car through another neighborhood of sprawling houses overlooking the river. These were not quite as impressive as the ones we saw in Peoria Heights but were still nicer than anything I’ve ever lived in. Plus the view of the river was amazing (more…)