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Happy 2018! It's going to be a great year!

I had a short conversation with my sister tonight and though it might embarrass her, I have to share this. Let me start by telling you how stinking proud I am of this girl.

Carol teaches fifth grade in Omaha. This afternoon, two sisters who both went through her classroom came to see her. The oldest graduated from high school last year and the younger sister is in seventh grade. The seventh grader is having a tough time. She's rebelling, skipping classes, not doing her work, talking out - things she didn't do when she was in Carol's classroom. 

The older sister brought her to Ms. Greenwood so Carol could have a talk with the girl. And Carol did just that. After listening to the younger girl whine and complain about her teachers, Carol finally told her to take responsibility for herself and not blame others for her own bad behavior. She talked to this girl about the same things she talks to her kids about every single day. No one else is responsible for your actions except yourself. Then Carol did two things that just made me smile. She offered to tutor the girl on Saturday mornings to bring her back up to speed. She didn't just offer words, she offered action. And before her former student left, Carol hugged her and made sure she knew that Carol believed in her.

Polly is made up of a lot of different people in my life and when I get these stories from Carol, I recognize the same values and beliefs that I grew up with. She is making a difference and I love seeing it happen.

Love's Surprises
Vignettes

This book contains four very short (approximately 1500 words each) vignettes written from the perspective of characters in Bellingwood other than Polly Giller.

In the first vignette, Elva Johnson and her children have afternoon chores, but she has a couple of rebellious daughters. If they are just like their mother, they'll be a handful. Vignette #2 takes place at Sycamore House. Jeff Lyndsay is nervous about his mother's upcoming visit. Lydia reminds him that mothers really just want to spend time with their kids because they love them. In the third vignette, Rachel and Billy Endicott are celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Billy surprises Rachel with an incredible gift. In Vignette #4, the Merritt household is filled with Aaron and Lydia's children and grandchildren as they prepare for Christmas. The fun is only beginning.

Click here (or on the cover) to be taken straight to Amazon.
Last October, I posted a Christmas countdown to the Bellingwood Facebook page and thought nothing more of it ... until a couple of days later when Diane Wendt replied with a clever little poem, starting with:

"There are eighty-eight long days
     we must survive.
There are eighty-eight long days
     until we arrive."


Highlighting bits and pieces from the Bellingwood stories, Diane returned every day for the next three months with a thought or two about Polly's life. 

This link will take you to a PDF of this collection. You'll be reminded of characters, events, and things that may or may not have occurred. I know you'll enjoy it as much as I have. 
All Roads Lead Home
Audio Book

Would you believe the audio version of Bellingwood Book 1 is finally here? I've found a wonderful young woman - Logan Russell - to narrate Polly's story. We're only just beginning this journey and slowly but surely, the books will all have their own audio narration available through Audible and Amazon.

This audio book also includes the first holiday short story - Polly's First Christmas in Bellingwood.
Bellingwood Books
Notes and Characters
Book Lists

In one fell swoop, I attempt to deal with two issues that crop up regularly. 

If you click through to the Bellingwood Book List on my webpage, you will find the list of all the Bellingwood books and stories in order. This is the list to trust - none other. You can find that list here or by clicking the Shop Now button on the Facebook Bellingwood page.

As Bellingwood grows, it's harder to keep the characters sorted out. To help, I'm going through the novels and short stories to grab important notes and character lists. These are showing up now on my website as PDF files. 

Once you get to the Bellingwood Book List on the Nammynools website, you will see "Notes and Characters PDF" after each of the first six books. As I complete this information for more of the books, I will let you know. Be patient with me.
PAPERBACK COPIES

A question I'm often asked is if the Bellingwood series is available as a paperback. Yes.

Everything except the vignettes is published to print format and available on Amazon. Short stories are published at the end of the closest novel in the list. 
How Does Your Garden Grow?
A Bellingwood Vignette


January was a favorite time of the year for Judy Greene. Seed catalogs arrived in her mailbox every day. As much as Reuben loved Christmas, Judy loved her catalogs. Dreaming about what to plant in her gardens gave her hours of pleasure. This year it was even more exciting since she was starting from scratch. 

Her friends in California couldn't believe she left what she had there all behind, but what better way to discover something new. And a greenhouse - she was going to have her own greenhouse. She hadn't had one of those since she left the university ... and then, the work done was not for personal enjoyment. This one was all hers. 

Though the structure was solid and glass had been redone, they didn't have any heat in the building and so far, this January had been bitter cold. She did miss the more temperate climate in California around the bay, but Iowa had its own beauty and she was already learning to love it. 

Dick Mercer and Bill Sturtz had invited her to stand in the middle of the greenhouse one day last week and describe her dream work space. As she walked around, Dick took notes on scraps of paper. Bill assured her that since they were practically starting from scratch, nothing was impossible. 

Judy had forgotten just how connected Iowans were. The depth of the networks available to her was incredible. While she'd been at the university, she'd had access to people from every possible area of knowledge. She lost some of that upon retirement, but when necessary, she could always call a friend who knew someone. 

She didn't expect to find that same type of connectedness within a few months of moving into Bellingwood, but one afternoon she'd been joined by Simon Gardner at the coffee shop. He always seemed to know when she was there and showed up just to buy her a cup of tea. That day she'd talked about finding someone to help her get the details right for her greenhouse. Simon had put his hand up to stop her, taken out his phone and made a call. Within ten minutes, his brother Sam, and Sam's wife, Jean were sitting at the table with them.

Sam was a retired horticulture professor from Iowa State University and knew just the right people to help. He and his wife were wonderful people, albeit a little too talkative and dare she say it, nosy. But they were genuine and warm-hearted. While they were at the coffee shop that afternoon, Sam had called Eliseo Aquila and invited him to come up as well.

Before she knew it, Judy was deep into a conversation with those men about what she wanted to do out at the Bed and Breakfast. Simon had simply smiled as he left Sweet Beans to return to his antique shop. She'd had great fun talking with Sam and Eliseo. There was so much they would be able to do together once she was in the greenhouse. 

The woman who'd previously owned the farmstead where the Bed and Breakfast was located had loved her gardens, though they'd all long since grown over and gone wild. That was one of the things Judy loved about it - the wildness of the place. She looked forward to the colorful wild flowers that she'd grow along the paths leading to the creek. Bringing the grounds out there back to something that people could enjoy would take a great deal of work, but that didn't frighten her. She wasn't in this alone. Not by a long shot.

While Reuben loved what she did, he wasn't interested in being part of it. Whenever he could, he took off to meet up with blacksmiths around the state. 

Work on the upstairs apartment had slowed considerably ... almost to a stop. After the first surge of excitement, the bone-weariness of the work took hold of both Reuben and Judy. They couldn't tear out one more wall or haul one more load of debris down those steps. 

This morning they'd finally talked about it. It was hard to admit they were no longer young and spry. Reuben made sense as he'd reminded her that demolition and construction weren't things either of them enjoyed. Forty years ago, they could have pushed through it, knowing they had plenty of time and energy to do that and follow their dreams. Time was compressed now and he didn't want to waste it doing work that they could afford to pay someone else to do. Especially when he could hardly wait to put together his blacksmith shop. 

Every time he left Bellingwood, he returned with a tool or piece of equipment that he needed. She was thankful that they'd already erected a building for him out at the Bed and Breakfast to store those things so they weren't creating more clutter in this building than they already had.

He was meeting with Henry Sturtz right now to talk about proceeding with construction upstairs. Once Reuben finally admitted that he couldn't do it himself, he was ready to hand it off. Judy was ready for that, too. They'd done enough. It was time to let the professionals do the work.

She sat up as she heard the back door open and close.

"Judy!" Reuben called out.

"In here."

He walked in and handed her a pile of envelopes. "I stopped at the post office. Looks like you got some fun mail."

"How was your meeting with Henry?" She took the proffered stack of mail and slid out a large padded envelope. 

"It was good. He says I picked a great time to need him. He's got some guys who could use the hours. He'll be here tomorrow morning with them to go over the project."

"Tomorrow morning?" Judy was only half paying attention, desperately wanting to open the envelope. She knew what it was and desperately wanted to put her hands on what was inside. Then his words clicked. "Tomorrow morning?" she asked again. She jumped up, dropping the mail onto the cluttered table beside her chair. "I'm not ready for people to be in here tomorrow morning. I haven't cleaned in days."

"They won't be in here," he said, dropping onto the bed. "They'll go straight up the back steps. There's no reason for anyone to come this far in until we're ready for them."

She sat back down, her mind a-jumble now. There were so many things she needed to do, but lately she found herself lost in plans and dreams. Having the stress of the upstairs apartment renovation lifted from her shoulders was a relief, but that only meant a thousand other project ideas filled that space. She still felt weary. This was never going to end.

"Get your coat," he said.

Judy gave her head a quick shake. "What? Where are we going?"

"Ames. We need to do some shopping."

"For what? I don't need anything."

He chuckled. "Yes you do." Reuben nodded at the package she'd been fondling. "Open that first, though."

"It's just seeds."

"I know that. Open it and then we're going shopping."

She picked up the envelope and ripped the top off, then dumped the contents onto her lap. "They aren't even necessary seeds. I just wanted something."

"What did you get?"

Judy giggled nervously. "They're nasturtiums - nothing special. A childhood memory overtook me and I couldn't help myself."

"A memory?"

"Mother found some wild nasturtiums one afternoon when we were out for a walk. I was pretty young. We picked them and took them home, then she cleaned the leaves and wrapped each one around a thin slice of ham and a little hunk of cream cheese. It was the first time I'd ever eaten a wild flower and it was wonderful." Judy nodded. "I think that was when I fell in love with plants and all of their potential. People miss out on so much because they don't know what is right in front of them."

"Well, let's get some dirt in front of you today."

She peered at him. "What do you mean?"

"We're going to buy you a little indoor portable greenhouse, some grow lights, and a bag of dirt. You need to get those fingers back into the soil. It's been so long, I'd completely forgotten what you were like when you couldn't make that connection."

"I do miss it." Judy looked around. "I don't have a single plant in here, do I?"

"Nope and that's a big miss on my part. We've been so busy neither of us paid attention to what was really important to us." He shook his head. "That's not true. You've been sending me out to visit blacksmiths around the state. I've fed my soul. Yours needs to be grounded again. Come on. I know just how to do that. One big bag of black dirt and you'll see. Everything will feel more normal."

"I thought it was just pure exhaustion that was draining me."

"We haven't done much upstairs in over a week. You're rested. Now let's reinvigorate you."

Judy grabbed her coat off a pile of things on the floor. He was right. By the time she fell into bed tonight, she'd be a different person. The apartment upstairs would take care of itself, they'd deal with the mess in their living space when there was time, and the greenhouse would come together whenever it did. Soon she'd be able to make things grow again. It was time.
Don't forget to dig through the menus and tabs on my website. There is so much more information there about Bellingwood.

For a full list of Bellingwood books in order, please go to this page on my website, nammynools.com.

Be sure to join us on the Bellingwood Facebook page. When I'm writing, I need distractions and I enjoy spending time with you.
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