Friday, January 4, 2019

A Change of Pace? Or Place?



True Places is about family, it’s about remembering who you are and making hard choices. For me, a mother who struggles to balance work and the duties of my home, Suzanne’s struggles with her own identity struck very close to home. As Yoerg writes, “No one gives in without giving something up, and nothing is given up without cost.”
                                                     Katie Pryal – BookTrib Review
              


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you know Sonja Yoerg? Here are some very cool things about her—and you will instantly see why she’s fascinating.
She grew up in Stowe, Vermont, a first-generation American. She waitressed at the Trapp Family Lodge to earn her college tuition. And Maria Von Trapp gave her a cuckoo clock.
I will pause a moment while you sing.
Sonja’s first book was a non-fiction about animal intelligence.  (Should we ask her about that?)
Her first novel was called House Broken, and has a photo of the most winsome dog in the world on the cover.  The Library Journal starred review says: "A stunning debut that will have readers wanting more! Yoerg is on par with Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen."
Now she’s on book four! TRUE PLACES. Let me just say this about that (as of yesterday) :
 Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24 Paid in Kindle Store

 So a big lovely standing ovation Jungle Red welcome to Sonja Yoerg!

SONJA YOERG: If you’re reading this, you’ve survived the holidays. Congratulations! Was it a near miss or a clear win? Not sure? Join the club. The Twelfth Day of Christmas ends tomorrow (if that’s your holiday of choice), but we all know it’s more like the Hundred-and-Twelfth Day.
It was not always this way. 
If, like me, you were born in what my children graciously refer to as the Time Before Air, then you remember a simpler time
My parents were German immigrants and brought their holiday traditions with them to Vermont. Around the solstice, my father cut a spruce tree and brought it inside, but it was not decorated until Christmas Eve. 
My siblings and I were sequestered in the kitchen with our father as entertainment, while my mother and the Christkind decked the halls. As the Christkind left, he would ring a silver bell used only for this occasion, and we’d storm into the room, hoping to catch a glimpse. 

Missed him again! Never mind. We were spellbound by the magic of the tree, lit with real candles, and the presents under its boughs. A small haul by today’s standards, but it was plenty for us. Funny about that, huh? Here’s me completely enthralled with a pair of slippers.


Of course my mother had the burden of creating this spectacle, but at least it was over in short order. Twelve days later, on Three Kings Day, the tree would come down to stave off bad luck for the year. 
What do you think? Are you nostalgic for an abbreviated holiday season? Would your loved ones cry “Mutiny!” if you proposed a simpler affair?
I’ve thought a lot about holiday madness and, more generally, about our complicated modern lives. 
In fact, that’s the main theme of my new novel, TRUE PLACES. As the story opens, a harried mother, Suzanne Blakemore, finds an emaciated, near-feral girl alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Suzanne rescues the girl, Iris, and eventually invites her into her home—a home already strained by difficult teenagers and an ambitious husband.  
Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?

Several years ago we moved from suburban California to rural Virginia, where the book takes place. It’s quiet here, and life is much simpler. What a pleasure it was to write about the world outside my window, this beautiful corner of the world.



The landscape reminds me of Vermont, and of my childhood. I can breathe here, where the woods lay outside my door, and the mountains fill in my window.
Are you content with the pace of your life? What changes might make a difference? It’s resolution season!

HANK: How about you, Reds and readers? Are you content with the pace of your life? (I am going to pencil in a time to think about that…)
And Sonja will be stopping by to answer questions!


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A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.
Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.
Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?

88 comments:

  1. Sonja, your book sounds fascinating and I’m looking forward to reading it. Congratulations on the lovely reviews.

    I will readily admit that I am quite satisfied with the pace of my life. Like Sonja, we moved from California and ultimately found ourselves settled in the lovely [and quiet] Pine Barrens where looking out the window means you might see deer . . . or turkeys . . . or chipmunks under the herb garden planter. The view is amazing in this peaceful place where it’s okay to just sit and enjoy . . . .

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    1. And it makes such a difference, doesn’t it? To see those little creatures, and watch the seasons change?

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    2. FROM SONJA: Joan Emerson: Hi Joan! I've always meant to visit the Pine Barrens and you've convinced me I must. Enjoy the chipmunks!

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  2. Sonja, your last question of "Are you content with the pace of your life" took me back to the beginning of your post, where you title it, "Change of Pace? Or Place?" It's place that I would like to change. I've been restless for a while now about where I live. Although, it's not a busy street or subdivision, I long to have a quieter, more isolated place. I'd love to have some woods around me and be able to observe deer and other wildlife out my kitchen window. I feel bad complaining because I have a perfectly lovely house/home where I am, but nature seems to call to me more and more these days. The pace of my life is fine, but I still am dreaming of a babbling brook and some woods.

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    1. Isn’t that interesting how your thought process has evolved! Is there a place you can take walks in the woods, or be in nature?

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    2. FROM SONJA"

      Kathy Reel: We had a lovely house in California before we moved into the sticks of Virginia; there's nothing wrong with wanting what you want, right? I hope you get that babbling brook and peaceful woods one day.

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    3. Hank, there are a couple of nice places to walk through the woods that I plan on taking advantage of when the weather warms just a tad. My husband and I found a place over near my daughter and her family (an hour away) that is right next to a favorite restaurant in the charming little town of New Harmony, Indiana. It's next to the Wabash River and is just lovely. We've even talked about it being nice to live there, but that won't happen now, as he likes to be near his mother, who is 90 (but fierce still). It's funny, and I wonder if it's my imagination, but I remember far more babbling brooks growing up than I ever see now (rare to see one). I wonder if it's due to all the "great" roads that take us places faster. When I was growing up, we had to take the old, slow roads that weaved through such things as brooks. Sonja, Virginia has so many lovely places. I am fond of the Shenandoah National Park area and the little towns around it.

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    4. New Harmony! I always loved that name, and of course we learned all about it in Indiana History class. ANd yes, we had a brook near our house when I was growing up..it's highway now.

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  3. Sonja, forgive me. I also meant to tell you that your book is going on my TBR list. Congratulations on its wonderful success!

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  4. Your new book sounds wonderful, Sonja! I have read House Broken and enjoyed it. Like Kathy, I too would enjoy living closer to nature, but, that aside, I don't have much to complain about.

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    1. How wonderful to be able to say that, Marla!

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    2. from SONJA

      Marla: Thank you for taking a chance on my debut--I'm delighted you enjoyed it. Ah, yes, contentment. The holy grail!


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  5. The book sounds intriguing. We drive from New England to Asheville every couple of years, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is truly lovely. We did have a simpler Christmas this year and it was just fine - and so much easier to put away (which I personally must do by New Year's Eve). I love that we live on a quiet street that is near a small bustling downtown, so I can (and do) walk everywhere. The pace of my life is quiet but hectic because I write three-plus novels a year, but I'm living my dream and wouldn't change it!

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    1. Yes, walking everywhere is so wonderful! You get to be outside, you get steps, and you get to think.

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    2. FROM SONJA Edith: Wow, that's a lot of writing! No wonder you need peace and quiet. See you on the Parkway!

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  6. Many years ago, I had the chance to live in a small German village. It was marvelous! To walk to the grocers, the chemist, the stationary shop, etc. was the way I loved! We had garden plots and a small train station. The best part was the peace. Also, the view from our attic windows were the mountains. It reminded me of Heidi!
    Now, while my city is not huge, it is still a city. I long to live in the mountains or the coast. Both of these bring enormous peace to me.

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    1. Oh wonderful! What were the circumstances? If you can tell us…

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    2. FROM SONJA Deb: We cherish our visits to Germany, especially the small towns. Making a note to go back soon!

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  7. And the winner of TRUST ME from yesterday is holdenj! Email me at H ryan at whdh dot com with your mailing address. And thank you thank you thank you to all… (Cannot wait for you all to see this wonderful book…)

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  8. Sonja, your book sounds great! Definitely added to my TBR list!

    The pace of my life is less hectic now that we are empty nesters. And while Columbus is a large city, I recognize that the pace of life here is still slower than on the coasts. So I have all that going for me. My work is rewarding, but sometimes it sucks me into a frantic pace I could live without. I am not seriously considering any changes at this time, but I do try to stay in a mindset that I would be open to change if the right thing came along. Planning is a good thing, but a lot of the best things in my life have seemed to happen through serendipity.

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    1. Isn't that true? The things we never plan for...or can't even imagine..

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    2. FROM SONJA Susan: Being open to change is key, don't you think, even if the possibilities are not in front of you? It gives you hope. Wishing you all the serendipity, Susan, and enjoy the empty nest!

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  9. Sonja, I've ordered your book, and it will go on top of my TBR pile. Your description of your childhood Christmas reminded me so much of mine although there were only a few candles on the tree, watched carefully for the five minutes my grandmother allowed! However there were colored lights too, so not to worry.

    Contentment is such a fragile thing, isn't it. Certainly the pace of my retired life is far different than that of my working years as an RN, on call 24/7 for so many of those years. I enjoy the peace and the ability to do pretty much as I please. On the other hand, it's not very exciting! No babies born in the middle of the night, no breech deliveries to manage on my own until the doctor showed up long enough to stand in the doorway and tell me I was doing everything right, no hospice patients to advocate for, none of that anymore.

    So yes, I am content. Per J.K. Jerome, "enough to eat and enough to wear and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing."

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    1. Think of all the lives you've changed, Ann!

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    2. FROM SONJA
      Ann MAson: Sounds like you have lived a very full, rewarding life. You deserve a rest, even if you aren't used to it. :)

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  10. Sonja, welcome to JRW! I just last month read about you and now I'm so glad Hank brought you to meet us. We are just back from visiting kids and grandkids in LA for the holidays--great visit but hectic in every way! Key West is very busy this time of year, but at least there's only so far you can drive on an island:)

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    1. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Lucy/Roberta?

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    2. FROM SONJA
      Lucy: Lovely to meet you, Lucy. Key West is gorgeous, so I guess you have to share it with lots of visitors in the winter. Hope they skidaddle home soon.

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  11. In suburban Cincinnati, we have green space around us, with deer, fox, coyotes (!), hawks, and the ubiquitous Canada geese taking the goslings for a walk as they stop traffic on a major four lane road. The kids are grown and gone, taking the chaos of their daily lives with them. Cultural events are 20 minutes away, when we want them.

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    1. Oh the gesse crossing the road with goslings--so cute! How do they know?

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    2. FROM SONJA
      Margaret: A perfect balance! Not easy to find so kudos to you.

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  12. Sonja, your book sounds wonderful and I am looking forward to reading it. I live in a very peaceful place, woods on 3 sides of me and the critters come very close to the house. On the downside cell service in pretty bad and there are no sidewalks. Both "problems" I can live with rather easily.

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    1. FROM SONJA Judi: I hear you about cell service, Judi. We can't even use Hulu here. I wouldn't trade Hulu for the mountains, though, would you?

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    2. No Hulu, no Netflix, not much of anything since my internet speed is very slow. Verizon tells me that's the best I can get here. Streaming is nearly impossible. If I got satellite internet I could probably do all those things but it is too expensive for me!

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  13. Am I satisfied? No. I'd be quite happy moving down to Fayette County where my nearest neighbor is a quarter mile away.

    Except I've got one kid in college, another in his junior year of high school and barely interested in "what comes next," a full-time job (although I telecommute, so as long as I had high-speed Internet, I'd be okay), blah, blah, blah.

    Maybe in five years I can reassess.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Things happen when it's time, don't you think? Almost amazingly so...

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    2. FROM SONJA: Mary: We do so much for our children, don't we? I hope that one day you get the chance to move to the place you prefer, Mary.

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    3. Hank, yes they do.

      Sonja - thanks!

      Mary/Liz

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  14. Sonja, your post and your book resonates with me. Through the years I worked to simplify my life .
    I' m more and more content, living in rural Quebec, enjoying nature and animals and now beginning retirement.
    Hank, I laughed out loud when I read : I will pause a moment while you sing. So funny

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    1. I'm still singing! Aren't you? xoxo

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    2. FROM SONJA Danielle: Retirement does encourage a fresh take on our priorities, doesn't it? Then again, I was set to retire when I started writing and now look!

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  15. What an interesting character--Iris--to pull her off the page and get some glowing reviews, well, just, wow, Sonja! This I have to read! I'm a feral girl at heart, I think. First generation out of Appalachia, my parents part of that great migration north in search of a better life after WWII. But their hearts never left the hills, and while I live with woods and fields around me, it's just not the same wilderness. I make do.

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    1. Oh, how fascinating...where did they live?

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    2. Hank, both parents from Lawrence County, Kentucky--their families settled there from the time the land was part of Virginia.

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    3. FROM SONJA flora: Your name tells me a lot about how your parents felt about nature. It's wonderful to have that legacy, even if you aren't living in the wilderness you crave. One day, maybe?

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  16. And Sonja, I know it';s a little off track..but tell us a bit about your animal intelligence book! ANd..oh, about your gorgeous cover for True Places.

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    1. from Sonja
      I have a PhD in animal behavior and spent years examining the role of learning in all sorts of creatures: kangaroo rats, blue jays, spotted hyenas, to name a few. I did both lab and field work, and when I finally had a few moments to write, CLEVER AS A FOX was born. It's about how we compare animal minds, and what the science says about the validity of it. If you are interested in animal cognition, you might want to take a peek!

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    1. FROM SONJA : I had titled the book IRIS initially, but my editor wasn't crazy about it. For the longest time I thought it would go to press with UNTITLED on the cover, but I finally found this quote from Moby Dick: "It's not down on any map; true places never are." As much as we search for ourselves in the external world, the answers are always found within, aren't they?

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  18. Coincidence is an amazing thing. Last night my husband put on a tape (of whatever they are these days) on the TV of a PBS version of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Fabulous British cast and of course the wonderful music. So of course I am singing all morning.
    The book sounds riveting. I grew up back in the woods in an old farmhouse so was surrounded by nature. After living in a neighborhood with trees all around and a garden, we are now in a condo. While I miss my garden, being able to cut flowers and greenery, because Atlanta has so many trees and the building is surrounded by neighborhoods, I still can see nature. I watch the red hawks from the window by my desk and you can grow camellias on a balcony if you try. I also have an urban view so for me , it's the best of both worlds.

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    1. You can grow camellias? I am SWOONING...what's the key?

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    2. FROM SONJA Atlanta: Best of both worlds: what could be better than that? Also, old farmhouses are on my list of my favorite things. (See what I did there?)

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    3. Hank, you are hilarious! I am laughing again. I can grow Sasanquas easily but the Japonica I have is one that a very smart plants woman recommended for a balcony and she was correct. I had huge old camellias in my garden at my house.

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    4. For all you camellia lovers, if your travels ever bring you to the San Gabriel valley in So. CA, make time to tour Descanso Gardens, home to North America's largest camellia collection. They are at their absolute best right now.

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    5. I love camellias--but I don't think they'd be too happy in Boston...right?

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  19. Sonja is trying to post! We will make it work! xoo

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  20. Sonja, your description of your book is irresistible. It's going on my TBR list.

    The question made me wonder, what IS the pace of my life?Right now, in the wake of the holidays, it's slow and leisurely. Destined to speed up and slow down and speed... And I like that. The variety.

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    1. Such an optimistic way to look at it!

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    2. FROM SONJA
      Hallie: Sounds like you are running at a steady pace with occasional sprints. I hear that's good for your heart...

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  21. Congratulations Sonja! I was introduced to True Places via another blog and now I'm delighted to see you here as well!
    Your post and the question of the day is timely. I find myself in a transition that is not of my choosing. So I'm already in the process of asking myself these very questions. Is this Susan's "serendipity" or will the coming changes be the less satisfying "needs must"? Probably a bit of both. Changes made because needs must and, with a course adjustment to my outlook/attitude, serendipity!
    Again, Congratulations Sonja!

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    1. And remember, you never know what wonderful thing is around the next corner--and it's always something you never expected. This is go with the flow time! xo

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    2. FROM SONJA:
      Lyda: Yes, even when we find our life's work it's still, well, work! I am constantly reminding myself to focus on process, rather than goals, but I'm not always successful. Best of luck to you!

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  22. Off to the bookstore on Saturday, adding to my pile. Your description of your Christmases struck a memory, our tree would go up the last Sunday before Christmas and be brought down on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. New pace or place? Maybe a little of both - take some more time for me and get out of my home more. I'm a little too close to "retirement" for a complete change of place, it will need to wait for awhile, but I can take a few more little day trips and enjoy the great northern California coast. Books and yarn in car at all times.

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    1. FROM SONJA

      FROM SONJA Deana: I love the California coast, having lived in the state for more years than anywhere else. Little trips work wonders, don't they?

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  23. Hi Sonja! I loved your description of your childhood Christmas. The book sounds fascinating, too, and the cover is gorgeous! I'd like to know more about your animal intelligence book, too.

    The pace of my life has been mad the last few months due to book deadlines. One of my many New Year's goals is to even things out a bit!

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    1. Riiiight....even things out. YOu keep working on that! xoo

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    2. FROM SONJA Deborah: I admit I stare at my book cover a teensy bit more than is healthy; I'm smitten! Deadlines can be such a nusiance, but then afterward, ahhhhh. I'm on deadline myself, so that was a reminder for both of us. Good luck!

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  24. Hi I am content although i have a nerve disease i have had for 28 yrs and as it gets worse I can't do anything about it so I just have to adjust to the pain and the crippled fingers that is why i have to read print books and do hardly any tech but i am happy with my pups and hubby we live in a rural area so that is good so many wildlife which is great to see. My life is way better than my childhood growing up in an abusive foster home and i was able to volunteer for them for 10 yrs so i felt i helped many kids. I have done some cleaning out of my office and closet but all the bags to the homeless went just as the weather got cold so they could use. I wish you luck with your book! ptclayton2@aol.com peggy clayton

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    1. Good for you, Ptclayton! It sounds like you have flourished and survived and are in a good place--you are very inspirational! xox

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    2. FROM SONJA
      Peggy: So much generosity of spirit despite your difficulties. I'm humbled. Wishing you much joy in the New Year!

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  25. Sonja/Hank - just reading thru your responses and your comments on lack of a signal and then it hit me. I have a picture of you standing on one foot, an aluminum foil hat on your head, on top of a hill, with your phone in your hand, trying to dictate your replies to Hank. Thank you!

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    1. Now THAT is quite the vision! Love that!

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    2. FROM SONJA Lyda: If I deny it, it's false, right? RIGHT?

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  26. We've bounced from cities to small towns to boondocks and back to the city. We are way overdue to move to the place of our choice. When we first got back to Houston (my hometown) I really enjoyed it. Lots of things to see and do. It is a thriving, growing town which means more people and more traffic. We are a magnet for THE WORST DRIVERS ON THE PLANET. They are all here. You're welcome. I am ready for change. We are looking at rural areas in reasonable driving distance to hospitals, airports, etc. My husband would like some acreage. I would enjoy not being able to see the nearest neighbor from our house. The closest town must have a library. Actually I would love to live in a town on the coast, like Beaufort, SC. Husband says hurricanes, so no. (Haven't we gone through two since we've lived here?) I also like rolling hills and mountains, so we do have choices. I'm currently focusing on Virginia, the Carolinas, northern Georgia. I do love the Black Hills in SD but that may be straying too far away. I hope we can narrow it down and get serious this year.
    And on an entirely different note, your book sounds fabulous!

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    1. Oh, PatD, keep us posted. And seriously, have you ever driven in Boston? YIKES!

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    2. Thank you, Pat, and sorry for the lengthy delay. Let's just say that one of my New Year's resolutions was to correct the problem I had with commenting--yay, for me!

      Belated happy New Year, and good luck with finding your true place. :)

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  27. I've never been but I've heard tales. Mostly about the roads, not the drivers.

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  28. Sonja, the premise of your book speaks to me on an elemental level. I can't wait to read it! We live in such a material world, it is a constant battle to shut out the noise. We are a simple folk, here. When our hooligans were young, we implemented the four gift rule to stave off the "gimmes". For the holiday, they get four gifts - something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. That's it. It has made the holiday much simpler. The tree goes up the week before Christmas and it comes down the first week in January. I envy your view! I grew up on the CT shore and am looking forward to living on a beach again someday.

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    1. You are brilliant, Jenn! What a perfect solution. How did you come up with it? Xxxx

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    2. What a clever strategy for gift-giving! Mind if I steal?

      The CT shore is lovely and I hope you get back there...eventually.
      Happy reading!
      Sonja

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  29. SONJA! how did I have NO IDEA that you met Maria!! My husband follows me all over the house singing, "How do you solve a problem like Ka-tie?" Obviously (given the quote at the beginning), I adored your book. I hope everyone in the world reads it. Best to you and Hank. -Katie Rose Pryal

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    1. Thanks, Katie. Maria was quite the character, although when I knew her she was already quite elderly, and had slowed down from her troublemaker days.
      Your review is the best--thank you.
      xo Sonja

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