Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Today Over Coffee welcomes debut novelist Oberon Wonch. With the “feasting season” beginning, I asked Oberon to talk about something food-related from her medieval romance, Come to Me. Take it away, Oberon!
Hello, Sia! Thank you for hosting me here today. I enjoy catching up on your blog and love to linger
over your posts of life in the Ozarks, especially the photos of landscapes and wildlife, some of my favorite things to get lost in on the Internet. 

So, it’s not surprising that bees and beekeeping fascinate me, too. Anyone else? I love the imagery of the old-timey wicker skep sitting in a garden. Since the heroine of my first book, Come To Me, is an English noblewoman living in 11 th century England, and we know from writings of the time that mead (fermented honey) was a widespread favorite of the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples of post-Roman Europe, I wanted to include beekeeping and mead-making in my story.  

Here is a fraction of what I learned about bee husbandry. 8,000-year-old cave paintings show that honey-gathering has been taking place since pre-historic times when people risked life and limb to climb trees and rob wild hives of the sweet, gooey liquid. Ancient Sumerian, Greek, and Chinese writings discuss managing bees and providing adequate, manmade habitats. Bee culture became supremely important to the Egyptians, was adopted by Rome, and then spread through all of Europe.  

Even back to our earliest days, we wanted a little sweetener in our cuisine and went to great lengths to procure it, isn’t that something?  
By the time of the Norman conquest of England in late 11th century AD, beekeeping was an indispensable industry. An Anglo-Saxon noblewoman’s responsibilities included keeping bees (in those lovely, conical straw or wicker baskets called skeps), extracting honey and beeswax, and overseeing mead production.  

The entire arc of beekeeping, from capturing a swarm, to monitoring hives through the summer, to harvesting the honey and comb in the autumn, is a world of information too broad to address here.   

However, making the mead was incredibly simple and a tribute to the thriftiness of the medieval housekeeper. Throughout the warm months as honey was gathered, comb was squeezed through linen gauze to extract the last drop of honey for household purposes. The comb and the gauze were rinsed with water (the comb then rendered for its wax to make candles), and the water was left in covered vats to ferment via the natural yeasts existing in the honey and surrounding air.  

Variations in this process were practiced (for example, herbs and spices were added for flavor), and later written recipes called for boiling 4-to-1 parts water and honey rather than merely using the strainings.   

So, that’s my little peek into one tiny aspect of life in the Middle Ages.

Are you as fascinated by bees and beekeeping as I am? Would you like to someday try mead made in true medieval fashion?

Oberon Wonch’s debut medieval romance novel, Come To Me is available wherever digital books are sold. 

Come To Me  
A maiden’s duty becomes a woman’s desire…  
In this twist on the classic Cyrano story, Bridget of Shyleburgh is ordered to help Count GrĂ©goire FitzHenri, the new Earl of Shyleburgh and the man she secretly loves, court another woman.  

Mortified at first, Bridget soon finds herself completely enthralled by the earl’s whispers of love and desire. His heated wooing tempts a fair maiden to stray down a path filled with forbidden pleasures. But his words are meant for another… aren’t they?  Read More at Amazon

Oberon Wonch has engaged in a love affair with books for as long as she can remember. Penning her own stories from an early age, she later earned a degree in World Literature while studying several languages--all in order to learn what makes a tale endure the ages, but really just to read more books. Her very favorite stories--both to read and write--are those that celebrate the happily-ever-after. She enjoys connecting with readers. Contact her through her website at or follow her on Twitter @OberonWonch and on Facebook. 

Monday, November 23, 2015


The thing about having cancer is its tiring.

Oh, I don’t mean treatments, perse, but everything that comes with it. I get tired of thinking about it; planning or delaying my life because of it. Then there are my own fears and worries that creep in at odd times and bite deep. I’ve always been independent and while I can delegate I hate losing my independence due to lack of strength. I dislike the worry about getting to and from appointments if I unable to drive, of being a burden, or looking at and arranging finances.

Then there is dealing with people.

There are those that care and always try to be encouraging, in spite of what’s going on in their life; those that still want to have real conversations or share laughter and I appreciate them. Seriously these people, and not just close friends and family, make life good. 

But, then... there are those that haven’t a clue what to say or how to react or interact with me. They treat me as if the cancer zombiefied my brain and its broken or not working. You know, that over bright tone of voice one uses with a toddler or someone who is at death’s door. I am neither. 

Or that I’m some drama queen looking for the spotlight. 

Seriously? Who the hell would choose something as dangerous as cancer, which can go either way, for attention? I’d rather being doing anything but facing this. Then there are who just want to avoid me as if this cancer thing is catching, like cooties or the ‘flu.

The funny thing is I do understand people and the whys and hows of how they think. I do try to be patient and understanding but it does get wearying to the soul and I’m not even half way through my treatments. There are times I have little or no patience because I’m trying to deal with what’s inside me right now. I don’t have the energy to deal with others’…problems or attitudes. I fight hard, at times, to hold on to my patience and not rip into someone or have to call my brothers to help dispose of a body. Not a good thing. I don’t like me when I get that way.

I guess what's most frustrating in none of this is a quick fix. By that I mean nothing is going to get me through the next 3 months of radiation and chemo easy or fast--- or the 9 months beyond that with the final chemical phase of treatment. Each treatment is a necessary evil but it isn't going to make me feel better. Considering my reaction to most chemicals and meds, I suspect I'm going to be feeling like crap. I won't kid you, it all gets to me. The anticipation of what's coming...the unknown. Yeah, it gets to me on many levels.

I've spent considerable time, the past few months, at a hospital that deal exclusively with all sorts of cancer patients. I'm a natural people watcher and the story that peoples' faces's an eye opener. Sometimes it lifts you up and other times it breaks your heart.
The sights I've seen and the stories I've heard from people fighting this God. It tends to put things into perspective when I'm facing my own fears and worries. 

So, when things get...frustrating or I get a bit down, I give myself a swift kick mentally and say, "Suck it up Buttercup! There are people with this same disease that would LOVE to be standing where you are now."

No matter what's going on in my life, I CAN'T lose sight of the long term. If everything goes right I get to live.

And that's big. 

Really big.

Monday, November 16, 2015


As you can imagine I’ve had quite a bit of time to read the past few months and given my journey, fighting for my life and healing, I tend to look for things that make me laugh or inspire me. I want to share my thoughts of a very good book I read just this past week.

I’m not one who reads a great many biographies or autobiographies. I’m very selective. It depends upon who is being written about and if they’re interesting to me. I am fascinated by historical memoirs—journals and letters outlining tales of success in the face of adversity.

I’m not big on modern day ‘memoirs’.

Let me tell you, this story was interesting enough to keep me engrossed and turning the pages.

Revival: The Donald Braswell Story
Mark Koopmans
Pen-L Publishing
256 pages

Smoothly written and engrossing tale of inspiration.

Revival is modern memoir but it is all about facing adversity and triumphing despite misfortune (my favorite theme). It’s inspiring in many ways. It tells a story of a very talented man, Donald Brazwell, well viewed by professionals in his field, on the cusp of taking center stage in the international music world of opera and then, through unexpected circumstances, crashes almost into oblivion. A man who loses both his speaking and singing voice. 
You could call this a living nightmare.

But, the interesting thing is he doesn’t stay down or become bitter whining oh ‘woe is me’, or turn to drugs or alcohol. He learns that the sum total of life is more than one facet of it—singing. In fact, he learns much about living and himself. He has a loving wife and three children. He has a choice before him, being the best husband, father, and provider or makes excuses why he can’t deal with it all. And many with his circumstances have done just that. Instead he triumphs over adversity.

He faces so many changes because his life has completely changed course and still he keeps his eyes open to opportunities before him for making a good life for him and his family despite those changes. What I admire was his willingness to try new things, learn new skills so he could support his family. Yet I could see it wasn’t easy for him. When I realize Braswell had spent well over ten years in dedicated study and totally focused on his goal of becoming a world class tenor on par (probably surpassing) with Pavarotti and Placido, with no thought to doing anything but that career I appreciate his choices even more. I admire his willingness to shift his focus. He may have been afraid of failure and not making the grade but self doubt didn’t stop him from going forward and building a life for him and his family. I respect person who can do that.

This story isn’t about a saint. He railed, felt fear, wallowed a bit in self pity and felt lost. Donald Braswell wasn’t the epitome of arrogance but he did know his worth in the music world—he would have to if he wanted to become the great tenor he was on his way to be. He does admit his ego had gotten the best of him at times and in believing his own press. He also stresses he didn’t give thanks or enough respect to God for the gift given him.

The writing of his story is well done. The author has an excellent story telling ability and makes you want to keep turning the pages to see what happens next. In good story telling fashion the main character is flawed, faces hard times as a result of his choices, faces a black moment, and yet has much to learn about life. There is a clear character arc of growth. You find yourself cheering on the ‘hero’ of the story. There is a clear picture of the secondary characters, Julie and the Cavender brothers—I got such a clear picture of those two and love them. The delivery is so well done that I forgot, at times, that it was about a real person. To see Donald Braswell rising like phoenix to triumph is both heartwarming and inspirational.

This is a story well worth reading! 


You can find author, Mark Koopmans:

Monday, November 9, 2015


I’ve learned much, the past couple of months, about the battle against cancer.

For one thing, it’s not a battle, it’s a war and wars are won by winning a series of battles.

Mobilizing for war is arduous especially while defending against an unexpected attack. It takes clear thought to the goals and what will be lost if one doesn’t win. There’s the cost of fighting a war, mentally, physically, psychologically and monetarily.  One leaves behind ‘normal’ life and has to focus everything on fighting and winning the war. It becomes the daily existence. One has to channel funds into getting the best weapons and equipment, assembling a strong motivated fighting force, and have a good knowledge base of the enemy and its goals. Not an easy task. The initial euphoria after an attack often wears thin and so keeping the reasons and goals for fighting the war to begin with, needs to be kept to the forefront of everyone’s mind. Then it’s hunkering down for the long haul and fighting to win.

Somewhere along the line I lost sight of parts of that mobilization process. I was unexpectedly attacked and I mustered up what was needed initially. Mindset, support group, funds to deal with travel and tests. I was armed but it was only the first of the battles that needed to be faced and although there were skirmish victories my mind lost sight of the long haul. And it’s daunting.

I think one of the problems is I’ve had several surgeries in my life. Usually, after a surgery for a particular thing, the mind then faces the healing process (like rebuilding after a war). In this instance, the removal of the tumor was successful. Pathology indicated that all was clean in the breast. Lymph nodes all clear. My mind leaped right past the concept of war and focused on the battle won and onto healing...wrong. It was only the initial battle. Yes, I won that series of battles but the war was by no means won.

This trip to CTCA was very intense. I had a list of questions and one of those questions had to do with further treatment. See, everything was healing. Pathology showed all clear, so why did I need chemo or herceptin? I brought my page of questions forward and got back several pages of answers and much more information for the war beyond this initial series of battles.

We went back to the preliminary findings and again defined the cancer I’m facing—Her2 positive, grade II, stage II—highly invasive and consequently fast growing and with a penchant for stray cells to migrate to other places and basically homestead. Without proper treatment this cancer will come back and even more aggressive than it was initially. I was given a clearer picture of what it takes to conquer this particular type of cancer and what weapons I will need to win the war

Scary stuff.

Countries gearing up for war can divert resources from existing assets and/or increase taxes to fund it. I have no one to tax and only a limited amount of funds to divert and yet there is no question that if I want to live and win this war, I have to go forward. On the plus side I do have very good insurance. On the negative side the co-pays are going to hurt financially. Then there is travel, daily food, and lodging that must be taken care of over the next eighteen months. This war is going to be expensive.

Just like soldiers and civilians in a war, I want normal life back. Well, that’s not going to happen for awhile. There is much in between the victory in these initial battles and eradicating the threat and demolishing the enemy. All the wishing in the world isn’t going to make this cancer go away as quickly as I want it to.

All I can do is have courage and move forward, keep my spirits up, and focus on demolishing the enemy. To do that I have to hunker down for the long haul. 

And it will be a long haul.  

Monday, October 26, 2015


This is the view from my patio the week of October 15th

The Missouri Ozarks are amazing regardless of the season. We span 3 temperature ranges which spell some different weather patterns for us throughout the year and even more so in the fall. While September spells autumn for many in other areas of the country, September is still ‘summer’ for us. The light is waning but the daily temps are still in the upper 80s to mid 90s (by contrast, July and August are traditionally upper 90s to a little over 100) and the grass is still lush and green and we’re still mowing the lawn weekly. We’re still running the AC daily. The rivers and lakes are still warm enough to swim in despite Labor Day closures of the pools the rivers still have plenty of swimmers. But the temperatures are dropping and we are losing daylight.

Purples and pinks-Ceil Abbott
By the latter part of September, the walnut trees start coloring up in their yellow fall finery. They are the first to lose their leaves. The last week in September and first week in October is when many of the vines, shrubs, berry plants and under story trees start showing signs of fall color. My area is home to over 200 plant species and most display fall colors. An Ozark foliage turn doesn't happen as quickly as the color change in northern states. Here, in the Ozarks, we have two color peaks in the foliage.

There is the false peak which usually happens between October 14-20th. False Peak is when you see the most intense color and the widest range of colors you'll see scarlet, deep mahogany, purple, black, blue, and multiple shades of gold. We have what you would call a 'slow turn' in foliage. It usually starts in the river and creek bottoms and then progresses up the hills. By the time peak color appears on the hillsides most of the trees along the rivers wil have long since peaked and dropped their leaves.

True peak will always occur during the last few days of October and the first few days of November, typically from October 26 to November 5th, give or take a few days. Peak foliage is highly dependent upon weather conditions. It takes clear sunny days with temperatures no warmer than mid 60's, and cooler nights with temperatures no higher than the high 30's to mid 4'0s, with a few nights in the 50's. This year true peak is a bit slow because it's been warmer during the day which delays the turn a few days. True peak colors are limited to the oranges, yellows, and mahogany hues. We have 36 species of oak here and each group had their own time table for turning and variations of colors.

The weather is giving its last hurrah before the onset of the cold here in South Central Missouri.  The days are very warm and sunny and the nights are jacket cool. Other than the trees we do have several more, not so pleasant, ‘signs’ of the coming cold weather. The wasps are invading my Mums and basking on the western side of the house. Nasty things. Another is the Woolly Bear caterpillars which are crawling everywhere—on the patio, up the sides of the house, on trees and shrubs, and in the yard. Weather is still warm so I’m usually barefoot and though I try to avoid them there are so many that I can’t help but step on some. Ewww.

Then there are the Asian lady bugs. They’re wonderful for taking care of aphids and such in the summer gardens but mid-October they start swarming and looking for a warm place to winter and that usually is inside my house or swimming in my coffee cup. Ugh. And they bite. I was lying down resting in the bedroom yesterday and happen to glance up to the ceiling. I counted 20 above my head. I decided to go rest in the recliner in living room. Dan cleared them out of the bedroom and he’s done this for several days, so I can sleep. Last thing I wanted was falling lady bugs. Did I mention they can bite?

While the Missouri Ozarks are gorgeous in the autumn when it comes to signs of fall and winter there are some I love and some I don’t. I’m not particularly squeamish when it comes to insects, except maybe ants, but I have to say I much prefer the fall foliage, migrating birds, and the changing of the angle of the sun and all the richness of light and shadow, to swarming insects looking at my house as their winter paradise.

Photos courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation, Ceil Abbott, and personal pictures.

Monday, October 19, 2015


In my mother’s eyes, I can do anything. I’m strong, courageous, smart, and determined.

Mom tells tales of an intrepid child who was bold and daring. That child rarely took no for an answer. Any problem or obstacle she faced was merely a puzzle she would study until she found the solution.  These traits were both good and bad depending upon the circumstances in which she used them. You see, this little girl boldly explored her world (outside her yard) and her neighborhood and when one considers her neighborhood was in the middle of Washington DC, it’s a wonder her mom survived her child’s frequent and unexpected explorations. To be fair to the parents, the house and yard, where Sia lived, was totally fenced in with a tall fence and gate a tricky latch (which she couldn’t reach) which would shut once you went through it. It was easy to get locked out of her yard. What was a girl to do? She sat on the top of the steps—her mother says there were 25 concrete steps from the back gate down into the alley—and looked at her world. And then…well, she saw a cat. And that was, as they say, that. Sia loved cats and all things four legged and furry.

At that point, great care was taken to be sure there was nothing around for Sia to use to unlatch the gate. But of course, it then became a puzzle to solve. It didn’t take long to find a mop sitting outside the back door and figure out how to use to reach up and unlatch the gate. The mop handle then was very handy and could be used to not only open the gate but block the gate from shutting. There were cats to visit you see and most times she could sneak back in the yard with no one the wiser.

The cat was a contributing factor for Sia’s nickname, Houdini or ‘Dini for short because once seen it couldn’t be forgotten and where there was one furry being surely there had to be more. There were people in the neighborhood Mom and Dad didn’t know but they knew Sia and she knew them especially if they had animals.

The school across the street knew Sia, as well, because she visited whenever her mother wasn’t looking or was involved with feeding or bathing the baby brother. She wanted to play with the kids on the playground or go into the classroom with them. After a few time of that sort of escape the mop was kept in the house in a closet.

Then there was the day Sia saw the school buses dropping off kids across the street and they were laughing and playing on the playground.  There was also a broom leaning against the wall in the kitchen…

Sia was able to spend a couple of blissful hours in the classroom learning about Washington DC and the stories behind Washington Monument, which she had visited with her parents the summer before. Sia had a great time drawing stories about her visit. About the time her hysterical mother, baby in her arms, was canvassing the neighbors the teacher realized she had an extra child in her classroom. 

The principal knew Sia, too, and was able to reunite mother and daughter. Ohhh, did Sia get into major trouble with her mom and then when her dad got home…ouch.

After that there was a lock put on the gate. Another puzzle but that’s a story for another day.

My mom
Since my diagnosis, I've been trying to visit my mom each week and we speak by phone several times a week. She lives an hour away from me. This past week my older sister and I visited mom who is living with my brother now. She shared adventures of young Sia and there was lots of laughter and good natured ribbing from my sibs. Times like this fortify my strength and fighting spirit and that’s always good. 

Mom told me she was very proud of my attitude and determination in this battle. She reminded me that I’ve always had “enormous inner strength.” That made me snort in derision.

“I appreciate hearing that mom, but I gotta tell ya, lately I’ve been feeling more like a weeny with all this."
She patted my hand and smiled. "You're entitled. But honey, I KNOW you. You're going to throw those shoulders back and lift that chin of yours and walk right through the weeny and fear. You're one of the strongest people I've ever known."   

In my mother’s eyes I’m still strong, courageous, smart, and determined.
Some days I believe her.