Monthly Archives: October 2014

Vacation in Holmes County

Holmes County and Tuscarawas Counties

A week ago I was on vacation, and my wife and I went to one of our favorite places, Holmes County, Ohio. The purpose of the trip was to research a site for my next book – TRILLIUM TANGLE, THE PLEXUS PRINCIPLE. But it was a welcome retreat from the day to day grind and an enjoyable look at a slower time from the “olden days.”

East of Holmes County is Tuscarawas County. Sugarcreek is a small town just across the county line, in Tuscarawas County. It is an Amish community like much of much of eastern Holmes County. But Tuscarawas County has a history of coal mining. And coal mining history is very interesting.

As you drive the highways and back roads of Tuscarawas County, you see rolling hills with hay fields and pasture land. Behind those hills are large “hilly” forested areas. From the road, those hills look like part of the terrain. And they once were. But they’ve been mined – contour mined. Generations ago, the mining companies dug into those hill, taking the coal, and leaving huge “hills” of “coal spoil.” Now with trees growing on those spoils, those spoils look like part of the terrain. But look at the area from a satellite image, and you can see the ridges of coal spoils. It looks like ridges of mountains on a map.

I had the opportunity to hike back into some “unreclaimed” mine land. The Norma Johnson Center is a conservation center east of Sugarcreek. It has large areas that have reclaimed mine land, and some areas that are “unreclaimed.” The trails back into the coal spoils give a close-up look into what the land is like now. Steep hills, acid lakes, thick tangles of undergrowth, and many trees that have been growing for 40 – 50 years. Quite a jungle.

The director of The Johnson Center, Marsha Zoller, was kind enough to to answer my questions and give me some history of the area. I even discovered she had grown up in my home town and I knew her mother. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ director for abandoned mine land, Tyson Lamielle, met with us and gave us a history lesson on the mining in Tuscarawas County. Wow. What a rich history. So much more to learn.

I came away with the realization of how little I knew of Ohio history. But I did find the perfect setting for my next book, a large area of coal spoils with few roads into the area, and right on the edge of Amish country. It will be the perfect place for the antagonist to have a seclusive health clinic where unusual things are happening that affect world peace.

So, where are your favorite vacation locations? What kinds of activities draw you there?


Whew! Who needs an exercise program when you can chase grandchildren?

I returned from a two day writers’ conference last weekend, just before two of our grandchildren arrived. I had time to lay my bag on the counter and answer the door. Our son, Andy, and his wife, Trisha, were going out for the night and would get in late (early the next morning). We were watching Leighton and Averie until the next morning.

Leighton is two and is a real joy. He’s quiet, but he doesn’t stop moving…until he falls asleep for a nap or bedtime. He gets into everything, not to make a mess, but to explore how things work, how to take them apart, how to put them together. His curiosity amazes us. I’ve always called him “Scout,” because he is always looking for something new to explore. This past weekend he was in high gear, overdrive, turbo drive. So I changed his name to “Turbo Scout.” As a proud grandparent, I predict he will be an engineer. He loves lights. In fact “lights” (whispered reverently) was his third word. Maybe it has something to with the fact that grandma and grandpa patiently held him up to the switches so he could explore which switch turned on which light. Maybe he’ll be an electrical engineer.

Averie is just three and a half months. She’s so delicate, so beautiful, so quiet…until she’s hungry. Then she knows how to let you know she wants something to eat. And she’ll keep letting you know until the bottle is ready. There’s something about holding a granddaughter in your arms that makes you feel tender. I remember the feeling when I first held my infant daughter. She’s an adult now and has her own daughter. But, back to Averie. It takes two people to care for children, or at least it felt like it. I don’t know how mom or dad, alone, can do it. I certainly have regained a new respect for a parent who stays home to do child care.

We have one more grandchild, Regan, daughter of our daughter, Tessa. She’s fifteen months and lives outside our community. We don’t get to see her enough. She has the most beautiful smile. She reminds you of sunshine. If life weren’t so busy, we would visit her more often.

It’s so important to keep up on the grandchildren. And I admit that I do a poor job. They are our legacy. And it’s so important to ensure they are getting started in the right way.

What memories or special moments have you spent with grandchildren? Or what special things do you plan to do with grandchildren someday?

Hope and Change

I found this entry in my journal from a couple weeks ago. I’m on the vacation that I longed for then. But I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

Did you ever have such a bad day that you just wanted to crawl into bed and wake up the next morning, so you could start all over. There’s something about a new day that gives us the hope of an opportunity to start over, make a change, make things better.

This morning I got up to a dreary Ohio October morning. It was cool for early October, and it was drizzling. And everything seemed to go wrong. But on the way to work I noticed a pink glow in the east. The sun was rising, and it gradually lit up more and more of the dreary overcast sky. By the time I got to my office the sun was up, but hidden behind the clouds. It was dreary again. I walked into the office in a steady sprinkle of rain.

The unexpected sunrise had lifted my spirits. I would be taking a vacation in the near future, and the sunrise reminded me of that fact. It gave me hope. It reminded me that I would have a change of schedule for a brief period, a respite from the monotony of the usual daily grind.

By the time I walked into the office, the glow in the sky was gone, and the cloudy wet morning told me that there was some “routine” before the fun began. But I still remembered the sunrise. It still lifted my spirits. And it gave me a little boost to make it through the day.

Hope is like that. We need it to survive life’s struggles. We need it to hang in there with the expectation of something better in the future. Sometimes we need it to remind us and motivate us to work for that change. Without hope we may as well lie down and die.

So what hope do you find that helps you make it through life’s struggles? Where do you find the strength to keep going? What gives you the anticipation to keep working for improvements or a goal?


4-26-14 Steve and Cindy Hooley

We don’t like to be alone. We turn on the TV when the house is empty. Some of us are on our cell phone constantly, staying “connected.” We Skype. We email. We tweet. We post on Facebook. It is within the human psyche to crave relationship.

As we explore those aspects of our life that are truly important, I would guess a large majority of you would say that your relationships with friends and family are at the top of your list.

You have heard it said that at the end of life many people express regret they did not spend more time with family. Few regret that they did not spend more time working.

At the top of my list of relationships is my wife. We call each other “bestest” friends. I tell people I am the luckiest man in the world to be her husband. No one else could ever put up with me, and no one else has ever loved me the way she does. I would be lost without her.

Now, children and grandchildren are special in another way, and that’s a topic for an entire post. We could write books on them. But today I want to focus on my relationship with my wife.

On October 1st we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. Wow! A real milestone, a tribute to her patience with me. We celebrated by going out to eat and shopping for a rock. No, I’m not talking about a ¼ carat or ½ carat diamond, I’m talking about a 1000 pound rock! How’s that for big? Actually, we shopped for a new granite counter top for a house we are fixing up. It was an excellent experience. We found what we both liked, and at a great price. It was a good day.

As I reflect on that day, I realize the significance was that we were together, we were in agreement on our decision, we were both excited about what we had found. It was the TOGETHER that was really what made the day memorable. And when, in the future, I look at that counter top, I will always remember our 18th wedding anniversary and what a great day we spent together.

So, now it’s your turn. What relationships are the most important in your life? What special stories can you tell to show experiences you have shared with that special someone?