Nathan’s Gift

Digital Camera

One of the very best gifts I ever received didn’t come wrapped in holiday paper. There was no bow or cute little “Merry Christmas” card. It came around 10 am on a bright June morning in 1993.

In 1987, my husband, Nathan, and I purchased a ten acre tract of land in a beautiful little valley in Northwest Montana, with hopes of retiring there in 2008. We had an electric pole set and bought an 8 x 20 foot storage building. We wired our little “camp” and put in windows bought at a salvage yard. Shelving balanced on cement blocks (reminiscent of my college days) became our kitchen counter. Every August for the next five years, we’d come to Montana and spend our vacations “fixin’ up” our piece of the last best place. A neighbor gave us a hide-a bed and an old ice box. We cleared brush, picked out where we wanted to one day build our dream home, and under the star-filled big Montana sky, we decided our family was one person short. Our son was born nine months later.

Every year it got harder to leave Montana and return to Texas. In Texas, we’d worked hard and achieved “the American dream” – two kids, two cars, nice big house, and money in the bank. And we were miserable—trouble sleeping, short tempers, etc.

In June of 1993, we decided we couldn’t wait until August for our annual trek to our Montana paradise. After a four day drive, we arrived and started airing out the camp. I slept on sofa pillows on the floor and gave the bed to Nathan and the kids. We slept for ten hours. The next morning, Nathan came and sat by me on the floor. He put his arm around my shoulder and said, “Let’s not wait until 2008. Let’s move this summer.” Now I am a practical, pragmatic person, so I was a tad shocked when I heard myself heartily agree.

We bought a business, finalized plans for our log home, and went back to Texas to resign our positions, sell our properties, and say goodbye. Family and friends told us we were crazy. We agreed and kept on packing. That was twenty years ago.

Today, the business is sold, the kids have finished college, and Nathan is retiring this month. Because of his gift that June morning in 1993, we don’t have to “retire” to our vision of paradise. All we have to do is walk out onto our deck.

Have a blessed holiday season and thanks for stopping by.


Deborah Epperson

Breaking TWIG  is on sale for $0.99 Dec. 24-31.  Just click the cover photo.

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

My favorite reads of 2013


By Leslie Budewitz

“I have always imagined that Paradise would be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

A few favorite books discovered in the past year — not all published this year, but all fairly recent.

The Bartender’s Tale, Ivan Doig (2013)  Doig, Norman Maclean, and Richard Hugo are probably the writers most responsible for drawing attention to the literature of Montana in the 1970s. Doig is at is best when he’s writing in the voice of a young boy — his memoir, This House of Sky, and earlier novels English Creek and The Whistling Season — and he’s back at it with this tale of a 12 year old who returns to Montana to live with his father, an old-style bartender, in about 1960.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein (2008)  Don’t let the idea of an animal narrator turn you off. Enzo is one of the wisest and most endearing characters I’ve met in years.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (2008) and the rest of the Flavia de Luce mysteries  Post-war England through the eyes of a most delightful young girl — chemist and detective, blending naivete and sauciness. The audio books are wonderfully narrated by Jayne Entwhistle. The 6th comes out in early 2014 and I’m already waiting!

The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny (2012)  Surete officers Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy de Beauvoir investigate murder in a remote monastery. Love this series. IMGP1760

A Spark of Death, Bernadette Pajer (2011) (first novel)  Seattle in 1901, featuring a widowed father and professor of electrical engineering.

The Book of Killowen, Erin Hart (2013)  and The Body in the Bog, Sheila Connolly (2013)  Two mysteries set in Ireland featuring bodies found in bogs — but not as similar as they might sound, and each a fun substitute for a trip across the Atlantic.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain (2012)  Nonfiction, well-researched and thoughtful.

Cooked, Michael Pollan   Had to get a foodie book in there, didn’t I? Seriously, he rocks.

What books did you read this year that still have you thinking?

deathaldentLeslie Budewitz is the author of the national best-seller Death al Dente, first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, published by Berkley Prime Crime in 2013. She’s hoping it makes your list! The second in the series, Crime Rib, will be published July 1, 2014.

Happy Holidays!


Montana Women Writers 009

from all of us, to all of you. 

Back row, L to R: Christine Carbo, Patti Dean, Marie Martin, Ann Minnett, Jeanne Tallman, Anne Howard, and Constance See

Front row, L to R: Gail Ranstrom, Kathy Dunnehoff, P.A. Moore, Marlette Bess, Leslie Budewitz, Nan Garrett, and Betty Kuffel

Blessings and Birthdays by Christine Carbo

Usually, by this time of the year, I am pulling my hair out because in addition to the holiday festivities, I have a lot of birthdays in my world: two close friend’s, my stepdaughter’s, my sister-in-law’s, my father’s, my niece’s and my son’s. But, even with all the craziness, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the wonderful blessings in my life – how I am blessed with a supportive and caring mother and a loving father who never ceases to amaze me with his brilliance.  How I have two awesome brothers who both have great sense of humors. How my heart has been touched by so many delightful dogs and cats over the years. How I have an incredible husband and many great friends. And, with all of this amazing support surrounding me, I feel blessed to finally have fulfilled a big part of a life-long dream to become a published author by signing a two-book deal from Atria Books with Simon and Schuster for my psychological mystery set in Glacier Park.

But, since today is the 18th of December, it is easy for me to give special thanks to my most wonderful gift of all – my son who was born at 2:29 on December 18th. One of the things he always loved to do when he was little and made birthday cards for someone he cared about was to use each letter from their name for a descriptive word. So, here’s his for today:

M – Magnificent; A – Athletic; T – Talented; H – Handsome; E – Empathetic; W – Wise

Of course, there are not enough letters to describe all the truly great things about him. As all mothers can say about their children, this child has changed me in so many deep and meaningful ways. Happy Birthday to Mathew and all my family members and friends who have birthdays around this time. And Happy Holidays to everyone!