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Thank goodness for leap year - it gave me one extra day to get the GroveZine out on time! February has been a wonderful month, well, with the exception of Valentine's Day. Tami and I had a romantic dinner planned at Lamache's Italian Restaurant down at the Jefferson Hotel. It's a great place to dine by candlelight, enjoy a little wine, and some incredible Italian food. I was already anticipating my favorite dish, the Chicken Diavolo (made mild, medium, or spicy HOT... I tell them to make it as hot as the fire marshall will let them). On the evening of the 13th, Tami said, "You know, I'm not feeling all that well." Fast-forward 24 hours, and Tami was in the throws of an upper respiratory infection that had been going through the school where she teaches. Our romantic dinner was chicken soup for her, and a frozen dinner for me. We did exchange Valentine cards, toast our dinner (she with water, me with Diet Coke), and were just generally thankful that she was at least starting to be able to taste food again. Sometimes it's the little things that make an evening special.
The big discussion around The Grove is whether or not to enter the St. Patrick's Day Irish Stew cook-off downtown in a couple of weeks. The Chamber of Commerce (www.jefferson-texas.com) is throwing a huge St. Paddy's weekend, so we're going back and forth between entering our own recipe, or simply paying a couple of bucks to get to walk around and taste everyone else's. Stay tuned; the fellow that won it last year is a gourmet chef, so he would be tough to even think about beating. I'll keep you posted.
By the way, I've received a ton of emails asking when the HGTV "If Walls Could Talk" featuring The Grove was going to air again, but they haven't given us any info on that. All that I can recommend is doing what we do - pop over to their website occasionally (http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/shows_wct/), and look for a re-broadcast of episode 1809 - that's the one that has The Grove on it. If I happen to see it coming up, I'll try to send out an email.
Things in Jefferson seem to be booming - the train/hobby shop is set to open soon, Mimi's of Jefferson (a clothing store) has expanded to a bigger and better location downtown, a new fitness center is going in on Polk Street, one of our main drags through town, and there's even a new carriage company in town. You can now take a ride around town snuggled up in a romantic carriage for two, or on a mule-drawn wagon that will seat your entire family. I think that this brings it up to three different outfits downtown offering the rides, so there are plenty of horses and no waiting!
Now for the big news: a book that has been in the works for quite some time was just released a week or so ago. It's so new that it isn't even in stores yet (distribution in the publishing world moves like a glacier), but I did get the satisfaction of getting to hold it in my hand - after months and months of work, having something tangible is a wonderful feeling. This one is quite a departure for me; you might say that I wrote it with my granddad, who passed away over twenty years ago. If you want any info on it, you can find it on the website for the book: www.23thebook.com
To begin with, I don't understand cats; I really don't. Having always been a dog person, there are just too many things about cat behavior that seem, well, weird. I can see all you cat people out there smiling and thinking, "He doesn't know the half of it..." Anyway, when we bought The Grove six years ago, it came with two cats. It wasn't long before we became a little attached to them, and although they never really acted like part of the family, we put food out, made sure that they had a warm place to sleep in the winter, etc. When they'd both passed on, two new cats showed up at The Grove with little fanfare - they just appeared and acted like they were home. These two have carved out their own little niche in our world... but we can't get used to this whole thing about them killing little critters. Every so often we find a bird (or parts thereof) in the house that one of the cats has left. One of our friends who is a cat aficionado informed us that these are simply little "presents" that left to us, the masters of the house. You can imagine how thrilled we are - it's always fun cleaning up bird remains. Last Saturday, though, the cats took it to a new level of tribute. I was speaking at a writer's conference in Dallas, so Tami was doing the tour and getting the house ready by herself. The crowd was out front at 2 P.M. and she was running through putting a last few touches on the house, when she glanced down the side gallery, the short hallway... dotting the floor were not one, not two, but count'em three dead birds that one of the cats had brought in. They were in different stages of, well, I guess that dissection is probably the best word for it. Fortunately our friend Renee (if you've taken the tour, it's her daughter that Mr. Charlie appeared to in the game room) was on the tour with a friend. Tami quickly enlisted her to tell some of her own stories about the house for a few minutes to allow some dead bird clean-up time. If these are gifts, then its days like that we wish that the two felines didn't love us so darn much.
That wasn't a ghost story, but to be honest, I'm not sure that the next one is either. It is very strange, though. I was doing a tour a couple of weeks ago and we'd made it as far as the dining room. From back in the house I heard the phone ring. That's not uncommon during the tour, since we get calls all weekend at all hours asking what time the tours are held. We put the times on the answering machine, and then turn it down so that it won't interrupt the tour. This time, though, the phone stopped about halfway through the first ring. I assumed that Tami happened to have the phone in hand, and was able to catch it before it could finish ringing. I keep on telling my stories, and a few minutes later it happened again. And again. And again. It continued a few more times after we moved into the game room, but stopped before we moved on to the den - the place where the phone is actually located. Every time that it happened it was cut off in mid-ring; it sounded exactly like it was coming from back in the house, or more specifically, the den. I've been up front a hundred times and heard the phone ring, and that is exactly what it sounded like... except that it was cut off in mid-ring each time. I couldn't imagine the circumstances, but I could only assume that we were getting an unusual amount of calls, and that Tami had the phone with her and was quickly answering it every time. After the tour was over and everyone had left, I found her and asked, "What were all the phone calls about?" She looked puzzled and said, "We haven't had a single phone call." Later as I was walking by the phone machine, I saw that there hadn't been any - so what had been happening on the tour? I have absolutely no idea. A few people that were on the tour emailed during that next week to ask about various things, and I asked each one of them if they'd heard the ringing. They all said that they had, and that it sounded like it was coming from the back of the house. One person even pointed out that when it was happening, no one was scrambling to turn off or silence their cell phone, which was something that I hadn't thought of. We've had people on the tour many times whose cell phones have gone off, but they're always quick to turn them off. When this was happening, no one was fumbling with their purses or in their pockets to try to quiet a ringing phone - everyone was acting like it wasn't their phone making the noise. Now, I'm not prepared to say that this was a supernatural experience, but we've had the spirits do odd things with electronic objects in the house many times before. Perhaps someone will email me and say that it was their phone that day, and it has a short ring that sound like the one at The Grove, and since it was buried in a purse it sounded like it was coming from the back of the house... or maybe I'm grasping at straws for an explanation. For now, I'll just write it off as one of those curious, unexplained things that happen around The Grove.
My last story of the 'zine is something that I WILL put in the category of "supernatural". Early in the evening Tami was back in the laundry room folding some clothes, and I was at the computer in the den catching up on work. She came in with an apprehensive look on her face and said, "I already know the answer to this question, but I have to ask. You weren't just in the laundry room, were you?" I told her that I hadn't left the computer in quite some time. She smiled, then kind of laughed, and told me what had happened. She'd been standing with her back to the door that enters the room, and from behind her she heard a voice say, "She died on Thursday." Turning around, she saw that no one was there - she was alone. It had been a male voice, though, and it was right there in the room with her. Of course, my thought was to try to see what female former owners of the house might have died on a Thursday, but we don't have the exact dates of any of their deaths - just years, and in some cases, the particular season. Apparently someone associated with the house died on a Thursday, though, and someone else wanted to make sure that we knew it!
Thanks for continuing to read the GroveZine, and for all the kind words about it. I have a great time writing the GroveZine, and I hope that you enjoy reading it!
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