Our Great and Funny United States

Week 8, TEXAS

Photo by Priya Karkare on Pexels.com

Let’s talk Texas! Yippee and yeehaw! The first time I went to Texas, I drove. I was 26 and had two toddlers in the back seat (we didn’t have TVs in the headrest and handheld games back then- It was 100s of miles of ‘Look, y’all, a big red truck! A tall building! A cloud shaped like Barney’).

It felt unbelievably good to finally reach the East Texas state line at Pinehurst after two days of driving only to see the road sign El Paso 853 miles. Given, TX was once its own country, which makes for awesome sightseeing. Not just the Alamo! Texas has its own German dialect (Check out the very cool town of Fredericksburg). Vietnamese is the third most spoken language. Find yourself a Vietnamese restaurant there; it’ll be good, period).

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Houston might be more culturally diverse than NY. Yes, I said it; I’ll attempt to win over my beloved New Yorkers again in a few weeks. If you like museums and don’t want to do NY, go to Houston. That’s a big state, y’all, were you to drive to the other side.

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I was headed to Austin that first time, so we had a little piece of road to go! Woo! Good thing they drive fast, I mean like, before we all started driving 85 on I-75, they were driving 90 on two-lane highways and waving at me when they passed in their Dodge trucks and Suburbans. Makes sense to speed there! In Texas, you got a long way to go, even if you’re not going far 🤠 (I’m gonna try not to overdo the cowboy emoji because TX is so much more than cowboys… but, speaking of the cowboys 🔥💪😍). Then there’s The Cowboys, too 🏈⭐️. That stadium is DOPE. Now, granted, it uses more electricity than the country of Liberia 👁👁…Texas never claimed to be anything but full-on! AT&T stadium, it is. Built 2009. I’m sure there’s something better by now (oh yeah, Mercedes Benz in my home state 💡). Still can’t beat Cowboys playing football in Texas, where they REALLY like football in certain parts!

Back then, when the kiddos and I drove (I drove, they rode), 2001, the Lone Star symbols and signage across the entire state were super impressive! Today every little rinky-dink place has a brand, a slogan, and signage. Texas was WAY ahead of its time on that. I believe Texas invented pride, did it not?


*See red box meme. I’ve been back to Texas many, many times. In fact, I spent three weeks in a cabin outside Waco in 2015! Regarding the red box meme, Texas is not as… Texas-y as it used to be (Lawd, Texas friends, don’t run me off Facebook with a gun). You’re still a big and bad state, but you’re so big, some parts are now…kind of, well, bad .But the red box meme, that’s STILL TX , a dozen visits in, 20 years after my first visit!

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So, I was writing a book in December 2001, Book 3 of “Lainey Cash” trilogy, and hubby was picking cotton and I said, “Looks like you’re gonna be doing this cotton-pickin’ thing a while…I gotta go to Texas, mmm, k? (Because it’s hard to write about a place you haven’t seen). The kids and I will see you before Christmas, hun.”


Austin was my ultimate destination, back then. ‘Ultimate’ has a nice ring to it! Man, that place was on fire back when buildings couldn’t be taller than the state Capitol, which GLEAMED, positively boasted, in the Texas-blue sky! The Capitol building is better than the White House, I don’t care what you say (I just won back my Texas friends). It’s taller, too. Of course! 💪

In those days, Texas was like a big ole Georgia! Bbq, open land, football, pine trees, blue skies (oh, this is important, the sky IS bluer in Texas- I mean, its own special color of blue; you have to see it to understand. It’s phenomenal). Like GA, the weather’s all over the place because TX is a mountainous, flat, dry, tropical, river-ranch place between Mexico and Colorado!

Of note, the bbq is primarily beef. Or at least, that’s what you should order. 🐮🤠 The steaks are slabs. Lord, the food!

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Texas is some parts Southern, some parts Mexican, some parts American and un-American-feeling, some parts weird (refer to Austin’s slogan, Keep Austin Weird), some parts cityish, some parts farmy or ranchy. Y’all, it’s big. 68% bigger than California! Put it this way: When you’re in El Paso (western state line), you’re closer to California than the eastern TX state line.

One meme claimed Australia is just British Texas. Oh my stars ⭐️, after going to Australia, yes, true! Strong accents! Boisterous, bountiful, beachy, big, blue, beautiful! Both places! Only they don’t exactly do guns in AU, and they sho nuff do, in vast parts of Texas…Yes, Texas is going to take days! 🖊 I haven’t talked about certain cities, food, landmarks. Goodness, Texas, you earned the right to take days! In no particular order, a few notable features all in one state, which is the original home to Dr. Pepper, frozen margaritas, and Whole Foods:

***The Whole Foods there 😍💯

1. San Antonio river walk and better yet the Natural Caverns 2. Chip and Jo’s Magnolia stuff in Waco 3. Houston space center 4. Austin, just Austin, did I mention Austin? Austin City Limits, the Capitol building, the music, SoCo. I’m coming back to it. 5. Fort Worth stockyards. Think Dallas, as in JR. Think meat. Think potatoes, like, you know steak fries. Think beer. 6. Tex-Mex. Eat real Tex-Mex. 🌮 Anywhere you stop to eat it is better than, well, anywhere. And Whataburger🍔, only I suggest, a hole-in-the-wall burger place. Texans know how to do cows. 🤠🔥 7. Padre Island/ beaches- I’m gonna say it: The Gulf Coast, I-10 strip of beaches from Florida to Texas can hang in there worldwide. Padre is…Google the images. 8. Lubbock and West Texas, like a whole different…state, or country🚜🍷 9. Most underrated- Galveston. What a treat to go over the bridge there. The coastline. The homes. The glass pyramids museum. To eat there. Google Galveston, too.

Never mind, just get in your car and drive there. Right, don’t fly, or at least, rent a car when you land. You gotta see it on the ground. Maybe your hubby’s picking cotton, so go! …Hey, mine’s planting peanuts! … … … Uhm, 🚗💨 Who’s in?

GTT, y’all! *That means ‘gone to Texas’ and I didn’t make it up. It’s a real thing since the 1800s. So, GTT !*Please feel free to chime in about the great state of Texas. –CC

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LOVE SCENE 2020, Episode 1

Winners Paige and Wilder share a first date on the water.


Paige lounged in a hammock near the lake. She had dressed in a lightweight gray top and flared jeans with her dark hair falling in wand-made curls over one shoulder. 5PM, the leather-band watch on her arm read. Any second now, Wilder would appear somewhere around here and their first date on the boat would begin.

Butterflies swirled in her belly. Crazy to have that feeling, she hadn’t even met Wilder yet. Somehow, they missed running into each in the two hours since everyone arrived at Lake Somewhere. All Paige had to go on was the semi-seductive picture of him in the blue robe with a pillow over his face and a bio that claimed he came here to find a soulmate. The butterflies bumped in her belly again. Wilder probably wouldn’t be interested; he had also stated in his bio that he wanted someone to ‘surprise the hell out of him.’ On the contrary, Paige was indeed the type he had been set up with repeatedly back home, unsuccessfully.

Wilder, under the awning of the lake house porch on the back side, peered over the horizon and spotted Paige in a hammock strung between two trees close to the dock.

Her hair danced in the late-day breeze. April first, seventy degrees, and cloudy with a chance of rain; Wilder knew those things because he was a farmer. He could see Paige only from behind as he walked. It had been 300 days since he went on a bona fide date with a woman. This woman seemed harmless and peaceful enough, and wasn’t she just what he was NOT looking for? Softly but distinctly, he said, “Paige…” She flipped in the hammock and barely got to her feet without landing in a heap on the ground. Her hands went through her hair as she stood erect. “Oh, hello, Wilder,” she managed with an embarrassed laugh. They shook hands. Wavy dark brown hair, both saw. His, tousled from a long day of travel and wind, and hers, from being flipped upside down before, commendably, landing on her feet.  Both saw deep blue eyes, too.

Paige skipped a breath and recovered by stepping briskly in the direction of the paddle boat tied to a post at the dock’s end.  Wilder roped the boat in and held the metal edge with one hand. “Try not to flip the boat,” he picked at her.

“I’ll try not to fall out, too.”

Wilder chuckled and openly checked out her physical appearance at close range as she took an ungraceful step onto the boat floor. She openly checked him out as he stepped in with the grace of a native fisherman at sea. He also wore a gray button-down shirt and jeans on a solid frame with great muscles. He sat on the middle bench. She sat beside him with as much space between them as the narrow boat would allow.  He glanced. “We’re too much alike.”

She sighed. “I knew you’d say that.”

“After too many admirable attempts at too many similar matchups, I’ve become a firm believer that opposites must attract.”

Paige felt instant disappointment. She had been told by men that she was exceptionally beautiful and had hoped that Wilder would find that to be so, and might overlook the fact that she did not know how to be The One of six vying females here that could ‘surprise the hell out of him.’  Wilder was exceptionally gorgeous with an accent that surprised her. Wisconsinites had an accent? Then again, so did Kansans, really.

She watched as he opened a cooler. “Let’s see what the producers left for us…Ah, two beers, pimiento cheese and crackers. Interested?”

Wanting a shot at this guy, who seemed so good and real on his 150-word bio (yes, she counted), Paige took a stab at surprising the hell out of Wilder, her blue-eyed, soft-talking, superhero-sized first date. “I am interested.”

He glanced. He grinned. He took his time spreading cheese on a cracker. “Want me to feed it to you? Give the voters a little “thank you for thinking we belong together” moment?”

She twisted her shoulders and opened her mouth in a cute gesture. The cracker and cheese slid in with Wilder’s body leaning close. A smooth, easy move. Yummy. He returned to his side, chomped his own cheese cracker and chugged a long swallow from his beer bottle. She sipped hers and took a second stab at catching him off guard. “A dairy farmer, of course you’re good with your hands.” She blurted it on purpose (she’d been trying to think of something to catch him unaware all afternoon) but felt a blush on her cheeks.

His eyebrows lifted. He studied his large, calloused hands. “They get the job done.” He winked.

Whoa. Such a handsome guy. Paige gripped the seat to steady her. “You’re much more attractive without a pillow over your face.”

“On the contrary, you’re just as fun to look at from behind, Paige.”

She decided she might flip herself into the water after all. She felt rather warm inside. They chomped crackers and cheese before she asked, “Shouldn’t we be getting to know each other? You know, the typical first date stuff.”

“I feel like I already know you.” Wilder looked at her with a crooked smile.

This time, it felt like to Paige, he did not seem quite so disappointed that they were a seemingly predictable match. The participants at Lake Somewhere had been instructed to get straight to the point. They were in jeopardy of being voted off, of going home, if they couldn’t produce a spark. Paige abandoned her inner protests to be the quiet, disciplined good-girl-who-became-a-teacher and stuck with fun banter. “My two ex-boyfriends were city guys. I bet country boys have a little something extra to offer.”

“Besides ‘being good with our hands,’ we know a thing or two about pastures and moonlight, walks in the woods and quilts in the grass, truck beds and homemade wine, if that’s what you mean.”

“Ooh, sounds fun. Yes, I guess that’s what I mean.” She smiled. He looked amused. Their boat drifted aimlessly on a lovely blue-green abyss between two tree-covered mountains. Wilder hadn’t bothered with the oar after he pushed away from the dock.

He swigged his beer. “So, what do you think of living in Kansas? Are you in a big city or small town?”

“City. Wichita. Best place in America.” It felt like he stared at her lips when she answered; he had definitely scooted closer to her on the boat bench.

He elbowed her arm. “Home of Cessna, mentholatum, and Pizza Hut.” Her eyes widened that Wilder knew such facts. “You’re even prettier, by the way, when you’re surprised, and you look good in a pair of jeans.”

“Ditto the jeans, Wilder.”

“This would’ve been a better date at night. It’d be awesome how many stars we could see from this vantage point, Paige.”  

Paige flirted, “Besides our nosy housemates on the shoreline couldn’t see what we’re really doing at night.” She motioned. Wilder counted five Lake Somewhere competitors onshore. He rowed farther away. Suddenly a bug flew into Paige’s hair. She jumped.

Wilder dropped the oar into the boat and swatted the bug. “Scared of a fly?” Their faces were close. A breeze was all that moved between them. Before either said more, rain started to pour. Wilder rowed to shore fast, on the opposite side of the dock to where contestants rushed for cover. He lifted her out of the boat, unnecessary, and Paige wondered if maybe he was showing off since they won the first date. It was a wonderful feel, how his arms and hands touched her body as he set her on ground. True feelings unknown, their blue eyes met. Partially drenched in rain, her thin shirt plastered to her body, Paige got caught up in the romance of being observed from afar by the others and admired up close by Wilder.

All the encouragement Wilder needed, he bent down and kissed her. Her fingers played in his hair as their lips twisted. It was a sexy, sweet, swift kiss. “Hope you don’t mind kissing on the first date. We’re instructed to be on fast forward here.” He smiled. The downpour had ceased.

“No woman would mind being kissed like that,” Paige said between heartbeat flutters. She noticed Wilder’s eyes watching something else. She looked up. Caroline stepped from cover nearby. She called out, “Hi. Hope your outing was nice! Wilder, may we chat for a minute?”

He said to Paige, “Thanks for a good time,” and walked in Caroline’s direction.


Confessions after coming in second place… Jacinta: “Let’s give voters something to wish for Leo!” Leo: “My pleasure, Jace! (May I call you Jace?)”
Third place winners Andee and Dansby share a cup of coffee in the kitchen and make their way to shore.

Andee didn’t like coffee. Never had. A California girl, she was more of a mimosas or green tea type. She found Dansby in the kitchen, like he’d promised in their flirty confessions after the voter results came in. He wore more than an apron, which mildly disappointed her.

A dark, good-looking guy, he asked, “Hi, Andee, want a latte?” He was arranging items on the counter.

“Hi, Dansby. I’m not your basic pumpkin spice white girl.” She laughed. He turned away and worked coffee-shop-guy magic anyway while she watched. Oh, he was such a cutie!

In a minute, he handed her a ceramic mug with a milky heart swirling in light brown liquid. “Try it.” She accepted, blew atop the mug to cool, and sipped. It was the most delicious drink she ever tasted.

“So, Andee, who do you think you’ll like here?” Dansby pushed shabby bangs off his forehead.

She looked into her cup, up at him, and smiled. “You.”

Erik and Skye, fourth place winners after Week 1.
Mamie received one vote in Week 1, with Leo.
Confession after Week 1 voting: “Wilder and me in the hot tub, one vote. I’ll see what I can do about that!”

~ ~ ~
His duffel bag had banged her arm when they met at the bottom of the staircase. Their first glance was nothing like it was in the movies. The rushed bumping into each other, to both, had been shocking. Wilder and Caroline were the first to arrive at Lake Somewhere and discovered their bedrooms were side by side on the second floor, right after he banged into her.
Her hazel-eyed stare clamped on to his face while he twisted his key in the lock. Door open, he paused and stared, too, and she knew, he wondered if the rich color of her auburn hair came from a box. It didn’t. They muttered, “Hello, I’m Wilder.” “I’m Caroline,” before entering separate rooms.

OKAY, EVERYONE… VOTE FOR WEEK 2! 4/2 Closes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday night.

Who do you want to see next and where (library/reading nook, game room, outdoor hot tub, loft hideaway, boat house/dock, boat)?

***Vote here in the comments or on FB, Clare Cinnamon, Author!

Week One results were: 23% Wilder and Paige, 20% Leo and Jacinta,
18% Dansby and Andee and 12% Erik and Skye
Stay tuned! AND VOTE!


Here’s how it works (estimated time for players/readers 10-20 minutes/week):

*These ten fictional characters have never met and will be in seclusion together for the foreseeable future. Each week, an author’s scenario will be presented and voted on BY YOU and eventually characters will be eliminated.

*There are keys to six hidden rooms/scenarios/future scenes where characters can be coupled off, through voting, to get to know each other better. Rooms/scenes: 1. Library/Reading nook 2. Game Room 3. Loft Hideaway 4. Outdoor hot tub 5. Boat house/deck 6. Boat

*Each character has separate bedroom quarters and all of them are invited to co-mingle in plain view in the great room, kitchen, dining area, or on the open porches/shores of the lake house. These writing scenes of all characters will also be included each week, so you know what they’re up to.

*Voting will close each Sunday night at 11:59 p.m. Winning characters will be announced on Monday morning. After voting closes and winners are announced, I will write the scene IMPROMPTU and present it to you on WordPress blog by Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. A new round of voting will begin each Thursday.


*** Learn more about each character under their pictures. ***

(Yes, there are more females than males 😊).

Jacinta – 5’3” 126 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A connection with potential. To grow as a person through this once-in-a-lifetime crazy opportunity.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? My moves! I’ll have them dancing like pros before it’s over. I adore music and break into song or dance on a whim.
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Tall, dark, and handsome. Haha. For real, physical attraction is important. Mainly, he must be willing to go out a lot and dance in public and not take himself too seriously.
4. Number of serious relationships? Two. I date a lot, though, especially in groups. Number of tattoos? Actually, none.
5. I should’ve … Married my first boyfriend? Haha. He was a sweetheart, but I wasn’t ready. I am up for whatever this seclusion puts in front of me now.

Leo – 6’0” 183 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? It may be unrealistic, but I’d like to find a life partner. I’ve dated around. I believe in love at first sight. I think I’ll know rather quickly within a given scenario.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m outdoorsy. I’m a hiker and kayak guide. I can fish, swim, hunt, or run with the best of them. I’m a survivor.
3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Adventurous and spontaneous. Lover of life and creation. Deep, intellectual, and meditative. I’ve gone for brunettes in the past, but I’m open.
4. Number of serious relationships? Too personal. It’s all serious for me. Serious and interesting. I have no regrets. Number of tattoos? 1.
5. I should’ve … gone to college, maybe? I tried it. Again, I have no regrets. Every decision leads you to the next level.

Andee – 5’5” 116 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? The experience itself! To meet new people. To have fun and laugh. A new boyfriend if there’s a spark.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? My positivity! People say I’m always in a good mood. I will do my best to see the good in any situation.
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? I don’t have a type. I’ve tried them all. Good at flirting and faithful are musts.
4. Number of serious relationships? Oh gosh, five or six, at least. I fall hard and fast and get bored just as quickly. I kissed a lot of frogs. Number of tattoos: 2
5. I should’ve … toned up and gotten a killer bod for this experience. I have a feeling these guys and gals are 100%.
Dansby – 5’10” 165 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? There’s no such thing as coincidence. I am here because there is someone here who is supposed to be in my life at this point.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? My coffee beans. Step aside and let me make breakfast! I might wear an apron and nothing else, who knows?
3. What’s your ideal type of girl? I’m into books, old music, and art. She has to be able to converse on many topics. A sexy, stylish dresser. A woman who puts it all out there. Total confidence.
4. Number of serious relationships? A lot; some live-ins. I’m 31. 10 -plus girlfriends. Countless good times. I always give love or lust a try. Number of tattoos: Uh, let’s see, 5?
5. I should’ve … bought more empty, rundown buildings before it got so trendy. I own three local coffee shops. I’m successful. Business degree. I’m an entrepreneur.

Mamie – 5’7” 132 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A hearty, lasting relationship. Someone who brings me out of my shell.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Good energy. I’m spiritual. I’ll see into their hearts. I’ll probably be the advisor and the shoulder to cry on.
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Very smart. Bookish but with a lighter side. Someone who loves the ocean, to go on adventures and discover a good view. To sit and have a conversation without words.
4. Number of serious relationships? Zero. I’ve always acted older than my age. When I was young, they would crash and burn, poor boys. Lately, I put my whole self into work in the city and the weekends are my time to reboot. Number of tattoos? Zero.
5. I should’ve … dated more. I don’t know what it means to be in love, and I tend to overthink.

Skye – 5’1” 103 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? I don’t predict the future. It is what it is.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? An edge. I like to surprise people. The more unexpectedness, and even chaos, the better. That’s how you find out what someone is made of.
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Elusive, mysterious, creative. An interesting past, a jetsetter. Tattoos, a plus.
4. Number of serious relationships? Four-ish. I wouldn’t mind something long-term developing from this. Number of tattoos: Four. I’ll get another to mark the completion of this experience!
5. I should’ve … lived with the Parisian guy and gal who offered during my Study Abroad. I’d still like to live in another country someday.

Wilder 6’3” 215 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? My soulmate. I want to get knocked off my feet and vice versa.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m down to earth. I work outside. I’m grounded. I despise drama. I’m used to a big family and practical values.
3. What’s your ideal type of girl? I live in a small town. I’ve been set up with every Homecoming queen/brownie baker/community sweetheart. They’re all great, but nothing’s worked. I’d like for someone to surprise the hell out of me.
4. Number of serious relationships? One. College girlfriend. She didn’t want to leave the city to marry me. Wait, does high school count? I kissed a lot of girls…I thought I was in love a time or two.
5. I should’ve … moved somewhere besides my hometown before I settled on the family farm. Oh well.

Paige 5’8” 125 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A long-term boyfriend or husband.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? I’m a teacher. I’ll make sure they follow the rules of the game, set people straight, break up fights, and keeps us on a decent schedule.
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Loyal, charismatic, not afraid of romance, handsome, not necessarily in that order.
4. Number of serious relationships? Two. High school boyfriend, college boyfriend.
5. I should’ve … never dated either of them. I’ve been cheated on twice. I’m too trustworthy. I believe the best in people.

ERIK 6’1” 200 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? To relax, unwind, and maybe fall in love.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? Medical attention? Ha, ha. Any injuries, I’m your man.
3. What’s your ideal type of girl? Calm, cool, and confident.
4. Number of serious relationships? Uhm…not too many. 😉
5. I should’ve … taken more time off from education and work. I’m almost 30 and never really chilled out.

Caroline 5’10” 141 lbs.
1. What are you looking for out of this experience? A romantic relationship to possibly lead to lifetime commitment.
2. What do you think you bring to the lake house that no one else can? A ridiculous amount of useless trivia and book quotes stored in my brain!
3. What’s your ideal type of guy? Casual, easygoing, down to earth. Someone to confide in and laugh with. Good looks, always a plus.
4. Number of serious relationships? 4 or 5, I guess. I tend to date based on marriage potential.
5. I should’ve … traveled more, but I will!