Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

When I was a kid, my Girl Scout troop spent Memorial Day weekend placing American flags on each grave in a military cemetery attached to an old (established in the early nineteenth century) army post. So there were a lot of graves. There we were, all of us in our uniforms with our Merit Badge sashes, wishing we were elsewhere. At least, I was. I found the whole thing creepy. I mean, sheesh, these were dead people!

Shows what a little idiot I was. I just today was discussing the history of Memorial Day with my beloved, which lead into Flanders Fields, and I realized this cache of information had bubbled up from the Girl Scout memory cells. So I can say I did learn something during my tour of Scouting duty, though not the girly things the dedicated and selfless GS leaders tried to teach us.

I did my best, during my one and only camping grip with the Scouts, to scare the tar out of my tent mates. During a roaring thunderstorm, with heavy army tents trembling in the high wind, I told ghost stories that had my imprisoned audience screaming for their mommies. Needless to say, it was suggested that I might want to go home. I never camped again with the Girl Scouts, and to this day, camping is one of my least favorite activities.

Unless it's an opportunity to scare people with creepy stories. Oh, wait, I don't have to camp to do that!

I miss the red crepe paper poppies everyone wore in their lapels on Memorial Day.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What ever happened to...

Morals? Doing the right thing? Just plain, old - fashioned honesty? I guess cheating has become socially acceptable. I hear it's hard to stop it in the schools. I don't want to sound like a little Miss Goody Two Shoes (where did that reference arise?),but if I discover I've neglected to pay for something that was buried in a corner of my shopping cart (as happened last week with a tiny carton I didn't see when pulling stuff out for the conveyor belt), I'll go back into the store and pay for it. No big deal.

So I was totally taken aback while at a big box store today when I saw a nicely dressed, middle aged woman pop open a tube of hand cream and slather her hands with it. Right there in front of everyone, she put the used tube back on the shelf. I couldn't help myself, I blurted out "I hope you're going to pay for that." She gave me a disdainful glare and said "who are you, the manager?"

I almost went to find a manager, but I figured it was a lost cause. This woman was old enough to know better. This wasn't a store that put out samples for customers to try. She didn't give a rip that the person who ended up buying that hand cream was getting shortchanged. Talk about sticking it to the Golden Rule.

I gotta say, I wish shame hadn't gone out of style. That woman sure needed a dose of it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Writing Business

In this crazy business called writing, there's little certainty and a ton of variables. Money, particularly, is a dicey subject, and one most writers hate, all for various very good reasons. First, the author is normally on the bottom of the money pile. Unless you're Nora Roberts or Stephen King, of course. Most writers don't divulge their advances, which is the only real chance the writer has to make some moulah. A few are amazingly up front about money, and Susan Beth Pfeffer is one of them. There's also a "Show me the Money" list compiled by RWA's Brenda Hyatt, that lists the range for advances for most publishers. Check out her website - it was listed there once upon a time.

If you would like a detailed explanation of how advances and royalties work, check out Susan Pfeffer's blog entry for June 23, 2009. I couldn't have done a better job.

I just read Pfeffer's Life as We Knew it, a YA about a world lost in climatic chaos after a meteor collides with Earth's moon. I loved the book, and it continues my reading streak of YA winners. I declare, YA writers are the best in the business.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Westerns Redux

I'm on an author loop where the discussion recently has been about the status of Westerns. Several of us write, or have written them, and many of us remember, with great fondness, the old TV programs: The Rifleman, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel (my personal fav), Big Valley, and The Lone Ranger, etc. While some like Bonanza can be found on cable channels in reruns, I find myself not wanting to watch them again. Why, I wonder, since I adored them when they were new?

It's not just me who has matured. I think society has moved forward as well. Though the idea of a Paladin who helps the downtrodden is classic (Have Gun Will Travel), we need to see it within the context of our times. And times have changed. We no longer buy into the myth. Think Wikileaks. Think of political scandals now front and center. Anyone want to read about how a U.S. Senator was raped as a child? Our society can't buy into Good v. Evil and Good always wins. We know better. We lost in Vietnam. And maybe we weren't the good guys after all.

Whenever I catch a few minutes of Big Valley or some other old Western on TV, I try to remember where I was, what I was thinking, and why I liked it. It's a lovely trip down memory lane, but it's not where I want to live today. I'm all for the moment I'm in now, the future, and beyond. I've grown up, and so has our world.

It remains to be seen if it's for the better. I hope so.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


First of all, let me tell you, getting rid of that awful autocorrect deal on the iPad is the best thing I ever did. Now I can take responsibility for my own errors, thank you very much. No more wondering why or how my typing slid into the Twilight zone. It's never been great, but sheesh! Autocorrect came up with some real lulus.

Speaking of lulus, I've been wiped out since all the graduation melee. I don't know if it's the long hours in the car, the excitement and crowds, or sleeping in a strange bed, or a combination of all of the above. Mostly, I think it's the noise. I've posted before about how much I crave quiet. Even a loud lawnmower can drive me batty when I'm working. Earphones, the sound-deadening kind, are my friend. Best friend, in fact. Now that everyone has gone home and I'm back in the groove, it's getting better. Deep breathing exercises. Total laziness for at least twelve hours. Ignore the house mess. Focus on the WIP. Yes, it's coming around.

But I may have to vacuum the dog fur in the office before I get going this a.m. That white stuff on the dark purple is just too weird. I'm considering dying the dog purple so this isn't an issue anymore. Do you think I could be arrested for doggy abuse?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Graduation Day

It's hard to explain what I'm feeling as I pack to take off for my youngest's graduation after five years in architecture school. Pride, certainly, for she has worked hard and done well. Sadness, in a way, because she's now certifiably an adult. Well, chronologically an adult, but to me, she'll always be my baby. My dad is thrilled because he finally has someone else with a degree from his beloved Virginia Tech. Plus, she's the first person on the family with a Bachelors degree in Architecture. We have a slew of B.S., B.A., M.S. M.A., M.Ed., M.LS, and J.D. degrees. It's nice to have an architect after all the engineers, teachers, librarians, and lawyers.

Education at the bachelors level is less of a ticket into a job than it was a million years ago when I got my bachelors degree. Graduate school is almost a necessity. I always told my children to take a year or two off before starting their post-grad careers. Give yourself a chance to decompress, enjoy life, and figure out what you REALLY want to do.

You never know what path you never saw coming that will rise up and grab you by the ankles. This is coming from the Art History major who went to law school.

Anyway, we're all very proud of her, as we are of all our offspring. They've done remarkably well and turned into lovely young women. We're the fortunate ones, to get to see them blossom and grow up close and personal.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Short Hair

No, not short hairS. Please!

I went through a phase last year where I was tired of my hair looking the same as that of every old lady. You know, short, practical, boring. Well, maybe not every old lady of my acquaintance, but most of the ones I don't know. In line on front of me at the grocery store. At the bank. Etc.

So, I decided to let it grow out. I figured I'd get it to the pony tail stage, and I could thread it through the back hoopy part of my race caps. I'd be cooler, I reasoned, with a tail swinging off the back of my head. So the hair grew, and it grew, and it grew. I was definitely feeling the late sixties, my hippie days with love bead headbands and unimpressive stringy brown tresses. Lots of tresses. I began to remember how hot hair is when it hit in the eighties one freaky day in March. Not groovy by a long shot.

So much for the sixties and pony tails. Found a cool and hip new hairdresser to wield her artistic razor through the minefield on my head, and behold, I'm back to short hair. Edgy, hip, cool short hair. I promise never to grow it out again.

For one thing, my Beloved didn't recognize me from the back. For another, it just wasn't flatterimg for this old broad. And for a third thing, it was too danged hot.

I'm a short hair kind of girl, and that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What do we really know?

I've debated whether or not to write this post, and the dice landed on this side of the computer. A man died in my neighborhood on Mother's Day.

I didn't know him. I didn't even know he was there. I have wondered who owned the white Highlander in the driveway of a house where I know the owners quite well. At least, I thought I knew them. The Toyota wasn't their car, but I thought maybe one of the kids had returned for a Mother's Day visit. It was odd that the owners' car wasn't there, but maybe it was in the shop.

The couple who own the house are a bit more than acquaintances. I'd ask them for help, and have, and I hope they'd feel they could ask me for the same. Nice people. So when I saw, Sunday evening last, an ambulance, fire engine,and four police cars in front of the house, I was alarmed. Had someone fallen down the stairs? Had there been a heart attack? Who was injured? What could we do to help?

My Beloved called the neighbors between us, and they didn't know much more than we did, except for one crucial fact. There'd been a 911 call, and the responders found a man, deceased, in the house. My neighbor gave the police the owners' cell phone number, but there was no answer. My neighbor had no idea of the identity of the deceased. The homeowners weren't home, and still aren't today.

I feel awful that this unknown person didn't know he could have called on any of us in this subdivision for immediate help. We're a helping kind of folk. That he died alone, waiting for an ambulance that didn't arrive in time, or even with flashing lights, makes me feel infinitely sad. I know more about the characters in my stories than I do about the people who live around me.

Of course, I make up my characters, so they have no secrets. But still, I feel the need to get to know everyone on my street much better. Not just socially, to say Hi, and How are you? How are the kids? They need to know we're here for them, and for anyone else in the neighborhood.

If only. . . . I mourn this unknown man and feel a great sense of "I can and should do better."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mother's Day

It's been a lovely time, shopping and eating, talking and laughing with the offspring. Clouds gave way to a perfect spring day, and we picnicked after church under the umbrella on Ahi tuna and asparagus cooked on the grill. Artisan sunflower seed bread, salad, strawberries and a chocolate cake to die for have me both sated and lethargic. I feel like a stuffed tick, as we say in the South. What a perfect day.

I hope all of you enjoyed your mothers and children, of the two-legged or four-legged variety. Children, of course. Not four-legged mothers. That would be a bit weird. More than a bit. . . .

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Fickle! Fie!

So my elder offspring arrived for Mother's Day weekend. While I was, of course, thrilled to see her, meeting her in the driveway to help her with her luggage, my hugs were nothing considered to the dog's. On the other side of the back yard fence, the canine child tried her best to jump the gate, all the while moaning as if in extreme ecstasies. Upon opening the gate for the fickle critter, I was shoved aside as she leaped, twirled, and generally carried on like an abused child being rescued, licking and pawing her true love. My human child, of course, reciprocated in kind, and the two of them blurred together in this love fest.

Isn't that how it goes? Sigh. Those who feed, water, walk, pet, cuddle, and make adoring noises on a daily basis get ignored. Yes, from the moment she arrived home, my elder child has had a canine bed mate, foot warmer, and general factotum. What am I, chopped liver? Nothing that wonderful, it seems. Another big sigh from my lonely corner. Now I know MY place in the pecking order.

Wait until the four-footed princess wants an extra treat or a longer walk.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Frying pans

When my beloved and I were first married, we never had any real issues. Except for one. As every Southern woman knows, her cast iron frying pan is sacred, and never, I repeat, NEVER, to be immersed in hot water and scrubbed with a Brillo pad. You know what's coming, don't you?

Yes, my Yankee darling just didn't understand the years that had gone into seasoning that pan. Why, I could slide a pineapple upside down cake out with one gentle tap. Its finish had been ten years in the making. Aside from my sterling flatware and grandmother's Rosenthal china, and perhaps my Mikimoto pearls, nothing else I brought to my new marriage of a physical nature was more important to me.

The morning he attacked it with hot water and a scrubber was almost his last. For the first time ever, I threatened him with dire consequences, the least of which was divorce, if he ever touched my frying pan again. I can still see his shocked expression, and I am happy to say, I never had to threaten him again. He will stare at it, in all its glory, on the stove, glance at me as if checking to see if I noticed his hands itching to throw it in the sink, then he walks away. Slowly, to show me he's not scared. But I know he is. No one, I repeat, no one touches that pan but me.

I'm going to leave it to my daughters to fight over when I'm gone. Like all good Southern girls, they understand it is priceless.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Great racing last night! My driver was running well, but his, like many other cars, got caught up in a mess that ruined his night. Sigh. BTW, David Reutimann is a nice guy. Signed our race flag at the MWR trailer, and I teased him about the beard, lol. He pointed out my beloved's goatee and mustache, but as I said, I'm married to my Beloved and don't tell him what to do.

We were parked near nice people, enjoyed chatting with them, and the weather couldn't have been better. If you ever go to one NASCAR race, go to Richmond.

I heard Kyle Busch say you never have a perfect car. I was wondering, does that mean you can never have a perfect book? I can think of books I've read that qualify as almost perfect in my eyes. But I know I always feel that I could rewrite forever. That's why it's so hard to go back and reread my older stuff. My rewriting instincts kick in, and I would kill to be able to start over. I wonder if Dean Koontz ever feels that way, LOL?