Wednesday, November 30, 2011


A local shopping mall, I learned to my horror, used a tracking program to trace their Black Friday shoppers via their cell phones. They say, after what I assume was an attack of mini-sanity, that they won't use it again until they give shoppers an opt-out other than turning off their phones. If I'd known this was happening while I was shopping, you can bet I'd have knocked, loudly, on management's door. Or organized a protest where everyone in the mall turned off their phones. Alas, I neither knew about it nor was I a shopper there.

Then again, I have to wonder how many people cared they were being tracked? Most people are only annoyed at airport security because of the delays. However, after my last flight where the TSA woman fondled my breasts (yes, I explained I was wearing an underwire bra but it was hardly big enough to be classied as a lethal weapon), I haven't flown since. Nor will I. It's my choice, and while I love flying, I won't surrender my rights to be protected from an unlawful search.

Do we really not care about protecting the rights of the individual? Fewer and fewer of us do. The argument that the greater good of society outweighs the rights of one person is one civilized societies have struggled with for ages. If you are that one person whose rights are abrogated, I'll bet your answer is clear and emphatic. But when it's the other guy, the weirdo, the shirtless kid with the Sixth Amendment written on his chest in the airport security line who causes a delay as he's arrested, then how do you feel?

A mall using technology to track shoppers sounds harmless enough. Bu what if you don't want anyone to know you visited Victoria's Secrets? Or the shop that sells sex toys? They don't know it's YOU, is the argument. But how long before they do?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a wonderful and thanks filled day. Ours starts with church, and it's my favorite part of the day. Then we went for a long walk before the cooking. With all hands on deck, the kitchen work went quickly. Eating was the final event of the day, and I have to say, we outdid ourselves. It's the one day we eat together. What a treat.

We all talk about the books we're reading, and this year's favorite question was "if you were asked to pose with your favorite book for a poster, what would it be?" Youngest child chose THE WASTELAND, elder one picked HATCHETT by Gary Paulson, and I chose, of course, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. My beloved had a hard time with his, since he hates playing favorites. Beth, who was joining us for dinner, said Jane Austen's PERSUASION fit her well. All good books and worthy of a poster each.

Great book talk, wonderful food, and many reasons for gratitude. What a perfect day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


What a stunning word. Including everything we have doesn't meet its full import. Abundance implies even more than we need, a surfeit of good, an overflowing of riches of all kinds.  It's a wonderful word we don't often associate with our lives.

We should. How many of us have more than we need of most everything.  If you think about your life, you can probably look back (and forward with expectation and joy!) to times when you were filled to the brim with whatever it was you needed, material or spiritual, at that time. I know I have.  We say in our house that complaint is poverty.  Stifling the niggling little bothers in our everyday lives leads us to acknowledge and appreciate all we have that is good.  It's a lesson I learn again and again, and one day, I hope to get it right and stay rooted and grounded in love.

My gratitude for all the good in the world is deep and unfeigned. We just have to open our eyes and see it.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Even though I started out as an English major, I switched to art history when it came time to declare. I think it was the story that the art told that attracted me at first, and then I was in awe of the talent and creativity of the artists. They did something I couldn't - they conveyed a story without words. Plus, I love to look at beauty. Botticelli's beautiful hands, Vermeer's luminescence, Giacometti's strange, haunted figures, looking as if they rose from the ashes of a dying world.

Even today, art galleries and museums call to me. I'm so grateful to live where I can see art, good art, right where I live.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today's gratitude covers the incredible advances society has made in technology. We went to see ANONYMOUS last night and liked it very much.I found it to be a commentary on artistic drive and the price paid by those who can't do anything but succumb to it. And that true art is politcal. All interesting ideas. But what really struck me was how difficult it was to communicate. You had to send a rider with a note, and the recepient could be several days' ride away. Entertainment? Two thousand people squished into a mosh pit to see a play. Writing by quill by candlelight.

It all seems very romantic until you have to do it. I'm so happy to be living in an age where technology is cool, advancements occur daily, and they further mankind. No Luddite here. I love hearing music through a high tech speaker as small as my palm, watching hi def TV, and surfing the Internet. Plus, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Gratitude

Today's thanks goes out to all those teachers who go above and beyond. I've been blessed to pull more than my share, and I know my kids have, too. Billie Burke, who taught senior English in Turkey, gave me my love of Shakespeare. I thought everyone was enthralled sitting through forty different productions of Hamlet, until my daughter wondered why you'd see the same play twice. "The words never change!" she exclaimed, much to my horror. What, why hadn't she been bitten by the Shakespeare bug? The difference, I figured, was the teacher.

Frances Niederer made me pay attention to details. The big picture was fine, but if the details were wrong, it wasn't worth diddly. Richard Dillard provided a safe, nurturing creative envirnonment for all his students. I could go on and on, because every teacher who tries to do the best job possible deserves more than thanks.

How fortunate I've been in my education.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gratitude #3: Books

Well, what did you expect from a writer?  Lord have mercy, if I'd been born in a time and age without books and literacy that made sure girls learned to read, I'd have checked out early.  Books have always been beside my bed, on my desk, in my bag, under chairs, piled on name it, there's not a part of my physical environment that isn't book-touched.  When I find a good book (goodness gracious, my heart skips a beat at the thought), there's no putting it down.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I have to tell everyone to read it. I buy it for friends and family. I tout its virtues from the roof top.  And when the stack is getting pretty low grade, I return to favorites like Pride and Perjudice, Sylvester or the Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer, Falling Woman by Pat Murphy.  I never tire of some books, some authors. The early James Lee Burke Robicheaux novels, some of them, fall into the never-boring category, too.

As you can tell, I'm an eclectic reader. I cross genres with ease.  It's all about the characters, the plot, and the writing for me. The voice, if it grabs me right off the bat, will help carry a not-so-great story, and I'll stick with it.  What a wonderful world we live in, where books are readily and easily available. Thank goodness for libraries, the last bastion of the First Amendment. Mucho gusto for ebooks and cheap paperbacks.  Great gratitude for friends who swap books and recommendations.

I'm eternally grateful to be a woman in a society where books abound, and good books are not the exception, but the rule. Where women can read and not break the law by doing so.  Where women are the literacy-pushers of the young. (How many male librarians did you know when you were growing up?)

Books rule, and not reading drools, to paraphrase one of my daughter's favorite (very youthful) sayings about the difference between the sexes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More gratitude

I've been thinking about this for the past 24 (not nonstop...), and there's so much I take for granted for which I am deeply, humbly thankful. Big picture here, but this country is amazing. If you have ever lived in a place where Christian church structures are forbidden by law, let me tell you, it's not fun. Freedom of religion is fundamental to happiness, and especially the option to attend services in public at your denomination of choice. In reading an article about the colonial days of Williamsburg, I was surprised to read that one of the Gettys, I think he made firearms, was fined for not attending the required-by-law Sunday service at Bruton Parish. When you think about the start of our nation, you just assume people were free to worship when and how they preferred. Not so. Religious freedom was a big step out of the past. Thank you once more, Mr. Jefferson. So today, I'm expressing my gratitude for the freedom to attend (or not, depending on your beliefs) in public a house of worship of choice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


What a powerful force for good. Not just a simple, verbal thank-you for a service provided (though that's important too), but a heartfelt, almost prayerful, sometimes unspoken, thanks for blessings received, blessings given.  From now until Thanksgiving, I'm going to choose one thing I'm extremely grateful for in my life, and give thanks.  Hopefully, it will become a habit, and I'll find a reason every single day to stop and say "wow, I am so blessed because . . . "

Today's expression of thanks: for my family. Loving, supportive, funny, kind, giving, and the kind of people of I would choose for friends if we weren't already related. I am more than grateful these people are in my life.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's the difference?

I write mysteries. Red herrings (love that visual - where did it arise, anyway?), lots of possible suspects, all kinds of twisted paths, lead the reader to a hopefully logical ending, where s/he can say "But of course he's the killer!". Those mysteries that drag a killer out of thin air, a character who doesn't appear until the last chapter, drive me nuts. But it has always seemed to me that the joy of a mystery happens as the reader follows the clues along with the fictional sleuth. Then voila! (Not viola, as in the musical instrument, but the French word that the iPad doesn't accent for me.) The crime is solved!

Thrillers, on the other hand, need a known bad guy right up front. The reader is made well aware of the level of danger involved in stopping this evil. Stakes are high, because the readers, along with the protagonists, are biting their nails, praying the evil they understand is out there won't succeed. Often, the protagonist's fear and dread are aggrandized as the reader is sucked into the driving need to stop the baddies. When the reader knows the consequences of failure as well as the protagonists, you have a thriller.

Sure, mysteries can be tense nailbiters. Will the unknown bad guy strike again? They can also be more leisurely, character studies dipped in a poisoned pen. Or they can be cozies, with humor and silliness. Thrillers, though, are never funny or cute. They are driven by action and the need to stop the known enemy.

That's my take on the difference between the two genres. What's yours?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Shock/Elections

I just found out it costs $20,000 to file to run for the office of state senator in my home state. What ever happened to democracy being free and open to all (legal) comers? A filing fee that steep sure discourages anyone but the wealthy from trying for state office.

I'm really upset. Here I am, a regular voter and follower of local and national politics, and I had NO idea that this stupid fee hinders office-seekers without deep pockets.

It's not right. I'm going to have to do something about it. Letter writing campaign, here I come.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Horse Memories

I was working through my father's filing cabinets (he never saw a piece of paper he didn't have to save!), and found old newspaper clippings.  A 1938 copy of the Roosevelt Rough Rider high school paper was a real gem. Anyway, I was reading old clippings, trying to figure out why he saved them, and there were the usual investing advice columns, how to protect your identity online, how to graft fruit trees, how to save your bees from hive rot (no kidding), and a ton of how-to articles. My dad figured he would do anything if he read up first, LOL. And he was right.

In between all these how-to articles were some clippings from the Leavenworth, Kansas, newspaper about horse shows at Ft.Leavenworth. My 15 and a half hand Quarter horse mare and I showed in novice hunt classes (we were both beginners),and dad saved every single article where our names were listed. She was a flashy red roan with four white stockings and a white blaze down her face, and let me tell you, she was as sassy as her coloring. A true redhead in temperament. We were quite a pair, I can assure you. Most of all, we had fun. What more can you ask for when you're a teenager?

I began reading the lists of event winners, and remembered quite a few names. Of the horses, that is, LOL. They stuck in my brain long after the names of their riders/owners.  One of them, Box Canyon, was an elegant, long-legged bay thoroughbred mare who was the dream of every rider in Kansas. She floated over jumps, had exquisite manners, and made any rider look wonderful. All you needed was quiet hands and a light touch, and she won. Everything.

Today I can see that learning the ropes with a young horse was perfect for a young girl. We mastered our skills together, if it can be said we mastered anything. Probably not a lot. We both loved a flat-out gallop, and I still remember the time we raced down the edge of the small air field, hit the earthen barrier at the end, she swerved left, and the saddle flew off to the right, taking me with it. I certainly checked my cinch after that!

Those horse-memories will be with me forever. They were alien creatures with incredible beauty and complicated natures.  And I still wish I'd gotten to ride Box Canyon, just once.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Anniversaries of Sorts

I like the French word for birthday. Anniversaire. I think I remembered its correct spelling. As a mom, I really think birthdays should be extravagant parties thrown on behalf of she who looked like a whale for nine months, then pushed that piano through a transom window. (My husband's description, not mine, LOL.) The kids get their parties when they're adults and parents.

Having just celebrated my own piano-through-the-transom day, I was mulling over things I still want to do in this lifetime. The list isn't long or extravagant, which surprised the heck out of me. Guess I have already knocked a lot of goodies off, which means I'm a happy girl by any standards. However, these few remain.

1. I want to see where the Battle of Greasy Grass was fought. Don't care a lot about the Custer monument, but I really want to see the terrain where the Sioux beat the tar out of the 7th Cavalry.

2. Learn to play the piano. I'll probably be awful, but what fun to create your own music.

3. Raft the Colorado. Speed on white water, oh yeah.

4. Take stock car driving lessons. End goal? Hitting the track over 100 mph. Or faster.

That's the list for today. All do-able. I'd better get cracking!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Nascar and Kyle

Nascar has to decide if it's Big Daddy or a business. Maybe the two are the same, but I don't think so. Kyle Busch lost his temper Friday night and slammed Ron Hornaday into the wall, nose first. Not the first time this has happened, won't be the last, and Kyle will probably do it again someday. If he keeps his job.

Seems to me it's up to the sponsor to decide who represents its brand. Gun might be a better fit for Kyle than M&Ms after Friday, but you know what? Let the Mars Company decide the punishment. Allow the other drivers to take care of Kyle's behavior. Believe me, they will.

I was much more upset when Carl Edwards flipped Brad Keselowski last year. That was more than scary, with the car ending upside down after it stopped doing barrel rolls through the air. What happens to Crazy Carl? Put on probation, the naughty boy, even after he said the hit was deliberate retaliation. Haven't liked the dude since. I vote with my purse and will never buy a single product from any of his sponsors.

There are ways to punish drivers who act like brats. The public and the sponsors do a pretty good job of it.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

What the heck is going on?

I'm not an "occupy" fan. I don't study the issues these protestors avow, but I do know one thing. It's very American to hold group protests. Where would we be without all those rowdy Revolutionaries dumping tea in the Boston harbor? So when I see pictures (taken by a reporter who was arrested on a sidewalk because the police told him to stop with the camera...uh, excuse me. Are you kidding?) of the police arresting protestors at 1 a.m., I get really upset.

In the middle of the night the authorities conduct a roust? I'm aghast. What's next? The protestors get locked up and held incommunicado and without legal counsel? Oh wait, that happens in Cuba, not America. While it may seem far fetched, it's a slippery slope when you don't think it's a big deal that a few protestors get locked up.

We should all be outraged.