Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Just Because...

Some days there's no reason for our actions except, "Because I can..."

Dancing in the rain. Eating ice cream in a snow storm. Chucking work to read all day. Wallowing in bed until noon.
I've decided most people need a bit more spontaneity in life.

When's the last time you had a picnic on the living room floor? Ate cereal for dinner? Went to a movie in the middle of the week? Balanced a can of soup on your head?

What will you do today--just because you can?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


From the earliest stories of natural disasters, there have been naysayers. There are always people who criticize the tough calls made by those in charge. And after the storm/earthquake/fire/flood is over, there are always people who declare the tough calls were unnecessary/too sweeping/just plain wrong.

Personally, I believe we coddle people too much. Instead of begging people to leave, I think the powers-that-be should state the facts, make transportation available, and when the cut-off time is reached, close down and find someplace safe until after the storm is over.

As one official said, "If you're going to stay in your home, make sure you have some identification so we know who to notify when we locate your body."

In most natural disasters, under the best of circumstances people die. Trees fall on them. A flash flood washes away the building they're sheltering in. A tornado destroys their home. It is sad enough that people die when they're making an effort.

What angers me are the naysayers...the people who refuse to use common sense and then expect someone to show up to rescue them. Rescuers die. They risk their lives--and possibly the future lives of their families--to save people who wouldn't be in danger if they followed the advice of their governing officials.

Every time you read about a forecast disaster, you also read about stubborn goats who refuse to leave their homes. Hello! Things are replaceable. Once a human is dead--they don't pop back up as though on a video game. They're gone.

In the most recent event--Hurricane Irene--there are already people commenting about how they believe the officials over-reacted. Tell that to the families who lost their homes. Tell that to the families who lost loved ones. Tell that to the families sitting in homes without power, water, or cut off from the areas around them. Tell it to the flood victims in New York, Vermont, and New Jersey.

There will always be ignorant people who won't believe until they're in danger. There will always be idiots who place themselves at risk because of their own behavior. I say let 'em reap the consequences of their own actions. We have enough risks just saving those who are willing to cooperate.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm Games

Every parent knows the agony of keeping the kids busy on a stormy or snowy day. Of course, when a hurricane comes to town, it's worse. Even adults get antsy as they wait for the storm to actually arrive, pass, and move on.

So here are some ideas to pass that time...

1) Clean out the refrigerator/freezer. While there's still time to toss stuff in the trash and clean all those empty containers. Then consolidate everything so stuff stays cold longer if you lose power.

2) Carry all that trash out to the dumpster. Really. Who wants to smell stinky garbage during a storm?

3) Watch the repeating loop on the weather channel. It's sort of hypnotizing. If all else fails you can just zone out.

4) Rearrange all the bookshelves. After all, you have plenty of time. And who knows--you might find something to read?

5) Read. Read those books you've been putting off because you're too busy. Well. You're not busy now. 

6) Bake a cake. You'll need something to snack on when the wind is howling around the corners of the building. 

7) Sort through your old pictures. Put the piles in big Ziploc bags so you can scan them into the computer after the storm. Our box of pictures is huge. It should keep us busy for a couple days.

8) Play Go Fish. Any number of players and any age can be accommodated by this old appropriate game.

9) When everyone is sick of each other play Solitaire. One deck of cards. It's harder to play with real cards as opposed to the computer game.

10) Cook. Make a big pot of chili. Or some chocolate chip cookies. Or a pot of pea soup. 

11) Clean your dresser drawers. Pack up clothes to take to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. 

12) If you have younger children, play dress-up. Kids love to dress up in old clothes.

13) Pray. I know it's considered old-fashioned, but I find comfort in prayer. 

14) Take a nap. Sleep is good...


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pack 'n' Go

Earlier today the hunk and I made our usual "get ready for bad stuff" run to the store. There are things we normally do to prepare for possible disasters--and we don't wait until chaos is staring us down the throat.

1) Fill the gas tank. Don't count on gas availability is you decide you want to leave the area where you live. ATMs might not be working. Gas stations might not have power.

2) Make sure you have potable water to drink. Fill the bathtub so you have water to flush the toilet. Grab a couple packets of baby wipes so you can at least keep your face and hands clean.

3) Keep all your important papers in a notebook/folder/etc. so you can grab them quickly if you must leave. My daughter keeps hers in a three ring binder filled with plastic sheets. Everything goes in that binder. The plastic sheets make it easy to organize AND helps keep the paperwork dry.

4) We keep a bug-out bag with two days clothing, important toiletries, and an extra toothbrush packed and ready. Tossing in the meds at the last minute is a matter of seconds. We also keep at least three copies of a list of our copy in the bug-out bag, one copy with our important papers, and one copy in our wallets.

5) Make sure the electronics are all charged up on a daily basis. You just never know when you'll need them...and that includes rechargeable flashlights.

6) Discuss (and formulate) a plan for where you will go if you must leave. Make sure your out of town relatives know what your plan is so they don't worry. It's easy enough to make sure everyone is on the same page and save a lot of anxiety and stress.

Disasters or bad weather don't always give us warnings. Everyone should be prepared year 'round for whatever might come up. Are you ready???


PS: Today is the house hunk's 65th birthday. I just want to give him a big hug and wish him many, many more!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shake it baby!

For several days we on the East Coast of the U.S.A. have been obsessing about a Hurricane named Irene. Where was she? Where was she going? How fast was she going to get there?

Little did we know the true danger would smack us out of left field. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, our world shook. For most of us, it was a new experience. For a few seconds we shook, rattled, and rolled with the best of them.

And then most of the sensible ones were appalled when they realized this was a really small earthquake. In our defense I would like to point out any earthquake on the East Coast is unexpected.

There was some sporadic damage, but not the horrendous stuff seen after other, bigger earthquakes. It did serve the purpose of taking our minds temporarily off Madame Irene. After all the excitement wore off, we went back to the weather guys and discovered Irene has shifted focus and is now taking aim a little farther up the coast to say...Baltimore/Washington, D.C. and points north.

Just in case that's the real destination, I'll be off, preparing for the next disaster. One thing I can't complain about is a lack of excitement.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

What the Blog???

Is blogging over? I've been pondering this question for several weeks. Except for "professional" blogs, I'm thinking a blog is mostly...personal. As I've traveled around the interwebs, I've noticed the formats are falling into several distinct categories.

A) Unrelentingly professional. Regardless of the writer of the blog, it's entirely about writing, publishing, editing, etc. Many of them could be pubbed in a newspaper or magazine (and that's not necessarily bad) but if I want to read professional articles...I'll go to professional sites.

B) Author informational. "This is what I'm doing....Title blah-blah-blah will be released on the 17th...I'm working on the third book in blah-blah-blah series..." For my own information, I usually check the author's website.

C) Author personal TMI. I try very hard not to fall in this category. My own blog borders on folksy without dispensing personal (REALLY PERSONAL) information. I think. Most of the TMI blogs are really aimed at friends and family--not readers. Again--I think that's how it's supposed to go.

D) Just friendly observations on life. Here's what I'm wondering--does anyone care anymore? I remember when Erma Bombeck was one of the first pages I turned to when I opened my newspaper in the morning. But do we take time to read that sort of stuff now? Is there still a place for it?

What do you think? I'd be interested to know if the friendly blog is a thing of the past...


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Social networking? As with almost anything, there will inevitably be someone who abuses a good thing. Nope, I don't want to join your group. If I did, I'm perfectly capable of joining it on my own. Go away.

Thank you.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rites of Passage

Eyesight. It's usually the first thing to go. Then the knees. Maybe after that the stomach starts acting weird. Age creeps up with startling speed.

Back when you're eighteen, you can barely envision being twenty-five. By the time you reach twenty-five, you believe forty is old. Forty? Pfht! Sixty is really old then. But when you make it to sixty, you know for certain that ninety is when you're finally old.

Some rites of passage push your nose right in the dirt, though. One of those is registering for Social Security. You can receive junk mail from AARP and that won't phase you. You can even make arrangements for your work pension and you'll be just fine. But then along comes...Social Security. After that it's just a short step to Medicare. A really, really short step.

I've heard it all about how age is just a number and all that stuff. Yep. It is until you make the call. Because until that point, Social Security is just a vague abstract concept. Suddenly, you have to prove who you are and why you are eligible to receive the money that's been deducted from your paycheck forever and ever.

Well. I've worked since I was sixteen. When I reach sixty-six, that will be sixty years off and on in the workforce. I don't feel bad at all about claiming my Social Security benefits. I just wish the implications weren't tied to age. Senior Citizen my backside...


Monday, August 15, 2011


No, the picture doesn't have anything to do with anything. I just like it. Sometimes life is like that. I determined a while back that I would not bring anything into my home that I didn't enjoy. Life is just too short.

While researching something for my current work in progress, I was struck once more by the way history is skewed by the winners. The particular subject I was researching had numerous entries on the internet. They were widely disparate in both factual information and conclusions drawn from that information.

It reminds me so much of the story about the elephant...Three blind men touch an elephant. One grasps his tail and concludes the elephant is similar to a rope. Another grasps his trunk and decides the elephant is like a snake. And the third touches his leg and believes the elephant is like a tree. Who is right? All of them--sort of.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Fifty Years!

August 12th, 1961--It was a hot, humid day in Chicago. I was nearly twelve years old and not very impressed with the fact that my father--a widower with four children--was getting married again. Looking back from fifty years down the road, I remember the hustle and bustle of getting four children dressed and keeping them clean on the drive from northern Indiana where we lived.

I wore my absolutely favorite dress of all time, a deep grape purple cotton dress with a crinoline underdress. I loved that dress and mourned inconsolably when I grew up so it didn't fit anymore.

My new stepmother was lovely in her white wedding dress. Like all brides, she looked like a fairy princess as she came down the aisle. I mulled over the possibilities that this deal might not be too bad, after all.

My brothers and I were no bargain, that's for sure. After losing our mother in a car accident the year before, we were a wild and wooly bunch, unruly and rebellious. No one was going to tell us what to do. 


Well, the new woman in the house persevered. Believe it or not, we grew up to be fairly decent adults. Amazing as it might be, Mom hung in there through thick and thin. 

Yesterday she gave us a scare when Dad rushed her off to the hospital because of chest pains. But after her 50,000 mile overhaul, she seems to be doing just fine. The doctors checked her out and let her go home by evening.

Today, they celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. In an era where couples change partners more often than their underwear, that's quite a feat. Mom and Dad are both in their eighties and both still active.

I love them both, though I don't get to see them very often.

With all my heart I wish them a very Happy Anniversary!!!   


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Road Trip

This weekend we drove the grandkids home--a fourteen hour round trip. As I see it, grandparenting incorporates the opportunities to share some family values and some memories. I believe grandparents are the keepers of the family memories.

As we passed a particular area, I pointed out a shopping center and mentioned it was the beginning of a memorable road trip to my grandmother's funeral. The kids were full of questions. My grandmother died when their mama was a small girl so this particular story wasn't part of their experience, but this opportunity allowed me to share some life lessons with them in story form.

The year my grandmother died was not a good year at our house. My sons and I worked at the Waldenbooks warehouse every night as book packers. Our shift started at four p.m. The hunk worked down in New York City--a two hour commute each way--and arrived at home around six p.m. That left a two hour gap when the girls were alone, but my older daughter was about twelve so she watched the younger one until the hunk arrived home.

One night, a Thursday night, my supervisor called me to her office and informed me I had a phone call. Only in the direst emergency were phone calls allowed. It was eight p.m. My daughters were on the phone, in a panic because their dad had never arrived home. While we were talking, the older one said, "Wait! There's a limo out front."

A few minutes later, the hunk got out of the limo--on crutches.

After a quick discussion with my supervisor, my sons and I went home. My husband had fallen over eight feet from a scaffold at work when it collapsed. The initial diagnosis was a badly sprained ankle, with followup at an orthopedic specialist to follow.

Friday was taken up with making arrangements for his orthopedic appointment. Then the hospital in the city called with a revised diagnosis of a fractured ankle. More calls to the orthopedic office. And then a family member called to say my grandmother had died.

We lived in New York. She lived in Indiana. Once again, I was torn between two responsibilities.

My best friend stepped in and volunteered to make sure the hunk made it to the orthopedist. My second son and older daughter offered to travel to the funeral with me so I wouldn't be alone while my older son and younger daughter stayed with the hunk. After a hasty oil change and fillup of the gas tank, we headed out for the long drive. By my calculations, if we drove straight through, we would arrive with about two hours to spare.

A little over an hour later, we had the first clue that things were not going to go well. The radiator sprung a leak. I pulled into a small shopping center with a K-Mart and McDonalds. My son lifted the hood and we all stared down at the steaming radiator, wondering what to do while water and antifreeze poured out on the ground beneath the car.

A trucker parked in the lot came over and suggested we buy some stop-leak, a product that might possibly help seal it if it was a small leak. So I went into the K-Mart, purchased the stop-leak and some gallons of water plus anti-freeze and returned to the car. We had to wait for it to cool off. While we waited, we grabbed dinner at McDonalds.

When we returned to the car, the second disaster happened. I slipped in the antifreeze and fell down, soaking my "funeral" outfit in antifreeze. I had packed sweat pants and sweat shirt I planned to travel home in. While my son dealt with the car, my daughter and I went into the rest room in the K-Mart and I cleaned up and changed clothes.

When we came back, the trucker pressed a twenty dollar bill in my hand--"Just in case", he said--and went back to his truck. We all got back in the car and started out once more. We stopped at every single rest stop and added water. It was a long arduous trip.

I should probably mention I was driving a small bright yellow Ford Fiesta. It was quite distinctive and hard to miss if you were looking for it. Evidently, a lot of people were keeping an eye out for us as the trucker had shared our story over his radio. At every stop, we were approached by people asking us if we needed anything, if we were hungry, if we needed money...

It was an overwhelming demonstration of the compassion of total strangers.

Twenty two hours later, we approached Gary, Indiana. I stopped to call for directions to the funeral home though I already knew I was too late for the funeral. My cousin informed me they were "waiting" for me, since they knew I was on my way. I found the funeral home and parked in front, tired, grieving, and realized I was dressed quite inappropriately for a funeral so I sent my daughter in to let my dad know we were there.

He came out at once, hauled me out of the car and escorted me in--inappropriate clothes not withstanding. In the hall way, my family--aunts and uncles and cousins--were lined up. One after the other, they hugged me and told me how glad they were to see me. Now for reasons I won't discuss here, I had spent much of my life feeling like an outsider in my own family. Yet, moving from one person to the next, exchanging hugs and words of welcome, for the first time in my life I knew without question that I belonged.

And that's why I attended my grandmother's funeral in my sweat suit.

Afterwards, we went to my cousin's house, for dinner and she presented me with a birthday cake. It was my birthday--something I hadn't even thought about.

We stayed overnight and headed back home. To my surprise, many people approached us on the way home, checking to see if we needed anything, if we made it to the funeral in time, if we had enough money to make it home.

When I finished my story, my granddaughter observed, "Everything turned out better than you expected."

Yes it did. Like most of life.


A quick reminder--tonight is the monthly chat at Love Romances Cafe. See the box in the upper right hand corner for details! I look forward to visiting with you!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Writer's Lament

When discussing writing, there is always the likelihood of misunderstanding. Most people are in such a hurry they fail to read the words for meaning and context, instead skimming for the surface content. Over the years as I've written blogs, I've observed this many times. But I persist for those who seek more than the quick fix.

In the past few months, I have spent many hours considering writing (as opposed to publishing) and have finally reached some conclusions about where my writing life will go in the immediate future. As I say, this is my future--not some other writer's future--and my intentions. I don't seek encouragement or platitudes, but understanding.

Some of my readers are aware that I've been entering my royalty statements in a spreadsheet so that I may better understand both my sales and income. At this time, it is clear there is no real point in my writing for financial gain. No point at all.

Reluctantly, I had to decide if any reason still exists for me to spend hours sitting in front of a monitor, typing away at a story few people care to read. Let me say first that I appreciate and honor all readers who spent their hard earned dollars on my books. You cannot know what it means to me. I know very well how difficult it is to have to choose exactly which books to spend money on.

As I've mulled over my future, it occurred to me that I really haven't had any joy in writing. In the beginning, I did, but lately not so much. So. If there's no financial reward and no joy in writing, what am I doing?

Some writers write for pure financial gain. Monthly or yearly or weekly they produce a work--sometimes to contract--and they grimly churn out pieces through thick or thin because they like to eat or pay their bills. Other writers write stories, catching the most popular genre trains, moving on to a new genre when the old one dies. Some write quickly. Others struggle to finish a book in a year. All have their own reasons for sitting at the computer, pounding the keyboard day after day.

For me, it's always been for the pure joy of sharing the story. Money would have been nice, obviously. But I've always received more of a kick from a reader hunting me up to tell me they loved my story. Now royalties convey more information than how much money the author receives. They also tell you how many people like your writing so much they're willing to spend money buying your books. Clearly, this number is dwindling.

Yes, I understand all about the economy and the way publishing is changing and how much self-publishing is changing the market. I've spent many hours thinking about all of this. But the cold hard truth is this--if you have a compelling story to tell, people will buy your book, regardless of all those things. That's why some less-than-skilled authors sell, even when they clearly need a good editorial hand and a dictionary.

I'm a fairly decent writer. No, I'm no Shakespeare, but I know how to spell and write a complete sentence. The thing is, that isn't enough. I have no story to tell, at least not one that engages the reader. 

In the beginning, I had more stories than time. Now I have time, but no stories. It seems I must seek out the stories I have bubbling inside me. They're in there somewhere, just waiting for me to find them. When I do, then I'll have something to share. I don't know what it will be. It's possible I'll travel down an entirely different road.

Until then, I'm going to take some time off. I'll write my blog. And maybe some short stories as I learn more about my craft. And when I have a story to share--well then, I'll gladly let you know.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Doldrums

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Brain mush. It's not writer's block. That's too wimpy a phrase.

No, this is complete absence of ideas, thoughts, words. It's all the more frustrating as I feel the urge to write "important" things, things that fade like a vapor when I sit down at the computer with my fingers actually on the keys.

Brain freeze.

It's not a new phenomenon. Every summer it arrives as regularly as clockwork with the heat and sun, my mind sinking into a snoozy, somnolent state. Maybe it isn't brain freeze, but fried brains.

Connected to that hazy, lazy condition is a conflicting awareness of time speeding by and the loss of opportunity. I will never retrieve the minutes and hours lost.

Instead of fretting, I choose to fill this time with reading. Or chores left undone in the winter. Or other interests pushed aside when I'm writing. Perhaps the summer doldrums are my brain's way of crying "Enough!" and forcing me to take a rest.

When I had my own home, I used to garden in the summer. And with the gardening, the digging in the dirt, the planting of flowers and vegetables, I had time to think. I suppose this is still my thinking time.

I have to admit I will be glad when fall returns and the summer doldrums are over.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My grandchildren and I were discussing an incident from my childhood the other day. When I finished sharing my story my granddaughter asked, "Did your parents sue them?"

"Well, no. Back then, people didn't sue other people very often."

"Why not?"

"They just didn't do that. The accident was actually my fault..."

She couldn't understand what that had to do with anything. I thought about how much things have changed and I've concluded it all has to do with the TV ads for personal injury lawyers. Mostly, they're all about getting money. And greed for money leads to spurious lawsuits. That's the reason all of us--you and me--pay more for everything in life.

Our car/house/medical insurance is higher to pay the premiums that have to cover lawsuits for people who don't take responsibility for their own actions. You say there's water on the floor? Well, walk around it. Better yet, bring it to the attention of someone so it's cleaned up.

You say the sidewalk is icy? Don't walk on the icy part. Have we all lost our common sense?

If the coffee's too hot, don't drink it. Add ice. Add creamer. Don't act like your stupid genes outweigh your smart ones. I swear more and more people live like they left their brains at home in a drawer.

Now I know there are people/companies who should be sued for sheer negligence. A few years ago the hunk fell eight feet and permanently damaged his ankle when a defective scaffold collapsed at his work. And yeah. We sued. That was over twenty years ago and his ankle still looks like someone hit it with a baseball bat. In my opinion, he had no part in causing that accident.

But when common sense goes out the door...when individuals get hurt because they're doing something stupid, then how is that the property owner's fault? When kids climb a fence to swim in a pool--and then drown--how is that the owner's fault? Or when they climb a tree and fall out of it? Or steal a car and then have an accident, killing a family in the process?

It's nonsense.

Because everyone wants a guarantee in life, our medical premiums are through the roof. Guess what? There are no guarantees. If you truly believe your doctor is incompetent, find another doctor. Get a second opinion. Research your doctor's training and record. Be pro-active instead of placing your life in someone else's hands. Read the literature for every one of your prescriptions. If you have reservations, discuss them with your doctor. Know your risks. And do what you can to minimize them.

Personally, I think all ads for prescription medicine, lawyers, doctors, medical procedures, etc., ought to be illegal. While we're at it, we ought to make political ads illegal, too. Instead we should just publish the voting records for the incumbents.

Hmmmm. Wouldn't that make life different?


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lights Out!

There are individuals (we won't mention names) who thrive on cleaning. Clean house. Clean clothes. Clean car.

I'm not one of those people. If things are down to a dull roar, I'm perfectly happy to live that way.

I have absolutely no interest in looking for dust bunnies under the beds or moving the refrigerator out to clean the floor under it. My curtains are not taken down weekly/yearly to wash. And as long as I'm not tripping over something on the floor, I'm content.

That doesn't mean I don't know how to clean. I'm just not interested. My philosophy is slightly different. It seems to me if you always put items back as soon as you finish using them, then the cleaning is minimal.

Where I run into trouble is shopping.

Have you ever noticed when you come home from the store you have a bunch of stuff to put away? Except by the time I shop, carry everything in, and set it down, I'm exhausted. Then I'm supposed to put stuff away? No, no, no.

I've taken to weighing how much trouble any particular item is going to be before purchasing. Really. If I'm going to have to move three pieces of furniture before I can put that rug down...well, how bad could I possibly need that rug?

See? Simple. And think of the money I save...


Monday, August 1, 2011


Risk. It's part of life. If you take no risks, then you aren't really living. Oh, I believe you should do what you can to minimize the risks, but once you do, then life is for doing.

The fear of failure is the main thing holding most people back from living life. How many of us say "one day I'll do such and such", but one day never comes?

How many of us are holding back until we think we're "ready". Will we ever be ready? Really?