Friday, June 29, 2012


Can you tell by looking at someone that they like to lick the beaters? Chocolate beaters were my faves. As a kid I could get my tongue up under and in between the beater bars until there wasn’t a drop of cake batter or whipped cream left. Gosh, Mom didn’t even have to wash those beaters, they were so clean. As I got older this childish habit became more sophisticated. I advanced to serving spoon and fork licker, too. I know. Shameful. But for the most part I kept – and keep – it from the eyes of others.

When our kids were little we  lived in New Jersey for almost five years before we returned to New York. They were pretty happy years and the genesis of many of my cooking and baking triumphs and disasters. One of the triumphs was wild rice casserole. We’d made an adventurous journey to the land of my birth one summer and returned home from Minnesota brimming with legend and lore about this native grain. At one of the huge picnics my relatives held I first tasted the wild rice casserole.

If you have never had real, Indian gathered, wild rice from the soggy plains of Northern Minnesota, you’ve really missed something. The dark grain (a grass seed really) needs to be soaked and then cooked for an hour or more before the hard outer shell bursts and its rich nutty flavor is exposed. Grandma Blaine told me when she was a girl there was usually a pot of it on the back of the stove and she and her brother, Ralph, used to eat it with sugar and cream for breakfast.

I brought it home with me from that vacation. I’d learned how to put just the right amount of sausage and spices into the dish. And YES there was cream of mushroom soup in there,too. The hallmark of many a Lutheran ladies casserole made famous by the likes of Garrison Keillor. Too bad. The soup and everything else that went into that dish made for excellent eating.

And my family thought so, too. But after dinner they scurried off to various parts of the house and yard. Our dog, Boots, zipped out the door to play with the kids and I got to clean up the kitchen. Okay by me. I picked up plates, cups, dirty napkins  - the whole big mess. Then I spotted the casserole encrusted fork. Nobody was looking.

Wow, a special treat for Sue. I snapped it up and put it into my mouth ready to savor the crusty bits of sausage and dark rice clinging to the tines. But something wasn’t right. As I rolled my tongue I thought how different the stuff on the fork tasted from the casserole we’d had for supper. I pulled the fork out of my mouth and turned to the sink where I saw . . .

The empty Alpo can sitting on the edge of the counter. 

My mind refused to contemplate what I must have just done and my whole self stood frozen in time for about ten seconds. I gave thoughtful pause to what was in my mouth and sure enough – it wasn’t the yummy wild rice casserole. No siree, Bob. I’d just dragged a forkful of dog food through my teeth.

P-toohey!! Get it out, get it out! Paper towel, glass of water, fingernail scraping – I couldn’t rid my mouth of it fast enough. I’d suddenly developed an enormous empathy for the dogs of the world, too. NO wonder Boots loved table scraps!

When at last I’d cleaned my mouth, I resumed cleaning the kitchen, shivering every once in a while and wondering if this was enough to make me give up the beater/spoon/fork licker  habit.

Probably not. My mac and cheese is just too good to leave on the spoon and my lemon cake batter - well, just forget about it. I only hope you can’t tell by looking at me that I can’t hold my licker.

Image: bigjom                                          Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Let Me Introduce You . . .

To Minnie Markwood, the mystery shopping and consumer survey marvel who sets out, along with her sidekicks, Rashawna and Joel, to take down the Red Shoelace Killer. By some wacko twist of fate they form the most unlikely crime fighting team you can imagine, but you might wind up rooting for them just the same. I hope.

Here’s the deal. Minnie is not real young (like Rashawna), not real old (like her Toyota) and not a bandana wearing hot head (like Joel). No, no, Minnie knows what she’s all about. She’s a childless widow of ten years running, once worked as an assistant librarian, is a tad – ahem – overweight, and the proud owner of 300 hundred pairs of earrings. Now if that doesn’t qualify her to be a crime fighter without peer I don’t know what does. Oh – and she’s also addicted to Taffy Tails.

When she worked in the library Minnie gobbled up all things Agatha Christie and considers herself the equal of Miss Marple. Maybe even better – maybe. She also took a criminology course after her husband died and there she met Dan Horowitz, who becomes her mentor. He and Minnie have the same general feeling about the perpetrators of foul deeds. Quit fooling around and go get the bad guys! Dan is real handy to have around.

Minnie’s first crack at a bad guy comes when she hears a confession one lovely autunm day at work. In the hidey hole in the Roaring Gate Mall in Albany, New York, where she and Rashawna are doing deodorant soap surveys for Chapel Marketing, he walks in. It’s late afternoon and Minnie is caught mid-snooze (things are a bit slow in the mall after 4), but that doesn’t keep her snoop radar from skyrocketing when, behind the partition, she hears the words Red Shoelace Killer. Unfortunately, the ‘confessor’ bolts for the exit when Rashawna click-clacks (man, those shoes) into the hole and scares him off. Dang! 

Time out.

Taffy Tails? They just happen to be Minnie’s favorite candy. I loosely – okay, totally – based it on the very real candy, Cow Tails. And if you can’t get them where you are I feel sooo sorry for you. Long caramel whip with a creamy white center running through; sticks to your teeth for hours. Yum. And Minnie’s Taffy Tail addiction compels her to visit the Friendly Dollar Store (Tails on sale six for a buck) shortly after the confessor escapes the hidey hole. And there – can you believe it – she sees red shoelaces, on cardboard clown shoes in amongst other party junk, right there in front of God and everybody at the checkout! And this is where Minnie feels the Nudge of Fate poking her left buttock and prodding her to seize this cold case as her own. If the Albany Police Department hasn’t been able to solve this mystery in over two years, why shouldn’t Miss Marp – uh – Minnie give it a go?  

So now, you’re so intrigued you can hardly stand it. Right? Minnie's whole adventure will be available come November and I'll do my part by reminding you often.

Next: the lowdown on Rashawna who is A Piece of Work.

Image: Ambro                                          Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer visits

A few years ago two of my sisters and our brother, Tim, visited. It was autumn, the favorite time for my family to visit, and we took them to Tarrytown. We toured Washington Irving's home, Sunnyside, and had a delightful time. It may be a place you'd like to visit, too. Here's what we found.


The first thought that crossed my mind when I stepped into the small entry hall was, how on earth did the women get around in their big skirts in this place? Granted, the nieces of 19th Century American writer, Washington Irving, were smaller than me and my out of state guests, but still, it gave me pause. When the five daughters of his brother Ebenezer, all living with Irving, attended their uncle, navigating the hallways and narrow stairways, they did so swathed in yard upon yard of gingham, silk or muslin over swinging hoop skirts. It boggled my mind.

Sunnyside sits grandly enough along the banks of the Hudson in Tarrytown, New York and from the outside exudes grace and charm. This is no less true of the inside and as we were guided through the house and grounds, we enjoyed a real sense of the early history of the area and of our country. We learned from our costumed and witty guide that Irving could count such notables as Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mary Shelly among his friends and acquaintances. He frequently held dances in the sitting room. His accomplishments in several arenas, writing not being the least of them, had us gaping in wonder.

The house is an 1835 Romantic/Dutch Colonial Revival style estate, featuring a fully furnished and restored house, icehouse, gardens and wooded footpaths. Irving remodeled the house and added to it to accommodate his extended family. The upstairs bedrooms are of particular interest as they give a lovely flavor of the times.

The whole air of the place lends credence to one of my favorite passages in Irving’s, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a place which he describes thus:

     A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
     Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye,
     And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
     Forever flushing round a summer sky.

A visit to Sunnyside will not disappoint. Even the inevitable gift shop is a delight, rife with memorabilia from Irving’s most popular tales and rich in atmosphere. Tarrytown itself boasts many other attractions including fine dining and accommodations, among them the famous Castle on the Hudson and the Horsefeathers pub.

Now, don't you just want to go there?

Image: Michal Marcol                           Free Digital Photos

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blessed America

Last night I stood while the Star Spangled Banner played at the travel league baseball game we attended to watch our grandson, Sam, play. Everyone stood. Men took their hats off and held them over their hearts. A few people kept their hands at their side. That’s okay – they were free to do so.

And as I stood there, with the words of our national antherm going through my head, another flag scene flashed through my head. From a movie.

I looked around the ball field. Someone had done a good job getting it ready for the game. Baseball stadium aromas came from the concession stand – hot dogs, fries, mozarella sticks. Maybe that tickled the noses of the nine and ten year old boys standing on the field, hats off, while they listened. Maybe they didn’t know all of the history behind the flag they were honoring. That’s okay – they were free to think what they wanted.

The movie was one I hadn’t seen in years. It popped into my head as I surfed Netflix. Oh, yeah, I thought, why don’t I watch that again? Sally Field played her part so well in it.

The music stopped, everybody put their hats back on and it was time to  - Play Ball! Moms jabbered to each other on the bleachers. Younger siblings tapped Dad’s pant leg to ask for money for a freeze pop. If someone fetched a ball that had made it over the fence – guess what? – that fetcher got a Free freeze pop. Fun.

It was very hot out and I was glad I could sit and watch the game in shorts and skimpy sandals. Many of the other women were similarly dressed. Sunglasses, sunscreen and shorts. The summer baseball watching uniform of women all over our land. We’re free to dress that way.

The movie was Not Without My Daughter.

The game looked close in the beginning. The kids were pumped in spite of the heat. Coaches roared instructions to each batter and fielder. Parents yelled encouragment. “Okay, Eddie, this one’s yours!”  “You can do it, Sam.” “It’s okay buddy – you’ll get it next time.”

You just don’t get more American than this. Our national pastime in diminutive form. Shaping kids for the competitiveness of the world. Maybe some of the parents were even re-living their own glory days in Little League. That's a part of it, right?

Betty’s husband lied to her to get her and their daughter to leave America and go back to Iran with him. The Shah had fallen and he wanted to be in his homeland. He had no intention of ever returning to America. Moody had every intention of keeping Betty there against her will. Custom dictated she must cover up from head to foot unless she was at home. Not a hair on her head could show. She was his wife and under his rule. She would become like other Iranian women, some of them Americans like Betty. He beat her and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave. She loved him. But she loved freedom more.

The game rolled on, the sun went down and we were clobbering the other team. We began feeling sorry for the other kids. We cheered or clapped when one of them made a good play. They’re all our kids, really. Both teams played their hearts out.

Betty eventually found people willing to help – people, I believe – who were a direct answer to her nightly prayers – the ones she said with her daughter. They were people who loved freedom, too, and were willing to risk life and limb to help others achieve it.

About half way through the game a cop car drove by the field. They slowed down. I turned and smiled. They wanted to see part of the game. They weren’t there to make sure the women’s heads were covered or that no one was dissing the government. And no machine guns. They were just guys who liked a kids baseball game. Sam’s team won by A Lot. We cheered. We got up stiff from sitting for so long. We got into our cars and went home, tired and happy. Free.

It took over a year for Betty to make her harrowing escape. In the most intense part of the movie we see her scurry away in the dead of night clutching her daugher, hopping from car, to horse, to bus through the hot and dangerous mountains of Iran. Our hearts are in our throats at every check point where men with machine guns wait hoping to catch those trying to get out. We’re sure her husband is sending vile men to kill her.

And this is where that other flag I was thinking about at the ball field last night comes in.

In the last scene we see Betty being dropped off on a street corner in a small town. She looks around, a little confused. The streets are empty in the wee hours of this morning. We don’t know where she is until we see her turn her head towards a sound – the sound of an American flag snapping in the breeze, bold and beautiful.  She can  hardly believe her eyes, then tears well up as she hugs her daughter, and begins running towards the red, white and blue fervently whispering,“We’re home, baby.”

And so am I.

Image: Chuck Felix                                Free Digital Photos

Thursday, June 21, 2012


This morning while eating my cereal-yogurt-fruit combo breakfast in front of the television, I clicked on our old movie station. There, for an instant while I waited for the commercials to go away on Channel 6,  I watched a man who delighted me when I was a child. Spike Jones. Even when I was a kid his movies were old, but watching him this morning for just a few minutes made me realize what the word FUN really means. This guy had it down cold.

For the un-initiated Spike was a man who could make music and mayhem out of almost anything; cow bells, pot covers, horns, goats. Yeah, in the movie I glimpsed this morning he pulled on a goat’s beard to hear the ‘baaaaa.’ He did it in perfect accord with the other intruments and was backed up beautifully by his zany fellow musicians. What a delight to watch! He ring-a-ding dinged and bing-bam-boomed all over the place.

His real name was Lindley Armstrong (1911 - 1965), but I’ll bet the fun in the man wouldn’t let that stand. Gosh, Spike Jones sounds so much more lively, don’t you think? Maybe it set the tone for what the rest of his life was going to be – making people laugh at the movies. He often used gunshots, whistles and weird vocals, too. And loving every minute of it no doubt.

Anyway, I’m determined today to have fun at least once. Maybe with my grand kids, maybe sharing a memory with an old friend . . . maybe . . . well, I don’t know right now, but I’m looking forward to it!

How about you?

PS: Thanks, Spike!

Image: Salvatore Vuono                                                Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guest Post

My friend, Marion, pointed out to me the other day that June is the month of weddings. She offered to share the following story about that happy - and mis-hapy - time in her life. Enjoy!

The Wedding Ring Mistake
by Marion Tickner

It is June, the month of weddings. My mind goes back 40 years to my own wedding. I let Norman pick out the diamond engagement ring, but we picked out the wedding bands together. Norman asked to have our initials and the date engraved on the inside. I don’t see how anyone could do that in such a small space, but they do.

Since I worked downtown at the time, I picked up the rings on my lunch hour. I had invited Norman for supper and we opened that little brown envelope to examine the rings.

“That’s not right,” I said. The date was correct, his initials were correct, but not mine.

We were getting married in two days, no time to change anything.

“You’re going to have to get a new woman,” I told him, jokingly, “or we get married with the wrong rings.”

The next day I made a special trip downtown. The sales lady admitted it was her fault and she apologized. “You’ll have to get married with the rings and bring them back to correct the initials.”

I can’t get my ring off now to see what had been done, but even though they attempted to work over the initials I was never completely happy with them.

Years went by. Norman became ill and began to lose weight. One Sunday morning as we sat in church I noticed he wasn’t wearing his ring. I looked around the area he had been and notified the church secretary, and of course looked around home, but the ring was never found.

When his birthday rolled around, I took him to a different jewelry store and bought a new ring. The saleslady agreed to have the initials and our wedding date engraved inside. “If you can wait half an hour, you can take it home today.”

While we waited, I told her the story of our rings and how the wrong initials were put inside. When the ring was ready, she came from the back room laughing. “You’re not going to believe this. He put in the wrong initials. Can you come back tomorrow?”

Image: Salvatore Vuono                                  Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 18, 2012

Well - What a Weekend!

Started in the strawberry fields in Kinderhook. The women and kids were out with the buckets, bowls and kettles – picking, sneaking a taste, picking, holding up the really big ones in wonder – the whole enchilada. It was glorious. Eventually we had enough to take back to Grandma’s little jam factory which was ready and waiting when we got back to the ranch  - so to speak.

The men showed up to eat the pizza we ordered - from Mark's, Yum! - and helped keep the kids occupied. Okay – I took a break and went to pick peas in the garden with the kids. Sierra loves them so much you can’t shell them fast enough - she eats them raw standing right there in the row. Kate and Heather kept plugging along in the kitchen. The result? Twenty one glistening jars of strawberry jam – seven per family. How cool is that? 

Kate and Heather

Saturday morning I took myself off (along with BFF, Karen) to the Orchard Tavern in Albany for my first Mavens of Mayhem meeting. What a great bunch of gals! I think I’m going to like being a part of this group and learn a lot more about mystery writing in the process. The meeting and the lunch were fab. Karen and I did a bit of shopping and when I got home I changed and went to my babysitting job. I took the three little angels in my charge for ice cream at O’Kenny’s and we all made it back and forth across Route 9 without incident. I felt like a Mama duck. "Walk fast - don't run! Okay - walk, walk, walk."

Sunday was the ultimate Father’s Day. Baseball! Sam began his tournament play and the team came in second. Dad and Grandpa were loving it. Great, sunny day, coolers full of food, parents and grandparent cheering the kids along then second place with a trophy and everything. More games coming up with the possibility of eventually going to Puerto Rico for some really Big Deal competition. Go Clippers!

Fixed hubby a steak dinner when we got home and then Carl and the girls came over for chocolate malted milk – Grandpa makes the best. Up in the garden again for more pea picking – Sierra had three in her right hand and holding out her left for more – that kid!

Just before nine we got a call from #3 son in Washington State. We Skyped with him and our granddaughter, Lillian who’s eight By the time 9:30 rolled around Grandma and Grandpa were pooped – but in the best possible way.

Great weekend? You betcha!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

My dad has been gone for many years. In 2008 I wrote this story and it was published in the anthology, My Dad is My Hero. I hope you've had moments like this with your own dad.  Sue

The Year of the Schwinn

We’d only been in California for three years when my tenth birthday was on the horizon. We were transplants from northern Minnesota back in the late1950’s and my dad had worked hard to get us there. To make the money to fly us all out, he spent eight months in Greenland where the U.S. Army had contracted with civilians to build an airstrip. It was an exciting time for all of us because California seemed like a wonderland where just about anybody’s dream could come true. Still, with five children to feed and clothe it was a struggle to make ends meet.

Dad found one salesman’s job after another and pounded the pavement selling screen doors, then vitamin supplements, then encyclopedias until finally he got a route as a truck driver for a meat packing company. Even then the money often ran out before the month did. My mother didn’t have an outside job and neither did she drive. This left a lot of responsibility on my dad in his off hours to take care of other family matters like doctor’s appointments, school meetings and grocery shopping.

My birthday fell on a Saturday that year and I woke up wondering what the day would bring. No mention was made of anything special being done for my birthday so I imagined I’d get cards and small gifts like all my other birthdays. There was one thing I dreaded about the day, though. I had a morning appointment with the eye doctor. Yuck. I sure didn’t want to go to that. Dad would be taking me, conferring with the doctor about my poor eyesight and whether I’d need new glasses or not. New glasses meant the kids at school would stare at me for a day or so and I hated that idea. But the hour came to go off for my exam and I had to go.

For the whole trip to the eye doctor my Dad was quiet. We sped through downtown traffic and I stared glumly out the car window hoping the appointment wouldn’t take too long. Which it didn’t and quite honestly, I can’t remember whether I needed new glasses or not. I was just glad to be out of there. That’s when my dad mentioned my birthday.

“I think your mom has something special for you for your birthday today,” he said.

I brightened up immediately. “Really?”

“Didn’t you want a new hairbrush set or something?”

My face fell. That wasn’t what I wanted at all. My heart was set on a small crystal clock for my bedside. They were all the rage, not too expensive and I thought they were beautiful. “That would be okay,” I said to answer him. A hairbrush seemed more in keeping with gifts my folks could afford and I resigned myself to another “poor girl” birthday.  

“Well, we have to make a stop before we get home,” Dad said.

A few minutes later we pulled up in front of a bicycle shop where a long row of beautiful Schwinn bicycles sat on the sidewalk in front of the store.
“Why are we stopping here?” I asked.

“Because you’re getting a new bicycle for your birthday.”

I stared at him. I didn’t believe him. I was the girl who pretended that things like new bicycles weren’t important. I was the girl who begged to ride on the back of her girlfriend’s bikes so I could be a part of the group that was heading for the playground after school. If nobody would give me a ride I walked or acted like I didn’t really want to go anyway. I had so many defenses for why I didn’t have things like roller skates, nice clothes or fashion dolls that my mind refused to accept that this could change. And here was my wonderful Dad telling me I was getting a new bicycle for my tenth birthday. I just stared at him.

My Dad had the kind of grin that split his whole face and that’s what happened when he saw my reaction. I think he already had the bike he could afford picked out because he led me to a beautiful dark green one and asked me how I liked it. Now, let me tell you, this bike was a magnificent monster. Not a lightweight like you find so much nowadays. It had substantial metal fenders, whitewall tires (with inner tubes), a chain guard and kickstand, a basket on the front and a bell on the handlebars plus a rack on the back fender where another kid could ride. And the spokes! Imagine all the cards I could clothespin to those. My girlfriends would die of envy. Did I like it? I was simply too stunned to answer.

Dad loaded the bike up and took it and his stunned daughter home. He didn’t stop grinning for weeks and when I got over my disbelief at owning this beautiful object neither could I. Later my Mom told me the bike cost $48 and in those days that was a lot of groceries. Whatever he had to do to afford that bike, Dad did it without complaint. I rode the thing into the ground and will never forget the pride I felt in being able to ride with my friends to the playground and school, haul my brothers and sisters around on the rack and love the man to bits who allowed me to do it.

Thanks Dad!

Image: Stuart Miles                                      Free Digital Images

Thursday, June 14, 2012

For Writers

When Inspiration Strikes – Sell It

I’m a dictionary freak. My eight pound unabridged is opened constantly so I can double check my word choices. When I looked up inspiration, I found it means ‘to blow or breathe into or upon’. Wow. It occurred to me then that writers do just that, we offer a breath of inspiration in dozens of ways. Now probably you’re not going to write another Holy Bible, but if you scratch the surface of your emotions you may find an energy there that’s worth exploiting.

  1. Devotionals – These are frequently done in small booklets of twenty to thirty inspirational passages each. Often a Bible verse is the catalyst for the thoughts expressed and there are publishers that print them for adults, teens and children as well.
  2. Plaques and other gift items – These are bunches of fun to do. Humor, especially, is snapped up by editors like warm buttered popcorn and you may have an untapped gift for one liners that one or more of them will love. Some companies pay upwards of $100 for a well-worded phrase or two. I sold six short children’s poems to a company that custom designs quotes for use in home d├ęcor.
  3. Woman’s magazines – Short family crisis stories, seasonal poems, how I met my husband / wife stories; all are welcome in a multitude of print and online magazines. They only require some careful examination of your life situation and a willingness to share it with others.
  4. Write about writing – This is one of my personal favorites. Writers seldom have co-workers and often rely on magazines and websites to keep from despairing over the words they are penning. What you have learned while honing your craft is of great value to your fellow word smiths.

When you write to inspire, you can make use of so much that’s already out there. Study the works your favorite humor columnist to see why humor sells. Dust off your Bible and let a few verses bring out the philosopher in you. Spend a few extra dollars at the grocery on one or two women’s magazines and glean them for inspirational columns or stories. Let these inspire you, so you can inspire others. Here are a few places to start.

  1. Woman’s World – Pays $250 for a personal feature story; usually told in first person and uses photos to enhance the story.   Takes e-mail submissions at  
  2. Guideposts Magazine – Pays up to $500 for personal stories from people of all faiths. Stories are often ‘ghost written’, so you could write on behalf of a friend or relative. See website
  3.  The Upper Room – Pays $25 per meditation. Likes to see personal experience linked to the meditations. See website
  4. The Writer – Inspire your reader by showing her how to do it. Pays on acceptance upwards of $150. See online guidelines at
  5. Threadless – Come up with a great tee shirt design and get 2K (that’s right) for your efforts
Writing from the heart doesn’t necessarily mean flowery words or the figurative rending of your garments. Light humor, an honest voice and a gentle wisdom are the hallmarks of good inspirational writing. Steep yourself in what’s already out there and then breathe a similar life into something that’s all your own. And don’t be surprised when you enjoy it – and it sells. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 11, 2012


Most women I know have figured out the best way to manage their hair by the time they’re out of high school. I was very glad when someone invented rollers. Not the kind for perms – those itty bitty things that took a good half hour to put in. No, I’m talking soupcan size rollers that we girls with super curly hair could use to pull the curl out. Believe it or not I still have the rollers I used back then and continue to use them. Oh – and they came in colors. Mine are purple, pink, pale blue, and bright orange. The orange ones are the biggest.

So – this is going back about 25 years. My friend, Pam, and I, along with three of our kids, conspired together to take a trip across country. Her sisters were in New Mexico and my family in California. We left upstate New York in her Mazda one afternoon with luggage, kids, and a burning desire to get there fast. We were out of Pennsylvania about midnight and kept on rolling. We made excellent time keeping to the Interstate and only stopping for gas and potty breaks. In no time at all we were in Oklahoma.

We hit a rest stop in the middle of nowhere and that’s when I decided my hair needed attending to. We expected to be at Pam’s sisters home that very day and I wanted to look nice. So I went into the restroom and put in three of my jumbo rollers. One orange and two purple right at the top and then pulled the rest of my hair back in an elastic. The hot Oklahoma air and rollers would pull my curl out and I’d look like a super model upon arrival.

It was 7:30 in the morning and my turn to drive. Not a soul on the road but us, either.

Have you ever been in Oklahoma? It’s flaaaaat. Nothing but highway and sagebrush for miles. Consequently I had no problem putting the pedal to the metal and moving us right along. Pam and I chatted and the kids slept on and off. Life was good.

Then I happened to glance in the rearview mirror and was surprised to see a pin dot on the horizon. The pin dot got bigger and seemed to be coming along at a fair clip.

“Look behind us,” I said to Pam.

“Uh, oh,” she said. “I think it’s a police car.”

Okay - This is my MO Every Single Time I know a cop is blazing up behind me – I slow down and pull over slightly so he can catch the bad guy who must be ahead of me. I never think they're after me.

Then Pam said, “How fast are you going?”

By then I’d slowed down to about 85. And didn’t that cop pull up beside me and signal me to pull over? And didn’t he have serial killers or drug dealers to chase – the ones who were getting away ahead of me? Ugh – and that’s when I remembered my rollers. That’s when I realized the cop was about to encounter a purple and orange crested space alien.

There wasn’t a thing I could do. I rolled down the window and handed him my license. I couldn’t look him in the eye. Space aliens are funny that way. We HATE it when we’re caught out in our orange and purple rollers.

Adding to my mortification was the fact that this Southern cop was M’am–ing me to death. They do that in the South, you know. If there had been two cops I would’ve been gang m’ammed.

“M’am, do you know I clocked you at 90 MPH?”

I stared straight ahead and mumbled something. I could FEEL that liar smirking. 90 MPH indeed! He gave me a safety lecture. He wrote out the ticket.

“Now, m’am, I’m going to have to take your license . . .”

At that I did look at him with my full alien dignity and tried to death ray him on the spot. It didn’t work. He kept on m’amming me.

It was probably the longest ten minutes of my life. Sitting there in that Mazda on an Oklahoma highway, being m’ammed and having my license taken away in my stupid soup can sized rollers.

But my ordeal was almost over . . .

“M’am, I’m going to give you a temporary license. When you’ve paid your fine, you’ll get it back. Have a nice day, m'am.”

Thus chastened, I crawled back onto the highway and Slowly headed for New Mexico secure in the knowledge there was one M’amming Oklahoma cop out there who had a doozy of an alien encounter to tell about – probably for the rest of his life.  

PS: When you enter Oklahoma there are big green signs about the size of the Titanic telling you what your fine will be if you speed (really hard to read at 90 MPH). Needless to say I got highest honors - a $90 fine. Ugh.

Image: Evgeni Dinev                                      Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

For Writers

The 'R' Word

Ah. You’re here because you think I have something to tell you about rejection, right? I’m going to disappoint you. I rarely write about things I hate. Besides, you already know that your writing is going to be rejected by someone, somewhere, sometime. It’s going to hurt your feelings. And everything any other writer or friend or your mom has ever told you is true. You’ve got to get over it and carry on. I’ll tell you why.

It’s because of that other ‘R’ word…regret. When I was very young I hated it when older, wiser people would say things to me like…if you don’t finish this class you’ll regret it later in life. Phooey, I thought. But guess what? I got older. Guess what again. They were right. To spare you the boredom of reading about my regrets I’ll just say I have many.

So here’s the nightmare. I’m sitting in my wheelchair at the ‘home’ blathering on about what a great writer I could have been. But my list of excuses for why I didn’t do this is longer than my list of pills. And to my everlasting bewilderment, nobody wants to hear about it.

Here’s the dream. A year from now I’m strolling through a Barnes and Noble. I head to the mystery and thrillers section. A book is displayed on an end cap. The woman next to me picks it up and begins to turn the pages. She reads the title out loud. She catches my eye.

“ I love this book,” she says.

 “You do?” I say. “Then let me sign it for you. I’m the author.” 

I don’t want the nightmare of regret. I want the dream. And so do you. Go for it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Things are Tough

Just like everyone else I have my tough times. Right now is not one of them - just the opposite, in fact. But often that's the best time to reflect on the things that help us cope when life goes all haywire. This hymn is one I turn to when that happens. It's based on my favorite Bible verse Psalm 46:10  Be still and know that I am God. It's burned into my heart.

Perhaps it will help you, too. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings it most beautifully. You can find it on You Tube.

               Be Still My Soul

               By Katharina Schlegel (1697 – 1768)
               Music by Jean Sebelius from his Finlandia
               Based on Psalm 46:10

      Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. 
               Bear patiently thy cross of grief or pain; 
               leave to thy God to order and provide; 
               in every change He faithful will remain. 
               Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend 
               through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. 
               Be still, my soul: thy God will undertake 
               to guide the future, as in ages past. 
               Thy hope, your confidence let nothing shake; 
               all now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
               Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know 
               the Christ who ruled them while He dwelt below. 
               Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on 
               when we shall be forever with the Lord, 
               when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, 
               sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. 
               Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, 
               all safe and blessed we shall meet at last. 
Image: Free Digital Photos

Sunday, June 3, 2012

All on a Saturday

So what if there was drizzle – hair frizzin’ drizzle? Nothing was going to stop me and best bud, Karen, from seeing what this year’s Kindercrafter’s had to offer. For the un-informed, that's the June craft fair held in  Kinderhook, NY every year. Once upon a time the Kindercrafters made a quilt to be raffled off at the fair. Sadly, that group has dissolved, but the fair goes on. Yay!

So – what did we find? Friends, first of all. People we know in other walks of life were all over the place. Our pastor’s wife, Christa. Our pinochle pal, Terry and many others to smile and nod at or stop to pass the time of day with. Manning the Lion’s Club food booth were my daughter-in-law Kate’s parents, Al and Mimi. Karen and I had our lunch there. The Lion Burger has the BEST caramelized onions for that burger. Oh – Yum. Kate, Eric, Sam and Anna were there, too, loving a huge slab of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. Yum - again!

We wandered into Blackwood & Brouwer the Indie book store where my book signing will be in November. It was packed with fair goers. You can just see the name of the store in the upper left hand window. I told the owner she should bottle the smell in this wonderful place; rich with book, good coffee and old wood aromas. It's like the rest of Kinderhook - a step back in time. I love it.

The 1993 Caldecott Medal winner, Emily Arnold McCully, was there signing her latest book. I chose one of her others – more boy oriented – for  Sam and she signed it for me. Ms. McCully is also an illustrator and she zippy quick drew a little ship near her signature. Amazing. The book is Manjiro.

The Old Dutch Inn was open for anyone to walk through. Lots of rennovating being done and there’s a vote on June 19 to approve a sewer system. Jobs will be created and the historic eatery will once again grace the streets of Kinderhook if all goes well. They had yummy refreshments set up in one room. Karen and I partook and then were escorted around the Inn by the niece of the new owner, Al Roberts. Very nice lady - and he was gracious, too.

On our way out we found a yard sale and another of our mutual friends, Sue, who was chatting with the yard sale lady and her friend. I told them about my book and gave each my ‘mystery writer’ business card. I found this cute wooden duck who now resides in one of my flower beds. Is he a charmer or what? Our youngest granddaughter, Sierra, will love it! And her sister might, too. As we turned to go one of the gals asked if I’d sign the back of my card. I told her if I’m ever famous she can say she knows me. Ha!

Sunday has only begun, but I know good stuff is waiting to happen. Better save that for another post!