Remembering my big brother

On the anniversary of a death, it’s very easy to recall all of the shock, the disbelief, and finally the deep sadness that the day evokes. And I am afraid I sometimes dwell too much on the event and not enough on the life. I have written before about May 22, 1968, that last light of day when my brother, Tim, was taken from us. Now I would like to recall other days when we were very young, before teenage angst and civil unrest and the Viet Nam War; some good, some not so much. But they were mostly brighter days that bring a smile.

I was born two and a half years after Timmy and we, apparently, were in sync from day one. For example, I didn’t talk until I was well past two years old. The doctor seemed a bit worried, my mother did not. According to Mom, I didn’t need to talk. Tim did all my talking for me.

When we were small, we lived in a row house on 20th Street in Washington D.C. right off Dupont Circle. Washington was a small town then. Small enough that mail addressed only to Mr. Clover, Washington D.C. was actually delivered to my dad. Small enough that Tim and I, and eventually my little sister Chris, were allowed to play outside unsupervised for the most part.

I remember a friend in the neighborhood. We called him “Mr. Man Across the Street”. I have no idea who he was or where he lived, but we would wave and holler ‘hello’ to him as he strolled down the opposite sidewalk. He would smile and wave back and on good days he would roll nickels across 20th Street to us.

There was the old lady that lived next door in a house that sat far back from the street. She did not smile and wave. It certainly never occurred to us that she might send a nickel our way. I never saw her dressed in anything but black. Someone (very possibly my older sister) convinced Tim and me that she was, actually, a witch, although I never saw a broom and I don’t remember any warts. But we were pretty darned scared of the poor woman who probably just wanted to be left alone.

Summers were fun. We stayed outside most of the time playing with our neighbors, Bobby and Earl. Occasionally, the city would open the fire hydrant in front of the house so we could run in the water. High old times indeed! Tim and I got to share a popsicle on the front steps once a week. We caught lightening bugs and went with my dad when he fished in the Tidal Basin. We watched fireworks on the Mall and bought ice cream cones that came with ice cream cubes from the Peoples Drug Store around the corner. On very hot nights Mom would rub on our backs with alcohol to cool us off so we could get to sleep. I can still remember the smell.

Christmas mornings were special. We had no fireplace, so our stockings (Dad’s socks) were hung on the end of our beds. Tim, Chris and I got to open these before anyone else was moving. It was our special time. And now that I think about it, I don’t understand why the custom didn’t continue. It certainly gave my parents an extra half hour or so before we charged into their bedroom.

I remember that Tim and I spent several nights one winter synchronizing our dreams. We’d decide before bedtime to dream of the same thing and our stories always meshed in the morning.

I have one particular memory of that little house and my brother. I was a rather trusting little girl. We were playing inside, so I’m guessing the weather was coldish. I was sitting in the big chair in the living room and Tim decided he would do a little target practice. I was the target. My little toy broom with the red handle was the projectile. He promised that he would miss. So I sat there and let him throw it. Well, his aim was a little off and he whacked me right in the forehead. Copious amounts of blood and a none-to-pleased Mother ensued. He did feel bad and his aim certainly got better over the years, but I never agreed to be a target again.

We went to Calvert School which was the parochial school attached to St. Matthew’s Cathedral where we went to church. We walked to both. And much of what I remember centers around them.

My most horrid memory was the day he fell on the playground and hit his head. The playground for the girls, if it could be called that, was the small yard in back of the school. The boys played in the small yard across the alley from our area. I was in first grade and standing by myself when there was a bit of commotion and suddenly I saw two eighth-grade boys carrying my brother, unconscious, possibly dead for all I knew, across the playground into the school. I have to hand it to the nuns, they did an excellent job of ignoring me. Not one of them thought to reassure me that he would be okay, which, thank God, he was. But that picture is engraved on my mind to this day.

Much more amusing memories come to mind. Tim was an altar boy at St. Matthew’s which is a large church with a large altar. Well, his first time out, he must have been all of eight years old and on the small side, he went behind the altar to get the water and wine as was done in those days, and he didn’t come back. The priest finally had to go get him. We never found out what he was doing. Perhaps he saw something that struck him as interesting? Or he simply forgot that a whole church was waiting? Who knows? This was my brother to a tee – easily attracted to foolishness, as one nun told my parents. But, really, he was a little boy with a vivid imagination and no sense of time.

I love one particularly ridiculous story which I’ll preface by saying that as a whole, we were fairly literal children. My mother and our neighbor, Mrs. Smith, shared the walking to and from school responsibilities. Someone (probably Mother) from our house got us there and Mrs. Smith walked us home. I’m a bit fuzzy on whether I was part of this particular screw up or whether I wasn’t yet going to school. At any rate, my mother was fond of singing and, apparently, was belting out “I’ll be down to get you in a taxi, honey” as Tim was leaving for school. When Mrs. Smith got there in the afternoon to walk him home, he refused to go with her. He told her Mom was coming in a taxi and he had to wait for her. She, of course, had to drop whatever she was doing, pack up my sister and, probably me, and fetch him – sans taxi. She dined out on that story for years.

It’s been over fifty years, but I still miss him. I miss playing in the rain and coming home to tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I miss our Sheena Queen of the Jungle and Tarzan act as we ran through the woods near our home in College Park. I miss being arctic explorers trudging through a foot of snow for what seemed like hours. And I miss his smile, his laugh, and his always being there. I want his grandchildren to know what a glorious nut he was and what a wonderful big brother I had. Rest in peace, dear brother. You are not forgotten.

Who was that masked man?

Well, he wasn’t wearing a mask, but he was a man. Here’s the story.

As summer approaches and I mull over our vacation options, I’ve been reminiscing a bit about vacations past. Warm, sunny days spent at the beach getting sunburned and bitten by sand fleas. Crazy weeks spent in log cabins hiking trails, dodging bats, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Long car rides to state parks with no air conditioning to a chorus of, “She’s touching me.” Fourteen sweating people in Nagshead, NC sharing a non-air-conditioned cabin. Colicky babies. Hurricane evacuations. Emergency room visits. High old times all. But one vacation sticks in my mind particularly.

Probably because it was it was my first ‘adult’ vacation. It was the summer of 1970 and my best friend, Linda, and I decided we would go on a real vacation by ourselves. After much mulling on what would be fun and, most importantly, cheap we settled on camping in Massachusetts. God only knows why.

I now think of it as a learning experience. We learned rather quickly that we did not like camping. We learned that neither of us is particularly fond of the great outdoors. We learned that both of us had, and still do, deep reservations about any proximity to bugs of any kind.

But it was an adventure. We set off one morning in late June in my little yellow Opel – the worst car in the world – loaded down with every conceivable camping accoutrement Linda could get her hands on. She was working at Atlas Sporting Goods at the time and had ample opportunity to select among other things, matches that would still light when wet. In case, I suppose, we decided to cookout in the rain.

We set out on a bright sunny morning and wended our way up the East Coast toward Boston. Now, I must admit that my memory is a bit hazy. It was forty-nine years ago and I haven’t gotten to that stage of dementia where I can remember past events clearly, but nothing from yesterday. I simply can’t remember either much of the time. Anyway, we got to Boston and spent a lovely day walking around the city. Saw a matinee of Hair and felt quite urbane.

From there we went to Gloucester, Salem and Plymouth. We visited Hawthorne’s birthplace, saw the Mayflower II, stood off the shore and stared at the spot the Hesperus wrecked, and watched a lobster boat bring in its catch. Word to the wise, if you see the odd lobster claw on the ground you probably do not want to pick it up, stick it in your trunk, and take it home as a souvenir.

We spent two nights of our adventure sleeping in the car. One because we saw a large bear in the camp grounds which turned out to be a medium sized dog. The other because a vicious mosquito had gotten into our tent. We had one emergency car repair and, believe it or not, didn’t have one drop of alcohol the entire week. What were we thinking?

However, all of these were just stops on our way to lay in the sand at Cape Cod and frolic in the ocean. When we got there, we found out that there is no ocean beach at Cape Cod. At least none that we could find. There is just an incredibly rocky shore. No wonder the Hesperus wrecked. We finally located a small sandy beach on the bay side of the cape. It wasn’t really what we had hoped for.

The highlight of the week, if you can call being scared silly a highlight, came when we went walking on the sand dunes. The dunes in 1970 were pretty spectacular. Miles of rolling sand mountains under a gorgeous blue sky. I don’t know if they have since been eroded by wind and tourists, but back in the day they were really something.

We seemed to be the only tourists in the area that day. We were trudging along, up and down the dunes, giving our legs quite a work-out when a man approached us from out of nowhere. Suddenly, there we were all alone on a vast expanse of sand with this weird little man. It felt uncomfortable right away. But we said hello politely because we were polite young women and walked on. But he felt the need to chat. He informed us in a, frankly, scary kind of way that four bodies had been found not long before right where we were walking.

I now know that he was not the murderer because that man had already been arrested. But at the time, Linda and I weren’t sure just who we were conversing with. Was this guy implying that he actually had planted the four bodies and was wondering if we would like to make to six? Or was he just an ass with a warped sense of humor? Or, perhaps, a self-appointed tour guide? Whichever, we were not sticking around to find out. We just smiled goofily and made tracks back to the car as fast as you can make tracks when wading through the sand. No doubt he had quite a little laugh at our expense.

The rest of our journey was unremarkable other than a rather exciting drive down a mountain followed by a semi without his load who really would have preferred us to go a lot faster. We made it home in one piece, and icing on the cake, have remained best friends, but have never even considered camping again.

Pride and Prejudice, the rest of the story

What can I say? I love Jane Austen. I’ve read all of her books and seen many of the film versions of them. I simply love the words. I love reading them and hearing them. I love the characters and the setting and the manners. My favorite is Pride and Prejudice which I just finished watching for the umpteenth time. The BBC version, of course, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Perfection.

As I sighed at the end – Elizabeth and Darcy’s rather chaste kiss – I got to wondering about just what happened to all the Bennet daughters. What were their lives like? Did they all marry well? Did Mrs. Bennet confine herself to her room for the rest of her life enjoying fits of vapors? These are things I would dearly love to know. I wish Miss Austen had written a sequel. As she didn’t, I have filled in the stories for myself.

I am quite sure that Elizabeth and Darcy had a passionate marriage lasting at least sixty years. No doubt they died in each other’s arms, having had simultaneous heart attacks while attempting some rather athletic love making. Not a bad way to go.

Jane and Bingley had a long happy marriage. Not quite so passionate as that of her sister, but with quite as much love. They had six beautiful children. And as Mr. Bennet predicted the family was a happy, and luckily, quite wealthy one, for they were much too good-natured and trusting for their own benefit.

Mary, quite naturally, married an impecunious curate in a rather obscure parish. She spent her life piously boring the congregation to tears and playing the piano badly.

A good marriage was arranged for Kitty to a dull, but suitable young man. They lived an unremarkable, but satisfactory life together. The only fly in the ointment was that Kitty threw a fit at least once a year because her husband steadfastly refused to take her to Brighton.

And then there is Lydia. She, I think, had the most interesting life. Wickham died of syphilis deeply in debt to various merchants and bookmakers ten years into their marriage. Luckily, he had lost interest in Lydia before he contracted the disease. Having estranged herself from her family entirely, even her mother had given up on her, she was left with only one hundred pounds a year and saddled with her three children who had inherited all the worst traits of their parents. One can only imagine what gems they were. While she was hopeful that her father would pass away and she would come into a portion of his estate, Mr. Bennet seemed not to care to accommodate her in this. Thus Lydia, using her most impressive talents, became a fashionable madame catering to the military stationed in Brighton under the name, Mrs. Flanders.

Mr. Bennet did Mrs. Bennet the favor of out-living her so that she should never be thrown out of Longbourn by Mr. Collins. The dear lady actually had real heart palpitations one afternoon, but no one noticed as neither Jane, nor Lizzy was there to take her a cup of tea. Afterward, Mr. Bennet found that life at Longbourn without any females in residence was so peaceful and so free from worry that he managed to make it to one hundred years old, also out-living Mr. Collins.

So, there you have it. Is Jane Austen turning in her grave or having a good laugh? I rather think the latter.

Happy New Year

Well, it’s 2019 and sadly nothing is looking particularly rosy. The world of politics is a shambles. PBS has little to offer in the way of new mysteries. The weather is unfortunate. And I have what I guess is writer’s block. But I think it’s just that I’ve run out of stories to tell. I happen to be closing on seventy years and am realizing that most of my adventures are behind me.

I did fall down the other evening. I had a package to return to L. L. Bean and the UPS man pulled up across the street. It was after dark, so I trotted down the driveway, continued on the sidewalk, walked up to the truck, and scared the bejabbers out of the driver. I am paraphrasing his own rather descriptive words. Apparently, I move rather stealthily. Who knew?

At any rate, on my return to the house I took a short cut across the lawn because it was a tad chilly. Tom was watching my progress from the window. He, of course, turned away just as the flowering cherry in the front yard deliberately stuck out a root and viciously tripped me. Down I went, banging the hell out of my knee and wrenching my wrist and shoulder while narrowly missing cracking my head on the landscape tie bordering our bed of ivy. No one came to my rescue because no one saw me go down.

After quietly assessing my various bruises and confirming that nothing was broken and celebrating the fact that my bones must be in pretty good shape, I limped into the kitchen. “I fell down,” I said.

My wonderful husband Tom is a master of denial, especially when it comes to my health. So, “No you didn’t,” was his response. And he believed it. Problem solved.

When I assured him that the problem was not solved and that I actually had fallen and would appreciate a bag of ice for the knee which was rapidly swelling, he got me the ice. But then had to tell me exactly where I went wrong. If I had just stayed on the sidewalk and come up the driveway instead of cutting across the lawn, I would not have tripped on a root.

I’m not an idiot. I had already figured this out. I was well on the way to understanding my mistake as I was flying through the darkness. I was saying to myself, “Why the hell don’t you look where you’re going?”

Why do men do this? It’s not just Tom. It’s well documented that men need to instruct even when it’s clear you already have the picture. I don’t understand why can’t men just give you a hug and say, “Here’s the ice, sweetie. Twenty minutes on, twenty off.”

At any rate, I have to admit that after his initial reluctance to acknowledge my little mishap, he was very solicitous. He finished making dinner and cleaned the kitchen. Which is why I’m pretty sure we’ll make it through 2019, politics be damned.

The one that got away!

I would really like to tell you about the very big fish my husband caught – and lost – last week. Last Wednesday we decided to take our boat out for what very well might be the last time before we have to put it away for the winter. The day began well. A light breeze rippled the water softly. Puffy white clouds decorated the azure sky, as the sun gave just enough warmth to make it comfortable.

We made our way from Harbour Cove where we keep our boat, up Rockhold Creek and past the rock wall into the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay. The water level was high after all the recent storms, but the waves were gentle. Tom put out the two planers and we slowly glided north toward the Bay Bridge reveling in the quiet and serenity. We seemed to be the only boat out there. It was lovely.

The only thing marring an otherwise perfect outing was that there were no fish to be had. So, after a couple of hours Tom began pulling in his lines. He had pulled in the first line and had just picked up the second when he caught a big one! A very big one.

Now, I must preface this with the fact that I am not, by anyone’s estimation, nautically savvy. I cannot drive the boat. I cannot swim. And, honestly, I cannot even stand up on the damned thing without becoming perilously close to going over the side.

Tom on the other hand has always had what are referred to as ‘sea legs’. He’s a wonder. He can pretty much bring in fish or hand me a soda or steer the boat and do many other amazing feats without difficulty while standing up. I’m always in awe of this ability.

That day, however, just as he was pulling in the line, shouting for me to get the net, a speed boat roared past and its wake caused our little eighteen-footer to roll dangerously. Tom lost his footing and over the side he went.

Normally, I don’t do well in crisis situations. I am usually the first one to panic. So, I am proud to say that in this instance I did have the presence of mind to turn the key and stop the engine. Then I dithered around, trying to keep my balance, and wondering what to do next.

Tom, who thank God hadn’t hit his head and does know how to swim, was treading water. As he directed me with some agitation to toss him one of the seat cushions that floats so nicely and extend the ladder so he could climb back in to the (well, I won’t quote him verbatim here because my granddaughter may read this) colorfully described boat, I’m pretty sure he was wishing he had married someone a little less cerebral and a lot more physical.

However, I managed these feats without joining him in the water and he climbed back on board, dripping and not in the best of moods. The fish, after having a good laugh at our expense, departed to depths unknown taking the planer with him. On the bright side, Tom was all right. And he had managed not to lose his glasses or his wallet. And he is still speaking to me. So, I call that a win.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to tell you this story. It’s way more interesting than my real life. However, in all honesty I can’t. We did go out. It was a beautiful day. No one went over the side. Tom didn’t catch a fish. He didn’t even get a nibble. The most exciting thing that happened was my sighting of a huge stork that turned out to be some guy pulling in a crab line. I have an appointment with the eye doctor next month.

Long Life to Mrs. B.

Cats are curious creatures. Well, of course, they are. Who hasn’t seen a cat nose into things better left un-nosed. But what I am referring to is that cats are curious creatures – peculiar, remarkable, bizarre little animals who can be at the same time both needy and independent. They can be affectionate one moment and ready to take your hand off the next. Cats enjoy being unpredictable, a trait that I firmly believe that they cultivate from kittenhood. They are also wonderful little pets that the world would be a sadder place without.

As some of you may remember at this time last year I had three little cats. They started life under my shed, born to a feral mother. I adopted them as outdoor kitties. Alas, two met unfortunate ends within weeks of each other leaving me with Mrs. B.

Dear Mrs. B. started life as a little male kitten known as Bigglesworth . When the vet informed us that Bigglesworth was not a he, but a she, she was renamed Mrs. Bigglesworth and, as is usual with longish names, soon became Mrs. B.

Mrs. B. is now fifteen years old. Translated into human years she’s a grand old lady of seventy-six. Interesting how the computation is made. Cats age most quickly in their youth. The first year of a cat’s life takes her all the way from infancy to mid-teens. Second year she jumps up to mid-twenties. Then she ages four of our years for each additional birthday celebrated.

I have recently come to understand one of the more mysterious things I have seen cats do. Have you ever seen a cat jump up, run into the middle of, say, the driveway clearly with a definite purpose in mind, only to stop dead, sit down and clean his ears? I finally figured it out! They are doing what I do all the time. I am at the kitchen sink and need clean towels. I leave the kitchen for the purpose of getting clean towels. I get upstairs only to find that I have no idea why I am standing at the top of the steps. At which point I sit down and clean my ears. Not really. I go back to the kitchen and stand at the sink until I remember what I had forgotten. Maybe cats do the same.

At any rate poor old Mrs. B. is now into her dotage and getting a bit senile. And I can certainly sympathize. She’s a little greyer and a bit slower. She complains a lot. Her meow has changed. It’s a throaty meow that sounds as if she is coming down with laryngitis. She cries for food after she’s just eaten because I’m pretty sure she’s forgotten that she just ate. She’s a bit lonely. I think she still misses her siblings. With any luck Mrs. B. will be around for another few years. I hope so. Each morning I walk out the kitchen door and say, “Good morning, Mrs. B.” and she comes running from the deck to get her breakfast. I dread the day she doesn’t.

 

Moving on and writing again

Well, I’m finally in the mood to get back to writing – at least, I think I am. It’s been a long couple of years with enough distractions to completely throw me off whatever game I may have had. Some good things, sadly more bad things, have been keeping Tom and me up nights and running around days. But these things are settling down a bit and I feel like I can catch my breath and try to focus.

Mainly because Tom’s cousin’s house was sold last month! And Eileen herself is ensconced in a shared apartment with 24/7 help. While she is not always happy about it, she is safe, sheltered and looked after. And this is a major load off our minds.

Emptying the house was fun! I am being facetious. It was not fun. I freely admit it, Tom and I are too old for this crap. The house was dirty and dusty and there were a fair amount of mouse droppings in rather strange places. Always a joy to come across. But it’s done and in the hands of some other poor schmuck who can deal with the water in the basement and the windows that won’t open. Yay!

And so, as I said, I am trying to return to writing. And I think I will begin with my list of pet peeves and just get some much-need venting out of the way. I’m clearing my mind, so to speak. And my mind could certainly use some clarity. Here we go in no order of importance whatsoever.

1 – People who back into parking spaces when they just could just pull through. I don’t understand this phenomenon, but see it all the time. A practically empty parking lot. Tons of spaces where you can just pull through to face out. But no, these people back in. Why? I would really like to ask one of them someday, but my husband fears for my life (or possibly my sanity).

2 – Bathroom stall doors that open in! Who thought this up and why? There is no room in those little spaces. We spend our time trying not to touch anything and yet to get out we must back into the toilet. It’s just yucky.

3 – Waiters who ask, “Are you finished working on that?” If they think the food they have just served you needs to be worked on, then they should just apologize for serving it. How about, “May I take your plate?” instead.

Here, I must admit that I am rather a grammar-hammer. I love the English language and it hurts to hear it used badly. So, the next few are grammar related.

4 – The use of ‘I’ when ‘me’ is correct. This misuse has become rampant. I heard our eloquent President Obama misuse it at Senator McCain’s funeral. It’s not rocket science. “Tom and I went to the store.” “Matthew went to the store with Tom and me.” When in doubt, take out the other name. ‘Matthew went to the store with I.” No, he didn’t. He went with me.

5 – ‘LIKE’ every other word.

6 – Using there’s (singular) when you mean there are (plural). Newscasters, among many others, say this all the time.

Well, now that I’ve vented and my mind is clear, I will try to come up with interesting tales of life in the slow lane to regale you with in future posts. Right now, I am running to Target run where I will certainly see someone backing into a space muttering, “It’s like real hot out there.” Wish me luck.

This entry was posted on September 7, 2018. 2 Comments

Forty-seven years and counting

Forty-seven years and counting. Yes, today marks forty-seven years since Tom and I exchanged vows and rings. We were incredibly young and pretty naïve. But we were in love and ready for our big adventure.

I have to admit that after all these years there are times that I miss that crazy passion of youth when we couldn’t keep our hands off each other and everything was new. Emotions overwhelmed us. It was intoxicating and powerful.

But then I look over at this nutty guy I’ve lived with for forever, belt loosened, gently snoring in his La-Z-Boy, occasionally muttering in his sleep (the other night it was something interesting about 4000 hot dogs) and I realize I wouldn’t go back there for anything.

Because with all the passion of those first years, it’s easy to forget the angst, the hormonal ups and downs, the stupid arguments, and the tears.

Even at its best I think marriage has a fairly sharp learning curve and we’ve certainly had our ups and downs – births, deaths, family upheavals, illness – all the things that most of us deal with at one time or another. What we’ve learned is that simply courtesy, thoughtful timing, and keeping our mouths tightly closed lest we say something that cannot be taken back, seem to be the key to muddling through. That and remembering why we married each other in the first place.

So, as I look over my best friend and my rock, emotion once again overwhelms me. It’s not just comfort and contentment that I feel – though I think that comfort and contentment are often under-rated – it is deep enduring love.

Happy Anniversary, Tommy. With so much love.

PS: Shameless promotion – I will be signing books at Bethany Beach Books on Wednesday, June 20th from 6:30 to 8:30. Hope to see you there.

 

Book Club Doesn’t Disappoint

You know how it is when all you want is to go to a movie, sit back with your popcorn, and get ready to have a really good laugh, only to find that the advertising was specious and those hysterical scenes in the trailer were the only ones in the movie? Well, Book Club is not one of those movies.

My sister and I took the afternoon off yesterday to watch Book Club. Between personal heartbreak, political chaos, and a level of societal animosity that I’ve never seen in my sixty-eight years, she and I needed a good laugh. And we got one!
If you are looking for depth, substance, and an deep discussion afterward, perhaps you should choose another picture. Book Club is a solid B movie with a great cast and nothing to make you think. It’s the story of a book club made up of four old friends, women of a certain age as we say, and their responses to Vivian’s (Jane Fonda) selected book – Fifty Shades of Grey.

The weakest plot line is that of Vivian and Arthur (Don Johnson) who were lovers forty years ago who meet once again. Sadly, there’s just no chemistry between them. One scene where they end up in a fountain together was painful to watch, really. Seventy-year-old people (the average age of the cast) don’t do cutesy very well and Jane Fonda and Don Johnson are too dignified to be asked to do it.

Diane (Diane Keaton), a widow, has a wonderful encounter on a plane where she meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia) and the attraction is immediate. Keaton is funny, but Andy Garcia steals the scene with his charmingly wry reaction to her antics. The relationship proceeds as it should with a bit of a hiccup and nice resolution.

Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig Nelson) are a long-married couple facing a difficult time in their relationship. Carol’s efforts to revive a stagnant love life has some hysterical side-effects, and Bruce’s admission of insecurity and purposelessness after retirement is, I thought, the most poignant moment in the movie.

And then there is Sharon (Candace Bergen). I love this woman. Divorced for eighteen years, a highly successful judge, she is quite happy without a man. She never the less agrees to try on-line dating and ends up on a show stealing date with George (Richard Dreyfus). Sharon is self-assured, self-doubting, witty, sardonic, and vulnerable. She is clearly the most interesting character and Bergen plays her beautifully.

As I said Book Club is a good B movie. It is predictable. The end is as it should be, everyone is happy. It was worth every penny of $9.50. I laughed out loud. I left smiling and light-hearted. I had not one minute of existential angst. It was just what my sister and I needed on a Wednesday afternoon.

Losing Another Friend

Well, springtime seems to be, once again, a difficult time for our family. My brother-in-law, Mike Dillon, passed away March 29th. It was somewhat sudden and I think we are all in still in shock.

Mike was quite something – a true gentleman, a loving and supportive father, step-father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle, an avid antiques collector, an ethical businessman, a basketball phenom (I consider anyone over the age of fifty who still plays a phenom), and a bit of a free-spirit. When I met him thirty or so years ago, he was rocking long hair, peace medallions, and designer jeans. And pulling it off with aplomb, as he continued to do.

For my husband, Tom, he was his conversation/discussion guy. Mike always had an interesting viewpoint, strangely interesting in some cases, but always thoughtful and considerate of another’s perspective.

For me, though, he was the man who loved my sister and gave her great joy. I think I will always remember his voice clearly. It was so smooth and melodic, an actor’s voice. And I can hear him clearly now talking about Chris. He was so proud of everything she did from making biscuits from scratch to her beautiful artwork. They had thirty years of happiness together for which I am so thankful.

Mike was truly one-of-a-kind and he will be missed.

 

This entry was posted on April 12, 2018. 2 Comments

Cell phones and the Technologically Infirm

I have been having a rather uneventful time lately. No unfortunate tumbles on public streets, no gluing fingers together, no more dead cats. While this makes for a peaceful life, it does not make for a good story.

I have, however, rocketed into the new century and bought an iPhone. Why, you may ask. Because I found myself looking wistfully at those lucky few – well, many really – who, while at dinner with a friend who is wondering what the GDP of Uganda is, can tell them in a few short taps on a handheld mobile device. This was just so intriguing. All that information at my fingertips anytime, anywhere. I couldn’t resist. And so I went big and got myself an iPhone 5 or it could be an XS.

Well, nothing is easy, is it? Other people don’t seem to have these problems. I was so excited. I was going to use this new technology to call someone, maybe even text! But my beautiful new iPhone with the pink butterflies on the cover wouldn’t shut up. It kept talking to me. Telling me to do things. I didn’t know why. It demanded that I ‘Tap twice.’ I would do just that, but it didn’t help. It just kept telling to tap until I thought, perhaps, it actually meant I should throw it into the garbage disposal.

I don’t think I’m alone, although I am probably only joined by people over sixty, in that I like paper manuals. Everything used to come with directions on paper. You went to the index, looked up troubleshooting, found the problem, and voila! But new technology does not come with paper. God forbid they stick a little user guide in there with the stupid phone.

After a few hours of having the damned thing yak at me, I calmed down and thought, “What would my daughter do?” She would sit down at the computer, log onto the world wide web and type, “How do you get the damned cell phone to stop telling you to tap twice?” Which I did. And it did. I can’t remember now what it told me to do, but whatever it was worked. My phone became a source of endless amusement. I became a texting fool. I looked up inane information about the cast of Leverage and how to make Eggs Benedict. All was well right up until New Year’s day when the phone just sort of froze.

I did not freak out this time. Inconvenient, yes. A little annoying, yes. But I already knew the GDP of Uganda and nobody calls me anyway. So I waited a couple of days and took it to my local AT&T store after dire predictions of needing a new battery from my beloved and that I should not pay more that $25 for it. It was not the battery at all. A very nice man fixed it in just a minute. Apparently, I had somehow gone into settings and told the phone that I was blind. I don’t know how I managed this. I do not recall going into settings, but then I am, apparently, getting a little doolally.

The best part is how the nice man fixed this little problem. He tapped it three times, just like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. So now we know, tapping your iPhone can do all sorts of things, but I still wish they would write it down on paper.

(In case you’re wondering the GDP of Uganda is $27.53 billion USD. If you want to know what a GDP is, get your own iPhone.)

This entry was posted on January 24, 2018. 1 Comment

A Feline Tragedy

I spent the weekend trying to come up with something to write about on my blog. And then my week got off to a rather rocky start. And now I have something to write about. Fair warning, it isn’t pretty.

Monday morning I lost one of my little furry friends in a really horrific way. For those who are unaware of my feline situation, I was the owner of three semi-feral cats. They were born under our garden shed over fourteen years ago and I knew them from kittenhood. I had them spayed and neutered. My husband built them a cat house and they become my outdoor friends. Mrs. Bigglesworth or Mrs. B for short, Buster, and Flufster.

Well, about two months ago, I noticed that Buster had lost a lot of weight. He was still a sweet, gentle, purring kitty, but not an eating one. Then one day he wandered off and didn’t return. It was sad, but expected. And he was happy until the end.

But last Monday was a different story. Two large dogs, Huskies, I believe, got loose in the neighborhood. I think you may guess where this is going. And I’m afraid you’re right. They attacked little Flufster. She was losing her hearing and so, she was slow off the mark.

It was a brutal attack. Tom and I ran outside and tried to chase them off. Even as we were doing this I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing? What if they turn on us?” But they didn’t. The dogs were after our cat. It took Tom turning the hose on them to finally get them gone.

Our poor little cat was terrorized and dying. My heart was breaking and I very stupidly tried to pick her up. At which point the little thing attacked my hand. Well, after the burial in the backyard she knew so well, there was the trip to the doctor.

For those of you who are not right on top of the latest medical news about feline bites, they are much more prone to infection than the canine type. By the time I got into the office Tuesday morning, my hand was red and swollen. I got through the visit with a minimum of tears as I related my sad story and managed not to pass out on the floor (as all my sisters are prone to do) when I got a tetanus shot. Then home with an antibiotic to nurse my very sore hand and to take a much needed valium.

I’m still sad, as is Mrs. B. who will now probably die of obesity because I keep feeding her to make up for our loss. I know Fluff was only a cat, but she was my cat and it was a terrible way to go.

Mrs. B.                                       Buster                                 Flufster

 

 

 

 

 

Reunions and other happy events

As some of you may know the past year has been less than stellar for our family. In fact, it was a very difficult time. I could go into detail, but I prefer not. Because in August I had a birthday marking the beginning of a new year for me. I turned sixty-eight. I know. It’s hard to believe. I don’t look a day over sixty-seven. But I am and since then things are looking up. I’ve had a reunion and I’m looking forward to a book launch, and my son’s wedding in March!

Just last weekend I attended the 50th reunion of Regina High School Class of 1967. Regina was a small all-girls Catholic school in Hyattsville, Maryland, now defunct. But back in the day it was a good place to be. It was our extended family. And I am so lucky that I’m still close to my best friends from that time.

And that time was a bit different from today. We wore saddle shoes and brown woolen uniforms causing the school to smell like a large wet dog on rainy days. Slacks were forbidden and skirts were supposed to touch the floor when kneeling. There was actually a smoking lounge for seniors. But the basics were the same. We went to class, complained about our uniforms, cried over boys, and worried about exams.

The reunion was a lovely event. An excellent turn out of thirty-one attendees out of a class of one hundred and three. We all looked fabulous! And, magically, we were all still friends. It was a warm and intimate weekend and, sadly, it was probably the last time we’ll have such a party. After all, we are in our 69th year. And we have already lost quite a few. So, I will treasure the memory for as long as my memory holds out.

Now for a little shameless promotion – Upcoming Events. November 4th, 1 p.m. join me for a Mystery Author Extravaganza at the Howard County Library in Ellicott City or for a Sisters in Crime author panel on November 12th at 2 p.m. at the Crofton Library in Crofton.

And my newest Daisy&Rose mystery, Pushing Up Daisies, is being released December 15th. It’s available for pre-order and just to whet your appetite, I’m including a little glimpse into the Forrest ladies’ new adventure. I hope you will enjoy.

 

An excerpt from Pushing Up Daisies

Rose handed her a large martini glass filled with a dark purple mixture.

Daisy grabbed the glass and downed half of it. She threw herself into a chair, decorating her sweater with a good bit of the drink, and gulped what was left. “Do you have any more of this stuff?”

“That good, hmm?” As she refilled Daisy’s glass, Rose took a good look at her sister. “Daisy, what’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Daisy squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed her short blond curls with both hands.

“Daisy, what in God’s name is wrong? Did you have an accident?”

“I saw one.”

“You saw an accident? Was someone hurt?”

Daisy opened her eyes. “A ghost.”

“A ghost was hurt? What are you talking about?”

“I saw a ghost.”

“You did not see a ghost.”

“I did too. So did Malcolm and Percy.”

“There are no such things as ghosts.”

“Yes, there are. And we have just seen one.” She took a sip out of her newly filled glass. Her voice sank to a whisper. “It was so weird. We’d dropped Mother off at the airport and I decided to take the back roads home. We were on Laurel Road coming up to Holly Hill Mansion. It looked so beautiful in the distance, glowing in the moonlight. I was thinking how much I liked being a docent there and of how much we still had to do to get ready for our Gothic Evening when a huge ball of fog rolled right across the road. Kind of like a bale of hay, only it was fog.”

“Daisy, there’s no fog tonight. It’s crystal clear outside.”

“Well, there was fog on Laurel Road. The dogs started howling when an even bigger bale of the stuff rolled out of the woods. I couldn’t see the road. It was freaky. I had to pull over onto the grass. Then the dogs shut up in mid-howl and started climbing onto my head.

“We sat there in this eerie muffled silence until the fog rolled away.” Daisy thought a moment. “Well, it might have been muffled because the dogs were covering my ears. Anyway, it was so spooky I just wanted to get out of there. When the fog cleared a little I got the mutts back in their seat, gripped the wheel, and edged the car back onto the road. And there she was. I almost hit her!”

“Hit who?”

“Sophia Amelia Meade Long. She was all wreathed in mist, standing right in front of the car looking at me.”

A deep voice asked, “Who?”

Daisy jumped about six inches, completing the sweater decoration. “What the …? Peter, I didn’t see you there.”

Peter Fleming, Rose’s handsome friend, had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room. “Sorry I startled you, but who is this Sophia Amelia whatever?”

“Peter, don’t encourage her.” Rose got a napkin and mopped up a bit of Spooky Juice from the floor.

“Well, she clearly saw something that frightened her. Why not a ghost? Who is this woman, or I guess I should say, was this woman?”

Rose snapped, “There was no woman. She probably saw a tree.”

“I think even Daisy can tell the difference between a woman and a tree.”

Daisy pointed at herself and shouted, “Hey! Right here. And I did not see a tree.” She puffed out a sigh. “Just what the heck did you mean ‘even Daisy’?”

“Sorry. Bad choice of words. I meant, of course Daisy can tell the difference.”

Daisy gave him a look. “Hmm, mmm. I’ll bet. Well, Sophia Long is the woman who bought Holly Hill Mansion in 1790 and I saw her standing in front of my car not an hour ago. So either it was her ghost or she’s looking incredibly good for being two hundred-some years old!”

 

This entry was posted on October 13, 2017. 2 Comments

Losing a Friend

I lost a good friend last week. My sister-in-law, Jane Petersen Mongelli, finally surrendered to cancer after a two year battle she always knew she would lose. But fight it she did because that was Jane. She left us peacefully with her beloved daughters at her side on Wednesday May 17th.

Penny, Matt, Jane, Terry, Tom, Courtnay

When I met my husband, Tom, I was a bit of a mess. I was all of eighteen, shy and insecure, lacking quite a bit in the way of social skills.

And so as much as I love Tom’s family now, I have to say that at the time we were first introduced I found them all incredibly intimidating. But Jane reached out and took me by the hand and made my entry into the Petersen clan a little less daunting.

Looking back, I think part of this may have been Jane making sure that her brother wasn’t dating some lunatic who would break his heart. She was always protective of those she loved.

I am so fortunate that we became close friends and have remained so for almost fifty years. Jane could on occasion a bit of a handful. She could be stubborn and hard-headed one minute, laughing and helpful the next. But she was always Jane. There was never pretense, no dissembling. With Jane what you saw was what you got. And what you got was a woman fiercely loyal to her family and friends, who loved a good party, good food, music, political discussions, and a bit of catty gossip.

And of course, Jane loved her girls, Courtnay and Terry, and her grandkids, Ben, Nick, Abby and Grace. They made her life complete. She was so very proud of them all.

Well, I firmly believe that Jane has now been reunited with her husband, John. He is singing a little Willie Nelson as he brings her a cup of coffee. She’s smiling. And she’s keeping a close eye on us all.

How I learned the Infield Fly Rule

I know it’s only the beginning of February, but what better time to start thinking about baseball? The political climate is dismal, the sky is grey, it’s chilly outside, but not cold enough for a good snow, warm fire and hot buttered rum. I am not a football or a basketball fan. But I do love springtime and the boys of summer.

When my husband, Tom, and I met we differed in one major respect, our choice of recreational pursuits. Tom has always loved sports. He played sports in grade school. He was Gonzaga’s shortstop in high school. His playing career may have ended with high school, but certainly not his love for most things sporting. He watches baseball, college basketball and football. He likes throwing balls around. The man has been know to golf, play tennis, racquetball, swim and water-ski – and enjoy it. He fishes, for crying out loud. Being smelly and sweaty, standing in the hot sun, appears to be his idea of a good time.

Whereas, I have always been the kid in left field praying that the ball will in go any direction, but toward me. I can’t swim. I have no depth perception. I am a klutz. I can trip over my own feet anytime, on any surface. If you mention water and fish to me, I think hot shower and canned tuna. I have always believed that sweating is to be avoided. The great outdoors is for picnics under trees and slow walks around lakes sporting the intoxicating scent of Eau d’Backwoods OFF. I had no interest in sports and, to a great extent, still don’t. But I now have to admit a strong liking for baseball. And it’s due to having a kid.

Tom and I have two wonderful children. Rachel Anne, our first, is a lady after my own heart. We love dancing, singing, theatre, fantasy, and movies. All the things my dear Thomas will never really comprehend. But he was always immensely proud of Rachel knowing her to be the best at whatever performance he was watching – plays, dance recitals, speech contests – which (and this is a completely unbiased opinion) she often was. But Tom was as much at sea about the finer points of stage presence, leg extension, and speaking from the diaphragm as I was about tackles, punts, and traveling.

When Matthew, our second little bundle of joy arrived, he was (I really hate this term, but…) All Boy. He dug in the dirt, fought off bad guys, ran, jumped, kicked, climbed. He was an active, happy kid. But nothing prepared me for the look of pure joy on Tom’s face when Matt, at three years old, let loose a cannon in the back yard. Tom walked into the house and said, “He can throw! And he’s left-handed!”

Matt played soccer, basketball and baseball. I cheered him on the soccer field, but never did understand the off-sides thing. Basketball was a bit better, but the smell of the gym and the squeaky noise their shoes made were off putting. 

Matt was pretty good at all three, but he loved baseball best. And so did I. Baseball is a wonderful game that teaches kids structure, patience, strategy, leadership, and teamwork. All the practices and games also meant that he was dog tired at the end of the day, always a good thing.

In time I came to appreciate the elegance of the game.  Not understanding much of what was going on myself, I marveled at the fact that the kids seemed to have absorbed the rules and the etiquette of baseball as if by osmosis. They learned the art of pitching, hitting, fielding, stealing, bunting, sliding into base without damaging themselves. They tipped their hats, ran home run bases with straight ‘just doing my job’ faces, and were gracious in victory or defeat (mostly). We saw the Orioles play during the Ripken era. It was exciting and just plain fun. 

Matt isn’t playing any more, he’s coaching. We root for the Nationals and I fully expect to see them make it to the Series this year. What I am most proud of personally is that, while I still don’t get a lot of the intricacies of the game, I do know the Infield Fly Rule. For a girl who has never swung a bat or caught a fly ball, I think that’s pretty good.

Happy Holiday, sort of

Well, it’s the holiday season once again and, once again, I am trying to find some of the spirit that it should bring. I am having a more difficult time than usual this year. The hate, divisiveness, and ignorance that seems to surround us is just really getting me down.

To top it all, in August I had requested tickets for a White House Christmas tour and just received word that our request was denied. Lots and lots of people want to go to the Obama White House. They couldn’t fit us in.

So I have been wracking my brain, something that has become increasingly hard to do as the little grey cells seem to be dying off at an alarming rate, and I have remembered a Christmas that made me smile. I have no idea why, except that it was so typical for our family.

When our girls were little my sister, Chris, and I would plan a Christmas outing. My mother, trooper that she was, would go with us and pretend to enjoy the chaos.

In the particular Christmas season that I am thinking about we chose to take the girls to lunch and then on to see The Nutcracker at Lisner Auditorium. Rachel, my own little angel, must have been about four, and Erika, Chris’s little sweetie, about seven. The girls had their new holiday duds on and I like to think they could pass for extras from Miracle on 34th Street, but probably they looked like a couple of the Herdmans straight out of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. And so, tickets in hand we made our way into the big city for a delightful afternoon.

Well, no one can ever accuse me of over-planning anything. Lunch did not go off well. I did not think to make calls to find out if restaurants in the area were actually open. (Note to the IPhone generation – there was a time when there was no internet, no GPS, no Siri, no cell phone of any kind. My family had to rely on a half-witted event planner (moi) to make actual phone calls on a land line, no less, to various eating establishments to find out hours, menus, etc. It was a cruel, uncaring world!)

Needless to say, on a Sunday afternoon in 1978 very few restaurant options in the GW campus area were to be had. We finally found an eatery in a hotel. The kids menu boasted hot dogs. This sounded like a safe option. Of course, they were foot-long hot dogs. They were also VERY expensive foot-long hot dogs. So did we do the rational thing and get one for them to share? We did not. They each got their own rather lousy, expensive, hot dog. They did not finish their lunch. They did not appreciate the cuisine. This set the tone for the rest of the day.

After leaving our ghastly repast, Rachel, being a card-carrying member of the Clover family klutz club to which we all belong, promptly tripped and fell on the sidewalk ripping her new tights. This took valuable time to sooth, as we were running late due to the search for a restaurant. She was quite upset about the tights. The skinned knee seemed less of a problem.

We finally made it to Lisner just as the orchestra was beginning the overture. Of course, we had seats in the nose-bleed section. We were halfway up the steep steps to our little aerie when all the lights in the theatre went out. All of them. It was dark. Pitch. There were no little safety lights on the end of each row. There were no lights at all. I know this didn’t last more than a minute before the curtain came up, but if you had been there I am sure, unless you happen to be a mountain goat, you would have agreed with me that it was a minute of sheer terror. I latched onto my daughter, at least I assumed it was my daughter, and climbed on hands and knees eventually making it to our seats unscathed.

The rest of the afternoon apparently went fairly smoothly, as I don’t remember any other hiccups. Yes, The Nutcracker seemed to go on forever. But it was colorful and festive and, best yet, neither girl had to go the restroom during the performance. We made it home in one piece. We had our family outing.

We still try to do something each year – see a play, take a White House tour, or just have a cookie day. It’s special time with the people we love and memories of holidays past and hopes for the future.

My wish to all of you – whatever you celebrate – Hanukkah, Kwanza, the Winter Solstice, or Christmas Day – may your memories and the love of the season keep you warm and bring you a joyous holiday and a peaceful New Year.

A Veterans Day Message

I would like to take a moment to remember all of our veterans, especially the men of the 3/17th who served with my brother, Tim Clover, in Viet Nam. I lift a glass to you all. And I am privileged to share with you a letter from my great-niece, Mia Rafield,

to her uncle who is serving overseas. She’s a beautiful ten year whose heart is filled with compassion and love. She is also, quite clearly, a budding writer. She beautifully states what I think most of us feel.

 

A nice little vacation

Well, we got back from a family vacation last weekend. I believe a good time was had by all. Tom and I relaxed. We read, played Bananagram, and did crossword puzzles. The kids swam, rode bumper cars, and mini-golfed. My birthday came during the week, so we had cake!

No one got sunburned. No one stepped on a nail. No one had to visit a medical professional for a tooth repair, strep throat, or urinary tract infection – all of which we had done in previous years. In fact, I didn’t even open the first aid kit. The only down side was the impressive lack of fish in the Atlantic Ocean willing to play tug of war with a fishing pole. Perhaps they didn’t know my son is a fan of catch-and-release. Perhaps they are just sadistic little teases. However, if the worst I can say about this vacation is no fish were caught, I am a happy camper.

Having time on my hands these days, sort of, I spent the week before we left planning a treasure hunt for our granddaughter, Sophie. She is eight now and loves to play pirate. She is constantly digging up our yard searching for treasure or insisting that I be her first mate and stand under the wooden play house. Ideally she would like me to climb up and be a look-out, but we first mates are getting too old for that.

So, I drew a map depicting the beach at Nagshead. It included a pirate ship sailing the bounding main, three rather obvious clues, and a large X marking the spot. I then aged the paper in tea and singed its edges. I also aged a little wooden casket, filled it with silver and gold dollars and an old locket that belonged to my aunt in which I put pictures of Sophie’s parents. I locked it with an old suitcase lock and tied the key to the string around the map.

On our last full day, Matt and Theresa buried the treasure on the beach while I hid the map in the laundry room. I asked Sophie to help me with something and we ‘found’ it. I have to say this for my granddaughter. She is smart as a whip and you really cannot fool her most of the time. Unfortunately, Sophie had seen the key in my office. But she is a sweet girl and a dead game sport, as my mother used to say (if anyone knows the etymology of this phrase, I’d appreciate hearing from you), so she played right along.

First, she said the map must be meant for someone else. I reminded her that Pirate maps are fair game, so we kept the map. She told me that the key was the same as the one at my house. She posited that the pirates must have broken in, made a copy of the key, and tied it to the map. Then she laughed and said, “No. That’s too farfetched!” You gotta love this kid.

Sophie showed her parents and excitedly pointed out that it must be a map of the beach and the trail must be the one in front of our house. As we walked to the beach she looked for clues along the way. When we got there, we found the bucket of blood, the peculiar foot garb, and the orb of the sea, but couldn’t locate the X. It was not in the exact location of the map. We decided that sands shift, so we looked further and, lo and behold, a large seaweed X marked the spot indeed.

She dug up the treasure, opened the casket and threw the coins in the air – just like in a movie. She loved the locket and couldn’t get over the fact that the pirates had her parents pictures in it. We decided that these were magical pirates who could see into the future.

Now here is the best part of my week. Later that day Sophia told her mother not to tell me, but that she knew all along that I set up the map and the treasure so she would have some fun on her last day. Life does not get any better.

Proud to be Irish

Top of the morning to you all! Last week we celebrated St. Patrick’s day, a day when we are all Irish. Well, not all. I do know a few friends who refuse to be Irish even for a day, but I forgive them. Everyone is entitled to a quirk or two.

Growing up I can’t remember my mother, who was the child of first and second generation parents, really admitting to being Irish except on March 17th. On March 17th, however, for a day the radio was tuned to Irish music. We sometimes went to Mass downtown at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C. We wore the green. But just for one day. I once was asking about my heritage and my mother told me we were American. Which, of course, we were and proudly so.

As I ponder the current political rhetoric spewing from the mouth of some of our presidential hopefuls of hatred, divisiveness, unfounded fear of other nationalities and religions, I consider why my mother didn’t discuss being Irish.

She was old enough to remember the time when the Irish were discriminated against. They were unfairly labeled as lazy, criminal, violent, and alcoholic – what ever came to mind. Who knows why. Prejudice and bigotry have no basis in fact. It certainly couldn’t have been color because, Lord knows, you really can’t get much paler than the Irish.

The prejudice that lives within us is to my mind simply stunning. I am at a loss as to how we, as a country founded by immigrants are so quick to condemn others for what – looking different, praying differently, not assimilating as quickly as we think they should. Quite honestly, exactly how did the English assimilate? I don’t notice any of us speaking a Native American tongue. What are these people afraid of – a different language, religion, skin color – what is the fear?

I try not to get political. It’s not a great way to sell books, but sometimes I just have to say what I feel. I love my Irish and English heritage as much as, I would assume, people love being Hispanic, Iranian, French, Kenyan, or Japanese. We are, after all, just people with families we love, heritages we’re proud of, looking for a better tomorrow.

Why I like to write

Wednesday evening I took part in an authors’ panel sponsored by Sisters in Crime, a wonderful organizations for mystery writers and fans. It was held at the Beatley Library in Alexandria.

This is a bit of a trek for me, especially at night. But my sister, Chris, went with me. She’s a dead game sport, as my mother used to say, and always willing to accompany me wherever I might be headed from Rehoboth Beach to Alexandria.

We made the trip over without mishap. It was daylight and Chris could read the written directions I had printed. We had only one small hitch going the wrong way on Duke Street, easily corrected.

At any rate, we got there early as planned and had a leisurely dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant. Then onto the library for the panel. I was nervous, as I always am when doing just about anything. Truth is, I get nervous writing this blog. But the other panel members – Art Taylor, Sherry Harris, Maya Corrigan, Claudia Lefevre – were warm and welcoming and very easy to talk to.

Art led the discussion and we had a lovely audience. The discussion was interesting, the other panelists knowledgeable, and I even sold a few books, which is always nice.

The trip home didn’t go quite as smoothly as the trip over. I don’t know Virginia roads at all. I am not comfortable driving at night really and my GPS had some serious issues about what constitutes ‘keeping left’. We got rather lost.

Alone I would not have been a happy camper. But with my trusty sidekick in the passenger seat, we managed to find it all quite amusing as we wended our way through unchartered territory. And somehow we made it back, unscathed, no thanks to my Global Positioning System. I came home in a good mood.

The morning after I began to think about the discussion. I rather think I must have sounded like a scatty old lady. I’m pretty sure my thoughts weren’t clear. My mind tends to drift from topic to topic, so my answers probably made no sense. I began feeling that I made an ass of myself. This may or may not be the case. Chris says I sounded fine, but what is she going to say? She’s my sister. This is what I always do after speaking somewhere.

And this is why I love writing. My characters always say exactly what I want them to say because I get do-overs! Just like writing this blog. I get to edit, cut and prune. Choose the right word. Take out the wrong word. Clarify when necessary. Add the witty riposte. It’s not that writing is easy. It’s not. But it can be just so much fun, at times. And when I’m typing, not talking, I usually don’t feel like an idiot.