Roses Are Dead, My Love

A little snippet from Roses Are Dead, My Love

 

Angela walked in and Rose said, “Mother, what in God’s name are you dressed for?”

“This is how I roll, honey. Ready for a little night-time action.”

She was wearing a black cat suit, black ballet shoes and a black bandana covering her honey-blond curls. And she was carrying her Super-Soaker.

Daisy said, “Mother really, a bit suspicious looking, isn’t it? We all set?”

They put the dogs on their leashes and walked casually down the street and toward the park. As they were crossing the bridge a police cruiser pulled up next to them and Tom Willis rolled down his window.

“Everything okay?” He looked at Angela a little doubtfully.

“Just walking the dogs before bed,” answered Daisy. “Everything quiet around here?”

“Seems to be.” He hesitated a moment and then said, “Angela, you’re not planning an attack on that streaker, are you?”

“Oh, heaven’s no. Just letting Percy and Malcolm get a bit of air. It’s so hot during the day that these poor little guys don’t get enough exercise.”

“Okay, ladies. Please, stay close to home and keep together. Don’t forget there’s a murderer out here somewhere.”

Rose shivered. “How could we? We’ll be careful. Good night.”

Tom drove off slowly turning to go past the park and post office, then continued out toward the highway.

Daisy said, “Okay, we’ve probably got about half an hour before another patrol comes through. Let’s move it!”

Everything seemed to be quiet. Only a couple of lights were on in some of the houses further down the street. They crossed in front of the post office and started up the alley to the back door. Malcolm and Percy stopped suddenly and started snarling and growling.

Rose said, “Okay, let’s go home. The dogs don’t like this.”

But Angela was moving ahead, squirt gun in hand. “Come on girls,” she whispered over her shoulder. As she got near to the corner of the building, they heard a door bang.

“Mother, stop!” Daisy hissed. Angela had reached the corner and stuck her head around when the sisters caught up with her.

Just as Rose whispered, “What do we do now?” a shadow ran from the back of the building toward them. Malcolm and Percy started pulling at their leashes and barking like crazy. The figure turned to his right and veered up the alley running all out toward the old neighborhood.

“What was that?” whispered Daisy.

“Someone else breaking into the post office?” answered Rose.

“Seems to be a popular pastime. Well, he’s gone. We might as well take a look.”

They sidled around the corner, the dogs trotting beside them. Malcolm was calm now, sniffing the area. Angela said, “You’re right. Whoever it was is gone.”

Daisy was inspecting the door. “Look. We don’t even have to break in. The door’s open!”

Rose had her phone out. “Daisy, are you nuts? We don’t know the place is empty. We have to report this. That could have been the killer finishing the job Peggy interrupted.”

“Just give me one minute, Rose. I’ll just pop in and check out the book. And then we’ll call.”

“He’ll be long gone by then.”

“He’s probably long gone now.”

While they were arguing, Angela had slipped into the door and was back. She was holding a red three-ring binder labeled ‘POST OFFICE BOXES’ with her bandana. “Is this what you wanted? I found it lying on the floor. The place is a mess.”

“Mother! Put that back,” cried Rose.

“Wait a second, Rose,” said Daisy. “Just let me take a look.”

She carefully turned the pages of the book by the edges. When she came to Box 768 she pulled out her cell phone and snapped a picture of the page. “One more second. All right, I’ve emailed it to myself.”

Cabin Fever or a Wintry Mix?

Cabin fever? Hah! I am suffering from the much more debilitating ‘wintry mix’. A dash of cabin fever, a soupcon of winter blahs, a modicum of arthritic knee pain, and a hefty dollop of writer’s block. That’s me.

I walk from room to room and gaze hopefully out the windows looking for anything green, any sign of spring. I did see a robin, but he just looked cold, sad and depressed, about like me.

I go from project to project. A line written here, a load of laundry there. I clean out one cupboard, only to find that I’ve dumped all of the stuff I took out into another cupboard. My to-do list is growing, but have-done list is not.

My arms don’t touch my sides for all of the layers I’m wearing. I’ve lost sixteen pounds sticking to my Weight Watchers, but who could tell?

And please don’t tell me to be thankful I’m not in Massachusetts or Rhode Island. If I were I wouldn’t have to worry about my wintry mix because I’d be in the state home for people WHO HAVE HAD ENOUGH AND FINALLY LOST IT!

To add insult to injury, or perhaps the other way around, I watched the news the other night and found that I, along with my sister and sister-in-law, might be featured players on a video made by a local pervert who runs a very nice restaurant near here.

Yes, I’m talking about cameras in the ladies room. I have been a patron of that very ladies room several times in the last few years and I have two questions about this. Who in this world gets his jollies, as my mother used to say, watching women use these facilities? And when am I getting paid for my performance?

Since there seem to be no answers to these questions, I will go now and feed the robin outside my window. He’s been looking in, probably hoping to see something green.

I just don’t understand!

My father used to say quite often that he was just too old. He didn’t understand this world any more. Well, I’m beginning to know how he felt.

When we’re young I think not understanding things is a good thing. We question and dissect and search for meaningful answers. And we are sure that at some point we will figure out all that life has to offer.

But as we age and those answers aren’t forthcoming and more and more things go on that seem to us ‘odd’, we start shaking our heads and saying, “I don’t get it!” with an alarming amount of regularity.

Of course, there are a myriad number of things that I have never understood and never thought that I would; i.e.: the theory of relativity, why avocados have such large pits, why nature in its infinite wisdom made mosquitoes, and who first looked at a blue crab and said, “Boy, I’ll bet that’s tasty!”  These don’t bother me.

And I am not speaking of the overwhelming questions that have plagued us since time began. Terrorism, child abuse, plagues, man’s inhumanity to man, slavery and the like. If man ever finds the answer to these maybe they’ll stop, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

No. I’m referring to the little things that seem to have changed in my lifetime, which don’t really make a difference in my life and, in many cases, may be a change for the better for all I know, but they are like little pebbles in my shoe anyway.

Here are just few things off the top of my head that have become commonplace that I simply do not get, for your enjoyment and in no particular order.

Tattoos. This is in no way a moral judgment. I know some very lovely people who are well-tattooed. I just don’t understand why.

Using ‘I’ when you should use ‘me’.

Why so many people find wrestling fun to watch.

Beautiful women who have extreme plastic surgery.

People who live together with no intention of marrying calling referring to each other as ‘my fiancé’.  Again, not a judgment of any moral kind. Just a question of proper word usage.

People wearing shorts when it’s 30 degrees out.

Waiters who ask, “Are you still working on that?”, as if the food they serve is so bad that it requires work to eat it.

Saying jewlery, instead of jewelry.

Playing electronic games for hours and hours. Also, surfing the web (if it’s still called that) for hours and hours.

Not teaching cursive writing and the times tables in grade school.

I could go on, but I’m old and crotchety and my computer-time tolerance has worn out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s in a Name?

Happy New Year

It’s January again and I feel I must make a few resolutions – well, maybe one. I’m not sure why. It would seem that the first day of spring is a more apt time to be thinking of renewal and change. But January first is the tradition, so I’ll stick to it.

My resolution is to finish my book by May first and to write at least one blog post a month. Since ideas are scarce, I gave up on weekly. So to begin 2015 –

What’s in a name?

A lot is written about plot development, character development, where ideas come from, etc. But lately I’ve been pondering character names. Where do they come from? Do most authors sit down and deliberately decide character names? Do they start with a name that they’ve always loved? Are they paying homage to someone or making puns on purpose?

I hadn’t given this much thought before. I just sat down a picked names at random that seemed to work. Then my son, and, when asked, my sister, both thought that my policeman – tall, handsome, Bill Greene – was loosely based on my ex-brother-in-law. This never occurred to me. But when they brought this up I realized that my sister’s ex is very tall, very handsome, and is named Bill. Go figure!

My main characters are Daisy, Rose and Angela. It seems that these names just came to me. But I lately have remembered that my confirmation name is Rose. Not that I had forgotten my confirmation name. I just didn’t realize that I named a character after myself.

The only truly nice guy in the Daisy&Rose series is named Tom Willis. He’s handsome, intelligent, and plays by the rules. A good guy all around. It happens that my husband is also named Tom. He’s handsome, intelligent and an all-around good guy. I know that no one will believe this, but I did not choose his name intentionally.

I have a restaurant called the Clover Tavern. The family who owns it is named Clover. This was intentional. My Dad built such a tavern in Fredericksburg, Virginia back in the day and ran it with his mother. However, until I saw it in print, I totally blanked on the fact that Penny Clover Petersen is written in big letters on the front of the book.  And then it just seemed a really odd choice.

At this point I feel that some, probably most, of you are now concerned about my mental health. You needn’t worry. I’ve always been somewhat concerned about my mental health, but, as I am not dangerous, I just ignore it. However, I do find it fascinating that my sub-conscious mind is naming my characters without my knowledge or consent. The question now is do I continue to let the recesses of my mind do the work or do I take charge and go to the obits and the phone book?

I’d love to hear from other authors about how they name their characters.

 

 

 

 

 

The trouble with cozies

Writing cozies can be tricky. The rules are pretty well defined, even if you choose to write, as I do, a ‘modern cozy’. There are three. 1)Cozy writers do not depict grizzly murders and autopsies are avoided. We don’t have psychotic killers torturing hapless victims in gruesome detail. 2)Sex is glossed over with only the incidental reference to ‘incredibly tall, slim men with well-cut graying hair and eyes the color of smoky quartz under wire-rimmed glasses’. Perhaps adding ‘kind of bookish and sexy – quite the studly muffin’.  3)And, of course, we don’t use foul language.

 

Of these restrictions I find I have no trouble at all avoiding explicit violence in my books. I am not a fan of this sort of thing. I turn my head when a doctor needs to give an injection on a medical show. I certainly am not going to write about some nut dismembering bodies or the joy he gets as he watches the last life’s blood flow from a beautiful young woman’s body. My victims tend to be obnoxious people that no one much likes who are conked on the head and found by the side of the road.

 

Next there is sex. – always an interesting subject and I’m not averse to the idea. But I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s when we didn’t talk about it. I went to a Catholic girls’ high school and to hear any of the conversations taking place at lunch no one in that entire school so much as kissed a boy. This, of course, was amazingly far from the truth. We were as busy experimenting as any healthy teenager, but we just did not discuss it. So not writing about it is pretty natural to me.

 

Foul language, on the other hand, can be a problem. I actually grew up in a home where I never heard my parents utter anything more profane than damn and hell. When my father needed to fix the plumbing or some other odious task, my mother would shoo us all out of the house for fear something stronger might slip from between his lips.

 

Of course, this did not prevent me from learning this language elsewhere and using it. My everyday speech is not chock full of colorful invective, I do occasionally throw out a word or two my mother would not approve of.

 

So what is acceptable in a cozy written in 2014? Can we use (this is silly I know) the S-word? Can we reference God? Can a leading lady say, “Oh Christ!”? And of course there is the big one – the F-bomb. Now I don’t advocate throwing it around like confetti, but I do feel there are appropriate times that it might be used. As my children could tell you, if they heard me scream f….. out loud, they would most certainly know that I am really, really mad or have gone completely around the bend. And I feel the same holds true in a cozy. A crazed killer saying, “Oh gosh, you are an idiot” does not have the dramatic effect as something much more strongly worded. And so the question is, just how much is too much – and is it still a cozy?

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And by the way, I will be a guest on We B Swangin webcast this upcoming Wednesday, November 19th at 4 pm. Tune in at WLVS Radio Live www.listenvisionlive.com for what I’m sure will be an amusing hour.

The real Angela Forrest – Jean, Regina, and Mary

Of the characters I’ve created Angela Delphinium Forrest is my favorite. A woman of a certain age, she is charming, unpredictable, attractive, intelligent and whimsical. She’s a wonderful hostess, be it a planned dinner or a surprise midnight invasion of nosy neighbors. She can whip up cookies for one hundred or a Thanksgiving dinner for twelve at a moment’s notice. She owns the appropriate clothes for any event. On Thanksgiving Day she might be the perfect Pilgrim. In the dead of night, a sleek black cat burglar – with a splash of red at the neck, of course. She may be eccentric, verging on sheer lunacy, but she loves her family, is fiercely protective, and is always up for anything that sounds like trouble.

This lovely lady is, of course, an invention, but she has her roots in three wonderful women I have been fortunate to have in my life; Jean Petersen, Regina Clover, Mary Garrison.

Jean Petersen, my dear mother-in-law, is as lovely today as she was when I first met her almost fifty years ago. She is the perfect mother-in-law – never intrusive, always helpful. Family always comes first for Jean and we rely on her wisdom and support. She is a great cook and the ideal hostess. And she is an intelligent lady who isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

Regina Clover, my mother, died 1986. I still miss her. She had a wicked sense of humor and a keen intelligence. She loved to tease people, my father especially. She accepted what life dealt out with patience and faith and there was rarely a situation where she couldn’t find something to laugh about.  And although my father and brother were the writers in the family, my mother is the person who instilled in me my love of books, especially mysteries.

While Angela became a distillation of all these women, Mary Garrison, my best friend’s mother and something of a second mother to me, was the original inspiration for the character. Mary was a complex mixture of naiveté, gullibility, common sense, intelligence and business savvy. She loved life and people and her family most of all. She was a lady who rolled with the punches and usually found something good somewhere in the chaos. And Mary did indeed dress for every occasion – be it a sweater, skirt and knee socks for going back to school at sixty-something or a complete country western ensemble when visiting out New Mexico.

Mary left us in September. She is missed by so many people. And I’ve been feeling like my muse left with her. I have been having a very hard time writing Angela. But I suddenly realized that Angela, like Mary, Jean and Regina, knows that the secret when encountering stumbling blocks in life is simply to do the next right thing. So starting today, Angela is back in business -wearing a black wool sheath by St. John covered in white dog hair and a Red Sox baseball cap.

This entry was posted on October 29, 2014. 2 Comments

My inspiration (September SinC-Up)

I recently became a member of ‘Sisters in Crime’, a service organization dedicated to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. And wouldn’t you know it, I had no sooner sent in a check, than I got a writing assignment – an invitation to participate in September’s SinC-up for bloggers. (www.sistersincrime.org/bloghop)  So this week’s little missive actually will be about writing!

I would imagine that all writers are inspired by someone or something they have read – be it a childhood story that so stimulated the imagination that they embarked on wild adventures that they would later write about – or, perhaps, reading a gritty page-turner and realizing that that neighbor down the street who peers out the window with wild eyes through a crack in the curtain is a villain who needs a story.

And I am no exception. There are two authors to whom I’m grateful. The first is Harper Lee who wrote with such poetry that every time I read To Kill a Mockingbird I am once again totally immersed in her beautiful words. The sounds, the smells, the ‘feel’ of Maycomb become so real that I can’t put it down, even at the twentieth reading! I will never write such a book. I spent years trying to find a story in my heart that equaled it when I finally dawned on me that I didn’t need to. It’s been done – perfectly.

But, I also realized what was most important to me about To Kill a Mockingbird.  Harper Lee made me want to write. It took a while, but at the ripe old age of fifty-nine, I finally found stories that I can tell in my own voice – cozy little mysteries. They’re not great American novels, but they are fun, little books that can take you out of yourself for a few hours. And with the stressful lives we all live, I think they serve a valuable purpose.

The second author who inspired me greatly was the one who actually gave me a kick start to write Roses and Daisies and Death, Oh My. Her name shall remain unrevealed for two reasons. The first reason is that I’ve forgotten it.

The second reason (and the reason I’ve forgotten it) is that the book she had written was so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I complained loudly that “apparently anyone could get published and I wonder who she slept with to do so” or words to that effect. My charming husband, Tom, then said, “Well, why don’t you write one yourself?” And a book was born.

So thank you Miss Lee and Miss Unmemorable for the inspiration to craft words and the incentive to begin the process.

Check out mystery writer, Patricia Gligor, at http://pat-writersforum.blosgpot.com.    See www.sistersincrime.org/bloghop

Medicare and the brand new me

Saturday I officially became a really old person. My brand new Medicare card is in my wallet, my knees hurt when I go up stairs, I have a pair of reading glassein every room, and I don’t know what photo bombing is. I knew I’d arrived when my six year old granddaughter was explaining that she went real bowling, not Wii bowling, and condescendingly explained that Wii was a game.

I’m writing this as I wait  twenty-five minutes for my Clairol’s Age Defy hair coloring to work. It is busy correcting the seven signs of aging hair. Who knew? I thought getting gray was my only problem.  But now I know that I must also worry that my once youthful tresses are apparently lackluster, coarse, frizzy, unruly, dry, and breakable.

Cosmetics manufacturers certainly know what they’re doing. They are acutely aware that baby boomers do not want to age gracefully. And so most of the various creams and lotions – and there are quite a few in my bathroom cabinet – have ‘age defying’ somewhere on the label. And if it’s not ‘age defying’, it’s ‘lifting’ or ‘firming’. If I had just thought to pickle myself in my twenties, maybe I wouldn’t have to use all this stuff.

Where did I go wrong? My mother used Pond’s cold cream and a smidge of lanolin for moisturizer and her skin was absolutely beautiful.

Oops! Time to see just how much age I have defied using this special coloring. Well, would you look at that? I appear to be ten years younger. Oh wait, let me put my glasses on. Oh dear. As Emily Litella would say, “Nevermind.”

*For you youngsters out there, Emily Litella was a brilliant, if often mistaken, spokeswoman for many SNL causes.

Performance Art is not for sissies

I try to be a good hostess. I like to go the extra mile and make sure my guests have a memorable experience. So when Lynda and Paillen, family from Minnesota, came to stay this week I wanted to do something special.

Tuesday morning we met my sister, Chris, and had an uneventful Metro ride downtown, got off at the Archives, made a Starbucks stop, and walked to the Mall for some museum visiting. While walking on 7th Street right outside the National Gallery of Art I thought I might try a little Performance Art to add some spice to the morning.

I was pondering what I might perform – maybe becoming one of those living statues, perhaps ‘Tourist holding Starbucks cup on corner of 7th and Constitution’ – when my right foot decided for me. It caught on an uneven piece of sidewalk and I proceeded to fly forward. When I tried to correct, this not being the particular piece I wanted to perform, my left foot got into the swing of things and it, too, caught on the same uneven piece of sidewalk. So I just went with it. Uttering an impressive string of barnyard invective, I soared through the air like Dustin Pedroia diving into first base.

This performance was a bit more physical than I had anticipated, so I lay there a few moments before sitting up to an outstanding reaction. Chris, Lynda and Paillen were awed. Tourists on the street were riveted. And the Museum staff! What can I say? They came in droves to see what the heck was going on.

Luckily, I had used my chin to keep my knees and elbows from harm. I sat there surrounded by loved ones and strangers and proceeded to give my head the once over. Things seemed okay until I took my hand away and found that it was covered in a rather impressive amount of blood. At this point, I wasn’t so much about the art anymore as about keeping the blood off my suede jacket (which I did) and not throwing up.

A really sweet young man from the Museum called an ambulance and brought me a new cup of tea. In no time at all an ambulance pulled up and two nice EMTs made sure I was in one piece more or less and that the cut on my chin, while having bled like Victoria Falls, was really quite small and seemed to be closing nicely. They recommended a stitch or two at the mention of which I promptly got rather faint. Medical professionals take fainting VERY seriously. My family does not. Luckily my sister was there to back me up that this was just a normal family trait and a little fresh air would fix me up in no time. Bleeding under control, Band-Aid in place, I breathed in the cool D.C. air and felt marginally better.

During my ambulance stay, a little police lady from the Museum was taking information from Lynda. I did not get her name, so I will call her Mabel. Mabel did not say it in so many words, but she was all in favor of lawsuits against the Museum and the City. She had Lynda take pictures of everything. She took down my information. And when I said I thought I was all right to continue our day, she almost insisted I see the Museum nurse. “You want to document this. You never know!” So I did.

By means of golf cart, then wheelchair, I was taken into the bowels of the National Gallery of Art to visit the nurse. My comrades were escorted by a Sergeant through the gallery and met me downstairs. After documenting my little project and hearing exactly the same thing from the nurse that I heard from the EMTs and having the same reaction, I was wheeled out of the Museum and put in a taxi.

I did not go home. I am a trooper. And besides, I was a bit low on sugar and needed a coke. So we taxied around the corner to the beautiful American Indian Museum and had a bite to eat and some Advil. After which we proceeded to go about our day and very much enjoyed the wonderful displays.

Alas, the story does not end here. At about quarter to five we were milling around the gift shop and discussing our dinner plans with my son and his girlfriend when Chris said, “You’re dripping.” And sure enough I was. This was enough to make me woozy again. There are no chairs on the second floor of the American Indian Museum. Nor are there any bandages of any sort. But there is a ladies room with a very long counter on which I ended up laying while my caretakers searched out Band-Aids and paper towels. Lynda remembered that she had some very pretty polka dot and striped bandages in her bag. As Paillen was the only one who could look at the cut, she was in charge of applying direct pressure and finally covering to my little wound. My sister was in charge of walking around the ladies room repeating, “I can’t look”.

I finally felt like I could get up without keeling over. I had just swung my legs over the counter and eased to the floor when Chris changed her mantra to, “I’m going to faint.” And she wasn’t kidding. She was absolutely white as a sheet. We laid her down on the marble bed and I called my son and told him that, perhaps, this was not the best night to dine downtown.

We limped to the subway, a bedraggled troop of overwrought women, one holding brown paper towels under her chin while continuing to apply direct pressure. We caught the Metro home. When I walked in my husband looked at me and said, “You tripped and fell, didn’t you.” I got no sympathy. He added that I’m a klutz, the implication being that I should be more careful. The cut closed up quite nicely. I didn’t need stitches. My chin is an impressive purple and black, just right for Halloween.

But I am giving up Performance Art. It’s a young woman’s job. Next time company comes they will have to make do with homemade Manicotti and a nice Chianti.

This entry was posted on August 20, 2014. 3 Comments

Killing me softly with a song

How many songs roll through your head in a week? And how do they get there? You know, the little ditty you just can’t get rid of. This morning while I was brushing my teeth I was singing Sesame Street in my mind. Why? I have no little ones here with me. I don’t watch Sesame Street and can’t recall hearing it lately.

Baker Street I could understand. I like Baker Street – kudos to Gerry Rafferty for writing it – and I was talking about it the other day. Having Baker Street run through my mind would make sense. But Sesame Street? No offense to BurpaErnie, as my son used to call them, but I don’t particularly care for the tune. But there it was, “Can you tell me how to get, how to get, to Sesame Street.”

It seems like it’s almost always songs I don’t like much. I once had Benny and the Jets stuck in my head for almost a month. Not one of Sir Elton’s finest, in my opinion. My mother had told me that the best way to rid yourself of an unwanted melody is to sing the entire ditty out loud. So I spent about a week singing, “Hey kids, dum de dum de li di, dum di dum di dum dum, B-B-B-Benny and the Jets” every chance I could get. I must have sounded like a broken juke box. and since I didn’t know the words, so I couldn’t get rid of the song.

When I sit down at the computer to play solitaire, as we writers tend to do when we’re supposed to be writing, I almost always chant the juvenile little ditty, “Yank my doodle, it’s a dandy.” Why? Why I ask myself.

As I am sure you’ve guessed by now, I am low on material for my blog. I am going on vacation this week and fully expect rest and relaxation to fill me with brilliant ideas to share when I get back. In the meantime, I Elmo seems to be singing the Hallelujah chorus. HELP!

Flying High

 

This weekend my sister and I will be taking off from BWI for our annual pilgrimage to St. Paul, Minnesota. And I will be doing this cold turkey! I’m out of valium and I draw the one at getting ploxed at nine-thirty on a Friday morning.

Each July we volunteer for this trial by airline to visit our beloved nephew and his family. They live in Thailand for ten months of the year and come home to Minnesota to visit parents and other assorted relatives for a rather short summer vacation. And as they spend about twenty-four hours in each direction in travel time with three young girls, it’s hardly fair for old Aunties to insist they make another trek to good old Washington, DC. So old Aunties just bite the bullet and get on a damned plane.

Flying has become quite the ordeal, hasn’t it? After I spent an afternoon making calls to all parties involved in this adventure to make sure that the principals were all available for that week-end – nobody wants to fly to St. Paul only to find that St. Paul relations are elsewhere – I searched out the best itinerary and bought tickets on-line and sent the information to my sister. She called immediately to say, “We’re flying out of BWI and back into Dulles? Is that right?” No, of course, it isn’t right. It’s just what I booked. I then spent another hour getting the mix-up straight with Delta, who were very helpful, actually.

Next come the logistics of getting to and from the airport and the hours of thought I need to put into packing. Why I need to put hours of thought into this, I have no idea. I just do. It’s only four days and I end up wearing the same two tops the entire time. But one needs to be prepared. Perhaps one will be invited to a ball at the governor’s mansion. It could happen.

The airport experience is a trip in itself; the check-in, the security line, getting the right shoes back on my feet, a quick Bloody Mary because I don’t care anymore if it’s early morning, two hours shoved into a sardine tin next to a man who grumbles in his sleep, and Voila! We’ve arrived. Piece of apple pie. Can’t wait until next year. I think I’ll walk.

 

 

This entry was posted on July 8, 2014. 1 Comment

Remembering my brother

On May 22nd, 1968 my brother, Tim Clover, was killed in Viet Nam. A long dark night began for our family. It was only our deep, abiding love for our parents, for his widow and son, and for each other that saw our family through until morning finally dawned, slowly creeping over the horizon, lighting our way once again.

 

Tim was truly special – our only boy, handsome, charismatic, highly intelligent. He was a poet and a dreamer who hated the war. And he was my best friend from the day I was born until the day he was lost. Although I wrote this eulogy years ago, time hasn’t erased the sense of loss. My life is a good one. I have a wonderful husband and family, close friends, and beautiful grand-children. But I will miss Tim always.

Tim

Glancing out the window I catch a glimpse of the last sunlight of day brightening, almost artificially, the Western sky, thrusting me back to the remembrance of the last light of my day long years ago. An interminable dark night followed before a slow dawn. The pain is sometimes as acute now as it was then, only now it last seconds, minutes, instead of hours and long nights.

Could it be almost fifteen years already? When in that time did I lose the lovely silliness of childhood? When did I become so inhibited that I ceased sitting on curbs for lack of chairs or mimicking the caged gorilla to make him talk to me? At what point was I unable to utter the beautiful little fantasies and half-truths that fall trippingly from every child’s tongue?

Fifteen years! A long time and, yet, not so long. Not long enough to heal the wound, but long enough to make other matters equally or more important. Long enough to become a woman, wife, and mother, but not long enough for the soul to catch up with the body. In many ways, I will always remain an insecure teen-ager waiting for her brother’s approval.

The scenes my mind conjures up are so agonizingly real, but without them my life would be sorely empty. His voice, his mannerisms, his face are only shadows of memory. His uncanny insight into my mind and mine into his, the need now for fumbling words where once none were needed, the total empathy of brother and sister that I now miss are the substance of the memory brought back so abruptly to me in a second’s glance at a fading sky.

He was a part of me since my earliest memory, the person most closely entwined with my childhood and youth. He consoled me and wept with me in those horrendous teen-age years that unmercifully coincided with the sixties, that time of turbulence so unfathomable for a girl of seventeen. This is a eulogy for a beloved brother who was lost in that turbulence. Long may he rest now in peace.

Life Lessons Learned

Kids learn a lot of good things playing sports. My son, Matt, played baseball. This is a wonderful sport for teaching patience, concentration, team work, and how to win graciously or lose with dignity. But sometimes, some more interesting lessons can be learned!

In 1999, Matt’s team had won the local championship and was headed to the regional play-offs hoping to get to the Babe Ruth World Series in Abbeville, Louisiana. The usual etiquette had been for the host team’s families to house the players for the tournament. And we had been assured it was all taken care of.

Imagine our surprise when we got to Hamilton New Jersey to find that no such accommodation had been made. Good sportsmanship requires me to believe that this was a genuine mistake on Hamilton’s (our chief rival) part. Others may think differently.

At any rate, there we were with fifteen boys with no place to lay their heads. The scramble began to find a motel that had room for the team, the coaching staff, and the parents. Luckily, there was such a place to be had just across Route 1 in Pennsylvania. The only catch being that this motel was attached to a ‘gentleman’s club’. A glance at the clientele might have you looking up ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, but the rooms were clean and we were close to the ball field.

An interesting thing about Route 1 in Pennsylvania is that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a sex shop or a gentleman’s club. There are just tons of them. Every block seems to have at least one or the other.

Well, our boys learned quite a few things that week other than the value of hard work and good sportsmanship. They learned that working girls sometimes rent hotel rooms by the hour, that adults who have had too much to drink sometimes go skinny dipping in hotel pools and don’t seem to mind a couple of idiot kids jumping in with them, and that if you really annoy your coach by climbing onto the roof in the middle of the night, he will bang on your door and get you up at six a.m. for an impromptu practice.

Despite the odd week, our team won the tournament and they got to Louisiana for the Babe Ruth World Series where they acquitted themselves well coming in third. And I think the added attractions just made it all more memorable.

 

 

Matt’s team had made it to the Regional finals in Hamilton New Jersey. Now, when whatever home team is hosting these tournaments they usually find housing for all the players with host team families. We had been told that all the players had accommodation. So off we went to Hamilton with our merry band of fifteen teenage boys.

 

 

When we arrived we were greeted with the information that, oops!, sorry no place to put them. So there was a mad scramble to find a hotel that could put up all the boys

What would Daisy do?

One of things I like about writing is being someone else for a while. I can be eccentric, or angry, or charming and it all works out for the best. I like to take a situation and imagine how each of my characters would handle it. I have three main characters, sisters Daisy and Rose who own a gift boutique together and their mother Angela who interferes.

Suppose these ladies are on their way home from a funeral. They drove separately and are about ten minutes apart as they pass through a speed trap. What would each lady do?

Angela Forrest after being pulled over would first let her dog, Percy, out of the car to answer a call of nature. She would then tell the police officer that she’s so sorry she may have been a little distracted. She is on her way home from a dear friend’s funeral and her mind was elsewhere. She would go on to say that she hoped he is wearing sunscreen, especially on his neck, because he certainly doesn’t want sun spots later on in life, and he could use a little Biz in the laundry to get the tiny ketchup stain off his shirt. Finally she would scoop up Percy who had chosen the officer’s leg to have a good time with, give him her calling card, and invite him for dinner. She would then get back in the car and drive away, the policeman never having had the chance to get a word in.

Daisy Forrest Greene, on the other hand, would probably not be so diplomatic. She isn’t the greatest fan of the police, her ex-husband, rat-bastard extraordinaire Bill Greene, being a Maryland state policeman. I’m pretty sure Daisy would roll down her window, give the officer a ‘look’ and say, “What!” After being asked if she realized that she had been speeding, she would answer that, of course she was and you would be too if you had just had to sit through the longest, most boring wake of your entire life. One hundred and fifty people in a hot room overwhelmed with the smell of lilies talking about a nasty old woman who was ninety-nine years old if she was a day and the only reason these people were there was on the off chance that she left them something in her will. Finally she would hand him her license and registration after a bit of digging in her purse and tell him to get a move on if he was giving her a ticket because she had a vodka and tonic waiting at home with her name on it. Incorrectly, but fortunately for her, he would think that she was Detective Greene’s wife, not his ex, and give her a warning. She would sigh, shake her head and speed off.

And then there is Rose Forrest. A bit less volatile, Rose would give the officer an alluring smile as she hands him her license and registration that happen to be right at hand, tosses her hair back as she says, “I’m so sorry. The day was so lovely, I guess I got a little carried away. It’s so good to be alive.” A tear would trickle down her cheek and she would mention that she was just returning from attending a close relations funeral. She could also absolutely understand if he needed to give her a ticket. She really should be more careful and will in the future. At which point, the poor sap, already worn down by Angela and Daisy, simply gives in to the inevitable and tells her he’s very sorry about her loss and please take care.

Of course, none of these is even remotely resembles how I would handle this sort of thing in real life. What would actually happen is I would have purse panic looking for my license, become nearly hysterical as I fumble in the glove box for the registration, answer politely if all too honestly all his questions – yes, of course I know I was doing 60 in a 40 zone and no, I have not been drinking unless you count the 14 cups of tea I had waiting for my mother to say good-bye to all of her friends. At this point I no doubt would burst out crying. And not looking too alluring with a red runny nose, I would get a big fat ticket and be sent on my way.

 

 

Seven to Ten Days from Tuesday

Have you ever thought that you were, perhaps, an Invisible Person? Are you, like I seem to be, the Invisible Customer, the Invisible Patient, the Invisible Voice Crying in the Wilderness? I’d like to think I’m not the only person in the world who seems to be constantly overlooked. Well, I know I’m not because my sister is also quite often invisible.
An instance of this rather annoying condition – my husband and I recently contributed to Maryland Public Television and requested a thank-you gift. Tom has been looking forward to listening to endless hours of 1950’s pop music. I have not, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that it’s been almost two months now and we have no music.
I called this morning to find out where the heck our CDs were. After being put on hold three times as the woman who answered tried to figure out just who I was and what I had requested I was told that, oh dear, it seems that our little contribution was incorrectly entered into whatever database they use. Silence.
Silly question from me. When can I expect my music? Well, if they have one in the studio – about two weeks from next Tuesday. Is it me or is this rather odd? Perhaps, they only mail things on Tuesday.  At any rate, Invisible Person that I am, I got a rather vague apology and no promise of any particular help. I mentioned that this was not a great way to do business and got a rather soggy, “Sorry.”

And my husband just walked in the door and gave me a second Invisible Instance – just today. He’d been to the eye doctor. He has been seeing this doctor for several years now, in fact, ever since he opened the practice. The receptionist asked my husband a long list of questions which he answered (with a degree of irritability, not understanding why he was telling her things she must already know). When she came to the last one – “How did you hear about us?” – he realized that she thought he was a new patient. She hadn’t found his file. Really!? Invisibility strikes again.

Anyhow, I find that this dread disease seems to attack me more and more often. I think I’m actually fading because it couldn’t be that the current customer service mentality is not so much about service, as it is about getting you off the phone, could it? For any of you who also have this affliction, I wish you well and you’ll receive the gift for your generous donation seven to ten days from next Tuesday.

 

Odds and ends/College Park Book Festival, March 22nd

Just a few odds and ends before I get back to the serious business of writing Book Number Three. Can you believe it? I finally got the first few pages written and am determined to continue uninterrupted. I find the patently ridiculous notion that I can go for an hour or so uninterrupted amusing. At any rate, I left Daisy explaining to Rose that the ghost she saw was real. Since Rose is taking some convincing on this (being a firm believer that there are no ghosts in this world) and since Daisy is rapidly downing Spooky Juice (a nice little Halloween cocktail that Rose is testing out) to calm her rapidly beating heart, I’d better hurry up here or Daisy will be too looped to tell her story!
So, a quick Eileen insurance update. We all need a good laugh. March 1, her new private pay Kaiser insurance kicked in, so Tom took her prescriptions to be filled at the Rite-Aid she has been using for years. Come to find out that these drugs, which are old, generic, tried and true meds that are in no way odd or experimental, and which were prescribed by Kaiser doctors and have been covered by Kaiser for the last two years, are NOT covered by this Kaiser policy. How about that!
Adding insult to injury, Rite-Aid neglected to tell Tom that there was a coupon available on-line that would reduce the cost by half. And of course didn’t point out that if he had the meds filled at Target he could get them for a mere fraction of the $200 they were charging. I love our health care system. How dare anyone suggest that perhaps changing it is a good thing.
On a happier note, I had my first ever spa experience. My darling husband must have been in fear of me going bananas, so he got me a spa day for Christmas. I was just too tense to use it in January. He didn’t understand the thinking here, but I feel that other tense ladies will. I mean, I was so stressed that the thought of choosing which salad I wanted for lunch was a little too much.
So I waited until February and enjoyed a stress-free day being pampered. I thought I might be able to clear my mind and do a bit of plotting for my book, but I was just too mellow. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Tolkien, good times don’t really make a good story, so there you have it – lovely day and home to a lovely man who took me out to dinner that night. Other than that, the long, long winter seems to be coming to an end! Yay!!! One short announcement – March 22nd – I’ll be taking part in the Second Annual College Park Book Festival on March 22, 2014 from 2 to 4 PM at the Hollywood Methodist Church (on the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Hollywood Road). The event is co-sponsored by the College Park Lions Club and the College Park Community Library. This is a family, fun filled activity which gives us a chance to highlight local authors and encourage reading in the community. I hope you’ll come by and say hello.

Cabin Fever and a Grammar Hammer

Well, this winter seems never-ending and cabin fever is bringing out the worst in me. I just read a list of the most ‘contented’ states – states where life expectancy is longer, that have a very low percentage of obese people, and have higher yearly incomes. Most of them were damned cold; Minnesota and both Dakotas. I’m thinking people live longer because their organs are frozen for about a third of the year, and so, are better preserved.

But, that’s neither here nor there. Cabin fever is making my worst nit-picky side come out. Everything annoys way too easily. So I’ve decided to have a pet peeve a week and kind of spread out the irritation until spring blooms and I can get into the open air and take a walk. (To those of you who will point out that I actually can take a walk in the cold – I don’t want to.)

This week’s peeve is grammar. My mother was a funny lady and pretty lenient about most things, but when it came to table manners and grammar she was a real stickler and I like to think I’m carrying her torch, so to speak. Yes, I know that English is a fluid, ever-changing language. But I believe it’s important to master the basics before creating something new.

There are a few things I’ve given up on. “Hopefully” when you mean “I hope” for example. Though strictly incorrect, the meaning is clear. My mother held hopefully this was used by politicians in the hope that no one would actually associate them personally with what they were hoping. Probably a good assumption.

And the other day I heard a newscaster say “impactful.” What can you say to that? I just shrugged my shoulders and shook my head. And using “are done” when you really mean “have finished” just makes me sad, but I feel it’s here to stay.

However, the misuse of the pronouns “me” and “I” still has me yelling at the television and muttering under my breath when I can’t really, politely, correct someone out loud.

Growing up, one of the big errors that seemed to abound was the misuse of the word ‘me’. “Johnny and me are going to the park.” My mother would say “Hmm?” and wait for a correction to “Johnny and I.” Then she’d give the okay nod.

Somehow the pendulum seems to have swung so far that much of the English speaking world is afraid to use ‘me’. So now I hear from teachers, friends, TV reporters, and characters on the screen, say, “Would you like to go to the park with Johnny and I?” or “They were having lunch with Mom and I?” It’s the object of a preposition for crying out loud. What you really want to to say is, “With me.” It’s making me nuts and, as my husband will attest, I’m already walking a fine line on that front.

So please, for the sake of my sanity, let’s nip this insidious practice in mid-bloom and go back to the good old days when spring was in the air and we loved to say, “I ain’t gonna say ain’t ’cause ain’t ain’t in the dictionary.”

Insurance Debacle Update

So many people have been kind enough to ask how we are getting along with the whole insurance debacle that I feel I should publish a little update.

This week we ended up getting Eileen private pay insurance. This will give us some breathing room to see if we can work through the system or not.

After a week spent on the phone and in the Affordable Care Office set up in the Prince George’s County Social Services office, my feeling is that we will not be able to unless we go to Annapolis and sit on Anthony Brown’s desk and make him notice us.

Unbelievably, even the poor saps who work in that office have no more access to the powers that be than you or I. After spending almost two hours waiting last Wednesday we finally met with a really nice guy named Ronald. He understood our problem, could not fix it there, and spent an hour to get through to customer service, only to be cut off once he connected. And he wasn’t even able get the same person back on the line! It’s enough to scream.

Some have asked if this has caused me to change my political affiliation – it has not. I figure you don’t disown your children because of mistakes, even disastrous ones. You just end up being bitterly disappointed and you don’t vote for them for Governor.

On a cheerier note – MDHMH sent a correction letter. They realized that Eileen is the Ward and that I am the Guardian. Will wonders never cease?

PS: A dear friend has given me a ‘special number’ that she called and got immediate help. This may work for us, but because of other circumstances to do with Medicaid, we haven’t used this magic bullet. I’m saving it though, just in case.

This entry was posted on February 7, 2014. 2 Comments

Insurance Debacle Update

So many people have been kind enough to ask how we are getting along with the whole insurance debacle that I feel I should publish a little update.

This week we ended up getting Eileen private pay insurance. This will give us some breathing room to see if we can work through the system or not.

After a week spent on the phone and in the Affordable Care Office set up in the Prince George’s County Social Services office, my feeling is that we will not be able to unless we go to Annapolis and sit on Anthony Brown’s desk and make him notice us.

Unbelievably, even the poor saps who work in that office have no more access to the powers that be than you or I. After spending almost two hours waiting last Wednesday we finally met with a really nice guy named Ronald. He understood our problem, could not fix it there, and spent an hour to get through to customer service, only to be cut off once he connected. And he wasn’t even able get the same person back on the line! It’s enough to scream.

Some have asked if this has caused me to change my political affiliation – it has not. I figure you don’t disown your children because of mistakes, even disastrous ones. You just end up being bitterly disappointed and you don’t vote for them for Governor.

On a cheerier note – MDHMH sent a correction letter. They realized that Eileen is the Ward and that I am the Guardian. Will wonders never cease?

PS: A dear friend has given me a ‘special number’ that she called and got immediate help. This may work for us, but because of other circumstances to do with Medicaid, we haven’t used this magic bullet. I’m saving it though, just in case.

Health insurance and some rather inventive language

Just an amusing little anecdote today about the wonderful Maryland health system and our ward.

For those of you who may not know, two years ago Tom and I became the ‘guardians’ of his adult cousin, Eileen, when her mother died. Eileen has myriad developmental problems and some mental health issues as well. She is just able to live by herself in the house she grew up in with the help a home health aide. We have power of attorney. Tom handles all of her finances and I handle health issues and groceries. Eileen pretty much depends on us for everything.

Now between a massive screw-up (no other word for it) with her old employer and its new COBRA administrator and the massive screw-up (again, no other word for it) that is the Affordable Health Care Act in Maryland, Eileen is at this moment without insurance.

So far, you say, not very amusing. It’s coming.

I said above ‘no other word for it’, but I am wrong. My dear husband has found many other words for it. I’ve never heard most of them. Not that I am particularly conversant with that particular speech form. I’ve never been a sailor. But I have seen a lot of movies. I’ve heard a lot of language in those movies. And I think those writers could up their vocabulary a notch or two by speaking to my husband about Healthcare in Maryland.

However, just when things looked pretty darned bleak and what we both needed was a really good laugh, we got a letter in the mail from the Maryland Department of Mental Health. It was a request to fill out a survey on our recent dealings with the agency. God bless their little pea-picking hearts, the letter was addressed to Eileen – the parent/guardian/caretaker of Penny Petersen. And we thought these agencies had no sense of humor.

The letter did the trick. Tom laughed. I laughed. My daughter laughed. My sister laughed. True, this is not much of a story and perhaps you had to be there, but after a day spent at Social Services trying in vain to correct the whole insurance fiasco, that silly letter turned out to be a life saver.