Category Archives: Uncategorized

Winter is Here (Still)

 

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Yesterday was a mish-mash of relaxed urgency for a Sunday, reading the paper and then running to Costco to remedy a billing debacle, and the excited hurry-up-and-wait drama of the return of Games of Thrones. By 9:00, I was ready to retreat to my cave and just watch all the reunion-y goodness and the requisite badness of GOT. Personally, I think it was worth the wait.

In keeping with the GOT winter theme in my little cave, it’s snowing here in Ohio this morning. After several days of temps in the 60s and 70s, the budding tulips and fragile spring flowers are getting one more soft white blanket. One can only hope that it won’t last long and is not a harbinger of still more winter to come–or the coming of the Knight’s King (according to GRRM) which would not surprise me in the least.

On to other things: Chapter 3 in the saga of George Fairweather. I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Chapter 3

George was happy to discover that William would be spending the entire summer with her great-aunt Harriett over on Wilbersham Terrace, just a hop, skip, and a jump from George’s own front porch. It took no time at all for the girls to work out a routine of reading, laughing, and playing during their long warm days of summer. George’s mother soon grew accustomed to leaving a muffin and a cup of milk on the counter by the back door rather than scolding George for not eating a proper breakfast.

“No time!’ George would shout as she scooted out the back door. She would, however, take a moment to drink the milk and grab the muffin, more often than not stuffing it into her pocket to share with William which was better than nothing, her mother figured. She often didn’t see her daughter again until just before dark when George would come running through the back door, skidding across the linoleum to beat her curfew.

“The light on Maple just blinked on!” she’d announce breathless, having run all the way from William’s.

“Wash your hands…” Rita began,

“…and your face and tidy up,” George finished for her. “I know, I know. I’m a mess.”

Wash up finished, George would sit with her mother for an early supper, usually a light meal of tuna sandwiches or a casserole and peas.

“Anything interesting happening in the village?” her mother would always inquire.

“Not really,” was the standard answer, although George could be counted on to dish the details if anything at all was going on.

“Did you hear about Mrs. Crawford’s tumble down the stairs?” George asked. “She had a doctor’s appointment and was supposed to meet her sister Ruth at the curb for a ride. When she didn’t come out, Ruth went in and found poor Mrs. Crawford all in a jumble at the foot of the stairs, knocked out cold—or so she said.”

“Who said?” her mother asked, daintily picking at her food.

“Mrs. Crawford’s sister Ruth.” George stopped eating her sandwich and looked directly at her mother. “I’ve heard her yell at Mrs. Crawford in the grocery, telling her to hurry up, nudging her sharply. I wouldn’t be surprised if she batted her sister over the head and knocked her out just to make the story more interesting. I’ll bet Mrs. Crawford had simply fallen and was probably calling for help.”

Rita sighed loudly. “Now, sweetheart, there’s no need to elaborate on the facts. A tumble down the stairs at Mrs. Crawford’s age could very well have knocked her unconscious. I doubt very much if her sister would do something as mean as hitting her sister after such an event. Where do you get such outlandish ideas?”

George gazed off into the distance, thinking. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Maybe too much television.”

“Then I suppose we should put a limit on how much you watch. Or maybe just stick to uplifting programs.”

Rita doubted television made much of an impact on her daughter. As a family they rarely watched TV, all three, mother, father, and daughter, preferring books to television, especially her daughter who since she’d learned to read at the age of three, was determined to read into the wee hours of the morning. Turning out the bedroom light and going to sleep had long since been a battle Rita had rarely won. Her daughter preferred to go to school happily sleepy rather than go to sleep not knowing how a story ended. Rita understood and only very rarely enforced the midnight lights out rule. She herself could stay up reading until dawn and with only an occasional yawn or two, make it all the way through the day and into evening. Reading through to the end of a book was a happy thrill only superseded by the thrill of beginning a new one. So, Rita and her daughter were constantly in a state of happy satisfaction or even happier anticipation.

Unless, of course, the book they were reading was a real stinker which happened now and again. When that was the case, there was no happiness to be found in the Wilson household for everyone knew it from the grumbles and sighs and angry exhortations that bounced through the house at all hours.

“You really must enforce the lights out rule,” Howard often said to Rita. “I don’t know that I can stand night after night of this.” This being the groans and shouts coming from their daughter’s room. Rita empathized with her husband but unerringly knew that once the book was finished—and most likely buried in the back yard or burned in the trash heap—her daughter would find another to take its place and all would be right with the world again. Perhaps. Hopefully.

Summertime was a wonderful spate of solace in the Wilson household as Howard worked long hours, coming home long after dark, and Rita spent most of her day lounging in the back yard, contemplating weeding the flowers and/or planting a vegetable garden. Yard work was always on her to do list but somehow never managed to bubble to the top, languishing idly at the bottom waiting for Rita to feel inspired which she almost never did. She’d bought a houseplant once and set it on the front porch to catch the light and a little air. The spindly carcass of the plant was ultimately tossed out with the rubbish, pot and all, as Rita had forgotten about it once she’d set it outside. Forgetfulness seemed to be a Wilson family trait, although they were all meticulously punctual about returning library books. They might forget to eat or buy tea or turn the wash into the dryer, but they always always always returned their library books on time if not before they were due.

Mrs. Paschal, the head librarian at the main library, believed it was so they could call in library favors such as being the first on the list when an anxiously awaited book was due from the publishers. Or an extra five minutes to select a book right at closing time when everyone had been shooed out and poor Mrs. Paschal stood waiting to lock the doors. She always obliged mostly because the Wilsons were such nice friendly people but always with a mind to the knowledge that they had never in all the years she’d known them returned a book after its due date. Nor would they ever. “It would have to be a matter of life and death, I do believe,” Mrs Paschal said to Merry Beecham one afternoon when the Wilson child came scurrying in just before closing time to return a stack of books as tall as she.

“My mother’s, mine, and the one on the bottom is my father’s,” the child said brightly. “I’ll be quick,” she’d said as she lit off to the young adult section to make her selection. Merry Beecham had to agree. “I’m quite sure nothing could keep them away.”

 

Now here she stood, that same child now a grown woman, at the counter of the genealogical wing of the Windham Library in Sussex County asking for assistance in locating George Fairweather.

“I’ve traced the name to here,” George explained, “to the county seat. It seems Mr. Fairweather was a man of some prominence—or perhaps it was his family. I’m not sure. I only know that the records have led me here to Sussex County and I was wondering…”

“If we have any information, a book, microfiche perhaps, that will help you in your search.” The librarian on the other side of the counter gave George a whimsical look and then smiled. “That’s what we do here, Miss. Genealogy. We help people find their ancestors.”

George smiled shyly, her face turning pink. “Well, of course. That’s why I’m here,” she admitted.

“Now, what was the family name? Fairweather you said?” The librarian’s face seemed open and kind but her eyes were lasers of intensity. George felt exposed somehow, under the woman’s gaze.

“Yes, George Fairweather.”

“Let me check,” the librarian said turning away, her fingers fairly flying over the keyboard in front of her. “Well, it seems you’re in luck,” she announced almost instantly. “There are quite a few references for the name Fairweather as well as several for George Fairweather in particular. Give me just a moment and I’ll print them for you.”

Walking to the printer on the desk behind the counter, the librarian explained the information she was about to give George. “Each entry will have a reference number with title, page, and date published. Several of our volumes are under lock and key so it will be necessary for you to fill out a form requesting that the volumes be pulled for you to review. I can take care of that for you with a little more information.”

The librarian handed George the paper she’d torn from the printer which was quite a bit longer than George had expected.

“Looks like you have your work cut out for you,” the young woman said with a grin. “The volumes marked with an asterisk are in the private collection. I’ll give you a minute to peruse the list and then let me know if you’d like to make an appointment to review them.”

George stood with the list in hand, immediately struck by the smallness of the print and the number of entries cascading down the page. It might take weeks to get through each and every reference. Perhaps she had not allotted enough time for her research after all.

“You may find a seat in the alcove if you’d like,” the librarian suggested. “There are tables and chairs and a desk or two if you’d prefer.”

George stepped in that direction, just to the right of the reference counter and into the path of a dark haired young woman standing behind her waiting in line.

“I’m sorry,” George said as she relinquished her spot in front of the counter. Turning back to the librarian George offered a quick thank you.

“No problem,” the librarian said, focusing her intense gaze on her next customer.

 

George stepped up to the counter once more, laying out the printout with the references for the librarian to see.

“I’ve highlighted the volumes I’d like to review,” she said. “I’m not sure they’re all necessary but I want to at least look through them while I’m here.”

The librarian looked at the clock behind her. “We’ll be closing in twenty minutes. If you’d like to leave the list, perhaps I could pull the volumes and have them ready for you tomorrow. I can reserve a carol in your name or a private study if you’d like.”

George glanced at her own watch. “I thought the library closed at seven.”

“Except on Wednesdays,” the librarian said. “We close at four on Wednesdays.”

“Then I’d like to leave the list if you don’t mind. Or perhaps make a copy?”

The librarian picked up George’s list and walked to the copier that boasted a sign reading, “10 cents per copy.” George dug in her pocket for a dime but was waved away when the librarian returned. “This is for me,” the librarian said handing back George’s list. “No charge for you.”

George smiled. “Thanks. What time do you open tomorrow?”

“Nine on Thursdays. I get in about eight so I’ll pull the volumes you’ve selected and look around for anything else I think might be of help to you.”

“That’s very kind of you,” George said.

“No problem,” the librarian smiled. “Now, let me get your name so I can reserve a private study.”

George hesitated, suddenly—and for the first time—felt flustered about giving her name. “George,” she said tentatively. “George Fairweather.”

The librarian looked up sharply in surprise. “Really?”

“Really,” George replied.

“George F.,” the librarian wrote on her schedule, marking an “x” on study 301 on a seating chart. “I’ll see you tomorrow, George.”

“Yes, and thank you,” George said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

George turned to walk away but decided to ask one last question. “May I have your name?” she asked, “so I know who to ask for in the morning.”

“I’ll be the only one here in the morning,” the librarian demurred.

George nodded and turned away.

“But I’ll tell you my name anyway,” the librarian continued. “My name is Michael. Michael Everest.”

George smiled and kept on walking jauntily all the way back to the inn.

(to be continued)

 

 

Insanity Reigns (and we should be ashamed)

In a sane world—at just about any other time in modern history—if a crazy, blind man armed with a machine gun and a machete walked down the middle of Main Street America shouting masochistic, xenophobic, narcissistic bullshit, millions of Americans would be up in arms, running to protect their children, and desperate to find a way to stop the mad man. Not today. Today, Americans say, “Thank you,” “He’s new at this,” and “Let’s be patient and see what he does.”

A crazy man, fully armed and supported hacking away all semblance of American morals, decency, and democracy: this should be every American’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, this is our reality in American today. We should be ashamed. 

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Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason

From Pinterest with no credit attached.

From Pinterest with no credit attached.

I’ve been struggling lately with the idea that “Something has to be done!” in several sectors of my life.  

I truly believe that We Are One,  that we are linked through an unconscious something that allows us to tap into each other’s thoughts and needs, to feel each other’s human-ness and/or spirituality. I’ve felt that something with my children often. I feel it with friends every great once in a while when I get a sudden urge to call or email them–at four in the morning.

Some people might call it compassion, our human ability to feel for others. Or empathy when we are able to experience someone’s pain and make it our own. Some people might call it a waste of time, a fruitless action, or a pointless endeavor. Some people might call it love.

Whatever you want to call it, it is time we all start taking responsibility for each other. I’m not talking about taking the blame or the credit. I’m not talking about building a commune to house each and every soul (although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to recognize that we already live in one). I’m talking about taking action to stop the bullying and the bullshit. I’m talking about calling people on their careless actions. I’m saying enough is enough.

The last three years of my life have been spent writing fiction. I’ve been quite prolific and successful, garnering my own sense of satisfaction. My next book and newspaper article and magazine story will be non-fiction. It is a story of neglect and needless pain, a story of ridiculous action and more ridiculous non-action, of lives damaged and destroyed, of loss and injustice and juris-imprudence. The names will not be changed to protect the innocent. The story will not be filtered or white-washed or cast in a rosy glow. “It is what it is” is an apt description.

I’d like to say that I’m rocking the boat, making waves, or ruffling feathers but I’m not, really. My new intention is to sink the boat; to drop the pebble into the ocean that causes the tsunami; to pull out the feathers one by one and then make chicken soup with the bones.

For those of you who ask me from time to time what I’m writing about, from now on, this will be what I’m writing about. There’s more than one story to tell, more than one life involved, and more than one person willing to come forward to talk.

I’ll still be writing novels and short stories and allowing my muse to take me where it will. But sometimes you just have to do the right thing for the right reason. With love and honor and respect, of course. Let’s just call it Right Action.

BTW: If anyone knows who the artist is for the above photo, please let me know. I’d love to give credit where credit is due.

One Thing Leads to Another

"Make Things"

“Make Things”

My recent trip to Scotland seems to have flipped some strange Ms. Fix-It switch in me that I’m having trouble turning off. In the past two weeks, I’ve renovated my office, built shelves and a desk to create a mini-office space in my old closet, and relocated every book I own; repurposed cabinets and shelving (the cabinets in my old office closet now reside in the master bathroom); rearranged and/or replaced all the photo groupings and pictures in my house (I scanned old photos to create a huge black and white montage); repaired the dishwasher that has sat dormant in my kitchen for the past eight years. I’ve moved furniture, sewn cushions and made three new dog beds from an old, holey comforter that I could not bring myself to throw out; I’ve made several cork boards using old picture frames; spray painted just about everything not nailed down; made tissue paper flowers to keep my hands busy while I’ve planned new projects and compiled lists of things to scavenger hunt at the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store down the street. I’ve cleaned every closet in the house, rearranged every nook and cranny of storage space, and I’m now in the deep-cleaning phase of my whole-house makeover.

YIKES!

My renovation binge began simply enough. I was anxious to write about my trip, to organize photos, to relive my adventure on paper. My office, however, was left in a disheveled mess as I’d neglected it in the weeks prior to leaving, stacking papers and books and scribblings here and there for future reference. Sitting down at my desk that first day back, I realized that I needed to make some breathing space, to move a few things to de-clutter my work area. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was emptying out the closet, taking down shelves and cabinets, and spackling nail holes. My office is now clear of clutter but I have yet to accomplish what I originally set out to do. (I now believe that tidying, the most harmless of chores, is the gateway to full-scale revamping. Now I know better!)

Who IS This Person?

This person who is bustling about sewing and organizing and remodeling seems unfamiliar to me. Granted, I like to sew. I like to organize. I don’t mind a little remodeling. But this is out of the ordinary for cave-dweller-me.  I’ve been shopping! I’ve been to Home Depot three times in five days! One project leads to another–and another–and another. And although my comfy cave is becoming a little more comfy, I’m finding that the deeper I go in my quest for completion, the more problems crop up.

So, my new goal for the coming weeks is to find balance in my mania to renew and refresh and revitalize both my cave and myself. I will finish the projects I have in process and get back to writing. I’ll give the house one more quick cleaning and then close the door on all of the DIY projects on Pinterest that are calling my name. And while it’s been mostly fun moving book cases and solid oak desks and repairing the dishwasher all by myself, I think I’ll call for backup to fix the new leak under the kitchen sink. Even a cave dweller requires a little professional help once in a while.  Fingers crossed that this is not one thing that leads to another. 🙂

Just for Fun!

Elephant and water

When DIY jobs go bad, there’s only one thing to do: laugh! (And then call a plumber!)

Jump!

Jump

My life has never been about putting down roots and staying in one place. It’s never been about making safe choices or tip-toeing out to the edge of the cliff to peer over the rim into oblivion. My life has been about jumping and leaping, soaring and flying, and, more often than not, crashing and burning. But therein lies the root of perspective. How high is high? How low is low? What does it feel like to be truly happy? What does it feel like to free-fall from perceived financial security to no income in the blink of an eye–by choice? It’s scary as hell; it takes your breath away; there is a profound exhilaration when the ability to sprout wings comes fast and furious; and it’s addictive.

Twelve years ago, I had a good job with a good salary in a city I loved. One day, I woke up in my comfy cave (yes, I had one then!) and decided that I needed a change. I quit my job, gave up my townhouse, put everything in storage, and hit the road, traveling across Canada and the western U.S. in a pick-up truck while I waited for the next big thing to come along and grab me. Since then, I’ve moved from Maryland to Ohio to Georgia, back to Maryland, and finally to Florida.

My brother asked me one time why I keep making these big leaps in my life and the only answer I could think of was this: It’s more fun to jump off a cliff than to fall off a cliff. It’s all about perception, really. I perceive therefore I am. I am what I perceive.

When push comes to shove, something clicks in my brain and I realize that I can either become the victim (slipping and falling while I go into shock and wondering all the way down what the heck just happened) or I can take control of my life and my decisions. For me, the act of jumping ignites a sense of all possibilities and potentialities rushing to the forefront, vying for attention. My descent begins to look like a good thing as I waver in the wind, adjusting my wings to land in a spot of my choosing be it soft, green grass or rocky terrain, in familiar territory or an alien landscape.

But I think the real answer to why I leap is really this: There is no reason to be unhappy–ever. I still find myself with the blues once in a while, but I know that I can change my feelings as easily as I can change my mind. Small leaps of the mind can be as fruitful as big leaps if you put your energy and intent behind them.

After all this time, having made great leaps and tiny jumps and displayed phoenix-like qualities more than once, I have discovered that I am the master of my destiny and when my spirit says “Jump!” it’s not usually a matter of how high but when.

Just for Fun!

Happiness in a VW

This one is for you, Topher!

But for the Kindness of Strangers . . . (Who Shall Remain Nameless)

 

Scotland landscape

Scotland was amazing! The landscape, the scenery, the castles, the people: all amazing! From the moment we landed in Glasgow to the moment we boarded the plane for the trip home, everywhere we turned we encountered open, honest, trusting people who made our dream trip perfect.

Well, except for the owner at the first B&B who, when we turned up early to ask for assistance in sending a message to our families to let them know that we had arrived, left us standing outside in the rain, gave us hurried and less than accurate directions to the library in Ft. William, the only place in town with wifi and computers, and a “come back later” before he shut the door in our faces. But he was the exception.

And the guy at the Shell Station in Aberdeen who was familiar with the Holiday Inn but couldn’t tell us how to get there. We bought a map from him and roamed the streets looking for signage that might point us in the right direction only to find that the road we needed was, coincidentally–or not, the road right beside the Shell Station where we had stopped for directions.

The Deep South Comes to Scotland

Okay, so that’s two people who were less than accommodating or kind. Everyone else we encountered couldn’t have been nicer or friendlier or more forthcoming with information and advice for three obviously American tourists. My daughters have very deep southern accents liberally sprinkled with “Yes, ma’ams” and “No, sirs,” so it was a delight to watch the looks of surprise on the faces of the people we encountered as they tried valiantly to translate the twang into a burr. My youngest daughter has a spectacularly funny story about asking a gentleman at the front desk at Airth Castle for a bucket of ice. (I’m sure you get the picture.) She came back red-faced and panting with laughter which ended in sheer hilarity with the delivery of the largest bucket of ice we’d ever seen.

As for the nameless part: no one in Scotland introduced themselves, asked our names, or offered their own. No one. In Glencoe on our second day, our waitress at The Holly Tree asked if we were staying close by. When I mentioned that we were looking for a place to camp, having decided against the deep dark forest of Glencoe Wood, she quickly offered us a free site on her father’s land “just up the road.”  We hesitated, thought it over during dinner, and then decided to at least check it out. The young woman seemed shocked when I asked her name and introduced myself and my daughters. With a blush and a smile, she said her name was Romie and quickly launched into detailed directions on how to find her father’s field. The site was brilliant, located on a strip of soft green grass that ran along a rocky beach. Despite it being populated by a herd of curious, excited sheep and bordered a cow pasture, we had a great first night camping. Romie was the only name we came home with despite having met people on trains and buses and waiting for planes.

Oh, and Liz, the wonderful hostess at the Fraser House in Inverness. Liz is from Australia and was kind and chatty and eager to please her guests. Actually, now that I think about it, she didn’t introduce herself at all. After explaining who we were, I asked her if she was Liz as I had hoped to meet the woman with whom I had been communicating by email. I was anxious to meet the person who took our reservation with no deposit or pre-payment required. “Come on over and I’ll save you a room,” she’d said.

Did I mention that the people in Scotland are open and honest and trusting? They are! And I felt quite blessed to be in their company and their country for ten glorious days. 

Just for Fun!

Ice Cream

One evening, on our way back to our B&B just outside Stirling, my daughter asked us to stop at Brewer’s Fayre so she could run in for “a small snack.” Expecting her to return with a candy bar or a bag of potato chips, we were shocked to see her come out carrying–with two hands–this huge  sundae containing several flavors of ice cream, chunks of chocolate eclair, nuts, marshmallows, candy, and chocolate sticks. When presented with the masterpiece, my daughter asked the waiter if he had a to-go container, to which he replied, “No, just bring the cup back when you come in for breakfast.” Between the three of us, we couldn’t finish the “small snack” but we washed out the cup and returned it the next morning–when we returned to the restaurant for breakfast.

The Art of Being Me

I’ve been spending waaaay too much time on Pinterest lately! Is that a good thing or a bad thing? My sense of what’s okay and what’s not okay seems to be a little skewed when it comes to cruising through the pins. I find myself flipping through the Photography board and the Geek board with joyful abandon, frittering away time that could be better spent writing or editing or (gulp!) cleaning. (But that’s another story!)

My boards are beautiful and relaxing. I find it calming and inspiring to scroll through Abundant Beauty, my collection of pins that range from beautiful flowers to glorious sunrises to majestic moons. Photography has never been my thing but there is a newfound sense of joy welling up in me and I find that I have a serious urge to run out and buy a good camera. Or at least skip on over to Amazon and do a little comparison shopping.

Photography might just be the one thing that would get me out of my cave on a regular basis. Then again, one can take only so many shots of the moon rising over the ocean or dawn breaking through the palms. I’m already feeling the pull of a road trip out west and having a camera in hand might nudge that fantasy into reality. Or I can pull up Pinterest and look at mountain ranges from around the world without ever having to leave my comfy cave.

As I move through the boards and pins, admiring some, laughing at others, I find little pieces of myself scattered here and there. I’ve been told that it’s a great marketing ploy to pin photos as representations of emotional moments in my books. “Look for things that evoke the emotions you want your readers to feel.” So, I have boards for Ripple and A Solitary Life and Martin Vane Says Hello and within those boards are the thoughts and emotions I felt as I wrote and edited and worked to pull my characters into being. Each board is a peek into my soul as well as a hint of what lies between the pages. Each pin is a choice that brings to light a sliver of me.

I’ve discovered that there is an art to being me just as there is an art to being you. Your likes and dislikes don’t define you as a whole being, but I believe there is true insight into what really matters in our lives. I don’t pin every pin that makes me cry but I’m beginning to see a pattern in my pins, a true collage of what it is that inspires me and keeps me whole. There is so much beauty in the world that I will never get to see. But I can see it through the eyes of a photographer, amateur or professional, who like me, yearns to capture the moments of life that define me, inspire me, and make me who I am. There is an art to being me and I’m refining it every day.

Just for Fun!

SONY DSC

I’ll be leaving for Scotland on Monday. As you may know, I’ve been planning this trip for two years as a surprise graduation present for my oldest daughter. The Big Reveal took place a couple of weeks ago to the accompaniment of bagpipes. I guess that’s another thing that can lure me from my cave: bagpipes! (Or maybe it’s the man in the kilt. )