Monday, February 20, 2017

Blast From the Past

Crazy busy with a paint job in the dining room. It’s taking forever but we’re hoping it will be a masterpiece. So . . . that means I haven’t had a lot of writing time. But we have been taking time out for grand kids and this repeat exemplifies what can happen at a soccer game. Off to the paint brush I go and leave you with this . . .


It must be tough, I thought, to sit on the sidelines and watch your two older brothers sparring on the soccer field. Out there with their buds defending the reputation of the Crane team. Dad and Poppy are on the sidelines making sure you don’t get into trouble. But then there was . . . the monkey.

Julius had come along to keep him company and I could tell it was a love match. From the second step on the three tiered bleachers Julius got flung again and again. Soccer game? What soccer game? When you’re not yet two it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than monkey flinging. And it never got old. Over and over the beloved stuffed animal took to the air.

As I sat on the third step I was peeped at with scrunchy little eyes and his grin was impossibly cute. “Go get him,” I whispered. And he would. Julius was rescued from the narrow bit of Astroturf that dad had allowed as a play area. Then it was back to the second step and off Julius would go. Whee . . . “Oh, no.” That’s what he said each time. Then he’d look at me and wait.

It was hard for me to give the soccer game my full attention with this little boy and his monkey for a distraction. He was being so good and entertaining himself superbly. I was enchanted. It made me realize how much time had passed since Sam was that small. Now Sam is Number 8 on a rocking soccer team that won both of it’s games last night. A boy taking the direct route to manhood. I sighed inside – a deep grandma sigh.

Towards the end of the game little Ryan must have realized there was a need for his input. His brother was being called upon to “Shoot!” and needed to hear “Go!” from the sidelines. Guess who yelled that out? With his head back and a little hop at the end. Doing his part in the clinches. Go team!

And here in a nutshell is what I know about men. Little boys, not yet two, grandsons out on the field, dads pacing as the soccer ball flies, and grandpas beaming with pride. This is what unites them, I think, more than anything. This contest. This mission to win. This common love through the generations of all things sporting. It satisfies a deep need, one that’s sometimes hard for members of the fair sex to understand. But it’s a universal intense form of bonding that I’ve observed for decades and I have to say . . .

I completely approve.


Image: sattva                              Free Digital Photos


Monday, February 6, 2017

A Peek at Book # 3

It’s Monday, the Patriots pulled it off, the sun is out and things are okay here. I thought  you might enjoy another excerpt from my latest Minnie Markwood Mystery, The White Pizza Caper.
In it Minnie has just taken a seat in the theater where she’s doing a head count for Chapel Marketing. As the movie begins she hears, for the first time, the voice of Meathead Mulovich, a Russian mobster who is soooo not a nice guy. And he’s in the seat right behind her. Yikes!


     I munched on my no butter, lightly salted popcorn, and took a few deep breaths. There were five trailers all together. Most people call them previews or coming attractions, but in the industry they’re still called trailers as they were long ago when they ‘trailed’ the main feature. Trouble was most people began to leave before the trailers were over. Now we’re stuck with them up front, and they are a must watch if you want to see the feature.
     By the time the movie started I was nearly done with my popcorn, down to the half popped kernels. I was rudely jolted from my bottom of the bucket dig when the back of my seat was kneed by someone taking the seat next to pizza guy. The man began to whisper in Russian. I had never heard Meathead Mulovich’s voice, but I had the chilling thought that this might be him.
     Then he said, “I will do English. Let girls enjoy movie.”
     I was afraid to move a muscle. This was even better than I’d hoped. Now I wouldn’t have to hang out in Bianco Pizza all night. I only wished I had a small tape recorder with me. To stealth and coolness I now had to add ‘mind like a steel trap’.   
    “Evelina is well?” Meathead asked with a bit too much nonchalance.
    “I had money. It was delivered at wrong table. I will get it.” Pizza guy’s voice shook with emotion and fear. But he hadn’t answered the question.
     “My American friend is disappointed with your sister. He is rich and offers much.”
     “He is very big crap!” Pizza guy hissed vehemently.
      Creep, I was pretty sure he meant creep. And then, of all things, a stray popcorn kernel took a crooked path through my esophagus forcing me to sit bolt upright. I fought off the coughing fit I felt coming, but it was no good.
     “Gack.” A sharp intake of breath made it worse. “Gack, gack!” I bolted from my seat and flew past Meathead who looked up at me with black soulless eyes. Pizza guy looked like he wanted to kill the man.
     The dark theater aisle suddenly seemed the length of a football field as I staggered along, and I wondered what day I’d reach the lobby doors. A woman pushing a baby stroller was right in my path as I came through, and my toe caught on one of the stroller wheels. I went down on one knee like a mobster at confession.


PS: I hope to have this book out in 2017. Fingers crossed!



Monday, January 30, 2017

Danger in the Aisle

There’s always something going on in the world. Out there where troubles are many and pleasures are few. But yesterday it occurred to me that there’s a phenomenon happening right under our noses and it’s by and large being ignored by all and sundry. Including – or – maybe especially – what’s happening in the world of . . . marshmallows.

I am serious, people. Hubby and I had a date yesterday after lunch. We breezed down towards Hudson so he could hit Lowe’s and I could do some damage in Walmart. Big store Walmart, right? But I made my way through and as I strolled down the really- bad- for- you snack food aisle I spotted them. Third shelf down – a small box containing cello bags of Campfire mini marshmallows. Maybe twenty in each bag and only thirty nine cents. I’d never seen such a thing. They were all in pastels, too – so cute.

But as I lifted the little bag I felt something looming above my left shoulder. Big Brother Marshmallow. I peered cautiously upwards and gasped. You should see these things. Giant bags full of marshmallow rectangles. That’s right, rectangles. These were Kraft and I think the K would have grabbed my nose if I’d gotten any closer. But, get this, these were made just for s’mores. Yup, especially made. It crossed my mind that they would make perfect little squirrel pillows. We have a whole family of them that scamper out of the trees for puppy chow and breadcrumbs every morning. Scrappy rascals. But these plump marshmallow rectangles could be their very own sweet version of My Pillow (don’t’ tell Mike Lindel!). On the other hand they might stick to the sides of their furry little heads as they snoozed. Did I want to face an army of irate squirrely bobs the next morning – you know – with a marshmallow pillow all gobbed to their fur and making inroads towards the armpits? Probably not.  

Next to the s’mores rectangles there were s’mores marshmallows, much smaller, with a chocolate component. No need for that candy bar. It’s all right there in the bag. To the right of those were marshmallows shaped like ice cream cones. The ice cream part was green. Probably mock pistachio or lime (ICK). Soon my head was spinning and I had to come up for air. I looked around real quick to see if Willy Wonka was watching me. Rumor has it that he’s got a whole world of hurt in store for marshmallow gluttons.

I grabbed the cart handle, took a deep breath and pulled away from the pillows, cones and s’mores. I have to tell you, I barely made it out. The K hissed at my back. On the way home I kept real quiet, but when hubby began spewing politics I almost hugged him right then and there while he drove. It felt so normal.

Politics is rough these days, but nowhere near as dangerous as the really- bad- for-  you snack food aisle at Walmart. This morning as I write about it I’m just thanking the good Lord above that I got out alive. Wouldn’t you?


PS: I did, however, buy the novelty item you see in the picture. But it was over in Valentine candy, a much safer place to be.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Stormy Weather

Every morning, before I come upstairs to write, I venture outside to feed therm. Four big black crows and five squirrels. This morning it was cheap dog food. Other mornings it’s stale bread, leftover popcorn from Saturday night cards or sometimes bits of fat that I’ve cut off the bacon ends. These critters actually watch for me. They begin to move as soon as the back door slams. I love it.

This morning, as I watched them duke it out for the goodies, I thought of the weather report I heard last hour. Not good. Big storm comin’. And where will my critters go then? We also have a deer with a wounded leg hovering about. He/she lingered by the garden fence and watched me toss the dog food. I spoke in a friendly manner to it and lobbed some kibble towards the fence. I got some tail movement and a wary glance for my efforts. The poor thing can’t run so it’s putting up with us.

The storm is supposed to bring sleet, freezing rain and, when the temperature goes up, just rain. Oh, yeah, and high winds. We get to enjoy a whole raft of winter weather in the next day or two. Ugh.  I have to go out in it and the new RAV4 will be my shelter while I’m traveling. The squirrels will probably go back to the dray (that’s what a squirrel’s nest is called), the crows to the hollow tree and the deer – I don’t know. Maybe hunker down by the old barn door and wait it out?

Most of us are squirrels and crows. We’re fed and sheltered. We’re safe in our “group” when the storms come. But when we look out on the world we’re forced to recognize that there are wounded deer out there, hovering. Talk kindly to them. Tell them it’s going to be okay. And, if they come near, feed them and pray that their day goes well while offering to help in any way you can. There’s no guarantee you won’t be right where they are some day.



Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, January 16, 2017

Repeating Myself

I’ve had a nasty achy cold the last few days, and my brain is a fog. But I thought you might enjoy this repeat. If not, don’t tell me. In the words of Charlie Brown, “I don’t want to know.”





Librarians all over the country are going to cringe from what I’m about to reveal. You can use books for something other than reading. Gaassspp. No, I’m not talking about book burnings. Gosh, that wouldn’t take any imagination at all, would it? No – I’m talking about, among other things, book towers.

It began with #1 (and only) grandson when he was about three. I always believed in stimulating a child’s curiosity by engaging with them in activities that both delight and thrill them. When you’re three it doesn’t take much. So there we were, in the living room, with a bunch of books around us. Largish hard cover kids books and some smaller board books like Sandra Boynton’s “Barnyard Dance”. I picked one up, spread the pages, and stood it on the floor. Picked up another and put it cross-ways on top of the first. Before we knew it a tower was growing and Sam was enthralled. He handed me more books. Now the tower was bigger than him. One more book for the top, “Barnyard Dance”, and . . . CRASH! (Okay librarians rent your clothes).

Well, how exciting was that? “Do it again, Gramma!”  And so we did. And the tradition continued with all the grand kids as it did last night in our small attic room where I’ve cobbled together a playroom for them. Here’s a visual.

One of the tallest ever made and Melodi had to use a chair to place the last book. She giggled, “I’m scared.” No, she was delighted. “What if it falls on me?”

“It won’t fall,” I said hoping I wasn’t lying. It didn’t. And she felt like an Olympian for placing that book just so and having it balance on top. I cheered and her face split in a grin as did her little sister’s.

After we basked in the glory of successfully building such a masterpiece, we gently dismantled it. No book was harmed in this endeavor and, as a kind of bonus, it was all gluten free.

One day, when they’re all over twenty one, I’ll tell these grand kids a few true stories of thrilling and devilish child’s play. Like when I was a kid and we made rubber band guns. We’d find a straight stick, sneak one of Mom’s clothespins, get a few rubber bands (from the newspapers thrown onto the lawn) and assembled the weapon.  A notch on one end and the clothespin on the other, held securely by one of the bands. The second rubber band was loaded, securing it at the notch, pulling it back and clamping it into the jaw of the clothespin. If you were lucky this second band was a nice wide one. That would be your RB54 (Rubber Band 1954) and conferred great status. Then it was time to go hunting for victims – probably the sibling who’d most recently offended you in some way. Wedgies come to mind.

This was also a gluten free enterprise as was the beating you got from the parent to whom the sibling ratted you out.  OR – the sibling made his / her own rubber band gun and then there was a real bloodbath. Boy, those were the good old days, huh?

So, you see librarians, book towers aren’t so bad.  Correctly built, they rarely fall. And on the bright side, there’s legislation pending to rid the world of the evil (but exciting) Rubber Band Gun, most especially the RB54. I can’t decide whether to organize a protest or not.  


PS: If you’d like other ideas for using books creatively, such as race car tracks, forts, or train tunnels, drop me a line. I never seem to run out of  ideas.



Image: Free Digital Photos 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ch Ch Changes (thank you David Bowie)

I love that old maxim, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” As a much younger person it made no sense to me at all. But – you live a while – and you see the wisdom in those words. Changes don’t come in a one size fits all, but there’s an eventual sameness that creeps in that we can all relate to.

We were a poor household when I was a child. But in the nation it was also a time of great movement. People were looking at their situations and making life changing decisions as my parents did when they left northern Minnesota and made the trek to Southern California in the late ‘50’s. It was tough (my Mom cried for days) but necessary. On the scale of changes this one was a very big.

Most changes aren’t life changing. Well, except for that time I dyed my sister’s hair a shade (or three) darker than she was thinking she wanted. Oh, boy. Therapy loomed large in  her life for months afterwards. On the scale of changes it went from monstrous to minuscule in a short time and was trumped by her opinion of the therapist. But nevermind.

Changes happen every day. That check you were waiting for didn’t arrive on time so you had to cancel dinner at Maxim’s (whatever that is). You find out from the dentist you need a root canal or the optometrist suggests new glasses and all the frames on the wall look like freakazoid designs from when you were in seventh grade. On the scale? Medium big depending on how much you were ridiculed for choosing the Buddy Holly frames or if the dentist sneezed just as the needle was going in.

Then there are the changes you’re really, really looking forward to. You’re getting married, becoming a parent or grandparent, the creepy guy in the next cubicle got the ax and is moving on. Some of these even require the Yippy Skippy dance. Yeah, those are the changes we like. But things do settle down and become routine, don’t they? Making that sorta big, bigger and very big change – eventually the same old you doing the same old thing. And then it’s time to change again.

I’ve got some changes coming in the new year. Big, bigger and very big. After I’ve been around them a while I’ll probably start to notice a “sameness” and the thing that was once so exciting, scary or annoying will have me wondering if things are ever going to change. Can I get an amen?

Any changes going on in your life?

PS: That very big change involves The Prize Patrol. I'll be scrubbing the welcome mat off this afternoon. 



Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Being Mature at Year's End

So there we were, the four of us, wending our way to the restaurant for a New Year’s Eve celebration, when an odd subject came up. How many different names are there for pants? You know, those long tubes you pull up over each leg nearly every day of your life? Well let me tell you . . .

“I like it in the old movies when they called them trousers,” I said. It brought to mind the old 1934 Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert movie, “It Happened One Night.” In the motel room they were forced to share Ms. Colbert was giving Mr. Gable some grief about who should sleep where when he nonchalantly began removing his clothing. He had that wisenheimer grin of his going and one arched eyebrow. When he got to his trousers, she skedaddled to the other side of the blanket that hung down the middle of the room. After all they weren’t married and, stars above, you just didn’t see a man out of his trousers before you said “I do” back then. You can watch it here

“Dungarees.” This pronouncement came from dear husband. “We never called them jeans.” No, no.  Back in Noah’s day they did indeed call them dungarees. I got Noah, I mean John, to say jeans about twenty five years ago. The snickering from his sons might have had something to do with it, too, I suppose. And I just dashed over to  Google and found out dungarees is plural for clothes made out of denim. So is each leg a dungaree? Is there anyone to even ask?

“We called them denims,” said the other lady in the car. But that was long enough ago that denims actually meant jeans because they weren’t making much else out of the stuff. Not like today when you can even get soup bowls made from denim. I think. Okay, maybe not. But you get the idea.

My late mother-in-law often called them drawers. Google says this is a dated and humorous name for underpants. Dated for sure. Mum in law was born over 100 years ago. She loved to “trim my drawers” when we played Scrabble or Canasta. She was a humurous lady and her own drawers were sizable. Maybe that’s why she always wanted to trim mine. I’ll probably never know.  

As we sped along other terms for pants popped up like cartoon bubbles around our heads. Chinos. Jodhpurs. Capri’s. Slacks. Bell bottoms. Overalls. Hot pants. Wait, those were shorts. Or almost shorts. Do they count? Anyway. . .

You’d think four mature adults on their way to enjoy rare beef and fine wine would be discussing world affairs or something. But, as we rang the year out, maybe pants was a better subject than something more volatile. We could have gone deeper and mentioned the November election, but why spoil the evening? After all, we were being mature.


Happy New Year to all my fellow pants wearers! 


Image: Free Digital Photos