Monday, December 28, 2020

Driving in Washington, DC can be dangerous for your health

Today I was reminded of an adventure I had in the 1990s. I was sitting at a stoplight in Washington, DC after attending a meeting, and noticed that the Smithsonian Air and Space museum was to the right. I sat there trying to decide if I just wanted to go home or should I slip into the museum and do more research for my Wright brothers book.  

Unnoticed by me, the light turned green. The car to the left of me moved into the intersection only to be completely smashed by a car driving on the crossroad who had run the red light. Because I had been distracted by the Air and Space museum and didn't move when the light turned green, the accident completely missed me. 

I suspect that the driver causing the accident had been checking messages on their phone.

(yes, I decided to turn right -- there's no way I could have continued straight ahead because of the accident.)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

O Christmas Tree


Everyone posting pictures of their Christmas trees remind me of something my husband told me. 

One year on Christmas break from college, his parents asked him to take down the Christmas tree and put away the ornaments. He forgot. When he came back home for Easter break, there was the tree - all brown, most of the needles dropped off and in piles on the floor around it. It was terrible to clean up, but it was all his to do.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Will it come in time for Christmas?

I just ordered a present for my grandson. Estimated delivery for standard delivery was December 24. Hmmm, sez me. I'll pay the extra $15 for expedited delivery. 

Now the estimated delivery date is -- drum roll -- December 23. 


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Christmas Choir memories

 It's that time of year, again.  But this year choirs are singing together over zoom.

I sang the Messiah with my high school chorus and loved it.  

So years later, when our church invited members to add themselves to the adult choir to sing the Christmas part (or it might have been just the Hallelujah Chorus) one December, I jumped at the chance. We had several practices and the choir director gave us a tape to play in our car to sing with as we drove to and from work for more practice. (I'm alto) On the big day, first the teen choir walked in singing (my daughter was in the teen choir), then we adults followed. My daughter was so surprised to see me on the other side of the church singing with the adult choir! I hadn't told her what I was doing.  

Friday, December 4, 2020

No more Book Expo

 Book Expo is closing down.  Here are some of my memories of this yearly event:

I used to have a writer friend who lived in NYC, so I'd stay at her high rise apartment sleeping on cushions on the floor and taking cabs or the subway to the Javits Center. Then we'd split. She to go smooze with publishers and editors and get writing assignments; and me to split between librarian-me surrounded by New Books! And Writer me stopping by all my publisher's booths and smoozing.  

I remember not being able to find a place to eat there so I'd exist on banana/ strawberry smoothies which I'd drink at the resting station talking with other writers.  

The author signing lines were long, but fun. One year one of the subjects of my biographies was signing, so I stopped by to talk to her. The year Bruce Coville was signing, he gave me a stack of books to take back to my library to give out as Summer Reading Prizes. (they were paperbacks) I soon learned to take an empty suitcase to the convention center to load giveaway books in.

We will miss this event.  Hopefully something else will replace it after the pandemic is over.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Running out of Gas

I always had adventures when I ran out of gas. Was embarrassed both times and never ran out of gas again. 

Did you know that - if you are wearing a mini dress and bend over looking at your car as if checking something that someone will stop to help you and will go get gas for you?  

That if your car dies because of lack of gas (with your mother in the car) you can just drift back down that hill because there was a gas station at the bottom?  

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Where have you lived?

 A Facebook friend asked where their friends lived while growing up.  My answer was very long.

We moved every 3 years or so while I was growing up. I've gone back to several places, but not all. (still want to go back to Monroeton to see if the school is still two rooms for 6 grades) The house in Pottstown, PA was still there. 5th sixth and seventh grades. (My little sister fell from the third floor window onto a bed of ivy, just missing the sidewalk. She was fine.) Once when I was attending American Library Association in Chicago, I came a day early and rented a car to visit my Chicago haunts. The Oliver Wendal Holmes school in Oak Park, IL (also seventh grade) was sorta still there, However, the old school was gone and a new school had been built in what had been our recess (and after school) playground lot. I also saw the house in Glen Ellyn, IL. (eighth and 9th grade) i parked in the driveway and walked around the house and lot. The empty lots around it were now full of houses. A postman asked what I was doing and when I told him, he said the he was the guy who rented the apartment above the garage!!! 

The rest of my High School years we lived in Vienna, WV and I attended Parkersburg High School. (bus student) My parents stayed there while I was in college, but then they moved out of town to a farmhouse with acreage which we visited every year. I married and had children who also enjoyed the 'farm.' We settled just north of Baltimore, MD. My parents eventually retired to Fort Walton Beach, FL and of course we would drive down to visit every year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Living with a well

  I remember depending on a well for water. My husband grew up in a house with a hand dug well. Every year he and his brother had to go down into the well and dig / remove the sentiment to keep water available.  

When we moved into the house (1740 stone farmhouse) the well would go dry every summer. (and as an adult, he was too large to go into the well and dig) But we also belonged to a community pool, so we'd go over to the pool to take showers until the water level rose again. City water came to the development to the south of us. Next year came to the development north of us. But to reach us, we had to pay several thousand dollars - which we finally did.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

When I wrote two biographies a year

 When I was doing biographies, I'd amass all the research on 4/6 cards, researching over 6 months on days off or taking vacation time, then I'd schedule a week off from work (the end of April or sometime in May was my favorite time because of warmer weather and FLOWERs) and sit at the computer all day and write. (arranging each chapter's research cards on my bed in chronological order, then writing the chapter. 


By the end of the week I had 10 chapters/ over 20 thousand words which was the amount needed for those books at that time.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Cat tree

 Time to put  up the tree?

This one?

Or maybe time to take down THIS tree and put up the green one?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

We're in trouble

 It's a proven fact that there have been too many humans on this planet for the last 50 or more years. Also a proven fact that, when a group of (plants or animals) become too many for their environment, bad things happen. disease or starvation. We staved off starvation because of learning intensive farming and drilling deep down to the last supplies of underground water. But now disease has hit us.  

--- IIn 1950 there were 2.5 billion people on the planet. Now in 2019, there are 7.7 billion. By the end of the century the UN expects a global population of 11.2 billion.

--- In 2019, there were 7.7 billion. By the end of the century the UN expects a global population of 11.2 billion. But that was before COVID-17 began cutting down the human population.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Navigating Life

 My family always depended on me to navigate during long car trips. I was the map reader. (once, when it was my turn to drive, husband navigated me across a river into a different state/ NOT where we intended to go) Even without a map, I seem to have a 'navigation bump.' I'm thinking it began when I was 8 and climbing mountains on my own with just a lunch bag. Mom taught me to take direction from the sun, to stop and eat the lunch when the sun was right above me (usually on a rock in a meadow surrounded by sheep), and then head back home, reaching home before 5 pm. 

I also use landmarks. Don't tell me to turn on such and such a street. Tell me to turn right at the church, then left on the street behind the church. Telling me your address is fine, but telling me that it's the fifth house on the right is better.

I almost always can tell if I'm going north or west. But why I kept turning east to get to the beach after I moved to the Pacific coast confused me, until I realized that my mind KNEW that the beach was to the east (in Maryland). :) (news note - the beach is to the west of us here on the Pacific coast. :) )

I feel like I'm going uphill when I go North. And I always feel like I'm going downhill when going South. Do you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Halloween candy

 They used to sell bags that had only one type of candy in it.  

This year I wanted to buy a bag of Butterfingers, which I used to be able to get, and all I see at stores are bags of LOOK HERE WE HAVE SAMPLES OF 4 to 8 DIFFERENT CANDIES. Don't want that -- too much in them that I don't want to eat.   Besides, the kids on my circle are growing up and either don't trick or treat any more, or else they take everything in the bucket out front that I set out for the kids, leaving nothing for other kids.  

I bet nobody comes this year which is why I only want to put out candy that I like to eat.  

Monday, October 5, 2020

Stranger in the house

Something black on my living room wood floor.  

Spider? No. Too fat/ too long. Look closer -- it's a baby lizard. Hmmm, inside my house is no place for him. No food.  

So I topped him with a plastic cup, slid a stiff sheet of plastic under the cup, took him outside, and tossed him into the grass. He'll do better there. So many baby lizards around right now. It's a population boom.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson summarizes the presidential debate:

Heather Cox Richardson   ----- September 29, 2020  (Tuesday) 
 My house is blissfully quiet, but my ears are still ringing. 
 The first presidential debate of 2020 was unlike anything we have seen before. CNN’s Jake Tapper said: "That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck." "He was his own tweets come to life." “We’ll talk about who won the debate, who lost the debate ... One thing for sure, the American people lost.” 
Conservative pundit William Kristol called it “a spectacle… an embarrassment… a disgrace… because of the behavior of one man, Donald Trump. The interrupting and the bullying, the absence of both decency and dignity—those were Donald Trump’s distinctive contributions to the evening, and they gave the affair the rare and sickening character of a national humiliation.” 
 Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? 
 In a normal presidential debate, both candidates try to explain their policy proposals, jab at their opponent, and convince undecided voters to move in their direction. If this had been a normal presidential debate, its weight would have fallen on Trump, who is significantly behind Biden, to win voters. Biden’s goal would simply have been not to lose anyone. 
 If we were calling this like a normal presidential debate, Trump lost. He did not move the needle in his direction. Biden won; he did not lose anyone. But this was not a normal presidential debate. Trump long ago gave up the pretense that he wanted to win a majority of voters. For months now, he has made no effort to reach outside of his base. Instead he has focused on solidifying and radicalizing it. As his trade war with China and the coronavirus has weakened his support, he has given massive grants to farmers, promised checks to 33 million elderly to help pay for prescriptions, splashed transportation grants around, and recently even offered grants to lobstermen who have lost business because of the trade war.
 Trump set out tonight not to convince undecided voters to support him, but rather to harden his supporters and encourage them to disrupt the election so he can contest the results until the solution goes to the Supreme Court where he hopes a majority will rule in his favor. 
He laid it all out tonight. His performance was no accident. He came out determined to dominate the debate in much the same way as Fox News Channel personalities or talk radio hosts dominate their shows. He interrupted, argued, lied, and generally sucked the oxygen out of the room. He cheated, refusing to follow the rules that he had agreed to, thus demonstrating that he would not be bound by the rules everyone else had to live by. He bullied moderator Chris Wallace of the Fox News Channel into repeatedly appeasing him by saying, for example, “Mr. President you’re going to be very happy, because we’re going to talk about law and order,” and “Let me ask — sir, you’ll be happy, I’m about to pick up on one of your points to ask the vice president.” Trump was attempting to demonstrate his dominance. 
 He went on to echo the grievances and lies that his supporters have come to believe. Ignoring the more than 200,000 Americans dead of Covid-19, he insisted he was the victim of Democrats' lies about the disease. When Wallace tried to rein him in, he attacked him for being unfair, although Wallace never once fact-checked Trump’s lies. If Trump had a strategy at all that involved voters, it was to try to keep them from backing Biden. Trump kept yelling at him about “Law & Order,” as he likes to tweet, and kept trying to drive a wedge between Biden and the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, finally saying to him: “You just lost the left.” 
 Trump tipped his hand, though, when Wallace asked: "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?” Trump demanded names of such groups, and Wallace named, among others, the Proud Boys, the hate group that helped to organize the riot in Charlottesville, Virginia. After hedging, Trump finally answered: "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left." 
"That's my president," the head of the Proud Boys posted on the social media chair that will still host them. Within an hour the group had new shoulder patches designed with the words “Stand Back and Stand By.” 
 Trump called for his supporters to act as poll watchers to prevent a fraudulent vote. He is losing badly in Pennsylvania, a state he needs, and tonight he lied that Philadelphia election officials refused to permit his poll watchers to observe voting. “Bad things happen in Philadelphia,” he said, “bad things.” The truth is that seven satellite offices where voters can register and apply to vote, complete, and drop off mail in ballots opened in Philadelphia. Poll watchers are not allowed because there is no polling taking place. Trump’s calls for poll watchers are pretty clearly calls for voter intimidation. 
 Tonight, again, Trump refused to commit to accepting a Biden victory, saying that he could not agree to fraudulent results. He suggested the election could take months to solve, and that he “definitely” wants the Supreme Court, including his new nominee Amy Coney Barrett, to “look at the ballots.” (Democrats have said Barrett should recuse herself from any election-related cases; Republicans say that is “absurd.”) 
 It was a performance designed to show a strong man who is calling out his armed supporters to enable him to seize an election he cannot win freely. But Trump performed as he did because it’s all he’s got. He has no policies, no platform, no plans that he can sell to the American people, and no attention span either to govern or to explain how he wants to govern. So his only option is to dominate. Even he knows that ploy is a desperate one. Tonight’s tell was actually in his dominance play itself: overt bullying like he displayed tonight is actually a sign of weakness and abuse, not of true power. 
 The bar for Biden going into this debate was low: since he is so far ahead, he simply needed not to lose votes. But he did well. First of all, he managed to retain his train of thought, which was no easy thing with Trump interrupting and lying and yelling, clearly trying to derail him and, at the very least, bring out his stutter. He put to rest Trump’s insistence that he is failing mentally. 
 Despite Trump, Biden also managed to explain some of his policies, too, as well as pointing out that more than 200,000 Americans have died on Trump’s watch, and that he has done the economy no favors. Under Trump, he said, America has become “weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided and more violent.” But Biden’s strongest moments were ones Trump teed up. When Biden defended our troops from Trump’s “losers” and “suckers” comments, citing his son, Beau, who died of cancer after his service in Iraq, Trump missed the opportunity to acknowledge Biden’s loss, and instead repeatedly attacked Biden’s son Hunter, who struggled with substance abuse. Trump insisted—incorrectly—that Hunter was dishonorably discharged from the Navy (in fact, he was administratively discharged), and tried to smear him. Biden looked directly at Trump to say that Hunter had a drug addiction he is managing, and Biden is proud of him. While Biden spoke as a father defending his son, his message will resonate with the 20 million Americans who are battling addiction. 
 Most important, though, Biden made the debate about the country and the American people, not about Trump. While Trump listed his own grievances, Biden spoke to the camera, asking Americans what they needed, what they think. He promised that we can accomplish anything if only we work together. 
He urged people to ignore the chaos and vote. “Vote whatever way is the best way for you,” he said. “Because he will not be able to stop you from determining the outcome of this election.” 
 Biden also refused to be scared off by Trump’s threats not to honor the election results. He brushed them off, saying “I will accept it, and he will, too. You know why? Because once the winner is declared once all the ballots are counted, that’ll be the end of it.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Things kids used to do by themselves

 Things I did as a kid that kids probably don't do now because they might be dangerous:  

Riding a bike without a helmet and riding for miles. Drinking from the hose. Going sledding down a steep hill that ended onto a busy street. Was tricky to stop in time, but we managed it. Walking home from a friends alone at late at night. Staying outside until dark, playing with the neighborhood kids. Climbing a mountain just outside of town by myself. Mom gave me a paper bag lunch, told me to eat it when the sun was directly overhead and then immediately come back home. I never made it to the top of that mountain, but I met a lot of sheep and picked lots of buttercups to take home to share with my brother and sisters to see if they liked butter. Visiting Farmer Brown's barn when the baby lambs were born and getting to pick them up and hug them. Walking on Railroad tracks to the river and back. (there was only one train using the track and it ran at 5 pm.) Putting pennies on the track so the train would flatten them.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Dear Red States

Found this on Facebook and found it to be funny, but leaning toward truth:


We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.
In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast.
We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country that includes Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Washington D.C.
We also get the vast majority of the major shipping ports. So good luck with getting goods in or out of the country affordably.
We also get Costco, Starbucks and Boeing. You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Branson, Missouri.
We get Intel, Apple and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.
We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Mississippi.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue; you get to make the red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happier, intact families.
Please be aware that California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home.
With the Blue States unified, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at your state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools -- Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the Penn, Princeton, and Yale; and Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Radcliffe colleges; plus UCLA, UCB, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.
With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and Rand Paul.
We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.
Additionally, 62 percent of you believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties. (See that part about divorces. ...)
Oh, and you can have all the new COVID-19 cases since you're too dumb and self-centered to wear masks.
Peace out.
We are the people of the
Blue States
*Cut and pasted.
Copied from a friend, who copied from a friend, who copied from...etc! 
Original author unknown!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Drive in restaurants in the 1950s

 Remember when you could sit in your car and order food and they'd bring it out to the car and attach that tray to your side window?  (There was even a place where the waitress were on roller skates)  Well A& W was one of those places. 

My sister and I used to exercise horses and there was an A&W nearby. So we rode over to get root beer floats. For some reason they didn't want to deliver to us on horseback. They made us hitch the horses to the side of the building and walk to the ordering window.  

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Getting ready for a zoom meeting

 I have a zoom meeting at 2:00.

It's a lecture, so I keep my video and audio turned off. The only thing that shows up to represent me is a black cube.
So why did I take a shower and wash my hair and get dressed?

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Reading problems

 The first reader at school was a boring book called Fun with Dick and Jane.  I thought it was such a boring book, so I read it straight through to the back and then when the teacher called on me to read, I didn't know where the student next to me had left off, so she thought I couldn't read.  

Once we had finished that book, she let us choose books from her classroom collection to take home to read. (it was a 2 room school with first, second, and third grade in one room) So, I chose Black Beauty. Because it was about a horse. It took me a month or two to read it at home, with help from my parents with the hard words.  

Meanwhile, because I was dyslexic and transposed letters in writing class, the teacher thought I still couldn't read - because I kept spelling the as teh - even when I could look at the word before writing it.  Despite my spelling problems, I have written 45 books which were published. (wrote more that haven't been published - yet.) Plus I worked for years a library where I had to memorize the Dewey Decimal system because when I read the number on the computer screen, the numbers transposed themselves when I wrote them down to go to the shelf to get the book people wanted.

Because I was often late to school (it was a block away, but I often got involved watching caterpillars or other bits of nature or building materials), she tried to use a paper clock face to show me what time I should leave home in order to get to school on time. She was confused why I couldn't read the clock in the schoolroom. It was because the Grandfather clock in my house used Roman Letters. My mom and the teacher had a good laugh about that.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Plague - then and now

 The plague in the middle ages supposedly killed half the population. Well, the world population was much much much smaller then. On the upside, with the smaller working force afterwards, peasants demanded more rights and higher pay (well anything more than no pay would be good) In fact, most historians trace the rise of the middle class from the ravages the plague caused.  

Secondly, I remember world population being 3 billion in the 1950s and people were worried then about running out of food. Intensive strides in forcing more foodstuffs to grow, plus the reduction in deaths due to the fight against disease has now resulted in world population growing to 7.7 billion -- a number that this planet really can't sustain. 

I've been suspecting that another plague would hit -- and now it has. 

(not that I had planned to be around when it did - but here we are.)

Friday, August 28, 2020

The cost of houses in 1946 compared to today

 I'm reading a biography of the mystery writer, Raymond Chandler and have reached the point where he buys a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, California not far from where I live. It's 1946 and he pays $40,000 for it. The bio then states that "today it is worth three times that amount." Really? That low? So I looked at when the bio had been published -- 1979. Ah. That explains it. Today (2020) it's probably worth several million dollars.

My own house, further north up the coast, cost half a million. And it's a tiny house, but it's ten minutes from the beach. And suits me just fine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


 Do you save your manuscripts in the "cloud?"

The cloud isn't in the clouds. It's in a huge room with huge computers saving all our stuff. If that area is zapped with a problem -- there goes the stuff in our 'cloud.' That's why I hate that Apple has now taken all the stuff that previously had only been in my computer memory and put it into the 'cloud' which means I can't access it if I'm not on Internet. Making it useless for me when I'm in the deep woods on a writing retreat.  
Luckily Dropbox lets you work on your manuscripts already on your computer when you have no internet and then will update their cloud base whenever you get to a place with internet and turn your computer on.

Monday, August 24, 2020

The cost of living goes up u p up

 I just re-read Zenna Henderson's Pilgrimage: the book of the People.  Published as a paperback and sold for 75 cents!!!  Paperbacks now sell at about nine dollars.   

Minimum wage has also gone up. And every time that goes up, corporations jack up the prices of everything.  Meaning that no matter the raise in income, the equivalent cost of living remains the same.

How are we going to stop this constant spiraling upwards?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Where have I lived? Let me count...

When I say that my father was a traveling salesman, people giggle. But yes, he did keep changing jobs. When I was born in 1943 (i'm the oldest) he quit his job and ran all over the state looking for a better one. He ended up at Sylvania during WWII working with something hush hush, so he didn't have to join the military like his brothers did. My first years were in Towanda, Pa, then he moved us to a larger house in a little town over the mountain called Monroeton. First through the beginning of fourth grade. A two room schoolhouse. The fourth grade teacher pushed and pushed me once she learned I was moving down state. She pushed so hard that I was put in the higher groups at the school in Trooper, Pa and again in a few months later in Pottstown, PA. Fourth through 7th grade. While there my father got a Chemical engineering degree at Drexel in Philadelphia and he got a job in one of the first companies to make plastic. So we moved to Oak Park Ill. end of 7th grade and then bought a house in Glen Ellyn, Ill. 8th and 9th grade. He got another job at Marbon Chemical Company so we moved to Vienna, WVa. 10th-12th grade. The family remained there while I went on to college. two years at Keyser, WVa and then on to Morgantown, WVa. (West Virginia University. I married and the two of us moved to Lexington, KY to grad school at UK. Got a job with Baltimore County Public Library and moved to Cub Hill, Maryland where we raised children. Now I'm retired and living in California near my two daughters and granddaughter and grandson. Whew!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Pony Express

 I was amazed when I learned that the pony express only existed for short while.

In operation for only 18 months between April 1860 and October 1861, the Pony Express nevertheless has become synonymous with the Old West.

The Pony Express was forced to close after the opening of the transcontinental telegraph. Telegraphs could be sent much faster and with less expense. In the end, the business venture that was the Pony Express lost a lot of money and became outdated fairly quickly.

Monday, August 10, 2020

A surprise in my back yard

 I live in a condo area. It does have a fence around it, but no gate (with secret code). The road behind me comes straight toward my house, then curves sharply to parallel the fence before reaching the condo entrance.

Last night I stayed up late watching TV, so it was only when I went to bed and noticed that the background noise I had thought was coming from the TV - just kept on going. and going. and going.
Finally I noticed flashing lights behind my house. Looked out the patio door and -- there was a SUV in my back yard being towed away. It had misjudged the curve and crashed through the iron fence. (so that's what that crash sound had been, not on the TV after all.) Two fence sections lay on the grass. No, it didn't get close to my house, but what a surprise.
This morning they're working to clean up the mess. They just now carted away the fence sections, but I don't know when they'll replace the fencing. I hope it's soon.
On the other hand, I've always wanted to leap over the fence as a shortcut to my house when coming back from my walk around the neighborhood, instead of having to walk all the way to the entrance of my condo area, and then back to my house.
Now I have that shortcut.
At least - until they mend the fence.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Carrying a weapon

I was the assistant Fencing Coach in grad school. One day while walking from class to the gym for practice with my fencing gear in its special carry bag,, I was stopped by police in a car. "Are you carrying a weapon?" they asked. "Yes," I replied. "Would you please show it to us?" (This was in Kentucky and they were very polite, but I could see they were on edge because of all the protests around the country in the 1960s) So I pulled out my fencing foils. One of them wanted a fencing lesson right there and then. 🙂  
Oh, and walking after fencing practice I had to go through a park to get to my bus stop. Other college women had warned me about danger in that park, but for some reason, I was never accosted. Might be because I was carrying a 'weapon?"

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Jack London

A quote from an article about this writer:
"In 1898, Jack London was trapped in an Alaskan cabin while, outside, winter froze everything to icy stillness. “Nothing stirred,” he wrote later. “The Yukon slept under a coat of ice three feet thick.” London, then 22, had come to Alaska to make his fortune in the gold rush, but all he’d found was a small amount of dust worth $4.50. A diet of bacon, beans, and bread had given him scurvy. His gums bled, his joints ached, and his teeth were loose. London decided that, if he lived, he would no longer try to rise above poverty through physical labor. Instead, he would become a writer. So he carved into the cabin wall the words “Jack London Miner Author Jan 27, 1898 . . .
When London returned from the Klondike, he dove into writing, churning out thousands of words. For months, he got nothing for his efforts but rejection letters—over 600 of them. “Everything I possessed was in pawn, and I did not have enough to eat,” he wrote of that time. “I was at the end of my tether, beaten out, starved, ready to go back to coal-shoveling or ahead to suicide.” Then he sold two short stories, one for $5 and another for $40. Slowly, he began publishing, and in 1903 he wrote three books, including The Call of the Wild. He followed up with more hits—White Fang, The Sea-Wolf, and Martin Eden, among others. By his late 20s, he was the highest-paid writer in the United States. . . "
The rest of the article is here: The first and last lives of Jack London

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Thoughts about writers and writing

Why are writers so insecure?
It's because we KNOW we can writer better. That vision in our head, those voices we hear in our mind dictating the story just can't be matched by the paltry words we manage to get down on the page. (or typed into the computer file) We feel we can't measure up to those who've gone on before - even though we're pretty sure they also went through revision hell and fought the muddy, muddy middle.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Do you have a 'mind's eye?'

Do you have a 'mind's eye?' Can you see objects clearly when you imagine them? Artists can. What about writers?
I'm very face blind (can't remember what people look like and therefore don't recognize them again), but when I write, I 'see' the action played out in my mind and I write what I'm seeing. (no, I don't see faces) Also I hear it. Otherwise how could I, a soft-spoken, slow speaker be able to write a character who chatters all the time, who is occasionally funny, too , whereas I'm very seldom 'funny.' (not like clever David L.)  
I also dream clearly, but again, the people in my dreams (except for family faces) have very vague faces.  
I can draw, but not as well as some in my talented family.  
On the other hand, I've created floor plans for the children's area in two separate libraries and saw them set up exactly as I had planned them. There was some conflict about the second plan. The person in administration threw out my floor plan and tried to create her own. She finally told me that she couldn't set up the children's room with the book (etc.) collection that we had. That's when I learned she had thrown mine out. So I sent mine again, pointing out how this and that fit the space available. After a few questions (and revisions), the room was set up using my floor plan, which I enjoyed working in for over 10 years before I retired.
So, I guess I have a partial 'mind's eye,' but not for faces.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Dark Ages really were DARK

You've heard of the Dark Ages when you studied history in school.
Now you know why -- the whole Northern hemisphere was dark, crops couldn't grow causing starvation and plague.
The Worst Year in History?
This will surprise you
2020 has already been immortalized. It is a year that nobody will forget.
However, when speaking of the worst year recorded in human history there are many to choose from:
The year 1349 saw the Black Death kill half the population of Europe.
In 1520 smallpox ravaged the Americas and killed between 60 and 90 per cent of the continents’ original inhabitants.
In 1918 the Spanish Flu led to the deaths of over 50 million people.
The rise of Hitler in 1933 is often claimed to be the turning point in modern history.
However, many scholars, are unanimous in their choice. The title of the worst year in history is easily held by the year 536 AD.
Medieval historian, Michael McCormick has stated that “it was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year.” (Interview with Science Magazine). The year began with an inexplicable, dense fog that stretched across the world which plunged Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia into darkness 24 hours a day, for nearly 2 years.
Consequently, global temperatures plummeted which resulted in the coldest decade in over 2,000 years. Famine was rampant and crops failed all across Europe, Africa and Asia. 
Unfortunately, 536 AD seemed to only be a prelude to further misery. This period of cold and starvation caused economic stagnation in Europe and in 541 A.D. an outbreak of "bubonic plague" led to the death of nearly 100 million people and almost half of the Byzantine Empire.
Historians have often referred this part of the sixth century as the Dark Ages, but the true source of this darkness had previously been unknown. Recently, researchers led by McCormick and glaciologist Paul Mayewski, have discovered that a volcanic eruption in Iceland in early 536 led to the to huge amounts of ash being spread across the Northern Hemisphere. Creating the fog that cast the world into darkness. 
This eruption was so immense that it altered global climate patterns and adversely effected weather patterns and crop cultivation for years to come (Antiquity).
Labeling each new year as ‘the worst year in history’ has become something of a fad these days. We should look back to the year 536 A.D. and cherish how fortunate we are not to have lived in a time when the world was truly in darkness.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Quarantine computer activity

I sit down at computer to enter the title of the latest book I've read into this year's list.
-Activate computer.
-Open Safari to check weather, then get involved in FaceBook conversations.
-Check the online calendar. (nothing happening. I'm in quarantine)
-Close computer and begin to get up.
-oops, there's the book that I need to record.
-Sit back down at computer to enter the title into this year's list of books read.

Monday, June 8, 2020

I put out seed for the birds

I think the birds are on to me.  
In my housecleaning I discovered a jar of seeds from who knows when, so I filled the seed dispenser and put it outside for the birds. They are ignoring it. I guess the seeds are too old.  
Two birds are sitting on my patio wall right now - with their backs to my seed dispenser - in distain.
Oh. Look!  
One of them just flew up to the seed sock and sampled it. Will s/he go spread the word about it? Will the report be good or will s/he tell everyone to not bother?
Oh the suspense.
(note to self -- buy new seed)

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Quarantine Reading of favorite books

I'm working my way through my set of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey during quarantine and go to the set of teen books that show the life of harpers while referring to happenings in the first three books. When I took the third one off my shelves - Dragondrums - I realized that this was a book my sister gave to me which she had gotten Anne McCaffrey to autograph. Wonderful!  
Not so wonderful is the fact that this book was produced during the time when publishers were experimenting with other types of glue and this one was one of their failures. The pages are falling out.  I remember this happening to lots of library books when I was a librarian. We had to replace so many books during this time.
I wonder if there's a bindery here in San Diego? Or have they all gone out of business? I'm usually not fond of re-bound books because they usually make the pages tight and difficult to lay flat for reading. But for a favorite book, I might make an exception. Maybe they've managed to improve their system.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Do you like ebooks? I don't/

I'm not a fan of ebooks, especially if an author or publisher wants me to read and review a picture book sent as an ebook.  Elizabeth Bird writes about this on her blog, and it explains exactly how I feel about this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

My typewriter history

Ah typewriters. Let me count the ways. 
One at home. (a Royal?) 
One Smith Corona portable at college. 
Had a job at college working on a MTST machine (first word processor, Selectric typewriter attached to a basic floor unit computer). 
Still using the portable Smith Corona in grad school. 
Got an electric one one with replaceable ribbon/ white out ribbon in cartridges for home use and first journalism job. (husband used it to write long antique MG T series articles) 
Bought another one when husband destroyed the first because his article wasn't working out and he had to retype pages and pages of it. 
Then our first computer -- Comodore 64 with dot matrix printer. Wrote many stories and my first published book on it.
Then the First Apple computer. (my husband would carry it back and forth to work) 
Then the first iMac (green) with the first laser printer and after that it's been iMacs all the way. 
Okay, that's the history of typing/ computing.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Why I love Fantasy

Mercedes Lackey says:
To write or enjoy fantasy requires an open mind and heart, and the ability to believe that things are not always what they seem.
There are fantasy romances, fantasy mysteries, heroic fantasy, modern-urban fantasy, historical fantasy, dark or horror fantasy, alternative-history fantasy, political fantasy and even Western fantasy.
Fantasy is one of the last bastions of 'moral fiction.'
Good triumphs over evil, the wrongdoers get their just deserts, and all ends well.
(Can you tell that fantasy books are one of my favorites to read? And she is one of my favorite authors.)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Back to baking again - Banana Bread

Yesterday I made quarantine banana bread.
This may not seem like an achievement to you, but I haven't done much baking for a long time. (with a kid who has celiac disease who can't eat gluten, you just don't bake much)
I got out my old recipe for banana cake which I used when I was first married.
Threw out the 4-5 year old flour in my flour canister and filled it up with brand new flour.
And began to mix.
Oops, the shortening in my cabinet had expired in 2015 and looked funny, so I threw it out and substituted butter.
Creamed the butter and sugar.  Added the egg. (was only doing half a recipe)
Then noticed the next ingredient was bananas and MILK!  Well, with the kid off to college, I hadn't bought milk for ages.  What could I substitute?  Then I remembered you could substitute fruit for the liquid in recipes.  Usually applesauce.  Thought that applesauce would give it a different flavor so I simply added an extra banana.
Threw in the flower and baking soda. (the recipe suggested adding baking powder, too, so threw in a bit of that too because the extra banana might make the finished product a bit heavy.)
And some chopped up almonds, because I didn't have any pecans or walnuts on hand.


It turned out delicious!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Quarantine thoughts

Good morning it’s April (whatever), 2020 and folks are going crazy about being in lockdown.
I’ve been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee. We all agreed things are not looking good
I didn’t mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on things and certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant.
I did discuss it with the Hoover he said the whole thing sucks.
Meanwhile, the blender has mixed feelings and the taps kept running hot and cold about the idea. The whisk refused to talk about it because she didn’t want to whip things into a frenzy. The eggs kept quiet, they didn’t want to get a beating.
I didn’t check with the oven because she’s far too hot headed.
The trash bin just spouted a whole load of rubbish about the situation and the freezer just gave me a frosty reception.
In the end, the iron calmed me down: she said everything will be fine - no situation is too pressing.
The tin at the back of the cupboard with no label on thinks it’s a total mystery.
The knife made some very cutting remarks.
The squash was very cordial about it all. Unlike the lemon who was very bitter

( borrowed from a friend who stole it from another friend) 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Adventures with famous people

We got to talking on FB about famous people we've met and this was my story:
I was waiting in a small airport a few years ago and realized that Garrison Keillor was going to be on the same plane! So when I passed him, I ever so casually said, "Hi."   This was after I had spent a week at a writer's retreat with Bruce Coville and lots of other well-known writers. I had been sitting with Bruce at the airport and he pointed Garrison out to me.  
In the 1990s one of my co-workers was a huge Moody Blues fan and she won some backstage tickets and we got photographs with the band. It was run very quickly. group of four. stand by one of the four band members. picture taken. move along please for the next four. Well, since I also was a local newspaper journalist, I tried to come up with one comment or question for each member as I passed him. And they graciously responded.  
(and one summer we went on a Moody Blues field trip and attended four or five concerts, following them from near Washington, DC, to the Taj Mahal casino (where we exited the venue behind Trump's wife, her daughter Tiffany) and on to the venue near Philadelphia. At which point I had to go back home and go back to work. The others followed the band to some other venues.  
That was a fun time being groupies.)

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Adventures as a Children's Librarian

Insects in the library.
One day I brought a praying mantis cocoon into the library and left it - in a jar- on the Information Desk for patrons to observe. But when I arrived one afternoon for my evening shift, I found it gone and the staff in hysterics. Bugs! Bugs! all over the library. Hmmmm. evidently it had hatched and the babies were small enough to crawl out of the holes I had punched in the lid. oops.
And then there was the ant farm I put on display -- also a failure -- I used wild ants from around the library and they crawled out the holes. Should have tried to find larger ants.
Trials of a children's librarian.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Adventures with Hummingbirds

I finally set up my hummingbird feeder.
After a few days, one hummingbird discovered it and seemed to like it.
Then her spouse showed up.
Gradually other hummingbirds discovered it and suddenly there was a big hummingbird fight. Much spreading of tail feathers and slowing down of their wings so they can be seen, in order to seem larger than the others. Much ducking in and out.  The first hummingbirds tried to defend the feeder doing the same.
Much twittering.
Much shaking of my head.  Stupid birds.  There are four feeding access points.  You all could share.  But NO.  Duck. Twitter. Defend.
Nowadays, the usual hummingbirds come, settle down on the perch and feed, occasionally backing up to check for danger around them.
I can tell when it's not a 'usual' hummingbird because that bird doesn't perch and take its time. It will keep its wings fluttering almost invisible, ducking in and out of the feeding area, keeping lookout for other hummingbirds and other danger.
This feeder is right outside my kitchen window and I can watch them while I eat in the dining nook.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020


I voted.
Did you?

Friday, February 28, 2020

11 kittens and two moms

In our old house with leaky walls, mice would come visit during the winter months to keep warm. (besides, there was food in our kitchen, so...)  Therefore, we always had cats.  They were working cats as well as cuddle cats.
We once had two mama cats and 11 kittens.  Now That was fun.  We set up two nursing boxes for them after the kittens were born.  Came downstairs the next morning and discovered them all jammed together in One box with no idea which kittens belonged to which mom.  So we set up one huge box for the families and both moms shared the nursing chores.
The vet called them - Dolly Parton Cats, because their teats developed so very large.
Once the kittens became teenage cats, it was up to our kids to find homes for them -- which they actually managed to do.  Naturally we kept a few for ourselves.
Because -- kittens.  (love)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Will I come do a free presentation about writing books? Probably not.

People say to me - This couldn't have taken very long to write.  
It's true.  
It only took me a half hour to write this 200 word picture book.
But it took 3-5 years to revise/ submit/ revise/ submit/ revise/ etc. etc. etc. (and some picture books take even longer to "write.")  
And then there's the 5-year wait for the illustrator and art director to polish up the book.Plus revisions to support the art.  
And now books are being delayed because most picture books are printed in China and there's an epidemic over there.  
Eventually, after the Advance has been paid off, the writer begins to get royalties from each book sold. (I get 2% for two of my books because I share the royalties with a co-writer, 4% on all of the others. Famous writers get 5% to 10%.)
(don't get me started about requests for free school visits or lecture for adults with no compensation except sometimes they buy ONE of my books for their library, which means eventually I'll get about $0.87 [cents] six months later when my royalties arrive. For that all day/ 4 or more group sessions, plus that 40 miles away drive to get there - and to get back, exhausted.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Minor characters in your story

What do you do with a walk on (walk off. probably never seen again) character?
Patricia Wrede has a good discussion about creating various characters at her blog.
Click on over and learn lots.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Thought for the times

WILL ROGERS FAMOUSLY once said this: "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat." 

HE WAS A HUMORIST, so he was joking. 
But his words ring pretty true today." --Politico Playbook LOL!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Remembering my 5-year-old

Memories, Memories

One day, long ago, I overheard my 5 year old daughter playing house/ family with the neighborhood kids.  She was the mom.  She hopped onto her tricycle, waved goodbye to her 'husband' and kids, yelling -- "Good-bye.  I'm off to work."  And down the sidewalk she went.
I guess she had noticed that I was a working mother.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Fun research expeditions

In a discussion on FB about writing techniques, I brought up research.
I often leave holes in my manuscript with notes to do more research about this or that.  
One day I abandoned my family, got into my car and drove down to Williamsburg, VA and spent the weekend there taking pictures and doing research. Yes, I found the answer to one of my editor's burning questions and to my relief was able to state it in one paragraph, not a whole chapter.
I took a day trip in December to Washington Crossing, PA to watch the reenactment of the crossing and take photographs for my biography of George Washington. In 10 degree weather. Taking photographs with insulated thin leather gloves. (They turned out great)  
I actually took THREE trips to Washington, DC to wander the Air and Space Museum so that I could explain flight so that everyone (including me) could understand the physics behind it.  
I got a lot of praise from readers and reviewers for that one point (plus a lot of awards for that book, so it was worth all the research.

Friday, January 17, 2020


I just completed reading Blacklisted by Larry Dane Brimner
Amazing background to an event that I witnessed on TV in the black and white days. Some of the hearings were telecast. 
It also explains why my mother could no longer keep in contact with our German relatives -- because they were unfortunately situated in the half of Germany that the Russians took over and put up a wall. 
I wasn't even to talk about them because my parents were afraid they'd be arrested and my father fired from his job because the authorities were still scouting to dig out anyone connected to Communists. (even though our relatives were not communists. They were just unfortunate about where they lived during and after WW2) So now I don't even know who they are or where exactly they live.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Our Canadian Adventure

Once, after attending an antique car convention in New England, we decided to go home by way of Canada.  In those days you could go in and out on the spur of the moment, because the US government had very open borders in those days. (1960s)
Quebec was 'interesting' because neither of us knew any (or much) French and all the signs were in French. Also, their toll booths were different. We were just passing through Quebec (having entered Canada through New Hampshire) trying to get to Niagara Falls by the upper route.  
First toll booth, we handed in a Canadian dollar and got some change back. And drove on.  
Second toll booth we tossed one quarter into the change bin and drove on. We were aware of flashing lights at the toll booth behind us, but didn't think they had anything to do with us.  
At the third booth, there were officers of the law lined up to stop us.  
Evidently, the first toll booth had given us FOUR quarters and we had been supposed to toss one of them into the change bin. And so on. Therefore, we owed the turnpike authorities One Quarter.
Very embarrassed, we explained what we had done and they let us go when we had paid the missing quarter.
I miss that old VW bug we drove then. It was packed full of camping equipment and food to sustain us.
Of course we had no problem getting back into the United States at Niagara. Just had to show our Maryland driver's licenses.