Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

In a recent letter to the editor in The Dallas Morning News the writer commented that the members of the Tea Party cannot be racist because many of the members are the same people who marched with Martin Luther King. Wait a minute. That would make them as old as I am-- I marched - but I am a good 20 years older than the mean age of the Tea Party members. Hmmmm. Guess I'm not the only one challenged by math.

Five couples at a Dallas-area assisted living celebrated Golden Anniversaries in a shared ceremony to renew vows after 50 years of commitment. Sweet.

Normally I enjoy the comic strip, Blondie, but a recent one had a message I questioned. In the first panel Blondie is crying and Dagwood wants to make her feel better. He tells her to go shopping and not to worry about how much she spends. The next  panel has her calling from the mall to tell him how much better she feels. So going shopping is the answer to having the blues? And we should spend however much it takes to make us feel better? No wonder people have humongous credit-card debt.

And I couldn't let Hayward get away without a comment. It's official. He will be leaving BP in October with a $1 million bonus, plus $900,000 per year retirement. Oh, poor man. He now has to move on to a lucrative job with a company in Russia.  Meanwhile, businesses along the Gulf are dying.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just for Fun

Since I am busy this week with the Youth Drama Camp at the art center in town, I thought I would let my friend Tracy entertain you today. Enjoy:

Just in case you haven't been keeping up with the news lately, the U.S. - Mexico border is not the only place immigration officials are trying to secure.

Doug Krispy Kreme Neon Sign Signage
To our north, illegal Dougs are seeping across the border at an unprecedented rate, and our federal government seems unable to do anything about it, or they are choosing to turn a blind eye to the situation. Either way, illegal Dougs are here in America, and if we don't do something about them soon, it will be too late.

The illicit Doug trade began to boom two decades ago when American parents stopped naming their children "Doug" or "Douglas." The Canadian underworld saw its chance to profit from this and built Doug farms where pregnant girls are paid money to name their new boy babies "Doug." Once the Dougs mature, they are smuggled across the border to find jobs in retail, thus taking jobs away from Americans.

To read the rest of the story hop over to Tracy's BLOG    It is worth the trip, trust me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Doing the Right Thing?

Okay, so Bristol and Livi are finally getting married. Bristol Palin and Livi Johnston, that is. This is so they can raise their son, Tripp, who was born out of wedlock, with a mother and a father in the same house. Oh, goody. Who cares if the father has posed for Playgirl? Does it matter that the couple is notorious for their fighting? And what about the reality show they want to start? Will it be like reruns of "Father Knows Best?" Or will it focus on all the sordid details of their relationship, while this innocent child sits in the middle of all this mess?

I'm sorry. I'm trying to be happy that they are finally "doing the right thing," but I am not so sure it is the right thing.

Having children first is becoming more and more popular, and a recent column by Georgie Anne Geyer talked about the proud unwed mothers and fathers who display their children before the world. What is wrong with these young people? These babies are not like those cute little purse dogs that are also gaining in popularity. These are children who will be severely impacted by the behavior of their parents and the decisions made by them, and that impact has more consequences than just a problem of an untrained dog.

Don't they get that? Has having babies out of wedlock  become the latest fad?

Reports from the Centers for Disease Control show a huge jump in the percentage of teen boys who say it is okay to have children and not be married. Statistics from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy also showed a significant change in attitudes. The percentage of boys who say they do not have sexual relations with a girl for fear of pregnancy fell from 25 percent to 12 percent.

Shame, shame on a society that devalues something so precious as the gift of life.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mystery Book Review

Thanks again to Carl Brookins for sharing his book reviews with us.

Death in West Wheeling 
Michael Dymmoch
Five Star Mysteries, Hardcover,
182 pages, Hardcover, $25.95

Who knew author Michael Dymmoch, who has written such solid noir mysteries as "White Tiger," "The Fall" and "M.I.A.", could put together such a funny, even hilarious novel as this one, set in a small town in West Virginia, or somewhere close by?  Homer Deter is currently acting sheriff and he has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a teacher at a local missionary school.

This case is just the start of something bigger.  Before long, Acting Sheriff Deter is faced with three more disappearances, an odd-acting ATF agent in search of illicit stills, a few apparently random  motor vehicle accidents, and including a twenty-three car pileup right in the middle of town.  And the funny thing is, all these incidents eventually connect.  That even includes the full-grown escaped tiger locked in the post office.

Author Dymmoch has some trenchant things to say about relationships between men and women, and about the state of our society.  It's all wrapped in fine writing, a really excellent if skewed sense of our society, and some dandy plotting.  Pick up this good short novel.  You'll be glad you did.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords! 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

I'm starting something new on the blog. Since Fridays for me are all about tying up all the odds and ends of my week and making sure I got everything done, I came up with the idea of doing an odds and ends piece every Friday. Basically it will be just little bits of absurdities, maybe a touch of humor here and there, and anything else I want to throw in there.

First off, I want to say how irritating voice mail can be. Do you remember when we were able to dial a number and talk to a real person? Some mail systems are so bad you can get in an endless loop and never connect to a real person.

Yesterday, I had three calls to make to follow up on some business and I wanted to get that out of the way first thing. Voice mail all around. So I left messages. No call backs by late afternoon, which means I did not get to mark those items off my to-do list.

It also really irritates me when people do not respond to an e-mail request.  Part of my day job involves asking businesses if they want to advertise with and since we are Online, much of that contacting is done via e-mail. I've had people contact me about rates and we may trade a few e-mails back and forth discussing options, then they don't respond to my final e-mail asking if they want the ad. If they decided not to, you would think they would at least have the courtesy to say so.

On a more serious note, I read yesterday about North Korea issuing a warning to the U.S. and South Korea to cancel the planned joint war-games or face serious retaliation. Didn't we already fight that war?

That's all for today. I've got a few other odds and ends to catch up on, like those three phone calls from yesterday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What a Surprise

Actually, not such a surprise. Most of us already realize that common sense does not seem all that common in Washington.

That came to mind today when I read the following news item:

"Government watchdogs are telling a Senate panel that the Obama administration's multibillion effort to help at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure is not working and could put the economic recovery at risk. Special inspector general for the financial bailouts Neil Barofsky said Wednesday that the program has not "put an appreciable dent in foreclosure filings," during a hearing on the $700 billion bank bailout before the Senate Finance Committee. He also said the Treasury Department has ignored earlier demands that it set clearer goals for the program."

I remember when this bank bailout first occurred, I  asked why the money had not been given directly to the homeowners who could then have paid their mortgages? To me it was a win-win situation. The banks would still have received  an influx of money to help their financial situations and homes could have been saved.

When I mentioned my idea to my husband, pointing out the simple logic, I also wondered why some one in government who was outlining the plans had not thought of it. My husband laughed and reminded me that most of the folks in Washington don't seem to operate on simple logic. 

What do you think? I my logic just too simple? After all, I am a writer, not an economist.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


In looking for news items to post on, this morning, I ran across this from Fex News:

" Indonesia's top Islamic body declared Tuesday that Muslims can drink civet coffee — the world's most expensive coffee, which is extracted from the dung of civet cats.

A preacher recently suggested the beverage might not be "halal" — or religiously approved — because its unusual provenance makes it unclean. But after a long discussion Tuesday, the influential Indonesian Ulema Council said that the coffee, known locally as Kopi Luwak, could be consumed as long as the beans were washed.

Kopi Luwak, which takes it name from the Indonesian word for civets, is made from hard beans that have been eaten by the nocturnal critters and then fermented in their stomachs before being pooped out and roasted. Civet cats are mongoose-like animals.

It's highly prized for its smooth flavor and bitterless aftertaste, sometimes fetching well over $200 a pound."

I thought I had read it wrong when I saw the coffee is made from cat poop.  While I am quite a cat lover, I draw the line at drinking something made from their poop. Or any other animal's poop for that matter.

What about you? Would you try it?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Honey, please don't call me Sweetie....

That was the headline for a column in The Dallas Morning News yesterday that was written by a 90-year-old woman, Helen Mitchell.

The point of her column was that nurses and medical staff often refer to the older patients as Sweetie, Honey, or Darling during exams, x-rays and other medical procedures. She acknowledges that the intent is not be be patronizing or condescending. "You're just trying to be nice and you think that just because I am old and weak and sometimes in a wheelchair that I'm fragile or delicate - like a child.

"But I'm not a child."

I remember hearing similar sentiments from patients when I was working in a large hospital as a chaplain. The patients often asked me why medical staff has a tendency to do that. Like Mrs. Mitchell said -- I can't refer to her as Helen as she did not give me permission to - I don't think people realize that using those endearments is anything but endearing. When staff was open to it, I would suggest that perhaps they rethink that approach to the older patients. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't.

Now that I have a few more wrinkles and a little more gray in my hair, I'm experiencing the same thing sometimes, and I cringe inside when I hear it. I also don't like to be called by my first name by everyone in a doctor's office, especially on a first visit. If I must call you doctor or nurse, then you can call me Mrs. Miller. After we have established a rapport, then I may give you permission to call me Maryann.

Here is a LINK to the full article by Mrs. Mitchell. Well worth the read.

What do you think about this issue? Or is it even an issue for you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summertime Blues

 It's been a while since I posted an excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck, so here is another offering from the chapter Summertime Blues. Yes, Swimming Does Count as Bathing.  Enjoy....

When I was writing my weekly humor column for a suburban newspaper, it was always a challenge each year to come up with something to write about the summer break from school that wasn’t just a rehash of past columns. I thought maybe people were getting tired of my “I hate Summer” columns, but a friend assured me otherwise.

“No, Maryann,” she said. “You’ve got to keep writing this. If you suddenly started loving the summer break, that would leave the rest of us looking like the worst mothers on earth. So accept the gauntlet, carry the flag, give us a game plan.”

How could I refuse?

I worked for two weeks on a plan I thought was perhaps the best summer vacation survival guide ever, but it only took two days for my kids to destroy it.

The shining glory of said game plan, which I considered definitive, succinct, and perhaps worthy of someday being etched in stone, were my edicts:

Thou shalt not wake up the household before eight o'clock in the morning.

“But you didn't say I couldn't sing."

 Thou shalt not fight.

"This isn't a fight. It's a police action."

I guess I should have covered more bases. I amended that edict to read:  Thou shalt not fight or engage in any sort of skirmish, duel, war or uprising. That should be clear enough for them.

Thou shalt not bother me with trivial details when I'm working.

"Grandma just called from Detroit. But I told her you were too busy to talk."

Thou shalt complete all chores before noon.

"Mom, your bed's not made and its twelve-o-one."

Thou shalt co-operate.

"We are co-operating. David's helping me get this Twinkie away from Michael."

Once the fun of breaking edicts was over, there was nothing left but this deep pit of boredom. We dipped so low, we were reduced to inane activities such as conducting a contest to see who had the most mosquito bites in unusual places.  (You do not want to know the details of who won.)

Then we endured 14 hours of Love Boat reruns with a test afterward to see who could remember the most lines of dialogue.

And this was the shining example my friend thought I could be?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sex Eduction for Kindergartners?

Recent news reports about schools in Montana that are considering adopting a sex ed course for early elementary students have been flying around the Internet. This latest on the topic was on 

 "According to the 62-page draft proposal, beginning in kindergarten, school nurses will teach students proper terms such as "nipple, breast, penis, scrotum and uterus." Once they are promoted to first grade, children will learn that sexual relations could happen between two men or two women. By the time students are 10 years old, instruction will include the various ways people can have intercourse, be it vaginally, orally or through anal penetration."

I've tried to ignore this story, hoping people would come to their senses and it would just go away, but apparently it isn't going to.  The school superintendent of the Helena school district is pushing for the curriculum, saying that the schools share a responsibility for making sure children are informed about the risks of certain behaviors.

Opponents of the plan sharply criticize the idea of giving such specific details about sexual acts to children as young as ten.

I've got to say I am on their side.

There seems to be no childhood anymore. No time of innocence.  Children are exposed to too much, too soon in regards to sex and sexual activity. If children below the age of 10 were not battered with sexual content and sexual images all around them, maybe their natural curiosity about such things would wait until they were a little older and better able to process the information. 

And this type of detailed sex education belongs in the home, to the parents, who are the best judge of when their child is ready for it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lessons Learned

A long time ago I was privileged to be one of the people selected to attend a series of screenwriting classes taught by Joe Camp and his partner Erwin Hearne, of "Benji"  fame.   Joe, a principle behind Mulberry Square Productions in Dallas, was riding high on the success of the Benji films and wanted to encourage new writing talent in the area.

One of the things I learned from those classes, that still stays with me, is to tell the story with visuals. Don't rely on dialogue to propel the story line. He challenged us to write an opening scene of a story with little or no dialogue. I remember that exercise every time I am writing a scene, and I know I am a better screenwriter because of it.

Now, many years later I am reading his latest book, Who Needs Hollywood, and being reminded again of the lessons learned at that series of classes. I like his simple approach to plotting "set up a must and a series of can'ts." The central character has something he or she needs to accomplish and here are the obstacles in the way.

In a way, that is an accurate description of the  story of the making of "Benji." Joe was driven to make that movie. He describes it almost like an obsession, and there were plenty of problems and disappointments before a single camera ever started to roll.

That is also true for many other filmmakers and writers. With only a few, rare exceptions, the road to success is not a straight, unencumbered one. I've stopped counting the times I have been within an inch of some big break, only to have the opportunity slip away, and I'm sure the same is true for most of my writer friends.

What about you?  What has your road been like?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mushrooms Growing in my Pasture

When I was cleaning my small pasture this morning I noticed these mushrooms. Needless to say I put the shovel down and went to get my camera before my horse could step on the mushrooms and squash them. This one looks like a little cap that a child might have for a doll.

I've seen lots of white mushrooms around, but these are the first orange ones. I didn't even notice that little baby mushroom in the first picture until I loaded it in my computer to 'play' with it. And that second orange mushroom has the most interesting companion.

This next one looks like it has mold growing on it. When I first saw it, I thought it was some excess fur from our cream-colored cat, John. I do find bits and pieces of him stuck to brambles and berry vines all over our property.

This last one looks to me like it was made out of delicate lace.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review - Mood Swings To Murder

 Here is another book review by Carl Brookins.

Mood Swings To Murder
Author: Jane Isenberg
Publisher: Avon Books, PBO
December 2000
ISBN: 0-380-80282-1

This is the third book in a series about an English teacher in the New Jersey college system. Bel Barrett teaches for a community college in Hoboken, a great platform for a variety of stories, because she'll encounter older students, some with families, and some with jobs, situations that can give rise to problems not usually encountered by more traditional, full-time students.

The previous books are "The M Word" and "Death in a Hot Flash."   Jane Isenberg, is a veteran urban college teacher and she writes with authority, wit, and a sure sense of her environment. She also understands the processes of female aging. Her protagonist is Bel Barrett who finds it impossible to ignore student problems outside the classroom, and who also spends a lot of energy worrying about her two grown children.

She is abetted by two women who seem to have more time on their hands to deal with Bel's murder cases than is usual. One is a fiery private investigator, which solves one continuing problems for any amateur sleuth, that of access to various agency records and actions. The two friends provide Bel, who has a pretty full schedule, with assistance and reassurances. Bel has a pregnant daughter in Seattle and a son on the East Coast, both of whom seem to be less than fully settled--in their mother's view, anyway, and the two women offer a level of sanity and judicious advice.

This story has an unusual plot line. It concerns the murder of a Frank Sinatra impersonator, one of several who seem to litter the Hoboken landscape. Bel, her friends and other hangers on, including Bel's mother, are swept up in Bel's attempt to figure out who killed Louie Palumbo and why. One of Isenberg's strengths is the clever and logical ways she involves Bel in murder investigations. In this case, she and lover Sol, out for a romantic stroll literally stumble across the body.

Two sub-plots are nicely handled. Bel's relationships with her sometimes-live-in son and her now pregnant daughter have no bearing on the main plot but they do add dimension and reality to the characters. All in all, in spite of an abundance of angst and soul-searching in place of action and suspense, this is another worthy outing, an American cozy with a little bit of bite mixed with mystery and eccentricity.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

One time when I was riding in the car with my father late at night, he stopped at a red light and waited until it turned green even though there was no traffic coming the other way. We were way out in the country and had not seen another car for an hour. I asked him why he didn't just go through the light, and he said "because I shouldn't."

Perhaps that was a little silly.  Who, besides me, was going to know that he stopped or didn't stop. But it was important to him to do the right thing, even when it may seem silly.  That was just part of his makeup. Do the right thing even when nobody is looking.

Personal responsibility.

In today's world it seems like there is less personal responsibility and more reliance on laws to protect our well-being.  Every time there is a catastrophe, we turn  to the government to fix it. Pass a law to regulate tobacco. Pass a law to regulate the amount of fat in food. Pass a law to make people wear seat belts. 

Wouldn't it be nice if people took more responsibility for their well-being, and the government could then focus on what government should be doing? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Awards and other stuff

I love having company. When our whole family gets together we have a great time. We eat lots of delicious food that everyone pitches in to prepare. We play lots of games. If weather permits we go to the lake and play in the water. We eat more delicious food....

That was pretty much the scenario at Grandma's Ranch the past five days. Most of our kids and grandkids came to celebrate the Fourth and my birthday.

We had our own fireworks show and I had fun taking pictures. I love my camera that has a setting just for fireworks.

Since I was so busy with family, I was not online much and didn't notice right away that Helen Ginger, who writes a great blog Straight From Hel gave me an award. She passed on the "You Are My Sunshine Award to five bloggers who brighten my day with their posts, their blogs, and their comments."

First I want to thank Helen for giving me the award. It is quite an honor, and now I will now pass it on to a few bloggers who brighten my day...

Mary at Giggles and Guns

Mason at Thoughts In Progress

Tracy at I'm Just a Guy

Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder

Ginger at Dishin' It Out

I hope you enjoy my friends as much as I do.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Real Alice in Wonderland

Cathy Rubin co-author of The Real Alice in Wonderland contacted me recently with an interesting bit of trivia.

American Independence Day and Alice in Wonderland share the same birthday. So, I not only share my birthday with my country, I share it with a timeless story.

According Cathy, Friday July 4, 1862 is credited with the first time Lewis Carroll told Alice Liddell and her sisters the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It was shortly after the first telling of Carroll’s story that Alice began to urge the author to write it down for her.

I've been intrigued by this book since I first heard about it, so I went to Cathy's Web site to get more information about how and why she came to write this book. 
"In 2007, my daughter’s school  selected  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for Book Day.  My daughter Gabriella remembered we had a connection to the Liddell family.  Alice Liddell inspired Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) to write the original story.  At this point I knew very little about Alice Liddell’s story other than what my grandmother and my great aunt Phil Liddell had told me about her when I was a child.   Gabriella bugged me to help her research the story. You could say we jumped down the rabbit hole together. It took us several months to research the content for our Book Day workshop  which we called The Real Alice In Wonderland. After we presented the workshop to Gabriella’s school and other groups we were encouraged by educators, friends and family to turn our story  into a film or book.  The book as you can see came first!"

Like many other readers, I did not know that Lewis Carroll wrote about a real  person. It was interesting to find out a bit about her:   

Alice Liddell was born into a privileged, academic family on May 4, 1852.  She was the fourth child of Henry and Lorina Liddell.  Her father, one of the most prominent educators of his day, was the Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford University.  Alice was home schooled by some of Oxford University’s finest tutors.  She was a bright child with significant artistic talents.  Alice was also known to be free-spirited (largely due to her never-ending curiousity about everything).   She grew up to become a beautiful and cultured young woman.  Her beauty inspired many distinguished photographers and artists such as Charles Dodgson, Julia Margaret Cameron and Sir William Blake Richmond.  She also inspired the devotion of many suitors including Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son.  In 1880, she married a wealthy landowner, Reginald Hargreaves, with whom she had three sons.

So, I wish a Happy Birthday to the gool ol' U. S. A. and to the wonderful story of Alice and the rabbit hole.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Special Surprise Tomorrow

The Fourth of July is my birthday. For years I thought all the fireworks and picnics and parades were just for me, and, boy, did I feel important. Then I found out that 99.99 percent of the American public was celebrating Independence Day, and just my family cared about my birthday.

When I matured, just last year, I got over the disappointment and was thrilled to share my birthday with America. I get tingly all over when I hear "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Just this week, I found out I share my birthday with another significant event. Perhaps not as important as the independence of a nation, but still pretty significant.

I know this is a big holiday weekend here in the States, but if you have time and are interested, stop by tomorrow and discover the surprise. It's a good one.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Exciting News

I just received a message informing me that the cover for my book, PLAY IT AGAIN SAM has won the June Classic Cover Contest at the ClassicRomanceRevival Web site.

As the site name implies, it promotes novels of the more classic romance style in varying degrees of "sweet" "sexy" and "sensual." The authors affiliated with that site write the kinds of books that were popular when romances first took publishing by storm.

Winning this is a thrill, and I am glad that the book will get some extra exposure because of the win. It is a special story about love the second time around and was inspired by what happened to a good friend when her husband of 25 years decided he didn't want to be married anymore.

However, I am even more excited for my daughter, Dany Russell, who designed the cover. This win is as much for her as it is for me. Actually, probably more, since it is her work being honored. I am so happy for her.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Little Clarification on Separation of Church and State

Right up front, let me say that this post is not intended to stir a debate about religion, forms of religion, or which religion is the best. My personal beliefs are that everyone is entitled to believe, or not believe, and one right does not trump another.

That said, I do want to talk about the separation of church and state. People who want to remove all mention of a god or higher power from schools, public buildings, government and society in general use the First Amendment to the Constitution as their rallying point. But if you read that amendment carefully, you will note that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear. The amendment prohibits "an establishment of religion."  That means no national mandated or tax supported church.

At the time the amendment was written, most of the states had their own official churches and the federal government was not to impose a national official church, like England has the Church of England. Later, the states did away with official state churches, thus establishing a true freedom of religion.

If only we could all honor that.