Friday, December 30, 2011

More Fun for New Year's

This is another excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Enjoy....And have a very Happy New Year.

As the last days of the year wound down, our thoughts turned to New Year’s Eve parties and the inevitable aftermath on New Year’s Day. I preferred going to someone else’s party as it was a lot easier to bring a snack to share then clean my whole house and prepare a bunch of food.. Plus, I needed time to think about my New Year’s resolution for the year.

Normally, when it came to  resolutions, I tried not to demand too much of myself, preferring to do something simple like giving up escargot. But one year, in the interest of strengthening my character, I decided it was time to exercise a little self-discipline. I swear it had nothing to do with the strange dream I had the week prior.

In the dream, a cloudy apparition hovered over the foot of my bed and called my name, “Maryann MilIerrrrr."

"Wha ... Who me?"

"Yes, you,"

"Who are you? What do you want?"

''I'm the ghost of columns past."

"Right. And I'm Erma Bombeck."

"Tis not a moment for levity. You have much to account for this night."

"Like what?"

"How about your indiscriminate use of poetic license?"

"It's not indiscriminate. I work very hard at it."

"Aha! So you admit to lying in your column."

"Well… not exactly lying. I prefer to call it 'stretching the truth. '"

"And how do you think your family and friends feel about this?"

"They understand."

"Oh, yeah? What about your friend, Mary? Do you know she was kicked out of the Gingerbread Hall of Fame after you credited her with your cake fiasco?"

"I didn't know that was going to happen. But you must admit it was a funny story. Honesty would have been very dull.”

"So. Let me see if I've got this straight. You'd do anything for a laugh?"

"Well...almost anything."

"And you are going to persist?"

"Of course. I've got job security to think about."

"In that case consider yourself warned. You might be sorry."

With that the hazy form disappeared, leaving me with much to ponder. Perhaps it was time to ease up a bit. So, I made a solemn vow never to poke fun at my friend, Mary, again ...

Well, maybe I would start the next week. First, I wanted to tell all my readers about the strange punch she used to make.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Now is the time to throw out the old and ring in the new. The natural response to the beginning of a New Year is usually optimistic and goal-centered. This is when we do some personal housecleaning, getting excited about resolutions that will make us better parents, better employees, better people, and maybe even thin again.

Innumerable resolutions have been made over the course of history, and I've often wondered where they end up when they aren't kept. Is there a "resolution junkyard" somewhere littered with all those promises we made with zeal and determination on Jan. 1, and forgot by Jan. 10?

The basic problem with me and resolutions is that most of the time I'm just too tough on myself. I've set unattainable goals in a quest for perfection that is simply not in my realm of capabilities. So, in an attempt to defray frustration, I start making minor, reasonable
adjustments to my resolutions ...

Instead of giving up fattening desserts, I'm going to give up caviar and Chateaubriand.

Instead of organizing my office, I'm going to learn to live with my own efficiency plan -- "leave everything where I know I can find it."

Instead of learning to be a gourmet cook, I'll order my take-out food from Chef Tell.

Instead of cutting down on the amount of time I spend reading, I'll take 10 minutes of every hour and walk around the house with my book so I get some exercise.

Instead of trying to be a perfect Mom, I'll just let my kids think what they want of me....

... and the list goes on.

But under the jokes we can make about the annual tradition of New Year's resolutions, there is something good and wholesome about the concept of fresh starts and new beginnings. It fills us with a sense of hopefulness and positive power. We are strong. We're invincible.

Well, maybe that's going too far. . .

But seriously, we all need the renewal of spirit and hope the celebration of the whole holiday season brings us. For Christians it starts with the Advent preparation with its theme of eager anticipation. It's punctuated dramatically with the fulfillment of promises on Christmas Day, giving us new life in the birth of Jesus. And it culminates in the atmosphere of exciting possibilities for growth and change presented to us in the New Year.

Even though I know I'm the world's worst resolution-keeper, each year I always feel energized as I contemplate all that can be accomplished with the time stretching before me. I welcome the opportunity to set new goals, or resurrect old goals with a renewed
conviction that this year I can do better.

So here's to all our resolutions. May none of them end up in the junkyard.


On another note: My YA novel, Friends Forever, is FREE for Kindle for the next few days. If you have young readers in your family, this might be a good time to try the book. 
     Friendship is a tenuous thing when you’re thirteen and everything in your life is changing, especially your best friend. Debbie Webly is terrified that she will lose Laura to the influence of Angie who is rich, beautiful, and the most popular girl in school. There’s not much Debbie won’t do to hang on to her friend, but will she cross some line that she can never come back from? 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After Christmas - What a Mess

The day after Christmas was usually one of the best and one of the worst days of the year for our family.

If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry, I'm not sure it does to me either. But let me try to explain.

It was the best because:
There were now 364 more shopping days until Christmas.

It was the one day of the year when perhaps the kids were just as tired as we were, and they’d sleep off and on all day.

All the build up for the Big Day was finally over, and the noise level in the house had dropped about 20 decibels.

I didn’t have to cook since we had all those leftovers from Christmas dinner. (If we didn't have a big Christmas dinner, I was in trouble on that score.)

The kids would decide they liked each other after all, and we could go the whole day without a fight – maybe.

The kids would invite me to color with them, or play a game, and we could share some really good times together - as long as they let me win now and then.

But every coin has its flip side, and the other side of this day was:
After the glitter and tinsel of Christmas, after the giving and receiving, the celebrating, singing and eating, we could all sit back, unbutton the waistband of our pants and try to decide who would clean up the mess.

Who would get to spend the next four days sorting through the thousand-and-one little pieces of games, toys, and puzzles that in less than one day managed to get tossed together from one end of the house to another?

On Christmas day, nobody seemed to care, but the day after nobody was being nice anymore, and the house was filled with moaning and wailing and the sounds of blood-letting and bones breaking ...

"Find that Stratego piece or I'll break your arm off and beat you over the head with it!"

"I never touched your Stratego game! Mommeee!!"

I guess four days out of my life wasn't too much to ask.

Who would dig through the.22 bags of trash to find the instructions for assembling the model airplane, because, for once in his life, a kid cleaned up after himself and threw them away with the wrapping paper? (Since that same kid would think nothing of digging through the neighbors' trash to see if they threw away anything he could put to good use, maybe I could pawn that job off on him. )

Who would accept the challenge of figuring out what to do with all the unidentifiable things we received as gifts, such as the strange looking thing from Aunt Mildred that could either be a doily or a dishrag.

The gadget from Uncle Willie that favors a Chinese puzzle, but could actually be his eccentric approach to the can opener.

The game that takes an IQ of at least 300 just to open the box. 

The funny little knitted things from Aunt Lucy that are either thumb-less mittens or toe warmers.

I could have called them all personally to thank them for the gifts, and hope that somewhere in the conversation they will mention what they are. But that would have taken some of the fun out of lazy summer afternoons when we’d drag this stuff out again and play a new game called “What on Earth is It?”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

To all my readers who celebrate the Christian holiday. And Happy Holidays to those who celebrate the Winter Soltice, Chanukah, Kwanza, and the other winter holidays. No matter which one we are connected to, we are all connected on another level in this time of peace and good cheer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is.....

Over the years we received some very interesting Christmas lists. One was written on an entire ream of computer paper in 1977, and I still occasionally pick it up for bedtime reading. It's a challenge like War and Peace. Someday I'm going to plow my way through the whole thing.

One year our kids all approached their Christmas lists quite differently. I guess they thought the standard line item list wasn’t garnering quite the response they were after, which means they didn’t get everything they requested. Perhaps they thought a clever approach might work better.

The one we got from our second son was written like a business letter, complete with address, date, salutation and ended with "Sincerely Yours." He forgot one basic rule of business letters, however. Brevity is a good rule of thumb. (But at least it wasn't another novel.)

Our older son took us at our word when we said to keep it short and reasonable. His merely read:
              1.    a VCR.
              2.    a stereo.
              3.    a radio-powered car.
P.S.  If there is room for more, see me.

Our oldest daughter got very creative with her Christmas list. It was a work of art, complete with decorative pictures and her own brand of humor:
                1.    Ferrari
                2.    Mink coat
                3.    Ruby ring
                4.    Arabian palomino
           ** 5. Patrick Duffy! (I think the stars meant she was really serious about this request.)
P.S. If you can't get those, I guess I could live with:
           ** 1.      A canary (I wondered if this was her concession to probably not getting Patrick Duffy.)
               2.     Wicker cage. (At least she's practical),
               3.      Yellow Izod sweater
               4.      Two western shirts and western boots. (Maybe that meant the horse would be at the top of her list the next year.)

When I asked the twins what they wanted for Christmas, they merely handed me the Christmas Wish Book from Sears.

"Do you want me to help you make out a list?" I asked.

"No, just tell Santa we want everything."

I guess they figured why waste your time making out a list while you're still young enough to believe that Santa has an unlimited bank account.

Personally, I never make out a list.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 Here's another bit of humor from my friend, Tracy Farr..... This post orginally appeared December 2008. 

It's more than just a haircut

Our country is going through some dire times. Banks are collapsing, the American auto industry is hitting speed bumps, and people are just not buying executive jets like they used to. So, it is up to us -- you and me -- to get this economy going again, and that's why I did my patriotic duty this weekend and got a haircut.
Tim is my barber. He's been cutting my hair for almost 15 years. He knows exactly how I like it cut without me having to tell him. And if Tim's barbershop goes under, so goes the country.
It's a known fact that my money ($10 plus a dollar tip) helps to keep Tim and many others in business. When I pay Tim for my haircut, he spends it on things like rent, shaving cream and magazine subscriptions. His landlord is happy to be able to keep landlording, the shaving cream company is happy to continue delivering Tim's favorite shaving cream, and the magazines are happy because they are assured they can print next month's edition.
Tim takes a portion of that $10 as his salary and spends it at Wal-Mart, thus guaranteeing job security for the Associates. The Associates use their 10 percent discount to buy T-shirts and Jessica Simpson posters, thus guaranteeing that the T-shirt companies and Jessica Simpson stay in business. The T-shirt companies and Jessica Simpson are so happy to be making money that they decide to work together and make a Jessica Simpson T-shirt, which the Wal-Mart Associates buy in bulk and wear on their days off.
Since Jessica reaps the benefits of being worn all over the place, she takes her cut of the profits and produces a Christmas special, thus employing a bunch of Hollywood types who know just how to make a cheesy TV program but wouldn't be caught dead wearing a Jessica Simpson T-shirt. These Hollywood types produce "The Jessica Simpson Wish You Were Here Holiday Christmas Sing-A-Long Special" and make millions on advertising by airing it on prime time TV, thus causing simple folk like you and me to say, “How can they get away with putting this goat poop on television?” at which time we turn off the TV and get down on the floor to play games with our kids.
Because of my little $10 haircut, hundreds of people are employed, millions of dollars exchange hands, thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer are emptied trying to keep all those germs at bay, families all over this great nation are doing something family-ish, and I feel like I've done my part in bringing this country back from the brink of disaster.
So what are you waiting for? Our country needs us! Go get a haircut, and together we shall save the world!
The Daily Spittoon -- Almost worth a shave and a haircut!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

This piece originally appeared in July 2008.....

I swear I've got to stop reading advice columnists and get a life. I don't agree with most of the advice anyway, so I don't know why I bother. Old habit, I guess.

A long time ago a writing instructor encouraged members of the class to read the advice columns for story ideas. That was especially significant for anyone wanting to write for the pulp women's magazines True Story and the others of that ilk. The instructor also said it would be helpful even if we weren't interested in writing for those magazines, but were writing fiction. She considered it a good way to find out more about human behavior and maybe even pick up a character or two.

I can't say that I ever found a direct benefit from reading the columns, so I'm really not sure why I continued. Except that "habit" thing. I'm bad with that. Took me four tries and a number of years to finally quit smoking.

Anyway, I was reading the paper last night and glanced at the headline for one of the new, younger, advice columnists: Tween Worried About Anger. An 11-year-old girl had written to express concern because she often got angry for no reason. She described the anger as extreme and wrote that she would go to her room to try to chill out with music. Then she would start feeling incredibly sad - also for no reason - and would end up crying. She was worried about whether what was happening to her might be an indication of a serious problem.

Red flags waving for anyone but me yet?

The columnist replied that what the girl was experiencing was normal, due to hormone changes related to puberty, pointing out that mood swings are a major part of early adolescence.

Okay, that much is true. But most of the mood swings pre-teens experience are triggered by something. Getting angry for no reason is not a normal part of this. Overreacting with anger because Mom told you to do something you didn't want to, or because you get grounded, is a normal part of the emotional turmoil of puberty.

If I had a child who was erupting in anger for no reason, I would be concerned and perhaps make an appointment with a counselor. And to the columnist's credit, she did encourage the girl to talk to her parents or another adult about the mood swings, but she didn't caution the girl that she could be experiencing something that has a more serious underlying cause.

Manic Depression anyone?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book Review - Lost Women of Lost Lake by Ellen Hart

Thank you Carl Brookins for introducing us to another good read.

The Lost Women of Lost Lake
by Ellen Hart
ISBN: 978-0-312-61477-5
2011 hardcover release from
Minotaur Books, 320 pgs.

It is interesting how these things come in multiples. Libby Hellmann recently released a novel with its genesis in the riotous summer and fall of 1968. The Minnesota History Center has just opened an elaborate exhibit focused on 1968, and the History Theater in Saint Paul has mounted an original play, “1968, The year That Rocked The World.” And now here we have a powerful, emotionally intense novel by that excellent Minneapolis writer, Ellen Hart. It is a story of two women who are unable to divorce themselves from that same year, 1968 and the decisions and actions they took then.

The story is another event in the evolving saga of Minneapolis restaurateur, Jane Lawless. This time she and bosom chum Cordelia take what they intend to be a short vacation trip into Minnesota’s benign northern wilderness to the Lawless family lodge on a lake north of the Twin Cities. It’s a common enough activity, and bucolic time on placid water amid peaceful forests is expected to provide calm and rejuvenation. Jane is trying to decide whether she can commit to working with a close friend toward becoming a professional private investigator.

The peaceful appearing forest, like so many lives, conceals dark doings and Jane is drawn into a maelstrom of murder, revenge, drugs and double dealing. The multiple threads of this complex story intersect, divide, and then reweave. At times the action is high with tension, the pace frantic. At other times, the story becomes thoughtful, calm, like the smooth waters of the lake itself, allowing readers moments to reflect, perhaps, on their own lives and paths not taken. The women of lost lake, must, in the end, decide for themselves, and take for themselves the heart-rending consequences of their lives.

Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

This post originally appeared in October 2008, but it could apply to today's political race with just a few name changes. It is either incredibly sad or incredibly funny that history just keeps repeating and repeating and repeating....

Let's All Take a Break

The latest political news has Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama declining public funding for his campaign. He says because of problems with the system, but some political analysts say the reason has more to do with the fact that by declining to participate in public funding, Obama can raise double the $85 million that is the most allowed in the public funding system.

$170 million dollars on a political campaign?

Oh, wait. That is only part of the total to be spent between now and November because on the Republican side, John McCain will raise at least $85 million. So at a minimum, $255 million is going to be spent buying votes. I don't know what you think, but I think that is obscene, especially because that is on top of the millions that have already been spent on the primaries.

I briefly thought I would like to know what the total is that all candidates spent since the primaries began, but decided my blood pressure is better off not knowing.

Here's a novel idea. Why don't we all take a break from politics. Gosh, it's not like we don't know everything we need to know about these candidates after years of the primary campaign.

Okay, it was only one year, but it felt like twenty.

The candidates could take a two month break and rest up for the last big push in September and October. And instead of wasting $255 million dollars, maybe each candidate spends about $10 million in those two months on national advertising.

And in those ads, they can tell us what they are going to do about key issues like the war in Iraq, the budget, health care, global warming, and revamping the political system so it doesn't pander to special interest.

It was once said that anyone could grow up to be president of the United States. Maybe that was true in the late 1800's, but not any more. You have to grow up to be incredibly rich first.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday's Guest - Tracy Farr

In revisiting past blogs I found this piece that appeared in October 2008.  Thought you might enjoy the humor.

Here is another guest blog from a talented jazz musician, who also has a deft hand with writing humor. He shares a weekly column with readers at, and also graciously allows me to share with readers here. Enjoy.

Peanut M&Ms Anonymous

Hello, my name is Tracy, I’m addicted to Peanut M&Ms, but I haven't had any for 13 hours and 22 minutes.

"Hello Tracy, and welcome to the group."

Thanks. To be honest, I was reluctant to come here at first because I didn't actually think I had a problem. I thought I could control my desire to eat Peanut M&Ms by myself, but I was wrong.

"Tell us your story, Tracy. You're among friends."

Well, I can say I'm luckier than most. Some kids are born with the need to eat M&Ms because their mothers ate M&Ms while they were pregnant. Even though the doctors warn and often beg these mothers to stop eating M&Ms during pregnancy, they don't listen. And then they have M&M babies -- newborns just twitching with the need to eat something round and chocolate. Luckily, that was not my case.

For me, my addiction started when I was quite young. I was hooked the first time I saw M&Ms, tore open a package and let them melt in my mouth and not in my hands. Those were just the plain chocolate kind -- the kind kids love -- but as I grew older and my tastes grew more mature, I naturally gravitated to Peanut M&Ms.

The first time I popped a Peanut M&M, my universe just sort of exploded with new possibilities. I could see things more clearly. I could understand things that I never understood before. It was like my senses were attuned to higher and more sensitive levels. And once you pop one, you have to pop another to keep that high going.

It wasn't long before I found myself buying a bag of Peanut M&Ms and eating the entire thing without even realizing it. And I'm not talking about the little $1 bag you get out of a vending machine. I'm talking about the family-size, 6-pound bag that costs almost $12 and should last a lifetime.

It finally hit me that I had a problem when my little girl said she needed new shoes and I told her I didn't have any money, when in fact I did. I was saving that money to score me another bag of M&Ms before the weekend. And that's why I’m here at this meeting.

I’ve tried stopping cold turkey, but it's just too hard. I figured with help, and with belonging to a group of people who have suffered through the same problem and survived, that maybe I, with support, could pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.

But, maybe I should start slowly. Maybe I should only eat a small bag a day and ease off this addiction gradually.

Maybe this was a bad idea.

Is there a vending machine around here?

And can somebody loan me a dollar?

Tracy Farr is a musician, school bus driver, and humor writer. Visit him at

The Daily Spittoon -- All the flavor but with half the calories.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Bit of Humor

This first appeared here on It's Not All Gravy in June, 2006, but the very first publication of this piece was in the Plano Star Courier where I wrote a humorous column for several years. It is always so much fun to go back and revisit the past.....

As we all know, writers are by nature very insecure people, especially in the early years when perhaps the only thing we get published is a letter to the editor and that’s cut from four paragraphs to three lines. In fact, for years basic insecurity was the only thing I had to affirm my credibility as a writer.

But even in my moment of greatest anxiety, I never reached the heights (or should I say the depths) of insecurity as did Glenda Gibberish. She wrote an entire book on squares of toilet tissue and hid each page in an empty roll. When her husband, Harry, asked about all the cardboard cylinders lining the dresser, Glenda told him she was making toys for the gerbils. That worked well until he decided to take an interest in the welfare of the pets. She lost one whole chapter in a single afternoon.

Realizing that would never do, Glenda resorted to stuffing the rolls in her underwear drawer, in the empty cookie jar, and in the springs of the old sofa bed. She figured she was safe since she put her own clothes away and nobody ever bothered with the cookie jar since she never baked. But she forgot about her mother-in-law’s visit. Oddly enough, the other woman said nothing when they unfolded the bed, but Harry gave her one of those looks that we women enjoy so much. Then he surprised the gerbils with new toys.

This ruse went on for years and she couldn’t bring herself to tell a soul that she was writing. Then one day she was hit with this overwhelming urge to “out” herself. It was the same compulsion that drives a dieter to a banana split at Dairy Queen and try as she might Glenda couldn’t shake it. So she had lunch with her best friend.

“Oh, no. Is it serious?”

“Not right now, but it could be.”

“How long... I mean, have you been this way forever?”

“Since I was a little girl. But, you know. It isn’t the kind of thing you just drop into casual conversation.”

“Good. Maybe we can keep it from getting around.”

“Don’t worry. I have plenty of editors looking out for me on that count.”

“Have you told Harry yet?”

“No. But he did wonder about the sudden demise of Jake the gerbil. I think he choked on a particularly graphic sex scene.”


“No. The gerbil.”

“How have you managed to keep it from Harry?”

“Right now, I tell him I’m going into the closet to straighten up a few things. But that’s not going to last long. Sooner or later he’s going to remember that I don’t like to straighten anything.”

“Don’t worry. You can trust me with your secret.”

“Actually, I wouldn’t mind if you told a few people. My book comes out next month and I need the publicity.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review - Danger in Deer Ridge by Terry Odell

Danger in Deer Ridge
by Terry Odell
ISBN-10: 1466234989
ISBN-13: 978-1466234987

I have read several of Terry Odell's books and this one is by far my favorite.

The danger revolves around Elizabeth Parker and her son, Will, who have escaped an abusive relationship and are trying to establish new identities and new lives. That might have been easier had Elizabeth not taken something else when she ran from her home city to rural Colorado.

Enter Mark Grinciewicz, Grinch to his friends and associates atBlackthorne, Incorporated. Grinch's ex-wife and her husband recently died, so he now has custody of his five-year-old son, Dylan. He has not seen the boy since he was a baby and is ill-equipped to be be a father, but he is determined to do what it takes to help his son adjust to a new life. When he gets a call from Blackthorne, requesting that he take a simple assignment—teach a woman how to fit into the community under her new identity—he reluctantly accepts the task.

I enjoyed all the characters in this story, especially the two young boys and how they bonded. Grinch was one of the best romantic heroes, stumbling, far from perfect, yet charming and strong. It was a real pleasure to journey through the story with Elizabeth as she evolved from the scared, paranoid woman in the beginning, to the capable, self-assured and self-actualized woman at the end. She had to overcome a lot of distrust and fear in order to stand up to her husband and then make choices for the rest of her life. One of the nicest things about her transformation is that it came from her. She was not the victim, saved by the big strong hero.

Kudos to the author for that.

FTC Disclaimer: The author sent me an ARC of the book in the hopes that I might read it, enjoy it, and write a review, but there were no guarantees or money slipped under the table. I was willing to take the time to read it since I have read other books by this author, and the only benefit I received was a good read.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

So Herman Cain is out, and now Newt Gingrich is taking the lead in the list of candidates for the Republican nomination for president. Some pundits consider him the strongest candidate, despite his past with Freddie Mac and the fact that he is less than honorable when it comes to bedding women. He has been divorced twice, leaving his first wife after her treatment for cancer, and leaving his second wife for a woman on his staff. I doubt they waited until after the divorce to jump into bed.

Other than the color of his skin, I don't see a whole lot of difference between these two men. They both make terrible choices in their personal lives, yet Cain seems to be paying a higher price for his indiscretions. Could it be because he is black?

Just asking....

I just read a review of a new gardening book, Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older by Sydney Eddison,  and I loved the fact that is is geared toward those of us of a certain age who find the heavy work of slogging manure and compost in a wheelbarrow and digging rows and rows for planting a bit daunting of late. It was only a few years ago I could do all that with no sweat... well, actually a lot of sweat, but minimal pain and exhaustion. Now as arthritis and years progress, the chores are getting harder and harder.

According to the review, the book is part memoir, with "beautiful vignettes of life, with story arcs and graceful prose..."  I think I'd like to read it just for that. There's nothing I love more than graceful prose.

This is the last weekend of our Christmas show, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" with performances tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday. As a show winds down there is always a mix of relief and sadness. Relief that the intense schedule of rehearsals and all the other demands is all ending, yet sadness that this little family is breaking up. Anyone who does theatre knows how the cast and crew bonds as they all work to make the story come alive, and it is hard to just have it all stop.

The good thing for this troupe is that most of us have worked together on past productions and will work again on our spring show. So it is not like we are losing friends forever.

Starting next week and through the end of December, I will be resurrecting some older blog posts as I plan to take a couple of weeks off to enjoy my company that is coming for Christmas. I'll pick some from the earliest years of this blog - hard to believe I've been writing this blog for almost six years - and hope you will find the look back worth your time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wednesday's Guest - Slim Randles

Slim usually brings us some cowboy humor, but today he shares on a more serious issue. Thanks for the reminder, Slim, it is especially poignant today as we recall what happened on December 7, 1941. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts about Pearl Harbor HERE Stop by if you get a chance. 
When Pop Walker snuck out the kitchen door the other day, it affected all of us. He’s been a resident of the Rest of Your Life retirement home for several years now. 

He still remembers who said what during combat in Europe, but has a hard time remembering if he’s had breakfast.

The call went out down at the Sheriff’s office around 10 p.m. that Pop had slipped through the enemy lines, meaning the kitchen staff, and was on the loose. One of the deputies called Doc, who was a friend of Pop since forever, and Doc alerted the rest of us.

Pop is one of our own, of course. A couple of years ago, he took his coffee black and his philosophy straight at the philosophy counter at the Mule Barn.

It was cold, and they found his heavy coat still in his room, so this wasn’t good. 

The deputies checked out the interstate and volunteers hit the all-night diners to see if he’d checked in there. No luck. 

The cook at the home was crying, and she said Pop had been talking about going to see his buddy, Jasper, again, and did we know someone named Jasper? 

Sure. Jasper Blankenship, up at the cabin in the mountains. When we heard this, the hunt actually took more form. Two guys started up at Jasper’s place and worked down the road. Steve and Dud both went horseback and started from the edge of town. 

Steve found him. Pop was sitting and shivering under a tree high up on a ridge. Steve used the cell phone to let us know he was all right, then built a fire and wrapped a blanket around Pop. 

Pop wouldn’t go back until Steve told him Jasper was down at the home, waiting for him. And Steve let him ride in the saddle, too. But before that happened, Steve ducked off behind a rock and made another phone call, to be sure Jasper would be there. 

Two hours later, everyone had coffee and doughnuts back at the home, and they fixed the lock on the kitchen door. We have to be careful with those who have problems. We can’t afford to lose beautiful people like Pop.

Brought to you by Slim’s award-winning book (and stocking stuffer) “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right.” Learn more at

Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

I think Mother Nature should be renamed Father Nature. Surely if a woman was in charge of the weather, she would be much more practical and efficient. Not too much rain all at one time. No prolonged droughts. No storms. A woman who can stare down a teen age boy can certainly stare down a tornado, right?

From the bizarre weather patterns we have been experiencing, it's obvious that some guy is in charge. He's probably pointing the remote control at the sky and just pushing buttons, not even paying attention. Rain. Sun. Drought. Wind. Flood. Whatever.

Here in Texas we had the worst drought it history this summer and well into fall. Now we are having our second day of heavy rainfall. Saturday night and Sunday we had about four inches of rain, and overnight another four inches, with more to come. That is good news for the parched earth and the stock ponds that had dried up, but wouldn't it have been more practical to spread this out just a bit?

On another note, I read a letter to the editor last week about the "accidents" that occur every year on Black Friday where people are injured of even killed. The letter writer first said that the retailers should stop offering the sales because people get hurt. Then it was suggested that cities adopt some kind of ordinance preventing the Black Friday sales.

I know I have asked this before, but maybe it needs to be asked again. Why can't the shoppers be responsible for their behavior? One of the "accidents" this year was a woman who used pepper spray in a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles and injured 20 people. This was not the fault of the store. Or the city. It was a choice that woman made to bring the pepper spray and use it to keep shoppers away. Some reports said she was trying to keep from getting pushed around in the crowd, other reports said she used it to keep shoppers from getting to a bargain table before her. Whatever the case, it was not the fault of the store or the city. It was clearly her choice and her fault.

We live in such a Me-First society that people just charge ahead without thinking of the consequences. We see it in the way people drive, line up at theatres and buffets, and how they shop on bargain days. Too bad.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Book Review - Murder in the 11th House by Mitchell Scott Lewis

Thanks again to Carl Brookins for another mystery book review....

Murder in the 11th House
by Mitchell Scott Lewis
ISBN: 978-59058-950-2
a 2011 release from
Poisoned Pen Press

A team of intrepid and intelligent agents in league with an astrologer take on difficult cases of potential injustice. The feeling one gets from this debut novel about the Starlight Detective Agency is one of a small team of right-minded individuals with varied skills united around common goals. When government doesn’t get it right, the agency will. And they’re not above bending the law for all the right reasons. How that affects the lawyer/daughter on the team remains to be seen. The agency does work with police in New York City whenever possible, and because of his wealth and reputation, that seems to be often, but David Lowell, Astrologer non parallel, is not above spending his considerable money and influence to right apparent wrongs.

Angry bartender Johnny Colbert has a loud confrontation with a judge in a small New York Courtroom. It’s a civil case but the judge is soon dead in spectacular fashion and the bartender has no alibi. Enter Lowell’s daughter, defense attorney, Melinda, who prevails on her father to attempt to solve the mystery of who killed the judge and why, thus, presumably, exonerating Ms Colbert. The why of the murder proves far more fascinating that the astrological explanations. There are many explanations, and in some detail. They tend to slow the pace of the story considerably.

But it doesn’t matter whether you believe in astrology or not, the writing is generally smooth and the story develops logically. All of the characters stay in character, even if it’s a bit of a stretch for the young idealistic attorney to countenance what she knows is marginally illegal activity on behalf of her client. Several of the characters, Sarah and the client in particular, are interesting and well-drawn. all in all a nice traditionally-styled crime novel for a pleasant reading afternoon.

Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, December 02, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

Tonight we open The Best Christmas Pageant Ever at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. I directed the show, with the help of my assistant, Cindy Sanders, and a host of other Theatre Moms who shared their kids with us, as well as helped with costumes, props, etc. What a joy it has been to "play" with these kids for six weeks. This is a fun show and the community is all abuzz about it.

Now on to the news.

Much has been said about Emma Sullivan, the student in Kansas whose Tweet about Governor Sam Brownback went from obscurity to national news after an aide in Brownback's office saw the Tweet and contacted the youth organization that arranged the school trip to meet the governor to report it. That organization contacted Emma's principal, who told her she had to apologize for the Tweet, which read "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."

Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald columnist, defended Sullivan's refusal to apologize, saying that she had the right to Tweet that, even though it was rude.

That is true. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech, but I don't think that right should excuse the crude and sometimes vile things that are written just because we can. Emma's mother defended her daughter saying, "I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to Tweet her opinions about Gov. Brownback, I say for her to go for it, and I stand totally behind her."

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus suggests that Mrs. Sullivan also teach her daughter about civil discourse and what is considered crass language. The fact that this is the way kids communicate with each other does not make it acceptable. Marcus wrote, "If you were my daughter you'd be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownbeck for the smart-alecky, potty-mouthed Tweet you wrote...."

Marcus does uphold Sullivan's right to free speech, she just wishes that parents would teach their children how to express their views without resorting to trash talk.

What do you think?

Mitt Romney is being maligned in political ads for flip-flopping on issues, primarily abortion. He went from Pro-Choice to Pro-Life and some see that as a weakness. Kathleen Parker points out in a recent column that Romney's switch was not a flip-flop, but a well-thought out decision based on research and information he learned from William Hurlbut, a physician and professor of biomedical ethics at Stanford University Medical School.

Parker suggest that ideology often changes as we mature and perhaps Romney's changes were not just done out of political expediency, but rather a new maturity.

I am not necessarily a Romney fan, nor am I endorsing him for the Republican candidacy, but I do think the ad is misleading and we need to be aware of the reality as we consider who to vote for.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday's Guest - Slim Randles

Here is another offering from humorist, Slim Randles, and his "Home Country" syndicated column. 

By the time we saw Dud, of course, the damage had been done.

It was Steve who spoke first.

"I don't believe it," the tall cowboy said.

We all turned then, and the full impact of the deed struck us almost simultaneously. There, on Dud's head, was a sculpture of such blasphemous proportions as would silence all of us in attendance at the Mule Barn truck stop's philosophy counter and world dilemma think tank. It was beautiful, of course, but it was also tragic.

"They call it feathered," said Dud, turning red. "A razor cut."

We just stared at the haircut without saying anything. It curved gracefully around his ears, it waved softly in sculptured layers over the top of his head. It fell in gradually decreasing thicknesses down the long back slope of his head toward its tapered termination at the neck.

"It was Anita's idea," Dud said. "She gave me the money for it and everything."

Finally, Doc spoke. "What's Kelly going to say?"

"That's the worst of it, all right," Dud said. "I know he's going to be hurt."
Kelly hadn't really worried too much about the future of his barbershop when Fantasy Fantails set up shop. He assumed it was a haircutting place for women who didn't want to take the time to go to the beauty parlor, and for guys who came to live in our small town from the city.

Kelly's has always been the stronghold of local manhood. The magazines had nothing to do with decorating a house or how your investments are working out. The magazines had everything to do with what kind of bait to use on catfish and how big an engine your pickup needed to pull a large boat. You wouldn't find a single advertisement showing a guy wearing a sweater tied around his neck. Not at Kelly's. In the past, when magazines were magazines, you could read how some guy captured Gestapo headquarters with his headhunter brides.

"Well," said Doc, shrugging. "That haircut of yours is a work of art, without a doubt. But there's at least one good thing about getting a really expensive haircut, Dud. Sooner or later, it'll grow out."
Brought to you by Slim’s new book and great stocking stuffer “A Cowboy’s Guide to Growing Up Right.” Learn more at

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

Actually, this is Monday afternoon musings. We have been having a lot of work done on our house - a new deck and sun room - and the workers came this morning to finish it up. Just when I thought I could come back to my office to get some work done, there would be a knock at the door - another question needed an answer.

The work is all done now and the men are gone, so I thought I would get to this an hour ago, but I had to take the cats out to the new room and introduce them. Then I decided it would be a good idea to sweep out there... and....

Plus it's Cyber-Monday. While I don't participate in Black Friday sales, unless they are online, I do like to see what kind of deals can be made on Cyber-Monday. That ate up another hour, but I did get a nice chair at a good price.

Then my husband came into my office with a cat on his shoulder. Had to get this picture when the cat decided to play with the pulls on the ceiling fan. 

So here I am finally, well after noon, with only one rant to share. I read an interview with Robert Mann, author of a new book Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad That Changed American Politics. He was asked about the ad that some people think scuttled Goldwater's run for the presidency and was the root of negative ads on TV, and he said the ad was "almost entirely about exploiting fear."

He went on to explain that the firm that developed the ad had a reputation for developing ads that were sometimes humorous and "generated emotion more than rational thinking."

While that may be a sound approach for marketing cars and computers and Cheerios, I hardly think it appropriate for marketing the next leader of the U.S. - or any other politician for that matter. I want people to use rational thinking when they consider casting a vote. Forget the spin, the good looks, the eloquent oratory, and focus on the issues and a candidate's plan to address those issues.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Book Review - Glass Halo by Colleen Smith

Glass Halo
Colleen Smith

•  Publisher: Friday Jones Publishing (September 1, 2010)
•  Language: English

Glass Halo is a thoughtful and well-written book that deals with the relationship between Nora, a stained-glass artist and Father Vin DeMarco, a charming Catholic priest. They are literally thrown together when a tornado suddenly touches down, and he pulls her to safety in the nave of the church. When the terrible storm subsides, they emerge to discover that the wind destroyed many of the beautiful stained glass windows.

Nora was raised in a family of stained-glass artists and worked as a glazier until the terrible accident  that left her severely injured and a widow. Emotional and spiritual recovery is harder than the physical. Nora's marriage was not a good one and became worse the more Liam drank and did drugs. Nora was glad when he died, and that type of response is always fraught with guilt.

When Nora finally accepts the job of restoring the Cathedral windows, she brings that guilt, as well as considerable other emotional baggage. She is as broken as those windows, and so is Father DeMarco, who drinks too much and struggles between the goodness of his priesthood and the limits.

As the work progresses on the windows, the work of putting themselves back together sometimes progresses and other times goes backward. Nora is obsessed with wanting Vin DeMarco, the man, not the priest, and he struggles to hang on to his vocation. Together they discover what is most meaningful in their lives and their relationship with each other and with God. On some levels this is a story of the romance between a woman and a priest, and on another level it is the story of a spiritual journey through the healing power of art.

Readers will enjoy the exquisite use of language and allegory. There are also rich details about the art and craft of stained glass, along with well-researched touches of history and the Roman Catholic religion. An added bonus is the use of beautiful pictures throughout the book. They could be renderings for  stained-glass pieces and the imagery depicted connects to the story.
FTC disclaimer: I bought this book of my own free will. I was not bribed or coerced in any way to buy the book or review it. The author probably doesn't even know I bought it, and while she gained the pittance of royalty from the one sale, I have not gained monetarily. I have, however, gained from the experience of reading such a terrific book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday's Odds and Ends

This will be anything but the ordinary Friday post. First of all because I'm getting to it so late in the day.  Mainly because I slept in this morning - gosh that felt good - and had a lot of other things to take care of this morning.

No Black Friday shopping for me, unless it is on my computer. I have never been a fan of this ritual for a lot of reasons. "I'm not a shopper" is probably the main one. Some people love to wander through shopping malls and can spend entire days doing that. I'd rather spend days wandering through the woods behind our property. I also really don't like the sense of desperation that seems to lead to unfortunate occurrences like shoppers getting trampled. I have not checked the news yet, so I don't know if that happened today, but I remember in happening last year. So sad.

We spent Thanksgiving at our son's house. It was his first year to host the dinner, and I was quite proud of how well he did. His older sister helped with the food preparations, but he was very much into making the stuffing and getting the turkey just right. He even asked me for my stuffing recipe, and when I arrived at his house, he had it almost finished. It was just as good as mine.

He was also a very gracious host, making sure everyone got plenty of food and responding to every request of, "Paul, do you have....?"

It is almost a three-hour drive from our place to his home in Denton, Texas, so we spent almost 6 hours driving yesterday. Now you know why I slept in.

So, how was your Thanksgiving? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I know I don't usually post on Thursdays, but this is a special day and I couldn't let it go by without an acknowledgement.

My regular weekly blog piece for Venture expresses my sentiments about this holiday, so I won't repeat it here.  Hop over there if you have a moment.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesday's Guest - Tom Turkey

This time of year, turkeys are the most popular birds in the United States, so I thought I would go try to find one to see what he, or she, thinks about all this attention.

ME:  Um, excuse me. Are you a turkey?

TT:  Hey, keep it down. I'm trying to hide here.

ME:  Why?

TT:  Oh, you're not from around here, are you?

ME:  Actually, I am. Why?

TT:  Don't you know what tomorrow is?

ME:  Of course, it's Thanksgiving.

TT:  And what is the centerpiece of every Thanksgiving table? Yeah. You got it. Me. So that's why I'm hiding.

ME:  So... I'm guessing you are not too fond of the holiday.

TT:  Not unless it's being held at a vegan's house. Then I might even stop in for a bit of the corn.

ME:  Do you think they'd let you in?

TT:  It was a joke, already. As in that is the only house I'd willingly go to.

ME:  I see. I'm sensing that you would rather something else be the main dish at the Thanksgiving dinner.

TT:  You think? I'd suggest chicken, but they're my cousins. How about steak.

ME:  But a turkey was part of the first Thanksgiving dinner.

TT:  Yeah, but so was a lot of fish, and venison, and ducks, and other food. It's not fair that we are the only ones sacrificing for modern day celebrations.

ME:  You do have a good point there. Maybe you should hold a demonstration to protest.

TT:  Oh, that's a brilliant idea. Expose myself to the very people who want to eat me. Go on. Take your silly ideas and get out of here before I end up at some non-vegan house.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

The Romance Studio is having a Thanksgiving Party, with lots of prizes, a Nook and free books. Lots of authors participating and I am sharing my pumpkin pie recipe. 

Today I'm over at the Blood Red Pencil with a post about thankfulness. Hop over if you have a moment and let me know what you are thankful for.

An update from last Monday's musings. The Stock Act bill first introduced by Brian Baird and Congresswoman Louise Slaughter which would make it illegal for members of Congress to trade stocks on non-public information and require them to report their stock trades every 90 days instead of once a year has gained momentum. It was reported on Sixty Minutes last night that the bill now  has 25 sponsors and is scheduled to go to the Senate floor.

A study for MIT states that "the environmental record of shale gas wells is for the most part a good one." In one of his columns, David Brooks interpreted that to mean the the risks of fracking can be managed if there are reasonable regulations and if the "general public has a balanced and realistic sense of the costs and benefits."

So, according to Brooks, all we need  to do to ensure that fracking is safe and environmentally okay is to buy into all the PR from companies doing the fracking as well as those who benefit from selling the gas. While we are at it, we should ignore the fact that the downside of the fracking method of extracting gas from shale is still being investigated.

People in Texas and Oklahoma, where a lot of the gas is being extracted, have been experiencing earthquakes at increasing rates, and there is a link between the drilling method and this increase. Even the companies doing the drilling admit it.  That report is from a company in the UK, and here in the States it appears that people are ignoring the dangers. A recent ruling in West Virginia allows fracking in and around one of the major cities in that state.

An article on, not only shows the connection between fracking and earthquakes, it has an alarming report that the recent quake in Oklahoma occurred on the proposed path of the XL Pipeline.

These are serious issues and energy companies and car companies need to be moving us away from our dependence on oil and gas as swiftly as possible. Instead of playing chicken with our safety and our planet, we need to put our best efforts into finding alternatives to fossil fuels.

And consumers need to do their part, too. Car pool. Consolidate shopping and errands and try not to drive every day unless you absolutely have to. Keep thermostats low in winter and high in the summer.

What are you doing to save on energy?