Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The need to create. We feel that need. While the outlets for creativity are endless, sorting through all the choices appealing to our own creative interests may take a lifetime. But, so what - it’s a journey and its fun. How glorious to put our hands and our hearts to work on creating a piece that is all ours, and “says” exactly what we want to say; that contains a piece of our heart and soul. Something we’re so proud of that we can’t wait to share it, especially with loved ones. The sharing and giving of that piece is the giving of a piece of ourselves; and there’s not a truer, more trusting, gift to be given. And it can be anything. A piece of writing, a piece of music, a quilt or other fiber art, jewelry, pottery, painting, photography, or a beezillion other lovely artistic, creative things. There’s no rule saying you have to find one area to be artistically creative in and stick with that one and only thing. There’s nothing stopping us from dipping into several different venues, only to walk away from some knowing that that particular art or craft is just not quite what we’re looking for. That it is just not making our soul sing. Its gotta make our soul sing. When it does, we know we have happened onto magic. It’s a pure gentleness that settles inside us. A whispered “yes.”

Sing. Now there’s something I’ve always wished I could do. I can’t. Surely and simply, I just can’t. But it doesn’t stop me from doing it. Sometimes I just let it rip. And I know my voice is as sweetly clear as Alison Krauss’. Pffft. In my own mind!! But, that’s O.K. It just feels terrific. Throwing your head back and making a joyful noise unto the Lord just feels good. And when I see Donald squinch his eyes up ‘cause I’ve hit a note that’s made his head hurt, I have to laugh out loud. Which makes him laugh out loud. Which makes Harley bark and run in circles. And you know - that feels pretty terrific too. Honestly - what’s better than a belly laugh and a much loved furry critter running circles around your feet?

Donald, on the other hand, sings beautifully. He’s more shy about it though, so when I happen upon him singing softly while he’s working, I stand very quietly and listen and let it fill my soul as tears fill my eyes. Tis a lovely thing.

Some folks may become quite well known for their endeavors, and they deserve our applause and our continued support. What could be lovelier and more agreeable than to be able to live your life and make your livelihood from doing what you love? But those many of us who won’t ever reach that particular dream will continue creating and learning and blooming by trying new outlets. Its just something inside wanting, and needing, to find a way out while proving to us over and over again that our need to express will not be denied.

I’m interested in hearing about what creative things you do. What do you do that makes your soul sing? And what have you tried, thought you’d love, only to find out it just really wasn’t what you had hoped?

I have a whole host of things I’ve tried. A few I have loved, a few I haven’t. Not many have captured my heart completely for the long haul, and some get tucked away for periods of time only to ease themselves back into my mind sometimes many years later needing to come out and play again.

Cooking. My very first "for fun" class ever as an adult was a cooking class. Ursula's Cooking School in Atlanta. I'm still, however, one of the most boring cooks on God's green earth. I leave the cooking to my friend Nan who is The Queen of Cooking. for real.

Music. Big sigh. I keep trying, but the fact of the matter is - this is hopeless. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and I’m virtually tone deaf. Tried the guitar - ended up giving that to my cousin Bruce. We do have a dulcimer and it gets strummed on occasion - wish Donald would keep up with it a little more ‘cause he’s very good.

Basket making. I took a class and made the ugliest basket known to man. But because I just knew I was going to love it (I did not), I bought tons of basket making supplies which I promptly gave away.

Knitting. I took a knitting class about a million years ago. I knitted a sweater for a former husband, I knitted a sweater for my dad (which my mom now has and wears on really cold days). I knitted a popcorn pattern hat and mittens (which I still have). And that was the end of my knitting. Until just a few years ago when knitting made a big comeback. I love hand knitted pieces. Anything and everything hand knitted is beautiful to me. But I didn’t want to do sweaters or hats or mittens. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I just wanted to knit! Just endlessly knit. No patterns, nothing in particular as an end result. So I went to the local knitting shop (which is filled with such gorgeous threads and fibers I could move right in), and asked the young woman working there how much yarn I would need to knit (no purling) an afghan of a particular size. I just walked around the shop picking up skeins of yarn in shades of reds and pinks in different weights and textures. Needless to say, to a true knitter this was not the way things were done. The young woman was curious and a bit skeptical about what I wanted to do and asked me to let her know how it turned out. It turned out exactly as my heart’s eye had envisioned it. I love it. It makes me smile whenever I look at it draped over my favorite red chair. And my “need” to knit was sated. Who knows when it might return?

Needlepoint. I love to needlepoint. Somehow though, I’ve ended up with very little of it. The many, many pieces I did back when I was very much into needlepoint were all given as gifts, so I don’t have much of it around my own house. I do have one canvas that I’m working on. When I say “working on,” I mean I pull it out every so often and do a little, then it gets put away for awhile. This particular piece I'm working on has been in the works now for a few years. It’s a hoot and fun and colorful and whimsical. A group of women sitting around a pizza having a chat.
This canvas is from Maggie & Co., and the artist is Jerry Fenter.

Counted Cross Stitch. I love doing reproduction samplers. Or modern samplers that integrate old stitches that were in danger of disappearing. Doing just little crosses doesn’t appeal to me, but the more intricate stitches appeals to me greatly.

And I love how plain old floss has evolved into the gorgeous hand dyed works of art that it has. Just being surrounded by the gorgeous dyed linens and silks of today’s counted cross stitching is an aesthetic high.

Weaving. Took a class - several, actually. One from Betty Smith in Atlanta. Betty teaches at the John C. Campbell Folk School, or used to - I’ve lost track of her, but she is a weaver extraordinaire, and a great teacher. Took another class at the Chastain Arts Center in Atlanta, and at the Dream Weavers Studio in Atlanta. I love weaving. But I just don’t seem to “get” it. First of all, dressing the loom is not a fun thing to me. The fun part is throwing that shuttle and watching my work actually come alive. Dressing the loom involves some mathematics (eek!), and it takes a lot of time. I dressed a loom one time thinking I was going to have a beautiful, long shawl. I was surprised when I started throwing the shuttle and my shawl was done so quickly. What I ended up with was a belt. A short belt. Pitiful. The one piece I did make that I’m quite proud of is a gorgeous ivory silk boucle shawl. ‘Course, I could have bought one for less than 1/3 of what it cost me considering the cost of the silk and the class, but it is a beauty.

Pottery. Man oh man - did I ever want to be a potter. Mm mm. Let’s just say, I have a huge respect for potters. I no longer think pottery prices are too high. If you have zero strength in your hands, and if you don’t much care for mud dripping off your glasses, or stuck in your hair, being a potter may not be in your future either.

Jewelry making. That I love. I have only taken one class from local jewelry artisan Jim Rice which was a full semester long, and have some wonderful pieces that I’m very proud of.
But do I love it enough to want to take more classes and continue learning? Undecided.

My latest class was one I took last summer and I must say, I loved it. Some of you may have heard of Cathy Taylor who is a watercolor and collage artist. She did a one week class here in Boone at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff. I’ve always had a fascination with collage art, and this was a class I loved.

Cheap Joe aka Joe Miller is quite the artist himself, and has built an unbelievable studio for guest artists to come and give classes. I cannot recommend these classes, or Cheap Joe’s supply house highly enough. Take a look on-line at his store, his set-up and the line-up of artists and classes and think about attending one. They are simply fantastic.


Truth of the matter is that right now I’m doing hardly any of these things.

I read.
And I’ve discovered I quite like writing pieces just like this one.

And I fully expect that the circle will continue and one of these days will find me curled up in my red chair with a piece of needlework in my hands.

Whatever makes my soul sing at a particular time . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sharon Wildwind - Home is the Place You Just Left

Sharon Wildwind is a northern writer with roots in the south. Or maybe she's a southern writer with her heart in the north. One way or another, she believes that while the past overtakes everyone, it doesn't have to overwhelm everyone. She spends most days at her computer, trying to get her characters to believe the same thing, while they go merrily about their ways figuring out who done it.

Home is the place you just left

If you live in North Carolina, I have bad news for you. The sky is not Carolina blue.

If you don’t live in North Carolina, or have no connections to the University of North Carolina, you probably don’t care. Unless you’re a professional artist, in which case you might want to know what we’re talking about here is Pantone reference color 278 or 282.

And, if you live in Alberta, as I do, you know that that beautiful, crystalline sky color we get in the fall and winter—shown below surrounding ruins of the old General Hospital in Calgary, with bits of modern Calgary peeking around the side— is Alberta blue.

This is, after all, a matter of perception and geography.

Decades ago, when I lived in North Carolina, I decided to write my first novel. Did I follow in the footsteps of Tarheel authors who choose the Blue Ridge Parkway’s color-drenched fall foliage or Cape Hatteras’s subtle tones of shifting sand, or the cool, gray stonework and lush green lawns of the state capital as the background against which to set my book?

Of course not. I picked a setting in northern Alberta, and for a very good reason. I wanted to do a snow story, something where the weather was part of the plot, where the climax took place in a blizzard, where characters discussed when would it snow, was it snowing, and how much more snow was expected.

There was one tiny problem. I’d never been to northern Alberta. I had no clue what the geography looked like. I had seen snow, first in Kansas, then in Western North Carolina, but how would prairie and Appalachian snows translate to snow in a tiny community an hour north of Fort Vermilion, Alberta?

This was long before the Internet existed, and though libraries cheerfully offered interlibrary loans, I never found a book with photos of the place my imagination wanted to go.

I didn’t care. Imbued with the energy of finally writing a book, I sat in North Carolina and wrote about the imaginary town of Whiskeyjack, Alberta, where bad things were happening, people were dying, and my heroine was the only one with enough insight and courage to save the town … only first, she had to learn to deal with snow.

Eventually I finished the book. And finished it again. And finished it again. And got a degree in creative writing. And immigrated to northern Alberta, where I finally got a look at the place I’d written about for almost a decade.

In case you’re curious, this is what a small town in northern Alberta looks like
at sunset on a winter day.

What I found amazing was the surprising number of things I’d gotten right about living in a small community that existed nowhere but in my imagination, and how much people did talk about the weather, and some, but not all of the effects snow had on everyday life.

And I learned that the sky color I had mistakenly, for years, called Carolina blue, was in reality called Alberta blue. At least, around these parts.

Fast forward almost a quarter of a century. I’m living in Alberta, I’m a published writer, and where are my current books set?

North Carolina: Asheville—Madison County—Fayetteville. I’m looking at the snow-covered ground outside my window, trying to recapture what Fort Bragg felt like on a summer evening, just at that point where blistering heat turned into almost bearable temperatures, the sprinklers came on in front of the Officer’s Club, and the odor of barbecued steak drifted through the stucco and red-tile roofs of senior officers’ country.

At least this time I have photos and memories to go by.

What I learned from living in one place and writing about another is to never underestimate a writer’s imagination.
Yes, research is important, and eventually—preferably before a book goes looking for a publisher—a good writer must do some. If you don’t believe me, ask Kristy Montee and Kelly Nichols (AKA P. J. Parrish) about loons.

Sometimes knowing too much about a place kills spontaneity. Sometimes we have to trust ourselves as story-tellers and dive head-long into creating a place we know nothing about. The late poet, Richard Hugo, favored what he called triggering towns, places in which some thing—perhaps just the name of the town seen on a map—planted a poem in his head. In many cases these were not places he’d been; in fact, he said that having been to the town often hindered him. If, for his poem to work, he needed a red water tower next to the railroad track, but there was no such thing, he’d be stuck about whether to honor th e reality or just put the darn water tower where it should have been in the first place. So here’s to imaginary red water towers everywhere!

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Left to Say, Part II - More on Aretha's Hat

I'm getting some notes from people about Aretha's hat (see video in my previous post, below).

Seems some folks don't really see the beauty I see in this hat.

Maybe its kinda like presidents.

Some of us don't see the same beauty in presidents either. BUT - that's not what I want to write about.

I'm still stuck on The Hat.

Here's the story of Aretha's Hat.

By COREY WILLIAMS Associated Press Writer
DETROIT January 22, 2009 (AP) The Associated Press

DETROIT - The calls began to flood Luke Song's hat shop not long after Aretha Franklin finished belting out "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at President Barack Obama's inauguration.

Franklin, who wore a gray felt custom-designed hat from Mr. Song Millinery, has inadvertently caused an economic boom for the South Korean immigrant's store.

Song said he wasn't prepared for the hundreds of calls requesting the hat with a Swarovski rhinestone-bordered bow.

"We even have a lot of men calling to get it for their wives, mothers and grandmothers," Song said.

The hat worn by the "Queen of Soul" was hand-molded and would cost upward of $500 if it were for sale, the 36-year-old designer said. Customers instead were offered a satin ribbon version for $179.

"They want the same hat, but they understand it's for the 'Queen' only," he said. "Ninety-nine percent said, 'That's fine. I'll get the next best thing.'"

The family millinery has been in Detroit for about 25 years, and Franklin has been a customer for about 20 of those years. The store also sells to about 500 boutiques across the country.

"We always make hats for her for high-profile events, so for us, the inauguration really was no big deal," Song told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The design for Franklin's hat came from two different hats at the store.

"She walked through the shop and said 'I want that bow (put) on that hat,'" he said. "She had the coat already, but she needed the hat to set it off."


Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's Left to Say

What's left to say about the inauguration?

I loved every minute.

I love this new feeling of hope. And seeing that hope reflected in the faces of so many. The smiles and the tears.

I loved watching those beautiful little girls who have the adventure of a lifetime ahead of them and hope they're able to keep their joyful exuberance for years and years to come. I love saying "our new president." And I love the obvious caring that radiates from he and his family when they're together. With all my heart, I wish them all the best things in life with a lot of laughter, love and gentleness.

While I tried to fight back the tears all day so I could watch what was going on, the moment I truly, truly lost it and just gave up was during the "First Dance." I loved this.

And oh man, I truly covet Aretha's hat.
i do love this hat.

Here's to lovely new beginnings.
And to Aretha's hat.

Monday, January 19, 2009

For Whom the Bus Rolls by Earl Staggs

Earl Staggs spent most of his life in Maryland and working as a salesman. When he and his wife gave up the cold winters of the north and moved south -- first to Florida and now in Fort Worth -- he decided to try something he’d always dreamed of. He’d always dreamed of being a fiction writer. That was in 1995, and the first step was to join a class at the local community college in Gainesville, Florida. The class happened to be about writing short mystery stories, so that’s where he started.

Over the next few years, his stories appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies. One of them brought home a Derringer Award as Best Short Mystery of the Year. He joined the Short Mystery Fiction Society and served as its Vice President, then President. He also served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, a role he feels was a great help in developing his own writing abilities.

After honing his skills with short stories, Earl wrote a mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER, which received twelve Five Star reviews on and B&

For Whom the Bus Rolls
by Earl Staggs

When School Bus 141 rolls out of the lot in Southlake, Texas, the driver is concentrating on getting to his stops on time, picking up his students, and getting them to school safely. He may also be thinking about the next story he will write. I know because I’m that driver.

“Hey, Earl, I thought you were supposed to be a hot shot mystery writer. Turns out you’re only a school bus driver.”

“ONLY a school bus driver? Hold that thought, bubba. I’ll get back to you in a minute.”

Before I deal with him, I want to explain how I became a school bus driver. A few years ago, I retired from full time employment and jumped into becoming a writer. I’d always dreamed of writing, but never had time. It was the perfect time. I wrote some short stories and even started a novel. After a while, I discovered I didn’t like retirement. It occurred to me that if you don’t have to get up in the morning, go somewhere and do something, you can get old. I was not ready to get old. There was too much I still wanted to do. The solution? A part time job.

Finding a part time job, however, wasn’t easy. I wasn’t ready to put on a Walmart vest, stand by the entrance and say, “Welcome to Walmart. Want a cart?”

After a few weeks of looking, I found a sheet of paper in my front yard. It turned out to be a flyer from the local school district saying they had job openings for school bus drivers. “Hmmmmm,” I said. “Check it out.”

So I called the number, and went for an immediate interview. The hours, I learned, were perfect for a writer. Drivers worked two hours in the morning getting the kids to school and another two hours in the afternoon taking them home. In between would be about six hours of time free for my writing. An hour after I got back home from the interview, I received a call saying I’d been hired. Okay. Now what?

The now what turned into four weeks of studying for the test required to get the kind of license needed for the job, plus actual training on a real bus. Was I nervous the first few times I got behind the wheel on one of those big things? Oh, yeah. Those babies are huge. Plus, there’s that tail swing thing.

Tail swing, you see, comes into play because the rear wheels of a bus are some ten feet in front of the rear bumper. When you turn, the tail end of the bus lags behind and makes a wide swing, easily taking out anything in its path. You have to be very careful and make sure you have enough room to make the turn. (I was careful, but in my first year of driving, I clipped the side view mirror off a parked car. Not just any car, mind you. A brand new Cadillac.)

After I was fully licensed and trained, I was assigned to a Special Needs route. We say Special Needs, not Handicapped. The kids I carried were special and they had needs different from regular kids. Some of our students were in wheelchairs, some were autistic and non-communicative, most had learning disabilities. But they were beautiful and I came to know and love them. Two people are required on these buses. In addition to the driver, there’s a monitor, who sits in the back and takes care of any immediate needs the students might have.

Not that there weren’t problems. We always had to be on the lookout for seizures, which are not uncommon. We also had to be ready for outbursts of any kind. Some of the kids would suddenly scream for no apparent reason or decide to take off their clothes. Occasionally, an outburst involved physical violence.

On one such occasion, sixteen-year-old Markeiff, who was autistic and usually quiet, undid his seat belt and attacked my monitor. By the time I pulled over, secured the bus and went to her rescue, he had her pinned against the rear door. She had a good grip on his wrists, but he was kicking at her. I managed to wrestle Markeiff to the floor and lay on top of him. He tried to get free at first, but after two or three minutes, he relaxed. After another minute went by, I let him up. He went quietly to his seat, buckled his seat belt, and looked at me as if to say, “Okay, let’s go to school” as if nothing had happened. No one knew what triggered his episodes, but they happened occasionally, and after they were over, he was fine.

We had other episodes on the bus, some physical but not violent. Tyler was a wheelchair boy of eleven and every once in a while, he would announce he “had to go to the bathroom.” Well, there are no bathrooms on a school bus. That mean my monitor and I had to swing into action. While I pulled the bus over, she undid his straps and belts. I then carried him off the bus and held him upright beside it while he “went to the bathroom.” I’m happy to say he was capable of unzipping and lowering his own pants so I didn’t have to do that.

I’ve since switched to another school district and no longer drive Special Needs. Now I have regular kids from kindergarten to eighth grade, which is a whole new adventure. But I still love the job and still think it’s the best part time job in the world for a writer.

Now where’s that guy with the “only a school bus driver” remark?

Listen up, bubba. As a writer, I may never turn out the Great American Novel, and as a citizen, I may not find a cure for cancer or a solution to world peace. But you know what? As a school bus driver, I can make sure sixty-five kids get to school and back home safely every day and, someday, maybe one of them will cure cancer or achieve world peace. To me, that means something. ONLY a school bus driver? Ha! Make that PROUDLY a school bus driver.

And by the way, about that Great American Novel thing? I still have a shot at that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Small Town Girl

Next week I'll have Earl Darlin' Staggs as the Meanderings and Muses Guest Blogger. As many of you may have figured out by now, I do dearly love Mr. Staggs.

I met Earl a few years ago at DorothyL and we've become fast friends. We both grew up in Maryland - Earl in Baltimore, and me in a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland named Cambridge, which is the home of my heart. While Earl and I were getting to know one another, sharing Maryland stories, I was also busy working on building a web page which is mostly a photo album. This was a labor of love that my adored cousin Bill got me started on when he started doing a Wilkinson family genealogy. I had boxes of wonderful old family pictures which I started scanning for him and decided they were such treasures, they needed preserving and to be placed where they could be accessed by the rest of the family. And ta da - a webpage is born. And it has grown from a few cherished old black and white photos to a treasure trove of memories - including vacation photos, friends and family photos, wedding album photos, Women Wearing Tiaras photos, Harley Barley photos, and The Class of '66 pictures from kindergarten right up through our 60th birthday party this past summer.

There's a section of photos of Old Cambridge and another section of Ocean City pictures. Seems Earl and I had some Ocean City ties we weren't aware of. Ocean City, MD is where Marylanders go, and have gone for years and years. Its an old fashioned beach town, old boardwalk included, with all the requisite boardwalk type shops, and carnival type games and rides. And there's a lot about that boardwalk that is exactly the same now as it was when I was a little girl. There are also beautiful white sandy beaches, and great restaurants. I love Ocean City.

A couple years ago, Donald and I borrowed a girl friend's condominum in Ocean City. She's an old and dear
friend I grew up with and have known forever. One of those girlfriends that we talked about here awhile back. Time can pass without us seeing one another, and then when we do get together, conversation just picks right up where it left off. This little condo of hers was perfectly situated just at the very end of the boardwalk, and a block back from the ocean with nothing but sand between it and us. We could sit on our balcony and watch the dolphins play. We could watch the surfers. And we could witness gorgeous sunsets, and you already know how I'm a nut for sunsets. And I don't think I've ever felt so at home in a place I've never been inside of before. It was a very weird experience, but I just settled in, enjoyed it and tried not to over-analyze it. But it gets even weirder. This condo is in the exact same spot that Earl Staggs' protagonist, Adam Kingston, lives in MEMORY OF A MURDER. That just set the tone for me for a book I thought I'd enjoy. Little did I know it would become I book I love.

Earl can also take credit for being one of the people most accountable for me being here at Meanderings and Muses, blogging away about anything and everything. He and I taking those walks down Maryland Memory Lane nudged something in me. The love I have for Cambridge and the memories I have of growing up there just started bubbling up; begging to be remembered. And shared.


Here's a fun little Cambridge remembrance. Laws, I hope my dad forgives me for telling this one!

When I was growing up there were a couple of "stag" bars in Cambridge. Did y'all have those? No women. I don't know if they specifically ever said "No Women," or if women just wouldn't be caught dead in them. There was one on Race Street not far from our apartment called the D D Bar. It was owned by a friend of Dad's named Monk Bradley, and it was a wonderful little place. I loved it - it was one of those grown-up "Not Allowed" places I would sneak into; along with the other Race Steet kids. And then be surprised when my mom showed up at the door to get me 'cause someone had called her. The D-D Bar was long and narrow and dark. There were maybe 4 booths in the front, a real long bar with a brass foot rail. There were also pinball tables, a shuffleboard table and a dart board.

If Monk needed him on Saturdays, Daddy thought it was a great (and fun!) way to make some extra money.

We had a local radio station in Cambridge, and on Saturdays, Ed Brigham would make a phone call to give away a free prize to someone if they could answer the question of the day.

On this particular Saturday, Mother and I were home, and the radio was on, of course. We heard Mr. Brigham announce that the question of the day phone call was about to be made. And we, of course, were hoping our phone would ring. Well, it didn't, but we did hear a very familiar voice over the radio say "DD Bar, Al speaking."

How fun - my dad!!!!

Mr. Brigham said "Hey Al, this is Ed Brigham, how ya' doin'?" After a few minutes of small talk
exchanging some "how's the family" kinda stuff, Mr. Brigham told Dad he would win two free tickets to the Arcade Movie Theater if he could answer the question of the day.

You could hear all the local Cambridge bar flies talking and hollering in the background, pinball machines ping pinging and all that bar noise. So Dad yelled for everyone to quiet down 'cause Ed Brigham had a question.

The question was "How long is a decade?"


Well, Mother and I laughed and she said she guessed she & Dad would be going downstairs to see a free movie soon. We lived in a wonderful old apartment over the Arcade Movie Theater. (In later posts I want to share some stories from this grand old apartment with you all).

Then we heard dad over the radio yelling to the guys in the bar "Ed wants to know how long is a DUCK EGG!!"

A duck egg.

Mother and I just about fell in the floor screaming we were laughing so hard.

You could hear all these men saying stuff like, "a Duck Egg? Hell, I don't know, Jim Bob - what do you think?" Answers like "2 inches, 3 inches - oh hell no, an inch and a half," and things like "Who the hell cares??" were all loud and clear over the radio. This went on for awhile and finally dad was laughing and said something like "Well, Ed, we think maybe an inch and a half."

Ed Brigham was hysterical and said "Al. Hazel is going to kill you. NOT a Duck Egg! A DECADE!!!!!!!!"

Dead silence on Dad's end. Then he started laughing really hard and started telling the guys in the bar that he'd made a mistake and what the question really was and you could hear those men laughing and laughing to beat the band.

For years anytime we went out to eat, especially in Ray Dayton's restaurant on Race Street, someone would holler "Hey Al! How long's a Duck Egg?!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Heeey Baby, What's Your Font?

I love quizzes!

Do y'all?

Well, Lord knows - there's a gracious plenty of them available on-line. And sooner or later you're going to hear about them, or get tagged, or tagged with a meme (by the way, I have NO idea if I phrased that properly. Confession time here. To those of you - and there were quite a few - who wrote asking me what the hell a meme was. Why ask ME? Just 'cause I used the term?! Hmmm - does that mean a person is supposed to know what every word that falls out of their mouth is supposed to mean?? ruh roh, and oh my. - Another topic for another day. Meme - I looked it up. On-line. Enough about that).

Back to quizzes. I'm a lover of these little quizzes. I think it may harken back to the same fascination and addiction I have to lists. Cannot live without my lists. Can't pack without a list. Can't shop without a list. Can't function at work efficiently without a list. You name it, I have a list for it. Putting my hand on that list is sometimes sorta like one of these quizzes.

The latest quiz I'm just over the moon about is "What Font are You?" I love fonts. There's just something fun and jazzy about all the fonts available. I took this quiz, and while I love the look of the font it tells me I am, I'm less enamored with WHO it tells me I am. harumph.

It seems I am - - - - -

"Gosh, Mrs. Eaves. You enjoy the quiet, and don't understand why kids these days have to be so darn loud. You're a little fussy and a little old-fashioned, but you've got a big heart."

(i.e. - I am one very old fart. WHEN did this happen??).

Okeey doke - Now YOU guys take the quiz, O.K.? And I'm gonna be verrrry interested in hearing who you are!

Here's the quiz link:

by the way . . .
anyone else have a problem with the "Music" question??

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Introducing - - Ta DA! Pat Browning

Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and taught high school English before moving to California.

She was a longtime resident of the San Joaquin Valley before returning to her native Oklahoma.

Ms. Browning is a veteran traveler. Her globetrotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for TravelAge West, a trade journal published in San Francisco. In the 1980s, her travel articles bore such exotic datelines as Tangier, Bombay, Budapest, Vienna, Dubrovnik, and Shanghai.

In the 1990s, Browning signed on full time as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel. While at the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the
Japanese-American "Yankee Samurais" of WorId War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

ABSINTHE OF MALICE is a reissue of FULL CIRCLE (published in 2001), and introduces the Penny Mackenzie mystery series. Browning is currently at work on the second book in the series.

By Pat Browning

Agatha Raisin is Miss Marple in a garter belt. She’s feeling arthritic twinges that make her think of a hip replacement, but in LOVE, LIES AND LIQUOR (2006) she’s wearing flimsy knickers “in the hope of a hot date.”

What’s going on here? Forget that nonsense about 70 being the new 50 and 60 being the new 40. Sixty is what it is, and so is 70.

What’s going on is that some of our female amateur sleuths are getting older, if not always slower. M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin hasn’t mellowed a whit. She’s dealing with murder, jewel thievery and romantic entanglements when her hip starts to hurt. For a moment she feels old and sick. But not too old or sick to face someone holding a gun and snarl, “Fry in hell, you bastard.”

Agatha’s polar opposite is the 70-something Charlotte Graham of Stefanie Matteson’s 10-book series. A retired but still glamorous actress, Charlotte is aging gracefully and philosophically. In MURDER UNDER THE PALMS (1997) she’s visiting friends in Palm Beach when fate reunites her with a man she fell in love with more than 50 years earlier.

Their shipboard romance had lasted four days. He went on to become a famous bandleader. They find the old attraction is still there and it’s easy to pick up where they left off.

Quoting: “She had reached the point in life where now was what mattered. Because the next day, the next week, the next year, either or both of them might not be around. Maybe this was what Ponce de Leon had discovered when he’d come to Florida seeking the fountain of youth … (T)hat only by coming to terms with death can you really find life.”

Charlotte and her old flame work together to solve a couple of murders and a mystery dating back to World War II.

In DEAD MAN’S ISLAND (1993) Carolyn Hart introduced her 70-something sleuth, Henrie O, who is more cosmopolitan than Agatha Raisin, more driven than Charlotte Graham. Henrie O has “dark eyes that have seen much and remembered much …” She is, in the best old-fashioned sense of the word, a dame. Think Lauren Bacall.

When the TV movie of DEAD MAN’S ISLAND was cast in 1996, the top roles went to Barbara Eden and William Shatner. Now, Eden is cute and perky; Shatner is a good old boy; but really … Henrie O, a former foreign correspondent, and her first love, publishing tycoon Chase Prescott, are right out of an Agatha Christie novel or a dark 1940s movie.

Henrie O’s description of their meeting 40 years after the end of the affair:
“He still moved with that commanding grace, the easy, confident, predatory swagger of a panther – beautiful, dark, fascinating, and infinitely dangerous …

“I knew what he saw. A slender, intense woman whose fire for life has not been quenched, a woman who still loves to laugh but who knows the world is bathed in tears.”

These two attractive senior citizens are at the heart of a ripping good murder mystery, set on a remote island off the South Carolina coast – with a hurricane on the way. Hart really piles it on, and adds a couple of neat twists at the end.

There are other female sleuths on the shady side of 60, but these are three of my favorites. They seem to age in real time without turning into cartoons. They’re still the women they’ve always been, they’re just getting older, right along with the rest of the population.

In fact, coming on strong are the baby boomers, hovering between middle age and seniority. One example is my own character, Penny Mackenzie, who’s staring down 50. In my work-in-rogress Penny catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror and wonders: “When did I stop looking like Audrey Hepburn? What’s next? Hot flashes? Chin whiskers?”

What’s next is a shower and a hot night in the sack, but this is about cozies. We take you only so far, then slam the bedroom door.

Cue Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs … “Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw ...
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw … WOO-LY BUL-LY, WOO-LY BUL-LY …”

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meme of Tears

Linda Richards tagged me for this Meme of Tears.

Linda asks (after Sandra Ruttan asked her), "What's hit you on an emotional level and made you cry?"

Sometimes when we're tagged in one of these memes, its tempting to ignore it and you're certainly welcome to do that!!! - Really! I, however, want very much to respond to this one, and Meanderings and Muses is the perfect spot for me to do that. But this is also going to be one I need time to think on before I start scribbling away.

Linda writes about walking down to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore on the final day of Bouchercon and having a good cry. She writes about it quite elegantly and I'm betting it will touch you and probably make you cry too. The woman writes like an angel. I, like Linda, tend to cry a lot, and for a lot of the same reasons she does (more on all that later), the irony is that I spent a bit of time having a huge boo hoo at the Inner Harbor during Bouchercon also. Not on the last day, which is probably a good thing - she and I might have met up and cried such buckets of tears together the water level in the harbor might have risen to flood level, and destroyed the City of Baltimore. And then what would Laura Lippman do?? She might have to move to a different city! Oh NO! And what would become of Tess??

enough of that. I'm getting goofy (imagine that).

When I get off on one of these tangents, Donald jumps in with "You really have read too many books." For shame! We all know that can never ever happen, but you see where he's coming from with all that, I'm sure.

Meandering back to the point . . .

please take a minute to read what Linda has written about what's hit her on an emotional level and made her cry. You'll love it. And in a few days, I'll maybe be able to write about it for myself. And maybe even be able to do it without crying.

In the meantime - y'all consider yourselves tagged. What has hit you on an emotional level and made you cry. An event, a book, a movie, a TV show - any or all of these?

Don't forget - this coming Monday Pat Browning will be here to kick off the Meanderings and Muses 2009 Dream Team. Pat is the author of ABSINTHE OF MALICE, a reissue of FULL CIRCLE (published in 2001), and introduces the Penny Mackenzie mystery series. Pat is currently at work on the second book in the series.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Girlfriends and Giggles

What feels better than a giggle?

Not much, unless its a full out belly laugh.

Tears rolling down your face?! Even Better!!!!

And being blessed with girlfriends to share these giggles and guffaws with is beyond measure.

There are several little pieces that float around the internet extolling the virtues of girlfriends. Some are funny, some are sweet, some are sappy - but what they all have in common, I think, is that they stem from that undefinable "something" that blossoms when you're spending time in the company of best girlfriends.

There's a magic about those times.

They're special in a way that should probably just be left to experience, and not analyzed or explained - but, just "be."

I am lucky enough to still have women in my life who I've known since I was a little girl. I consider them best friends, and more - they're family. Sisters of my heart, each of whom I cherish deeply. And since then I've met a few more women along the way who are still hanging in there with me; sharing a few tears, and a whole lot of giggles - who are cherished just as deeply. Lucky me - MORE sisters! What a blessing for this gal who is an only child!

But wait - there's still more; a few women who I've never laid eyes on, but share a deep bond with through our email conversations. Amazingly enough - these women have become every bit as dear to me as the women I'm able to spend face to face time with. Admittedly, I'm one of the last believers in this phenomenon. But. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. (What EXACTLY does that mean, anyhow???) It seemed to work with what I wanted to say, so I'm leaving it, but deconstructed it makes not a whit of sense to me.

Friends do tend, sometimes, to disappear out of our lives, but there are always going to be a few special people we click with, and something quite unexplainable happens. When it does, I believe quite strongly that it should be
embraced and nurtured and treasured. Life is short, and going through it without women who can grasp and understand fully, and without judgment, some of the things we think and feel is too sad to be comprehended.
If there's a woman who you're missing; someone who used to be an important piece of your life, but has somehow disappeared, put aside whatever the reason might have been that's interrupted your time together and reach out to her. Bring her back. If you're not needing one another right now, chances are you will on down the road.

In the meantime, let's celebrate our best gal pals right here.

Here are a couple of those fun, silly, friendship things that we've all seen on the internet a whole bunch of times - one is sweet and sappy, and one makes me hoot. And, I think, there's enough truth in each to make them a little less silly than they actually seem with first reading.

Two Types of Friends -- Real & Simple

A simple friend has never seen you cry.
A real friend has shoulders soggy from your tears.

A simple friend doesn't know your parents' first names.
A real friend has their phone numbers in his address book.

A simple friend brings a bottle of wine to your party.
A real friend comes early to help you cook and clean.

A simple friend hates it when you call after he has gone to bed.
A real friend asks you why you took so long to call.

A simple friend seeks to talk with you about their problems.
A real friend seeks to help you with your problems.

A simple friend wonders about your romantic history.
A real friend could blackmail you with it.

A simple friend, when visiting, acts like a guest.
A real friend opens your refrigerator and helps himself.

A simple friend thinks the friendship is over when you have an argument.
A real friend knows that it's not a friendship until after you've had a fight.

A simple friend expects you to always be there for them.
A real friend expects to always be there for you!

Author Unknown

and then, just so we don't get TOO carried away with ourselves being serious and/or sappy - truthful or not - let's have a dose of just plain ol' out and out fun with this one. Because girlfriends, if nothing else, can and need to show a great deal of irreverence from time to time.

Friendship Oath


When you are sad,
I will get you drunk and help you plot revenge against the jerk who made you sad.

When you are scared,
I will laugh at you and tease you about it every chance I get.

When you are worried,
I will tell you how much worse it could be and to quit complaining.

When you are confused,
I will use little words to explain it to your dumb ass.

And when you are lost,
I will answer my cell phone and give you directions.

When you are sick,
I will hold your hair while you pay homage to the porcelain god.

When you fall,
I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.

This is my oath, I pledge till the end.
Why you may ask?
Because you're my friend.