Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Spring Cleaning

My friend Linda from California plans to visit me here in Northeast WA next month and writes that she looks forward to seeing "lush green foliage." This past week's rain and drizzle ensure she'll get her fill. There's more downpours and deluges predicted for this week, as well.

The gray skies merely serve as a muted backdrop for the blush of lilacs and iris everywhere, so my spirits aren't nearly as soggy as they could be during such a prolonged wet spell. I'm so relieved it's spring.

I'm not undertaking spring cleaning this year. Instead I'm brightening the house with little changes. If I organize one drawer, hang one picture, replace one fragrance candle, it doesn't add up to a total renovation, but it makes my surroundings a little more inviting. Sure, I could devote a weekend to cleaning the carpet, but wouldn't I rather spend that time:

Writing about facing my first funeral at fourteen?
Cheering on the Lakers?
Attending a performance of "Dearly Departed" by Chewelah's Park Avenue Players?
Walking Natty around the Loop?

So when Linda arrives the carpet may be dingy. But there's fresh paisley sheets on her bed, a jasmine candle in the family room, a bouquet of peonies in the kitchen, and the framed maps of ancient Briton that Ken purchased five years ago finally up on my bedroom wall.

I'll rent the carpet cleaner in July.

As for writing, here's tales that need telling:

How I helped a colleague come clean about her potluck potato salad.
Why I wept buckets at stepgrandaughter Kendra's christening.
What I learned from Blanche DuBois about relying on the kindness of a stranger.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wistful Vista

Four events of the past couple of days have mired me in the mellow 1950s.

First, I reconnected with a high school friend who had been my bridesmaid in 1955. I'm planning to see her at a high school reunion later this year. I've been remembering how the two of us used to slather baby oil on ourselves and spend hours lounging on towels in my parents' backyard, pretending we were at the beach. It's a wonder we aren't both dead of skin cancer by now. As it is, we're the only two still around from those long ago wedding photos.

Second, Chicken Soup for the Soul has some new books geared for preteens and teens on its upcoming list, and a writer friend and I have been reminiscing about proms, dates and all the anguish about being asked to dance to the slow, dreamy numbers.

Third, I received a note through Classmates from a boy I'd known at my original high school...and waves of memories came back involving social events from those days. Sadie Hawkins dances. Senior Days. Family interactions. After decades of teaching drama, he became a motivational speaker and writes for Chicken Soup for the Soul. What a coincidence.

Last, I received a packet of photos in the mail from my late husband's lifelong friend. There's Ken in his high school days and Air Force days. All 1950s again.

Now I'm edging back a little the beginning of the decade as I try to piece together why I never graduated to making an apron in my 7th grade sewing class, when I so wanted to succeed. I've got to get that story written tomorrow when I return to real time. As for now, I'm still locating old Joni James and Stan Kenton tunes on You Tube, and remembering how Pavlovettes danced to Blue Tango at the talent show of 1953.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Orphan Sojourns

Though I finished the story, Grandma Fang and a Clowder of Kittens, I've rummaged through my files and revisited some orphans. So I dolled up these perfectly good older stories, never before published, and sent them to knock on new doors:

Vaya Con Dios
Miss Laird and Horse Sense
Upside, Downside
A Peanut Butter Kind of Day
Light of My Life
Hot Biscuits and a Zillion Zinnias
Crowning Glory
Double Sawbuck
No Rotten Tomatoes

I'd hoped to be writing a "cubicle story" today, but it might not get to tell itself. I'm about to take a nap instead. Before dawn my telephone rang. No good news ever announces itself at 4 a.m. so I started to shiver as I reached for the phone. A child's voice asked me if my refrigerator was running. I tried to imagine parents who would allow their child to phone strangers at this hour, awakening worrywart old ladies like me, heightening the risk of heart attacks. Then I remembered cell phones. That child might have been huddled under her covers, just as I used to be with my flashlight. Only I was reading "Black Beauty," not dialing at random to strike fear in the hearts of all of us who know in our bones that no good news arrives at 4 a.m.

Patchwork Path's Wedding Bouquet
arrived yesterday, carrying two of my stories about weddings, including mine to Ken in Reno nearly ten years ago. That's the 21st anthology between the wooden A and Z bookends atop the entertainment center.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grandma Wasn't the Only One....

This has been a day crammed with distractions. Since taking Susan Woolridge's poetry workshop yesterday afternoon and being awarded my "poetic license," I've wanted to attempt a new piece of creative non-fiction, using some of her techniques.

Instead I had to scamper to town to fax new forms to the University of Cambridge, since I heard that the National Trust never received my tuition voucher, which Cambridge mailed to Washington DC on February 24.

I returned to town a second time to attend a meeting, a ribbon-cutting for a wonderful new website put together by Eastern Washington University, with data on this tri-county area. This will be useful for area grant writers immediately.

Now I'm readying to attend a book group discussion on assorted tomes about Benjamin Franklin.

Tomorrow I hope to write the story about forgiveness in absentia or about the grumpy grandma cat. In the meantime I polished "All of His Heroes," and sent it off to an anthology.

With little block time for any serious composing, I determined to clear out accumulated e-mail and found this priceless quotation, that I wish I could share with Grandma Gertie, whose quote heads my blog:

"I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around."--James Beard

So there you have it...two great cooks in agreement, for a change.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rabbit Habit

When I awoke this morning I remembered that it was on this date last year that my late husband and I said our last "rabbit" together when I refreshed his bedside ice water. By the first of June he was too weak and too disoriented to say "rabbit" for luck. And, of course, Ken's long run of luck had nearly run out.

As a young girl I'd read an English storybook where the heroine upon awakening said "rabbit" for good luck on the first day of each month. I later learned that this tradition was widespread throughout the British empire. I found women in both Belize and Seychelles who practiced it. I passed the habit along to both of my husbands and my son.

In 1967 I wrote a couple of paragraphs about my "Rabbit Habit" and the brief piece was published in Woman's Day in the old Neighbors column. It was my first sale to a national publication, one carried in thousands of supermarkets. My first husband secretly photocopied and framed my $25 acceptance check and wrapped it as a Christmas gift. That memento is in a file cabinet in my son's garage in Orange, CA, and the next time I visit I plan to dig it out.

After my anecdote was published, the Neighbors editor sent me a sheath of letters she had received in response. In those pre-email days, several folks invested stamps to recount the English origins of the story, or to share their delight in reading my contribution in the pages of their favorite publication. Others sent in bombasts seething with the style and substance of Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:

"Don't believe in luck...everything is predestined by your Maker!"
"Knocking on wood and saying "rabbit" are invoking Satan!"
"Read the Bible, not English storybooks!"

Oh, well. The Lord indeed is my shepherd, but I do believe in luck, in English traditions, and on good days, in fairy tales. I always clap for Tinker Bell. Don't you?

I concur with Thomas Jefferson, my favorite founding father:

I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.

So today, the first of May, I said "rabbit" and asked for luck and opportunity to write about :

1. Ken's love of secret codes and cowboys.
2. A grandmotherly cat.
3. Forgiveness in absentia.

Then I opened my e-mail and found that three more of my stories either have been accepted or are being considered for inclusion in the new Dream of Things anthologies, and...a fan letter from a lady in South Africa who loved "Withstanding Winter's Woes," in Chicken Soup for the Soul's What I Learned from the Cat.

Now that's gotta be a lucky start to the merry month of May!