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....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Two Rib Bones and Three Bowls of Borscht

Today's Tsunami's eighth birthday. Doesn't she look contented after chewing away for an hour on a Safeway rib bone? I got one for Natty, too, and at $4.96 each, I could have bought myself a couple of rib eye steaks. (Ken, wherever you may be, please notice that I'm still spoiling "the children.")

Sometimes when I'm trying to put a story together, I get stuck. That's what happened to the tale about a fifth anniversary trip to Canada. Somehow finally it all came together in the predawn hours today before Natty forced me out of bed so he could get outside to chase a deer who had leaped the back fence in hopes of scoring a few windfall Delicious apples. So now all I have to do is let the story tell's called "Three Bowls of Borscht," and involves some wonderful treks to Grand Forks, BC.

Earlier this week I finished "Why Did Cynthia Slap Me?" and fired it off. Over the weekend I plan to tackle "Forgiving Charles Dickens." And I finally have a story in mind for Dream of Things collection on sports, "It's Only a Game." I had to reach all the way back to 1959 when I picked up a trophy for "ladies third place" in a handicap bowling league!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lost in the Fifties...and WOW

So here I am, my first semester at Compton College, my smile captured fifty five years ago by the man who became my first husband, Bob Elders. He took photography in the same building where my journalism classes were held.

This weekend I slipped back to the fifties and sixties. My time travel started when I picked up Terry Ryan's captivating recap of her mom's efforts to keep a family of ten children afloat through contest entries. The book's title sums it up, "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less." I well remember the era, as I first married in 1955. I never became an avid submitter, but did win a prize in at least one of these skills contests before sweepstakes replaced them. I received a cardboard soft drink stand, and my son, Steve, and his pals peddled Funny Face from it off and on in front of Circle Gardens apartments in Long Beach, CA, on hot summer Saturdays.

I didn't see the movie made from Ryan's book when it appeared a few years back, but have moved it to the top of my Netflix list. Those were simpler days...less technology, fewer expectations. Postage stamps cost only four cents. Like Evelyn Ryan, I didn't drive in those days either...didn't get my license until I had to in 1967 to go to work for Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. I walked to the grocery store and post office, rode my bike to Cal State Long Beach and the Los Altos library...and took the bus to Jordan High, where I taught English and Journalism. Or Bob would drive me to where I needed to go.

Just as I was recalling those days, I got a telephone call from an old Lynwood High School classmate. She's compiling a mini-anthology for a reunion next month. I transferred to Lynwood in January, 1954, too late for class photos. She wondered if I had something from that period that I could scan and send her. So I spent hours digging through the duffle bag where I store old photos, to come up with one from that time period. Every three or four years I plow through this bag. I've always hoped to take a weekend to sort out the photos, but never have. There's ones dating back to my early childhood, to my son's childhood, to my early teens. Photos from my 1955 honeymoon in Catalina. I spent more happy hours reminiscing.

But now I return to today. Today I appear as the first featured guest columnist in Publishing Syndicate's WOW Principles Newsletter. In this article I detail how I hope to turn my experience at the University of Cambridge into stories for a variety of publications. Here's the link to the newsletter:

I've listed a dozen or so possible stories I plan to create, using my Cambridge experiences. And I intend to follow up on these good intentions...just as soon as I finish two stories that need writing about a humbling experience in seventh grade, and one about borscht.

The story about my transfer to Lynwood appears this month in Whispering Angel's Living Lessons.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Enough Frivolity & Merriment...Back to Basics

It's not that I've not left London. Here's visual proof: Heather, my English pal, and me sharing a farewell feast of chili at The Marquis pub, not far from Victoria Station. After lunch she headed back to Weston-super-Mare and I returned to Colville, WA. But London has not yet left me, particularly Charles Dickens' version of it. My Victorian summer continues, even though the maple leaves have turned red. I'm still watching Masterpiece Theater's production of Our Mutual Friend, and Netflix will be sending Little Dorrit once I'm finished with this series.

I've strayed from writing these past few days...went to the newly opened A Club in Spokane to hear Jason Webley, with his music that tears itself apart, and to the local Alpine Theater to see Javier Bardem steal Eat Pray Love from Julia Roberts. Sunday night, while fires roared in the nearby Shiloh hills, I savored a platter of shrimp and sausage at my first ever Shrimp Boil. I've even partially cleared out a mountain of e-mail that had accumulated while I was in England.

Now, though, if I can shoo away the cats and quiet the dogs, it's time to chain myself to the laptop and commit to writing these stories:
  • Fifth anniversary trip to Canada
  • Going back to school at age 73
  • Forgiving Charles Dickens
  • Botanical gardens, Seychelles, Mauritius and Cambridge
  • Meanness...and I have a title for this one, "Why Did Cynthia Slap Me?"
  • Times of misfortune
  • Museum of Childhood
My goal: to have all of these tales written before I leave for Southern CA on October 20.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Autumn Aubade

"Believe in yourself, your neighbors, your work, your ultimate attainment of more complete happiness. It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in Autumn. "
--B. C. Forbes

After three days of rain I almost feel as if I'm still back in England, sloshing around the gardens at Selwyn College, umbrella in hand. I had to tote that same lightweight Holland America umbrella when I trotted around Pend Oreille Loop with Natty yesterday afternoon.

Recent news, both national and personal, has dismayed me. My brother has somber health issues, a colleague recently took his own life, my sister had been hospitalized with pneumonia and is mostly bedridden with spinal stenosis. Other acquaintances have lost their jobs and my son's closest friend from high school just suffered a stroke. My spirits simply are sodden with sadness.

Yesterday I acknowledged that summer wasn't likely to recur...even though here in NE WA we traditionally enjoy a fifth season, an Indian Summer of exquisite glory. That's usually in October, though. In the meantime, it's September, the month celebrated in song with rain and regret. So I replaced the smiling summer bossy to the right of my front door, the cheerful cow welcome sign, and replaced it with my autumn scarecrow trio.

Yesterday a friend, also lamenting the too-soon change of seasons, posted Jo Stafford's '50s version of Early Autumn on Facebook. Take a listen:

So, on "A winding country lane" that's not quite yet "all russet brown," early this morning my Akita, Tsunami, and I strolled in the September rain.
Because Tsunami's about 115 pounds of stubborn muscle, I often need both hands free sometimes to manage her leash. So no umbrella...I made do with my old hooded navy jacket that Ken bought me in Sitka on our Alaska cruise a few years ago. For somebody who writes stories for anthologies that feature uplifting, inspirational tales, I felt pretty downcast as we set out.

When Nami and I turned at the corner and headed back towards the house, I noticed my zinnias, bold, brilliant and brave, even in the drizzle. There's been no frost I'm grateful for their dazzle, and hope they'll stick around for a few more days. I don't mind's just that I dread winter. I've always loved the snow from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day. Then I wish it would melt, but here it doesn't. It lingers on until mid-March, sometimes even April. But the sight of those brazen zinnias has so cheered me I've decided to give myself an afternoon away from my computer.

Instead, I'll bake some butterscotch cookies to take to my book club tomorrow. I'm facilitating a discussion of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Often we try to match the refreshments to the book, but I doubt that my fellow readers would relish bowls of gruel. So the sweet maple scent of those cookies baking should raise my spirits.

I'll spend the afternoon reading Maggie O'Farrell's The Dista
nce Between Us. It's billed as a modern day Victorian I'll stay in genre. Then this weekend I'll write my essay on forgiving Charles Dickens.

And today I'll forgive Mother Nature.