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....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On the Waterfront with NYMB

 Rendezvousing with Pat Nelson at the Budd Bay Cafe

For the past couple of years I've been involved with the launch of a new anthology series, Not Your Mother's Book, by Dahlynn and Ken McKowen of Orangevale, CA. We're a far-flung lot, those of us collaborating on these hilarious collections. There's Laurel McHargue in Leadville, CO, Kathy Baker in Plano, TX, Linda O'Connell in St. Louis, MO, Maggie Lamond Simone in Baldwinsville, NY, Maggie Yee Webb and Nancy Withers not far from Sacramento, CA, and two us in Washington State...but separated by 450 miles and the Cascades.

We're a dauntless tribe, though. So Pat Nelson, who is cocreating the fifth book in the series, On Parenting, drove north from her home in Woodland, WA, to meet me in Olympia, WA, at the waterfront's Budd Bay Cafe for breakfast this past Saturday since I'd been in town for the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission.

On the first three titles, On Women, On Being a Stupid Kid and On Dogs, Pat's served as proofreader, while I've been copy editor. I'm cocreator with Dahlynn and Ken on the fourth title, On Travel, to be released March 26.

Great news, NYMB contributors. Ken, Pat and I have spent the past day or so looking at the manuscript one final time and it goes to the printer this afternoon!

What a joy it was to chat across the table with Pat, who quipped the night before that we'd probably pull out our cell phones at breakfast and communicate via Facebook! We didn't...I don't really text on my little Trac phone...and besides, it was just too much fun to talk with Pat in person.

Both Pat and I are hoping the McKowen's will host a Cinco de Mayo party again this year and we can connect with more of the cocreators in Orangevale!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Loneliest Day of the Year?

 Mountain Melody Sweet Adelines
This morning I received an e-mail from a childhood friend thanking me for a valentine I'd sent her. A psychoanalyst, she was widowed a few years ago, as was I. She said she hadn't received a valentine in so long she was glad to see it in the mail. I well know that unexpected joy of getting something in the mailbox on Valentine's Day. I can count on my stepson for ensuring I get one from my little granddaughter. And my writing partner, the wonderful Annie, not only sends valentines...but St. Paddy's cards, as well.

Still, I think Valentine's Day is a poignant time for widows. Fortunately this year it fell on the day I was scheduled to facilitate my Colville book group's discussion of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. So I threw myself a Valentine's party. The Mountain Melodies Sweet Adeline group roves around serenading for a several days on Valentine week, and I got my reservation in for them to sing "Love Makes the World Go Round" and a couple of other tightly-harmonized tunes for us.

Thanks to Netflix, I was able to show a video, The Gothic World of Daphne du Maurier, a special feature on its DVD of Rebecca, the Academy Award best-winning film in 1941. I baked a gingerbread in the shape of a heart, and my friend, Jane, brought a paper Victorian mansion constructed by her niece for a centerpiece and we pretended it was Manderley. I even broke open the box of See's truffles my sister had sent me for Christmas.

So the day turned out to be filled with food, friends and fun.

It's easier to get through a holiday without my late husband when I plan something to vary the usual daily routine. Chocolate alone won't always do the trick. (But it sure helps.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sweet Inspiration...Oh, What a Power!

At a high school reunion a few years back an old friend told me she'd always wanted to publish a few stories, but just never quite found the time or inspiration.

"It's probably easy for you," she said, with a rueful chuckle. "You've lead such an interesting life...been to so many countries and done so many exciting things."

"It's true I've traveled widely," I confessed, "But that's not where my story ideas generally come from."

Today I learned that my story, "A to Z," will appear in a new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, debuting in May. This narrative essay isn't set in Mongolia, Samoa or Bulgaria.'s set in the den in my home in Colville, where centered atop an entertainment center sit a pair of heavy black carved bookends.

It's usually been the everyday events of my life that have inspired my stories. When I look at the list of published stories that I keep updated on the first entry I ever made on this blog, I know that to be true:

Here's a sampling about what inspired me:

"Easter Bloomers" little brother rehearsing a line for a church pageant.
"Tea for Two" mother playing tea party with me when I was quarantined at Halloween.
"Kisses for Mr. Castle"...a junior high English teacher.
"The Valentine Sweetheart"...visiting my mother in a nursing home.
"When He Looked Like James Dean"...words my son spoke at his father's memorial service.
"Forced to Face the Facts"...taking a lung capacity test at a health fair.
"Finding My Comfort Zone"...dealing with my mother-in-law and my newborn son.
"Blue Hawaii" students' love of surfing culture the first year I taught school.
"A is for Apple" backyard trees when Ken and I moved into our house outside Colville, WA.
"Montana Bananas"...Ken reminiscing about raising three sons in Reno, NV.

Yes, there are some exotic locales...."Watching for the Rebound" summons up Belize, "Santo Domingo Sunrise" deals with heartbreak in the Dominican Republic, and "Once in a Lifetime" recalls the day I spied a macaw on my sundeck in Antigua, Guatemala, during a total eclipse of the sun.

The majority of my stories, however, come from reliving how I experienced the life events that most of us have shared. These were the magical moments in my life...that gave me sweet inspiration.

The next story I plan to write is about how one long distance phone call from Peace Corps Headquarters back in 1987 nearly gave me a heart attack...and how I agonized...and how it all turned out. As my dear friend Kelly Presley used to remind me: "Everything works out. And if it doesn't...that's a way of working out, too."

Speaking of's one of my favorite songs.  Listen to the Sweet Inspirations sing their huge hit, "Sweet Inspiration," and be knocked out by Cissy Houston's solo...brings tears to my eyes even now!