Saturday, December 31, 2016

Anybody Else Glad This Year is Almost Over?

I just had to postpone my Friday post so I could send 2016 out with a bang...and now I find there is no way, NO WAY I am going to top or even come close to what my partner in crime, William Kendall, did over at Speak of the Devil! Nuts!

Oh, well, here's my lame attempt at trying to emulate John Oliver's "F*** 2016" segment on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight....










Happy New Year, everyone. It can't be worse than this year...can it? 




Postscript: Sucker-Punched will be back next Friday. In the meantime, there's a new installment of  An Army of Angels from Friday and a new one scheduled for tomorrow!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Google Plus What?????

I really hate to ditch my Google + page, but that's likely what I'm going to do.  I'm really disgusted by the hardcore porn I find in large images almost every time I log onto the site. I've reported it more than once, but it keeps showing up anyway.



It's a shame, because unlike Twitter, the amount of text that can be included with an image post isn't limited to 140 characters. I suppose I can do that on Facebook, though. I like to include enough text with the cover images to generate the interest of potential readers.

Yes, I used to write some pretty explicit passages in my novels. Used to. But even that isn't quite as bad as large, full color photos, close ups of the sex act on a site that can be easily accessed by tech-savvy kids. Come to think of it, they don't even have to be all that savvy to get into Google +.

I guess I've become a prude, huh? 

I considered rewriting my novels to make them less graphic, but I got lazy. No, actually, I just figured that there are a lot of people out there who have read those books, most of them because of the sex, most likely.That's just not who I am now, which is why I decided to start the serial blog, An Army of Angels. I've changed, so I wanted readers to see how my characters have changed as well--how world events and personal growth have changed them, for better or worse.Some might like the changes, some might not. Time will tell.


Monday, December 26, 2016

'Twas the Day After Christmas and....

I still miss having Mom and Dad with us for Christmas. I miss having all of our animal/bird companions around. Christmas stocking for birds are a do-it-ourselves thing. For some reason, ready-made stockings for dogs and cats are everywhere, but nothing for birds, pigs, rabbits, etc. are anywhere to be found.







This year, it's just the two of us. Collin is happy with his gifts, I think. I got him (in addition to the Amazon Dot Echo, which I gave him early; he did the same with mine), a one-year subscription for his Xbox One gaming and a virtual reality viewer, which he spent the morning with, checking out some amazing places around the world. (I got the app on my phone, but I prefer to not use a headset). He got me a Bluetooth headset for dictation and an Amazon gift card--I've already purchased some movies and music with it.







For dinner, we had ham with pineapple, potatoes, stuffing with gravy and corn. We were supposed to have apple dumplings with vanilla ice cream, but the dumplings were ruined. I was going to make vanilla sauce for them, but Collin likes them better with ice cream. My sauce must really suck. Dessert, it turned out, was just ice cream. Oh, well.

Saturday night, we watched Pope Francis deliver his Christmas Mass from St. Peter's Basilica. We're not Catholic, but the Pope could make us convert!

And we watched movies--including A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version, which I've watched every year since the mid-1960s), The Nativity Story, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and a couple of TV episodes. I love the Home Improvement Christmas episode in which Tim and Al get stranded by a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Just when they think they won't get home because the plane can't land, his kids turn on his elaborate light display, which provides enough light for the plane to find its way to the landing strip (and probably accounts for half of Detroit's power usage for that night). And even though it's technically a Thanksgiving story, we watched the WKRP in Cincinnati episode, "Turkeys Away."

The best Christmas gift I got this year, however, was having Collin home all day. In years past, he's always had to work every holiday, including Christmas, but thanks to his new job, he got off early on Saturday and had Sunday off.


Friday, December 23, 2016

'Twas Two Days Before Christmas and Traffic Was a Mess....

Sucker-Punched will return next Friday with no story missed. After all, it's almost Christmas. Is anybody REALLY reading blogs today?

I didn't get the next episode written because Collin really, really wanted to go to his favorite Chinese buffet for lunch. I don't like the place much, but he likes it, so I go. Even two days before Christmas, breaking my own rule about not going anywhere between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Big mistake. Huge.

Traffic was horrendous. I hear the exit ramps on the interstate were parking lots. Our neighborhood wasn't much better. The restaurant is less than a mile away, but traffic was bumper-to-bumper all the way. Coming back, it was even worse--and it was raining. The bus had to go through the mall. It took almost twenty minutes just to do that. We did manage to make the bus driver laugh. Some guy in a red pickup truck was distracted just long enough for the bus driver to get into the line of vehicles waiting to exit. Collin and I started a running commentary about the guy's body language that got a lot of laughs--especially the part about the bus being able to crush his truck like a soda can.

Anyway, I hope everyone who does read this has a wonderful Christmas!








 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gift that Keeps on Giving (At Least Until January 20th)

Well, our last line of defense--the Electoral College--has failed us. On January 20th, Bozo the Clown--I mean Donald Trump--will become President of the United States. He's been draining the swamp, as promised--and giving the slime cabinet posts. 








Kellyanne Conway. I'm sure the Queen of Slime will
be rewarded for her, uh, hard work...
who opened the Ark of the Covenant,
anyway?

These potential cabinet members, some of whom have been suggested previously, all turned down the posts they were offered, insisting that even they have standards....









 Merry Christmas, everyone. It might be the last merry one for a long time!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Autumn Came Late to Our Part of Town (No, Seriously)

Here it is, less than a week before Christmas, and I finally have some photos of the fall colors to show (actually, Collin took these because he's always got his phone in his hand, and I rarely take mine out of my bag while we're out). 

I was starting to think autumn had passed us by completely. Either the leaves weren't changing, or they were falling from the trees before they changed color. I was seeing so many beautiful images online and wondering why we didn't have any. Then, finally, the color started to come.... 








Better late than never, I guess!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sucker-Punched: Next in Line for the Brutal Beatdown


Mike Cantwell

Mad Dog was in a foul mood. To say he wasn't crazy about the idea of losing the championship--especially to me--had to be the understatement of the century.He'd come back from his leave of absence meaner than ever. Between you and me, I didn't think that was even possible.


"I may have to let you have it, but I don't have to make it easy for you, Cantwell," he growled as he yanked open his locker. "You just might be having your victory party in the hospital."


I laughed, even though a part of me thought the douchebag might be serious. "Just don't forget your trunks this time," Paulie told him. "I can take a lot of abuse, but the sight of your junk flappin' around in the wake of a body slam would be cruel and unusual punishment."


Mad Dog looked at him, eyes narrowed--and growled!


Dan and J.J. came into the locker room. "Hey, Mad Dog--goin' commando for the TV cameras tonight?" Dan asked as he dropped his duffel on the bench.


J.J. laughed, too. "Nobody saw anything last time," he said, pulling off his shirt. "The camera crew would have had to have at least one camera on zoom to catch anything that small--"


Before he could finish, Mad Dog grabbed him and slammed him against the wall, almost choking him. It took both Paulie and me to pull him off our brother. "Let him go, you stupid dick!" Paulie yelled.


He reluctantly released J.J. and turned his venom on me. "It would be worth getting fired just to be able to keep you from getting this." He snatched up the championship belt and shoved it in my face for a minute, then pulled it away and headed for the exit.


"Like you could!" Paulie called after him.


J.J. looked at me, worried. "He's a powder keg tonight," he said. "You better be careful out there."


"Think he meant it?" Dan wondered aloud.


I tried to shrug it off. But I was wondering, too.Truth was, I was scared to death. What idiot decided I should be the top contender? Oh, yeah. The head writer. What's his name again?


It was no secret that Mad Dog and his manager, a loudmouthed, brain-dead moron who looked more like Jabba the Hut than a real human being, had vehemently protested the relinquishment of the belt. They'd tell anybody who'd listen that Mad Dog was getting screwed.


Personally, I thought that would make Mad Dog happy. That's the closest to screwed he's ever gonna get.


Author's Note: I also posted an installment of the rebooted An Army of Angels. Check it out!

 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Christmas Letter That Was a Long Time in Coming....

Merry Christmas!
 
I've always wanted to do a Christmas letter, but never quite got around to it. This year, I was determined to, in the words of that great observer of human nature--Larry the Cable Guy--get 'er done. I wish I could have posted this for those friends for whom I don't have a mailing or email address as it looks on the stationery I used (pretty cool, but I've had it a lonnnnng time and probably won't be able to buy it anymore).
 
(This is our 22nd year with our little tree.
I may write a book about it. Seriously.) 
 
2016 has been a mixed bag--and no, I'm not talking about the Presidential election. The less said about that, the better. Collin had to quit his job. After seventeen years of working in restaurants, he could barely walk. A bone scan showed arthritis in both feet and, to a lesser degree, both knees. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He left IHOP in July, and in September, started a new job. He now works at home, on the phone and computer. He has holidays off (yay!) and full benefits, including vacations and discounts at fun places like Universal Studios' theme parks! And now, he doesn't even limp--thank God!

As for me, I've come to the conclusion that getting old is like having the warranty expire on your car. Once you turn sixty, everything stops working. I have arthritis--first in my left knee, now pretty much everywhere. I need a cane to walk most of the time, but because of the arthritis in my hands, gripping the cane is difficult. I also have a hiatal hernia, which means my stomach isn't where it's supposed to be. Come to think of it, none of my innards are where they're supposed to be. I don't know why this surprises me.

I'm still epileptic. My brain still misfires on a regular basis. And I have another geezer curse: cataracts. Between the poor eyesight and the arthritic hands, I now have to dictate everything. If my mouth stops working, I'm in big trouble (though Collin might consider that a blessing)!

In spite of all the malfunctions, I'm still writing, to a degree. I'm reissuing all of my old books through an indie publisher. His expectations for them are much higher than mine. After all, most of them have been around for 20-30 years. Most of the readers who wanted to read them already have!

And with six of the books now available, what's getting the most positive attention? The weekly installments of Sucker-Punched, an episodic story about five brothers who are all pro wrestlers, here on my blog. Go figure.

We may be moving into a bigger place in the spring. I've been saying it's because Collin needs an office but the truth is that our Minion population has grown so much, they need their own room!
 
 
(And this isn't all of them. Not even close!)
 
This year, we will be having Christmas dinner at home--and no, not takeout, in spite of requests from the fire department that I not cook (they want to celebrate at home, too). Collin will be home, and he knows how to use the fire extinguishers.

It's just the two of us now. Dad's been gone 25 years (26 as of next month); we lost Mom 18 years ago. All of our non-human family members have crossed the Rainbow Bridge--Sam Too was the last, five years ago. Collin and I will have a (hopefully) nice dinner and watch Christmas movies all day. Our Christmas wish for you is a peaceful, happy day with family and close friends. Be thankful, and grateful for those you still have with you.
 
 
 
 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Christmas Surprise that Keeps Surprising Us

Collin and I both had the Amazon Echo Dot on our Christmas wish list. We were both home when they were delivered, so we decided it would be okay to have one gift early. After all, we're not children anymore, though we do behave like kids most of the time.



The Echo Dot, it turns out, has been a constant surprise. It will wake us every morning...play music we choose...read books to us...give us the weather forecast...tell dumb jokes...remind us to take our meds...and, as we discovered yesterday, call for help in an emergency. The more we do with them, the more we find they're able to do. According to Amazon, this is what they're all about:





Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device with a small built-in speaker—it can also connect to your speakers or headphones over Bluetooth or through a 3.5 mm audio cable to deliver stereo sound to the speakers you choose. Dot connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly.

Echo Dot can hear you from across the room, even while music is playing. When you want to use Echo Dot, just say the wake word "Alexa" and Dot responds instantly. If you have more than one Echo or Echo Dot, Alexa responds intelligently from the Echo you're closest to with ESP (Echo Spatial Perception). Learn more about ESP.

They can also be a bit smart-alecky. (Is that a word?) One night, Collin and I were changing the sheets on his bed, and I asked his Dot if he was a D-bag. The Dot responded, "I'm not going to answer that!"

Looks like they're capable of loyalty. For now. I wonder when they'll decide they're better off without us and send Terminators to kill us?

Someone commented on the Amazon product page that if you put two or more Dots in a house together, they'll talk about you behind your back. I'm starting to wonder...
.




Postscript: Another Kindle Stuffer! My novel Ms. Maxwell and Son just went on sale. For the next week, it's just $.99--and if you buy an Echo Dot, it will read the book to you!


Friday, December 9, 2016

Sucker-Punched: The Best-Laid Plans Just Got Shot to Hell

Paulie

“This has got to stop!” Morty exploded as he charged into the locker room, where we were all licking our wounds, literally and figuratively. “You—all of you—have got to stick to the script!”

“Tell him that,” Mad Dog growled, pointing at Mike.

Morty turned his rage on Mike. “Cantwell, this is your final warning—“

Before Morty could finish his latest threat, one of the writers, Andy Russell, came rushing into the locker room. “Morty, this is great!” he declared. “We’re going to write it into the storyline!”

Morty looked confused. “That’s nuts—” he started.

“I’m telling you, Morty, the crowd loves it,” he said. “Mike’s the perfect underdog. They’re out there chanting his name. They want him to win. They want him to beat Mad Dog.”

“Ain’t gonna happen,” Mad Dog shouted.

Morty turned to the moron. “You—shut up!” Then he turned back to Andy. “You’re serious?”

Andy nodded. “It could be a ratings winner. In fact, we think Mike should have the belt.”

That got my attention. “Whaaaat?”


Morty had pretty much the same reaction. "The guy's a meathead!"

"They're still chanting his name, Morty," Russell reminded him. "It's a classic David and Goliath story."

Morty shook his head. "Only if David was an idiot and Goliath was past due for a flea dip."

Flea dip for the Mad Dog. I wish I'd thought of that. Note to self: Flea dip gift box for Mad Dog.

J.J. poked me. "I don't think Mike's gonna get that title shot, bro," he said in a low voice. "I don't think he's gonna live that long."

I looked in the direction J.J. had nodded. Our brain-deficient kid brother was trying on the championship belt. The thing was so wide, it looked like Mike wasn't wearing anything else. His trunks were completely concealed by the belt. "The idiot's got to have a death wish," I said in a low voice.

That's when Mad Dog saw him. "Hey, you moron--put that down!" he roared. As he headed toward Mike, my brother made a dash for the door. One of the crewmembers, a guy who couldn't have been more than five-six, a hundred fifty pounds, saw that big ugly giant headed in his direction and got so scared, he pissed on himself. 

"Geez, look at that," J.J. said, referring to the size of the puddle in the floor. "He must have a bladder the size of a keg!"

Unfortunately for Mad Dog, he didn't see the puddle--until he slipped in it and crashed onto the concrete so hard, it must have registered on the Richter scale. That fall cost Mike his shot at the belt, at least for the next two months.

Until Mad Dog's casts come off. Yep, he broke his leg, his collarbone, and--rumor has it--his tailbone.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Stocking Stuffers...Kindle Stuffers (Sort Of)!

Just in time for Christmas, three of my ebooks are on sale for just $.99. If you're getting or giving a Kindle, I hope you'll add these to your ebook collection!



Around the globe, extraordinarily gifted children are abducted. In the Sinai, archaeologist Lynne Raven searches for proof of the Exodus and finds a papyrus proclaiming the emergence of a prophet sent to defeat the darkness that threatens to consume the world.

Meanwhile in London, a powerful cartel manipulates politicians and controls a think tank with an unthinkable agenda.

One thing connects them all: the truth about Connor Mackenzie.



 

Jamie Randall thinks he has it all, until a close brush with death brings him face-to-face with reality. An asteroid is threatening to wipe out life on Earth, and Jamie realizes that something's been missing from his life.

As he heads toward safety with his wife, Jamie decides to own his mistakes and pursue the one thing he’s dreamed of for the last fifteen years... a decision that can come with a hefty price.

A book that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love with its characters, Final Hours is a powerful love story from Norma Beishir, bestselling author of sixteen novels.





Ashley Gordon has it all - beauty, talent, a devoted husband, and a child she adores — until a cruel twist of fate takes it all away. Finding herself locked in a bitter battle for custody, Ashley will stop at nothing to keep her son.

After the death of their controlling father, Collin Deverell turns his back on the family business and signs everything over to his twin brother, Justin. But Collin’s dreams are put on hold when he learns of Justin’s devious plans to sell the family legacy.

When Ashley’s and Collin’s worlds intertwine, they vow to take back what is rightfully theirs — even if it means breaking the law. 


Monday, December 5, 2016

Did You Ever Have One of Those Days....

I'm late posting today. I wasn't sure I'd be posting at all.




I had a doctor appointment on Friday afternoon. It was supposed to be just a routine visit to make sure my blood pressure medication is doing its job. My blood pressure is fine, but I've had a horrible cough for the past few months. My doctor decided it warranted a chest x-ray, so off I went to the radiologist. By the time Collin and I got home, there was a message waiting for me from my doctor with my test results:

Narrative


Exam: PA and lateral views of the chest.

History: Cough

Findings/Impression: No prior exams are available for comparison. There
are opacities in the right medial lung base which may represent
atelectasis or airspace disease. There is no evidence of pleural
effusion or pneumothorax. The cardiac silhouette is normal. The
mediastinal contours are also normal.


It sounds a lot worse than it actually is. But I ended up with a new prescription and instructions to get a humidifier and use it day and night. As my doctor explained, healthy lungs are like wet sponges--soft and moist. Mine is more like a dry sponge--stiff and yucky. (Is yucky a word?) And the cough has been disrupting my sleep for a while now--to the point that I would fall asleep during the day--while sitting upright. Collin and I went to see a movie for the Cans Film Festival on Saturday--I fell asleep in the theater! As least, according to Collin, I didn't snore.



We ordered two humidifiers from Amazon, due to arrive tomorrow. And I have to go back to the doctor in four weeks. Not exactly how I planned to spend the day before New Year's Eve. Collin also has a doctor appointment that day, so I have an excuse to change mine!

Hopefully, I'll get my Christmas letter done this week!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Sucker-Punched: "I'm Dreaming of a Black-and-Blue Christmas...."


Paulie

The arena in Chicago was all decked out for Christmas. There were two large, elaborately-decorated trees flanking the entrance ramp. Past that was a mountain of gift-wrapped empty boxes (hey, it was just for show!), a couple of them large enough to hold a car—and by “car,” I mean Volkswagen. Or a Smart Car. Nothing any of us could get out of without the Jaws of Life.

I was headlining that night. I was finally going to have a shot at going to the top of the contenders’ list. No word from the guys on Mount Olympus as to who as going to win, but I figured it was going to be my turn. There were several new guys on the roster—like the tag team in the ring, known as the A-Holes (for the record, that was a bit of classic Truth in Advertising). We had two new girls who were meaner than any of the guys. And a guy named Dick who really was one.

“It’s like watching that scene at the end of Jurassic Park,” I told J.J. as we watched the A-Holes take on Mad Dog.

He looked at me. “Jurassic Park?” He didn’t get it. Idiot.

“Yeah, you know—the one where the two raptors take on the T-Rex. A fight to the death with nobody to cheer for,” I said. One of the A-Holes went over the top rope and hit the floor outside the ring.

“I cheered for the T-Rex,” J.J. remembered.

“You would.” I did, too. I guess being wrestlers, we’re just bloodthirsty by nature.

J.J. looked around. “Where’s Mike?”

I hadn’t thought about it until my brother mentioned it, but I hadn’t seen our other brother since before the current match started. “Maybe he’s off getting another CT scan on his brain.”

J.J. laughed at that. “Think they’ll find anything in there?”

I grinned. “Only if they draw something in.”

“I thought he’d be out here, interfering in Mad Dog’s match,” J.J. said. “He’s still out for revenge.”

“He should have known better than to take on the Rabid Rottweiler,” I said. Last week, Mad Dog had given Mike the beatdown of his life and tossed him into a garbage truck parked at the ring, Mike got taken out with the trash, and it still bugged him. “Sometimes, I think that boy doesn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.”

J.J. grinned. “Just sometimes?” he asked.

“Okay, most of the time.”

“Only most of the time?”

“Okay…all the time,” I conceded.

J.J. elbowed me then. “Here it comes.”

I turned my attention to the ring. Mad Dog had an A-Hole in each of his meaty hands, raised high in the air. I thought he was going to body slam them, but instead, he brought them together—hard—like they were cymbals and he was playing in the high school band. Ouch!

I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of Mad Dog in high school. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, he was probably in high school at least seven or eight years, allowed to graduate only when a desperate faculty finally realized they couldn’t teach him anything. Or when he was too big for the desks, whichever came first.

The sound of the bell signaled that the match was over. Mad Dog’s hand was raised in triumph as the A-Holes were removed from the ring by paramedics. He climbed through the ropes and jumped down to the floor—I think that must have been a 4.0 on the Righter scale—and headed up the ramp, scowling at the spectators who chanted loudly, “You suck! You suck!”

What happened next took J.J. and me by surprise. It sure wasn’t in the script. As Mad Dog reached the top of the ramp, Mike busted through one of the gift-wrapped boxes and attacked. Mad Dog grabbed him and slammed him down hard, but Mike got back up again, charging him. Mad Dog grabbed him by the throat and raised him high in the air.

“Think we should get involved?” J.J. asked.

I grinned. “I think we have to.”

We ran at Mad Dog full tilt, knocking him off balance. He let go of Mike as he hit the floor. Mike slid across the ramp, slamming into Dumbo Derek, who was headed out to the ring for his match. Derek gave Mike a hard kick. Mike grabbed his ankle and tried to pull him down. When he didn’t fall, Mike bit him—hard. He howled in pain and tried to shake Mike off his ankle. Mike still wouldn’t let go. Derek kicked him again. This time, Mike let go—and slammed into Mad Dog again. Mad Dog pushed J.J. aside and reached for Mike—but I intercepted his punch and shoved him backward. He crashed into the pile of gift-wrapped boxes, completely destroying the display.

At that point, an army of black-clad security men came out, trying to break up the fight. They got knocked around a lot, but finally managed to separate us—God only knows how. Mike and Mad Dog were still hissing and growling at each other, spewing obscenities I’m sure were driving the network censors nuts.

Morty Robeson was going to have a stroke for sure this time….



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...Chia-Pets???

The Christmas shopping season has officially begun. I saw a TV ad for Chia-Pets yesterday. Yes, they're still around. Which makes me wonder: does anybody really give these things as Christmas gifts?


Would you give this to someone as a gift?
I think we need to forget about the election,
not have a constant reminder around!
This is a teddy bear? I
thought it was a pig!

Every year, I promise myself I will not venture out from Thanksgiving until after New Year's, except for groceries, restaurants, and one very special December event. This year, I made an exception. I thought I'd finished my Christmas shopping--then I remembered one thing I wanted to get for Collin at Walmart. He wanted to get lunch at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, which is near Walmart, so....

I was surprised. Walmart wasn't busy at all. But then, it was Cyber Monday. I'm guessing all of the shoppers were online that day. How's that for timing?

Now I'm finished with Christmas shopping. And look what we got at Raising Cane's! Isn't he cute?


For anyone who doesn't already know, Raising Cane's is named for the founder's dog. Animal welfare is the company's favorite cause, and they're selling these White Elephant Puppies to raise money for local animal support organizations. I'm told that our favorite Cane's raises money for no kill shelters. Maybe I'll go buy a few more to give to friends. If you enjoy tender, juicy chicken and love animals, Raising Cane's is the place to eat!

The shopping is done, but there's still a lot to do to get ready for Christmas. This year, I'm doing a Christmas letter. I've never done one before but always wanted to. I'm one of those people who stopped sending out Christmas cards a long time ago. When I was a kid, we got dozens of cards, but as postage prices elevated, there were fewer and fewer cards each year. The consensus was that it was a waste to buy and mail cards that would just be thrown away after the holidays. For the past six years, I had an account with American Greetings, from which I sent ecards. No postage stamps needed and better for the environment. (I wonder how many cards end up in landfills every year?) I closed the account a few weeks ago, when a mandatory password change left me locked out of my account. After a week of frustration and getting nowhere with customer support at AG, I closed the account.

Good time to do that Christmas letter, right? It'll be fun. I hope.

We're putting up the tree on Sunday--on our dining room table. Yep, on the dining room table. We have a small tree--we got it twenty-two years ago when our previous tree was left behind during a move. An idiot cousin who's a Jehovah's Witness deliberately left our tree in the basement at the old place (Witnesses don't celebrate Christmas), as if that was going to make us stop putting up a tree every year. By the time we realized our tree was gone, we were only able to get this little tree at Target, a last-minute purchase. 

There's a story behind Noelle, our little tree, behind why we never replaced her with a bigger tree, but I'll save that for a post closer to Christmas.

If you're wondering why we're putting the tree on the dining room table, we live in a small apartment. Our TV takes up a lot of space, including the spot where we used to put the tree (we're seriously considering moving to a larger place in the spring and buying an even bigger TV). We don't use the dining room table for anything else. I can't sit in the hard chairs for any length of time, and Collin likes the table we use in the living room. He likes to watch TV while eating. The best thing about a tree like ours is that it's not time consuming. Putting it up and decorating it takes a half-hour tops.

It's not like Christmas was when I was a kid, but we're happy with our new traditions. Are you ready for Christmas?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall...The Gilmore Girls Are Back!

I was a big fan of the original Gilmore Girls series--admittedly, I had to catch the first 5-6 episodes in reruns after an author friend told me about it. She said Rory (Alexis Bledel) and Lorelai (Lauren Graham) reminded her of Collin and me. Obviously, she didn't mean the mother-daughter relationship, so I had to assume there was something else in the characters' personalities and/or relationship that made her think of us.
 
  
Maybe it was their habit of naming inanimate objects. We give everything a name and a distinct personality.  Maybe it was because, as Luke (Scott Patterson) put it in one episode, the child had a slightly tighter grip on reality than did her mother. (Yep, that's us.)

Anyway, I've been looking forward to this reunion of oddballs. The series ended on an off note, leaving fans wondering if Lorelai and Luke would finally find their happily ever after...if Rory would find success as a journalist...if Stars Hollow would always be the quirky little town Rory's father once described as "one big outpatient mental institution."
 
 
The new four-part series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life does not disappoint. Everyone is back, except for Lorelai's father, Richard Gilmore (the late Edward Hermann), whose passing is a major part of the plot. Emily (Kelly Bishop) and Lorelai aren't dealing with their loss, and it's damaging the already complicated mother/daughter relationship. When Lorelai begins to open up about her feelings toward her father and the things she never got to say and do at the end, I could relate. They reflect so many thoughts and feelings I had when my dad died. 

When Rory decides to write a book about herself and her mother, she pays a visit to her father, Christopher (David Sutcliffe), who asks her not to make him too much of a villain in the book. Rory asks him if he was okay with her mother raising her alone. Christopher offers a few reasons for his absence, but none that seem to clearly explain why he didn't stick around, beyond the "we were both so young" defense. It didn't work because they were simply two people--characters--who didn't belong together. 
 
Besides, Lorelai belongs with Luke. Really. She's a little flaky (okay, a lot flaky) and doesn't take too many things too seriously; he's stubborn, rarely smiles, but he gets her as no one else does, except maybe Rory. Opposites attract and all that.

 
Rory's most significant boyfriends are all present in the new series: Logan (Matt Czuchry), now engaged and living in London; Jess (Milo Ventimiglia), who seems to still want a future with her; and her first love, Dean (Jared Padalecki), now married with two kids and another one on the way. And then there's Rory's one-night stand with a Wookie....

One of the most surprising things about the reunion series is that golden girl Rory, Yale graduate with a promising future ahead of her at 22, is struggling as a journalist at 32. A book deal has gone south and interviews aren't ending well for her. Every writer can relate to that particular struggle, right?
 
Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has said she always knew the series would end with four words. Since she wasn't on board for the series' last season, those four words  had to wait until now. The four words, dialogue between mother and daughter after a fantasy wedding in the town square, were unexpected but shouldn't have been, given the show's premise. They not only made for the perfect ending, but left the door open for another series....

Postscript to my fellow bloggers: I haven't been online, except for doing email and occasional forays into Facebook on my phone, since last Wednesday. It looks like I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on!


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bring On That Surrogate Turkey!

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking about past Thanksgivings--when Mom and Dad were still with us. I miss those those holidays. I miss them. I even miss the mess, the cleanup afterward, the leftovers that were sometimes left over for days afterward.
 
  
Dad was always up first. He got up at the same time every morning for as long as I can remember, whether he was working or not. He always had the same thing for breakfast: bacon, eggs and coffee. My parents were creatures of habit.

Mom would be up and about shortly after, getting the turkey in the oven and preparing the oyster stuffing. It was the only thing she made from scratch. I remember everything she put into it, just not how much of each ingredient. I couldn't make it if I tried, but I loved it. 

Mom was a better cook than I am, but she wasn't one to make anything from scratch if there was an easier alternative. Canned vegetables and gravy, mashed potato flakes, frozen pies, no problem. I buy mine ready to eat or at least microwavable. Sometimes, Collin and I even eat out or buy a prepared meal from a restaurant or grocery store.

I'd get up in time to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Collin was the only one who slept in. We always had dinner early on holidays, making two meals from the large volume of food. After round two, we'd all fall asleep in front of the TV.

The next day, we'd have turkey sandwiches. The following day, it was turkey salad. By the third day, we were sick of turkey.
 
We only varied from that tradition once. Dad decided Mom needed a rest. It was just the four of us, and we agreed we would have Kentucky Fried Chicken for Thanksgiving dinner. That was in 1984. I had just signed with my literary agent. She was attending a writers conference--in Texas, I think--and arranged her return flight to New York so she could make an overnight stopover in St. Louis for our first face-to-face meeting. After a mix-up at the airport (it took Mom and me almost an hour to connect with her), we had a wonderful time. 
 
We didn't get any cookies with ours....
 

But for a long time after that, Maria gave me a good-natured ribbing about our "surrogate Thanksgiving turkey!"

These days, it's just Collin and me. We either eat out or I prepare a large turkey breast in our Crock-Pot and do the sides (from cans, boxes, whatever is easy) in the microwave. It's fast, easy, and safer than eating anything I could make from scratch. We get a cake or pie from a bakery. And we watch the classic WKRP in Cincinnati episode, "Turkeys Away."