A “Modern” Classic…..

One of the reasons we added Kindles in our household is because like so many people, we cannot bring ourselves to throw away books and there really are limited places to give them to. By the way, for those who might not know, the Homestead Kiwanis have a marvelous “Just One Book” program where they give books away at different events. They mostly need children and young adult books though and we have none of those left around.

Anyway, back to the main point of the post. We have a stationary recumbent bike we both use 2-3 times a week. When Hubby is on it, he watches a lot of webinars. I pop in a DVD and depending on the DVD, may also read. The other day, when I was looking through the numerous filled bookshelves, I saw Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. Published in 1974, it was praised as, “The Fabulous Journey of a Man in Search of Himself”, and sold quite well. Bear with me for another aside because it’s pertinent as to why I didn’t read the book before. Most of you who follow this blog are aware my first husband, my son’s father, was killed in an accident when our son was only four months old. The wonderful man I married eight years later is the one I usually talk about in these blogs and he has been a terrific stepfather. I was a Captain at the time of my first husband’s death and through one of those quirks in Army assignments, I wound up in a special training course several months later. Let’s just say I was still going through emotional adjustment. During a discussion with some friends, as the topic turned to unexpected blows most of us encounter at some point, one guy said, “I suggest you read  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I think it would be of interest.” I politely said I would, not particularly planning to. About three months after, I was settling into the new house at my new assignment, and having put off unpacking multiple boxes of books, decided to tackle that task.

And there it was, in the second box I opened, right on top – a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I certainly hadn’t bought it, so it had to have been one of the many books my first husband had when we merged households. I was startled, but still wasn’t ready to read it. I did, however, keep it all these years and am just getting started on it. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll post later after I finish.

And Four More Days Slip Past…..

Goodness, gracious, I’ve managed to let four more days elapse without posting. I do try to post every three days and more in between if there’s something extra special. Part of it though is I really did fall behind after almost killing my travel notebook computer. As it turned out, I only killed the keyboard and there is an on-screen one I can use. Well, that’s assuming I can adapt to the keyboard, which happens to be another of the technology things I don’t do well with. Hubby, however, is okay with it and now comes one of the interesting aspects of technology. Please excuse the use of name brands this time, but it’s directly applicable to the subject.

When Hubby was trying to decide if he wanted a Surface like I had or an IPad, he gave it a lot of thought and finally decided on the IPad. When my Surface began to have problems, we took a look and unlike technology that normally falls in price as new generations are released, that hasn’t happened with the Surface. So, for me, we swapped instead to a little notebook computer which I enjoyed all of the ten days I owned it. Getting back to me actually killing only the keyboard. Hubby showed me the on-screen keyboard and it quickly became apparent this was not going to work. Since replacing the keyboard would cost about half as much as buying another notebook, he’ll be getting me a new one. However, he’s fine with the on-screen keyboard and the partially crippled notebook computer allows him to do things he couldn’t with the IPad. So, it hasn’t been a complete loss as he now has his IPad and the notebook in addition to his regular desktop and of course we have IPhones. I’m not going to say the house is beginning to look like an electronics shop, but there certainly are a lot of devices and cables around.

Why We Love Underdogs……

As I have mentioned before, I’m a morning person and Hubby is a night owl. So, when the College National Championship game was on Monday night, it wasn’t likely I would have stayed up to watch it anyway. It was an all-Southern match-up with South Carolina’s Clemson Tigers going up against University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide. As can happen, this was actually a re-match of the previous year when Alabama won in the fourth quarter of the game. Clemson came into that meeting undefeated so it was not, “the Disney  ending” they were striving for to repeat 1981 when they had been undefeated and went on to win National Champion.

To have the rivals go head-to-head again this year made for a great story. Because Hubby is a GA Tech Alum, that makes us an “ACC Family”, but we both like Alabama even though they are an SEC university. Clemson was not faring well as it was approaching my bedtime and I felt a bit of a twinge they weren’t doing better. Later as Hubby came to bed, I roused enough to ask if things had improved for Clemson. That’s when he told me about the fourth quarter surge and thrilling last second victory over Alabama. Unless you have an emotional or financial interest in a particular team, this is what you want in a game and it always makes for terrific post-game discussions.

Likewise, unless you have an emotional or financial interest, there is a tendency to root for the underdog. Culturally, we appreciate a powerhouse team, but when a “lesser” team scraps their way to a head-to-head challenge and wins, it reminds us we can overcome odds no matter what the experts say. Sometimes, the more highly rated team simply underestimates the opponent and they can’t play catch-up. At other times, there is an extra spirit that rises to a strength that won’t be beat and it’s always exciting to see.

You Really Can’t Always Tell By Appearances……

Carnivorous alert! It’s funny how your memory is sparked at times. Hubby was prepping rib-eye steaks for dinner last night and it reminded me of Joe Allen’s BBQ in Abilene, TX. That was where I had my ROTC assignment and as always, restaurants were high on my list of places to identify. It didn’t take long to hear about Joe Allen’s, but it wasn’t on a direct route for me getting back and forth to work. One day I drove past at a time when it wasn’t open and sort of shrugged. It was the ramshackle side of rustic and I wondered if maybe the reputation was overblown. Then a friend who was helping me get acquainted with the area took me there for dinner.

As a longtime, multi-generational resident, she explained.  Food was what mattered at Joe Allen’s, not ambience. There was BBQ and steak, and a big galvanized tub of ice for the long-neck beer bottles. The point about the steak though was it was rib-eye with a secret rub then grilled over mesquite. Period. The deal though was the steak was cut according to what you chose – from 1/2 inch to 4 inches thick. You wanted sauteed mushrooms or peppercorn sauce – go to another restaurant. You wanted a nice wine list – go to another restaurant. You wanted one of the best steaks you would ever eat and an icy cold beer – sit down and enjoy yourself. I have no doubt the BBQ was excellent, but I admit I never had anything except the steak – my friend and I usually went for the 1-inch.

Other places with stuccoed walls, timbered ceilings, good steaks, and a larger menu were closer to where I lived and where I usually met with friends. That didn’t prevent me from going to Joe Allen’s though and I was always quick to recommend it to newcomers.

Ah, Computer Woes….

As I’ve mentioned before, we have become such a connected world (well, many of us anyway), when we lose those connections, it can really upend our schedules. I’ve returned from my trip where I was plagued with multiple computer and electronic issues. Now, in all fairness, most of those were my own fault. The mishap that knocked out my travel computer was totally on me and I’ll see today if it is recoverable. The second issue of not being able to have access on my I-phone while at the hotel was probably my fault. (I haven’t told Hubby about that one yet so he can explain what I was doing wrong.)

Anyway, I returned late last night and did in fact get catfish and hush puppies in during the trip. Th cold snap that descended was only going to last a few days, but 40 degrees and mist was distinctly uncomfortable. I do realize there are plenty of other places where that would be quite welcome at the moment. On the other hand, if you’re planning a ski vacation, lots of snow is on the wish list instead. Today and the weekend will be catch-up for me with multiple tasks. Ah well, it works that way at times.


And Another Trip…..

I am once again in Louisiana on an unexpected trip. Things are okay with my dad from a physical perspective, but there are some administrative things that need to be taken care of. It might be fairly quickly resolved and it might not be. While Daddy is fine with cognitive aspects – you should see him playing dominos – his short term memory is such that he can’t recall from day-to-day many normal things. It makes it impossible for him to manage tasks he used to routinely do and although he has come to grips with it most days, there are other times when he is perplexed. It is still a much more stable level of Alzhiemers than other friends of mine have had to deal with with regard to their parents, so I can’t complain. It’s never easy of course, but it could definitely be far worse.

We had a long delay in leaving Atlanta and some very bumpy weather. On the other hand, the severe thunderstorms were coming from Louisiana (might have been Texas, too) through Mississippi and Alabama. That meant the delay in arriving here allowed that storm system to have moved east and it was actually quite pleasant when we landed instead of the crappy stuff it would have been. I did take the 6:30 a.m. flight out of Miami though so I’ve been up since 3:30. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and somewhere in the mix, there is likely to be catfish.

Bundle of Energy….

Ah yes, the reason for the gap in postings is not unexpected. Our son, daughter-in-law, and eighteen-month old granddaughter are here for a visit. Their flight Tues was delayed a bit, then there was getting luggage, trekking to the car because I parked in the wrong terminal. I don’t care for either airports parking garage directions and I am not familiar with Fort Lauderdale Airport at night. Anyway, Tuesday was definitely a late night and the idea of flying them in with an evening arrival made much less sense than it did when I booked the tickets. Oh, apparently she was quite good on the airplane and didn’t seem overly distressed with the pressure changes. They did give her a dose of liquid cold medicine and she had her pacifier so that combination seemed to have worked.

At any rate, as always with an eighteen-month old, you are in that stage of minimal ability to communicate. I have no doubt she is fully aware of exactly what she wants to convey to us if only we could speak her language. She probably wonders how it is grown-ups are in charge considering we can’t master something as simple as “baby babble”. She has, however, picked up a couple of words, “stairs” being one. Although they live in  condo where they climb stairs to get up and down, this is her first time to be in a two-story house. She mastered “up” pretty quickly. “Down” is tricky, especially in sock feet on hardwood. So far, she waits for assistance, although I’m not entirely sure how long that will hold. Having a pool in the backyard has been a delight for her and unfortunately, the temperature has plummeted all the way to sixty today and the wind picked up. Definitely not a day for splashing about. That should be interesting to try to deal with.

Anyway, I absolutely do empathize with her nap/sleep patterns being disrupted – it’s a reality of traveling with young ones. On the other hand, it’s something all parents who travel learn to cope with.

Merry Christmas……

It’s been a beautiful day which is part of why people love South Florida in the winter. We checked in with the kids and it wasn’t too bad for them – 40, but no snow or ice yet. They don’t require a white Christmas at this point.

I’ve watched “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street”, so I’ve had my fix. Although hardly a classic, there is a movie that brought a point to mind I’ve posted about before. Ben Affleck and other stars were in “Surviving Christmas”, a movie about a very wealthy young man who decided to “rent” a family for Christmas one year. He didn’t explain why he wanted to come into their home as their “son”, but he was willing to pay a lot of money and they agreed. As you can imagine, a variety of mishaps occurred until the point when it seems as if the whole family was coming apart. In trying to sort through what happened (and of course come to happy resolutions), Christina Applegate, who was the real daughter in the family finally got Affleck to explain his motivation. His mother, raising him alone with no help, had been a waitress at a diner. Since she made double for working at Christmas, she always took not only her regular shift, but an extra one and by the time she was finished, she would be too tired for celebration. His Christmas had been to come to the diner for a big stack of pancakes. The movie had a mostly funny and a tiny bit poignant ending, but the point is that many of us think about military personnel being away from their families. We sometimes consider police, firefighters, etc.,. The fact is, in our busy world, there are a lot of 24-hour jobs staffed 365 days a year. I promise the power plant is being manned and like the woman in the movie, a lot of diners are open. Granted, places like Chinese restaurants that celebrate at different times of the year aren’t in quite the same category. Do take a moment though if you are out at a convenience store or whatever and be sure to give a smile and say, “Merry Christmas” to those who are working today.

The “Profit” Side of Being Nice…..

Sales, especially this time of year are something most of us enjoy. No, I do not nor ever intend, to participate physically in “Black Friday” events. Anyway, way back when I was a teenager, a “Five and Dime” store, a regional chain that I don’t think exists any longer, opened a new store in town. I was just turning sixteen and they needed extra temporary help to get the store ready and for the first few weeks. Work permit in hand, I had my first retail job. I came back later and worked there part time when I was in college. We lived in a small college town, so it made for an easy set-up. In coming from a one-income middle class family, a part time job was necessary. (One summer, I actually had three, but that’s for another post.)

I’ve never pretended to be an economist, but there some valuable lessons I learned about the corporate world with that job. The manager knew I would be moving on and he chatted with me sometimes about how things actually worked. It was school supply season and we were selling notebook paper for an absurdly low cost. I made the comment and he explained. “We do lose money on that and a few people will come in only for that. Most though will bring their whole list and rather than run around to different stores, will buy everything they need here. We lose on the paper and make it up on the rest.” Ah, got it.

Fast forward to the other night when a discussion came up about wine stores. We were talking about one we used in Maryland and I recounted that aside from them having a big selection and good prices, the staff was knowledgeable and friendly. We mentioned they often recommended less expensive wines for new ones for us to try and we appreciated the approach. One of the individuals in the group had once worked in a wine store. “There are two good reasons for that,” was the explanation. “The truth is the profit margin on an expensive bottle of wine is often lower than on a mid-to-low price one. So, you make $2 by selling the expensive one and say $4 dollars per bottle by selling the lower price one. The customers feel like you’re looking out for them – and you are – but at the same time, you make more profit.” Another ah, got it. Makes perfect sense.

When’s The Next Book?….

The other day someone asked about what writing I was involved with. Since the book Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, (http://amzn.to/2c1iKJl) was released in February 2016 and I publish at least one book a year, it was an understandable question. As some of you who follow the blog know, I was drawn into co-authoring another non-fiction book that I haven’t been at liberty to discuss. There are still a few details to work out and if you are a baseball fan, you’ll be happy. (It’s been quite a stretch for me, but an interesting project.) There has also been activity on the novel side, but I can’t quite explain that yet either. The reason is because it, like Irises to Ashes, or Orchids in the Snow, is a stand-alone book, but is very different from others I have written because it is not in the genre of woman’s fiction.  More explanation of that will soon follow as well.

I have returned to Verde Key and Police Detective Bev Henderson and there are a couple of thorny issues to work out. A murder sequence I intended to follow simply wasn’t flowing as I had hoped and I had to adjust the story accordingly. I think it will get me where I want to go now, but I have to play around with it a bit more before I’m certain. In other words, it’s possible I’ll have the non-fiction and one novel out in late spring and the “Shades” book in late summer. As for the cozy – “Small Town” quilting series, there will be a fourth one although perhaps not until early 2018.

So yes, writing definitely is continuing and more news is forthcoming.