Monday, May 2, 2016

Sowing Again

You may remember my experiment in early March with setting out lettuce and Brussels sprout seedlings early to see what happened. It failed.

As often happens, the hazard was unforeseen. I planted them in a fenced garden lined with welded wire to keep the deer and rabbits out. I mulched to give some protection from frost and weed competition.  But I forgot to look up.

After spending the winter foraging on dried seeds and plants, the birds were hungry for fresh salad. Those tender green shoots lasted no time at all. The good news is that as soon as I set out the seedlings, I started another set indoors and they’re ready to be set out, this time under netting. The bad news is my broken leg isn’t going anywhere near that garden, but judging by the tomato plants he brought home yesterday, my hubby is catching spring fever, so he’ll be doing all the planting this time. And my leg should be better by time for harvest.

Hope everything is greening up and growing for you this spring.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Had I But Known ...

With sunshine and no ice or snow on the ground Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a nice walk in the park. It was a little windy, but the dog and I enjoyed being outdoors. At least until I made the rash decision to walk up the hill for a better view of the mountains. Okay, actually the bad part was when I started down the hill and stepped on a patch of wet grass, resulting in a twisting fall and an ominous popping noise, followed by the realization that I couldn't stand up.

Of course, I'd forgotten my cell phone, so I worked my way down the hill, thinking once I was on flatter ground, I'd be able to stand. Alas, no. I had to call for help. Each time I called, the dog, who's leash I'd dropped in the fall, gave moral support by running back and licking my face before running off to sniff another bush. Where' s Lassie when you need her? Finally, a neighbor heard me over the wind and fetched my husband. Together, they got me to a car so I could go to the emergency room.

Turns out, I broke both bones in my lower leg and tore a ligament. After surgery, I woke up with this on my wrist.

If only someone had put it on me before I took that walk. 

But it could be a lot worse. It's been fifty years since I last broke a bone, so one every half century isn't so bad. I had a good surgeon. I have a great excuse to avoid cooking and cleaning over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm writing. The words aren't exactly pouring out of me yet, but hopefully as I settle into a routine, they will. At least that's the plan. We'll see. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Questioning Rules

"What advice would you give your sixteen-year-old self?"

I saw that headline somewhere, and it got me thinking. At sixteen, I was a rule follower. I got good grades, because I did what teachers asked me to do. I assumed if I continued down the path the experts had laid out, all would be well.

It took me a long time to discover this:

The ten commandments were brought down from the mountain on a stone tablet; all other rules were made by people, and people are fallible.

Now don't get me wrong. Rules and tradition are important. The only way to make progress in society is to build on the experience of those who came before us. It's a sign of wisdom to listen to those who have been down the path and can give us the pitfalls and highlights. But nobody knows everything, and if they say they do, they're lying.

In college, I continued to follow the rules. If my instructor assigned reading, I read. If the TA rambled incoherently in the 8:30 lecture, I was there, trying not to nod off. It worked. I was an honor student. But when I was a senior, I wanted to take BASIC programming as an elective. (Yes, I'm that old). Only trouble was, a certain low-level math class was a prerequisite and my major hadn't required that class because my math SATs were above a certain level. So, I called the instructor and explained. At first, he refused, but finally asked about my SAT score. He said he hadn't realized I was one of their gifted students, and he'd be happy to relax the rules and let me take the class. Gifted. Who knew?

But for a gifted student, I was a slow learner. As a newly minted college graduate, I pulled out the want ads and started my job search. Hmm, two years experience in sales. Nope. Only that summer job in the ice cream shop. Types forty words a minutes. Maybe on a good day. Assistant needed for insurance agent. What do I know about insurance? 

It wasn't until later that I discovered most of the people who filled those jobs had no experience either. They learned on the job. And  sometimes a bright, eager beginner can pass up an experienced plodder in a matter of months. I finally got a job I liked in a Savings & Loan, where I received another lesson about rules. I discovered that, although someone who cashed in a CD early had to pay a penalty, if that person went upstairs and complained to the president, their penalty got waived. Rules are only rules until they aren't.

All my life, I've been an avid reader. I'd even made up stories and scenes in my head to pass time and entertain myself. But it wasn't until my forties that it occurred to me I might write stories, too. I assumed the rules meant writers had college degrees in fine arts, or were teenage prodigies, or had done something extraordinary like climbed Mt. Everest. But it turns out all it takes is time, a love of language, and the willingness to learn. Not that there's any guarantee of publication or making a living at writing, but that's all it takes to be a writer. To write.

I still believe in rules. I obey the speed limit. I only deduct legitimate expenses from my taxes. I don't cut in lines. But I've learned that sometimes rules are flexible. That the people who make those rules don't have all the answers. It's good to learn from the experience of others, but it's important to weigh their advice. 

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle in a blank box. It takes a long time to fit all the pieces together before you get a glimpse of the picture, and nobody ever completely finishes the puzzle. We're all works in progress. And that's good. I mean, if you know it all, why stick around? 

But that also means that  the people who make the rules may not have the whole picture. When someone assures us the puzzle is all about dogs, or architecture,  maybe it's because they've only put together those pieces of the puzzle. 

Old Book Store Puzzle

Maybe we'll have to talk to a lot of people to discover the picture is actually a bookstore. Or maybe we'll have to figure that out for ourselves.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pie for Pi Day

Chicken Pot Pie Unbaked
In honor of Pi Day, I've been making pies, and as I cooked, I reached far back in my memory for those formulas I learned in math class.  

As I recall, pi (π ) equals 3.141. Circumference equals 2 times π  times radius (1/2 of diameter), and area equals π  times radius squared. 

Strawberry Pie


*The chicken pot pie is in a ten-inch pan, with an area of about 247 square inches and a circumference of 34.41 inches. 

*Dessert is in a nine-inch pan, so we'll enjoy just under 200 square inches of strawberry cream-cheese pie in pecan crust for dessert.

And to the dedicated math teachers of the world - for patiently teaching us to calculate whether two mediums or one large pizza is a better buy - thank you. 

And thank you for introducing us to pi.

Happy Pi Day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Okay, I know I’m rushing the season. But the seed racks in the stores were calling me, and once I got them home, I couldn’t resist starting a few cool-weather vegetables. I’ll plant them outside in a few days and if they don’t grow, I’ve only lost a dozen seeds. If they do, I’ll have early lettuce and Brussels sprouts.

Historically, the last frost date isn’t until early May, and yes, it’s been dipping into freezing temperatures at night. I'm more than a month early according to sound gardening advice. 

But the lizards are coming out to bask in the sun and drive the dog crazy. 

The peach tree is blooming. 

It feels like spring. 

So I’ll risk it. 

You’d think a farmer’s daughter would know better than to be suckered by an early warm spell, but truth be known, I’m an optimist. And sometimes, optimism pays off .

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Leap of Faith

Happy Leap Day! 

In celebration of the twenty-ninth day of February, my peach tree took a leap of faith and opened its blossoms, which may well mean it won’t be producing any peaches this summer.

Optimism is a risk. Too many warm days may have lured the tree into blooming, but it’s too early to not to expect more frost. Still, the first bee of the season was hard at work, pollinating the flowers. Maybe Mother Nature knows something I don’t. Maybe we’ll have a bumper crop of peaches. And if there are no peaches this year, the tree will try again next spring.

Releasing a book is a leap of faith. It’s always scary for writers to let go, to let their babies out into the world of agents and editors and readers. Maybe it’s too early. Maybe it needs more work. Maybe everyone will hate it. But if we never bloom, we’ll never bear fruit. And if it that story doesn’t make it – if we’re met by nothing more than frosty rejection, we can learn from our experience and write another. 

When next spring comes, we can bloom again.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Week in London

I just returned from a week in London, and despite jet-lag, sore feet, and blustery weather, it was fun. The temperatures were relatively mild, with spring flowers in the parks, but the gray skies and strong wind made it hard to spend time outdoors. The sun peeked out a few times, but quickly hid behind the clouds. I guess there's a reason it takes so few frequent-flyer miles to get to London in January. 

Fortunately, the museums are indoors. My favorite exhibits are in the Victoria and Albert, but I can't resist the Natural History Museum, with its warm stone arches and the giant dinosaur in the entrance hall. And of course there's the British Museum. Touring it properly could take weeks. We saw movies and a play, toured a clipper ship, saw how Beefeater Gin is made, and of course we ate. Full English breakfasts, cream teas with scones, chicken tandori, fish and chips, pasta - I don't know why the British get such a bad rap about their food. Yum.

Having always lived in relatively young areas, I'm struck by the history of London. In the center of the city, historic buildings abound, but London isn't a historical time capsule. It's a modern, bustling city. Everywhere you look is a juxtaposition of modern and ancient, traditional and cutting-edge.
-A Victorian humming-bird collection in the V&A, as compared to a new shock absorbing wheelchair wheel in the Design Museum. 

-Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London, backed by (right to left) "the Egg, the Cheese Grater, and the Walky-talky." 

-Modern energy-efficient City Hall and Dragons

The present is built upon the past. That's true of people, too. When writers create characters in our minds, they come with a history. Most of that history doesn't make it into the story, but it's in our minds. That's how we know how the character would act, what she might say, how he walks. The more we know about the character's history, the more real that character is to us, and eventually, the more real he feels to the reader. 

Collectively and individually, who we are is built on who we were, and helps determine who we will be.  

It's all about our history.