Monday, August 3, 2015

It Was An Honor Just To Be Nominated

You've heard them all say it, the actors who are nominated for Oscars, Emmys, Peoples Choice etc., that tired old line that sends most people into fits of eye rolling and internal snickering. . .  "It was an honor just to be nominated."

Yesterday I was informed that my novel, No Such Thing, was selected as a finalist for the 2015 Book of the Year in the Paranormal/Supernatural category. This same book was, when it was first published in 2013, a quarter-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  Was I proud? Yes. Was I excited? Yes. Did I think I would win over-all? No, and I didn't. But, just to be acknowledged in such a way gave me a validation I cannot explain. It's always a crapshoot to lay words on paper, arrange them in such a way as to try to tell a story that burns in your gut without becoming gratuitous or out and out raunchy, yet open the collective eyes of readers to the deeply slimy world that exists under our noses.

No Such Thing is fiction.  It is based on real life crimes committed by a monster(s) under the moniker Oakland County Child Killer in the late 70s; a series of crimes that have never been solved. It is personal to me but even as I tell you that, I am no one compared to the victim's family members who are still waiting (and fighting) for investigations.  The case is still open and ongoing, the possible suspect list ebbs and flows with time. Theories are a little like jello, stable in some states and completely without structure in others and the same theory can be brought from liquid to solid to liquid again on the words and opinions of those in charge.  Frustrating doesn't touch the level of angst these families feel.It was my initial desire to write this as non-fiction but, like my jello reference above, the story is like a jellyfish.  It floats along guided by currents, but underneath, the tentacles grow, intertwine and tangle.  They also sting like hell. It is impossible for me to wrap my brain around all of it - I'll leave that to the journalists who weren't asked to switch majors because they embellished.

And so, I had to write this story.  I wrote it because it has been with me since March 16, 1977. I wrote it because, with fiction, I could bring all of these "non-provable" theories and suspects to life. I wrote it because I had to. I will know in mid-August if it is the actual winner of Book of the Year (Paranormal/supernatural). If it is, I will shout it across the cyber world (and probably out in my front yard so, fair warning to the neighbors). If it's not, I can honestly say, it is such an honor to be a finalist but more than that, I hope I can continue to reach people and open them up to these cases that plague Oakland County, Michigan and took the vital, potential-rich lives of four kids: Mark Stebbins, Jill Robinson, Kristine Mihelich, and Tim King.

Monday, July 6, 2015

#WinningAtParenting

One of the great gifts in life I have found is watching your children become parents.  Somehow, given all of the obstacles life has thrown in the way, I managed to have 2 healthy, well adjusted, unincarcerated kids. The oldest has even gone so far as to find a soulmate, marry her (and he married up, for sure) and start his own family.

Sure, sure, I get untold pleasure from spending time with my beautiful, smart and headstrong granddaughter.  But really, the gift comes from the years of a smug, know-it-all teenager now finding himself trying to reason with a toddler.  A headstrong toddler.



They began, like any other parents; reading the books, taking classes, preparing themselves to carefully and safely bring this vulnerable human into the world and raise her to the best of their ability and newly learned knowledge.

After the baby arrived, they solemnly partook of the "golden hour" - a time of skin-on-skin contact and quiet bonding before we grandparents were allowed in to see the baby.  Fair enough. Soon after, a special nurse came in to give them lessons on sterilizing, hand washing and feeding the baby that included completely undressing the baby before said feeding - one can presume because it was a more organic state, I guess. Naked feeding? Did no one even care that it was January 1st and flipping cold outside?  My son's mother-in-law and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. . .after all, what did we know?  Later, when the baby started fussing even after a diaper change and feeding, I suggested a pacifier (or some clothes) but was met with blank stares.  Oh, no. . .we are going to teach her to self soothe, they said. OoooKkkkk.

The morning after their first night as parents, we grandparents were enjoying a celebratory breakfast before heading back to the hospital when I got a text from my son.

Son: When are you coming?
Me: After breakfast. Why?
Son: We want someone to hold this baby because she won't stop crying and we've been holding her all night.  We need sleep. And what's for dinner?
Me: What do you want?
Son: To go out
Me: Do you have a sitter lined up?  We'd love to go out.

He didn't think it was very funny but when we arrived at the hospital, we noticed that the baby was no longer naked when being fed.


Several months later we visited again.  I marveled at how big our little girl was getting and I also noted that she now had a pacifier attached to her outfit for easy access.  I asked my daughter-in-law if the books had helped prepare her for parenthood.  Her response was beautiful. "I feel like," she said, "all of the books should begin with the sentence, 'Throw this book away and listen to your mother.'" Yep, she gets it now.

They recently had their second child and I was fortunate enough to witness his birth.  What a gift.  I am fairly certain, though, that she would have welcomed a marching band into the room, so at ease was she.

Even better was the text I received from my son the following morning:
A photo of a sleeping baby -
Son: Lessons learned from First child: jammiees during feeding, pacis and bottles make for a happy baby and (relatively) well rested parents. #winningatparenting

The final act of complete parental graduation?  When the granddaughter was introduced to the new brother she pulled the paci from her mouth and stuck it in his, spit and all. They have arrived.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Gidget Gets a Restraining Order

I've talked about her before, my alter ego, my 17 year-old self who is thin and active with long blond hair and a cute little shape, bubbly personality and a boyfriend.  I call her Gidget. The boyfriend, also with long hair, tanned and athletic is nicknamed Moondoggy and in my little mind, they surf in the ocean after school every day. Well, this old gal may be heading toward the mid 50s but Gidget lets me know she's still right there every so often.

A little over a year ago on a Saturday night, we were sitting in our favorite brewery and pizza joint when Gidget tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, "Look! Over there!  See that guy?  It's Moondoggy!"

I shook my head, she was mistaken. I married Moondoggy - he was sitting right across from me wearing his "Old Guy" disguise; gray hair, shorts, sports shirt and reading glasses.  She gave me that, "Ohhh, Honey" pity stare and beckoned me to look at the other guy again.  I did.

I must admit there was a certain glow around him; a light, an aura, perhaps. Shoulder length dark honey hair, a killer smile, but I married Moondoggy so could this maybe be someone famous?  In my pizza joint on a Saturday?  Maybe?  I did the only thing I know to do.  I took a discreet picture of him and texted it to Gidget's partner in crime, the friend who was beach boy crazy with me, went through more beach loves that lasted a week before moving on than anyone I know. . . the one who settled on a beach in Florida with her final beach boyfriend but appreciates 17 year-old Gidget's continual search for Moondoggy and will allow her  own 17 year-old self to respond even though she is 55.

"Is this guy someone famous?" I texted.

Immediate response: "Not that I can tell, go ask him."
Me: "No."
Her: "Ask the bartender."
Me: "No. I just thought he looked familiar.  That's all."
Her: "He's cute - just go ask him."
Me: "Not sure the spouse would appreciate that."
Her: "Fine, but it will haunt you."

So I quietly enjoyed watching him as he laughed with his friends, drank a few beers and smiled that killer smile. The guy eventually left and when he walked out, Gidget followed.  I'm a grown woman. I was ok with that. And then. . . I forgot about him.

Last week Moondoggy and I were sitting in a restaurant having brunch.  Someone tapped my shoulder and whispered in my ear. It was Gidget. "Hey! Look who's here."  I looked around. Seated at a table with a couple of guys was this guy.  Shoulder length dark honey hair, killer smile. I tapped Moondoggy and said, is that guy famous?"

He casually looked up and grunted, "I doubt it."

Gidget poked me in the ribs, exasperated, "Seriously?"

So I did the only ting I know to do.  I took a discreet picture and texted it to Gidget's partner in crime.

Me:"Is this guy famous?"
Her: "Go ask him."
Me: "No"
Her: "Ask the bartender."
Me: "No. I just thought he looked familiar.  That's all."

A few minutes later she texted back-
Her: "He does."
And attached to the comment was the picture I sent a little over year ago side by side with the picture I had just taken. Same guy.

I'm not sure what is more worrisome here: That 17 year-old Gidget still cajoles me into looking at cute boys when I am perfectly happy with my Moondoggy (even when he is wearing an Old Guy disguise) or that I had absolutely no memory of  taking a picture, texting it across country, having a fairly long text conversation about this guy and repeating it again a year later.  Either way, I'm in danger of having a restraining order slapped on me.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

When The Plan Goes Out The Window. . .

In observance of Memorial Day I am rerunning the very real and true story of how I was rescued from the firemen who walked into my house in the middle of the night by a super cop and former marine.  No donuts were consumed in the writing of this blog : )

During my first year of wedded bliss, approximately nine months were spent alone as my husband was working abroad.  I, on the other hand, was living in Virginia Beach working as the on site manager for a large apartment complex.  Everyone knew Moondoggy was not around, thus, I slept with an axe.  Yes, an axe and no, not to do serious physical harm to the murderer I was sure would be breaking in.  The axe was for breaking the window so I could make my escape.  I hated being alone at night. . .still do, although it got immensely easier when we moved from the big house in the woods to the small house in town.  Within screaming distance I always say.

For thirty years the thought of being alone all night has conjured elaborate scenarios involving me slithering out of bed and slipping under it - which no longer is possible, me using my mad kick boxing skills. me breaking the window for attention and then running like hell..  I have lain awake at night plotting every escape route, strategy and hiding place possible should I be stuck alone and the murderer come a callin'.  So, last night, due to work schedules, Moondoggy had to work an odd midnight shift and there I was, alone.  I wasn't even nervous about it, after all, I do have Moose the Wonder dog.

There I was, minding my own business, sleeping in the middle of the bed with ALL the pillows and my dog, when my ADT alarm beeps the little staccato beat indicating that a door has been opened.  The dog goes nuts barking and leaping off the bed, scrambling headlong into the living room.  I have prepared for this moment for years, I know exactly what to do, self preservation is my middle name.  And what do I do?

I climb out of bed, head down the hall toward the living room where I see the light of a flashlight shining along the floor.  You would think at some point I would have stopped right?  NO!  I keep going, where I come face to face with a man in a dark clothings who, I realized later, was more shocked than I.  
"Oh NO!  Wrong house," he calmly and quickly raises his hands in the air and clearly announces, "We're firemen!  Wrong house!" Like a scene from some slapstick comedy movie, he starts backing up repeating, "We're firemen.  Wrong house.  We're leaving."  Moose is doing his best warning growl (although secretly thinking if one of those guys produced a ball, all bets were off) and just before he closes the door and leaves, I say, "Wait, what's your name?"  He gives it to me (and I am now awake enough that I know who he is).  Then, there was that ghastly smell.  I think Moose might have had a little "nerve" gas.

I flip on the light and there, in the mirror, get a gander at what the intruder was looking at.  I am wearing my best thread bare pair of red Mickey Mouse jammy pants that long ago lost the drawstring.  I am also wearing an old gray tank top.  Gravity hit the girls long about pregnancy time and never left, so, without a bra, a tank top is about the worst look I can have.  My kids have said they need therapy after seeing me in that tank top.  And amazingly, I'm still not scared.

I called Moondoggy at work to relay the humorous tale, calm down, and allow my dog to relax because something smelled awful and I'm pretty sure it is my perfect little dog. Moondoggy was not happy at all and asked me to call the police.  I waffled.  I WAFFLED but acquiesced, dialing 911 assuring the operator It was NOT an emergency but felt it needed reporting.  She did not think it was funny. "Ma'am there have been NO fire calls tonight.  I am going to have an officer stop by."

Well crap!  I've already seen myself in the mirror and, looking around, I realized that I was not prepared for guests.   I quickly threw on a hoodie sweatshirt, fluffed the couch pillows, took my old coffee cup to the kitchen, decided I didn't have time to do dishes so opted to shut that light off and sat down with the shade up to wait for the officer, like it was the most normal thing in the world.  And a minute later he was there.

The young, good looking, former marine was on duty.  I wished I had brushed my hair!  He took some info but offered what he thought had happened:

The next street over in the same location lives a woman who is infirm.  She often makes errant calls to the fire and police stations and sometimes they do midnight service calls to her house.  There is a new driver on duty and he got confused with the streets. . .

As he was telling me this, there was another knock at the door and the two firemen returned after making their call, to apologize again.  All I can think about at that moment was about is my hair, which looks like a tornado!  They had in fact, been doing exactly what the police officer said.  I looked at these three men standing in my living room, one apologizing profusely, one turning redder by the minute (he must be the new driver) and one who now has to make a report about the whole thing and I said, "Next time I'll make coffee and have donuts," to which the police officer, a funny guy, says "Donuts?""   

As they left , I scooped Moose into my arms and took one last look in the mirror, "and I'll even brush my hair,"  I commented to my reflection.  Moose sniffed close to my mouth and jumped away running down the hall.  I smelled that putrid, rotting sour odor again.  It wasn't the dog, it was my breath.  Forget brushing my hair, I should have brushed my teeth.

As for the practiced escape plan?  It went out the window without me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Simply, Thank You

Mother's Day. It's one of those recognized days that fell by the wayside for me in 1983 when my mother passed away. I dutifully bought cards for my mothers-in-law (because although I've only had one husband, I had two MILs simultaneously) but never looked forward to it, never made a big whoop-di-do.  Never. . .until I had my own kids.  Mother's Day took on a new meaning; an appreciation and excitement because my kids were so proud of their gifts.  What could be better than a mayonnaise jar full of "daisies" - the sunshine yellow dandelions teeming in our yard? Or the rock that one child, with a red Sharpie, meticulously wrote:
Happy mothers day mom
My kids made Mother's Day beautiful again. But in all of this, I've learned that the loss of my mom at such a young age profoundly affected how I look at mothering in general. And, I've learned that all (and I'm sure someone will argue this but I'm not participating) women are mothers whether they have children, or are sisters or friends.  We mother each other.  And because I've come to realize that I am searching for the mother in everyone I meet, probably to fill a continual empty space, I've gleaned some nuggets of advice that I carry with me.

To Lydia- Who, when I was lamenting the misfortune of someone with whom I had a dicey relationship with and feeling guilt about having unkind thoughts about them just prior to their misfortune (I know, long sentence, try to keep up), pointedly asked, "What makes you think you have that much power in the world to think a thought in your brain could cause someone else misfortune?  You're not that important!"

To Melissa- Who, when I was in a moment of frenzy between double-booked commitments, reminded me to remember that, "The important things get done."  It's simple as that and makes perfect sense.  Think about it.

She also is the one who wisely recommended that when you use a paper towel to open the public restroom door to exit, if you must, throw the paper towel on the floor when you leave. If there isn't a trash can by the door, there will be one there soon enough.  She's right.

To Lou- Who taught me that an open mind is essential for growth and that standing in judgment of others is a dangerous place to stand.  How did she do this?  By the way she raised her kids, honored her calling (she is a gifted teacher who STILL teaches into her 80s) with truly needy kids in her basement after school, every day, fostered kids whose racial make-up was a direct contrast to our lily white neighborhood and lives her life in a luminescent peace.  So effective is she that she has no idea how important she is to me.

To Judy - My mom's best friend whose fight with cancer preceded my mom by 5 years but, I believe prepared us all to face it with humor.  And of course, she knew the value of "lemonade" - the code word for vodka laced beverages enjoyed in the afternoon by both Sally and Judy as they melted into fits of giggles and private jokes.

There are more - a book full, actually.  My kids resuscitated Mother's Day for me and taught me to enjoy it but, there are myriad women every day who rescue me.  Happy Mother's Day to all of you and those I've yet to meet!





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Friendly Driver's Education Reminder

There is something that has been bothering me for the last year.  I've allowed it to burrow in my craw, sometimes I am able to quiet the irritation, other times it consumes me.  I thought, at first, it might be something related to the age demographic were I now live, but on further study can confirm this affliction is equal across the age board and isn't unique to California. I don't know when or how, but somewhere, somehow, people seem to have forgotten how to drive.

I didn't notice it so much back in the Midwest.  I learned to drive in Michigan where the driving experience is the essence of the economy.  In Michigan, traffic moves, albeit on the worst infrastructure in road maintenance I've ever seen (with the exception of one 18 mile stretch of mountain road in rural North Carolina - but that's another story that involves banjo music.)

In Illinois, the majority of my driving was also rural with the exception of jaunts to Chicago where slow traffic is the result of a lot of people trying to get somewhere at the same time - Chicago drivers drive with purpose.

So, out here, in California, I have been plagued with angst because the drivers seem to not have learned basic driving sense.  The Smith System has 5 principals for safe driving.  They are as follows:
1.   Aim High 
Focus on what is in front of you and way ahead
2.   The Big Picture
“Be aware of your surroundings at all times” 
4.   Leave Yourself an Out
The fourth principle of the Smith System states to leave yourself a way out
5.   Make Sure They See You 
 As a driver, make sure that other drivers can see you and anticipate your move. 
I agree with these but I think there are even MORE IMPORTANT tenets that should be followed. 

1) PUSH THE PEDAL PEOPLE. I swear that when I get in the car and start driving, I will come upon the casual driver who is traveling in the left lane on a 55mph road and they are doing a steady 42mph.  No faster, no slower. It happens every single time and usually within 5 minutes of leaving the house. Which brings me to my next tenet. . .

2) STAY OUT OF THE LEFT LANE IF YOU ARE NOT FAST MOVING TRAFFIC. When did people start forgetting this?  People seem to choose a lane when they leave the house and stay in that lane for the entire duration of their trip whether they are going 5 miles or 50. There is nothing more aggravating than getting going up to the speed limit only to be slowed because the persons in the middle or left lane are meandering down the road 10 miles under the speed limit without a purpose. And because they chose this lane when they left, they are intent on staying in it until they arrive at the destination.

3) STAY AWAY FROM SURROUNDING CARS.  There is this annoying trait where drivers feel that they need to drive right next to you or, even worse, in your blind spot.  This is not for a moment or two but, because they refuse to change lane, lasts for miles and miles.  I'd try to speed up to shake them but I'll be stopped by someone in front of me who won't PUSH THE GAS. And now?  I'm boxed in and the tunnel visioned drivers round me aren't paying attention to any of my signals that I want to move over.  Heck, the guy next to me has no clue my signals are on because he's still in my blind spot and apparently he can't read lips. . . although that may be a good thing.

 It's simple folks: DRIVE WITH A PURPOSE!

I'm not suggesting speeding, or crazy lane changing, I'm just asking people drive with a purpose, be self aware and stay the hell out of my way.  Simple, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Does She or Doesn't She? There is NO Question!

When I started this blog a few years back, it was because I lived in a small town in the midwest.  Ordinary, everyday people made unordinary things happen and most often, they were pretty funny.  Thus; My Life in a Nutshell.

Well, since then, I have moved. . . bugged out of the midwestern small town and headed west to the desert of California.  It's taken some time but we are finally finding the rythmn here and in that; new material.  It's not the same comfy little nutshell, in fact, it's a whole other kind of nut out here.

Moondoggy retired in September 2013, a planned for, anticipated event that we anxiously awaited and we moved to an "Active Adult" community in the land of sun and movie stars. We call it the "Old Folks Home" (thank you, Carol for that moniker!). It is about the same size as the town we moved from so the nuances aren't much different.  The same rules for living apply: Don't speak - and I do mean literally "speak", disparagingly about someone because that person might be in a club, in a class or Bridge partners with the person with whom you speak.  Pass judgment on others but keep your mouth shut - unless it's just too obvious not to comment on, which, apparently, Moondoggy does.  Constantly. Retirement, has given him way too much time on his hands (I say I married him for better or worse, but not 24/7 and have lobbied for him to find a part-time job - if nothing else so I can have my solitary writing time back) and his judgement filter has been shut off (of course, I hear that happens when you get old.) Case in point?  Plastic surgery.

Don't get me wrong, I am not opposed to cosmetic surgery as a tool for eternal youth unless said surgeries are obvious and, well, bad.  Bee stung lips, of which I have never been a fan, can quickly look like the red waxy lips from our youth that we got at halloween. . . only not that good prompting Moondoggy to comment out of the side of his mouth into my ear, "Geez, Botox much?" . . . I think he meant Restylane. Eyes lifted halfway up the forehead, eyebrows in a constant state of shock and, tight, high cheeks bones that betray a crepey neck waddle are plentiful fodder for discussion and here at the old folks home - heck even just in the valley in general, we've seen our share. Someone needs to tell these people, and by the way, I'm not just talking women here (see Kenny Rogers), that it's not a good look.  In fact, I propose cosmetic surgeons employee a impartial third party to assess whether potential patients should be getting some of the procedures they desire and I have the perfect person for the job, too.  That aside, don't you think if some stranger stood in front of you and told you the truth about how you look or how the surgery would make you look, many people might opt out?  So to the last whose I age I know to be 83 but has a face pulled so high that I am tempted to peek under her hair to see the scars. . .would you like to speak to my husband?