Friday, August 25, 2017

Of backseat driving and traffic jams

This was from 1994, and I have to admit things haven't changed a lot. We do have an automatic transmission and a GPS now, but I'd still almost rather have a toothache than drive with him in the car and he'd rather I did, too. We do manage, unwanted advice and snarkiness aside, to always have a good time, so I'm good with it.

My husband and I spent last weekend in Tennessee. The weather and the Smoky Mountains were beautiful, the relative we went to visit as funny and warm as she's always been. I learned some things on this trip.

I learned that what Southerners refer to as laid-back is what we refer to as godawful slow.

I learned that road construction is not a Hoosier phenomenon, but one shared equally by Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. We could see a little bit of North Carolina across the hollers, but not enough to tell if they even have roads there, much less road construction.

I learned, once again, that if two people have been married for a long time and one of those people is perfectly well aware that the other one hates the way she drives, she should just stay in the passenger seat and read the map. Even if she knows he's tired and that she drives just as well as he does and even if they're driving what is generally referred to as "her" car. "Her" car is the newest one, the one with just barely under 100,000 miles on it, the one she cleaned out especially so that he, my husband, wouldn't make remarks about shovels and lighting matches and getting tetanus shots.
Not mine, but this is what it looked like.

To give him credit, he didn't make those remarks. I mean, he said the car looked nice and got under the wheel prepared to drive the entire 1200 miles we were going to cover during the weekend.

That wasn't good enough for me. I had to say, "I can drive any time you want me to. I know you've got to be tired." Nice of me, wasn't it? That's part of how you stay married forever--you try to always be nice to the one who knows what you look like first thing in the morning.

But he thought I meant it. If I wanted to drive for a while, he said, he'd just take a little nap. So we pulled into a rest area and changed drivers. Duane laid the passenger seat back and settled in with pillows.

Then he told me how to back up. And how to re-enter traffic on the highway. And what the speed limit was. I turned the radio down so he could sleep. He turned it up so I would go crazy.

I drove about 50 miles. He only sat up three times to ask where we were, if I was tired, and how fast I was going.

On the way home from Tennessee, I did it again--offered to drive knowing full well no marriage should have to stand up to that kind of test twice in one weekend. In the first hour and a half, I drove three miles. We sat in a traffic jam and moved seven feet every five minutes and commented that there were times an automatic transmission would come in really handy.

Then, when traffic was almost flowing again, we ran smack into road construction and a long stretch of one-lane driving. Only it wasn't actually a lane but more like the path cows make on the way to the barn--about three feet wide and bumpy. Since I don't have a fondness for orange cones and I like orange-and-white-striped barrel things even less, I steered close to the berm and stayed there. We discussed that calmly, as in "What are you going to do when the berm runs out? Have you thought about that?" I steered closer to the orange things, driving two miles while flinching every 20 feet or so.

Pretty soon, he wasn't tired anymore and I got back into the passenger seat with my map. I turned the radio down and reached for some rich Tennessee chocolate. We talked and laughed the rest of the way home, the marriage intact.

At least until the next time I offer to drive and he lets me.

Friday, August 18, 2017

All about me...

Well, not really about me, but about my December book. I don't usually do book stuff (much) on this blog, but since I never got a regular post put up, I'm doing what can be viewed as...well, as a commercial. Only I don't have a fast-forward on here, so you may as well just go get a sandwich.

Anyway, here is the cover of The Happiness Pact. It will be out December 5, but is available for pre-order everywhere. I'll put some links down there below the blurb and if you want to order from all of them, feel free!

Thanks for coming by and for your interest in the Window.

Tucker Llewellyn and Libby Worth—strictly platonic!—realize they're each at a crossroads. Tucker is successful, but he wants a wife and kids: the whole package. Libby knows that small-town life has her set in her ways; the tearoom owner needs to get out more. 

So they form a pact: Libby will play matchmaker and Tucker will lead her on the adventure she desperately needs. But the electricity Libby feels when they shake on it should be a warning sign. Soon the matchmaking mishaps pile up, and a personal crisis tests Libby's limits. Will Tucker be there for her as a best friend…or something more?


Barnes & Noble 



Friday, August 11, 2017

Are we there yet?

Although I couldn't find it when I went looking for it, I remember the column I wrote about "random" drug testing. It was sometime in the early 90s. Imagine my surprise when I saw by an editorial in July 28's Peru Tribune that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is my response. In order to be fair, I also sent it to the Tribune for them to address--or not--how they chose.

On July 28, reading the Peru Tribune, I was pleased to see an article about Ole Olsen’s Children’s Theatre’s production of The Tempest. I was glad to see Maconaquah’s projects being reported on. Police Chief Mike Meeks gave an informative interview about Narcan. I even liked the headline on the op-ed page that proclaimed, “Schools need to step up.” Because where kids are concerned, of course schools need to step up. As do parents. Churches. Politicians. The kids themselves.
          But then I read this one phrase in the editorial, the one that said, “…strongly considering adopting drug testing for high school juniors and seniors involved in extracurricular activities as well as students who drive themselves to school.” Is this then the stepping up the Tribune is referring to?
          When my kids were in school in the 90s, there was a lot of talk of random drug testing among student athletes. I don’t know if it was ever implemented, because my kids graduated and my mind moved on to other things, but I do recall writing a column that questioned the randomness of only testing student athletes. I didn’t understand then—and still don’t—what was random about that. What about student musicians, student librarians, and the students who skip school as often as they attend? Was there no possibility, no matter how remote, that any of them might be using as many illegal drugs as the athletes?
          So, here we are 25 years after my indignant column, and the definition of “random” apparently hasn’t changed a bit. Students who do not join extracurricular activities--which I always thought we encouraged, didn’t we?—and those who don’t or can’t drive themselves to school are evidently drug-free.
          Now, I admit I’m a little out of it as far as kids go. Well, maybe a lot out of it, but I still don’t understand the picking and choosing. I have no problem with drug testing, as long as it starts with the administrators and works its way down through the faculty to the student body. I truly doubt it will do any good, but I’m usually happy with proactive things. Of course, I’d be happy if the schools’ stepping up had more to do with curricula, better teacher salaries, and making sure no kid ever went home hungry. Or, wait, maybe just the band kids and the ones who wear green T-shirts could go home hungry. Yeah, just random ones. That’s it. 
          Our prompt at this month's writers' group meeting was "are we there yet?" I didn't have to explain at all what this essay had to do with the prompt. Twenty-five years after such total inequality was encouraged, it’s being encouraged yet again. It makes me think of prior to 2008, when I thought racism was…well, not a thing of the past, but better. It reminds me, loud and clear, that no, we’re not nearly there yet. And that we must not give up until we are.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Let's talk about reading...

This is from 2010, when I got my first Kindle. I'm on my second one, now. It's smaller, lighter, and has hundreds of books on it. Sadly enough, there are a lot of them I haven't read. The free-book phenomenon struck soon after e-readers started gaining in popularity, and to borrow a phrase from a couple of movies and an old talk show, "They're everywhere! They're everywhere!" It isn't a credit to me that a writer has only about a chapter and a half to capture my attention, but it's true. I still miss brick-and-mortar bookstores. I miss the textures, the smell, and talking to other people in the aisles. Books-A-Million is still alive and well in Kokomo, but that's 35 miles one way and it doesn't feel the same as bookstores used to--can't explain that, but it's true.

So, anyway, do you have an e-reader or are you strictly paper and ink? Either way, happy reading.

I have a Kindle! I put it off for a long while because of how much I love the feel, scent, and sight of a paper-and-ink book in my hands. But then one of my girls, Tahne, got one. And she loved it. A friend got a Nook. And she loved it. I looked at the mountains of books lying on nearly every flat surface in my house, not to mention the bookshelves. And I didn't love it. It was time, I decided. Oh, yes! said the roommate, who has no appreciation for the number of books I have...everywhere. But, I argued, I didn't want to spend the money. I'll buy it for you, said the roommate. He really has no appreciation. So I said okay.

I ordered it, it came, and I looked at it for a couple of days. "I don't know what to buy," I said, "without running my fingers over the spines, looking at the covers, and reading the blurbs."

You can do that with the Kindle, except for the spine part. But it's different. Way different. So I bought my own book. Boom! In about a minute, there it was: The Debutante's Second Chance.

But I didn't, you know, want to read it. I needed to buy something to read.

A friend, Janet Dean, had a new book out--The Substitute Bride. So I bought it for the Kindle. Boom! It's a mail-order-bride story, a good one, and it was fun to read. No, it was a lot of fun to read. I took my time over it, relished it, loved every word.

I was heartbroken last year when the only bookstore close enough for me to go to closed (I won't go to Waldenbooks anymore, but that's a whole 'nother story) and I had to buy most of my books at Walmart or the grocery store. Or else I ordered them from Amazon and waited.

Did I mention Boom!

Since getting the Kindle, I've read Robyn Carr's new one, a lovely one by Marta Perry, The Five Little Peppers Grown Up (yes, really), and then, once again, I was stumped. So I bought one by Jenny Crusie, an old one I thought I might have missed. The Cinderella Deal.

Yes, I had missed it. And it's lovely. One of her very best and very funniest, and I'm taking my time over it, relishing it, loving every word. I didn't feel the spine, can't smell the paper-and-ink, but you know what? I can still laugh out loud at the humor and feel the tenderness slipping along my arms.

Walking through the house, I passed a flat surface without a stack of books on it.

It was dusty.

Oh, no, what have I done?
On to 2017 - While I'm here, I want to invite you to come to the Logansport, Indiana library tomorrow, August 5, at 2:00  to talk to Nan Reinhardt, Cheryl Brooks, Kathi Thompson, and me about writing. We'll have books to sell and sign, but mostly we just like conversation. Come and join us!