May 24, 2018

Book Club doesn’t disappoint

You know how it is when all you want is to go to a movie, sit back with your popcorn, and get ready to have a really good laugh, only to find that the advertising was specious and those hysterical scenes in the trailer were the only ones in the movie? Well, Book Club is not one of those movies.


My sister and I took the afternoon off yesterday to watch Book Club. Between personal heartbreak, political chaos, and a level of societal animosity that I’ve never seen in my sixty-eight years, she and I needed a good laugh. And we got one!


If you are looking for depth, substance, and an deep discussion afterward, perhaps you should choose another picture. Book Club is a solid B movie with a great cast and nothing to make you think. It’s the story of a book club made up of four old friends, women of a certain age as we say, and their responses to Vivian’s (Jane Fonda) selected book – Fifty Shades of Grey.


The weakest plot line is that of Vivian and Arthur (Don Johnson) who were lovers forty years ago who meet once again. Sadly, there’s just no chemistry between them. One scene where they end up in a fountain together was painful to watch, really. Seventy-year-old people (the average age of the cast) don’t do cutesy very well and Jane Fonda and Don Johnson are too dignified to be asked to do it.


Diane (Diane Keaton), a widow, has a wonderful encounter on a plane where she meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia) and the attraction is immediate. Keaton is funny, but Andy Garcia steals the scene with his charmingly wry reaction to her antics. The relationship proceeds as it should with a bit of a hiccup and nice resolution.  


Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig Nelson) are a long-married couple facing a difficult time in their relationship. Carol’s efforts to revive a stagnant love life has some hysterical side-effects, and Bruce’s admission of insecurity and purposelessness after retirement is, I thought, the most poignant moment in the movie.


And then there is Sharon (Candace Bergen). I love this woman. Divorced for eighteen years, a highly successful judge, she is quite happy without a man. She never the less agrees to try on-line dating and ends up on a show stealing date with George (Richard Dreyfus). Sharon is self-assured, self-doubting, witty, sardonic, and vulnerable. She is clearly the most interesting character and Bergen plays her beautifully.


As I said Book Club is a good B movie. It is predictable. The end is as it should be, everyone is happy. And it was worth every penny of $9.50. I laughed out loud. I left smiling and light-hearted. I had not one minute of existential angst. It was just what my sister and I needed on a Wednesday afternoon.

April 12, 2018

Losing Another Friend


Well, springtime seems to be, once again, a difficult time for our family. My brother-in-law, Mike Dillon, passed away March 29th. It was somewhat sudden and I think we are all in still in shock.


Mike was quite something – a true gentleman, a loving and supportive father, step-father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and uncle, an avid antiques collector, an ethical businessman, a basketball phenom (I consider anyone over the age of fifty who still plays a phenom), and a bit of a free-spirit. When I met him thirty or so years ago, he was rocking long hair, peace medallions, and designer jeans. And pulling it off with aplomb, as he continued to do.


For my husband, Tom, he was his conversation/discussion guy. Mike always had an interesting viewpoint, strangely interesting in some cases, but always thoughtful and considerate of another’s perspective.


For me, though, he was the man who loved my sister and gave her great joy. I think I will always remember his voice clearly. It was so smooth and melodic, an actor’s voice. And I can hear him clearly now talking about Chris. He was so proud of everything she did from making biscuits from scratch to her beautiful artwork. They had thirty years of happiness together for which I am so thankful.


Mike was truly one-of-a-kind and he will be missed.

January 23, 2018

Cell phones and the Technologically challenged

I have been having a rather uneventful time lately. No unfortunate tumbles on public streets, no gluing fingers together, no more dead cats. While this makes for a peaceful life, it does not make for a good story.

I have, however, rocketed into the new century and bought an iPhone. Why, you may ask. Because I found myself looking wistfully at those lucky few - well, many really - who, while at dinner with a friend who is wondering what the GDP of Uganda is, can tell them in a few short taps on a handheld mobile device. This was just so intriguing. All that information at my fingertips anytime, anywhere. I couldn't resist. And so I went big and got myself an iPhone 5 or it could be an XS.

Well, nothing is easy, is it? Other people don't seem to have these problems. I was so excited. I was going to use this new technology to call someone, maybe even text! But my beautiful new iPhone with the pink butterflies on the cover wouldn't shut up. It kept talking to me. Telling me to do things. I didn't know why. It demanded that I 'Tap twice.' I would do just that, but it didn't help. It just kept telling to tap until I thought, perhaps, it actually meant I should throw it into the garbage disposal.

I don't think I'm alone, although I am probably only joined by people over sixty, in that I like paper manuals. Everything used to come with directions on paper. You went to the index, looked up troubleshooting, found the problem, and voila! But new technology does not come with paper. God forbid they stick a little user guide in there with the stupid phone.

After a few hours of having the damned thing yak at me, I calmed down and thought, "What would my daughter do?" She would sit down at the computer, log onto the world wide web and type, "How do you get the damned cell phone to stop telling you to tap twice?" Which I did. And it did. I can't remember now what it told me to do, but whatever it was worked. My phone became a source of endless amusement. I became a texting fool. I looked up inane information about the cast of Leverage and how to make Eggs Benedict. All was well right up until New Year's day when the phone just sort of froze.

I did not freak out this time. Inconvenient, yes. A little annoying, yes. But I already knew the GDP of Uganda and nobody calls me anyway. So I waited a couple of days and took it to my local AT&T store after dire predictions of needing a new battery from my beloved and that I should not pay more that $25 for it. It was not the battery at all. A very nice man fixed it in just a minute. Apparently, I had somehow gone into settings and told the phone that I was blind. I don't know how I managed this. I do not recall going into settings, but then I am, apparently, getting a little doolally.

The best part is how the nice man fixed this little problem. He tapped it three times, just like Dorothy and her ruby slippers. So now we know, tapping your iPhone can do all sorts of things, but I still wish they would write it down on paper.

(In case you're wondering the GDP of Uganda is $27.53 billion USD. If you want to know what a GDP is, get your own iPhone.)

November 1, 2017

A Feline Tragedy

I spent the weekend trying to come up with something to write about on my blog. And then my week got off to a rather rocky start. And now I have something to write about. Fair warning, it isn't pretty.

Monday morning I lost one of my little furry friends in a really horrific way. For those who are unaware of my feline situation, I was the owner of three semi-feral cats. They were born under our garden shed over fourteen years ago and I knew them from kittenhood. I had them spayed and neutered. My husband built them a cat house and they become my outdoor friends. Mrs. Bigglesworth or Mrs. B for short, Buster, and Flufster.

Well, about two months ago, I noticed that Buster had lost a lot of weight. He was still a sweet, gentle, purring kitty, but not an eating one. Then one day he wandered off and didn't return. It was sad, but expected. And he was happy until the end.
So long, Buster

But last Monday was a different story. Two large dogs, Huskies, I believe, got loose in the neighborhood. I think you may guess where this is going. And I'm afraid you're right. They attacked little Flufster. She was losing her hearing and so, she was slow off the mark.

It was a brutal attack. Tom and I ran outside and tried to chase them off. Even as we were doing this I was thinking, "What the hell am I doing? What if they turn on us?" But they didn't. The dogs were after our cat. It took Tom turning the hose on them to finally get them gone.

Our poor little cat was terrorized and dying. My heart was breaking and I very stupidly tried to pick her up. At which point the little thing attacked my hand. Well, after the burial in the backyard she knew so well, there was the trip to the doctor.

RIP Flufster
For those of you who are not right on top of the latest medical news about feline bites, they are much more prone to infection than the canine type. By the time I got into the office Tuesday morning, my hand was red and swollen. I got through the visit with a minimum of tears as I related my sad story and managed not to pass out on the floor (as all my sisters are prone to do) when I got a tetanus shot. Then home with an antibiotic to nurse my very sore hand and to take a much needed valium.

I'm still sad, as is Mrs. B. who will now probably die of obesity because I keep feeding her to make up for our loss. I know Fluff was only a cat, but she was my cat and it was a terrible way to go.

Mrs. B., last kitty standing






October 13, 2017

Reunions and other happy events


As some of you may know the past year has been less than stellar for our family. In fact, it was a very difficult time. I could go into detail, but I prefer not. Because in August I had a birthday marking the beginning of a new year for me. I turned sixty-eight. I know. It's hard to believe. I don't look a day over sixty-seven. But I am and since then things are looking up. I’ve had a reunion and I’m looking forward to a book launch, and my son’s wedding in March!

Just last weekend I attended the 50th reunion of Regina High School Class of 1967. Regina was a small all-girls Catholic school in Hyattsville, Maryland, now defunct. But back in the day it was a good place to be. It was our extended family. And I am so lucky that I’m still close to my best friends from that time. 

And that time was a bit different from today. We wore saddle shoes and brown woolen uniforms causing the school to smell like a large wet dog on rainy days. Slacks were forbidden and skirts were supposed to touch the floor when kneeling. There was actually a smoking lounge for seniors. But the basics were the same. We went to class, complained about our uniforms, cried over boys, and worried about exams.

The reunion was a lovely event. An excellent turn out of thirty-one attendees out of a class of one hundred and three. We all looked fabulous! And, magically, we were all still friends. It was a warm and intimate weekend and, sadly, it was probably the last time we’ll have such a party. After all, we are in our 69th year. And we have already lost quite a few. So, I will treasure the memory for as long as my memory holds out.

Now for a little shameless promotion - Upcoming Events. November 4th, 1 p.m. join me for a Mystery Author Extravaganza at the Howard County Library in Ellicott City or for a Sisters in Crime author panel on November 12th at 2 p.m. at the Crofton Library in Crofton.

And my newest Daisy&Rose mystery, Pushing Up Daisies, is being released December 15th. It’s available for pre-order and just to whet your appetite, I’m including a little glimpse into the Forrest ladies’ new adventure. I hope you will enjoy.

An excerpt from Pushing Up Daisies

Rose handed her a large martini glass filled with a dark purple mixture.
Daisy grabbed the glass and downed half of it. She threw herself into a chair, decorating her sweater with a good bit of the drink, and gulped what was left. “Do you have any more of this stuff?”
“That good, hmm?” As she refilled Daisy’s glass, Rose took a good look at her sister. “Daisy, what’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Daisy squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed her short blond curls with both hands.
“Daisy, what in God’s name is wrong? Did you have an accident?”
“I saw one.”
“You saw an accident? Was someone hurt?”
Daisy opened her eyes. “A ghost.”
“A ghost was hurt? What are you talking about?”
“I saw a ghost.”
“You did not see a ghost.”
“I did too. So did Malcolm and Percy.”
“There are no such things as ghosts.”
“Yes, there are. And we have just seen one.” She took a sip out of her newly filled glass. Her voice sank to a whisper. “It was so weird. We’d dropped Mother off at the airport and I decided to take the back roads home. We were on Laurel Road coming up to Holly Hill Mansion. It looked so beautiful in the distance, glowing in the moonlight. I was thinking how much I liked being a docent there and of how much we still had to do to get ready for our Gothic Evening when a huge ball of fog rolled right across the road. Kind of like a bale of hay, only it was fog.”
“Daisy, there’s no fog tonight. It’s crystal clear outside.”
“Well, there was fog on Laurel Road. The dogs started howling when an even bigger bale of the stuff rolled out of the woods. I couldn’t see the road. It was freaky. I had to pull over onto the grass. Then the dogs shut up in mid-howl and started climbing onto my head.
“We sat there in this eerie muffled silence until the fog rolled away.” Daisy thought a moment. “Well, it might have been muffled because the dogs were covering my ears. Anyway, it was so spooky I just wanted to get out of there. When the fog cleared a little I got the mutts back in their seat, gripped the wheel, and edged the car back onto the road. And there she was. I almost hit her!”
“Hit who?”
“Sophia Amelia Meade Long. She was all wreathed in mist, standing right in front of the car looking at me.”
A deep voice asked, “Who?”
Daisy jumped about six inches, completing the sweater decoration. “What the …? Peter, I didn’t see you there.”
Peter Fleming, Rose’s handsome friend, had been sitting quietly in the corner of the room. “Sorry I startled you, but who is this Sophia Amelia whatever?”
“Peter, don’t encourage her.” Rose got a napkin and mopped up a bit of Spooky Juice from the floor.
“Well, she clearly saw something that frightened her. Why not a ghost? Who is this woman, or I guess I should say, was this woman?”
Rose snapped, “There was no woman. She probably saw a tree.”
“I think even Daisy can tell the difference between a woman and a tree.”
Daisy pointed at herself and shouted, “Hey! Right here. And I did not see a tree.” She puffed out a sigh. “Just what the heck did you mean ‘even Daisy’?”
“Sorry. Bad choice of words. I meant, of course Daisy can tell the difference.”
Daisy gave him a look. “Hmm, mmm. I’ll bet. Well, Sophia Long is the woman who bought Holly Hill Mansion in 1790 and I saw her standing in front of my car not an hour ago. So either it was her ghost or she’s looking incredibly good for being two hundred-some years old!”
 

May 21, 2017

Losing a Friend


I lost a good friend last week. My sister-in-law, Jane Petersen Mongelli, finally surrendered to cancer after a two year battle she always knew she would lose. But fight it she did because that was Jane. She left us peacefully with her beloved daughters at her side on Wednesday May 17th.

When I met my husband, Tom, I was a bit of a mess. I was all of eighteen, shy and insecure, lacking quite a bit in the way of social skills. 
Penny, Matt, Jane, Terry, Tom, Courtnay


And so as much as I love Tom’s family now, I have to say that at the time we were first introduced I found them all incredibly intimidating. But Jane reached out and took me by the hand and made my entry into the Petersen clan a little less daunting.

Looking back, I think part of this may have been Jane making sure that her brother wasn’t dating some lunatic who would break his heart. She was always protective of those she loved.

I am so fortunate that we became close friends and have remained so for almost fifty years. Jane could on occasion a bit of a handful. She could be stubborn and hard-headed one minute, laughing and helpful the next. But she was always Jane. There was never pretense, no dissembling. With Jane what you saw was what you got. And what you got was a woman fiercely loyal to her family and friends, who loved a good party, good food, music, political discussions, and a bit of catty gossip.

And of course, Jane loved her girls, Courtnay and Terry, and her grandkids, Ben, Nick, Abby and Grace. They made her life complete. She was so very proud of them all.

Well, I firmly believe that Jane has now been reunited with her husband, John. He is singing a little Willie Nelson as he brings her a cup of coffee. She's smiling. And she’s keeping a close eye on us all.

                               

February 3, 2017

How I learned the Infield Fly Rule

I know it's only the beginning of February, but what better time to start thinking about baseball? The political climate is dismal, the sky is grey, it's chilly outside, but not cold enough for a good snow, warm fire and hot buttered rum. I am not a football or a basketball fan. But I do love springtime and the boys of summer.

When my husband, Tom, and I met we differed in one major respect, our choice of recreational pursuits. Tom has always loved sports. He played sports in grade school. He was Gonzaga's shortstop in high school. His playing career may have ended with high school, but certainly not his love for most things sporting. He watches baseball, college basketball and football. He likes throwing balls around. The man has been know to golf, play tennis, racquetball, swim and water-ski - and enjoy it. He fishes, for crying out loud. Being smelly and sweaty, standing in the hot sun, appears to be his idea of a good time.

Whereas, I have always been the kid in left field praying that the ball will in go any direction, but toward me. I can't swim. I have no depth perception. I am a klutz. I can trip over my own feet anytime, on any surface. If you mention water and fish to me, I think hot shower and canned tuna. I have always believed that sweating is to be avoided. The great outdoors is for picnics under trees and slow walks around lakes sporting the intoxicating scent of Eau d'Backwoods OFF. I had no interest in sports and, to a great extent, still don't. But I now have to admit a strong liking for baseball. And it's due to having a kid.

Tom and I have two wonderful children. Rachel Anne, our first, is a lady after my own heart. We love dancing, singing, theatre, fantasy, and movies. All the things my dear Thomas will never really comprehend. But he was always immensely proud of Rachel knowing her to be the best at whatever performance he was watching - plays, dance recitals, speech contests - which (and this is a completely unbiased opinion) she often was. But Tom was as much at sea about the finer points of stage presence, leg extension, and speaking from the diaphragm as I was about tackles, punts, and traveling.

When Matthew, our second little bundle of joy arrived, he was (I really hate this term, but...) All Boy. He dug in the dirt, fought off bad guys, ran, jumped, kicked, climbed. He was an active, happy kid. But nothing prepared me for the look of pure joy on Tom's face when Matt, at three years old, let loose a cannon in the back yard. Tom walked into the house and said, "He can throw! And he's left-handed!"

Matt played soccer, basketball and baseball. I cheered him on the soccer field, but never did understand the off-sides thing. Basketball was a bit better, but the smell of the gym and the squeaky noise their shoes made were off putting.

Matt was pretty good at all three, but he loved baseball best. And so did I. Baseball is a wonderful game that teaches kids structure, patience, strategy, leadership, and teamwork. All the practices and games also meant that he was dog tired at the end of the day, always a good thing.

Not understanding much of what was going on myself, I marveled at the fact that the kids seemed to have absorbed the rules and the etiquette of baseball as if by osmosis. They learned the art of pitching, hitting, fielding, stealing, bunting, sliding into base without damaging themselves. They tipped their hats, ran home run bases with straight 'just doing my job' faces, and were gracious in victory or defeat (mostly). We saw the Orioles play during the Ripken era. It was exciting and just plain fun. And in time I came to appreciate the elegance of the game.  

Matt isn't playing any more, he's coaching. We root for the Nationals and I fully expect to see them make it to the Series this year. What I am most proud of personally is that, while I still don't get a lot of the intricacies of the game, I do know the Infield Fly Rule. For a girl who has never swung a bat or caught a fly ball, I think that's pretty good.