January 23, 2018
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
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.
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
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.
May 21, 2017
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
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.
December 7, 2016
So I have been wracking my brain, something that has become increasingly hard to do as the little grey cells seem to be dying off at an alarming rate, and I have remembered a Christmas that made me smile. I have no idea why, except that it was so typical for our family.
When our girls were little my sister, Chris, and I would plan a Christmas outing. My mother, trooper that she was, would go with us and pretend to enjoy the chaos.
In the particular Christmas season that I am thinking about we chose to take the girls to lunch and then on to see The Nutcracker at Lisner Auditorium. Rachel, my own little angel, must have been about four, and Erika, Chris's little sweetie, about seven. The girls had their new holiday duds on and I like to think they could pass for extras from Miracle on 34th Street, but probably they looked like a couple of the Herdmans straight out of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. And so, tickets in hand we made our way into the big city for a delightful afternoon.
Well, no one can ever accuse me of over-planning anything. Lunch did not go off well. I did not think to make calls to find out if restaurants in the area were actually open. (Note to the IPhone generation - there was a time when there was no internet, no GPS, no Siri, no cell phone of any kind. My family had to rely on a half-witted event planner (moi) to make actual phone calls on a land line, no less, to various eating establishments to find out hours, menus, etc. It was a cruel, uncaring world!)
Needless to say, on a Sunday afternoon in 1978 very few restaurant options in the GW campus area were to be had. We finally found an eatery in a hotel. The kids menu boasted hot dogs. This sounded like a safe option. Of course, they were foot-long hot dogs. They were also VERY expensive foot-long hot dogs. So did we do the rational thing and get one for them to share? We did not. They each got their own rather lousy, expensive, hot dog. They did not finish their lunch. They did not appreciate the cuisine. This set the tone for the rest of the day.
After leaving our ghastly repast, Rachel, being a card-carrying member of the Clover family klutz club to which we all belong, promptly tripped and fell on the sidewalk ripping her new tights. This took valuable time to sooth, as we were running late due to the search for a restaurant. She was quite upset about the tights. The skinned knee seemed less of a problem.
We finally made it to Lisner just as the orchestra was beginning the overture. Of course, we had seats in the nose-bleed section. We were halfway up the steep steps to our little aerie when all the lights in the theatre went out. All of them. It was dark. Pitch. There were no little safety lights on the end of each row. There were no lights at all. I know this didn't last more than a minute before the curtain came up, but if you had been there I am sure, unless you happen to be a mountain goat, you would have agreed with me that it was a minute of sheer terror. I latched onto my daughter, at least I assumed it was my daughter, and climbed on hands and knees eventually making it to our seats unscathed.
The rest of the afternoon apparently went fairly smoothly, as I don't remember any other hiccups. Yes, The Nutcracker seemed to go on forever. But it was colorful and festive and, best yet, neither girl had to go the restroom during the performance. We made it home in one piece. We had our family outing.
We still try to do something each year - see a play, take a White House tour, or just have a cookie day. It's special time with the people we love and memories of holidays past and hopes for the future.
My wish to all of you - whatever you celebrate - Hanukkah, Kwanza, the Winter Solstice, or Christmas Day - may your memories and the love of the season keep you warm and bring you a joyous holiday and a peaceful New Year.
November 11, 2016
And I am privileged to share with you a letter from my great-niece, Mia Rafield,