Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Almost There...

The countdown clock is ticking...

In less than 12 hours the New Year will be here. (How did it get to be 2009?) Of course, it already is 2009 in Australia, but either way, the time for decision is upon us. (Read: me.)

And I absolutely refuse to make any kind of New Year's Resolutions. I don't need to be a "resolver." I need to be a "decider."


What to do? What to do?

Should I try to figure out a way to recover my disappeared 401K?
(Santa was no help. I think I may have been on that other list.)

Or...should I move from my long held position in the Mac fold over to a PC?
My suggestion re: a rebuttal to the old and stodgy "PC" character vs. the young and hip "Mac" character TV commercials would be to show what happens when you need a young, hip Mac repair. There are only two Mac retail stores with the "Mac Genius Bar" in the whole entire state. TWO. And no independent Mac repair people in my area as far as I know. Of course, some people may like making a 100 mile round trip on a bad interstate highway that is essentially a parking lot traveling 80 miles an hour. Surrounded by 18-wheelers. In the rain and fog. With your hair on fire. Twice. (It shouldn't take six days to replace a hard drive, should it?) I have always been a Mac devotee, but this is the kind of adventure I can do without. The Dell factory is only 48 miles away, and think I can hear it calling my name. Or what about HP? I have HP peripherals -- they have prompt email support and seem to care if the printer won't print because Apple made me upgrade something.

(Yes. It's true. I am still in a South Park Mall Apple Retail Store-slash-iMac computer snit.)

(Maybe I should just retire altogether and not have to worry about computer repairs.)

(And maybe I'm not much of a "decider.")

Even so, and moving right along, here is something I can and will do during this coming new year -- regardless of what the previous paragraphs might suggest.

Whenever I think something is a "good thing," I'll say so. More of that, less criticizing and whining -- unless it has to do with my livelihood.

A few years ago, my editor at Harlequin gave me a souvenir card from Ireland on which was written a number of prayerful guidelines for not becoming an old poop in one's "Golden Years." The guidelines were written by a nun, and I found them very pithy and something to aspire to. In addition to that, my late sister-in-law told me something shortly before she died. She had come to realize, she said, that people "don't know," i.e., they don't know what you like about them if you don't tell them, or even if you like them at all. They need to be told, she said, and she was going to do that.

All of these these notions -- the nun's and my sister-in-law's -- worked for me, so much so that verbally appreciating the "good things" has become more or less automatic. The other day, while I was waiting in the doctor's office, I could see through the sheer drapes a man outside washing their very big, very tall windows. He worked the whole time I was waiting. After I'd seen the doctor, when I came back into the waiting room, the sheer drapes had been opened. The sun was shining. The huge, plate glass windows looked spectacular. So, without really thinking, I noted that the window washer had done a really good job. What I didn't know was that he was sitting a few feet away, waiting to be paid. He was both astounded and grateful to have had the results of his efforts complimented by a total stranger. "It's never happened before," he said. I think it made his day. I know it made mine.

Here's what the 16th Century nun had to say:

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older and will someday be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessing cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Merry Birthday, Rosie!

I hope you have a wonderful day and all your wishes come true. I know one already has -- we have our World Traveler home. It was clearly harder to get from Albany to Cleveland than from Casablanca to NYC, but he made it after many hours on tarmacs and an unexpected overnight in an airport on Christmas Eve -- his dad finally gave up on air travel and drove to Pittsburgh to get him. I'm not quite sure how he ended up in Pittsburgh -- at this point, he probably isn't, either -- but stuck there he was.

Anyway, celebrate to your hearts content, Little Sis, and eat lots of cake for me. (I'm sure it's chocolate.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cheryl and Her Christmas Cards

I've always loved Christmas cards, especially the ones with glitter. One cannot have too much glitter, in my opinion -- on anything. I may have said before that I even have a "glitter" lamp. Glitter floats up and down inside it instead of lava. (What can I say? Tacky or not, it's the way I roll.)


I'm also very partial the special handmade ones (see above). And the family photograph ones -- my nurse friend Jo always sends me those. And the ones from other countries. And the personally illustrated ones people make on their own computers (Linda and Deena do that kind). I love the ones from readers, too. I always feel honored that they would want to send me a card -- some of them have been with me from the very beginning of my writing career. (I'm talking about you, Murlene and Maureen B.)

The bottom line here is that have a really hard time getting rid of old Christmas cards. I look at them again and again, long after the holidays have gone. That's how much I like them. And also the way I roll.

I just wanted you to know that...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Nutty Nutcracker Dance Recital and Bad, BAD Continental Airlines

One of the many things I managed to do in the past week or so was to attend my granddaughter's dance recital. She, of course, was adorable and did a wonderful job. I would show you a photo of said granddaughter being adorable (and wonderful), but as I've mentioned before, digital cameras and I are not a good mix. If I were psychic, it would help -- so I could snap the picture BEFORE it happens instead of forever thinking I'm going to end up with what I actually see. I did manage to get a shot of the beautiful and talented adult dance class strutting their stuff. (See above) They did the can-can and essentially brought down the house. Talk about "bustin' a move." These ladies were great.

Most of yesterday I spent either in Charlotte-Douglas International Airport or going to and from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. My mom flew to Cleveland for Christmas on an afternoon Continental Airlines flight. Her luggage, however, flew to Houston, as did the luggage of most of the other passengers on her plane.

I have to say I didn't see much in the way of bad tempers during the long wait for her flight to arrive -- among the passengers, that is. They were a pretty jolly group considering the fact that at least one of the flights was going to be three hours late.

The Continental personnel were another matter, however, specifically the young man at the main desk whose life I ruined by asking for a gate pass so I could wait with my 88-year-old mother until her plane arrived. Given the delayed flights from the snowy Northeast and the uproar that caused, I had hoped it would be a good thing to want something he could actually do. I was wrong. He took me off at the knees -- something about how I didn't "need" anything and not doing something or other during Christmas travel. (Let me say here that the line was not that long.)

I like to think that I don't actually look like a hard-core trouble-maker. I had all the credentials and IDs (hers and mine) and the ticket paperwork (don't for one minute think that Continental's "Elite Access" status with the little gold stripes thing means anything in the real world) -- plus my sweet little tiny mother was standing right there in evidence. I asked for pass so I could get through security -- that's all I wanted. I don't know what he thought I meant or why the request was such a problem for him. But then he suddenly gave me the pass, so it all worked out. Except for my being annoyed enough to blog about him here. And the disappeared luggage, of course. Actually, these days I've come to expect disappeared luggage. What I don't expect is blatant and undeserved rudeness.

Okay, I am now getting down off the soap box. Really.

The bottom line here is that my mom arrived safely, and she's going to have a great, if under-wardrobed, Christmas with my sister and her family in Cleveland -- with our World Traveler. He'll be getting home from Morocco on the 23rd. (Yay!)

(I think he's flying Continental.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Steady, Cheryl

I need to focus on this:

Softly lit, Christmas-y room.  Bubble lights bubbling.  Fireplace burning.   Christmas albums playing (some of the free LPs from the Library Book Sale).  Feel the Season, Cheryl.  And the Reason for the Season.  **deep breath** 

Merry Christmas.

(Okay, that's better.  Later, I'll whine about the South Park Mall Apple Store.  I want to whine now, but I'm not going to.  Santa's got that pesky list of his, and Gene Autrey says he's a double-checker.  Gene is not exactly Roy Rogers, but in this case I'll cut him some slack and believe him.) 

(You did know I was madly in love with Roy Rogers when I was four, right?)

Monday, December 15, 2008


THE computer is down. I'm using the emergency back-up IBM one (read: "Very, very old"). 

More blogging after the iMac is out of the South Park Mall Apple Store intensive care. I hope.

(The Apple guys may wear shirts that declare them to be "geniuses," but I'm not at all sure they understand that a writer and her computer CANNOT be parted.) **sigh**

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Girls

I thought I'd show you a favorite American Greetings Christmas card done by artist K. Odenweller. "Merry Christmas," it says inside. "With all the trimmings!"

I've always liked these cards because they reminded me of "The Girls," my longtime and now "crossed over" writer cats. I'm glad I saved the last one in the box because I've never been able to find any more. (I even emailed the company -- to no avail.) The card very much captures their personalities -- always curious, never destructive. At Christmastime they would do what they did best -- supervise and inspect. And walk around with tinsel hanging off their fur from tracking too close to the tree. I don't remember either of them ever bothering an ornament, even in the kitten stage.

They never let me see them jump on the kitchen table or the counter tops, either. They might do it, but they knew it was in their best interest if I wasn't anywhere around to catch them at it. (In this particular instance, I'm not sure who trained whom.)

Anyway. I just thought I'd share...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Newsletter Redux

Today -- since it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here -- I thought I'd post an excerpt from a past newsletter about a long ago, sort of Christmas Stranger incident and the person my mother and I always make a point to remember this time of year. I'm also going to re-share my late sister-in-law's recipe for lemon fruit cake. She made one every Christmas, and like all of her holiday baking, it was wonderful. (Don't let the words "fruit" and "cake" scare you.)

But first, the excerpt:

"...She was my family's slightly early Christmas Stranger. She arrived on our doorstep on Christmas Eve eve many years ago, and my mother and I can no longer remember her name. It was cold and dark. My mother was sewing my angel robe for the Christmas pageant, and my little sister was a baby. The pounding on our front door was so abrupt and urgent that I was afraid for my father to open it, and even more afraid of the young girl who ducked under his arm and rushed inside when he did. She was barefoot -- and clearly in distress.

She lived in Charlotte, she was eventually able to say, and she was on her way to a party her father had forbidden her to attend, something she regretted even before the party-goers had become too drunk to drive and had lost control of the car they were in and ended up in a ditch. They managed to get the car out, but they had driven off and left her there in the dark.

She had no money. No way home. No shoes.
My mother searched her closet to find some shoes for her -- gray suede penny loafers that were a couple of sizes too big. Getting her home was a little more difficult. We all piled into the car and took her to the bus station in nearby Salisbury. I remember how strange I felt, wearing my winter coat over my flannel, nursery-rhyme print nightgown. I didn't get to go to town at night very often, and at that time of year it was dazzling with Christmas lights, the kind you don't see anymore. Everything was so beautiful -- a real treat despite the strange young girl in the car who was still trying not to cry.

My father bought her a bus ticket to Charlotte -- which literally took all the money he had -- and he insisted that we would wait with her and make sure she got onto the bus all right. It seemed to take forever for the bus to arrive, but eventually it came. She got on it, and that was that. We never saw her again, never heard from her. But I always think of her this time of year and wonder what happened to her and whether she ever thinks of us in return...."



1 pound butter

6 eggs at room temperature

2 and 1/3 cups of sugar

3 ounces of pure lemon extract ("pure" is underlined twice so I'm guessing it matters)

4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 and 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 pound candied cherries (red)
1/4 pound candied cherries (green)
1/4 pound candied pineapple, diced
1/4 pound white raisins

4 cups of chopped nuts

Lightly flour fruit and nuts with a couple of tablespoons of additional flour.

Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Add lemon extract and beat well.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Beat it into creamed mix a little at a time.

Fold in candied fruit and nuts.

Pour into 10" greased and floured tube pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours or until cake tests done.