Showing posts from 2017

A literal sucker punch

Yesterday I messaged a friend that I had been sucker-punched in the head. He said, "I saw, I'm so sorry." He thought I was talking in metaphor, because my grandmother passed away Friday morning and there has been much reminiscing on Facebook.

Grammy's death is too big a thing for me to wrap my head around yet. I thought I'd be able to write about it by now, but it's going to have to wait until my heart and my head get in sync. There are too many moments, too many scenes, too many memories that don't connect with each other to write about her yet. I keep mentally stumbling across things, like the way she called me "My Elizabeth" since I was a toddler, or the alternate lyrics she taught me to John Phillip Sousa, or her funny sweaters, or the time I told her the sky was a different color blue where she was, and dubbed it "California blue," which she said always came to mind afterward when the sky was clear over her house in the San Joaqui…


MAN: *excitedly hands me box of new electronic toy*
ME: Yes dear. I will be setting it up shortly.
MAN: *crestfallen* Shortly? Not now?
ME: I am reading the directions.
MAN: *puzzled look*
ME: Yes, reading the directions. That's what we grownups do with complicated new devices. We read through the directions before we open the box.
MAN: Pish tosh.
ME: Go sit till I need you to help me with the cords.
MAN: It may not take the same cables as the old one -
ME: That's why I'm reading the directions. Shush.


Watching Alien 3... (quasi-spoilerrific)

First two minutes.
BOY: What the [bleep]! They killed them?

(We're all with you, kiddo.)

Halfway through.
BOY: Wait, how you gonna get out of this one, Ripley?

BOY: What! There's another movie to get through!


ME: Do you need a ride home tonight?
BOY: Nah, I got a ride. We're going to stay for a while and help the girls' volleyball team.
ME: *sporfle* How exactly are you going to "help" the…

Fall Deathmarch Stalking Guide

In case you hadn't noticed, this blog is on semi-hiatus. Not that I don't enjoy sharing the menfolk's shenanigans and my latest rants, but there's a lot of things up in the air right now and I need to focus for a bit.

However, the Fall Deathmarch must stomp on! Each year I say I'm not going to do this to myself, and each year I give in. Coming up:

• St. Louis SPJ Student Boot Camp, Edwardsville, Ill. Sept. 23 (journalism)

• Archon, Collinsville, Ill. Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (books and art/Literary Underworld)

• Imaginarium, Louisville, Ky. Oct. 6-8 (books and art/Literary Underworld)

• Leclaire Parkfest, Edwardsville, Ill. Oct. 15 (books and art)

journalismSTL, St. Louis, Mo. Oct. 23 (journalism)

• Heartland Book Festival, Cape Girardeau, Mo. Oct. 28 (tent. - books)

• St. Louis Indie Book Fair, St. Louis, Mo. Nov. 3-4 (books)

• Contraception, Kansas City, Mo. Nov. 10-12 (books and art/Literary Underworld)

• Edwardsville (Ill.) Winter Market, Dec. 2 (tent. - books and art)

Return of the Living Snippets

As the hour slips on past midnight....
ME: *yawn* I have to get up stupid early. Tell me to go to bed. MAN: Go to bed. ME: Don't tell me what to do. MAN: See, I knew that's what was going to happen.
ME: WHY is there a phone charger in the bathroom?
BOY: Uh...
ME: With a cord IN the sink, because that's a great idea!
BOY: Let me try a toaster next!
ME: Smartass.

MAN: Ow!
ME: (without looking up) Stop using the hand.
MAN: I forgot!
ME: Learn!

BOY: What did the doctor say?
ME: He said I should rest more.
BOY: Well, then you should rest more.
ME: Oh really? Which of my jobs should I quit?
BOY: All of them!
ME: Sure, no problem! Then you will support me?
BOY: ...

ME: Ian, please put the DVD away.
BOY: Yes mom.
ME: And see if you can't put it away where it belongs? In alphabetical order?
BOY: I do!
ME: That's funny, because I spent twenty minutes having to reorder the DVDs because somebody in this house managed to graduate high school without learning his ABC's.
BOY: Why di…


Yes, sometimes even reporters get a little time off.

I won't be on Facebook while we're on vacation, but I'll likely be Tweeting on the personal account at @edonald if I see something amusing. I'll switch off the automatic feed so the Facebook crew won't be deluged with my blather, but if you actually want to see what we're up to, follow me there.

I will blog if I feel like it.

If you all have news, contact my bosses at Ye Olde Newspaper.
Public officials, please remember you are still under adult supervision.
No scandals or exciting chases, please.
If you're planning crime, please hold off until I get back.
[Redacted] is certainly not allowed to resolve itself without me.
In fact, no news is allowed to take place for the next two weeks.

We are going to have fun as a family and hang out with good friends. And I'll have the joy of changing Boy's bandages three times a day, so that should be fun. (He's going to be fine.)

See y'all on the flip …


The good news: Boy is home early! Yay for boyhugs.
The bad news: He is home early due to injury. Of course.

About a week to ten days ago, he was nicked by an arrow in the leg. (Long story.) Tonight they called me to tell me the wound had gotten badly infected, and he needed immediate medical attention. So I drove out to collect him and his things (made record time to camp); he was due to leave Sunday, so this basically cuts his time short.

He greeted me, "Hello momperson."

So tonight was a pile of fun, with attempting to clean out the wound and bandage it properly. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I worked as a medical assistant in my youth, and Jim was an Air Force medic. (Of course, that was in 1985, so our arguments over the advisability of using hydrogen peroxide in wounds will continue as long as we argue over macaroni and cheese as a side dish.)

We drove by Jim's work on the way back from camp so Jim could look at the leg. We debated taking him to ur…

Mail Fraud, or How to Ask Rude Questions in Public

So, did anybody send us money recently?

There's no polite way to ask that question, but I have to ask, because it looks like someone may have been swiping our mail. We have had three pieces of mail go missing en route to us in the last month, and each of them was related to money: a check for a Relay fundraiser, a graduation card for Boy with check enclosed, and a replacement debit card for my business account.

We are getting the card replaced and the others have been informed. But the complicating factor is that Boy received a metric ton of wonderful cards, letters and other mail from kind family and friends congratulating him on his graduation. And in the time-honored tradition of the starving student, most of them sent cash or checks.

Boy diligently wrote thank-you cards for gifts received before he went off to camp. There were a few that came in after he left, so those have not been properly thanked yet. (He's getting to them as soon as he comes home, he swears.)

But as we…


A random thought occurred to me tonight: This month marks 17 years with the News-Democrat, and simultaneously marks 20 years in journalism.

I suppose I could count my career from my occasional dabblings in junior high or high school newspapers, or from the point where I switched majors to news editorial and started working for the University of Tennessee student paper. But for my own purposes, I count from my internship at the Union City (Tenn.) Daily Messenger, which began this month in the sunny year of 1997.

It doesn't feel like 20 years ago, and sometimes I feel like I catch glimpses of the greenest cub reporter to step into an old-fashioned newsroom. Many of the tales I could tell from those days belong over drinks in a bar, not in this blog. But I can tell this one: I learned more from the editor of the Daily Messenger in six months than I could have learned in years of study.

His name was David Critchlow, and last I heard, he's still running the show. They had never had…

On how I damn near killed my fool self

I haven't blogged in a while, because May was a hell of a month. There was the Kentucky signing, the 175th anniversary of my church, a health issue that turned out okay, Jim's 50th birthday, Ian's graduation, the big barbecue celebration, Relay for Life, Ian's orchestra trip to Florida and now off to be a camp staffer for the Boy Scouts this summer. Frankly, I was too damn busy to blog.

So I planned to come back to blogging with some profound statements about the big milestones we achieved in the last month. Emotions surrounding the graduation of my son, something profound about Jim's birthday, my elation at actually meeting our Relay goal despite my minimal effort this year, pictures from the family gatherings.

Instead, I damn near killed my fool self today, so you get that instead.

Our refrigerator door rail pops free all the time, and when it does, it spills condiments and bottles all over the floor. I did a grocery run after work, and I was putting away the foo…

Bakeapalooza completed

In the last three weeks, I have successfully:

• Planned and executed Easter dinner;

• Planned, promoted and baked a smorgasbord for a pottery-painting fundraiser (cookies, brownies, strawberry cake, fruit punch) to benefit Relay for Life;

• Done a writing/photography/signing trip to Louisville;

• Planned, promoted and coordinated an author fair;

• Prepared and served a fundraiser chili supper with chili, hot dogs, chips, fruit cups, cupcakes, cookies, key lime pie, candybars and more for Relay;

• Prepared and served a dessert buffet for the church (chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, cheese and crackers, cheese dip, bagels and cream cheese);

• Prepared and served the remains of the chili supper for the church.

I'm... tired.

No rest for the wicked; next comes preparation for Jim's 50th birthday and Ian's high school graduation, which take place the same weekend. I am in search of the little elves and forest creatures that are supposed to appear out of nowhere to assist …

Hello Kentucky/Indiana

Oh, just pick a state, willya...

I greet you from a lovely bed and breakfast in Charlestown, Indiana. It's a charming mansion with many rooms decorated in a comfortable, Victorian-inspired style, a billiards and music room downstairs and lovely gardens, at least what I could see when I arrived after dark.

The only downside of the room: No desk, and I neglected to charge the laptop, so I can't work at the nifty writing-desk in the hall. Therefore I have the laptop balanced on my knees in the Victorian contour chair so I can write this blog. The things I do for you people.

Today was supposed to be a leisurely drive to the Louisville, Ky. area to explore the area before the marketing symposium for writers at Karen's Book Barn, the store hosting me and many other authors this weekend. Of course, I got hit with about five errands to run "on my way out of town," no less than two minor crises, and got twenty minutes away from home before I realized I'd forgotten som…

Bakery Math and the Spring Whirlygig

So let's recap, friends and neighbors:

This weekend:

• I have a signing at Maeva's in Alton on Friday night - "Writers of the Riverbend."
• On Saturday, I work for Ye Olde Newspaper.
• On Sunday, I am running a fundraiser at Pottery Hollow for the Relay for Life team. This requires baked goods, as treats were promised to the people coming to paint things. I might be able to get away with cookies and punch.
• Meanwhile Boy goes through his Ordeal for the Order of the Arrow.

Next weekend:

• I am doing a signing in Louisville, Ky. I am leaving on Thursday so I can do some photography on Friday before the signing on Saturday.
• But as soon as the signing is over Saturday, I have to book it back to Illinois. Because...
• Sunday is the 175th anniversary of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. I am responsible for the coffee hour baked goods. And coffee hour is, as we all know, the eighth sacrament of the Episcopal Church.
• Therefore all baking must be done by Wednesday of n…

Peace which the world cannot give, I give to you

I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this the world shall know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.

Yeah, brace yourself. It's church talk.

Maundy Thursday is the beginning of the three-night observance leading up to Easter, known as the Great Triduum. I had to go check the spelling. Not everyone knows (or cares) that Easter is not a day or a holiday, it is a season. There are three nights of preparation leading up to Easter Sunday, and then forty days of celebration thereafter. More chocolate for everyone!

Maundy Thursday is my favorite service of the entire year. Alas, this year I could not sing, because after five weeks of illness my voice is destroyed. It remains to be seen whether I can stand with my fellow choir members and my son to sing the Hallelujah Chorus on Sunday. My voice is my offering, and without it, I feel as though part of me is missing.

Of course, we would be singing my favorite anthem, one I…

Snippets: Catchup Edition with bonus HAMILTON!

For some reason, the Illness Edition(s) didn't run when I was sick. I was already on an antibiotic for another ailment when the Mysterious Fever of March struck. It went as high as 103, and stuck around for six days. Flu test was negative, other symptoms were all fever-related, including lower white cell count.

Then it went away, shortly after I stopped taking the medicine. All that remained was pain in my hand and finger joints and a weird, painful swelling at the back of my head, which later turned out to be an infected lymph node. Two days later, my lips suddenly swelled up like Mick Jagger and my arms and legs itched so terribly I had to smear myself with lidocaine gel just to be able to sleep. A few days of antihistimines made it go away.

Methinks I'm allergic to something. WebMD said I had dengue fever or meningitis. Never put your symptoms into WebMD. You're either dying of an obscure tropical virus or having a panic attack.

A few weeks later, and suddenly I have a …

Snippets: Deskbound Edition

Two things you must know about this Snippet: I am currently in the process of sorting, filing, and reorganizing my office for greater efficiency and less clutter. This is a work in progress.

Also, we are still a one-car family, so Jim is heavily dependent on the bus system for his transportation to and from work. And he is still on the night shift while I'm on the day shift, which means texting is our primary form of marital communication. On this particular day, I had assignments in Collinsville and Belleville.

MAN: Where is your stapler?
ME: My stapler is on my desk.
MAN: ...where?
ME: In plain sight. On the desk.
MAN: Your desk is a war zone.
ME: My desk is not a war zone. I know exactly where everything is on my desk.
MAN: Your desk is a disaster. Your desk looks like a kaiju stomped through it.
ME: My desk is in a state of transition.
MAN: Your desk is in a state of chaos.
ME: Just use the stapler and stop messing up my desk.
MAN: I couldn't possibly mess up your desk.

Snippets: Writers' Group Edition

My writers' group meets biweekly to work on our books and share our progress. And sometimes our conversations are more fun than the work we're allegedly doing.

ME: So, I have three people down for the May group signing.... who's down for the one in March? Sela?
SELA: Nope.
ME: Is that because it's at oh-my-god-thirty in the morning?
SELA: Yup.
ME: *bawk bawk bawk bawk*
SELA: I don't believe in mornings.
HUNTER: Mornings are for making sure the coffeepot lid is on tight.
ME: I have a man who makes the coffee. He is required to do so.
SELA: Oh really.
ME: Yes, it's in the Bible, man makes coffee. It's in the Book of Hebrews.
WRITERS: *crickets*
DIANE: That was bad.
ME: See, I make that joke a lot at home and nobody ever laughs.
SELA: That's hard to imagine.
ME: I'm unappreciated in my house.

At least ten minutes later...

ME: So I'll be passing along the names to the other organizers, and I will let you know if we get any progress on [other project…

Moonlight Sonata and the Hamsters of Amazon

Announcement! The Kindle edition of Moonlight Sonata is now available for $4.99!

Q: Wait, the book's been out a week. Why is the ebook just now -
A: Because I'm not Beethoven.
Q: What?
A: Amazon got the ebook version of my new short story collection mixed up with the various renditions and publications of Ludwig's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, which he called "Quasi una fantasia" and we call "Moonlight Sonata."
Q: That seems like a difficult mistake to make.
A: Well, it's not like I didn't know it existed. In fact, I listened to the sonata several times in the playlist I developed while writing the stories in this book. Along with a significant portion of the soundtrack to Sons of Anarchy. It's that kind of book.
Q: So that's why there hasn't been an ebook up until now?
A: Yes. The little hamsters running in the wheels at Amazon got my short story collection confused with a classical music piece written 215 years ago.
Q: Those are…

Weekend: Project Home

It was a lovely, warm weekend here in the Midwest, so naturally Donald-Smith-Gillentine Inc. spent it indoors.

We had one of those lovely rare weekends where we had no obligations, but the far-less-rare status of no money. We spent all the funmoney this month on our Valentine's Day dinner (1808 Chophouse, and man, that was gooooood). So we tackled two long-delayed projects: my office and the Boy's room.

Now, he's a teenage boy. I don't expect pin-straight neatness. The only young male I ever knew who could keep a room tidy was my friend Stephen, and we've all agreed he's a mutant. At one point in Boy's youth, I turned to a fellow choir member in frustration for advice. His children are brilliant, personable, super-achievers, poster children for the new millennium.

ME: Tom, it's all agreed you raised the perfect kids.
TOM: ... okay?
ME: You did this! Successfully! So please, share the secret: How did you get them to clean their rooms?
TOM: We didn't.


MAN: My boss is allowing me to take two hours' vacation time so I can go to this extra credit thing on Thursday.
ME: You mean the Google Tools training workshop?
MAN: Yeah. It's 10 points extra credit for my newswriting class.
ME: Don't you have like an A in that class?
MAN: B. And it's a tough class, I can tell I'll need all the extra credit I can get.
ME: Okay. Dork. Have you reserved your spot?
MAN: I'll tell [professor] tomorrow.
ME: That isn't how you reserve your spot.
MAN: How do I reserve my spot?
ME: You have to RSVP with the president of the St. Louis Society of Professional Journalists.
MAN: Okay, then I need... hey, that's YOU!
ME: *giggles*
MAN: I plan to attend the workshop, Madam President.
ME: You're supposed to RSVP by emailing, I don't know that I can just waive the rules for you...
MAN: *raspberry*

MAN: I need to decide what elective I take next semester. ME: You know what I think. MAN: What do you think? ME: That you shoul…

Cover reveal for MOONLIGHT SONATA!

T-minus one week for the release of Moonlight Sonata, and I couldn't be happier. This collection has been a long time coming, and I'm delighted that this macabre mix of old friends and new stories will finally see print. Some of the pieces have been previously published, but at least half have never before seen the light of day, and I hope you'll like them.

Wanna see a cover?

From the back cover:

All that can kill you is what you carry with you.

Imagine a haunted church, where the ground has turned sour and something walks in the shadows to the mournful hymns.

A silent covered bridge that no one dares to cross.

Angry spirits that cry out from beneath the ground of a cemetery that will not lie still.

An ageless man bound in love to a mortal woman, forever moving, forever haunted.

A police officer chasing a suspect into the woods - and suspects they are no longer alone.

A woman preparing to leave her husband, watched by unseen eyes in the corner of the room.

A voice that can speak o…

How do I get myself into this...

Preparing to leave Dairy Queen, Boy catches a glimpse of hockey on the TVs they never turn off.

BOY: [terrible Russian accent] Is Vladimir Tarasenko da hockey player!
ME: God, that's awful.
BOY: Is Russian!
ME: You're about as Russian as Boris Badanov.
BOY: Who?
ME: Oh God.
BOY: *shrugs*
ME: Moose undt Squirrel! [bullwinkle] "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!"
BOY: I have no idea what you're talking about.
ME: Oh my God I'm so old. And you are deprived.

This naturally meant we had to go look up some clips, searching terms like "Boris and Natasha," "Rocky and Bullwinkle rabbit out of my hat," and "Rocky and Bullwinkle bad puns."

So he did his own searching, and discovered the eminently forgettable 2000 film. Which he thought looked quite amusing, and now he wants to watch it.

ME: But you couldn't possibly get the gags since you didn't watch the show!
BOY: Then we'll just have to find the episodes and watc…

Snippets: Strumpet edition

My mother has a kaffir lime tree. On occasion, she sends me its dried leaves for recipes. A new batch recently arrived and we were putting away groceries along with stuff that had piled up in the living room.

ME: Here, put away my kaffir leaves.
MAN: You mean your pot?
ME: It is not pot.
MAN: It's your pot.
ME: My mother would not send me pot.
MAN: ...
ME: My mother would probably not send me pot.
MAN: She does live in California.

He never makes these jokes about the vanilla bean paste or Mennonite brown sugar.


MAN: I'm about to do laundry. Do you have any other clothes lying around somewhere?
ME: Why would I do that? Do you believe I am the sort to simply leave my clothes strewn everywhere like some kind of strumpet?*
MAN: ...
MAN: ...
ME: *narrows gaze* Answer correctly.
MAN: ...
MAN: mean like, um, some kind of trombone, or...
ME: Do NOT try to save yourself with a lame joke, especially when you haven't come up with one by the time you start speaking.

Snippets: New Year Edition

For the purposes of this snippet, you need to know that I have been making fresh bread with olive oil. Yum. For the most recent loaf, I ran out of my usual butter-infused extra virgin and used instead a blend infused with Tuscan herbs. It added an Italian flavor to the loaf. Boy has opined that it would be best served with an oil dipping sauce rather than butter. Thus, these texts.

BOY: Get some olive oil for the bread.
ME: You like the Tuscan?
BOY: With some olive oil.
BOY: And you want to make another loaf.
ME: I guess you like it. Is there any left?
BOY: Very little.
ME: So... crumbs then.
BOY: Nope, a couple slices, but get some olive oil.
ME: Olive to serve.
BOY: Get some milk too.
ME: A terrific pun like that and I get nothing?
BOY: Yep.

ME: If the boy thinks he's getting the jumbo bag of Oreo-flavored popcorn from Chef Shoppe for his birthday, he is high.
MAN: Do I want to know?
ME: That little bag you're holding is $11.99.
MAN: How much is the jumbo?
ME: $129.
MAN: Yea…

2017 so far

They say you'll probably spend your whole year mostly doing what you do on New Year's Day. If so, I'm going to spend 2017 snuggled with my family, napping, cooking experimental dishes, drinking tasty-yet-cheap wine, and ignoring the internet for the most part.

That is just fine by me.

As I write this, Boy has come home from work, rested, and is now going for a jog at dusk because he is a space alien. (Actually, because he had to miss the Resolution Run this morning in order to work at McDonald's, and I think he regrets it.) Man is running to the store for a few ingredients I somehow forgot, which boggles the mind considering how full the fridge is. We just finished watching Spotlight, which Jim had not seen despite the two (2) formal events I've hosted featuring it. More movies pending as the lasagna bakes!

And I am contemplating my year. I do an extensive list of New Year's Resolutions, because I don't see them as flighty wishes for the new year; I like go…