Friday, January 8, 2021

Writing About Pandemic

Today my friend and one of my favorite authors, Marilyn Meredith, and I talk about writing about the pandemic.

 

Lorna: My latest book, Romance in the Time of Social Distancing: A COVID-19 Short Story, began as most of my books do with a question: How can single people meet during a pandemic? What made you decide to include the coronavirus in your latest book, Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16)?

 

Marilyn: I could not write the next Rocky Bluff P.D. story without including the virus and what is going on in their community because of it since the books are more-or-less in real time.

 

Lorna: There are lots of different approaches to working during the virus. My single characters work from home. How do your characters deal with work? Do they have to make accommodations? Many are police officers, so most of them can’t work from home can they?

 

Marilyn: My grandson is a police officer, and on a recent visit, I asked him what the rules were concerning his department (big city). He said everyone has to wear a mask. And of course, being in law enforcement, the cops are out in the community. He also told me since it was my department, I could do what I wanted. One of the officer’s wives is a teacher, and of course she is teaching from home, via Zoom.

 

Lorna: You have lots of characters in your books. I don’t have very many. I decided not to include the various views about the recommendations to remain isolated. My character’s sister has decided to have some fun while in isolation by having virtual cocktail parties. How did you decide to present the different attitudes about remaining separate and wearing masks?

 

Marilyn: While writing, I used all the many different feelings and attitudes I hear from my relatives and friends concerning masks and isolation. Believe me, they are all very different. I have one friend who has remained completely isolated except for family members who live on the same property. Another includes family members who wear masks when out in public but go about their business much the same as always.

 

Lorna: My characters remain separated and online, so none of them are exposed, but I know you decided to have one of your characters catch the virus. How did you decide which one and what the outcome would be?

 

Marilyn: Someone I know caught the virus, was hospitalized, and recovered. I contacted her, and she gave me the details. I used what she told me in the story. I chose the person who I thought might be most vulnerable to be a virus victim.

 

Lorna: Other than staying isolated, none of my characters is otherwise affected by the disease. You have one character who is a nurse, so she is well aware of the issues with it. How did you decide to deal with her extreme concern for her family and friends?

 

Marilyn: I have a lot of relatives. Two granddaughters are nurses. Of course, I talked to them and used what I learned in the story.

 

Lorna: My book is a romance, and it is short (actually, a long story or short novella). Yours is a full-length mystery. What do you think are the differences, advantages, disadvantages of the two genres when writing about something as impactful as a pandemic?

 

Marilyn: To be honest, I could have gotten even more detailed about the pandemic, but I didn’t want to depress my readers. I think I did a pretty good job of keeping things upbeat. I wanted people to enjoy reading what was going on with the folks who live in Rocky Bluff, the police officers, and their families.

 

Thanks for taking the time to share. As you know, I adore all your books and had the privilege of editing them—including Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16).

Marilyn: And I want to thank you for all you’ve done for this series.

 

My latest book is Romance in the Time of Social Distancing: A COVID-19 Short Story.

How can two people meet when they are both stuck at home? How can romance bloom when folks are separated? Love always finds a way, but it isn't always easy.

 

Marilyn’s latest book is Not As We Knew It (Rocky Bluff P.D. Mysteries Book 16).

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire. With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.



MARILYN MEREDITH is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series and the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series (under the name, F. M. Meredith). She has also written several stand-alone novels, and other books.

She and her husband live in the foothills of the Sierra, much like the place where her heroine, Tempe Crabtree, lives. She once lived in a beach community, which resembles Rocky Bluff.

She loves to hear from readers who have enjoyed her books.

Visit her webpage at http://fictionforyou.com, and follow her blog at https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2020

Last year was the worst year of my life. No comparison. Too many losses. Too many cancelled plans. Too much missing friends and family. Thank goodness, it is over.

 I have had bad years before.

 My father died in 1954 when I was seven years old. It was terrible. But I still had my mother and brother and neighbors who were like family. I escaped at school, which I loved.



Another difficult year was 1980. Larry’s best friend was diagnosed with leukemia. We had planned to move to Orange County, but we had a fire in our house. The attic space and roof were lost. We took a cruise, which was a minor disaster. And Larry’s best friend died. A pretty terrible year.

 Another challenging year was 2011. Larry’s dad died on January 3.



We returned to Osaka in March for the tenth anniversary of the opening of Universal Studios Japan theme park. We loved seeing our friends and enjoying the park. At the end of April, Larry retired. 

Near the end of July, my mother died.



I retired at the end of August. I wasn’t really ready, and it took months to adjust.

But this year…

I lost several of my closest friends, including my oldest and dearest childhood friend. A classmate from Hawaii who stayed with us when she was in Orange County died suddenly of cancer. We stayed with her on Maui on our last trip.

Then, a close friend and fellow Girl Scout leader passed away unexpectedly. We raised our kids together and stayed in touch for years. 

At the end of August, my brother died suddenly. I haven’t been able to write about him yet. I’m not ready to process the loss.



Then, last month, a precious young man we loved like a grandchild took his own life. It brought us to our knees with grief.

We haven’t seen our daughter in a year. And we won’t see her for several more months.

BUT, we survived. We have not caught the virus, so far. We have lost a few friends from it, and others have been very ill. We trust science, Dr. Fauci, and the CDC. We wear masks and stay home.

 2021 feels like hope and the promise of better things to come. We hope to travel again this year, and see friends and family, and to hug and kiss again.

Wishing everyone a joyous and better new year in 2021.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Full Circle

 My guest today is a fellow graduate from my high school. We both attended an event several years ago and realized our connection. This year, she approached me about editing and publishing her book, and I was delighted to do it. I hope you will enjoy meeting Myra and hearing about her book, Full Circle. (BTW, Larry designed the beautiful cover.)

 

What does a writer gal do when cooped-up during a COVID-19 pandemic? She polishes three memoir and six memory-based short stories and combines them into a book, Full Circle.

As a two-time cancer survivor, uterine and breast, I was motivated foremost to offer solace to my two children. When one is diagnosed with cancer, one’s life implodes. The entire household suffers the cancer with that person. I was not able to handle my own grief and fear, or help my children deal with theirs. I wanted them to realize that this was our story. I did the best that I could, under the circumstances. Their sorrow did not go unnoticed. My supportive husband, friends, and coworkers, were also a blessing.

I decided to publish my book and not limit it to just sharing with my family. I felt the themes were universal and would resonate with a larger audience. Coping with cancer, the immigrant experience, the loss of a baby, shared love of reading, a father’s temper, a beloved colorful great-aunt, the compassionate care of a home health care nurse, who brought me laughter when I had stopped smiling and laughing, plus the devastation of Alzheimer’s, would tug at the heart strings and bestow comfort.

Memories enrich and give meaning to our lives. May you delight in my Full Circle.



About Full Circle (Click title for the Amazon link.)

All nine stories in this collection are the author’s actual memoirs or based on her memories. Some include the names of actual people, while others have been changed. Some are sweet. Some are touching. Some are bittersweet. All are memorable.

About Myra





Myra Fay Graubard earned her Bachelor’s degree in English from California State University Los Angeles. She is a retired instructional assistant, who directed an elementary school computer lab. She also aided high school and elementary special needs students. Ms. Graubard worked as a graphic artist for an engineering firm. She is a freelance writer, who penned a collection of poetry, Within the Without. Her published articles have appeared in Antique Doll Collector, Doll Reader, Teddy Bear & Friends, and The Collector’s Eye. Myra resides in Southern California, ten minutes from Disneyland, with her family

 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Celebrating Thanksgiving Away From Family

This year, we celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving by ourselves. We had a nice dinner with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, baby peas (Larry’s favorites), croissants, and Aunt Muriel’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie for dessert. (More about this later.)

 

We spoke on the phone with Larry’s brother, Casey, and the rest of his family. We usually celebrate Thanksgiving with them. (Christmas is usually at our house.) They had more people than we were comfortable with, but we enjoyed talking to them. Kim was with friends in Texas, and our niece, Carrie, was with her immediate family in Utah.

 

This was far from the first Thanksgiving we have spent away from the rest of our family.

 

In 1969, we moved across the country to Illinois. Larry had to go for work, so we packed up and traveled there. We were both very close to our families, and this move felt traumatic.

 

In retrospect, it probably strengthened our marriage far more than anything else we have ever experienced. We had to learn to depend on each other. We were all we had.

 

We also learned to be flexible. This did not come naturally to me, but this experience and others along the way taught me great lessons.

 

We made good friends, Carol and Bob Wilson, while we were there. This couple had a three-year-old girl, Denise. Kim was two. They became friends and playmates.

 

For Thanksgiving that year, Carol’s parents invited us to their house for dinner. (They did the same for Christmas.) Even though we missed our own families, these dear people made us feel as though we were a part of their family. And we were most grateful for them.

 

In 1971, we spent Thanksgiving by ourselves in Colorado, where we were living at the time. Larry’s job necessitated several moves. But we knew we would be back in California for Christmas, and we were looking forward to it.

 

In 1980, we took a Caribbean cruise over Thanksgiving week. Another friend, Betty, and her son, Bob were with us.



Thanksgiving dinner on the ship was an extravaganza with lots of food. We all dressed up for the occasion.

 

Of course, we spent three Thanksgivings in Japan.

 

The first year, 1998, I tried to make dinner to share with our neighbors, Misayo-san and her daughter, Kazue. It was only a partial success. I wrote about it in our book, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.





I couldn’t get the ingredients for Auntie Wanda’s Pumpkin Pie, so I settled on a variation of Aunt Muriel’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (the same pie I made this year). Both recipes are in the cookbook from Oak Tree Press authors: Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook. (This is the link to the full-color version shown below. It is also available in Kindle and black-and-white interior versions.)





By the following year, I planned well ahead and made Auntie Wanda’s recipe. The same for the next year. I even baked a few for Kazue’s students’ Christmas party. They loved it.

 

Of course, we would rather gather with the whole family to celebrate, but this was another year when we needed to be by ourselves. Fortunately, we still like each other after all these years.

 

How was your Thanksgiving different this year? 

Friday, November 20, 2020

WHEN OUR BELIEFS ARE CHALLENGED

Today, my friend and fellow author, Janet Greger (J.L. Greger), will share with you some of the challenges of being a novelist. Sometimes our expectations for the characters or the plot don’t go as we plan. And sometimes our own expectations take an unexpected turn.  Lorna

 

In my latest novel Dirty Holy Water, I wanted to explore what happens when our basic beliefs are challenged. Specifically, what happens when we feel sorrier for villains than victims?

 Let me set the scene. Life is complicated for Sara Almquist. She's about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India with her boyfriend when she becomes a suspect in the murder of a friend. Sara is used to being a trusted scientific consultant for the FBI and finds being a suspect unnerving, but not enough to prevent her from trying to help the police uncover evidence about the murder. The police and Sara quickly realize that the murder victim, Lurleen Jansen, was killed by a member of her own family. But which one and why?

 Read this excerpt from the first chapter and see if you can guess reasons why a family member killed Lurleen?

 Lurleen Jansen must have been a pretty woman once. Now Sara Almquist could see little attractive about Lurleen, except her expressive green eyes. Lurleen had called Monday and almost demanded that Sara drive her to El Santuario de Chimayó this week. Sara had hesitated but finally agreed to the field trip because Lurleen needed a friend.

 Although Sara had pushed the front passenger seat of her Subaru Forester back to the maximum, Lurleen looked like she was a piece of pimento stuffed in a green olive. Her face was red as she tried to close the clamp shut on the seat belt that strained around her green camouflage cargo pants and T-shirt. “Should have brought my seat belt extender along. Too much work to walk back inside for it.”

 Sara felt a twinge of guilt. She considered volunteering to get the seat belt extender but knew she wouldn’t. Lurleen had been her neighbor in the adults-only community of La Bendita until Lurleen and her husband Pete decided about five years ago that the two- and three-bedroom houses of the gated neighborhood were too small to meet their needs. It wasn’t jealousy that kept Sara from looking for the seat belt extender in Lurleen’s large house. Her reasons were simpler—she knew it would be difficult to locate something small, like a seat belt extender, among the stack of boxes and piles of junk in the house. She was also afraid what she might find. Lurleen didn’t waste time cleaning her house and only hired someone to clean it when a new infestation problem appeared. Some sort of pest, usually bigger than ants, appeared every year.

 Lurleen appeared to hold her breath and clicked the seat belt shut. “Pete’s being tight with me.” She smiled. “But I’ll get what I want.”

 Before Sara could make a catty comment, such as you must have asked for the moon this time, Lurleen changed the subject. “Thanks for agreeing to take me to Chimayó to get some holy dirt for Matt. He’s talking less these days.”

 Sara gave a soft sigh because Lurleen had reminded her why they were making this trip. Lurleen’s daughter Mitzi had become a foster parent for a one-year-old girl named Kayla almost twelve years ago. About that time, Kayla’s biological parents had another child, Matt. He was born addicted to cocaine and quickly displayed developmental delays. The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, better known as CYFD, had decided the two children must be kept together, and Mitzi had reluctantly agreed to become Matt’s foster care mother, too. When she was five, Kayla had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Eventually Mitzi had adopted both children. Lurleen had been supportive of Mitzi and her two adopted children during the long adoption process.

 Sara admired both women because it took guts to adopt special needs children. Although Sara doubted the holy dirt dispensed from a small pit at El Santuario de Chimayó had curative properties, she recognized faith was sometimes effective in helping patients. 


Buy Dirty Holy Water (paperback or ebook) at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587   

 

The Kirkus Review for Dirty Holy Water is: "A thought-provoking, disturbing, and engaging mystery with a likable, strong-willed female lead."



The author incorporated her experiences in India into the novel

 


J.L. Greger is a biology professor and research administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She has consulted on scientific issues worldwide and loves to travel. Thus, she likes to include both science and her travel experiences in her thriller/mystery novels in the Science Traveler series. Award-winning books in the series include: Murder: A Way to Lose Weight, The Flu Is Coming, Malignancy, Riddled with Clues, and A Pound of Flesh, Sorta. Learn more at: http://www.jlgreger.com


Friday, November 6, 2020

Learning to Let Go

Learning to Let Go

As I get older, I am more and more conscious of the “stuff” we’ve accumulated over the last fifty-five years we’ve been married. We’ve lived in this house for thirty-three-plus years. It’s a big house with lots of storage and a three-car garage. But someday, we may want to downsize. What will we do with everything?

Every time I get serious about purging, however, we seem to acquire more.

My brother’s recent death added a few more items. I have made a concerted effort to give away most of his things to people who will appreciate it.

I have kept a few family items, and they have been added to our stash.

The main item I kept was this tapestry.

Originally, it belonged to my grandparents. After my grandmother died, my brother took it home. It hung at the end of Grandma’s hallway for as long as I can remember. They moved into their house in 1928, and it may have been there since then. It is a really nice painting on heavy burlap of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

When we unearthed it at his place, it was so embedded with dust I wasn’t sure it could be salvaged. However, Larry brushed it off and then vacuumed it. We hung it out for several weeks, and it now looks like the piece I remember as a child. When I look at it, it makes me smile.

We talked to the mission about donating it to them. However, they already have a similar one and didn’t need another.

We’ve decided to keep it. It may become the cover image for our third San Juan historical. (We first have to finish the second one and then write the third.)

It took moving things around so we had enough room for it on our walls, but I’m glad we decided to keep it.

We also brought home the oil painting which had belonged to my mother. When Larry brought it out, it had a thick layer of dust and dirt. We couldn’t even make out the details.

Again, Larry brushed it off and vacuumed it. It still looked pretty terrible. Fortunately, our friend, Bob Schwenck, is a restoration specialist. He took the painting, cleaned it, and re-varnished it. The colors are back, and it looks the way I remember it.

Bob wanted me to keep it, but if I’d wanted it, I would have kept it when my mother moved in with us. My brother had it because I didn’t want it. This was easy to let go of. We will auction it and share the net profit with Bob.

So, we now have more “stuff” in our house. SIGH.

This year, I have lost many friends as well as my brother. I have become uncomfortably aware of my own mortality. Having had to empty my brother’s home, I am hyper aware of everything we have accumulated and how that burden will fall on our daughter when we are gone.

Yep. Time to start thinning our “stuff” down. Oh, but first, there are edits to finish and books to write…

Are you able to keep your “stuff” to a minimum? If so, how?


Friday, October 9, 2020

Lawn Mower Summers

Today, my husband, soulmate, and partner in crime, Larry K. Collins, shares a memory from his childhood. 


For about three years, starting when I was eleven or twelve, I mowed lawns in my neighborhood to make extra spending money. Several of the neighbors gladly hired me for the chore.

I used my father’s push mower. It was old school. The forward movement of the wheels drove the vertically rotating blades which sliced against a fixed blade. A grass catcher hooked on the back and was held in place by a coat-hanger-like contraption hung from the mower handle. I turned the mower upside down, threw the catcher on top, and dragged it down the street to the selected house.



A year later, a young couple from the next street over heard about me and asked if I would do their lawn on a regular basis, twice a month for $20.00 monthly. Wow, a steady source of income. And the best perk was he had a new state-of-the-art, rotary-type power lawn mower I could use. On this model, a propeller type blade spun horizontally under a protective metal housing. The gas-driven engine sat on top, and grass clippings were thrown out an opening on the left side of the machine. The motor only worked the blade, so I still had to push it across the yard. I agreed to mow and edge the property.



The couple and their two daughters, one three and the other a year old, had moved in recently. He was a news announcer for a local radio station, and she a retired airline stewardess. In those days the airlines didn’t allow married stewardesses.

Their house was located on a curve, so the front yard was small, but the back was gigantic. Behind the house was a vast field of grass sloping down to a six-foot high concrete block wall on two sides. A detached garage and driveway completed the third side. There were no bushes or shrubs except for three sickly little rose bushes along the garage and a fifteen-foot high peach tree in the far corner. Near the rear steps from the house was a patio. Well, really a ten-by-ten square concrete pad set with two outdoor lounge chairs, the kind with plastic webbing screwed to an aluminum frame, and a low table of the same construction placed between. During the summer months, a small inflatable kiddy pool rested on the lawn nearby.

The first day, the wife led me to the garage. Her husband was at work. She pointed out the machine. Then I was left to figure out how to use it. After several unsuccessful pulls of the starter rope, I finally found and read the instruction manual, checked gas and oil levels, set the speed control lever on the handlebar to ‘start’ position and tried again. Success. One problem solved.

The instructions also said to mow the lawn in counterclockwise circles from the outside to the center of the yard. Grass clippings thrown from the mower would be reduced to mulch, which would become fertilizer. It worked well. Soon the lawn in the center grew so thick I could hardly push the mower thorough it.

My first pass around the yard was also almost my last. As I approached the peach tree, I heard a loud twang from the blade, and a peach-pit struck me in the groin. Ouch! I learned quickly to rake fallen peaches from around the tree first.

During the summer months, the wife would sunbathe while the children played in the pool. Often, one of her girlfriends and her two-year-old son would join them. Two wine glasses would occupy the small table. It was my first introduction to twenty-five-year-old ex-stewardesses in bikinis. I tried not to stare.

One eventful day, I was trimming the tall grass around base of the steps with my hand clippers when the phone in the kitchen rang. The wife, lying on her stomach leapt to her feet and ran past me up the stairs to answer. In her haste, she forgot she had unhooked the bra back-strap to prevent a tan line.

Her girlfriend, seeing my stupefied expression, burst into laughter.

Thinking back now, the neck strap was still tied, so I didn’t get much of a view. Still, since I vividly remember the incident after more than sixty years, it must have made quite an impression on my preteen psyche.

I mowed their lawn faithfully for several more years, but sadly, it never happened again.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

Yet Another Loss

 Marilyn the Crazy Italian is gone. Actually, she was Sicilian—and proud of it! Through her, I discovered that if Sicilians liked you, you became family. We became a part of her feisty, funny, loving Sicilian family, and we were blessed for it.

 Marilyn and Don Griffin were our neighbors. They had an only child, Donna. We had an only child, Kim. The girls were in the same class in school when Donna infected the whole class with chickenpox.


This is about how Marilyn looked when we first met.

When we met, Marilyn and I instantly bonded. I loved her irreverence and sense of humor. I think she liked my pragmatism. I was also a good audience and laughed at all her jokes. And she knew I loved her. We told each other the truth, and it mattered to both of us.

I loved her whole family: her crazy mother, Mary, her Auntie Dolly and Uncle Cliff (they were also neighbors), and Auntie Alice and Uncle Louie (she called him “Uncle Loulie”). We got to know all the cousins and enjoyed them as well. Over time, I also got to know her brother Sammy (Sal), too. He sold me a car once—one I adored.

 Kim and Donna were in the same Brownie troop, so we often saw each other at various meetings. When I took over the leadership, Marilyn became an assistant leader. This continued through several years of Girl Scouts.

 Larry and Don got along well. Both were the same age, very shy, and didn’t like large crowds. They sat at a distance together and observed. I remember one neighborhood Christmas party at our house. Everyone sat around the living room in a circle. Before long, Don and Larry had backed away to the far corner of the dining room where they could watch everything without engaging.

Our families began to spend time together at each other’s houses. About once a week, we ate dinner together and then played games. The guys’ favorite was The Ungame. I think they liked it because it wasn’t competitive. After a while, we abandoned the board and tokens and just answered questions. In this way, we all got to know each other very well.

 In 1980, Don fell at work. Because it happened on the job, his employer insisted he see their workman’s comp doctor. Early the next morning, we received a panicked phone call from Marilyn. Some of Don’s tests indicated something seriously wrong, and all the possibilities were fatal.

 Instead of leaving for work, we rushed to their house where we held each other and cried. Thus began several of the worst months of our lives. Don had leukemia, which at the time was an almost guaranteed death sentence. He underwent a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope, which appeared to be successful. However, as he was recovering, he had a brain aneurism and passed away. He was thirty-six years old.

Marilyn had a difficult time after Don died. Then, women couldn’t get a credit card in their own names. This motivated me to get a loan in my name only. I had to fight the bank to do it, but I got it—and paid it off in half the time.

Two years later, Marilyn married again, this time to Louis LaVella, who had two daughters. Family was always most important to her. She met her new husband through Parents Without Partners.

Unfortunately, Louis had severe heart problems. He died while on a transplant list, and again, Marilyn was alone.

Marilyn and Donna

Several years later, Marilyn reconnected with a former high school boyfriend, Fred Martin. Both were single, and their old spark rekindled. They were very happily married until Fred’s death in 2003.

Marilyn took Fred’s death very hard. She was at loose ends for several years. She finally joined a support group for widows and widowers. There she met Ray Bondeson. I remember when she called to invite us to their wedding. The big incentive for Larry was the red velvet cheesecake wedding cake!


Marilyn and I remained in touch through Facebook and occasional phone calls. We always talked about getting together, but we didn’t manage to do so. She called several weeks ago, and we spoke for about an hour, sharing memories of our mothers and families and our kids. She was very proud of all her kids and grandkids—including the step ones. She mentioned she was in the hospital, but for as long as I’d known her, she always had one or another physical issue. Hospitalization wasn’t unusual for her, and I didn’t think too much about it.

Her stepdaughter posted the news of her passing on Facebook. I am heartbroken to realize the phone will never ring again and I will never hear her smoky voice and hearty laugh at the other end.

Rest in peace, my friend. I’ll never forget you.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Celebration Delayed

 

Last night, we finally celebrated our 55th anniversary with dinner at the Anaheim White House Restaurant. It has been a favorite since a friend recommended it to us nine years ago. Early in the pandemic, we decided to support our favorite restaurants. We bought a gift certificate from the White House for a future meal.

 

Because of this purchase, we have been receiving emails about their reopening for dining—outside and distanced.

 

This week, we received notification of their Restaurant Week menu. When I saw it, I suggested we use our gift certificate to belatedly celebrate our anniversary.

 

The actual date is September 4, but we were too busy to really celebrate. After a rough few week, we both needed a relaxing escape. The email was just the prompt to take a much-needed break.

 

I requested a reservation, and we got it right away. Of course, it was a week night, so we didn’t have much concern. (There were quite a few others there—masked and distanced outside.) This menu is only active through Saturday.

 

We arrived a bit early because we had expected more traffic than we encountered. We valet parked the car and walked to the entrance, where we had our temperatures taken and used hand sanitizer.

 

Even though we were early, we were seated at a lovely table near the fountain. The weather was spectacular—comfortable with a light breeze and clear skies. (No smoke from the fires remained in the air.)

 

Our waiter, James, brought us water, and we just relaxed and enjoyed their playlist of older Italian songs. We finally relaxed and relished the evening and being together.

 

I know you want to hear about the food, and we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about it. (We neglected to take pictures of it as it arrived.) Each course was set in front of us, and then an ultraviolet light was wafted over the plate—additional precaution.

 

For our appetizer we both chose the Tempura Artichoke Hearts. Delicious! As we always expect, the presentation was beautiful. I tried to pace myself, so Larry “helped” finish mine.

 

For the salad course, we decided to order one of each. Larry had the mixed greens with a terrific passion fruit and ginger vinaigrette. I chose the Caesar salad. Both were served, once again beautifully, in an edible rice paper container.

 

As we were finishing our salads, the song “Walk Hand in Head” came on the playlist. Most people probably don’t remember it, but I have always loved it, and it was sung at our wedding. As Larry said, “Another nice anniversary gift.”

 

By the time our entrée arrived, live music by a singer with guitar began. He was delightful.

Actually, the entrée was the main reason I wanted to go. I adore Chicken Cordon Bleu, and it was included. It said it was served with “seasonal vegetables.” In this case, it was butternut squash puree. Absolutely fantastic.

Larry had a tougher decision. He finally settled on the Salmon Chocolat. (I suspect it was the promise of sweetness that won him over.) It was served with white chocolate mashed potatoes. He let me taste, and they were very good—and sweet—but I preferred my own meal.

Once again, Larry volunteered to “help” with mine. Because it was a generous portion, I just couldn’t finish it. He enjoyed both our entrées.

Of course, there was dessert. We consider ourselves somewhat expert on Crème Brule. During both our trips to France, we compared this delight throughout the country. (We decided the restaurant near the Eiffel Tower had the best.) Last night’s was equally delicious—creamy with crisp brûléed sugar on the top.


To our surprise, we also received a lovely “extra” for our anniversary. (We brought it home to eat later. (It probably won’t last out the day today!)


We had a wonderful evening and a genuinely joyous celebration.

How can it be fifty-five years? it has gone by far too quickly, but both of us would do it all again!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Another Birthday!

 

Yes, I’m getting old. Next year I will reach the ¾ century mark. And you know what? I feel thrilled and blessed to have made it this far. Many in my family have not.


My father, Henry LaRay Lund, died at 37 when I was seven years old. He went to work one morning and never came home.


His mother, Margaret Imelda McNamara Lund, died at twenty-five when my dad was six. She left three children. My dad was the eldest. His sisters were three- and eighteen-months hold. Her children were raised by other relatives.


My maternal grandfather, David Methven, died at 54. He also went to work in the morning and never came home. Grandpa died in the old Broadway flagship store in downtown Los Angeles at closing time. Dad (his son-in-law) was with him. His last words were about me.

Dad died in the same store at opening time just over five years later.


My paternal great-grandmother died at 38 after giving birth to thirteen children. My grandfather was eight-years-old when his mother died. He was raised by an older sister—the same one who raised my dad after his mother died.

On the other hand, some of my ancestors lived a long time.


My mother lived to ninety-three, and her youngest sister will be ninety-seven on Friday. She is still sharp and a lot of fun.

 This year, with the pandemic going on, Larry still managed to plan a wonderful day. He invited two other couples over for dinner. He put up the awning in the back. It was the first time we had used this one. We haven’t done any in-person events since we bought it. Festooned with fairy lights, it looked magical after dark.

 We sat at separate tables spaced well apart. The canopy is ten feet square, so our chairs were close to the edges.

Larry ordered food from my favorite restaurant, The Harbor Grill, picked it up, and brought it home. Delicious!


He ordered beautiful flowers! They smell marvelous! He also got me a Chico’s gift card for when the pandemic is over.


Our Japanese son, Toshi, sent gorgeous flowers. I have both of them trained to go to my favorite florist. And they both know my taste.

 So, despite the situation this year, I had a marvelous celebration! And I celebrate my birthday all month, so the party continues.


Since I love giving presents to others on my birthday, the Kindle version of my book, Romance in the Time of Social Distancing, is FREE through the 28th 

 How do you feel about birthdays?