Friday, July 10, 2020

50th Anniversary - Kathleen’s Thoughts 9/5/2015

I recently went through the photos of our 50th anniversary and created a video of the celebration and party. (September 5, 2015. Most photos by Heather Taylor) 
I also found the audio recording of the ceremony. I have now transcribed each of our speeches. I'll share the last one with you next week.

My dearest friend, Kathleen Murphy Stewart, was my maid-of-honor when we were married in September of 1965. She loathed speaking in public, but she made an exception for the occasion of the celebration of our 50th anniversary. Her husband said she practiced for two days ahead of the ceremony. She did a good job. It was wonderful hearing her voice again when we listened to the recording. We lost her a few weeks ago, and I miss her.

Chapter 1
There is a thief among us. This thief has stolen from each of us, all of us, has stolen the same thing, the same exact amount from each of us. But this thief is known to all of us, and all too frequently, never missing a visit and never missing an opportunity to steal.

No, this is not one of Lorna and Larry’s novels. As true yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the name of that thief is time. Time steals from all of us. Time steals many things, but it can never steal the most important things. Time cannot steal our friendships. Time cannot steal our memories, locked in our hearts.

Try as it might, time leaves friendship and memories untouched because these alone rest in our hearts and stay with us, despite the ravages of time.

Lorna and I have been friends for three-score-and-seven years. We share our friendship and many memories, and the thief cannot break in and steal them from us. Our shared memories stand as the foundation of our relationship.

Chapter 2

There was blood. The blood will flow. The blood was shed. The blood will incriminate. The blood will not be washed away. Perry Mason can’t make blood disappear. Columbo will find it. Sherlock Holmes will deduce it. Sam Spade will slip on it. But the blood will not be stolen from the thief of time.

This is not another novel in progress, believe me. But Lorna and I were the best of the best of friends, living two houses apart growing up from before kindergarten and into college.

One time, we really did draw blood. We obtained a sewing needle and stuck ourselves. We mixed our blood. At once we were thrilled because we became blood sisters. True sisters at last. We’d always been sisters in our hearts, but now, we were truly sisters.
Back: Eileen, Karen, Dennis, Kathy, Lorna, Suzanne, David, Diane, Kathleen
Front: Ron, Jan, John
Chapter 3
Lorna and I were together through all seasons. We did what best friends do: we rode bikes, roller-skated, played Monopoly, and had a good time all year ‘round. Especially here in California where the weather is so nice.

Chapter 4
The eternal triangle was based on many stories, was written about in many books, and was the basis of many movies. Lorna, Larry, and I were sort of a triangle. But not the one you think.

Larry and I went from kindergarten through high school together. At our high school graduation, Larry comforted me by holding my hand as I tearfully wished those days would not end.

More recently, he kept my chair from sliding down the slope at my mother’s graveside service.

Chapter 5
You’ve already heard how I got them got together at the football game.

A half century ago, I was their maid of honor. After the wedding, I used all my athletic skills and jumped as high as I could for the bridal bouquet. I was pretty athletic, but I still missed it. But perhaps I caught Lorna and Larry’s wishes for me because just two weeks later, I was engaged. And the next year, I was married with Lorna serving as my matron-of honor.
Sherry Ellen Van Clief (Cowell), Patty Hair, Claudia Sue McGee (Gates), Kathleen, Lorna
My husband is here, and we just celebrated our forty-ninth. Our fiftieth is coming up. Thank the Lord.

To bring these remarks to a close and bring you up to date, I must relate that during most of my life, I have been only an occasional reader. I read their first effort, 31 Months in Japan. But then I read The Memory Keeper, and now I have read all of their published books. This activity has made me a voracious reader. I have read more in this last year than I did in previous years. My Kindle, which is packed with books, is never far from me.

So, now I give thanks, not only for the friendship and memories of my true sis, Lorna, and longtime and all-around buddy, Larry, but their gift of adding the value of dimension to my life.
September 5, 2015 Bill, Larry, Kathleen, Lorna

Friday, July 3, 2020

50th Anniversary Celebration - Lorna’s Thoughts 9/5/2015

I recently went through the photos of our 50th anniversary and created a video of the celebration and party. (September 5, 2015. Most photos by Heather Taylor) 
I also found the audio recording of the ceremony. I have now transcribed each of our speeches, and I'll share them with you for the next three weeks. Here is mine. Larry's was last week.

It was a gift to marry into Larry’s family. It truly was. They knew how to do love, and they demonstrated it freely. Like he said, there was never an outsider—ever.

He’s not the only one with a history of long marriage. Today with us, are my aunt and uncle, Evelyn and Frank George. My aunt is my mother’s youngest sister. Two weeks ago, they celebrated their seventy-second wedding anniversary. So, I had some really good modeling, too.

Frank & Evelyn – 75th Anniversary
About the time I was thirteen, Aunt Evie and I went from niece and aunt to good friends, and she is one of my favorite playmates. We have always had the best time with them.

When I was going through our wedding book a week or so ago, I found this really terrible poem. And I have to apologize. It I got it in a contest today, I’d throw it out. But it was there, and it’s what I wrote when I was eighteen. So please forgive me, but I thought it was fun to find it, so here it is.

Two young people at Alhambra High,
He was a junior. A freshman was I.
We dated awhile, and then no more.
I thought we were parted forever, for sure.

But two years later, by accident,
It seemed as though we were heaven-sent,
We met one day at the Miracle Mart,
And on February thirteenth, our romance had its start.

A ring on the phone
For a Valentine’s dance
At Cal Poly School,
And my answer was, “Yes.”

Now just two years later,
His ring I am wearing,
And after September,
His life I’ll be sharing.

This was from July of 1965.

About a week ago I heard from my—I won’t say “oldest” but “longest”―friend. (I’ve known Kathleen since I was two. She was my maid of honor.) She asked, “How did that sequence of stuff go when you met? She was there for all of it, but it was hard to keep it in order. So, I wrote it down for her, and I thought maybe some of you would be interested. So, here it is.

Larry and I saw one another and knew who the other was at Marguerita Elementary School. He used to deliver Avon on his bicycle for his mother, Letha, so my mother knew him, too. She was in love with him from the time he was a little boy and stayed in love with him until the day she died.

The summer before I started Alhambra High School, we were at Crestline at Club St. Moritz at the same time. My mother formally introduced us there, but at that time, Larry had a girlfriend.

In the fall of 1960, my freshman year in high school, I went to a football game with my best friend, Kathleen. She really wanted to sit with Tom Dixon, who was a guy she was kind of going with at the time. So, we met him there since he didn’t drive. At the game, Kathleen sat next to Tom, and I sat next to her.

At halftime, Larry joined us in the stands, and he sat down next to me. My hands were really icy, so he put them in his jacket pocket and kept them warm.

I’d had a crush on him since I was about twelve, but he had no idea who I was. His mother knew I had a crush on him, but he was clueless. Now that I was fourteen, he kind of caught on. (He has admitted the Collins men are kind of clueless.) it took him a while.

We all decided we’d go out for cokes after the game. Of course, both Kathleen and I had to call our parents. This was in the days when there were pay phones, and there was one at Moor Field where the game was held. My mother only agreed to let me go (keep in mind, I was only fourteen) because she adored Larry, and Kathleen was going to be along.

So, we went to a burger place called Yankee Doodle’s and we had cokes.

A couple of weeks later, the guys asked us to go to the drive-in to see Swiss Family Robinson. Since Tom and Kathleen sat in the backseat, I’m not sure whether they actually watched the movie or not. I can tell you those of us in the front seat did. Part of it is because Larry, by his own admission, is kind of cheap, and he didn’t want to pay for a movie he didn’t see. So, there we were.

A couple of weeks later, we all went to the San Gabriel Theater to see Cinderfella. After we dropped off Tom and Kathleen, Larry walked me to the door, and he asked if he could kiss me goodnight. Of course, I said yes.

He attended my family’s New Year’s Eve party, and when we came home, he started to kiss me, but I stopped him. That was because my grandmother was sleeping in the living room, and my grandmother was kind of an enforcer. I figured she was probably looking out the window, and I knew there would be heck to pay if she saw me kissing a boy. But he didn’t know why. I thought I’d really hurt his feelings.

I didn’t hear from him for a while, but I heard from friends he’d actually gone back to his old girlfriend. It turns out, she’d gotten sick, and he felt she needed him. It’s a pretty good recommendation for him as a person, but I wasn’t happy. In fact, it took me months to get over losing him.

Fast forward to February of 1963. Kathleen and I walked over to Crawford’s Miracle Mart, directly behind my house. It was a great store. They carried almost everything. We ran into Larry. I’d heard his girlfriend had broken up with him a few months earlier because he wasn’t exciting enough. That was good for me. I was going with someone else at the time, but we were fighting a lot, and I could see the handwriting on the wall.

Larry bought us ice cream and then drove us home. He dropped Kathleen at her house and then accepted my invitation to come in for some fresh chocolate chip cookies I’d baked earlier. See, even then I knew the way to get his interest was through food. Hasn’t changed at all.

Over tea and cookies, we talked until after dark. (My mother joined us.) When he left, I knew something important had changed.

At about nine, he called, and we talked for another hour. He finally asked me to the Valentine’s Day dance at Cal Poly, Pomona, where he was a student. I said yes, of course. Later on, he told me he’d picked up the phone several times before he actually made the call because he sensed it would be important to his future.
Valentine’s Dance 1963
During the evening, I marveled at how at ease I felt with him and how much fun I was having. The dance definitely confirmed my relationship with the other guy was over.

Two and a half years later, we were married.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Larry’s 50th Anniversary Thoughts – 9/5/2015

I recently went through the photos of our 50th anniversary and created a video of the celebration and party.

I also found the audio recording of the ceremony. I have now transcribed each of them, and I'll share them with you for the next four weeks, starting with Larry's.

When I was growing up, I didn’t realize what a fabulous family I had. Lorna clued me in on this when she joined it. Not just my parents, who were wonderful, but the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the cousins. It was a family where everybody liked each other, and everyone wanted to be together. Kind of amazing, and family meant everything.

My grandparents, Tom and Olive Collins, set the tone. They were North Dakota farmers. They had six children, four boys and two girls. When my dad was eight (he was the youngest), he’d had pneumonia twice, and the doctor said he would not survive another North Dakota winter. So, in the winter of 1925, they literally sold the farm (they were farmers), loaded everyone, including grandfather Halliday, into a Model A Ford and Chevrolet touring car, and they drove from North Dakota to California because it was warmer. Why? Because that’s what family did.
Crossing Texas
Family dinners were the glue that held us together for a long time. It doesn’t mean communication always worked. Collins men tend to be somewhat clueless. Lorna can attest to that. Kim can, too.

For example, in 1926, the family was enjoying dinner. The oldest son, Clark, said, “Mama, tomorrow you’re going to lose your baby boy.” Granny said, “Why? Are you going somewhere?” He said, “No. I’m getting married.” In twelve hours, Granny had organized the garden wedding, enlisted the local pastor because a justice of the peace just wouldn’t do, and cooked the dinner for all the guests who attended. And Lura joined the family.

With Granny, there was no such thing as in-laws. If you were there, you were family. In fact, it was really hard for a stranger to tell who was family and who were in-laws. You really couldn’t tell when you came to visit.

Until my grandfather died, every Sunday after church, the whole family met at my grandparents’ house for dinner. Now, you have to remember, this was six kids, their spouses, their children, and any friends who showed up, plus anyone else who happened to wander by. There were forty-to-forty-five people there every Sunday for dinner.

Granny was a fabulous cook and she loved doing it. In later years, we had to convince her to go potluck. From then on, we did, but always at their house.

They were married for sixty-three years. I was ten years old at their fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. It was so big it made the newspaper―a half-page spread with pictures. Of the six kids, five were married, four were married longer than sixty years, and Clark and Lura were married for more than seventy years. There were a lot of anniversary celebrations and other events.
Tom & Olive’s 50th Anniversary – Clark, Francis, Wanda, Olive, Tom, June, Wayne, Murl
At those Sunday dinners, I remember singing. If the guys weren’t playing poker for matchsticks in the other room, the boys sang. A friend of Granny’s said, “All of Ollie’s boys can sing.” They sang four-part harmony around the pump organ.

My folks carried on the tradition of putting family first. On weekends at the mobile home in Dana Point, we all got together and ate dinner. My folks, Murl and Letha, celebrated their sixtieth anniversary right downstairs where we’ll all be in a few minutes. We had a wonderful party for them. They were married sixty-seven years, and they loved each other every single day.
60th Anniversary – Letha and Murl
So, for Lorna and me, at fifty years, we’re kind of loping along. We have a way to go to catch up, which we plan to do. We had a family who showed us the way to do it, for which I am eternally grateful.

Next week: Lorna's thoughts

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Saying Goodbye

Early this morning, I received the following message from my oldest and dearest friend’s husband: “After a month-long illness, Kathleen entered eternity early this morning at Huntington Hospital. 75 years 9 months.”

I was two-years old when we moved into our brand-new house in Alhambra, California. This was post-WWII housing, and nearly all the new owners were families with young children. Throughout our growing-up years, we never lacked for playmates!

Several of the kids on the block became my close friends, but over time, Kathleen Murphy became my very best friend. (She was always called Kathleen. She would not answer if you called her Kathy.) She was two years older, but it never made any difference. When I was ten, we became blood sisters. (We both had younger brothers and wanted to have a sister.)
My 16th birthday
Her dad worked nights. We rarely played at her house for fear of waking him. So, she spent a lot of time at my house. My mother treated her like another daughter.

School was always difficult for Kathleen. She was dyslexic, and reading was a challenge. We went to college together and took a couple of the same classes. I took notes, and we would discuss the class material driving to and from school because we carpooled. She passed those classes and gave credit to our discussions (and my notes she borrowed the night before tests).

One of the greatest joys in my life was when she called me one day. Her husband had purchased our book, The Memory Keeper, and it had arrived in the mail. She decided to take a look at it. She called to tell me—in great detail—how much she enjoyed it. This was the very first book she had ever read for pleasure. She went on to read all of our books, and she enjoyed them. She asked for other recommendations, and I suggested she try my friend Marilyn Meredith’s mystery series. (She has written two.) Kathleen loved them and read every one. She went on to discover other writers she enjoyed, and recommended them to me. That first conversation with her made all the effort of writing worthwhile for me.

In high school, we ate lunch together every day and made many of the same friends.

My husband, Larry, started kindergarten with her. On their graduation day (two years before my own), she sat next to him, and he held her hand because she was so nervous.

When we were both in high school, we sat at the table in my house drinking tea with my mom. She often used her china tea set. We were talking about our dreams for our future. Mine was simple: marry Larry Collins, whom I was dating at the time. Kathleen described a family of several children, the large, elegant house she would live in, and all the expensive things she’d have. When she left, Mom said, “I hope she marries someone rich.”

She met Bill Stewart when they were both in the wedding party for mutual friends. The next day, she waxed poetic about this guy. I’d never seen her so excited about any previous boyfriend. She married Bill in June of 1966, nine months after Larry and I. She was my maid-of-honor, and I was her matron-of-honor.
Our wedding, September 4, 1965
We were both stay-at-home moms for a number of years. We got together for lunch every month or so at one or the other of our homes. We lived away from California for a couple of years, but we stayed in touch. She and Bill even came to visit us in Illinois—and stayed at the motel next door. We later discovered it belonged to Al Capone’s brother and was being used for gambling and prostitution. They never visited us away from California again!

One day, she invited my mom and me to visit at her new home in San Gabriel. When we arrived, she showed us around the house. As we sat in her lovely and elegant living room, Mom reminded her about our long-ago conversation. “Well, it looks like all your dreams have come true.” Mom was happy for her.

She adored the house in San Gabriel. She loved her neighbors and the boys’ school. She also loved her job at the school. She lived for her kids and their friends.

Bill wanted to move to San Marino, a more prestigious neighborhood. Each time he raised the issue, she came up with some reason they couldn’t sell—yet. I remember some of them.

Early on, she insisted they had to remodel their kitchen. “Remember, dear, kitchens sell houses.” They were torn up for months during the remodel. Then, when it was finished, she had another reason they couldn’t move. “We’ve spent so much time and money on this remodel, we deserve to enjoy it awhile.” So, they stayed.

Over the years, she remodeled the playroom, billiard room, other areas, and, finally the pool house to add a second story. She also insisted they couldn’t move until the boys had graduated from high school. “Dear, we don’t want to make them change schools and take them away from their friends. Don’t you agree?” And Bill agreed.

Finally, he wanted to move to a huge new house in Altadena, and she gave up the battle. She loved the new house—especially her garden. She won several awards for her gorgeous property.

In later years, she developed COPD and diabetes. They took a toll on her health. She became unable to walk and got around on a motorized scooter. One of the highlights of our fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration was when she arrived. Bill had made the effort to get her—and her scooter—all the way from Altadena to Dana Point for the party.
Our 50th anniversary party with Bill & Kathleen
Not long afterward, she had surgery to put artificial blood vessels in her legs from her groin to her feet to try to improve her circulation and prevent their amputation. (Who knew this was even possible?) It was a grueling surgery, and the recovery was arduous.

Larry and I went to see her in the hospital once she could have visitors. I had a small flower arrangement made using one of my mother’s precious teacups—the same ones we had dunk from growing up.
Mom’s Teacup
When we arrived, she was at her lowest point. She insisted she wanted to stop all treatment and give up. I didn’t argue with her. It was her life, after all. But I asked if we could pray with her. Larry and she and I held hands as I told God I wasn’t happy about her choice, but asked for wisdom on the part of her doctors and peace for her.

As we left—both of us in tears—Larry commented on how strong her grip had been.

I told Bill about our conversation, and the next day he let me know her attitude had turned around.

Two weeks ago, when I spoke with her in the hospital, I reminded her of our conversation and about how much she would have missed. In the interim, her younger son, Paul, and his wife became the parents of Maxine, named after Kathleen’s mother. This little girl looks like her grandma, and has a similar personality. Stubbornness is a common trait.
Kathleen and Maxine about a year ago
In addition to her other two grandchildren, Dylan and Meghan, Maxine was the center of her life. (She wanted Mom’s teacup to go to Maxine. I have promised her that when we can get together, we will have a tea party at my house, and I’ll tell her all about her grandmother.)

Family always came first. She lived for her boys and their friends and their families.

She remained a faithful friend throughout the years, and I shall miss her greatly. But mostly, I am grateful to have had her in my life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Surviving a Pandemic

To use the word “surviving” regarding the current pandemic while living in a large, beautiful home near the beach with a waterfall in the backyard is a gross  misrepresentation of my current situation. Actually, our lives have changed very little in the last few months. We write and I edit. We do this at home, even during “normal” times. Instead of eating in restaurants, we have been ordering meals delivered from our favorite local places. We want them to be here when we can feel comfortable about going out again. (We’re not there yet.)

I do miss seeing my friends in person. I miss being able to hug people. I miss attending church. I miss taking long walks at the marina. However, for my safety and that of people I care about, I will be doing none of these things for quite a while.

I will continue to connect with friends on Zoom, Skype, and by phone. Not the same thing as being together in person, but it works for now.

I was not alive for the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic, but my husband’s great-uncle died in the second wave in the late fall of 1919. His family was greatly affected. Larry’s dad’s cousin came to live with his family when their grandfather died as well.
In 1957, Larry attended he Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge. Nearly every attendee contracted the Asian Flu—boys and adults. They left the jamboree and spread this disease throughout the country. This was the second pandemic of the twentieth century.

Polio was the third. A classmate, Al Ferguson, is currently writing his memoir. He gave me permission to share his experience with the polio pandemic with you.

My sister, Betty, was learning classical piano. She couldn’t play without sheet music. She got angry with me when I ran by and snatched her sheet music from the piano, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Often, she evened the score, though. It was all in fun as we really cared about each other.
When she was six years old, Betty came into the front room one summer afternoon using her favorite baton as a cane. I had seen her play that way a few days earlier. Mom told her to put the baton away and get ready for dinner.

Betty didn’t do it, and I remember Mom being stern. “Betty Jill, go put that baton away, and come to dinner right now.” Becoming frustrated with her, Mom took the baton away, and Betty fell on the floor crying. I don’t remember much from when I was ten years old, but I remember this day. The ensuing days are foggy.

I remember going to White Memorial Hospital in L.A. with Betty and my parents. The doctors informed them that Betty had polio. If I close my eyes and think about it, I can see the tears on Mom and Dad’s faces, which I had never seen before. We sat in the waiting room while the doctors took more tests. We heard Betty scream as they performed a spinal tap on her. Mom was crying and Dad consoling.

After all these years, it is something I will never forget. I can almost hear her screams now.

Our family now stood on the threshold of an unknown, lifelong struggle. Sleepless nights and uncontrollable crying became our norm. Polio, an entity whose only purpose seemed to be the destruction of a young life, became our constant companion.

Betty’s polio was confined to her left leg. She began a strict regimen of exercises day after day, year after year. We had several hospital-style hot packs. We took turns applying them to her leg. In those days, there were no microwave ovens, so we had to boil the hot packs in a pot of water on the stove. When they were hot enough, we removed them from the pot with tongs, placed them in a towel, and then rolled them up to keep them hot. Then we covered her left leg with them. Once her muscles were loose, we took turns exercising her leg and foot by pushing on her foot to stretch her Achilles tendon while she lay flat on her back. Afterward, we applied lots of lotion to keep her skin from drying out.

Then, there were the leg casts. Lots of them through the years. They stifled her leg growth by about twenty percent.

Betty became used to the rough regimen and went along with the program. No doubt about it, this was rough on everyone, but mostly Mom. She’d had a tough childhood, which had made her really strong.

Betty missed a lot of school, and, being home all the time, developed a love of books and playing her piano. She caught up with her grades, eventually graduating from high school.

She married her love and moved to Phoenix, becoming head of the medical library at Good Samaritan Hospital. Betty and Tim never had children, but they each had their own airplanes, and Betty became president of the Arizona Pilots Association for one term.

Years went by where Betty became more sedentary, and the lack of exercise finally got to her. She passed away at sixty-five after Mom had died. Thank God, as Mom would have died from guilt and depression. Miss them both.

I have known several people who also recovered from polio, but they continue to experience problems directly related to the disease.

So, comparing the current situation is far cry from earlier pandemics as long as we all take the necessary precautions. Staying home, wearing a mask when out in public, and staying six feet apart are hardly the same as watching family members suffer and die or caring for family members as Al did.

I am very grateful to be living today when everything we need can be delivered safely to our doorstep, I am thankful we have work to keep us occupied. I appreciate being able to call and talk with friends and family. I appreciate social media where I can remain in contact with my broader circle of friends.

You won’t hear me whining!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Jamboree Mulligan

Today is Millie Stratton’s 102nd birthday. In her honor, we had Jamboree Mulligan for lunch.

This recipe came from the Boy Scouts. Larry attended the 1957 BSA Jamboree in Valley Forge. All the troops made Jamboree Mulligan. Millie’s husband, Jack, was one of his leaders, so I always think of them when I make it.

Larry’s other leader was Don Nafius. Don was an excellent cook. He tried to teach Larry how to make this dish to pass his cooking badge—three times. Don finally passed him, despite his third failure, if he promised never to cook again. Larry agreed.

It took him years, but he now cooks a bit. His specialty is breakfast. Our Japanese kids always expect him to make breakfast when they visit. They were very surprised that he cooked at all since Japanese fathers generally don’t.

I remember Millie’s daughter saying she could easily become a vegetarian except for Jamboree Mulligan.

It is definitely a 1950s dish. Here’s the original recipe. I think I got it from Millie.
1 lb. ground beef (I substituted ground turkey.)
1 onion, chopped (Larry can’t eat onions anymore, so I used some dried onion.)
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 cup uncooked egg noodles
Brown onion and ground meat while bringing water to a boil in a separate pan. When it's boiling, add noodles and boil for ten minutes. Add soup and cooked noodles to the meat/onion mixture. Heat through.

That’s it.

Still tastes about the same as I remember.

So, we lifted our forks and toasted Millie on her special birthday.

One more story from the 1957 Boy Scout Jamboree:

In 1957, a new influenza virus emerged in Asia, triggering a pandemicAsian Flu. One of the troops brought it to the Jamboree and infected most of the boys and leaders in attendance. Larry was so sick they left him behind in a hospital for a couple of days while the rest of his troop moved on. Then, he caught up with them when he improved.

Of course, all the kids and leaders spread throughout the country, infecting their families and friends.

So, today the circumstances seemed entirely appropriate for bringing back the Jamboree memories.

I just finished the first pass at editing Millie’s memoir. Getting excited about seeing it finished. She has spent a lot of time since 2012 writing it—in lots of bits and pieces. The challenge was going through all of them, reviewing them for duplication (and there was lots of it), putting the stories into some sort of order, and then editing it. It contains lots of family history as well as the history of Alhambra, California during her lifetime.

So, happy birthday, Millie!

Friday, May 8, 2020


My guest this week is my favorite mystery writer and good friend Marilyn Meredith. She has a brand-new book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series called End of the Trail. She’ll tell you all about it.

My latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, End of the Trail, is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The friend who made it possible was none other than my host for today, Lorna Collins, who did the editing and publishing. A big thank you to her and her hubby, Larry, who designed the cover.

When I started writing this book, I had lots of ideas of how it should unfold. However, when the coronavirus struck, it became harder and harder for me to write. I had plenty of time but lacked motivation. Not because I was worried about getting the sickness, but because the venues where I had planned to promote this book and others started to cancel their events.

The best part of any writing conference, or other such gathering, is seeing old friends and making new ones. The first event canceled was writing conference put on by Writers of Kern. Bakersfield is an easy drive, they had some great speakers lined up, and I paid for a table to have my books on display. It was scheduled for March.

The second event to go was a conference put on by the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime. Because I’d already made hotel reservations, they offered me the opportunity to be their guest speaker at their regular meeting which they planned to hold the same day. When their meeting place, a library, closed, that was the end of that.

I’ve already received notice a book fair I’ve attended regularly scheduled in October will not be happening this year.

I’m still hoping other upcoming events written in on my calendar will go ahead as planned.

So, I guess disappointment was my biggest hurdle to finishing End of the Trail. Encouragement came from Lorna as I sent her the manuscript, which certainly helped.
Now that it’s published and available in paperback and for Kindle, I will find other ways to promote it.

Here’s a short blurb:

An important P.S.: Lorna Collins, the ghost hunter, makes an appearance in The End of the Trail.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over forty published books. She lives in a mountain community, much like Bear Creek, the one where Deputy Tempe Crabtree is the resident deputy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys being with her family.

Friday, May 1, 2020

A Long Time Coming

Sometimes books seem to write themselves quickly. At other times, they may take years. This is the story of one of those.

In 2009, our Aspen Grove Romance Anthology, Seasons of Love, was published. Four authors participated in this one, including Luanna Rugh. (She contributed to all six of the anthologies.)

She began to write a terrific story with one of my favorite openings. However, it became apparent this one had a much longer story to tell than the novella format of the anthologies. So, she set it aside to expand into a full-length novel at a later time.

She wrote “Summer’s Challenge,” a different story, which is included in the anthology. (Seasons of Love is currently being produced as an audiobook. It is available on Amazon in print and ebook forms.)

Also, in 2009, the memoir she wrote with her husband, Promises Kept: How One Couple's Love Survived Vietnam, was published to much acclaim. (It went on to win several awards and continues to sell well among veterans of the Vietnam War.)

Luanna continued to write the anthologies with us while her original story for Seasons of Love languished.

In 2016, while writing a series of short stories she intended to turn into a collection, she began writing a charming story about a puppy who brings two strangers together. This, too, grew beyond the original short story, but she kept on with it until the book was completed. Her first solo work, Love From the Sea was published in 2016. (The dog on the cover is the Rughs’ dog, Gina. She died not long after her big photo shoot, and they are delighted to have her as their cover model.)

Other projects occupied Luanna, but in about 2018, she decided to finish her aborted story, set in Aspen Grove, Colorado, our fictitious town in which the anthologies are set. She brought chapters for review by our critique group, and everyone agreed it was a good story.

However, she had a hard time writing the emotionally difficult middle of the book, so it went back on the shelf.

Finally, I told her she had to finish it. The story was too good not to do so!

I nagged and prodded until the manuscript was finally completed. This week, her book, Up in Flames, was published.

This one features a scarlet macaw, a dog, and a little boy. There’s also a grouchy fire captain. It is a charming story, just as it was when she started it eleven years ago. Here’s a taste:
“Nine—one—one. What is the nature of your emergency?”
“Our bird’s stuck in a tall tree.”
“Young man, this number is for human emergencies only.”
“It is. Honest, lady. My mom was trying to get our macaw down. Now her foot is caught and she’s stuck in the tree, too. I didn’t know what else to do.”

Find out for yourself!

About the Author of Up in Flames:
Luanna Rugh met the love of her life, Len Rugh, while working at a local restaurant in Southern California. A year and a half after their marriage, Len was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he was critically wounded. Together they wrote their award-winning memoir, Promises Kept: How One Couple’s Love Survived Vietnam, a project which took over twenty years to complete.

She co-authored the Aspen Grove romance anthologies: Snowflake Secrets, Seasons of Love, Directions of Love, An Aspen Grove Christmas, The Art of Love, and …And a Silver Sixpence in Her Shoe.

Her solo works are Love From the Sea, where a dog plays a major role, and Up in Flames, set in Aspen Grove, where another dog and a scarlet macaw are lead characters.
She hopes you enjoy reading them as much as she loved writing them.