A Pen, a Sword, and a Great Blue Heron walked into a bar. Which was mightier?

I’ve been thinking about killing someone off, and it’s harder than I thought it would be. I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is a campaign to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in the month of November. I have reached the juncture in my story where someone must die. I knew death was inevitable, but I’ve been writing around it for the last three days. I can’t bring myself to do it.

I am pretty sure that it’s a good thing that this is hard for me. It should be hard. After all, my novel is based on real events and real people whom I closely know, so this is personal. Even though death is a part of life, I wasn’t prepared to do the deed with my own hand on the keyboard.

In 1839, novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned the words, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” That may be true unless you’re on the wrong end of the sword. Get my point?

Anyway, when I finish this post. I will open my Word document and try again. I hope I can finish the job this time. The rest of my characters are waiting to react to the event. Right now, they don’t know what’s going on.

Hopefully sometime next year I will have this book published. Hopefully you will read it and forgive me for this weak spoiler. If you’re anything like me, you will have forgotten about this by then, so I think we’re safe.

As of this morning, I have written 31,438 words.  If I add this to the 14,008 words that I wrote earlier this year, I am well on my way to completion of my first draft. In January, I will have massive editing to do, so there is that; but I am on pace to finish by the end of November. Thanksgiving may cause a problem, still I’ll press on and hope for the best without making my husband and myself crazy.

Last weekend, Bob and I took our local grandsons to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. We were excited to introduce them to this favorite place of ours and get me out from behind the computer for a while. A wildlife drive will offer idyllic scenes of beautiful birds flying about or perched high above and wading birds floating around the water surrounded by flowers.

 

Great Egret in the Burr Marigolds

It will also offer a decaying corpse of an alligator. The boys were fascinated. The gator was swollen and floating upside down in a pond. It was gross and we were thankful we were upwind of him. I did not capture a picture of him even though the boys requested one. You can’t give them everything they want. I don’t want to spoil them too much.

Bob, our grandsons, and an Anhinga (aka Water Turkey or Snake Bird)

In keeping with the death theme, which has been on my mind as I try to do in my character, we came across this lovely scene.

Great Blue Heron with a snack-sized American Alligator

I don’t think I gathered any ideas which I can use in my death-scene writing dilemma, but you never know. Would you be surprised to find out that one of my characters had been killed by a bird or an alligator? Maybe I’ll try to work that into the plot. Maybe not.

Four Days, Three Nights in New York City – Cramming It All In

When I told Bob I wanted to take a girls’ trip to New York City to celebrate our granddaughter, Mia, turning 16, he was a pushover. We included her sister, Ella, and their mom, our daughter Dena. I was excited to introduce them to the Big Apple, and two weeks after our initial conversation, the four of us met at LaGuardia Airport ready to do this thing!

Traveling with my granddaughters was a treat, though New York City hotel life was surprising for them. They couldn’t get over how small the room was. Two queen beds and all necessities, including a street view complete with a dumpster for a construction project, didn’t impress them; but they quickly adjusted.

We stayed close to Times Square and were able to walk to the theater district. Mia has been in a couple of high school productions, so she was totally digging Wicked. Our balcony seats in the Gershwin Theatre afforded great views. She was a sponge soaking it all in.

After Wicked, we grabbed dinner from the local 7-Eleven, which I highly recommend for weary travelers who have had a big lunch. You may think that anticlimactic, but if you haven’t traveled with teenage girls, let me tell you it was the perfect dinner choice.

We rested until a half hour before sunset and then walked into a nearly empty Empire State Building like we owned the place (after we shelled out way too much money to, for all practical purposes, walk around on a rooftop). The views were magnificent, and it’s an iconic New York thing to do, so – worth it!

My granddaughters! So much fun traveling with them!

View from the Empire State Building

 

I wasn’t sure how impacting the 9/11 memorial would be to the girls, but they had learned about it in school and wanted to go. I’m glad we made it part of our trip.

The 9/11 Memorial is a must-see. Spending some time thinking of all those who lost their lives on that awful day, reading their names, and being thankful for our country.

We all had a different M.O. for touring the city. Dena is aggressive like her dad but, unlike her dad, loves museums. Sadly (wink, wink), we got rained out that day. Mia likes a slower pace, taking it all in. I’m somewhere in between them, except for the museum part. I can only do so much of that. Ella had the most unique method of touring. She literally ate her way through the city. She didn’t meet a street vendor she didn’t love. It became our goal to photograph Ella eating as many different things in as many different places as possible.

Ella and Mia – Ella is eating the first of many pretzels from street vendors

A rare healthy snack choice for viewing from the Empire State Building. We have to keep up our strength.

I think she is polishing off a bag of spiced nuts in this shot, i.e. shot like picture not shot like the police came because someone got shot.

Ella snacking again and contemplating why people would stand in line to touch weird places on the Wall Street Bull.

Waiting for Ella to finish her lunch before we tour Trinity Church where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

We took a ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. It rained on us so we had to get a snack inside.

Ice cream cones before it rained.

 

 

 

Mia joins in for a caffeine fix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York pizza by the slice. Dena wonders if Ella will share.

As for our rained-out museum day, we knew it would rain; it had earlier. That is the reason why we were sitting on our ponchos as we rode atop the double-decker tour bus, to shield us from wet seats. We felt an errant raindrop here and there, but there was a lovely breeze and we were quite comfortable. That is why I took my hair out of its ponytail and let the wind blow through it. This was the closest I would ever come to doing a hair product commercial, so pleasant. And so short-lived.

Out of nowhere, the sky opened up and an insane amount of rain dumped onto us. Dena, who was on the other end of the seats from me and had fallen asleep (we started our days early), was rudely awakened. We were all trying to get up and pull our ponchos out from under us, but they didn’t cooperate. Being the least coordinated of the group, I got the most wet as I had my hair sticking to all inner surfaces of the poncho and my head through an arm hole and my purse not wanting to go under. We looked like drowned rats. It went from hair commercial to before-photo in one instant.

It seemed like a good idea to get off at next bus stop, which was for the museums, so like drowning rats, we jumped off. Reality hit us as we stood there, dripping, staring at each other – we were too wet to do anything but jump in the river, which I’ve heard is a bad idea.

That is why Uber was invented. We went back to the hotel, dried off, took a nap, and found some more food for Ella.

Our last day, we took the subway to Chinatown and Little Italy. I told the girls the following true story:

On a prior trip, Bob and I were roaming around Chinatown with three other couples. We were on the look-out for purses. Bob and I were lingering outside of a shop, waiting for our friends when we were approached by an unassuming-looking Chinese woman. She pulled out a folded poster with pictures of more purses than I could have imagined.

I think I let out a little gasp! Yes, we were interested and we had to act fast – no time to wait for our friends. We followed this stranger around the corner where she met a man leaning against a van. He took us off her hands and walked us into an office building. This was what we had heard about and hoped to experience. We’re stupid like that.

Once in the office building, an elevator opened and once again we were passed off to a new stranger. Up we went to who knows what! When the doors opened, we were in presence of the purses! There were thousands of them. We called our friends and told them how they, too, could be escorted through dubious channels of strangers and reunited with us in the purse place.

They thought us crazy, but I say – crazy like a fox!

Some of our friends joined us while, I’m assuming, the others prayed for our safe return.

Return we did, and we had lots of cheap purses as the reward for our risk.

I’m not sure why I wanted to do this. I guess it felt like a New York thing instead of a possible abduction thing. Plus, I rarely ever change my purse, so the whole thing was ridiculous. I could never recommend doing this, but it was strangely fun.

This time while in Chinatown with my girls, we were solicited by purse people. Traveling with my precious grand-daughters caused me to resist. That may mean that I’ve either gotten more street safety savvy, have come to respect brand names, or I didn’t want to have to buy purses for everybody. I’m not sure, but the girls seemed relieved.

We went to Little Italy instead where we shopped from actual stores and finished our day in Chinatown doing a little window smelling. And that’s how we ended our trip.

Ella didn’t ask to eat anything here.

Lots of fresh food

Perfect way to end the day – crackers in bed.

I understand there is some wonderful cuisine in New York City. We didn’t eat much of it, but we sure had fun.

Taken!

I am sure you remember the riveting account of our new garbage can that I told you about in April (The Great Garbage Can Controversy). I shared from the heart about that can and even revealed some marital differences which Bob and I had over it. Does anyone else share such intimate details of their life with you?

Anyway, with that in mind, you can imagine the dismay that was mine when I went to the curb to add garbage to that cherished receptacle and found it missing last week. Seriously, is nothing sacred?

I called Bob at work to see if he was playing some kind of weird hide-and-seek game with me. I half expected to find clues hidden around the house as to its whereabouts; but he assured me that wasn’t the case. Someone stole our 45-gallon beauty.

We have had family in town for the last 3.5 weeks, so it was literally all cans on deck. We were taking garbage out two or three times a day. The paper products alone would fill a can in a day. Seriously, we had up to 20 people here daily. I had a spread sheet to help me remember who was coming and going and which nights we were cooking. It was intense scheduling.

The guest of honor was our 9-month-old grandson from Michigan, who was here for two weeks with his parents and brother. It was his presence that brought in the masses as nobody except for me had met him yet. He was very popular!

He also produced a lot of wet and otherwise soiled diapers. I don’t know what our deranged thief was thinking, but I have to believe that if they were looking for gold nuggets, those weren’t the kind of nuggets they found.

I drove the neighborhood looking for our can. I had a picture of it to help ID it. Alas, I did find one can at the curb that looked like ours, but the garbage inside didn’t smell like wet diapers so I left it alone. (Yes, I stopped and checked it out.)

Image result for picture of garbage can running

photo credit: dreamstime.com

My theory is that some kid stole it and brought it home as a prank. I theorize that he or she also took several others. I can picture their mom asking where did all these garbage cans come from and saying to return them. Alas, it would be impossible to remember where they all came from. Yep, that’s my theory. So now I’m looking for a house with 10 or 20 cans lined up along the side yard and a frustrated mom who answers the door. That is way more entertaining than someone going through our garbage to get “the dirt” on us.

 

 

I Got This

I like to watch the news in the morning, but when we have a house full of grandchildren, I let the world take care of itself for a few days. Except for the weather. I’m kind of a nut about keeping up with the weather. Yes, I do know about weather apps and mine is a close friend. But I like to see the big national map and hear what local meteorologist Jayme King has to say.

Two of my grandchildren sat with me this morning as I watched. Jett, who is almost 11 and entering the sixth grade next month, said he likes the weather because it’s the only thing he really understands on the news.

Four-year-old Felix was happy to watch it because he knows when it’s over, he gets to watch Paw Patrol. But first, a little conversation.

Cousins

Felix – What do you like better, rain or sun?

Jett – Sun.

Felix – Me, too.

Jett – You know, you need the sun because it makes rain. It heats the water up and …

Felix interrupting – I got this. The sun pulls the water up from the oceans and lakes and it falls back down as rain.

Jett – He just explained the water cycle. I didn’t learn that until this year in the fifth grade.

Felix – Well, I’m in zero grade and I already learned that.

Jett and I just look at each other amazed and afraid to add anything else to the conversation. Neither of us is particularly comfortable with a four-year-old being smarter than we are, but we’re adjusting.

I Could Have Had All the Toys

If there had been social media when I was raising my kids, I could have had all the toys.

My daughter-in-law posted this to her Face Book page:

This might be a long shot, but to any of my local friends: do your kids have any of these (picture included) Toy Story 4 McDonald’s toys they don’t want anymore? Or perhaps you are trying to build the RV too and have doubles of a toy like we do? My son is trying to complete the RV and we need three more pieces that might have already gone through circulation. Anyone want to trade?

 

Last I checked, after two days there were 30 comments and 1 share for this post. So many helpful people trying to meet the wishes of my grandson. I was so proud of my daughter-in-law.

But to really appreciate this, you need to know the back story. When I was raising my four children, I really liked collecting happy meal toys. When I say “really liked,” read – was slightly obsessed. When I say “slightly obsessed,” I mean completely obsessed. I even had a reputation, which was mentioned in the comments from a few of my oldest friends and family.

In those days, Friday was McDonald’s lunch day. I home-schooled, so it was an end-of-the-week treat. I’d go to the drive-through and order a meal for them and a meal for me. That way they’d have a toy to play with and I’d build my own complete set to be kept in the box or package. In the collectible world that’s called NRFB (never removed from box). I had plastic crates full of these glorious toys.

The problem was, sometimes McDonald’s would not have everything I needed to complete my set. At first, I would drive from shop to shop, asking if they had a certain toy. This was time consuming and didn’t always get the desired result and it made me feel kind of like a nitwit. Plus, if my kids were with me, they complained that I was trying to starve them. Every stop was taunting their taste buds, but I would not be deterred.

I tried calling around to the different McDonald’s in the area (approximately 47 within 15 minutes of us) to see who had what I lacked, but I didn’t really trust that they really searched, so I went back to going there and watching them search.

I am fairly certain that I was the most hated but loyal McDonald’s customer in the area. I know it embarrassed my older kids. One of them even wrote a short story about me trying to exchange a Barbie happy meal toy because she had a scratch on her nose. There was a lot of exaggeration in the story. I did not really punch or threaten anyone. I never jumped over the counter and went through the toy bins myself. But I did point out the scratch and exchange her while my kids sat with another woman and called her mom.

But back to the present. I told my sweet daughter-in-law how happy her post had made me. I even was able to find one of the three toys she was seeking. It was like I had traveled back in time.

She then informed me that it was really my son who was determined to complete the set. My grandson was, too. Well, that’s when I knew that I had raised my kids well. Sometimes you wonder if your kids will turn out okay, if they’ll make good parents. Then something like this happens. Looks like I must have done something right after all.

Don’t Make Me Put My Fingers in Your Mouth

It’s been quite a week. I’ve been spit upon, pinched, and had my hair pulled repeatedly. Sometimes I’ve even been subjected to screaming and awakened in the middle of the night. It’s been wonderful.

As much fun as it’s been, I still felt the need to respond to these outbursts, so I would stick my fingers in his mouth or zerbert his neck. When things really ramped up, I resorted to making myself disappear, only to reappear seconds later with an emphatic peek-a-boo. This would bring a stilled, confused silence followed by bouts of laughter.

I guess you’ve figured out that I have been on grandmother duty. I spent a week with my 4-year-old and 6-month-old grandsons (and their parents). I confess, I have kissed that sweet baby’s face when it was covered with so much drool that we both needed to be wiped down afterward.

Sweet, Soggy Boy – Can you see the drool in his neck folds? He’s a slippery one sometimes.

I have been thinking about all the things I do to my grandbabies that I would never do to another person in the world. For instance, I would never:

  1. Put my fingers in your mouth. I don’t care how bad your gums hurt; you cannot gnaw on my knuckles.
  2. Give you a kiss if your face is covered with drool.
  3. Play This Little Piggy with your toes.
  4. Let you stand on my knees.
  5. Not smack you if you pulled my hair.
  6. Put up with you spitting food at me.
  7. Taste your food to see if it’s too hot for you.
  8. Hold you over my head and say what a big person you are.
  9. Read you the same story over and over again.
  10. Burp you.

For my grandkids, there are no holds barred – at least when they’re babies. Love covers a multitude of drool.

The Perfect Ten

My daughter, her four kids, and their dog arrived late last night. I didn’t expect to get any blog ideas from them this soon, but that was silly of me.

I have become accustomed to a rather quiet start to my day, but I happily throw that out the window when grandchildren are around. Ten-year-old Jett was the earliest riser and we enjoyed a chat before I had even downed my first cup of coffee. Of course, I’m not sure how coherent I was, but Jett picked up the slack and kept the conversation moving.

We discussed everything from villains and heroes to the states of matter. Jett likes science and excels at math. Personally, I think he will become an engineer. I recognize that gifting and love to see his creative mind in action, but we’ll see. He likes to write, too, so the world is his oyster.

Soon the rest of the family gathered. One of his sisters said, “Oh, my gosh,” in response to something. The end of the statement kind of dropped off, so her mom (Dena) reminded her how much that sounds like, “Oh, my God.”

“You don’t want to take the name of the Lord in vain,” Dena said.

 

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” – Exodus 20:7

 

The breakfast conversation turned to the Ten Commandments – not the movie, the actual Ten from Exodus.

Image result for free pictures of the ten commandments

We talked about what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain. It means say it in jest or take his name lightly. It was a great conversation.

And then Dena broke out in song. She and her brother sang The Perfect Ten as part of a program that our church children’s choir performed quite a few years ago. She breezed through nine out of ten commandments before she got stumped. We had to look up #10 and remind ourselves not to covet.

Here’s the video of the song for your enjoyment. It’s still as helpful as ever.

 

By the end of the conversation, I think Jett was catching on. He doesn’t want to take God’s name in vain or use it lightly. “Well,” he said, “I guess from now on, I’ll just say – Oh my Gollum.”

There you have it. You never really know if you’re getting through to kids, but it sure is interesting trying.

 

 

This is Post #17 in the Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in April.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture Shock!

I was a stranger in a strange land. Gone were the familiar greens and blues. Everything was white. And cold. Very cold!

I knew that it had been a harsh winter in Michigan. I heard about the polar vortex and kept current on conditions because our son and his family live there. But I was not prepared to be dropped into a setting of white.

As we began our descent into Grand Rapids, this was my view.

Close up was a lot more intimidating. Driving with snow drifts higher than your car is stranger than driving after Hurricane Irma left piles of debris along our Florida streets. Our Irma debris held on for over two months. I think the Michigan snow drifts might beat that.

It was embarrassing finding myself commenting on the snow. As a Floridian, I’m used to people talking about the weather. Our summers are long and hot. The heat can be oppressive and unrelenting. And the rain – the rain can sneak up on you and be delivered not only downward but sideways in sheets that take all visibility away. But just as suddenly as it began, it can be gone.

Snow is not like that. Snow stays and gets pushed around by convoys of plows. It gets piled high as an elephant’s eye. It gets dirty and then covered by fresh snow. The plows come day after day. The piles grow. Ice storms mess with your footing. You have to borrow boots from your daughter-in-law (thanks, Dacia!). You have the feeling that you don’t belong here. It’s otherworldly.

So, comment I did. I couldn’t stop talking about how white everything was. My sweet daughter-in-law seemed amused by my snow befuddlement. I did grow up in Maryland. We had snow there. But not like this! I stared out the window in amazement. I couldn’t get over it. Finally, I realized I needed someone to help me with my culture shock, so I called in an expert – my four-year-old grandson. Felix loves snow. He was a little baffled by my lack of experience with it, so he offered his point of view.

 

I figure if it’s a little too much snow for a four-year-old, it’s okay that it’s a lot too much for me.

Are You Ever too Old for SeaWorld?

SeaWorld used to be a calm, risk-free place – a place for animals and shows with one lone roller coaster to break things up a bit. Now, it’s the opposite.

For Christmas we gave our local grandsons (10 and 12 years old) a day at SeaWorld with us. We love to give an event when possible. It’s so easy to wrap! We had the date prearranged with our son and his wife to make sure our calendars didn’t collide. The fun began on the way there. (more…)

Bath and Body (didn’t) Works

I was in Bath and Body Works yesterday sniffing through their vast collection of holiday hand soaps. Currently in my house, last year’s soaps adorn the sinks. I tend to over-buy so at the end of the season, I put those soaps under the sink until the next year. With a small amount of people in our house, it takes a couple Decembers to go through one. With my current stock, it will be 2021 before I need to buy again.

This year I decided to avoid that shop like I avoid leaving Florida in the wintertime. I’m in North Carolina as I write this, so I guess both plans went south, or in the geographic case, north.

So, I’m freezing and trying not to let my comments about how cold it is be all that I say to people. “Hi, I’m Bonnie. I’m freezing.” How’s that for an ice-breaker?

Anyway, no matter what the temperature, I want to see my kids and grandkids, so I loaded up my car for a quick trip to see my daughter, who also happens to be my shopping buddy. She has four children so they can go through a container of pump soap in about 36 hours. She is the reason why Bath and Body Works is so successful.

I got to thinking. Everybody loves Vanilla Bean Noel, Twisted Peppermint, and Winter Candy Apple. They are names that grab you. Names you want to look at everyday when you wash your hands. But what names didn’t make the cut? What names were wash-outs and what did they smell like? Here’s my list:

Charred Santa – Fire in the chimney with a little bit of toasted jolly and fluff

Cranberry Reindeer Droppings – Subtle and spicy undertones of cranberry with a hint of reindeer excrement

Burnt Vanilla Cookie – Even with a truly unpleasant fragrance, this soap cannot be resisted. You’ll smell like you just burned a fresh batch.

Holly and Poison Ivy – Fresh smell of holly with a trace of Calamine Lotion

Tinsel Trauma – Slightly metallic smell that will take you back to your childhood. Use in a well-ventilated room and keep away from children.

May you have a wonderful, clean-smelling Christmas Season!