Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World peace begins with a giggle

We're all just too serious – too angry.

Stop that.

"I have never yet seen or heard anything serious that was not ridiculous," Horace Walpole said.

Find the silliness.

Learn to laugh at ourselves, and the anger goes away.

If you're not ready to laugh at yourself, find something that makes you laugh.

If you're not ready to laugh, find something that makes you smile.

If you're not ready to smile – well, find a way to get ready.

Our lives depend on it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The accidental book cover

Willow and Dejah were wrestling, as dogs and puppies are wont to do, and I grabbed the camera to see if I could get them in action. For the most part, the session was a failure. They wouldn’t turn their faces toward me, and just as I clicked the photo they would move. Wrestling dogs don’t pause to pose.

When I looked at the dismal results of the session, however, one shot popped out at me – the puppy, caught in mid-snarl in a blur. It was not long after she’d had emergency surgery, and she still was wearing the cone that protected her stitches. Through the blur you could see her eyes, wide with the frustration of wanting to get to Willow through the cone.

I knew I would be writing a story about a man who makes the transition from one life to the next and becomes a puppy trying to solve his own murder. And an ebook cover was born.

Sometimes artwork is the result of painstaking planning and careful thought. Sometimes you get lucky.

The Puppy Cried ‘Murder’ is available now at an ebook distributor near you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It's time I tried to say this

(My Door County Advocate column for June 11.)

It’s odd to have let eight years go by. My mother passed away on June 6, 2006, and with all of the writing I have done since then, I have never written about her death. Not directly, at least.

Hilda Elwell was born Dec. 14, 1923, youngest of three children. Her brother Henry Jr. was a ham radio enthusiast, interested in the new technology that was growing up with them.

One day she encountered one of her brother’s radio friends, a handsome, lanky young man her age named Dick Bluhm. They began to see each other; actually, she was a bit of a looker herself, and several young men were interested.

But, she would tell her three sons, one day she heard that you should marry someone you can’t live without. She thought about these young men who sought her and realized one by one that they were all people she could live without if she had to – all except one.

“I thought oh, if I had to live without Richard, I don’t think I could do that,” she told us. They were married Dec. 3, 1944, and moved the next year to California, where the Army transferred him in those waning days of the war.

Anyone asked to raise three sons is a saint. We were a handful, the three of us fussing and watching the world from the back seat of the 1954 Studebaker Commander. 

I remember someone who loved to laugh, who tried to be cheerful and optimistic in all things, countering angry or discouraging words with a chorus from “South Pacific”: “Happy talk, keep talking happy talk …” 

I remember peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a generous additional dab of butter, and at Christmastime I remember magic bars, those marvelous treats layered with chocolate, coconut and condensed milk with a graham-cracker-crumb base.

Her mind began to fail her in later years. In every phone call to New Jersey, I would tell her we had seven cats, and she was amazed  and surprised every time. 

I remember once she responded to one of my comments with a sly remark like she used to, and it was my turn to be surprised. She was still in there after all, at least from time to time. It was comforting, but I mourned for the lady she was.

On the morning of June 5, 2006, she woke up and told my dad she had a terrible headache, and she stayed in bed for a while. When he came back to check on her a little while later, she wouldn’t wake up. 

I was called that night and asked to come right away. I drove through the night and all day, and the three of us gathered with Dad around the hospital bed. They took her off life support, and Dad held her hand.

She didn’t move the whole time. Only the monitors told us when she was gone. Her heart kept beating longer than I expected. I remember saying, “She always did have a good heart.”

Then I collapsed from exhaustion. That was damn embarrassing. After the doctors made sure I was OK, Dad and my younger brother and I went out for a pizza. Long her caregiver, Dad hadn’t left her side much that last day.

These words seem inadequate. Maybe that’s why I haven’t written about it for eight years: How do you properly explain my mom? How does anyone?

I had a good talk on the phone with my dad on Friday, June 6; we didn’t mention the reason I decided to call that particular day. Not directly, at least. 

Sunday afternoon I made magic bars. After they came out of the oven, I took a bite and thought, “Hi, Mom. Merry Christmas.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Never give up

Dejah collapses in exhaustion on the floor, frustrated that she can't seem to find her big sister Willow anywhere.