Things About Me

A while back there was a game going around Facebook, Things People Don’t Know About Me. Here’s mine.

Although I have a BA and a BS, I dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and never took a college entrance exam.

Math was never my strong suit. In the math section of the GED I could only answer two of the questions. It was a fill-in-the-bubbles type of test. I looked at the pattern of answers in the other two sections and made a similar pattern in the math section. I passed by two points.

When I was four years old I noticed that the dog’s food had nuggets in four different colors. I wondered if each color was a different flavor. They all tasted the same to me….

Everywhere I lived as a kid I planted tulip bulbs descended from ones my grandmother gave me when we moved away from Candor.

The only surgery or hospitalization I’ve had was tonsils at age five.

When I was five I had a dance lesson. The instructor told my mother she was wasting her money and that was the end of that. At age thirty-five I went to Jazzercise and took six months to learn to do a jazz square step.

When I was thirteen, some of us girls spent our Girl Scout dues on cigarettes. That put us behind on our dues and we couldn’t explain without getting in trouble. So that was the end of scouting and the beginning of eighteen years of spending money on cigarettes.

The year I was 40 I had three full days of allergy testing. At the end, they told me the two things I’m NOT allergic to are dogs and aspartame.

I’ve been to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York, and to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

As an host, I’ve had guests from Sweden, Belarus, France, Montreal, Switzerland, Thailand, Belgium, Colombia, Canada, and Louisiana.

The farthest west I’ve ever gone is Texas; the farthest east is England; farthest south is mile marker 0 in Key West; farthest north is Toronto.

The most I’ve ever paid for a car is $2,000. I paid more for my 49cc. scooter and it was every bit as crappy as any of my cars were.

What don’t people know about you?


My Experience with Hello Fresh

I got a discount offer to try the Hello Fresh home meal delivery program. They send all the ingredients and a large illustrated instruction card for each meal. You have to do the cooking, but everything is provided except salt, pepper, and oil. I signed up for three meals for two people, resulting in six meals for just me.

A big attraction was having the groceries delivered to my door by UPS. I forgot I’d have to pick it up off the mat and carry it in. The food plus the hefty freezer packs were quite heavy for me (degenerative joint disease). I got it inside without hurting myself and opened the box. It was like that dramatic moment on Chopped when the competing cooks open the mystery food basket.

The non-meat ingredients for each recipe were in a bag labeled with the recipe name. The vacuum-packed meats were all at the bottom of the box where it’s colder.

The packing was very skillful. The tomato for the Frico Cheeseburger with Broccoli survived shipping with no bruising. I was impressed. The creating chefs thought I was going to stand at the stove stirring chopped onion with vinegar and sugar to make onion jam. That’s too much for me, so I just sliced the purple onion to put on the burger raw. They also thought I was going to bake round piles of shredded cheese to make crispy “fricos.” That’s probably great, but I just sprinkled the cheese over the oven-roasted broccoli. The ground beef was excellent, and the bun reasonably interesting. Roasted broccoli pieces taste much more interesting than boiled or steamed.

Next, the pork roast with oven-roasted vegetables. Again, oven roasting makes far more interesting vegetables than water-based cooking. The small potatoes looked okay on the outside, but about half of them were rotten on the inside. The tomato was underripe and mealy. The purple onion and zucchini were great. The pork roasts were high quality and delicious. Each of their servings was two servings for me.

The chicken quesadillas called for lots of chopping and mixing. I skipped making separate pico de gallo and just put the ingredients in the tortilla with the cooked vegetables and chicken cubes. I thought the pineapple with the cooked onions and peppers would taste odd, but it fit right in once cooked together in the seasonings. I didn’t understand why the instructions called for cubing and cooking one boneless skinless chicken breast and do whatever you want with the other one. Why put in two? What I did with the other one was threw it out because it was a funny yellow color and rough texture, though it smelled okay.

This program costs more than twice what it costs me to buy and transport groceries myself. It’s almost twice as delicious. The super thing about it is not having to decide what to cook and make sure I have all the ingredients. Most of the thinking was taken care of, but because of my physical limitations, I had trouble with parts of the cooking process.

I enjoyed the discount trial, but to continue wouldn’t be frugal.

When Exactly is the Last Minute?

When making a last-minute credit card payment by phone, the definition of “last minute” matters. Does the company consider the day to end when they close at five, or at midnight? Are they assuming Eastern time or some other time zone?

Even if you usually pay ahead of time, it couldn’t hurt to call and find out when their “last minute” is, and make a note of it. Things happen sometimes, and you may want to know at some point in the future.

If it happens that you miss the last minute and incur a late fee, it can’t hurt to call and explain what happened. Maybe they’ll reverse it, especially if you have a strong previous payment record.


Horrendously Expensive Medications

The latest email from includes an article from a subscriber who couldn’t afford the $280 (!) co-pay on a prescription. He remembered those TV ads about how the manufacturer “may be able to help.” He called and explained his situation. They gave him a coupon for a month’s worth free. Since his was an acute condition, this was enough to get him through.

It can’t hurt to ask!


Writers: Seeking Certainty


Seeking Certainty

Fiction writing is an awkward compendium of art and craft, and one with very few absolutes. A physicist can drop something off a roof and know with certainty what gravity will cause it to do under all conditions. A writer has dozens of rules, conventions, alternatives, options, and style choices.

Having written, we then hear from critiquers, readers, editors, and publishers that the work is, or isn’t, cohesive, engaging, properly punctuated, correctly formatted, in the currently preferred style and point of view . . . on and on.

We don’t have one Delphic Oracle to pronounce definitively that this way of phrasing the sentence or describing the scene is absolutely correct and that way is definitely incorrect. We lack certainty.

Humans tend to prefer certainty. Consequently, when a respected person says something, we are likely to clutch it like a shipwreck survivor grabbing a passing flotation device. Someone says not to use adverbs as a substitute for strong verbs. Lacking certainty as to what exactly “strong verbs” would be in any specific situation, we remember and repeat, “Don’t use adverbs.”

Someone says never to repeat words within a few lines of each other. So we make pretzels of ourselves trying to find another word for something that doesn’t really have on-point synonyms. If a kitchen sink is key to a scene, once we’ve called it the sink, and perhaps the basin, do we then reach for awkward alternatives like tub, leaving the reader wondering how we suddenly moved from the kitchen to the bathroom? Or, do we use common sense and just call it a sink again.

As a reader, I never noticed repeated words until writers groups made an issue of them. I’m not saying to ignore repeated words. I’m saying let’s not go nuts about it. What matters is conveying the meaning and telling the story.

Someone says semi-colons are pretentious in fiction and suddenly we’re writing comma splices or cutting apart clauses that make more sense together. The purpose of a semi-colon is to join two clauses that could be separate sentences, but are so closely related they work better in the same sentence together. There’s nothing wrong with using punctuation marks in the manner they are intended.

Some publishers don’t accept manuscripts written in the omniscient point of view. That’s useful information for a writer who hopes to submit to those publishers. It’s not a reason to tell all writers that their omniscient writing is wrong. Sure, let them know it’s out of fashion, but if they are self-published or submitting to a more open-minded publisher, and want to take a chance, that’s their choice.

Many current, traditionally published, widely read novels are written in the omniscient point of view. Some of the works of Alexander McCall Smith, Nevada Barr, Phillip Pullman, and Terry Pratchett are examples.

Any certainty we may achieve is tenuous at best, full of exceptions, loaded with nuance, and constantly changing. The challenge is to avoid locking our writing into artificially produced straight jackets in the struggle to cope with a chronic lack of certainty.




Originally published in the blog of the Florida Writers Association

The Third Marshview Book is Out!

Cold Case, in which Sheriff’s Deputy Sam Arnold unravels the mystery of why an ordinary old man had a dead body in the freezer on his back porch, is now available on Amazon.

This one was harder to write because I kept changing my mind as to the cause of death and who the murderer was. Set in the present day in central Florida, the book teems with interesting local characters and intriguing plot twists.

Accused of Snoring?

It occurred to me to wonder if I snore. Since I’ve been using Xylimelt tablets at night, I don’t wake myself up with loud snores, but I wondered. My phone has a feature whereby it can record audio for several hours. Last night I set it to record and went to sleep. This morning I’m listening to it. After forty minutes of silence, the soft, steady snoring began.

At forty-eight minutes the subtle sound became raucous. How in the world do I sleep through that? Then silence, punctuated by a sound like a cawing crow. Gasp, cough. If I were sleeping next door to that I’d consider calling 911.


My point, if any, is that if you and your significant other ever debate whether one of you snores or not, the wonderful capacities of the modern cell phone can discover the true facts.