As soon as she reached for a napkin with her sample cups, I knew who she was. She came in the first time a week or two after we opened. One of the bosses was there, and she went to great length to tell the two of us how one should only eat a tiny bit of frozen yogurt once in a while as a treat. We tried to explain how it’s healthier than ice cream or frozen custard, and she wouldn’t hear it. I thought she was rude, but the boss chatted her up. Turns out she’s a personal trainer originally from Poland. She tried a couple samples and left.

A couple of weeks ago, she came back. This was when she took the napkin. Newbies who haven’t tried our yogurt don’t know to take napkins because they don’t know when the yogurt is in the serving pipe for a while, it melts, and sometimes it makes a mess. She tried several flavors (all with the same sample cup) and came to the register to tell us that although the organic strawberry and organic banana were very flavorful, everything else tasted like Nutella. Might be because she kept going back to the Nutella, or it might be because of the same sample cup. Again, she left without buying anything.

Yesterday, I was working in the back and came to the front as she was walking out the door with nothing in her hands. She’s going in my current story. Her character will be unrecognizable and won’t make it to the end…

Happy Memorial Day

I’m off to work in a little while. It’s been years since I’ve had to work on a holiday, and Eric loves that he gets to stay home and goof off while I head to the fro-yo mines.

While a memorial service isn’t on my schedule today, I will be mindful of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I know it’s supposed to be about the people who died in wars, or from injuries sustained there, but I can’t help but include first responders in there. They wage battles of a different kind every day–against crime, bureaucracy, hatred, anger, entitlement and complacence. Like our soldiers, they do it on low pay and, sometimes, no sleep, and sometimes they spill their blood in the course of their duties.

To those of you left behind, and to those of you who’s loved one came home changed beyond recognition, you are in my thoughts and prayers. You are our living testament to the sacrifice.

My Muse

I went looking for the post where I talked about my muse. I thought I wrote it years ago, but it’s not here. Must have been a butterfly moment.* I cranked up the Wayback Machine** and found the post where I realized my muse is Walter Mitty. Feel free to peruse it if you wish.

If you don’t know who Walter Mitty is, and a shocking number of people don’t, he’s the main character from a short story, “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber. They did make movie by the same name two years ago starring Ben Stiller. I haven’t seen it, but from the synopsis I read online, it bears little resemblance to the story. Therefore, my Walter does not look like Ben Stiller. He’s a white-haired gentlemen who smokes a pipe and has a fondness for scotch. If I neglect him, he runs off to Tahiti (yes, the magical place), where he lies on the beach under an umbrella sipping adult beverages and admiring the thong bikinis¬† scenery. It’s really hard to drag him back to work.

By now, some of you no doubt think I’m delusional. All you artsy types out there, though, know what I’m talking about, whether you admit it or not. How about you? Have you gotten to know your muse?


*I have ADOB. Attention Deficit Ooooohhh Butterfly!

**This one, ya little whippersnapper, not the digital archive.

New feature

Last spring, when we started to explore the city in earnest, we saw things we’d never seen before. We were sheltered, I guess, but it seemed like common sense not to walk in the city at night in dark clothing while listening to music with headphones, and crossing the street without looking. If she’d been paying attention, she might have noticed the bus that almost rear-ended the car that had to wait for her to get off Holy Ground ( the cross walk). The sad thing is, things like that are commonplace here.

One day I opined to Eric that I’d never known survival instinct could be legislated out of people. If it wasn’t illegal to hit people in a cross walk, maybe they’d pay attention to where they were going. I think that was the first time I said, “Darwin would be appalled.”

Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and as veterans sometimes do, I made an acronym: DWBA, or as we say, Dee-wubba.

I know I’m not seeing anything that doesn’t happen in other places. I guess you don’t really even have to be in a big city to see it. In our small town downstate, though, you don’t see things like people walking at night in black clothing much, and when you do, it’s usually a teen. I’m probably only seeing more of it because of the higher population density. Nevertheless, I’ll be sharing my observations with you. Let me know if it’s a Chicago thing, or if you see these things where you are.

New day job

Writers tend to live in their heads. You’ve probably heard that before. Even when we’re out and about, doing the same mundane things you do, we see things, and we think, “Wow, that needs to go in a story!” And we file it away for future use. The downside is we sometimes live too much in our heads. We become hermits unless we have a reason to walk away from it for a while. I was heading there, fast, and then one day, Eric pointed out the sign I needed.

Yes. A literal sign. In the window of a new frozen yogurt shop opening across the street from our apartment. I applied on a whim. I was sure, even then, I would get the job. After all, frozen yogurt shops usually hire teens. It’s an ideal first job, but teens go to school. They would need someone with a flexible schedule to work until the teens could come in. I even told my interviewer I’ve raised teens and know how to deal with them, plus I have years of diverse customer service experience, and frankly, I didn’t know why they wouldn’t want to hire me. For once, my cockiness paid off. I knew it would one day.

I started two weeks ago, and at first I didn’t say much about it to anyone. Honestly, I felt like a bit of a loser, taking a minimum wage job that requires me to wear a visor at my age. I’ve come to realize this is the perfect job for this part of my life. It’s part time, so I still have time to write. It gets me out amongst people, which was really what I needed most. There’s frozen yogurt. What’s not to love about that?

This morning, I saw a Facebook post about 60 being the new 40. My writer brain thought, “Oh, then 40 must be the new 20.” Remember your 20’s? Assuming you’ve had them already? The world is wide open, every day filled with promise and new things to learn. Suddenly it seemed perfectly appropriate that I should take an entry level job. I’m in a new stage of life, and while I’ve got a few gray hairs and some extra pounds, the world is no less wide open than it was 20 years ago. More wide open, maybe, because I don’t have small children, but I do have a man who loves me. No need to decide which dating website is best! Score! And let’s face it, I have the best commute in Chicago.

Stay tuned for blogworthy stories from the Day Job.

Blackbirds Second Flight live chat

Some of the authors of Blackbirds Second Flight are getting together on Google+ this Thursday evening from 5-7 to answer questions about the Blackbirds books. You can watch it here. I’ve had several questions about one story in particular. I’m happy to have seen them ahead of time because I’ve had to consult scientists about it. They’re very busy, so I hated to bother them with this.

No, I didn’t. It’s payback. They’re my kids. I birthed scientists, to my continual surprise, and I would be a terrible mother if I didn’t take advantage of their gifts, especially since the primary ones they got from me were the sarcasm and smart-ass genes. Having grown children is truly delightful!

The other positive thing about seeing the questions in advance is it’s inspired me to do some world-building. A few people have already said they want to know more of the story, and to do that effectively, I need to compile what I know so I can research (dream up) what I don’t know yet. It’s a bit daunting. I’ll need more coffee.

Curious about the story yet? Join us Thursday evening* and order your copy of Blackbirds Second Flight. You can let me know which story you want to see more of!


*If, for some strange reason, you’re not available to watch Thursday, I believe it will be archived on YouTube. I’ll edit with the link when I get one.

What I did on my kid’s spring break

We’re getting our St. Louis house ready to go on the market. It’s been a lot of work, and Alex volunteered to spend his (and his girlfriend’s!) spring break moving stuff to storage. We focused mainly on the garage but he also helped me move some furniture.

For some reason, this didn’t post when it was supposed to, and I was too busy to mess with it last week. We pushed hard and did almost everything we needed to do. It’s enough to start showing, and the listing goes live this week. Let the games begin! Here’s what we got done:

IMG_3517 We moved this








into this:












We cleared most of this,










and moved this,

IMG_3521_2partly so it would be visible from the foyer, but mostly so I could paint the wall it had been partially blocking.










Oh, and we donated all this:












Lest you think it was all work and no play, we met my friend Jenn (who was also on spring break) for dinner.







To recap the last month, as far as I can remember, we took 9 loads of stuff to storage, 3 full loads to Goodwill, made two scrap yard runs, 1 trip to the local compost site with branches and bush clippings, had two pickup truck loads of junk burned, and donated two refrigerators from the garage. We also added trash to our neighbor’s garbage bin twice. I was absolutely sure, right up to the last day, that there was no way we’d pull it off, but somehow we did. Special thanks to Mom and Step-Dad, Alex, Emma, and Vicky for all your hard work.


Mole Chili

You know that recipe I promised that won our church’s chili cook-off? The one I was going to post in the middle of the week? Here it is! I’m taking a break from working on the house (more on that in a few days) and thought I’d better do this while I was thinking about it.

I divided it between a large crock pot (for the chili cook-off) and a small one (for us). It should be pretty easy to scale back and adjust to taste. Oh, and about the the seasonings. I don’t measure. I dump, and you’ll want to adjust them to taste anyway.¬† I seasoned the meat when I browned it, seasoned the chili in the crock pot, and then, about an hour before we had to leave, I tasted and seasoned it again. I used a lot of cumin and somewhat less of everything else.

One other thing: wear gloves when you cut the peppers. Trust me on this. You’ll think you washed the juice off your hands, but you’ll be wrong, and when you touch your face you’ll get zinged. Seriously, I cried my make-up off. Learn from my folly. Wear gloves.

Mole Chili

2 lbs ground beef (I used 80/20 because it was cheap)

1 lb ground turkey

2 poblano peppers, diced and seeded

1 jalapeno pepper, diced and seeded*

2 large cans (22 oz? 32 oz?)** tomato sauce

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 can (16 oz) each pinto beans and kidney beans, rinsed

3-4 tablespoons powdered dark chocolate (I used Hershey’s)

Cumin, garlic powder, and smoked black pepper, divided to taste

Cook the peppers with the meat and some of each seasoning (including the chocolate).

Toss it all in the crock pot or dutch oven and cook at least 4 hours. I think mine cooked about 6.

That’s all there is to it. If you make it, let me know how it came out!


*If you want more kick, add another jalapeno or two. You can also leave the seeds in it to make it hotter, or substitute the jalapenos for habaneros if you want even more heat.

**I don’t have any in my pantry right now, but they’re the next size up from the 16 oz.

Unplanned hiatus, done.

I don’t know what it is about Chicago winters. Last year I thought it was because of the polar vortex and my culture shock, but we didn’t have either of those this year. I haven’t been in here for a while because I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to say. With the exception of my annual Florida pilgrimage, I didn’t do much of anything. It’s more complicated getting around in the city in the winter. There’s all the layering and suiting up, even if it’s just to take out the trash. Sometimes people don’t shovel the snow off their sidewalks, making walking an adventure. Suffice to say, I’m happy spring is around the corner.

I will be in and out the rest of this month. I’ll be spending a lot more time downstate getting the house ready to sell. It goes on the market April 1, so after that it’s really a matter of waiting, and then moving the rest of the furniture out once we get a contract. I hope, with military move season about to start in earnest, that we’ll sell quickly.

I’ve had some requests on Facebook for my award winning chili recipe. I’ll put that here later in the week, when I’m desperate for a break, after which I will likely clean painted fingerprints off my keyboard. Thanks for checking in!

Happy New Year!

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty happy to see the tail end of 2014. We did some very cool things, but there was a lot of stress involved, too. I won’t even talk about my 2014 goals. I didn’t do them. Apparently, there is some truth to having them written out where you can see them. I did a word doc, and I left it on my desktop, but it got opened, oh, maybe three times this year, the earliest being November. That’s when I realized I couldn’t write 200 days this year even if I wrote every day left. I didn’t get in shape, didn’t visit Grandma enough, didn’t focus on clean eating, you get the idea.

I haven’t written anything down for 2015. I don’t think I will. I have my word count spreadsheet set up already with my 200 days already noted. I think that’s enough to worry about. Mostly I’m over 2014 and ready for a fresh start. We’re starting the year with uncertainty, but really, everyone is. No one knows what will happen later tonight, let alone the rest of the year.

I’ll leave you with this. I wish for you health, happiness, perspective, empathy and a little bit of joy for each of the next 365 days.

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