Happiness is Help

I like to work alone. Really alone. In my bedroom with the door closed, Veronica on the bed beside me–she never interferes–a Diet Coke, and my laptop. Bliss.

Except I couldn’t figure out how to get the dishwasher to work, so I dragged Pat Gaffney into my kitchen to show me. She’s the one who helped me put my lawn furniture together, too. And an end table. And her husband Jon helped me by putting my living room bookcases together on his own so I could get my books out of the garage. And then there’s Bob Mayer, typing his half of our story. I love that, I love it that I get to read parts of my book that I’ve never seen before.

So I like to work alone, but my life is definitely better and I am happier when somebody I trust helps. Thank you, Pat, Jon, and Bob.

Did anybody help make you happy this week?

(Also, below is the second scene of Rocky Start, courtesy of my talented, helpful partner, Bob Mayer.)

Chapter 2

My dog, Maggs, and I had been shadow-walking the Appalachian Trail for months, and today we’d headed for the town my old boss Herc had sent my boots to. It was a pretty little place, spread out for a half mile covering a bend in the river away from the highway. When we got into town, I heard some shouting from a store, and then a guy stumbled backwards out of the door, dragging a crazed lady swinging a black statue. And then there was the big black Mercedes with the subtle but important modifications indicating it was armored, engine running, parked across the street.

All of that seemed odd, but none of it was my problem.

But then he backhanded her. I don’t care who started it or who was in the right or wrong, you don’t hit women. You might have to kill one if she’s trying to kill you, but that’s a different scenario. I went closer, noting that the woman was a furious, middle-aged version of the girl-next-door, all curly dark hair and flashing eyes. Cute in a she-demon kind of way, but then I’d been on the trail for months, some trees were looking good to me. I didn’t know who the guy was, but he had a telltale bulge under his jacket on his right hip.

He was reaching for that bulge as she swung the statue toward his balls, so I grabbed the guy’s collar and pulled him backward and behind me into the street to save both of them, just as a middle-aged Asian woman in a suit came bursting out of an office behind the SUV, yelling something about a pike.

The guy rolled to his feet while the crazy lady bitched at me for saving her, and then she said, “Look out,” and I had to deal with the jerk as he charged me. I got him with a leg sweep but he handled it like a pro, going with the fall, rolling and immediately back on his feet.

We were squaring off, when a woman in the Mercedes called out for Oswald Junior and brought him to heel, and he left, so he probably had some mother issues. Those are the worst. The SUV drove off, smooth on jacked up suspension to handle the weight, the powerful engine rumbling, so that problem was gone.

Two more women had come out of the shop, so I moved on down the street, away from the quartet of females ready to inflict pain: a blonde teenager who was obviously not afraid to use a shotgun; an older, stacked woman in the big black hat who was carrying a small version of the classic Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife held in a way that showed she knew how to use it; the middle-aged Asian-American woman in the sharp suit with a taser in her hand and a look on her face that said somebody was going to die; and weirdest of all, the feisty, grown-up girl-next-door, swinging what appeared to be the Maltese Falcon.

Definitely not going back there.

I headed down the main drag. There was no sign of the Mercedes; it had turned, probably heading out of town if the people in it had any sense. All I could see was a handful of folks going about their business, most of them middle-aged or older, which made sense. Rocky Start did not look like the kind of place that kept its young. The trees were just beginning to turn at the higher elevations, and it was going to be a beautiful fall here in a week or two, but it would also be beautiful miles down the A.T. where I planned on being shortly, where there would be fewer armed women.

The guy bothered me. He was definitely hinky. The woman must have caught him by surprise—who expects a Falcon as a weapon?—but he’d recovered nicely and the stance he’d assumed to face me spoke of someone who’d had training.

The armored Mercedes also bothered me. It did not belong here. Very Important People rode in those, particularly VIPs who were worried about threats to their well-being.

Still, not my business.

I checked my map app and found out there were two post offices because the town was bisected by the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina. That explained the blue line running down the center of the appropriately named State Street and evidently up through the building called Oddities behind me. Two post offices seemed extreme, but I’d done contract work for the government and knew redundancy and stupidity were built into all elements of the bureaucracy. It had kept the country running this long through a lot of shit, so who am I to complain? Plus it had paid me pretty well for many years.

There wasn’t much of a town outside of this main drag, perhaps a block or two on either side. None of the buildings were higher than two stories, most of them old and worn brick, the ground floors small mom and pop shops. They dated back at least a century when these mountains had been harvested for timber before that same bureaucratic government stepped in and made things like National Parks and National Forests. Score one for the bean counters.

The two POs were directly across the street from each other, and North Carolina had a CLOSED sign on the door. Tennessee won by default, although I had little doubt that my boots had been shipped to the North Carolina side because that was my life.

Maggs and I stopped at the Tennessee PO, and I signaled for her to wait outside the door and went in. There was no one behind the counter, but there was a bell. Before I tapped it, given the weirdness I’d already seen here, I surveyed the place, noting a pair of expensive cameras in the far corners of the room. Pretty high tech for a small town. Then I leaned over the counter to take a look. Nothing suspicious to see except a M1014 Benelli semi-automatic shotgun with a collapsible stock in a specially made sheath behind the counter, ready for quick deployment. Not standard post office issue. Last I’d seen one, it was issued to Special Operations close quarter battle teams for clearing rooms with a half dozen blasts as fast as one could pull the trigger. I hoped my package wasn’t postage due.

I lightly tapped the bell. It took several seconds, then an older fellow in USPS uniform—blue shorts, white shirt, plus gray hair and bushy white eyebrows—came out. He looked me up and down, then nodded and swallowed, dabbing his lips with the napkin tucked in his collar.

“Max Reddy?”

I tensed, half-expecting dark figures to lunge out of the shadows. “Yes.”

“We got your package yesterday.”

I had to ask, although I didn’t want to. “How do you know it’s mine?”

“The wife and I know everyone in town and the package was sent care of the post office to someone we never heard of. Max Reddy. So we figured it was a stranger passing through. We don’t get many strangers. Passing through. None staying. You are him, right?”

“I am he,” I said, for lack of anything else and noting the emphasis on ‘none staying’. So far, this wasn’t turning out to be a friendly town. I waited for Postmaster Ferrell (according to his name tag) to produce the package, but he just stared at me.

“The package?” I finally prodded.

“Oh,” he said, as if surprised. “It was sent to Rocky Start, North Carolina. Across the street. My wife has it there.”

“That post office is closed.”

“Yes,” he said. “Post mistress is out doing the route. We flip every morning for that. She lost today. Made her none too happy, not that she’s ever happy. A dour and grim woman, she is.”

“Could you perhaps get it for me?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nope. Not my jurisdiction. The United States Post Office is a branch of the federal government, son, and as such we are governed by very strict laws regarding the storage and delivery of mail.” He said this by rote, bored.

The door opened behind me and the young shotgun blonde came in, sans weapon, looking like she owned the place. Maggs padded after her from the porch. Which Maggs isn’t supposed to do. I waited for Ferrell to throw a fit about the dog being inside. I was, of course, wrong.

“Hiya, Poppy,” Ferrell said, changing demeanor in a flash.

The girl smiled at him. “Hiya, Mr. Ferrell.” Then she transferred her big eyes to me and lost her smile. “You’re not taking care of your dog. She hasn’t been groomed in a long time and she looks underweight. What’s her name?”
“Maggs. But—”

She shook her head. “Let me help clean up Maggs and feed her, I’m good at that.”

“Yep,” Mr. Ferrell agreed. “Poppy’s pretty much the town vet these days since that moron Alfie ran off to Peru with his assistant. Louise.” He said the name with loathing, and shook his head. “I give it six weeks and he’ll be back, tail between his legs, poorer and no wiser. No Louise, neither.” He looked at me. “She’s a dangerous woman, that Louise, with her womanly wiles.” He shook his head. “Women. They’ll turn on you in a second. No offense,” he added to Poppy.

“None taken,” she said, cheerfully.

“I’ll take care of Maggs,” I said, irritated by the accusation that I wasn’t taking care of my dog, even though the girl was right about the lack of grooming, although the same could be said of me. I turned back to the postmaster. “Could you unlock the door across the street so can I get my package?”

He shook his head. “The wife doesn’t like me messing with her stuff. She doesn’t like me much in general right now. That woman can carry a grudge. She should be back before dinner.”

I sighed. “You want me out of town? Get my package and I’m gone.”

He looked at me keenly. “You here because of Oz?”

“What’s Oz?”

“Not what,” Ferrel said. “Who.”

“Who is Oz?”

“Friend of ours.” He nodded at Poppy. “Died two days ago. Terrible thing, but he was getting on in years. Just keeled over. Message there for all of us.” He pursed his lips. “I hear tell there’s some stranger in town claiming to be Oz’s son, giving Rose at Oddities some trouble. That you?”

“Nope,” I said, and beside me Poppy shook her head vigorously in support, which helped alleviate some of my irritation.

“Good,” Ferrell said. “Don’t like vultures winging into town. Not much for strangers either.”

No shit. “Could I just get my package?” I pointed at my toe sticking out of the boot. “It’s boots. I need them.”

Poppy made a small distressed sound as she looked down.

Ferrell’s chin went up. “I also hear there’s a fellow who ran off the man claiming to be Oz’s son. That you?”


“Yes, it’s him, he’s the good guy,” Poppy said firmly. “But now I need to clean up and feed his dog as a thank you.”

I said, “No,” but the door opened again, and this time it was Feisty, out of breath and bosom heaving, her cheek red from where that jerk had hit her. “Hi, Stanley,” she said cheerfully, and Stanley said, “Hiya, Rose. Looking good.”

“Thank you, Stanley,” she said, practically twinkling at him. Just a cute woman in an apron who’d tried to beat up a guy with a Maltese Falcon and was now holding a taser.

And smiling at me.

I really needed to get out of this town.

80 thoughts on “Happiness is Help

  1. I have not commented much over the last week because I have been busy watching another niece get married. Last year, it was her elder sister who is now pregnant, hopefully next year it won’t be her younger sister because I can’t really do those 3 day weddings extravangaza too often.
    Still, I was happy to be there and hang out with one of brothers and my sisters. Also, on the way back to take the ferry back to the UK, we stopped at Dinard for a night and it was really nice just being the two of us in a good hotel in this belle époque seaside resort.
    Now we are waiting to board our ferry in Roscoff and happy to be going back home too!

  2. I worked 4 days on the flower farm this week. My boss is a lovely woman and not only do we work well together but we enjoy each other’s company. The farm kittens often follow us around and especially like to play in the hoop houses (plastic green houses) when we’re working. I spent at least an hour every day deadheading plants, which is my favourite task.

    DH and I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking and shopping. I got a never worn pair of Ellen Tracey leather running shoes for $30. We also went downtown to the mall so DH could buy pants and shoes. It was a very nice day and we enjoyed the sunshine and each other’s company.

  3. Happiness is taking an Internet vacation for the weekend (with an exception for Argh, of course). I’ve been feeling crabby and peopled out, and I realized it had less to do with In Real Life people than being overwhelmed by obnoxious and stupid emails and comments from readers. So I’m giving myself permission to step away for a few days. Taking a news break too. Because crabby.

    My best helper is my friend Ellen, who has helped me put together a ridiculous amount of furniture over the years, and helps weed my garden with me when I’m too tired to do it on my own. I help her back, of course. We’ve been friends since 1983. I met her though my then to-be-husband, and when we got divorced in 1987, he kept the house and I kept the best friend. The house was gone a year later and Ellen is still around, so I clearly got the better part of that deal. I also kept the kid, but that’s a much longer story.

    Even though I was planning to hide out and write this weekend, Ellen discovered someone was starting up a new Ren Faire about 45 minutes away this weekend, so I’m going. Because she really wants to, and she helps me weed.

    1. I can sympathise. We went away amd I didn’t have access to the internet for ten days, and it was a good break. Of course once I returned, the first website I visited was the Argh community.

    2. I can sympathise. We went away amd I didn’t have access to the internet for ten days, and it was a good break. Of course once I returned, the first website I visited was the Argh community

  4. Already I can’t wait for the book. My helpers are usually my sons. I have one that lives near me, but he got Covid a month ago. You really know how much you miss them when you don’t see them for a while. He’s doing fine now and the other son travels all over the place.

  5. Happiness for me is reading new Crusie-Mayer material. Chapter 2 of Rocky Start is a treat. Thank you.

  6. Happiness was a blue sky yesterday so I could go for a walk along the beach. We had the wettest July since records began and August wasn’t much better, and I know there are places experiencing drought but it was good to have a few days without rain.

    I enjoyed the second chapter, but Im wondering how Mr. Ferrell knows so much about the event in such a short amount of time?

    1. So is Max wondering. But he’s getting out of town as fast as he can, so he doesn’t care what the hell Stanley is doing.

    2. Small towns & nosy neighbors. I have a friend 3 houses away & sometimes I think she knows what the neighbors are doing before they actually do it.

  7. Happiness this week has been having out-of-town friends and then my dad over for dinner, having time to finish Blue and Pink, getting back to the gym after a summer off and the gym fam was excited to see me so that was nice.

    My biggest helpers have been my mom (who cleaned our house while we were on vacation), and my husband (he got all the camping gear put away and made dinner for our company x 2).

    My sons helped me get a better time on a short but intense hike yesterday because the first time it was just me and the youngest and he needed lots of breaks because it was hard and he didn’t want to be there, and yesterday the oldest and his friend came, too, so the youngest took fewer breaks out of competitiveness.

  8. You did some serious editing! I’m missing the dumb teens who were growing weed in the woods. And now Maggs just looks scruffy, instead of having an injured paw. I think this is better. Also Junior only had a bulge in his coat, and not a specific type of firearm. And I don’t remember if he was riding in an armored car before. Wow! I can’t wait to see what else has happened.

    Both my usual helpers are hiking in the rockies together on the long weekend. Wish I was there. My happiness was that the cataract surgeon I visited Thursday for the 5-week checkup on that pesky scar tissue said she couldn’t justify doing laser on either eye. Yay! I did not want the laser, and I certainly wasn’t going to let her do it, if it was needed. I think the two weeks of prednisone I took for my cough and sinus inflammation dissolved the eye scar tissue, too. That’s the silver lining to the sinus problem.

    The other happiness is that my doctor found an ENT to refer me to who got me in next week! Much better than Mid-October. In the meantime, I am boiling salt water to irrigate my sinuses (once it cools), and taking mucous thinner. I’m a bit leery of some of the fancy treatments they list: Balloon Sinuplasty, Sinus Stent, and a few weird trademarked things. Just give me some antibiotics, and I’ll be fine.

    1. Once I had my sinus opened up, I stopped having sinus infections. I can’t tell you anything about a balloon sinuplasty, because it came out after I had my surgery, but I would do more research before rejecting all the non-drug options. It isn’t healthy being on antibiotics all the time and the side effects can really add up over time.

      1. Thanks. I used to have a sinus problem maybe once a year. This one is unusual, since it also included a serious allergy problem. I am just waiting to see what the ENT says. I rarely take antibiotics. This was a really singular event. I will keep that in mind.

  9. I like this version so much better. There’s more humor and snark to it, and less tactical information, which puts me off. I know there are people who love that kind of stuff. Not me. Max is now a contractor, of sorts, and we are finding out his other talents as things progress. I like it. I wanted to read more!!! More, please!!!

  10. Lately I have felt like the helper, not the helpee, which is ok if I am being successful. Boss and I having trouble communicating again, which makes for inefficiencies and frustration on both sides but the good bit are: holiday weekend, and dear sister is making paella with super high quality ingredients (some of which I helped procure), sister needs emergency help for a workshop she is doing this week, and I am taking time off to do that, even though it is pissing off my boss, and I am more free than usual next weekend, so I will make up some work time and hopefully placate said boss. AND boss will be on a working trip right after that, so I can recover, and go to lunch with a coworker, which we have been trying to do since last year (my life is a picnic compared to hers). This will allow me to throw away the “lunch with Susan” post it I have been moving forward in my calendar so long that it no longer has any adhesive. Nothing but good times ahead.

  11. Happiness is waking up to the second chapter of rocky start. If I had a matter transporter, zap from your home to Bob’s home and crawl under both of your desks reading the pages is they drop from the typewriters.
    My pain is a lot less than today. I’m going to try to do more walking and more knee bending. I am delighted that My body is healing well. Later I will probably zoom church, which is usually funny then do the crossword or attempt to.
    And continue the bride wore white. I love the first sentence that was happiness. Oh, and the BookBub list yesterday contained a book I had borrowed from Prime. It’s called The House Witch by Delemhach. And yesterday and hopefully today it is 99 cents. The House Witch: A Humorous Romantic Fantasy https://a.co/d/h5RuzgZ
    This book is a delightful thing, and so annoying. Delemach are the worst Namer ever! But after I read the first book I immediately bought the next two. Every time they introduce a new character or space I want to scream at them, “what were you thinking?”
    I hope you all have a wonderful week and a happy Labor Day.

  12. Yes! Many people helped make my past week lovely. Really so many, it’s impossible to cover them all here, but a big shout out goes to the guys who have been working on my house for over a year (on and off) to redo my outdoor space.

    This week they finally finished the main construction and I now have a new yard with a new fence and a new balcony and a newly created door to access all of it! So happy. Especially because the pup now has a fenced in yard that suits her allergies. The property is complicated and the work took great skill, and I feel so lucky to have had such true artisans helping bring our vision to life.

    In a bit, after pup has her shower, we’ll be off to sit on the new balcony, enjoy this nice sunny day, and maybe even get in some reading:)

  13. Happiness is living by myself! My son got a GOOD job and moved about two hours away, and I’m living by myself, for the first time in 40 years. Wasn’t sure at first, but now I love it!

    My son and my ex are coming over later today to move furniture around, which I really appreciate. Then, my son will box up the last of his belongings, and off they go. He told me he wasn’t sure everything would fit in his studio; I told him I’d be glad to charge him a storage fee… (cue side-eye… )

    I LOVE this update to Rocky Start! I love the two distinct voices between the MCs, and I’m glad puppy’s paw is no longer hurt. More, please?

    1. Also agree with the group that this is a great second scene. I will say that Max’s perception of Rose seems really different than how she sees herself or Coral sees her, which is intriguing.

  14. “Cute in a she-demon kind of way, but then I’d been on the trail for months, some trees were looking good to me.”


    “an older, stacked woman in the big black hat” since this is the first time Max sees Coral, wouldn’t it be A big black hat?

    Max definitely seems Tired But Alert & Capable here vs straight-up dangerous. I like that. His assessment of Mercedes & Oz Jr. made for a nice 2nd opinion on what might’ve seemed farcical – he sees things wrong with the encounter that are different from the things Rose sees that are wrong. Yay!

  15. I have a lot of happy’ s this week.

    My hubby and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary this weekend. We did so by starting a project together – we’re wrapping my car in vinyl to change the color. Turns out the color I picked has way more colors in it than I thought. It was to be either dark purple or dark green depending on the way you look at it. But as you can see, there’s quite a bit more colors in it. It’s positively iridescent. I’m also happy that he and I work well together on projects such as these and that we’re actually doing a decent job on wrapping the panels.


    I’m happy it’s a long weekend and I have Monday off to finish wrapping the car.

    I’m happy that I have extra Crusie/Mayer writing to read with the Rocky Start chapters, which I’ll get back to tonight. I’m also still reading Rest in Pink and loving it, which is another happy!

    My cat is still alive and seems to have recovered from the UTI.

    The weather has been beautiful!

    1. Great wrap!! I once saw a BMW that was all chrome, so I texted my BMW repair shop owner son, and he told me it was a wrap. It was amazing! There was a Mexican fast food place in Tucson that once had their delivery car wrapped with advertising.

      1. When I was a delivery driver for a florist I drove a transit van that was wrapped all over in giant yellow roses. Ugly as sin and it didn’t stand up to years of sun exposure, but it makes a statement.

    2. We learned about the car wrapping, or at least I did, after my car had been rear ended, and the guy at the shop who fixed it, mentioned wrapping the car instead of painting it. A full paint job costs about three times the amount of wrapping the car. We bought the wrap about a year and a half ago and are finally putting it on the car. There was a bit of extra expense for some of the tools that we’re using. I wouldn’t want to do it for a profession, but it’s actually been kind of fun, hopefully by Wednesday I can show you the whole car wrapped. I’m rather excited about it. 😊

      1. Car wrapping sounds great! The clear coat on my car has degraded a bunch since San Diego is often sunny, the red Toyota looks like it has mange…
        I got sticker shock every time I checked getting it painted.
        I love how helpful the arghink folks can be, thanks a bunch! Taf

        1. I should mention that wraps should be removed after 3-5 years or else the vinyl begins to degrade and the adhesive becomes super nasty to remove. If you buy a the vinyl, buy as high a quality as it will be easier to work with. We bought Avery Denison. Also we bought a bunch of tools and a super useful book that we’ve been referencing. Altogether, it cost just under $1,000 and about a week’s worth of effort as we’re not done yet.

  16. My next door neighbors are wonderful helpers —the kind of people who make us fresh challah every Friday (we routinely make them gouda and grape pizza) and used to pick up my kids from daycare when I was stuck in traffic and took care of eachother during surgeries and we shopped for groceries for eachother in the pandemic. When we decided we needed a new house we built it in the same lot because we didn’t want to move away from them.
    And my friend Lynn, when we had just moved here and I had a miscarriage and wasn’t supposed to be alone overnight and needed someone to care for my 4 year old when I had a D and C, and my mom wouldn’t come, packed up her 6 month old immediately and drove 3 hours to take care of us both (DH was racing back from Brazil).

    I have others too, and feel very lucky, especially since I don’t have it from my birth family.

    This week it was friends listening to me grieve the sudden death of a 65 year old friend and former colleague I knew for 25 years … pro tip—do not try to swim across a lake alone especially if you got a pacemaker a few months ago. And have a major lung condition .

    1. Other happiness this week is making cherry tomato pasta and squash blossom enchiladas with homegrown cherry tomatoes and squash blossoms and basil and chives and planning to make uncooked tomato sauce with our big tomatoes. And eating many home grown figs.

    2. Oh, my goodness. How sad! I guess they overestimated how much help that pacemaker was going to be.

      1. I really have no idea. Her brother says that she wasn’t supposed to go over 130 beats a minute and they would have to stop during walks so why she thought she could swim alone I don’t know. It was her annual birthday ritual and she just went ahead and did it.

      1. It’s the neighborhood favorite, somewhat to my DH’s dismay since he claims it appalls his Neapolitan ancestors. I have pointed out that Naples has grapes long before it had tomatoes…
        And the recipe is just your preferred pizza crust topped with grated gouda with halved grapes on top of that. DH is a purist and makes his own dough.

        1. Sounds yummy! Have you ever tried it with smoked Gouda? I think the taste would be great, but it doesn’t melt as well.

  17. I’m late to the nope party, and you know, I think you could write the hell out of a secret baby, return to run a bakery, billionaire book. Why stop at one, do it all! Even the thought of all that Jenny and Bob style is happiness making.

    Except maybe the secret baby. I can’t work out how you’d make that work. Maybe secret from the town, not from the father.

  18. I enjoyed my change of scene this week, but was also happy to come home. We’ve now got a week of summer weather, after loads of cool grey damp, so I’m sitting in the garden again, under my lemon-yellow umbrella. And doing as much gardening as I can in the mornings, before it gets too hot.

    Had a good film night (Moonrise Kingdom) yesterday with my friend Pam, and a good chat with another friend this evening.

    1. I agree that no mosquitos is a great thing having been bitten about a dozen times this weekend, but it also means the end of summer, which is sad.

  19. I’m on day 7 of this brutal respiratory thing and day 4 of killer laryngitis – can’t make a sound – so I’m very much relying on friends and neighbours at the moment, the ones I can text or email to ask if they can pick up stuff from the chemist/shop/library. Luckily I have great friends and neighbours. Having people living nearby who you can rely on is an astonishing gift.

      1. Thank you, dear people. I now have a script for a heavy duty anti-inflammatory, so I’m hoping the ‘someone has attacked my throat with an angle grinder’ feeling will soon be gone, AND I’ll have my voice back. It really is disturbing not being able to speak.

        1. I hope you feel better ASAP! Both the angle grinder soreness and loss of voice sound awful…
          Take good care of yourself and I am glad you have good friends and neighbors. Taf

    1. Rest up Lian. I hope the anti inflammatory meds work quickly & are kind to your stomach. So good you have such caring friends & neighbours to lend a hand when you are poorly.

  20. I spent the best part of the afternoon at my progressive group’s labor day picnic. It was so good to get out among my tribe.

    Pixie’s blowing her summer undercoat. It’s coming out in chunks. She looks like she’s losing her stuffing. Soft fuzzies everywhere. The groomer will soon be my helper.

  21. My baby brother is frequently my helper. Right now he & his significant other, Wayne, are teaching me to use an excel spreadsheet to map out my income vs outgo & get a handle on my finances. I feel so lucky!

    I have had so much fun the last couple of days because there is a song I love because it is catchy but the words are horrible so I have rewritten them. Now I am learning my lyrics so I can play it loud in my car & sing my version. I took a song about gangster thieves and turned it into a song about honey bees.

    I really enjoyed the 4 part series about living to be 100 in a blue zone on Netflix. And we are supposed to have fun so – see above paragraph.

  22. Some unsolicited help from Thomas J. Doscher (Vixen War Bride series):

    If you’re a writer, don’t neglect the grammar. I know you want to. I know “grammar nazis” make you uncomfortable. I know you want to say “screw it, no one’s going to care anyway,” but it’s not true.

    Imagine you’re driving on a scenic road with flowers and mountains and wild animals, and it’s all perfect. Then you hit a pothole. Okay, that’s fine. One pothole isn’t bad. Then you hit another and another and another. Pretty soon, you’re not looking at the scenery, you’re watching the road to navigate the potholes. Words are the road on which your reader traverses your story, and if the road is poorly constructed, your reader will be too busy trying to make sense of it to admire the story itself.

    Except colons and semi-colons. Fuck those guys. No one knows how they work anyway.

    1. The potholes thing is a great metaphor for bad editing. ‘Pretty soon, you’re not looking at the scenery, you’re watching the road to navigate the potholes.’ Exactly how I feel about it.

  23. In the last week several people called or took me aside to tell me that they had observed that my mom’s driving was no longer safe. They helped me to take that advice. I called my brother, who came up to help me with that discussion. Mom took it gracefully, which helped us a lot. Now we’ll figure out how to give her some freedom decision about when she wants to go where.

    1. Oh good for your mom for taking it gracefully. My sibs and I had to get the police to take my mom’s license and she is appealing the decision. This is after she drove into the house leaving a 9 inch hole into the basement. Plus several health conditions that are driving threats. My kids plan to cut the distributor belt when we turn 85 and we have encouraged them (neither my kids nor I know if a distributor has a belt). I plan to stay feisty and engaged into my next century but I hope I have the sense to accept physical limits gracefully.

      My mom currently gets around with a combo of a town service for the elderly, paying a driver who also is her dog walker, friends, and the occasional Lyft or Uber, plus some different paid drivers who will do long road trips. We found several of the paid people by joining a service where we can advertise what we are looking for in her area and people who are interested in that work can respond. My sister found it so I don’t know the name but it’s been great for finding dog walkers (she can’t walk her dog as he pulls her over) and paid drivers.

      I hope that’s helpful —I do recommend a mix so if one option isn’t available another is. Fwiw my mom lives alone — doesn’t seem to have missed doing anything she wants to — and gets out most days—so it is doable. But it takes a lot of organizing.

        1. Yes: my brother and I were about to put our foot down when Mum died – but he was keen she should stop driving some years before that (she only drove locally), whereas I knew that I’d be expected to ferry her everywhere, given that I lived with her and worked from home. Hope you can find solutions that really work for you both.

          1. Getting a person to give up driving is difficult. When my grandfather was scaring us by getting too close to parked cars, we asked him to sell the low mileage Honda to my sister. Her Honda had over 200,000 miles and was starting to have problems. He did sell to her and they both benefited by it as he needed the money and was able to get rides easily.
            My father was a more difficult problem, but when I saw him use both feet on the brake (power brakes, power steering, etc.), I used the conversational equivalent of a 2×4 to get his attention: “What if you have an accident and kill someone?” Since he lived in Orange County he used the train station to get to his doctor’s appointments in Northern San Diego. My sister and I took turns picking him up at the station, relaying him to the appointment, and back to the train. Taf

          2. Theresa, at least he acknowledges he might Jill someone.
            My mom denies it. Fortunately she is not likely to win her appeal.

  24. Loved the second scene of Rocky Start ,it pulls you into the story. I didn’t read it till today as I was finishing my reread of Lavender so I could start Pink. I am really enjoying it.

  25. I have a great family that all helps each other. It’s such a comfort when things are rough.

    When you think about it, the willingness to help others is one of the greatest things about humans. It makes a community possible. It gives pleasure to both the recipient and the giver. And isn’t nice to think about something wonderful about humans when the news is so full of horrible.

    Speaking of helping, if you need an extra proof reader for Vermillion I’d be happy to help. I’m not a professional but I have a pretty good eye for typos. I only noticed three in Rest in Pink, so your team did a great job there, better than some books I’ve read from the big publishing houses.

    1. I’m also happy to proof read it. Not a professional proof reader but two years of heavy duty proofreading as a paralegal really helped my proofing abilities.

      1. Yet another volunteer proofreader here, I was a technical writer for more than a decade, and we each did proofreading for each other before having the other departments review our work. After we had a bunch of layoffs, we had a new head of department who stopped the edits since he didn’t like bleeding pages coming back to him (red ink). I offered to use green ink, but he was content to let his errors go out to all the company reviewers (usually 1 or 2 per department). Some people from other companies poked fun at the notion of engineers proofreading, but our engineers, tech support staff, marketing staff and others were quite helpful (and caught many mistakes)! I prefer that any mistakes are caught and fixed before publication. Taf

  26. I couldn’t help but put on my editor hat for this chapter. Why mention Herc? The second part of the first sentence is just awkward. Maybe: “Today we’d headed for Rocky Parts, the small town I had my new boots shipped to.”

    “It was a pretty little place, spread out for a half mile covering a bend in the river away from the highway.” How would Max know this? Is that what it looked like when he was approaching it? Maybe make this description from his observations. Or delete here.

    “There wasn’t much of…” It didn’t look like there was much of

    1. Because he’s a ex-spy and would have looked at maps and checked out the place online. He’s not tentative, he knows.
      And Herc becomes hugely important very shortly, plus it shows the relationship beyond “ex-boss;” they’re on a first-name basis. Also Max didn’t had his boots shipped there, Herc did. The fact that Herc sends him to Rocky Start is a big plot point.

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