Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh, deer! The plant saga

Tom went out to water the spirea Peggy gave us, only to discover that the deer had dug it up and had it for breakfast. Peggy says they have found deer tracks up close to their house, too, and I guess they are checking all areas of recent planting.

At any rate, Peggy brought some other plants over -- a beautifully dark red coleus, kale, what she thinks is a wild horseradish or some such thing, gazania and marigold.

Helen is due to visit in a couple of weeks, and she is bringing several gazillion day lilies and some flowering kale, too. That will keep her and Tom busy for a while. He already put out all those trees, a hundred or so glads and rearranged some other plants. For someone who is supposed to be sick, he just keeps going and going and going.

He and Rich walked the property this afternoon looking for wood that Rich could take for firewood this winter. While they were doing that, Peggy dropped in with the afore-mentioned flowers and a chat. Tom invited them to join us for roast pork that he is cooking on the grill as I speak.

And so life goes in the country.

Meanwhile, I decided that the last chapter of the Elijah book is beyond bad and will require a complete re-write, not just editing. So I put in a little time on that.



Tom is still a bit under the weather. He says it is just a head cold, not swine flu. But I have decided maybe it is a piglet flu.

To protect yourself, avoid contact with Winnie the Pooh books, stuffed animals and TV- or movie spin-offs. Probably best to avoid the movies Babe and Babe: Pig in the City, as long as you're being careful.

Oh, and the book The Te of Piglet. (You know, it is a sequel to The Tao of Pooh. No, I'm serious.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Work and play ... er, more work

Spent some time at the railroad doing inventory this morning. Made a dent -- but just a dent. My hope is to finish up this week, but we will see.

When I got home, there was an order for ten books -- five of each -- from the monastery in Barrington. They sell books, which means if these sell well, they will probably order some more down the line. (It also means I have to sell them to the nuns at a discount so they can make a bit of money themselves.) Anyway that depleted my supply of the novels, and I went ahead and ordered more of those plus some more of the Gratian books to have on hand in case other orders come through.

I also got some editing done on the Elijah book this afternoon. Now comes the final version of the last chapter and we will be closing in on sending it off for a proof copy. Tom saw it lying around on the table and read some of it. He said it looked interesting, which is pretty high praise from him. He likes designing the covers, I think, but he has little interest in the content.

Meanwhile I came up with an idea for another book, but I really should finish this one first. AND I should go to work on the second novel instead of starting a totally new non-fiction project. (Non-fiction is way easier to write, though!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009


When I was a kid, my parents always gave the cars names. The vehicles did each seem to have a different personality, but at some point the folks either quit doing this or I quit noticing. (Seems to me there was Huldy back there. A Studebaker, maybe?)

Anyway, I think of that as I hear the news that GM is apparently going to let Pontiac disappear. Since moving to Wisconsin, I have been driving Tom's 2005 Pontiac Vibe while he tools around in his red GMC pickup. The Vibe has been a great little car, getting incredible mileage on trips to Texas (close to 40 mpg!) and doing well in my more usual driving on the town and county roads around the Dells. Mama says it is the ugliest car she's ever seen, but it is pretty comfortable for short trips and lots of room for baggage. You don't want to ride in the back seat with anyone, though. Definitely no leg room. And that from a guy with short legs!

Whatever. The Vibe has had a low-key, easy-going and reliable personality. I never gave it a name, but maybe I should have.

They say that there are enough Pontiacs on the lots to last about three months. And then the Vibes will begin to disappear.

So long, good vibrations!
(For those of you too young or too ... mature ... to recognize the pop culture reference, the Beach Boys released their hit song Good Vibrations in 1966. It had a catchy beat and this strange refrain:

I'm pickin up good vibrations.
She's giving me excitations.
I'm pickin up good vibrations.
(oom bop bop good vibrations)
She's giving me excitations.
(oom bop bop excitations)
Good good good good vibrations.
(oom bop bop)
She's giving me excitations
(oom bop bop excitations)
Good good good good vibrations.
(oom bop bop)
She's giving me excitations
(oom bop bop excitations).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends far and near

Today I got two special communications. One was the postcard above from Istanbul. It is from my Italian friend Cris (who occasionally comments here and for whom I list the temperatures in Celsius) and her Turkish-born husband Idris. Someday I hope to visit Instanbul and maybe I can see them there. Or in Italy.

The other message was an invitation to a wedding in Iowa in November. This is the first same-sex wedding invitation I have ever received. Tom says it will be his first same-sex civil wedding -- he has been to religious same-sex wedding ceremonies before. So that will be a new experience, too.

You just never know what to expect when you get up in the morning.

Spring planting

Tom has been planting like mad this week. He put in 25 red dogwood and 25 wild plum trees yesterday, and he got 125 more little pines to put around. He is putting in all the pines so that something will be established to fill in when the poplars snap off down the line. The dogwoods and the wild plums will bring us some blossoms eventually to add to the crab apple, lilacs and forsythia. He has added a lot more day lilies this year, and those are already well established.

Peggy brought him some false spirea to add to the mix, and he put that somewhere out back. He says it spreads out like wildfire and he wanted it somewhere that it could just do what it wants on its own. I don't know what color it will be, since it ranges a bit.

Temperature may hit 80 today (26.6 C) and be sunny, but there are predictions for thunderstorms over the weekend and cooler weather. At least we seem to be safely out of the freezing weather. Maybe we can get the Zen fountain back out on the deck soon. Crummy weather will mean little business at the railroad, though, so maybe I can get a head start on the inventory.

As for moi, this morning I finished the draft of the Elijah book and that means it may actually be out in the next month or so. I have a dental appointment at noon, so I am glad I got something good accomplished to make me feel better.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Followup on library lecture on haunted Wisconsin

During my chat with the director of the library this afternoon, we discussed the lecture Tuesday night. It turns out that we already have a sound system, but the battery has to be fully charged in advance and no one thought of it until too late.
Note to self ...
Also, they counted a turnout of 154 people -- a definite record for such an event -- and lots of participants were teens, a group we are trying to attract but who have shown little interest in previously planned activities. I guess ghosties and beasties is the way to go for the adolescent crowd.

That is supposed to be a ghostie, not the librarian who is a lovely woman.

When it rains

This has been the week for rain mixed with snow, but also the week for other kinds of pouring. After I agreed to accept the manager's job at the museum shop, the director of the library approached me about interviewing for the library job I had been interested in. I explained that I had already taken another position, but she said she would keep me in mind if other things open up in the fall. For now the R&GN job is the way better choice, but that could always change.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Working Wednesday

I told Dave this morning that I would take the job managing the shop. They actually offered me more than I expected, and there is a (remote) possibility of health benefits somewhere down the line.

Anyway, just wanted to make that official and to thank all of you who have wished me well here or on Twitter or on Facebook.

On a side note, the book sales continue to trickle along.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Toodling Tuesday

Last Saturday I was working at the shop and Judi brought me my name tag for the 2009 season. It read "Michael -- Gift Shop Manager." I laughed and said that that was news to me. I had talked with them about it, but they had made no firm offer yet.

So today I had a meeting with the general manager and assistant treasurer, and they offered me the job. I plan to tell them tomorrow that I'll take it. This will be full time and year round, so there goes my life of semi-leisure. Still it will mean a real salary and reasonable income again. Which is good. I admit I would rather have had the library job, but that would be part time and temporary with only a chance of becoming permanent, so this is the better deal.

This evening we went to a lecture on haunted Wisconsin at the library, an event co-sponsored by the Friends of the Library and the local historical society. It was okay, but not all that informative. This is the second lecture we have been to recently, and it makes me realize that not everyone can be a public speaker. The guy who spoke tonight has written quite a few books -- none of which I have read -- and he may be a good writer. (He even has one about weird things in Texas.) But as a speaker, not so much. I told Tom that people don't always realize that there should be a beginning, a middle and an end. And if these parts fit together, that is even better.

On the other hand, there was a huge turnout and he practically had to shout to be heard because there was no sound system. That was not fair to him and he might have done much better in a setting that was friendlier for the speaker. I plan to mention at the next Friends' meeting that we need to invest in a simple sound system for the sake of people we invite to speak. No need to make their job harder than it has to be.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Today we got a card saying that DirecTV was giving us three free months of Showtime as a reward for being good customers. (Right!)

Anyway, this means we get nine more channels, mostly movies.

Tom says now there will be that much more to click through while complaining that there's nothing on.

Sad but true!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunny and soggy weekend

Saturday was a beautiful day and the railroad did a nice brisk business for April. Sunday, though, was cool and damp and we had almost no passengers. The bright spot was that one of our visitors is a reporter for a newspaper in Minneapolis, and he is interested in doing a feature article about us. He and his family come here every year, and he is interested in the history of the place and its unique character among the Dells activities. So that could turn out well for us in the end.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting site online, xtranormal, where you can make little 3-D animated movies and post them online. Here's a sample.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Railroad and spring

After I finished updating the membership list at the railroad this morning, Tom took me out for a ride on the little electric car. This is a small car they use for work details, and it is not much more than a bench that runs on the rails. It is a totally different experience of the trip, because there is nothing between you and the scenery. We didn't see any deer, but we saw a pileated woodpecker going and coming. And lots of violets and ferns starting to poke up.

Meanwhile, the forsythia outside my bedroom window is beginning to bloom. A bit scraggly, but it adds some yellow notes where not long ago all was brown and gray.

Peggy offered to give Tom a bunch of monkey puzzle flowers (violas?)-- they look like miniature pansies to me -- for the bed he has extended in front of the house. She says she has a gazillion of them and that they are impossible to get rid of. We'll see. It will add some color and variety.

Library et alia

At Joe's suggestion, I recently took a copy of the mystery to the Baraboo Public Library to see if they would be interested in putting it on the list for their mystery-reader's club. Today I got a nice letter from the librarian thanking me for the book and noting that it was checked out as soon as he put it out and there is a waiting list. Pretty cool! (Local authors always get some attention, of course.)

Anyway, he wants to put it on the list for them to read sometime next year, which will mean a few more sales and a chance to go talk to them about the book.

Miriam sent a thank you note for her recent visit, and she included this:
I'm reading the book, and it's just like a real book so far. Very well written & entertaining. Worth every penny of the (tax-deductible) $12.95 I paid for it.
I have no idea why she says it is tax-deductible, but then I often have no idea why Miriam says what she says. Still, it's nice to get compliments, right?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome back!


) I got on Twitter somehow. When Kristin and Vince invited me some time back, I couldn't get on, but now I'm there. One more place to keep track of! Between Facebook and Twitter, I may know more than I really want to know about what's up.

2) Fr. Tim Dodd called from Chicago Sunday night while I was on the phone with a friend from Rhode Island. Not that I have that many friends, but all three of them want to talk at the same time. (I guess it was Easter what did it.) Anyway, Tim and I finally connected last night. We are hoping he can make it up here at some point over the next few months. He is also a member of the R&GN, and yesterday when I was entering names on the computer, his was one of the memberships I did.

3) Kristin tells me that she got an e-mail from Amazon telling her that, since she bought my mystery, she might be interested in my new book. (She had already bought it, ha!) That interested me because it means Amazon is actually doing some active marketing of the book. I didn't think they were going to do anything but handle it, so that is good news.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Newly arrived

My copies of the Gratian book finally arrived; so if you ordered one, I assume yours is on the way, too.

Again, be forewarned. Just look at the title: Jerome Gratian: Treatise on Melancholy.

Do I really need to say more?

The Elijah book is coming along. I do hope it will be out by the end of May, because once the season begins in the Dells and at the railroad, my extended leisure time will disappear for quite a while.


I went over to visit with Rich and Peggy after lunch and saw a bluebird in their field. They have some birdhouses, but we have none. Another neighbor offered us some, but we got so involved with railroad stuff last summer we never got around to picking them up.

Meanwhile, the railroad is starting to absorb free time again. Tom was over there almost all day helping clear some wood, and I was there for a short while working on the membership list. I did a bit of computer work at home and then put together a chicken enchilada casserole for dinner.


Oh, on a grosser note, this morning there was the first dead mouse of the spring deposited on the carpet by one of the cats. Lovely!

The Joy of Writing

The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this notion rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any.
- Russell Baker

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good news from Iowa!

This story from USAToday:
What may be the next big thing in the quest for the perfect low-fat french fry will sprout from Iowa ground this summer.

Pioneer Hi-Bred says its genetically engineered soybean will make an oil that has no artery-clogging trans fats. The high-oleic oil is supposed to last three to five times longer in commercial fryers than most zero-trans-fat oils.

The Johnson, Iowa-based company, the second-largest producer of hybrid seeds for agriculture, will put the soybean through tests to determine whether those claims are true. If so, then McDonald's, Frito-Lay and other companies may snap up the oil and promote heart-healthy fried foods and chips.

Fooled you, huh?

Because things are not always what they seem

We have been getting some more interesting birds at the feeders. The finches -- who are always with us -- have now begun to show their yellow mating plumage, and that is a nice touch. I have also seen a house finch with its rusty head out there.

This afternoon I saw the first male and female cardinal pair of the season, and we have a pair of doves around a lot. For some reason we have not had that many cardinals, but maybe this year will be different. Doves, on the other hand, are fairly common. Sometimes I have seen seven or eight at the same time in the back.

Woodpeckers are also with us all the time, but the last few days the female red-bellied woodpecker has been at the feeder several times. Although they are supposed to be in this area year-round, she is not a year-round visitor to our house. I am not sure if I have ever seen the male, but the female has been here before and I assume is part of a nesting pair.

And the cranes continue to fly over and the hawks and the crows and the ...

Well, like I say. We are seeing more kinds these days.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Are you ready?

Okay, this is what happens when you have friends who are now or used to be priests.

This was my Easter greeting from my friend Jim in DC.

A man is driving along a highway and sees a rabbit jump out across the middle of the road. He swerves to avoid hitting it, but unfortunately the rabbit jumps right in front of the car. The driver, a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulls over and gets out to see what has become of the rabbit. Much to his dismay, the rabbit is the Easter Bunny, and he is DEAD .The driver feels so awful that he begins to cry.

A beautiful blonde woman driving down the highway sees a man crying on the side of the road and pulls over. She steps out of the car and asks the man what's wrong.

"I feel terrible!” he explains, "I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny with my car and KILLED HIM."

The blonde says,"Don't worry."

She runs to her car and pulls out a spray can. She walks over to the limp, dead Easter Bunny , bends down, and sprays the contents onto him. The Easter Bunny jumps up,waves its paw at the two of them and hops off down the road.

Ten feet away he stops, turns around and waves again, he hops down the road another 10 feet, turns and waves, hops another ten feet, turns and waves, and repeats this again and again and again and again, until he hops out of sight.

The man is astonished. He runs over to the woman and demands, "What is in that can? What did you spray on
the Easter Bunny ?"

The woman turns the can around so that the man can read the label.

It says..
(Are you ready for this?)
(Are you sure?)
(Last chance)

(OK, here it is)

It says,
"Hair Spray
Restores life to dead hair, and adds permanent wave

Happy Easter!!!

Happy Easter

We used to have this Russian icon over the tabernacle in the little chapel at Marylake during the Easter season.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Death and taxes

I suppose Good Friday is not the day to talk about money ...

I got a happy surprise in the mail yesterday: my state income tax refund. It's not that much, but it is still nice to get it back. It went right into the Money Market. I did not take all the refund back, because -- now that I am considered self-employed as far as the books and the teaching go -- I am supposed to pay quarterly based on my estimated income. There is no way to estimate it, so I just leave some on deposit with the state to cover what might be due. The federal government situation is the same, and I let them keep several hundred dollars on my account to protect me for next year's taxes. So no refund from them at all this year.

John, Judi and Matt came up from Illinois for the long holiday weekend, and they came over for pizza last night. Today Matt will help me put the price tags on all the stuff at the store while his parents and Tom do track work or something.

On a sadder note, I saw that Mena, Arkansas was hit by a tornado. The Carmelites at Marylake used to say Mass there sometimes, and I remember driving through Mena back in 1973 when the novices were on a trip to visit the friars and nuns in Oklahoma.

Good Friday

Good Friday

Another of Tom's RCIA designs.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

The traditional English name for Thursday of Holy Week comes from the Latin word mandatum, command, from the words of Jesus in the Gospel, "A new commandment I give you." (John 13:34)

This command is acted out in Catholic churches when the presider -- priest, bishop or pope, and in some communities of women, the religious superior -- washes the feet of selected members of the community. At St. Thomas the Apostle Parish where I lived in Chicago, they had the custom of setting up several stations and anyone who wished was invited to come have their feet washed, and then to wash the feet of the next person in line, while reflective music played. It was a moving experience. In the monastery I often had my feet washed and I also, especially as superior, washed feet. It is something that is foreign to our culture, and yet it still has a power to touch me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dropping like ants

Yesterday afternoon when we were all having carrot cake, a couple of black ants dropped onto Miriam's head. Earlier I had pitched a pear that had been ripening on the kitchen window because a suspicious-looking pile of crumbs led me to discover four big black ants burrowing away inside. Today I found more of them running around on the counter.

I had already put out some ant traps, but clearly more is needed. For one thing, I am going to have to stay on top of the dishes that pile up on top of the dishwasher, waiting to be put inside. The ants will get into the dishwasher, too, so I'll have to run it more often.

Where did the ants come from all of a sudden? The usual last frost date for the Dells is mid-May, more than a month away. You'd think the ants would stay in hibernation until then.

Spy Wednesday

Those Christians who celebrate this entire week in preparation for Easter often call this Spy Wednesday, because it is the day when Judas was looking out for a way to turn Jesus over to the authorities. The readings for worship services today usually refer to Judas betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

For those who celebrate Passover ...


All locals is political

We had local -- and a few state -- elections yesterday. I won't bore you with the details, but I am happy to say that the people of the Town of Dellona, which includes Jerry and our friends up on Christmas Mountain, finally "threw the bums out". For reasons that have never been completely clear to me, the town board has been making some incredibly bad decisions about things like the EMS service and street lights for intersections where lighting is badly needed. The people of the town had voted for specific changes and the board simply stonewalled and walked in circles, and now the new crew can get some things done that are long overdue.

Things in our little Town of Delton are in what Tom calls the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" state, and so we happily returned our incumbents to office. There were some changes in the Village of Lake Delton, not too surprising after the heated discussions about circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the Lake itself last June.

I'm happy to say that the supreme court election this time did not seem to draw any of the heavy out-of-state financial investment and political involvement that the last one did. There's a funny story about that last election, but a family blog is not the place to tell it.

And that's all there is to that.

On, Wisconsin!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And guests ...

Miriam and her friend Yamit came up today, but they only stayed until late afternoon. Passover begins tomorrow at sundown, and Miriam wanted to be back in Chicago tomorrow morning. So they visited for a while, went over to see the railroad, got a ride on the electric car, had lunch, watched the DVD of the draining of Lake Delton, took a nap, got up and had some excellent carrot cake and Cherry Garcia FroYo and headed back. It is a four hour drive, but at least they have a beautiful day for it. Yamit left some schnitzel that I had for supper. Nice!

They had brought a dog with them, Maybe. That's the name -- Maybe. (Reminds me of a puppy we had once named Also.) Maybe looks like a miniature Pinscher, but she was frisky and friendly as could be. Needless to say, the cats were not amused. After Miriam, Yamit and Maybe left, it took a while before Sundance would come back in the house, and she had to investigate thoroughly to make sure the dog was gone.

While we were at the railroad I poked my head in the shop and saw that a shipment has arrived. Fortunately Mary arrived at the same time, and she showed me how to print the new bar code price tags. So I will probably spend much of tomorrow unpacking, pricing and shelving stuff. It is supposed to be a decent weekend, sunny on Saturday and cloudy on Sunday, but 51 F both days (10.5 C). It is Easter weekend, and that means some schools are on break. A longer weekend will probably mean more tourists and more business for us.

Speaking of more business, the Gratian book had a little sales spurt today, a sign that the mailing that went out has arrived in people's mailboxes.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Krazy Kat

Now I don't mean to say that Sundance is totally foolish, but that is a rocking chair she is sitting under. Admittedly she gets to lie in the sun and has something over her to protect her from predators, but maybe not the best place to let your tail flop around.

The cats seem to be a little discombobulated because I am sleeping in the guest room for several days while guests come and go using my room. Cats, like so many other folk, do not deal well with change.

The news of the earthquake in Italy is sad. I know people all over Italy, so I may even know someone who has been affected by this. Pray for them all.

In other news, it is looking like Peter may work through the summer in Santa Fe before moving in here in the fall. But all is in flux.

Updates as events warrant, as they say on television.

Now back to our regular programming, already in progress. (In other words, I need to get back to writing.)

Elijah cover art

This is what Tom posted on his blog about the process of designing the cover for the Elijah book. I liked it so much -- he should be writing the books! -- that I am posting it here in its entirety.


Elijah and the Ravens of Carith

The Elijah cover is coming along, as is Michael's book.

The book is, according to the title page, "A Twenty-First Century Reflection in a Medieval Carmelite Mode".

Michael wanted a Medieval icon modernized, capturing the mode and message of the book. So we started with an icon that Michael liked, and then went to work on it.

The icon presented several problems. The colors were faded and washed out, the raven was too small and would be overpowered by the cover's text, the icon needed to be simplified if it was to represent a "Twenty-First Century Reflection", and the icon had to be transformed into modern, more assertive colors.

I worked on the colors first, reducing the number of colors in the icon to eight, increasing the contrast, shifting the color balance to harmonize the icon internally, and simplifying the lines by creating color boundaries. Next, I added the text, and finally, a larger, starker, more modern image of the raven, weaving the raven in above "Elijah" and through "And the Ravens of Carith", attempting to capture something of the mystery of God's use of the ravens by using that simple motif.

The cover captures Elijah and the Ravens in standard motif, with three elements -- Elijah sitting among the rocks, turned upward, looking at a raven, shown in this more modern, early Renaissance painting by Girolamo Savoldo, "Elijah in the Desert".

Notice the richness of the colors in the Savoldo painting, in stark contrast to the more monochromatic coloration of the original icon. I tried, when working with the cover, to keep the Medieval monochromatic feel of the original icon, while increasing the contrast to capture something of more modern artistic motifs.

I was careful to keep the look on Elijah's face, which is wonderful.

I don't know who the original iconist was, but he was a genius, capturing a human mood almost perfectly in Elijah's expression.

Because the iconist broke away from Medieval convention by creating so complex and expression on Elijah's face, the icon itself is a mixture of Medieval convention and later Western artistic convention.

As I worked with the image, I realized that the icon was, for that reason, perfect for Michael's book.

The mix of Medieval and Modern in the icon itself, that original genius of the iconist, is what will make the cover successful, more than anything.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not snow (flakes or egrets) but a heron

The threatened snow seems to have gone south of us, so we just had a blah-de-blah-de-blah cold gray day here.

I went over to the railroad, but they didn't need me and I didn't stay. I did have a nice chat with Roberta. She has knee surgery coming up on Tuesday.

Yesterday I saw a blue heron at the pond. We saw one there a few times last year, and it may be the same one. I have never seen its mate, assuming it has one.

Finches at the feeder are getting more yellow in their color.

An enormous rabbit tore across the yard the other day. I didn't see anything pursuing it, but it sure was in a hurry. No Easter basket in sight, though.

Palm Sunday

As is often the case in Wisconsin, here it is Palm Sunday and freezing with a good chance of snow during the day. Actually we were supposed to have had snow starting at midnight last night, but they seem to have been about twelve hours off on that, at least for the Dells. When -- and if -- it arrives, it could be nothing or it could be five inches. Who knows?

It's part of the charm.

If Jesus had ridden into Wisconsin Dells, I guess people would have waved snow shovels instead of palm branches, and put parkas down instead of cloaks on the road.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


We had a great dinner and visit with Chris and Linda last night. Linda is a writer, too, and has written several children's books -- that's one there -- as well as books about Mormon women. So we got to talk about writing and publishing while Tom and Chris got to talk about law and stuff. Their house in Utah is still under construction, so there was a certain amount of that in the conversation, and given our ... shared level of maturity, health got its fair share of attention. Chris is doing remarkably well after that drastic surgery he underwent. Fortunately he was in excellent health -- except for the cancer -- and that stood him in good stead. All those healthy Mormon practices, I guess.

I will be at the railroad all day, and Chris and Linda are planning to visit Taliesen (Frank Lloyd Wright's studio and home near Spring Green) and also to see a furniture-maker down there. After they leave this morning, Tom gets to play. Or maybe start getting ready for Miriam, hit ex-sister-in-law, who will be visiting next week, with perhaps Helen in tow as well as another friend.

Looks like Tom's older son Peter will be moving in here in late May or so for a while, maybe a year. He graduated from St. John's College last year and has been running a store in Santa Fe, but now he wants to get ready to go to grad school. So he is coming here to sort out his plans.

It is cool, 24 (-4.5 C) now, but supposed to his about 50 (10 C) later in the day. Starting tonight and al day tomorrow, of course, we will get snow. We will see what that does to the trains.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Speaking of Friday foolishness ...

According to an AP story,
Bernard Madoff's brother Peter gets access to $10,000 a month for living expenses under an agreement approved Friday in a lawsuit accusing him of swindling a college student.

Peter Madoff was in a Long Island courtroom to appeal a judge's order last week freezing his assets. That order came in a civil lawsuit filed by Andrew Ross Samuels, who claims Madoff took $478,000 of his trust fund and invested it in his brother Bernard's Ponzi scheme.

New York state Supreme Court Judge Stephen Bucaria approved giving Peter Madoff accesss to the money. The pact carries the same terms as a Justice Department document signed by Madoff on Dec. 24, in which he voluntarily agreed not to dispose of his substantial fortune and to curtail his personal spending until further notice.

He is permitted to spend $10,000 a month on living expenses, the judge said.

Think you could get by on that if you curtailed your spending? It reminds me of something Mama used to say: "If I had a million dollars, I'd pay my debts -- as far as it would go."

Friday foolishness

1) Last night I got my bedroom all cleaned and ready for Chris and Linda, and moved into the guestroom for a couple of nights. I got up this morning, got Tom to give me a haircut, took a shower and then cleaned up the bathroom for the visitors. I had already moved my computer into Tom's office, but I keep going into my own room to use it before I remember it is not there.

2) Went to the railroad this morning to discover, happily, that Mary had finished up most of the preparation for tomorrow's season opening. I spent about a half hour getting the area behind the counter straightened up and came home. I am not sure if I will be alone in the store this weekend or not. Roberta is getting ready for some surgery next week, and I haven't heard if she plans to come in. It shouldn't matter. Spring is peeking through up here, but I don't imagine we will be swamped. I know Mary already has some other things to keep me busy if things are slow.

3) I have heard from three of my friends from my time in Maryland over the last few days. Another of my friends from those days -- can it be six years ago? -- stays in regular touch, and I am in occasional telephone contact with one of these three. The other two are more sporadic. So it was a surprise to get a card from Iowa and emails from California and DC. What a delight!
Okay, it was not a total surprise because it is connected to my forthcoming book. But I'll take what I can get!
4) Tom is doing a Greekish meal tonight for Chris and Linda: chicken kabobs on the grill, rice and his famous Greek salad. I had hoped to find baklava for dessert -- the Walmart bakery often has it around the holidays -- but had no luck. I picked up a caramel apple pie instead, but Tom reminded me that our guests often arrive with elegant cakes in hand. I may need to put in extra exercycle time over the next few days.

When we have company, he usually goes all out for breakfast, too: eggs, bacon and/or sausage, maybe pancakes...

I will definitely have to put in extra exercycle time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Okay, the Gratian book is now listed on Amazon, though they don't have the cover image up yet.

Speaking of covers, Tom spent part of the morning designing a great one for the Elijah book. (No, that's not a picture of it.) Now I just have to finish writing it.

This afternoon I do my library volunteering. Then I will try to get the mailing out on the new book. I have been waiting for it to show up on Amazon first.

Then tonight and tomorrow morning, I have to get my room ready for guests this weekend. And at some point, get over to make sure the museum store is presentable for visitors Saturday morning.

On a totally different note, when I was driving by The Ranch Riding Stable this morning, there was a huge tom turkey out front in full plumage. He is black and white and very handsome. I guess he's flirting with the ladies.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wednesday work

Little flurries to start the morning, but they should disappear and leave nothing behind. I am heading over to the railroad to do a little more preparation for our opening weekend, and then I will probably go to the library and do some writing. Now that the Gratian book is out, I need to move forward on the Elijah one.

Marc Foley, who is a very funny guy, told me he is waiting for my book on St. Therese and Godzilla. (That is the statue you don't like, Kristin. Do you have any suggestions?)

He is, I assume, referring to this famous cartoon: Bambi Meets Godzilla.

SPOILER ALERT! Tom says this is sick.

Seeing stars

I had an e-mail from Fr.Marc Foley this morning. Marc is a Carmelite priest I have known since we were students together in DC in the lat 1970s, and he is a REAL writer.

Anyway, he told me he had seen that my book was given 5 stars on some reading site online. I think I tracked it down -- to someone in La Vernia, TX?

Anyway, there was no review, just a good rating. Which, needless to say, made my day!