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The Storyteller

During prep for a recent medical procedure, gowned and lying on a bed in the hospital surgical center, I listened as the attending nurse told me the side effects of the sedatives. “You may have slight amnesia when you wake up,” she said.

She rolled my bed to the procedure room. The last thing I remember is “I’m starting the medication now.” When I awoke, I was dressed, sitting on the side of the bed in recovery, and that nurse was putting my shoes on my feet. I still have no memory during the gap.

Later, I consulted the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for the full scope of amnesia.

1) Loss of memory due usually to brain injury, shock, fatigue, repression, or illness
2) Gap in one’s memory
3) The selective overlooking or ignoring of events or acts that are not favorable or useful to one’s purpose or position

My brother—I’ll give him the fictitious name of Josh—disappeared from California many years ago leaving his wife and children destitute. When a friend recognized him operating a business in Washington state years later, Josh’s explanation was that he’d been in an auto accident in Arizona and surgeons had removed a brain tumor. He’d had amnesia ever since. Or so he said as his explanation for why he had remarried in Oregon, moved to Washington, and had two more sons without divorcing his first wife.

Mother, a brother, and a sister went to see Josh, sure that would jog his memory. He was undergoing a federal clinical trial of shock treatments. It wasn’t working, he said. He didn’t recognize any of them. My mother was devastated.

I searched for the accident. No similar event in Arizona for the time and place he said his car went off the side of the mountain. But wait! If Josh had complete amnesia, how did he know the location when I couldn’t remember getting dressed after mild sedation? Josh had selective memory (Merriam-Webster definition #3).

My mother received a call from the treatment center after that distressing visit. Josh and his second family had moved. Did she know where to reach him? But wait! If he had no memory of his past, how did her name and phone number get in his secondary contacts when he registered at that facility? She couldn’t understand why Josh had always been a storyteller—her gentle word for liar.

The Social Security Administration notified Josh’s first (legal) wife of his death about thirty years later. Determined to find his burial place, I called mortuaries in the nearby towns.  Success on the third call. Josh’s ashes were still at the mortuary months later. I had his cremains returned to California for burial in the cemetery near his parents and brothers.

Josh was an amiable charlatan, a great main character for a mystery book. He hid his past and controlled the present with convenient lies. I’m a storyteller, so perhaps there is a bit of Josh in me. If the detective in the novel asked me how I skirted the mandate that Josh’s ashes could only be released to his youngest son, I would claim amnesia.








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Blogging typo rewrites ninety-nine year history of Veterans Day

A typo in “Truce” shifted historical data of the first Armistice Day celebration in 1919 to a future date of the one-hundredth anniversary.  Here’s the corrected post.


A signed armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 signaled the end of World War I. The first Armistice Day celebration was one year later, November 11, 1919. My parents had two children then. World War II ended September 2, 1945.  Then, my parents had nine children, ages six to thirty-one, and grandchildren ages up to age seven. Several of those grandsons later served in the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam.

We honored all the dead in our family—military and civilian—on Memorial Day and the living military men on Veterans Day. My mother called the May holiday Decoration Day and the November holiday Armistice Day. We spent the May morning at the Chowchilla Cemetery placing flowers on any veteran’s grave. After my father died in November 1953, my mother insisted that we adorn his grave with flowers on Armistice Day although he was a civilian during all the wars. She said, “It might look bad if his grave was bare on that day so many neighbors visited the cemetery.”

The red poppy became symbolic for Veterans Day, but my mother, a widow, seldom had a spare quarter to donate in exchange for the handmade paper flower. One year, the veteran accepted a dime and handed her a red paper poppy. She pinned it to the right side of her dress. When my brother-in-law, a WWII veteran, saw it, he insisted she move it over her heart. To keep the peace, a truce of sorts, she wore it there until he left. Then, she moved it back to the right side.

“What’d you do that for, Grandma?” one of the grandsons born during World War II asked. “The vets pin their poppies on the left.”

“That’s why I moved it,” she said, her black brows drawn together. “They’re men, but I’m a woman.”


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Universal Good Weather Day

I checked my cell phone at bedtime—useless habit, I know, because I’m warm and comfy inside and not going anywhere. AccuWeather says it’s sunny and 81 degrees. My eyes tell me it’s dark outside except for electrical lighting, and my bones tell me it’s 50 degrees. I forget my bedtime rituals and rush to my computer to check my AccuWeather link.

My eyes are right. It’s dark. My bones are right too. It’s a cloudy 50 degrees.

Wake up the weatherman.

First, I click the Google icon on my screen and search for Kismén gueşli—the words that appear below the temperature on my phone screen. It returns no results.

Next, I search for AccuWeather hacked January 22, 2018.


Several posts originating in different countries say their AccuWeather apps show sunny and 81 degrees. Finally, a universal agreement on something.

The next step of unity is that all of us will wait—impatiently, of course—for our AccuWeather or our cell phone providers to send us a solution to make us disagree again—at least about the weather.


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Riding out the storm-don’t try this at home

I moved from sunny Southern California to Louisiana the first time in 1962 when my husband—I’ll call him Bill for privacy reasons—was discharged from the military. I disliked the year-round rains. My first brush with a hurricane three years later churned deeper emotions of fear and hate.

We lived about 300 miles north of the predicted landfall location of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, so I expected heavy rains. I could get through it with Bill’s help. But he was sent to the devastated coastal area to restore electrical utilities. I was home alone. I mopped up water from incessant rain that oozed in around the windows, ran down the walls, and puddled on the floor.

I breathed easy when we moved back to California in the late sixties —nothing to fear but wildfires winds and earthquakes. The Santa Ana winds dropped ashes from the 1970 Laguna Fire in our yard in Irvine, but no sparks. The Sylmar quake the next year shook me out of bed, but no major damage. One evening two years later, Bill said, “It’s getting too crowded here—too many people—we’re going home.”

“Home” was a disappointment. Low-paying jobs, heat, humidity, and unending rains filled my days. We moved to Southeast Louisiana where the pay was better but the rains were worse. Then we met Hurricane Andrew, a projected Category 5 hurricane in 1992. “Don’t worry,” Bill said, “it’ll slow down once it hits Florida. All we’ll get is  rain.”  Andrew swept westward. We were in the direct path.

Andrew strengthened back to a Category 5, then downgraded as he stormed our way. The voluntary evacuation order came to our parish (county to all you who aren’t familiar with Louisiana vocabulary). I left work in Baton Rouge and crept toward home in the outbound traffic. Bill was nailing sheets of plywood over the windows. “Are you almost ready to go?” I asked. “If I don’t stay looters will take all my shop tools. Gonna ride it out,” he said.

I would have felt safer in the truck high above flooded streets, but I tossed my tote and a bag of snacks in my sedan. In case Mississippi hotels were full, I added a sleeping bag, a pillow, and bottled water for shelter survival. Weather news said Andrew had slowed to a Category 4 when it hit the Bahamas. “No sense paying an extra hotel night,” Bill said. “Wait till tomorrow and see what happens.” The next morning, voluntary evacuation was replaced by a shelter-in-place order.

I peeked through silver duct tape crisscrossed on the kitchen door window panes. A neighboring pine bent double in obeisance to Andrew, the 80-foot tall branches touching our gravel driveway before returning upright, only to repeat the same bow. My view of the front yard through the kitchen window showed the ancient oak standing its ground. Between peeks outside, I hovered near the television watching the devastation Andrew had left in his path—until the lights flickered and we were left in the dark.

Without electricity we had no water from the subdivision well. We were campers, so we had prepared. We brought in buckets of rainwater from the wooden barrel for the bathrooms. We turned on the portable radio. We set up the Coleman camp stove. That evening we ate by light of the Coleman lantern. Sleeping in the heat of a boarded-up home was impossible. We soon used the last of the dozen radio batteries and the propane canisters. Then the phone died. We were cut off from everybody—our wise neighbors had evacuated.

The morning after Andrew moved on, we stood on the front porch, sheltered from the heavy rain, accessing the damage. A downed power line entangled in a massive limb severed from the strong oak sprawled across our driveway near the street. Bordered by a deep drainage ditch, we were still captives.

After a frustrating week, the rain stopped, and a utility crew arrived on our street. Their small gas-powered saw was no match for the oak limb. The saw stalled, then the chain broke. They borrowed our chain saw. My husband offered to do the first cuts. “That oak is tough,” he said. They refused citing insurance liability. He stepped back while they powered up his replacement. They made a few cuts before they broke his saw.

There were no looters in our country neighborhood. The chain saw was the only loss.


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Homophones – a viral epidemic

Homophone is a confusing word. Homo means same, similar, or alike. But phone? Nope. A homophone is audible, but not an electronic device.

After my post about the U.S. Library of Congress Trump to/too (not tutu) faux paus, editors keep a keener eye (not aye) out for homophones—words that sound alike but convey a different meaning. See if you can spot the homophone mistakes in this short prose without the use of your spelling or grammar-check program.

Homophones cantor through the computer gait. Editors, like jockeys, reigns in hand, race foreward down the tract toward the finish line in a determined manor. The words hide, stationary on screen, waiting for the editor to waiver. Instead, she knits and pearls the maize into a fashionable story that vales the queues of mistaken identity.

Grammar Police Award

Maybe farfetched that you, the savvy author, would make the exaggerated mistakes above, but here’s a BOLO (be on the lookout) from me, the grammar cop. Like drinking and driving—only not as dangerous—these common homophones can destroy your clear record.

Wind your way through these wry words to the bottom where the edited prose quiz awaits.











































Here’s the edited homophone test with correct words in italics.

Homophones canter through the computer gate. Editors, like jockeys, reins in hand, race forward down the track toward the finish line in a determined manner. The words hide, stationery on screen, waiting for the editor to waver. Instead, she knits and purls the maze into a fashionable story that veils the cues of mistaken identity.


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Saving Daylight

When I was in first grade, my mother let my twin and me play with neighbor kids anywhere on our block in our small town if their parents were home. Her safety rule was to “be home by dark.”  I had several close calls when I dashed onto the covered front porch in the waning light of sunset. I needed more light after school.

Piggy Bank

One cool spring day at the end of World War II, I overheard my father talking about the return of “War Time.” War sounded terrible to me until he said it was a way to save daylight like people did during the war. Grandpa Carr had saved cans for dimes in the war. Maybe I could save time like pennies in my amber glass piggybank. Excited about a way to prolong sunset and play longer, I asked him what it had been like to save time.

He harrumphed and shook his head. “Like cutting off one end of your blanket and sewing it on the other end to make it longer.”


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Friggatriskaidekaphobia – Friday the 13th

black-cat-pixabay-1292960__340ladder-pixabay-510578__340My mother was superstitious. She wouldn’t walk under a ladder. Actually, that showed her common sense. On a walk through the one-block square park one evening long ago, Mama took my twin and me by the hand as we approached the far side of the shortcut and turned us a different direction because a black cat crossed the sidewalk in front of us. If it was safe for the cat, why not for us?  Our home was a shotgun style meaning that the front and back doors were in a direct line (one could see the backyard from the front porch if both doors were open).  Mama’s superstitious ways insisted a person who entered the front door, exited the back to see the garden or chickens, must reenter the house and depart through the front door, not leave by one of the backyard gates.

Today, Friday the 13th, I’m repeating portions of a blog I first posted on May 13, 2016.


In Escape, one of my five crime fiction works in progress, I begin with a tight-knit genealogy group called Ghost Chasers (GCs) meeting for Friday lunch in the fictitious town of Pleasantville, Texas. These Friday meetings are the core of my manuscript, but writing rules insist that I minimize repetitious words in a single paragraph or close proximity. But how else to say Friday?

Weighing a decision of whether GCs will meet today, I researched superstition associated with friggatriskaidekaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th.

Now, my genealogists have a new mystery to solve when one of their members vanishes on Friday the 13th. If I need an alternate word for Friday, I’ll let one of my characters say Frigga. Frigga means Friday.

Calendar 13





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