Memory: The Start of a Family Tradtion

In late January of 1966, Central New York was hit with an epic blizzard that shut the area down for days. Here’s a link to some photos taken at the time.

I grew up in a rural area. My aunt, uncle and four cousins lived next door on one side, my grandmother and step-grandfather lived on the other side of us. My uncle and dad couldn’t get to their jobs, so there was lots of family time between efforts to dig out.  Here’s  a photo  of  my  dad  on  the  1934 Ford tractor  and  my  Grandpa  Jim  working  on clearing away  the snow.

It was during the blizzard that two of my family traditions began.

My parents pulled out the flour, sugar, eggs, and such and went on a baking spree. We worked together as a family. I recall my mom unearthing a cookie press she’d never used, finding a recipe for chocolate spritz cookies and using the cookie press to make them. They were wonderful. A pain to make compared to mom’s usual cookies (and my mom baked great cookies!), but worth the effort. And yes, my dad was also involved in the bake-fest.

The first lesson I learned was to always make sure there is a stockpile of food in the house come winter. Ingredients and basics. It’s a lesson I had to remind my son of when he moved out on his own. Even if you keep only cans of soup in the cupboard, make sure you have something to eat. You never know when a storm is going to hit. Which is why you’ll never find me out on the night before a predicted storm scrounging for bread and milk.  I’m always prepared.

The second lesson is that baking together during a snowstorm makes wonderful memories. Now, I didn’t often get to take snow days with my children, but the times I did, we pulled out a box or two of quick bread mix (I am not my mom) and baked together. I used the time to teach them fractions (if the recipe calls for half a cup, how many quarter cups should you use?) and other life skills. Plus we were spending time together. That was the important thing.

I hope their memories are as nice as mine.

Meal: Cheese and Pie Crust

My mom always baked:  bread, cookies, cakes, and pies, all from scratch.

As a child, I didn’t understand why she always made extra pie crust when it was pie day. When I got older,  her secret was revealed.

She would slice cheddar cheese, wrap it up in the “scraps” of pie crust, and bake it along with the pies. It was her secret indulgence. Once I discovered the absolute deliciousness of it, she had to make more.

Something so utterly simple was a real treat.

Musing: Getting Political

I had originally planned a movie review for this week’s blog. I had written about God Bless America, which is a dark comedy. After the events of January 6, I could not review that particular movie at this time with a good conscience.

I work very hard not to be political in my author persona. For today’s blog, I quit trying.

I had taken January 6 off from my Day Job so I could watch the electoral college vote be certified by Congress. Every instinct I had told me something was going to happen. I have not been on social media since July 1st, other than a quick pop on to check on certain friends and family. I couldn’t take the vitriol any longer. I stopped watching the news around that time, too, asking my husband to close the door between our family room and living room when he was watching. I curated my input.

Even without a constant barrage of information/misinformation, I knew something was going to happen on January 6, which begs the question why didn’t law enforcement?

But that’s not what my blog today is about.

As I watched the attempted coup in horror–but not surprise–another very weird thought wouldn’t go away:  School shootings.

Those elected representatives I saw hiding under desks, etc. could have been my son (a teacher) during a school shooting.  Now those elected representatives who won’t do anything about the pandemic of school shootings (which the COVID pandemic has appeared to eliminate) know what those children and teachers go through. The same feelings of terror and helplessness.

Welcome to the reality of America today.

Now maybe they’ll do something about it.

If the country ever finds “normal” again.

 

MJ Monday: Manuscript — Keeping Characters in Character

I recently finished the revisions on my next book (stay tuned for more details closer to publication date).  My editor and I went back and forth on the ending. She wanted me to do something I felt wasn’t in character for my hero/heroine. I thought that what I had written would suffice. She wanted more. It was a delicate balance. In the end, what the reader wants (according to my editor) won out.

I guess I’m not a typical reader. When the same thing happens in books I otherwise love, I want to toss the book against the wall. There is a Very Famous Author who does this all the time. Her rough-and-tumble heroes suddenly start sounding as if Shakespeare wrote their dialogue at the end of the book. That guy is not the guy I (and the heroine) fell in love with! It’s fraud. Bait and switch.

I lived with my characters for a couple of years. The hero has been knocking around in my head closer to twenty years. I know this werewolf. He’s not a gushy male.

I once saw an older couple being interviewed on TV. The question to the wife was, “When was the last time he told you he loved you?” She gave an exact date, which was kind of weird. When the husband came out, he was asked, “When was the last time you told her you loved her?” He gave the exact date. The wife explained: “It was our wedding day. He said I love you, and if I ever change my mind I’ll let you know.”

I think that’s who I had in mind when I wrote the final scene in my next book.

 

2021: The Year To Come

2020 has been a challenging year. I don’t need to enumerate or recap the Dumpster fire. The malaise isn’t going to magically vanish when we flip the calendar page to 2021.

As is my habit, I’ve been thinking long and hard about my goals for the coming year. The strategy for my life. The changes I need or want to make. Not resolutions. Never resolutions. Resolutions are made to be broken. Goals are set to meet.

One of the changes I’ll be making is cutting back on the number of blogs I write each year. This is my final “Thursday Thought” for at least twelve months.

MJ Monday will not be as structured as it’s been for the past couple of years–Meals on the first Monday, movies on the second, etc. I will also be adding at least one new category, perhaps more as the mood strikes me.

I hope you’ll continue to join me.

Have a safe, healthy new year.