So, this happened…

When Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and I bought our house a couple of years back, we, of course, had our mail forwarded.  We were so proud to own our first house and no longer be renters that we changed our Driver’s Licenses, Voters’ Registrations, magazine subscriptions, various insurances, etc., as soon as we could.

Between the three of us, we probably get a total of about five or six magazine subscriptions per month.  When you go on the magazine’s website to change your address, most of them tell you that it will likely be after the next issue is mailed before the change will take place, so be sure to notify the Post Office of your new address.  Okay, no big deal.

All three of us spent a lot of time those first couple of months camped out at Home Depot, Lowes, and Floor and Décor, among other home improvement stores.  We had tons of changes to make to make this place feel like it was really ours, and nothing was going to stop us.

Meanwhile, the mail piled up on a table by the door while we busily learned how to build walls, change out light fixtures, paint textured walls, etc.  Then came the day that we took a break and sorted through the mail.  That’s when we found this magazine.

Or what was left of a magazine after the Post Office damaged it.  (If you can’t tell, this is literally the bottom corner of the cover only of a magazine!)  At least they apologized for their error and included their wishes that the problem didn’t cause us too much inconvenience.

Let’s talk:  Is this hilarious, or what?  Did you ever get something like this from the Post Office?  What’s the most damaged item you’ve ever received from any shipping company?  Regarding the last place you moved, did you make any changes as soon as you got there, or did you wait a while?

Not My First Rodeo

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.  By now, people around the world are getting cabin fever regarding the “social distancing” orders concerning the current global crisis.  My daughter, Stefani and I can say that though this is no fun, it’s not our first rodeo quarantine.

If you’re a parent, you already know that all good parents have regrets.  Unless your kids are grown, however, what you might not realize is that the regrets we have as parents are most likely not the same things our kids would go back in time and change if they could.  I have one of those World’s Worst Parenting moments that’s haunted me for 23 years!  Seriously, I have felt guilty about this since my firstborn child (who is now 30) was in the second grade.  (The hilarious thing is, when I recently spoke about this to Stefani, she didn’t remember a thing about it!)

Stefani was seven when she developed a rash.  Her school nurse called and told me I needed to pick her up and take her to the doctor, and that she couldn’t return to school without a note.  I took her to her pediatrician, and he diagnosed her with Fifth Disease, which is a viral infection caused by parvovirus.  It’s known as Fifth Disease because it’s one of five common childhood illnesses characterized by a rash.

For her troubles, Stefani was granted three days off school, plus a lot of Disney movies, popsicles, a new Barbie, and attention.  Score!

Fast forward a couple of weeks.  Monday morning, Stefani was getting ready for school, I was getting ready for work, and Jeremy, who was still a baby, was playing with my Grandma in her room.  Stefani gets a stone-cold serious look to her face and tells me, “Mommy, I think my Fifth Disease is back.  I’m itchy.”

“Mmm hmm.  Nice try,” I tell her as I grab her backpack.  “Let’s get going.”

“No, really.  I better stay home,” she says.

I put on my Angry Mommy Face.  “Stefani, you are not sick!  Now go get in the car and I’ll be right behind you.”

She whined the whole three blocks to school, and I restrained myself from laughing at how clever she really thought she was.

About an hour later, the school nurse called me and said Stefani had a rash.  She said I’d need a doctor’s note before I could bring her back to school.  I was livid!  I couldn’t believe my little seven-year-old could be so conniving as to fool a nurse!

I tried to keep my cool as I waited in the doctor’s office for her to be seen.  I tried not to roll my eyes as the doctor examined her and said, “Didn’t I just see you here with a rash a couple of weeks ago?”

The doctor called a nurse in and they whispered, then she left and came back with a shot and a syringe to take some blood samples.  Wait, what?  This didn’t happen last time.

We were left alone in a room to wait for a while, and Stefani and I drew cartoons on the paper that covered the exam table.  After what seemed like hours, the doctor came back and announced, “She has scarlet fever.  You’re going to have to quarantine her.  She’ll miss at least a week of school…”

Crap.  I felt like a giant ass for ignoring my little girl’s pleas for help that morning.

I took her home, got her set up in her bedroom, explained things to my Grandma (who watched the kids while I was at work), went to the store and tried to redeem myself by buying Stefani tons of coloring books, crayons, fun pads, books, videos, card games, another new Barbie, ginger-ale, popsicles, etc., then I took them to her and went back to work.  That night, I read her story after story, and watched a bunch of silly videos with her to make up for my Bad Mommy Day.

The next day at work, things were going well until my office manager noticed I kept scratching my torso.  “I hadn’t even noticed,” I told her.  I raised my shirt and was covered with a billion red blotches!  My office manager told me to get to the doctor right away and don’t come back without a note.  Yes, you guessed it.  I, too, had scarlet fever and we were both medically quarantined!  (Meaning the doctor gave a LONG list of specific instructions basically saying we needed to live in a closet and not breathe until we were re-examined.)

Stefani moved into my bedroom.  Jeremy moved out of my bedroom and into Grandma’s bedroom.  The doctor said we both had a pretty bad case of it.  Stefani and I spent the next EIGHT DAYS in that room with Grandma leaving our meals outside the door.  These were the days where televisions were small, only got a few cable channels, the internet was dial-up and didn’t have a lot of fun stuff to do, there was no social media, and it was boring as hell!  Not to mention, neither of us felt much like doing anything anyway, but still, it was no fun!

So, I guess the lessons to be earned from this are: I lived though a quarantine before, so I know I can do it again; at least there are more entertaining things one can do at home now versus back then; and apparently my daughter doesn’t remember what I would consider my largest parenting fail, so I can finally stop kicking myself for it and let it go.

Let’s talk:  Have you ever had scarlet fever?  Have you ever been under a true medical quarantine?  Would a new Barbie buy your way out of a bad parenting call?  Are you upset that this post was not actually about a rodeo?  Do you have cabin fever yet where you are?

Dear Writer…

I tried this last month, but didn’t get a big response.  So, let’s try this again.  (And, no, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke.)

The following announcement is geared mainly toward my writer friends.  Of course, if you’re not a writer, you’re still welcome to read, reply, and play along, but if you are a writer, you might have a particular interest in what I have to say today.

In the past, one of my more popular blog features has been my author interviews.  Not only did these help draw new traffic to my blog, but they helped market your work to a broader audience. I’ve decided to start a new feature called “Writing Prompt Wednesdays” wherein I will post a writing prompt, either text or pictorial, on the first Wednesday of each month.

I invite you to then take (click to open in a new tab, then right click and save) the prompt over to your own blog and use it to write a short story – say (roughly) between 100 and 800 words, telling what happened to lead up to the prompt, what happened after the prompt, why the prompt, or anything else relevant to the prompt.  Then reply to my post with the link to your post and be sure to include your email address so I can interview you.  For each subsequent Wednesday for the rest of the month, I’ll select one of your responses to feature on my blog along with an interview with you and the links to where we can purchase your work.

April’s Writing Prompt:

Click on this image to open in a new tab, then right click to save.

Actual history of this photo:  This awesome guy actually drives this Radio Flyer car around town, and I see him every so often.  He always gets a lot of looks, stares, honks, thumbs up, and people stopping traffic to get their cameras out and photograph him.  I think it looks really cool, but I’m afraid I’d be too embarrassed to drive it.  Bit I would  love to know what it looks like inside.
Photo: ©R. Carrera

Let’s talk:  Will you be participating in my Writing Prompt Wednesdays?  Would you have taken a photo of this “wagon” if you saw it driving down the road?  Would you ride in it?  What’s the strangest motor vehicle you’ve ever owned?

The Late for Christmas Feety Foot Shoe Socks

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends!  Ever since my daughter Stefani was little, jokes about feet were our “Mommy-Daughter Thing.”  Every Christmas stocking, Easter basket, or birthday gift bag I ever gave her always included a little something foot-related.  They were always just stupid little insignificant things, like a foot-shaped eraser, but they were one of the ways I let her know I loved her.

That’s my lovely daughter!

A couple of years ago for Christmas, I’d done all my shopping except for the “foot thing” I’d forgotten.  So, to remedy the situation, I got on Amazon and found the ugliest pair of feet socks you’ve ever seen.  Actually, they were “feety foot shoe socks.”  The socks were, for the most part, flesh-colored, and the top over the feet were feet slid into pink flip-flops, and the bottom part under the feet were the bottom of the flip-flops.  Hideous, right?

Well, after I submitted my order, I got a message that they would, in fact, not be here in time for Christmas.  We had Christmas that year, and I kind of forgot all about the “feety foot shoe socks” until sometime in late January when they arrived.  I opened the package and removed one sock and inspected it.  It was goofy and cheap, but otherwise, not remarkable.  It had a right foot painted on top, and a shoe bottom painted on the bottom.

Here’s what they were supposed to look like, top and bottom

Then I removed the other sock.  I laughed so hard, I might have wet myself.  [I will nether confirm or deny if I really wet myself.]  The second sock also had a right foot painted on top.  It also had another right foot painted on the bottom!  All told, we had three right feet tops, and one foot bottom.  I giggled the whole time that I wrapped the “feety foot shoe socks” up then called my daughter to come over for a surprise.  When she opened them, we both laughed so hard, our bodies were shaking uncontrollably, and we weren’t making any noise.  It was that hilarious!

But instead, here was what we received.

And here, you can see each top and bottom together.

Let’s talk:  What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever ordered that was different than what you expected when you received it?  Have you ever laughed so hard you didn’t make a sound?  Do you name certain things odd names like “feety foot shoe socks?”  Do you have a certain repetitive inside joke “thing” with one or more of your kiddos?

Author Interview: Mike Steeden

 

Hello, friends.  A few weeks ago, I encouraged fellow writers (and anyone else who wanted to play along) to write a short story to accompany the writing prompt I featured and then allow me to interview them.   As with many things new, a lot of times people like to wait until they see someone else dip their toe in the water before they take the plunge.  But I anticipated as much when I put the challenge out there.  So, rather than waiting for someone to be the first to respond to my prompt, I’m jumping right into the interview mode, sans the homework.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to my favorite Knight of the British Empire, Sir Mike Steeden!   (Okay, he hasn’t technically been knighted yet, but I’m sure once the Queen reads about him here on my blog, she’ll make time on her royal calendar to invite him over for tea and she’ll take care of it then.)  Without further ado, heeeeeere’s Mike!

Please tell us your name (or pen name) and the links to your blog, website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. When did you start writing? What motivated you to undertake writing your first novel?

Mike Steeden

Firstly, young Rachel, my thanks for the invite. In doing so you must surely be a tad crazed…and there’s nowt wrong with that, all the best people I know are bonkers.   Anyway, I go by the name Mike Steeden, a one-time Private Detective specialising in fraud investigations, now a fast aging-juvenile.

When did I start writing? As a person who cannot spell for toffee, I have to say, “Since ‘Post it’ notes became redundant, and not long after the moment ‘spellcheck’ magically appeared on Word.”

The reason I began writing was to unburden my…such as it is…chock-a-block brain of the plague of words it had housed for far too long.

You can find Mike at his blog at: https://mikesteeden.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/michaelsteeden or simply @michaelsteeden.

Please offer us a snippet of your most recently published novel and tell us what it’s about. Also, please share the link(s) to purchase your work:

I well remember the day ‘The Blue-Eyed Cat’…a lovely gal also known as sweet ‘Lily’…had finally been freed from her solitary confinement within the lonely prison cell that is my dark and, of late, empty skull. At last at liberty, the world was now her oyster and boy has she, against all odds, enjoyed herself.

Herewith the ‘blurb’ thing that, in essence, describes Lily’s tale without giving too much away:

‘A book of mind-boggling time-travel, feverish sex, syrupy romance, ho hum history, a dark future, The Moon, Constantinople, Paris and Berlin human consciousness, infinity, a tongue in cheek take on all things carnal, art for art’s sake and three thoroughly mad yet oh so delightful gals.’

Insofar as the overtly risqué shenanigans Lily and chums…both female and male…get up to, shenanigans that committed prudes would no doubt declare as obscene all I can say in my unnecessary defence is that they are nought but an exaggerated take upon the nonconformist life my delightful, yet deliciously, uncontrollable Shirl, long since decided we adopt. By Jove we’ve had some fun.

I believe it is of some importance that ‘The Blue-Eyed Cat’ does have the potential to appeal to free-thinkers, Bohemians, Mata Hari on an average day, Ms Dietrich when the fancy takes, dab hand illiterates, raving lunatics of any and all persuasions plus, of course, uninhibited romantics. Having said that, this is definitely not a book suitable for killjoy Great Aunt Maud, the local Vicar, pious Uncle Percy, racists, sexists, homophobes, those of a sensitive disposition nor, sadly in many respects, swoony types.

You can purchase “The Blue-Eyed Cat” and the rest of Mike’s work at: https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Steeden/e/B015WAUW8C?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1583784194&sr=8-1

Mike was then asked to select three of the next few questions I posed and answer them as he chose.  He selected the following:

If you had one year to prepare, which record do you think you would have the best shot at breaking in the Guinness Book of World Records? Have you ever actually attempted to break a world record at anything?

I’ve never really felt the need to be the best at something or break records. It’s likely the alpha-male gene took one look at me and thought ‘no’. Having said that, I once, late teens, lead the field in a school cross-country run in Richmond Park…a park overlooking the River Thames, south of London and favoured by Henry XIII when not beheading his wives…for the first 5 strides of the long-distance race. I was rather proud of that small success.

After that minor victory I fell hopelessly behind my enthusiastic peer group. However, albeit by unhappy chance, I found that I’d done so well that I’d been chosen for the County of Surrey team in the upcoming annual county contest.

How so, one might ask? Well, what happened was that bringing up the rear, instead of running round the large lake known as ‘Pen Ponds’ like the others, I in my lack of wisdom, spotted a walkway that dissected said lake in two. You see, taking that path enabled me to both shorten my part in the tedious run, and also allow me a little time to enjoy a puff of nicotine. The beauty of my scheme was that, if I made the right choice when re-joining the others…the keen ones…I’d defeat the ignominy of coming in last.

How wrong I was. My calculations not fit for purpose. Unbeknownst to me at that time, I’d prematurely re-joined far too early! The net result was that I’d come in third in a field of over 80 adolescent athletes. The word ‘bollocks’ came to mind as the Sports Master passed on…to him at least…the good news that I’d made the county team.

I never did take my place with the others come the big day. My cunning plan, soaking my right foot in a bucket of beetroot juice for several hours in order that the authentic look of a foot damaged beyond repair would not be in doubt, saved me.

What characteristics, personality traits, likes, or dislikes does the protagonist in your most recently published novel share with you?

Ah, Lily the protagonist. Small, yet perfectly formed, a gal who takes life as it comes; a gal who never gives up on a good cause, despite the curse of dilemmas, the predicaments she finds herself in, and the perilous dangers she has to overcome when seeing to it that fascist Nazi’s get their comeuppance. The bravest gal in all of time…almost, yet that’s the way she’d have it. That she, not unlike my dear Shirl, finds fervent romance and all that that unveils along the way a characteristic that is the one that appeals to me most.

If you could travel through time and take any character from your most recently published novel, who would you take and why? Would you travel to the future or the past and why?

Without a shadow of a doubt it would have to be the incorrigible Lady Freya Hella, a dyed in the wool charmer of lesbian persuasion, who is not just a time-traveller, but time itself. A lady of compassion towards the suffering good and by far the worst enemy the wicked would ever want to know. Additionally, and by nature, Freya defines love in all its definitions.

It is thus, rather than me take her upon a journey across time, she would…hopefully…ask me to join her in the escapade as we, along with sweet Lily, turned back time.

You asked in which time direction would I travel. Backwards, my answer, always backward for I wish to see history in factual progress rather than foolishly take it as read that any and all historical accounts are unambiguous.

Thank you, Sir Mike, for taking the time to answer all my nosy questions with such fascinating responses!  I wish you the best of success with “The Blue-Eyed Cat” as well as with your many other titles for sale!

(If YOU would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please visit my Call to Writers for details.)