Do What Your Mother Tells You

My mother died six years ago. But I still talk to her – usually in that thin space between consciousness and sleep. Last week I had something troubling me and I knew it would almost certainly keep me awake. Or if I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d start obsessing which, as you know, doesn’t help solve anything.

So I asked my mother what I should do. And the answer came loud and clear.

Bake pies!

What the hell did that mean? But I did go to sleep. When I woke in the middle of the night she was still telling me to bake pies. In the morning I asked my psychologist husband what he thought it meant. A wise man, he said he thought my mother was telling me to stop worrying (easier said than done) and do something that gave me joy.

My mother was an Iowa farm girl and from her I learned to cook, bake and preserve food. We weren’t a mother and daughter who shared confidences. I didn’t consider her my best friend, but she was always there when I needed her. And she taught me confidence and how to do things. She told me I could do or be anything I wanted. At age eight, when I told her I wanted to be a brain surgeon and a ballerina, she didn’t crack a smile.

When I asked for advice, she gave it, but didn’t interfere if I didn’t follow her suggestions. This time I thought I should listen.

peach pie crust

So I baked pies the next day. I haven’t baked a peach pie in a very long time, even though they were my favorite kind when I was a kid. I even made the crust from scratch.

peach pies

When they came out of the oven, I took one to Laura’s office and she and her accountant, Betty Ann, and I took a pie break. Baking pies and sharing them with friends gave me joy.

Sometimes you just need to do what your mother tells you.

Believe in Lightning!

It’s New Year’s Eve and time to look ahead. If you’re a writer you’ve heard the expression, “You’re more likely to be hit by lightening than to sell a movie script.” But we keep believing. 2015 might just be the year.

For Christmas Laura gave me a wine sippy cup. A truly thoughtful gift. I think it was in anticipation of celebrating all things writing.

wine sippy cup

It sparked memories of the book signing where I knocked over my drink and almost ruined a pile of her books. The waitress brought me a sippy cup. Read more

This sippy glass is much more elegant. And plastic to boot. I’ll use it to ring in the New Year, although we never seem to make it to midnight. My husband and I are joining Laura and her husband for an early New Years dinner and then we’ll watch Sharknado New York. Hopefully it will be right up there with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Watching Sharknado has been on the “to do” list for months and we just never got around to it.

This has been a great writing year for Laura and me. We had our play, The Santa Diaries, produced again. This time in Minnesota and we were there to see three performances. We’ve completed several scripts and one of them is actually being “considered” by a production group, but we’ve been asked not to talk about it yet. Who knows, 2015 might be the year.

Happy New Year to everyone with wishes for health and happiness and joy. And to all the writers out there, don’t give up on your dreams. Keep believing in lightning.

We Talk to a Brown Bag

Last week Laura and I gave a talk at a brown bag lunch at the St. Michaels, Maryland library, a branch of the Talbot County library. We had been asked several months before to speak about how our book, The Santa Diaries: Memories of a Small-town Christmas, had been turned into a play and then a screenplay. Usually these talks seem like a good idea at the time we’re asked, but the week before we always wonder if we were nuts to agree. This talk, however, was different.

Santa Diaries Cover JPEG

Preparing our notes helped us remember the writing path we’ve been on for the last couple of years. All things Christmas. And we loved sharing the story of this writing journey which has been full of creativity, occasional angst, and a lot of joy.

We put together photos and slides of the journey and Shauna Beulah, the librarian, managed the computer for us, making sure the right ones got on the screen at the right time. We even were able to play The Santa Diaries trailer that Laura made on Animoto. It always makes me tear up.

The brown bags are held once a month and usually feature a local topic. It might be local history, an environmental issue, blue crab recipes, and the occasional author. This is Laura, me, and Shauna.

Laura, Mal, Shauna

The library takes good care of the people who show up. I didn’t see anybody with a brown bag lunch, but there was coffee, tea and somebody had baked goodies. The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Library system is my local library. They take good care of us.

refreshments

There were thirty copies left of The Santa Diaries book that we did for Christmas in St. Michaels. Once they are gone, there will be no more. I sold 13 of those 30 copies at this talk. All the monies go to the charities supported by Christmas in St. Michaels. Now I am shamelessly carrying the last few with me everywhere I go.

We had a great time remembering the writing work we’ve done the last few years and sharing the journey. No angst. Just joy!

 

 

 

Sometimes Life Wins

I know you are supposed to write everyday, but life gets in the way and sometimes life wins.

My garden was on a St. Michaels Woman’s Club garden tour on Friday and I was spending a lot of time weeding, edging, mulching – generally being more obsessive than usual. The day before the tour we had torrential rains which beat up a lot of flowers. But Friday was gorgeous and people loved my garden. This spring gardening has sometimes trumped writing.

backyard garden tour day

Laura runs a business (East Coast Flight Services) and she’s been busy with DOD contracts. A friend of hers has a very ill husband and Laura has been spending time at the hospital in Baltimore. Sometimes friendship should trump writing. It also trumped Laura’s fear of driving over the Bay Bridge.

bay bridge

So Laura and I have been writing in bits and snatches. An hour here and there. Despite everything we are 75 pages into the new Christmas TV movie script. That’s in the last three weeks. This one seems to be writing itself. We’ll write until the end and then go back and fix what needs fixing.

Santa Diaries’ Playbook

We thought you might be interested in seeing what a revision page of the movie script we’re working on looks like. Maybe it somehow made its way into the Denver Bronco’s playbook and resulted in their spectacular defeat.

script notations

Figuring out how to make your work better is the hard part of writing…and football.

Writing and Knitting

These are the twelve children’s sweaters I knit last year. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get them boxed up and sent off to World Vision’s Knit for Kids program. Last year people knitted and crocheted 53,728 sweaters, hats and blankets which were given to children living in poverty. These will go in the 2014 count.

IMG_2234

When Laura and I are working on a script, she is the one who is typing it into her computer. Several years ago I decided I could knit while we were working.

These sweaters are very simple and require no counting of rows or stitches.  Essentially just a back and a front that have to be sewn together. My problem is that I don’t like the sewing together part so I tend to put the pieces aside and go on to the next sweater. Eventually I had such a pile I had to force myself to stop knitting and start sewing. Then the sweaters lived in my office for months until I finally packed them up a few days after Christmas and trekked to the post office. Only then did I allow myself to cast on a new sweater.

sweater new

Last week we started rewriting The Santa Diaries script. The original script had a male as the primary character because that’s the way the play was written. Not one of those Christmas movies we watched over the holidays had a male as the lead. A couple had a male and a female as dual main characters. If none of the movies that are being sold and made have a male lead, do we really want to try to change that format? So our rewrite started at the very beginning with new scenes and a couple of new characters. And I started knitting again. I predict that there will be several sweaters to be sewn together before we finish this script rewrite.

The Santa Diaries Lives On

Dancing Santa

Last year at this time Laura and I were attending every rehearsal of our play, The Santa Diaries, scheduled for seven performances right before Christmas 2012. Our anxiety was out of control. I had resorted to outdated Zoloft found behind some anti-wrinkle cream I ordered late one night on HSN. Laura was adopting cats. The play was a shambles. Some people were still on book.There had never been a complete run through.

We took a vow, “We will never do this again!” At the very last dress rehearsal Laura couldn’t stand it and left. I stayed on because I wanted to see them get through to the end. But they didn’t. Our play would open the next day and it wasn’t ready.

But somehow in the next 24 hours it was. The show opened. There were a few hiccups with the lighting, some missed cues, but nothing the audience would really notice. How did that happen? The play was magic. People laughed and cried and our 84 year old Santa did not really fall off the 20 foot ladder he was on during the opening scene.

Recently I read Alan Jay Lerner’s book, On The Street Where I Live, in which he recounts getting My Fair Lady to its out of town opening. Apparently our reality with The Santa Diaries was normal. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Would we have written a play if we’d known? And would we ever want to go through this again?

Apparently, yes. The Liberty Showcase Theatre is producing it’s version of The Santa Diaries this December. Performances dates are as follows: Friday, December 6th and 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM. The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.

Laura and I will attend a rehearsal next Saturday and it will be two weeks before the show opens. This time we are ready for the chaos and the anxiety. No drugs and no cats this year; we are seasoned playwrights and thrilled that The Santa Diaries lives on.

An Unforgettable Paris Vacation

My husband, Roger, and I have been to Paris several times. We’ve seen all the tourist sights and now love wandering the neighborhoods. One of our favorite things to do is take a cooking class. On this visit we’d booked a Market Class with Cook’n With Class. You meet the chef and your small group then visits the cheese shop, the fishmonger, the butcher, and the green grocer. All the while the chef is thinking about what he will have us cook and purchases ingredients. The final stop is the bread shop. Then we all head back for a cooking lesson and a late lunch with multiple courses. Yum!

We’d rented an apartment through Haven in Paris. The one we usually rent was not available but this time our charmer was just around the corner from Place des Vosges.

Place de Vosges 2

The apartment was small but beautifully appointed and it had the all important elevator to our floor – just big enough for one person and a loaf of crusty French bread. Lots of cafes and shops nearby, and a subway stop by the Bastille memorial. We arrived on a Tuesday morning. We had rented the apartment for an extra night so we could go right to bed for a couple of hours. That seems to works best for us. After our nap we wandered, had a glass of wine and people watched, wandered some more, had an early dinner and went to bed.

The next morning we headed for the subway. We were going to the Museum of Romance. In the subway we saw a couple who seemed confused. They were speaking English so we stopped to see if we could help. They were from New Zealand and had never been in a subway – ever! They were going in the same direction so we suggested they come with us and we could get on the same train.

The subway roared into the station. It was about 10 in the morning and the cars were crowded. I got on, the woman from New Zealand got on and froze. My husband, Roger, tried to get on after her and the subway doors slammed on his left leg. We pulled the door open and he managed to get his leg inside. Roger knew it was broken. The New Zealand husband was left on the platform as the train headed for the next stop. Somehow my husband managed to get off and several wonderful French people ran to get help. The emergency medical people arrived in about twenty minutes and put 6’3″ Roger on a portable chair and carried him up several flights of stairs to a waiting ambulance.

At the nearest hospital his leg was x-rayed, confirming what he already knew – the femur was broken. Emergency surgery was needed. There was no bed at the American Hospital so an ambulance took him to Begin, a French Military Hospital where he had surgery that night. A long rectangular metal plate was attached to the broken femur with twelve screws.

No fabulous french food on this vacation. This was typical of the hospital food. I’m not even sure what this is but it looks like potatoes and some sort of vegetable in a sauce with two hard boiled eggs on top. The green round things were canned plums – hard as rocks. Roger didn’t have much of an appetite so that was probably a good thing.

french hospital food

We consoled ourselves with the fact that the French medical system is excellent and my husband received excellent care. His job for the next week was to get strong enough for the trip home (he had to be able to take a few steps with a walker). My job was to figure out how the heck I was going to make all the necessary arrangements.

I contacted the Haven in Paris folks and told them I needed help. They referred me to a concierge service – Paris-Complete. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They rearranged our flights, helped me get medical equipment for the trip home (including a urinal with a lid – there was no way Roger was going to be able to get to the bathroom on the plane), and made a hotel reservation for the two nights we had to stay in Paris after my husband’s discharge from the hospital and our flight home. Ali from Paris-Complete even came to the hospital to help me figure out how to pay the bill….13K on our MasterCard!

From the hospital we were taken by ambulance to the Sheraton at Charles De Gaulle airport. It opens directly into the terminal. Paris-Complete arranged for a team to meet us at our hotel room with a wheel chair and expedite our check in. They took us all the way onto the plane and didn’t leave until my husband was seated in Business class where his leg could be extended. I was back in Economy, but the staff knew the situation and I checked on Roger often. Once we were in the air I could breathe again. We were on our way home.

I had arranged for an ambulance to meet us at Dulles and they were right where they were supposed to be. Roger was put on a gurney and was soon on his way to Memorial Hospital in Easton. Our car was parked in the long term lot but what I had written down didn’t match where the car was, so I had to get help to find the car. Roger remembered exactly where it was, but he was in an ambulance. No help there. Could things get worse? Of course. I somehow managed to get on the toll road coming out of the airport so my Garmin took me into the District of Columbia in rush hour. I knew it would eventually get me to Route 50 and on the way home, but there was a lot of expletive deleted language going on during the process.

Laura met the ambulance at the hospital. When I finally got there they still were checking Roger. I was then allowed to take him home. Laura came with me. Roger had crutches from a previous foot surgery and another friend had retrieved them from the attic and put them in the front hall. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get him into the house, but my heroic husband managed to get up those three steps into our one level house. We got him into bed and then began the adventure of recovery with the help of in home nursing and physical therapy.

That romantic trip to Paris didn’t turn out quite the way we’d planned, but the accident could have happened someplace where the medical care wouldn’t have been so good. I might not have found such wonderful people to help me make arrangements and I might not have had a high enough credit limit on our credit card to get him out of the hospital or to pay for new flights home. There are probably a lot of morals to this story, but my favorite two are: Shit Happens, and No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. We will go back to Paris for that romantic vacation, but it’s going to be awhile.

When the Waitress Is the Entertainment

When I asked our Lowe’s Wharf waitress her name she said, “Still Debbie,” and so she remained the rest of the evening. Little did we know she would compete with the sunset for Best Entertainment.

Lowe's Wharf from water

My Newcomers Dining Out Group was seated around the fire pit at Lowe’s Wharf. None of us are newcomers any more, but we still get together once a month for dinner and take turns making the arrangements. Lowe’s Wharf was my pick for September.Lowe's Wharf

This photo was not of our group. I grabbed it off the Lowe’s Wharf FB page. The fire pit is on the left. Bikini weather was past and, for our group, not just because of the weather.

Ten of us were saying good-bye to summer and hoping for a memorable sunset. We opted not to ask for a fire because the breeze would have meant that half of us would be inhaling. Those days are long gone for our group, too, so we visualized a fire.

Lowe's-Wharf-fire-pit-for-w

Most of us were wearing jackets. Alice, who grew up in Hawaii, was bundled up, apparently expecting a nor’easter. Alcohol would have to suffice. Singapore Slings, Margaritas and beers off set the cool breeze.

Still Debbie was the only waitress on duty. Not a teenager, her face has known its share of wind and sun, but her eyes had a mischievous sparkle that should have warned us.

When our group arrived there were only two people at the bar. As the sun went down more people began to arrive, some with dogs on leashes, and Still Debbie was still the only waitress making the rounds of the tables and Adirondack chairs on the sand. She was pleasant and accommodating; she didn’t really want to do five separate checks but took our credit cards as collateral and we were okay with that.

Lowe’s Wharf’s bar food is surprisingly good. Mostly seafood and mostly deep fried, but hey, it’s a beach bar. We had begun with some appetizers and when we got around to ordering dinner Still Debbie pulled out her order pad. Roger K. he said he wanted a steak.

            “Do you want your meat rubbed?” Debbie asked and then just stood there.

            Roger stammered, “Do I want my meat rubbed?”

            “What did he say,” my husband whispered as the comment flew around the circle of chairs and the chortles began. By now several of us were LOLing.

            “We have several different ways of rubbing your meat,” Debbie advised, her delivery deadpan. Now the rest of us were wiping our eyes.

            Roger asked for more explanation and got it. Lowe’s Wharf offers a number of different rubs: Southwestern, Thai, Cajun. I don’t remember what he finally chose or if he even wanted his meat rubbed, but for the rest of us, that was the highlight of the evening. I’ll be surprised if she doesn’t find her way into my fiction. Still Debbie had provided us with great entertainment and her tips reflected that – she’s one smart waitress.

Pickles Are Better Than Zoloft

Last week I was in Montana visiting my son’s family where I helped put food up for the winter. Being out of the loop is better than Zoloft. My psychologist husband says it’s because these activities (like my passion for gardening) are low conflict. Whatever…

During the most stressful days of The Santa Diaries production I resorted to some three year old Zoloft I found in my medicine cabinet. Laura began adopting kittens from the animal shelter. Making pickles is healthier.

My son and his wife have an enormous garden. I canned and blanched and froze for six days: pressure canned beef broth, made quarts and quarts of freezer slaw, dill pickles, peach freezer jam and bowl after bowl of cucumber/onions in vinegar for my son. I only checked email a couple of times, and was generally out of touch. I loved it!

pickles and dill

The size of the bowl in this photo is deceptive. Here’s some context.

Mala's-big-bowl-for-web

One of the highlights of the week was a neighborhood Pie Social. Hot dogs and hamburgers on sale for a dollar or two. The pie, donated by neighborhood ladies, was free with a donation jar resting on the table. At least fifteen different kinds of pies, including two Shoo Fly pies I baked with my granddaughter.

I threw gluten, dairy and carbs to the wind and had a piece of cherry pie before my hotdog and a sliver of ShoeFly after. Laura says her friend, Dot, calls a small piece a slither. Every baker reading this knows you have to make sure your donated pie is worthy to be on the table. Mine was. Post hotdog I had a piece of raspberry chocolate pie. This event alone was worth flying to Montana. Who needs Zoloft!