Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I never dreamed I’d say this twice in one year . . . but I am published again!

This is another romantic comedy set in Regency England:

Julia Bassett can’t bear living in the household of the handsome lord who once charmed and then ruined her—especially while he prowls London’s ballrooms for a wife! Forced to act as his sister’s chaperone, Julia will do anything to be sent packing—even if it means engaging in the same scandalous behavior that years earlier got her banished to the country and separated from this dashing earl she still secretly loves.

Colin Everett, Earl of Danforth, enjoys seeing how far Julia will go to jeopardize her position—even to brazenly seducing him. He regrets breaking her heart so long ago, and now he’d like to win her back. But when several attempts are made on his life, he must find out if this bold vixen is seeking love…or vengeance.

Can Colin and Julia learn to trust each other—and their own hearts?

CONFESSIONS OF A LADY RUINED is one of those “second chance at love” stories—a tale of two people who fell in love years earlier, only to be separated by mutual misunderstandings and the machinations of scheming, manipulative relatives. (Yes, a lot of M words there.) Those misunderstandings and machinations are still in force when Colin and Julia meet again, but this time they have—here comes another M word—the maturity and hindsight to face and ultimately fight those obstacles.

As a result, Julia is one of my oldest romance heroines at age twenty-seven, which may seem not so old by today’s standards, but in the year 1815, she was practically today’s forty, with almost no hope of ever marrying.

Yet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas, was also twenty-seven years old, and thus considered herself very lucky to land the cringeworthy Mr. Collins. At her age, Charlotte didn’t think she could afford to be picky.

Julia Bassett, however, refuses to surrender to convention, in spite of her seemingly advanced age and status as a lady ruined.

Julia does not give up. And that’s why she’s one of my favorite heroines.

Buy it here: http://www.bookstrand.com/confessions-of-a-lady-ruined

Friday, October 7, 2011

There's a reason they're called Wal-Mart Greeters and not Wal-Mart Small Talk Makers

This is the sort of thing for which I tend to have a very unique gift, yet being on the receiving end made me feel just as dumb.

The person who did The Sort Of Thing I Usually Do was the Wal-Mart Greeter. My relationship with this particular greeter has never progressed beyond greetings either coming or going: “Welcome to Wal-Mart” and “Have a nice day.” She sees me at least once a week.

But the other day, as I was leaving with my purchases, she called out something to me that didn’t sound anything like “have a nice day.” It sounded more like, “I hear [garbled] is doing really well in school.”

Maybe I should’ve kept pushing my cart out the door and acted like I didn’t hear. But no, I had to stop and acknowledge what she said. There was no one else around, so she must have been talking to me.

She’d heard Baby Bear was doing really well in school? But how did she know about him? I’d never mentioned him to her, and he hadn’t been to Wal-Mart in a very long time. What to do? I thought of replying, “Thank you—school’s been in session for over a month now, and we have yet to get a summons from the principal, or a petition from his classmates’ parents, or another resolution from the school board. We’re very proud of him.”

But that garbled proper noun she’d used didn’t sound anything like his name. So instead I cupped a hand behind my ear, leaned forward, and asked, “Pardon me?”

She replied, a bit more loudly and distinctly, “I hear Gabby is doing really well in school this year.”

Gabby? I don’t have a child named Gabby. I didn’t know what horrified me more—this very awkward situation, or the notion that she had me confused with another Wal-Mart shopper when I pride myself on being the best dressed patron here, even if it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort.

I suppose I could have just said, “Thank you,” and moved on with my cart and my life, but my mind raced with the ramifications of that. I was reminded of that episode of Seinfeld where a co-worker called Elaine “Susie” and what happened when she didn’t bother to correct the co-worker. What if the greeter started asking about Gabby every time I came to Wal-Mart hereafter? I’d have to make up a new story about Gabby with each visit. This could go on for years, and who’s to say it wouldn’t contradict anything Gabby’s real mother might say?

What if I told the greeter, for instance, that Gabby went to jail, just to get her out of the picture and end the whole Gabby saga? Imagine the look on Gabby’s mother’s face (or even my face, since apparently I look just like her), should the perpetually confused greeter happen to ask her if Gabby’s up for parole yet?

I couldn’t have that on my conscience, and I didn’t have the energy for it, anyway. Feeling very sheepish—and why I should have felt sheepish, I have no idea—I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a child named Gabby.”

She didn’t say a word. She just stared at me, as if I were the one who’d said something wrong. (Well? I really don’t have a child named Gabby!) Meanwhile, a line was forming behind me. People wanted to leave the store, and I was blocking them. I hastily added, “But that’s okay—have a nice day,” which was supposed to be HER line.

Then I got the hell out of there and have been using the other Wal-Mart entrance ever since.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

These Are Not My Grandmother's Magazines

I remember when I was a young girl, my paternal grandmother subscribed to just about every women’s magazine save Cosmopolitan. She once spoke of picking up a copy of Cosmo in the beauty parlor one day, only to fling it from her hands in shock because the contents were too burning hot for her old-fashioned sensibilities.

But she enjoyed all the other magazines, and after reading them she’d bring them to our house, in thick stacks.

I read them voraciously. I learned household hints and etiquette. I informed myself of matters gynecological. I pored over tales of marriages that might not be saved, yet somehow they always were. At the risk of dating myself, I must have read a story about the Kennedy family, in particular Jackie, in just about every issue; back in those pre-Diana days, stories about royalty were rare, except for the occasional article about Princess Grace.

I always enjoyed what I read, and learned a lot about marriage and family and relationships.

Fast forward to today—this morning, to be exact, when I found myself sitting in a very crowded waiting room and hadn’t brought my Nook.

Until this morning, I hadn’t read any of those women’s magazines in years. And I mean years, for which I can either blame or credit the Internet and less time and curiosity than I had as a young girl.

The magazines I read this morning had the same titles as those my grandmother once subscribed to—yet these were not my grandmother’s magazines. There wasn’t a single Cosmo in the stack, yet I still nearly flung them from my hands in shock.

I’m not a prude, for crying out loud—I write historical romance novels with steamy love scenes in them, and I occasionally bought Cosmopolitan in the days when I was a twenty-something globetrotting playgirl—but I must admit I was stunned by how much my grandmother’s favorite magazines have changed over the years, and become quite indistinguishable from the once very unique Cosmo.

No, I think my real problem was that I couldn’t actually read the magazines, or stay on one page for very long, because I had two men wedged on either side of me in that packed waiting room, and being the paranoid neurotic that I am, I didn’t feel comfortable sandwiched between them with the magazine open to a page with words printed so big, they could easily be read from the far side of the room, blaring at me about “rejuvenating” a very explicitly identified part of the female anatomy. I don’t think I’ve ever turned a page so fast, only to find a collection of humorous anecdotes from readers about the time their little darlings walked in on them while they were otherwise amorously engaged; and oh, looky here! A list of helpful tips if you get a hankerin’ to do it in public.

But no handy household hints, or answers to etiquette questions, or accounts of marriages saved when it seemed all was lost. And no articles on Kennedys or Royals, even though the latter have been very much in the news this year.

If my very proper grandmother were still alive today, I don’t know if she’d still enjoy reading these women’s magazines.

But I’ll bet the men would . . . if only they knew.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BRIDE IN HIDING by Karen Lingefelt

I am published again!

While Bride in Hiding is my second book to be published, it’s the tenth book out of the seventeen which, by my reckoning, I have written in my lifetime. (Nearly half of those books will never see the light of day unless the temperature in hell drops even lower.) That number doesn’t include books started and then abandoned for whatever reason.

I have heard authors say that they link certain books they’ve written to events in their lives; that such-and-such a book was the one they were writing when they were pregnant with their first or tenth child, or when their husband was laid off, or when their house disappeared into a sinkhole.

For instance, I’d just started writing True Pretenses when our daughter Fiona passed away, only three days after I’d completed Chapter Two, where I left Kit standing on the doorstep of Serena’s cottage, staring at the door and wondering if his next voyage would be to Australia. He stood out there shivering on that doorstep for many months before I finally brought myself to start work on Chapter Three.

Bride in Hiding is the book I was writing when I sold True Pretenses. I even remember what chapter was I was working on at the time—Chapter Twelve. It was accepted for publication on the very same day
our firstborn graduated.

That was an unusually good day for me.

She thought hiding in plain sight would be the perfect plan—but alas! Susannah Kirk hopes to escape an unwanted marriage by posing as a lady’s companion in the bridegroom’s ancestral home. Surely it’s the last place anyone would look for her—but as Susannah’s luck would have it, a surprise visitor from London isn’t just anyone. He’s Trevor Dalton, one of her reclusive lady’s grandsons—and he may or may not be the very rogue she’s trying to flee.

After learning his wastrel cousin plans to satisfy gambling debts by taking a bride he’s never met, Trevor races to Derbyshire to avert scandal. But his efforts are hampered at every turn by his grandmother’s strong-willed, mysterious companion. Suspicious as well as charmed, he’s determined to uncover Susannah’s secrets—even if he has to seduce them out of her...and risk losing his heart.

Available now: http://www.bookstrand.com/bride-in-hiding

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Saga of Baby Bear's Keyboard

Once upon a time, Baby Bear received a battery-powered Yamaha keyboard for Christmas 2008:

He played it constantly. How often? Well, let’s just say that before that year was out—a mere sennight—we learned that it might be more economical to use rechargeable batteries, unless we wanted to buy a fresh pack of regulars every week.

The batteries had to be recharged almost every day.

The keyboard was lightweight enough that he carried it all over the house, from room to room, so it would always be with him. He even took it to bed with him, and went to sleep while it repetitiously played some rhythm that we found absolutely annoying, yet somehow it mysteriously lulled him to sleep. At that point I would turn it off for the night. If I didn’t remove it from his room, I might be awakened at three in the morning by the sound of his playing. (See previous blog entry for my position on this issue.)

He made up his own tunes and melodies, many of which have become as familiar to me as any classics or old standards or songs by the Beatles.

He even plays with two hands. All this on his own.

But sometimes he could really pound on that keyboard, with the result that this finally happened:

As time went by, more teeth were knocked out, and the keyboard was on the verge of losing a fifth when it finally died.
Of course, it had to die the day before the start of a three-day holiday weekend. I had only a few hours to find a replacement before Baby Bear came home from summer school. I didn't want to think of what kind of weekend I might have if that kid didn't have a keyboard to plunk on. His passion for it was that profound.
Being pinched for time and money (not that we didn't have the money for it, but I didn't want to spend that much without first consulting Mr. Lucky, who wouldn't be home until after the Bear), I found this cheap $25.00 model at Wal-Mart:
Baby Bear played with it for just a bit, and then abandoned it. It simply did not meet his high quality standards.
But I couldn't bear to see him give up playing, especially his own tunes, no matter how annoying it is when I'm trying to watch the evening news--a great deal of which tends to annoy me more than his piano-playing, anyway.
The Yamaha keyboard got him doing something constructive. It lit a fire in him, and I didn't want that fire to go out.
So we shopped around and bought him another Yamaha keyboard:
It's not the same one as his original--that model has apparently been discontinued--but it's very much like it, just as lightweight, and it takes the same six AA batteries that I've gone back to recharging every day.
Most importantly, he's gone back to playing his tunes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Boom Box on the Shelf is Always Repeating Itself

Baby Bear has a boom box, and he likes to play CD’s by ABBA while he sits on his bed and rocks back and forth. His favorite song—at least for this week—is “Waterloo.”

How do I know this? Recently he’s taken to playing that particular song over and over and over. But oddly enough, not the whole song. He plays it only as far as the part about the history book on the shelf. Then he stops and goes back and starts the song again.

Over . . . and over . . . and over. I have no idea why. If I weren’t already familiar with this song that dates back to when I was almost his age (and there’s a scary thought), I might drive myself insane wondering what that history book is always doing that he keeps censoring. Ironically, it’s exactly what Baby Bear is doing with the song.

But why he’s repeating it, only he knows.

Yet it reminds me of an incident early in my Air Force career. I was stationed at Keesler AFB near Biloxi, Mississippi to receive training in my particular career field of administration. I had to live in the barracks where the dorm chief had one of them newfangled boom boxes (yes, it was that many years ago). So powerful were its speakers that it could be heard all over the barracks of World War II vintage.

One morning, at around 3:30 am, she woke up me and probably a lot of other people by repeatedly playing the opening notes of “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” by Doctor Hook. She’d play it all the way up until the good Doctor started singing, then she’d rewind it back to the beginning and play those opening notes again.

Over . . . and over . . . and over. I don’t think she was doing it because she was autistic like my son. She certainly wasn’t doing it because she’d been put in charge of sounding Reveille with the song of her choice. No, she was doing it because she was the Dorm Chief, ergo she could.

I longed to break down her door, seize her blasting boom box, then raise it over my head and smash it like Moses with the Ten Commandments over hers. Or at the very least, scream at her to turn that expletive thing off. But she was the Dorm Chief, so all I could do was suffer. No one dared complain, or maybe all the other women liked it and I was the one with the problem.

Either way, I’ve loathed that song ever since. Anytime I hear those first few notes coming out of the oldies station, I switch stations in disgust. It’s a good thing I’m not a sleeper agent, or it might “activate” me to go out and blow something up.

Yet I’m not tired of “Waterloo” yet. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t play it full blast at 3:30 in the morning, but that’s because I remove it from his room at night.

It’s good to be the Dorm Chief—or just a mom.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Do You Suffer the Outbreak of Sticky Slider Thigh?

Sticky Slider Thigh, or SST, is a rare condition caused when your sliding glass door gets stuck along the track as the result of prolonged rainy weather, and you find yourself having to press your thigh against the back edge of the door to get the damned thing to close after the dogs come in from doing their business.

When these multiple bruises suddenly broke out on my left thigh, I couldn’t figure out where they came from or how I got them. If I’d stumbled into a heavy piece of furniture hard enough to produce such pitiful patches of purple as portrayed in the posted picture, I’m sure I would’ve remembered.

Mr. Lucky hadn’t been beating me. Nor could I pin this on another brouhaha with the Bear. And the bruises aren’t at all painful or tender. They’re just . . . there.

Only how was I supposed to go out among other humans looking like this? Sure, I could wear long pants, but this is Florida in July. My leg looks as if it’s sporting a tattoo of the Shroud of Turin.

I went a-googling under thigh bruises, leg bruises, multiple leg bruises, and read all sorts of unhelpful things till I worked myself into a lather worthy of George Costanza (“Lupus? Is it lupus?!?) at his panic-stricken worst.

Then this afternoon, Mr. Lucky casually said, “Oh, by the way, I oiled the tracks in the back door earlier, so you should find it easier to open and close now.”

I said that was good, because I was having to use both hands and all my weight on the front of my leg to close that door. And that’s when it hit me like a gong: I realized my bruises were the result of something I hadn’t seen in all my Googling and Binging and Dogpiling. Sure enough, when I went to close the sliding glass door, out of habit (it’s been raining a LOT this past week), I assumed my usual rainy weather position along with the standard grumble of “Why can’t we replace these with French doors?” and my left thigh met the door’s back edge right where the bruises are.

So I have dubbed this condition “Sticky Slider Thigh” or SST.

That’s all it is, folks. No need to make a pilgrimage to my house with lighted candles and whatnot, because you think that’s a holy image on my leg and maybe if you touch it, you’ll be healed of whatever ails you.

You may, however, bring me chocolate.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baby Bear's Hellacious Household Hints

When you try one of Baby Bear’s Hellacious Household Hints, you can be sure that whatever in blazes you think you’re doing has been repeatedly tried and tested for success and/or maximum destruction by none other than Baby Bear himself.

How to check if the dog’s water dish needs refilling: Place as much of your foot as possible into the dish and commence stomping until water is splattered all around it. If there’s still water remaining in the dish, then repeat with other foot. Should water still be observed in the dish, then flip it upside-down on the kitchen counter. At this point you should be able to confirm that the dish needs refilling.

How to check if there’s water in the toilet: Do not flush as that is environmentally incorrect; also the noise causes inconvenience to parental units by prompting them to stop whatever they’re doing to come and see what you’re up to. Instead, place a sock on your foot, dip it in the toilet, then take a walk around the house. If you see wet footprints on the carpet, then there’s water in the toilet bowl.

Is your Playstation controller waterproof? There’s only one way to find out—soak it and see if it still works. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy the parental units speculating whether you dipped it in the toilet or dropped it into the dog’s water dish.

How to check curtain rods for strength: Push the curtains aside, then grip the rod in both hands and do a chin-up. If the rod rips out of the wall, then a stronger rod and better hardware will be required.

How to tell Mom it’s time to clean the chandelier: Hit the chandelier with enough force to make it swing. If possible, hit it in such a way to make it spin. Keep doing this until visible specks of dust rain down on the dining room table. Food on the table optional.

How to open a locked door without a key or similar device: Kick, hit, and do body slams against the door until it finally comes off the hinges. Most effective at five in the morning.

How effective are those drain plugs? Close them, turn on the water, then wait for Mom’s blood-curdling scream.

How to tell her it’s time to recharge the batteries in your electronic keyboard: Before approaching her, first remove all six batteries yourself. Fling five of them to the floor or onto the nearest end table, but always in plain sight. Hide the sixth one. Then go get her.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our Firstborn, the Graduate

Our firstborn and heir apparent, the Crown Prince, has graduated from school.

He’s mentally retarded and autistic, and has been going to the same school for special needs students for the better part of his life. Indeed, he’d become something of an institution at his school; many members of the faculty remarked on how the place will never be the same without him.

He practically ran the campus, and was proclaimed King of his senior prom. With his stentorian voice, he did all the morning announcements on the P.A. system, and each day he led the whole school in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

In fact, he could probably do voiceover work. One of his hobbies is parroting commercial slogans from TV and the radio, whether it’s The Home Depot (“You can do it. We can help.”) or a prominent local law firm (“Morgan and Morgan. For the People. Offices Tampa.”)

He knew everyone’s schedules (woe betide anyone who dared to change their plans for whatever reason), the lunch menus, and even the calendar for months in advance, down to what day of the week a particular date fell. If the computers at that school ever crashed, they could still rely on my oldest son to keep them organized.

At the graduation ceremony, when they called out his full name and he marched up the aisle in his cap and gown (my favorite color—royal blue!), I couldn’t help the tears streaming down my cheeks as everyone stood up and applauded him. Later, he and his fellow graduates (two young ladies) presented flowers to the mothers.

We are so very proud of him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Day of Waiting . . . and Waiting . . . and Waiting at the Lab

Actually, it was only two hours, but it seemed like all day.
Once a year I’m sent to the lab for routine blood work. This year was no different from last year. Every year it’s the same:

I always manage to go on the day when only one phlebotomist is available, which means a two hour wait. And the only available seat for waiting is always next to the guy who (a) is a heavy smoker who stinks like the bottom of a filthy butt can, and (b) wears a tank top and spends way too much time stretching his arms over and behind his head.

I try to lean over the other way, but there’s a water cooler there and another man keeps drinking from it (I can only assume he must be trying to manufacture a urine sample). While he’s drinking cup after cup of water, he’s hovering over me and I can’t help wondering if he’s trying to read my Nookcolor over my shoulder, or pathetically hoping for a cheap glimpse of cleavage.

More people are called to the back than come out. This could be because the phlebotomist seems to only summon people who aren’t there. Like Ben Stein calling out in vain for Bueller, the phlebotomist will repeat a name several times, and even try different pronunciations of the name, but no one in that crowded waiting room so much as budges, though there might be one or two yawns. Finally she’ll give up and call out the next name on the list. Everyone still remains slumped in their chairs.

Where are these people? Why can’t she call out the names of people who are actually there? Like my name? I’ll spring up for anything that sounds even remotely like “Lingefelt” just to get away from Waterboy and Smelly Guy.

There can only be two reasons for this annoying phenomenon: Either the phlebotomist has today’s roster mixed up with the one from last Wednesday, or those people really are there, but they’ve long since lapsed into boredom-induced comas.

Sometimes it’s tempting to claim to be one of those people who never respond when their name is called, just to get in and out and on with my life. But who’s to say they didn’t sign in for something a lot more intrusive than blood work—which might even explain why they’re no longer there. They lost all nerve and fled after signing in.

I was the only person there who brought something to read. There were no magazines or newspapers lying about, and more than one person grumbled about how there should have been a TV.

Indeed, there was a lot of loud grumbling, mostly from little old ladies, about the long wait and how it was interfering with more important places to go and infinitely more interesting people to see. You’d think after eighty or ninety years on this mortal coil, it might have dawned on them that anytime they go to a lab or doctor’s office, they’re bloody well going to be waiting awhile and should plan accordingly.

I didn’t like the long wait, either, but reading helped pass the time and kept me from getting sucked into that gripefest.

I save my griping for this blog.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What I Loved Best About the Royal Wedding

Surprisingly, it wasn’t her gown or his uniform or the two balcony kisses, though I certainly took immense delight in all those elements. No, in the end, I have to admit that what I loved most was simply the overall happiness, the much-needed joy, however fleeting, that the Royal Wedding brought to so many people around the world.

Yes, I’m one of those who cared and couldn’t get enough of it. (I feel the complete opposite about the Charlie Sheen saga.) But I’ve heard others wonder how anyone could possibly care about it with all the horrors plaguing the world lately. They think the Royal Wedding should not matter.

I’m acutely aware of the wars, the earthquakes, the tornados, the wildfires, the economy, the gas prices, the ominous sense that civilization as we know it is circling a giant drain threatening to suck us all into the dark sewers of hell. I’ve definitely had more than enough of these terrible things. Yet I dare not ignore them, as that could mean the difference between going down that drain or keeping a grip, however tenuous, on the rim of the bowl.

But if I can’t ignore the bad news, then why should I ignore the good? Indeed, why would I want to? The Royal Wedding is a rare bright spot, a single beam of light shining through the otherwise fathomless dark. How can I not go toward that light?

Many see the Royal Wedding as a waste of money, a frivolous sideshow that serves no purpose except to needlessly glorify a small group of undeserving people, who got where they are thanks to ancestors who ransacked castles, stole land, and chopped off heads. Valid point taken.

But at its core—its heart—are two young people willing to join hands and go forward not so much with hope, but with faith that a better, brighter future awaits, and is theirs for the forging if only they seize the opportunity to do so. Who gets married with the idea that it’s not going to do anyone any good, or even make any sort of difference? Ordinary people get married every day, but this is a time when high-profile nuptials like William and Catherine’s offer a welcome reminder to everyone.

I love the Royal Wedding for much the same reason I enjoy romance novels. They’re positive. They lift the heart. And in a world where so much is negative, where so many hearts and spirits hang heavy, why shouldn’t we turn to whatever it takes to lift them—and so motivated, ultimately lift ourselves out of the drain and safely over the rim of that bowl?

Taken at face value, it certainly seems as if the Royal Wedding doesn’t matter in a world awash with strife and sadness. But when one considers how many hearts and spirits it’s raised in a way nothing else has lately, it’s hard to deny that it does, in fact, matter a lot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bear's Adventures Through the Breaking Glass, Bedroom Window Edition

Only he didn’t really go through it this time. But it is officially broken.

Baby Bear’s bedroom window is covered with an adhesive tinted sheet to cut down on glare from the sun and the neighbor’s white vinyl fence. We gave up trying to keep blinds or shades on the window, because he kept tearing them down. Fortunately his bedroom window is behind the gate leading to our back yard, so I don’t have to fret about passers-by peering inside (like they did when we lived in publicly accessible military housing out in California twenty years ago).

Anyway, it seems we should credit the tinted sheet with preventing shattered glass from flying everywhere and potentially cutting the Ursine Terror. The pane is still in place, boasting a lovely jagged pattern that could be a spider web or even a giant snowflake.

The point of impact is at roughly the same height to match his forehead (he’s now 6’4”), so I’m guessing this was another headbutting job.

“We knew he was going to do it eventually,” was all Mr. Lucky had to say about it.

But I suppose this means all betting books are now closed on the sliding glass door to the patio.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Other Claim to Fame: Born in Forks, Washington

I am not a vampire, but I was born half a century ago in the very tiny town of Forks, Washington.

We moved to Port Angeles, an hour’s drive away, when I was still an infant; but my paternal grandmother remained in Forks, where she owned and operated the town’s only theater through at least five decades and nine U.S. presidents. It poured rain just about every time we visited her. To this day, I honestly have no idea which way is east or west in Forks, because I don’t recall ever seeing the sun out there. No wonder it became a very popular hangout for vampires!

Growing up in Port Angeles, I enjoyed, or at least in adolescence suffered, the less than stellar distinction of being just about the only person in my high school class born in dreary, piddly, puddly old Forks.

I dreamed of becoming a famous writer, the kind whose fans would descend like a plague of locusts upon little Forks, Washington, where they would make pilgrimages to the hospital where I was born (the doctor who brought me into the world was a refugee from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, to which I attribute my penchant for cooking and enjoying huge quantities of goulash). They would visit the charming little house where I used to visit my grandmother. And they would pose for photos in front of the theater where I first saw Gone With the Wind at the age of eight, when I would’ve much preferred to stay at home with the younger siblings and their babysitter to watch Heidi on TV—or come back to Forks the following weekend to see
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Maybe Forks would name a street after me. Or do like Myrtle Beach, SC did with Vanna White, and post a sign at the city limits proclaiming itself the birthplace of author Karen Lingefelt. Or do like Salzburg, Austria did with Mozart, and sell chocolates and cookie tins with my picture on them.

Ah, but my caffeine-fueled, feverish imagination didn’t stop there. Before True Pretenses, I wrote a series of books that chronicled seven generations of a fictional European royal family. I used to think how cool it would be if the series ever got published and became so wildly popular, that people planning their European vacations would try to book flights and bus tours and hotels in this make-believe kingdom that existed nowhere but in my head. How gleefully I would laugh all the way to the bank!

Obviously such hilarity never ensued. But I was reminded of all this recently when my father sent me an e-mail which, with his permission, I have excerpted here:

As you know Forks has become a destination place because of this "Twilight Saga." There are stores there and in Port Angeles, (and maybe Port Townsend) that cater to the enthusiasts. In Forks you see tourists having their pictures taken in front of anything described in the first book. One moron (24 years old) got himself stranded on James Island at LaPush because he wanted to see one of the love nest "sites" described there in the book. The Coast Guard picked him off with a helicopter.

Anyway, I guess all this hoopla makes you an original Twilight Child seeing as how you were born in this now-famous place! I know you've considered Forks as a sort of backwater town. But it has now evolved and you can say: ".........Forks? Oh.......yeah, I was born there."

Alas, when reality bites, it bites with the fangs of a vampire, for ’twas not to be Karen Lingefelt of True Pretenses fame who put Forks on the map, but another author,
Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame.

But I think it’s just as well. The idea of chocolates with my likeness on the wrappers is embarrassing, and I’d hate to think a fan of mine who wanted to see the ravine where
Lausanne crashed her car, would get stuck down there and have to be plucked out by a Coast Guard helicopter and treated for exposure. Lausanne survived—but what if the fan hadn’t?

I sometimes wonder what my grandmother, who passed away in 2000, would think of the whole Twilight thing—but not as much as I wonder what she would think of the whole True Pretenses thing.

Except for Chapter 15, I think she would have been thrilled to pieces.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Was This Guy Hoping To Hit On Me?

Mr. Lucky and I went out for a late lunch at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet that was practically deserted—save for another couple on the far side of the room. We sat at a table across from each other. I’ve never counted the tables and chairs or checked the Maximum Occupancy sign, but the entire establishment can seat over a hundred patrons at once.

After a while, the other couple got up and left. Then an average-looking fortyish man in a baseball cap came in, affably chatting with the cashier while Mr. Lucky got up to load another plate at the buffet, and I remained at our table.

I didn’t notice anything unusual going on until we got up to leave some time later. Imagine my surprise to see that man sitting in the chair directly behind mine, dunking his bread stick into a bowl of marinara sauce.

Had I pushed my chair back just another couple of inches, it would have smacked into his or worse, we’d have an embarrassment of tangled legs—chair legs, chair legs! As it was, I wondered how I hadn’t even been aware that he’d sat down behind me. Neurotic, mistrustful creature that I am, I’m usually very sensitive about my sacred space and who dares to hover along its extensive periphery. He must have been very stealthy about it.

But why?

And why did he choose to sit there of all places, when there were more than a hundred other places he could have sat—some of them closer to the buffet, others closer to the televisions, still others near the restrooms and emergency exits.

At the very least, why didn’t he sit on the other side of the table behind me?

I’m not one of those women who slings her purse over the back of her chair—I keep it between my feet with the strap over one knee—so I don’t think he was after the purse.

Even Mr. Lucky was initially baffled when he returned to our table and saw this man’s back only inches from mine, but he said nothing until after we left. No doubt he knew it would freak me out if I’d been aware of this bewildering development, and he’d just sat down with a plate piled high with slices of pizza that he meant to enjoy.

By the time we reached our car, Mr. Lucky thought he knew what that man was up to: “He saw you sitting there alone, so he assumed you were single and saw an opportunity. He was probably hoping to hit on you.”

It wasn’t until we got home that I finally managed to stop laughing at such a preposterous notion. So the guy was scheming to pull the old and thoroughly pitiful, “Excuse me, but could I borrow your salt shaker?” stunt.

Next he’d ask to borrow the pepper, followed by a request for a few napkins and a painfully obvious, totally lame, “So you like pepperoni, huh? Everyone seems to like pepperoni, why is that?”, and if all went according to his tired, worn out, dog-eared, grease-spotted script, I would soon tell him how silly it was for us to keep chitchatting over our shoulders, and invite him to join me at my table.

But for the return of my husband.

Honestly, I didn’t think I looked that desperate. Pathetic, maybe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back Into the Vault You Go, My Venetian Pretties!

Venice, Italy, 1986. I was younger. Thinner. And now that I think about it, a lot wealthier, too.

Being single helped on all counts.

Back in those days I was in the Air Force, stationed in Germany. On weekends I would go on bus tours to various locales throughout Europe. Venice was one of my favorite destinations.

For the equivalent of $10.00, I rode a gondola—just so a quarter of a century later, I could write in my blog that I did it.

I walked from Piazza San Marco to the Rialto Bridge and back. I probably saw as many cats as I did pigeons.

I ate lunch in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant near the Basilica. I said two words to the waiter: “Ice cream!” He brought me an elaborate Neapolitan sundae, complete with whipped cream, cherry, and a wafer. I was delighted, and cared not what it cost or how many calories it had. For I was young, thin, and loaded with lira.

I’ll never forget the W.C. in that place. The toilet had no seat, and flushing was facilitated by a dribbling garden hose threaded through a high window.

On a trip to nearby Burano, I hit my head on an overhead beam as I climbed the stairs in a tiny shop selling the lace for which the island is famous.

I also visited Murano, where others in our group bought huge, ornate chandeliers they planned to hang in homes they had, or hoped to have someday, back in the States.

Shallow person that I am, I bought this set of glassware strictly for its looks:

I love the royal blue. I love the gold trim. And I love the enameled flowers with the tiny pearls at their centers.

Once acquired, these exquisite pieces remained in their original box for nearly twenty years, until we moved into our new home. By then, I decided my children were old enough and sufficiently distracted by video games, that it was safe to unpack the glassware so it could finally do what Old World master artisans had meticulously and lovingly crafted it to do: Collect dust.

And that’s what my royal blue Venetian pretties did in the hutch until yesterday, when Baby Bear smashed one of the glass doors. While they all survived with nary a nick, I’m afraid it’s for their own good that they must be packed away again until further notice.

I just hope it doesn’t take another twenty years.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bear's Adventures Through the Breaking Glass, Redux

Last summer it was the living room window. Several months ago it was one of the glass doors in my living room curio cabinet.

Today it was one of the glass doors on the dining room hutch, and this time I actually saw him do it. He shattered it by slamming both paws flat against it.

I’m thankful none of it got into his eyes, since pieces of it went flying in all directions. In fact, he walked away with nothing but a small cut on the palm of his left hand.

This particular glass will be next to impossible to replace, as it was very uniquely cut and designed for that hutch, which was bought at a place no longer in business. The doors were opened by pressing gently on the glass with a fingertip.

It’s only a matter of time before he follows suit with the bathroom mirror, the sliding glass door to the patio, and his bedroom window.

Knock on wood. (Oh yes, he does that, too; ditto the drywall.)

But not glass. Please, not the glass.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chiding My Choice of Cheese

I’m all for friendly cashiers, and I always appreciate their cheerfulness in the face of all they do, and the crap they must put up with while spending so much time on their feet.

But sometimes, I really sort of wish they would refrain from questioning my purchases and expecting me to explain them.

Yes, I know ramen noodles are high in sodium. Thank you, I’m well aware there’s a hurricane out in the Gulf, and that these frozen chicken nuggets will be no good if the power goes out. But I’m going to buy them for my son anyway, because he loves them, and who knows? Maybe, just maybe, we won’t have a power outage. As it turned out, we didn’t, because the hurricane shifted elsewhere. But the clerk in that scenario actually chastised us for not stocking up on canned goods instead, and Mr. Lucky grumbled about her busybodying all the way home.

Today it was about cheese, specifically the kind pictured below:

From Sargento, it’s a six ounce resealable bag of mild and white cheddar cheese pieces shaped like Mickey Mouse. Unlike most cheese products, the pieces within are not individually wrapped; you just unzip the bag and devour.

They are perfect for Baby Bear, who loves cheese in any form. He’ll go through all 64 slices of sandwich cheese (which means lots of little wrappers everywhere) and even break into bags of shredded cheese bought for nights we do Mexican.

I’ve been known to buy bags of Mickey Mouse cheese by the truckload. In all fairness, most cashiers simply declare the cheese “cute” and leave it at that, for which I’m grateful.

But not today’s cashier. “Who’s the cheese freak?” she wanted to know.

“My son,” I replied. “He loves cheese, and it’s good for him.”

She just had to ask how old he was, and I told her. It was clear from her stupefied reaction that she thought it very strange I was buying Mickey Mouse cheese for a thirteen year old, when there are so many other cheese products out there packaged in a more sophisticated manner. She mentioned her own teenager who, just like our Bear, ate all kinds of cheese—slices, cubes, blocks—but never in Mickey Mouse form.

To her credit, she stopped short of asserting her teenager wouldn’t be caught dead with a bag of this stuff, but guilt-receptive parental unit that I am, the vibe was there and duly picked up: I was babying my son, embarrassing him, and he’d probably never get a date or hold down a decent job, and would grow up to become some crazed sniper in a bell tower, all because I made him eat cheese shaped like Mickey Mouse when he would’ve preferred it shaped like air guitars.*

As there was a long line behind us, I thought the better of getting into an equally long explanation of my son’s autism and other issues; how because of that alone, and not the shape of his cheese, it was not outside the realm of possibility that he’d still be living with us at age forty anyway; and why Mickey Mouse cheese really is easier for him than that string stuff that has to be peeled open, and is designed for people with super fine motor skills, none of whom live in my house.

You might say I was feeling a little cheesed off.

*He does, however, prefer vegetables shaped like air guitars.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Better the Piano Keys Than My Teeth

The result of Baby Bear's relentless pounding:

They just don't make them like they used to. Alas, cheap plastic is no substitute for the gazelle-goring, impala-impaling toughness of ivory.

Living with my youngest son is like living in the midst of an elephant stampede.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Search of Another Wal-Mart

Our neighborhood Wal-Mart has lately been overrun with what I can only describe as press gangs from Sam’s Club. Sam is building a new Club in the vicinity, and he wants to sign up members. His minions lie in wait about thirty feet beyond the senior citizen greeter, and if I don’t slip by them fast enough to avoid their ambush, I’m likely to get clubbed over the head with a clipboard, only to regain consciousness with a Sam’s Club membership card in my hand.

I half-jokingly suggested to Mr. Lucky that we needed to find a new Wal-Mart. So we drove up to the Great Shopping Vortex better known as Brandon Town Center, where first we had lunch at Romano’s Macaroni Grill. (We wanted to do The Olive Garden, but they were so swamped, I think there was a second waiting list just to get one of those little round pagers that light up and vibrate once you are promoted to one of The Chosen who get To Be Seated.)

After committing the deadly sin of gluttony, we headed to the nearby Wal-Mart, where no press gangs accosted us.

This wasn’t the first time we’d been to this particular Wal-Mart. Indeed, I don’t think it was the first time we’d pushed the particular cart we got, as it came with an all-too-familiar, loudly clunking wheel that caused the cart to jerk with every revolution. We used to shop here all the time in the last century, before a couple of subsequent moves finally placed us near the Wal-Mart now rife with press gangs. Yet this was like a sparkling new Wal-Mart, since it had been recently renovated—and totally rearranged.

The pharmacy, for instance, had been moved from the front of the store to the very center, where fitting rooms used to be. The health and beauty items were now directly across from the food section, which I think makes better sense than putting them at separate ends of the store.

We were there mainly to stock up on food for Baby Bear, and once that was accomplished, Mr. Lucky decided he wanted to get more dog food. Dog food, he declared, was always near the garden center at every Wal-Mart he knew, so that meant a trek to the opposite side of the store.

The dog food wasn’t there. The pet supply section had been replaced with toys.

We turned right and headed toward the back of the store, where in front of paints we finally saw a sign that said “Pet Supplies” pointing us to the right—the direction from whence we just came.

So we turned right again, and saw nothing ahead of us but the Men’s Toy Department (better known as Electronics)—which, I might add, was in the same place it had always been because men can never find anything and won’t ask directions and if you dare move it, you’ll only get them more confused and surly. We clunked past—and after circumnavigating the entire store, we finally found the dog food where the baby stuff used to be—the same corner where I once bought diapers and formula and teething rings when Baby Bear really was a baby.

After that heavy lunch, we needed the exercise anyway. And we still haven’t been pressed aboard Sam’s Club membership—but never say never.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baby Bear Ransacks My Office

Honestly, I thought all that noise was coming from his own room. At least once a day he rearranges his bedroom furniture, empties his toy box (one of those heavy duty plastic storage bins), then lies on his back on the bed, lifts his legs, and sets about balancing the box on his feet, spinning it until he finally sends it flying across the room to hit the wall or door with a horrific banging noise.

That’s what I thought he was doing, until I went into his room to find he wasn’t there. His toys were in the toy box, and his furniture did not appear to have been rearranged since the last time I dared to venture into his booby-trapped domain armed with whip, fedora, and Grail diary.

But there was a lot of thumping coming from across the hall, behind the closed door of my office.

I found him sitting in my desk chair, surrounded by wreckage. He’d knocked over framed photos; pushed my laptop and a flat screen monitor into the dead space beyond where my desk curves; tipped over five stacked letter trays, the contents spread all over the floor; dumped the pencil and paper clip receptacles; and relocated the printer from the desk to the top of the two-drawer file cabinet where the letter trays had been.

I suppose I should be thankful he didn’t pull the books off the bookcases—or maybe he would have had I not discovered him when I did.

At least my laptop still works. I keep it closed when not in use, and that may well have saved it.

But it’s for this very reason that I usually keep my office door locked when I’m not in there. Usually. Why the lapse this time? Well, lately Baby Bear has developed a knack for locking doors before closing them. Even if I leave my office for just a minute, he’ll swoop in to push the button on the door knob, then close the door before returning to his own room. So why didn’t he do it this time? Why, instead of locking my door and going back to his own affairs, did he make himself comfortable within? (And trust me—ransacking a room IS his way of making himself comfortable!)

Perhaps the recent door locking has been all one big diversionary ploy, designed to trick me into keeping my office door unlocked for more prolonged periods, lulling me into thinking I don’t have to lock it, because he’ll do it and that’s it.

Or perhaps—in fact, most likely—I’m just losing my mind.