Vicarious adventures

My granddaughter, Brett, is on a Semester at Sea study/cruise this summer, and I’m having a grand time following her adventures. I check her itinerary each morning and when she sends an email, telling about specific places, I go to Google Images and find pictures of them. Her vivid descriptions plus the photos make me feel as if I’m experiencing the trip with her. Most recently I’ve imagined riding the chair lift on the Isle of Capri, visiting the Duomo Dome in Florence, Italy, and strolling around Mykonos Island. When she mentioned the name of a hostel where she’d spent one night, I was able to find a web site and see photos of that, too.

This kind of vicarious experience is what I strive for when I write fiction. I hope my readers will have pictures in their minds of the action and setting, and, through my words, will feel the hopes, fears, excitement and other emotions of the characters. If I do my job well enough, readers will feel as if they’ve taken that particular journey themselves.

What if…?

The road in front of my house is being repaved today, so I can’t leave my driveway from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. This has me imagining many what-if situations.

What if I break a leg and the aid car has to park half a mile away? What if the deer walk across the road before it’s set, and get stuck? What if a friend calls in distress, asking for help?  What if a small plane makes a crash-landing in my back yard?  What if there is a death in the family and I must get to the airport? What if Mt. Rainier erupts and I have to evacuate? What if one of my animals has a medical problem and needs to go to the vet?

That last one isn’t so far-fetched. I have already made two trips to the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic in Sumner this week. On Sat. Anne was here when her dog, Otter, began yipping in pain every so often for no apparent reason. Otter was diagnosed with a pulled muscle in her neck. Pain pills and muscle relaxants solved the problem.

The very next day, I had to take Lucy to the same clinic. We had been outside when she began wheezing and hacking as if she had eaten grass (or ?) and had it stuck in her throat. I had dinner guests but it’s hard to serve a meal and carry on a conversation when a dog is gagging and choking every few minutes so my friends went home and off I went to the emergency vet. These things always seem to happen at a time when my regular veterinary clinic, which is much closer, isn’t open.  Lucy’s being treated with an anti-inflammatory medication and with a liquid that coats and soothes her throat. My regular vet saw her on Monday, and she will be fine.

Two veterinary emergencies in two days were hard on my nerves. I’m glad I was able to get out of my driveway over the weekend.

A New Forest Animal

I’ve lived in the log cabin for eleven years, and last night I added a new animal to the list of critters who share my property. On Sunday evening, I was on the nature trail when I saw a mountain beaver! Anne was with me, and so was our friend, Cheryl. None of us knew what the animal was but we got a close, long look at him, and as soon as we got back to the house, I began searching on line.  Eventually I found a photo of a mountain beaver, and there is no doubt that this is what we saw on the trail. It is exciting to discover yet another creature who has made my small sanctuary his home.

A Treasured Gift

frame.JPG Many years ago, Carl received a gift from some player piano customers who felt he’d given them exceptional service. They contacted our daughter to find out the names of our grandchildren and what the grandkids called us, and then they made a beautiful picture frame, with room for four 5X7 photos. Across the top it says, “Moonie and Papa’s treasures.” (Yes, the grandkids call me Moonie.) Under the photo spaces are the four names: Brett, Chelsea, Eric, Mark.

As soon as the frame arrived we put pictures of the grandkids in it and hung it in our home. Over the years, every time we got new school pictures, we updated the frame. What a wonderful gift this has been! It now holds three high school graduation photos and will get the fourth one next year. I plan to let those by the final four pictures.

The frame hangs where I see it many times each day, and it always makes me smile.

Thirty years ago

Today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The newspapers and TV stations in my area are running feature stories to remember the eruption and to update us on the regrowth of the region around the mountain.

Although I lived in Washington State at the time, I missed the big event because Carl and I were in Hawaii, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Volcanoes erupt there all the time, so few people got excited over the news.

Anne and Bob were in college, at two different schools, and both were in the path of the ash. We worried about them, and about our pets who were being cared for by a neighbor. We had no cell phones then, so communication was difficult. Bob was able to drive home; Anne was evacuated on a Red Cross train. The ash missed our home, so the dogs were able to go outside as usual, but for a few days we had great fear of the unknown.

Many years later, I vicariously lived through all the excitement – and remembered my fear – when I researched and wrote The Volcano Disaster.

Book news

It’s been a week of good news. First I learned that Runaway Twin is on the Children’s Choices list compiled by the International Reading Association and the Children’s Book Council. This is the only national list of books selected by kids.

The Bank Street College of Education released their Best Books of 2010 list and Runaway Twin is on that, too. Each year approximately 6000 books are reviewed, and then 100 are selected for the list.

This morning came the exciting news that Stolen Children has won the New York State Reading Association’s Charlotte Award. This is New York’s student-voted book award, and I have never won it before – a new charm for my necklace.

Earth Day

My long, paved driveway has a lot of moss on it this year. I decided to get rid of the moss in a way that’s as environmentally safe as possible.

Anne used the leaf blower to clean the driveway, a huge job since pine needles and leaves were stuck because they’d been rained on. She was sore the next day, and I’m grateful for her help. Yes, a broom is better for the environment than a leaf blower, but it would have been an impossible task. Sweeping my driveway is like painting the Golden Gate bridge; by the time you finish, you need to start over.

Once Eric did a science experiment on my driveway’s moss, where we diluted bleach in varying amounts, vinegar in varying amounts, and tried a chemical moss killer. The vinegar did the job, so yesterday I bought eight large jugs of vinegar. This morning I used a watering can with a “shower” head to apply the vinegar to the moss. I ran out of vinegar before I was half done, but I’ll wait to buy more until I need to drive to town for another reason. After I’d loaded my shopping cart yesterday, a woman said to me, “You must be going to make A LOT of pickles!”

While I was sprinkling vinegar on the moss, Lucy ran around biting pine cones and looking for squirrels. Once she ran across an area where I had just applied the vinegar. If I’d been using a chemical spray, I would have had to wash her paws. No, if I’d been using a chemical spray I wouldn’t have let Lucy be out with me. With vinegar, I don’t worry about Lucy or the small forest critters.

Right now my driveway smells a bit like pickles, but the formerly green moss is turning brown, and I’m glad I tried a natural solution to my problem. Happy Earth Day!


Most of the letters that I get from kids contain questions. I’ve had some questions (Do you have kids? What is your dog’s name? Did you ever find out what happened to Tommy?) hundreds of times. One question has changed in the last year or so, and I don’t know why. They used to ask, “Where did you get your idea for (title of book)?” Now they ask, “Where did you get the inspiration for (title of book)?”  Those are not the same question. I got the idea for Escaping the Giant Wave when I was walking on a beach in Orgon and saw a Tsunami Warning sign. But that was hardly an inspiration.

 Some questions don’t have anything to do with me or my books. One kid asked if I like bunnies. Another asked, “How old were you when Star Wars came out?” Then there’s the girl who wants to know if she should tell Kyle that she likes him and ask if he likes her, too, or if she should wait a year, until they’re both in seventh grade. I’m trying to think of an inspired answer.